Saturday, April 29, 2006

It's a Pride and Prejudice Puzzler

Mr. McGee and I have been on a Jane Austen kick, both reading the books and watching various movie versions. Today we rented the Emma Thompson/Kate Winslet version of Sense and Sensibility, and as the movie finished its set-up, Mr. McGee remarked, "You know, I don't know how people can even write novels anymore now that entailing estates is illegal."

I'm not sure if it's dorkier that he said that or dorkier that I found it hilarious.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Crack(ed) Pipe

This what the contractor from Bix and I discovered when we removed the holey-board-tool-thing, also known as a peg board:
It's one of those ceramic foundation pipes they used to lay along the bottom of a foundation or basement, parallel to the wall, to help relieve hydrostatic pressure of the earth on the walls by giving the water somewhere "easy" to go. You can see a little picture here, or, if you're a homeowner with a basement, you already know more than there is to know about hydrostatic pressure and dewatering systems. If you're not a homeowner, or live in one of those parts of the country without basements, you probably don't care.

So the mystery here is why there is a ceramic foundation pipe FOUR FEET UP MY WALL AND COMING PERPENDICULARLY INTO MY BASEMENT! It appears to have been "installed" somewhat after the house was built. Here's a close-up of the pipe. A little hard to see, but if you look closely, you can see all the mud in there. The pipe goes back as far as our high-powered flashlights could penetrate through the mud, at least 20 feet or so:


In that first picture, you'll see that it looks like the pipe vomited something onto the worktable. That's actually an ancient rag that some prior homeowner "installed" (probably when they installed the crazy-ass pipe) to keep the water from coming into the basement. Here is the completely vile rag:


The contractor said it looked like one of the pipe tiles shifted in the recent rain, so until recently, the rag did an okay job of stopping the water that would seep into the pipe, leading to what looked like normal, minor midwestern basement seepage. The heavy rains over Easter overwhelmed the ability of the rag set-up to prevent water from USING THE WATER PIPE and thus flooded my basement.

But now we come to the truly frightening part. Up until now we've merely been in the realm of stupid. Now we enter the realm of "Holy SHIT!" Look closely at this picture and note the WIRING THAT IS AT LEAST 20 YEARS OLD:



Yes, that's ancient electrical wiring - the contractor and I guessed about 20 years old - disappearing into the random-ass muddy pipe. Yes, it does appear to be live. (No, we don't know what it's powering. The electrician is coming next to GET RID OF IT!) Yes, that is an apparently live junction box covered by a piece of cardboard. The entire set-up was hidden behind the peg-board.

How old is this fiasco? We're not sure. The house is almost sixty years old. The pipe was clearly added to the basement after original construction, and for no functional reason whatsoever, except apparently to run those electrical wires. Someone was either an absolute idiot do-it-yourselfer, or hired an absolute idiot contractor. The last owners (whom we know socially) disclosed the seepage to us, but appear to have been unaware of the whole pipe/rag setup, thus proving that if a holey-tool-board pre-exists when you buy the house, most of us won't bother to take it down to inspect the basement walls. Or during the entire time we live there. So it may have been two or three or even four owners ago.

So there you have it. THERE'S A FRIGGIN' PIPE IN MY WALL!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Eyebrows Paid Attention in High School Biology

Eyebrows to Mr. McGee while watching TV in the basement rec room: "Dang, now I gotta pee."

Mr. McGee: "So why are you going upstairs? Do you not like the basement bathroom?"

Eyebrows, disappearing up the steps: "No, I'm going to get more water while I'm upstairs. Then I'll have to pee again. Drinking and peeing. It's a vicious cycle! CURSE YOU, HOMEOSTATIC CELL BALANCE!"

Mr. McGee, but only in his own head so I can't hear him: You are SO. WEIRD.

Basement Water

We found out how the water is getting in the basement. The contractor and I took the peg board off the wall, and then he just stood there and stared at it for a good 90 seconds before saying hesitantly, "It's a ceramic pipe ...." and I said, "There's a lot of mud ...." and he said, "I've been doing this for 40 years and I've never seen anything like this."

Then I had to go find everyone in the neighborhood who was home and make them come look at my basement. Because it's just plain bizarre. I can't even describe it to you in words. I will have to take pictures. But I'm in a great mood because a $2000 new dewatering system just became a $4 DIY project. Also, because I get to tell everyone I see about the TOTALLY BIZARRE PIPE IN MY BASEMENT WALL! (And everyone is suitable impressed with its bizarreness.)

