Well there’s something you don’t see every day

The other day I was working outside and I kept hearing a noise that I would have sworn was a goat. Every time I stopped and listened I didn’t hear it, so I’d go about my business and suddenly there it was again. I thought it can’t be a goat, right? Maybe it was just a kid or exotic bird or something? Why would I be hearing a goat in the middle of the city of Chicago?

Finally I heard it when I was going in the garage, so I knew roughly where it was coming from. I decided to film a little and see if I could catch the audio.

My Hamilfilm Review

So, I know probably half of you are waiting to hear what I thought of the Hamilton film on Disney+, and the other half are ready to hear me never talk about Hamilton again for the rest of your lives. I address this post to the first half. 🙂

Now of course you know I loved it, so I will cut to the chase: how does it compare to seeing it live? I would say, on the whole, it compares very favorably. So if you never got a chance to see the show, you don’t have to feel bad!

In fact, I would say of the 4 times I saw Hamilton, watching the movie is most similar to the time I got to sit in the front row. The thing that really struck me about sitting that close is how much acting is actually going on. It absolutely floored me how much funnier lines were, how much sadder scenes were, when you can see their faces. And here the film excels, getting you close ups better than what you can see from the front row.

(To say nothing of the spitting. As I mentioned at the time, people in the front row get spit on. Well, now you all get to share that with me! Boy was I not exaggerating.)

So I cried the first 2 times I saw Hamilton in the theater, and then not the next 2. But because of the phenomenal performance from the actors, I did cry again when I saw the movie. Specifically Phillipa Soo; her face just really got to me. The anguish when her son died…even knowing it was coming, she still got me.

In fact, I would say that was another aspect where the film really excelled: I was excited to see some specific people, particularly Daveed Diggs and Leslie Odom Jr., but I was blown away by everybody. Renée Elise Goldsberry and Phillipa Soo somehow overshadowed a really amazing cast. I have been blessed with seeing some really talented actors here in Chicago (I know a lot of people are going to kill me over this, but I think Jin Ha was a better / funnier King George than Jonathan Groff), but it wasn’t consistent across the entire cast. The original cast, as depicted in the film, truly were an amazing collection of individuals. Each and every performance is a can’t miss, each performer a superstar. Just stellar.

If I had to say one bad thing about the film it would be that I really honestly enjoy the background choreography and movements of the set itself almost as much as the main performers. It’s certainly present in the film (the visuals of Hurricane are just masterful), but you do sacrifice a bit of the wide view in exchange for intimate closeups.

Still, on the whole it is a good exchange, and it is an excellent way to experience Hamilton.

Highly recommended (but you already knew I was going to say that, didn’t you?)

Urban Scavengers Strike Again! Juneberries

The Halbachs have long been urban berry scavengers (see also mulberries), but for the past few years we’ve added a new one to our repertoire: Juneberries!

Juneberries (also known as Serviceberries or Saskatoon Berries, and let’s be honest, is there any fruit with a better name than a Saskatoon Berry?) are a nice little decorative tree native to Chicago (also presumably native to Saskatoon), so there are lots of them around. They ALSO happen to make a nice little edible berry for about 2 weeks in June, so if you happen to know where any are planted in your neighborhood (and you get there before the birds, because those tasty little berries go fast when they’re ripe!) you can take home a nice little haul!

We spent about 20 minutes picking, hardly made a dent in what was on the trees, and took home more berries than we know what to do with.

Except that’s not true because we DO know what to do with them, and what to do with them is an amazing Saskatoon berry pie, and another load of jam, as well as some scones which are forthcoming.

Not too shabby for 20 minutes worth of work! It’s amazing how many edible things there are around Chicago, once you know what to look for.

The sink disaster, or, what happens to me literally every time I do a project

The other night I went downstairs before bed to make sure the door was locked, and I thought “hey, might as well just pop in the bathroom real quick!” only to find a giant puddle coming from under the pedestal sink. Honestly, it was completely lucky to have discovered this, even if I wasn’t really in the mood to deal with a big, leaking water disaster at bedtime.

Sure enough, I looked up behind the sink and the rubber seal where the hot water goes into the faucet was completely cracked and falling off, not to mention all of the bolts and connects were completely corroded. The faucet was old anyway, and leaking in another place already, so I thought I’d simply replace the whole thing.

When the fateful day arrived I could tell the bolts were going to be trouble. The one was so corroded it was practically flaking off in my hand, but I could see the other one was rusty as well.

But things were going to be different this time! I had a basin wrench!

(Spoiler alert: things were not different this time, even despite the basin wrench) (but the basin wrench still was amazing!)

I spent literally hours on my back torquing away at those things and I couldn’t get them to so much as wiggle. I tried soaking some paper towels in vinegar and rubber-banding them on for a while, which did a good job getting off the calcium, but didn’t help them budge. I tried WD-40. I tried every possible repositioning of my body and hands. Nothing.

My view for literally hours (roomier than it appears)

It was supremely frustrating because it wasn’t some tricky puzzle that I had to solve, or some hacky work around I was trying to figure out because I didn’t have the right tool (my usual dilemma); my hands simply weren’t strong enough. Of course it was hard on my hands, and lately I can’t always tell if something is impossible, or just impossible for me. But regardless, I couldn’t do it.

Finally my step dad gave me the idea to use a wrench as an extension for a little extra leverage and, voila! I was able to hulk those things off (cracking the bolts in half in the process!) I wish I had started with that, but better late than never.

The Magic Tool
The Vanquished Foe

All I had left to do was to crank off the pipe underneath and that was giving me a lot of trouble too, but at least with that I wasn’t lying on my back trying to do everything in a cramped little space over my head.

I couldn’t get it, so I enlisted Sara’s help. “Be careful because the sink is connected to the wall,” I said. “I don’t want to pull this way, because I don’t want to break the brackets.”

“Couldn’t you just take it off the wall?” she innocently asked. Well, I hadn’t thought about that, so I took a look and…yeah, it just lifted right up. It wasn’t even attached, just resting in the brackets.

During literally any of the hours I spent cramped on my back trying to reach up and twist those bolts, I could have just flipped the thing over and accessed them directly.

“This is why you have a wife,” said Sara.

So, with my newfound access we were easily able to get the last pipe off, and putting it all back together with a new faucet was a breeze. At this point I was feeling VERY triumphant and VERY heroic (and VERY tired and VERY sick of that bathroom), when Sara called from the other room, “Uh, Shane? The oven isn’t working….”

All About My Dad

Alex filled out a survey about me for Father’s Day. Posting for posterity!

My dad is 40 years old. My dad is 100 feet tall.
Every morning when we wakes up, the first thing he does is goes to the bathroom.
My dad is really good at doing things like making cereal .
When I grow up I want to be like him because he's weird .
My dad and I like to play robot together.
My favorite memory of my dad is when he well that's not really a memory because he's not dead or anything.
One thing my dad says a lot is snozzcumber .
If I could tell my dad one thing it would be can you please stop saying tickling and other words like that? And, can you let mommy put me to bed