Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Future of Food

We went to see The Future of Food, a documentary about genetically engineered food last night. It's a good flick and I highly recommend it.

I didn't know what it was really going to be about, and sort of assumed that it was going to be another 'horrors of factory farm' type documentary. Nope. It is much more smart and compelling.

It glossed over the necessary patent law issues (and I super-hate IP law, so wasn't much help) to really understand the situation. It also implied health effects that have not been proven (but also not disproven). I was aware of a lot of these problems already from when I worked at Farmers' Legal Action Group, and from my own reading. To people without this basic background, this situation might blow your mind.

There is some scary shit going on in the world of plants and farming. The shit spreads and can't really be contained. The U.S. doesn't work to regulate it at the behest of the massive agribusiness lobbyists and the consequences are potentially catoclismically severe. The designed sterility of the 'terminator gene' has freaked me out for several years because if it spreads to major world crops, We Are Fucked. The terminator gene makes the grain useable only as food, not seeds for the next years crops. It is specifically designed so that farmers must by seed from the producer the following year instead of simply saving some to plant in Spring. There is a distinct possibility that unstoppable cross-pollination will render all of the corn in a region, nation or world barren. This alone would be devastating -- imagine if it then jumps to wheat or rice or other important grains, too! Currently this hasn't happened, but I don't trust the businesses to diligently guard against it.

Anyway, check it out if it is playing in your area.

Oh yeah, even though it was the opposite of the intention of the creators -- I had the strongest urge for corn and Mexican food after seeing all of the images.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Bad, Bad Busy Blogger

Life's been really busy I suck.

The Recap:

My knee is feeling better, but I'm still on the Bianchi. I think I'll take the Julep on Critical Mass on Friday though.

Another juvenile delinquent messed up a lot of my plans. He did give the opportunity for an unexpected 12-mile ride to his youth facility last night. We chatted about biking and he was amazed that I would ride through his neighborhood alone, at night -- plus in business clothes. He almost caused my Wisconsin weekend plans to be ruined again, but I convinced the detective to let me surrender him yesterday instead of Saturday. My advice: Quit fucking twelve year-old girls. It will make all of our lives better.

I had to rent a car (actually minivan) to surrender him. Driving makes me pissed off. I hate it and so do most other drivers, from their behavior and the looks on their faces. I feel trapped and confined and unsafe. Plus I was driving a g-damned minivan. I am used to small little cars not blind-spot filled, tinted windows (WTF -- it's a minivan!) monstrosity. I felt like an asshole.

Wisconsin was nice. Even though it was gloomy and rainy we got a lot of hiking in on Saturday and fall colors were beautiful. There were mushrooms everywhere on the almost deserted trails. Apparently their dog is a mushroom junkie and will seek out mushrooms until she is a drooling, stoned mutt. Tehehe.

I am fearful that my friends Steph and Shalan are quickly turning lame. Shal moved out of Milwaukee and into Bumblefuck, WI. The entire county's population is 16,000 and most of the homes are really trailers. It makes my hometown look like a thriving urban area. Dear Lord. Both she and Steph have to drive a ton for their commutes everyday. I found myself biting my tongue as they bitched about gas prices and time spent in vehicles. They know my views, so their is no point in reiterating them. They marvel at the 'luxury' I have of biking everywhere -- but they never arrange their housing/jobs to allow them this same 'luxury', instead choosing to get 'more house for the money' farther from work. Grrrrrrr..

Halloween is fast approaching. Friends and I are going as Charlie's Angels -- 1970's during Critical Mass and then slutting it up at the after-party as the 'New Angels'. Expect some hilarious pictures of me in the 'hoochiest shirt ever' that cleaves almost down to my navel. The party is at my house, so I have lots of other shirt options once I get tired of nobody making eye contact with me. And if any man besides Paul tries to grab a breast -- he better expect to clean his own blood off of the floor.

I applied for my passport, so Amsterdam plans are progressing, albeit slowly.

Life is busy, but good.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Christmas in October

Otherwise known as my order from REI arrived at work. Yippee!!

I bought more lights for my bike along with a small messenger bag and winter coat for tromping around Europe with Frick. The coat seems a little big, though. I need to try it on over a sweater to see if still seems too big.

I hope I don’t have to send it back.


Paul doesn’t know how to swim. He wouldn’t immediately drown if he fell into the middle of a lake, but I don’t think he could swim or tread water for five continuous minutes.

