Tuesday, August 31, 2010


I'm traveling this week for work and pleasure, although it's at my insistence that the work element entered into the equation. It's the reason the trip took form. While I would have preferred to have stretched it out by a couple days--and not be carting a trunk full of television equipment--it should be a good time, if driving-intensive.

I spent the better part of the day driving east through the southern part of New York. The first time I drove through this part of the state was the weekend before Thanksgiving in 1995. I was shocked at how little I passed. There's a lot of wilderness and little else, at least what's visible from the highway. Today's journey marks just the third time since then that I've driven through upstate New York two, yet even though I know what to expect, I marvel at how isolated it can seem out here.

My first stop on the trip falls under the "pleasure" designation. Since I've come about halfway to my primary destination--Bangor, Maine--it made perfect sense, at least to me, to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. It's not like the place is on the way to much anywhere else, so with it being sort of on the route, I had my excuse to stop here. (I'm actually staying about twenty miles away to save on otherwise fairly high hotel rates for the middle of nowhere, although rooms are no bargain here.)

As I transferred my belongings from the car to the hotel, I felt as though anyone seeing me unload or cleaning my room might incorrectly assume that I am an assassin or terrorist. (I have two cabbage cases with TV stuff, three other cases, and two tripod bags that could be mistaken for something carrying rifles.)

I failed in my lunchtime quest to find a local place to eat, but for dinner I stopped at Neptune Diner, one of those places that's open 24 hours and serves just about anything you can imagine. I certainly didn't leave there needing to eat anything for the rest of the evening. If I lack for other options, I certainly have no problem returning there. We'll see how long I visit Cooperstown tomorrow, though. I don't expect to pass through here again anytime soon.

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Monday, August 30, 2010

It really ties his ensemble together

As usual I'm finishing up last minute preparations for traveling, so here's a story about the knit cardigan The Dude wears in The Big Lebowski.

I'll check in next from New York.

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

In rotation

Assuming my trip for work and pleasure doesn't fall through at the last minute, I'll be setting out on the road very soon. Consider it summer's last hurrah. So while I try to keep all the plates spinning and make plans for driving to Maine, why don't I write a bit about what I'm reading and listening to.

During the trip to Minnesota I began reading Bone. I thought a graphic novel might be an easier read in the car, so of course it's perfectly sensible that I then chose a 1332-page book to tote around. (Bonus: Bone and the cartoonist have a local connection.) I'm about halfway through it and have enjoyed what I've read so far.

While the pairing of Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan seems unusual--she came from the twee Scottish band Belle & Sebastian, he led grunge rockers Screaming Trees--their collaboration makes for an interesting study in opposites. His low, rumbling voice sounds like it could crack the earth while her wispy vocals seem like they might evaporate. "You Won't Let Me Down Again", the first single from their newly released album Hawk, is representative of their Americana explorations, and it sounds like something to turn up while heading down the highway, something that's captured in the video.

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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Not what it seems

A clock counts down while a fellow who looks like a mobster crochets.

Could this be a preview for a yakuza-meets-needle arts video game that the world has been clamoring for? Probably not.

Fine. It isn't.


Friday, August 27, 2010

Do the math

I'm not very good at gauge conversions because I do them infrequently. I prefer to find yarn that meets the correct gauge for the pattern than adapt something. Yes, I know I could take steps to resolve the problem by knitting gauge swatches, but I can be stubborn.

Here's where I need your help. I've made the Seaman's Cap pattern plenty of times, but I've also tended to knit each one with the same type of yarn (Cascade 220). The problem is that the yarn I bought in Minnesota is different. It's still Cascade yarn, but it doesn't have the same gauge.

The pattern's gauge:
20 stitches and 26 rows = 4" in stockinette with US 7 needles.
Cascade 220's gauge:
18-20 stitches = 4" in stockinette with US 7-8 needles.
I've used US 7s to make the hats. (This means I'm using 20 stitches for US 7s, right?)

Cascade 128 Tweed's gauge:
3 1/2 stitches = 1" in stockinette with US 10s
3 stitches = 1" with US 10 1/2s.
If I understand this, I will use a half stitch more for each needle size I go down. So, if I drop down to US 7s--three needle sizes--will I be getting 5 stitches per inch and twenty stitches per 4"? That doesn't seem quite right since this yarn is classified as bulky whereas what I normally use is worsted weight.

