The Chicago Trip – Part 4

After a full day in the city, and plenty of activity, it was time to head home in one way or another :)

The day started with some planespotting out into the still-gloomy skies outside, but there were a few highlights –

A dying breed, literally. American are phasing out their “Super 80” fleet slowly but surely, yet you can still find them around, like this one taxiing to its gate –

O’Hare is clearly a United hub…just a few of their planes hanging around the tarmac, plus some semis at the cargo hangar and even a train on the tracks in the background –

Lastly for this section, a commuter jet taking off for Palm Beach, Florida, which was hopefully a little bit warmer than Chicago!

After that quick spotting session, I went down to the hotel fitness center to enjoy the pool and its amenities. I was slightly dismayed to find out that the fitness center cost $15 to enter – something that almost deterred me until seeing the sign that the pool was free for guests to use. Whew!

So, I jumped in and just let my foot soak for a while, then gradually turned up the heat by first going into the steam room and then into the sauna – whoa, that’s hot, but something worth doing occasionally, as you can chill and sweat it out ;)

Walking away, I snapped a picture of this, which is a sure sign that O’Hare can be a community upon itself –

I then headed back up to my room for the final re-packing and the trek out to the car. But first, another plane ;)

Or 3, including that Etihad 777 arriving at O’Hare 49 minutes late after its flight from Abu Dhabi. Now the last airplanes, for real this time ;) I like this shot because it’s a great display of how busy O’Hare is, planes *everywhere* –

While all this is going on, I made a coffee with the in-room coffee maker and Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf coffee. For being a filter pack coffee, it was acceptable, but nothing you’d get from a proper coffee shop. I then made my way back to my car using the tram.

Remember the walk to the train station from the car? It’s still as long on the way back…only complicated by the slight problem that the skies opened up and the rain poured down. I was very thankful that I brought an umbrella, even though it could unequivocally be classified as the world’s worst umbrella, it would have been much worse without one.

I made my way to the Chicago Premium Outlets, which are definitely premium, considering this is one of the stores there:

The only other place I know has a Kipling store is the Ala Moana Center in Honolulu. As a guy, handbags don’t interest me, I’m good with the suitcases that I have, and if I’m going to buy a new backpack, I prefer function over fashion ;)

However, there is a store that drew me in –

I made sure to pick up a packet of hand creme there with the outlet discount :)

It was time for something to eat, as I hadn’t had anything as of that time, and I was also ready for a proper coffee. When I was coming in, I noted on the wayfinding display that there is a shop called Crepe Cafe, which is right in front of Lindt, I may add…but I got the house special crepe –

It has banana and mixed berries topped with Nutella and chocolate dressing, along with a dollop of whipped cream, and OMG again there are no human terms to describe this!

After the crepe, I wandered around the mall a little bit, and when I got to one of the exits, there was this –

Yep, a wall of clocks. All set, like a watch ad, at 10:10. This wall only covers A-Fa (Abu Dhabi to Fayetteville…skipping Chicago). The rest of the alphabet goes through the doors into the vestibule from the parking deck. More public art…

My foot had stopped hurting as much due to me walking around, so I hopped back into the car, and started driving along the Des Plaines River Road…a road that takes a winding route, not surprisingly, along the river. I spent what felt like an eternity on this road and thought…the tollways don’t have stoplights, crossroads, and will actually get me out of Cook County by the end of the decade, let’s be smart and get on there!

This is also where the photos really end, since I was driving – I took a couple of quick stops to stretch at the Oasis, then stopped at Costco where I had a realization looking at this scene –

This could be literally any Costco in the USA…the pricing signs are the same, with date codes and stars; the produce selection is practically homogeneous – some items may be organic in one store, non-organic others. Heck, even the food court is the same.

Well, except this one was different. The beef chili wasn’t there, replace with an Al Pastor salad. Also, they still had the chocolate frozen yogurt, which is being replaced in food courts with an açaí and vanilla yogurt blend. The açaí for the new Açaí bowl offering that has started coming around. I would have had the salad, but they were sold out, so I decided against the other food court items, and dropped in at the grocery store to do a quick shop there as well. Too bad I wasn’t going to be there in a few days though!

I carried on home, listening to the qualifications for the Indianapolis 500, making one last stop at Starbucks for an iced coffee, and then I got home to unpack everything and then return the loaner, adding about 400 miles to its clock, and increasing the average fuel. Maybe it is time for a hybrid ;)

Note from Snoskred –

I hope you all have enjoyed our 4 Mondays of Travel With Sephyroth. I know I certainly have. It should be noted the entire reason all of this came about was due to The West Wing Weekly who were arranging some live podcast recordings – tickets sold out incredibly fast and Sephyroth missed out on tickets.

I follow Rob Lowe on Twitter and when he mentioned he would be touring I looked to see if there were any dates nearby to Sephyroth and it turned out Chicago was the closest. I suggested to add in a couple of days of activities and stay a couple of nights, and this trip was born.

