NYE retrospective

I'm sure there won't be time tomorrow for a year-end wrap-up in my shortened work day, so I might as well get to it while I'm bored at home. 2007 wasn't the most eventful year of my life, but that isn't to say it was by any means a bad one. The year kicked off with me finishing up work on the new permanent exhibit at The Field Museum called The Ancient Americas; this job, probably my last in the Anthropology department for near future, was probably the biggest, most (hopefully) enduring thing I've ever taken part of. Hopefully The Ancient Americas will be around for many years to come, and will continue to educate the public about the latest research that has been conducted concerning the various amazing cultures that existed in the Americas before the coming of the Europeans.

After the installation of The Ancient Americas concluded, I was offered a job in the library at The Field Museum, which I accepted on the condition that I could delay my start date by a month because I was about to leave for Peru. During the month of May, I traveled through Peru with my best friend, Claudia; a fairly thorough account of my travels is contained in the first few posts in this blog, and also can be seen in these photo galleries of mine on Flickr:
Santa Catalina Monastery
Cañon de Colca
Lake Titicaca
Cuzco and the Sacred Valley
Machu Pichu

After returning to Chicago, I soon started my new job in The Field Museum's library, and my masters in library and information sciences through the LEEP program out of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This primarily-online program has allowed me to do the majority of my coursework from home or work without having to move elsewhere to attend a top school; on the other side of the coin, the on-campus visits have given me a nice, bite-sized taste of what it must be like to actually attend a big-ten university without having to stay there long enough for the novelty to wear off. Despite all this, it has become pretty obvious that library work isn't in my soul, so I have spent my time focusing on archival work, preservation, public policy and programs; I hope to get involved with the community informatics track within the gslis program, which focuses on targeting information needs in under-served communities and working with those same communities to make them self-sufficient. It was either focus on this, or drop out all together to go back for a masters in anthropology at UIC, which I might still do, but I felt that riding this out and finishing while making some connections and getting experience was the right thing to do.

This September marked Dan and my one-year anniversary. and things are going quite well. To celebrate, Dan and I did what any other overly-romantic young married couple, deeply in love, would do, and went to Detroit for the Paxahau 9 year anniversary - featuring Hardfloor, the act that first got me into the wonderful world of dance/rave music. For those of you who don't know Dan and I well, Detroit was where we initially got together (or at least realized we wanted to) during a trip to DEMF in 2004 and a healthy weekend of urban exploration, binge drinking, and techno. That's love...

The final stretch of 2007 included the Sadie Hawkins Day Race/Ride, which was a pant-load of fun. Again, big big props to Julie, Kisha, and everyone else who made this event a reality; a great time was had by all. I hope we all can look forward to a year 3 in 2008. Other notable events that happened in the final gasps of 2007 included a victorious weekend in lovely Green Bay, WI with my women's Nat. C hockey team, Team Glacier; our game against Michigan Tech was a particular treat - I think it's been about 10 years since I punched anyone in the face, so that was a real highlight. We'll be playing Tech again pretty soon here in Chicago, and I strongly urge any of you locals to come watch if you want some free entertainment.

That brings us up to the last few posts I've made here in Let's Rock, so I don't really think I need to recap. As for looking forward, here are a couple big things I'm hoping for in 2008:

  • First and foremost, good health to all my friends and family (hell, anyone good enough to have read this far deserves it as well)
  • Selling our condo and buying the house we've fallen in love with over in Bridgeport
  • Maybe getting a new job in the anthro department or the archives at the museum
  • Kicking some ass in the Fat Race
  • Kicking some ass at the Nationals with my hockey team in PA
  • There is a slim chance I may finish my degree by this time next year - getting my special collections certification would be an added bonus
  • Thinking of taking the GREs - maybe I'll get it over with this coming year
  • Add to that last one applying for a grad program in anthro at UIC as a possibility

Thanks to all my readers in 2007 - I will see you on the other side of a champagne countdown, and a mean hangover I'm sure. Be safe and smart tonight!


Playing with the boys

Tonight my brother and I are heading to our first Lyons Township High School Hockey Club alumni game; we've missed in the past for various reasons, so this year it's on. This will be the first time my brother and I have played together since we were both on the same men's league team about 4 years ago. Needless to say, it's going to be fun.

From the looks of the team lists, I think quite a few of the guys I used to skate with my Freshman and Sophomore years are going to be there, though those I skated with in my Junior and Senior years and fairly small in numbers; perhaps people closer to my age happened to have roamed a bit farther away from home or, like a few I can think of, sold their gear to buy drugs or turntables (same difference really). So, I am looking forward to a good skate, chatting with some old friends, and possibly being defensive partners again with my brother for old times' sake.

My team frosh. year of high school with my name misspelled (1995-1996) - I bet you can't pick me out of the crowd.

A dance to remember

For those of you who may have known Meaghan, there is going to be a dance party tonight at Streetside Bar and Grill (3201 W. Armitage) to celebrate her life. Meaghan was an avid cyclist, a supporter of the local dance music scene, and one of the nicest girls I have had the pleasure of meeting in recent memory; this time of year just reminds me of how I wish I had had the chance to get to know her better. So, come out and hear a sampling of her favorite music by local DJs and friends, and please remember to find a sober ride home or to take transit.


Mix Tape Master List

Update 3.24.08
Yes, we do have the master list still up on our site, but I encourage you all to go register/log in to the Internet Rave Archive because we now feature a music section where you can stream or download many of these classic old mixtapes. Go check it out; we are constantly adding content, so even if your old faves aren't up there just yet, they could be very soon. If you don't want to wait, go to our forums and add your requests to the request thread in the music section.



For those of you who keep finding this post by google searching for rave mixtapes or something similar: as of late January 2008, this list is still in existence, as is the collection. The problem is that right now the link to this information is associated with a site that is still under construction. Due to this, the second link below might be incorrect every once-in-a-while until I notice that things have changed and I am able to fix everything (I'm not the one working on the site, so I never know when these changes happen). I have been told that this is the permanent link, but let me know if anything comes up. As always, if you have any questions about the tapes listed (note that there are tabs on the bottom for two collection lists), please contact me through the site (first link) - I am user name 'blue'

Here is the original blog post::

Here is the link to our website (zines, forums, chat, games, vinyl lists, tape lists, and flyers): www.ravearchive.com

The tape list is here: http://ravearchive.com/tapes.htm

We're constantly adding content and moving things around, so if any of these links aren't working, please contact the site admin or post in the forum.

I still need to add my tape packs (Brockout! 95, etc.), and eventually want to split them up by genre, but this is how it is right now. Also, it bugs me as well that it's alpha by the first word in the artist's name, which means that sometimes DJ's names aren't in correct alpha order, but that's just the way it worked out in exel.. Anyway, here is the work in progress - the cumulative tape collecting efforts of myself, my husband, and a couple friends who wanted to find a good home (in the disused library card catalog cabinet pictured below) for their tapes. It might not mean much to international visitors, but there is a lot of Midwestern (and East and West coasts) rave history here:

Back to the grind

Nothing like coming off a 5-day holiday to sit at one's desk for hours trying to track down an obsolete vacuum part. Why on earth would anyone buy a vacuum that isn't from a company with a major U.S. presence? I understand that it's nice to have something that is really specialized, but it's not like I work in the Anthropology conservation lab where it's really necessary. Do we really need a 'museum vac' to clean floors and the occasional book? I don't even want to know what this thing is going to cost.

In other news, Blade Runner is playing at the Music Box theater for a week only; anyone want to go?


The Things I get Into When I have an Extended Weekend

Tonight/this morning seemed like a perfect time to catalog our mixtape archive. The grand total? 494 unique titles (this doesn't count the multiple copies we have of certain tapes, nor does it count tape packs, which I haven't cataloged yet). Eventually the spread sheet I put together will live on my husband's site, which also hosts some of the rips he's made of favorite tapes. So now, after washing a disturbingly-thick layer of black funk off my fingers, it is time to get some sleep. In the morning (well, I'm guessing it'll be more like afternoon) I will make a hearty breakfast of eggnog pancakes, eggs, and bacon, and then finish up my master list. Hooray for days off.


