Quarter Report 2017: Star Trek TNG, Quanta, a New Year, and More

Chicago: I rode the L!

Annnnnnd, we’re back to The Fast and the Furious. I’ve written in these pages at least twice about the character Dom Toretto and his special brand of wisdom. When I first heard Vin Diesel utter the line “I live my life a quarter mile at a time,” I knew I had encountered a bit of cinematic brilliance. Something on the order of Patrick Swayze’s (as Johnny Castle) “Nobody puts Baby in a corner.” Or my own personal muse, John McClane’s “Yippee ki yay, *Mr. Falcon*” (as it appears in the censored version of Die Hard 2.)

Much like Dominic Toretto, I tend to think, and plan, in terms of quarters (yearly quarters, not miles). Discrete, three-month-sized chunks. As I reflect on the third quarter of 2017, I find it’s been pretty eventful. Some of the stuff I’ve written about (the eclipse, our visit to New Smyrna Beach, hurricanes, the release of my novel), but there’s plenty of other stuff I haven’t. Here, in no particular order, are some observations, tidbits, and events that have been swimming about in my particular cosmos in Q3:

  • Star Trek: The Next Generation, Outside In Makes It So releases today! This collection of essays covers every episode of Star Trek: TNG, plus the movies. It’s commemorating the 30th anniversary of the show’s premiere. I’m thrilled that my piece about the episode “Time’s Arrow” is included. You can find the anthology on sale here.
  • More about discrete chunks: While on a recent Internet search into famed physicist Max Planck, I discovered what he is most known for, and it’s this: quanta. Quanta, the root of the term “quantum.” As in quantum physics, quantum theory, Quantum Leap. Planck is credited with the hypothesis that the very nature of nature itself is not continuous, that change occurs in discrete increments. Regarding electromagnetic waves, he termed these discrete packets of energy “quanta.” This discovery earned him the Nobel Prize nearly 100 years ago. All these years of being fascinated and confused by quantum physics, and I’d never thought about the meaning of “quantum” before. And I’m sure some of you who have read this far are hoping you never have to think about the word again.
  • U2: I saw U2 in concert for the first time ever a few weeks ago. They are on tour, promoting the 30th anniversary of “The Joshua Tree” album. (Discrete chunks of thirty years seem to be a theme, here. I also attended my thirty year high school reunion this past quarter). Anyway, U2: during my heavy concert-going years (when I was between fifteen and twenty-five, roughly), I would have definitely bought tickets to see U2, if they had come to my town. (In those years, it was New Orleans and Tucson, Arizona). But they never did. I was glad the band opened the set with really old stuff, songs from “War.” The songs I would have wanted to hear, if our paths had crossed so many years ago. All in all, very worthwhile—plus, Beck opened for them, and he was fantastic.
  • Rosh Hashanah: I’m a little hesitant to write this, since I’m not Jewish, but I really don’t see this as cultural appropriation. I’m Catholic, which is a Judeo-Christian religion, and I’ve always been a bit ecumenical in my practice, anyway. So, Rosh Hashanah—about fifteen years ago, after a particularly rough twelve months (four quarters), I decided to start my new year’s resolutions at Rosh Hashanah. To give them a sort of beta test-run before January. With all this “30-year” backwards staring, I’m grateful that the arrival of Rosh Hashanah last week has me looking forward once again.
  • Chicago: And, oh yeah, I spent four days in Chicago last week with my job. It was a good time to be there, if a bit unseasonably warm. The pictures in this post are from that trip.

Spirit of Music statue, Grant Park
View of Lake Michigan and Adler Planetarium (I think) from Grant Park


Going home, connecting in Nashville

29 Hours in Chicago, Part 2

When last we heard from this hapless writer, she’d:

  • Just returned from a quick trip to Chicago, and complained about how exhausted she was
  • Seen Radiohead in concert, and complained that it made her sad
  • Watched and complained as her dishwasher leaked all over the kitchen floor

It’s time for a different perspective. First, Chicago:

While there were no parades heralding auspicious and long-sought victories, there was a race in Grant Park. I unwittingly avoided the 20,000+ runners by heading straight to the McCormick Place convention center from the airport (instead of stopping at the Hilton Chicago to set my bag down). Everything else about the trip ran just as smoothly—there were no hitches in my part of the trade show business (the reason I was there), and I even found some time to write in my downtime. And, there was shepherd’s pie.

