Saturday, March 29, 2008

Bird Watching: Kestrel

Dude, I just saw a kestrel on the roof of my garage! I thought he was a blue jay until he did this and I was like, "Holy crap, what was that bird?" He had something in his talons he was reluctant to let go of, even though he was having serious awkwardness problems (looked about the right size to be a baby mouse, but hard to tell from a distance).

I don't know very much about birds so I always end up spending half an hour with Google and my Audubon Guide to North American birds east of the Mississippi trying to figure out what I saw when I see a new one*, but I love watching birds and I get really excited when I see a new one.

Among other less-usual birds I've seen from my window looking into my backyard are a Cerulean Warbler (bluest darn thing I've ever seen) and a Bald Eagle soaring and wheeling, which was just about heart-stopping in its beauty. And giganticness. Seeing them in the zoo doesn't really communicate the giganticness we're talking about here.

I also get excited when I spot butterflies. Beyond the typical cabbage butterfly (those little white ones) and the Monarchs, I've seen a Spring Azure in my yard, which was so blue and so tiny and so delicate and so ethereal I thought I was hallucinating; and Black and Tiger Swallowtails, both at Forest Park Nature Center (the Tiger Swallowtail obligingly flitted down the trail in front of me for a good 10 minutes).

I also once saw this crazy Red Banded Leafhopper bug on my corn. That thing was awesome.

*Incidentally, if you manage to snap a picture and you e-mail it to the fine folks at the Illinois Audubon Society, they'll e-mail you back and tell you what it is. Even when it turns out it's starlings and you're an idiot who can't identify starlings. Not that I've done that.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

My Uncle Is Galileo, but He Missed the Memo

So my uncle/godfather is one of the biology teachers in Cobb County, Georgia, who resisted/refused to teach the stickers that say "Evolution is 'only' a theory," that were stuck on all the biology textbooks and eventually declared unconstitutional. I keep explaining to him how he's internet famous, but he's not so net literate, so he doesn't know that the Glorious Resistance in Cobb County got boingboinged and slashdotted and whatnot for standing up for what's right. He's all, "I just wouldn't teach things that were wrong," and I'm all, "Hello! You're internet famous for refusing to teach things that were wrong!"

So everyone send up a woohoo! so he knows that he has to tell his story about refusing to bow to the ignorant. He totally has no idea that the Cobb County refusers are internet famous and doesn't really know why anyone would care.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Dis-Enchanted

"You should sing to me. How will I know you love me if you don't sing to me?"

"Because I made your lunch."

"Will you at least dance with me?"

"Go away."

"Maybe we should get some bluebirds ..."

"Maybe you should let me go back to sleep."

Friday, March 21, 2008

So Here's the Thing about Obama

I don't talk about politics a whole lot on my blog, probably because I have a deep-seated discomfort with having that kind of argument in public (which is probably unfortunate, since that's like the point of America). Also because I'm well-aware that you can like your neighbors a whole lot, and then they put up a sign in their yard favoring a particularly creepy state politician, and suddenly you're thinking, "WHAT IN THE HELL IS WRONG WITH THEM?" So I don't like to stick up yard signs on my blog that'll make half my readers go, "WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH HER?"

I've been listening to the older professors in my department at ICC, Boomers and older, frequently discussing, "But who's going to vote for Obama if he wins the primary?" Many of them don't understand his appeal.

(Now, this isn't a post on who's the best candidate for president. This is a post about why Obama appeals emotionally to many voters, about what makes Obama different. It's not a facty post, it's an emotive post about why he engages people's emotions.)

I finally just got around to watching Obama's speech on race, w/r/t Jeremiah Wright. A typical politician would have pointed out (and quite rightly) that you can be a right-wing religious leader and claim things like, oh, that God's punishing America for harboring gays or legalizing abortion with 9/11 or by unleashing Katrina and Rita, and you still get invited to the White House, and nobody finds this particularly remarkable.

So here's the thing about Obama:

He didn't.

I am 30 years old. I am too young to remember a politician who has told the truth unless backed into a corner. (Eliot Spitzer, Bill Clinton, Oliver North, Larry Craig, Bob Taft, Jim McGreevey, George Ryan, Dan Rostenkowski, the entire Congressional delegation from Alaska, just off the top of my head.) Obama got up and addressed not only his pastor's words, very honestly and truthfully, but the racial issues in America, very honestly and truthfully, without resorting to sound-bite catchphrases. (And I am much too young to remember an era before political speeches were built on TV sound-bites.)