If there's anything on this planet that makes a bad situation better for Eyebrows, it's getting a good story out of it.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

NOISE!

So the Peoria City Council voted to pass this ordinance allowing cops to impound the cars of people whose car radios are audible more than 75 feet away. There's plenty of good commentary on the appropriateness and legality of this ordinance on other blogs (linked on the left there). I'm more concerned about the noise.

Now, granted, Eyebrows has bat ears. In the winter, when windows are closed, I can hear the phones of my neighbors on either side when they ring. In the summer, with windows open, I can often hear the phones two doors down. When I'm on the first floor, I can hear if the television in the basement has been left on with the black screen - like after you turn off the DVD player but forget the TV - just by the electricity noise than an "on" television makes. So there are an AWFUL LOT of things I can hear from 75 feet away and Peoria's lucky I'm not in charge of determining what's audible at 75 feet. (I once picked out music - everyone else thought I was crazy - at 3/4 of a mile, and identified it as a violin, live, not canned -- over the city traffic of St. Petersburg, Russia. Indeed, 3/4 of a mile later, there was our violinist.)

I live near two schools, and I can hear the school bells ring at both, and the children outside at recess, from substantially more than 75 feet away. Normal people without bat ears can, too. But the sound of children playing isn't stressful; the heavy bass beat of a boomcar usually IS. It gets your heart pounding. It's hard to relegate to the background of your consciousness. So I sort-of get why a boomcar is illegal, but shrieking children and school bells aren't.

Boomcars don't strike me as particularly more rude than other things, and I know this is because I have bat hearing. Yes, they drive me crazy, and yes, it's terminally rude to force your music onto others that way. On the other hand, the roofers across the street were listening to a boom box at a totally reasonable volume last week when re-roofing my neighbor's house, and that drove me crazy ALL. DAY. LONG.

So I guess my real question is, How loud is too loud? Being able to hear something from 75 feet doesn't mean much. I can hear bugs having silent bug sex from that distance, I swear. ("No, baby, I promise, I'll stick around after the eggs hatch!") Mr. McGee sometimes can't hear the telephone when he's sitting right next to it. Boomcars are rude, because they're inflicting their music on other people. But were the roofers rude? I don't think they were, and they certainly didn't mean to be. They were just enjoying some music at a reasonable volume while working outdoors. They didn't mean to drive me batshit. Some boomcar drivers probably don't MEAN to annoy others either, just to enjoy their music. (Although how one can enjoy music at a volume that causes hearing damage is beyond me. My ears hurt just thinking about it.)

But I was pleased to learn, from C.J. Summers, that there already is a law about loud "pipes" on motorcycles. Memo to 26-year-old guy down the street who is unemployed and still living with his parents: NOBODY WANTS TO HEAR YOU REV YOUR BIKE. Having "boomeranged" myself before going out on my own, I don't really have a problem with people living with their parents. This guy has just moved from boomerang child to life-long leech. He doesn't work, so he can't afford to move out, but he can miraculously afford a variety of hobby bikes, all of them EXTREMELY NOISY and all of which he feels an apparently irresistable urge to ride up and down the street at 7 a.m. on a Saturday.

Which is ironic, because you wouldn't think someone that dedicated to slacking would be up that early.

When I first read what C.J. said about laws about those bikes, my immediate reaction was, "Oh, I am SO calling the cops." I posted as much. But I probably won't, because it's a friendly and tight-knit block, and I don't want to be the person who's the cop-calling troublemaker. I never used to give in to peer pressure when I was a kid. Now that I'm a homeowner, I'M SUCH A SUCKER FOR IT!

And while we're on the topic of noises that should be banned, someone needs to teach a class at all the local high schools informing them that pulling into the driveway and honking for your friend to come out is the HEIGHT of rudeness. Mom McGee would actually not let us go out to the cars of people who honked. We would have to sit there in the front window writhing in an agony of embarassment until they figured out they were going to have to come knock on the door. This was pre-cell-phones, so we couldn't even call them to say, "Hey, dumbass, honking repeatedly isn't getting you anywhere." There are several teenagers on the block who always honk when picking up their friends, and, yeah, it's possibly the most annoying thing on the planet to the neighbors.

I sort-of want to put a big sign in the front yard that says "Honk if you have sex with sheep!"

