Photography 2005

But the wind blew me back via Chicago...

I knew when I published both the December 23 and December 24 posts that things would never quite work out the way I had envisioned them. 

Why do I even bother?

I would've been better off posting some fluff links to Christmas sites to get everyone in the mood and just said "we're going to Chicago, see you in a few" and let it at that.

What I'm trying to say is that our visit to Chicago was only remotely like how I posted it might be.

I knew, as soon as we went to check in at our first hotel on Thursday night that my entire post was already blown to hell in a handbasket.

So, here's what all really happened.  And it's actually a bit more interesting than the false reality I created before...

We arrived at the Wyndham Hotel (conveniently located one block behind the Apple Store. Score!) at about 11 p.m. on Thursday night to check in.  We were really late because we went to Katie's parent's house for several hours and had dinner with them.  Then we went to Best Buy because we were trying to make an exchange on a Christmas gift for one of her brothers that didn't quite work out as planned. 

When we tried to check in, the guy at the counter (David the Hotel Checker Dude, or as I shall refer to him, "DtHCD") looked at us and said, "I have good news, bad news, and a proposition.  Which would you like to hear first?"

We chose "good news."

DtHCD - "The good news is that the Wyndham is a very nice hotel." 

Nice hotel, but a bad sign for things to come.

DtHCD - "The bad news is that we overbooked our very nice hotel.  We have a room if you absolutely are not in the mood for our proposition, but you two look like nice people who are in a good mood, so we hope you are willing to accept our proposition."

Here it comes...

DtHCD - "We would like to move you to another hotel for tonight and we will then have a room for you tomorrow."

Aye aye aye...

DtHCD - "But we will pay for your room tonight and upgrade you to one of our living room suites tomorrow night."

Come again...

Us - "Ummm... where would we be relocated?"

DtHCD - "The Westin Chicago River North near the House of Blues.  It's a nice hotel as well and they have one of their corner suites reserved for you."

Us - "Well, okay."

We got our car back from the valet service and drove our way over to the Westin.  I wasn't sure what to expect as I didn't have a chance to look up the hotel online or see any photos or have any prior experience with the hotel whatsoever.  But when we got there... woah, mama!  It was a beautiful room.  One, we decided almost immediately, we would rather stay in regardless of what they were offering us at the Wyndham.  We couldn't possibly imagine a nicer room than what we were now staying in... and for free, to boot!

That night, we stayed in bed and drank some champagne and ate some chocolate covered strawberries I picked up from a place we love in Geneva.  We watched something on TV while we ate and drank, but I'll be damned if I remember what it was.

We slept in until about 9 the next morning and headed out to Marshall Field's in hopes of having breakfast under the tree.  Yeah, no.  If we waited, it would have been for dinner by the time we got through line.  Well, not literally, but close.  There was a two-hour wait once you got your pager for seating.  However, there was a two-hour wait simply to get a pager.

We looked around the store a bit to see what was available and then went back to Harry Caray's restaurant for an early lunch.  Much easier in and out and probably a lot cheaper.  The food was incredible as well.  Katie got boneless chicken vesuvio and I had baked lasagna.  Tasty.

After doing a bit more shopping in and around the State Street area, we went to Millennium Park and walked around a bit.  Hey, I saw several Segways!  Go figure that it takes me posting about it to actually start seeing them.  Of course, they were only being used by cops and, ironically enough, one of them must've been broken down because the cop was walking it instead of riding it.  Funny.

And, even though we were discussing nixing it, we did go to the Art Institute.  We didn't spend a lot of time there, but we saw the Japanese, Chinese, and Korean displays; the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist exhibits; and the photography exhibits.  They were stunning and, in the photography exhibit, I found out about some new Chicago photographers that were incredible and I will probably try digging up some more information on.  Quite impressive work.

Next, we headed back to the Westin to grab our stuff and move back to the Wyndham.  Yes, the room we received was huge and we were not upcharged at all for the upgrade; but, when compared to the impressive beauty of the Westin, it just paled.  Maybe if we didn't have the Westin as a point of comparison, we would have liked it that much better.  But, it just seemed so impersonal.  Huge and vacant.

So we left and did some walking around on the Mag Mile.  First, we found Ethel's Chocolate Lounge in the North Bridge Shopping Center on Michigan Avenue.  Katie had discovered the Naperville Ethel's a few days prior and wanted to take me to this one.  It was wonderful.  Pricey, yes; but damn good chocolate.  Of course, while in North Bridge, we hit the Lego store.  As I've said before, once a geek...

