Monday, February 26, 2007

Age Neurosis

My husband was unusually un-neurotic about his birthday; he took it with calm equanimity and lots of cake.

I, on the other hand, am FLIPPING OUT.

I've always gotten age-neurotic on weird birthdays -- 16 and 18 didn't bother me, but 17 threw me for a loop, because in my head when I was younger, that was the age when the teenaged movie dream life was all supposed to come together. 21 and 25 were no biggie, but 27 I seriously almost had a breakdown, becuase 27 was, in my head, the arbitrary age where one becomes an adult and I was clearly not an adult. This is also ridiculous because at 27 I was married, owned a home, had two cats, two advanced degrees, and was starting my own business -- how many more accoutremounts of adulthood did I need? But I didn't feel like a "grown-up," whatever that is.

I actually turn 29 next month, but my husband turning 30 has thrown me into this total crisis, like, "Oh my God, these numbers are LARGE. We're only 10 years from 40!" Which seems impossible, because it is clear to me in my head that my parents are about 40, maybe 45 tops, and how can I be catching up to them? This is part of the problem: the people who, in my head, are adults keep getting older, so the bar keeps moving. I have a very hard time realizing that I'm now part of that club, not confined to the kiddie table.

I keep thinking, Shouldn't I have DONE something by now? Isn't 30 an age where people had already, like, engineered a revolution (Thomas Lynch of South Carolina was 27 when he signed the Declaration of Independence) or had 10 children to work the farm or died of tuberculosis or something? (And should I stop reading so much history in order to realign my expectations with the year 2007?)

It's all entirely ridiculous because 30 is like a 1/3-rd life crisis, if anything, and since I'm a brain-laborer, not a brawn-laborer, my most productive years are clearly still ahead of me -- maybe quite some distance ahead of me. I've only been out of school three years in May!

I feel a little stupid, because I warned my husband that he was not allowed to be neurotic about his 30th birthday, and here I am, having a total breakdown about it -- and it's not even my birthday.

Part of the problem is that when you think about "the future" when you're in school (and remember, I was in school until I was twenty-six), you pretty much get to marriage (or not), children (or not), and first job with a hazy picture of future progression in your profession. I just have never had any picture in my head of what life would look like at 40 or 50 or 60, and I seem to have run out of the pictures I'd been using up until now. The mental projector needs a new roll of film loaded.

So everyone go ahead and mock away and tell me I'm far too young to be freaking out about age, because of course you are all quite right, but I'll just sit here and quietly panic all the same.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Updates and Suchlike

A post of bits and jots, relating to older posts:

We had a repeat visit from the squirrel in our fireplace. The cats couldn't have cared less the second time because the squirrel was old news. It turns out that if a squirrel falls all the way down your chimney, he'll open your flue from the impact, which I suppose is better than having him stuck in the chimney itself. We have to get a new thingie put on top of our chimney pipe, but the bad weather has meant nobody wants to go up that high on a ladder placed on ice. Hopefully now that it's thawing we can get a new chimney thingie.

Now that I know how to handle fireplace squirrels, I was very blase the second time. Although I briefly thought Mr. McGee was going to accidentally skewer it with a fireplace poker and that just would have been gross.

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Speaking of my darling husband, he is indeed wearing a fedora around town and he looks terribly dashing. 1952 suits him. When he comes home from work in his fedora and overcoat with his briefcase in hand, I feel like I ought to meet him at the door wearing pearls and a hostess apron with cherries on it with a martini in hand and dinner in the oven. Or maybe vacuum in high heels. Too bad he's both the cook and the vacuumer.

Tomorrow is Mr. McGee's 30th birthday. He's being surprisingly non-neurotic about it.

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We had our pictures from our archaeology vacation turned into a coffee-table photo book by Blurb.com, and it is spectacular. Totally reccommend it.

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As mentioned in the energy-saving post, we bought a Smart Strip. The principle here is that all most of your peripherals and anything with a transformer or a remote control (or a clock) draws a slow but steady sip of current even when they're off. With the Smart Strip, you plug a "control" device -- here, my CPU -- into the red outlet, and anything in the white outlets can only be turned on and is only allowed to draw "sleeper" current when the red outlet device is on. My speakers, monitor, printer, and cell phone charger are all plugged into the white outlets and are only allowed to draw current when the CPU is active. When the CPU is in sleep mode, it shuts everything else off. (The control device has to draw less than 15W, I think, when asleep. It comes with a very specific manual to help you figure it out. Anyway, it works with my 2002 Dell.)

