I awoke in the middle of the night, a queasy feeling in my stomach, a light feeling about my head. Was it that cold that was going around? No, I figured, it was probably something I ate. With any luck I'd be better by the morning. As the dark hours passed, though, it became obvious things were becoming worse, not better, so when the alarm rang I stumbled to the computer to let everyone know I wouldn't be coming in. I told my coworkers who'd be my backup, I told my boss I was taking a sick day. I heated some tea, went back to bed and tossed for a few sweaty hours. Around noon I tried to get up, failed, and again landed at my computer.
More for habit than anything else I checked my work email, and before I knew it I'd worked six hours, all the time my hair unwashed and mangled, my stomach unkempt, my brow sticky with sweat.
I'm feeling somewhat better this evening. The fever has subsided and my stomach has stabilized. The cool air of the apartment feels normal again. That's not to say I feel good, but probably good enough to go in tomorrow. Three years ago I would've planned on a second sick day, but then I was only responsible for my own work, not that of others. When my position changed, so did my threshold for taking a day off. It's much higher now, but I suppose that should be expected.
) ) )
Overdue notes on the weekend: I spent much of Saturday afternoon over at Meg's helping her paint the basement of her house. Where the walls she worked on looked uniform and white, mine looked like a series of unintentional topographic maps. On Sunday I headed over to River Falls for the baptism of Jason and Sarah's new kid. (With that not only have I attended religious ceremonies two weekends in a row, but I've attended religous ceremonies two weekends in a row that involve a woman named Sarah.) After the reception I drove back to Minneapolis, and an hour later drove all the way back to River Falls to pick up the cell phone I'd left at their house.
) ) )
City Pages' Best Of The Twin Cities 2003 hit the stands today. I'd pushed a number of friends and coworkers to write in the Mississippi River as the best place to dump someone, but Loring Park and the Mall Of America won instead. (Those are both poor choices. I mean, come on: Rarely does a year goes by without at least one body washing up in the water intake at the St. Paul Ford plant.) In other news, further proof we can't trust the masses comes from the reader poll winners for the best Italian restaurant, be it in the "cheap" or "not cheap" categories. Bucca Di Beppo, a half-assed chain serving reheated Fazoli's in a setting designed by mentally deficient members of the Sicilian eBay mafia, somehow managed to win on both counts.
So, anyway, about the rest of the trip to Chicago last weekend...
I stopped in Marshfield on the way to Madison to have lunch with Robin. I got to see the duplex she and Andy are moving to, her place of employment and some local religious memorials. Overall, things seem to be going pretty well with her. During lunch, I asked what I felt was an obvious question. "How are things going with the wedding planning?"
"Well, I've picked out the bridesmaid's dresses."
"I hope they're not purple." It was a joke, of course, but not one that had been thought out very well. In retrospect, if I had to respond, I should've said "I hope they're not teal." After a brief conversation we settled on the understanding the dresses were closer to plum, but it was still a situation where I wished my thoughts had been forced to pass a QA milestone before being submitted to my mouth1.
Then again, earlier in the afternoon we had this conversation:
"I like your glasses," I said.
"Thanks. You got new glasses too?"
"Yeah, but now I have no lower peripheral vision."
"So now you can't see or hear."
So maybe it was just a conversational form of karma. Or something.
Anyway, while things seem to be going well with Robin, the same could not be said for one of her fish. It's rare that a fish confined to a tank can do something that'll stop a conversation, but that's exactly what happened back at her apartment. Without warning one of her and Andy's goldfish began darting Kamikaze-like about the tank, its body slamming against the glass, gravel and other fish numerous times before lodging itself beneath a stone mountain in one of the corners. Fearing for the safety of the other fish, Robin and Andy fished out the injured carp and placed it in a glass by itself. The cause of the fish's affliction was unknown (a Google search for
"goldfish seizure" yields no suggestions), but most guesses revolved around the concept of a tiny goldfish heart attack.
Many of their fish had names, but the unfortunate creature in question did not. Since the fish seemed to be near death, and since it was Good Friday, they dubbed him Jesus. No word yet on whether he was back on Sunday.
