Sunday, November 30, 2008

This year's Christmas gift idea:


finished Orangettes

Or, candied orange peels dipped in chocolate. Easy to make (if a bit time consuming), elegant, and delicious. What more can you ask for?

Peeling the oranges

Boiling the peels

Candied orange peel

I probably never would have tried this recipe is it weren't for Deb Perelman's gorgeous photos, or her cranberry sauce recipe that I used for Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Turkey day!

I hope everyone had a fantastic Thanksgiving. As promised, here is a post dedicated to the meal I prepared for the holiday.* I'm afraid it won't be too exciting, as everything (thankfully) went according to plan and turned out brilliantly.

I started Wednesday by making the cranberry sauce and preparing some things for the stuffing. I made sure I had every ingredient I needed before Wednesday so as to avoid the grocery store rush. Unfortunately, Kroger's was out of fresh sage Tuesday night, so I ended up stopping by Whole Foods Wednesday morning to pick some up, along with some gravy, which I had forgotten I wanted to buy, so that was happy.

cranberry sauce BEFORE

Today, Andrew's mom put a pie in the oven and we all went for a walk; it was warmer today than it has been, overcast and humid. When we got back to the apartment, I started on the stuffing (I had made the corn bread for it last weekend).

After preparing the stuffing, I prepared the turkey with chicken stock and salt and pepper, and surrounded it with the stuffing before popping it in the oven. As there were only four of us eating, I decided not to do an entire turkey but instead to just do a whole breast and a couple thighs (I like dark meat). It turns out that this was an excellent plan, for a couple reasons: a) fewer leftovers and b) when you cook a whole bird, the breast meat has usually dried out by the time the rest of it is cooked through. As it was, the meat was cooked through and really moist; I could not have asked for better results.

Turkey AFTER

While the turkey cooked, I prepared the mashed potatoes. After the turkey finished (about an hour later), Andrew's mom put in her potato rolls and I started the hashed brussels sprouts. If you like brussels sprouts, I highly recommend this recipe--shredded then briefly sauteed with lemon juice, garlic, and poppy seeds, they were crisp and clean-tasting, a nice contrast to the rich foods that made up the rest of the meal.

Mashed yukon gold potatoes

Hashed brussels sprouts

Dinner was followed by another stroll, then pumpkin pie and movie. Andrew and I rounded up the day after the folks left by watching some Dexter, playing Wii Bowling, and eating dinner. When I put it that way, it sounds like we ate again right away, but the Thanksgiving meal took place around 2:30 and we ate dinner a little after 9 (Tomato basil soupe from La Madeline and leftover brussels sprouts, by the way).

All in all, the holiday was a huge success. We may have started a new tradition!

Thanksgiving dinner!

Recipes for my Thanksgiving menu (I halved every recipe except the turkey and brussels sprouts):

*This post is dedicated to my fan, Kevin Anderson.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

So, I've been in Houston...

...continuing the process of setting up the new apartment and enjoying my nice kitchen, the warm weather, and the time off from work and school. Over the past couple days I've been mostly busy hanging art on the walls and making sure I have everything I need for Thanksgiving.

I actually made the cranberry sauce today, but I'll wait to post about it until tomorrow or Friday, when I post all my other Thanksgiving dishes.

I've been getting use out of the kitchen in the meantime, though. I've baked peanut butter chocolate chip brownies, corn bread and, butter cookies. We've had a couple good dinners, too, two of Andrew's favorite meals:

Beet risotto and beef tenderloin
Steak and beet risotto

Chicken satay with peanut sauce and cucumber salad
Chicken satay with red curry peanut sauce and pickled cucumber salad

Red curry peanut sauce

The menu for tomorrow is:
  • cranberry orange sauce
  • Yukon Gold mashed potatoes
  • hashed Brussels sprouts with lemon and poppy seeds
  • corn bread butternut squash stuffing with sage, hazelnuts, and cranberries
  • and of course, roast turkey (I'm doing a breast and some thighs)

Andrew's parents are coming down to spend the holiday with us, and his mom is making pie and potato rolls. It should be excellent (and I'm getting really hungry thinking about it).