For those who didn't know

Fat Race is now up and running. We're still waiting for some stragglers to post up, but I know measurements and pictures were taken (at my place) last night. Place your bets, it's going to be a fight to the finish!


Real news

This story seems to have slipped under the news radar in the frenzy created by Brittany Spears's sister getting knocked up, but I feel that it deserves all the attention it can get.


The Lakota Sioux nation has officially declared its independence from the United States, withdrawing from all former treaties. Some I've seen discussing this think it's just a play for more media attention and aid from the government, but I, for one, am taking it at face value. I'm really interested to see where this goes in the next few months. Will the government ignore the situation until it becomes time to collect taxes and they don't comply? To be quite honest, I hope this goes somewhere positive; everything they've done has been according to U.S. law, apparently. Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that Canada has given the Inuit autonomy and control of their own territories to the far north; I wonder if it's possible at all to have an autonomos native zone within our own borders.

More info at these links:

Lakota Freedom Delegation

Common Dreams.org

I knew there was a reason to hate going to the Dr.

So I guess I have to have some more testing done asap, and the only close date is the 26th (luckily I have the day off). That means I can only have clear liquids (broth, etc) the day before... that's right, Christmas day. What a bunch of B.S..
My wonderful husband, upon hearing this news, burst into laughter at my misfortune and asked if vodka qualified as a clear liquid. I know where he sleeps, revenge will be swift...

No update today because I had to go to the Drs office and now have to work my butt off to make up the time. In the meantime, keep your eyes on the fat race blog because today is the weigh in.


Blue day + Fugazi = marked improvement

Perhaps it is familiarity, or nostalgia, or just the need to hear some angry music when I myself am not in the world's best mood, but listening to Fugazi on the I-tunes network at work is my panacea today. I've noticed over the years that I categorize my music more by mood than by any other classification system:
Fugazi for angry, blue, and, funny enough, great mood
Portishead for blue or randy (not sure what that combo says about me)
Techno of any type for a good mood, driving long distances, or drinking heavily
The Smashing Pumpkins at just about any time of the day or mood
Classical or jazz for studying or relaxing
Ska/The Queers for summer days and road trips
Old school Jump-up Jungle for hot summer days and driving in the city
Funk for cleaning or entertaining guests
and so on...

It's funny how music has always been my safe place; somewhere I can turn to to invoke the certain state of mind that I wish to be in, or to soothe myself out of moods in which I don't want to find myself. I'm a little disappointed in myself that my actual accumulation of new music seems to have ended, for the most part, in the mid-90s. I heard something on This American Life once that we lose our sense of adventure for trying new things somewhere around the age of 23; after that point, we as individuals tend to revisit what is familiar and pleasant to us, and think of anything new as being inferior. Granted there are some people who never seem to stop wanting to push their boundaries, I tend to agree with this hypothesis; why else would oldies stations be necessary, or did our parents never seem to want to go with us to get Ethiopian food rather than Italian? I, for one, am waiting for the time when there will be 90's alternative stations and mega buffets that serve Asian, Middle Eastern, and African foods.

Wow, from music to food - hitting all the comfort zones today!


The other woman

Yesterday morning I wouldn't have seen this coming, judging by my ride in, but I do believe there may be another woman in my life - at least in the cycling sense. Just as many male cyclists reading this would probably prefer to think of the vehicle that they straddle every day as being a member of the opposite sex (though not in the 'odd Scottish guy in a hotel room' kind of way), I too would prefer to think of mine as a compatible companion for my own preferences. However, there is no denying that the Raleigh cruiser, my current ride, is a lady (insert Tom Jones doing a lusty 'whoa whoa whoa' here).

While I haven't gone so far as to give her a name of any sort in the few years she has been in my possession, I can't help but to really appreciate her generously-curvy design, little details that perk up her brown, rusty appearance, and the feeling of grace that I get when I'm out with her. I feel like I need to be wearing a long Victorian dress with a ridiculously big hat covering an equally-ridiculously big hairdo; I don't think I will ever be able to ride a step-through without this mental image.

At any rate, after a couple more rides with her, I feel like I should keep her around for the winter as my work horse. I can't deny that there are certain places that she is able to go that my usual ride wouldn't. I can rely on her weight and fatter tires to carry me over slush piles and accumulations of rock salt without the slightest fishtail - no small bit of comfort when traveling down one of the busiest lengths of road in the city. I think she and I will carry on this affair until the roads dry out again, the the obstructions and hazards have moved on.

Look at it this way, it really is for my guy's good, isn't it? Keeping him in the basement, safe and dry while I let my lady do all the dirty work, will preserve his paint and keep him from rust, right? I'll keep trying to rationalize this shift in allegiances; until then, I will try not to look like a complete tool hanging out on this dignified lady in winter bike attire, mess bag full of stuff, flashing lights, and a pink helmet.


Todays's forecast: slushy bike lanes and a light dusting of sexual harassment

(Note - this picture isn't actually me and my bike, but it's not too far off on how old riding the thing makes me feel)

Monday again, and back on the road, this time on my old Raleigh 'sport' cruiser. I always found it funny that the side of this massive, brown steel blunderbuss was emblazoned with the blatantly-false epithet 'sport' - about the only think sports-related about this ride is the amount of effort it takes to lift its bulk up stairs.

It's funny how a year away from an old ride completely changes how you feel about getting back on it. The ride in today felt like I had never ridden the Raleigh, even though it was my only means of transport last summer. Riding on a step through cruiser after a year of a fairly light men's racing road bike felt completely foreign to me - from the upright position, to the large seat and flat pedals that don't require clipping in. I never noticed how much when riding my men's bike I used the distribution of my body weight and posture to balance and steer; with this cruiser, I feel like the bulk of the bike itself, and my arms, do all the work. Needless to say, I can't wait to be back to normal.

In addition to feeling like a complete bike beginner, the roads were terribly maintained after our recent storm ; I normally ride up Roosevelt (a pretty large and busy street) because it gets a lot of traffic and tends to dry out quicker, but today the bike lane was completely covered in about 3" of dingy gray slush. I was then forced to ride IN the busy traffic on an unfamiliar bike whose unsteadiness under pressure brought back bad memories of my mule experience in Peru. On the plus side, having the wider tires and heavier bike added a bit more traction and stability; I was able to go over patches of slush that would have made me fishtail on my regular bike, so that was comforting. However, on the other side of the coin, being on the heavier bike made me feel like I was driving a large SUV through a snow storm in that it felt much harder to bring to a full stop - this was a bit nerve-wracking when going down the large hill at the end of the bridge on Roosevelt, which terminates at a stop light that I never seem to be able to make on my slower bike.

Finally I reached the footpaths by the museum, and began my slow and cautious descent towards the underpass (my nemesis). I was feeling pretty happy that, for once, the paths were completely snow-free (lord knows how), when I saw a pedestrian in the distance. Being in a decent mood, I said hello, and was greeted by a hoot and the lovely greeting of "big buuuuuuuuns. How you doin' big butt?' Great... just great. Judging by the leer, I guess it was meant to be complimentary, but it still makes me happy that Fat Race is just around the corner. Some guys just can't resist the sight of a corn-fed Midwestern girl riding a bike.

This flashback to all the comments I got riding over the summer in my bike shorts (usually from men in their 40s-60s) will probably be one of my main forms of inspiration. Damn it, if I'm going to get hollered at, it better not be for having a fat ass! No big girl sexual fetish niches for me, please.


