Last Minute Costuming for ChiFi

Always with the last minute hiccups and fixes. Thanks to a delivery that didn’t arrive on time, this is my night:

Me sitting my bathroom in a bra and jeans, concentrating on cutting a piece of shiny black material.

But it’s okay because the costume is going to be awesome.

The Hubby and I are getting on a train at 8:03am tomorrow morning and heading to Chicago for the science fiction/fantasy convention, ChiFi. I’m excited to be taking part in the “Chicago SkepchickCon” organized by the incredibly awesome Jamie Bernstein. And I’m excited to be taking a train. After a bunch of airline travel last year, Amtrak is going to be like riding first class!

I’m a panelist on Ask A Scientist and I’m moderating a handful of others. It should be a fun time – check back for photos and stories.

…and to see what that costume I’m working on turns out to be!

Last Minute Costuming for ChiFi

Of Blogging and Headstones

And dog tricks, and kitty hiding spots and the strange mix of awkwardness and comfort that occurs when meeting someone in person who you’ve only previously known online, and directions to restaurants located somewhere in the North Chicago area. These are all things that were discussed when I stopped over at the marvelous Jeremy and Tina’s house when I was in Chicago last weekend. They invited me into their home, let me rough-house with their gorgeous pitbull, Talulah, and gave me coffee and a tour of the nearby Graceland Cemetery, which houses the earthly remains of many people who played huge roles in Chicago’s history. And then we went to brunch, and it was good. I even had a chance to see a lot of the city on the way there. *snicker*

I’ve said it several times, in a few different places, but Jeremy – if you read this one – thanks again for a wonderful afternoon!

Of Blogging and Headstones

New CUP Contest tomorrow!

Okay, I want to write about my week, so you can either bear with me OR if you just want to learn about tomorrow’s CUP Contest scroll all the way down to the last paragraph of this post.


This past week has been amazingly stressful, both in good ways and bad.

On Friday I drove eight hours down to Chicago to visit with my Mom. On Saturday we went to the Art Institute, enjoyed a lovely tapas lunch at Emilio’s, and went to Cirque Eloize that evening. After the show we ate a light dinner at Petterino’s and then came back to the hotel and packed. The next morning we got up early, I dropped Mom off at the train station and I headed over to meet Chicago cool cat and fellow blogger Jeremy and his Chicago cool cat wife, Tina. We puttered around snapping photos in a relatively famous cemetery called Graceland Cemetery, then battled the Mother’s Day crowds to have lunch at Marietta’s (phenomenal lunch and well worth the wait!). I’ll have more info and pics of the Chicago trip in a later post.

I left for Minneapolis at around 2pm, but immediately became stuck in traffic on I94 leaving Chicago. I survived that and stopped at the Belvidere Oasis for road snacks (i.e., junk food that can’t be justified in normal day-to-day existence), and then I made it four hours NW to Mauston, Wisconsin when my car broke down. My bought in February of this year/60-day bumper-to-bumper warranty expiring less than three weeks ago/NEW CAR broke down. When I stopped for gas in Mauston, the engine wouldn’t start again. I called AAA for a tow truck. When I went into the BP to let them know why I was blocking a pump, I was browbeaten into pop clutching the car by this horrific bully of a woman who mocked me for  calling for help when it was so obvious that all I had was a dead battery. We got the engine started and I agreed with her that I should just head for Minneapolis and not stop anymore.

But instead, the second I left the  BP gas station I drove over to a local KMart to buy a battery, just in case mine quit on the trip home. At KMart the car died as I was pulling into a parking spot. Not a good sign, but my first reaction was  joyous indignation as I thought “Ha! I knew that pushy b*tch was wrong!” But then I realized “Oh wait, my car is broke good, innit?” Still, I decided to replace the battery and try for home.

As soon as the battery was in, I started the ignition and the engine roared to life. I headed for Minneapolis, but made myself nauseous with worry for the next three hours. I tried all sorts of tricks to relax including listening to different kinds of music and podcasts to distract myself, breathing deeply and calmly, arguing with myself that even if I did break down I could call for help, and really a breakdown was just money and time.

None of that worked.

I worried for the entire time up until I actually did break down again outside of Hudson, WI, which is about 40 miles from Minneapolis.  I was THIS close to making it home! It was about 9:30pm and night had fallen. I glanced down at my dash and saw that it was completely dark. I glanced at the road in front of me and was horrified to realize that my headlights had gone out. The only reason I was able to see was because the traffic behind me was illuminating the road and the tail lights of the cars in front of me were guiding my way. I pulled off the road just as the engine died. Alternator.

Aych eee double hockey sticks.

