Thursday, July 26, 2012

Another Attack in Lincoln Park

About a month ago, I posted about a surge of crime in Lincoln Park, where I live.  Unfortunately it hasn't stopped.  This is horrifying to me:
A 21-year-old man has been charged after allegedly attacking a woman jogging early Sunday in the Lincoln Park neighborhood.
Germaine Walker, 21, of the 1300-block of North Hudson, is accused of grabbing the woman in the 300-block of West Menomonee around 7:30 a.m. Sunday. He is charged with one count of aggravated use of a deadly weapon and one count of unlawful restraint after he allegedly grabbed the jogger and dragged her into an alley.
Police say she screamed as the attacker repeatedly told her to keep quiet or he would kill her.
The victim said she felt a knife in the attacker's hand and in attempt to fight him off, she suffered lacerations and injuries, police said.
When two other joggers passed by, the suspect ran away on foot, police said, but officers patrolling the area were able to catch him minutes later in the courtyard of an apartment building.
What the bloody fuck?  A woman is out jogging at 7:30 in the morning -- on a Sunday -- and this asshole grabs her?  Are you kidding me?      

What a piece of trash he is.  I am so glad they caught him.  Thank God for the other joggers. 

It really makes me wonder -- how many people have seen someone suspicious and not reported it?  How many people have been attacked and the news hasn't reported it?  What is really going on here, and how do we stop it? 

It makes me scared.  I typically go running at around 6:30 in the morning.  Although I usually don't venture quite as far as Menomonee, I'm not too far away.  It's funny because my mom told me I should carry a knife when I run, and I laughed and laughed at the thought of me running through Lincoln Park with a knife in my hand, because it seemed so absurd.  However, hearing this kind of thing happening, maybe it isn't such a stupid idea after all.

Chick-fil-A in Chicago

Chick-fil-A’s president doesn’t support gay marriage.


This has been all over the news in recent days in Chicago, because one of our brilliant Alderman, Proco “Joe” Moreno, wants to block the construction of Chicago’s second Chick-fil-A restaurant in Logan Square because he disagreed with comments made by Chick-fil-A’s president. Rahm Emanuel joined in the fun and even stated that said the anti-gay marriage views of the fast-food chain's president don't mesh with Chicago values.

I don’t know what that means. Chicago values? What, you mean wildings on Michigan Avenue, flash mobs, iPhone robberies, joggers getting attacked in Lincoln Park, burglaries, shootings that regularly kill children, and graffiti? Those Chicago values?

So, let’s be clear. In a city that needs jobs and business, Alderman Moreno wants to take some kind of moral high ground and prevent the construction of a Chick-fil-A because the president of the company doesn’t support gay marriage. Isn’t this kind of silly? Wouldn’t people rather have the jobs? And let’s face it, how often is the president of Chick-fil-A going to be coming to Chicago? I suspect not very often.

Here’s the thing. We live in a free country, where I think it’s pretty damn awesome that the president of Chick-fil-A has the right to not support gay marriage. I may not agree with him, and I may think he’s an idiot, but I completely support his right to feel that way. In fact, a lot of people in this country feel the exact same way that he does. Remember what just happened in North Carolina? People in other states have also voted to ban same sex unions and marriages. So let’s not pretend that he’s taken some outlandish stance that no one could ever agree with.

If you disagree with him, don’t eat there. It's really as simple as that.  If enough people don’t eat there, Chick-fil-A will go out of business, or replace him. I don’t see anywhere that he said that he wouldn’t hire gay people or that he doesn’t like gay people. He just doesn’t want them to be able to get married. (Frankly, I don’t understand why anyone would want to get married.) Isn’t it his choice to feel that way? I think it’s ridiculous that an Alderman in this city – as well as our Mayor – would prevent a business from being established here because they personally disagree with the guy. This is what really kills me about our politicians. They make decisions based on how they feel, not on how their constituents feel. In fact, Illinois is fairly evenly divided on the issue. (I suspect many Chicagoans would set aside any dispute they have with Cathay's comments, just to get another Chick-fil-A in town.)  Also, it might even be illegal to prevent Chick-fil-A from setting up shop in Chicago based upon its president’s views.

