Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self. - Cyril Connolly
Thursday, May 31, 2007
I'm such a geek
I'm watching the Scripps National Spelling Bee and trying to beat 12 year olds by typing in my best guess as to the spelling of the word into an online dictionary on my laptop without looking to see if I'm right.
So far, so good, with 6 kids left.
I'll let you know when I lose (and I will). I almost blew it on "Cilice".
The girl that lost on that word was on the right track. She asked if it was derived from the Latin "Cilia" which represents hair, or flagella on protozoa. Sadly, it is actually derived from a geographical location, not biology.
9:45 - Five left. I am SO glad I've had even a little bit of French, an exposure to German, and a lot of Russian. A heavy background in science and medicine doesn't hurt either. But then again, I'm in my forties - these are little kids.
9:56 - I'm OUT. First word of the third round "zoilus" - Greek origin, "one given to unjust findings or quibbling" (a carping critic). Ironically, Zoilus was a Greek grammarian.
10:00: CRAP - they give the previous kid a word like "zoilus" and the next word is "papparadelle"????? WTF? How easy is that? I forgot to mention a minor in foodie.
10:13: - CRAP++ The next word is "yosenabe" - another food term I know!!
10:15: Holy Double CRAP - the winning word is "serrefine" - a small forceps for clamping blood vessels. In. My. Sleep.
In other news - I can't believe I just live blogged a spelling bee.
This evening, 9:04 EST, there will be a Blue Moon.
Blue Moon you say? Hear the phrase all the time, but don't know precislely what it means? Easy - the second full moon to fall in the same calendar month. It's been 32 months since the last one.
Based on last night's moon, I doubt it will be "blue". That nickname probably occured as a result of heavy dust or volcanic ash in the air, which can cause the atmosphere to make the moon look bluish.
So remember Old Blue Eyes this evening, as you hum along:
Blue Moon You saw me standing alone Without a dream in my heart Without a love of my own Blue Moon You know just what I was there for You heard me saying a prayer for Someone I really could care for.......
Today's NYT has a great article about a design competition hosted by the Cooper Hewitt Museum of NY, to encourage designers to come up with elegant, inexpensive solutions to make the every day struggle of third world people to have food, water, and shelter, obtainable. And by poor, I mean people who live on less than $2 US per day.
And Boy - did they deliver!! From coolers powered by nothing more than wet sand, to rolling 20 gallon water containers that even children can maneuver, to potable water filtration systems, top designers put down their pens from creating wine labels and courtier, to try and improve the lot for the "other 90%" of the world.
If Bill Gates could put some foundation money behind this effort, the world would almost immediately be a much better place for all.
A really wonderful, noble, and long overdue effort.
My friend in Beijing, Liz, and I were discussing the issue of the emerging fine arts market in China, prompted by this article the other day in the BBC.
With China's booming economy, and an emerging class of noveauriche, they are beginning to spend their newly found disposable income on art. Asian art. Honk Kong is now the third most important art market after London and New York.
I would love to buy something when I go to Beijing this fall, but I could never hope to learn enough between now and September to buy something intelligently. As with most of my favorite pieces, they are small in number, and high in sentimental value. I'll probably get a good limited edition gallery print that I like from a private gallery.
One of my favorite pieces is a pen and ink drawing I bought in Australia depicting a classic Queensland house in the Outback. I bought it when we stopped to refill our caravan of SUVs at the edge of the outback in the middle of nowhere, Amby, Queensland, population 90. I was on my way to spend the better part of a month helping my college roommate who was getting her PhD in wildlife biology at the Univ. of Queensland, and who had twisted my arm to come down and help her put radio tracking collars on wild red kangaroos in a state park the size of Connecticut. Idalia National Park. Established in 1990, at the time we were there, it was closed to the public. You had to be a researcher and have government permits to work in the park due to it's fragile and unique ecosystems.
Anyway, back to the art. The roadhouse was a place straight out of a Mad Max movie: Monster road trains in the parking lot, two and three trailers long; corrugated tin roof; concrete block; neon beer signs everywhere; and a decor that only Quentin Tarantino could love.