After visiting Robin I headed down to Madison for dinner with Ben and Lisa. The drive was quick and uneventful, and probably would've been perfect had I not found myself mired in a poorly-lit maze of parking lots at their apartment complex. Dinner consisted of chicken vegetable soup cooked up by Ben (it was better than he gave himself credit for), as well as a 99-cent loaf of bread brought by me. (I didn't intend to be cheap, but Wuollet's was sold out when I stopped there in the morning.) We talked for almost five hours about a number of subjects, ranging from Ben's trip to Australia, politics (Lisa: "Pawlenty sounds like a garnish."), music, geek devices, London, urban planning and, uh, guniea pigs.
Ben and Lisa's apartment isn't Wild Kingdom or anything, but it populated by a fair number of furry creatures. The three guniea pigs seemed friendly, but Ben's cat decided to hiss at me on my second approach2. After dinner Lisa started bringing each one of the rodents out for an introduction, and I ended up photographing all of them, usually using Ben's head as a comparison for scale.
I headed back to the hotel around 1:00.
My plans to meet people for lunch in Milwaukee on Saturday fell through, but instead of doing the sensible thing and heading to Chicago on I-90, I decided to take I-94 through Milwaukee anyway. I figured I could grab I-894 down to 76th, make a quick stop at Kopps (home to the third-best hamburgers in Wisconsin,
behind Kroll's in Green Bay and Mickey Lu's in Marinette), take 894 back to 94 and head to Chicago from there. Had I known I-894 was down to two lanes because of construction, and had I known a rusty Plymouth Voyager was going to unexpectedly careen into my lane, and had I known I'd be forced to make an unplanned exit to avoid that Plymouth, and had I known that many of the on-ramps to 894 were closed for construction, I would've taken I-90 instead. To make a long story short, every on-ramp back onto 894 was either closed or blocked, so eventually I gave up and decided to stay native until Kopps. (I'm pretty familiar with that area, so at least I had the benefit of knowing what my options were.) In the end, that one stupid move by another driver resulted in me wasting a good half hour I'd rather have spent eating and reading in the comfortable patio area outside Kopps. Instead, I ate my hamburger and vanilla shake in the car.
It was worth it, though. Kopps is still one of the best burger places around. (Too bad I didn't have time for some custard.)
Aside from a driver in front of me missing the coin bucket at a tool booth in Illinois (and getting out of her car and spending over a minute looking for her dropped change), the rest of the trip was uneventful. It was good to see Sarah, of course, and she seemed quite pleased with getting confirmed, but other than the few things I wrote last week, much of that part of the trip will be better covered by the photographs I hope to post in the next few days. (Okay, so I don't have any photos of me trying to defend France in a conversation with her boyfriend's parents, but I'd rather forget about minor episode altogether.)
And that's pretty much it for the trip. More later.
Well, I had a lot I wanted to write about last weekend's trip, but that was before I started having problems with a couple of my left fingers on Monday. Granted, it was nothing an X-Acto knife, a couple of matches and some hydrogen peroxide couldn't fix, but today is really the first day I've been typing since I got back from Illinois.
In other words, I'll post stuff about the trip in a few days or so.
Well, it's 2:10 in the morning. I'm sitting here in my room at the Motel 8 in Aurora, Illinois, and I'm putting a 20-minute time-limit on this entry. I have to get up about seven hours from now, and after lunch I have the long drive back to Minneapolis.
I'll start with the main reason I went on this trip in the first place. Sarah's confirmation was this evening, and she had asked me to come down to Illinois for it. I was somewhat hesitant at first—me going to anything church related is a bit like a cattle rancher going to a PETA meeting—but it didn't take me long to realize I wasn't much of a friend if I wasn't willing to attend what was obviously a major event for her. So here I am, and, well, I'm glad I made the trip.