At the end of the day, a lot of the press feels a bit like bullying. I’m hearing about the Muppets boycotting Chick-fil-A, and other gay rights groups planning sit ins. For what purpose? Why shouldn’t he be allowed to feel how he wants to feel? Why waste your time? Just don’t eat there.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

It's All So Complicated

I keep a Word document with all of my user ids and passwords in it. Currently, it is four pages long, double spaced. Every account I have is listed – eBay, Amazon, Chicago water, my bank accounts, 401(k) account, Sharebuilder account, Pottery Barn, Nordstrom, Macy’s, credit cards, Walgreens, e-mail, etc. Everything. It occurred to me the other day how completely ridiculous it is to have four pages of user ids and passwords. It just seems so complicated. But you can hardly do anything on the Internet without someone asking you to sign up, create an account. So what if it’s free? It’s one more user id and password to add to the list. They are tricky, too, because usually the box to opt out of communications is tiny, hidden at the bottom of the page. I always forget to uncheck it.

I have a Yahoo e-mail account that I’ve had for probably close to fifteen years. It was my first e-mail account. Now it is my spam account. I get hundreds of e-mails per day in this account, mostly from companies who want me to buy things from them. Some of these companies I’ve purchased things from in the past – like Hanes, West Elm, Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Gap, Victoria’s Secret, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, and Bliss. I get at least two e-mails a day from Neiman Marcus. Overkill? Other companies obviously got my e-mail address in other ways, because I can’t recall every buying anything from them, or even visiting their web site. Then there are the political e-mails. You make one donation to someone, and next thing you know God and everybody is e-mailing you for more donations. You stay at one hotel, and next thing you know you are getting constant offers. I’m looking at you Bellagio, Venetian, Starwood, and Marriott. Even though I could swear I’ve repeatedly tried to unsubscribe from some of these companies, I still get e-mails from them. It seems impossible to make it stop. They just want to keep reminding me they exist. I know. I also know how to find them – I don’t need a daily stream of e-mails from them. On top of this, many of these companies still send me paper catalogs. They infiltrate my life both online and offline. It’s annoying. I bought something at Pottery Barn Kids twelve years ago and they still send me catalogs and e-mails. Can’t they tell I haven’t bought anything from them in twelve years?

Everywhere you go there are special membership cards which allegedly enable you to get discounts. I have cards from Sports Authority, Ulta, Argo Tea, Binny’s, Sephora, Dominick’s, Jewel, and God knows how many others. I can’t even keep track of them. Then other places expect you to hold onto a punch card to earn a free sandwich or something. If you don’t have “the card,” they always ask if you want it, then look disappointed when you say no. If I had a nickel for every time I turned down the Best Buy card, I’d be rich. I don’t care if I can save 10% -- I don’t want another freaking card to keep track of. The stores also want your phone number, zip code, e-mail address. I never give them any of these anymore. You can also have your receipt e-mailed to you, rather than get a paper copy. Like I need more junk in my e-mail?

Then you also have to make sure everything is updated – apps, virus software, operating system software. You have to back everything up in case your laptop or phone gets stolen or breaks.  Sometimes I feel like I have a thousand devices to look out for, between my iPhone, iPod, iPad, and computers. 

Frankly, I find it all quite exhausting. I actually miss the days when I didn’t have to deal with all this crap. Life seemed so much easier and less stressful when you had to go to the store to buy something and didn’t have to worry about user ids and passwords. I hate being able to check my e-mail from my phone and being constantly reachable. If I don't answer a text immediately, it raises all this "what are you doing" "where are you" nonsense.  I hate seeing 200 new messages of pure garbage in my inbox that I don’t want, but now have to spend time deleting. When I leave the house without my phone, I feel so free.  I do that fairly often on the weekends.  I find it sad (and annoying) how everywhere you go all the people around you are staring down at their phones or MP3 players or talking on the phone.  Remember what it was like "before"?  While I guess it's nice to have all this stuff sometimes, I wonder if we weren't all better off and less stressed out back in the good old days.

There, I'm officially old.  I said "the good old days." 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Weird Things In Chicago -- Horse Statutes

I've been doing a lot of walking and running around my neighborhood lately, and have encountered some things that I had no idea even existed.

Like this, for example:

These guys are in a park near the Buddhist Temple in Lincoln Park.  (There's another thing that kind of caught me off guard!) 

What is this?  Why are there horse statutes in this park? 

Really, really strange.  So, of course I had to photograph them.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

I Hate the Commercial for Savages

I've seen the television commercials for the movie Savages about a thousand times in the past week.  I have no idea whether they are just constantly playing on every television channel, or only the ones I'm watching, but at any rate, a Savages commercial shows up nearly every commercial break -- or at least feels like it.