I ordered a steak sandwich topped with a fried egg and beets (very traditional Aussie lunch), and a XXXX. Of course, I got an entire, HUGE, bone in steak, between two hopelessly inadequate pieces of bread, a big ol' fried egg and beets. Since I was a Yank, and female, I was an immediate curiosity / VIP. The owner's wife, who couldn't have been more than thirty (and he had to be fifty), asked if we would like to see her "art gallery". Thinking to myself, crap, I'm going to have to buy a black velvet painting, I smiled weakly and politely said "sure". It beat getting stared at by the toothless wonders at the bar.
She took us around back into what used to be a chicken coop. On the way, there were at least five mangy junk yard dingo half breeds chained in a dusty yard, and at least that many children, ranging in age from 8 to a toddler in dusty diapers, playing in the dust on a few dilapidated old toys. I quickly realized, they all had to be hers, and that in addition to being an outback bar - this was also their home. The poverty and isolation were permeable.
She opened the door to the chicken coop, and my demeanor took a nose dive. It was lovely. She had white washed everything. It was clean and neat, with gingham curtains, and there were rows and rows of carefully rendered, beautiful pen and ink drawings depicting every day life in the Outback of Queensland. But although she depicted HER everyday life, her drawings had a way of cutting through the poverty, dust and isolation to show the stark beauty of the people and their life as it truly was, not as some snobby yank saw it. I was immediately blown away and humbled.
Here was someone who was probably 5 or six years younger than me at the time, whose life was over. All her hopes, dreams and possibilities ended before they had a chance to begin when she married a man 20 years her senior in as isolated a place as I have ever been. I'm sure she was a local girl, and her options were limited, but still, the difference between her life and mine were simply incalculable.
Despite that, she had managed to express her talent and her desires through her artwork and display them with elegance and tremendous dignity. They were absolutely wonderful. She could have sold them anywhere, in any gallery. I picked out three of my favorites and asked her how much she wanted for them. She said "$8 US". I gave her $40. She beamed while she carefully rolled them in paper and put them in mailing tubes for me to take with me.
When I got home, I thought of my Mom and Sister who are both artists, and had them framed for them. The framing cost far more than what I paid for the drawings, but the drawings more than deserved the expensive frames.
You don't have to invest large sums of money in art. You can find the most valuable pieces of art in the most unlikely places if you're willing to look for it.
And tucked in the wilds of Northern England no less.
Maybe I should put my biochemistry degree to good use and start experimenting with some chemistry techniques in the kitchen. Of all the techniques in the article, I haven't gotten beyond the easy emulsions and foams.
Even with the micro courses, I don't think I could stomach 24 of them, and still have a functioning palate.
If you're of a certain age, you remember exactly where you were and what you were doing when certain big events occurred: The day John Lennon was assassinated, when Reagan was shot, the last episode of M*A*S*H, when the Challenger Shuttle exploded, September 11th, and of course, the day Anna Nicole Smith died (joking!).
So - where were you when you first saw Star Wars thirty years ago? If you weren't old enough to see the original release when it was in theaters - it doesn't count.
I was in Iowa City visiting my cousins that summer. My uncle took all six of us to the movie theater on the University of Iowa campus and dropped us off. We were ages 13 - 16. It was amazing. The theater was packed, and it was a largely college age crowd. Therefor, they cheered for the good guys, booed Darth Vader, and generally made the movie all that more exciting to watch, because everyone was so engaged in it.
I think it was the first movie I saw in surround sound, and the fight scenes over the Death Star with all the swooping in and out made you nauseous. It was the best ride ever.
To the random caller known as "Unknown Name, Unkown Number" on my caller ID, who insists on calling me repeatedly between the hours of 8:00 AM - 10:AM, and 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM, please realize the futility of this activity as I will NEVER answer the phone unless I know who is calling, and am even less likely to do so when I'm making dinner, watching the news, or in the freakin shower on the weekend.
Even though I am often not at home during these hours, your calls are logged, and you are very persistent.
Can't get to a museum this weekend? Never fear - view 500 years of women in Western Art. The Cliff Notes version of culture in three minutes. This is great. It's fascinating to see how the notion of beauty has shifted over the ages, and yet they are all so timeless.
When I got here nearly two years ago, I rescued a lily plant from one of the doctor's offices who had abused and starved the poor thing to the point of little hope. I trimmed it back, put it on the end table next to the couch in my office, and sort of got it back into shape, but I think the poor thing was too far gone, and I've been too stuborn to give up on it.
