Getting your kicks on Route 66/Adams street, the Chicagoland edition

Route 66 has two endpoints: one is in downtown Chicago, which many people think of as ‘the start’ of the route (because of the order in the “get your kicks on Route 66”, song), while the other is (currently) at the Santa Monica Pier, just west of Downtown Los Angeles, which is where I started my trip. In Chicago route 66 is a little complicated as it exists on two one way streets, Adams, which travels west, and Jackson, which travels east. SINCE most people take 66 going west, that’s where you’ll find most of the signs…

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Because Chicago is home and I’ve pretty much walked or driven most of these roads at one time or another without realizing they ARE 66, I have to admit that once I did, I opted to fudge it a bit once I passed Dell Rheas’s Chicken basket in Willowbrook IL (a town I’ve only ever passed by while driving on I-55) and felt that I had for all intents and purposes I had finished the route on the 24th of October. (I admit this is largely because I knew the neighborhoods I would be passing through… knew most of them to HIGHLY unsafe ones with nasty traffic. When I go downtown I stick to safe routes and park my car in safe areas.)IMG_0134

So for instance, the above are some photos of me in 2001 having dinner with friends at what was then arguably the best Greek Restaurant in Chicago’s GreekTown (on Halstead between Adams and Jackson … i.e., 66) the now closed Roditites Greek Restaurant, which used to be one of my favorite go to’s (it was open for 45 years). (All of the old Greektown classic restaurants seem to be closing, I think the children weren’t interested in taking over the businesses)IMG_2619.jpgbut on the 31st of October I had business I had to deal with downtown, and as such took the opportunity to finish my 66 trek (only this time on foot, cause driving into the city is NUTS). I was staying at my friend’s home in Northbrook, and took the Metra Train from North Glenview station to Union Station, which is also located between Adams and Jackson (again, both are Route 66, it just depends on which direction you’re going) with exits to either street. IMG_0149Ironically, I have only ever been in this station once before. The Metra train line adjacent to my parents home went to a different station, the Ogilvie Center, a few blocks north. Unlike that station, which only services local lines, this station is where you go in Chicago if you’re taking an Amtrak line. As such, the only other time I was ever here was when I took the California Zephyr from Chicago to San Francisco back when I was in my late 20’s.IMG_0150The odds are you’ve seen this station before, even if you’ve never been to Chicago, as it’s been used more than few times in movies. The list includes Public Enemies (with Jonny Depp), My Best Friend’s Wedding (with Julia Roberts, Cameron Diaz and Rupert Everett), Man of Steel (one of the Superman movies), Derailed, and most prominently in the movie The Untouchables, about Al Capone (Robert De Niro) and Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) … with a scene steeling Oscar worthy supporting performance from Sean Connery… which had a LOT of Chicago locations in it.

IMG_0071From the station I went straight to my 11am appointment, and then double backed to have lunch at Lou Mitchell’s Restaurant & Bakery (click link for my blog post about it), which is located a half block west of Union Station, and is probably the only historic Route 66 eatery to be in the Michelin guide. After lunch I walked back east, along Adams (Route 66 west bound) past Union station and to the Chicago River which forms the station’s eastern boundary.

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The Jackson street bridge (Route 66 eastbound), opening to allow ships to pass

If you ever come to Chicago I strongly suggest taking one of our Water Taxi’s from Union Station (i.e, Route 66) to Navy Pier (the Orange line on the map above) which travels to where the Chicago River meets Lake Michigan… that said I’m about to go a bit off topic, but really… you have GOT to try the water Taxis

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Pics of me and my Chinese friend when she visited Chicago in 2013

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While at Navy pier, before switching to the next Taxi, you might want to go up on the Ferris Wheel (which is sometimes referred to as the Chicago Wheel, as it actually served as an attraction back in 1893 at the World’s Columbian Exposition, i.e., the White City, which was held along the lake on Chicago South’s side) which offers some great views of the city

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The skyscraper behind me is the John Hancock (grin) center, where I used to work for about a year back when I was in my 20’s, 

but then make sure to take the Water Taxi that travels from the pier via Lake Michigan to Shedd Aquarium and the Field Museum, even if you don’t want to go to the Museums.

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The skyscraper on the left is the Big Willy (see below), the one in the middle is the Standard Oil building — no self-respecting Chicagoan refers to it as the Aon center and if you asked them where the Aon center was I doubt they’d know, and one to the right is the John Hancock (where I used to work back when I was in my 20’s)….. again, NO ONE calls it 875 North Michigan Avenue. Apparently the John Hancock building, the corporate headquarters for the John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Co, at around 2013 ceased to be their headquarters, and just a few months ago the name got changed to its address. The pics above were from when I did this back in 2013 when my friend, who I knew from when I was teaching in S. Korea, came to visit during a summer break.

But I digress…  returning to Route 66….

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From there I continued my trek down Adams (the west bound 66). The above picture is looking west down the street, across the bridge I had just passed over… and, the ‘small’ white building just above the black van is Union station.

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Again, this photo is looking west. The sky scraper in the distance is the same one shown in the picture from the Water Taxi. Which I referred to as “The big Willy.” It was originally called the Sears Tower (my best friend from high-school has worked there for almost 15 years), and when first built in 1973 (I remember it going up) it was the tallest building in the world. But Sears then sold it to Willis Insurance in 2009, who renamed it as The Willis Tower. Many Chicagoans to this day absolutely refuse to use that name, but I, personally, LOVE IT… because it allows me to call it “the big Willy” (Willy being a British slang word for penis) and just how great is that?! The GORGEOUS historic building in the foreground of the picture is the SIDE entrance (if you can believe it) of the Rookery Building, which designed by deeply important architectural firm of Burnham and Root in 1888. If you have ever read the best-selling novel The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America, about the Chicago world’s fair, you know who they are. I didn’t take any pictures inside, but the lobby was design by Frank Loyd Wright. If you’re an architecture enthusiast you will LOVE Chicago.

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Another thing Chicago is famous for, one of which is visible on Route 66, is our collection of public art. The above is Alexander Calder‘s Flamingo (sculpture). I remember when it was first unveiled in 1974, none of us could make heads or tails of what it was… but it’s pretty.

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After this I pit stopped off at the historic Berghoff Restaurant (click the link for a fully review of the place) for a mug of their root beer (they brew it themselves). For some reason this iconic German restaurant which is a landmark of downtown Chicago, its been there since 1898… is NOT in the Michelin guide… shrug?… I remember the first time my mom took me here, I couldn’t have been more than seven or eight years old. If you look at the image above, and look down the street between the tall building you’ll see the roof of the Art Institute of Chicago, which is not only one of the FINEST art museums in the world, it’s also my Alma Mater. If you love German food, EAT HERE, this place has been rocking my socks off my whole life… if you don’t… at least try the root beer and look around, the interior is just amazing to look at and reeks of Chicago history (photos and murals of Chicago Exposition line the walls)

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AND THIS is also a route 66 establishment — and I never realized it was that until this trip. Did I mention I have been eaten here my whole life.