I am hopeful this experience will encourage Sephyroth to book a couple more trips, whether it be overnight stays or longer. Travel is an awesome thing!

guest post, Sephyroth

The Chicago Trip, Part 3

After what proved to be a very long Friday, Saturday came early, with alarms set left, right and centre as to make sure I was out of my hotel room in time to get to my 9AM yoga session, and I was successful, being up around 6AM and on the train by 7:45.

Getting off at the station, I was presented by what used to be these payphones, now replaced by a small mural of public phones around the world. Nice art, but not terribly helpful if your mobile is flat! :)

A short bus ride and walk later, I made it to 875 North Michigan, and headed to the 94th floor to get checked in for the class. The class was a straightforward yoga class; the highlight of which was doing tree pose with a partner – in this case the leader’s second-in-command was my partner. While tree pose can be quite treacherous, with a partner it’s quite a refreshing move, and so much easier.

After the class was over, I left the yoga mat behind as I had planned, but it wasn’t alone as there were other yoga mats in the corner for those who may have forgotten to bring a mat, which is a good tip especially if you’re travelling from further afield.

With the fog as thick as it was, there wasn’t much in the way of photo opportunities outward, unless you’re interested in the lake and seeing Lake Shore Drive.

Then we come to this – the actual skystone (not cornerstone) that was installed in the building when it was going up. The inscription states “This Skystone in the shape of a contemporary space travel vehicle was raised to the 100th story of the John Hancock Center on May 6, 1968. After public display, it will be secured and sheltered at the top of the building. Members of some future generation will break the time capsule’s seals and find within a collection of artifacts and microfilmed documents and photographs reflecting interesting aspects of the history of Chicago, Illinois, and the United States of America”

The “some future generation” happened to be my generation, as it was opened on March 12th, and the items in the Skystone, including baseballs signed by the two teams as well as a piece of the Eiffel Tower, are on display right next to it.

I wasn’t nervous about going on TILT, but if you are, there is a solution to it. Alcohol. ;)

The line goes pretty fast, and not much later it was my turn to get in the booth. At first, it’s not too bad, as they start you out with a very small angle, but after a moment or two, you’re leaning out over the city at about a 45 degree angle! It seems scary, but the adrenaline carries you through the experience – an experience made better by the fact that you have grab bars to hold and, as such, are not permitted to take your phone or camera to put in your hand.

If you’re in Chicago, it’s well worth buying a ticket to not only 360 Chicago, but spend the extra $8 and go on TILT…for such a thrill, it’s really a bargain, and make sure to buy the commemorative photographs they make of you on there. In fact, the only souvenirs I purchased in the entire trip were the photographs and magnets of 360 Chicago.

I was off to Navy Pier, but I needed fuel both for myself and my phone. The phone got situated with a stop at Best Buy for a portable charger, and I fed myself via the different shops in Water Tower Place – namely foodease, which features items from different restaurants and local sources such as appetizers from Joe’s Crab Shack and vegetarian quesadillas, plus “pickled things”, and Wow Bao, featuring steamed buns in an Asian style and Thai iced coffee.

I enjoyed my meal in a small park next to a fire house across from the Children’s Hospital. A block down the street was the beginning of the Northwestern University Chicago campus which houses the Law and Medical schools. Around the corner was one of Chicago’s Divvy bike sharing points, and I decided it was time for a change, so I rented a bike…the last time I rode a bike was three years earlier in the same situation.

I was still rusty. So rusty that I didn’t even pedal the bike, just walked it and glided along, almost crashing into a wall while going downhill, so the bike was quickly returned to the next station and I walked the last couple of blocks to Navy Pier, ready to begin my Pokemon adventure.

While my initial plan was to be solo, I actually wound up spending the entire time with 3 folks from out of town, and then our group seemed to expand one by one, but the core group of the four stayed together catching these little guys –

The highlight of the time for me was when one of the major raid bosses popped up, there was a mass of humanity that descended upon the site, and at least 3 groups of 20 formed right away. Nearly everyone in this picture is playing the game here!

As the time wound down, I noticed that my feet were starting to hurt. Why? I decided to wear my new shoes. Not a wise idea when you walk over 7 miles in a busy city. Nevertheless, I still had one thing to do before going over to the theatre, which was to go to Millennium Park and the BP Bridge. Since the original plan was to go there during the 3 hour event, I was somewhat behind. I still made my way down there by foot with a cameo from the President of Poland’s motorcade, along with hopping on another bike and actually using the pedals this time, instead of acting like Fred Flintstone.

The parks connected by the BP Bridge are a bit different to each other. On the east side is Maggie Daley park, designed for families to have a nice day out with miniature golf, a rock climbing wall and a whole playground for the kids. You then cross Columbus Drive via the BP Bridge to Millennium Park.

