Monday, October 22, 2007

OFT No.5 - Music To Our Ears

This week we actually did TFTs - three fun things!

First, was the Bright Eyes concert on Friday night, at the Chicago theater. This was a highly anticipated show for me, because I just love Bright Eyes. The frontman, Conor Oberst, is one of the best lyricists around these days, and I was excited to see if he put on a good show, too. The theater was beautiful, an old baroque movie palace. Our seats were awesome, we paid just a little extra and got box seats rather than balcony and it was so worth it. Soloist Andrew Bird opened the show, and reminded us a lot of Final Fantasy, who opened for Bloc Party when we saw them last year. His stuff was very inventive - any given song included several layers of looping, whistling, singing, guitar, glockenspeil, and two very interesting looking, er... instruments:

He had a nice voice and obviously was multi-talented, but after about 3 songs it got a little repetitive.

Bright Eyes on the other hand was really good, though Conor seemed sick, drinking lots of water and telling us about how he was cold all day. Listening to a BE album, you might think it's just him, but there were two other guitars, a drummer and a keyboardist. It was good fun, they sounded good and played no less than 3 of their war-protest songs. It struck me during the concert, as it has a couple of times before while listening to one of their albums, that they sometimes have more of a folky/country sound than I would ever usually go for. But that's only on a few songs, and regardless, the lyrics are too good to pass up. They didn't play my favorite song, unfortunately, but Brian sweetly put it on our mm50 iPod player when we got home.

The second OFT of the weekend was Donald's first orchestra concert at Northwestern on Saturday night. They played 3 pieces - a Brahms overture, a Brahms concerto for violin and cello and a Dvorák symphony. It was a good, free evening of culture (thanks Donald!)

Finally, the third OFT was going out for dinner with Brian's lab (including his boss) to celebrate some good news about a grant application. We went to Opera, a restaurant housed in an old film storage warehouse in the south loop. On Sundays and Tuesdays they have a prix fixe, which is a pretty great deal relative to the prices of each of their dishes. We had a fun night chatting with Weiss labbers and stuffing ourselves silly!

A pretty busy weekend, as you can see. Not sure what's up for next week, but my Chicago Architecture Foundation membership finally showed up, so perhaps we'll try to go on the architecture river cruise...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Home Sweet Home

Well, the time has come, we can finally post pictures of our house!

Here's the view from the bedroom door. It's hard to tell but there's quite a bit of room between the bed and the window, so we'll be putting a small loveseat or chair-and-a-half there in the (hopefully) near future:

The bed - those are the paintings I did on the weekend. I think they work pretty nicely in the space.

Obligatory bathroom photo - note the cool inside of the medicine cabinet - one of my favorite ideas put into action!

The entranceway - it was too narrow for a console table, so we installed a small wall shelf - it's perfect!

The view of the main area from the entranceway. Hm, who's that on the TV?

The living room area. Note our awesome new rug, and the chaise part of the sofa under the stripey throw - very decadent! Also, my "photoscape" makes its appearance on the wall that we painted ourselves. The color looks a little light in the picture, but it's a lovely shade of minty green. And zeroing in on the TV, why, it's Rose and Dorothy, a couple of Golden Girls!

The view out of the living room; in the foreground is our "window bench" made from Brian's old coffee table and some of the cushions I have:

My desk/office area. As you can see, we still need to buy a new office chair. The lone kitchen table chair that Brian brought with him suffices in the meantime:

The breakfast bar. Brian's favorite place to sit in the morning with the paper:

The inside view of the kitchen:

And one last shot, of my very fun sock monkey slippers:

That's it! I hope it was worth the wait. We love it.

News From My Desk

  • Apparently there are bats around campus, as I was greeted by this email in my inbox this morning:
    "I have urged everyone to close their windows and all windows of conference rooms when leaving a space because of pigeons taking up residence in vacant rooms…and that still applies. But Dr. Larson found another type of critter that might make its way through an open window….BATS. Fortunately “his” bat was dead upon his arrival, but even a dead bat is scary. This is nesting season for bats and I am sure that no one wants to share space with a bat family. So please….please….please do not leave windows open. I know that it is unseasonably warm; I know your air conditioners have been removed; and I know some silly person in the Plant Department turned on the heat. So feel free to open a window, but don’t open it too wide and be sure to close it when you leave…even for a short period unless of course you are fond of pigeons and bats."


  • One of the Research Assistants in our lab found out that she is free and clear of cancer! She struggled with lymphoma in the past year and heard this amazing news at her scan today. Woohoo!