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If you look carefully at the building, you’ll see how the sign above… which I’ve never seen before, and keep in mind the roman looking building is Art Institute of Chicago, were I went to school for four years….. and this one below are on either end of the same city block…

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The Iconic Berghoff Resturant in Downtown Chicago, Illinois

The Berghoff Restaurant is a MUST visit traditional German restaurant in downtown Chicago, which is also one of the city’s landmarks. First opened in 1898 by Herman Joseph Berghoff, a recent immigrant from Germany, this restaurant has been run by successive generations of the founding family until it first closed 2006. Unrecognized by the family, the restaurant was so iconic to Chicago residents that its closing created something of major scandal, with outcries of horror and loss so resounding and vociferous that one of the great-grandchildren of the founders, who had not wanted to run it, changed her mind and reopened it shortly there after.

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In 2016 that same great-granddaughter (who REALLY had not wanted to run) sold it to her brother, but other than laying off the entire staff and only rehiring the ones who were NOT cantankerous old farts (I will say service has improved MARKEDLY since they did it) nothing has really changed.

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They have essentially kept the menu full of its old artery clogging classics, but have added some new newer, healthier options (when people ask me what German food is like I describe it thus, “meat, meat, meat… more meat, a bit more meat… and something white on the side.”). So if you look at the images below it is photos from two different visits one in 2013, with a friend visiting from China, and the other with a one I’ve known my whole life (I actually just went to the Shiva for her mother in law last night) where we got healthy food.

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Eating at the Berghoffs with friends: 2013 left, when we got a corned beef sandwich… and the difference in 2017, a healthy plate of grilled fish and veggies with very little oil, on the right

I remember the first time my mom took me here, I couldn’t have been more than seven or eight years old. If you look at the very first image of this post (see above), and look down the street between the tall building you’ll see the roof of what is the Art Institute of Chicago, which is not only one of the FINEST art museums in the world, it’s also my Alma Mater. Every time my mom took me there, that visit was almost always followed up by a meal the Berghoff.

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This time, like EVERY other, I got a mug of their Root-beer. I LOVE their root beer, it has a licorice taste to it which you don’t normally find in root beers. That said, during this last visit I noted they were installing a microbrewery INSIDE the restaurant. This place has ALWAYS had their own brew, but I guess having the huge brewing vat sitting in your place makes you a bit trendier (and hopefully more profitable) … but again, no substantial changes.

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All through the restaurant are murals and photographs of the Chicago world’s fair, including this one bottom left of the ORIGINAL Ferris Wheel (sometimes referred to as the Chicago Wheel), which served as an attraction back in 1893 at the World’s Columbian Exposition, i.e., the White City, i.e., the Chicago world’s fair, which was held along the lake on Chicago South’s side. In its honor Chicago has opened up one on Navy Pier by the lake, which offers some great views of the city

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One thing that I had never realized and this is one of my favorite places to go to where I have eaten at my whole life… is that the Adams street, where the Berghoff is located, is also one of the end points for Route 66… who knew?

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Lou Mitchell’s Restaurant & Bakery, Chicago, IL

Lou Mitchell’s Restaurant & Bakery located just outside of the loop in Chicago Illinois, is probably the only historic Route 66 eatery to be in the Michelin guide (here’s the link)

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In spite of this being a Chicago institution, I think this is probably my very first time eating at Lou Mitchell’s. This is ironic, considering that I was born and raised in the northern suburbs and got my undergraduate degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, which is about a 10 minute walk away.

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The most likely reason for this is that Lou Mitchell’s only does breakfast and lunch and my family usually came downtown in the evenings, and I ate my lunches during college either in the school cafeteria or at any of the restaurants within a block or two of school.

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I got the apple and cheddar omelette because I’ve never had one before… which was served with Greek toast (toast made using greek style bread with sesame seeds on it). The omelette is ridiculously fluffy… it’s good.. but would have been better with a much sharper cheddar, and maybe folding the apples INTO the omelette rather than topping it… and I think raw crispy apples that were tart would have been better than cooked

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That said there was clear Route 66 theme to the restaurant, with all the 66 branded stuff being specific to the restaurant rather than any of that hopeless generic stuff.

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Adelaide Australia

I was only in Adelaide for about two and a half days (arrived Feb 15th, around dinner time, left Feb 18th, 2018, around noon), and most of that time was spent convalescing (from the massive concussion I was suffering), so I really didn’t get to see more than glimpse of the place. That said, I would happily go back again. It’s the sort of city that’s big enough to have a bit of everything you’d want in a city, but not so crowded that you can’t find a parking space. (Sort of like Evanston, IL, or Chattanooga, TN) — also not many photos were taken

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The first night we were there my travel buddy (who is an Aussie himself) walked me over to the “Rundle Mall” partly just to see it, but also because we needed to run by the local Target (yes Australia has this chain too) in order to pick up REALLY BASIC things the Airbnb host had not thought to provide for us, and I’m talking pillows and towels sufficient for two people. (This Airbnb sucked so bad that the sheets on the bed didn’t pass the sniff test — not by a long shot — for having been washed after the last guest had left.)

Oh, and he told me that in Australia the term ‘a mall’ tends to refer to a human-traffic only shopping street (cars are excluded), which may or may not be covered, as if not more often than it means a massive indoor shopping town, as it almost always does in the USA. An arcade by comparison isn’t a place full of games, but rather it’s something like the picture below (which is closer to an American idea of a mall, only it seems to be one walkway with shops on each side)fullsizeoutput_41c4.jpegThis sculpture located in mall and according to my  is fairly iconic to Adelaide, and is titled, A day out. I only took the one picture, but it actually consists of a four different pigs scattered about….

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If you look carefully at the bench where the guy is sitting and talking on his phone, below it is a 2nd pig….

Alongside the pigs statue (I’m blanking on the correct word, I’m finding my ability to recall words is still not back to 100% even though it’s almost six months since my accident)… OH, remembered it… the ‘art-term’ I was searching for was an installation, since it’s actually a collection of statues rather than one.

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Adjacent to the pig statues stood this group of protestors, the screens were all showing a movie that demonstrated the conditions of pigs on farms, including how they were killed, and the squeals. The protesters stood there silently. Add the two things together and you really do essentially have a performance art piece… even if it wasn’t what was intended by the artist of the pigs.fullsizeoutput_41c3

This art piece is another Adelaide landmark called either Mall’s Balls (I have a feeling this is Aussie humor), or ‘the spheres’ that serves as a meeting spot for people.

(the google map refuses to embed, so please check this link for the location)

Personally, it reminded me as an inferior version of Chicago’s (my home town) Cloud Gate, affectionately referred to, and better known as “the bean” — in fact I doubt most Chicagoans could tell you the proper name.

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During my time there I ate at one fairly decent restaurant, a Japanese place called Gyoza-Gyoza, which is apparently a local chain Japanese Izakayas (sort of the Japanese version of a pub, where folks come after work to drink and eat).