As I write this I'm confusing myself more and more. Can you make heads or tails of it?

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Thursday, August 26, 2010


Not feeling the blogging today. Predictably, I'm very into the new Arcade Fire album. So, here's a video promoting the first single from it.

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Got to serve the drinks

Old Wendy's training videos turned up in my Twitter feed today and were briefly raised as a subject at knit night. That means linking to the shorts is on topic, right?

For your new number one jam, learn about hot drinks. Then keep the groove with cold drinks. Of course you've got to serve the drinks. Also, make a figure eight motion from the bottom to the top to get your chili stirred up.

I can only imagine the amount of eye-rolling employees directed at these videos, but for as dorky and unintentionally hilarious as they are, they do get the messages across.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A matter of interpretation

Honestly, I don't know what to make of this. It's a YouTube channel that consists of videos that are a series of still photo dissolves of a knitted penguin and his activities. There are even Twitter and Facebook accounts dedicated to him.

It all seems nice and sincere, and I'd feel like a real heel for laughing at it. Mainly, though, I'm just puzzled by it, especially since the postings appear to be about a month old and not heavily viewed.

So keep it up, whoever you are doing whatever you're doing. It made me smile. Or maybe I'm just really tired and amused way too easily at the moment.

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Monday, August 23, 2010


While I try to get my legs back from all the travel, here are some pictures of the Blackduck namesake.

I think our cabin was technically located in Hines, Minnesota, but that appears to only have a post office and zip code. The lake and nearby town are both named after the mallard.

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Sunday, August 22, 2010

The road home

All trips must come to an end, and this one nears its conclusion. This jaunt began with two Chicago legs and then shifted to eight nights in Minnesota. After stopping in Eau Claire, Wisconsin last evening, we made the rest of the drive to my parents' home today. I think it's time to be back, even if I would have preferred more time to do exploring of my mine way up there in the great white north.

There's not much to say today, so I present to you a couple shots taken while on Blackduck Lake. After a windy first two days, things settled down, as you can see in the glass-like surface in the top photo. I'll have more to say about the trip and various other things (and eventually a report on the Twins game I attended and Minnesota in general), but for now I'm satisfied to call it a blog entry and relax a bit before making the drive home tomorrow.

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Road socks

Super Quick Baby Socks

Yarn: Dark Horse Yarns-Fantasy (50% nylon, 50% acrylic; worsted weight)
Colorway: 14 (French blue)
Needles: US 7 dpns
Stitches: 24

There's not been much time for knitting during this vacation, but I utilized time in the car today to finish a second baby sock shortly after we passed around Bemidji, Minnesota. Just in time too. We dropped off my brother and sister-in-law near the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport before continuing on our way, so I was able to give these baby socks to them.

The sock on the left in both pictures was the second one I made, and it's definitely an improvement over the first. I'm still having an issue with a hole on one side at the ankle, although I did a better job with that second sock at picking up the stitches. One side has a smaller hole. The other has none.

True to their name, these baby socks are quick to knit, and I may have another go at these before starting work on a pair of socks for myself. Yes, I've knit socks before, but it's been two years, I believe, and these are good practice. For instance, the first one--the sock on the right--is really my second attempt as I ripped out my first try when that ankle hole was really bothering me. I've made incremental improvements from one to the next, but I'd like to solve my recurring issues. Is there any advice you have for eliminating that hole around the ankle or, based on the photos, how I'm doing picking up stitches?

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Friday, August 20, 2010

Final tally

It's been a little hectic putting a cap on this last full day here in Minnesota. Lots of time was spent on the lake, and then the better portion of the evening disappeared negotiating a plan for how to deal with the first day of traveling back home, booking the hotel rooms, and packing up.

I can tell you, though, that I had a fine finish fishing. I caught thirteen fish, a tally that topped everyone else. Granted, some of them decided to focus on casting rather than fishing off the bottom like I was, and not all of mine were keepers, especially a couple tiny ones. Regardless, the point remains that I caught more fish today than I did the rest of the week. The final count of what I caught looked like this:

Sunday: 0 fish
Monday: 0 fish
Tuesday: 1 perch
Wednesday: 1 smallmouth bass, 1 fishing lure and lots of cut line
Thursday: 7 perch, 1 rock bass
Friday: 12 perch, 1 largemouth bass

For the record, those bass were quite small, so banish any thoughts of me reeling in a fish that's jumping halfway to the moon, such as might be portrayed on a bait shop or fisherman's cap. The perch were pretty good sized. One of mine today weighed 11 ounces. I don't know if it was the biggest I caught, but it had to be up there on my list.