Holiday shopping online

Nothing terribly exciting is going on with me, and I am stuck (wo)manning the reference desk today, so that leaves with with enough time on my hands to dabble in the dangerous activity of online shopping. Mind you, I am the type of person who HATES shopping (as in going to stores and dealing with real people in a real-life situation), so the advent of online shopping has seriously increased my frivolous expenditures over the years.
One place where this is particularly noticeable is in my Christmas gift shopping for friends and loved ones; in the past it was an issue of what to buy for them - now it's an issue of what NOT to buy. This dilemma stems directly from the movement of artsy crafty people who are also tech savvy and a bit ambitious setting up their online stores either independently, or through larger sites like etsy. Now I have loads of different places to go shop for unique gifts that I will know help pay for some poor hipster youth's next cup of Dunken Doughnuts coffee.
So, in the spirit of helping out those of you reading this who may be feeling the panic begin to rise about finding the perfect little gift for that special someone in your life, I will hook you up with some places I think are pretty awesome in terms of finding the right things to get at a decent price:

BuyOlympia - lots of nice handmade bags, wallets, belt buckles, jewelry, music, t shirts, other clothing (men, women, children, and infants), and more.
Threadless - a great place to find unique/hilarious t shirts that could make great gifts
Brandon Bird - I love this guy's art; one day I WILL buy one of his prints. His obsession with Law and Order, and Batman might even surpass my own. In the meantime, while I don't have enough money, I can always content myself if a set of note cards or some other scwag.
Vaya Bags - for the cyclist in your life, different styles of bike bags and mess bags, and other accessories made to your specifications.
The Handsome Sausage - Cycling hats and other fun stuff.
Herb and Ginger - Really great hand-crafted (and, I believe, organic) teas. Most are herbal and caffeine-free for nancies like me who can't handle it.
Miss Alison - Cute wallets, belts, and other goodies.
Orangy Porngy - Skirts and bags that are handmade from salvaged vintage fabrics. I met one member of this team at the Renegade Craft Fair in Chicago this summer, and he told me that if you contact them directly with your measurements, they'd be glad to make things that fit you specifically; that's a nice thing to hear for curvier girls like me, considering that most cute, boutique-style clothing is made for smaller girls.
Holland Cox - handmade bags and wallets.
Gerbera Designs - ipod covers, wallets, bags, and more.


Nothing interesting to report from last night's party, other than it was fun to hang out with work friends and see everyone get drunk. Today's ride in finished with a bang, literally, as my tube and tire blew on me as I entered the underpass under Columbus Drive. Unfortunately for me, I have a weird 27" wheel, so the tube a passing museum commuter offered me wouldn't work; I guess it's a moot point anyway because there appeared to be damage to the wall of the tire as well once I got the wheel off. The standing theory is that in wiping down my bike from the rain the other night, the back fender got knocked out of place a bit and was rubbing on my tire.
So now my poor, noble stallion is laying on his back, wheel detached and dejected in the corner of my office. When I get home from work (walking, what a peasant activity!) I will have to get over to the nearest shop to see if they have what I need. If this can't be taken care of before tomorrow, it looks like my trusty old cruiser might be called back up from the bush leagues. I think I jinxed myself the other day when I was in the basement and remarked at how I kind of missed the old gal.


Sorry for the lapse..

We here at Let's Rock apologize for the lack of interesting content this week (or ever, if you want to be harsh); the last couple weeks were finals time for me, so I didn't have much writing to do that wouldn't have amounted to bitching. Now, as of 9:30am this morning, after a very sleepless night of paper writing, my major project has been completed and I am almost home free.
That is not to say that the whole process was without a considerable amount of blood, sweat, and tears; that's just the way of a life-long procrastinator. A couple pots of tea, one offended mother with a poor sense of when to call asking loads of questions, one effusively apologetic phone call to said mother, and one relief-filled online paper submission later, I think I am ready to get into the holiday spirit.
In winter biking news, the weather has left much to be desired the last couple days, but at least I made it home in one piece. Last night was definitely the worst I've encountered so far, not because it was colder than normal (it wasn't), but because it was cold and rainy. Thankfully I was able to get home before the temperature dipped below freezing and the streets got icy, but the wetness made me consider that maybe I needed to get some kind of waterproof glove for rides like that, and that I needed to switch over to my new winter bike boots that lock out moisture better. Otherwise, things were OK because I had my rain jacket on over my thermals, so everything but my hands and feet were relatively warm and dry.
In other news, tonight is the museum's holiday party, and then a very icy ride home through the night, so I hope tomorrow will bring you all more interesting things to read from Let's Rock.


So I guess people are coming to take photos of our place today while we're at work; the whole idea of it seems pretty creepy and voyeuristic, but I think I can get past it. Hopefully they don't lock the cat out of his litterbox like I did one time by accident - I don't want him shitting on my pillow again.


In more important news -

we put our condo on the market last night, so wish us luck!

Nothing much to say this morning...

except that the security guard told me I could ride my bike in the museum to get from the door to the elevator (it's sort of a long way). I thought she was joking, so I asked 'are you sure?' to make sure it was really OK. She said 'yeah, as long as you don't hit anyone.'

Awesome. I always wanted to do that, but never thought I could get away with it!



It snowed from about 5pm last night to, well, right now here in Chicago. That means that I finally got to try biking in Chicago winter conditions today (well, I cheated, I tried that last Saturday as well, but not for very far). Things went really well on the roads; we live right in the center of the city, so the plows are always working overtime removing the snow and putting down salt. I was happy to see that, at least on my route, the snow wasn't piled into the bike lane or the side of the roads without them where I would want to be riding. The only problems I encountered came when I got close to my work. For the last part of my ride in, I generally cut through Grant Park at Harrison, over a bridge that crosses the Metra lines, through a underpass that goes under Columbus Drive, and up some winding paths that lead to a rear entry of the museum; this route went from bad to worse as I went along.

It soon became clear that I couldn't possibly take my shortcut that goes over grass because that was buried under a foot of snow, so I went the long way to the handicap access ramp to the bridge. When I got to the ramp, I found it was coated with a sheet of ice (tough for anyone on foot, but unimaginable for anyone actually in a wheelchair) which forced me to walk my bike over. From there, the bridge was decent, as was the steep hill I had been dreading going down (it had actually been reasonably cleared and salted). The underpass was ok, but the path leading up to the museum was cleared only very slightly, so it was a real pain in the ass to have to try to share it with pedestrians; I tried to bike over the snow to the side, but soon realized that my normal street tires just weren't made for having traction in piles of snow. After clearing the bottleneck up the hill, my path to the back was nicely cleared until I came to my final turn - that hadn't been cleared at all, so I had to slog through that foot of snow on foot, caking my wheels and bottom half of my ride in snow.

So, I got here safe and, provided the snow doesn't get worse throughout the day, will have an easier time of it on the way home (I'm sure the foot traffic and continued removal efforts will clean up the museum area). The difficulties in the off-road areas of my ride have convinced me that I need to look into buying some kind of studded winter tire to use for the duration of the season because all that mess really slowed me down and made me late. We shall see how it goes from here, but in the end, it was actually kind of fun this morning.


Question for winter bikers out there...

Nothing serious, but I was wondering if there were any tips for avoiding wind burn on the face; I'm pretty prone to it. I've started using a moisturizer in the morning after my commute, and again at night, and keep really hydrated, but I can already feel it starting on my cheekbones (about the only part of my face other than my eyes that is exposed when it's really cold out). Does anyone put anything on their skin when they're actually riding, or does everyone else basically do damage control after the ride is over? It's not too bad right now, but I know from experience that my skin get a lot more dry as the season wears on.


copy cat curiosity

I've noticed on my little user map thing that there are people who have checked this blog from a lot of different places. I have now reached the point where I want to know who you all are and what you're about. Cycling Phun, another blogger I read, asked people who view his blog to post a quick reply in the comment giving a name, location, and a link to the poster's own blog if they have one; if anyone on here reading this doesn't feel shy about doing so, I'd love for you to say 'hi' in the same way. Even if I know you and know that you read this regularly, feel free to take this chance to whore out your own blogs as well!


