Thursday, December 27, 2007

Finally, A Straight Answer

From Frontal Cortex

"The fact of the matter is that the best diet in the 21st century is essentially the diet of an 18th century Tuscan peasant. As Pollan observes, this diet doesn't take very long to describe: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." If you follow that sage advice, you won't need to nourish your brain with the latest supermarket gimmicks."

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

How Else Would I Cope?

From Gaper's Block: Today is Repeal Day, the anniversary of the repeal of the 18th amendment (the one that prohibited the sale and transportation of "intoxicating liquors").

And then a rebuttal.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Future of Reading

So I have yet to read the Newsweek article on the revolution of paper and ink, but I heard so much buzz on the media that I understand the jist: Amazon has created a digital "book" that contains many books. While I'm not an enemy of change and regularly read stories from purely online resources, I can't help but agree with this reaction.

My parents have a natural aversion to change, but they also can't always reference Orwell for what they resist.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Meet A New Dinosaur


Nigersaurus, a dinosaur I frequently worked with at Project Exploration, has been officially unveiled by National Geographic today. He's quite bizarre - the media is calling him the "Hoover cow of the Mesozoic."

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Bosses, Art, and Neuroscience

Today will be a good day. First, my task list has grown greatly at work. Typically this is viewed as a negative and only brings on stress. However, I'm actually looking forward to banging through a number of these projects. Oh, and it doesn't hurt that I receive regular positive reinforcement and appreciation for my good work from superiors. It's amazing how this can affect motivation levels, as I nearly had forgotten what it feels like after so many months of the exact opposite.

Another highlight of this young day is the arrival of a book I ordered: Johan Lehrer's Proust Was a Neuroscientist. Despite staying busy with Newsweek and Eggers' The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2007, this book looks particularly interesting (I also follow his blogging here). It argues that, "artists...discovered an essential truth about the mind that science is only now rediscovering." Pretty exciting, huh?

My favorite quote thus far...and just from the preface...is, "Take the the human mind. Scientists describe our brain in terms of its physical details; they say we are nothing but a loom of electrical cells and synaptic spaces. What science forgets is that this isn't how we experience the world (We feel like the ghost, not like the machine.) It is ironic but true: the one reality science cannot reduce is the only reality we will ever know."

Clearly, I'm in for an awesome ride. Perhaps caused by long, isolated periods on a rural farm, I've always felt like the most amateur of artist and scientist. What I feel right now is a desire to have longer commutes to spend with Lehrer.

Once again, art and information collide.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Nostalgia

Most often, I view memorabilia as dangerous. While sometimes it's okay to let your mind wander in reverse, an eternal pessimist doesn't always find it a smooth ride. A legal pad from a previous job you miss desperately, a cute note from a spurned lover buried in a wallet. These sorts of things simply open old wounds and I honestly hate them. With my extremely biological view of society, I believe our minds were meant to retain important survival skills and forget those events which will serve us little in the future.

Anniversaries are odd in that, being calendar-powered constructs, they are unavoidable. You can easily forget that it has been exactly one year since you made a move to Chicago on the anniversary DAY, however a stunning realization a few days later can feel like a flesh-eating virus on the brain. What am I doing here? Why do I feel five years older when it's only been one? Have I even fully made the transition back to living in the city? It's all very complicated

I Can Taste It

Eerie - this would have been a great post for Halloween. I've been lucky (lucky?) to have little experience with death and dying, so this is fascinating.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Festival of Maps

Despite being the hobby/obsession of one very wealthy group of people* who financed and seemingly pushed his interest on an already over-extended group of cultural institutions, I can't help but plug the Festival of Maps, which premiered in Chicago at the beginning of November. They have impressive collateral, ads, and an interesting website. Full disclosure: the MCA is a participant, but I see plenty of other venues throughout the city that look to have incredibly interesting seminars, exhibitions, and events on cartography...all while facing the digital age of Google Maps and GPS.

*It's well-known that one of the board members employees a full time curator for his private collection of maps.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Another Example of Machinary Addiction

(And it sounds so much better if you say it "mash-in-air-ee"...)

Old habits are hard to break, apparently even for phone systems: Over the weekend our work telephones fell back, according to the old Daylight Saving Time rules (officially no 's' on Saving, kids).

This led to a hilarious level of internal stress within the museum since everyone was not noticing new messages until over an "hour" later. Hilarious! In all of two days, an unsentient machine made 100 people feel a bit insane. To the dystopic, I argue that we handed over control of our fears/emotions/bodies years ago...