Millennium Park is just about one square block of green space, along with two buildings that are waterfalls with illuminating faces on them. The folks and I who were watching tourists get into the water in the centre didn’t quite get it…especially on such a cold day.

Next up, I took a quick swing a block south of Millennium Park to the entrance of the Art Institute of Chicago to get a picture of the Lion (One of a Pair, North Pedestal) in front –

Getting somewhat drained, I managed to find myself at a coffee shop to enjoy a mocha while getting the chance to give my feet a rest for a bit before walking on to the next stop, which was at Luke’s Lobster City Hall, which I managed to actually miss the first time past and had to backtrack around the corner back to the restaurant. I had the Luke’s Favorite – a lobster roll, coleslaw and bag of crisps (salt & vinegar). I also had myself the rare soda, in this case a local ginger soda.

There really are no human terms to describe how amazing the lobster roll really is. You just have to try it; you won’t regret it!

It was finally time to go to the show!

What can I say about the show? Rob Lowe is freaking hilarious, especially when he tells stories about sharing his After School Special, “Schoolboy Father” with a girl who stated her dad was an actor. His name, not known to Rob until rocking up at their house? Cary Grant. He left after watching the show with nearly a lifetime supply of soap on a rope shaped like a microphone. He also shared the story of when he was a part of, well, this:

He told so many stories, but I’m not going to spoil much of what he said here :) Though the concept of a porterhouse steak requiring a “hat” made of butter is, well, different. It was something that Chris Farley did when he was eating at a restaurant with Rob and some other cast members on a show they were doing together.

The show lasted about 2 hours, including a Q&A session with Rob, where I was mildly disappointed that his dad didn’t ask any questions of him, which I’m sure would have been a blast! I now want to (finally) read his two books – Stories I Only Tell My Friends, and Love Life.

I picked up my bag from the coat check, and hopped on the train back to the hotel via the O’Hare station and these neon signs –

I was ready for another good night’s sleep to be fresh for the drive home, with a few more surprise stops along the way.

guest post, Sephyroth

The Chicago Trip, Part 2

Having been to IKEA, the next goal for me was to find a Walmart to buy a Yoga mat, and then make my way to the Outlets for new shoes from the Adidas Outlet, and they did not disappoint. The instant that I walked into the store, I spotted an awesome pair of shoes that screamed my name. Two pairs of shoes, and a new long-sleeve workout shirt later, I was all set and pleased that I had only spent half as much as I expected.

With that stop done, it was time to venture into Illinois…and head into the Hell that is known as Chicago traffic on a Friday afternoon. But first, I made another stop.

One of my favourite things about the Illinois Tollway are the Oases along the highway. It’s like taking the shops and restaurants from an airport concourse and melding them all into a single building right over the tollway, and then putting a gas station on each side of the highway for fueling up at. A major plus is the view out of the windows –

While there, I organised the coins that I would need to pay the toll when I exited, since their automated machines only accept 5, 10 and 25-cent pieces. No notes or cards accepted. I also grabbed a Chai Latte from Starbucks to sip on while driving in the traffic on the way to the airport.

A quick musical interlude: since the car can search tracks in Google Play Music, I asked for it to play, by title, “Road to Nowhere” by the Talking Heads. Google mustn’t have been feeling well on this day, as this starts up:


Maniacal laughing ensues, but I quickly recover and coax it to the right song, and then decide that it’s time to load up some of the club and trance music that I have in my library to help with focussing on the rush hour traffic in Chicago. I get off the tollway via this ramp with 4 payment lanes.

Four payment lanes are great, until you see what’s ahead. Within 300m, you have to merge into a single lane, and then keep an eye out for traffic from the left that could be entering your lane to exit at one of the two exit ramps that are immediately after the merge point. It certainly isn’t the greatest moment in Civil Engineering. The positive for me is that I needed that first exit to access the remote parking lot.

I’m greeted at the parking lot with a recorded announcement in the classic Chicago accent; it’s really a ‘ting’ of ‘bewdy’. The next challenge is to find a parking spot. The first spot I find is in section D12 and right next to a tree, in the blue circle. It was quite a hike to the people-mover to get to the airport.

After reorganizing my items to carry them to the airport, I make the jaunt to the people mover and travel to the airport. The check-in at the hotel was straightforward, and I was up in my room on the 9th floor with a runway view after just a few minutes.

So, what’s the view like? Look one way and you see one tower, the other way you see the other tower :) Here’s the tower to the right –

After taking a few minutes to get myself recombobulated, I had a chance to study the tarmac and had the opportunity to see the Queen of the Skies in one of her cargo configurations –

It was now 7PM and time for dinner, so I hop on the train and head to Logan Square, and then on to Fat Rice. During my walk, I was keeping my head up, and the early-1900s flats caught my eye –

Even though it was raining very lightly, it was still good weather for a walk, and I get to Fat Rice only to find out that it would be an hour for a table to open up, so I went searching for another restaurant for dinner. I find Restaurant Ecuador, which has a high rating on Google and, more helpfully, its menu posted on the window, so I chose to pop in and have dinner there.