I'm using the Aspire One again. The tiny keyboard really isn't too much of a problem as I don't type properly, though I do keep missing the backspace, which is sort of irritating. I figure it won't take long to get used to, though. At 88% battery, I've got over 5.5 hours, which is sort of unthinkable to me, given the luck I've had with laptop batteries. I've got photos of the laptop that I'll post soon, so you can also squeal at its lilliputian proportions and its gleaming blue lid.

Happy Thanksgiving!

It's so tiny!

I'm writing this post on my new Acer Aspire One netbook...which is freaking tiny (as I suggest in the post title). It may or may not stay mine, depending on whether or not its tinyness is an impediment.

I've got posts to make...some photos of foods I've been making since I've been down here in Houston and such, and as tomorrow is Thanksgiving, I'm planning to blog all the cooking I do.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I need a new laptop--any suggestions?

At the risk of eclipsing the post I made just before this...

My laptop is dying. As I mentioned before, its battery is kaput and the power cord only works if I keep the laptop as still as possible (otherwise, it shuts off without warning, as I've had to remove the battery in order to get the power cord to work at all). This is my second replacement battery, by the way. Additionally, since mid-summer the wireless only work sporadically, which is a joy.

I am getting a new laptop. But I am having a heck of a time finding one I'm happy with, so I figured I'd go fishing for suggestions. Here are my basic criteria:
  • weighs less than 5lb (but is bigger than a netbook)
  • must have better than 2.5 hours of battery life on average
  • must not be ugly
  • trackpad preferable to nub
You may notice I didn't mention a budget. Obviously, cheaper is better, and the computer must be worth the price (I was originally looking at Vaio, but they seem a little expensive for their specs). Before you ask, yes, I, a life-long PC user, am considering getting a MacBook. However, cost, combined with the hassel of switching operating systems, strongly factors in to my reluctance to jump on the MacBandwagon.

So, let's hear your suggestions. I promise you I've looked around a lot, but I'll listen. I currently have a Toshiba Satellite; I've had enough problems with battery life and this comp that I'm reluctant to look there again. I want to hear what's worked for you; if you use both PCs and Macs or if you've switched to Mac how it worked out, etc. All right...go!

Dinner and a movie

...on consecutive nights, that is.

Last night, Alex and I got together and roasted a whole frickin' chicken:

Roast chicken - done

It's on a bed of onions, new potatoes, and orange bell peppers, and contained a sprig of fresh rosemary and an entire head of garlic. It was awesome. I plan to try again soon, maybe with some more south-of-the-border ingredients (cilantro, lime, sweet potatoes, corn salsa?).

This afternoon, I attended a free screening of the recent film
Thumbsucker. This screening occurred because the author of the book the film is based on, Walter Kirn, is teaching here at the University of Chicago this quarter, and he did a little Q&A after the movie.

Largely the questions and his answers discussed film adaptations of books, and specifically, what it's like to have your novel adapted for the screen. Kirn is a terrifically eloquent speaker (but in a casual way!), and his answers were really thoughtful and honest.

Film adaptations of books is a subject I've spent a good deal of time thinking about (see these posts), and it was nice to hear some of my conclusions echoed in what Kirn said. Namely, though the differences are myriad between his book and its cinematic counterpart, there is a difference between what a book does and what a movie does, and good filmmakers (and novelists) understand this difference. Kirn pointed out that often great books, books that are highly revered by our culture, make terrible movies, often because the filmmakers try too hard to simply replicate whatever it is that the book does, and don't bring anything person to the film. Likewise, books that are just okay can make excellent movies (his example was The Godfather), in part because the books are often blank slate, with a lot of room for someone to put meaning into them by presenting the story in a particular way. He mentioned that the director of Thumbsucker saw something very personal in the story when he read the book, and this personal thing led to how he put the film together (the director also wrote the screenplay).

