Wednesday, October 12, 2011

gnat revels in fall colors (and summer temperatures)

last year i was on my toes, watching the trees for the first sign of yellow so i could document their gradual change over the course of the season. this year they snuck up on me - before i had the chance to notice, the foliage had erupted into yellows, oranges, and deep reds, with of course a stubborn few that are holding onto their green. i say keep at it, green trees. i don't really want it to get cold either.

that said, we have been fortunate enough to have absolutely perfect weather for the last week and a half or so. the sun is out, the skies are clear, and the temperature is hovering in the 75-80 degree range. it's sort of like we have the best of summer and fall at the same time.

this has, sadly, been a detriment to my productivity, as i spent most of this weekend and large portions of the first half of this week lying on the grass with a book in various locations, attempting to soak up as much sun as possible while i still can.

according to, it's all coming to an end this evening beginning with light showers, then rain, then a sharp dip in the temperature that chicago is unlikely to recover from for the remainder of the year.

the fall purists keep reminding me that what comes next are the crisp days and sweater-and-scarf temperatures, which are refreshing and satisfying in their own right. i don't disagree, but i'll be sad to see summer go for good.

more fall foliage updates to come - i anticipate that after tonight's rain, those trees with weaker constitutions will wind up mostly naked. as for now, i'm taking my book and heading to the park.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

gnat celebrates national taco day

it's no secret that i am basically obsessed with tacos. i wish i could remember exactly when my love for them began - my best guess is that it was senior year in high school, before my move to LA and before i learned that there was so much better out there than rubio's fish tacos. in any case, they now occupy a large, delicious place in my heart (and probably also my coronary arteries). for the last four years, taco tuesday has, in some form, been a weekly staple, and longtime readers may remember my experiments with duck tacos, greek tacos, and spaghetti tacos... yeah, that last one was a mistake.

in light of this, i'm ashamed to admit that until about 10am yesterday i was totally unaware that it was national taco day (or that national taco day was a thing to begin with), and on a tuesday of all days! evidently it's on october 4 every year. luckily eileen alerted me to the oversight and we scrambled to make taco related dinner plans. after an extensive google search of hole-in-the-wall taco joints in the area, we settled on taco and burrito palace #2, mostly by virtue of its name:

i wish i had been hungrier so i could have eaten one of each type. as it was i managed one chicken, one carne asada, and one al pastor.

by the time eileen and i got our food i had been anticipating the first bite for over nine hours. that may explain the strange giddy expression i'm wearing below... the delicious horchata on the right probably helped.

because national taco day is an important holiday to be celebrated with loved ones, i texted friends and family early in the day to go out and eat tacos and send me photographic evidence of their feasts. this turned out to be completely agonizing as pictures started pouring in long before it was time for dinner.

jalees and his coworkers visited el taco llama in the valley (and sent me several more spectacular hunger inducing photos that are not shown below):

lily, liz, and jason ate at taqueria guadalajara in davis:

sarge and my sister alex narrowly missed each other at acapulco in westwood:

my cousin neil and his girlfriend leah went for tacos (but no hot dogs) at la chiquita y el chiquilin street tacos and hot dogs in sylmar:

kieng had don antonio's in west LA:

kelly got takeout from pili's tacos, also in west LA:

taylor, who is new to southern california and was not sure she could find tacos in orange county (cute) ended up at trejo's in huntington beach:

and joey in tuscon chose to celebrate with double-deckers from taco bell:

some chose to make tacos at home. jimmy in new york:

becky and jeff in new orleans:

and my parents (who are sort of adorable) in nor cal:

we may have all been miles and miles from each other, but i feel like every one of them celebrated this, the holiest of taco tuesdays with me. national taco day - the holiday that brings people together!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

gnat expounds on a terrifying weather phenomenon

when i was three years old, my family picked up and left sunny southern california and moved to this house in springfield, illinois for my dad's work. my parents had only ever lived in egypt and los angeles, so it's no surprise that it only took one winter for them to decide that snow and ice were not for them. as we prepared to make the move back to california, the people of springfield expressed their alarm at the idea. weren't we afraid of earthquakes?

i ask this of the midwest - how in the name of all natural disasters are earthquakes scarier than tornadoes!?

this is actually a debate i've been having with andrew (who grew up in iowa, where tornadoes are a thing) since shortly after i moved here. i firmly believe that tornadoes are way scarier and more destructive than earthquakes. the typical earthquake causes you to wake up wondering why your picture frames are slightly askew on the wall, whereas the typical tornado picks you and your picture frames up off the ground and carries you to a different state. yesterday i expressed my disappointment at having lived in the midwest for almost a year and a half and not having seen a tornado. it was my belief that they happened all the time and that surely by now i would have experienced one. in fact, the day i moved here my connecting flight out of las vegas was grounded for several hours because of a tornado watch in chicago. do i possess some kind of tornado repellant quality? andrew's response shocked me - in 26 years, he has never once actually laid eyes on a tornado. at that moment i considered the argument automatically won. in case any doubt still existed, i consulted wikipedia for some data.

in the year 2011, there have been no earthquake related casualties in the united states. there have been approximately 550 tornado related casualties, 159 of which occurred during the may 22 joplin, missouri tornado. granted, this is atypical - there have been more tornado related deaths this year than in the last ten combined. in fact, 2011 has been the deadliest tornado year since 1936. the deadliest earthquake in california history (the 1906 san francisco earthquake, 7.9) was devastating not because of the quake itself but the fires that followed it. the two deadliest in my lifetime, the 1989 loma prieta (7.1) and the 1994 northridge (6.7), killed 63 and 33 people respectively. following the northridge earthquake, massive changes were made to building codes and existing structures were retrofitted to reduce the destruction caused by future quakes.

(please note: this discussion is limited to california earthquakes. earthquakes everywhere else in the world, yeah, fine, they're totally terrifying. take for example the 9.0 that hit japan in march. way scarier than a tornado.)

in the process of compiling all of this hideously depressing data, i also discovered that there is a natural phenomenon called a fire whirl, which looks like something out of a harry potter movie. it is literally a vortex of flame. they are very rarely captured on film, in fact a google image search for "fire whirl" turned up no results that weren't disappointing. i did, however, find a video.

what are your thoughts, internets? are tornadoes scarier than earthquakes?