I bet that would solve the problem.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Pushcars

Mr. McGee keeps pushing the cars.

Part of me admires this, because clearly it's pretty wasteful to start a car just to push it into the garage, or pull it back out of there.

Part of me is going, "What the hell is wrong with this man that he doesn't just start the damned car?"

Most of me, however, is watching him push the car into the garage while thinking, "NICE ASS!"

Monday Tidbits: Hats, Alligators, and Bathrooms

I bought a new hat - two new hats, actually - at Bergner's last week. I love hats because no matter how much sunblock I wear, I still get burned. I started wearing hats at band camp in high school (yes, yes, Eyebrows went to band camp. Different post.), and realized the glory that IS a hat for keeping you cool and shady. Plus, they're retro in the best way, in that they're totally etiquette-acceptable still, but nobody else wears them, so they're always a conversation piece. Over the last 10 years, I've collected probably close to 20 hats, cloth ones I can soak with the hose and let drip on my head, packable panamas, big fancy formal hats I wear to weddings, felt fedoras, cute cloches ... I've got 'em all. Hats basically never wear out, and since they're not IN style, the styles don't really change.

So I picked up two new hats at Bergner's (on sale, of course!) for the summer season - a little cloth cloche for doing sweaty work in the garden, and a HUGE straw hat that is the BIGGEST HAT I HAVE EVER OWNED. I was super-excited, because I'm always looking for nice big brims that'll keep the sun off my face, and this one is HUGE. ENORMOUS. If I attached it firmly enough to my head (with hatpins, another terribly useful tool from a bygone era!), a stiff wind could cause me to achieve liftoff. I'm just delighted with this hat.

The toddler next door saw me in this hat, stopped in his tracks, and his eyes got really wide and he got a huge grin on his face. "HAT!" he announced, with uncommon conviction, as it was far and away the hugest hat he had ever seen. That's exactly how I feel about it. "HAT!"

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Mr. McGee and I returned to Po' Boys for a second go, and I ATE ALLIGATOR. This is a big deal because I'm not very food-adventurous. Then followed a long discussion about whether alligators are water animals, since I refuse to eat anything that lives in the water. Whatever. It tasted like particularly savory chicken. Try it.

Followed up by the jambalaya which just made my belly so warm and happy I could have taken a nap right there.

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There are apparently people in this world who clean their bathrooms EVERY SINGLE DAY. I know this because I stumbled across a web page for them while looking for something else entirely. I don't know exactly what's wrong with them, but I'm sure it's treatable with medication.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Creeping Crud

Mr. McGee brought home a nasty little bug last week. He went to work and everyone who looked at him told him to go home; after two hours, he gave in and did as they suggested. He slept for basically two days straight and felt seriously rotten. Now he's on the mend from it, but I've caught it. So we spent our entire Saturday whining to one another about our headaches, muscle aches, stuffy noses, and general malaise while watching crappy movies and eating comfort food.

Isn't married life grand?

Friday, April 21, 2006

Gas Is Seriously Expensive!

Yesterday Mr. McGee had to back his car out of the garage, to get to the wheelbarrow and lawnmower, as the storage section of our garage is in the back and has no independent access.

The neighbors and I, having an over-the-fence chat, were shocked to see Mr. McGee (rather than starting up the car and backing it out like a normal person) roll down the window, pop the car into neutral, and, without starting it, PUSH THE CAR OUT OF THE GARAGE all by himself.

"Geez, McGee," my neighbor said, "Gas isn't THAT expensive!"

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Mmmm ... Decor

I was SO EXCITED yesterday because I popped by the Mission Mart as I was running unrelated errands. I like to poke my head in the Mission Mart every now and then because they usually have a) an entire set of Corelle that matches my grandmother's pattern, which I think everyone's mother or grandmother had, and b) a variety of interesting furniture. We decorated our basement rec room/nerd hole in a sort of 50s/60s "mod" design, courtesy of Target's collegiate decorating themes and of Mission Mart, where I've had very good luck with furniture I like to call "somebody's grandmother's chair." So yesterday I stuck my head in, and there was THE PERFECT UGLY ORANGE 60s CHAIR to match my pre-existing Mission Mart ugly orange 60s chair. So now I have a semi-matched set in my basement and it's wonderful! The other thing I love about Mission Mart is that they always tell me Jesus thanks me for my purchase. So now I feel like I not only have perfect ugly orange 60s chairs that belonged to somebody's dead grandmother, but I have perfect ugly orange 60s chairs that belong to somebody's dead grandmother THAT JESUS APPROVES OF.

