the everyday adventures of sabrina

i'm happy, hope you're happy too

I swam competitively in high school, all four years. I competed in many races, in many meets, but oddly, I only remember one time.


I remember working really hard to cut that time down to about 7:00, and I think I might have broken 7:00 once or twice — which isn’t actually that impressive for that particular event, but it was my personal best and screw the rest. But I don’t definitively remember any times but that one.

It was the 1991 District 150 JV Invitational meet, which was not so much a real competition as it was a consolation prize for freshmen and sophomores who never got to race in a regular season meet because there were many better swimmers than them on the team. I don’t remember what events I chose. I think we were allowed something like up to three individual events and a relay, or something like that. I imagine I swam 100 free, and probably the 400 free relay. I don’t really remember. Some of the events, like the 50 free, had so many swimmers they had to run that race over and over and over so everyone got a chance, but there were two races that only had one heat, as I recall: 100 fly, and 500 free. I chose to swim the 500, and finished it in eight minutes, thirty point six nine seconds. I hadn’t picked it because I really thought I was a fabulous long-distance swimmer or anything. I’m pretty sure I just looked at the list and picked it because it sounded hard but I thought I could do it.

I was right.

I went on to swim the 500 regularly for the rest of my high school career, along with the 100 fly (which I initially hated, but by the end sort of enjoyed — at least, I enjoyed that I was good at it, which is not exactly the same thing, but it’s close enough to get you through a season). I was never a sprinter and I never did the 50, don’t think I did the 100 free either. They did make me swim the 200 once in a while — although I hated it because the 200 is a sprint, not a long-distance event, and eight lengths of sprinting sucks, y’all sprinters can have your stupid 200 back, give me my nice peaceful 500. As it turned out, I really liked the 500. I had a pace, I breathed about every six strokes, I had a little rhythm with my flip turns, I could just go for it, and sprint the last hundred or fifty, and basically so far as I was concerned, the 500 was the best event in the whole meet.

Fast forward a decade and a half.

I looked at the description of a triathlon, repeatedly, last year while I was busily learning to run and deciding that I was capable of actually doing this competition thing after all. 800 yards? I can do that in my sleep, I said. Mind you, I hadn’t been in a pool seriously training since 1995, but I swim every once in a while — read: I goof off in a pool for an hour, punctuated by the odd 100 or 200 where I pretend I’m actually there to work out like a grown up. (But I totally still do headstands if nobody is watching. Sometimes I do them even if people are watching. Actually, I DO THEM ALL THE TIME. Headstands are fun. I won’t say no to the odd somersault here or there. I like to dive underwater and dolphin kick. I also like to walk on my hands underwater and see how far I can go before I lose my balance and fall over. …See what I mean about goofing off? I can’t help it. Water is where fun lives.) Anyways, I looked at the triathlon distances and was like, oh, piece of cake. I pretty much just have to show up the day of the race and I can do that.

But I did end up starting training, when I signed up with T2 (give me all your moneys). Once a week I show up for an hour and someone who actually knows what he’s doing tells me what to swim. We do timed intervals and things that suck, like one-armed freestyle (no fun). But we do get to do some somersaults too, which I approve of. Anyways, the difference between me showing up to the pool and going ‘ehhh…. I guess I’ll swim another 200 free’ and having an actual coach who knows how to plan swim workouts is pretty dramatic. It’s made me kind of want to find a masters team to swim with, except for, in what magical dream world do I have the extra time to do that? But I’ve also been going out on my own to swim, at my gym at home as well as with spinning and now triathlon buddy N., over by Union Station.

So last Tuesday, a week ago, we were just about to finish up our workout — before we got kicked out of the pool by the masters team, actually — and had time for one last thing. We both picked out our goals. I decided to swim a 200, and time myself. I looked at the pool clock, since I wasn’t wearing a watch, and carefully noted the starting time — eight minutes and thirty seconds. And I swam my 200… and then another 200 for good measure, because I didn’t feel like stopping yet. I stopped at 400 because I knew the masters people were probably getting impatient. And I was all excited to see my time, which would be the first time I had a time in years. I sprinted my last 25, finished hard, swam into the wall, popped up and yanked my goggles off, and then looked at the clock. Eight minutes and thirty seconds. What.

Of course, the clock wasn’t working, and I hadn’t noticed. Doh.