That was, until I stopped at the grocery store on the way home from work, and discovered a sidewalk full of goregous, healthy, Boston ferns for $10 a plant!
Goodbye dead plant, hello fern.
(Excuse the quality of the photos from my cell phone)
The Cutty Sark is gone. Every bit as important, historic, and iconic a vessel as the USS Constellation is to Baltimore, or Old Ironsides is to Boston, these ships are both loved by the peoples of their cities and around the world.
What a shame! I was priviliged to see it two years ago when I visited London. I'll have to dig through my photos and see if I have some good ones to share.
Well, this explains the FIVE cop cars blocking my street when I came home from golf last night around nine.
Apparently, my neighbor heard some kids in her backyard and front door, panicked, and called 911. They swarmed the place for naught. I pulled over (had no choice, couldn't get by them), asked what was going on (nothing), and waited till they all talked into their shoulder boxes a few times and then they started to disperse.
I personally, have not had a single moment's worry for my personal safety since I moved here eight years ago, but I am VERY aware of my surroundings at all times and take all the common sense precautions.
Had another golf lesson this evening. It's quite the addictive game, and our golf pro, Jeff, is an absolutely awesome instructor. PGA Certified (with a Ph.D. in Nutrition?!), he is is hands down, one of the best teachers of any subject I have ever had. He's exceptionally patient (with 10 women - you have to be), gives tremendously helpful tips and examples, makes it approachable and non threatening, doesn't expect more than you can deliver, and doesn't overwhelm you with everything at once.
Today we learned to swing. Actually, we probably learned less than half of all the things you need to know in a good swing, and he'll teach us the other half next week, but it was enough to get started and actually feel like we were golfing.
Tomorrow, I call to see about a breast reduction. The game is rigged against girls like me.
The tall, skinny, super model girl (who looks JUST like Naomi Campbell, but is way nicer) with the expensive Nike golf shoes, perfectly matched Nike golf outfit, her own clubs, and matching visor, was on the tee pad next to me. While she was making gorgeous, lofty, shots, she made me look like Dumbo, with my chinos, tennis shoes, polo shirt, and charity loaner club, only instead of big ears, I have big ta-tas. Add to the fact that I am tall and left handed and I am about as freakish a woman golfer as they come.
There is one other left handed woman in the course (a bona fide, card carrying, lesbian straight out of Rosie O'Donnell central casting), who has taken a liking to me since I'm her left handed "sister". Now, don't get me wrong, I love me my lesbians - but if she starts dry humping my leg, I'm going to have to let her have a taste of my 9 iron.
Top Ten Euphemisms For Sneaking Out To Play Golf
I’m going to get some more greens in my diet.
The military needs me to test some bunker busters.
It’s time I got a grip on life.
I have to attend a seminar on anger management.
I need some R&R with Mr. Tee ASAP.
I’m on a search for the missing links.
I have a ball to attend.
I’m going to get a shot of Vitamin G.
I’ll be taking Mr. Woods for a drive in the country.
They give a comprehensive, but pretty standard list of a weekend's worth (36 hours to be exact) of activities in Charm City. All the regulars are mentioned: Inner Harbor, Obrycki's, Helmand, Poe's Grave, The Walters, National Aquarium, etc...
But, they are right, if I was entertaining a complete stranger to town, and I have on many occasions, these are the kind of places I would be inclined to take them as well.
And when you read it all laid out like that - they're right. They don't call us Charm City for nothing!
Taking a note from Paul Levy, the CEO at BIDM in Boston, a lot of people ask me...so what exactly does a hospital administrator actually do? Kinda hard to explain, but today was a pretty typical day:
8:00 Stop at the Post Office to mail a package and pick up a package. 8:30 Arrive at hospital (about an hour later than usual thanks to the Post Office errand) 8:30 Impromptu meeting in the cafeteria coffee line with a colleague about a project we're working on together. 9:00 Check e-mail, snail mail, messages 9:30 Meeting with VP of HR regarding a severance package for an employee who is retiring, and to discuss promoting someone in to her position. 10:00 Meet with my Director of Research to review her retirement package. 10:30 Meet with Research Assistant to announce her promotion to Director of Research. 11:00 Prepare for noon staff luncheon with my Managers. 12:00 Run down to cafeteria to take part in a $1,000 raffle to recognize great customer service. A few of my staff were nominated - but no one won. 12:15 Monthly staff lunch with Managers. 1:15 - 1:45 Off line meeting with a manager regarding a personnel issue. 2:00 Ambulatory Operations Meeting - present Performance Improvement data for key quality indicators for the last quarter. 3:00 Another round of email and return phone calls 4:00 Monthly Operating Room Committee meeting (let the politics begin!)
