2018 in Review

What am I doing New Year’s Eve? Looking back at my 2018 calendar and logbook to remember the notable happenings that made up my year. In roughly chronological order:

  • Started a paper logbook (a la Austin Kleon) in a Moleskine notebook I got for Christmas. Have actually kept it going regularly, and enjoy it much more than my previous journals in composition notebooks, probably because it’s not lined. This encourages me to do things like magazine mashups and tape other life ephemera and keepsakes inside. It’s a much richer diary because of that.
  • 2/24/18 log: “Today at work an older guy was looking for White Heat, Yankee Doodle Dandy, and For Whom the Bell Tolls. I found them on the DVD shelves and he said, ‘You’re the nicest guy on this side of the tracks.’ Thank you?”
  • Started going to a local independent barber shop and love it
  • Wrote or quoted some opinions about Donald Trump and have yet to be proven wrong
  • Got a real, professional massage and why don’t I do that more often?
  • Saw I’m With Her in concert at Thalia Hall
  • Wrote several Refer Madness columns for Booklist
  • Bought a Royal Arrow typewriter and then sold my rickety Royal Quiet De Luxe
  • Saw 2001: A Space Odyssey at the Music Box in Chicago
  • Saw The Okee Dokee Brothers at Lincoln Hall
  • Went to a college friend’s wedding at my alma mater
  • Switched to Firefox, fixed Twitter, and made other tech improvements
  • Hosted a type-in at an Evanston bookstore
  • Went on a pontoon boat with family in Madison
  • Had octopus and a sake bomb for the first time in Wicker Park with college friends
  • Went to Midsommarfest in Andersonville, where I bought my first pair of real Birkenstocks and got roped into a Swedish dance circle
  • Learned my wife was pregnant with our first child, visited Starved Rock, then saw Hamilton on stage, all within 24 hours
  • Walked the Custer Street Fair with friends, got dinner and dessert and talked tech ethics
  • Acquired, cleaned, and quickly sold a gorgeous Royal Empress
  • Went to wife’s cousin’s wedding at Illinois Beach State Park
  • Visited Colorado for my friend Tim’s wedding in Denver: stayed at a gorgeous Airbnb in Maintou Springs, hiked in the Rocky Mountain National Park, rode a vintage Otis elevator at the Hotel Boulderado, ogled the stunning Boulder Public Library, toured the Celestial Seasonings headquarters, wended through the hoodoos of the Painted Mines Interpretive Park, shot billiards until 1 AM, cried and danced and gave a speech at Tim’s wedding
  • Won my case on Judge John Hodgman
  • Celebrated 10 years of filmlogging
  • Spent a few days fishing and lounging in the restorative Northwoods of Wisconsin
  • Saw Rayland Baxter at Lincoln Hall
  • Went to a Cubs game on a super hot day
  • Gave my Royal Futura 800 to a neighbor who needed it
  • Went to another Cubs game on a super beautiful day
  • Got a Fisher space pen for my birthday and it’s fun to use
  • Visited Colorado again for my friend Taylor’s wedding: whacked balls at Top Golf, beheld the Crush Walls, sang the processional along with the wedding party, cried and danced hard
  • Tried to make a typewriter emoticon happen ‘(:::)
  • Canned homemade applesauce with the family
  • Dressed as Fred Rogers for Halloween
  • Went to Green Mill Cocktail Lounge for the first time and sat in the Al Capone booth
  • Saw sound designer Gary Rydstrom speak at Northwestern
  • Acquired a new Olympia SM7 with an interesting story
  • Had fun putting together a LEGO Delorean
  • Released a full-length album of old demos called The Wonder Of It All
  • All things Baby C: baby showers, appointments, clothes, toys, books, classes, and so much more
  • Got a portable washing machine
  • Wrote some good blog posts, like:
  • Watched 70 movies (old and new) and read 72 books, according to my logbook
  • Read 2 presidential biographies: John Tyler and Harry Truman
  • Watched several good TV shows: The Crown season 1 and 2, Big Mouth season 2, Queer Eye seasons 1 and 2, The People Vs. O.J. Simpson, and Big Little Lies

Chad’s Christmastime chronicles, 2018

My season of celebrating Christmas has begun. This year I thought it would be fun to document exactly how I usually get into the spirit of the season, through music, movies, and rituals. I’ll update this post as I go.