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A matter of health… Two years later

Some of you may remember that on May 9, 2016 I was diagnosed with non alcholic fatty liver disease, and told that if I didn’t get it under control I would need a new liver. I am THILLED to announce that it is under control! I just got back from the doctor and my liver numbers all came back normal… like not even high in the normal range… utterly and completely NORMAL. It took me about two years of maintaining a very strict low fat diet where I was essentially trying to irradicate it from my diet entirely (except for fat from things like fish, nuts, or small servings of avacado & dairy). Not only that but having been pre-diabetic now for about 20 years, where my sugar was high, but I managed to keep it just low enough as to not necessitate insuline or meds (I was adament that I be allowed to try to control it with diet), my blood sugar has ALSO tested completley normal (I’m convinced there’s a connection).

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This is my chart from back on Sept. 1, 2016, about 6 months after then initial diagnosis, when I convinced the doctors that I could do it without medications

For those who don’t remember…. Back in May of 2016 I swung through Chicago for my yearly checkup, weighed in at 185 lb (instead of 130, which is where I should have been), and was informed that not only were my sugar and cholesterol shooting up, but I had developed fatty liver disease; and, if I didn’t do something, and do it quick, I was going to need a new liver. YOUCH!!! She said I had to make an appointment with a liver specialist ASAP, and I had to change my diet immediately, to as low fat as possible. Mostly fish, a little chicken, no beef at all, and as low fat as possible, so I could NOT eat at restaurants anymore.

However, I was only in town for two weeks, not enough time to even book an appointment with the specialist, had already paid for lodgings in Canada for June through August, and I knew I would not be back in Chicago until the beginning of September, when an old friend was getting married.

[Note: This, my dear reader is why pretty much every meal after May 2016 consisted of fish, and something low fat and full of fiber on the side. NOT eating at restaurants wasn’t going to fly, so I had to come up with some pretty fierce protocols to makes sure that didn’t harm me. I know this sounds extreme but,…. I start every order with the explanation: “this is not about me wanting to loose a few pounds, this is about me having liver disease and if I am not VERY VERY careful needing to try to try find a new liver and get a transplant. So, unless you want to quite literally poison me, unless you want to be partially responsible for my death, you need to listen very carefully.” … it seems to work.]

It’s also why I had scheduled, as I promised my doctor that I would, two full months in Chicago in September/October of 2016…. In mid October I went to the liver specialist, and was greeted with GOOD NEWS!!! Instead of 185 lb, I was 150 lb…  35 lb lost in five months….  and as the above chart showed, all my bad liver numbers had dropped.

Then they did a liver scan and he said there was no evidence of any scarring of the liver, i.e., cirrhosis. That he was very hopeful and happy (and how nice it was to have a patient who actually did what the doctor said to do). I was instructed to keep doing what I’m doing in terms of my low fat diet and exercise, till the liver number have come all the way down, but that he didn’t want to see me for two years, at which point he’d want to run tests again.

It is now TWO years later, and while I admit my careful eating, which involved careful ordering and ripping the heads off of restaurant staff that brought me anything oily was not always consistent, it’s been what was necessary to continue the downward movement of the really important numbers!

That said, I’ve actually managed to do it while STILL putting on a lot of weight over the course of the last year…. I had dropped down to a very happy 135 lb for a while, but in the last year I sadly have climbed back up to around 157 lb again…

That said, as I’m writing this I just realized my GP has to write me a referral so that I can make an appointment to see the liver doctor again this coming October/November (like he asked for)… and she forgot to do it… going to call her now.

Momotaro Japanese Restaurant; Chicago, IL

Some friends and I went to dinner at the Momotaro Japanese restaurant, which is considered by the Chicago Tribune’s food critic as the 5th best restaurant in Chicago (with 50 eateries in the list). And overall I was seriously impressed. It was GREAT Japanese food at really reasonable prices.

Over the last 5 years I’ve either been S. Korea, or dealing with family stuff, or traveling. Apparently, during that time Chicago — my home town — had undergone a food revolution that I took no part in. Recently I’ve been reading these lists talking about how Chicago was one of the best restaurants towns in the US, only I’d not only never eaten at any of the ones on the list, I hadn’t even heard of them.

So when some married friends and I decided to have dinner, I really wanted to try one of the restaurants on the list… as it was a Sunday (and most of the best places are closed Sunday nights) that immediately limited our options, and then there had to be things on the menu that I could eat. Finally we thought about how hard or difficult it might be to find parking. Ultimately we narrowed the list to Momotaro, Longman and Eagle, GT fish & Oyster, & lula cafe…. but ultimately picked Momotaro because they had Mentaiko Spaghetti on their menu.

For those who have never spent any real time in Japan, this is the Japanese version of Spaghetti, the CHEAP kind, the kind you find in train stations and school cafeterias. Instead of tomato sauce the fish is covered in the cheapest fish eggs out there. I did a summer internship once for a Japanese company in Tokyo, and we’d have this every Wednesday for lunch… I thought it was the most disgusting thing ever… so seeing it on the menu of a restaurant that was supposed to be among the top 5 in Chicago, amused me no end.

MENTAIKO SPAGHETTI….. tokyo specialty, organic egg, chili spiked cod roe

So Momotaro’s it was going to be … because you know, Japanese cafeteria food at $18 a serving….

But ultimately, it turned out to be a Mea culpa moment for me … let’s just say that IF the spaghetti with fish eggs at the company cafeteria had tasted ANYTHING like what we had, I’d have been chomping down on it with relish… when I took my first mouthful I actually yelled out, “OH MY GOD!!!” it was an orgasm of the mouth… unfortunately we forgot to take any photos of it before we ate it… but I STRONGLY suggest ordering it if you go there… it was amazing!

There was also an equally amazing seaweed salad called “Ogo” made with all sorts of seaweeds and edible kelp I’d never tasted before, apparently flown in specially from Hawaii … “Hawaiian seaweed, nopales, konbu” … again no photos, but probably the best seaweed salad I’d ever had. It was so good we were tempted to order seconds.
I also had a very tasty, but not mind blowing, CHAWAN MUSHI; while it’s normally one of my very favorite Japanese dishes, a sort of steamed egg custard dish often served at breakfast ….. and while this one was made with with alaskan king crab, black truffle
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I have to admit it didn’t rock my boat. They had made it more complicated but not better
Then we had the “WILD ALASKAN SALMON DON BURI” ….. yuan yaki salmon, smoked roe, simmered spring vegetables … which was also very tasty.
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This was also very good, but again didn’t amaze me anywhere near as much as the seaweed salad had.
This was followed by:
CEDAR ROASTED KURODAI…..whole sea bream, yakumi, shiso dressing
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And we also had this… only I don’t think it was on the regular menu…
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All in all it was some of the best Japanese food I’d ever had. Dishes were “elevated” without being westernized, which is is a pretty impressive feat to pull off. I would HAPPILY eat here again.

