A mile high

Lazing in my 10th floor room in the Mile High City, Denver. After a white knuckle, turbulence-filled flight, sitting alone in the very last row of a disconcertingly-loud plane, I feel up to nothing more than laying under my duvet and watching America's Next Top Model until the boys arrive. Let me just say that I am a big baby when it comes to flying; while other people were calmly conversing across the aisle that, to my eyes, kept shuddering in front of me, I mentally flirted with images of massive fireballs sweeping down the cabin, or cartwheeling towards the earth still buckled into my seat. Yes, I keep the belt on throughout the flight, though I'm fairly certain that if anything did go down, it wouldn't be much help.
But hey, it wasn't just me that had issues. There was another person that was in tears and even vomited a couple times... of course she was about four years old, but she made me look like a stone-faced marine by comparison. I think I deserve at least some credit for not being reduced to weeping like a child...
Anyway, tomorrow the activities begin. I'm deliberating between getting some sleep, or hitting a show tonight. We shall see. I have to see what the guys are up to when they get in; I just got word that they have landed and are on their way, so we'll figure it all out when they get here.



Today I have to man the reference desk in my boss's absence, which means that hopefully I will be catching up on some work that has been needing attention for quite some time; it also means that my day will be almost mind-numbingly dull. Meanwhile, down below in the public realm, things are getting pretty interesting. In Stanley Field Hall right now there is an extremely talented High School orchestra which, I believe, is playing movie scored; my friend Karen desperately wanted them to break out into the Jurassic Park theme music, but it just didn't arrive before our coffee and baked goods exited the scene.
In the downstairs area things are a bit more ominous. I'm beginning to wonder how I am going to get my grant consultants upstairs because the area around the entire West entrance is on lock down because Boeing has rented some of our space for a huge meeting. Apparently the entire day is going to be filled with security checks and men with ear pieces until they leave, which makes me wonder if they think some nutter is going to come blow us up before I get to leave for my trip to Denver.
As for Denver, and the American Association of Museums' Annual Meeting, I'm pretty excited to be on my way; I think it's going to be a great time. I'm also pretty stoaked that I was able to score a ticket to Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs between the Avalanche and the Red Wings. Contrary to all reason, I think I will have to cheer for Detroit because I need to represent the Midwest.


Lake Path

My friend Andrew and I ran the Lakefront Path last night after work, heading South. We'd run going North before, but found it to be a bit too crowded. Southbound, I feel, was a much nicer run both scenically and in terms of congestion. In the evenings most of the traffic on the path is headed North, so we were able to make it down to the 31st Street beach pretty easily. On the way back we decided to run on the retaining wall right by the water, rather than the path itself, because nobody was using it.
The only downside to the return trip was the nasty headwind, but we managed to slog through it. The whole run, about four miles, took us about 45 minutes, including a bit of a walk once we turned around to return from 31st street. According to Mapmyrun, that put us at about a 13min mile pace. Not a bad start.


On the job perks and wild encounters

Some people take coffee breaks, others take smoke breaks, while here at The Field Museum, we take 'dead cougar gawking' breaks. That's right, we have the carcass for the now semi-controversial North Side Cougar. For those of you not from the area, people have been debating the actions of the Chicago police officers who shot the animal when responding to an emergency call about its presence in a North Side neighborhood.
I'll just say one thing about this whole matter and leave it at that: even partially skinned on a lab table, that thing was massive. I can definitely see how anyone encountering it unawares in a city alley would be terrified (including cops who, despite being very well trained, just aren't trained to deal with large predators in back alleys). This animal was by a school, and far, far, far away from it's natural habitat, and therefore unpredictable. I would have preferred to have had animal control tranquilize and remove the animal, but sadly they weren't on hand at the time of need. Hindsight may be 20/20, but those officers do have a duty to do what they feel is in the best interests of the safety of the citizens of this city. Come to your own conclusions.

Stairway to

pain. I finally got back to the gym and met with my PT yesterday. I have only 5 sessions left, so I figured I could use that time to have her show me things that would be easy to do on my own once I canceled my membership. Last night was stairs, stairs and more stairs. Run up and down ten times (up and down = 1, and so on), and then do lunges, squats, etc. on the 'rest' periods. Boy was I sweaty, and boy and I stiff today, but it felt GOOD.
The fat race ends Thursday, and admittedly I have been a pretty big failure at it. I was absolutely great the first couple months and actually lost a lot of weight, but I managed to put it back on once winter really took hold in February. I'm losing again, but I kind of doubt it'll be enough to beat our marathoner ;)
She's definitely earned everything she can get!