The last time I was in Chicago, I’d had the shepherd’s pie at Kitty O’Sheas, the Irish pub inside the Hilton Chicago. If you like meat and potatoes and carrots, it’s worth trying. For months, I had been looking forward to having it again, and it did not disappoint. Shepherd’s pie is a major comfort food for me—it has very fond associations from childhood. But it’s also one of those foods that can easily be kind of blah if everything doesn’t come together right. I think everything comes together brilliantly in Kitty O’Sheas shepherd’s pie.

Next up, Radiohead:

Radiohead’s OK Computer has been my desert island album for the last twenty years. As in, if I found myself stuck on a desert island, what piece of music would I want to have with me. It’s a pat answer, and if I were really forced to select one piece of music on the fly, I would probably pick something very quixotic and regrettable, like my Golden Throats compilation.

But the reason I love OK Computer…no, really, it’s reasons, plural. One, I can listen to it after a long absence and still hear something new. Two, it always evokes an emotional response. So maybe that response is sadness, but it’s always a new sadness. Hear me out on this: some songs that used to make me sad—say, “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac, covered by various artists hence—I’ll hear now, but the emotional response is over. It’s like, “remember that time ‘Landslide’ made me cry,” I’ll recall with something like fondness.

With OK Computer, I can hear the wailing guitars and other stringed instruments opening the song “Airbag,” and I’m transported to someplace new. Someplace different from whatever was making me sad twenty years ago.

Now, I don’t necessarily enjoy feeling sad. But I enjoy the necessity of feeling sad. If that makes any sense. It’s nothing short of a gift, that there is music out there that can consistently evoke new, edifying, sadness in me. Plus, there’s this lyric from “Subterranean Homesick Alien:”

…all these weird creatures who lock up their spirits / Drill holes in themselves / And live for their secrets

It may not be the most optimistic view of the human race, but there is a lot of truth in this particular lyric, and it has stuck with me through the years.

So, the concert: They didn’t play “Subterranean Homesick Alien,” but they did play several songs from OK Computer and The Bends, and they all sounded great. I heard one reviewer complain that frontman Thom Yorke looked like he was listening to something different from what he was playing, but I was too far away to notice. Thus, I enjoyed the concert, and I’m ecstatic that I can finally say I’ve seen Radiohead live. And I’m happy that Radiohead can still make me sad.

And finally, the dishwasher:

Husband Tim fixed the drainage problem when he got home from work that day. I’m pleased to report that I ran the dishwasher this past weekend, and nary a drop escaped to the floor the entire cleaning cycle.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

29 Hours in Chicago, Part 1

My advance apologies, if this comes off as a rant. That’s why I have every intention of keeping it short.

In the week that’s passed since I made my last post here, I’ve flown to Chicago on a 6:30 am flight, assisted in a trade show promotion there, flown back the next day at 1:30 pm, sat through two full days of meetings at my pay-the-bills job (that was before Chicago), and saw Radiohead live in concert in New Orleans. (I have friends that travel a LOT for work, and I can see them rolling their eyes at this schedule: light by comparison. But I’m just not wired for that much social/business interaction—the meetings and trade show. That zaps me more than the travel does).

I had counted on being pretty exhausted at the end of all that. But I didn’t count on the dishwasher backing up and leaking all over the kitchen, and having to deal with some upcoming project stressors at my pay-the-bills job. And I’m behind in writing Lacey’s second story (which I had counted on but it’s still stressing me out). And finally, while watching Radiohead, I remembered that listening to them almost always makes me blue.

So right now, I’m not just exhausted, I’m burnt out and pretty out of sorts, to tell the truth.

My plan had been to write about my first return to Chicago since my momentous visit last November, right after the Cubs had won the World Series. And ruminate about what it’s like to check “seeing Radiohead in concert” off my bucket list. (My concert bucket list is not long, so this was an opportunity I kinda had to seize).

And I still will. But I’m going to do myself (and you patient readers) a favor and take a little time to get back into sorts. So, next week, a much more positive spin on my busy week that included 29 hours in Chicago.

End rant.