Kirn answered the question of why he'd offer film options for his books in the first place by pointing out an argument I've heard before (from John Scalzi, I believe), which is that films introduce a work of literature to an audience that wouldn't have been exposed to it otherwise. Also, he mentioned that he is a writer interested in story, and so to have his works selected by filmmakers is a compliment as story is generally the element of a work that they're picking up on.

All in all, a fun experience. The film has some great acting in it; I found the parents to be the most compelling/frustrating characters in the movie. Even though I haven't read it, I'm going to recommend the book over the film (I intend to read it myself), though the movie was quite enjoyable and I am sure that each medium will provide you with a difference kind of experience.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A long weekend finally ends

Somewhat unfortunately, halfway through the month I have failed NaBloPoMo. Ah well. I failed because I was busy WINNING by doing stuff like this:

Chocolate toffee cookies and pomegranet liquor

and this:

Protest against Prop 8

Protest against Prop 8

It was really great to be a part of the protest again California's Proposition 8--to join the more than 100,000 people across the country who simulatenously stood up to speak up against bigotry.

Most of my weekend had a much lighter turn. As the first pictures indicates, baked goods were involved, as well as a trip to Hop Leaf and finally getting to see Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind (which I highly recommend). I've slept in two different beds that were not my own, I've gotten up surprisingly early for a weekend, and I know the CTA map like the back of my hand.

My computer, unfortunately, is giving up the ghost, as it were. The battery no longer holds a charge or charges anew, and the power cord spontaneously stops charging. In some ways, it's good, because it forces me to focus on the non-computer-related work I have to do. On the other's frickin' irritating to have your computer suddenly turn off. And to know that I'm going to have to write my finals on a library computer.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Imagination and Experiencing Fiction

In the interest of maiming two birds with one pebble, here are some thoughts on the term paper that I may write for my Philosophy and Literature class. If, while reading this, you feel like you've missed something, don't worry--this prospectus is meant for my professor.

In "Fearing Fictionality," Kendall Walton explores various arguments for what exactly is going on when Charles purports to be frightened by a movie featuring a monstrous green slime.
"Charles is afraid, it is assumed, and he does not think he is in danger. So fear does not require such a belief. One then cooks up a weaker requirement so as to protect the initial assumption: Fear requires only imagining danger, it is said, or the idea of danger vividly presented" (179).
Walton goes on to argue that the problem with this requirement lies in our initial assumption: that Charles actually is afraid, that what he is feeling really is fear. Pointing out that fear of something that does not exist (such as a malicious green slime) cannot possibly be the same as fear of something that does (airplane rides or rabid dogs), Walton comes up with the concept of "quasi-fear."

However, I don't take this problem of existence to be an issue, because it seems to me that fear requires one to imagine danger always, not just in the case of experiencing fiction.

During a class discussion, a classmate brought up the point that when we recognize danger in real life, it is because we imagine the potential consequences of the situation. What we're actually afraid of is something that has yet to happen. A girl who feel afraid when she sees a dog is not afraid because it is biting her, but rather because she imagines a sequence of events where the dog ends up biting her.

Of course, Walton might argue that this example is different from the example of the green slime, because the actually exists and is right there in front of her. However, I don't think that Walton would want to say that, when the same girl walks down a dim alley alone at night and feels fear, her fear isn't real just because the muggers she imagines may or may not exist. Walton's response to this example would be that even though the muggers may not actually exist, it is realistically possible for them to exist--there is no doubt in Charles' mind that there is no such thing as a green slime. In each of these cases, she believes that the danger she imagines might actually occur.