Breaking down the house

We are now in the process of listing and selling our condo so that we can move to a bigger place in Bridgeport; this involves stripping all the personality and life out of our current abode. At first I was a bit sad about depersonalizing our space, but after I thought about all the good that would come from being able to sprawl out, those feelings passed. Dan, on the other hand, seems to be a bit more melancholy about the whole thing; when it comes down to it, he does want to move, but he's a bit sentimental about leaving our first home together. I wonder why this isn't affecting me in the same way. I guess I went through all of these emotions when we left the first place we lived together (but didn't own), which was also my grandparents' former home, and the setting of many of my most fond childhood memories.

What I am wondering is, why do we get so blue when we have to move on from a place that was happy and positive? Shouldn't we be able to leave with the fond memories we have created, especially under circumstances where we know we are making a change for the better? As time goes on, those old haunts become legendary in our minds; places where nothing but good ever happened, and everything was perfect - a moment in time you'd love to return to because you forgotten all the downsides, like thinking of an ex-boyfriend or being in High School. Thankfully, we can only go forward from here.


Fat Race linkage


This will also live in the blog links section on the right side of my page. If you are interested in entering Fat Race, please leave a comment in the rules post in the other blog. In a week or two, once we have everyone added to the blog, the race will begin; after that time, each entrant will be responsible for updating the blog with their thoughts and info. Stay tuned.


Back to the grind

Monday afternoon now - crashing back down to Earth after a much-needed 4 day weekend. Thanksgiving break was a good time; full of loads of friends, food and family. Thanks to my dinner party last Saturday, my fridge is crammed with all kinds of good food that will, most likely, go straight to my thighs; this point bringing me to what seems to be the hot topic in conversations and blogs of late - the winter weight gain.

This year I am determined to win the battle of the bulge, and triumph over my body's natural urge to pack on the blubber and hibernate. What killed me last winter was stopping bike commuting to work, but maintaining my usual eating habits. I do have to say that what I consume is actually pretty good for me (all natural and cooked from scratch in healthy ways), but that I lose when I eat at inappropriate hours and in epic proportions. This year I intend to bike straight through the winter, and to avoid the constant snacking that seems to accompany the first snow fall.

So, in light of all this, to all my readers, and all my friends, I issue the challenge: Fat Race 2007/8. We've done this before, but not very successfully; this year I would love to make it work. The very basic rules are that you 1) weigh in at the beginning, 2) track your weight throughout, and 3) hand in a final weight at the deadline. Pretty basic. For those who are more ambitious, food and exercise logs can be created and shared, but that's entirely up to the contestant. I think there should be some sort of incentive at the end, so I'll take a page from fatcyclist's own competition and propose that all participants an entry fee into a pot that will be split among the two top losers. If you're reading this and are interested, give me a heads up in the comments section, and we'll get the ball rolling; otherwise, it's time to harass my friends in need!


Austounding feats of animal strength and cunning

In the last 48 hours, my place of employment has gone from quiet library to amateur hour for Wild Kingdom; I guess that's not all that surprising, considering that one of my closest work friends blows up snakes (literally) and scrutinizes jars of pickled reptiles for genitalia for a living.

Yesterday it was The Great Escape, starring one very large and determined millipede from the entomology collections department. At about 1pm, during a lull, my boss noticed what she believed to be a fat pen cap begin to move of its own power on the floor of the library reading room; upon closer analysis, she determined that the possessed writing accessory was actually a medium-sized brown diplopod creeping its way across the burgundy carpet. The AWOL millipede was quickly scooped up, not by me, and taken back to his lair about three halls over. Three halls may not sound like a long way to anyone else, but in a massive building like The Field Museum, to a small critter, it's probably a full day's journey. That's a lot of determination shown on the part of one little bug; undoubtedly he was drawn to the library by the smell of my fear.

Today it is The Field Museum Library's adaptation of The Birds, featuring one very cunning sparrow that is currently hiding out in the main stacks. The threat of the intruder has been minimized, and pest control has been called, but it remains to be seen whether or not the bird will be camping out here over the Thanksgiving holiday break. While all of this initially struck me as being pretty funny, the novelty quickly wore off when the icy reality hit me that as the circulations grunt, the task would fall to me to clean all the bird shit off the books after all is said and done. God's speed, Sergio the pest guy.

When it rains, it pours...

...but sometimes a little bit of precipitation can be nourishing. As always seems to be the case in my life, the end of term is insanely hectic for me; one year it was illness and death in the family; another it was writing a thesis and working an internship while planning a wedding; this year it seems to be my first real semester of grad school, mixed with a dash of trying to sell our condo and buy a house.

Normally I rise to the challenges that fall in my lap at this time of year, but for some reason this year I'm a but gun shy; perhaps I'm getting soft in my old age - mellowed by the sedentary, non-academic lifestyle I have grown accustomed to since my graduation. But now it is time to shake off the cobwebs and spring into frenzied action. Bake the large batch of cookies that I wanted to bring to dinner tomorrow? Sure! Clean up the house by Saturday for the realtor to come look it over whilst planning for a large dinner party that same night? Got it! Write my first drafts for the two sections of my group project I volunteered to take on, and help proofread someone else's? Check! Assemble a 15 page literature review covering no less that 7 sources? OK... perhaps with less enthusiasm. Live life without going mad? I'll get back to you on that one. Happy holidays everyone - stay sane.


The Nod

It's the unspoken form of communication that transcends all age, race, language, and walks of life. Walking down the halls at work, the nod is exchanged between myself, and people I've known for years - communicating with them through only this one gesture. It's community, commiseration, and greeting. The nod is a hello from the same homeless guys I bike past near the pedestrian bridge over the Metra tracks every morning on my way to work; we never have time to talk, but there is usually a smile and a nod to say 'good morning.'

What is the nod, and when did it start? It's clearly something I have developed with age. The nod doesn't seem to be the gesture of the youth, who scurry by, perhaps casting a furtive glance at you as they pass to see what you're all about. The nod is an activity that comes with the growing awareness that there are, indeed, other people out there who are worth acknowledging, whether you know them or not. The nod can serve as a surrogate form of laughter when it may not be appropriate to actually vocalize something - locking eyes with a stranger on the the el and trying not to let that smile that's creeping into your face turn into a burst of laughter while the person behind you is having a particularly loud and embarrassing conversation on her cell phone - the nod has it covered, bite your lip. The nod connects me to the handful of bikers I pass in the rain on my way home from work on a dreary Fall evening.
Hello, goodbye, thank you, I'd like to know you, I know what you're going through, good luck, I understand, take care.


Bike Fall...

No, not falling on my bike, but biking in autumn. Today marks the coldest post-Sadie commute that I have had. This is nothing significant temperature-wise, because it had dipped down around 30F before the race, but it does signify the beginning of a new challenge I've put forward for myself. Last year I set the goal that I would commute by bike every day to work and classes, rain or shine, and I accomplished that; however, after my summer internship ended and Dan and I were married, I had a break before my next position, so biking fell off when I resumed work in the early Fall of 2006. This winter, I would like to commit to carrying on my commute.
This new challenge stems from a couple things: the weight I gained last winter wasn't appreciated, I love that I am not contributing to air and noise pollution in my city, and the extra pocket cash I save from not filling any tank other than my stomach is very welcome when it comes time to pay the bills. Those are the more material reasons, but there are others. Plain and simple, I would miss my ride in the morning. Sure, there are days when I hit the snooze a few too many times, and I just don't want to hop out of bed and exert myself, but once I get on my bike and start to move through the streets, that all drops away.
This morning ('30F, feels like 28F, according to weather.com) I noticed something different about my ride. Now that we are getting close to the winter months, there is a different crop of cyclists on the street; the herd has thinned. Riders that I encountered on my route all gave me the nod, or even said hello in passing when I had reached the bike trail portion of my ride, right by the museum. This sense of warmth in the early morning chill wasn't only extended to me by cyclists - more surprising to me was the reaction I got from a couple motorists. One man, getting out of his car, actually saw me coming (for once), and stepped back against his car so I didn't have to swerve further into the street to give him room; this in itself is a politeness that I rarely encounter, but the more amazing thing to me is that he smiled and said 'good morning.' Another car, while stopped at a light, beeped at me; I turned expecting someone to be edging up behind me to make an illegal right turn on red, but instead the driver smiled and waved.
Perhaps all these people, at this early juncture, are amused by the sight of someone who chose to throw on some extra layers and bike, while they chose to throw on some extra layers, crank the heat in their car, and drive. All of this cold weather street culture is a bit new to me, so I'm not sure whether or not this was one unique morning of city-wide good with towards cyclists (a rare thing), or an attitude that will prevail throughout the long weeks, and short days, of winter. The cynic in me wants to think that as the weather worsens, as it inevitably will in Chicago, so will peoples' moods and attitudes towards anything that could be considered a road inconvenience; hopefully this won't be the case. I'd like to think that there is something out there in the Chicago winter, through the slush, snow, and crappy traffic - the dark days and darker nights - that binds everyone on the streets together. I'll call this sense of unity the 'Hey, it sucks out, and we're all trudging through it to get to work and back, so you're not nearly as bad as I thought you were in August' principle.


