Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Losing the Battle but Winning the War

My kind of Luck: so I'm walking to the bus stop one morning and decide to make a phone call. The street is deserted except for one guy about two blocks away pushing a snow blower. I dial the number and switch the phone to my gloved hand while trying to get the other glove back on my dialing hand. There is no answer but I get a voice mail greeting. A very long voice mail greeting. The greeting finally ends and the beep to leave my own message sounds at the same moment I get to the guy with the snowblower such that it drowns out my voice as I'm leaving a message.

Because the Church doesn't have anything else going on:  During our wedding rehearsal, the priest shocked us with a surprise. He didn't want anyone taking communion if they hadn't been to confession recently. And by recently, he really would have preferred five minutes before our ceremony but recognized that might be unrealistic for heathens like our friends so any time between rehearsal and ceremony would do.

Note: our rehearsal was on a Thursday and Nightingale and I already had to go to confession because it is standard practice...and we were already living in sin.

While it wasn't a concern for our non-Catholic friends, our brothers-in-dogma were stunned.  Back in the day, you had to go to confession before you accepted communion and since you were a good Catholic that attended mass regularly, you were going to confession a lot.

You cannot get into Heaven if you don't have Jesus In you

However, Across the Chicago Archdiocese, that old rule was re-interpreted after Vatican II.  Essentially, you just had to go to confession once a year.

Just before our ceremony, I had a quick conversation with the priest. I explained how a good many of my friends do go to church and that places like Old St Patricks, St Vincent DePaul and even Holy Name don't require confession before every Sunday Mass.

Priest: I know how it is in America.  But that is not the way it should be.
Icarus:  Okay, your church, your rules.
As I expected, during the ceremony, many of my catholic friends did come up to receive communion.  So many in fact that he had to go back to the altar for wafer reinforcements.  We both know that none of my friends went to confession. we both also know that he couldn't exactly call them out about it.

Basically, he won the battle but I won the war.

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Friday, January 27, 2012

Here Thar be Dragons

Outside the Green Zone thar are lots of Dragons!
When I worked at the No-Name Software company, one of my coworkers really truly believed that the city limits were only downtown and that anywhere else had to be the suburbs. He honestly believed once you left the Loop, you were no longer in "The City".

Many of my friends who grew up in the suburbs and other transplants who have relocated to Chicago also believe that the city is really comprised of only a few select neighborhoods near downtown and the lakefront  -- River North, Streeterville, the Gold Coast, Lincoln Park, Lakeview, Bucktown, Wicker Park, Lincoln Square, Ravenswood and North Center - to name a few.

They believe that if you went West of Western Avenue, a dragon will swallow you up whole and spit out your bones.

At Crib Chatter, a blog I spend way too much time at, they have a name for this area: The Green Zone (GZ).
Green Zone: A sliver of relatively safe and gentrified areas within the City of Chicago proper (read Urban) where housing stock is most desirable based on specific key criteria such as proximity to the Lakefront, access to rapid transit, and other amenities without the inconveniences of gangs or lower income denizens.
There is some debate whether school system impact whether a neighborhood is considered part of the Green Zone. 


TftInChi (January 19, 2012, 11:27 am)

My definition of the green zone changed significantly when I started factoring schools into the equation. There are plenty of neighborhoods that I would consider living in from a safety, cultural, nightlife perspective that have mediocre to awful schools. For someone looking for a long term city home for their family and that isn't in the actual 1%, those places really aren't in the picture. It really narrows your search considerably.

That said, I'd still consider GZ mostly on the basis of safety and access to "stuff". There are plenty of people in their twenties that probably don't need to be thinking about schools yet.Yet. *****************************
Author:Dave M (January 19, 2012, 1:08 pm)


The school argument isn't as relevant because you can always pay to send your kid to private schools if necessary - for me it's all about the quality of life in that section of the city, combined with low crime, high income, and amenities. I excluded the Loop and River North from the discussion at this point as there are so many other things in those areas that make the areas not primarily residential (office, hotel, restaurants, etc). Another thing to look at is how easy it is to get a cab (how long it takes to get one)

Still some people just have no clue... where the GZ is:

Author: jenny (January 19, 2012, 10:54 am)
I always imagined the Green Zone to be an area where prices have remained somewhat stable, with little gang activity. Streets are generally clean and store front signage is in English. Very little riff raff on the
streets and no rusted out cars just sitting around.

Technically that would be Norwood Park, or Edison Park, or even Belmont Heights.  Those areas didn't see the growth other areas did during the boom and have maintained their value during the bust.