5:30 - 8:00 Dinner meeting with my CEO, Medical Directors, VP of Nursing and Chairman of our Board to review a consultant's findings regarding our Operating Room Utilization and Efficiency. Lots of disagreement over the data from the docs, lots of pushback from my CEO, and an agreement to gather more data, refine it, and meet again in a month. Chocolate covered strawberries....yum!
8:15 Came home to a clean house courtesy of my cleaning lady. Read mail, post blog, pet cats, watch "Heroes" from last night, check email, go to bed.
On CNN's front page, there is a headline video story about a party on a college campus that featured everyone dressing up as Mexican gardners. Besides being in obviously questionalbe taste to begin with, the Latino community was understandably none too happy about this.
So....what advertiser is supporting this little snippet of news video with a brief commercial and pop-up border advertising?
I moved to Bolton Hill almost eight years ago. Almost immediately upon moving here, I heard rumors of an event called the "Lollipop Lane Dinners" which hold an almost mythical place in the neighborhood social structure. It seems you have to have been born, or lived in the neighborhood for decades, not years, to garner an invitation, and it is quite a well heeled, selective group made up of movers and shakers of Bolton Hill and Baltimore Society. Their monthly pot luck get togethers are well known for both the quantity and quality of food and drink consumed at them (a foodie competition), as well as the eclectic nature of the people in attendance, and the kind of decisions that get made as a result. Very influential group.
The group is run by a few older couples who live, not coincidentally, on Lollipop Lane (yes, it's a real street). Invitations have to come directly from them, and are not given lightly.
This morning, I went to the Baltimore Farmer's Market with my good friend and surrogate Mom, Clare. We stoked our bags with fresh rhubarb, asparagus, spring lettuce mix, fiddle head ferns, goat cheese, and all manner of fresh produce. Clare likes to entertain at the drop of a hat, and it was a beautiful spring day, so I went home and we agreed to meet back at her place for drinks and a casual Sunday night supper created out of all the great things we bought that morning.
True to nature, Clare called a few other people to join us. When I showed up at 6:00, I immediately recognized a couple of the Lollipop Lane gang. I know them well, and have met them many times at other social events. But this evening, I finally garnered a personal invitation from one of the founding mavens to join the group at their next dinner.
I may be one of the youngest people there, but I have arrived (either that, or I'm simply old enough to be accepted).
When we watch the evening news (or even the local news), and hear something disturbing or violent, there is always that element of detachment in all of us, because it does not directly affect us, or someone we care for or know about.
Not so with today's news out of Pakistan. My friend Alison is in Karachi as a US State Dept. liaison at large. Her email this morning was "not to worry, we're heavily fortified here in the Consulate, and have been ordered to quarters for the time being. 16 people have been killed".
Well, that was yesterday, the death tole is now more than double that, and shows no signs of slowing down despite Musharraf's pleas for calm in the wake of his dismissal of the Chief Justice of their Supreme Court. This is the worst violence in Pakistan in years, and the first backlash of significance to the Musharraf regime since he took control in a coup in 1999.
My thoughts are with Alison, her husband Ambassador Bob, who is battling his own problems in Algeria, and with her Mother, my neighbor, on Mother's Day. I'm going to visit her Mom tomorrow and try to take her mind off things.
And speaking of hospital CEOs, it sure sucks to be him today. I think it probably also sucks for the company that installed the gas lines, the maintenance guy that hooked up the tanks, and depending on how litigious Italian lawyers are, for the architects, doctors and hospital administrators as well.
What a tragedy, although the patients probably didn't feel a thing and just went to sleep. The gas is colorless and odorless - just like oxygen.
The CEO of one of Harvard's largest teaching hospitals, Beth Israel, has a blog. Somewhat unimaginatively titled "Running a Hospital", it has nonetheless become a must read for me every day.
His post today, from another, somewhat horrified CEO in banking, asks the obvious question - "why are you doing this, whatever must people be thinking / saying about you in the halls and boardroom?" His answer, as with most of his posts, is frank, disarming, and is the most polite "lighten the f___k up and mind your own damn business" put down I have ever read.
