Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Breaking Up should never be Too Easy to do

Several of my friends have gone through Major Life Adjustments this month. First, Sabrina and her boyfriend Mr Massage broke up early last week. It is sad to hear, especially since I introduced and technically facilitated setting them up.  They both sent me text and FB-mail messages letting me know though I think Nightingale and I suspected something was afoot weeks earlier.

Next, DrDrea is having issues with her best friend and now ex-bridesmaid.  Apparently Sela didn't want to take a back seat to DrDrea's sister in the Alpha Bridesmaid pecking system.  She decided that she would step down as Drea's bridesmaid with little more than four months before the Big Day.  I'm sure there are multiple sides to this and I don't know Sela as well as I know DrDrea, despite having known them for exactly the same length of time. However, unless a bride is asking you to give a Biker Gnome a blowjob at her bachelorette party, you put on your big-girl pants and do what she asks you to do to make her big day special.

Finally, Tracy has taken a slow first step on the road to recovery from the soul-sucking and demoralizing relationship with Fitz.  She finally moved out and got her own place in the city.  I watched some NCAA action with them the other night -- something Fitz would never have done back in the pre-Tracy* days.  She told me that he is more appreciative now and admits that he loves her and misses her. She's not buying it, of course, but she also has her addiction to him that keeps her from completely breaking off cold turkey.

*  Fitz didn't have an epiphany and suddenly start liking sports or see any merit in watching these games.  He only puts up with them because his meal-ticket insists. 

Having the benefit of knowing these people personally and inside information about some of the current and past issues they've all faced, I can safely say that the one thing they all have in common is the ability to recognize an issue and deal with it faster and more direct than they would have even a few years ago.

Not every relationship is meant to last forever and all relationships eventually do end. As we get older and navigate through the Mysteries of Life, hopefully we learn to handle ourselves and our relationships with an appropriate amount of grace and at least a modicum of class.

I've always hated the cliche: there's a reason why he/she is single because it implies that there is something beyond the de facto they haven't found the right person yet. There are times however that the reason is more than simply not winning the Find-You-Compatibility-Partner Lottery.

A long time ago, someone told me a sign of a healthy person is the ability to be friends with their exes.  Maybe not every last one and certainly not necessarily friends beyond common cordialness at social events or when you run into them on the street.  I have some exes that are cool and we are even friends on FB. There are others who still jump out of their skin when they see me at a streetfest or social event.  There's definitely a reason those ladies may still be single.  

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Monday, March 19, 2012

We tried looking at houses, but the Open Houses Weren't

We had a very relaxing weekend. Nightingale had a knot on her shoulder blade of epic proportion and was in need of a professional massage. We found a Groupon Now that essentially gave us two-for-one pricing on an hour long massage and they were able make it a couples massage so we didn't have to wait for one another.


The spa wasn't too far from us and afterwards since it was such a nice day, we decided to take a walk through Lincoln Square. It's really cool how vibrant it is there. When I was condo shopping, I was already priced out and property value for some reason has remained relatively stable there. We know we could not get a SFH there in our price range today, even at post-boom prices. And that's okay because LS is a nice place to visit, but I don't want to live there.

In the evening we were supposed to get together with DrDrea and her fiance after their pre-cana class. There was a text message and then nothing more. We figure the finance was beat and didn't want to do anything. Our other option was to drive to the suburbs for a bonfire.  Instead we opted to clean out the DVR.

On Sunday we went to look at some houses.  The first one was in Portage Park, near the famous Six Corners intersection.  While Portage Park is one of the nabes we'd like to move to, this house was located the furthest east I could probably live with living and still make it work for work, commuting wise. 

The house was a well kept Four Square that had been updated. 

Gorgeous home loaded w/ pristine woodwork & stained/leaded glass windows. Beautiful staircase & foyer. Open floor plan. Living & dining room open & famlily rm/breakfast rm & kitchen w/ a nice open flow. Bths & kitchen are new & tasteful. 3 bedrms on the 2nd flr w/ good closet space. Finished attic w/ stairs off the master to great studio space. Bsmt has 4th bedrm or playrm & office. european living in 6 corners.
By European living, they mean you live right next door to Family Food Market.  So on the plus side you can literally shop for your meals the same day.  On the down side, we watched as several cars parked on the permit only street and ran into the store, stepping all over our would-be lawn in the process.  This was probably the main reason we will probably take a pass.  It was priced right and staged well.  And the owners definitely make good use of all the available space and the configuration.  The basement probably couldn't really be converted into a true man cave or rec room.  The attic was a one room studio that could potentially be converted into a spa bathroom.  I think if the house were just a few blocks west and north, we might think about it more.
 