Back from MN

victorious. The weekend started out a little rocky, with our offer on a house being rejected for another under kind of odd circumstances. Oh well, we signed a lease on a really nice duplex to live in while we continue to look, so I'm happy regardless. After that, it was off to MN for the Stick it to Cancer tournament where we handed the locals their asses by going undefeated and winning the tournament. While we didn't get any trophies or medals, we did get bragging rights over the fact that we managed to beat the top two women's B2 teams in the Twin Cities area with a team of only 10 skaters and a goalie (versus their benches which were, on average, about 15 strong). That's right, we're rock stars. Even more importantly, we also managed to raise a massive amount of funds for the cause, and actually earned more money than all our competitors combined. Yay Chicago X-Factor!



Send some healthy doggie vibes out to Bronx, the world's greatest Rottweiler, as he is dealing with some pretty serious health issues right now. Bronx has been enjoying his snowbird days down in AZ with my mother-in-law for the last couple months, and is due to return to his rightful throne as King of Lake Whitewater any day now. Hopefully Bronx's test results will be OK, and his recovery from his spleen removal surgery (really, who needs one of those anyway?) will go smoothly.
My thoughts are with you Bronxie - get well soon.


Fingers crossed

So we put in an offer on a place yesterday in Bridgeport. Apparently someone else did as well that was in the 'ballpark' (awful pun or no?), so now the battle begins. Hopefully things go our way, as we will be homeless at the end of May. More info to follow.


Sox game last night =

Cold! It was still a good time though; Bill and I froze our butts off on the lower level, just down the 3rd base line. Too bad the Sox couldn't pull off the win though - they lost 2-1 to the A's. That makes me 1-1 for the season as far as games I attended. Hopefully I'll have better luck than I had last year, my stats were awful on that front! At least the bike ride home was reasonably warm.


Here goes

Like the crazy lemming that I am, I have just chosen to follow my brother, sister-in-law, and Julie off the cliff that is running into the abyss known as the half marathon. Yes, I have finally registered for the Chicago Distance Classic after weeks of waffling over the decision, and will shortly begin the process of getting officially off my ass. I plan on getting involved with one of CARA's training programs this time around because I know how I am, and know that I will need someone to keep me from running myself down in the first week - literally. We'll see how it all goes; I have until August to whip myself into champion form, or, more realistically, passable form that will allow my body not to shut down under the strain of exertion. Here goes...



What a crappy day it is outside! It's been windy and raining all morning, and it's got to be only about 40F to boot. Only good news is that the Sox game for tonight has apparently just now been rained out. Don't get me wrong, I can manage a cold-weather game, but sitting around in the cold and damn blows. Hopefully our rain check tickets will be on a nice, sunny, hot summer afternoon. Please, please, please start being at least Spring-like now. This winter was long and hard; I think we've earned some 70F/sunny days at this point.


Doors closing on another amazing Chicago institution

I'd driven past it a million times and was always curious. Finally, in 2005, as we were getting ready for our wedding I decided to make the mission to the north side to check out Aiko's. For decades Aiko's Art Materials has supplied Chicago artisans with a huge variety of beautiful and unique hand-made Japanese papers; it was there that I purchased a lot of the paper and tissue goods that we used on our invitations and gift baskets. The staff there were friendly, extremely knowledgeable, and very helpful - it closes its doors this Friday. Sadly Aiko's felt that they could no longer compete with larger paper suppliers due to worsening economic conditions, the value of the Yen, and the aging of its owners; none of the people they approached to take over the store felt that they would be able to weather the storm any better. One of my co-workers, our book binder, wrote up a nice little tribute piece and said I could post it up; due to his long term relationship with the store, I felt that his piece would explain a bit more about the nature of the store and the Japanese art of paper making than mine could:

A Sun Rising, Forevermore
Aiko’s Art Materials, founded in Chicago in 1955 by Aiko Nakane, closed its doors on Friday, April 11, 2008, a truly unwelcome casualty of changing times.

Aiko (September 15, 1908-May 19, 2004) assisted many people with her encyclopedic knowledge of the handmade Japanese papers (washi) and no less me with my research on things called “rice paper.” She provided the critical information regarding the final modern link of the term “rice paper” to the Japanese papers, remarkably in the process adding a fourth, asa (= hemp), to the commonly known three, kozo, mitsumata, and gampi. Even though her contribution is only one sentence long, it is the glue which holds my paper together and completes it. The following excerpt from Hand Papermaking, Summer 1994, honors her. She will live forevermore in the name of her fellowship fund and in our hearts, continuing past this the 100th anniversary of her birth. (Ken Grabowski, Field Museum of Natural History, April 11, 2008.)