So Sarah's a confirmed Catholic. While I admit I'm not entirely clear on her reasons for solidifying her relationship with the church, she seems very happy about it and so I'm happy for her. Heck, she was practically glowing by the time the service was over. (Okay, that may have come across wrong. That was meant to be another reference to her being happy, not a religious joke. You know what? I'm tired.) Besides, she doesn't seem to be completely rearranging the rest of her life around this change: The gathering following her confirmation was marked mildly intoxicating beverages and a number of questionable conversations, so it seems Sarah will still be Sarah.
It's just now she'll also be one of them.
Anyway, regarding the service, it would be irresponsible of me to suggest I have the faintest idea what an average Catholic Easter mass is like, but from my previous experience with the church (which for the most part came to me in the form of funerals and weddings), Sarah's church seemed a bit nontraditional. It's not like they had a "CATHOLICISM WOW!" banner over the front doors of St. Thomas The Apostle, but in a couple ways things seemed to be leaning in that direction: In addition to the brief audio-visual program, the story of Creation was complemented by sound effects, and the priests spent a good amount of time joking with each other during the readings and songs. I dunno. Maybe the grim, stoic Catholicism I'm familiar with is just a Wisconsin thing.
Or maybe not.
Well, it's 2:35 now, so I have to hit it. I'll write more about this trip when I'm back in Minneapolis. Watch for stories about goldfish, guniea pigs, and giant rats. (No, I'm not kidding.) More later.
Well, I'm off to Chicago. And Madison. And central Wisconsin. If the car doesn't break down, I should be back in Minneapolis on Sunday.
Had dinner at Soba's Cafe in Minneapolis this evening. Everyone else liked what they picked from the menu, but I found my choice, the chicken risotto, to be fairly weak. (Much of the rice was crunchy, and later on I found a few pieces of chicken that seemed to be undercooked. Not good.) The atmosphere sort of rubbed me the wrong way, too. It seemed like the perfect place for the monthly dinner meeting of Librarians For Wellstone, and while I wouldn't be inherently opposed to such a group (if it ever existed), it's probably not a collection of people I'd want to hang out with.
I try not to judge a restaurant on one visit, of course, but I have a couple hundred other establishments I'd like to try before I give Soba's a another look.
) ) )
Jason Kottke has an excellent entry on all the people faulting CNN for protecting its sources and employees in Iraq before Saddam's regime fell.
I think everyone who's read of the looting of the Iraq National Museum in Baghdad considers it a tragedy, but it wasn't until I heard a piece on The World yesterday that I really started to think of it as more of a global tragedy than just a national one. Lisa Mullins talked about the looting with John Malcolm Russell, a professor of art history at the Massachusetts College of Art. I don't know how much of an expert Russell is on the museum and its (former) contents, but assuming he is (by the fact they interviewed him for the piece), what he said was somewhat frightening. I transcribed part of the conversation below. Mullins' first question references a clip of Colin Powell saying the U.S. understood its obligations and was going to play a leading role in the museum's recovery.
Mullins: Does that surprise you given, maybe, the U.S. posture after the Gulf War in 1991?
Russell: Well, the response after 1991 was to a much different situation where a number of objects were looted from a number of small museums, and while that was a serious loss, it was not the single great museum in the World and the single greatest disaster for human heritage—that I can think of—ever in the history of the World. I mean, we're talking about something that's truly frightening, truly staggering in its scope.
Mullins: Did you just call this the single worst disaster?
Russell: I did. I've been thinking about it for a while. I mean, the comparison that comes to mind is the burning of the library at Alexandria. Even that was, at most, a 1000 years of human history. We're talking about 10,000 years of who we are. It's the very foundation. This is catastrophic beyond words.
If you want to hear more, the entire conversation is available in Windows Media Format.
) ) )
Quite a thunderstorm we're having this evening. (Time from first major crash of thunder to the cat arriving on my lap: Approximately three seconds.) I suppose the folks running to the post office this evening to drop off their taxes are probably finding themselves a bit wet.
Parts of the metro broke 90 today. Ick. (You know, few things beat the smell of rotting garbage on a warm spring evening.) I considered breaking out the air conditioners tonight, but decided to go for a walk and be lazy instead. I may pay for that decision when I try to go to bed in a few hours. Whatever the case, the rest of the week looks to be significantly cooler, and I find myself actively looking forward to it.