A tip if you find yourself at Restaurant Ecuador – Spanish knowledge is a major plus. Even though you’re very much in Chicago, you have to specify to the waiters that you speak English; otherwise, it’s assumed that you know Spanish, which is something that I do know, so I had a relatively easy time chatting there.

When I looked at the menu, one dish sparked my interest right away: Churrasco, which is Steam Steak served with 2 eggs, french fries, lettuce, tomatoes and white rice. I chose that for main main, and also selected an appetiser of Bolon de Verde, which is Plantain mixed with pork skin. The waitress was suggesting that I try it with cheese, but I chose not to this time. While waiting for my food, I had a chance to look around at the surroundings. You can tell that this is a small operation since you have some basic decorations, but nothing outlandish.

After about 10 minutes, my plantain arrives with a small container of salsa:

The plantain was soft and the pork that’s in there is crispy to give a nice contrast of textures. What about the salsa? Holy cow, this is knock-your-socks-off levels of spicy, but something that I would definitely have again. Just as I’m finishing up my plantain, the Churrasco arrives –

Snoskred and I had been talking about putting an egg on top of my pizza, so it was only fitting that I did get the item that had the egg on top ;) The steak was cooked about medium-well and was quite tender, especially when you combine some of the egg with it. The lettuce and tomatoes on the bottom were a good accompaniment. The only suggestion I would have is to include some different vegetables for more contrast.

Having completed just about half of the plate, I paid the check and chatted for a couple of minutes with the waitress in Spanish about how I wound up enjoying their restaurant.

While I was having dinner, the rain picked up a little bit so I decided to catch a bus back to the train station. A quick look to the east reveals that there isn’t a bus imminently arriving, but it couldn’t be too long, right? I wound up standing out in the rain for close to 15 minutes before abandoning that idea in favor of walking back. It was fortunate since in the time it took for me to walk to the station, I saw two busses heading the other way, and nothing my way.

Getting back to the hotel around 10:00, I wasn’t tired so I decided to take a walk around the parts of the airport that I can access, and come across this sign offering Indulgence, Love, and Beauty at O’Hare-

Indulgence – “Nuts on Clark”; Sarah’s Candies; and McDonald’s
Love – Hoypoloi, an uncommon Gallery; Seaway; and Coach.
Beauty – MAC; Sunglass Hut; and Hudson.

Let’s look at this a bit deeper. Each of the categories features one really strange inclusion…for Beauty, we have Hudson. Hudson run the convenience stores in numerous airports around the world. Now…Love. What the heck is Seaway? It’s a bank. Maybe you can use the money you get from Seaway to love a new bag from Coach, if you can get through the barrier.

McDonald’s for “Indulgence”? It’s a bit of a stretch to consider anything there indulgent. Surely you could find something different, like Eli’s Cheesecake. Or, if all else fails, Dunkin’ Donuts:

Making it back to the 9th floor, it’s time to settle in for a night’s sleep in preparation for a full day on Saturday, which will come next week. :)

guest post, Sephyroth

The Chicago Trip, Part 1

So, as I said last week, I’m planning to head to Chicago to see Rob Lowe. The plan is simple…drive my car to O’Hare airport, park it, and have a good couple of days in Chicago. There’s a lot planned, and the time is nigh.

Except there’s some problems…on Wednesday, my car decided to not start, so I wound up getting a free loaner car from the dealership, which I drove for the weekend. It’s not a problem since it’s a hybrid and it has some really cool features :)

To get to Chicago from where I live is dead simple – follow the freeway until the Illinois border, then follow the tollway – a task that would be slightly less expensive had I had my car, but it’s still worth the convenience to pay full price for the tolls (in Illinois, you pay full price if you pay cash, but if you use their electronic tolling, it’s half price).

However, I’m a bit of an odd duck when it comes to driving from here to there – detours are not uncommon for me; the first detour is to drop off a package, which is just a quick stop, and I’m back on the road again.

One thing about the loaner car is that it ties into my phone, and all I have to do is press the voice button, say “IKEA” and it immediately suggests that I go to the one that just opened the other day, no faffing about choosing one down a list.

It was no surprise that when I arrived at IKEA, the parking lot was nearly full, but there is attention to detail, even down to signs made up by IKEA telling you not to park alongside the road.

Getting closer to the parking lot, there are marshals directing you to your parking spot – you didn’t get a chance to choose your spot. I get parked, and notice something strange…an RV in the parking lot – as in someone actually came to IKEA in an RV…not a huge Breaking Bad style one, but one nonetheless.