Also, today my curtains should arrive, so my dining room picture window no longer provides theater to the neighborhood after dark, and I can go back to having naked dinner parties.

So it's a very exciting decor day for me. I didn't know I was so excited about decorating until I bought a house, and then suddenly furniture and curtains become, like, the most interesting topics on the entire planet. It's amazing.

And speaking of Target in passing, I was at Target the other day and overheard a man on his cell phone, speaking in Spanish. His caller apparently asked him where he was, and he responded, in Spanish, "Estoy en 'Tar-zhay.'" His caller asked, "What?" And he says, "Estoy en 'Tar-zhay'? Sabes? Target? Tar-zhay?"

It absolutely cracked me up that even in Spanish, people jokingly call it "Tar-zhay."

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Old School Buildings, Air Conditioning, and May 20, 1988

I was reading more of the debate on the proposed new Glen Oak school over at Polly Peoria today, and I got interested in the comments. Mr. McGee and I don't have children, so my horse in this race is that I'm concerned about education generally and children generally, not that I have a specific child of my own, or even a niece or nephew, whose specific education I'm concerned with.

Part of the discussion centers on how necessary air conditioning is for learning. As someone who becomes totally immobile and actually begins to melt when exposed to too much ambient heat, I'm totally in favor of air conditioning. (On the other hand, in the McGee house, the air conditioning is set at 76 - no lower - and frequently at 78. Eyebrows' parents raised her with a holy horror of using bought air unless absolutely necessary. The heat is kept set at 62 during the winter.) The dorm I lived in in college was un-airconditioned (and had radiator heat), and when the air got still, dead, humid, and HOT in May, it was squirmingly uncomfortable. Just in time to study for finals.

Polly contends, with others, that school buildings need A/C for students to be able to focus and study, rather than just squirm with discomfort and whine. Others contend that they studied just fine back when they were kids in 1894 without any damn air conditioning while walking uphill backwards both ways to school.

I think they both have points. As a philosophical matter, I think air conditioning is way over-used and people should suck it up and sweat now and then. The hottest, stickiest months in Illinois - July and August - school is not in session. Still, Illinois can work up some nasty-sticky weather in September and even October, and in May and June, and whiney, hot, tired kids are not the best learners. I love the old school buildings Peoria has, the beautiful old brick and stone, majestic and symmetrical, temples to learning. But they're generally full of asbestos and lacking in modern necessities, like my dorm was - the electrical was installed well after the dorm was built, and it was old electrical to boot, so someone using a newer-model blowdryer could short out a whole floor. I'm sadly sure that new buildings will be ugly-ass Cinderblock Palaces of Love -- but they'll be a lot more user-friendly. And it's cheaper to build an ugly new Cinderblock Palace of Love than it is to renovate a beautiful old building.

But what the discussion at Polly's made me remember is something that comes back to me, in bits and snatches, many times when schooling is discussed.

I went to grade school in Chicago's north suburbs. On May 20, 1988, Laurie Dann went on a shooting rampage at a Winnetka grade school that left a child dead and five others wounded (including a teacher, I believe). I was in fourth grade, I believe, and it was around 11 a.m. Teachers were pulled into the hallway, one by one, and came back in shaken. I knew they were scared. Windows were lowered, closed to almost a crack. Janitors went up and down the halls slamming doors shut. And the teachers went on teaching with a forced normalcy that reeked of fear. It was the first "school shooting," and nobody knew what to do.

I remember a lot of things about that day and the days following, in bits and snatches, particularly whenever there's school violence on the news. I remember how my parents, talking with other adults, would stop talking whenever we children entered the room, and how I would overhear whispers of, "Can you imagine how horrible? In a school? What is the world coming to, is nowhere safe?" I remember receiving lectures from the adults in my life about what to do if someone came into my classroom with a gun. I knew about the Laurie Dann shooting, of course, but the whole idea was so ludicrous and remote that I barely took it seriously.