It's going to be a long summer.
Kind of quiet here lately. It was a busy work week, but not much stands out other than an impromptu frisbee session held late Friday afternoon. As usual, the weekend was considerably more interesting: I got an introductory crash course in wine bars (or, at least, Bobino's), escalated the car search (air conditioning is important), gave the apartment its first legitimate cleaning in months, and blew enough money on clothing that four years ago it would've covered a month's rent, utilities and food. (On a related note, I remembered why I stopped shopping at Structure. Turns out Express isn't much different.)
It's a beautiful evening. The windows are open, the air smells like charcoal and the cat is showing a great deal of interest in the birds. That said, five more degrees today and I would've hauled out the air conditioners.
) ) )
A couple of sites and news articles about the war that stuck out over the past few days:
- We Love the Iraqi Information Minister. (If you can't get through to the site, there's a good reason for that.) Earlier in the week I had a dream that it was a year from now, Iraq was more or less peaceful and that a transitional government was in place. The only problem was Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf was still on the air and still asserting that there were no U.S. troops in Iraq, but no one could figure out where the hell he was broadcasting from.
- Bush: Syria 'needs to co-operate', from the Globe And Mail, in which the president states Syria has chemical weapons.
- The News We Kept to Ourselves, from the Op-Ed section of The New York Times, in which Eason Jordan of CNN talks about the horrors they knew were happening in Iraq but didn't feel they could say anything about.
- A fighter's last words as Kirkuk falls, from the StarTribune.
- Pillagers Strip Iraqi Museum of Its Treasure, from The New York Times. We know U.S. forces are working to protect infrastructure vital to Iraq's economy, so, if for no reason other than moral consistency, it would seem they should try to protect important reserves of its history and culture as well.
- US troops' anguish: Killing outmatched foes, from the Christian Science Monitor.
Busy weekend. I'm still a bit hoarse from joining a bunch of coworkers on a bar-run Friday night. It turned out to be one of those evenings when everyone talked about things coworkers probably shouldn't talk about, but everyone was ventilated enough that it's doubtful anything of great substance will make it back to swanky land fluorescent lights and cubicles. Saturday night was good, too. I joined a couple of old neighbors and a whole bunch of other people for one of the regular forays up to Singapore Chinese & Malaysian Cuisine in Maplewood. The food and conversation were as good as usual, but in a way it felt a bit odd being the only straight guy in the group. (At least, I think I was the only straight guy in the group.) That's not to suggest I had a problem with that, of course, it's just that when Nesha mentioned an actor she found attractive and a number of the guys voiced agreement I suddenly became much more aware of my heterosexuality than I usually am. I found myself thinking, well, Mark, you could talk about an actress you find attractive, but really, how much is anyone else going to care? Anyway, a lot of various topics were covered and time passed quickly. When I got home I expected the clock to read 10:00 or 10:30, but in reality it was quarter to 1:00.
Today was a little more subdued. I woke up this morning with a rare good idea and spent much of the day nurturing it. (Watch this space.) This evening brought coffee with Diana and a tour of some of Minneapolis in her spiffy new automobile. Other than that, not much.
You know what would be cool? Three-day weekends. That would be cool.
After a lot of thought and number crunching, I've decided to hold off on buying a house or a condo. It just doesn't seem to make sense for me at this time. Right now rent and related expenses take up around 30% of my income, but if I bought a condo (the most likely scenario, as I don't have time for a house), housing expenses would jump to over half my income. I'm already fairly tight on my day-to-day spending—basic cable is the only thing I buy that I really consider a luxury—so that extra 20 to 25 percent that would be going to my living space would come out of the money I'm saving for grad school. Sure, if I bought property and things went well, I'd probably get much more out of that kind of investment than just saving like I am now, but, really, I don't trust this market: When I see skanky, garden-level condos in 25-year-old buildings not only listing but selling for $130,000, I can't help but believe we're headed for a crash. The last thing I want to be when I'm 30 and reentering the world of education is flat broke.