Wednesday, July 30, 2008


I've learned that you can make airpop popcorn in the microwave. And then you can put a mix of cinnamon and splenda on it. And I've learned that this is very good. I can't remember where I learned this, but they say you learn something new every day. Of course, I learned this a few days ago...

Monday, July 28, 2008

Not a Dead Man

Sunday we went to the zoo in Madison. It's a pretty small zoo, but a nice place to walk around. The spaces for the animals are pretty small and that's not so good but if you can get past that, it's a pleasant enough place.

Right in front of the Herpetarium we saw a man collapsing. He had two people (his brother and sister-in-law) holding him by the arms and taking him over to a bench. He had no strength in his legs at all. There were a lot of people around and so after offering our bottles of water (they were refused), we got out of the way. Someone else was already dialing 911, and soon after they laid him on the ground and started CPR. We moved farther away.

It seems like it took 10 minutes for the ambulance to arrive. A few minutes later he was on a gurney and in the back. But he didn't have an oxygen mask on and it was clear they hadn't done anything to him. His sister-in-law was walking around a little dazed and his brother was with the kids. Given the CPR and the time it took for the ambulance to get there and the lack of any work on him we were certain we had just watched a man die.

A while later I saw a zoo keeper and I asked him about the man. It turns out that the CPR worked and that he was doing fine and even joking about the fact that there wasn't a pillow on the stretcher. We didn't see him talking or laughing but we decided to trust the zoo keeper (because if you can't trust a zoo keeper, who can you trust?!) and believe that we did not witness a man die.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Whad'ya Know?

We went to a taping of Michael Feldman's Whadya Know today. The tickets were only $5, which is pretty reasonable especially since they have free donuts and coffee while you wait. There were only about 150 people (max) in the audience so I figured my chances of getting a question on air or even being a contestant were good. I was woefully mistaken. I had a great question on my card. In fact, I had three of them.

My first question was, "What's the most interesting place have you been and what did you learn there?" Technically that's two questions, but I was pretty sure that would matter. My second question was inspired by the woman selling show regalia outside the theater. They had nice sweatshirts and I thought about buying one for Ronnie. So I asked how much they were. She replied, "$40." I mentioned that I thought that was a lot for a sweatshirt. She then told me that they don't believe in using sweatshop labor and therefore everything was made in America and cost more. Ok, I wasn't asking for a political discourse - I was just commenting on the price of the sweatshirts! So my second question was also two questions and was: why don't you believe in sweatshop labor and if you don't have your shirts made there how are the people who work there going to earn a living?

My third question came from Ronnie who asked "What's your favorite Federalist paper?"

I didn't get chosen to play the game or read the rules before the show. And he didn't answer my question. At least the coffee was good.

More on the Felters

This morning is clearly the last day of their conference. Many of the women at breakfast were wearing their purple "2008 Midwest Felting Symposium" t-shirts. The back of the t-shirt read "If you don't behave, we'll felt you". I have no idea what this means, but it seems kind of negative, don't you think?

We did see a few more women under the age of 60 today who were also clearly felters. And one who wasn't white (and no, she wasn't one of the Tibetan's gone astray). As far as I could tell, no one was under 40, or 38 at the absolute youngest. One woman had a felt watch band (sort of interesting looking from a distance), another had a felt backpack (not sure how that holds up in the rain) and yet another had a felt necklace of sorts that was hideous. Really.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Felters and the Dalai Lama

I'm spending the weekend in Madison, WI with a friend. Our hotel is right next door to the main convention space in town. The big to-do there this weekend is a Felting Convention, which means a lot of them are staying at our hotel. You can spot them a mile away. In addition to the hand-written nametags, they all have appliques on their shirts. It appears that only some are actually felt, and most of them involve puffy paints and sequins. With one dreadlocked woman who looked to be in her 40s, everyone else I saw is easily 60 years old, which then explains the puffy paints and sequins. I'm not sure how or why, but it does. It should be noted that the 40-something woman with dreadlocks was wearing a patchwork-y jumper kind of thing. She looked more like a textile arts person than someone who only works with felt (from my extremely limited knowledge of felters).