From my perspective, the requirement of belief is a jump. The student I referred to previously used an example, not of fear, of falling in love with a person you see walking on the opposite side of the street. Just as fear is a result of an imagined sequence of events, so love in this case is the result of you imagining that this person is more than just good looking but also charming and kind, that he or she returns your affections, and that you will be a good couple. None of these things have taken place, and the likelihood of them occurring is slim-to-none (I am only a little more likely to end up marrying this person than I am to marry Mr. Darcy). And yet we wouldn't want to call this feeling "quasi-attraction" instead of real attraction.

That example is not perfect, of course. But the main point is this: the object of our fear is always fictional, because fear necessarily precedes consequences (if it didn't, it wouldn't be a very useful feeling as we'd have little cause to avoid danger). Our capacity for determining and reacting to real life consequences appears to be identical to our capacity to responding to events in fictional works; our imagination seems to be used in the same way in both cases.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A muddle of the disparate things that make up my life

"They're Coming to Get You" reel 2

"They're Coming to Get You" reel 2

Tonight, Clay and I made butternut squash risotto, and peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. There are photos on my flickr.

I met with my adviser today for the second time to discuss my BA research, what I've learned so far, and where I plan to go from here. I've been focusing on monsters--what are they (in terms of literature, in terms of philosophy), what do they mean, etc. At this point, I'm basically done reading theory (in the sense that I am both intellectually and emotionally ready to move onto something), and I'm going to actually focus on reading fiction for awhile. A summary, in the form of a list, of the concepts I've found interesting/useful, that will of little use to anyone besides me (hopefully it will be useful to me):
  • Monsters are transgressive, interstitial; they transgress the boundaries separating categorically different things--this is one reason they unsettle/repulse/horrify us.
  • Monsters may seem transgressive by definition, but it is more philosophically interesting to see them as transgressive by action--threatening to bridge unspeakable chasms rather than being born straddling the line.
  • Monster evoke fear, revulsion, and pity.
  • Monsters may or may not be evil.
  • Monsters may or may not be physically hideous.
  • Monsters force us to confront the consequences of overturned order--laws, values, concepts--and this is why horror fiction is a valuable experience.

On another note, I've applied for two jobs in the past two and a half weeks; I'll apply to a third at the end of this week. I will have a job coming January, dagnabit!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Yep, another post about food

Yesterday afternoon, I had a date--with Joseph Conrad! I decided to leave my laptop at home and, after work, venture up to the North Side to spend sometime in the Heart of Darkness. Or rather, at Julius Meinl.

Monday afternoon at Julius Meinl
Black tea with pieces of sour cherry

All parts of my meal at Julius Meinl contained cherry, actually; in addition to the tea I had sour cherry apple cider (from a local orchard!) and a turkey sandwich with cherry jam, among other things. I haven't quite made up my mind about Julius Meinl. Sometime I need to go with the purpose of getting one of their Viennese dishes and also trying at least one pastry, and hopefully I'd bring someone with me who wanted to try their coffee and give an opinion of that. As it is, I have this sneaking suspicion that it is too expensive and is one of those places that tries to be more than it is (the food I've tried so far sounds fancy and fantastic on the page and just hasn't been that spectacular).

I did get halfway through Heart of Darkness during the afternoon, and in the evening, I met up with friends and we created this:

prosciutto-wrapped fish
Mark Bittman's prosciutto-wrapped fish (with basil/pine nut paste), with garlic-sauteed green beans

If it looks a little funny, believe me it was delicious (if quite rich). Dinner was accompanied by two bottles of wine and followed by drinking chocolate with Grand Marnier, and Clay and I didn't get home until 12:30am. Who says Monday's aren't any fun?

I've realized by this point that I'm just not doing as much cooking this quarter as I would normally like to (and the cooking I'm doing is not especially frugal, as this meal indicates).
I think I'm okay with this. While I'd like to cook more, I've been enjoying a great many excellent Chicago restaurants. I can cook when I get to Houston, but I should take advantage of this city while I'm still here, and I've been doing a pretty good job so far.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Yep, winter is here

I've been in my office all morning, and not taken my coat off once. And I'm not ever sweating.