After walking around for a while, Katie's feet and calves were getting a bit worn out, so we went to an AMC and sat for a bit and watched Fun With Dick and Jane.  Not a fantastic movie, but still enjoyable.  And, you must watch the end credits.  The beginning of them had Katie and I rolling with laughter.  If you know anything about the travails of modern business, you will love them, too.

Now that we were a bit more rested and relaxed, we hiked over to Ben Pao's Chinese restaurant.  Wow!  It blew me away.  Katie was here a few months ago while I was in Florida for Nano's birthday and she's been raving about it ever since.  We finally had a chance to go and I would recommend that you do the same when you're in town.

A flower on the table at Ben Pao

By this time, it was pretty late and we were dog tired.  We went back to the hotel and pretty much crashed.  Hey it had been a long day.  Yes, this was all just Friday.  Wait until Saturday.

More photos are available at Flickr. (ed. note... whoops, forgot to make this a link.  Sorry.)

Baby, it's cold outside...

Last night, as we drove home from working at the gym, Katie and I were placing bets as to whether our association fees were actually paying off and they were plowing and shovelling around our townhome.  Believe it or not, they were digging us out of the five inches of snow we were hammered with yesterday (Midway Airport, where the plane skidded off the runway, got nine inches).

Well, maybe not at that exact moment, but they had been working on it.

When we were driving up to the turn on our street, two plows were blocking our chances at straight-ahead movement while a third plow was blocking half the road we wanted to turn on.  So I had to make quite a wide right turn. 

In the middle of the turn, Katie yelled to me to stop.  There was a yellow lab that had ambled out in the street from a driveway and didn't even care that a car was coming right at it.

For some completely inexplicable reason, I flashed it with my high beams (yeah, a dog's gonna know what to do with that, right?).  He turned and walked up to my door and just looked at me.  I started to pull forward very slowly hoping he would back up.  He must've because I didn't hear any howling or feel any bump.  Thank God.

Upon arrival at our home, I noticed that the bush by our driveway, which we had covered in white lights, was now also covered in a layer of snow resulting in a very eery glow from the lights trapped under their frozen blanket.  Katie knew what I wanted to do, so she ran in and grabbed my digicam so I could snap some shots.

As I took some photos, I noticed the dog trotting up the middle of our street.  I slapped the side of my thigh and whistled for the dog to come over.  He did so quite happily.  After I scratched his back and head a couple times, he bolted for my front door.  When I walked over to the garage, he ran in after me and started rolling around on the floor and wagging his paws in the air.  I figured he must've been cold so I grabbed a couple shop towels and patted his paws dry.  He seemed to really appreciate it and just kept wagging his tail and following me whereever I went in the garage and out in the snow.

Katie and I own no pets... for a combination of reasons, really: 1) we're not sure our place is really big enough, especially for a dog the size of a lab; 2) we both have minor allergies, nothing terrible, but enough to mildly aggravate our sinuses when we visit the homes of people that do have pets (I have had pets before -- two cats -- and been able to deal with the allergies, though); and 3) we just don't have the money to take care of pets.

We weren't sure what we were going to do about this lab.  I'm sure if I opened the door to the house, he would've jetted his way inside.  In fact, he almost did when Katie opened the door to watch me take photos.  She got the door closed just in time as a flash of yellow and white fur tore in her general direction.

I walked back outside and started playing with the dog again in the snow.  He was soaking up the attention.  However, as soon as one of the plows rolled by, he ran off after it.  I dunno if he was bored with my attention or maybe he actually belonged to one of the plowers and was allowed to run around for a little while as they did their work.

I guess we'll never know.  We didn't see him again. 

We slept like crap last night worrying about this dog.  And, if we happened to see him again or heard him outside, I'm pretty sure we would've let him in, allergies be damned.  But we never did.

This morning, I looked around outside our place and saw no fresh pawprints.  Ideally this means he found his home or one of the maintenance guys was his owner.  Either one of those options are the only ones I want to consider at this point.

That's my beer, not his.

Fizzy, fuzzy, big and buzzy...

I've gotta tell you all something... there's nothing like sledding in the dead of night.

My brother, Brian, and his fiance, Jen, came to our place tonight because Jen and Katie were going to go to some purse party while Brian and I played video games and whatnot.  Well, when they got back, it had been snowing pretty well (sorry to rub it in, SJ), and Jen wanted to go play in the snow.  You see, she's from SoCal and has never experienced snow in all its natural glory before.

So we did just that.  We went outside and had a snowball fight and made snow angels.  We also made some meals of the snow and took a few photos.

Then, despite it being 9:30 at night, we opted to head to Wal-Mart and pick up sleds so we could go to a local sledding area and enjoy the snow.

