Friday, March 27, 2009
I'm still waiting for them to make their designs available on t-shirts! I've seen that they've had them available at some craft fairs, but don't seem to have them available online anywhere. (/pouts)
Speaking of city t-shirts, I've been working on more to add to my 'In the Hood' collections at Zazzle and CafePress. The newest ones will be Rogers Park, the Loop, and then, either Uptown, Ravenswood, Wicker Park or Ukranian Village (haven't decided! feel free to cast your votes).
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Southwest Airlines has now added something similar, called Rapid Rewards Dining. You earn your first 0.25 credit after just $25 spent, and 0.25 credit every $100 spent after that. You can register multiple credit cards with the program, and like its AA counterpart, is free and automatic.
Unless you eat out a lot (or spend a lot when you do), you probably will not earn flights from either airline with great frequency based on your dining habits alone. But if you're also flying the airline on a semi-regular basis, it will certainly help you earn free flights more quickly, and that makes sense.
Obviously, if you live in a city, you will see the most benefit, with the widest range of restaurants to choose from. But even if you live in a more suburban area, you might be surprised to find a favorite restaurant on the list. I've used the programs as a way to seek out new restaurants and try new places, while at the same time, earning towards a free flight!
Monday, March 23, 2009
Think my homemade tomato sauce looks delicious? Well, thank you very much. I make it frequently in the summer, when the ingredients are all local and at their farmers-market freshest - tomatoes, eggplant, mushrooms, zucchini, celery, onions, garlic, and carrots; spices from The Spice House; and humanely-grown, pasture-raised, pesticide/hormone/medication-free meat (beef). And I use the sauce for all kinds of things - pasta, of course, but also a dipping sauce, or over some chicken, or even spread a little on a sandwich for some extra oomph.
The New York Times ran several articles over the past few days which will be of interest for those of you, like myself, with a strong interest in eating healthier/more organic:
- Room for Debate: Food, Glorious Food Myths
- Eating food that's better for you, organic or not
- Is a Food Revolution Now in Season?
- Sugar Is Back on Food Labels, This Time as a Selling Point
*Discounted parking available at the Chicago History Museum at LaSalle & Clark; limited free street parking; some metered parking in the area. CTA - 22, 36, 73, 151; or red line to Clark/Division, brown line to Sedgwick.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
These gentlemen are from the NYFD - since they were in uniform I'm not sure if they were just visiting or here on duty - Squad 42 from Bronx/Harlem, from the NYFD. Welcome to Chicago, gentlemen!
The other one is just a fun shot - people love St. Patrick's Day parades here in Chicago. It's practically an excuse for a second Halloween:
Of course - flexibility and timing are everything, but if your schedule permits it, it's a great time to grab some bargain flights to Europe!
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Something out of a science fiction flick? Nope - every year, for St. Patrick's day celebrations, Chicago dyes the river green. Sort of ironic, when you think about it, as the city did some pretty amazing engineering feats and more recently, environmental steps to clean up the river.
Anyway, each year on the Saturday morning before St. Patrick's day, in conjunction with the parade (not to be confused with the much rowdier "South Side Irish Parade" which generally happens on Sunday of the same weekend), the city dyes the river green. Most people who look at pictures think that the river doesn't really turn quite the amazing, neon shade that they see in pictures, but it does. It really is that green.
To get this picture, I took one of the Lower Wacker Drive-level bridges across the river, stuck my camera out my window, pointed down and hoped for the best. I wanted something a little different than just a typical shot of the river.
St. Patrick's Day celebrations in Chicago are huge. Maybe the city just loves any excuse for a good party at the end of winter, but here, everybody is happily Irish for the weekend, and turns out for two of the biggest parades in the city year.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Ravinia is located in the north suburbs of Chicago. If you don't have a car or are just visiting Chicago, it is still very accessible - Metra's Union Pacific District North Line stops right outside their gates, and on concert evenings, there are trains at the end of the night back to Chicago. (You can also transfer directly from the Metra to the purple line of the CTA at Davis stop in Evanston).
At the park, they have two venues - a smaller, indoor concert hall; and the main pavilion. Tickets under the pavilion are anywhere from 2-5x more costly than the lawn seats. But it's the lawn seats that make Ravinia a staple in many Chicagoans' summer - people get a bunch of friends together, bring a picnic and some wine, and enjoy great shows out under the stars.
There are a couple restaurants on site, but they are definitely the pricier option vs. bringing your own.
Friday, March 13, 2009
If you have 5-15 minutes to spare, I appreciate any answers you care to give! I've put a survey online at surveymonkey.com:
Chicago favorites survey.
My humble thanks and appreciation for your time!
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
The impact of American ideals and culture not only on ourselves, but on the whole world - a portrait of the American people and those influenced by America around the globe.
What makes American culture so popular? Why do people embrace it if they've never been here? How does the American vision impact other parts of the world? Who are the people directly impacted by our country, even thousands of miles away? Who grows the food that ends up on our plates? Who makes the items that fill our lives? What does the face of America look like today?
Perhaps there is no better time than the present for this kind of look at American culture, as recession impacts not only our country but people around the world. As we embark on a new chapter in our history, with a new President, and a deep recession impacting our daily lives, we as a country are changing our habits: our eating habits, our spending habits, our driving habits. Our jobs, homes, and families are directly impacted.
But beyond our own borders, the world is impacted, as the country with some of the strongest spending power in the world stops spending its dollars, as people travel less, as they stay at home more, as there is lessened demand for products created overseas and shipped to the States.
There are plenty who would argue that America is self-absorbed and unconscious of its impact on the world. I want to draw direct attention to "the reach of the American dollar", for better or for worse - how American companies' policies and practices impact other nations, why people come to America as immigrants or as visitors, how expatriates fit into their adopted countries, the surprising places that you find American logos.
