Picnics per capita

15 Oct

yogi bearWhile doing research for my master’s project — I’ll be writing about best practices in small social groups in synagogues and other organizations — I began reading Robert Putnam’s “Bowling Alone.” In this book, I came across this amazing fact:

“Informal outings, like picnics, also seem on the path to extinction. The number of picnics per capita was slashed by nearly 60 percent between 1975 and 1999.” (pg. 100)

Picnics per capita? This is amazing: It means that there are human beings in this world — researchers with fancy degrees, no less — who measure and monitor picnics as an academic study.

I can just picture it. Members of the research team — which I presume is named Team Yogi Bear — spend summer afternoons going from parks to beaches to lakefronts to campgrounds, looking for red checkered blankets and brown wicker baskets. Upon finding a case study, the team zeroes in, and maybe even talks to the picnickers. “Excuse me, are you having a picnic today?” they’d ask. “How many picnics have you had this month? This year? How did it compare to the picnicking of your childhood? Also, can I have a bite of that pasta salad?”

The researchers would inevitably get hungry themselves, and whip out their own blankets and baskets and hold their own picnics. But then, would they be skewing the data? When passersby see the researchers having a picnic, does it remind them of the picnics of their childhood, and inspire them to have their own picnic the next sunny Sunday? How can we possibly trust this data?

And what, pray tell, is the cause of this demise of these meals-on-a-blanket? Is it the weather? Too many bugs? It’s probably that picnics are not close enough to TV screens and WiFi signals.

Picnic enthusiasts of the world, let’s reverse the trend. Let’s give these researchers something to notice — a sharp rise in picnicking, beginning summer 2015. I’ll start making sandwiches.

Wave to Ava!

8 Oct
I won't tell you which one, but it's possible that my friend Ava is reading this very blog right now from one of these very windows. Sounds like the plot of a great Hitchcock movie, right?

I won’t tell you which one, but it’s possible that my friend Ava is reading this very blog right now from one of these very windows. Sounds like the plot of a great Hitchcock movie, right?

If phone calls, Gchat, Facebook chat, e-mail, and texting all become obsolete on the same day — and I do fear that day — I’ll at least be able to communicate with one of my friends via Morse code.

My friend Ava and I always knew that we lived two buildings apart — and I just calculated it on Google Maps, 364.2 feet apart — but when she recently moved from a two-bedroom to a studio, she discovered that she could actually see my apartment.

So this past Sunday night, we called each other while flicking our lights on and off. To the rest of our buildingmates, it must have looked like a rave was going on; but to us, we were just determining who lived where.

“I can see you waving!” she said.

“I see your lamp!” I said back.

Now, the question is: How can we have fun with this new knowledge?

  • Create silhouetted plays for each other
  • Learn Morse code and send messages back and forth
  • Open the windows and somehow connect a string tied to tin cans and communicate the old-fashioned way
  • Put colored Cellophane in front of our lamps to mean different messages
  • LASER TAG!
  • What else?

I almost feel like Jimmy Stewart with 35mm camera and a telephoto lens.

I’ll say goodbye to you, dear readers, and I’ll wave goodbye to my across-the-street neighbor, Ava!

Guest post from Adam Goldfarb: “Needle phobia”

1 Oct

Editor’s note: For this week’s blog post, please enjoy a guest post, written by my boyfriend, Adam Goldfarb. 

As I found myself in the waiting room at Lurie Children’s Hospital to take a routine blood test (why my doctor sent me to a children’s hospital, I will never understand, but I will always appreciate) only two thoughts were crossing my mind: First, why is this waiting room so much cooler than the waiting rooms at adult hospitals, and second, how is it possible that I am decades older than the next oldest patient in the room, yet, likely equally as terrified of the needles in the room next door? This is how I spent my time yesterday between 8:48 a.m. and 9:12 a.m.

Imagine a world (or more literally, a room) of colorful walls, Dora the Explorer on repeat, an Xbox game console, and a miniature of the bronze lions outside of the Art Institute of Chicago. Does that not sound like a place that could hold your attention for hours?

This waiting room is light-years ahead of the entertainment options of the normal, boring waiting room, where the primary act is the man passed out in the corner who looks like he has been there for days, followed by the secondary act of counting down the minutes until they refill the empty Culligan machine. Seriously, people, why is the Culligan machine so frequently empty in waiting rooms? Is it because people are so nervous waiting for their name to be called that they develop dry mouth and require constant hydration? Or perhaps is it a ploy to force those fasting before their blood is drawn to not be tempted by the oh-so-delicious Culligan water? One day I will discover the answer to this mystery, but I have digressed, so back to the story.