Re-reading, a book on Chinese History, and getting stuff done

The Search for Modern ChinaThe Search for Modern China by Jonathan D. Spence

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a REALLY well written book. First time I read it was for a course on the history of Modern China at my alma mater, Northwestern University. I think I took the course in 2010(??). And by modern they mean, post 1500 in the common era, i.e., ONLY in China is the ‘Modern’ era dated back to after the Fall of Constantinople.  I wish more history books were this well written.

That said, I’m currently “refreshing” my knowledge: i.e., am listening to the audio file via my iPhone, while getting stuff done, and I have to say the narrator is HORRIBLE (SOOOOOO glad I digitally borrowed this from the library instead of buying it from amazon). He is this really hoity toity sounding Brit who is so annoying I just want to smack him.

Something I think I’ve noticed (limited data as of yet) … the books that were read to a CD back in the day — like this one, aren’t as “well read” as the newer ones that go to Audible at initial release. I think the market has grown and matured enough, that customers are far more demanding, and hence the producers of these files have gotten better about who they hire to do the job. I think it’s doubtful that a history book will get re-recorded, so I’m suffering through…

(View all my reviews in Goodreads)

On the topic of, things to get done during this current stay in my home town:

  1. Catching up on blog posts I had neglected to write. I want this blog to start at least with my travels down to Florida last June, although I’m tempted to once I’ve done that also add in stuff from Asia from before dad died… not sure yet.
  2. I had to do ‘doctors medical stuff’ predominated by the fatty liver issues (and the threat of needing a new liver if I didn’t address them and NOW), which I have discussed already… but then I also had a normal G.P. checkup, a dental cleaning, etc.
  3. Having recently lost 40+ lb (it’s amazing how easily weight falls off when your eating a liver-healthy diet that is both low carb and very low fat).  I’m having to almost completely repack the clothes I carry with me in the car (socks still fit) — not only can I easily remove the pants I was wearing last December without having to even open them up, but I’ve even gone down two bra sizes, and am rapidly approaching needing to go down a third (and I’m talking circumference/back fat, not cup size). Heck… I’ve even changed coat sizes.However, before I could do that, I needed to move all my stuff from the attic of a friend in Orlando, Florida — who had kindly offered the space to me a year ago, back up to Chicago (where I currently am). There were two reasons for this, firstly: I realized over the course of the last year that Florida is the sort of place you really only want to go to in Winter (one season), while Chicago has two really nice seasons (Spring and Fall), and geographically is far more “centrally located”if your intent is to explore ALL of the North American Continent. The second reason is, my friend Gina (the one who flies out to meet me from time to time as I travel), had recently finished some major renovations to her home, which included fixing up her attic. While she was visiting me down in Florida last Thanksgiving, she kept saying to me, “really you need to think about my attic, we fixed it up and there’s nothing up there.” So last time I was in Chicago (in May) I took a look; and well, Let me put it this way: the attic in Florida is dehumidified and insulated so that it stays dry in the steamy Florida summers, and my friend there has lain down a handful of wooden boards across the cross beams for me to put my boxes on and have a place to stand, and there’s a terrifyingly rickety wooden ladder you have to climb to get up there … but otherwise it’s a small, cramped and mostly unfinished attic where you sort of have to negotiate where you put your feet so that you don’t go crashing through the ceiling; Gina’s attic, on the other hand, (and keep in mind that we’re both Jewish so I can say this with impunity) … when I saw it the first time I joked with her, “you could easily happily hide three or four Jewish families up here.” Not only does it have a proper floor, it is bright with windows (that you can open) and skylights, is larger than my old apartment in S. Korea, has a solid aluminum ladder, and they’ve even installed a pulley at the top for pulling things up (and or down) rather than having lug them up the stairs. So… no contest.That said, I had to now move my stuff back to Chicago. Keep in mine I had spent around $1,800 to hire a pod to schlep it all down to Florida only year ago, and now I was going to need to spend another $1,400 (same company, they price based on seasonal supply and demand) to bring it back up. Not happy about that, but I like most of my old clothes. I don’t really enjoy shopping for clothes all that much, and most of what I have not already given away (there is arguably still some excess), are what I refer to as “signature items” … or at least “office clothes” — stuff that isn’t me but dictated by social norms. I had, initially (a year ago), considered renting a truck from U-Haul, but did the math and realized the price was about the same if I drove it myself, or if I had them drive it for me (via a loaded pod). Then I searched around for the various pod companies and opted to go with U-Pack (a consumer subsidy of ABF Freight Systems).The reason came down to “core competencies” which is business jargon for what your company is so good at that other companies can try to copy you, but won’t do it as well or as cheaply. U-Haul started as a customer service company that rented cheap trucks to people who were trying to save money by moving their stuff themselves, and had only recently — in order to remain competitive — added on wooden pods (which they would move for you) to their product options. For their customer base it was all about price, and U-Haul as a result has a bit of a shoddy reputation when it comes to the quality of their trucks, etc. By Comparison, U-Pack had started out as a corporate logistics company (moving ‘less than full truck loads’ of valuable product for businesses — who as customers were demanding about tracking, on-time delivery and security while in transit), and they had only recently branched-out by adding a consumer service subdivision to compete with U-haul’s pods; but essentially, the only thing that had changed for them was the customer base, rather than what they themselves were doing. Their pods are metal and waterproof, so that even if there were a massive car accident during transit and the transit truck got (worst case scenario) turned over, your stuff would still be securely locked into the pod, rather than scattered around the highway. And the truck drivers are not allowed to stop anywhere other than at one of their strategically located and highly protected distribution centers, not even for bathroom breaks.However, that meant unloading my friend’s attic and loading up the pod. This was achieved with the help of my friend down in Florida (we hired a local handyman to do the actual lifting, way cheaper than flying down myself) … only he didn’t pack the Pod correctly the first time (I insisted that my friend send me photos before it was locked up) — and there is in fact a “correct” way to do it, if you stop to think about it (and the guys who work for U-Pack know this, but don’t tell you).
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    This is the wrong way to pack a pod

    As a general rule, when you’re packing a pod you want the contents to be LEVEL… very important!!! That said, along the interior of these pods are metal strips with holes in them, intended for bungee cords… which you can cheaply in bulk from Amazon (way cheaper than from a hardware store). And you when installed want the bungees to be as tight as possible, which means they should wrap behind the times, not just sit in front of them… So I said, “sorry, he’s going to have to repack it.” and I sent him a picture of how it had looked when I initially sent it down to Florida (see the difference?)

    11420135_10203611294476433_471431138_o.jpg
    This is the right way, same contents as in the image above

    So I had to pay him (I was paying by the hour rather than the job), to repack it — both he and my friend thought I was being nit-picky and high maintenance, but it was my money… so he did.
    Six hours of work total at $15/hour = $90, but I gave him $100.

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    Pod repacked
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    Pod being delivered to Chicago

    And this is what the contents looked like when I unpacked opened the doors in Chicago… Jostled to be sure, but the only item that fell out when I opened the doors was one lidded plastic bin that had been sitting on top of the blue VCR box — and it’s lid was still attached, so no problem.img_6647
    I then hired the same highly affordable local (Glenview) movers who had moved my furniture and household stuff from my father’s house into a storage locker to carry all the boxes up the ladder into the attic, these guys charged almost double what the handyman charged me (but still reasonable considering they are licensed, insured, and have a premesis to maintain).