We should all be lucky enough to work for someone like this, and I take heart from the fact that it gives me almost daily reinforcement that I'm in the right field of work for the right reasons.
I lost a good employee very suddenly back in December who went out on a Medical Leave of absence to get treatment for her cancer. Very sad. Because she had FMLA and a lot of sick time, I couldn't post her position until late March. In the meantime, we've had a wonderful temp whom everyone adores, she does a great job cheerfully, and we decided to make her permanent once the job became available.
All good right? Not so fast.
Just had a very painful conversation with her at 3:00 PM on a Friday, because her drug screen came back positive. You never can tell. Older woman, lovely manners, never had an issue. Apparently, she likes to mellow out every now and then with some good weed.
Now I have to start all over again....
In other news, I am about to leave the office for my very first golf lesson.
Somehow, nothing could be more appropriate this evening than whacking the crap out of a little white ball and perhaps having a cold beer afterwards.
Serendipity (n): is the effect by which one accidentally discovers something fortunate, especially while looking for something else entirely.
That pretty much sums up my whole trip to Chicago. From the Polish Festival on Saturday, the Dali Lama festivities on Sunday, to....well, just wait, it gets way, way better.
We started our conference early on Monday, and a few of us had made reservations to have dinner at Tru, arguably one of the best restaurants in the city. In order to get these reservations, we tipped the concierge handsomely, and even then, we could only get a 5:30 reservation. The conference was to end at 5:00. Well, it ran over, and the women I was hanging out with all wanted to go shopping on the Magnificent Mile because the shops were open till nine. There was no changing the reservation - so we lost it (sorry geisha!). Disappointing, but future events more than made up for it.
After making a significant "investment" at my favorite de$igner's flag$hip store, I was beat (not to mention broke!), but spent my per diem very well at Republic, a new hot spot where I put myself in the hands of the chef and ordered the Omikase (aka oh my god). Very, very good. Had one of the most fabulous cocktails. A martini with cucumber gin, sake, and slices of cucumber infused with Thai basil. So cool, and so refreshing.
Tulips in Lurie Garden in Millennium Park.
Tuesday was another busy day, but the concierge at my hotel took pity on me knowing I wanted a real foodie experience. We started the conference very early again, and there was a dinner that night, so they gave us a 2 hour break at lunch to check email, see the exhibits in the hall, etc. Well, the exhibit hall "lunch" was Chicago Hot Dogs with all the fixins. No thank you very much. Plus - it was a stunningly beautiful day. The concierge sent us to around the corner to Delacosta. Tru - eat your heat out. Owned by celebrity chef, Doug Rodriguez, a James Beard award winner, it is magnificent. Chef Rodriguez has been called by Zagat "one of the most important Latin chefs in the restaurant world". And so he is. We had three different ceviches, one more imaginative than the next. Instead of a sushi bar, they have a ceviche bar. The interiors of the restaurant will also blow you away. I had an adobo crusted ahi tuna as an entree, and it was one of the best things I have EVER eaten. Served seared, and dusted with an anchovy chimichuri over a creamy faille corn with asparagus, I was in heaven. The space was designed by London born Suhail, and there are 18,000 square feet of seating in a variety of areas, all designed to feel private and secluded, and the designs are amazing. Mission accomplished.
That night, we were scheduled to have a networking dinner for about 800 people. When I walked back to my hotel to change clothes, I entered a lobby crammed with people having cocktails or checking in, most of whom were elegantly dressed, and not speaking English. As I made my way to the elevator, I heard my name. I turned, and for a second, had no recognition of the really dreamy, dark eyed guy in front of me, and then he asked me again in a lovely Portuguese accent, and I realized it was my buddy Raphael, the wine maker from Portugal!
"What are you doing here?" We both said. "Oh, I'm here for another big wine tasting event." he says. "You MUST come Broadsheet!".
"What is it? I'm supposed to go to this boring dinner."
"Oh, it is the Wine Spectator's Grand Tour - it's this evening from 7:00 - 10:00. I'll leave for you a ticket." For those of you who don't know, this is one of the wine world's hottest events in the US. Anyone who is anyone in wine is there.
Also, when a really good looking man with a sexy accent invites you to drink wine with him? Note to self - you blow off the dinner for 800 strangers you just spent the last two days with.
