The closest to Normal (Illinois) that I've ever been.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Happy Birthday Sam!

Today was Sam's 9th birthday! He has been anticipating this day for months, and he woke us up bright and freaking early to maximize his birthday experience. He got some great presents, including spending money from Grandma Dorinda:

A Star Wars Transformer from Grammy and Grandpa Joe:

Transformers large and small from Aunt Michelle and Uncle Rich:

Thanks for the guitar Michelle. Thanks a lot. Note that the volume does not just go up to 10, but 11.

At this point our camera failed, but Sam also was delighted with the surfing Bionicle from Grandma Martha and Grandpa Saul!

Also, Sam very generously made Joseph a gift certificate entitling him to play with one of Sam's new toys:
This certificate entitles the bearer to playing with one of the birthday boys presents immediately after unwrapping.
Time allotment: 30 min.
(may be divided between two presents)
1. may not be done against the birthday boys will.
2. may only be used on July 27, 2008

After the debacle at Joseph's party at the Children's Discovery Museum, I was happy that Sam chose the ProPutt Activity Center for his party. The kids went nuts in the trampoline/climbing structure/ball pit.

Sam wanted an Iron Man theme, so we decorated the cake with various Iron Man figures engaged in a pitched battle with good triumphing over evil in a blaze of frosting energy beams.

Sam's friends Katana, Thomas and Evan from TaeKwonDo and Steven and Gabby from the neighborhood were there. (Jacob from school and Megan from the neighborhood were out of town).

The kids had a good time playing games. ProPutt is great because although some of the games require tokens, there is a giant gallery of "vintage" video games that are all free play, as well as free glow-in-the-dark air hockey, foosball, mini-golf and regular (not glow-in-the-dark) mini-golf.

Joseph spent quite a while racing/crashing motorcycles.

Sam played a round of mini-golf with Katana and her dad Jeff, who is Sam's TaeKwonDo teacher.

Joseph and I played pretty well up to the 8th hole, when he got bored. Joseph decided that if the ball went under the gorilla, he should too.

Overall, a great time was had by all. I was concerned that Sam's extremely high expectations of his birthday would be impossible to match, but he was very happy indeed.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Sam went to a minor league baseball game on Monday and got badly burned again! I am pretty annoyed with this camp--the kids are supposed to be responsible for their own sunscreen, but the counselors never remind him to reapply during the day. I would think that the fact that he had turned beet red would have tipped them off, but no! Sam had to wear a long-sleeved shirt today.

Update 7/25: It looks like things could have been worse! Apparently at the next Peoria Chief's game there was a bench-clearing brawl resulting in the pitcher being arrested for beaning a fan, and 15 players being ejected from the game.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Peter Pan and Bakelite

This weekend was all about the midwestern entertainment. Saturday we went to a local free production of Peter Pan in the park. It was reasonably well acted, with home-made looking sets and costumes. Because it was in the park without a curtain or riggings, instead of flying, Peter Pan and the other characters kind of jerkily skated around the set in Heelys.

I had never seen either the animated Peter Pan or any stage production of it before. It is a deeply creepy story! The characters are bizarrely cheerful and not at all perturbed by their various psychoses. One minute Wendy is trying to get a kiss from Peter Pan, and the next, she is pretending to be his mother? Maybe a more talented set of actors could have made the whole mess make sense? Surprisingly, the kids loved it! They were excited to be out on a Saturday night and they were completely into the show. Joseph periodically loudly exclaimed questions and comments.

The citizens of Bloomington-Normal are a bizarre bunch, though. The fellow in front of us had a man-purse and a shirt celebrating a nudist resort. Also, a lot of people smoke around here. At any given time, there was someone sneaking a smoke somewhere within breathing range. I suppose they felt entitled to their smokes because they were outside, show or no show.