And here's another thing - the organization has enough money to hold their conference at a fairly large venue, but not enough to print real nametags for everyone? Maybe they're hoping it feels more "folksy", but it doesn't look like it (in case any of them are reading and wanted to know what I thought).

The Dalai Lama just left Madison and some of his aderents are still here, in our hotel, with us and the felters. We've got the men in red skirts (long, looks like they're made of linen) and red shirts, and the other people who look Tibetan. They aren't wearing red or saffron robes or dressed any differently than us, but they look like the pictures I've seen of Tibetans. And no, they aren't sherpas.

The hotel hosts a happy hour from 5:30 - 7pm each night. Needless to say it was a fascinating crowd waiting in line for Miller Lite and cheap wine. And in case you were wondering, I was drinking Diet Pepsi in my black pants and black and white shirt which was neither boasted an applique or a red linen skirt or saffron robe.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

DC Weather and Pluots and Sprechers, Oh My!

No, these three things have absolutely nothing to do with each other.

I landed in DC, got off the plane, walked outside and was hit by a wall of heat. And not just heat, but humidity, too. It is hot here! I don't know how people live here. It's pretty hot in Milwaukee right now, but nothing like this. Thankfully, there is air conditioning where I am staying and while I am not a fan of air conditioning in general, I would chalk this up to a life-saving measure for today.

I bought two pluots today. They are some sort of hybrid between a plum and an apricot, but more plum than apricot. Evidently the hybrid of more apricot than plum is called an aprium. Really. Look it up. I wasn't sure what it would taste like and I figured if I liked it, I should have another one on hand. (If I didn't, I was just going to leave it in the fridge where I'm staying and pretend I knew nothing about how it got there.) It has a smooth skin like a plum, and it was brownish-yellowish. Imagine my surprise when I took a bite and found watermelon red fruit inside. I think it tastes plummy - I'm not sure where the apricot part is hiding, which is ok with me since I don't love apricots....

This weekend we went to the Sprecher's Brewery. It was a good tour, and at the end, there is the requisite tasting room. I'm not a huge beer fan and since they also make really, really good sodas, so it's never a problem of not having anything to drink when we go. There was one beverage the tour guide mentioned called Triple X. She said it was something (I missed exactly what it was that this is) that was aged in bourbon barrels. When bottled, it's about 5% alcohol.

I figured I should try this. Whereas they give you a full glass (albeit small) of the beers and sodas, they only give about a 1/2 inch of this Triple X. This stuff was excellent! It was like carbonated bourbon, except I know that sounds terrible and this was anything but. It's only sold at their factory and they recommended that it be consumed soon after opening. I didn't buy any, but I might need to go back.

On a soda note, they are now making a soda called Raven Red, that has Wisconsin cranberries, cherries and ginseng in it. Not only was it tasty, but we were told it makes an excellent sangria when combined with cheap red wine and some fruit. It's also supposed to be a good mixer with nearly every kind of alcohol that you might want mixed.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Le Tour du Shorewood

The Shorewood Criterium rolled through our small village yesterday and there is only one word for it - wow. Our house was located smack dab in the middle of the race so by default, the race was the only place to be.

The streets were blocked off by about 3:30pm and the first race didn't start until about 5pm. Evidently that was about 30 minutes later than expected and the delay was due to a crash at a different bike race across town. The women were doing 20 laps of a 1.3 mile course. About lap 5 or 6, the race was stopped for a good 30 minutes to take care of a serious crash. 10 riders went down, 3 were injured and 1 was taken to the hospital. Of course, that took place on the other side of the loop and we were watching from the start/finish line on the main street running through the village.