To make an already long story slightly less interminable: AAA came and towed me to Stillwater where some nice friends rescued me and put me up for the night.  

Monday was gray and depressing. I had left my glasses in the car at the repair shop and my contacts had conked out, so I spent most of the day with fuzzy vision, which gave me a headache. The car wasn’t ready until 2:30pm. So, many hours and $600 later I left Stillwater. I drove right to the house of some friends in North Minneapolis to relax and be around nice people, because I was so bummed out that I didn’t want to be in an empty apartment by myself. Who knows what kind of damage I could have done the Ben and Jerry’s container in the freezer at my place?

On Tuesday I had to go to the dentist AND I had a doctor’s appointment. Also, work got very…involved that day. The one bright spot was a crazy spring storm and an evening of drinks and gossip at the Independent with a friend.

On Wednesday work was very busy again, and I spent the evening doing laundry and cleaning the house.

So, you see…it’s just been an often crabby, sometimes enjoyable, busy few days.

But yesterday was pretty awesome. Work is crazy busier than usual, but I’ve taken on an interesting new project. After work last night I headed over to the Be’Wiched Deli in Minneapolis to enjoy dinner, drinks and conversation with the Minnesota Skeptics meetup group.

And today I felt like blogging. Woo-hoo!


So, now that I’ve completely tricked you into reading about my personal drama by putting a misleading title on this blog post, allow me to announce that TOMORROW at 6pm I will post the next Close Up Photo Contest entry. I actually have the CUP Winners page up to date, so stop on by to read the rules, learn about past entries and take a gander at the current player rankings.

See you tomorrow!

New CUP Contest tomorrow!

Hai, Chicago!

I am very excited to be in Chicago.

I survived the drive in – it’s amazing how I haven’t forgotten how to drive in Chicago and the surrounding area. Minneapolis is very relaxed: most people follow road signs, nearly everyone uses turn signals to change lanes, they only change one lane at  a time, everyone leaves a nice buffer space between cars, and those who do speed do so at a nice, predictable rate and seem to know that they’re the ones who are bending the laws, so they’re good about working with surrounding traffic.

And Chicago drivers are all Screw. That.

Seriously, that $375 minimum charge for speeding in a construction zone…joke, right? If anyone were to drive the speed limit in those zones I’m pretty sure they’d get a fender in their bumper. Also, I forgot how much tolls suck and was really missing my old IPass. And, you all charge for reals money for parking.

Our hotel is on Michigan Avenue, and our hotel room… Wowza.

It reminds me of last summer when we passed through Vail, CO. Everything in town was a steal because it was off-season, so we splurged on a fancy room that normally went for $900/night in the winter. Of course, in Chicago we don’t have a view of the forests and a stream trickling right outside of our window, but that little puddle of water out front is kinda pretty.  Okay, we drew an inner courtyard room, but the fact that I know Lake Michigan is right outside the hotel is good enough for me.

Now, off to the bar to have a whiskey, then it’s time to decide how we want to spend tomorrow!

Hai, Chicago!

New CUP Contest Tonight!

I’ll open the next CUP Contest TONIGHT at 11pm CST. I’ll keep the contest open until tomorrow late afternoon, so answers and points will be awarded on Thursday night.  If you’re new to the contest you can visit the CUP Winners page for more information (I should probably update that bad boy with last week’s results, too).

In other news:

This weekend I’ll be driving to Chicago to celebrate Mother’s Day and my birthday with my Mom! We’re both arriving in town late Friday evening, and we’ll probably hit a jazz bar for drinks that night, but I need ideas for things to do on Saturday. Saturday is the only full day that we have together, so we definitely want a plan. My first instinct is to hit the Shedd Aquarium, Mom always likes the Art Institute. We could take a trip down memory lane and drive out to Tinley Park where I grew up, or we could do something outdoors if the weather is nice. We used to do Miracle Mile a lot, but I could take a pass on the window shopping. We’ll also look around for shows that we might like to see on Saturday night.

If any of y’all have ideas, I’d love to hear them! Especially if you have any knowledge of special local events happening on Saturday.

Mom’s train leaves early on Sunday, and after I drop her off at the station I’m going to try to meet up with my blogosphere pal Jeremy and his wife, Tina, for brunch. Jeremy blogs at Le Cafe Witteveen and writes about religion, politics, and the hilarious, serious and zany things going on in the world and in his life. I’m hugely excited. Then I’ll turn around and do the eight hour road trip back home.

I once again realized what a geek I am when I was planning the drive and my first thought was “Oh good, I can catch up on my podcasts!”

And then Monday is my for real reals birthday, so I’m sure I’ll find some trouble to get into when I’m back home in Minneapolis.

New CUP Contest Tonight!