It's supposed to warm up to, oh, 47 degrees later this week. Balmy, that!

But, Winter does mean that I get to wear my new coat and my dragon mittens.

new coat

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The problem of Evil

I left the apartment once all day today, and that was to pick up some Thai food for dinner right across the street from my building. My excuse? Chicago's decided that it's time to be winter, thank you very much.

So, quiet day. I didn't get out of bed until all my roommates had left the flat, and was home by myself until almost 8pm. Consequently, I got a little work done!

As part of my BA research, I've been reading an article called "Moral Monsters and Saints," by Daniel Haybron. The "problem of evil" that Haybron addresses (and that my post title refers to) is not what is usually meant by the phrase--that is, the problem that, if there is a loving, omniscient and omnipotent God, then how can evil exist? Rather, Haybron is interested in what we really mean when we call someone "evil." What is the difference between an evil person and a very bad person? Presumably, there is a categorical difference, meaning that no number of "verys" added on to "bad" will ever get you to "evil." If that makes sense.

Our instinct may be to call someone evil based on cruel actions they have taken. But how many evil actions make a person evil? Surely all of their actions cannot be evil (this is too demanding). And what about an evil quadriplegic, who is incapable of enacting her evils desires? Additionally, most evil actions (directed toward harming others) are not committed by evil people.

Inspired by the quadriplegic example, we may be inspired to base our definition instead upon motivation or will--the intent to cause harm. But, Haybron says, what of a man who takes a more voyeuristic approach, never causing any direct harm but taking pleasure in the cruelty people do to one another? He isn't motivated to cause harm himself, yet we would not consider him less than evil because of it.

In the end, Haybron argues that an evil person is someone who feels no genuine human compassion for the well-being of other people, and who has no better nature to which we can appeal--they truly have no good side. As such, an evil individual may do some things which look like the normal actions that any good individual might do, but these actions will never be in the interest of others. They need never commit a heinous act. It is their character that condemns them.

I've provided a remarkably brief summary; Haybron goes through many other arguments and gives a lot more support. If you have a question about any of this, I should be able to answer, if I've understood the reading. I find most of his arguments pretty convincing.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

What we ate this weekend

(Because another post about how I have nothing to say today would be boring lame. Sorry for the dearth of photos. EDIT: I added one!)


Piece Restaurant & Brewery
(with Megan and my mom)
  • Caesar salad
  • Pizza with red sauce, mozzarella, ricotta, garlic, and artichoke hearts
  • I had Piece's Worryin' Ale; Megan had their Iron Fisted Stout (I think that's the name?), and Mom and the Top Heavy Hefeweizen.

The Snail (with my mom)
  • Som tum salad (Thai salad with shrimp, shredded cabbage, carrots, tomato, peanuts, and lime dressing)
  • Pad ped Talay (red curry with seafood, bamboo shoots, and basil)
  • Thai iced tea
Hop Leaf Bar & Restaurant (with Mom)
  • Mussels in white wine (with garlic, fennel, rapini, and olives), with frites and aioli
  • CB&J (cashew butter, fig jam, and morbier cheese on sourdough then pan-fried), with stilton macaroni and cheese
  • Framboise molten lava cake
  • I had a Maredsous Tripel 10 and Oud Beersel Framboise, and Mom had a Bell's Amber

Potbelly's Sandwich Works (with Mom)
  • I had an Italian on wheat and a Cricket Cola
  • Mom had Tuna salad with swiss on wheat
M. Henry (with Mom, Dad, and Marilyn)
  • Me: Santa Fe Open Face - toasted sour boule topped with sautéed spinach, goat cheese, sliced chicken, roasted red pepper, & green tomatillo sauce
  • Marilyn:
  • rustic peasant quiche and mixed field greens - savory quiche filled with asparagus, sautéed leeks, shallots, applewood bacon, gruyere and lorraine swiss
  • Dad: brioche french toast with maple syrup; candied applewood smoked bacon; breakfast potatoes
  • Mom: breakfast bread pudding - vanilla and egg custard brioche bread pudding with peaches & blackberries
Bread pudding

