China in Chicago

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Warning: there is a photo below that shows the x-ray of a deliberately-created physical deformity. If that is something that is not OK for you, you may not want to read today’s post.

This weekend, I visited Chicago’s beautiful Field Museum. There’s a very detailed, comprehensive exhibit about China, The Cyrus Tang Hall of China, which was fascinating. But one part really got to me.

In a packed stream of artifacts, these shoes got my attention:IMG_9020

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It’s tough to judge how tiny they are, but they look like they were made for a doll. Three inches, is what the description said.

They were shoes for bound feet. Imagine that, a full-grown woman tottering around on three-inch long, brutally misshapen feet. Hobbled, so that her feet could resemble those of a doll.

At least in shoes.

I warn you, the next photo is disturbing, at least I found it so. This is an x-ray of a woman’s bound foot:

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I cannot begin to imagine the pain of the binding process, let alone the pain of living with bound feet. Over the centuries, the cruelty and torture women endured in the pursuit of “beauty” is staggering. It makes me sad for our long-gone sisters.

Overall, though, I highly recommend the exhibit if you happen to be in or around Chicago. It really makes you consider the people who make up the history of a fascinating country.

Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

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The Uberfication

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I ubered my first Uber. For anyone unfamiliar with it, Uber is basically an unlicensed taxi service, more euphemistically referred to as a “ride sharing service.” It would be ride “sharing” if the driver were, you know, already going where you’re going, but they’re going there because you ask them to. And then you pay them for it.

As I said, an unlicensed taxi service.

Given the lack of the cost of a medallion and any of the other requirements for taxis in a city, Uber is, unsurprisingly, often cheaper, unless you use it during a “surge” time, meaning a time when demand is high. Then they really nail you.

Everybody up to speed? Excellent.

I was reluctant to try it, but I went to dinner with friends for my birthday last week and one of them, an Uber aficionado (how fun of a language mix is that?!) insisted on sending one for me. And then she got one for me to go home, as the empty cabs filed past (we were in a very cabby part of town).

It was a lot like taking a cab, but without the divider. The cars were both very clean and comfortable, and I sat in the back as the driver drove. One was chattier than the other, but again, that’s like a cab.

But I may try it again. Why? Because I can get one without having to have cash. Yes, all cabs in Chicago take credit cards now. In theory. I’ve heard the horror stories when the cabbies refuse them, and I’ve never felt comfortable using those card readers.

With Uber, it’s all handled online. And although I live in a cab-rich area, you can’t always find one everywhere.

So there it is. I was reluctant, and if I’m being very honest — and I do my best to be — scared to try something so completely foreign to me. I was so used to doing things the way I’ve always done them that branching out, even slightly, seemed unsettling.

But I did it. Really, I was nudged into it firmly, but that still counts, right?

Hanging In

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IMG_9051Today let’s talk a little bit about hanging in there. A few years ago, I got to the Chicago Botanic Garden just in time to see the crab apple trees in full bloom. As an aside, it’s such an ugly name for such a beautiful tree, but that’s not my point.

Ever since then, every spring, I head to the Garden with the hope of catching that ephemeral moment when the branches are explosions of petals, enough to weave a tapestry above your head. And every year since I’ve missed it.

Until this year.

This year, for three weeks running, I went out to the Garden in all kinds of weather. It was cold and it was windy; one weekend it was sunny and packed to the gills; and then this week, it was freezing. But I didn’t care. When I got to the path by the lake at the back, there they were, the trees in full spring glory. My camera and I were very happy.

And here’s the truth. I nearly didn’t go. It was cold, and not just chilly, after the nearly 80 degrees the day before, the temperature dropped 30 degrees. But I knew that after checking and checking, this would be the week.

It was so worth it. The beauty of them, all lined up along the path, was magical. Soon this forest of white and pink petals will be nothing but lush, verdant green, and it’s difficult to imagine that complete transformation.

But for one glorious week, there they are in full, perfect bloom.

A few more pics for you:IMG_8762 IMG_8896
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Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

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Why Hello There, Future

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Well, I’m having a 21st century morning. I was desperate to watch the new episode of “Community,” because, well, it’s “Community,” but the drilling is beyond enthusiastic today, which meant using the TV wasn’t going to happen. Not if I wanted to hear it.

Yep, it really is that loud. It’s fun.

I tried watching on my computer, but my computer got glitchy and slow. That wasn’t going to do it. Finally, I figured I could watch it on my phone.

Let’s just take a second to think about that. I was going to watch a television show on my phone. Yes, it’s been possible for a while, but I’ve never watched more than a short video on it. I mean, it’s a phone. Of course current smartphones are more like small tablets, but still.