But what came back to me in a flash as I read the discussion on Polly's blog was how HOT I was that afternoon, and how pungent the mingled reek of sweat and fear. My grade school was part older building, part newer addition. The older part wasn't really intended to be air-conditioned when it was built, and while I can't firmly recall if it was air-conditioned in 1988 or not until the next year, if the A/C was there in 1988, it was rarely used. Instead, on hot days, the school would throw open all its myriad doors to allow the building lots of cooling breezes and cross-ventilation, and the teachers would open the windows wide. Lots of the rooms had those up-high transom-type windows on the other side of the room, peeking up over the hallway roof, to get even better ventilation, and fans would run on the very hottest days. It would get hot and sticky, but the breezes made it tolerable, even pleasant.

On May 20, 1988, it was hot. And once the doors were shut and the breezes were closed out, as the school tried to secure itself against a crazy woman with a gun in a nearby suburb, it got icky in the classrooms. I remember the feel of sweat on the back of my neck, and of my hair sticking to it. I remember the room smelled sweaty. I remember I wanted a breeze.

On May 20, 1988, all those doors were closed. Shortly thereafter those orange bar-locks were installed on all of them during the school day; only the door closest to the main office was unlocked during the day. Some windows were sealed shut as too dangerously accessible. The doors were never thrown open to catch the breezes again. The next year, we were well-air-conditioned.

Twenty-five years ago, schools could throw their doors open to let the spring in. Twenty-five years ago, nobody knew access had to be controlled, with metal detectors and locked doors and easily-defended access-points, like a military installation as much as a school.

I don't know if this means that students need air-conditioned buildings or not. I do know that the world has changed for today's students in ways so much more important and pervasive than technology. When we talk about our students today, we talk about technology and behavior and violence. We never talk about how we've locked spring breezes out of schools to keep our kids safe.

I don't know what it means.

But I know I missed the breeze.

Monday, April 17, 2006

April Showers Bring ... April Flowers


A corner of my back yard garden: I love bulbs! (Click to enlarge.)

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Not Just Rain But "Ahhh! RAIN!"

Jesus gave me water in my basement for Easter. (Sorry, religious holidays always make me a little giddy w/r/t Jesus.) I've now been a homeowner for two years, and this was my first major basement water experience. In the past we've had a little seepage, but THIS storm scared the bejeezus out of the cats (Orange Cat ran to cower in the basement; Grey Cat darted upstairs and FRANTICALLY spent 15 minutes trying to open the door to the master bedroom while we shouted, "Get in the basement, you moron!"), turned the street into a river, made a pond in our front yard, rained DOWN THE CHIMNEY, and exploded through my basement wall. The force of the rain was such that the little seepage crack in the foundation, which prior to today was just a nuisance, was SPURTING water out through the holes of the tool-holding-holey-board that hangs in front of it. (I know there a name for it, but you know what a tool-holding-holey-board is, right?)

As basement water goes, we were lucky. It was in the unfinished part of the basement and while we had to unplug a couple things and evacuate some tools, there's nothing there that really gets HURT by the water. Still, it brought in just oodles of mud and required me to - for literally the first time in my entire life - to MOP! Once the sump pump and drains had cleared out most of the water, I mopped up the muddiest parts because it was a slippery dance with death in there (also, I was afraid the cats might shun the litterboxes if they had to go through mud to get to them!). Usually Mr. McGee does the mopping because I don't know how. Now that I've done it once, I have no excuse left, drat it all.

Other than the 15-minute Armageddon-like storm with thunder that rattled the windows, it was a beautiful Easter, and we spent most of the day in the garden preparing the raised beds for our vegetables. There's such a lot of "hurry up and wait" involved in gardening, and patience is not one of my salient characteristics. But so far, most of what I planted - even the lilies of the valley, my favorite plant, that I thought were killed by the scorching sun and drought of last summer - is coming back up, including a delphinium I thought the bunnies had killed and an purple coneflower I thought I planted too late. It makes me ridiculously pleased every time something pokes up out of the earth, like I've achieved something remarkable, instead of like the universe is merely continuing in its daily business of bringing forth life.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

"Happy Easter"

It's normal to wish others a "Happy Easter," but that just seems so commonplace, so bunnies-and-Hallmark, so bland.

If we were really thinking about what Easter MEANS, we'd never say "happy." It's wildly inadequate for the occasion. We'd say something like:

HAVE A FUCKING MIND-BLOWING, REVELATORY, AND LIFE-CHANGING EASTER!