Scoozi! (with Mom, Dad, and Marilyn)
  • Caesar salad
  • Me: Gnocchi trio (Tomato & Cream - fresh herbs & pomodoro sauce; Asparagus & Speck - smoked prosciutto, leeks, parmesan cream; Bolognese - classic slow cooked meat sauce); pistachio geltato
  • Marilyn: Ravioli trio (Mezzaluna Bandiera - spinach & ricotta, alfredo & tomato sauce, pesto; Butternut Squash - brown butter, sage, roasted walnuts; Sausage & Broccolini - roasted pepper tomato broth)
  • Dad: Rigatoni With Smoked Chicken - spinach, mushrooms, parmesan cream; lemon pound cake with berries and cream
  • Mom: Whole Wheat Penne Alla Norma - roasted eggplant, tomatoes, cippolinis, ricotta salata; apple crumble

Friday, November 7, 2008

Absent Friday

I'll be out most of today, as my mother is visiting and we are going out on the town. If it were any other month, I wouldn't make an announcement of this. However, I don't know if I'll get back in time to make a post before midnight, so I'm throwing this one by up of way of excuse.

I know the point of NoBloPoMo is to write a significant post each day of November, but I have a hard time feeling bad about going out and exploring the city instead of blogging. Do you think that deserves penalization? I certainly don't.

I also think we should change the hour that denotes that one day has become another. I stay up after midnight almost without exception, and my Thursday didn't end until nearly 2am. While I don't think we'd ever change the actually system of telling time an denoting the day change, I feel like my blogging should reflect that. As long as I've made a post before I go to sleep, it should count the day in question. Agreed?

Ugh, filler. Better posts other days, I promise.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Chris Onstad is a stand-up dude.

And not just because he was standing for the signing.

You ought to read Achewood.

Teach For America?

This afternoon, I met with a recruiter and former corps member of Teach For America. Turns out he actually taught in Houston, which was a neat coincidence. Anyway, I'm not exactly sure I got much out of the meeting--I didn't really learn anything I didn't already know about TFA, though I did get to hear a little of this guy's personal story.

But, it's likely I also just wasn't open to getting much out of the meeting. See, I don't think I'm a good candidate for TFA. That doesn't mean I don't think they'd hire me, but I'm not a great candidate because I am not interested in teaching.

Or is that just what I've managed to convince myself of?

My job with Citizen Schools this summer was a fantastic experience, largely because it showed me that there are ways to be involved in education that don't involve being in a classroom. That really excited me, as I'm interesting in working in education but have few inclinations to be a teacher. As I said above, this is because I'm just not inclined toward it; i doesn't particularly interest me and I think my talents lie in other areas. But part of me does wonder: am I just kidding myself about that? Have of convinced myself such because I am just so scared of teaching?

I am scared of teaching. I admit it. The short stint of tutoring I did my first year of college was terrifying (and I didn't go into the experience expecting to be overwhelmed). One on one, I'm okay, but a classroom?

The question I need to ask myself is: should I just get over this fear and do it anyway? Do it because it would be good development for me, especially if I want to work in education, do it because you can really see the impact you make on students? Are the reasons I have for not doing it real reasons or just excuses because I am intimidated, and even if it is just that, is that a good enough reason not to do it? The teachers I've always liked and admired the most are the one who obviously loved what they did--if I force myself into this, is that fair to my potential students (or will I come to love it, and what if I don't)?