So I brought him to my health club for his first swimming lesson. I am not a good instructor. He is an eager student, though. So many things that I don’t consider ‘swimming’ are foreign to him. He doesn’t know how to glide through the water for strokes such as the side stroke and breast stroke. Even pushing off of the wall to glide underwater for as long as possible, which is just goofing off and second nature for me, apparently requires skill to learn. He also seems hesitant to really stick his face in the water, which I think is one cause of his hips sinking and causing him to swim at a strong angle instead of horizontally.

His swimming is really clumsy and frantic – which leaves him panting after one swim to the end of the pool. Poor boy. Even though I am not a strong swimmer by any stretch, I feel ridiculously fast and graceful in the water compared to Paul.

I never realized how many small things I do intuitively that he will need to learn in order to swim with any degree of efficiency or confidence. As I explain some of the physics involved to make his stroke more aerodynamic and efficient, he very much understands, but it isn’t coming through in his actions yet. As long as he keeps his good attitude about learning, this will be a fun project. I’m sure in a lesson or two, he will be able flutter kick better than me.

I wonder if it is easier or harder to teach an adult to swim instead of a child.

After about an hour of swimming lesson, we went to use the showers, sauna and then rejoined for about a half an hour of stretching and yoga flows. I hope this becomes a regular ‘date’ for us.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Autumnal Nesting: Cooking & Brewing

Compared to many of my summer weekends, this weekend was downright lame. I loved it.

On Friday night Paul and I scurried around after work to prepare and bike down to the UIC campus for its Bicycle Scavenger Hunt. We decided to do it just for something fun to do, and not to be competitive. Paul rode his low-geared, single-speed folding bike (aka the ‘Clown Bike’). I am exclusively riding the Bianchi until my knee feels completely healed.

We joined up with two women to create ‘Team Fun’ and were one of the last teams to leave the pavilion. We didn’t understand most of the clues. The girls took the Southside clues, while Paul and I biked back to get the Downtown & near North clues. We met back up near Second City in Old Town during the Friday night yuppie/tourist/taxi clusterfuck. I hate these areas of the city.

Then we scooted around our neighborhood before heading to a checkpoint at the Hbar to catch a drink. We went back to our respective homes to grab additional points. Fixies got extra points, so I rode the Julep for the first time in a long while – she makes my knee feel funny. Paul hit the money load in this last leg: he picked up a traffic cone, snagged a parking ticket off an SUV and also brought an 8' 2" x 4". I’m sure that was fun to carry back to West Town Bikes.

Still, Team Fun sucked. At least we didn’t come in last, though. Still, it was a better way to spend the night than just catching dinner.

Saturday was supposed to be a busy ‘getting shit done’ day – but a lot of things didn’t even get started. Our first task was biking to the Farmers’ Market to get apple cider to brew into hard cider. Paul likes to brew his own beer, but I don’t drink beer. He thought this would be a nice way for me to understand brewing and become interested in it without ending up with yucky beer at the end. Besides beer, we also picked up foodstuffs for dinner and Hbar brunch recipe testing.

The Farmers’ Market takes us through the heart of yuppieville. I hate going through these neighborhoods. People drive so poorly and selfishly and just seeing all of the yuppies walking their dogs and pushing their strollers en route to a coffeshop or other shopping creeps me out.
After lunch at Paul’s, we headed back into another yuppie-filled neighborhood so we could go The Spice House. It is not a porn store, but instead sells herbs and spices. I was out of vanilla and good cinnamon and in general needed to restock my spices. That store smells so damn good. Paul decided he needed a good vegetable peeler, so we ventured into Crate & Barrel. This was a day of yuppying out. I hate that technically I am a yuppie (young urban professional) and that some of my interests overlap with yuppie interests. However, I am not into status symbols or crass consumerism. Crate & Barrel used to have a much better cookwares section, but it seems
to be shrinking to make room for more decorative crap. Grrrrr.....

Anyway, we finally got out of that horrible place and Paul almost got hit by an SUV driven by a woman who apparently doesn’t believe there is any reason to look before pulling out into traffic. He wasn’t in her blind spot or anything and they certainly would have collided if he was a car lacking the nimbleness and smallness of a bike. I yelled at her to ‘Look before you drive’ and she and her passenger gave me a dirty look. We were stuck at the same lights for a stretch and I totally wanted to go over and just bitch at the dumb yuppie cunts, but restrained myself.