Rice Paper Caper

Ken Grabowski

“Here, Holmes, try this macaroon. It has edible rice paper on the bottom.”
“I'm surprised at you, Watson, you of all people. What you have just called rice paper, and has been commonly called that by the masses since at least the late 1940s1 , contains neither rice or paper but is instead a wafer imported from Holland and composed entirely of potato flour and ground nut oil.”


“Potato, Solanum tuberosum.”

“Well, I'll be. But why is it then called rice paper, Holmes?”

“Ah yes, Watson, why indeed. ….”

“Logical, Holmes. Are we done yet? Our tea is getting cold.”

“Watson, there are many more examples of things being incorrectly called rice paper, perhaps a score. But because our tea is getting cold, I will mention just two. For instance, the term rice paper for handmade Japanese paper (washi) dates at least back to the beginning of the 20th century when Hitchcock conveyed ‘Contrary to the usual supposition, rice paper is not made from rice, but from Paper Mulberry [three species of Broussonetia].’21 It took awhile but unfortunately the expression eventually caught on to the point where both the educated and uneducated use it to the nth degree when discussing washi.

“By the 1960s the terms Japanese paper and rice paper were clearly synonymous. Thus Nakane was absolutely accurate when she said ‘So called rice paper is made from fibers of plants called kozo, gampi, mitsumata and asa.’22

“Dr. Livingston, I presume.”

“You presume correctly, Watson. Now, if I had my way only the item in category 1 would be called rice paper. The items in category 2 would be called only Japanese paper: kozo or paper mulberry; gampi; mitsumata; or asa when referring to the individual papers. The item in category 3 would be called only springroll skin, rice pancake, or rice sheet, and not rice paper. The items in category 4 would be called potato wafer and pith sheet, respectively. But I don't have my way and I'm afraid we'll have to put up with all this misnaming for some time to come, I fear. Anyway, I'm getting hungry again. I hope I haven't bored you with this escapade.”

Post-rant comedown

Sorry for all of you who had to endure my frustration yesterday; things have been getting progressively worse here (well, it seems they are everywhere, but it's just becoming obvious now at work) and it sucks to see your friends bear the brunt of it. The rest of the day went a bit better. We continued the Great Bridgeport Housing Search, something that in and of itself doesn't do anything to improve a foul mood, and actually saw a couple places we liked... to rent. That's right, we're looking to rent until something we love comes on the market which, in that area, might take a while. The leading contender for rental right now is the top half (two floors) of a duplex. Featured inside this lovely new construction on a quiet street is a set of French doors which, when opened, neatly frame the ballpark - perfect for fireworks days - and let in a great breeze; a massive back porch for all our grilling needs; a garage; built-in speakers throughout the first floor; tons of closet space; multiple spare rooms; and a master bedroom on the top floor that is sunny and roomy. I could quite honestly do without the spiral staircase to the top floor, but it looks cool at least. We submitted a credit application and hopefully will know something soon; there was another couple looking right after us, but I can assure you all (as if I had to) that we were quite obviously much cooler.

Other than that, Hell's Kitchen with Julie delivered as always; tonight we will carry on our festival of culture by hitting the Lyric Opera to see The Sleeping Beauty - a ballet by Tchaikovsky. Classy. I really wish I had a working lens for my camera because the interior of the Lyric is absolutely stunning; sometime I need to take the tour of the inside and take some shots.