So I got myself a little watch. I used to wear a Timex Ironman when I was swimming, and truthfully, I wanted one exactly like it. I searched and finally found one that I thought was just like it — another Timex Ironman, not fancy, the size sounded right, only $25. It came today, and I stopped by home to pick it up before I went to the pool, so I could time myself. I figured out how to work the chronometer so I could time myself, and headed out. I warmed up briefly, then swam my 800. I lost count around 300 so it’s 800 +/- 50, actually. It was going to be a 400, like last Tuesday, then I figured, might as well go for 500 like my old 500s. Then I felt like I could keep going, and I figured that at that point I was halfway there and I might as well see if I could do the full 800 triathlon distance. So I just kept going, until I finished my (probably) 800.


My first race, at 8:30 for 500 yards in 1991 when I was 13, works out to about 1:42 per 100. This 800 at 14:31 works out to about 1:48 per 100.

Not too shabby for a total dilettante whose idea of a hard swim workout is one where she accidentally snorkels water up her nose when giggling underwater from falling down out of a headstand. I think maybe I can pull this thing off after all.


I have a bike! It is a wonderful bike that I like to ride! :)
But it is winter, and cold, and snowy, and icy. And I like to not fall into snowdrifts or get hit by cars and die, so I don’t ride my bike outside in winter. :(
But I found a nice fluid trainer on ridiculous sale and bought it for less than I could even have gotten a cheap mag trainer for, so I could ride my bike inside in the winter and get bike time in on my own bike instead of a crappy exercise bike! :D
But then I realized my rear tire was low, and because I knew underinflated tires heat up and get damaged, and I didn’t want to damage my shiny new tires, I decided that the right thing to do was to air up my tires. :)
So I hooked up my floor pump to my front tire and aired it all the way up to 115 psi just like it said on the tire sidewall! :D
And then I hooked up my floor pump to the rear tire and got partway through and checked it with the pressure gauge and it was only at 50 psi so I hooked the pump back up and kept going and going and going and then I thought surely I would be over a hundred psi by now and went to use the pressure gauge again except the floor pump would not let go! :o
And I tried and I tried and I tried but it would not let go of my poor tire valve! :(
And I tugged and I pulled and I joggled and I twisted and I wedged my fingers in and pushed but it would not let go! D:
And finally I pushed really really hard and it let go a little bit and then it came off all the way but it was accompanied by the hiss of escaping air. :(
And I realized that it had damaged the part where the valve is connected to the tube. :(
And then my poor tire went completely flat and I couldn’t ride it, on my trainer or anywhere. :<
But then I walked to the store and bought new inner tubes so I could replace that one and have a spare! :)
But then I got halfway home and realized I forgot to buy new tire levers to replace the old ones I couldn’t find. And I got home and stared at my new inner tube and my flat tire and sulked. :X
But then I got new tire levers and they are zomg the best ever tire levers and I got the tire off with no effort, removed the leaky old tube, replaced it with a nice non-leaky new tube, got the tire right back on with no effort and felt very smart! :D
Then I realized I had to inflate the tube to 115 psi with nothing but a little road pump. :/
But I got it reinflated enough to put back on the bike, and felt very, very badass! BD
And then I managed to figure out how to get the chain back on the cassette and get the wheel back on and back on the trainer and I rode my bike for a few minutes and it was a total success, yay! :D

Bike mounted on the trainer

(No, I don’t know what happened in this blog post. I started out writing short, choppy, silly sentences and ending with smileys, and then things got kind of out of control, YAY! :D )