I went out every time the boat left the dock, so I definitely fished more than I intended. I may get into that in more detail in a later blog post, but for now, suffice it to say that I enjoyed the time fishing even if I can't say I have any plans to do it again in the near future.

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Catches of the day

The hours spent on the lake finally paid off. We found a spot where we were catching fish on a regular basis. Even I was pulling them in, as you can see above with one of my catches of the day. I caught eight fish--seven perch and one rock bass--and all but two were keepers.

The perch we caught today were pretty big. My dad wasn't getting them in quantity, but he made up for it by getting a two-plus pound walleye and capping the day with a seven-pound freshwater drum. The latter fish was so big that it broke the net when one of my brothers held it out to help get the creature out of the water. After some research and a split vote in the family, my dad cast the deciding vote and released it. The freshwater drum is in the carp family, and opinions vary whether it is considered a good fish to eat.

We fished from this spot on the lake. The temperature was again in the mid to high 60s, and the wind was minimal. We've experienced remarkable weather here in northern Minnesota and had none of the drawbacks. Mosquitoes have been a non-factor. Even if the fishing hadn't improved, we've had a good week here. Yes, my family has driven me crazy from time to time, but considering this trip wasn't something I was entirely sold on, it's been better than anticipated.

Here you see my parents' dog, a schnoodle who eagerly goes along for the ride and keeps track of everyone.

I've spent more time fishing than I planned, so knitting time hasn't been as plentiful as I intended it would be. Nevertheless, I should have a finished pair of baby socks when I blog tomorrow.

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Lake views

I'm finding that the days and nights have been going pretty quickly on this trip up north, so I'll keep matters brief with a few photos I've taken from the boat. The top picture was taken Monday evening while we were out fishing at dusk.

If I'm correctly oriented, this place is at the other side from where we're staying. It's been a rare spot where we've caught much of anything, although the truth of the matter is that this location is only producing fishing action, not any keepers. I wasn't able to reel in any fish from this spot, but usually within ten to fifteen seconds of dropping my line in the water here, I'd lose my bait to nibbles. It was ridiculous, actually.

While we were anchored off shore from that cabin, an eagle stopped for a rest in the nearby trees. This is one of the better photos I snapped.

For the record, I did catch the day's first fish--a minnow-sized smallmouth bass that maybe reached two inches--and reel in a long-abandoned lure and maybe 50 feet of line. So, my tally is up to two fish of the real variety and one fake one. Clearly I've not been exaggerating the size of these fish as they've been awfully small.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Fish story

I headed out for the third day on the lake and had yet to reel in my first fish. They haven't exactly been leaping out of the water, but everyone in the family had caught one except for me. Look, if I'm going to play along and fish, the least that could happen is that I catch a few. (To address a comment on another post, knitting or reading in the boat doesn't seem feasible, especially when the choppy water meant I got soaked on the way back on both days.)

The weather was a little warmer today--mid 70s in the afternoon--but still quite comfortable. Trolling and casting weren't producing any results other than snagging weeds, so we switched to bait and anchored near the far shore from our cabin. Slowly everybody on the boat started pulling in small perch. I think there was only one keeper in the bunch, if that tells you anything.

At least I was starting to get nibbles on my line. Still, I hadn't hooked anything. Come on. Finally, the bobber was yanked below the surface of the water, and I pulled up a perch estimated at four to six inches long. No, it wasn't one worth keeping, but I was glad to have ended my streak of not catching any fish.

The afternoon/early evening session was inconsequential in terms of catching fish. I had a bite or two, but that was pretty much the extent of it. No one went back out after supper because the rain and thunderstorms rolled in. Who cares, though? At least I caught one.

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Monday, August 16, 2010

Local yarn shop, Bemidji style

The weather here in northern Minnesota has been much cooler than I was expecting for this time of year. Apparently the balmier temperatures arrived when we did for this vacation, which is all well and good except I wasn't prepared. A few of us headed into the closest city of any size to pick up some things. (I needed a sweatshirt, especially if I am to spend much time on the lake.) One of my requested stops was a local yarn shop. I thought I might get some Cascade yarn to make a hat to help keep my head warm during the windy days on the water.