Picking up the map, I realize that it’s in the design of the more recent IKEA maps in that it is the transit map, designed to make you spend more time in the store browsing through the showroom and marketplace, maximizing revenue for the store. One handy feature of the map, though, is that it does have the shortcut lines in it, showing how to jump to the restaurant from the entrance. The restaurant line was crazy long, and I think that they don’t have the restaurant as well planned as it could be – in the other restaurants that I’ve been at, you just queue up at the item that you want, say the meatballs, and then you get it.

I waited patiently in the line, perusing the choices for lunch, and I come across the Daim cake on the screens, so I picked that along with the Swedish meatballs and a Latte to drink while sat comfortably on one of their couches in the restaurant.

Some IKEAs have great views out of the restaurant while some others have no windows at all. This IKEA has this view out of the restaurant.

It’s definitely no IKEA Tempe…

After lunch, I took a quick trip through the rest of the store, picking up some things that I needed like plastic bags and a new kitchen brush before taking the second shortcut to the collection area, and the Swedish Food Market, now before the checkouts, a move likely designed to increase sales just that little bit more.

After checking out and grabbing a coffee at the Bistro, I went back out to the car, and noticed something else in the parking lot – U-Hauls…people actually rented U-Hauls to go to IKEA. Not just one, but five of them were in the lot! Crazy time! I will grant that if you are buying a lot of furniture, as I did last year, it may just be easier to fit it into a U-Haul instead of trying to cram it all, plus two other people, into your hatchback ;)

Now, to keep everyone sane, and to avoid having a never-ending post, we will stop here momentarily and pick things up next time. We’re only at 2 PM on Friday, and there’s still 80 miles ahead of me :)

guest post, Sephyroth

The Chicago Masterplan

Hi there, Sephyroth here. I’m taking a trip to Chicago soon to see a show featuring Rob Lowe, who one cannot help but just have a deep appreciation for. The only problem is that when I travel, I am a person who has little to no manner of researching things, so I wind up just figuring it out as I go, or letting others figure it out for me. For the most part, if I’m travelling with Snoskred and her Other Half, she’ll do the research and I’ll say yeah, sounds like a plan and carry on. I mean, how else does one wind up flying in a helicopter and holding a snake? ;)

This time, the only planning that she has done for me is to suggest the show that I am going to see, along with pointing out a bridge in Millennium Park because it was the bridge that was walked along in the Netflix show “Ozark”.

She was also instrumental in getting me to book my hotel a record 4 months! prior to my trip. Looking back, the prior record was 2 months when I was travelling to Hawaii and organized a hotel room near the airport since my flight was at 7AM. There was even one trip that I’ve taken where I booked my hotel at noon the same day that I left. That trip was nice, but kind of ended up being a bit of a mess, considering that my skill in this planning led me to drive over 1,000kms in a single day. That did at least net me the opportunity to get this close to Canada…close enough to take pictures, but not cross the border since it was before getting my Passport.

However! Hard as it is to believe, that isn’t my record, since a few years later (and this was planned!) I drove nearly 1,400kms in one day–and that was in November, when it gets dark at 5:00pm!

Needless to say, for me to actually have researched things and chosen things to do is quite the miraculous event. Again, booking a hotel 4 months prior to the trip? Crazy talk! Looking at attractions to visit a month prior? Insane! Choosing restaurants…at all? Now you’re just crazy dude…but I’ve done all of that! Wait…purchasing tickets to an event 1) 5 months in advance and 2) on the same day they go on sale…I got nothing here :)

So, this trip is going to be three days and two nights, and there are a few things that, in the time between when I purchased the tickets and the actual trip, I had learnt. Those things were –

1. The opening of a new IKEA store just 2 days before I leave; and
2. As a Pokémon Go player, an in-game event occurring on the same day as the show.

So, the one thing that I don’t want to do when going to Chicago is drive in the city. Even though I love driving…especially long distances…driving in a city of nearly 3 million people as part of a metropolitan area of almost 9 million is a bit daunting. At least in Atlanta, they decided to put shedloads of lanes in their freeways to compensate for the number of travellers on the road. Chicago? The big roads are on the outskirts of the city, and the main freeway in town is, at best, 4 lanes wide…usually 3 lanes.

Plus, there’s parking in the city – when I travelled down there for a day trip on a Thursday, I wound up paying $38 for parking in a parking ramp outside of the loop…but that was fine since Eataly was near to the garage, and my curiosity had been piqued about it. Plus the event that I went down there for was near the Tribune Tower – about a 10 block walk from there. It gave me an opportunity to check out parts of the city that I’d never seen before – such as the underground road network.