The other house was a Victorian in Norwood Park.  Nightingale really likes this area.  It would work for me in terms of commute. The only drawback is the walkability score is kinda low.  You do need to drive to get to places. They were having an open house but when we got there the sign on the door indicated it was canceled because of a death in the family.

There was another open house around the corner and I had intended to check it out if time permitted, even though it was $250K over our maximum price range.  If nothing else, it would have shown the difference in features and amenities in the different price points.  Alas, that one two was mysteriously canceled.  Perhaps they had no visits and closed early.  Or perhaps the wonderful weather caused them to play hookey.

In the evening DrDrea and her man came over for drinks, corned beef & cabbage and commiseration.  She is having bridesmaids issues.  I may write more on that and our own wedding party issues in a future post, so stay tuned....

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Saturday Potpourri

Whoring out this blog is exhausting.   I've tried to write posts that are interesting and relevant so that I can post links on other blogs in order to get page hits. Sometimes I just need a post that is about me. My stream of conscience and what's going on in my life. Yeah, an online personal journal of sorts.  So this one will be boring and hopefully down-to-earth.

This has been an enlightening month. The more I hang out with Tracy and Fitz the more I learn what a douchebag he really is. I was looking at some old Instant Messenger conversations on an old hard drive. The evidence has been there all along: Fitz is a small person with large douche baggage.  I will have to write more about this in the future because it is cathartic and he wouldn't be caught dead reading my blog.

After a week of getting up early to drive to work and even having some sleep deficit, I really enjoy sleeping in on a Saturday.  Unfortunately, this means I don't get to run with my friends at the lakefront because they start their run at 8am (at least until summer marathon training begins, then its 6am to beat the heat).  If I miss the window to join them, I tend to just run local.  What I really miss is the coffee/breakfast socializing after the run.

A few Saturdays ago, I ran bandit with a CARA half marathon training group led by SHB. They were a good group and I hope to run with them again if I can get my butt out of bed in time and before they ramp up their mileage since I'm only good for 6-7 miles these days.

In the glory days of summer marathon training, running Bandit is frowned upon. In the dead of winter, no one really cares. Everyone is more happy to have someone to run with in the cold than to stand on ceremony.  Though that Saturday was a rare true cold winter day, it was still warmer than it should have been for March.

We've had a very mild winter and now that March is here, it almost feels like summer with highs in the 70s and 80s.  I read on The Simple Dollar blog that every 7 years or so we get a mild winter in the Midwest and this is ours.  Enjoy it because next year will probably be brutal.


This past weekend we went on a date with another couple. Now that I'm married, many of my married friends want to do things with Nightingale and me.  This probably would have put me off back in the day because I would wonder why I wasn't good enough to go out with when I was single.  However, now I see it from the point of being a couple. The times that my couple friends did want me to join was usually to set me up with a girlfriend of theirs with whom the only thing we had in common was our singlehood and our need to breathe oxygen.

The couple are friends of mine and while I've known them for years, first K and then J.  Theirs was one of the weddings I was surprised to be invited to since I knew they had a large family and I didn't think I was high on the food chain.  It just goes to show that you never know how things are gonna turn out.

We went to the revamped South Side Irish St Patrick's Day Parade last Sunday hence the photos to break the writing up.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Unicorn Criteria

It's amazing how my unicorn criteria list has changed over the years for a home.  When I purchased my condo in 2003, all I wanted was a fireplace, a separate dinning room and parking.  I yielded on the parking and have grown to regret it.
View from my deck, faces West

I did luck out and get a west facing deck that has some very nice sunsets during the warmer parts of the year.

This is my old list circa August 2010:

Prerequisites: I want a house, not a condo or a townhome, but a bone fide house. I’m partial to Victorians, but warming up to 4-squares. Also, the more recent things like the roof, the windows and the mechanics have been updated the better.

