Monday, September 29, 2014

Chicago, Sister, and Friends

My last entry was blogged from Pittsburgh, but I haven't covered my last day in Chicago, because I was distracted by the worst things, so I will do that now.

I did all my laundry at Karlyn's (before I knew about the bedbugs, but just because laundry was necessary), and I mention this only because both her washer and dryer had a "casual" setting.  I have no idea what this means, but apparently the "casual" dryer setting does not get your clothes dry.  Maybe the dryer is being a little too relaxed; I don't know.  But don't use that one.

I made plans to have dinner with a friend and his wife downtown, so I had saved all the downtown activities for that day.  Downtown was significantly colder than the south side/Hyde Park, and gave meaning to the "Windy City" nickname, so if you're going from one to the other, just note that there will be a temperature change.

My first stop was lunch, so I went Hannah's Bretzel on Karlyn's recommendation.  This is a local chain of sandwich shops that touts their organic ingredients and sustainable everything.  The food is also pretty good.  I had a chicken and avocado sandwich on a "wecken," which is like a roll, but in this case, out of pretzel-ish material.

The chips are made in-house and are actually really very good.  They are seasoned just like fried chicken.

Then, since it was only two blocks away, I walked by the main office of the law firm I'll be joining, just out of curiosity.  The Chicago office is way nicer than the New York office, at least from the exterior.  Oh well.  (My first day of work is actually... today.  I am very sad about this.  Not that I don't like the firm, but compared to travelling?  That's a no-brainer.)

Afterward, I walked to Millennium Park, which has a lot of noteworthy things in it better told in photo/caption form.

This fountain has two of these screens that face each other.  They are people who sort of just stare straight ahead, sometimes making facial expressions, but not of any one clear emotion.  It's weird.
Then they spit water for a while, and then the water stops, and it changes to another face.
These appear to be normally proportioned at an angle...
... but are actually super narrow.
The bean!  It is really shiny.
The skyline in the bean!
Candide in the bean!
Underside of the bean!
A really big fountain that I think is technically in another park, but borders Millennium Park.
Chilling lakeside.  (Looking at a map told me this was Lake Michigan, and that I should already have known that.)
Are those... police boats?  (Yes.)
After wandering around for all that time, I took a bus through Magnificent Mile (sorry, but shopping's not my thing) to my friend's apartment, and we went to Giordano's for stuffed pizza.  This is apparently 40% more stuff than deep dish.  I don't know enough to care about this distinction.  Max's wife wanted lots of veggies rather than meat since it was so heavy, and I was very skeptical at first, but it was totally the right call.

The three of us split a small (6 slices), which was plenty.  Max's wife has a very interesting background.  She's half-Japanese, half-Jewish (and can pull off the respective languages without sounding stupid) and semi-grew up in rural Texas, where people open carry, kill snakes in their yards with hoes, and cannot fathom "how to get to" places that don't allow guns.  She used to work in fashion design, but everyone in fashion is terrible (as in making-fun-of-models-who-kill-themselves-because-everyone-is-terrible terrible), so now she does graphic design.  She is especially good at design when she is angry, which amuses me greatly.

I got back after Karlyn had gone to bed (because she works in a high school) and was advised to take a cab rather than the train, so if you are staying in the south side, make sure you know the parameters for when it's safe to take what modes of transit.

The next day, I flew to Pittsburgh, where I stayed with my sister.  Now when the Zhu girls get together, all we do is watch TV and eat food, so I don't have all that much to blog about Pittsburgh.  The best I can do is give you pictures of food and Carnegie Mellon's campus.

Korean style fried chicken in soy garlic sauce.  If you haven't had it before, I highly recommend it.  It varies depending on the place, but it's more of a thin, crispy skin and much sweeter than the typical savory Southern style.
Ice cream from Dave and Andy's.  This is cinnamon pecan and "stillers" cookies 'n' cream.
Oh, Candide is thirsty.
Wait, no, it's a pizza cone.
Dessert from Waffalonia.  I gotta say, though, putting a bunch of ice cream and syrup on a waffle means that the waffle could be really shitty for all I know, even though the owner went to Belgium to learn how to make these waffles.
Gotta love that sculpture.  Really enhances the beauty of the campus.
Those short posts are the fence that has probably thousands of layers of paint on it.  (Students paint over it for every event imaginable.)
I got back to New York yesterday evening, and Ken and I planned to stop by the pop-up Central Perk coffee shop today, but there was a THREE-HOUR wait.  The line wrapped around the block and continued onto another block.  It was madness.  So we did not wait.