We moved onto Stanley’s Produce for more veggies and ingredients. Then we went to a discount wine store and finally went to Brew and Grow. This store supplies beer-brewing ingredients/supplies and supplies to grow plants hydroponically. All of the pictures seemed to suggest people growing lettuce in their closets under strong lighting, with special filters and fans to prevent your ‘garden odors from disturbing your neighbors.’ Yes, everyone is concerned that the smell of lettuce is going to bother your neighbors. It is so obvious that this place is for potheads.

We bought yeast for the cider. I completely embarrassed the two guys behind the counter by asking a totally reasonable question. They went from know-it-all, cooler than you counter-culture stoners to stuttering, blushing, fidgeting men. When they handed over the packet of yeast I asked if brewers’ yeast is similar to bakers’ yeast so that women have to be particularly cautious about it. (Women need to be wash their hands very well during bread baking or risk getting a yeast infection). They didn’t know the answer and apparently had never even thought that it might be a concern. Paul was laughing his ass off when we left at how flustered they were. He seemed to imply that my question was meant to embarrass them – it wasn’t, I just wanted to know the answer. Besides the actual brewing, for the next week or two Paul’s home is going to have a fermenting back of cider venting into the air. Yeast can certainly become airborne and I wanted to know whether there was a risk of nastiness during this process. Since these guys seemed to be brewing experts, it certainly is reasonable to expect them to know about a possible health risk to women from brewing. Alas, no answer, but at least three men now know that it has the potential to be a problem.

We steeped over two cups of chopped ginger to flavor the brew and sanitized Paul’s kitchen.

Then we headed over to my place to cook dinner. We were going to turn my basil plants into a huge batch of pesto. Wine was drank, squash and mushrooms were roasted as we made the pesto. Then we got down to the cooking lesson part of the dinner and I showed Paul how to make pasta from scratch. He kneeded the dough a bit and then turned the crank of the pasta maker. He was very cute to watch as he saw the flour turn to rough dough, turn to ever finer and thinner sheets, and then finally become linguine ready for the pot. Fresh pasta cooks in only a minute or two and we added a bit of cream and pesto for a yummy dish aside our roasted herbed squash and mushrooms. He denounced dried pasta as inferior and a poor substitute for fresh. He wants to make homemade lasagna and try some ravioli, too. Very, very cute.

He is trying to harvest the seeds from my basil plants to grow next year. Organic seeds are hard to find, so these seeds he know were at least grown from plants without herbicides or pesticides. In another week or two we will dig up my herb garden and bring the plants inside for the winter. We also need to spend a good solid day making stock – beef, chicken & pork. It is so exciting to be cool enough to want to cook again.

The next morning we finished preparing the cider and started the fermentation process. I was hung over from too much wine the night before. I am such a lightweight. I napped for most of Sunday afternoon and finally roused myself to make goat cheese flan and do a load of laundry.

Besides being hung over, it was a totally fun weekend, even though it was all about getting ready to nest for the winter.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Bathroom Etiquette

Maybe I am in the minority, but I knock before entering closed bathroom doors in peoples’ homes and many public restrooms, too.

My roommate John has guests staying at our place, and once again someone just tried to barge into the bathroom this morning. The ‘lock’ on our bathroom sucks, and really only slows down the opening of the door. However, I don’t understand why people don’t knock when presented with a closed bathroom door.

After I got out of the shower this morning there was a knock at the door. I replied, ‘occupied’ and the person asked me what I said, so I said it louder. Does it matter what I said? Hearing a voice coming from the bathroom should really be all of the information needed. Anyway, just a couple of minutes later somebody just tried barging in. I think it was the same guy. He acted shocked and embarrassed that someone was in the bathroom and immediately apologized.

It put me in a surly mood for the rest of the morning. I like the idea of us having houseguests. I can’t understand at all how so many people just try to fling open closed bathroom doors in other peoples’ homes. To me a closed door signals a strong likelihood that someone is inside – therefore Knock. I’ve learned to lock the door when there are strangers in the house, but don’t like knowing that if I forget, I am likely to have a stranger in the bathroom with me while I am showering or peeing. Grrrrr..... Prior to these experiences, I assumed that houseguests try hard to be inobtrusive out of gratitude for hospitality.

Am I crazy, or is this a justified pet peeve?

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Get Ready Europe, Here I Come!

Plane Tickets: check.
Vacation Days Approved: check.
Backpack Purchased: check
Passport: end of the week.

I decided to use my 2005 vacation to meet Frick in Europe! I 'work' on Monday December 12, leave at 5:00, take the train to Ohare to arrive around 6:00PM and depart at 8:10PM. Short layover in London and then a quick flight to arrive in Amsterdam at 2:45PM.