I'm not applying this year, either way, so I've got some time to answer these questions (or to keep putting off answering them). For what it's worth, I really do think I have stronger areas and skills, skills that I can put to use without also feeling nauseous and going through extensive training. I just...can't make a pros and cons list and actually adhere to it (I'm too good at justifying my way out of things). I can't really trust a recruiter to help me with the decision, because of course they'll think I should apply (and the current corps members and TFA alums I know probably won't be much better).

Is my gut feeling right? If I have to deliberate this much about it, do I already have my answer?

And which answer would that be?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

What now?

I have to admit--I've spent an enormous (maybe even an embarrassing) amount of time reading about the election these past several months. And now that it's over, I am not exactly sure what to do. Here I am, stuck at work, having finished my current projects and my boss not around to give me something else to do--how am I supposed to procrastinate?

Don't get me wrong--I am really, really glad the election is over. But we've got a couple months between now and when the next four years start to take shape.

Who knows, maybe I'll actually be able to focus on my research now. Or maybe I'll write some fiction. Or maybe I'll find more exciting ways to cook bacon.

Tomorrow afternoon, I have a meeting to talk to a Teach For America recruiter. I should probably come up with some things to talk about, especially since I am pretty sure that I won't apply. While I am very interested right now in working in education/education reform, the thought of being a teacher doesn't excite me. In fact, it mostly makes me nervous, and really doesn't appeal. Other aspects of educational organizations appeal to me, however: structural, operational, editorial (not so much development, in the fundraising sense of the word). And, thanks to my job this past summer, I know that there is a place in education for someone with my talents. I think I would work for TFA, but I am extremely hesitant to even consider a teaching position (and really, do they want someone that hesitant to do it? I imagine TFA does a great job of introducing people to teaching who wouldn't otherwise have considered it, but I don't really put myself in that category). So, we'll see how the conversation goes. If you're wondering why I agreed to the meeting at all, I figured that (especially given the number of TFAers I know now) I owe it to myself to at least ask some questions.

After this meeting, I'm heading to Wicker Park to meet the creator of Achewood!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I really wasn't going to write about the election

I swear, I wasn't. I was going to write some sort of summary of my BA progress up until now, or write a response to an article I read today. Something, anything other than writing about the election.

However, after watching the results come in that led up to Obama's historic victory while sharing a pitcher of (Chicago-brewed!) beer with a good friend, listening to the concession and acceptance speeches, then sharing the afterglow with two of my best friends (who lives states away from me), I don't feel like hiding my excitement about this event, and what it hopefully means for the future.

I am in the process of completing my undergraduate degree at the University of Chicago. For those who don't know, the UofC is in Hyde Park, where Barack Obama and his family live. Now, I haven't been by their home recently, and I've never bumped into him in the neighborhood. And, pretty much everyone (it seems) was downtown tonight, in Grant Park, to celebrate. But I still sensed something in the air as Alex and I walked home from the Pub, and it wasn't just the honking cars and distant fireworks.

This was an exciting place to be tonight--Hyde Park, Chicago, the American Midwest, with friends (both physically and emotionally), about to the start a new part of my own life, in a country that is taking a step in the right direction.

Light-hearted EDIT: it's ten 'till two, and the comment threads on the internets where I browse (not to mention facebook statuses) have exploded into warm fuzzies. Aww.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Sunny November Mondays, Bicycles, and Bacon-Apple Pie

Let's begin with the most awesome, shall we? Tonight, a friend and I accomplished the glorious goal of making bacon-apple pie:

Look what we made!

Bacon, close-up

You're jealous, I know. On the plus side, it's simple to make, and absolutely delicious. We deviated from the recipe a little, using a little over half the recommended apple (6-7 large apples do not fit in a 9" pie), cinnamon in place of nutmeg and cloves, mezcal in place of scotch, and leaving out the crispy bacon bits (because we totally burned them). And it was awesome. WILL MAKE AGAIN.

Would you care for a slice of bacon-apple pie?