  • In ten years, I wasn’t able to bring myself to give away the copy of Notting Hill someone got me after we saw it together, despite Hugh Grant.
  • Apparently he knew me better than I knew me, as I’ve just watched it for the first time since then, and quite enjoyed it despite myself.
  • To my indescribably vast surprise it turns out to sort of have been a “I know that someday you’ll appreciate this stocking stuffer… it may not be today, it may not be before we break up, it may not be until after almost 10 years after we break up, but someday, you will appreciate this film” thing, really. Cheers, S., you did well with that one.
  • I kind of miss London and I so need to take a trip overseas — which is nothing at all to do with the film Notting Hill because, seriously, all you see is one zebra crossing, two buses, and one long my-goodness-look-how-time-passes walk through a series of shopping stalls in which it rains, snows, and shines, and, seriously, was this film even shot on location because that really could totally have been southern California and I wouldn’t even know.
  • I will never have shoulders half so fantastic as the actresses who parade through as Hugh Grant’s rejected could-have-been girlfriends in this film, even though I’m quite sure I’m a much more skilled swimmer than them and everyone knows it’s the shoulders that make the swimmer.
  • I was so, as they say, dead chuffed when I saw the Ritz as depicted in the film and thought, “Hey, that’s on Piccadilly, it’s right by Green Park, I’ve totally walked through that arcade” that you cannot think. And I’m pretty sure I’ve shopped the Tescos, or was it a Waitrose? right by there.
  • And I was far, far beyond dead chuffed when I double-checked with The Internets and confirmed that I was correct, you cannot even conceive.
  • God, I need to get overseas again!
  • I would like to meet a shockingly good-looking person who thinks so well of me, running an independent bookshop (!!!!) and living in $posh_elsewhere; and furthermore, I’m a really great person, quite smart, and I close my HTML tags properly, so, you know, call me!
  • No, seriously, the thing where I saw The Ritz and I knew what street it was on? FUCKING BRILLIANT. I am a goddess. It’s best if you just accept that and move on.
  • There is no one to console you for confusing Mark Gatiss with Tim McInnerny if you’ve long ago broken up with the person that gave you this DVD, no matter how bad you feel for confusing the two of them even though Mycroft Holmes TOTALLY looked like Max and you spent half the film trying to remember Mark Gatiss’ name, rather than watching Hugh Grant be as inept at romance as Julia Roberts, as a result.

Welcome email from Team 2 End Aids


so one interesting — and unforeseen — aspect of my job is that the outsourced call center, sends me random calls all the time. the problem is that, when i started, i got assigned an extension that was used, at one point, for editorial feedback for the Chicago Tribune. i used to think that my extension was part of a call group and just needed to be taken out of it, but, after literally weeks and weeks of investigating and trying to get this resolved, i discovered that what was actually the case was that the call center has an Excel spreadsheet of common extensions, and mine was explicitly listed for editorial feedback. telling the callers that i work in IT does not usually help; their responses range to “well, they transferred me to you!” to “what’s ‘IT’?” mostly, i think the callers are just relieved to get a human on the phone, and they want to tell me their whole issue before i can reach over for the transfer button and they wind up at another menu.

(i can only assume that the actual editors of the Tribune would be either entertained by this tale of having some random idiot in the basement of the Tower getting their calls by mistake; be irritated by said random idiot being presumptuous enough to take calls on their behalf; or simply be relieved to not have to deal with the calls, most of which are actually very simple requests, if the call center personnel were bothering to listen to the callers’ questions rather than transfer them to “Editorial”-by-which-i-mean-me as soon as the caller turns out to not be calling about paying their subscription bill. i suspect the latter since when i transfer calls to their extension, it always goes to voice mail.)

i did, eventually, succeed in finding someone who is responsible for the call center, and she updated the magical Excel spreadsheet of extensions, but nonetheless, the calls continue. i suspect that someone in Sri Lanka literally didn’t get the memo. it has tapered off somewhat since the sheet got updated, but in a typical day, i still get around 2-5 calls, and i usually get a couple of voice mails per week, generally on Monday morning after the weekend.

i could ask for a new extension, but i actually sort of enjoy the calls, most of the time. it breaks up my day a little, and gives me a little human contact away from the computers. also, it’s an excuse for me to learn more about the paper, which is a side of the business i would otherwise have effectively no exposure to. of course there’s occasionally a real winner that turns up — like Angry Screaming Man, who left me many voice mails about how the fucking this and the fucking that were motherfucking whatever and his fucking issue was too fucking important for motherfucking voicemail (but not so important that he actually left his phone number so i could call him back), a few weeks back; or Crazy Birther Dude a week or two ago who was enraged that a reporter from our august institution had dared to go on the Chris Matthews show and remark, in response to a question, that he thought that the President of the United States had anything at all more important to do than to try and prove his citizenship by birth, which shamed the entire Tribune and we should feel just terrible about it all. (that one was, more than others, a trip.) a few days ago i got to talk with a gentleman who was barely able to restrain his glee about newspapers’ dwindling print circulation, and forecast our complete institutional demise in ten years or less!!! at least every two minutes he had me on the line (to which i responded each time, “Well, I certainly hope that won’t be the case, sir,” because sometimes i’m nicer than the callers objectively deserve). but other times i get to chat with people who organize open-house Thanksgiving dinners for entire communities every year, who want to touch base with a reporter who did a story on them years back, or whose grandkid was in a featured photo and they’d like to get a reprint, someone who is gushing with praise for a columnist and wants to make sure that said columnist knows that her work is appreciated, stuff like that. one time i had someone who wanted to know the exact dimensions of the broadsheet paper, and i’m not sure why they couldn’t just use a ruler, but who am i to judge? so far as the callers know, i’m just there to answer the phone.