Orphan thanksgiving

So, in order to commemorate 'Native Americans saving our ass' day, I am hoping to throw orphan dinner on Saturday the 24th. If anyone is in town and has nothing better to do, I'm looking to have people over for a potlatch-style buffet of yummy goodness at our condo near Greektown. Anybody who was without a family to dine with during the week, had a poor time with the ones they DID visit, or just wants to get rid of some leftovers is free to attend. If you're interested, post in here, call my cell if you know it, or email me. Feel free to invite friends who you feel would enjoy themselves; I trust your judgment. BYOB, though I'm sure I'll pick something up if I know enough people will come.


Life, Death, and Music

Up late, thinking about music.

Yesterday I sifted through the collected musical memories of one man, almost 80 years in the making. What did it all mean to him? Sheet music, the tools of his trade, neatly arranged in a dusty filing cabinet; kept in the dark for nearly a decade - since his passing. Each folio, each binder I opened, told me a new story about someone I thought I had known so well. From Brahms to the Beatles; the coronet to the clarinet; the mandolin and the accordion - he was always learning -always expanding his horizons - expanding his frame of reference. Old Czech folksongs, untouched since long before I was born, intermingled with hidden artifacts from a first love; this wasn't just his depository for work papers, it was where he went to dream.

How different is that, really, from my own stockpile? Being less talented than grandpa, my musical memory chest contains the recorded efforts of others - neatly organized in a library relic in the corner. Each drawer, when opened, reminds me of the days when all good news came in the form of a cassette tape: a new mix, carefully dubbed for me by a friend on her parents' stereo, or a gift from my brother. How those sounds made my heart race, and how those same sounds now make my mind race. Each familiar note, beat, and word causes a whirlwind of recollection - sights, sounds, smells, sensations - cascading over my emotions. Did he feel the same when he went into that basement and pulled out a favorite piece of sheet music – written notes that his musician’s memory, later to fail him, didn't even need in order to play? Did his mind's eye see good friends, long dead, or his first kiss as his gnarled hands plucked sweet notes out of his old mandolin? Did he just play so that he didn’t have to think of anyone or anything at all?

A time line of music, now packed into boxes, much in the same manner as the physical vestiges of his own lifetime had been packed away on that last journey.

Shall these memories live on somewhere else? Perhaps they will come to rest with another young musician, eager to learn - his parents looking with bemused curiosity at the dusty box of eclectic folios he had stumbled upon at the thrift store and hauled home. There is no way to be sure how it all will end, but now I will send them out. Hopefully this car load of boxed history will inspire new memories in new hearts.


Sick days, shifting schedules, and the evil of caffeine

Here it is, 1:27am, and I am wide awake. I was feeling ill from the weekend and decided that it was in my best interest to lay low today - get some sleep, recuperate, and possibly get some much-needed school work out of the way. Well, mission accomplished, but perhaps a little too well. Now I am full of boundless energy and, well, it's time for sleep; thus begins the viscous cycle of inadequate sleep, unavoidable cat naps after work, and more sleepless nights.
Things would have been fine, but I decided to try an experiment a workmate told me about double-brewing teas to get the caffeine to steep out. I think I failed my first attempt, but it seemed to have a bit of an effect on potency; I felt fine for an hour or so, but then it kicked in with the usual level of effect. I guess I will have to ditch the teas I still have that aren't herbal, which is a shame because my mom bought me some really nice varieties for me last year. So, thanks for the advice, but I think my system is a little too sensitive for even that method!
So, now it's time to see if good old chamomile can put me in the right place to catch a few zzz's; nothing worse than a bleary-eyed bike commute in the morning!


Sadie Race Recap

A couple days late in coming, but better late than never. So Sadie has been and gone; the drama with the fliers at work has passed (without too many more incidents occurring that aren't really worth mentioning here), and with much fun had by all. In a message to my work vandal though, no thanks to your efforts, the event was proud to have raised about $2200 for their charity, and attracted over 200 riders which were essentially evenly split between male and female. Again, the point was to get women to come ride, and that was achieved with the help of men who either had friends and lovers they wanted out, or were just too cheap to fork out $40 to go alone; either way, I feel the ends justified the means. I am also happy to say that two friends of mine from the museum, John and Lindsay, took 3rd place over all - congrats to them! As for the race/ride itself, Dan and I had a blast. We attempted to go last year but had to quit in the first 10 minutes because his chain snapped. This year we went all the way, and I am pleased to say we finished 49th out of about 100 finishing teams. Even more enjoyable than having a good ride was feeling a strong sense of camaraderie and purpose with my man; he and I are both competitive people, so it was nice to have that energy channeled together, rather than against each other in an sporty setting. It was also great to be able to meet all kinds of new and interesting people - Sadie attracted riders not only from Chicago, but from 8 or more different states. Getting to know everyone at the ride was fun, but getting to know them a bit better at the afterhours was even more of a blast. Thank you to PBR for donating 30 30 packs of cans to the event - because this was an event full of mangy bikers, that didn't last much further than 9:30pm, but it certainly got the party started! Thanks also to Julie, Kisha, and others who were crucial in making this night a reality; hopefully we'll all be getting together next year for another evening of riding, imbibing, and friendship. On a side note, I am happy to say that I didn't hear about anyone getting injured during the ride, though apparently the ride home from the party seems to have been full of some minor scrapes and bruises. Let me just say that a couple PBR's and remembering to clip out once you've stopped don't mix. I have a nice, appropriately heart-shaped bruise on my knee as a souvenir from the trip home. Yay Sadie!

More photos HERE on my flickr site.


