Monday, September 24, 2007

Reviewing "Devil in the White City"...finally...

Finally, I finished reading "Devil in the White City." It was a really good book, no doubt...particularly just from the standpoint of Chicago history and whatnot. So it was really cool to read about the trials and tribulations and all that regarding the World's Columbian Exposition. The murder parts were intriguing, but really, given the monumental nature of the fair, it was hard for the writer to give that its "just desserts" as an equal part of the book.

But it was definitely interesting to read the juxtaposition of the Exposition and this serial killer's own plans and actions, going on at the same time.

However, I thought there were some serious flaws with the writing style. Although I enjoy the kinds of stories (whether they be books, movies or TV shows) that look at several different characters and what they're doing at the roughly exact same moments, I think this writer involved too many characters. He certainly ties them all together at the end and brings closure to all the characters (as to what they ended up doing after the Exposition ended and whatnot). But by the time I got to that part, some of the characters had slipped my mind. Not because I'm forgetful, but because this is not a book you can read in one sitting, unless you're flying to Europe or Asia or something--it's a long book. So, there were too many characters for the length of the book.

Second, I didn't like his "reality/game-show TV" style of writing. He would end chapters with teasers, as though he was paranoid that you'd put the book down and never read it again if he didn't give you a teaser to get through to the next sub-chapter that included this particular character. Although Kurt Vonnegut, my favorite author, loved to do the whole sub-chapter thing and even had some teasers, he did it with a handful of characters and always came back to those characters before they had vanished from memory. This writer often had way too much in between sub-chapters on particular characters to where you had to pause and think what had happened prior.

Otherwise, though, his writing style was good...I liked his pointing out of certain things that were "invented" at the exposition, and famous folks who went on to greater things.

Overall, it's definitely a great read for anyone who likes Chicago history, Daniel Burnham or the World's Columbian Exposition. It's actually pretty appropriate for today's Chicago Olympic bid to see how a much smaller Chicago in that day beat the odds and held a very spectacular event.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Lots of other things...not a lot of reading...or working...

Well, I guess I neglected to mention that Gina's grandma died last Friday in my last post, but because of that, it's been pretty darned busy around here, with the wake and funeral last week and all. So there wasn't much done around here at all, really.

Further adding to the list of things to do, we're getting her Grandma's sofa, which was handmade by her Grandpa (whom she never met) back in the day. It's a really neat design, truthfully...I'll post pictures once we get it. Some might think it too "Victorian" or loungy or something like that, but I think it's really nice, actually. You couldn't get a couch like this.

It will be the first legit piece of furniture in our basement family room. Which has yet to be remodeled, of course. But, hey, sometimes, you don't have a choice as to when you get things and when you don't. In this case, we don't have a choice. Also, we'll be getting her fridge, which is old, but in much, much better shape than our basement fridge, which is rusting and partially broken inside.

So that means, next weekend, we're going to be working our asses off...on Sunday, since I already have plans for Saturday. I'll have to rent a truck, and maybe we'll also clean out as much of the storage space as we can. It's going to be an exercise-filled weekend, that's for sure.

But, in the meantime, maybe I'll try to paint a little bit tomorrow. We'll see. I haven't TOUCHED that room in ages. All these commitments and things, I tell ya. :)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Lots of reading...not a lot of working...

Thanks for the ID on the I went and did some research as to what plants Black Swallowtails like and whatnot, and I see that parsley, dill, etc. are their favorites. So, next year, I'll have to find an out-of-the-way spot to plant some of this stuff and maybe I'll have more. I've always wanted to plant milkweed, because Monarchs apparently lay their eggs on that. So we'll see if I can increase the population of these guys around here.

Meanwhile, I'm continuing on with "Devil in the White City"'s been good so far. No major complaints. I'll probably go read a little more today before a wedding we have to go to, because I'm super sore from softball last night.

I play every Friday in a 12-inch slow-pitch men's league in the southwest 'burbs (so it's a bit of a hike for me, but it's worth it) with a bunch of guys I grew up with. I've known most of these guys for just about every year of the 30 I've been on this fine Earth. We grew up in the old neighborhood together, most of our parents actually still live in that neighborhood, despite the complete cultural and ethnic upending that has occured there in the last decade and a half, and we've stayed in touch over time. It's rare, I know. How many people can say they still talk to about 6-10 friends that they've known since birth, but that all run together in the same group? Not many, really. There's a book out there about such a relationship, ironically, among a group of South Siders like ourselves, which I have not read yet (and, of course, the name escapes me right now). I'd like to get it and critique the hell out of it, and then write my own version, based on my reality.

Anyway, we all grew up playing softball (16-inch, though...a Chicago classic...not 12-inch) on the corner, Little League at the local park, fast-pitch against the local schoolbuilding, football in the grassy patch of another school, basketball in any number of alleys, among other things. But, we're all getting older...and this is the second week in a row that I'm feeling the aftereffects...during the summer, I play three times a week. But one game, three times a week. This fall league is all double-headers. So I'm still getting used to it. I'm less sore than last week, but still sore.

Ah well, thanks for listening to my tangent. :) It actually sheds some light, if you think about it, as to why I went and got a bungalow and am living in the Bungalow Belt as well. Stick with what works. :)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

What butterfly is this???

OK, butterfly lovers (or people with more research ability/time than I have, obviously)...I've seen maybe one of these in my life until this evening, when I found one out in our yard on the Butterfly Bush (where else?). So what kind of butterfly is it? It's exciting to me that we get these great butterflies, being in the city and all! Let me know if you know what this is...

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Catching up...

Well, let's see...what's going on around here?

Not too much in the way of house duty, although I did buy a few more flowers for the back garden and some Dianthus for out in front around our little sapling tree. But progress on other things, such as the priming/painting of the upstairs future baby room has stalled for the moment. It's just been hectic.

Today, I traveled, which this blog is not about...but, I did want to mention that I finally bought and started reading a book that I'd been told by many that I should read for a long, long time, and that is "Devil in the White City." Those who know that Daniel Burnham quote up above as being my life motto and all-time favorite quote, in particular, have told me they couldn't believe I hadn't picked up the book and read it yet.

But, I read for a living, so it's tough to come home and read more in books. That said, they were right. So far, it's been a fantastic book. I'll give more of a "review" when I finish.

For now, I'm off to bed. :)

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

New friends in the garden...

Filled in very nicely!
Originally uploaded by southsideandy
So, tired of painting and whatnot and needing a more robust exercise for the weekend to keep my diet on track, I decided it was time to expand the backyard fence garden.

Busted my butt to dig and hoe out the lawn that was there, and probably doubled the space of the garden in a few hours' time. Gina even helped by hauling away the dug-up sod and planting it elsewhere...thanks, honey!

Anyway, you can check out how much the old portion of the garden has filled in, and see the bare-looking new half of the garden on my Flickr page.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Progress made, but slow-going...

I've primed with two coats the wood paneling inside of the gable, just having finished that earlier today. Of course, I'm really busy today, since my fish are sick and our kitchen sink clogged. For the fish, I had to remove all the plants in order to treat with medication (the medicine would kill the plants), which means they have to sit in a rubbermaid tub of water outside...and hopefully they'll do OK out there. Last time I had to do this, it was fine.

For the kitchen sink, of course, we had no drain-o or anything like that. So I had to go to Home Depot. Which, I guess turned out that it wasn't so bad, because I was able to pick up several more plants for my garden at sale prices. Now, I have to find the time and energy to plant them. :)

I'm coming to the realization that I need to locate some friends to come and help me paint that room upstairs, or it might take a full 6 months to paint. :)