Alas, ghosts in the machine just in time for Halloween.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Why I Love Google, Part XVII

I am a total Googlephile. They just put up street views of Chicago as part of their mapping service.

Not Meant To Last

If there's one positive aspect to lean on after learning that your landlord is planning to demolish your apartment building come spring, it's that he no longer cares about the little money he's making in rent or the final state of the apartment. We'll absolutely get every cent of our deposit back. An additional benefit is that your landlord suddenly decides to give you the garage for free, nixing the $200-per-month price tag. The garage, mind you, that is so large that it can fit oh, four economy cars and all the furniture you no longer want sitting in your living room. Expect a winter garage party for the roommates and 100 of our closest friends.

When I parked my [essentially fugitive] car with expired tags and Iowa plates within the four walls, roof, and automatic door this morning, I realized I haven't parked in a private garage since I've owned this car. Even more, I haven't parked A CAR in a garage since high school. It's sort of a privilege reserved to those with money or enough land to build one on (like the eighteen storage sheds on the farm back home). Seeing as how it affected my mood, predictably for rest of the day, I recommend parking in a garage every morning. Add to that a gigantic blueberry muffin from the farmers market and you'll be set.

Friday, September 28, 2007

I Almost Peed My Pants

This past Wednesday, I attended a dress rehearsal of La Traviata as a guest of a corporate client. I have never been, nor imagined myself to be, an opera fan. My opinion stood that opera was much too high-culture for most people and that the art form was reserved to the puffy upper class. I still feel that way for the most part.

However, I certainly cannot discount the amount of talent that was displayed or the extent to which it affected me, a very plebeian observer. As you may know, La Traviata is the same opera in which Julia Roberts' character was found crying near the end. Here's play-by-play for me:

Act 1 = Desperately keep your eyes open. Orchestra playing familiar music (probably picked up from Looney Toons, but still effectively lulling my sleep-deprived body into a coma.

Act 2 = Ooh, the story is getting interesting. Love that cannot be realized...eternal devotion...life-threatening illness...

Act 3 = Please oh please don't let the lights come up until my mantears have dried!

It really was quite beautiful, but I'll continue to forgo the season tickets and hold out for those rare but free dress rehearsals.

Friday, September 21, 2007

"Not I," said the Duck.

I sometimes respond to particular questions with a very odd response of, "Not I, said the Duck." This has been pretty automatic and I've never remembered where I picked it up.

Until today. Someone (understandably) asked what that meant, so I Googled it. After I clicked the first result, I instantly remembered that my great grandmother read this fairy tale to me as a kid. She only recently passed away, and I got to thinking how lucky I was to experience all but two great-grandparents for a good portion of my life. Almost all of my "Greatest Hits" childhood memories involve them.

This makes me think of myself as a robot kit--starting as a simple flesh frame and, with proper sun exposure and fuel, grown into what I am today...complete with all sorts of idiosyncrasies and manners contributed by different family and friends. For me, great- and regular grandparents are the sensory trigger-installers. For example, the smell of peaches remind me of weekends I spent with great grandma and grandpa where I woke up late to orchard-fresh sliced peaches doused in creme with coffee (I was eight! They were crazy!). A cozy blanket and book nowadays leads me to start thinking about when my frame was small enough to fit atop theirs while the grandmas read me to sleep with Mr Men and Little Miss or Little Golden books. As for the grandpas...how much cooler could they get? Infinite knowledge like how to hitch a trailer, drive a boat, tend to animals, eat, fish, walk beans, thump a melon, reining a horse to a real sled like Santa's, and cut wood. They were also daredevils building me birdhouses that captured the bird, welding together nails to make ninja stars, and taking me sledding on hills with 45-degree inclines.

How this passed-on knowledge helps with my fundraising career, I can't be sure. BUT I hope my grandkids are telling other people how cool I was after I'm gone.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

How Fickle We Are

Attention those that maintain their own website or e-newsletters: MarketingSherpa just did some research and discovered that even the words you type in a link to full articles affects the likelihood of web surfers clicking it.

They tested the click rates of the following:
1) Click to Continue
2) Continue to article
3) Read More

"Click to Continue" won the tests. MarketingSherpa believes "Read More" lost because people online SCAN...we're even averse to the word "read."