Owning culture

So, as some of you know, I am currently in school for a masters in library and information sciences. I decided pretty soon into this program that I would never be able to pull off the naughty librarian look due to a lack of horn-rimmed glasses and a bun, so I have been trying to focus my studies on archival work and public outreach. This area of interest ties in very nicely with my undergraduate and professional background in anthropology, especially in the museum context.
Currently I'm doing a little literature review paper assigned by my archives course professor, and have decided to focus on audiovisual archives and how digitization of these materials is leading towards better ways of allowing indigenous (or at least studied) groups to reclaim their cultural history and dictate how it is used by outsiders.
My readings have lead me to notice major discrepancies between the way we treat indigenous people, or Native Americans/First Nations as they are called in North America, and the way they are treated abroad. There isn't a great wealth of material coming from any other regions than North America and Australia, but in examining the two one quickly notices a marked difference.
In Australia, archivists are working on setting up access terminals in remote areas that are populated by indigenous peoples in order to make ethnographic recordings made of their forebearers accessible to them. These terminals serve many purposes, from helping the living gain access to videos that were shot of their parents and grandparents performing rituals and songs, to helping people of different cultures preserve their native tongues by using such videos and recordings as teaching aids to their young. On a more simplistic level, providing this access restored ownership of their own cultural heritage: recordings that were made of them to further others' academic goals, but were never made available to the actual subjects for their own usage and enjoyment. Another thing that these initiatives are trying to accomplish is a dialog between scientists and those they formerly (and still actively) studied. When different archival files are accessed by an indigenous user, they have the opportunity to give feedback to the scientific community, adding their own tags to an item, or even correcting poor information about locations, individuals appearing in a certain film, or even the significance of what is being shown. In addition to helping scientists learn more about indigenous cultures, the administrators of these digital archives have given the descendants of the individuals involved in these recordings power over who is allowed to use them and how. When a request comes in to an archives to use a recording, it is passed on to the descendants of the participants in said recording; those descendants then have the right to decline the request, or accept it either as is, or on their own terms.
All of this seems very progressive (though not perfect by any means) in my mind, especially when compared to the way similar situations are dealt with here in the U.S.. One example was brought to my attention by accident today when our photo archivist showed me the online database for Anthropology Department at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. First, I have to say that the design and scope of the database and their website in general is very impressive; they've managed to digitize all kinds of old documents and photographs which help to give people a more accurate idea of what goes on behind the scenes in museums of that nature. However, what I do have a serious issue with is the lack of consideration that the museum has shown about the wishes of the different cultural groups they represent on their site. From my experiences within the anthropology collections at my own museum, I know that many of the objects display in their illustrated database are objects that are forbidden by modern-day descendants to be shown to outsiders or members of certain genders. I won't post any of these pictures to give examples here, out of respect for these wishes, but if one really wants to know what I am talking about, they can look up 'false face masks' of the Iroquois.
On the other side of the coin, The Field Museum, where I work, has been making an effort to work with Native American groups in order to accommodate their wishes in terms of what is and isn't displayed; to date, many Crow and Maori objects have been removed from public display, and work on a new, partially-online and publicly-accessible interdepartmental database is taking into consideration these same standards in place about taboos and display. I'm not trying to toot our own horn because our work here with different ethnic communities is far from perfect, as is the implementation of resulting regulations, but I think at least the beginnings of a dialog are something to be encouraged. Certainly we have a long way to go before we catch up with some of the programs that are in development in Canada and Australia, but it would be nice to see more of our major cultural and governmental institutions making a more serious attempt.



Well, not really. I went to the Dr. today to see about some chest pains and shortness of breath I'd been having for some time, and I found out that it's possible my athsma has come back. So, for the next month I get to test drive a sexy new purple and lavender inhaler twice a day to see if I can manage to not be sucking wind like a chump every time I have to bike up a particularly steep incline, walk up a couple flights of stairs, or have a particularly intense shift in one of my hockey games. Needless to say, I'm not pleased to be dealing with this again after having thought I had conquered it when I was a teen, but I guess it's a shade better than thinking I was either having a heart attack or was horribly out of shape. With any luck, getting this problem taken care of will help me improve both my cycling and my hockey game. I'll no more as the next month passes. In other 'I'm getting old' news, I go to get tested for glasses at the end of the month. If someone pays me enough, I swear I'll get sports goggles made and wear them every game!


Planet Bike is my friend...

Just a quick note to say that Planet Bike rocks. I recently bought a light for my bike off them, and proceeded to break the mounting bracket after a few weeks of usage. I emailed them to see if I could purchase a replacement bracket, but the guy there offered to send me one free of charge instead. How cool is that? It's very rare to get anything for free these days, so I'm extremely appreciative of them. Thanks, Dan in warranty ;)


Office stupidity...

Funny, I thought I was working in a progressive environment where office immaturity was non-existent, but I guess I was wrong. It all started when I posted up Sadie Hawkins Day race posters all around my work. For those of you who missed my earlier post, the race is turn-about themed, where female riders need to find a partner with whom they will be required to stick with for the duration of the event. The point of this event is to promote female participation in race events in Chicago (because, at least in the alley cat context which is , female participation is low), and to raise money for a local women's hospital. Because the idea of the race is to encourage women to ride, the fees reflect this by making their entry the cheapest, followed by a more expensive fee for female/male couples (since this is a couple's race), and then an even more expensive entry fee for males who have failed to get a female partner.
Well, one of the overly-zealous PC crew here at the museum scribbled 'Yay sexism' and circled the fee section on my poster in the HR office. I could understand where they were coming from, so I responded by posting an explanation much like the one above about the fees and the reason behind them; this was removed, but the vandalized poster remained. I then replaced the defaced poster with one containing a little post script that anyone who had questions or comments could either call me at my extension, or contact the race promoters directly - no calls or emails, but this poster, too, has been defaced. You have to love how mature this person is.
Instead of getting into a passive-aggressive war of poster graffiti with this child, I will continue putting up fresh posters until the event passes. Everyone else I've talked to about this event has been really positive; some have even come up to me in the halls and said they'd seen the posters and intended to ride. Hopefully they do come out, and we manage to raise some loot for a very worthy cause, regardless of the people who have lost sight of the point and want to take shots at their perceived enemy.


Familiar habits

So, it's midnight on a cold Sunday/Monday in October, and I am wide awake, burrowed under my duvet - my lack of sleep can only mean one thing at this time of year: end of semester is drawing near. Yes, I'm back in school, for those of you who don't know, and in the process of pursuing my masters. It may come as no shock to those of you who know me well that my habits have changed little since finishing my undergrad. Tonight the first stirring up butterflies emerging from their cocoons can be felt in my stomach; the nervousness begins now. Why? Because I procrastinate - always have, and, apparently, always will.
Now is the time when I start telling myself that I need to buckle down, but rest assured it'll be another week before the 'oh shit' sensation kicks in and pushes me into overdrive. Even this weekend I was telling myself that I was going to get all my reading done early for the literature review paper I need to write, but instead I spent the whole day lazing on my parent's couch with the dog, watching a marathon on hauntings. Very productive.
Hopefully this week I'll manage to blast through the things I want to do, but it's always a matter of getting started. Like anyone who hates working out because it's good for me (rather than being active because it's fun), I hate reading when it's for my own good; I could read for hours on end when it's a book of my choosing, but assign text to me and I just can't stomach it. Assigned readings are literary codliver oil to my mind - I don't want to swallow those bitter meds.
Anyway, like it or not, this is the week. Goodbye to internet (well, somewhat), frivolity, and dawdling. Goodbye to 'ok, after I read this article/forum thread/chapter.' Goodbye to doing it after I cook this large dinner from scratch because it takes longer and distracts me from the task at hand more. Just get it done already...


Old promises come back to haunt me...

For those of you who didn't spend the mid-90s dressings in over-sized clothing and going to raves, some of the following terms may be foreign to you; for your convenience, here are a couple brief explanations:
Jungle - note - I did not write this entry. While much of the info contained is accurate, there is some debate over the Jungle vs. DnB, is it separate, or is it the same, issue. I apologize in advance if your own view (if you have one) isn't represented in that blurb but it is, after all, a wikipedia entry.
MC - To be used in the context of a Jungle set (series of records mixed by a DJ), not the more familiar usage related to Hip-Hop where the MC is the main event.

Now that that's out of the way, I'll get on with the story. About 11 years ago (wow, that makes me feel old), when I was in high school, I made a promise to my brother. At the time he was what we call a 'bedroom DJ,' or someone who buys records, turntables, and a mixer, learns how to 'spin,' but never performs in front of a live audience (well, other than ones own friends who visit said bedroom/in-house studio). I, on the other hand, was a wild-eyed teen of about 16-17, who was having the time of her life going to parties (raves) on the weekends and dancing all night to a new (well, relatively new to me at least) kind of music called jungle. In the midst of all this excitement, I told my brother that if he ever played out, I wanted to be his MC because I myself never had any aspirations at learning how to spin but wanted to get involved.