Perhaps one of the lone voices of reason says it best:

Russ (January 19, 2012, 2:35 pm)


Greenzone is just a humorous way to say that the neighborhod has been signigicantly genetrified and offers the amenities that most yuppies are looking for in an urban neighborhood. Yes, the term is a dig that those hoods outside of the greenzone aren't safe. We all know that it is a generalization and there are plenty of urban neighborhoods that are safe but aren't really considered alternative neighborhoods for the typical resident who wants to live in the greenzone. Many of the non-greenzone hoods may be more blue collar than white collar. May be less densely populated. May not have the same amenities. Different strokes for different folks.
The choice to live in the Greenzone has nothing to do with race and everything to do with class and having access to certain amenities that members of a particular socio economic class value. The reality is that every major city has their own Greenzones. I don't care what anyone says, no one is rushing to move to Englewood.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Stag Guests may get short end of Wedding Invite

One of more stressful points of wedding planning is the wedding invitation.  Unlike the STD, these have to be a bit more formal.  To be sure, your marriage is not going to last one minute longer if your invitations are addressed as:

Mr. and Mrs. Charles and Lorne Johnson
1234 Jackson Street
Nowhere, IL 60119


Mr. & Mrs. Charles Johnson
1234 Jackson St
Nowhere, IL 60119

The biggest risk is that by leaving out Lorne's name, your wedding gift might be less impressive.  Or late.  Or lost in the mail.

You also have to figure out who you're letting bring a date and who has to come stag. The general rule of thumb is every Stag Guest should be able to bring a date.  However, since someone is paying for that seat, some caveats have to be implied or enforced. 

For instance, if your friend Jennifer just started dating a guy two weeks before your wedding, allowing her to bring him means you may not be able to invite someone from the office who just started a few weeks ago but you click with.  Not to mention Jennifer's date is not only someone you don't know, but very likely you'll never see again if she is a serial dater. 

On the other hand, if your friend Patrick is perpetually single and has no chance of even dating someone around the time of your wedding, does it make any sense to waste spend a +One on his invitation when you could theoretically invite the person from the office, assuming she is also terminally single?

In a perfect world, your single friends would get together and, after receiving the STD, inform you that they will come alone or as each other's "dates". It's not a perfect world. Your single friends will hold out hope that they find someone to bring to your wedding before the RSVP is due. 

One option is to figure out how many people each Stag Guest will know at your wedding.  Some out of town guests or that friend from work may not know anyone at your wedding so letting them bring a date is not only kind but downright required. 

On the other hand, someone who knows a lot of people at your wedding is a de facto candidate for being required to come solo.  Chances are they friendly and outgoing and might even be the life of the party.  Besides, there cannot be any wedding hookups if everyone is already spoken for.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I still speak Single, but I'm learning the Language of Couples

The plot relies on a lot of impossible coincidences
There's an old Star Trek episode (Mirror, Mirror) where a problem with the transporter puts some of the crew in a parallel world. In this parallel world the Federation was run by barbarians. Never mind that it was an impossible coincidence that the same set of enterprise crew would be beaming up from the same planet at the same time -- the episode made the point was that it was easier for civilized people to act barbaric than the other way around.

In a way that is true about Single and Coupled people. Couple People can usually separate for the evening and hang out with single people, but single people start to break out into hives when they are surrounded by couples for too long.  On the other hand, Coupled People usually have to check with each other about everything.  Maybe it is easier for Civilized and Barbarians to hang out together.

While I still speak Single, I'm transitioning into the World of Coupledome. Meanwhile some of my friends are making the reverse trip, going through divorce or breakup. One particular friend is Hanna.

When we met a decade ago at the No-Name Software Company, neither of us was married, but we were not part of the same world either. She had been dating forever the guy who would eventually become her husband. We got along well enough and have been friends ever since, but neither of us really understood the other's world.

Now our worlds are reversed. Soon she will be speaking Divorce, a cacophony of Jaded. Meanwhile, I'm well on my way to emersion in the language and customs of Coupledome.

When I was single, I had no trouble finding something to do most nights of the week, and more importantly, someone to do it with. Thursday was the new Friday and If you knew where to look, you could find a social event as early as Tuesday. Friday nights usually had many options and Saturday nights were often triple booked. But alas the loneliest night of the week was Sunday.

Sunday was reserved for people who had someone. It's not that i couldn't find anything to do, there was always church and usually a social afterwards. But it seemed like i had to put more effort into it.