And we'd always say it in all caps, and only because there's nothing bigger. And we'd continually run out of English-language obscenities that adequately expressed how fucking mindblown we truly were by Easter. (Except for my father, who is currently thinking, "How did my daughter learn that word and why is she using it in PUBLIC?")

Annie Dillard wrote that if we knew what was really happening in Mass, we'd all be wearing crash helmets and seatbelts in church. But we don't. We don't think about it. It's just an everyday miracle. We just go to church, and it's like, "Hey, happy Jesus!"

So for Easter I say to you, "HOLY SHIT! JESUS GOT THE FUCK UP FROM BEING DEAD! HAVE A MIND-BLOWING EASTER AND A REVELATORY, LIFE-CHANGING EASTER SEASON! DUDE FUCKING ROSE FROM THE DEAD! YOU'RE FRIGGIN' SAVED!"

So Happy Easter. I hope it blows your friggin' minds! JESUS GOT THE FUCK UP FROM DEATH!

Friday, April 14, 2006

Caesar Walks into a Bar

This is the lamest joke ever and it says a lot about my sense of humor that it absolutely cracks me up. Friend of mine in Sweden (the one who didn't think Peoria was a real place) told it to me:

Julius Caesar walks into a bar.

"I'd like a martinus," he says to the bartender.

"Oh, you mean a martini?" the bartender asks.

Caesar angrily retorts, "NO! If I wanted a double, I'd have asked for one!"

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Come Thou Unexpected Jesus!

There’s an old Charles Wesley hymn that begins “Come, thou long-expected Jesus.” Like all Charles Wesley hymns, it’s lovely, and it’s theologically astute, but with Easter coming, I always think the first line could use a little tweaking: Come, thou UNEXPECTED Jesus. It’s an Advent hymn, I know, but I think of it again at Easter every year.

We have long expected Jesus, to work in the world, to change our hearts, to return in majesty and triumph. And I think that’s the real danger – what we expect of Jesus. Too many of us expect Jesus to turn up and fit our prejudices: to appear and hate Republicans, or Democrats. To give those who look like us, or think like us, a free ticket to heaven, and to smite those we disagree with. To make people elect or damned not according to their souls, but according to our own prejudices.

We know better. It’s terribly difficult to remember that God isn’t busy putting on command performances for our entertainment and smug self-satisfaction, that God doesn’t smite on our whims merely because we feel morally superior. We do know better, but we forget.

Jesus overthrows all these expectations and, if we let Scripture reach our hearts, jars us again and again out of our complacent social and cultural “Christianity” into a true understanding of God’s love – and demands.

The Jews knew what kind of savior they expected in the first century: A war leader who would overthrow the foreign rule of the Romans. They got a poverty-stricken infant in a barn somewhere in a Galilean backwater. They got a criminal who claimed to do miracles, but couldn’t – or didn’t – prevent himself from a horrible execution. They got a man making demands on them, not the Romans, to give up their wealth, to love their enemies, to leave behind all things on earth and follow God.

This was not the messiah who was supposed to appear.

This was not – at all – what they expected. Instead of throwing off the rule of the Romans, he threw off the dominion of death. Rather than freeing the Jews from foreign rule, he freed all mankind from sin.

So come, thou unexpected Jesus!

Come thou infant, come thou criminal, come thou dead-and-risen Son of God!

Surprise us!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Do a Little Dance ...

I won in court today. My first case. Woohoo!

Okay, yeah, it was just small claims, but winning feels GOOOOOOD. No wonder litigators get so aggressive about it after a while! I could hardly wait to get out of the building and call my client and say "Boo-YA!"

==Eyebrows does a dorky-looking lawyer boogie.==

Monday, April 10, 2006

In Which People Appear to Think I Am Not Home

I work from home, as I've mentioned before, so I'm fairly used to the rhythm of our street and, particularly once it's spring, I can hear whenever a "big truck" rolls down the road. On days when work is slow, watching FedEx come and go is substantially entertaining.

What continually amazes and annoys me, however, is how utterly careless many of these people who come and go for business reasons are. Twenty years ago, there were a lot of stay-at-home moms, so someone was home most of the day. Today, other than the folks on the street who do shiftwork (and are therefore sleeping), I'm one of the very few people home during the daytime on our block. And oh my, the bad behavior I see.

Our garbage men are great, but our lawn waste guy really just can't be bothered to pick up the lawn waste. Sometimes he skips bags, but more often, he tosses them in so that they spill everywhere, then he leaves the mess in the street. (I have called the city about this when it's particularly bad. They claim they'll send a truck to clean it up. They never do.) He's occasionally done this when I'm actively in the yard and can see him!