Tromping around with Frick for 10 days, before flying back into Chicago at 7:10PM on December 23. I'll somehow head up to hometown Wisconsin for X-mas weekend.

Holy Shit -- I've never left the country before. Even Mexico and Canada are strangers to me.

Hbar Brunch Menu

The Hbar owners and I met on Monday night to discuss future operations. I told them that I wanted to really work on improving our brunch. The Hbar is very close to heavy brunch areas. Almost all places have lines out the door, even in cold winter, of people waiting to be seated. The Hbar just isn’t on the radar of the brunch crowd, though.

I want to change that. I suggested that we start making really good bloody marys and introduce some exotic bloody marys, too. The owners were really receptive and we agreed to do this. I also said that we need to improve the brunch menu by adding several more good dishes. Josh suggested that I submit about twenty possible menu items that we can choose from.

I am ridiculously excited about this. Plus I had caffeine at the meeting, so I was up all night imagining tasty brunch dishes. Here are some of my preliminary thoughts of items to add to our current brunch menu:

Frittatas (w/ herbed polenta or rosemary potatoes, and grapes):
carmelized onion & blue cheese frittatas
roasted red pepper, feta & olives

Goat cheese flan on a nest of fried, shredded potatoes & onions (w/ grapes)

Eggs Florentine (w/ polenta or potatoes & toast):
Two eggs steamed atop a bed of seasoned, sauteed spinach

I’m hoping to try out several of these recipes this weekend. I am ridiculously excited about this!

Also, there is a very strong chance that the Hbar will be selling tickets for a New Years Eve party!

Woo Hoo! Too. Much. Fun.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Family Style & REI

Paul was diagnosed with tonsilitis and was feeling really crappy. I went over to his place on Friday night to make pumpkin soup with him. Poor boy.

Luckily he woke up feeling much better on Saturday morning. Yeah penicillin! Saturday was another Family Style with Chris and the rest of the vegans. This time there was a twist: the event was being videotaped for a segment on cable access. If the segment goes well, our fun Family Styles will become a regular program. Weird.

The event starts with people biking to the organic Green City Market farmers’ market. My job was to pull the trailer where the videographer sat. The glitch in the day was how long we spent at the market. We were introduced and our conversations were taped before we began the process of shopping for ingredients. It was cold outside and I was outside for almost four hours in a skirt and no tights. Brrrrrrr. Finally we got back to Chris’s place and spent a long time with my feet warming under Paul’s legs on the couch. Since he was sick he completely bundled up and was only mildly cold towards the end of the market.

I love the cooking part of Family Style because I get to be a know-it-all, smarty-pants about cooking stuff. Not in a bad way, but people always ask for my advice on cooking and cookware issues. The menu was:
fresh greens with citrus vinaigrette, raisins & pecans,
cold pesto potato salad,
spelt pasta with curried tofu & olives

We were also supposed to make a tahini quinoa dish, but we ran out of time and belly space.
After leaving Paul’s place shortly after 8:00AM, I got back home around 5:30. John was getting ready to ghost ride a bike up to a party. The Thunderhead Alliance is having a conference in Chicago, and we are hosting several people at our place. Thunderhead is an umbrella group of biking advocacy organizations. At our place is Christine from Santa Rosa, Dave from Wisconsin and Eric from.......?.

Later Paul and I rented the Virgin Suicides. I’ve seen it before, but we had both just read the book. This was our first movie rental together.....aww. I think it is pretty cool that we went this long without the urge to rent a movie because we have more interesting things to do. However, since Paul was still sick, Family Style took so long and neither of us wanted to spend time outside in the cold again, we decided that snuggling under a blanket and renting a video was a fine way to spend the evening.

Sunday morning we slept in, made breakfast together and the biked to REI. It was sunny and brisk outside. Very nice riding weather. Paul bundled up again, but I just wore yoga pants, a muscle shirt and arm warmers. By the time we got to the suburbs, I had removed even the arm warmers, and my legs were toasty in the black yoga pants. Damn, do the suburbs suck.
The street numbers appeared to be random, many buildings didn’t have their numbers posted, traffic was heavy, there weren’t sidewalks. Blech. We got trapped in some sort of residential cul de sac hell, as we tried to detour the wide, busy commercial shopping corridor hell. We joked that we might die as we searched for the REI. I’m pretty sure something horrible happens if you let the sun set on you in the suburbs.

We found the REI and were disappointed because it was only one story and small. I hoped there would be a climbing wall there. No such luck.