Take a day off from work and things get turned on their head in your absence. After about a week of being virtually AWOL, our library director tendered his resignation suddenly yesterday (speculate away), so we are now without out figurehead. Thankfully my direct boss is the most capable, awesome person I have ever had the pleasure of working under, so the ship is far from sinking. In other news, in the past week I have learned that two of my good friends here have lost their contracts; leave it to the non-profit world to give young, extremely talented staff the short end of the stick while people of dubious qualifications are allowed to grow fat off the institutional dollar until things become unmanageable and resignations need to be handed in. That's about all I'll say on that issue, though perhaps even that is a bit too much.
For those of you who have ever asked me about getting into the museum to work, I guess I have to be frank on one thing. You will love working here, and your work will make you very happy. However, at the end of the day you must know that you are 100% expendable and can be cut off at any time. Your job, most of the time, will be viewed as worthless in times of need, and if you are given the ax someone else will be made to fill your shoes as well as the ones they already have on. No matter how good you are, you are easy to part with administratively, even though those you work with may appreciate you 100% and will mourn your loss.
Money is tight, and spending is often foolhardy. You have extremely intelligent people in charge of the funding in places like this who are, perhaps, not the best managers of money. Projects are funded but carried out in ways to cut cost that often lead to shoddy work that requires everything being done over in a decade or so. Nobody believes in investing in doing things right the first time because the dollar sign fills those in charge with fear; in the long run more money is wasted by not getting things right in the first place, but the only people who seem to notice are the grunts forced to do things half-assed. What to do though? It's not entirely the fault of those in charge, as they're daily forced to try to stretch the museum's budget as far as it can possibly go. In hard economic times, places like my employer see their funding dry up both from the government and private donors. People lose jobs, just like in any sector, but it doesn't make it suck any less to know that when it's people you're close to.
My wandering rant... I'd just love to see things get better, but I, along with pretty much everyone else I have or do work with know that 90% of us aren't here for the long haul. If our funding doesn't dry up, we'll grow tired of working hard for the sheer enjoyment of being in a great institution, and otherwise little financial compensation. On to bigger and better (?) things with nagging doubts in the back of heads that perhaps we should have held on to this place just a little longer. Some do manage - I'm pretty sure I won't be one of them. Regardless, I wouldn't have it any other way. This experience has been invaluable, even taking into account all the lumps that have come with it.


Back from the lake house

Spring was in the air over the weekend and my soul let out a big sigh of relief to be away from the noise and stress of home, and fully emerged in the sights, sounds, smells, and lack of responsibility that go hand-in-hand with these all-too-rare weekends away. We drove up early Saturday morning, after my dad dropped off Daley, our dog that my parents adopted when we realized what a cruel fate it was to condemn a young dog to living yardless in a condo.

The drive itself was pleasant because, after a year of driving in silence, we finally got our radio repaired; now our random banter was accompanied by the old school housy goodness of a Booloo Master mix CD. Daley curled up into a secure little ball in the back seat, just as he always does, and quickly passed out and slept for the duration of the drive. World's. Best. Car. Dog..... Ever.

Shortly after we settled in, the caravan of cycling folk arrived bearing bags of groceries and cases of beer; wonderful. Julie and I went for a jog around the lakes with her wonder dog, Molly while the menfolk went for a ride (Julie is also an avid biker, but due to the marathon she is training for, she had to get her miles in on two feet). I seriously can't believe how much better I feel running out in the fresh clean air of the countryside, rather on the congested pavement of Chicago. I was actually covering some really hilly ground yet felt a million times better than I ever have running back at home in the pancake terrain of Chicago. I wish it could always be 65F and sunny on a Wisconsin Saturday afternoon when I venture out for a run!

After all the activity, we had an excellent grilling session with ears of corn, portobella and swiss cheese bratwurst, grilled portobella caps, and boca dogs (twice baked potatoes with horseradish chedder cheese were cooked in the oven). Mmmmm grownup food. You know, as we've aged we may not have become any more mature, but the food and beer selection have seriously improved. The night was capped off with a bonfire in the backyard that went on for hours, and watching shooting stars over the dying embers until they failed to give enough warmth to keep things enjoyable. Good food, good friends, good beers, and great conversation.

I seriously can't wait until the summer when we do this more often, and can't tell you how many times during the weekend I seriously considered exploring my options in terms of telecommuting jobs that would let us move out there sooner. It'll happen soon enough, but I really wish we could speed things up; talking to Dan about the whole thing, we know we're both on the same page about that one. Some day...


A bit after the fact but...

my brother just posted up pics from a skate we had Sunday night at the United Center. Bill plays on a men's league team with a member of the Wirtz family, so as a celebration for them winning their league championship they invited a bunch of people to participate in a rat hockey session on Blackhawks ice (right after a game too). It was a total blast, and Jamie, my sister-in-law managed to get some great shots. Here are some (click to enlarge):

Dad, me, Bill (my brother) at center ice

On the visitor's bench: Dad, Me, Bill, Dan, Aaron

Me taping my stick, Bill mincing around for the camera

Suited up

Not sweaty yet

Between shifts on the home bench

Me probably getting beat in the corner by the fast guy

About as much action as any of my action shots had

Rinse and repeat

Letting out some inter-sibling rage



sitting by the phone waiting for a couple office equipment suppliers to get back to me on quotes so that I can move on with the grant I'm writing. I feel completely worthless sitting on my ass waiting to hear something so that I can move on to the next stage. It doesn't help that I'm on no sleep and practically brain dead at the moment, so I guess I have nothing really interesting to say.
Last night we looked at another house that actually seems promising; we'll add it to the very short list of ones to keep in mind. We move out June 1st, so we need to figure out the housing situation soonish.