At 30 years old, I am too young to remember a politician who talked to the electorate like they had high school educations, not like they were particularly slow 3rd graders. Obama uses non-pundit-approved words like "endemic" and "demagogue" and "gaffe" (SAT words, we used to call them, before they got rid of the vocab section of the SATs). Obama made smart allusions to Scripture and the U.S.'s founding documents (and Faulkner, for that matter). Allusions he trusted the American public to understand.

I seriously find myself sometimes wanting to CRY when Obama speaks, not so much, I think, because of the content of the speeches, but because there IS content in his speeches. Because it's not the same old shit I've heard shoveled by every politician I've seen since I was born. Because he's talking TO me, not AT me, and because he doesn't talk to me like I'm a MORON. His speeches involve nuances, and I've never lived through a politics of anything but very large clubs used to beat people over the head with very simple ideas. (I realize this is not entirely fair; many politicians have nuanced policy positions, but they don't present them in speeches because they don't think the electorate is that smart.)

With Obama I constantly get the sense that he both likes and respects the American public. I am so sick of politicians who want to get elected despite thinking (or because they think) the American electorate is a bunch of useless sheep. I'm so sick of being treated with contempt by political leaders. (I'm also sick of folks who claim to hate government wanting to be the ones who run it, but that's probably a different issue.) Plenty of politicians act like they like us, but they never respect us in the morning when the voting is done.

Those of you who are Boomers or older have apparently lived through political periods like this before -- Kennedy, I'm told. I guess Ike was pretty up-front. I haven't. You have no idea how exciting it is to listen to the first politician in my lifetime who doesn't talk down to me, doesn't talk in sound-bites, doesn't act like I'm too stupid to understand political doublespeak.

Well, probably you do know how exciting that is, since you can remember it happening before. I can't. And it's damn exciting.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Birthday Cakes

I like to talk up local merchants I like, so I've been remiss in not mentioning Susan Crisler at Joe Brews Espresso. Mr. McGee saw her cakes in an ad on a Junior League publication, raced right out and bought one, and has bought all his cakes there ever since. (There's one location in Metamora, where they do the cakes, and one in the Center for Health on Route 91.) This was my birthday cake:



Mr. McGee told her I sew, so she "cross-stitched" the 30 in frosting, and she knew we were celebrating at Po' Boys, hence the Mardi Gras theme. And yes, they taste ENTIRELY as good as they look. (And that's REAL frosting, not that pasty stuff.)

I baked the cake for my husband's birthday, and mine didn't come out so well. For the first time in my LIFE, I had a cake fall, and I took it very personally. But I think I managed to salvage the situation. I made a double-chocolate Devil's Food cake (replace half the flour with Dutch cocoa), with fudgie frosting and a raspberry filling. When it fell, I took one layer, broke it into pieces and smushed it into the bottom of a 9x13" casserole dish, put on the raspberry layer (froze it briefly to set), then mashed the second later on top, and frosted the whole thing. Since the frosting recipe is enough to fill and frost a 9"-round 2-layer cake, the frosting layer was pretty darned thick ... it came out like an extra-rich, extra-dense chocolate cake with a fully-as-thick layer of fudge on top.

While it wasn't the prettiest cake in history, it was a pretty major hit. His birthday was on Saturday, and he happened to have his game that day, so I presented it during the game, and everyone agreed that it was the best cake ever (both taste- and humor-wise) and I was the best geek wife ever.

If you're a geek, you'll get it. If you're not, move on to some less-nerdy corner of the web. Call it my homage to Gary Gygax.
Mr. McGee's birthday cake:

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Help Eyebrows Turn 30 at Po' Boys!

After much thinkage, I've decided to celebrate my 30th birthday at Po' Boys on Friday, March 14. The Joe Metzka trio will be playing (and there is a cover, $4 after 7 p.m.), and they're great, and the food at Po' Boys is great, and it's a great atmosphere, so all in all it should be a great place to come party with me.

If you haven't been there, it's attached to the bingo building on Dries Lane, across from the Landmark Rec stuff (map on their webpage).

