Wednesday, April 30, 2014

In Defense of the Plain Cheese Pizza

My husband finally ordered a specialty pizza, supreme-style with as many toppings as could be crammed on to the poor pie. Since his main interest is in chicken wings, I usually get to call the pizza toppings, and I concede to his desire for toppings by choosing one or two, sometimes just on half.

Pizza toppings have never interested me. I’ve never been fond of pepperoni or Italian sausage. The vegetables just take up space that could be better filled by more cheese. As a child, I despised mushrooms.

But when I was very young, I remember going to my grandparents house with my parents and brother. We would order pizza from this local place called Winfield House. They sold circular pies cut into square pieces on a thin crust. And my young child desires for less toppings were ignored in favor of the adults’ wishes.

So I would pull the cheese right off the pizza and just eat the sauce and bread.

But that’s not how I saw it.

I called the cheese, riddled with toppings that I didn’t want to eat, “the skin.” I thought that the cheese was the soft layer of bread between the sauce and the crispy crust, and I would delicately munch on that part, cheerfully informing my amused relatives that I didn’t eat the skin, I just liked the cheese.

My favorite pizza of all time, that I’ve only gotten to eat once, was one that didn’t even have any cheese on it. And I was surprised to find that, since I thought that all pizzas had cheese. But this was Italy, and I had a very enjoyable time eating a pizza with corn and spinach.

Sure, I don’t like a lot of toppings, nay, any toppings, on my pizza.

But at least I don’t peel the cheese off anymore…

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Surprise Contender

There was one other option available for my NHL playoff watching pleasure, but I didn't mention it before, because it is a limited option.

At the Rec center, there are some treadmills and stationary bikes that have televisions, but the channels available are limited. NBCSN and NHL Network are unavailable, and they carry the majority of the games. However, in the first round, there are too many games for NBCSN to cover them all (NHL Network doesn't get as many because they aren't NBC owned, I think). The spillover generally falls on CNBC and sometimes MSNBC. Both of those channels are available at the Rec.

That's how I ended up on a stationary bike for about two and a half hours on Monday night, watching the Blackhawks earn a shutout against the Blues and rekindle my hope for this playoff series.

I hadn't even considered that there might be a Blackhawks game on CNBC, because last year they seemed to reserve that channel for the Ottawa series. But this year the 'Hawks are not President's Trophy winners. This year they came in third in the central, and so I guess that means they qualify for broadcast on basic cable.

Works for me.

I think it's much better for me to get on a bike and pedal off over 800 calories than to go to a bar and drink down 800 calories worth of beer - plus any snacks that my husband might convince me were necessary. Instead, we sat side by side on two stationary bikes and pedaled our way through the game.

Since we had biked to the Rec from our apartment, we ended up being a bit late and missed Toews' goal early in the first period. Which means that we had to wait until the game was nearly over before seeing a goal.

Oh, but the wait was worth it.

I was dripping sweat, wearing my Blackhawks t-shirt and booty shorts, and I did not care who stared at me when that empty net goal was scored and victory was assured. I raised both arms, clenching my hands into fists and let out an exultant, "Yes!" or two or three...

I actually liked having something to do with my nervous energy instead of twitching or standing up and swaying like I have done in bars when watching important games. Every time the 'Hawks were on a power play, I was pedaling faster, willing them to get the puck in the net. The same thing happened when they were on a penalty kill, only this time I was urging them to clear the zone.

In that final two minutes, even though I had started slowing down from the aches in my legs from more biking than I'm accustomed to, I ramped it up again as the announcers reminded the viewing audience of the last two games in the series where the Blackhawks gave up goals late in the 3rd only to have lost in overtime. I would have bit my nails to the quick if I hadn't been clutching the handlebars and pedaling, willing that empty net insurance goal to go in.

Unfortunately, there aren't any more Blackhawks games scheduled for CNBC this round - I would love to do this again, even though Tuesday was a very long and tired day...

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Playoffs Are Here!

For six teams, the playoffs begin tonight, but for my Blackhawks, it’s going to be Thursday night against the St. Louis Blues. I really hope that the Blues continue their slump and go four and out. In fact, I'm expecting that, so it should totally happen, right?

Overall, I’m feeling a bit bittersweet about the playoffs. After a whole 82 game season of having NHL Gamecenter, I’ve grown used to watching hockey (almost) every day. I’m too cheap to buy cable or satellite TV, especially at the package levels that would get me NBC Sports Network, so that means my watching-hockey-on-TV-from-the-comfort-of-my-home-every-night days have passed.

For the playoffs are aired only on NBC networks. And while I’m glad to see that they’re planning on airing two games on Sunday, as well as one on Saturday, on the free over the air national broadcast I’m still disappointed that I can’t watch every single game at my leisure, pants-optional, at home, for a reasonable price. I’ll have to strike out to a place that provides visitors with cable or satellite television viewing for the mere price of a pitcher or two of beer.