So I ran upstairs, changed into the nicest thing I brought, and went to the Will Call window at the exhibit hall to get the ticket that Raphael left for me. It was only then that I realized everyone was REALLY well heeled and well dressed, and when I looked at the ticket - it was $250. Not even I can drink $250 worth of wine in three hours. No way. Nuh uh. But it was fun to try, and I actually made it on time with no real harm done to the conference the next morning.
Luckily, the conference wrapped up by about 11:00 on Wednesday, which gave me 3 hours to see the rest of Chicago. It was also a grey, foggy day, so I headed back to Millennium Park to take pics of the Geahry concert pavilion . The weather and the aluminum coating called for black and white.
On to the Art Institute of Chicago. Here, I found one of the most iconic museum lions in the world. Although he is a beautiful patina green in real life, I thought he looked more regal in black and white.
I went there ostensibly to catch the main exhibit on Impressionism, but when I walked in the door there were all these banners for The Silk Road Exhibit. Since yours truly is going on a 9 day tour of China's Silk Road in late September, I decided to bag Cezanne and check out Marco Polo's stuff instead.
So...two hours of museum and I reluctantly grabbed my airport shuttle and came home.
For not planning anything ahead of time, serendipity really came through.
Did your parents ever say that when you pulled into the driveway after a long trip? My Mom did. Every time. I say it myself when I get home like a mantra. This time was different though. For some reason, whenever I come back to Baltimore after a trip, it's always just getting back. Not necessarily getting home.
"Home", was still in Western PA. But after flying there 6 weeks ago for a quick visit, and realizing how alien the airport is, as well as the drive home from the airport, it seemed kind of weird. I was definitely "just visiting".
This time, coming in to BWI at sunset, seeing the last sailboats out on the Bay as the airplane flanked over them on approach to land, taking a cab home, crossing the 395 overpass, seeing Oriole Park lit up at night for an Oriole's game, seeing the Domino Sugar sign all lit up (and Natty Boh behind that), hearing the sirens of the police cars and the ambulances coming in to Shock Trauma at the Medical Center, the lights of the Bromo Seltzer Tower and the Inner Harbor... and it finally hit me. After twelve years of living in Baltimore, I've grown very, very fond of this place. It's home.
It's lunchtime, and I feel smarter and more professional already.
This is the second conference I've been to this year, where instead of handing out some massive spiral binder with printouts of everyone's Power Point presentations, they simply give you a little flash drive with everything already loaded on it when you register. They also load you down with a huge name badge / passport holder thingy you wear around your neck like a geek with all your conference tickets in them, yet another big tote bag that I will never use, filled with marketing materials from vendors that I will never read. There are CDs, a water bottle holder, pens, etc., in it as well. Really, it gets to be a bit much after a while. I came back to the hotel room at lunch just to unload, lighten up, and reorganize.
I probably say this about one thing or another once a month, but: "You would think that I would know by now". This time - SUNSCREEN. Exploring urban landscapes, even on a chilly, windy, spring day in May, can equal sunburn. And Boy am I. One day, I will learn that whenever I am going to be outside for the better part of the day, no matter what time of year, and no matter what the weather, I need to slather it on.
Aside from that, I had a BALL today. I walked from my hotel on the Chicago River, south through Millennium Park, and Grant Park by Buckingham Fountain to the Shedd Aquarium (which is amazing) where I had a lovely lunch on the terrace overlooking Lake Michigan, and took the water taxi back to the Navy Pier. From there, I walked all the way up the Lakeshore path north to Lincoln Park Zoo and back. I like hiking in the great outdoors as much as the next person, but I also really like exploring cities.
No dice on seeing the Dali Lama. Tickets were sold out well in advance, the crowds were giganormous, and security was tight. The crowd was a really, really, "nice" one. Lots of "alternative lifestyle" types, but they were very mellow, and otherwise it was mostly just families and people of all ages looking to enjoy a glorious spring day. It was refreshing, happy and peaceful. There was no hint of the fervor or dogma associated with a religious rally or an activist march. Everyone was simply there to listen and hear a message. I may be mostly atheistic at this point, but a message of peace and tolerance for all, from a humble and gentle soul, is always welcome. I would have genuinely enjoyed hearing him talk. Apparently, he had a three hours conversation with the crowd. Truly a once in a lifetime experience. Sadly, I couldn't even get close enough to take pictures of the Frank Geahry designed concert pavilion where His Holiness was appearing. I'll walk over before I leave an get some photos - it's only a couple of blocks from my hotel. But, I did get some other good shots of the "Bean" by AnishKapoor, and the really whimsical Crown Plaza Fountain. What a wonderful gift to a wonderful city.