    $192.50, for 3 men @ $154 per hour: 1.25 hours, including the time it took them to drive to and from the job.

    11252027_10205046840585257_2308558818015037177_o

    So Now I’m having to go over to my friends house every few days to organize the boxes so I can easily find things (they got put up there randomly) and then pull out the things I want to keep with me, as well as (in an methodical and organized manner) returning to the boxes the stuff I have been wearing the last few months, so that I can easily find them again later.

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    An ‘traditional yet modern’ Korean Top I had purchased when first arriving there

    And rejoicing (which of course means sharing with my friends on FB) in the fact that stuff I had “out-grown” fits again

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    A chain-mail belt that a friend had knit for me by hand
  4. Selling dad’s (our) house: The home I grew up in has been on the market now since May, and we’ve reduced the price three times so that it’s now going for only 500K, and still no reasonable offers (a few years back a developer came in off the street and offered dad an even million for it, and dad had refused to sell thinking he could get more). And of course, even an empty house needs upkeep. While I was in Canada the whole neighborhood got flooded, with our basement filling up almost mid calf deep. So I’ve been dealing with maid services and gardeners, and just last week we discovered that the flood had KILLED our boiler & our water heater. The house was built in 1910, and the boiler had originally burned coal (there’s an actual coal room in our basement). In the 1930’s it had been converted to burning gas. Apparently during the last flood water got into the electronics of the system, so that it no longer opens the door to allow in gas. So I’m now bringing in heater specialists to see if anyone is willing to fix it, and best prices for replacing it (so far the one company that has seen it has refused the job because the parts are no longer made, meaning they would have to Jerry-rigged something, and that would make them liable if anything went wrong). My brother however wants to just drain all the water from the house, rather than replace it (like I said, the house is on the market)… but that would make it harder to sell since, not only would it be very cold, but visitors would not be able to use the bathroom or turn on a faucet.
  5. Meeting with my financial planners: My brother used to be my stock broker, but he contacted me a few weeks back and said he’d decided to give up his license in Illinois (he lives in Indiana), since he had almost no customers here anymore and it costs him a lot of money to renew, and as such, I needed to find a new broker. Ah paperwork… also, apparently, there are new federal laws about money market accounts that basically mean we can now LOOSE money in them even if they go up (they used to be just like bank accounts but better) so I have to go to my various banks and change that.
  6. Am contemplating getting a 10 year multi entry visa for China, just so I can pop over there impulsively. These things only became available in 2014 (the year dad died), before then they were only good for six months to three years. Apparently you HAVE to do it at the consulate that services the state where you live… which is not true for other countries.
  7. VOTE!!!!

Cars & Books on Tape, the digital edition

I’ve been listening to a lot of books on tape during my long drives across the continent. Used to be I’d never have done this; I had tried listening to a book on tape many years ago while driving and realized that it distracted me from the task at hand, so I stopped. It is an oft neglected truth that driving is the single most dangerous thing any person is likely to do on any day; it is more likely to kill you than terrorism or cancer, or any other of the boogie-men of modern society. To quote Robert A. Heinlein‘s book Friday (one of my favorites — reread it countless times, and just refinished it a few days ago: “This rule is analogous to the fact that the person most likely to murder you is some member of your own family-and that grim statistic is ignored too; it has to be. Live in fear of your own family? Better to be dead!”) People are the same way about driving, and to their detriment. I’m more than half way through my life (I have no expectation of getting to 100), and I’ve already lost more friends and or loved ones to death by car than from anything else, so I don’t ever forget that fact. When I read books, I tend to get a sort of film playing inside my brain, like a half-awake dream, and I discovered the same thing happens when I listen to a book on tape when driving, and I find myself slipping into looking at that more so than the road … so for years I just wouldn’t do it — but things have changed.

About — come to think of it, it was almost an exact year ago (2015), after having spent about seven full hours at Universal’s Amusement park in Orlando, attending their annual Halloween Horror Nights event (I’ll write a review of it at some point, but let’s just say, “No, don’t go”) … I got into a horrible car accident on the I4 expressway while driving home that totaled my car. The park closed at 1:00 am, and by the time I got to my car and to driving home at about 2:00 am, I was seriously fatigued — enough so that my response time was just a fraction too slow, when the car in front of me slammed to a stop to avoid the car accident that had just happened in front of her. I braked hard enough to keep from killing myself, but was just a second too late to avoid a collision. The car crumpled, taking the majority of the impact, and the air bags and my safety-belt kept me from more than some impressive bruising. (The occupants of the car I hit were apparently fine, other than a good fright — this according to the teenage boy who came by my car to talk to me, and just dumped their rental car and grabbed a cab to the airport — which is where they had been heading).

I, on the other hand, was taken to the hospital (there was a worry that my ribs may have been cracked by the airbag, but were just bruised), and ended up in bed for over two solid weeks, because the impact not only sprained a few joints, but also set off a horrible case of positional vertigo that for days afterwards resulted in any slight movement of my head setting the room to spinning around me. And for those who have not had the pleasure, it’s like being on a roller coaster that spins you around, and not being able to get off. It is something I’ve been struggling with now for about 10 years, a side effect of an allergic reaction to penicillin that damaged my inner ear — according to the doctors; it can be, and was, brought on like gang busters by things like a car accident. It is also why I no longer will ride even the gentlest roller-coasters, or any amusement park rides that involves spinning. Firstly, those things are no longer fun for me, and more importantly, they can actually trigger the sensations so that I’m too dizzy to walk unassisted for at least the next hour or so.

After the accident, once I was healed fully and able to get back on the horse (so to speak), I had to do something that I’ve never before done alone, buy a new car. I suppose it’s a rite of passage, of a sort. Till then pretty much every car I had was a hand-me-down from my parents, or were used ones purchased with my father by my side, making sure his little girl didn’t get fleeced. (Side note: One year my new years resolutions included, ‘I will learn to drive a stick’ which meant us buying me a really old but reputed to be reliable Saab 900 with very little acceleration for $1,000 — with the expectation of my stripping the gears while learning; as luck would have it, it turned out to be so ridiculously reliable that it lasted me about four years, until its said lack of power finally got on my nerves, and I traded it in for a newer used Saab, which turned out to be a hell of lot less reliable.) But, like I said before, my dad had died, and I was now for the first time in my life having to learn to function without that sort of support.

I ended up posting my need to Facebook, and relying on the collective advise of friends — and cross correlating those with the most recent IIHS safety awards. From that, I only allowed myself to consider cars that were also on their TSP+ rated list (with “advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention”). My final considerations were: 1) sufficient power to keep a fully loaded car going up a steep hill at the speed limit, 2) enough trunk capacity for my three suitcases and other crap (a friend convinced me that loading anything that looked ‘potentially desirable’ into anyplace visible to thieves might result in break-ins), 4) a sunroof (highly useful in hot climates when you need to cool down a previously parked car), and finally, what I — as a single woman traveling alone — affectionately refer to as, 5) the “rape button” (a Telematics system, like OnStar, or any of the other equivalent ones, which automatically call for help when the airbag is deployed, or if you hit an emergency button — plus a host of other functions).