All of that led me to deciding to want a hotel out in the suburbs, and near to public transit…the L trains in particular. What does that mean? Staying out by O’Hare Airport, since it’s right on the Blue Line, and there are plenty of hotels out that way, all with a really good rate usually. Also, I’d done that in my trip about 9 years ago, and it worked out nicely – as well as netting myself a stack of dollar coins when I used a $20 note to pay for parking at the CTA’s lot :D

In searching the map, I discovered that one of the best rates available in that area wasn’t at one of the airports outside of the main airport area, but actually at the airport itself, and so booking for the Hilton O’Hare was set. One of the innumerate travel secrets that I’ve learnt over the years is that, if you’re certain about the hotel you want to stay at, book from that hotel directly – not only will you actually know you’ll get that hotel, you’ll be able to choose your room, and normally get the best price…not to mention the ability to earn traveller points through something like Hilton HHonors. As someone who loves airplanes and the like, I of course have chosen a runway-view room at the hotel so I can get some planespotting in as well as some rest during my stay.

The next thing was to start looking at attractions. In previous trips to Chicago, I’ve visited the Sears Willis Tower Skydeck twice – once before the ledge, and again after the ledge was created. What is the Ledge, you ask? It’s literally a porch on the 103rd floor of the building that lets you step over the city, but don’t worry. It’s fully enclosed in glass, but it can be a bit frightening (though I did step out on it…at night). I will note that the only problem about going up in the Sears Tower in the evening is that most of the shops, except for the one on Skydeck, natch, are closed, so you kind of miss out on some of the “touristy charm” if there is such a thing, but I was able to see a cutout of President Obama.

Plus, at this time, it was when Chicago was still in the running to get the 2016 Olympics…imagine holding the sailing on beautiful Lake Michigan? At least the support was huge a couple of months before learning that they would not get the Olympics, especially at what was just then freshly renamed Willis Tower.

As much as I love going to Chicago and visiting the Loop and downtown, I’ve never explored much outside of the main downtown core. The farthest out I’d been is out to Navy Pier and the Art Museum, so I thought…what about the John Hancock Center erm…uh, “875 North Michigan Avenue”…guess that naming rights deal ended…in February! It’s the second tallest building in the city of Chicago, and I’ve never been there before. At least there’s no question to its address now!

So, I look up the John Hancock Observation deck, to find that it’s now called 360 Chicago, and they now have this attraction much like the Ledge, but slightly different, in which you are actually cantilevered out over the street below; it’s called TILT, and billed as a thrill ride…so I think, well, why not? The other part of it is that after some digging I found that there is a Yoga class that goes on every Saturday Morning at 9AM, so again…why not? I’ve done Yoga a couple of times, and it’s quite enjoyable – and this time it would be with a whole group of people, not just in my basement in front of a computer monitor, bonus socializing!

That’s Saturday morning sorted; the next thing was to figure out where to go for the Pokemon Go events…so I joined a group that is focussed on downtown Chicago. I had assumed that they’d probably congregate at like Millennium or Grant Parks. Except they didn’t in the end. They chose the following locations –

– Lincoln Park Zoo – Not a bad idea, but quite a ways north, and not something I was looking to see
– Navy Pier – easy to find, and sort of easy to get from there to Millennium Park
– “The Glen” – which I have no real clue as to what it is, but I think it’s out toward Glenview…and I was going to be downtown.

Keeping in mind all of that I was doing, it was pretty easy to figure out which place to go to – Navy Pier. My plan is to go from Navy Pier, get checked in and pick up a piece of swag, and then head towards Grant Park and Millennium Park to walk around, followed by going over towards the Cadillac Palace Theatre for the show, picking up lunch and coffee along the way.

After the show, the plan is fairly straightforward – catch the L back to the Hotel and tuck in for a good night of sleep…then get up on Sunday Morning, and head back home, possibly stopping at IKEA again, and maybe a couple of other shops along the way.

As far as finding food, I decided that stopping at IKEA on the way down for breakfast would be a great idea, and an opportunity to check out the new store — seeing that I was that weirdo who actually went to the parking lot before it opened to get an idea of the surroundings. For lunch, I don’t have a good idea, but will probably just have some coffee or a Chai Latte from a restaurant, possibly going to Eataly if I get into town early enough, or try out an illy owned and operated cafe at the NBC Tower, but that’s not open very late, so may not be the best option.

For dinner, I was researching restaurants and came across a list on the Chicago Tribune’s website that is somewhat up to date (except for the Japanese restaurant they recommended closed last year…and the map that they used isn’t loading the Openstreetmap tiles). That list has a restaurant called Fat Rice which serves Macanese cuisine, or Chinese-Portuguese fusion from Macau(o).

The best part about Fat Rice is that it’s a short walk from the L train stop at Logan Square – just about 650m, or 10 minutes walking, depending on lights and such :)

On Saturday, the only meal I’ve planned for sure is dinner – at Luke’s Lobster City Hall. I figure that meandering from Navy Pier to Grant Park, I can snag something to eat while out and about, as well as get a coffee somewhere, probably finding a local cafe and trying to avoid Starbucks like the plague.

Then on Sunday, it was a drive home, and potentially making a second trip to IKEA to do a more extensive shop and get some Meatballs.