[I learned this via The Agitator - thanks Tom!]

Monday, September 17, 2007

Perspective: Gravity=Curvature of Spacetime

Let's start with my take on this story of mine FIRST. After that, you can decide if you want to stick around if you like. Here it is: Perspective is everything.

Not long ago I started a new job. A step in the right direction, for sure. My first day also coincided with the first day for all fall interns...nearly twenty of them. They were nervous—-disarmingly charming—-and while waiting to get our security badges I did my best to blend. I made no mention that I wasn’t here for any other purpose other than to work shit hours for shit pay and for a while, it was good. My cover didn’t last long, though. Into the security room walks an intern from my previous job. She unwittingly blows my cover and reveals it's my first day at the manager level.

No longer did I have a group to share the nervousness of the first day with. No longer would they trust me with the knowledge that they too were scared, for now they had to impress me. It's funny how the pressure of an interview actually hides the true personality. Now you’re probably saying, “Who cares!? You have a position that pays! You’ve got more experience...status!” But I see it as having so much more to explain, understand, and be responsible for. More painfully and personally, it means I am OLDER.

I guess you could label the defensiveness and nostalgia as a quarter-life crisis (my third or fourth in as many years) if you want, or too much transition too fast (new apartment, new roommates, new job all in the same week), but I have long felt much older than my identification claims...and not in the wise sage sense. Between all the terrible habits I’ve battled—-the rehab-worthy partying I did for a decade, the above-average intellect that I squandered and dissolved, the complete lack of respect I’ve held for some and for myself—-I've eroded the youth with which I was born. I felt jealousy when I saw the interns and their bright, excited eyes. And to paraphrase James Baldwin, “It’s always at the hour of need that the missing limb aches.”

For a while now--months, I would guess--to compensate or make reparations (I haven’t figured out which one it is yet) I practice a number of self-improvements. I read voraciously, moreso than my highschool or college years, to reclaim a grasp of language. I force my nearly-agoraphobic, damaged brain into social skydiving. I cook. I practice honesty more often.

I also think about the early years. However SUCKY high school was, snapping beans from the garden for hours, or how much I hated my family situation at times, there was always an escape. Living on a farm and being essentially an only child grants you many opportunities for creativity in solitude.

Back to the story: On that first day of that great new job, walking down the hall to my bright new (shared) office, I couldn’t stop thinking about one thing: I just want to be a kid again. That's all I ask for. Start me over but of course don't forget to sprinkle me with just enough bacon bits of wisdom to avoid repeating the big “uh-ohs”...the ones where it's evident I didn't respect my body and emotions with the same respect I [should more often] demand from others.

When the body expires, I predict the last flashes of memory and electricity zapping across my synapses will be from my childhood, deliberatly lost for hours in a grove of trees. Perhaps those solitary beginnings explain my separation anxiety or why I avoid being alone as an adult...I'm sure different schools of thought could argue endlessly. And I would definitely want to have back that sun-bleached-white and full head of hair back...though that too darkened around the same time that I was learning life, a lot of the times, just isn't that easy.

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, here’s a unique perspective on our universe. I agree with the author that it's a "best" short story (for me, second only to Doerr's The Hunter's Wife). I wish everyone on this planet could read it, and not just because it has a you-involuntarily-gasp-as-you-comprehend-the-final-sentence ending. So turn off the tv, settle into the comfy chair with your laptop, and get ready for a mindjob. For those of you who have read it, f-you for not telling me about it sooner.


Images: Above: Me with my orange hat that, if I still owned it, would be worn on every cold morning commute! Bottom: I took this photo of Sean Carroll, physicist and theorist from Los Angeles, giving a lecture on dark matter at a ranch in northern Wyoming.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Good Morning


No matter how little sleep you got the night before, there's nothing more refreshing than waking up in your new apartment/house/condo/trailer. The new ways the morning sun reflects through a window NOT facing a brick wall...the smell of the roommates' coffee...the amamzing yellow paint color on the walls to greet your tired eyes...the OH MY GOD SOMEONE IS SPRAYING MACHINGE GUN FIRE ON THE STREET BELOW!!!!

Oh wait, that's just the construction crew working on the Diversey Brown Line renovation. Using a rivet machine. At 7am.

Note to self: Throw away alarm clock...no more use for it.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Why I Like the Information Age

Because no matter how much I wondered, all my life, if this ever happened to anybody...I wouldn't have heard about it without reading blogs.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Where do you work?