So I downloaded the Yahoo! Screen app and suddenly there it was, in HD, on the thing I carry around with me in my bag. It has happened. I can watch TV literally anywhere.

Anywhere.

I can’t be sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, really. I already have a little bit of a TV problem. And when I say “little bit,” I say it in the way of all true addicts, where my little is someone else’s television coma.

It was certainly handy today, with my noise-cancelling headphones, I could push the reverberating sound away for a time while seeing what my favorite Human Beings were up to. I can’t help but think about kids, though, who don’t seem now to have a single moment to let their minds wander. To be bored. They have something to engage them every second of every day.

Will they miss out on having ideas of their own? Time to let things cook, time to wonder, time to count the telephone poles? And ask what are telephone poles because the phones they know have no wires?

I don’t know. All I know is here in 2015 I can hold the entire world in my hand, and watch it, one show at a time.

Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

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Don’t Fight the Power of Power

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Today they were doing routine maintenance on the electrical panels in my building. I say “routine,” though, to my knowledge, they’ve never done it before, at least as long as I’ve lived here. It required them to turn off the electricity for about 15 minutes.

I got the notice about it late last night, and I felt a sense of rising panic. No electricity. For fifteen whole minutes.

Fifteen minutes.

It sounded like an eternity to me. What could I do for 15 minutes? Yes, my laptop has a battery, but I would have no internet. The horror.

What if the work took longer? What if everything didn’t fire up correctly? What if I had to go longer without power?

Boy, am I ever dependent on the grid. Never mind that I have a place stuffed to the metaphorical rafters with books; forget my battery-powered ereader that’s all charged up. Or my phone that’s all charged up. Or my laptop that’s all charged up.

The idea of not having power, even for that short amount of time, seemed crazy. How could I possibly get through it? It would feel like forever tied to eternity with very knotty string.

So how did it go, this mini apocalypse? My test of being able to survive without modern conveniences? It turns out that I was on the phone when the power went out, and I really didn’t notice much of anything, because it was back on before I finished the phone call.

The lights went out on the various things that have lights, and then a few minutes later, I heard the fridge kick on as I walked past it. A few things beeped, and the printer yawned, then jumped into some printerly calisthenics. And then it scolded me for not properly turning it off.

As though it was my choice.

So there it was, my dreaded electricity break. I worried about it, and it turned out to be nothing. I wish more of life was like that.

Check out  my full-length novels,  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only), and the sequel, Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) which is now available!

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Technology Addiction? Sign Me Up

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I might be a tiny bit too technologically dependent. My computer was busy this morning doing its own thing and I had no idea what to do with myself. I hadn’t prepared for it. I hadn’t gathered information for it. Nope, there I was, computerless.

It was terrifying.

I haven’t always needed to be tethered to a screen and a keyboard, at least I don’t think so. And in all fairness to my heavy addiction, everything I needed to get done could only be found on the computer. So there’s that.

But it does make you aware of how much we depend on something that doesn’t physically exist, not really. It all boils down to series of zeroes and ones, tucked away somewhere as inaccessible to us as the center of the Earth. Talk about impermanent.

Not the center of the Earth. Let’s hope that’s pretty durable. I mean the products of our computers.

We’ve created an entire universe, and it has billions of magic portals, if you count the tablets and the smartphones. We can’t touch it, we can’t see it, and yet we depend on it these days as much as we do shelter or water. And when you take it away, apparently, I’m at a loss, and that’s just the internet.

Is it a crutch? Is it an aid? I’m not sure I care, now that I have mine back.

Need something to read? Check out  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only) .

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Savoring the Flavor of Silence

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It’s an absolutely gorgeous day, and to make it all the better, it seems that they’re not doing work on the building, I suspect, because of the wind. The platform fights against its tethers where they’ve left it anchored, and the flag looks nearly ironed.

It’s probably not safe to be dangling on the side of a building today.

I’d nearly forgotten what the silence sounds like. Or the sort-of silence, I live in the city, so there’s always a background hum of traffic or helicopters, punctuated now and then with the shriek of a siren. But today’s been, so far, remarkably peaceful.

I don’t know that I’ve ever appreciated it, a long stretch of quiet. It’s something I took for granted before the sounds of hammering and drilling through concrete became so familiar, they started to fade to levels that I could almost ignore.

Sometimes it’s good to just stop and take note. Note what you hear and what you don’t hear. What it feels like to sit with a welcome silence. What it feels like to sit with a silence too empty. To know that there are as many flavors of silence as there are of ice-cream, with some every bit as delightful.

Need something to read? Check out  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only) .

 Sign up for my spamless newsletter. And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!