And 30 minutes later, the women started off to finish the race. It was fascinating. All of the things that you hear about in the Tour de France, but on a smaller scale and with no huge mountains to climb. Plus, since they were going in a loop, you actually got to see them every few minutes and who was now in which position in the pelaton.

The kids race began immediately after. The kids rode the same loop, and only the one loop. They youngest was three and the oldest about 8 would be my guess. Some kids were on tricycles, and they looked determined - to win or finish I don't know, but they were pretty cute.

We decided not to stay for the men's race. BIG MISTAKE! 10 minutes later we had to go to a friends car (that parked outside the loop) and saw the men go by. Needless to say we didn't go home for the next 2 and a half hours. This was serious racing. A huge field of men's professional racing. I'd had no idea what we could have missed.

Every time the pel0ton went by, we would naturally stop and watch. Plus, it made for a very good breeze on a very hot day. In front of one neighbor's house, the woman I was standing next to said, "mmm. Spandex". That was probably the funniest moment of the race.

We were also watching them on the other side of the loop (where the crash had been during the women's race), so the street was narrower and so they were that much closer. They are fast! And the peloton was a full three blocks long. Around lap 30, a break-away group of 4 made it's way forward and by the end had a full 1/2 loop lead on the rest of the field.

They man driving the lead car drove not only the men's race (50 laps) but also the women's - in the same direction, the same 1.3 mile loop, basically for 3 and a 1/2 hours. I think he probably had a crick in his neck by the end. And he had to drive pretty fast - especially for the men.

The other nice thing was that at least on the neighborhood side of the race, everyone brought out their lawn chairs, a lot of people set up barbeques if not full out picnics, and everyone was just hanging out and doing the Shorewood version of tailgaiting. That was pretty nice. We talked to a few neighbors, played with some dogs and declined the offer of shrimp cocktail.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

How Not to Work and Run Errands

It's hot in Milwaukee today. Somewhere in the 90's I would guess even though the official reading right now is only 86. For a change, I was going out for lunch, which, on a day like today, is a nice thing to do being that most restaurants have at least minimal air conditioning.

Afterwards, I get in my car. My very hot car which has been baking for the past 90 minutes in direct sunlight. Lovely. And since it's so hot, I decide that I'll stop at the grocery store on the way home so I don't have to go out later. It's the regular grocery store - the one I rarely go to, but I need sliced dill sandwich pickles to go with the 16 Boca Burgers we bought at Costco over the weekend and Trader Joe's doesn't carry them. And I need diced tomatoes for the black bean soup I'm going to be making, which I could get at Trader Joe's but I'm not about to make a special trip just for them.

So on my drive to the store I call the office and try and touch base with someone (let's call him Avi) who's working with us on a specific marketing project. I tell him that I'm on my way back from a meeting and running an errand, just so that if he hears strange noises, he knows I'm not completely ignoring him. No problem. Until I'm looking at the diced tomatoes (there are way, way too many choices of diced tomatoes). Then it happens. A guy walks up to me and says, "Excuse me, do you know where the tomato paste is?" He clearly cannot see I'm on the phone, so I can't be annoyed. But do I look like I know where the tomato paste is? Evidently I do.

Avi laughs at me.

I excuse myself from the call for a second and say, "No, but maybe farther down this aisle?" And I was back on the call in no time.

And then it came time to check out. I had four items with me. There were three check-out lanes open and they all had at least three or four people in them. I'm not really sure why all of these people are shopping in the middle of the day, but that's why they have self-checkout lanes.

I start checking out. I'm mid-sentence with Avi when he interrupts me to ask if someone else came on the line. I have no idea what he's talking about because I'm focused on only two things: Scanning my three cans of diced tomatoes (I couldn't decide on just one kind) and my jar of pickles and having this conversation. I'm not listening to or hearing other voices.

If you've ever used a self-checkout at a grocery store, you'll remember that the machines speak to you. I did not remember this. Avi laughed at me again. I reminded him that I am so focused on our conversation that the extra voices are being kept at bay. And somehow he thinks this is funny too. So I have Avi laughing in one ear and a machine reminding me to put my diced tomatoes in the bag and take my receipt. It's a strange world.