We installed the Smart Strip when our bill reset for the month, so this month's bill was our first with the Smart Strip active, and it has made a SIGNIFICANT impact on our electricity usage. It'll pay itself off faster than advertised for us. I'm so pleased with it that we're planning on setting up the TV and all its peripherals on the same sort of strip.

On a side note, we've also noticed a slow but steady drop in kWh consumption since we started installing compact flourescents last year. (We install them as the incandescents burn out.)

Monday, February 19, 2007

How Cold Has It Been?

January 11 to February 12 (inclusive), a 33-day period, we had 11 days with highs above freezing, but 5 of them were 33*F and another was 32*F. 22 days below freezing. (28 below or just at.)

We had 12 days with highs in the 30s, 6 days in the 20s, and 12 days in the 10s. (We also had 2 in the 50s and 1 in the 40s). Keep in mind these are HIGHS; 6 days had recorded lows below 0, with another right at 0.

So how friggin' cold is that? That's 207 therms, aka "nearly twice as many therms as I have ever bought before," of cold:



And we keep our thermostat set at 63*F.

This raises two questions from me besides the main point of this post, which is to bitch about how it's cold and my utility bill is an arm and a leg this month.

First, I vaguely recall that "heating help" programs (run by the state? the utility? the county?) have limited funds. That 33-day period should just about wipe them out for the entire winter.

Second, could AmerenCILCO have gotten worse weather for its 55% increase in electric rates? It frosts my personal cookies that my electric bill shot up this month, the same month as I bought a record-breaking number of therms, but for folks who are electric-heated or who are struggling to get by, this is epic hardship. This is ideologues on the floor of the Statehouse proclaiming a food vs. heat dilemma of gargantuan proportions. This is cheap shots at Ameren (even without any legislative follow-through) becoming political gold.

But politics aside, what are people going to DO? Freeze, starve, lose the house? And is anybody with the power to help people on a large scale going to do anything to help them? Is Gary Rainwater (Ameren CEO) going to donate some of that $2.02 million compensation pacakge to help these people? Maybe even just that $0.99 million bonus, which he certainly deserves for the way he upped Ameren's profitability by screwing central Illinois consumers with a 55% rate hike. Now that vast quantities of folks in central Illinois can't afford his fancy electricity and are freezing, does any of that millionish dollars start to feel guilty, like maybe it ought to alleviate some suffering here?

S’ils n’ont plus de √©lectricit√©? Qu'ils mangent de la brioche.

(They have no electricity? Then let them eat cake.)

Friday, February 16, 2007

My First "Scary Peoria" Experience

I totally forgot to blog about this, but driving home from the Lincoln Dinner at around 9:30 or 10 p.m. (I think), we were going northwest on Hamilton Blvd. and turning right onto North (map), and there were two men walking northwest, one on either side of the road, and one of them was carrying a naked weapon in his right hand. Some kind of handgun, with a sheen to it (it was shining back the streetlights' light).

They were wearing baggy pants, but the rest of their outfits were entirely covered up by warm winter outerwear, and it was too dark (and I was too startled) to notice any distinguishing features or even the race of the men. For all I know they had a perfectly good reason for walking in the 2*F weather with one carrying an unholstered gun and that gun was fully in compliance with state FOIC laws. But I kinda don't think so.

Scared the CRAP out of me.

(I did call it in to the PPD, but I didn't have my cell in the car becuase I was carrying a little girly purse and by the time I called it in, they said they couldn't really do anything. Which I figured, but I wanted to make sure I called in case they had a pattern of reports in that area or something.)

It's All about the Lincolns

(Warning: Wildly random meanderings follow.)

Well, really just the one. I went to the Lincoln Memorial Banquet last night, which is the Peoria County Bar Association's yearly big formal dinner thing where they make speeches and give out community service awards and whatnot. I'm always a tag-along at these events with Hinshaw & Culbertson, my husband's firm, so if you happen upon a bar event, that's the table you'll find me at. I particularly appreciate this because Hinshaw lawyers are a HOOT. Some lawyers are really dull to hang out with, but Hinshaw is great fun.