Sunday we went to the 3rd Sunday Market at the Interstate Center. I had no idea what to expect, but I was bored, so Danny, Joseph and I went. It was amazing--there were vendors selling every conceivable kind of vintage stuff!!! And it was actually vintage stuff, not just old random crap!! After living in CA, where there is just not so much history, my standards for vintage had been severely lowered. We saw loads of vintage housewares, including texasware, aluminum tableware, quality vintage costume jewelry, vintage postcards, housewares, furniture, and so much more. I am a Bakelite nut--I am especially addicted to Bakelite bracelets, and in the 8 years I spent in CA, I found not a single piece of quality Bakelite. At the 3rd Sunday Market, I found hundreds of Bakelite bracelets, in every conceivable color and shape. Most of the pieces I could not afford, but I bought a beautiful set of red and orange bracelets. They make that fantastic Bakelite clinking against each other, too. We also ran into friends from TaeKwonDo, and shared some delicious deep-fried snacks.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Kim day

I think I had a Kim day today. Poor Kim--you are always out there trying to do good, but the world keeps knocking you off your bike/pushing you into ditches/beating up your cat. Perhaps the karmic wires have gotten crossed?

I was running Argos at @ 9 pm. When I was at exactly the most remote stretch of my run, a giant Rottweiler ran across the street to us. She was kind of a pushy dog who alternated between trying to play with and menace Argos. It was pitch black outside, so I think both Argos and I were having trouble figuring out whether or not she was aggressive. I hauled the Rottweiler and Argos across the street and knocked on the front door of the nearest house. The only gay couple in Normal, as far as I can tell, answered the door. They clearly knew and hated the dog "Queeny", which belonged to their neighbor. I knocked on the presumptive dog owners' door a million times, but to no avail. The guys clearly did not want to hold on to Queeny, who was a frequent escapee, and there was no way that I could haul both dogs the mile back to the house. All that I could work out was to have them hold onto Queeny for long enough that Argos and I could escape.

And apparently, the whole event made an impression on Argos, because as soon as we ran around the corner, Argos exploded in diarrhea. I tried to clean it up, but it was an enormous mess. I had to drive back with extra bags and a flashlight, but it was still really gross. I actually know the people who's treelawn Argos defiled, so I felt guilty and left a note of apology taped to their front door.

So what do I get for trying to rescue a dog? A giant pile of diarrhea! And what do I get for taking responsibility for my dog's indiscretion? I don't know--I left my phone number on the apology note, but I hope the homeowner doesn't call!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Sugar Creek Arts Festival

This weekend was the 25th annual Sugar Creek Arts Festival. I love living right next to uptown Normal and campus!!! Today we brought the kids and Argos to the festival, and a great time was had by everyone. It was a great arts festival!! No twee license plate birdhouses and scented candles. There was an astonishing diversity of arts and crafts, with festival food and live entertainment.

Universe of Russian stacking dolls

Rust bugs

Rust dogs

Joseph makes jewelry and a visor.

Wise-ass balloon man! (Is there any other kind?)

Joseph explains why he chose pineapple ice.

Argos was pet by so many people that he was palpably greasy by the time he got home. It was rather hot and humid, so we tried to keep Argos in the shade as much as possible, and he spent a lot of time lying in different booths.

Here's the Pantagraph story

Friday, July 11, 2008

Dog park reunion

Argos is 2 years old now, and not so much of a puppy. He used to be the life of the party at the dog park, but lately he just frisks a little and chases a few balls without really engaging any of the other dogs.
We haven't seen many of Argos' puppyhood friends lately, but tonight we had a dog park reunion with Ami, Lucy and Roy. Argos also found a new Siberian puppy friend Niko. Argos decided that he liked Niko well enough to let him jump all over his belly.

Argos and Lucy

Argos under Lucy

Argos, Ami and Roy!

Ami returns!

Argos and Ami

Argos, Niko and Ami

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Hey, I'm famous

I have not had a professional web page for several years. However, now that I have my thesis publications coming out, I need a place to disseminate my PDFs and CV. After much hassle, I managed to get an official ISU page so that my name would be prioritized in a Google search.
And I win!! If you Google my full name, I am the first search result! I have beaten out both the cancer researcher with a million publications and the professional shopper who share my name.

Update Friday night: Google blocked my webpage!!! Now it does not appear at all using a Google search, although it is still first using Yahoo and other search engines.

Update Sunday night: Now my page is #1 again with Google. I can only hope that if someone important tries to Google me, they'll do it on one of the days that I exist!