This isn't American-patriot-navel-grazing; this idea is to look at both the good and the bad, and to find as many places and ways as possible that "the American Dream" has impacted the world.
If I can get enough votes to make it into the top 20 by the end of the contest, then I get a shot at having my idea reviewed and just might win the money to do this dream assignment!
So, if you enjoy my work and you think my idea is a good one, then I would humbly ask for your vote for this contest. For those who vote for me, I thank you, your support means a lot!
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
My Pacsafe MetroSafe 200 has now logged thousands of travel miles. It has been all across China, through Tibet and Kathmandu; Bangkok, New York, and D.C.; trekked around New Mexico and Colorado; gone out to the ball games; braved Disney World and national parks alike; been through numerous airport security scans; and been used daily on the streets of Chicago. It has gone from urban glam and the suburbs to hockey games and backcountry hikes with equal ease. My cats have slept on it; I've had to use it as a pillow myself; it's been rained on and it's been dropped in puddles and tossed in back seats; it's been in planes, trains and automobiles, and still keeps coming back for more. So it's about time I did a follow-up review, because if it impressed me to begin with, it keeps on proving its worth.
First, let's take an overview of the bag itself. You'd think that a bag that's been roughed up this much would be showing all that wear and tear, right? Wrong!
As you can tell from this picture, the bag still looks like it's in pretty good condition. You have to peer at it pretty closely to start seeing the wear-n'-tear. While I imagine you could throw this bag into a washing machine if need be, I've never had to do anything more labor-intensive than the occasional soap-and-facecloth wipedown. It seems to be pretty odor-resistant and dirt-resistant as well.
This is a close-up view of the front flap of the bag, which is held shut by Velcro. Under the flap is a large slash pocket with a metal hook which secures the zippers for the other pocket, giving an added level of security. I've never had anybody attempt to open this bag on the front... I think the Velcro sound would be a complete giveaway. There are a few points starting to show wear here: the Velcro tab has been opened frequently and is fraying a little bit. Along the bottom corner of the bag, you can see some initial cloth wear on the detailing. And the shoulder strap clearly shows paint chipping, but more on that detail later. The zipper is still as clean tidy as the very first day I got the bag, and the black nylon exterior has proven highly stain-resistant.
The opposite bottom corner of the bag. If you look really closely, the edging along the inside back edge of the bag is showing a little bit of fraying. It doesn't look ragged to me when it is on, but if it got bad enough I suppose I'd simply trim it off with scissors. I hadn't even noticed that until I took this picture.
Although this picture (above) looks like there is some staining/discoloration, it is only a result of the photography, not the bag itself. The side of the bag shown here has some very minor thread snags from where I had caught the bag against some sharp edges, but the opposite side of the bag does not show matching wear.
Super close up of edge fraying. For nearly two years of daily use, this amount of wear is practically nothing!
Interior shot of front pockets. As you can see, very clean - the bag looks practically new.
The only place on the entire bag that shows really obvious wear is the metal strap hook and edges of the zipper, as seen here. This bag gets used a lot, and there is little to no wear showing on the actual zipper mechanics other than the pull. Very minor fabric fraying visible on the top of the outside side pockets (which I very rarely use), and on the area of the strap where it folds back upon itself/passes through the loop.
The shoulder strap shows almost no wear at all. The edges are reinforced with a slightly different cloth than the edges of the bag. I perhaps would suggest they edge the main body of the bag with the same, if it doesn't take anything away in terms of looks, thus preventing the little bits of fray damage seen along some edges.
Perhaps one of the best things about the bag: it's incredibly stain-resistant, both inside and out. I have had all kinds of things loose inside the bag at one time or another: sticks of wrapped gum, medications (ie. vitamins, aspirin), , uncapped lipsticks and ball point pens, eyeliners, change, jewelry, and much more. The worst mess I ever had - comprised of a mess of broken cough drops, baby powder, and a couple of crushed Altoids - cleaned out easily with a good shake, a quick rinse of water, and a brief wipe with a dry towel. The interior is very water-resistant (although not water proof) as well, so even in a downpour, the contents have at worst become damp, not drowned. This is particularly impressive to me, as I have owned many bags in my lifetime, and the bottom of any bag which sees heavy use eventually becomes a nasty catch-all of everything and anything that has ever passed through that bag. Not so with Pacsafe; the interior remains wonderfully clean.
So, in all, two thumbs up and I would definitely recommend this bag to others. It's the perfect size for around-town rambling, and I have fit a wide varity of books, correspondence, and technogear into its handy pockets.
Before my China trip, I did also buy their CarrySafe 100 camera strap ($19.99), which has served me very well, also - it is comfortable and more importantly, it is far more inconspicuous than a neckstrap which screams out the camera's brand name, thus making you look like a serious professional instead of a tourist! My next probable purchase from Pacsafe will be something from their photography bag line, most likely their CamSafe photography bag ($79.99). I've gotten a lot of good use out of all their products I have so far and am quite happy with the brand to date.
Remnant of the Berlin Wall
Newseum, Washington, DC
As seen June 2008
Before the Berlin Wall was removed, 45,000 reinforced concrete panels like these - the "fourth generation" Stützwandelement UL 12.11 - marked the barrier between communist East Berlin and democratic West Berlin. Very few pieces of the Wall remain where they were erected. Following the November 9, 1989 "opening" of the Wall, sections and panels of the Wall now stand in museums and private collections around the world. Souvenir seekers continue to make brisk business of the wall, not only from pieces collected during the initial destruction of the Wall, but on an ongoing basis.