The Lincoln Dinner is always billed as "business attire or black tie," which sends me into a tizzy every year. I absolutely HATE that kind of dress code -- if I'm the only woman who shows up in a gown, I look like I got lost on the way to the prom. If I'm the only woman who shows up in a suit, I look drastically underdressed. (Eyebrows has a holy horror of being underdressed.) So every year I dither about it for two or three days and subject my husband to whining, and every year I pick gown because half the women always show up in gowns and I'd rather be overdressed anyway.

I never wear black gowns or cocktail dresses (almost never -- I have a totally cute black silk summer cocktail dress) because I had an extremely traumatic clothing experience in college. Notre Dame hosts an event called Junior Parents' Weekend, where, as you might guess, the parents of the entire junior class are invited to campus for a long weekend, on the theory that parents usually come for Freshman Orientation and Graduation, but they don't get invited during the time you're active in the school. So lots of department events to meet the profs, that kind of thing, and then it culminates in a big formal dinner.

I threw on my handy little black dress (LBD) for the big formal dinner, and when I got there, there were literally TWELVE HUNDRED other 20-year-old women in basically the same little black dress. I found this terrifically traumatic, not because I object to wearing the same thing as someone else, but I do kind of object to wearing the same thing as 1,200 other people (not to mention all the moms who also wore the LBD). I think it was that it was almost a dronish uniform that bothered me, and lots of my dorm-mates were actually AFRAID to wear colors for dressy. It was just so ... Clone Wars. I vowed never to wear black formalwear again.

Anyway, the point of this diversion into clothing trauma is that I wore purple last night.

Music was provided by the Heritage Ensemble, which is always spectacular, and the keynote speaker was Lisa Madigan, who is TINY in person. Something I geek out on a little bit is how people deliver speeches, because we had exhaustive training in preaching class in Div school, and most people do a horrible job because they either don't prepare or don't know how to speak in public. Madigan was a good public speaker; she must either have a natural gift for it or have done some rhetoric in high school or college. (I must confess I didn't really listen that closely to the content of the speech once it stopped being about Lincoln.) I swear, I go to a lot of these events, and all I want to do is put a call in to the Dominicans at Aquinas in St. Louis and have them come give a seminar for lawyers to teach them how to talk in public. (The Dominicans are a preaching order, people. They PWN public speaking.)

So the thing about Lincoln is that he hovers over everything we do. If there was a patron saint of lawyers in the U.S., Lincoln would be it. When people bitch about the evils of lawyers and say, "NAME ONE GOOD LAWYER!" the answer is always "Lincoln." (Although Clarence Darrow was an Illinois lawyer as well. He gets such short shrift just because he has the misfortune of being from the same state as Lincoln. Just once I'd like to see someone have a Clarence Darrow Dinner. Darrow's most famous opponent, William Jennings Bryan, was born here too, and practiced here for part of his career. Illinois has a talent for lawyers.)

Peoria is a much nicer place to practice law than other places we've been. Part of that is because it's a smaller city -- bigger markets like NYC and Chicago are always more cutthroat and nasty, partly because you typically don't see your opponent every week when at your kids' T-ball games. But the presence of Lincoln is so TANGIBLE here. Historic courthouses -- like Metamora's -- survive partly because Lincoln argued there. He's all over the place in statuary, portraiture, and little historical displays about "what famous thing Lincoln said in our county" at courthouses. (Lincoln, it must be pointed out, could be something of a smart-ass, so many of these famous saying are funny. Or at least lawyer funny.) When I first moved down here, I felt like I was absolutely drowning in Lincolniana, at least as far as the lawyering goes. It makes me wonder if the lingering presence of Lincoln makes Central Illinois lawyers a more thoughtful group about the power of what they do, more professional. Or maybe I just have a Lincoln hangover this morning so I'm feeling abnormally elevated in spirit about lawyers.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Sump Pumps and Blog Slugs

I know I've been a blog sluggard lately; I've been terribly busy with actual work and prepping for my class at ICC. (First time you have to create a syllabus is always the worst.) The only exciting thing that's happened lately, other than today's blizzard, is that my sump pump outlet pipe froze, which apparently isn't supposed to happen. As I have a friend who had a $45,000 house fire from a sump pump issue (and we did not know the pipe was frozen, just that the pump motor was making a valiant effort to set itself on fire), I decided the smarter course here was to call my man Troy at C.L. O'Brien plumbing who has been visiting us with startling regularity the last few months to clean up some plumbing issues in the house that became irritating enough to fix.