Here are a few photos from the day.
The Bean. Officially called the "Cloud Gate" entrance. It's a 110-ton elliptical sculpture forged from a seamless series of highly polished stainless steel plates. It's based on a drop of liquid mercury. Broadsheet is in this photo!
This is such a wonderful installation. Constructed of glass block, with water pouring over it constantly, it has LED screens behind the blocks that project video portraits of Chicagoans. The portraits are positioned in such a way that when they purse their lips, the image "spits" onto the reflecting pool. The pool is just a film of water, so it looks like people are walking on water. It's just pure fun.
And speaking of pure fun.....
This little girl is Bella, the baby Beluga. She's one year old next month, and I SWEAR she can laugh. She was playing with her trainer, and she kept coming up over and over again to have her tongue touched, and she laughed a high pitched staccato giggle like a little kid playing peek a boo. It was too cute. Everyone watching her was just giggling right along with her.
Playtime for me is over. I had a reception to attend this evening, and it's all work and no play tomorrow and Tuesday.
With apologies to Andrew Sullivan, but the view from my hotel is a pretty spectacular view of Chicago.
That's the Navy Pier in the distance. It's Chicago's version of the Inner Harbor. Same stores, same attractions, except it has more of an amusement park atmosphere to it. We walked over from my hotel expecting to partake of the advertised Cinco De Mayo festivities. Boy - were we wrong!! Cinco De Mayo doesn't stand a chance in Shytown when it happens to fall on the same day as "Polish Pride Day", and the "American Beer Festival". And if anything is synonymous with Chicago, it's Polish people and beer. Chicago has the largest Polish population outside of Warsaw. After yesterday, I think it actually has more Polish people than Poland. Oh. My. God. We were awash in a sea of red and white, Polish flags everywhere. No one spoke English, all the activities were in Polish, kids had their faces painted, lots of costumes, it was wonderful.
Because we had so much good food and beer at the festival, we really didn't "go out" to eat last night, we just walked and walked and enjoyed all the people and the activities. Had a wonderful sleep in this morning, and today is absolutely gorgeous. I'm off to Millennium Park , a short walk away, to hopefully catch a glimpse of the Dali Lama, who is addressing the masses this morning.
The NY Times blows the cover off an astounding story of global poisonings from contaminated medicines from China. It's believed to be responsible for thousands, if not tens of thousands of deaths - most of them children, and most of them in undeveloped countries.
I find it stunning that a major media outlet can uncover a story of this magnitude and it seems as if countries are oblivious or powerless to stop this.
Forty-six barrels of the toxic syrup arrived via a poison pipeline stretching halfway around the world. Through shipping records and interviews with government officials, The New York Times traced this pipeline from the Panamanian port of Colón, back through trading companies in Barcelona, Spain, and Beijing, to its beginning near the Yangtze Delta in a place local people call “chemical country.”
The counterfeit glycerin passed through three trading companies on three continents, yet not one of them tested the syrup to confirm what was on the label. Along the way, a certificate falsely attesting to the purity of the shipment was repeatedly altered, eliminating the name of the manufacturer and previous owner. As a result, traders bought the syrup without knowing where it came from, or who made it. With this information, the traders might have discovered — as The Times did — that the manufacturer was not certified to make pharmaceutical ingredients.
I think I'll be stearing clear of Nyquil from now on.
Well, the week is over, I've just finished mowing the lawn, put the first of three loads of laundry in the washer, will make dinner shortly, and then I have to start packing for a 5 day trip to Chicago.
I'm attending a conference that begins on Sunday, but I'm headed out a day early to meet up with some sorority sisters from my days at UW Madison who now live in Chicago. The weather is supposed to cooperate, so the plan is to hit the Cinco De Mayo festival in Little Village. I'm sure there will be some other sight seeing, perhaps an outbreak of shopping, and plenty of catching up!