Yarn Dance is the only local yarn shop in Bemidji, Minnesota. If I remember correctly what I was told, the place opened just this past December and is the first LYS here in 25 years. I'm surprised that this part of the country, where knitting would be eminently practical for dealing with the weather, didn't have a couple such stores. It certainly makes me appreciate the number of options I have in Columbus, not to mention others within relatively short driving distances.

I'll apologize upfront for the less than expertly framed photographs. I always feel a little weird whipping out a camera in these situations, and I tried to snap a few shots as quickly as possible. On this occasion I explained why I was doing so. For starters, I imagine that they don't see many men pop in for some yarn, and I highly doubt those that do want to document their visit.

I had a good idea of what I wanted before I walked in the door. That focus, and having some family members waiting in the car for me to get in and get out, minimized how much I poked around. Still, I was impressed with the yarns they were carrying. I saw a good variety of Cascade, Malabrigo, and Noro, to name a few. The selection may not be as diverse as what I've come across at my local yarn shops, but for Bemidji knitters who have been limited to what Jo-Ann Fabrics carries, this place must seem like a godsend.

The employee I dealt with was helpful and friendly, and I left with two hanks of Cascade 128 Tweed in colorway 7712. I wish I had had more time to look around. Perhaps there will be at least one more trip into Bemidji before our departure. (We'll pass through it on the way home.) Whether I make it in again or not, I'm glad I was able to find to a local yarn shop while up here and wish the best to those who own and operate it. On the off chance that you live in this neck of the woods and are reading this, I recommend paying Yarn Dance a visit. From what I can tell, it's a far sight better than the other limited options available to you.

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Sunday, August 15, 2010


First and foremost, this family vacation is oriented around fishing. When I agreed to come along, I made it known that I was not sure if I would do any angling. I wasn't trying to be difficult. I just wanted it to be clear that going out into the middle of a lake and watching a bobber for hours wasn't what I necessarily wanted to do day in and day out.

We didn't go fishing all the time when I was a kid, but it was a common thing for us to do on a Sunday afternoon in the spring through the fall. We didn't go on many family summer vacations, but I can recall two--one to Wisconsin and one to Michigan's Upper Peninsula--that were built around going fishing.

I'm not sure exactly when I chose to stop fishing. I think it was in high school. I remember being bored with it. It probably didn't help that the activity basically consisted of sitting in a lawn chair on the shore and not catching anything. There's also the possibility that I was simply being difficult. Still, it cannot be discounted that I have no desire to touch fish or to have them touch me. (This also explains my great hesitancy to get in natural bodies of water. I don't want fish touching me. Where this came from, I don't know.)

It was the morning of our departure for this trip, and I still hadn't purchased a seven-day Minnesota fishing license. I explained that I didn't know if I would fish or not. Deep down I knew that I likely would, in part to be a good sport, but I put off making it official until the last minute. Not that having the license meant I would have to fish, just that I legally could.

I decided that I would go out on the pontoon boat when everyone made their first venture onto the lake this morning. No one would have been upset if I hadn't gone, but I felt like it was the right thing to do. I stated upfront that I did not want to touch any fish, which is probably the behavior of a jerk, but I'm not joking around. I needed to drill this into them.

I baited wax worms on my own line, but I let others put minnows on. I used to do the latter, but I do find the thought of doing it now somewhat disconcerting. No one seemed to mind, so I was happy to let them take care of it.

The winds were pretty strong all day. Driving through some whitecaps this morning left me drenched and cold. (It was in the 60s, and the low end at that, here.) No one was catching much, just four keepers (two perch, one sunfish, and one walleye) and one throwback (a northern pike). I didn't have as much as a nibble, yet I did go back out for an afternoon in which the wind blew us all over the lake and no one caught anything.

I can't say that I want to go out every single time that the rental boat is fired up this week, but I'll probably go more than I had been planning to. I didn't mind the time on the water, even if all that rocking in the wind-tossed boat had me wiped out early this evening. There should still be plenty of other time for doing what I'd like--reading and knitting--and I imagine I'll seem less aloof to everyone else if I tag along. Is that the maturity that a teenage me didn't possess?

But I'm still not touching any fish.

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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Double rainbow

Today's intended blogging topic is delayed for my own sake.

When I consented to go on a family vacation that would require several hours in the car--or cars, in this case--I knew there would be times that tried my patience. The crux of it: in general, my family members are not big on planning or making decisions. This makes me crazy. With seven people, myself included, and a dog in the mix, having a firm idea of what is being done when is essential. Otherwise, well, you can imagine how it can be at times.