Now it seems I've traded my Sundays for Fridays. I have someone to spend all my Sundays with but I do spend a lot of Fridays and Thursdays and other nights of the week without anything to do.   I'm a nurse's widow since Nightingale works the late shift.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Because Protocol demanded it!

The other night Nightingale and I were at a dinner party with two other couples.  Rosa had brought a bottle of vodka as a gift because she is not a big fan of wine.  At least twice the host and hostess asked if they should open the bottle and Rosa politely refused. As Nightingale and Rosa work together, I later learned that Rosa had desperately wanted a vodka drink -- since we were all getting tipsy on wine and no one wants to be the only sober person in a room full of lushes -- but she was too polite to speak up.

The host asks politely if someone wants something, people politely decline, the hostess senses something is wrong because one guest isn't drinking and appears to not be having as good of a time as everyone else. 

This is clearly a case of Protocol Biting you in the Ass

It kind of reminds me of the wedding invitation thing.  Someone asked me what the protocol is when you get invited to a wedding you cannot or don't wish to attend.  Here's a dirty little secret about weddings.  In your heart of hearts, you'd like to invite the world to your wedding.  Unfortunately, budgets and venues have limits. Even the kardashians had to set some sort of limit and there is always a subset of friends that were not invited (read: multi-tier B-List).

And it sucks to have to pick someone over someone else.  As I've said before, weddings are a snapshot of your life at a particular point in time.  Is it fair that someone you've only known for a short time but hang out with all the time bumps a close friend from the past that you haven't seen in years (or even decades)?So while the couple may feel sad that you cannot attend, they will feel worse if you hold a seat at their wedding hostage until the eleventh hour only to send your regrets after it is too late to tactfully invite someone ones.  I feel that if you know you are being invited to a wedding and cannot make it, you should let the couple know as soon as possible.

I've been invited to some weddings were I can only imagine they needed to balance the single person quota or a relative died and a seat had to be filled. I've also been "snubbed" and been the only one in a group that wasn't invited. So  I try not to take it personally.  I say try because I am human and it does sting to be excluded.

Of the people we invited, there were a few people who declined for various reasons. A few broke protocol and actually wrote on the return card why they could not come. Whether its an invitation to a backyard cookout or the Wedding of the Century, a simple yes or no is all that is required. Oversharing is Overkill.
With our wedding there was one couple we didn't invite in lieu of another.  Had I know Couple A was going to decline for one of the fucking lamest reasons of all time, I would have been able to invite Couple B.  Now Couple A avoids us at parties because they cannot look us in the face and Couple B avoids us because they are pissed. 

In their hearts they were probably trying to cushion the blow but here's the thing: sharing what you are doing besides attending one of the most important days of our life isn't cushioning the blow. It's tacky at best and drama-Queen-esque at worse. You're in danger of taking something about someone else and making it about you.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Car repairs and the Housing Blues

My wife and I plan to look for and hopefully purchase a house this year.  Although we are looking now, current inventory is lacking and we feel the week following SuperBowl Sunday, which traditionally kicks off the Spring Real Estate Season, will yield more desirable inventory.  With the market being what it is, we are determined to find a house that we can easily live in for at least a decade if not forever.

In the meantime, we currently have two automobiles that eventually need to be replaced.  We plan to replace them with newer used cars.  The question is do we replace them now or later?

Nightingale's 2002 Trail Blazer is having problems with the transmission and is basically a gas guzzler.  It will eventually have to be replaced but is in better driving condition than my car.  I've been driving it because Nightingale has been able to take public transportation to work for the most part, paying for cab rides home on the late shift.

My 1997 Mustang needs $1200 worth of repairs to make it safe to drive.  This includes brakes (~$400) and new tires (~$400).  To be honest, if my Mustang were a real horse, not only would it be time to take it out back and shoot it, but the Mustang would probably help load the rifle. 

It would be a game of Russian Roulette to continue navigating Chicago Winters (read: snow) with my current set of tires.  You see all those tire shops that are offering great deals on tires.  The catch is that the size and style they use to draw you in, won't work on most sports cars.  I priced replacement tires at a couple of places and the difference between fairly decent tires and cheaper ones isn't worth the difference.  Plus the whole I'm married now and gotta stay alive for my wife's benefit thing. 

 The question is, do we repair the Mustang or use the $1200 toward purchasing a new used vehicle.  As I see it, if we invest the $1200 into the car, we reduce our emergency fund and/or down payment fund.  However, if we take on even a small auto loan, the interest rate we get for our house might be slightly higher than we could get otherwise and over the life of the home loan, even a quarter percent higher equates to ~20K extra interest paid.

