Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Twilight Saga

Yes, I'll admit it: I've read the Twilight books. All four of them. Since most of the people I hang out with are intellectual enough to be repulsed by the series, this is something I've had occasion to feel awkward about -- and perhaps even a little guilty, because I actually kind of enjoyed the books a little. But let me try to explain in a belated blog review. (Belated because I read these books circa 2008.)

The thing about the Twilight novels is that they're very readable -- light, easy books that don't really make you think too hard. (Really, I'm not sure why anyone should come to them expecting anything else, after observing how popular the series is with the tweenage girl demographic.) The books contain the long, romanticized story of mutual infatuation between a vampire and a human, and are basically escapist wish fulfillment fantasy to the core.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Apartment Hunting Adventures

As I mentioned briefly in this blog post a while back, we'd like to move out of our current apartment sooner or later -- not only because of the lack of natural light, but also because it would be nice to have a bit more space than our current one-bedroom basement unit offers. With that goal in mind, about two months ago we began looking seriously for a new apartment in Chicago.

We had a list of criteria that any potential apartment had to meet. For instance, being within walking distance to the El was a must, since my husband and I both work in the Loop. We also wanted a dedicated parking space for the car, so as to avoid the stress of trying to find street parking on Saturday nights and so forth. And although those were the two big things, other factors -- such as windows, access to laundry, and of course price -- had an impact on how appealing any given apartment was.

We knew from the start that we'd be paying more for pretty much anything we found. Basement units are cheaper in general, and we have an even sweeter deal right now because pretty much all of our utilities are rolled in with the rent thanks to the landlord living upstairs. But our thinking was that having more space (and some natural light) would be worth the added expense.

But with all that being said, finding something desirable within a reasonable price range turned out to be harder than expected. Several of the apartments we looked at suffered from a frustratingly inefficient use of space, sacrificing on the size of the kitchen or the bedrooms for the sake of a large dining room that we knew we would hardly ever use.

This was just sketched from memory, but it's pretty representative of a couple of the apartments we looked at: bedrooms so cramped that they wouldn't be able to fit much other than a bed, and a large semi-separated dining room that was unwanted and unnecessary for our needs. But floor plan issues aside, other apartments suffered from more serious problems like a lack of laundry on the premises, roaches in the lobby, etc.

The anticlimactic end of this story is that we decided not to move at all -- or at least, not yet. Don't get me wrong, there's a lot out there in Chicago and if we'd continued looking long enough, maybe we would have eventually found the Perfect Thing. Although it seemed more likely that we would end up spending dramatically more money on an apartment that's just as imperfect as our current one, albeit in different ways.

Overall, I think looking at what was available, and for what prices, made our current apartment look all that much better by comparison. Our revised plan now is to bide our time, bask in the cheap rent for a while longer, and hopefully save up for a down payment on a place of our own. But the reasoning on that, and an analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of doing so, is probably a subject best saved for a future blog post.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Ender's Game

Over the past couple years, I've gotten the impression that this novel by Orson Scott Card is one of the "classics" of science fiction. This, and the fact that several people have told me how good it is, made me curious enough to pick it up while we were doing some shopping a few weeks before Christmas. And right off the bat, the premise seemed pretty interesting.

In the distant future, humankind struggles against a number of daunting challenges. Aliens -- a race humans call the "buggers" -- have been shown to exist, and two major wars have been fought in space against them. The earth is also overpopulated, to the point where couples are prohibited from having more than two children lest they face some steep tax penalties and generalized social stigma.