(It should be noted that now that I am back and seated at my desk I am really enjoying the breeze and would have been fine not going out at all.)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Bastille Day!

Ever since I read A Tale of Two Cities in junior high school, I've had a thing for Bastille Day. I'm not sure why.

I don't know what would be involved in celebrating it. Should I be eating croissants? French fries? Fromage? I'm drinking eau, if that counts for anything other than my 8 glasses a day.

I don't honestly know much more about Bastille Day than I read in the book, which I realize was not non-fiction.

Speaking of which, isn't non-fiction a weird term? Shouldn't it be the other way around? Shouldn't we describe books that aren't 'real' as 'non-real', rather than by defining 'reality' by what it isn't?

Au Revoir.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

My Grocery Cart

I think I've written about grocery shopping before, but it's been a while, and if I can't remember, maybe neither will you.

Whenever I'm at the grocery store, I wonder what the checkout person is thinking when they look at the items in my cart. Now I know they aren't really looking with a critical eye, but when I look at other peoples' carts, I wonder all about them. What they're cooking, what kind of diet they're on, how many people they're shopping for, what kind of party they're having, if they live alone, why they are only buying licorice and tuna fish, what you actually do with plantains....

Tonight I was at Trader Joe's. My cart included: European-style fat free yogurt (I don't generally believe in buying non-fat foods unless they naturally occur that way but I've learned that in smoothies, the fat content of yogurt doesn't make a difference.), Hebrew National hotdogs, soy cheese, frozen roasted corn, Soy Ginger dressing, fake chicken and beef strips, romaine lettuce, a few onions, Luna Bars and frozen green beans and frozen vegetarian burritos.

This was not an interesting cart of groceries. I don't usually shop in order to have an interesting cart, but this was interesting in how boring it was. About the only thing remotely curious was the presence of soy cheese, yogurt and hotdogs. Maybe someone could wonder if I am shopping vegan, vegetarian or carnivore? But maybe not.

Not satisfied with having a boring cart, I stopped at a second store. Actually, a boring cart had absolutely nothing to do with it. In reality, Trader Joe's was out of hotdog buns, and wrapping them in a leaf of romaine lettuce does not make for a Chicago-style hotdog experience.

So I went into the regular chain store that I maybe go into once a month, if that. It was pouring rain - bigger than cats and dogs, more like lions and bears (no tigers were seen). And there I bought buns and a shaker of garlic and parmesan popcorn flavoring. Someone should wonder about that, right? I mean who goes out in the middle of a monsoon to buy hotdog buns and popcorn seasoning? Evidently I do.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

131 steps

We live just a few blocks from the shore of Lake Michigan, so when it's nice out and I feel like walking, I walk over to look at the lake. In case you've never seen it, it's big. Just heading due east from our house gives me a nice view, but it's sandwiched between two houses, and while I'm sure the homeowners are very nice, I don't want to get arrested for loitering. So I walk the rest of the mile to the park.

The park has a few benches, a large grassy area, and a play area for kids. And it also has a balcony to look out over the lake. Look out over because the actual shore is far below.

How far below? 131 steps. Down. Steeply down. But thankfully, the planners of this good village (Shorewood, WI) were wise. Very, very wise. Just about every 22 steps there are well-placed benches.

These are not very important on the way down.

And on the way up, you have to think strategically about where you might stop to pause and look out at the lake and enjoy the view (aka catch your breath). Why strategically? Because there are all sorts of people going up and down the steps and you don't want to look like you can't actually make it more than 22 steps without taking a break. 22 steps isn't so much really, but 66 is getting up there. not to mention 88.

Yes, I know these people aren't really paying attention and don't really care, but shouldn't they? I mean what if someone (else, not me) has a heart attack?

Luckily for me, Pete Townsend kept singing and didn't care that I stopped for the better part of Rough Boys. You gotta love Pete....