  • Proximity to the Blue Line: I don't like to drive and would prefer to be able to walk to a Blue Line station, preferable within less than a mile. Bonus if there is a Metra Station nearby.
  • Basement: It needs to be tall enough for a 6' 2" fellow to stand upright in it. As long as it provides good storage and can also double as a workshop and workout room, I'm happy. Bonus if it is finished or partially finished and turned into a ManCave or entertainment room.
  • Attic: Bonus if it's finished but if not, one that has potential to be expanded is ideal. I saw a place that had the water pipes run up to the attic already so that creating a dream master bedroom with bathroom, whirlpool and separate shower was a possibility later down the line. My understandings running the pipes up is a big part of the cost so having this already done is a must.
  • Fireplace or at least a spot to put in a fumeless one.
  • Garage: 2 car or more. Carport might be okay but would prefer a place to safely park my car, a future wife's car and our bicycles.
  • Kitchen: updated. I do not want to renovate a kitchen or any other room really.

Now that I've spent more time researching costs and doing my own DIY repairs and working on my mom's crapshack moneypit in Humboldt Park, I have a better understanding of what work I can handle and what work I would need to farm out to professionals.

Given where we are in life and my age, Nightingale and I have come to realize that we don't want to live in a home that always has some section under construction. Therefore, a fixer-upper is probably out of the question.

Today we're looking for a place that is Move-in-Ready (versus Move-in-Condition) and doesn't need any mandatory renovations.  Perhaps if I suddenly win the lottery or decide I have too much money in the bank and decide I want to drop a wall to increase the size of the a room or something.
 
A carport instead of a garage is unacceptable, though in addition to a garage wouldn't hurt our feelings.  And the basement and attic have to be closer to finished than unfinished.  Honestly, some days I think adding a fireplace would be the limit and even then I'd probably pay someone else to do the entire job instead of jsut connect the gas.

Proximity to the expressways is important and so it walkability.  We want to be able to walk to good restaurants, stores and parks.  In 2010 I wrote that "to get the majority of a wish list it might be necessary sacrifice one or two items." In 2012 and beyond, not so much.

Sunset at night (spring)


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Low Tech Solution for High Tech Problem

Before I had a blog, I had a column.  Actually, I had friends who humored me and said that I should partake of this new fad called "web logging".  Blogging was still too unchartered waters and I didn't think it would take off the way it has.  Missed that boat more than the passengers of the Speedwell missed America.  I did get a chance to write during the SINS Project put together by Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune.  SIN stood for "someday is now" and the concept was simple - all those things you were going to do "someday" (run a marathon, write a book) you should do now.  This is something I put together in 2002 for that endeavor:

For the last four months, the sound on my TV hasn’t worked.  It mysteriously stopped working one evening while I was playing back an important episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  It was the episode where Buffy saves the world by kicking demon butt while cracking witty retorts.  One minute I had sound, the next minute I did not.  Because I really, really needed to watch the end of Buffy, I needed a work around.  I discovered I could get sound if I watched TV through my VCR with my stereo receiver also in the mix.  This was such a good work around that I’ve managed to avoid the problem for the better half of 2002.

Not my TV but I had to snap a photo of what
 happens now that HDTVs are taking over the world
Alas there are drawbacks to this workaround.  I have to have the VCR on and thus cannot record other stations (rumor has it, the original purpose of a VCR), I decided to address my silent TV on Saturday.  I really had set out to merely dust the entertainment center.  Of course once I started removing items from it, the next natural step was to try and fix the problem (rather than actually dust the center and put everything back together). 

I freed the TV from its entangled web of cables, wires and assorted power cords and was going to take it to a nearby TV repair shop.  But being a guy, it is genetically impossible for me to do that without first at least attempting to fix the TV myself.  Never mind that I have relatively little electrical appliance training whatsoever.  I have the essentials no guy should be without:  free time and power tools.

My attempt at fixing the problem amounted to me removing the plastic paneling on the back of the TV and checking to make sure that there were wires connected to the speakers and checking their connections.  I also removed some of the dusk that had accumulated within.  After that, I really didn’t know what else to do so I put the TV back together and walked over to a nearby TV repair shop to inquire how much it would cost to have them “look at my TV” in order to be able to tell me how much it will cost to actually fix my TV.

The nice Polish lady who appeared to run the shop told me it would be $30 to take a look at it and that would be applied toward any work done on the TV.  This sounded very fair so I naturally assumed I had misunderstood her.  She repeated the deal and I figured I should get my TV over here as fast as possible before she comes to her senses.  However, as we were talking about my silent TV problem, she pointed out that if the TV, not connected to any receiver, didn’t have sound, it was probably something to do with the speakers. 