This is the second block that the line had wrapped around onto.

We did, however, have a board game night (Pandemic!) with a bunch of our friends, so that was a lot of fun.  I should, however, go to bed, since today is my first day of work, and I have to be in the office in 8 hours.  Goodbye, having control over my own time.  I'll see you... eventually.

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Worst Things

What I began writing:  As Cathy pointed out in a comment on my previous post, my RSS feed is not updating.  I have looked into it for the past hour, and I can't figure it out.  I have tried "pinging" the blog to force an update, but that didn't work.  I tried the "nuclear option" (so-called by FeedBurner) of resyncing the entire feed, but that also didn't work.  I've tried tinkering with about a hundred different settings on both Blogger and Feedburner, but none of that worked.  It still only updates through September 16.

And then it magically worked.  Whatever I did, I definitely had done it already to no avail.  So repeating the same action and expecting different results really is the breed of insanity you need to deal with technology.

Liz, whose apartment I stayed at for one night in San Francisco, found out only today that there have been bedbugs in her apartment for weeks, because her roommate is a fucking idiot.  In New York, whispers of bedbugs and tales of fishing your clothes out of trash bags while throwing away all of your furniture evoke the same kind of terror as rumors of the return of He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named.  This is the kind of terror that makes you wary of even approaching someone who says "bedbugs," for fear that the word itself, escaping their lips and floating right there in the air between you, will breathe life in and pop into a bedbug, and then the scourge will overtake you for merely sharing that space.

So when Liz said that her roommate saw bedbugs weeks ago and decided not to tell anyone about it and just "deal with it" on his own, I joined her in absolute fury at this ridiculously irresponsible decision.  She only found out today because he nonchalantly brought it up in conversation like it was no big deal.  Like it doesn't affect all of your worldly possessions, including your residence itself, and it isn't a huge weeks-long hassle to deal with plus the aftermath of replacing all the shit you had to throw out.  People get sued for substantial economic loss over this shit.  There is a reason that in some places, you are legally obligated to disclose not only a current bedbug infestation, but the bedbug infestation history of the unit and neighboring units, to potential renters.  It is a big fucking deal.  It boggles my mind that he had known for weeks and told no one.  Do you know how many eggs a single female bedbug can lay in that time span?  (I advise you not to look that up, actually.)

Hypothetically, if the bedbugs spread to Liz's room at the time I stayed with her and I had gotten them, then I could have spread them to multiple hotels and rental cars, Yosemite National Park, all up the Pacific coast, Seattle, Minneapolis, Chicago, Pittsburgh, and New York, not to mention to fellow travellers, who are all headed who knows where.  Think of the potential carnage!  All because of one idiot.  Luckily, I don't think that's the case, since it's been almost four weeks since then, I happened to do laundry while I was at Liz's (which kills them), and I haven't had any bites or seen any bugs in my stuff.  I am also truly lucky because I get to leave with all my possibly-exposed belongings.  Liz, I feel for you.  I really do.

Terrorists, if you want me to live in constant fear, you should stop beheading people and start looking into bedbugs.  Also, don't read this blog; I do not write for you.  Also, stop being terrorists.  If I'm not mistaken, under the Rightly Guided Caliphs, individuals of other religions and cultures were tolerated, not murdered, which allowed the caliphate (and Islam) to expand globally.  I don't know what makes you think you can run a caliphate better than those guys, but surely you ought to be smote for your hubris.  But I digress.