To make things easy, here’s an itinerary, of sorts –

Friday –
* Leave home as early as possible, 8 or 9 AM doesn’t sound out of the realm of possibility
* Make a quick stop to deliver a package that would be needed over the weekend
* Breakfast at IKEA, check out the new store
* Stop at the Outlets, get new shoes since the ones that I mainly use are over 2.5 years old now (and still in pretty good shape)
* Find lunch somewhere, and coffee
* Get to the hotel somewhat early, check in and head into the city
* Dinner – Fat Rice, a restaurant that serves a fusion of Chinese and Portuguese cuisine; a/k/a Macanese

Saturday –
* 9AM Yoga at 875 North Michigan
* TILT reservation at 10:30AM
* Pokemon from 1-4 at Navy Pier, then meandering over towards Grant Park
* Dinner at Luke’s Lobster City Hall
* 8:00 The Show that I set this trip up for in the first place

Sunday –
* Check out of the hotel
* Head home via some random route, but probably the Tollway

Goals? Have fun and don’t get robbed or murdered :)

Tune in Next Monday to see how this plan goes. :)

guest post, Sephyroth

Daily Training @ Lumosity

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Every day at 6:03am, Lumosity sends me an email to remind me to brain train today. You can set the reminder emails to be morning, afternoon or evening. I like morning. I have also set myself a couple of reminders on my mobile in case I forget.

training

When you click on start your workout, you arrive at this summary screen which shows you an overview of where you are presently, and tells you how many days in a row you have trained for.

80days

I’m working on a decent streak of training right now – I have 80 days as of the 8th November 2015 – but if you want to know about a training streak, Sephyroth is at something like 630 674 days of training in a row. I’m not sure I could ever hope to get close to that. ;)

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A workout is 5 games. The games change from day to day, to try and give you some balance in your brain training. When you finish each game you see this screen which tells you how todays result compares with your previous scores.

totlumo

I do believe the training works because I have seen huge improvements in my performance *outside* of Lumosity over my time using Lumosity. My short term memory is a lot better than it used to be. My basic mathematic skills have improved enormously – this from the person who hates maths generally and failed maths in school.

lpi

You also get to see this with a measurement called Lumosity Performance Index – above you see my numbers for the 19th of September, and then the 8th of November. These number do fluctuate depending on the daily training and if I have a very bad training moment in a problem solving game, it does get reflected in these numbers. My LPI when I started training was a mere 826 vs 1384 today.

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At the end of your five games, you get a summary like this – the trophies mean I got 4 personal best scores out of 5 games which was a pretty huge day for me. I do notice a difference in results based on the time of day I brain train. Somewhere between 1pm-3pm is the best time for my brain.

lumo

If you got a score in the top 5 scores, you also get a little top 5 symbol. You are given Lumosity points for each game you complete – 1 point for completion, 2 points for a top 5 score, 3 points for a personal best score.

Over to You –

Do you brain train? If yes, how often?

Gaming, Happy Snoskred, Sephyroth

Pineapple Collection

pineapples
Gold and Silver pineapples at Pillowtalk

A while back, Kirsten over at Kirsten & Co wrote this post – My DIY Bar Cart Project – and in the comments I mentioned I would check out Target to see if I could get me one of the gold pineapples. When visiting Shellharbour to see Take That live back in July, I did drop into Kmart and they did not have any gold pineapples left. They did have metallic pink ones, but every single one was slightly damaged.

With my Kmart pineapples I bought as gifts for family, I regularly visited until I found a non-damaged pineapple. We have a Kmart nearby so regular visits was not a problem. With Target being a two hour round trip, regular visits were not going to happen.

pineapples2

My friend who I went to see Take That live with suggested that I visit Pillowtalk to see if they had any pineapples. And it turned out, they did. The gold one was a little pricey for me at $49.95, but they are local and I can keep checking back until they go on special or on clearance which they eventually will.

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So, I bought the silver pineapple for $29.95 from Pillowtalk, and added it to my candle shelf in the entry way. I can see it from where I presently sit, reflecting the late afternoon sun rays from the sliding door. When it is night time, lighting the candles creates a lovely reflection from the silver pineapple, and also from the gold foil sleigh I have sitting on that shelf.

pineapples1

The yellow one was originally a gift to my sister, but apparently it did not suit her partner and his design ethics and standards (alternatively it could be because he is an a**hole), and thus it was left behind when they went home after their visit.

After all those visits to Kmart to get a perfect one, I figured it would fit in well at my house, though yellow might not have been my personal first choice of colour. They had white and jade ones too, once upon a time. I never saw a perfect jade one, I did find a perfect white one which I gave to my parents, and it now sits on their stairwell shelf.

pineapples4

So now that I have two pineapples, I guess I am starting a pineapple collection. I’ve seen a couple of others I would like to add eventually, as well. Kmart no longer stocks the pineapples, at least, not that I could find on my recent visits, otherwise I would still be trying for a jade one because that was gorgeous.

