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.