So I just don't have the energy that the regularly scheduled blog entry would require. In its stead, I give you a picture of the double rainbow spotted outside our rental cabin here in northern Minnesota. (Perhaps you are familiar with the double rainbow meme from earlier this year?) Let's take it as a sign that with the traveling out of the way, everyone can relax more.

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Friday, August 13, 2010

In a northerly direction

For the sake of familial and fraternal goodwill, I check in briefly to give a teaser of my next entry--The Mall of America, Minnesota Twins baseball, and (maybe) Minnesota nice--rather than stay up and compose a full blog post on my laptop.

In miniature, the day started with a late bedtime the night before, a 5:15 a.m. rousing, several hours of travel, and a near midnight return to the hotel. I'm actually fairly alert at this late hour, but my brother was in bed when I got back from the game.

So, check back tomorrow for the details.

Sent from my iPhone

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Thursday, August 12, 2010


Sunday in Chicago meant heading down to Grant Park for the final day of Lollapalooza. Initially my friend and I talked about going Saturday and Sunday, but I told him that just Sunday was fine with me. I figured that otherwise we'd have no time to catch up and take it easy, particularly the last part. I wouldn't have minded attending the whole thing, but I figured one day would be plenty, especially since it would allow me to catch the band I wanted to see most out of all of the acts playing the festival. Let me say it now: that was the right call.

(If this fountain in the middle of the park looks familiar, I'm told it was in the opening credits to Married with Children. I've not fact checked this, but it seems true.)

On Monday the newspapers reported 240,000 attended the three days of the event. Assuming an even division among the days, that puts 80,000 there Sunday. Needless to say, that doesn't make for the easiest movement from stage to stage. We ended up alternating between the two facing each other and then just staying at the bigger stage in the hope of getting a decent vantage point for the last two acts to play on it.

This is what I mean by a decent vantage point. Oh my, was it a tight squeeze. I'm not claustrophobic, but I felt like I was on the verge of a panic attack or something during the first portion of MGMT's set. Granted, it had already been a long day and it was hot and more people than should have been were pushing their way toward the front. The feeling passed, perhaps due to some hydration, and I was good for the remaining three and a half hours. Seriously, though, there were a lot of people.

Lollapalooza was about music, but the organizers didn't mess around when it came to dining options. Noted Chicago chef Graham Elliot was the festival's culinary director. I ate at the stand for trendy hamburger spot Kuma's Corner. (Side note: I ate at more foodie-approved places in these two days than I probably have in a lifetime. This was not a bad thing.) I went with the Judas Priest burger, which was a massive 10 oz. burger with bacon, bleu cheese dressing, apple, walnuts, and dried cranberries. I did not need to eat the rest of the day.

Being in Grant Park for the festival afforded some nice views of the Chicago skyline, although since I stuck primarily to the Budweiser stage, pictures such as the one above had to be taken by turning around. There was another stage parallel to this one across the way, but negotiating one's way between the two just meant being smack dab in the middle of both. In the end it made more sense to pick a side.

With Blitzen Trapper, Yeasayer (pretty terrific in this setting), MGMT, distantly heard sets by The National and Mutemath, and a sampling of Mumford and Sons (and, accidentally, Switchfoot) out of the way, it was time for the band that had everyone hyped, including me. I wouldn't have minded seeing the reunited Soundgarden all the way at the other end of the park, but I came to see The Arcade Fire. This was just a little different situation than the one other time I've seen them.

Their 90-minute set was marvelous. Arcade Fire play big, majestic rock that is well-suited for a field of tens of thousands to sing along with, and did the crowd ever participate. The band played a lot more from their first LP Funeral than I expected, especially since The Suburbs was released the previous Tuesday, and the audience, myself included, ate it up. The crowd was completely into the performance, but at least where I was it was a much better behaved one than there had been for the previous group.

The night was finished off with "Wake Up", an anthem that would have blown the roof off the place if it had been indoors. Being amid that many people singing every word, especially the opening (and repeated) refrain, was the kind of hair-raising experience you hope to, but rarely get, at a concert. The enthusiasm even carried over as people sang it on the slow path out of the park and picked it up again on the blocked off downtown Chicago streets. My friend said something to the effect that Arcade Fire won the game. There was definitely a celebratory feeling spilling into the streets, as though our team had claimed the championship.