Now, to return to the beginning, today was a nice day. Definitely nice in the sense of weather--a balmy, sunny 70 degrees, in freaking November in Chicago. Clear blue skies--gorgeous. I took advantage of the weather to go for a stroll around the parts of the neighborhood and haven't visited much since my second year of college.

Christ Scientist church - close up

Fall colors

After lunch, I went for the bike ride that I had promised myself. I went south this time, down to the 63rd St. Beach, where there is a pavilion from the Chicago's world's fair. The walls were covered in ivy; they rippled when the wind blew threw them, making the building seem alive, the movement similar to the rise and fall of a chest as its owner draws in breath and releases it.

63rd St. Beach - courtyard

I guess you could say the scenery put me in a poetic mood.

Fall on The Point

Tomorrow is supposed to be gorgeous, too; but I've got work, then class, then lunch with an old friend, then a long date with the library. Going to see if I can make some headway on this paper I'm supposed to be writing. Perhaps an update tomorrow? (Hooray procrastination!)

EDIT: Oh yeah, I neglected to mention that I might also be FLIPPING OUT about the election.

In the meantime, never let anyone tell that bacon cannot be part of the dessert course.

Oh, and VOTE!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

On good concerts and being musical

EDIT: Check out this awesome footage from the concert; the action beings around 4:50.

I avoid writing reviews here, largely because I don't think I write them very well. So, this is not a review of tonight's Decemberists concert.

The Decemberists

This was the best concert I've been to in almost a year (since I saw TMBG last November, I've seen Jonathan Coulton + Paul and Storm twice, Electric Six, Rilo Kiley, and The Fratellis). The music was fabulous--and well-mixed--and Colin Meloy was hilarious and amazing. The way he engaged with the audience was awesome, and it was really exciting to be a part of it, even considering that I was sitting way up in the balcony, and most of my favorite songs didn't get played. Just, a terrifically fun experience (and keep an eye out on YouTube for a get-out-the-vote video we all made together!).

For me, the best concerts are those that give me a different experience than I get from listening to the studio tracks on my computer iPod, and what it omes down to is how and how well a band or musician manages to engage the audience. There are plenty of ways to do this--audience participation (clapping, stomping, callbacks), good banter, shaking things up somehow (improv, solos, etc). I admit, I'm a sucker for the audience participation; the reason I go to rock concerts to become a part of something bigger than myself, and getting to be part of the music, along with a whole bunch of other people, really does that for me.

Anyway, tonight's show really made me miss being a musician--or rather, an active musician. I no longer have any...formal? outlets for my musicality. Actually, that's a lie; my musicality comes out through my dancing, but it's not exactly the same thing. I played classical piano for 13 years, but I seldom play anymore. I used to play guitar and write songs and sing them at open mics; I wrote a song last year but I think I've forgotten how to play it by now and I didn't even bring my guitar to school this quarter. I was in a really goofy a cappella group for two years, but we fell apart due to a lack of interest in leadership. And, consequently, the only singing I do anymore is singing along with my computer.

Is it possible to find an outlet for this after I leave school? I don't know if I'd like to join a band. I don't know if I could find a choir I wanted to sing with. I don't know if I'll have the drive or inspiration to start writing music again. I won't have access to a piano. It's interesting, and quite sad, to think that something which was such a large part of my life for such a long time--making music--has almost entirely disappeared from it.


So, on my way home from last night's Halloween shindig, I started thinking about my blog, and how I've been slacking (especially considering the words at the top of this page). And I thought to myself, "You know, I don't need to feel bad about not blogging, it's okay if I take a break while I finish up my coursework, blablahblah."

And then I get home and remember that it's National Blog Posting Month (or National Novel Writing Month, for fans of long-form fiction). So here we are.

Speaking of Halloween:

Zombie-Ayn 2

Even now I'm trying to avoid splattering brain-crumbs on my keyboard.

Anyway, new post tomorrow, hopefully.