Friday, November 23

  • Listened: Season’s Greetings by Perry Como, Christmas Party by She & Him, Bing Crosby Sings Christmas Songs by Bing Crosby, At Christmas by James Taylor

Saturday, November 24

  • Listened: Let It Snow, Baby… Let It Reindeer by Relient K, Christmas Songs by Jars of Clay, A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra by Frank Sinatra, Christmas radio
  • Watched: Grumpy Old Men
  • Did: put up decorations at my parents’ place

Sunday, November 25

  • Listened: Christmas with the Rat Pack, Songs for Christmas by Sufjan Stevens, Under the Mistletoe by Justin Bieber, Christmas radio
  • Watched: Elf (first 30 minutes)
  • Did: put up decorations in our apartment

Monday, November 26

  • Listened: Songs for the Season by Ingrid Michaelson, Christmas is Here! by Pentatonix
  • Watched: A Charlie Brown Christmas, remainder of Elf
  • Did: enjoyed the first Chicagoland blizzard of the season, first ceremonial snow-scraping of the cars

Tuesday, November 27

  • Listened: Christmas Portrait by The Carpenters, Snow Globe by Matt Wertz, Come On, Ring Those Bells by Evie, The Hotel Café Presents Winter Songs

Wednesday, November 28

  • Listened: “All I Need Is Love” by Cee-Lo Green & The Muppets, Light of the Stable by Emmylou Harris, Merry Christmas Good Night by Morning And Night Collective.
  • Watched: Holiday Inn

Thursday, November 29

  • Listened: Blood Oranges in the Snow by Over the Rhine,  Merry Christmas Good Night by the Morning And Night Collective
  • Watched: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Friday, November 30

  • Listened: Christmas with Johnny Cash by Johnny Cash, Ella Wishes You A Swinging Christmas by Ella Fitzgerald

Sunday, December 2

  • Listened: Christmas Favorites by Nat King Cole

Tuesday, December 4

  • Watched: The Family Stone

Friday, December 7

  • Listened: Home for Christmas by Hall & Oates, Songs for the Season by Ingrid Michaelson

Sunday, December 9

  • Listened: Jingle All the Way by Bela Fleck & The Flecktones, Advent Christmas EP by Future of Forestry, “Mittens” by Carly Rae Jepsen, Stan Boreson Fractures Christmas by Stan Boreson

Monday, December 10

  • Listened: Advent Christmas EP Vol. 2 by Future of Forestry

Thursday, December 13

  • Listened: Christmas Collection, Volume One by Sleeping At Last

Friday, December 14

  • Listened: Oh For Joy by David Crowder Band, Pretty Paper by Willie Nelson

Sunday, December 16

  • Listened: Christmas Party by She & Him, Snowfall by Tony Bennett, Songs for the Season by Ingrid Michaelson, The Songs The Season Brings by Beta Radio, Ultimate Christmas Collection by The Jackson 5

Thursday, December 20

  • Listened: A Very Rosie Christmas by Rosie Thomas, Holiday Songs and Lullabies by Shawn Colvin, Family Christmas Album by The Oh Hellos

Friday, December 21

  • Listened: Christmas with the Rat Pack
  • Watched: Christmas Eve on Sesame Street

Saturday, December 22

  • Listened: Snowed In by Hanson, Rocky Mountain Christmas by John Denver, O Come All Ye Faithful by King’s College Choir

Sunday, December 23

Like lightning

“Come on, Doc, it’s not science! When it happens, it just hits you. It’s like lightning.” – Marty McFly, Back to the Future Part III

A couple nights before my buddy’s wedding, I was at his house with a bunch of other guys for a time of toasting, roasting, and advice-giving. One thing I shared was how immediately evident it was to me that the couple was The Real Deal, and how a similar certainty hit me like a bolt of lightning when I first met my future wife.

Later on, the wedding reception was held at Ace Eat Serve, a ping pong hall in a converted auto garage serving pan-Asian cuisine. (Loved the amazing food and the novelty of playing ping pong at a wedding.) The ping pong tables outside were made of concrete and had metal nets with Ace’s lightning logo cut through them, which in the sunlight looked like this:

It’s almost as if I was at the temporal junction point for the entire space-time continuum. On the other hand, it could just be an amazing coincidence.

Comello’s Kitchen

Here are four things I recommend to make your time in the kitchen better.

Onion goggles. My wife and I laughed at these when we saw them in a store, because they are laughable. It took a few passes before we gave them a try, and now I’m mad at myself for all that pointless, ugly onion crying I endured before now.

Gordon Ramsay’s onion cutting technique. After yet again botching what should be a routine process, I hit up YouTube for a more efficient way to cut onions. This one was a minor epiphany. Unless you need slices, this is the way to go.

Manual food chopper. I love being able to mince several garlic cloves in a few seconds. It’s a few more pieces to clean but totally worth it.