And, boy, did we.  Nobody was there (although it was obvious someone had been earlier in the night).  Three of the four sleds we bought were useless.  But the fourth, an inflatable triangle that we have since dubbed "Bermuda" (because, once you get in it, you "disappear" like the Bermuda Triangle), was incredible.  We were setting land speed and distance records on it.  We sledded for about 45 minutes soaking every square inch of our bodies.

Sopping wet, we went straight to our favorite watering hole and picked up some chips and salsa, beers, and lemon drop shots.  Finally, we ended the night with some take-out McDonald's and Die Hard on cable.

How can you top this night?  I don't think it's possible.  It was just too much fun.

Yeah, the holiday spirit is coarsing through me now in full force.

We're a happy family...

Happy Turkey Day everyone!!!

And would you like to know one thing that I am thankful for?  In addition to my own wonderful family and friends and the great (albeit very big) family I married into, I am thankful for a new addition to my family.  Yesterday, my brother proposed to his girlfriend, Jen, and she said yes.

So, I'd like to congratulate Brian and Jen on their pending nuptials.  If there's one thing I did not have up to this point, it's a sister-in-law.  And, now, my brother has changed that.

one hint: Run Jen, run.  Before it's too late, run like the wind!!!  You don't know what you're getting yourself into.

Mr. Jones and me, tell each other fairytales...

Here is a quickie Sunday post.  Done while watching the Bears/Ravens game and while Katie is lying dead asleep on the chair next to me.  Here is my first attempt at a photo ID contest. 

Having been inspired by the queen of photo ID contests, Jen at Run Jen Run, and by the fact that nobody other than SJ has attempted this mystery photo ID on my Flickr site, I figured I would open it to a bigger audience.  This will never compare to her originality nor range of photos per contest.  But I had taken this picture for kicks while down in Florida and I thought it turned out cool enough to post, abstract enough to leave people guessing, but not too terribly difficult that you cannot get it.

I haven't decided how long I will give you all to attempt it.  I guess it all depends on how many people take a stab at it.  So post your guesses in the comments.

Whatever could it be?  Well, it's not that difficult, in all honesty.  Katie got it the first time she looked at it with no prompting whatsoever.

Random Act of Senseless Thought:
I'm sure many of you have heard about the exploits of a couple weeks back of the Minnesota Vikings regarding prostitutes, strippers, and boats on a lake in Minnesota, haven't you?  Well, don't ask me where this came from, but if Chicago Bears runningback Thomas Jones (affectionately known as T.J.) were in on the party, could these women be called "T.J.'s Hookers"?  Guess you'd have to be a child of the 80s to catch this reference.

Through the tears that I have cried...

Dsc01386Be proud of me, for I did my iota of civic duty du jour and donated blood.

And there was much rejoicing... yay.

Actually, I've been a pretty regular blood donor since my freshman year in college, which was really the first time I ever had the opportunity.  Anywhere between two and four times a year depending on how often they would let me in the door or in the line at whatever blood drive was being held at school or work.

However, for the past couple years, I've been a bit lax on my donating regularity.  Dunno why, to be honest.  I just haven't done it.  Maybe it's the annoying, pestering phone calls I received on a semi-regular basis from my local blood bank.  They have my name and number on file and, damn, they're not afraid to use it. 

I want to feel like I'm doing this out of the goodness of my heart (there's an oxymoron if ever I typed one) and not have it feel like some obligation.  And trying to schedule a time to donate with a place that closes at the same time I get off work just doesn't... well... work.

I realize that in this time of national tragedy (read: our recent cluster of hurricanes), I should be worried less about how I feel about doing something and more concerned with any method by which I can help.  And I likely would have donated if I'd received another call.  But it's actually been a few months since a call came through and I just plain forgot.  C'est la vie, I suppose.

But, I was the one that posted the information about this blood drive on the Web site here at work, so there was no way for me to not know about it.

And I actually remembered.

So, be nice to me, I gave...

And I have photographic evidence of it as the media relations director in my office snapped this shot of me laying on the cot getting ready to be stuck with that needle.  Yes, I was reading.  Is that so wrong?


Oh, hell, this could just be me attempting to fall asleep during my lunch break for all you know.  So, you'll just have to take me at my word. 

As for the post title... not the most appropriate song lyrics, per se.  But I figured that any song by Blood, Sweat and Tears would be appropriate as I have now officially shed all three at work.  Heh.

Photograph... all I've got is your photograph.

... and a heckuva lot of them to boot.

It took me a little over two hours to sift through, select, resize, upload, title, caption, and organize them into an album, but all my Florida vacation shots are now up on Flickr for your perusal and, hopefully, enjoyment as well.