The first year I was into hockey, that place was Hooters. The next two seasons, my husband and I would head over to Table Rock, as it was in easy walking distance of our apartment at the time. But now we’re in a new apartment and the choices are different. So this year, I’m going to hold a playoff of my own and pit nearby sports bars against each other for the honor of being my new go-to spot for the NHL Playoffs!

Round one will include the newly installed Tilted Kilt (I hear the food is terrible at this chain, but it is close), Busters Sports Bar (I know nothing about this place), Cheerleaders (relatively close, I hear it's got good food), The Refuge (found using Google Maps, looks a wee bit fancy), the Ram (also on the fancy side) and the Eastside Tavern (biking distance, which might count against it).

From these, a comprehensive testing will reveal those that make it to round two, based on atmosphere, beer, price and distance from my apartment.

Round two will be a hard fought battle for the right to be the place where I toast the Stanley Cup Champions.

Unless those Champions are not my Chicago Blackhawks.

In which case, the prize will be the right to be the place where I drown my sorrows in anticipation of a better playoff run next year. . .

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Dream Job

The other day at lunch one of my co-workers asked me what my dream job would be. 

Last week, a different co-worked asked me what superpower I would have if I could have any superpower, and I said I didn't know. One person claimed invisibility, another mind control... I mean, telepathy would be neat, but seeing as how it's not a real thing, it could be anything. And my nature is to pin things down, so I would have to explain just what kind of telepathy I meant. 

So I just said I didn't know and let the moment pass. 

I gave the job question a bit more thought, because I had heard a talk on strategic planning just before lunch. I was thinking about what my personal plans and goals were, and I gave a real answer. 

"I think I'd be a travel writer. Travel to exotic locales and write about them. And then get paid enough for writing about them to travel to the next place." 

My co-worked seemed unimpressed by this answer. His answer was the more typical kind of answer people give for this question, like saying "I'm fine" when someone asks how you are. A playboy billionaire, maybe superhero on the side. 

Sure, being independently wealthy would be fun, or, at least, it sounds like fun to me. But it isn't a job. It isn't work. And it certainly isn't a calling. 

In one of the afternoon sessions for the day-long workshop I was attending, the speaker asked us what we had wanted to be when we grew up. And I remembered that when I was young I wanted to be a doctor and cure Multiple Sclerosis. I don't necessarily remember this from when I was young. I remember this because my mom (who has MS), reminds me of it on a monthly (at least) basis. 

But in the end, that wasn't my dream job. It wasn't a job that I wanted to work towards, and I didn't. I started to dream other dreams. I landed in the job that I have through luck and some hard work, but I never went to school for this particular job. I never dreamed of working with software, but it turns out that I'm good at what I do. 

But I would absolutely love to write and publish Hike with Me: Machu Picchu... 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


I always liked those magnets with the saying, "Patience is a virtue I do not possess." The first phrase was written in a flowery cursive font, while the second went bold, red and sans serif.

I know that the wheels of bureaucracy are gigantic, slow and subject to stalling out. I know this.

But that doesn't mean I have to like it.

I could have tried to get my hiking account traditionally published. I could have tried to figure out what publishers might be interested in such a project and done my research and my homework and submitted a manuscript and crossed my fingers. But I didn't have the patience.

For that project, I wanted the now. I didn't want to send it off with hope and hear back a year, or more, later that they didn't want it. Thanks, but no thanks. I wanted a gift for my mother that I could physically send to her as quickly as possible.

Barry Eisler has written on Joe Konrath's blog about publishing being a lottery. He brings up three data points necessary to make a decision on whether to participate (potential payoff, odds and cost of ticket). I think one point that was left out of that consideration was the fact that no one in their right mind would buy a chance for a lotto ticket for an unknown drawing that would be held in six to eighteen months. Don't call us, we'll call you. I think that that blog post leans more toward considering the publishing of a book being equal to buying the lotto ticket, and submitting a manuscript is more like trying to buy a ticket for a drawing to get the privilege to buy a lotto ticket.

Not that self publishing didn't require patience, but it was on my own terms. I had to wait on myself to finish the text, choose and format the pictures. Reformat the pictures...

And I got impatient with myself at times, but I'm okay with that.

There might be other projects where I choose to submit myself to the task of patience with the bureaucracy of traditional publishing, but there might not be.

Honestly, I think I've had enough of bureaucracy for now. I mean, it's been almost six months and I still can't talk about the thing that I can't talk about, because I don't want to jinx it (nothing to do with books, alas).


(Strange what I'll do for nostalgia: I listened to all 54 minutes and 26 seconds of this Daft Punk Random Access Memories remixed with "Everybody to the Limit (Come on Fhqwhgads)" even after I realized that it was the same song remixed into every song on the album... it was hypnotically repetitive. I'm listening to it again right now...)

Patience is a virtue on which I am running seriously low.