Likely due to my fear of needles, during my wait in the waiting room I began to develop the aforementioned dry mouth. As I hunted for the nearest water cooler, I heard my name called.

pain ease sprayA steady sweat beaded down my forehead and I told the nurse that I, too, am scared of needles. She laughed and said, “Don’t you think we know better than any hospital how to harmlessly take blood?” From my nervous look she could tell that I did not consider this a laughing matter, and she followed up with: “Would you like me to numb the area where I will take blood?”

Hallelujah, the nervousness lifted! Was this truly an option? After 30 years of complaining about needles why has this never been offered to me and those that suffer from needle phobia?

I know this blog has avid readers in the medical profession, so I beg of you, our doctor friends, please start offering this service to all of us who suffer from needle phobia. In the meantime, I will be bringing a bottle of this magical numbing spray with me to all future doctor visits.

At least I’m not a doughnut man

24 Sep

There are days when I’m exhausted, tired, and overwhelmed with projects at work and in my personal life.

But then I drive by this guy and my whole life is put into perspective.

2014-09-23 11.51.33

I think there’s something here we can all learn. At our worst times, in our most stressful moments, on the days when we want to give up, and when we just want to crawl into a hole: At least we’re not standing next to a gas station dressed as a doughnut holding a sign on a sunny day. And if you are, well, have fun with that!

A moving bed

17 Sep
car bed

My brother’s car bed

I have this really cool talent that I’ve been thinking about taking on the road: Give me two minutes in a moving vehicle that I’m not driving and I’m fast asleep.

When I was a kid, my mom would drive me around the block in preparation for a naptime of deep sleep. And the skill has stuck with me. If I’m not driving the car, bus, train, or plane, it takes a lot of effort on my part to stay awake.

It made me think of an idea. Waterbeds exist to help people who want to feel like they are floating; so there must be a way to make beds that give a sensation of a moving vehicle.

It’s like how my brother had a “car bed” when he was little. It looked like a car and it was very “in” for his age. What if that car actually felt like it was moving? Naptime would be a breeze!

You could add a motor to the bed, plus maybe some sound effects. Nothing says “sleep time” like car honks, right?

Let’s get moving on this idea. We’ll sleep on it.

Let’s make mini milkshakes a worldwide thing.

10 Sep

oreoYou may not know this about me, but if I had to pick my favorite food in the entire world, one of my top answers might be an Oreo milkshake.

There are so many foods and sweets that compete for my heart’s love (and let’s be honest, my stomach’s space), but there’s just something about the vanilla ice cream, the soft and creamy Oreo cookies, the thick-but-not-too-thick consistency, and the ability to ingest it all with a straw that tugs at my heartstrings. I enjoy these even more than gelato, ice cream, frozen yogurt, frozen custard (unless it’s a frozen custard milkshake, in which case, JACKPOT!), and Italian ice.

But here’s the issue: I’m trying to maintain my girlish figure and my cardiovascular health, and milkshakes are just too big. Even the “small” is more than socially appropriate when meeting a friend for a late Tuesday evening ice cream treat.

Minimilkshakes3But I absolutely love the new trend I’ve been hearing about at weddings and tasted with my own tongue this past weekend (congrats on your wedding, Jamie and Dave!): Mini milkshakes.

A shotglass-sized milkshake is exactly what my soul needs on a hot summer night — or even in the dead of winter when I need an Oreo pick-me-up. And with my standing desk and Fitbit, maybe I can even afford to enjoy a milkshake the size of two or three shotglasses.

I would pay for these, too. A regular milkshake at Steak ‘n Shake (right now their advertised shakes include a caramel apple milkshake, a campfire s’mores milkshake, and a birthday cake milkshake, all of which sound amazing) is $3.49. For my shotglass of milkshake, which I imagine is at most 20% of the regular milkshake, I would pay $1. Not a bad deal for the store, right?

Alright, world, are we ready to make this dream a reality? We can discuss tonight over milkshakes, but for now, we’ll just order one milkshake and bring our own tiny cups to share.

Driving a squirrel nuts

3 Sep

The other day, I noticed a squirrel biting off a bit more than he could chew.

If only I had my camera on me, I thought.

Well, I actually had three cameras on me: My cell phone, my Canon S95 camera, and the new camera we got at work. I whipped out the new work camera — a beautiful Canon T5i — and stalked the squirrel.

The result: One panicked squirrel — with an apple in its mouth — and one beautiful picture.

squirrel

Let it be known to local wildlife: If you’re doing something cute and I’m carrying a digital SLR camera, you are mine.

 

 

 

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