Immersion hand blender. I make breakfast smoothies regularly, but using a traditional blender was a nightmare. The ingredients would whip up to the sides of the glass and not blend, and it was a pain in the ass to clean. Got one of these on a recommendation and it changed everything. Easy to blend and clean, and it’s the perfect serving size. (And get you some reusable metal straws, people.)

Bookception

I’m in the middle of David McCullough’s Truman, a 1,000-page biography (not including the end-matter). Given its girth I figured I’d have to take a break at some point. Sure enough, page 500 rolls around and I get a notification that Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind is finally ready for me at the library. So I start that one and immediately love it.

Then I remember I have two forthcoming books I need to review for Booklist with fast-approaching deadlines. So now I’m in a book while reading another book, which itself is a break from another book.

In other words: Bookception.

BWAAAAAAAMMMMMMMMMM

Know Wonder

I’m sad I missed the TEDx event this year at my alma mater, especially because of its great theme and logo:

tedxncc-knowwonder-concpet-final.jpg

My case featured on Judge John Hodgman!

A few months ago I submitted this case to Judge John Hodgman, one of my favorite podcasts:

I seek an injunction against my wife, Jenny. When I am cooking any kind of meat, I use a plastic spatula throughout the cooking process. Jenny insists on rinsing the spatula after the meat is no longer raw, but before it’s fully cooked. She says this avoids mixing any residual raw meat on the spatula with the cooked meat. I think this is excessive and unnecessary, and it degrades my autonomy as the cook. I have been cooking for years without the “mid-wash” without a problem. I ask the Judge order Jenny to cease and desist this behavior and let me cook in peace.

Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Only one man can decide, and he did!

We were driving from Colorado Springs to Denver and listening to last week’s docket-clearing episode, “Into the Teal”, when I heard Bailiff Jesse Thorn say my name, then my wife’s name, then the case I submitted.

I couldn’t believe it. They’d released many episodes since I submitted my case, so I assumed it was already passed over. Instead, to our shock and delight, we were listening to it for the first time together, breathlessly awaiting how the Judge would adjudicate our petty dispute.

Listen to the episode to judge for yourself and learn who won. Our case starts at 20:48.

For the record:

  • I do regret the line about autonomy, as I know well the Judge’s bias against dudes trying to impose their own system for things on others. Yet in this case it was my wife trying to impose a system on me.
  • I don’t regret “mid-wash”.
  • I should have clarified that I was cooking meat in a stainless steel pan.

Life as a CTA rail operator

“In that motorcab was my serenity.” Another great Chicago story from WBEZ’s Curious City: what it’s like to operate the L trains.

Ain’t no road just like Lake Shore Drive

And there ain’t no road just like it
Anywhere I found
Running south on Lake Shore Drive heading into town
Just slippin’ on by on LSD, Friday night trouble bound

“Lake Shore Drive” by Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah

I’ve had occasion to drive into or through downtown Chicago several times recently, which is unusual. A few times it was for medical reasons, another for a conference in the Loop, and last Friday for a morning seminar at the University of Chicago.

Each time I do it I’m reminded of how beautiful Lake Shore Drive is.

If you’ve never been to Chicago: the city sits right next to Lake Michigan, and Lake Shore Drive runs north-south along the lakeshore. Except some museums, Navy Pier, Soldier Field, and one swanky skyscraper, it’s mostly beachfront and parks the whole way, so whichever direction you drive it (or bike or run it) will give you an amazing view of Chicago’s famous downtown architecture and the expansive lake at the same time.

On Friday I drove almost the whole stretch of the LSD, from the far north side to the far south side and back. Heading southbound, I think the scenic part of downtown begins at the Oak Street bend where the Drake Hotel sits. (Which to me always calls to mind the crucial Bible from the Drake Hotel in Mission: Impossible:  “They stamped it, didn’t they? Those damn Gideons.”)

And northbound from the University of Chicago it’s scenic pretty much the whole way. You can watch the skyscrapers get bigger and bigger until you’re almost among them.

I don’t know how many other cities have anything comparable to Lake Shore Drive, so I’m happy to have it.

The point of coffee is to suffer

I can’t stop laughing at this comic:

I started drinking coffee after college, and when I did I went straight to black, sometimes with sugar. It took me that long because my taste buds weren’t ready for the bitterness of black coffee. And yet when I did try to start drinking it regularly, it never occurred to me to use sweeteners, beyond a little sugar. I figured if I was going to drink coffee, I should like the taste of the coffee itself and not try to mask it with cream. Admittedly this logic is faulty, but it’s why this comic struck a nerve.

My wife, who’s part Swedish and embraces all things hygge, cherishes the coziness of the whole coffee drinking experience, special cream included. But I, embracer of my Finnish heritage and its concept of sisu, enjoy the pure, raw burn of good black coffee.