The funny thing is I have a few friends who are determined to help me find cheap tires and brakes.
Most guys have an opinion on cars and many have even rebuilt their automobile from scratch.  So when the testosterone is flowing most guys are like "Oh I can find you a guy who has used tires that will get you through the next six months" or "we could buy the brake pads from Auto Zone and do the work in my garage."

The thing is, that offer to help with the brake pads never see the light of day.  The weather becomes lousy or something comes up that prevents a weekend from being Man Cave bonding.  And cheap tires aren't gonna do the trick because my wife and I occasionally switch vehicles.

Because we were blessed with a mild winter, I have been able to drive my Mustang to work, allowing Nightingale to drive to work as well since we secured the parking spot. This temporarily allows us to defer this decision.  Our luck isn't gonna hold out forever though.

I actually ended up putting in $400 in repairs to the clutch cable and a few other things the other day. My mechanic says the engine is in good shape and that I should keep the car and fix the brakes. I wonder if he has a daughter that I'm putting through college or something.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

That's Armoire -ay

Entertainment Armoire
 A long time ago, I bought this armoire from a gay couple who lived near Loyola University.  I mention this to shatter stereotypes; these guys were not only slobs, but they let a fine piece of furniture like this get scratched.  The door has a key which when opened, rubs against the side.  Somehow over the years, this had carved a small line across the side panel.

For years I've lived with the scratch because you really cannot see it unless the doors are closed AND you are sitting to the right of it, which with most of the furniture configurations I've gone through wouldn't be practice for TV viewing.

But now that I've got a little time on my hands and the desire to fix everything with tools, I decided to take a crack at repairing it.  The good news is that unless I really goof up, I cannot make the situation any worse.  The first thing I I did was tried to sand it down a little.  I figured this might be unnecessary for this project but everything I researched (two articles on the internet) about fixing these kinds of scratches said that you want to sand the surface so your putty has an nice even surface to adhere to.  And I figured it would be an good excuse to use the Dremel Trio I got for Christmas.

Remember what I said about not making it worse?  Well I almost went Tim-the-Toolman on it, but luckily I realized quickly that wasn't helping and stopped before the scratch got too wide.  Even with just a piece of sandpaper I found I was doing more harm than good so I moved on to the next step.

For that we need our good friends Wood Putty and Wood Finish.  A trip to the nearby Crafty Beaver yielded Red Mahogany Wood Putty and Red Oak wood stain.  These are as close to matching the armoire as I can find and again, as this is on a side that doesn't face the world, it doesn't matter if it's not perfect.

For a second hand armoire that is serving as a entertainment center, this less than $5 solution works well in terms of concealing the scratch and blending in with the veneer.  Sometimes a simple solution is better than going all out.


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Friday, January 13, 2012

The Quintessential Definition of a Chick

So I have this neighbor friend whom I've known casually for years. She and I run into each other from time to time and recently, we discovered we could help each other with a mutually beneficial financial transaction. Get thee mind out of the gutter --Nothing like that. She has a parking spot that we could rent, albeit only until she finds a renter who in all likelihood will require that parking spot.

After we talked a few weeks ago, I sent her an email to follow up. It took about a week for her to respond. Yeah it was the holidays and she apparently didn't have internet at the new crib and apparently doesn't own a smart phone or have other access to the internet.

Still when I got her message, there were still some details to work out so I write back and provide my number. And more days go by without a response. At this point we are two days into January and since this could turn out to be just one month of parking, time is ticking.

Didn't hear back for three days so I forward my last email asking if she got it and if we can start parking there and could she please call me. Get a response via email about not having internet in the new place. She provides her number.

And this my friends, is the quintessential definition of a Chick.

Yeah I get it, it is most likely that at that particular moment, it was easier to shoot an email back than to pick up that cell phone that is probably in her purse a few feet away. But I suspect part of it is something else. I have no empirical proof, no government funded research to back it up. But I think part of it is Chicks prefer guys do the heavy lifting.

Even in non-romantic relationships, which this clearly is, chicks prefer guys to make the plans, initiate the phone calls, etc. Let me be clear, being a chick is not gender specific. I know a few guys who display these chick tendencies as well.

This is the type of thing that drove me crazy when I was single. I'd get it from the girls I was dating or trying to date and I'd also get it from some of the ladies i was just friends with. This probably also explains why I was single for so long. Until I accepted that this is just the way it is and learned to adapt my behavior, it was a point of frustration.

It's still a point of frustration but by adjusting my reaction and mindset, I can handle it better. And we really wanted that parking spot, which we got.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Is that how they do it on your Planet?