The conference is right on the Chicago River in the heart of downtown on Wacker Drive, so I'm hoping to fit in the ubiquitous visit to the Shedd Aquarium or the Art Institute of Chicago (which looks to have a nice Impressionist exhibit going on), but I am going to be busy. I simply haven't had time to do any free time planning for this trip because I don't plan to have much free time, but if something pops up - I'll try and take advantage of it! Photos to follow.
The cat that ate the mouse that ate the spider....
It starts with a tree....
So....Last night I embarked on the first step of what will probably be a year long process to accomplish a number of big ticket home repair / improvement projects by hiring a landscape architect.
I'm working with Jennifer Kirchnick, the owner of Baltimore Garden Company. She came out to the house last night and spent over an hour discussing plans and ideas to remove the massive Siberian Elm tree from the yard and replace it with something more appropriate for the space and the scale of the yard. Her portfolio was impressive, we hit it off, she really listened to what features and style I like, and as I leafed through a patio and garden book, she took careful note of the colors and plants I was drawn to.
Removing the tree and grinding out the stump will require digging up my entire back yard, and also replacing the deck to get all the big roots out. The deck needs to be replaced anyway (it's old and I have two rotten boards in it). Since the deck is just an excuse for rats to breed under it, I would like to replace it with a nice brick or flagstone patio instead of a new deck. Besides, that will last a lot longer too.
Jennifer is going to draw up plans for a patio with some built in storage and seating and all the landscaping, planting and flower bed designs. "All" for a back yard that measure some 1,000 square feet total, and all for the very reasonable price of $300, which is waived if I hire her company to do the landscaping.
If I take out the deck, it means I have to remove the current storage shed, which is also falling apart. If I take out the shed, I can then freely access the heat pump which needs to be replaced because it is going on 21 years of age.
Speaking of turning 21, so is my roof. Yep it needs to be replaced as well. I've got three contractors lined up to tell me how much that's gonna hurt.
Not that I'm planning on selling my little dream home anytime soon, but all of these things have to be done if I were to ever think about putting it on the market, and they are all replacements / improvements with a very high return on the investment. More so than a kitchen or bath remodel, which would cost about the same.
Tree + patio + garden + heat pump / furnace + roof = $$$$$ Oh, and I had already budgeted and planned for refinishing all the hardwood floors this summer, so there's that too.
This week's Time Magazine cover brought back a lot of memories. When I was in the sixth grade, my teacher was a guy named Mr. Costo. He was both widely feared and greatly admired. Feared when I was in sixth grade for his tough assignments and no nonsense attitude, admired afterward for the simple fact that he actually taught us incredibly useful things. Things like taking good notes, outlining chapters, and organizing paragraph structures in a term paper. I have never, ever, ever had to diagram sentence structure since then, but I know how to do it! He also influenced and taught us an enormous amount about popular culture, history, and politics with his use of Time Magazine Covers.
All around the room, just above the doors and windows, he posted 100 Time Magazine covers with famous people on them. They had to be living, and they had to have importance. It was his own version of the Time 100, although he tended to favor politicians and world leaders instead of athletes and entertainers. We had to memorize every single cover and know why they were important, and what part they played in history. We were quizzed on it weekly until we knew every single one, and whenever a member of the cover gang died and was removed, we had a special discussion about them before having another discussion about the cover that was going to replace them. We also had a kind of "six degrees of separation" bonus round where we had to not only know the person on the cover, but know how that person related to the other people on other covers.
I'm going to date myself terribly, but I will always remember people like: Golda Meir, Barry Goldwater, the whole Watergate Seven: Charles Colson, Gordon Strachan, John Mitchell, John Erlichman, HR Halderman, Robert Mardian and Ken Parkinson, along with Nixon, John Sirica, Archibald Cox and John Dean. Chiang Kai-Shek, Nelson Rockefeller, John Glenn, Chairman Mao, Patty Hearst, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, etc.. As a joke, we put up the famous cover with Cher on it. He was not amused.
Time has graciously catalogued all of their covers going back to 1923, here.
It really is an invaluable way to keep current on US and world news and culture through time.
If Mr. Costo were teaching today, I can just see the covers with Hillary, Barak Obama, Osama Bin-Laden, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Kim Jong-Il. There wouldn't be a Justin Timberlake, Brittany Spears, or Anna Nicole Smith amongst them. Well, and she's dead anyway, so she no longer qualifies.