Paul bought a tent, bike tubes and some heavy biking mittens. I got a backpacking pack, shoes and toe/hand warmers. I expect that these little warmers will save me a ton of misery during slow winter Critical Mass rides and during long winter rides. I’m hoping that with the neoprene booties & toe warmers that I will be able to use my clipless shoes for long winter rides – especially the Frozen Snot Century. I could have easily stayed for another hour, but we wanted to get back to Chicago before dark.

This was a low-key, but totally fun weekend. I didn’t consume a drop of alcohol, nor inhale a whiff of smoke. It felt good to get out and ride at a fast pace without becoming a ball of sweat. We rode out there at about 18mph and then we had some tailwind on the way back and flew into Chicago at about 20-21mph. So fun.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005


Pretty early on Friday we learned that the case was probably going to settle. Yippee!

I was excused from working on the weekend because of the expected settlement. So plans were reinstated for a brothers-filled weekend.

I basically floated to Critical Mass, which turned out to be another huge Mass, with estimates of about 3,000 riders. We ended in Lincoln Square, the German part of Chicago and stayed to dine. I took the safe route with potato pancakes, while Anne, Grant & Paul gorged themselves on sourkraut, fried potatos, different types of wurst, schnitzle & huge steins of beer. For having German heritage, I certainly don't have any fondness for this type of food or drink. Blech.

The next morning we got up early, biked to the blue line station, took the El to Ohare, took a shuttle bus to the rental car station, crammed our bikes into the back seat and then drove to Wisconsin. I took the first leg of driving and we took the, umm, scenic route through Milwaukee instead of the more direct route to Madison.

We continued on to Devil's Lake for a few hours of hiking. Good stuff. I took a major risk with my knee as we climbed up the rocks and then hiked up and down the stairs carved into the steep bluff. Luckily my knee only ached a little from the hiking, and I managed to not reinjure it.

We met up with Equipoise and Frick, my adorable brothers at the hotel we were staying in. I took big bro's fixie for a spin and almost crashed it because it refused to unclip my shoes. I had to grab onto a pillar and free my foot from my shoe in order to ride safely. Outside of its greedy, clingy nature, the bike seems pretty sweet.

At the hotel we took turns showering. A pillow fight broke out between the sibs while Paul was in the shower. He wasn't surprised and expected a decent amount of horseplay and shenanigans from us.

We went out for dinner and drinks, which was very nice. Paul got to eat Italian food, Wisconsin-style: tortilline stuffed with cheese, in cheese sauce and smothered with melted, toasted mozarella cheese. Pour boy had a brick of cheese in his little belly for the rest of the night. The most fun of the evening (weekend?) was my brothers turning an outdoor modern art seating area into a raucous game of Outdoor Lava Floor. I'm sure one or both of them will post more about it, along with pictures. Very fun.

The next day we got a guided tour of the campus/capitol area from the bros, went to check out the Willy Street neighborhood and have breakfast. Frick inhaled his food as usual. We went to the Willy St. Co-op, and I learned to my disappointment that it had grown considerably and now seems more like a Whole Foods than the co-op I adored.

After that was a fast-paced ride out of town and back, before we packed our bikes up and said our goodbyes.

We dropped Frick off at the Milwaukee airport and then turned into yuppie Chicago tourists. Paul and I stopped to pick out a pumpkin at a farm and then went to Mars Cheese Castle to contiue loading up on Wisconsin goodies. We bought blueberry and cherry wine from a WI vineyard along with two packages of cheese curds and smoked string cheese. I had to give Paul a tutorial on cheese-making. I don't quite think he believes me that cheese curds are just a normal process of certain cheese-making.

The weekend was totally fun. It is always great to see my brothers.

The only dark spot was that Paul got sort of sad after seeing me and the bros goof off. He and his sister aren't close, but he hoped when she visited a few months ago that their relationship would improve. Instead, he realized that they even have less in common than he thought before, and was disappointed by the trip. He has been bummed out about his sister since her visit. Seeing the silliness and easiness between me and the bros demonstrated again the sib relationship he wanted, but doesn't feel is possible. So, unfortunately, he was quieter and sadder over the weekend than he normally is.

Other than that, the weekend was great. Can't wait to see you boys over Thanksgiving.

Back at the office on Monday, the case settled about 11:00am. The whole office is elated and screwed off for the remainder of Monday and Tuesday. I went home when it was light out two days in a row! Wednesday was almost back to normal, though -- I moved a ton of work across my desk and was pretty efficient, too.

The fun weekend along with the case settling have worked to great effect on my mood. Yippee!

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