Josh's friend is also a fucking idiot.  He evidently had bedbugs, and then put his furniture out on the street in seemingly good condition.  Josh suggested that he should at least mark that it was infested or something, and his friend said something like, "Nah, it's free."  What the actual fuck.  This is coming from someone who is dumping this couch because of the very horror he now potentially inflicts on another.  It is not a privilege to get a bedbug infestation, even if it is free.  (Is there any other kind?)  YOU ARE THE PROBLEM.  These people are also why I have not picked up street furniture or shopped at a thrift store in New York in the past four years.

I propose that in sex ed, high school students be taught that they are morally obligated to inform others of a known risk of exposure to bedbugs and STDs, and to confirm the presence of either upon suspicion.  It's an important issue, folks.  Don't be a fucking idiot.

I am now in Pittsburgh, which I visit a lot, and yet every time, I always forget about this... sculpture.

The title is "Walking to the Sky."  I'm not even kidding.  It may not be clear in the photo, but there are also fake people at ground level looking up toward the fake people walking to the sky.

There are so many other things that the artist could have done other than portray it literally.  Even just a plain, vertical spire would have been better.

Reading activity:  See how many "worst things" you can find in this entry.  I will post about my last day in Chicago and other Pittsburgh things separately, since they are not some of the worst things (and also to test the feed).

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

There are so many things I do not understand.

Karlyn's roommate's cat is either trying to be friends or kill me.  It is unclear, and this is why I'm a dog person.  She was rolling around on my bed, flopping from side to side and rubbing up against me.  Seems positive, right?  Then she started batting at my hand, which I assumed was a game, so I was playing with her, but then I saw her claws come out.  Maybe that's normal, but I've never had a cat, so I don't know; either way, I stopped playing.  Then I went to brush my teeth, and she was meowing and pawing at me from under the bathroom door.  Then when I came out of the bathroom, she looked at me and ran away.  Such mixed signals.  Am I supposed to play this game or does she want me to leave her alone?  Is this what pursuing someone romantically is like?  If so, it is very confusing.  Good thing I'm not trying to hook up with the cat.

A few things about the drive:  It is very flat but quite pretty, especially now that the leaves are changing.  Kia Optimas do not handle well.  I felt like a driver in an old-timey movie in which they're moving the steering wheel way too much for just driving straight, but in this case it was actually necessary.  Chicago drivers are actually good.  They use their turn signals to switch lanes, and they actually do it ahead of time so that the signal actually serves a purpose.  Left lanes are usually faster than right lanes, so that people can actually get to exits and pass people as expected.  It's amazing.  Pedestrians, however, will just walk toward your moving car when you have a green light, then when you brake, wave you forward as though they are a traffic director.

Relatedly, I don't know how to use crosswalks when there are no signals.  It actually throws me off when cars are stopped, especially when it's a four-way stop and multiple cars are stopped.  Do I go?  Do I wait for the cars to go first?  The cars seem to be waiting for me.  But then if I wait long enough to make sure they're waiting for me, they'll go, because I'm waiting.  So it's this awkward dance that is a result of the fact that I don't know how to cross a street without an explicit walk sign or jaywalking.  I don't know what happens when cars are supposed to stop, because my instinct is that they will not stop.  So they have to pull up all the way to the crosswalk and come to a complete stop before I cross the street, instead of me assuming they will stop and just walking across the street when they're farther away and making everything more efficient.  Sorry, Chicago.

Today was beautiful out, but of course, I found this annoying.  I don't really like the sun, and when it's really beautiful out in Chicago in September, that means it's really warm in the sun but still chilly in the shade.  I don't like this because I'm uncomfortable both with and without a jacket.  It is my nightmare.

I was advised by my friend Lily, who has a tattoo of UChicago's motto, to go to Harold's for lunch, where, as I later found out, Karlyn and her boyfriend have been for the past four Valentine's Days.  A quarter chicken is $3.40, they give you bread instead of napkins, and the cashier is protected by bulletproof glass.  The restrooms are also closed, so you will have no recourse when you have hot sauce smothered all over your hands.  The only other place I've seen bulletproof glass to protect cashiers is at some gas stations and some post offices in New York.  The chicken was amazing.  Definitely worth the remote risk of a bullet.  Covered in hot sauce but still amazingly crispy.  I feel like they must fry it in lard, because I'm convinced only something as bad for you as lard could taste that good.