Will post again when I've settled firmly on a time! (Have to decide if I want to eat dinner.) We'll just be hanging out most of the evening, so come on by!

UPDATE: We'll arrive between 7:30 and 8 p.m.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Chemistry Broke My Window

I have a broken interior pane in my living room, which, after the typical runaround with the warranty department ("Are you sure a bird didn't fly into it?" "INTERIOR PANE, jackass." "Could a baseball have hit it?" "Not unless the Cubs are having secret spring training in my living room, no."), Andersen finally sent me out the window dudes this morning to take a look and decide if it's a warranty-covered problem.

Well, it is, and the mystery of how the interior pane broke has been solved: Chemistry did it.

According to the window dudes, in the late 80s and early 90s, Andersen filled the windows with argon, and the spacer between the panes was aluminum. It turns out that the aluminum's conductive excellence brings so much cold into the window interior that the argon shrinks up like a frat boy in a frigid lake (same moles of gas, less temperature = higher density of gas, which means those 6.02x10^23 molecules per gram take up less space, which in an airtight seal means the volume of the space has to decrease; woohoo, I finally got to use Avogadro's Number in casual conversation), which creates negative pressure between the two panes, which eventually "sucks"* them together until one breaks to relieve the pressure.

DAMN YOU, CHEMISTRY!

So the window dudes are busy relieving the pressure on all the other affected windows, which is warranty-covered, and Andersen will apparently mail me new glass for the broken one, but having the new glass put in is NOT covered, which sucks** because, hello, it's your manufacturing defect!

*I put "sucks" in quotes because I am not a complete scientific moron and I am well aware that vacuums do not suck; things outside the vacuum blow. Therefore the higher-pressure air outside the window is actually pushing on the window; there is no sucking involved. So all you physics nitpickers can go nitpick someone else!

**In the slang sense, not the "I don't understand how vacuums work" sense.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Party Like It's 2008?

Eyebrows turns 30 a week from today, and I'm trying to decide what to do for my birthday. I am open to ideas! Probably I'd party on Friday night rather than Thursday, so everyone can get more rip-roaring drunk with fewer hangover consequences.

My birthday ALWAYS falls during spring break, which meant that for 8 straight years in college and grad school nobody was ever around to celebrate with ... but this year means I've got no classes to teach all week and everybody's around because all my friends are full-grown adults now.

Suggestions?

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

I'm Probably Bleu Cheese

Today I realized that if he is what he eats, my husband is mostly pancakes and ketchup.

Monday, March 03, 2008

16 Years Later ...

For the first time since I've HAD e-mail (which I got at about age 14), I have actually cleared my primary inbox down far enough that it only takes up ONE PAGE within the e-mail program. I have 24 messages in the inbox ... not 200, not a bazillion, not even 26 (which puts me on 2 pages) -- TWENTY-FOUR.

Moreover, I have actually cleared down THREE of my four* daily-use accounts so that they're only on one page each. There's only one disastrously huge inbox left, and I feel so super-motivated about clearing down these other three that I can totally tackle it!

For the first time EVER in the history of e-mail, my e-mail is actually under control!

*Four daily-use accounts: long-time social (yahoo), new social (gmail, I'm moving), ICC, and law practice. Non daily-use include the one attached to this blog, one I use for online game-type stuff, a spam-only account, etc. -- I just check those now and then.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Husband-Proof

We had the flu here at the McGee house, and Mr. McGee followed up with bronchitis, for which he eventually had to get Rx cough syrup so he could sleep through the night and get better, and I could sleep through the night (without him coughing me awake) and not kill him.

Unfortunately, the cough syrup came in a child-proof bottle. I opened it for him the first time because I happened to be bringing the bottle upstairs. Then at about 3 a.m. that first night, he starts coughing again, gets up to take a second dose, and I hear him struggling with the bottle and muttering sleepily, "How does this open?" After a couple minutes I give in, roll out of my toasty warm bed, and scurry to the bathroom to open it for him.

This has gone on every succeeding night. He can actually manage to DISASSEMBLE THE CAP without getting it off the bottle. (I didn't know they could be disassembled!) Every night I open it for him before bed after he gives up, then I get up in the middle of the night to open it again as his mid-night mutterings turn frustrated. I can't say how childproof the cap is, but it is most definitely husband-proof.