So the following email arrived in my inbox the other morning:

Hey Icarus, you haven't responded to any of my invitations lately. Let me know if you want me to stop sending them to you. When you don't reply, it gives me the impression that you don't see any value in my invitations, and it that's true, then I'd rather save you the time and me the effort and just not include you on the distribution list.

My first thought was to send a response saying "I'm sorry you are such a complete doink and I need to lower my expectations regarding any future dealings with you accordingly."

Instead I took some time to Flip the Script and look at it from her point of view. Is it possible that I really did offend her? I did blatantly ignore the invitation and did not feel the need to send either a "thanks but not interested" or "would but I'm too busy" email? The wording of the invitations said to let this person know IF I was interested. My informal and totally unscientific survey (I asked two different people) shows that most people will assume if you don't answer an email, you either aren't interested or are too busy to partake of said activity anyway.

Personally, I don't like this approach and avoid it but IIFC I was legitimately busy around the time of said invitation.

But this is different. This "friend" (let's call her Monica) is notorious for:
  • Internalizing everything,
  • Conceding nothing, and
  • Keeping meticulous score.
I forwarded Monica's email to some friends, a few who knew her and her little quirks, and a few who have never met her. The I-Never-Met-Monica camp told me to run, not walk away from her. They suspect that she has issues. If only it were that simple. Her Issues have Issues. And her Issue's Issue's have pets.

The friends we share in common invited me to the next Friends-of-Monica Support Group meeting. Essentially they pointed out that behavior that is quite acceptable in other friendships are not tolerated from her. If you don't respond to Monica immediately -- and if you could respond before she sends something out, that would be optimal -- she interprets it as you are holding out for a better offer.

What? And miss out on a chance to spend quality time with Ms "don't see any value in my invitations". But wait, the hits just keep on comin'. Our mutual friends went on to assure me that while they understand that everyone has other friends and difficult schedules and plans are sometimes very fluid, Monica doesn't see it that way. More Monicaisms:

If you have conflicting plans and can't make something she has suggested, let her know immediately;

She would prefer you provide the details of why you can't make it;

Saying you might be able to make it is permitted, but, it always makes Monica feel like you were holding out for a better offer.

So let's review:

  • If Monica invites me to something, and I have definite plans, I have to tell her what I'm choosing over her. That will set her off.
  • If I have tentative plans that might get canceled or postponed, I can say I might be able to make it, but that will also upset her.  
Seems like I'm caught between a rock and a social challenged friend.

 The really sad news is, we created this monster. All these years of taking the path of least resistance and not calling Monica out on her behavior has given her license to act the way she does.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Let me know if you have any questions...

As a byproduct of following the real estate market since 2008, I know a lot of realtors.  Some I know through friends and other social outlets.  Some i met at open houses and they latch on to me. Often, I get an email from one like this one:

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Icarus:

 I saw your note in Crib Chatter that you're thinking of finding something in the near-northwest suburbs. Like one of these?

Let me know if you have any questions, comments or updates to your requirements.


She sent me a link to her ConnectMLS report which had about 40 listings of various types of houses.  All realtors these days have this package, some software developer made off well packaging and selling this to brokerage firms once the industry finally conceded that typical buyer/sellers are using the internet more than agents to buy houses.

For the purposes of full disclosure, ChiTownGal is the realtor who found me my current abode.  Unlike many realtors who disppear once the commision check clears, ChiTownGal has stayed in touch over the years.

Okay, you asked.  So in letter form, I sent the following back.


1) I get these Powered by ConnectMLS reports from every realtor I've ever met since the dawn of time. [At any given time I'm also "stalked" by any realtor I've met at an open house, party or even on the running path, but that's another discussion.] I'm also signed up on ZipRealty, Redfin and use a few other sites to do my searching. Since the MLS became available to ordinary buyers it is rare that a realtor trumps me on a home that is out there.

2) Some of my criteria just isn't codeable and no agent is going to weed through listing descriptions to find me the perfect house -- that's my job.

3) No Agent is gonna review my notes on 40 plus properties. I've made comments like "wow, love this house let's go see it" and "I'll buy it today" and yet no response.

4) take MLS #07912198 this is a fugly looking house. There is no way i would buy it. I wouldn't even live there for free or if you paid me (okay, slight exaggeration). But if I check not interested, it will still come up in the next email when they delist and relist or drop the price $1. There needs to be a Never Show Me This House Again option.


Perhaps this downtime in the Real Estate Market is a good time for all the realtors to come together and fix some of the things broken in the system.