After lunch, and with remnants of sauce around my nails, I walked to the Point, which is a park along the lake.  (I have no idea what lake.)  It is a pretty park.

Behind that sea spray is the skyline of downtown Chicago.

This is somewhat misleading, because most of the park is very green.
Then I walked to the Museum of Science and Industry (admission ranges from $11-36, for a child with basic entry to an adult with three exhibits), where there was a Disney archives exhibit.  Oddly enough, that exhibit is not really oriented towards kids.  It's a lot of reading about Walt Disney's life and how he got into animation and the historical development of the company, as well as some of the technical aspects of the process.  It was cool for an adult Disney fan like me, but I do not think a child would enjoy it.

I kept just barely missing the live science demonstrations, so I would advise you to plan out your day, and to ask where the things are supposed to be when you get to the general area, because it is not obvious or well marked.  I probably could have made a couple if I had noticed the location the first time I passed it.  There's a little bit of something for every kind of science nerd: trains/planes/cars/bikes, fire/lightning/waves/tornadoes, genetics/anatomy, energy/farming/coal mine stuff - it's pretty comprehensive.  It seems ideal to go with at least one other person if not a small group, and a lot of the stuff is very interactive and meant more for kids than adults (except the Disney exhibit).

Rats!  For the genetics section.

The museum's own personal tornado.  They also have a Tesla coil.
There was a T-shirt in the gift store that read, "Think outside the box," with a graphic of someone winning tic-tac-toe by drawing the requisite third circle outside the grid.  Now I appreciate the sentiment of being creative, but that's like having a shirt that says, "Work smart, not hard.  Plagiarize."  No.  They also had Big Bang Theory merchandise.  I do not understand this.  I'm not coming to a real museum so that I can buy stuff about fake scientists.  I can tell you right now this is all the jokes on that show:

  • Penny doesn't understand science, because she is stupid.
  • Penny is promiscuous.
  • Leonard is too ugly for Penny, and he is lucky to be having sex with her.
  • Sheldon is autistic.
  • Howard is a creepy pervert.
  • Howard's mom is morbidly obese.
  • Howard is wearing a dickey and/or a novelty belt buckle.
  • Raj defies traditional gender expectations.
  • Raj can't speak to/get a girl.
  • Something racist about either Howard (Jewish) or Raj (Indian).
  • Amy is really uncool.
  • Amy tries in vain to have sex with Sheldon.
Rinse and repeat.  Add awkward pauses for canned laughter after jokes that are not funny.  That is the entire series.  There is probably an even shorter list for Two and a Half Men, which is produced by the same person.  Television as a whole is getting better, but not this.

Anyway, Karlyn got home from work and met me on campus for a UChicago tour.  The campus is very, very pretty.  There's grass and trees and ivy everywhere, the buildings are gothic, and it's just gorgeous.  The incoming freshmen just moved in on Sunday, so this is "O week" (for orientation), and houses are dressing up in themes together and doing freshmen things.  Everyone looks really young, but both Karlyn and I could pass for freshmen in a heartbeat, so we're in no position to judge.  (FYI, the stereotype that Asians look really young does mean that the flip side is that Asians native to Asia think white people look really old.  I once showed my high school yearbook to some of my friends in China, and they thought several of the students "had to be" at least 35.)

The rest of the day was laundry time and another delicious dinner cooked by Karlyn and Mike, who plan out all their meals for the week every week.  (She is a few years younger but has far surpassed me in adulthood metrics.)  Today was a knockoff banh mi with chicken sausage, pickled carrots and onions, chipotle mayo, and spinach, along with a generous portion of chock full vegetable soup.  (Yesterday was pulled pork tacos with corn and peppers.)