Well, the ones I wanted to share, that is.

In all, there are 46 shots in total in the album although I took nearly 100.  These are the "best of the best," per se, and even some of those were pared out.

Some of them are your standard touristy shots, but I did get a bit creative with a few.  Particularly the ones involving champagne.  No, not because I'm some kind of lush, but just because I really liked the shot composition on them.  I really like how my "Still Life With Champagne" pictures turned out and I received quite a few compliments from people about them when I showed them on my digicam's display screen.


Now I've just gotta find a way to upload a video I took using my digicam while on the airboat.  Nothing exciting like an alligator chomping at us or whatnot.  Just the boat flying around.  I should look into uploading that one.  Be kinda cool just to see it live and online.

Oh, and this post title was just for you, SJ.

You my-y-y brown-haired girl.

Apologies to Van Morrison for bastardizing such a classic song.

Katie went to her favorite hairdresser yesterday and came back a slightly new girl. 

Normally, her hair is a sort of sandy blonde/light brown sort of mix.  She's done the whole highlighting thing to bring out more of the contrast and it looks good that way.  Lately, though, she's been throwing around the idea of going with brown hair for the fall.

I was worried at first about this decision because, in the past, Katie has never wanted pure brown hair.  At least not since we've been together.  She always liked her hair lighter because it made her feel better.  Hey, hair can definitely affect one's psycho-social self-perception or so I've been told.

Well, she did it.  She went brown.

After getting her hair done, she went to her parents' house.  Her mom wasn't too sure what she thought of it, but her brother liked the change.  So, she was worried about coming home and showing me.

She walked in the door from the garage and I just couldn't help but notice it right away.  It is definitely different, but in a very good way.  It's not pure brown like my hair would be if it wasn't going grey and falling out.  But it was sort of a bronze tone with a hint of a deep red to it.  No, not a bright red.  But for those with a designer's eye, you can't help but notice a slight reddish hue to it. 

I would've taken a picture of her to post here, however, when she comes home from the hairdresser's place, her hair is never done up the way Katie would normally do it.  It was a bit flat.  Katie tends to do a bit more of a bob in her hair and she didn't have that ready to go for pictures.  And, since she's always still asleep when I leave for work, I couldn't take one this morning.  Hopefully soon, though.

MiscflickrSpeaking of pictures, like I said a week ago, I opened up an account with Flickr.  Well, I've built upon that account a bit with the garage renovation photo album and some interesting photos of spider webs that I took yesterday.

Spider webs?  Interesting?  You bet your sweet bippy (a line I absconded from one of my old high school football coaches).  Just check them out.  These webs were quite cool. 

Using Flickr is so much easier than the old way I did photos.  And, if you use an RSS or Atom feed aggregator, you can add my Flickr page to your list so you receive notification when I update.  You can find the feed information at the bottom of the first page linked above.  If you have no idea what I mean by "RSS," "Atom," or "feed aggregator," well, it's not the easiest thing to describe.  And, even if I did, I still don't know that you'd get it.  My own understanding of it is sketchy at best.  But I know how to make it work with a bunch of sites I like to visit and that's all that really matters to me.  I'll leave the technical explanation to Wikipedia.

Plus I've also got some other photos posted to check out.  What makes Flickr cool, though, is that you can leave comments on the photos.  And, if you join, you can be part of my friends list and who doesn't want that? 

"Be my friend, Appleby."
--Mark Harmon, Stealing Home

Dixie Hummingbird.

Here are a pair of pictures my aunt and uncle sent me that I had to share because they are just so incredible.


Now for the backstory:

One day recently, my aunt was in their garage/workshop when she found this hummingbird who just couldn't seem to find his way out.  She picked it up in her bare hand and just walked it outside (yes, that is her hand in the photo).  It sat there for several minutes as my uncle snapped photos.  He took well over a dozen shots (Katie and I saw them all on their digicam when they came up for my dad's 60th birthday last weekend).

She then urged the hummingbird to fly away.  However, it returned a short while later.  They said they could tell it was the same one because it still had some of the sawdust from the garage on its head.

This whole thing is very amazing to me simply because it's rare that you get to see a hummingbird for any extended period of time let alone pick one up and hold it for several minutes.  I can't even think of the last time I even saw a hummingbird.  Have I ever?  I know I've heard them before.  But I'm not sure I've ever seen one out in the "wild."

I know my aunt and uncle read this blog, so if either of you want to clarify or correct any of the information that is posted here, please just click on "comments" below.  I'd love to have a bit more of the story if it's available.