Troy has my eternal gratitude because unlike the LAST plumber I dealt with (not C.L. O'Brien) who insisted that the fact that my shower was still dripping after he fixed it three times was a symptom of my inability to properly turn off faucets (???), Troy actually FIXED THE PROBLEM. And does a good job explaining the problem, my fix options, and what they'll cost. Troy also likes my cats, which is important because Grey Cat thinks he's a contractor whenever contractors come to fix things and he tries to help. I keep explaining to Grey Cat that he is neither licensed nor bonded as an HVAC tech, an electrician, OR a plumber, but Grey Cat blithely ignores any such foolish requirements that might impede the exercise of his Mad Repaircat Skillz.

So anyway, Troy came out and ended up having to saw the sump outlet pipe off near the wall, because we couldn't figure out a way to melt the ice in the pipe without melting the pipe itself, and part of the pipe was actually buried. Then he attacked the ice in the stump of remaining outlet pipe on the wall with an ice pick (and bloodied his knuckles, I felt bad), and then attached a new pipe at a much better slope so hopefully we will not have a re-freeze issue. Come spring and the thaw we'll have to dig up the buried part of the old pipe, which will wreak havoc on our bulb bed, but them are the breaks.

So to recap: Eyebrows reccommends C.L. O'Brien Plumbing. Ask for Troy when you call, and tell him I sent ya.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Eyebrows Didn't Like Working Retail Either

Today in the supermarket, my checker was complaining bitterly to another employee: "And everyone keeps getting in LINE and wanting to check OUT and I never get to STOP scanning their ITEMS. I don't understand why I have to keep DOING this all day."

Why? Because they're paying you, dude.

Having worked retail, I sympathize with the sentiment, but it was still pretty funny to hear it out loud.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Too. Friggin. Cold.

Eyebrows likes winter, but is sick to death of this cold spell. Tom Skilling, Chicago's most enthusiastic weatherman, says it's called a "Siberian Express" and it means that instead of going around the pole from Siberia to Alaska, the jet stream has shifted so it starts in Siberia, goes up and OVER the North Pole, then down into the Great Lakes region. Thanks, Siberia! We were soooooooo hoping for all your air for Valentine's Day!

All I know is we haven't seen double digits (FAHRENHEIT double digits) in days and days and days on end and it's NOT GETTING BETTER. The forecast for the rest of the week has the "frozen thermometer" icon instead of a sun or clouds. "It's going to be so damn cold you're not going to CARE if the sun's out!" We're having daily highs like 4*F and 7*F. It's totally ridiculous (-15.5*C and -13.9*C for you metric types).

Meanwhile, the air is DEATHLY dry, which is a common thing in the Midwestern winter (especially when you add heat), but this is really, really bad because it's so cold. The air is SO DRY that we're getting SNOW MELT at 7*F (well below freezing) because the air is actually sucking up the snow for moisture. (What's that called? Sublimation or something? It's not actually melting, but if you talk about Snow Sublimation people think you're mad.)

Eyebrows has relatively dry skin to begin with, which is fine in the summer, but in the winter I peel and crack like a trendy paint treatment on HGTV. With this extended cold spell and associated dryness, I'm racing through Eucerin, putting it on twice a day just to keep the skin on my legs from falling completely off. I'm going through facial moisturizer like it's going out of style and my face is STILL always painfully dry. I've already GONE through an entire chapstick trying to keep my lips from cracking, plus real lip moisturizer three or four times a day. Saline nose stuff non-stop, or my nose just bleeds all the time. An entire pitcher of water a day. I am STILL DRY and can't keep ahead of it.

Eyebrows is, in short, miserable. And really itchy.