Catching a train back was a slow motion adventure that took about an hour and a half--metropolises!--but yeah, I was still humming with the energy of an exhausting but pretty terrific day of music.

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Windy City

Contrary to conventional wisdom, Columbus is a pretty sizable city. According to this list, it's the 16th biggest by population in the United States. I'm sure it slides down the list when taking the greater metro area into account, but let it be known that it's not a podunk college town, which seems to be the general impression people have of it.

Still, there's an enormous difference between #16 and Chicago's spot at #3, starting with the fact that Chicago has around four times the population of Columbus. Walking up to the street from Millennium Station to find the skyscrapers and elevated train platforms is like stumbling into a whole other scale for a city. It's huge...and I kind of love it.

I was a little intimidated about venturing into Chicago alone and navigating public transportation to meet up with an old friend. It's not that I think myself incapable of doing it or have never done it in a big city. I'm just out of practice...not that I ever really was in practice. Honestly, though, riding the 'L' was some of the most enjoyable parts of the trip. (Exempt from that: piling into a train after the Cubs game and having to stand post-Lollapalooza on the way back to where I was staying.)

I guess I've never seen Chicago that way, so I thrilled at the sights of being up so high among the towering structures and weaving in and out of the grids. You can get some pretty spectacular views of downtown from the train. The expansive perspective drives home how big of a place, vertically and horizontally, you're in. While I don't know that it's where I'd want to be every day--I prize the ease of movement around Columbus, which isn't exactly something Chicago has even with the trains and buses--I do find it enervating to be swallowed by a metropolis from time to time.

When it was time for me to leave, I mentioned to my friend that it felt like my short visit to Chicago had gone so quickly. In part it's because everything was bigger or took longer, thus blowing things out of proportion. After I was picked up, we went to Hot Doug's, a sausage store whose extreme popularity entailed waiting in line for two and a half hours to order. It's a trendy spot for foodies, but for what it's worth, my order--the blue cheese pork sausage with Sir William pear cream and roasted almonds and ribeye steak sausage with black garlic aioli and double crème brie cheese--and a shared basket of duck fat fries were awfully good.

Going to the Gene Siskel Film Center, seeing parts of downtown and my friend's neighborhood on foot, and popping into a large Middle Eastern restaurant later at night also reinforced how packed with options this city is. (Sunday was attending Lollapalooza, which is another enormous thing that I'll hold off writing about until tomorrow.) Forget about being bored in a place like this. How does one control oneself from always being on the go?

With all that time spent waiting and going to places, there was plenty of time to talk, which I hadn't done at length with this friend for years. Nowadays it's a given for childhood friends to still be in close contact when they go their various ways. (This is a development I'm not sure is entirely positive, but that's a topic for another time.) While I stayed in touch with this friend through college and a few years out of it, inevitably we lost track of each other. I last saw him at his wedding in 2002, but that situation didn't present the opportunity for much substantial one-on-one conversation. So, for as exciting and fun as it was to be in Chicago and soak up what it has to offer, it was also very satisfying to catch up with someone I've known since junior high and his wife.

Chicago did things up in a big way, and I certainly enjoyed the magnitude of my experiences there. Still, there's something to be said for one's own small corner, like a late night dinner with friends, to put everything in its proper context.

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Friendly Confines

As a lifelong baseball fan, I'm very familiar with Wrigley Field. The stadium, built in 1914 and home of the Cubs since 1916, is hallowed ground among fans of the sport. The ivy-covered outfield wall, the mostly manually operated scoreboard, day games, and bleacher bums...they're all part of the place's rich lore.

I've seen Wrigley Field countless times on television, but until last Friday I'd never set foot inside it. The strange thing is that after all this time peering into the home of the Cubs via telecasts, looking upon the field from the stands felt like something I'd done hundreds of times before. I guess it was kind of a deja vu moment. Here I am again for the first time.

My dad and I began our journey from the South Bend airport, which is where we picked up the South Shore train. About two and a half hours later we arrived in Millennium Station. Emerging from the train station, it felt like walking onto a movie set with tall buildings towering over us and the tracks and platforms for The 'L' framing some streets. Not entirely sure of which way to go to catch the red line train to the stadium, we followed people in Cubs jerseys based on my assumption that they were probably going the way we needed to be headed.