  • Ok, back to work.

    Mental Note

    On Tuesday, I left my car headlights on all day. Of course I hadn't realized it, so I was confused when I couldn't open my car door with my remote. A few things were conspiring against me: 1) about a year ago, my battery died and when they replaced it, for some reason the electrical system got a little screwed up, and so the warning sound doesn't go off when the car is off but the headlights are still on; 2) in all the moving craziness, I've let my AAA membership lapse, and 3) I don't have any jumper cables. Luckily, my boss lives right off campus and we were all going out for dinner in a couple of hours with our out-of-towners. So all is good, the car seems fine, don't worry.

    I've had to jump cars a few times in the past couple of years, so I'm getting pretty good at it. But someone else always provided the cables. So, I made a mental note: buy jumper cables!

    Oh, stay tuned - I just took pics of the apartment in the morning light - I'll post them when I get home from work tonight!

    Tuesday, October 16, 2007

    Teaser pic

    Pics of the apartment will go up asap, I swear. It's pretty much ready, I just have been really busy since a couple of people from a lab that my lab collaborates with have come into town to do some work with us. It's keeping me busy, but hey, who am I to complain about free meals?

    So when they leave tomorrow, I will have a little more time to tidy up and show off the apartment! But, just to whet your appetite, here is a pic of the three panels that I painted over the weekend, which now reside above our bed. The orange matches our walls...

    Sunday, October 14, 2007

    Oct 2007 - North Country Cob Smoked Bacon

    Tonight, we fired up some bacon on the cast iron grill pan. We each ate a slice straight off the grill, then made some BLTs. As a side dish, we also made a macaroni and cheese with broccoli. We realized that the bread we bought had relatively small slices, and we thought 3 slices of bacon in the BLT might be overdoing it a bit, so we crumbled a slice over the mac and cheese.



    And plated:

    1. The slices were relatively thick, so the final product had a good combination of crispiness and chewiness.
    2. Even on its own, we weren't able to taste much maple flavor (despite the purported maple-curing), but there was a nice smokiness.
    3. BLTs were great.
    4. The addition of bacon to the mac and cheese proves what we all already knew: everything is better with bacon.
    5. The bacon was noticeably less salty than regular store-bought bacon, so I think it's much better-suited to be eaten in this format (rather than cooking it into another dish).
    6. I recommend Trader Joe's "Real Mayonnaise".
    7. Yes, we each ate 4 slices of bacon.

    We still have bread, cheese, and bacon. Whatever shall we do?
    Tomorrow night: grilled cheese and bacon.

    OFT No.4 - Interpol at the Aragon

    This week's OFT was seeing Interpol live in concert. In LA and San Francisco we were pretty successful in going to a number of shows, and I was in part excited about Chicago because I felt like we would have plenty of opportunities to see live bands here as well. We bought these tickets during the summer - and I've been anticipating a fun evening ever since.

    The Aragon theater is pretty interesting, it is huge and kind of reminded us of an amusement park ride - sort of "It's a Small World"-style. There was open seating upstairs - next time I might try to get there early to get the really good seats.

    The opening act, The Liars, was pretty terrible. The music was jarring and obnoxious, and the lead singer's voice was awwwwful. However, he was very entertaining, with a lot of groovy dancing. As for Interpol, though they aren't my favoritest band ever, I do like them a fair bit. Their album Antics has some really key songs, and the new album Our Love to Admire is growing on me. I have to say, their set was technically excellent. I think it was the best sounding concert I've ever been to. No off notes, no patchy bits, no uncomfortable lowgrade feedback. Everything was clear and crisp, a really enjoyable listen. That said, I would say they were solid. They only played for about an hour before they left the stage the first time, which I was disappointed about, but the encore was pretty long. It was in the encore that they got a little innovative - during the main set they pretty much played straight from the albums, and it would have been nice to hear a little more creativity earlier on. Brian remarked that "their songs are too similar." I can understand that, but the quality of the sound made up for that for me.

    In all, a good evening out and a nice OFT. Next week we have tickets to Bright Eyes - I can't wait!

    Saturday, October 13, 2007

    The Bacon Has Landed

    Like most people who like good food, I enjoy bacon. So when I finished my Ph.D., my lab got me a "Bacon of the Month" subscription, which they started after we settled in. The first shipment arrived yesterday.