My mail person, as I've blogged before, really loathes the mail and can't be arsed to deliver it. She drops mail in the dirt a lot, instead of putting it in the mailbox, and can't really be bothered to pick up the stray pieces. She PITCHES packages onto people's front porches. She KNOWS I'm home all the time, and yet she'll all-but-dropkick a box onto my steps. Not that the UPS substitute driver is any better.

I watch repair and service people drive over my neighbor's lawns, or knock down trashcans and just leave. A couple of political pamphleteers apparently felt that the neighborhood flowerbeds were intended as highways for door-to-door campaigning (no, I didn't vote for your candidate! Do you know what my neighbor just spent on those new plants you trampled??). Some of the folks who open my storm door, to leave a package or a leaflet or whatever, abuse the door to an alarming degree (it's not a complicated door, either).

Most of the careless, when they see me watching them, look guilty and fix whatever they just did. But some of them look me right in the eye and go on dumping the block's lawnwaste all over the road. It blows my mind. And so many of these companies and services wonder why their customer service gets low marks. A shocking number of their employees, once free from active supervision, feel free to treat the world as their toilet. Thanks, guys. I appreciate it.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Spring! Spring! Spring!

If you don't see me much for the next few days, it's because I'm outside rolling in my nice, warm, blooming garden and breathing the fresh air.

It's days like today that make me believe the best thing about winter is that it makes spring seem 100 times better!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Po' Boys

Mr. McGee and I went and checked out Po' Boys, a relatively new place in an awkward location in the Landmark Recreation Center on Dries, sort-of tucked back by the parkinglot of a nameless superstore, attached to the Bingo hall. We'd seen the Journal Star piece, and then we read Chef Kevin's review in his blog, and we decided we had to try it.

Oh. My. God. I am still actively foodgasming. And burping, for that matter.

You MUST go there, if only because some place so friggin' cool and so friggin' tasty MUST stay open in Peoria! DELICIOUS. On Chef Kevin's bloggy advice, Mr. McGee had the crab cakes, and proclaimed them the best seafood he'd had since coming to the midwest (especially for $7.95!). He had the gumbo for dinner; I don't eat seafood, so I had the Blacksmith Pasta (which Chef Kevin's DA had, I think) - three kinds of rotini (normal, spinach, and something orangey?), andouille sausage, blackened chicken, onions, tomatoes, etc. I ate the entire bowl, which is unusual for me, and I may never fit in my pants again.

The interior is very cool. We sat in the "first" room as you come in (it's non-smoking), which is the most brightly-lit and the least Orleanian, but the waitress invited us to explore, so we checked out the rest of the place. Super-cool. Awesome indoor ambience. I can't wait to go catch some N.O. jazz there! The waitresses were friendly and chatty, not the cookie-cutter sorts you get at a lot of places, and the owner/chef/some-in-charge-guy? came out to our table to ask how everything was. And they serve 75 beers.

I had a Conway's Irish Ale (tasty! and very smooth), but I have to say for the first time in my life, I was actually a little aggravated at the beer for TAKING UP VALUABLE FOOD SPACE IN MY STOMACH. How was I going to fit all that super-fantastic pasta in there if the beer was taking up room???? Why had I given valuable stomach space to beer, which I can buy anywhere, when there was spectacular food demanding every inch of digestive real estate I had available????

I kept thinking about those commercials for "casual dining restaurants" or for "burgers that don't taste like $5.95 burgers" or whatever. This was DEFINITELY the best food I've ever had at "casual dining" prices - the most expensive entree wasn't over $10 - possibly excepting the tiny Mexican hole-in-the-wall we used to go to in Durham that looked like crap and where nobody spoke English but it had $2 burritos that were, like, the essence of all that is holy and burrito-y. I've definitely paid a lot more for food that was a lot crappier. Now, I'm not a foodie, but I'd put this place up against some of the "name" places I've eaten in Chicago, D.C., and N.C., and I think it would come out with a strong showing, taste-wise.

I really can't be enthusiastic enough. We will definitely be back. Probably just as soon as I stop burping.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Toxic Dump

This blog is mostly about personal things, about living life as a modern married professional woman, about the craziness that is the world, and only about the political insofar as politics are personal - when people politically object to my hair, for example. There are many other excellent commentators on local politics - many linked off my sidebar to the left there - who are more informed than I and who do an excellent job. While I consider myself involved and active, I don't feel that my voice on politics typically adds a great deal to the debate.