the most fun ones are the truly, truly “random” calls though. one person called me to ask about how he could get a Russian travel visa for vacation. someone had told him to call the newspaper because we would know. (i’m not sure why; maybe because of correspondent writers? i guess journalists travel a lot and so therefore newspaper people can answer all kinds of travel-related questions? i’m still drawing a blank on that one. i referred him to the Russian embassy, feeling relatively certain that they could either help him out, or decide he was too hapless to be let in to their country.) another woman called me because she wanted to send fan mail to the Regis and Kelly show. sure, we have TV stations, but … we’re not, you know, WABC where Regis and Kelly shoot. we’re not even in New York. but she was adamant that she’d been told that we would be able to help her, and did not want to hear any of my expressions of doubt. i quickly figured out that she wasn’t going to let me go until she had an answer (and she had my direct extension because the call center happily gives this to the callers, so they can all call me back directly any time they like, now that they know what line goes directly to a human), so i pulled up my browser, put write letter to regis and kelly in the search field, and read her the answer. hey, she went away happy, i got her off the phone, win-win.

but most of the calls are more routine, so i’ve gotten good at answering some of them off the top of my head. i don’t know why the call center doesn’t do the same, but, truthfully, i think they just want to get the callers off their lines as fast as possible, to keep their individual call times down — that was one of our objectives, in the call center i worked in in high school — and so they don’t bother to take the two (to twenty) minutes it takes to establish what the caller is trying to ask, and look up a phone number not on their magical Excel list.

here are some of the things that i have learned, thanks to the random calls:

  • Pretty much all the useful phone numbers and emails are listed on the web site, including a list of all the editors, their job titles, and email addresses. There’s also an FAQ.
  • The main switchboard is (312) 222-3232, Advertising (including classifieds, announcements, and obituaries) is (312) 222-2222, Editorial is (312) 222-3348. For help with a subscription, call 1-800-TRIBUNE, but if you ask them any question they don’t know they’ll probably just transfer you back to me.
  • There is a list of fax numbers and email addresses to submit your press release here.
  • To suggest a story idea or submit information, email
  • Recent back issues of the paper are available in the Tribune Tower gift shop for $1 each.
  • To search the Tribune archives, go to the main page, scroll all the way to the bottom, find the column labeled “Perks,” and click on the last item in that list, “Archive.” There are two archives, 1985 to present, which is text-based and fully searchable; and 18-something to 1985, which is scanned print and you can search headlines. Article reprints are available for a fee. If you would like them for free, you can contact the Chicago Public Library or your local library, and learn about the wonders of microfiche and inter-library loans.
  • (Kids today have no frigging clue what microfiche is. And they should turn that noise down and get off my lawn.)
  • To get photo reprints, go to the main web page, and click on the “Photos” link all the way to the right on the tabs across the top, then click “Buy Tribune Photos” in the right-hand sidebar. If you don’t see the phone you’re interested in in the listings, there is a requests page. Or you can call (312) 222-3080.
  • If you want to contact the author of an article, their e-mail addresses are usually printed at the end of the article on the web site.
  • Some people, inexplicably, do not know what section of the paper “the front page” is in. Others don’t know what a byline is, or what “above the fold” means (though, arguably, i suppose, that latter one is less important since we started printing a tabloid format.)
  • Other people think it is easier to call the newspaper in order to ask what section of the paper an article is in — even when they have the actual newspaper in front of them; they just want to be told where to turn the page to. (i really, really have no explanation for that one.)
  • We cannot delete your comment from a blog that you posted and want to rescind now that your rant looks pretty silly a couple days later.
  • Most of the writers seem (to me) happy to hear from readers.
  • Mary Schmich’s last name is pronounced “schmeek.”
  • Jon Yates is The Problem Solver, and can be reached at
  • And yes, I understand that he may have upset you with his latest editorial, but no, I seriously do not know what time John Kass comes to work so you can call him and not get his voice mail. I am in the basement, nowhere near the newsroom, and, much as it saddens me, I cannot just go up to his desk and ask him to call you back, either.