Within another fifteen or twenty minutes we walked out of the next station, turned to our left, and there was Wrigley. As you would expect, plenty of people were congregated outside the stadium, whether they were taking in the sights or hawking tickets and other items. And this was two hours before the game's first pitch.

If I'd been better prepared, I might have had a better idea of where we'd eat. Instead we popped into a pizza place across the street from the stadium and each got a single huge slice and pop for $5. As far as cheap, unpretentious eats by a ballpark go, this got the job done and was more localized than the Subway my dad initially suggested. Plus, I suppose it conveyed the big city experience and the neighborhood one that's unique to Wrigley.

Once inside the differences between it and pretty much any other stadium one will visit were immediately apparent. The concourses and ramps aren't as big. There are few concession and restroom facilities in the upper deck. All video highlights and replays must be viewed on monitors hanging in the stands. The seats themselves are a little narrower than those found in modern stadiums. Oh, and there are a fair number of columns to obstruct views. (I thought I'd be smart and buy tickets on the end of the row, which turns out to be where columns are placed. The two seats next to us were empty, so we didn't have to put up with a severely obstructed angle.)

Even without many of the modern stadium amenities, I really enjoyed being in this cozy little ballpark. All I really missed was being able to see replays and the radar gun readout. I appreciated the lack of elements that try to make a ball game the full entertainment experience. Who needs t-shirt cannons, dancing mascots and prize patrols, loud music, kiss cams, and the like when the game itself will do? I'm not completely opposed to all that other stuff, but the sheer volume of it becomes suffocating and detracts from what you are, in theory, there to see.

Wrigley's charms are from another era, and it benefits from its seats being mostly filled with enthusiastic fans. Let's not get carried away in praise of the place, though. Its specialness comes from being one of the last remaining old-time ballparks, one where you feel like you're seeing a game more or less the way that your grandparents and before might have taken one in. (My dad, who was also attending a game there for the first time, mentioned that it reminded him of the long-gone Crosley Field.)

When we arrived up top to get to our seats, the usher told us that we were free to wander around. Other than getting different perspectives on the field, there wasn't much else to see. The small patio that is underneath and behind the press box affords the opportunity to gaze out at the city and the neighborhood. A concession area with slightly more offerings than the small stands near the seats down the lines is about the only other draw.

Still, you get the sense that the team and its employees know what they have in this nearly century-old stadium even when considering its inconveniences. The spot has seen plenty of Cubs losing--which it also did on this day, as my visiting Reds won--yet its ability to function as a time machine for however much longer means more to the people walking through the turnstiles than any wins or snazzy updates to the yard could ever provide.

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Monday, August 09, 2010

Station to station

Permit me a day to catch my breath. The last three days in Chicago and subsequent travel to, from, and around the city has left me gassed. For example, after the long return train ride I took a brief nap before supper and conked out for an hour while preparing to watch the Reds game on TV. I had a very good time and have some pictures and thoughts to share, but I need to recharge my batteries first.

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Sunday, August 08, 2010

Sunday in the park

The majority of today was spent at Lollapalooza in Chicago's Grant Park. Between departing for the show and getting back to my friend's place, twelve hours were spent mostly on my feet. So yeah, I'm wiped out.

I've had a good time during my whirlwind weekend in Chicago. More details on the blog will have to wait until I don't feel like collapsing.

Sent from my iPhone

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Saturday, August 07, 2010

In the big city

Today in Chicago:

-Reunited with a friend I've known since junior high and whom I last saw several years ago at his wedding.

-Waited in line for about two and a half hours to eat gourmet sausages and duck fat fries at Hot Doug's. I've included a photo of part of the menu above, assuming it works out through the submission method I'm using. The wait didn't seem that long since there was plenty to talk about and the weather is fairly mild for this time of year.

-Visited the Gene Siskel Film Center to see a re-released classic that is coincidentally getting its only Columbus screenings this weekend.

-Saw a decent bit of the city by train and on foot.

It has been a pretty great day. Now to get some rest for what should be a jam-packed Sunday.

Sent from my iPhone

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Friday, August 06, 2010

End of the line

The good news:

-I eliminated the virus from my computer, even though it required staying up a lot later than I intended.

-The Reds won 3-0 over the Chicago Cubs as my dad and I visited Wrigley Field for the first time.