We discussed Mike's porn scholarship, in which he analyzed the dialogue in pornography (for a class), which was very interesting.  I generally find porn to be fascinating, because it is so far off from what sex is like in real life, and yet is celebrated as a fantasy.  I would say 80-90% of the things that are happening in porn are a good time for no one.  It seems like you could even get the fantasy dynamic (whatever that may be) between the two (or more) actors without having such uncomfortable sex.  I am also perplexed by the idea that longer is better.  I mean seriously, how many women have an eight-inch vagina?  Let's be real.  The size thing goes both ways, too.  I don't know any guys who would prefer huge boobs that look like a basketball was halved and superglued to someone's chest over normal, natural boobs of any size.  Teenage boys:  Do not base your sex life and/or expectations on porn.  Porn sex is really, really bad sex.  Please do not inflict it on anyone.  It would be like a novice writer taking lessons from Nathaniel Hawthorne teaching the Scarlet Letter.  It's not a good model, and you don't have the requisite skill anyway.

In all the Chicago excitement, I've missed a protest right next to my apartment in New York (not that I would have attended).  Flood Wall Street, as I understand, was aimed at Wall Street's contribution to global warming.  I know nothing about the subject, but I am generally sympathetic to blaming Wall Street for almost anything.  It annoys me that getting a 401k is the financially responsible thing to do, because otherwise I wouldn't do it.  I do not for a moment understand investing based on perceived upward trends as opposed to based on the actual product and/or service that the target company produces and/or provides.  I think it incentivizes terrible corporate practice (probably including some environmentally unfriendly things), and it just seems like a nakedly empty economic transaction devoid of any real, solid value that you can then continue to build on.  Is this not how bubbles are created?  I don't feel that throwing money at a trend line without at least some substantive justification is something people should even be allowed to profit from.  It contributes nothing, and I hate it.

But they'll be my clients next week, so I guess I should stop complaining and start... crying.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

So Many Children and So Few Beers

Huffington Post hotlinked to a Redditor's photos in one of their articles and upon being contacted, refused to give her credit.  So she edited her original image, and now it looks like this when you go to the article.  I once went to a party where I met someone who works for Huffington Post, and he talked about the site (and Arianna Huffington) like a devoted cult member, raving about how many more readers it has than the New York Times and how everything would eventually be HuffPost everywhere.  I'm not sure that having a significantly larger audience than the New York Times is something worth bragging about when only 2% of your content could ever even potentially be in the New York Times.  For one thing, I know that the Times delivers news; I have no idea what HuffPost even pretends to deliver.  Is it just a shittier version of news combined with a shittier version of time-wasting so that I can be less satisfied on both fronts?  Why would I not just go to a real news site and then BuzzFeed and do both of those things better?  And now they explicitly refuse to credit photographers?  Does that mean they are totally giving up on pretending to be journalists?  I don't get it.  What the fuck is this site.

In other "what the fuck" news, I thought it would be cool to dress up as a cheerleader from my own high school for Halloween, because this year is ten years from my senior year, and it seems appropriate.  So I asked people if they had an old uniform on hand via my facebook status, which was met with a few comments jokingly suggesting that I was really asking for sex clothes.  I'm sure I would have done the same thing if I had seen that in someone else's status, but I thought about this for 2.5 seconds, and the basis for this humor is terrible.  Aside from the fact that I would not ask facebook for sex clothes (um, gross), and if I were, I'm not sure why it would have to be specifically from my high school, but anyway, it is disturbing that we have so utterly sexualized cheerleading at the high school level.  High school cheerleading uniforms aren't even sexy.  Seriously, do an eBay search - not for "costumes," which are usually slutty on purpose and highly impractical for cheerleading, but for actual uniforms.  They are not fitted under the bust, they are very structured garments and thus difficult to remove, and they often have built-in underthings so that when you high kick you don't flash everyone.  It is a thick, full coverage tank top and a skirt, or a one-piece dress.  In other words, the garments themselves are in no way sexy, except perhaps in skirt length.  So what that means is, of course, that we have fetishized the very idea of being a cheerleader in high school.  If you're a high school football player, that's not that problematic, because you are full of testosterone and can barely muster common decency, but the persistence of this idea into adulthood is pretty messed up.  Maybe I should have asked for a marching band uniform or a graduation robe instead.  (Though if you were ever in marching band, you know you were way sluttier than the cheerleaders in reality.  That's right; I know, and I wasn't even in band.)  For the record, I was thinking more along the lines of pom-poms in my hair and painting my nails school colors with maybe a dash of face paint.