There is a medical emergency across the hall from my office. Literally. Six steps away, twelve med students are valiantly trying to rescuscitate what I imagine to be a very expensive mannequin. They are being critiqued as the bleeping heartrate begins to falter and flatline. I wonder if he has a family? And if so, were they created in part by that creepy plastic penis which I feel terribly guilty for spotting everytime I walk to the mailroom? (What? Mail's not here yet?) That also makes me wonder why they decided to include the penis and not just copy Ken? I guess maybe it helps them train to avoid distraction. Assuredly due to current job frustrations, I fantasize about walking into that room to immediately begin working toward my medical degree. My grandma once told me I'd be a fabulous surgeon, and I don't doubt her. Predictably, however, I'm choosing to just sit here, continue compiling packets for CPS teachers, and let the various E.R. reruns play in my head. (I stopped watching when he left).

Last weekend I watched Priscilla: Queen of the Desert for the first time ever. Rather than an in-depth me-style review, I'm going to suffice it to say "awesome." It was really enjoyable and all of a sudden I got an urge to roadtrip as well. That urge ended up translating to a hellish drive to La Grange to catch Spiderman 3 at a cheap-seat theater. I could also launch into a scathing review of suburban stereotypes (and the film), but I'd just be preaching to the choir, eh? You and I both know that no suburbanite would read this blog. They are too busy going to key parties and poisoning trees.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Friday, July 13, 2007

On Chicago...

"Once you've become a part of this particular patch, you'll never love another. Like loving a woman with a broken nose, you may well find lovelier lovelies, but never a lovely so real." - Carl Sandburg

What are your thoughts on this poem about the Windy City? I completely agree...I can't help but feel like I grew up here, even though I've only been here a cumulative 2.5 years. Maybe it has something to do with the city being located in the middle of the nation...or the fact I was raised in a more rural, less populated version of Logan Square.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Gomez @ the Vic

Last spring, I was thrilled to attend Gomez at the Vic - great crowd and caught on tape. Watch near the sound booth - I'm cooing over all the songs with my coworkers SM and KA.

This gives you even more reason to make my blog your homepage ;)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

07-07-07 Weekend


There's something to be said about deliberately isolating you and eight of your closest and craziest friends at a cabin in BFE Wisconsin. You know going into it that you're going to possibly knock back a few too many beers, see a bit too much flesh, and walk away with a third-degree burn. I'm happy to report that I only escaped the latter. Despite the ten cases of beer and lost articles of clothing, I somehow managed to remember to continuously apply 8-spf sunblock, which sadly only darkened the embarassing shadow of my farmers tan.
Photo: It may be 9am, but those drinks definitely have liquor in them.



Highlights of the weekend include some misdemeanor b&e, observing the Milky Way and its shooting stars from the heart of the lake, and the hottub (duh, but minus those damn neighborhood hippies). All nine of us definitely "won" this weekend - as was expected - but the greater goal of getting away from the city and spending it with some of the coolest people on this earth made the resulting injuries and exhaustion all worth it. As with almost any vacation, I forgot to plan some other fun activity in the week after returning...so now I feel like slitting my wrists with nothing to look forward to.

Anyway, thanks friends. And some advice for 08-08-08: You better watch the fuck out.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Say no to Cannibalism

I should have read this BEFORE eating lunch, rather than after.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Documentary on Font

Looking to do something a little different, a friend Ashleigh and I ventured downtown on Friday. After a couple of great brews, an amazing bbq burger, and chili fries at Monk's Pub, we strolled over and caught a few minutes of Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus performing Mendelssohn's Elijah, Opus 70. I was surprised to see the entire Pritzker Pavilion PACKED (see prior crappy camera phone post) with people...families, groups of adults sipping wine, passer-bys. Great showing for so soon after the work day ended.

After strolling Millennium Park for a bit, we ventured on to the Gene Siskel Film Center where (thanks to Fuzzy Gerdes at Metroblogging Chicago) we had tickets to Helvetica. Though I'm not a graphic designer, typesetter, or artist, I found it really interesting. Chicagoist can give you a much better review, but I also recommend. Hurry, it only plays through June 21, 2007.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

My First Blog

Hi, I'm the new kid in class.

I'd like to thank the already millions of subscribers for finding enlightenment and entertainment within my daily musings, adventures, reviews, and life-altering epiphanies.