Ultimately, I bought a 6-cylinder Subaru Legacy (the brand all my female friends were pointing me towards) with “EyeSight” and all the other safety bells and whistles, which initially I bought because it was more ‘functional’ than sexy. (I only later discovered that it is considered the car of choice for Lesbians — that said, one thing you say for those gals, they’re practical, as is this car.) I however — having sort of been lured towards other sexier cars that were more fun to drive, but always lacked one or other of the full assortment of features I had decided I needed, had compared the Subaru to “a nice, honest, hard working, if slightly plain, girl who is also a very good cook” when describing it to the salesman. That said, I passed over the cheer leaders and got the Subaru, and I have since fallen very much in love with it.

In order to get “all the safety” stuff I wanted, I was also forced to buy the packages that included things like leather seats and all sorts of other things I didn’t necessarily want or need, but obviously didn’t mind (seat warmers, etc). My priority however was SAFETY! After having just had a head-on accident that could have killed me — and also been struck with the thought that, if I had, let’s say, run into a deer at night on a lonely road, “who would have called 911?”, that was first and foremost on my mind.  And, it extended all the way from wanting state of the art, high-tech, crash avoidance systems to the aforementioned “rape button” — which also necessitated buying a yearly subscription to the satellite system the telemetrics system communicates with. I will note however, when I called my insurance provider to tell them the Vin Number on my car, and to hear just how much of a hit to my insurance this new car would cost me, my agent typed in the number and started laughing.
“What?” I asked her, “what’s so funny?”
She answered: “Your old car was a ’97 Nissan Sentra, and you paid ‘$X’ — your brand new car with leather seats and everything else is going to cost you only $0.67 more. I’ve NEVER seen anything like this before… its considered SO MUCH SAFER than your old one that even though it’s brand new, and 20 years newer than your old car, the insurance costs are almost the same.”

So, returning to the topic at hand, books on tape; like I said before, because I found that listening to the books distracted me a little, and made me less of a safe driver… and considering that driving a car is the single most dangerous thing most of us do, I had long ago stopped listening to them when driving. But this car… it is a wonder of modern technology. The thing practically drives itself. It is not yet to the point where you can set the destination into the computer and climb into the back seat, like with the Tesla, but it’s not far from it. You still need to steer the thing, and it can’t see red lights or stop signs, but if you set it to cruise it can see the car in front of you and will slow down to keep a safe following distance between you and it. This is GREAT for long distance highway driving where road fatigue tends to make you a bit less safe, and even better for stop and go highway driving. If the car in front of you comes to a full stop, even if you never touch the break, so will your car. If the car in front of you than starts to move, and you neglect to notice, it tells you. If you have been driving for two hours without a break, the car starts beeping at you to turn off the engine and stretch your legs. Hit a different button, and it can usually see the lanes in the road, and keep you from crossing over them unintentionally. If for some reason the EyeSight system is NOT working (which can happen because of adverse conditions, like heavy rain or fog), the system warns you that you need to take over (or better yet, get the hell off the road). Once I got to the point where I realized I could in fact trust the car, that just as my insurance provider thought that it was hell-of-beans safer than driving a traditional car, a friend convinced me to give books on tape a try during my hours long cross country treks, so I did.

My downsizing of my life had actually begun a few years before my dad had died, when I moved to S. Korea to teach University. Clearly, schlepping my book collection across the ocean made no sense, and apartments in Asian cities are cramped, the way apartments in Manhattan are cramped. So, I had purchased two Kindles from Amazon (one for the home, one for at work — I would listen to books while proctoring exams, etc.), and loaded those up with e-books. In general, I only purchased books where the publishers allowed for text-to-speech, as audio-books at the time were very pricey (and you get used to computer voice the same way you might a friend’s heavy accent — for the most part, it does a decent job).

Then after dad died and I had decided to hit the road, I happened to notice that, and this was well AFTER they had purchased Audible in 2008, Amazon was offering deals; if you already owned the e-book Amazon would allow you to upgrade to the Audible version, sometimes for only a dollar or two more. I started off with one or two books that were cheap upgrades of eBooks I had not yet gotten around to reading, decided that the upgrade was worth the price, and did the same for more… and then once I got my new car, and realized that I could now listen to books while driving, I decided it was worth it to me to join their special club for audible users, which offers discounts on books I didn’t already own, etc. My new car’s entertainment system also came with all sorts of bells and whistles I was slow to discover, such as multiple sound ports, as well as a plethora of USB ports, all of which were hidden discreetly in closed compartments, away from prying eyes. And then after a while I stumbled upon the fact that the USB ports doubled as sound ports for the iPhone. After that I had the brain fart that since my car would also link any sound played from the iPhone into the stereo system, and since I was no longer using text-to-speech, I didn’t really NEED to be using the Kindles anymore while in the car.

At that point, let’s just say I got a bit ‘over excited’ by my audible purchases, and started to run up quite the bill. I happened to mention this on Facebook, and got a round ribbing from friends about, “why aren’t you borrowing them from the library instead of buying them?” And I was like, “I’m driving all around the country, I can’t borrow CD’s and then return them, I need digital.” And then was assured that the libraries now lend those out too… who knew? To be honest, I haven’t used a public library in years, so I was kind of behind the curve. Last time I had checked, maybe ten years ago, they had not yet gotten with the e-book program, and you know… time flies when you aren’t paying attention (that and there are all sorts of free sites for e-books these day, such as the Gutenberg project which has over 53,000 freely available books at this point). So last week, since I’m currently in the area anyway, I went to my local public library, checked into it… sure enough they do now lend audible books via a web site (although the selection is very limited, if its not a bestseller odds are you won’t find it there; even the selection of masterworks is kind of sketchy). Also, I learned that my library card, which had worked without need of any sort of update since I was in the 2nd grade (so over 40 years), was no longer any good. They have a new system now — possibly as a result of 9/11 and the Patriot Act, where its has to be renewed every three years, so I did that.

That said, when I compared what I owned, to what was available to borrow, I was much relieved to find only a small handful of overlap. MOST of my books that I had purchased tend to fall into the category of history books, or the sorts of things you would read for a University class, and only a handful of those were best sellers. In fact, when comparing the two collections I only found three history books (that I owned), and my Game of Thrones series to be duplicated (as in I could have borrowed instead of purchased). Huge sigh of relief. I then sat down and a fairly exhaustive search of the library collection of audible’s to borrow, and only found 93 books I was interested in. … I will take the 5th on how many others I already own. Let’s just say, between the two I’m set for books for a few years to come, and they don’t weigh anything, or cost me anything to shelp around.