Fast forward to the present day - well, actually about two weeks ago. My brother and I have a mutual friend who goes by the name Axsent, and runs a small club night at a polish bar in Chicago using the crew name Neoteric. Axsent had been asking me for quite some time when my brother was going to play their night, so I jokingly told him he'd need to ask him himself. I was amused (and pretty happy) when my brother begrudgingly accepted, and began to dust off his old vinyl and practice. That amusement turned quickly into apprehension once my brother told me that he had called up Axsent and told him to put me on the flier as his MC for the night; Axsent had just been telling me about how the new fliers were all printed and ready to go, but had failed to mention the little detail that I was now on them. Enter the cold hand of fear gripping my stomach. These days I am a far cry from being the wild-eyed party girl I used to be; perhaps in my younger years I wouldn't have hesitated to jump on stage, grab a mic, and babble some nonsense over relentless beats for an hour, but now I don't even know what I'd say. The truth of the matter is, I hate MCs. I don't just dislike them, I hate them. I could go up there and do my best mockery of everything I hate in the hopes of amusing someone, but I also hate public speaking. Perhaps some liquid courage might loosen my tongue a bit, but we shall see.
I will go through with it all and fulfill that old promise; I do owe it to my brother, after all. Hopefully nobody will take my actions that night at any serious attempt to be the Mistress of Ceremonies; if all else fails, I can just use my post to order beers from the bar!


Not much to report here lately in the city of Chicago. We've been experiencing some unseasonably warm weather the last couple of weeks yet, inexplicably, where I work within the museum is holding it down at an unbearable 50F. Needless to say, I've been shelving books while wearing two hoodies (both hoods up to cover my Dumbo ears) while in the main stacks, only to have to peel all those layers off when I head elsewhere in the building. You have to love the state-of-the-art climate control we have it; it was a million times worse when I worked in Anthropology storage, especially considering it was summer (shorts and flipflops) and the temps would sometimes fluctuate between the 50's and the 70's in different areas - you never knew what you were going to get, so you couldn't dress for the weather in there.
So, here I am, now sitting at the reference desk in the main library, doing circulation statistics and drinking weak tea from an over-used teabag in order to fight off hypothermia (yes, I am too cheap to just go get another bag). Thankfully there is cake featuring prominently in the foreseeable future because it is one of my co-worker's birthdays. Bless her for feeding my sugar cravings; perhaps that rush of chemically-induced energy that I'm about to get will cause me to feel somewhat above arctic in terms of body temperature for the rest of the day.
If you're reading this, happy birthday M., and thanks in advance for the cake!


Quick update

I forgot to mention - for those following the progress of my talks with the condo association, I ran into our building's manager yesterday morning on my way out. He said he had taken my letter, scanned it, and then was going to email it out to the board members. Hopefully I hear something back soon.

Question for any botanists/plant collectors out there...

When I was in Malta for our honeymoon last September, I photographed a really neat succulent plant. Because the climate is so dry in Malta, the inhabitants get their gardening fix by cultivating container gardens that they keep on the walks in front of their homes, or in small, fenced in courtyards. I would really like to find out exactly what the plant is so that I can get one of my own (I have become a bit of a container gardening hobbiest myself because I live in a condo with a balcony and no yard).
I have managed to narrow down the plant to the genus Aeonium by looking at some of the books and serials in the Botany library at work, but I am not sure where to go from there. So, if there is anyone browsing this blog who might know something, or knows someone else who can help, let me know!

Here are the photos that I took (click on them to enlarge and reduce pixilation):

And here are some pictures of possible matches that were taken from sites online:

Aeonium arboreum

Taken from Plant Safari. The stalks look right, but the rosettes don't seem to be tight/compact enough.

No name

Taken from this page. The stems look right and the rosettes have the right kind of shape but the color and size appear to be different.


For some odd reason, a guy yelled 'go cubbies' at me as I rode past him on my bike this morning. I guess my ridiculously garish pink and orange bike top probably made me look a bit like a north-sider, but I still can't imagine why someone would yell that at a passing biker sans cubs gear. Perhaps he was just shouting it any anyone who would listen, like so many other crazed proselytizers that can be found on the streets of Chicago. I guess he didn't see my 'Jesus hates the cubs' button on my mess bag.


It begins...

So, as of today I am officially taking on my condo association about their lack of a recycling program. What follows is a letter I wrote to them about the letter (I think it's polite and to the point). Updates on the situation will follow if anything happens or, for that matter, if anything doesn't. I fully intend to be a pain in the ass until someone listens.

Dear Condo Board –

I am writing to you about something that has concerned me for quite some time, namely ***** Loft’s lack of a recycling program. Since we moved into our unit about three years ago, there has been talk about how our association is considering options and will be getting something in place ‘soon.’ Eventually this talk (and even the signs about it on our floor’s trash room) has disappeared. Does this apparent lack of discussion mean that a plan has been made, or does it mean that the whole matter is on the back burner? Currently I am forced to haul my recyclables to work every day on my back while biking in to work; it’s not really a big issue because doing the chore every day keeps the amount low. However, when we do things like entertain guests and go through some cases of beer, I wind up throwing all those bottles out because I don’t exactly feel it’s appropriate to being that kind of waste into my work place. I have a feeling that efforts like mine are in the minority in the building, and that most of the recyclable waste goes straight down the trash chutes, and into landfill; that’s an awful amount of mess for one building that could be routed to other use.
Is there any way that we’re going to see something happen on this any time soon? The Chicagoland area has a wide variety of options that could be explored in terms of waste management and recycling; it really is our civic responsibility to do something about reducing our waste. Beyond that, residential buildings with five units or greater are required to offer a recycling program to its occupants; this info is accessible by just google searching ‘city of Chicago residential recycling,’ clicking on ‘multi-unit buildings’ under residential recycling, and reading that page. For your convenience, I will quote the page here directly:

“If you live in a building of five units or greater, you are serviced by a private waste hauler, which is mandated by law to recycle applicable materials. Your building management is also required to offer you an effective recycling program, which is defined by three things: source reduction and separation, an education program and a written recycling plan.”

I hate to be the squeaky wheel, but this is something that has bothered me since we moved in, and I have grown impatient with waiting around to see our association do anything about it; I would much rather my assessment fees go to something like this that matters in the long run, rather than re-blacktopping the parking lot. Please give the matter some serious consideration.

Here are some good sites to check out:

The Resource Center of Chicago - www.resourcecenterchicago.org - This company will arrange residential pickup, and guarantees that 90% of their waste actually is reused. They have been active in the Chicago area for 30 years and are very well-respected.

Chicago Recycling Coalition – www.chicagorecycling.org – this site offers some great tips and ‘how to’s’ about residential recycling.

Finally, please let me know if there is anything that I can do to help this process move along; it’s one thing to voice a complaint, but it’s another all together to try to actually do something about the matter to help change be made. Feel free to email me blah@blah.com with any questions, suggestions, or responses you might have.

Sincerely yours,

Lisa L*****, #***

This made me snicker a little...

I'm sure the religious folk who were protesting against the Harry Potter series because it allegedly taught their kids witchcraft and promoted Satanism are pleased about this one.

Low-rise bike shorts/knickers are foolish...


Before I forget

Here is the flier for the Sadie Hawkins ride and race in Chicago. All you cyclists out there really should make it if you can; people even come in from around the country to participate. It's a really fun night. Even better, if you want to help out, please click on the img, print it out, and post it up wherever you think interested cyclists might see it. Thanks!