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Voice mail

I hate checking voice mail. Work phone, home phone - it doesn't matter. It makes my husband crazy but I could leave the little red light blinking for days. But at work, seeing that red light makes me anxious because I know that a message implies work that I haven't otherwise anticipated.

Yesterday was busy and I could see that I was missing calls and that a few messages had been left. And today was one meeting after another. So it wasn't until late this afternoon that I finally listened to voicemail.

Really, of all the things I do, this is truly the scariest. The most frightening part is the waiting to hear how many messages there are. I know I can listen to three or four and not be overwhelmed no matter what the content is. So any number four or below is what I'm waiting to hear. Five to eight and I may need to listen to them in two groups. It's generally not more than that, so there are only a few times during the year that it would be helpful to have one of those new portable "shock your heart" kinds of things around. Of course there's no one qualified here to operate one, but that's beside the point.

I call into voicemail. "You have 10 messages." What? How can that be? Who are these people and what can they want from me in the middle of the summer?! I'm not that important!

And yet they called. I was brave and listened to the messages in only two groups because the first two were things I'd already taken care of. I like those kind of messages.

The first message was from yesterday morning, and since I'd already taken care of it, I wasn't concerned that it had been more than 24 hours. The ninth message was left at 9pm last night. That meant of all the missed calls today (and there were a lot of them) only one person left a message. What? I'm not important enough for them to leave me the courtesy of a message?!

And, as always happens, and I mean always, while I was listening to my messages, another one came in. I think it can wait until tomorrow....

Monday, July 07, 2008

Spell Check and Tossing Fish

There are too many things that spell check doesn't catch. Like form and from. Today I was trying to write the phrase 'crap shoot' and it came out 'carp shoot'. I happened to notice, which I think was a good thing.

But then I started wondering what a carp shoot might be. Is it like a game of horseshoes where the goal may be to have the fish land on the spike? Fish don't roll, so it would be hard to play marbles with a carp. Or it could be more obviously like basketball, in which case the possibilities are pretty clear. I'm not sure I like the idea of incorporating a fish into the biathalon, although that might bring in a few more viewers to the winter Olympics.

And finally, I finished my email.


I never really thought I liked mangos (an accepted plural spelling). There was an Indian restaurant that had a great sauce for their samosas that someone tried to tell me was really a mango sauce, but I never really believed them, because I was pretty sure I didn't like mangos.

Of course that doesn't mean I'd ever actually tried a mango. I hadn't. And then I went to DC where a friend bought a mango for me. To this day I'm not sure why. But when someone buys you a mango, you're sort of obligated to try it, right?

It turns out I've watched enough of the Food Network to know how to slice one and make it look pretty enough to garnish a buffet. But I still wasn't really excited about eating it. But I did. It was slimy and not completely offensive. In fact, not offensive at all, but nothing I would go look for at the grocery store.

But another friend of mine told me that she loves the frozen mango at Trader Joe's. I didn't really think that would be helpful to me, but I thought I could buy it and make a mango lassi. I did, and it was good. Very good. But let's be real, I'm still not convinced I like mango.

And then, today, a third friend sent me a recipt for amba - the spicy, curry sort of mustardy sauce they have in Israel at all the toniest falafel stands. It's a little complicated and the first step calls for 10 (!) green mangos to be cut up, salted, and left on a window sill for 3-4 days. I might still try it. I can't imagine cutting up 10 (!) mangos, but for some amba... I might need to.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

It just goes to show....

You learn something new every day. And today I learned the French word for "yeah". It's ouais, pronounced "way". In and of itself this is not such a big deal. I learn new words all the time as evidenced by my large vocabulary.

But this word in particular brings a totally new meaning to the movie, Wayne's World, and the exchange:

"No way!"

Had I known all these years that they were in fact saying "Ouais", and not "Way", I'm sure my life would be different. I'm not sure how, but it would be different.