The bad news:

-That's all I have time for today. I'd like to spend more time to write about the Wrigley experience, but I need to do some packing to go back to Chicago first thing in the morning. (We took the two and a half hour train ride to the Windy City and came back. I'm hopping back on it and meeting up with an old friend in Chi-town tomorrow.)

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Thursday, August 05, 2010

An unanticipated test

Well, we'll see how this blogging by e-mail works a day early.
It has, in it's own way, been a day of setbacks.  Although it wasn't an excessive delay, I left home later than I hoped and arrived at my parents' place early in the evening.  The night has flown by, what with making plans for getting to Chicago and back tomorrow, and figuring out when I'll be returning to the Windy City on Saturday.
Finally I settled in to catch up on some stuff on the computer.  I got up for a few moments to get something and sat back down to find some fake anti-virus malware running on my desktop.  No, I wasn't doing anything that would have made me susceptible to getting this.  How it ended up on my computer is a mystery.
I got on my mom's laptop and looked up the program in question to confirm that something malicious had invaded my computer.  I found the solution and am attempting to run that now, although I couldn't update the anti-malware program, which has yet to find infected objects 24 minutes into a scan of the hard drive.  So who knows if this will take care of the problem.  Just the way to get my vacation off to a roaring start.
(For what it's worth, I did have McAfee on this computer, but when it expired almost two years ago, I chose not to renew it.  That program kind of works like a virus in that the stupid renewal reminders from it can severely drag down performance in the first several minutes after booting up.)
Anyway, I'm writing this in an e-mail on my mom's laptop and sending it in.  Here's hoping it turns up on the blog.  Saturday and Sunday are likely to be handled similarly, except the composition tool will be my iPhone. 

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Last minute madness

I need a vacation from getting ready to go on vacation.

It seems like I'm always behind when it comes to getting ready to leave home for a significant period of time, but on this occasion I feel like I'm really behind the eight ball. Good grief, I still ought to make a list of things I need to do. I'm behind on preparing to prepare!

In this rush it's hard to know if I'll take everything knitting-related that should be packed. After I've hit my first two destinations I'll have a couple days to regroup and pick up anything I need but neglected to bring. I just don't want that list to be too long.

Just so you know why things could be a little choppy in upcoming days, tomorrow should be normal blogging, and I think Friday will be too. Saturday and Sunday blogging will likely be attempted via e-mail sent from an iPhone. We'll see how that goes.


Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Light rotation

It's a burning the candle at both ends kind of day, so why don't I embed some videos from the bands I saw yesterday?

Here's opening act The Antlers with "Sylvia":

Here is the headliner The National with "Slow Show":

And"Bloodbuzz Ohio", which no one will mistake for the Brooklyn-based band wanting to return to their hometown of Cincinnati.

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Monday, August 02, 2010


I was in a bad mood during the morning and into the afternoon, so going to see The National and watch them play their brooding songs in concert seemed like a good fit for the day. (I had the ticket for months, so this wasn't a decision I made per my outlook this Monday.)

Once I settled in at the venue, the foulness lifted. I appreciated hearing a couple of Hall & Oates songs and "The Rain Song", one of my favorite Led Zeppelin songs, playing while waiting for the bands to take to the stage. I took some delight in being able to play "fecal" in a game of Words with Friends. Even though the parking meter hours and limit changed at my preferred spot for other Arena District events, I got satisfaction in finding another meter on a side street that let me still save a few bucks. Hey, you take the small victories where you can get them.

For that matter, opening act The Antlers were a pleasant surprise. I wasn't all that familiar with them, but I thought their 40-minute set did a good job of kicking off the evening of music. The National were very good for nearly two hours.

So the day ended better than it began. I suppose that's not a bad trade.

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Sunday, August 01, 2010

Refresher course

I'll spare you all my moaning regarding the subwoofer invasion and turn to baby socks knitting. I'm sure I can find something to complain about there.

Actually, not really. I thought I'd come across a question after turning the heel, but then I realized that I had overlooked the last line of the instructions. It's amazing what can happen when you follow what's there.

It's been awhile since I've made socks, so these baby socks are a good refresher course for when I make another pair for myself. Using dpns has not been the ordeal that I remember it being, so that's a positive. I had to look up how to do ssk because I'd forgotten. If that isn't indicative of how long it's been, I don't know what is.

So, depending how the knitting goes this evening, I might have one to show for my efforts before I hit the sack. (Mad Men is just about to place knitting on a one hour delay.)

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