This is an Oliver Stone film.  When you see his name pop up on the screen in big, block red letters, you almost feel like the movie industry is saying to you, "Duh, dummy.  Look who'se back.  It's Oliver Stone.  Look how cool this commercial is.  Look how many famous actors and actresses are in this movie."  OLIVER STONE.  You know, the guy who many years ago made such awesome movies as Platoon and Wall Street.  He's kind of gone down hill, seems a little nutty, and some people might have thought he was dead, but he's back.  OLIVER STONE.  His new movie is Savages.  OLIVER STONE.  RED LETTERS.  BLOOD.  CRIME.

One of the commercials starts out like this:  Voice Over:  "Just because I'm telling you this story doesn't mean I'm alive at the end of it..."


They show a girl, who for about a month I thought was Kate Hudson.  Turns out, it's Blake Lively.

A rap song plays.  Lots of quick cuts.  A glimpse of John Travolta, Salma Hayek, Benicio del Toro.  People screaming.  Explosions.  Guns.  Masks.  This is consistent throughout every commercial.  Then, there is some statement by Salma Hayek: 

"There's something wrong with you love story, baby," says Salma Hayek in one. 

"I wouldn't have a problem cutting both their throats," Salma Hayek says in another, as she calmly takes a bite of food.

Blech.  I'm so sick of seeing these commercials.  What's amazing, is that after viewing the commercials about a million times, I still have no idea what this movie is about.  It appears to have something to do with drugs.  You know, watching criminals do something criminal, so we can sit back and notice how cool they are, with the cool OLIVER STONE cinematography.  It's funny, because as I've gotten older, I realize more and more that I don't want to watch criminals rob people or kidnap them or kill them for entertainment purposes.  Why do people do that for entertainment?  Think about if that were to happen in real life.  Do we think people like that are totally awesome, man?  Of course not.  So why does the movie industry consistently make movies about criminals, glorifying them basically, and people go to see those movies?  I don't get it.

Needless to say, I won't be seeing this one in the theater.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Quit Smoking, Get Louboutins

I realized I forgot to post my "reward" for 90 days smoke free.  The sad part is that I would've spent $300 more on cigarettes than these shoes cost.

A little history about these.  They are the Mistica style.  A 2 inch, thicker heel.  I've been coveting these shoes for the past year.  This is my style for work!  This is a heel I can walk miles in!  They've been sold out everywhere in my size for ages.  (Duh, the one Louboutin with a practical heel...and it sells out...yeah, duh.)  So, is it not a sign from God that right when I hit 90 days smoke free, the Louboutin web site suddenly had them in my size?  I think so.  I think so.  I love these shoes so much I want them in the nude color as well.  That will be the six month reward.

The Health Kick Continues, and Insanity Kicks My Butt

First, it completely sucks that the 4th of July is on a Wednesday.  Can we just collectively agree, as a nation, that when this happens in the future we will celebrate on Tuesday or Thursday, so we can get the long weekend?  Please?  Wonderful.

On to better things.  As I previously blogged, I am on a fitness kick.  I'm hoping it's the proverbial lifestyle change, but who can say what I will be doing a year from now?  At any rate, I am enjoying it immensely so far.  Who knew I would love getting up at 6 a.m. to work out?  Not the me from six months ago, that's for sure.   

So, here is my progress.  Since May 24, when I started paying attention to all of this, I have lost 8 lbs.  This means I am at 138 lbs.  (I'm 5'6").  I'm actually feeling pretty good at this weight (e.g. I don't cringe when I get dressed in the morning), but I want to get down to 130, so I'm halfway to my goal.  Already a bunch of my clothes don't fit me anymore.  (If this keeps up, there is going to be a massive shopping spree in the fall.  I should hit 130 by around the first week in September if things continue as they are.)   

To this point, I have done the following: 

(1) I work out six days a week for (typically) 30-60 minutes.  I burn anywhere from 200 to 600 calories, depending on the workout.  I bought a heart rate monitor so I could track calories burned to give me a better idea.  For working out, I've been running, doing a Jillian Michaels DVD (30 Day Shred; Burn Fat, Boost Mebolism; or Ripped in 30); or just plain walking.  Some days I'd just do one of these, other days I might combine two.  It just depended how I was feeling.  As I discussed before, I'm doing the Couch to 5k running plan, and I can't recommend it enough.  When I started, I couldn't run two blocks.  Now, at week 7 (out of 9), I'm running 25 minutes straight -- over 2 miles.  It's pretty freaking amazing.  I also never realized how much I walk, living in the city, but I started keeping track of it randomly with the Map My Run app on my phone.  For example, I walk over half a mile to get to the train each day.  It doesn't seem that far, but that's a mile walked daily, there and back.  It's also about 3/4 of a mile to Whole Foods, and I do that walk every weekend to get groceries, for a 1.5 mile walk.  My best friend lives 1.5 miles away, and I almost always walk when I go to her house.  I never realized I did so much walking.  Somehow, living in the city, it just doesn't seem that far.  So, with my normal everyday walking, on top of my running, on top of some after work walks of 3-4 miles (45 minutes to an hour), I'm covering over 25 miles a week.  Amazing.  And let me tell you -- the running is what has really gotten the fat to fall off.  I'm hating right now because it's so hot (even at 6 a.m. it is humid as hell) so I've kind of put the running on hold until temperatures get back to normal. 