Ok, ok, back to travelling.

All we did in Minnesota is drink and shop.  The latter is pretty out of character for both of us, since Matt and I typically shop for about ten minutes and then want to die.  I really do like crazy stores though, and we went to a bunch of them.  (I tried on Havisham and Princess Di style wedding dresses - real ones - and cheerleading outfits, which is why I know they are very difficult to take off.)  I also went into Timberland for some hiking boots, totally took advantage of the excellent customer service, and then ordered a pair online for $50 less.  If there's a way to get that commission to the store employees, someone let me know, because they deserve it.  Maybe in the future, brick and mortar stores will just start charging for fitting services or something, because that is pretty much all I use them for, and they're paying all that overhead and getting no profits, which I imagine only exacerbates the price gap between their stock and the internet's.  I am also amazed that I bought a pair of jeans for $8, and they are the perfect length.  I am pretty short, so this never happens.  Magic!  The hiking boots were also the last ones in stock and just happened to be my size.  It's like the universe is telling me I should support the economy more instead of buying $3 T-shirts at Kohl's that I wear for ten years.  Sadly, I will have to upgrade my wardrobe for work in any case.

Yesterday, I stopped by Chippewa Falls for the Leinenkugel Oktoberfest.  I was expecting drunk people and frat brother attitudes everywhere.  Instead, I felt like I was at the Pawnee Harvest Festival.  Children outnumbered types of beer available by approximately 100 to 1.  I am pretty sure I was the only Asian for miles.  I can just see the headlines of today's news now.  "Mystery Asian Shows Up at Oktoberfest.  What Does It Mean?"  I asked this old guy that I was sitting next to on a bench if they had this every year (which of course they do, but I was just making small talk), and he responded, "Oh, you're not from here?"  And I had to fight the urge to look around and go, "Well, what do you think?"  (Of course, Collegeville was not exactly racially diverse when I was growing up there, so it was not really a ridiculous question on his part.)

I was particularly surprised that they didn't do flights of beer.  I expect Oktoberfests to be about the beer.  Not about the children or the "family fun" tent.  Or the winning 79-pound pumpkin, which gets a lot more prize money than I expected.  (I don't know exactly how much, but 3rd through 6th got $600.)  I should get into pumpkin growing.  There was a woman who was giving German lessons, and she did a really good job of explaining the phonetics of the umlauts and the variances in consonants between German and English.  She was also explaining high German and regional dialects, which the woman to whom she was explaining this was just not getting.  And I realized I have been very spoiled by living in the city that I live in, because I can't conceive of someone not being able to understand what the "high" or "standard" version of a language is, or regional dialects.  We have standard English, too!

Anyway, overall, it was a charming small-town event that I randomly went to.  The lederhosen and dirndls that some people wore were for real though.  I was impressed.  Those things are expensive.

So then I made my way to Tomah, Wisconsin, where I stopped for the night.  (Don't worry; I had one beer and waited two hours before I drove.)  On the way, I learned that Wisconsonites (? - I don't know what the demonym for people from Wisconsin is) routinely cut people off, but it seems like that is just the practice here, based on the frequency with which it happens.  Let's just say I routinely honk at Wisconsonites.  A Prairie Home Companion was playing on no less than six different radio stations.

I got here and for dinner ordered a "snack pack" from Culver's, a Midwestern fast food chain.  This "snack" consists of a burger, cheese curds, and a small drink.  The woman at the fast food place was extremely helpful and walked me through pretty much the entire menu and gave me a free sample of custard.  Also, the cheese curds here are more like nugget-shaped mozzarella sticks.  I was picturing something more like what you see on poutine.  I was completely wrong.

Now that I've left the west coast, there is much less earth consciousness.  No composting, often not even recycling.  Definitely lots of plastic bags.  I feel like I should start composting.  I don't know how to do that when the place I live doesn't provide the infrastructure for that though.  I will find out.

Off to Chicago!