Changing Seasons

Welcome to fall and hibernation. Sometimes I feel that I might be part bear. It is inevitable that around this time of year, I begin the downward slide into sloth. This last Tuesday the urge hit me hard as I fought to stay awake while reading some mind-numbing article for my Archives course; finally this learning-induced coma won out, and I found myself turning off my book light and going to sleep at 9:30pm for the first time I could remember (at least while I wasn't battling some sort of vicious flu or SARS) in my own hazy recollections.
This irresistible pull towards dreamland is accompanied by the unrelenting urge to consume food at completely inappropriate hours, perhaps due to some kind of latent instinctual drive to gain the body mass that will feed me through my long winter's slumber. I only manage to avoid making a complete pig of myself by keeping the cupboards bare, and my husband's own snacking urges perpetually unfulfilled.
My increased levels of restorative sleep and nourishment don't leave me with any sort of increased energy levels; instead, I rely on my morning's bike commute in the crisp fall air to act as my surrogate demitasse of espresso. While I appreciate the health benefits I've gained by cutting caffeine out of my diet and adding exercise, I do wish my wake-up call could leave me less sweaty and disheveled when I arrive at work. All that aside, I really am looking forward to taking on the challenge of winter bike commuting. I've bought a vast array of over-the-top bike lights to make motorists more aware of me through the winter evening's gloom, or at least induce such epileptic seizures in offending drivers that they're too busy trying to recover to be able to spray me with sludge, graze me with their rear-view mirrors, or beep furiously at me for having the audacity of taking up their valuable lane space. Wish me luck and send me warm thoughts - I'm off to contemplate the snack and nap that are not the in the cards for me.


Call for a general strike

What follows is a pretty interesting editorial that someone posted on a forum I'm involved with that appeared in Harper's Magazine. I'm not really sure how plausible the idea is, but it would be interesting to see if anyone would commit to it. Personally, I could never afford to leave work until the end of such a strike, but I have no problem with at least taking the first day off as a statement, and then doing as the author suggests by stopping consuming beyond the basic needs to live. Anyway, here it is, for all you tree huggers out there:

Specific suggestion:


Multiple small steps for me....

Today was fairly eventful for me in tiny but important ways. I started off my morning with a quick bike ride up to a hotel where the Society of American Archivists were having their annual conference. This was my very first professional conference, so I was pretty stoked that my work was not only paying my entry to go to it, but I was also getting paid for going like I was actually on the job. While at the conference, I got to meet quite a few people that could be contacts later on, and had the immense pleasure of getting to see Studs Terkel (a Chicago legend) speak about oral histories. I was amazed how well Mr. Terkel has aged; at 95 years young, he is still as sharp as a tack and has an amazingly funny sense of humor.
After the conference I biked back to work, had class, and came home. That's when the real progress was made. I ran. For the first time since high school I ran (well, the first time that I ran for the sake of it, not just away from something looking to maul or arrest me). I'm quite proud to say that I went for about 1.7 miles, virtually non-stop, and didn't pass out. I feel good, though sore, and intend to try again tomorrow. Hopefully this next attempt won't turn fatal. In other news, Dan ran for the first time as well today. Fatty power; we're taking over!

Blogging about another blogger


I don't have anything particularly amazing to report about myself today, so I thought I'd post about someone who is attempting something amazing herself. Trish is a British girl who is trying to cycle and sail around the world while being self-sustaining. I found her blog tonight completely by accident and will continue to tune in as she moves along on her adventure; hopefully she gets wherever it is that she is going!

Safe Travels, Trish


Post-laundry day fallout

I'm not sure if it can be statistically proven, but I have a hunch that the day after laundry day may be one of the biggest low self-esteem days around. For me at least, the herculean task of washing the accumulated dirty duds of two fairly-messy pack rats always results in a dangerously over-filled laundry basket full of clothing that just won't fit right the next day. Now I know many will say that this all can be avoided by hanging one's clothing to dry rather than throwing them in the dryer, but there are many reasons why this is problematic for me.
First and foremost, it seems that everything I do choose to air dry (mainly my jeans and other bottoms) still shrinks anyway; the blessing that is stretch fabric tends to expand and contract through their life cycle of washing and wearing until perfume will no longer mask the funk. Yes, this may sound a bit gross, but when one has to retrain their stretch jeans every time one cleans them, the desire for medical-grade cleanliness dies quickly. 'Don't by stretch clothing,' you say? In a perfect world (and a perfect body) this would work out, but the truth of the matter is, until the 'baby factory' cut replaces 'low-rise' in terms of trendiness, my shopping patterns will be stuck hovering over the 'stretch/plush sized' area.
A second major issue that blocks my mission to control my clothing shrinkage is the fact that we live in a 900 square foot condo. When one lacks any space to even hang one's dry clothing, it becomes pretty difficult to find places where one can lay out one's wet garments. Needless to say, by the time we decide to move again, all of hinges on our cabinet doors will need to be replaced due to the wear and tear they've incurred while fulfilling their duty as ersatz drying racks.
So, until I magically shrink myself, or grow my condo, I am stuck having to execute copious amounts of squats throughout that first day after laundry day, until the stretch fabric chooses to comply with the demands that my various curves make of it. Eventually something will give; hopefully not the seams in my capris...


One small victory


"BP backs down on dumping in lake"

I've been watching this news story develop for some time, and have to admit that in the very beginning, I didn't think the ultimate outcome would be any good. I am completely surprised (and a bit impressed) that a corporation as large as BP actually listened to what their consumers were saying, when facing a move that could have gained them all kinds of new revenue. Sure, there are incentives for them for playing ball with Daley and the other political leaders in the region, but I still didn't expect to see them not only doing a 180 on their initial intent to increase dumping hazardous wastes into the lake, but also to give serious thought to proposals presented to them by them for improving their Indiana plant in more environmentally-friendly ways.
I really do hope they live up to the image that they have carefully constructed for themselves, of being an-earth friendly, progressive corporation, and will actually adopt some of the new, greener technologies that have been presented to them. It is likely that any new green tech that they choose to employ will be considerably more expensive than their former plans to just dump more waste, but hopefully they will take this opportunity to raise the bar for other similar corporations in the US. One unfortunate downside of this move is that it may cost BP the 80 additional jobs that they thought this expansion would have created (if it winds up falling through); this is where you need to weigh pros and cons. What good are 80 jobs, when those worker's families (and countless others in the area) will be exposed to more hazardous living conditions as a direct result of their own activities? Perhaps implementing new, cleaner technologies will actually open up jobs as well; either way, if they DO expand the plant, clean or not, those jobs will be there. If, however, BP had gone through with their original plan, despite public and political pressures to change direction, the situation may have resulted in loss of profit (Daley and others were already calling for a boycott), and probably loss of jobs.
Once again, you have to love Daley for being so bull-headed about the whole thing; if he didn't have that natural sense of entitlement to run things for not only the Chicagoland area, but also anyone else in spitting distance of it, I don't think progress would have been made so quickly. Cheers to our local dictator.


Mental sketches from the train

On the train from Puno to Cuzco


Maybe it was the way I was raised – near the railroad lines, running down to the tracks with my parents or grandparents to count the cars on the freights or wave at the conductors – but train rides, or even the sight of trains in general, fill me with all kinds of nostalgia and romanticism of days past. Staring out the window at mile after mile of changing terrain stirs my imagination: little sketches from the placid shores of the lake in the early morning hours, to the rain-swept plains, sheltered amongst the impossibly-high peaks of the Andes which we now rumble through.

Along the solitary track hover herds of alpaca, sheep, cows, and the small settlements of the ranchers. Their comings and goings marked only by their small, crude buildings, in different states of repair, and the humble graveyards that stand sentry over the Puno-Cuzco line.

Glimpses of a countryside – of a lifestyle – that one misses when exploring the frantic beehives that are the major cities in Peru. Little cameos of a simpler rural life.

Cattle grazing on soccer fields, standing under the goalposts like gluttonous keepers. The sheep snacking on the midfield while the children run home from school to eat their own lunches.

Farmers crouch in the fields, hiding from the rain under tee-pees made of cloaks or tarps, making them resemble the nearby, conical haystacks.

Just like at home, children in the arms of parents, or freely standing wave at the train as it passes by – hoping for a wave in return from those in the windows. I try not to disappoint.