 

 

 

 

A matter of health…

So, Chicago is my hometown, and it’s where most of my doctors are all located, and where my health insurance expects me to be if I need more than some sort of emergency care … which isn’t a bad thing considering that Chicago has some of the best doctors in the world. In fact when in Florida last year, during the Jewish high holidays — it’s again Yom Kippur tonight (the day where Jews repent their sins), and I’m not at shul as I should be because I’m suffering a bit of a cold *cough* –Anyway, last year at this time (by the Jewish Calendar)  I was talking with a surgeon who said ‘if you live the US and you’re sick, you really want to be in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago… and if your a geriatric, Florida’ (where apparently they put more of an effort into trying to keep their elderly customers alive).

So, the long and short of it is I’m back in Chicago, at least through the election, in order to deal with some fairly serious medical issues.

Let me start off by saying, I’m very much a yo-yo dieter in the extreme, and as of about a year ago (let’s say Dec. of 2015) I was about 100 lb over weight… I can’t be sure of the exact number because I stopped stepping on scales after I hit 190 lb.

To put this in context: In my early to mid 20’s I was too petite  — the inverse problem of where I ended up. I generally, if at a healthy weight, weighed in at between 110 and 115 lb. (I’m 5’4″ and have VERY light bones, bird like even). I wore a size 4, and the bra size was 28 DD – the smallest chest cavity circumference on the market, but big boobs, so I looked like a 34 C but with twice the weight to lug around (yes I slump my shoulders). If I was VERY skinny, say I had dropped down to 100 lb, I would reduce to D cup or sometimes even a C., could fit into size 27″ size women’s jeans … and would find myself in tears when shopping because there were no cloths in the women’s department small enough for me, with size zero being loose on me … Oh, and considered myself horribly fat if I had gained enough to wear a size 6 or 8, … Oh those were the days!!

In my mid 30’s I started to get a bit heavier. I started wear a 6 or an 8 more regularly, (and increased to an H cup bra, but still with a 28 circumference). About then was when the doctors started to talk to me about needing to watch my cholesterol, and by my early 40’s they were talking to me about adult on-set diabetes (type 2) becoming a risk.

As a result, Pretty much since I was 35 I have been an on again and off again low carbohydrate eater, in order to try to stave off the diabetes (I hate needles). How ‘good’ I was about it often varied with my mood. About then one friend of mine noticed that I’d gone from always being pear shaped, and getting my weight in my hips and tits, to starting to expand in the mid-section, and to walk with a waddle.

That said, I’m a stress eater, and in times of high stress — like when in my late 30’s when because of what was happening with my stomach I was ultimately misdiagnosed me as having Ovarian Cancer (and told I needed a radical hysterectomy), I developed what I described as a close and loving relationship with both Ben and Jerry… However, since I WAS eating low Carb — or trying to, and WAS taking a statin to control my high cholesterol, I figured I could indulge myself on other things… like: fried chicken, fried cheese, fried jalapenos stuffed with cheese, fried calamari, fried mushrooms dipped in blue cheese dressing, cheesy broccoli, steaks, … need I go on? If it had the word fried in front of it, it was my friend.

Regarding the cancer scare… I ecstatically found out from a second opinion I got before letting them those idiots cut me open, that they were in fact WRONG, and what they thought was cancer was just a really horribly advanced case of endometriosis, the worst the doctor had ever seen. I say “just” because there are pills for that, cheap ones even … namely birth control pills. Most women the first sign of endometriosis is pain, so usually it’s caught early;  I had however none … so by the time they caught it it had managed to pull all my internal organs out of proper alignment, and was only inches away from invading my lungs — and if that had happened it WOULD have killed me.

Three weeks after the surgery for my endometriosis (it was supposed to be a 15 minute exploratory but turned into 6 hours on the table as my doctor weeded my garden) my gall bladder, after years and years of yo-yo dieting cried uncle and demanded that it be removed… THAT NIGHT… So, in an emergency surgery (because a bunch of gallstones got stuck in the pipe leading to the stomach, which resulted in sever pain and unrelenting barfing…) the gallbladder came out. After that, and because of it, I dropped back to about 130 lb as a result of having to add a VERY low fat diet to my low carb one… initially no more than 5g of fat per meal, and then slowly increasing it over time as the stomach adjusted to the absence of a Gallbladder.

But, like I said, that was only temporary, and once I could eat a high fat meal without it resulting in sever diarrhea, I went right back to eating a high fat diet. mmmmmm, deep fried mushrooms and jalapeno poppers dipped in blue cheese or ranch dressing… mmmmm  Then, during my few years of teaching in S. Korea, my weight started at 130 but did a slow and steady climb till I was back in the mid 155lb range. If you think being fat in the USA is hard, try in in S. Korea, where ideas of beauty actually prefer everyone and everything err on the side of cookie cutter uniformity.

Koreans believe there is ONE (ONE) perfect face, and most of Korean students had been given a “college acceptance present” from their parents of plastic surgery in their attempt to achieve it. This is what resulted in the Miss Korea debacle, where all the contestants looked alike:

No really, these are all different girls — its a combination of plastic surgery, and makeup intended to emphasize their uniformity that resulted in the above…  Oh, and keep in mind, the fact that they all looked so-alike was considered a “GOOD” thing, at least until the Koreans realized that the rest of the world was laughing at them because of it… then they released pictures of the same girls with no makeup….

On top of uniformity of face, Koreans also want to see uniformity of body… and in Korea the one size fits all clothing (which in women’s clothes is 95% of it) is a US size small. AND, my Korean female students who wore a size small T-shirt (US size — it’s a medium in Korea), all considered themselves fat. When I tried shopping for clothes in Korea women at the stalls would, towards the end of stay, take one look at me and just shake their heads. I was forced to go to men’s stores only, and buy X-large men’s size (US large) shirts… for pants I was actually sizing myself out of the available sizes, with only a handful of the larger chains even carrying my size.

Then dad died, and I came home to the single most stressful year of my life, so stressful that I thought I was having a heart attack because my heart would regularly feel like it was encased in ice… a really weird sensation. When I called the doctor she said, “that’s a high stress symptom, you NEED to reduce your stress or it will kill you.” At this point I had grown completely out of my own clothes, but I was able to wear my dad’s cloths, I”m 5’4″ and he was 5’10″… and a lot of the ones from when he had been skinny now fit me. That is when I decided I had taken about as much family bullshit as I could manage, packed up all my stuff into storage and took to the road. For the first few months I was down in Orlando, going to the Disney Parks almost daily… and eating healthy there, is beyond a struggle. As a result, in spite of the fact that I was walking way more, I was STILL gaining weight. I was wearing size 38 or 40″ waist jeans (keep in mind in my 20’s I was wearing 27 or 28″ jeans), and buying size L or X-Large (US) tops. In January I finally snapped out of my depression and started to alter my diet (less comfort foods, more healthy), and started to loose weigh — although two months in Georgia, (March and April), the land of all things fried where even the all day breakfast at McD’s only has the Egg-McMuffin on a biscuit (instead of the much lower fat English Muffin), did not help.