(2)  Tracking everything I eat.  I can't say enough about My Fitness Pal.  I've got the app on my phone and iPad, and the website is great also.  I log every single thing I eat.  If I don't know (if I eat out, for example), I guess, and I guess high.  I've been eating at least 1400 calories a day (usually more), and every week I've ended up with at least one ridiculous day of calorie glutton, typically where my friends or coworkers were involved.  Oh, and alcohol will kill you.  At any rate, I haven't been starving myself.  And you really can eat a lot for 1500 calories.  I've been checking out the Skinny Taste web site and Hungry Girl books for recipe ideas.  And eating a lot of protein.  Although I've been losing about a pound a week, I didn't really plan it that way.  I want to do this in a way that I can keep the weight off, and get used to not just eating everything in sight.  It's amazing how many calories are in some foods, that I never even realized.  For example, the other day I was craving a burger, so I wondered how many calories were in a burger from my nearby Epic Burger.  Over 800.  My eyes goggled out of my head when I saw that.  I used to eat that burger without even thinking about it.  Add fries, and you are over 1400 calories!  Holy crap!  Obviously you can do that sometimes, but I was doing that kind of thing too often.  Now, at least, I'm thinking about it.  That's the good thing about calorie logging.  I thought I would hate it, but it's so easy with the phone app that I don't even think about it, and the database of food is huge.  I'm starting to get to the point where I can add up potential calories in my head when I'm eating out, to help out with my choices.  But, don't think this means I'm giving up the junk entirely.  Not a chance.  In fact, over the weekend I had three taco supremes from Taco Bell (600 calories total), and it was worth every fatty calorie.  You can do it; you just can't do it all the time.

So, all of the above has gotten me down 8 lbs.  It was time to step it up.  I started Insanity on Saturday.  Insanity is one of the Team Beachbody workouts.  Maybe you've heard of P90X?  Insanity is from those guys.  It is aptly named.

Insanity is a 60 day program, that you do 6 days a week. Each workout averages from about 40 minutes to an hour.  I'm not going to describe every DVD here or all the details.  If you want to know that, go over to Charles Lloyd Fitness.  He describes all the workouts in great detail.  (He apparently is also a representative for the company, so you are forewarned, but I honestly haven't found a more detailed review of the DVDs, if you really want detail about what is involved in each workout.)  I've been doing it at 6 a.m. every morning, followed by a glass of chocolate milk, which is my recovery drink.  (If Jillian Michaels says I can drink chocolate milk, you better believe I'm going to drink chocolate milk.)   

This is a hardcore workout.  It is reminiscient of the things you used to do for sports in high school.  Burpees, for example.  I remember doing burpees in the gym for rowing, and pounding through them.  Burpees are incredibly hard for me now, but hot damn, I can feel my whole body working to do them.  Push ups.  Agh.  Mountain climbers.  Heismans.  Butt kicks.  High knees.  Ski moguls.  Jumping jacks.  Squats.  Straight up challenging, hard stuff, with little breaks.  This isn't a DVD where the people on the DVD can even make it through the workout.  No, the people behind Shaun T (the guy who came up with the madness) drop out and hit the ground regularly.  This makes you, at home, feel less guilty about doing the same.  This shit is hard.

However, it is really awesome.  I am dripping with sweat by the end.  I mean, you really feel like you accomplished something.  I like a challenge and I like to push myself, so, I am liking this workout.  Granted, I only just finished Day 5, but, so far, so good.  My plan is to continue Couch to 5K (only two weeks left) at least on the Cardio Recovery DVD days, since that one is only 33 minutes and it is mainly strength type stuff.  I was able to do it this week; we'll see going forward.  The thing about Insanity, though, is that you could very easily injure yourself doing it, so be careful if you decide to try it.  If you've had knee problems in the past, this may not be the workout for you, because there is a lot of jumping, although you can certainly alter the workout to remove the jumping.  Go at your own pace.  The people on the TV go crazy fast.  I can't do that yet -- but I will be able to -- soon.     

So, that's what's up with me.  Work is work.  You know.