    We didn't know what to expect, but the Grateful Palate is clearly running a solid operation. The bacon arrived in an insulated package with two gel ice packs:

    This month's selection is maple-cured "North Country Cob Smoked Bacon":

    There was an information card describing the bacon, along with a wine selection, and a recipe (North Country Cob Smoked Bacon Navy Bean Soup). According to the card, they slow cure the meat in maple syrup for days. I'm not sure I understand what it means to cure something in maple syrup, but I have a feeling I'll approve of it. There was also a second card with "The Most Popular Bacon Disguises of Halloween 2007" (that we could probably do without).

    Stay tuned for a highly scientific analysis of this variety of bacon.

    Monday, October 8, 2007

    Good News/Bad News

    Bad news: The remote control for the bedroom TV went through a full wash cycle with the sheets.
    Good news: After a little drying time, voilà! It still works!

    Good news: We finally bought the rug we have been eyeing since we moved here.
    Bad news: It's on backorder, and we won't get it till the weekend.
    Good news: We should be ready to post the long-promised pictures of our place when we get the rug situated. (And hopefully after I do a little painting during the week.)

    Good news: Our gift subscription to a bacon-of-the-month club will start this week.
    Bad news: Our gift subscription to a bacon-of-the-month club will start this week.

    Sunday, October 7, 2007

    OFT No.3 - The Magnificent Mile

    This week's OFT was not that exciting, we just went downtown to the "Magnificent Mile" which is a major shopping strip on Michigan Avenue. As with pretty much everywhere in Chicago, there is neat architecture to be seen, such as the Hancock building. But, that deserves its own post - preferably after we have gone on one of the architecture river cruises. I'm just waiting for my Chicago Architecture Foundation membership to kick in, hopefully before it gets really cold.

    So not much to report, OFT-wise. Shopping isn't quite the same with Brian as it is with my usual partners in crime (you know who you are) - it's generally a lot quicker and more goal-directed. Saturday we did some research on a winter jacket for Brian, and I finally bought a jewelry box, something I have been looking for forever. Just so that you are not picture-less, here is a photo of it. I was looking for something modern and sleek, which this totally isn't, but it has all the room I needed and actually fits in pretty well with the orange walls of our bedroom. It's kind of charming though, I think.

    Thursday, October 4, 2007

    Watch Friday Night Lights

    The best show you aren't watching starts its second season Friday night on NBC.

    Friday Night Lights is easily one of our favorite shows, and we recommend you give it a try. What's that? You don't want to watch a show about football? Don't worry, "FNL" isn't really about football. It's an insightful look into a small town and the characters (particularly, Coach Taylor and his family) are extremely well-written. It's a good mix of drama (Michelle cries almost every episode) and comic relief (primarily from an actor we refer to as "poor man's Matt Damon"). I would actually say the football is the weakest part of the show (too many last-second hollywood comebacks).

    Want to know more? Read this article from Bill Simmons (ESPN). As he says, "if you continue to ignore FNL, it's only because you're trying to hurt me".


    Good luck to Jen today! (Because I know she reads this religiously :) )

    Wednesday, October 3, 2007

    OFT No.2 - Pumpkin Picking

    On Saturday, we picked up one of Brian's labmates and her husband and drove North to a pumpkin farm. I think the original plan was to go apple and pumpkin picking but there was a family festival going on so we did that instead. A few other labmates joined up, and we quickly noticed that it was very family-oriented; we may have been the only group there without kids in tow (at least until we were joined by yet another of Brian's labmates with her family, complete with a 4-year old and a baby).

    Here's the group on a 'shortbus':
    Jackie, Jenni, Brian, Charlie, Jon, and Yuan.

    As you might expect, there were lots of pumpkins!

    Big ones you could cuddle up with:

    and giant ones that might take over the world:
    (actually it's a really little one that I'm holding up opportunistically)

    They had already harvested a bunch of them and put them in organized piles for you to choose from, but we paid extra and went on a tractor hayride that took us out into the field. We were so excited when they stopped to let us pick pumpkins, only to realize that the ones next to the road weren't connected to any vines - it looked like they'd just driven along the path and tossed a few pumpkins out of the truck. I'm sure the guy in the tractor was snickering as he watched us "pick" our pumpkins..."he he he, city slickers, he he he..."

    Of course you need a little red radio flyer wagon to cart around your orange treasures:

    but you can't take it with you into the 3-mile corn maze:

    It was a fun, g-rated day and we came home with a couple of beauties.

    What's going to be our OFT next weekend? I don't know for sure, but Brian just cut out a Filene's Basement coupon for me... hmmm...