When I got home, for grins and giggles, I decided to plug in my TV, which was no longer connected to its VCR lover or stereo receiver best friend.  Lo and behold, the television emitted an annoying static sound.  It emitted said sound because once you disconnect a modern day TV from its power source, it loses all it’s programmed information such as where the television channels are so I had to add them back.  But the point is, it had sound.

I would love to believe that the resolution was my opening the TV up and eyeballing the wiring even though I barely touched let alone shifted any wires.  Or even wiping off a layer of dust somehow allowed the electrons responsible for sound to somehow find their way to the lost speaker.  Alas, it was neither of these “advanced trouble-shooting techniques.”  It was the nice Polish lady at the TV shop unintended suggestion.

Her simple idea of setting up the TV in stand-alone mode demonstrated that the problem wasn’t with the television, but as it turned out, a cable that connected it to my VCR.  The irony is I employ this idea – isolating the problem – almost every day in my employment as a tech support engineer for  the No-Name Software Company.  I’m tempted to suggest we hire this Polish lady to come work for us.  But then I might be replaced and have to look for a new job.  Then when would I have time to watch Buffy!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Little known Axioms of Life

The ATM Paradox: you have a random amount of money on your person say $26.  You’re meeting friends tonight and you’re not sure how much you might spend that evening.  If you don’t stop by an ATM, you will use up that $26 probably in the first hour.  However, if you take out additional funds, your entire cost for the evening will be under $25. 

Cororally One of the ATM Paradox:
If you are meeting up with friends who owe you money, say for the tickets to the event you are attending, if you stop at the ATM beforehand, your friends will pay you in cash. If you do not stop at the ATM, your friends will have checks written out for you.  Or bags of pennies.

Cororally Two of the ATM Paradox:
The more quickly you need to grab cash from an ATM (say your friends are waiting outside), the more likely the person in front of you will perform more banking tasks at the slowest pace possible.

Dropping someone off.  You can live on the most deserted, off the beaten path street where a passing car is rarely seen.  Except, when someone is dropping you off.  No sooner does your friend stop the car then a vehicle behind you starts honking its horn, bothered that you had the audacity to delay the driver from his path.  Even if your friend has the foresight to double park close to your side of the street, a car that is the size of a boat will want to pass.

Elevators.  If you get into an empty elevator, others will try to get in while the doors are closing, even though there are five or more elevator banks ready to go.  Also, each person will be on a different floor so that your trip takes even longer.

Escalators.  There’s always one person who refuses to walk up an escalator and they happen to be to the right of the other person who refuses to walk up an escalator.  

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Oh submarine shop, you're my Hero

During the marathon training summers of 2003-2005, SHB and I use to carpool to the downtown CARA site.  We'd do our miles and then head to the Corner Robbery Bakery for breakfast.  Breakfast wasn't just about refueling, it was also about socializing with the other pace groups and catching up on gossip with our fellow runners.  Once the mileage got longer, we would end up not getting back north until closer to noon.

SHB lives at Irving Park Rd and Scheffield Ave.  For some reason, I couldn't just drop her at that corner and make it home in 10 minutes with a straight shot down Irving Park.  I had to make the turn and drop her off in front of her condo, 100 yards south of the intersection.  Basically, I was too much of a pussy to insist otherwise.  Fortunately, my pussyness afforded me the opportunity to head toward Addison and drive West to get home.  I would often stop at Hero's Submarine Sandwich Shop at 3600 N Western and get a couple of subs for my late lunch and early dinner before going out for the evening.

This tiny, cash-only corner sub shop across from Lane Tech High School specializes in fresh sandwiches made fast. Subway, this is not.  All sandwiches come with lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles, oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and oregano.  I still make sure to say hold the mayo unless I'm getting the roast beef.

Hero's has been around for a long, long time. My Uncle "Animal" use to go to Lane and he introduced me to them.  I was supposed to actually go to Lane Tech for high school but a bitter douch bag 8th grade teacher decided to write an anti-recommendation in the section of the application reserved for Principal Comments and I suspect that placed me on the path to attend Von Steuben instead.  Although I did get to go there for a couple of summer school sessions.

Reading through the Yelp reviews, it seems like the quality has gone down a little.  If so, that is too bad.  I suspect this shop, like so many other Chicago staples, will go away once the current owner decides it isn't lucrative to continue and/or doesn't have an heir to continue the family business.


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