In May I swung through Chicago for my yearly checkup, weighed in at 185 lb, and was informed that not only were my sugar and cholesterol shooting up, but I had developed fatty liver disease; and, if I didn’t do something, and do it quick, I was going to need a new liver. YOUCH!!! She said I had to make an appointment with a liver specialist ASAP, and I had to change my diet immediately, to as low fat as possible. Mostly fish, a little chicken, no beef at all, and as low fat as possible, so I could NOT eat at restaurants anymore.

However, I was only in town for two weeks, not enough time to even book an appointment with the specialist, had already paid for lodgings in Canada for June through August, and I knew I would not be back in Chicago until the beginning of September, when an old friend was getting married.

This, my dear reader is why pretty much every meal after May consisted of fish, and something low fat and full of fiber on the side. NOT eating at restaurants wasn’t going to fly, so I had to come up with some pretty fierce protocols to makes sure that didn’t harm me. I know this sounds extreme but,…. I start every order with the explanation: “this is not about me wanting to loose a few pounds, this is about me having liver disease and if I am not VERY VERY careful needing to try to try find a new liver and get a transplant. So, unless you want to quite literally poison me, unless you want to be partially responsible for my death, you need to listen very carefully.” … it seems to work.

It’s also why I scheduled, as I promised her I would, two full months in Chicago come September/October …. which is where I currently am. First thing I did was to go to the liver specialist, and was greeted with GOOD NEWS!!! Instead of 185 lb, I was now 157 lb…  28 lb lost in four months…. about 2 lb a week which is a healthy weight loss … and all my bad liver numbers had dropped.

My three solid months of eating right, which involved careful ordering and ripping the heads off of restaurant staff that brought me anything oily, has resulted in a huge dip in my liver numbers. He showed me a chart, and my liver numbers that have been climbing now for the last 6 years (and this my doctor never really made that clear to me), or pretty much ever since they had taken out the Gall-bladder. He showed me a chart and there was this one yellow line that just climbed and climbed… at least till last May.

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The red line was other liver numbers… which had also had climbed, but less steadily, both of which were suddenly coming down, and with a will. He said to me, “I don’t know what you’re doing, but keep doing it!” I think if you loose 10 lb more, you’ll be out the danger area… but keep going.

Later this week I’m scheduled for a special sort of liver test where they are going to try to determine if any Cirrhosis of the Liver has developed… he doesn’t think so, based on my numbers, but he needs to double check with this special sort of pictures. IF I fail that test — or it’s inconclusive, THEN they will need to do a biopsy.

 

Edit: Friday October 14th… just had the liver test. Firstly, they weighed me in, I was 157 on Sept. 7th, and the doctor said I had to loose at least 10 lb more…. I weight in at 150lb today… so he was VERY happy with that. Then they did the liver scan and he said there was no evidence of any scarring of the liver, i.e., cirrhosis. That he was very hopeful and happy (and how nice it was to have a patient who actually did what the doctor said to do). I was instructed to keep doing what I’m doing in terms of my low fat diet and exercise, till the liver number have come all the way down, but that he didn’t want to see me for two years, at which point he’d want to run tests again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting shit done

So I’m back in home in the Chicago area in order to address medical stuff (my docs and medical insurance are here), and do other things that needed doing.

Regarding the computer failure noted in my last post: with the help of a good friend who is a mac expert (he writes books about and teaches mac techs how to be mac techs) both my computers are now back up and running. For one where we decided the logic board had failed, he oh so kindly transplanted my hard drive into an old 2009 macbook he had lying around, which I’ll borrow till Apple FINALLY releases the new macbooks later this year. For the other we just swapped out the ram and that seemed to have done the trick. Am now waiting with baited breath for the new macbook to be released — according to friends in the know, Intel was late delivering the chips which set back production, but they should be out soon.

In other news:

In May I was diagnosed with liver disease (my penchant for all things fried — note the trend in the food reviews — coming back to bite my ass). The doctor said my liver looked like an alcoholics, which is ironic considering I’ve been a teetotaler (or as close to it as  never-mind) for most of my life. I don’t like the taste of the stuff, and don’t enjoy being drunk… and get HORRIBLE HORRIBLE hangovers. In fact I would try to force myself to drink the occasional glass of wine with dinner after all those studies came out saying it was as bad to be a teetotaler as to be a heavy drinker, health wise…

Anyway, the doctors told me what to do, diet wise, for the liver…  and I did it.

For the last three months I’ve eaten mostly seafood, and kept the diet fairly oil free, with the goal of eating LESS than the daily recommended amount of oil every day — NOT the easiest thing to pull off when you eat almost every night in restaurants … and considering I’ve been eating low-carb anyway for the last few years, and gaining weight anyways — because I was eating a LOT of cheese and fried food  … well, really, you take away the oil and the carbs… what’s left for a girl to eat?

So … the good news is I lost 23 lb in three months. Was 180 lb back in May (after dad died I sort of ate my pain), and am now down to 153 lb — some of you may have noticed from my pictures that I’ve been shrinking; I’ve gone down from a 38 waist in January to almost fitting into my 32 waist pants — still a tad tight … and dropped from a 36 bra to a 32. From the health standpoint, the most recent blood test found my liver numbers have also dropped by quite a bit, so now all the doctors are very happy with me. They’re going to run one more test in a mid October (first time we could schedule it), a kind of specialized ultrasound of my liver to verify that there’s no cirrhosis (but they don’t think there will be — fingers crossed, no evil eye, etc.).

If I test clean, then pretty much all I need to do is loose another 10 lb according to the doctor — but I’d like to get back to the weight I was before heading out to South Korea 4.5 years ago, 130 lb. and able to wear my 30 waist pants again.

Next item on the agenda: the car needed its 12,000 mile test way back in July (I just purchased the thing in mid January — 12K miles in six month) but the US warranty didn’t extend to Canada. So, I had a choice, pay for it from my own pocket and hope to get reimbursed by the American warranty company after filling an insane amount of paperwork… or wait…  so I waited till I got back to the US — at which point I had driven a full 14,500 miles in 8 months of ownership.

The next major issue is I HAD all my clothes stored in the attic of a very old friend in Florida, but that was proving inconvenient. Florida is in no way central, and he is having personal issues that made it no longer viable… so… another old friend, Gina — the one who has comes to visit me during my travels, who has just finished renovating her home  suggested I move it all into her newly expanded, ner I say massive (too much Shakespeare?) and utterly empty attic, here back in Chicago. Seriously the thing is so massive I could live in it… my apartment in S. Korea was way smaller.

So.. after paying to move it all down to Florida a year ago, I’m now moving it all back up here to Chicago .. wonder if my entire wardrobe is actually worth the $3,250 I’ve spent in the last two years moving it around the country. Once it’s up I have to upload most of my clothes into storage and trade them out for the smaller sized stuff I haven’t been able to wear in a few years… Leather here I come (I have a LOT of cool leather jackets)

So other than that, I’m finally catching up with old friends and old blog posts. The intent is to hit the road again after the November elections assuming the doctors allow it.