However, I have strong opinions on the proposed PDC toxic waste dump expansion, and since the proponents (who seem, from what I observe, to be a fairly small group) have taken to ridiculing the opponents (who seem to be an overwhelming majority), I feel compelled to respond and detail my objections, which fall into 4 major areas.

1) Peoria already has problems with heavy-metal contaminants, primarily lead. This is not a paritcularly safe place to raise children, chemical-wise. Most of us are carrying an astonishing load of persistent chemicals in our bodies, many of which are toxins, endocrine disrupters, or carcinogens. I spend a great deal of time trying to REDUCE the amount of toxins I'm exposed to. Landfill liners leak. They just do. It's just life. The liner is already leaking trace amounts of toxins into our water supply; I'm sure that other chemicals are being released into the air. We simply don't need to add MORE toxins to our environment, particularly when we're working so hard already to protect children from lead in Peoria County. Frankly, when we have children, we'll probably move somewhere cleaner and less-toxic for our children. I read the EPA maps. I know what I'm breathing. I'm not real pleased about it.

2) The location is spectacularly insane. It's within the New Madrid seismic zone, and it's on top of the Sankoty aquifier. I don't know if I believe the worst-case scenario buffs about New Madrid's impending Katrina-like disaster, but we do know that Peoria shakes when New Madrid shifts - heck, Philadelphia's church bells rang the last time New Madrid let loose its fury. Even a medium-sized earthquake has the potential to half-destroy the toxic dump. Seriously - what kind of moron puts a toxic waste dump on a major faultline? The dangers of the New Madrid perhaps weren't well understood during the original siting of the dump, but we get it now.

The Sankoty aquifier provides 60% of Peoria's drinking water. I firmly believe that the wars of the 21st century will be fought over water -- fresh water is increasingly scarce, and aquifiers like the Ogallala have been already astonishingly depleted by overuse in the Great Plains and mountain west; by people living a rainy lifestyle in drought areas. The American Southwest is adjusting, with xeriscaping and water-saving appliances, but they're still water-hungry. Austrailia, the Middle East - water shortages are becoming politically and economically problematic. The Great Lakes states and Canadian provinces are taking measures to protect the Great Lakes watershed - and prevent export of our freshwater to other regions. It boggles my mind that when water is becoming an increasingly precious and protected resource, we would knowingly and deliberately put our water at risk. What's the old saying about shitting upstream? SAME THING.

3) The taxpayers are going to pay for this. And pay and pay and pay. 30 years after closing, the county has to start monitoring the site. The PDC is supposed to pay for perpetual care, but frankly - it's a private company. They go bankrupt. They fail to follow through. They don't have to live with the toxic waste dump for hundreds of years. We do. I simply don't believe that when the dump ceases to be a money-making assets and becomes merely something PDC has to pay the cost of maintaining, they'll continue to be interested. I understand PDC is meant to set up a trust to pay for the perpetual care. What if it's inadequate? What then? I also really don't feel that "I live six miles from a toxic waste dump!" does great things for my property values. (God knows my realtor didn't include that in the house info packet.)

4) And here's the "emotional" one that's not a reason, per se - I don't want to live in America's Toxic Waste Dump. I don't think Peoria should be known as the Armpit of America, or the Shithole of America, or the Toxic Waste Dump of America. Yeah, dude: "Not in my backyard." Particularly when there are so many places out AWAY from urban areas, NOT sitting on major freshwater aquifiers, and NOT sitting on top of active seismic zones. My backyard is a dumb place to put your dump.

I actually think PDC is a great company, which is unusual for me. I'm all about sticking it to the evil businesses and whatnot. I think they're sincere. I think they do a good job managing the dump. I just don't think the dump makes sense. I think it's spectacularly poorly sited, I think it's dangerous, I think it's going to cost us a lot of tax money in the long term, and I don't think Peoria should be known for having a toxic waste dump.

If you're interested in knowing more, you can check out Peoria Families Against Toxic Waste and the PDC corporate website.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Blergh

I feel like I should blog something but it's just such a blergh of a Monday, particularly with the time-change messing with my internal clock.

So "Blergh!" I blog to you, "Blergh!"