I will like to mention, Happy Actual Birthday to Sephyroth today. You may recall I changed his birthday to February, for reasons I explained in this post.

Sadly though, the movie Triple 9 which was meant to be released today has been delayed until March 2016.

Happy Snoskred, Home, Sephyroth

Sephyroth Is A Genius

flower

I mentioned here on the blog a while ago that I was going through my old posts – updating links, making sure videos still worked, and removing some overly negative posts about an old workplace and about one particular family member.

As a part of this process, I realised that my categories were.. not brilliant. Not at all optimal. They really needed someone with a pedantic flair to take a look at them and completely re-do them. Hmm. Who do I know with a pedantic flair? This seemed like a job for only one person on earth – my excellent friend Sephyroth.

pedantry

So I sent off an email on February 28th..

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And on March 23rd, I received me a reply! Parent categories with child categories. This seemed like a good plan.

For some reason I thought I would wait until I finished going through all the posts in order to make the suggested changes. That was a bit of a mistake to be honest. But on the 1st of June I finally finished reviewing all the posts and so I sat down today to begin making the changes.. half an hour later, I sent off another email..

pedantry5

The Other Half helped out by adding the little + and – so that all you will see to begin with is the parent categories. Like this –

categories1

If you click on the parent category, you will see all posts for that parent category. I may still do some tweaking in the weeks to follow, but for now I’m happy with the results. YAY! ;)

In Other Blog News

I made some changes to the right hand sidebar, adding more articles and putting them in different categories.

Sephyroth helped me out once again with the padding on the posts because we had to do a theme update and lost a lot of our changes to the theme as a surprise. This will not happen again as we are now using a child theme, long story and way too technical, but it means things like link colour, text size, and teeny little settings on the blog that readers are not even aware of, like 10 pixels of padding around paragraphs, headings and photos, are in a separate file so future updates to the theme will not cause those changes to be lost.

On the right hand sidebar, The Other Half coded a thing, which means my comments no longer appear in the most recent comments stream. This is great because I often go through and reply to comments in one sitting, so you tend to see a lot of comments from me suddenly.

Yesterday..

moments

Wow, what a huge day here on the blog yesterday! Just 3 minutes after the scam warning post went live, on average there were 120 visitors every hour. Interestingly, there was a very Australian skew to the people who were sent this email. Here’s a screenshot taken at midnight AEST..

countries1

People from 22 more countries than you can see here dropped by, which makes 32 countries in total. Many of the people who arrived were good enough to take the time to leave a comment with the name and email address and in some cases the email they were sent. Plus, a lot of people sent me emails via my contact page with that info.

I’ve sent an email off to outlook.com to let them know what has been going on, because every email address used was an outlook.com one. Most troubling, they seem to be bot generated.

What’s Happening At Yours?

Let me know in the comments! :)

blog housekeeping, Happy Snoskred, Sephyroth

Something Arrived..

package1

Last week Sephyroth received a surprise package from me, which you can read about at his blog – I can haz Krudd Tea?.

wears

Today a package arrived for me – this one I knew was on the way because my Dad had wanted specific Calvin Klein underwear from Macys. His present underwears were actually literally disintegrating. Originally Mum said get 6 pairs, and I said no, get 12 and put 6 away for later.

package5

So we’d sent some money via paypal to Sephyroth and he did all the buying and shipping. They don’t sell this particular underwear in Australia and we’ve even been in contact with Calvin Klein Australia. Likely due to some kind of licensing arrangement, Macys will not ship it directly to Australia and you need a US credit card and address to order.

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Thanks for sending the package Sephy! I will deeply enjoy these chippies and this chocolate! ;)

package3

Also many thanks for the Costco Connection and the files on this thumb drive – this contains some photos which we lost in the server meltdown.

package2

And I will respect these wishes. I will *not* mention the Genius of Sephy, that is a post for another day.

food, Happy Snoskred, Sephyroth

Happy Birthday Sephyroth

but6

My dearest and bestest friend in the universe, Sephyroth, has a birthday which was a great day for many years, until 2001 came along. Why 2001, I hear you ask. Well, his birthday happens to be September 11th. So after 2001 the birthday became a bit of a downer day for him instead of the happy occasion it ought to be..

So much so, that at some point I assigned him a totally different birthday. I forget what it was, I think it was sometime in April. I guarantee you he will pop up in the comments and paste in the actual emails or logs of our chat on this subject, because he saves these things foreverz. :)

But this year, it SHOULD BE be a very happy birthday, because September 11th happens to be the release date for a little movie I am super excited to see. It is called Triple 9, and it contains Norman Reedus – better known as Daryl from The Walking Dead – and Aaron Paul – better known as Jesse from Breaking Bad. Plus, a few other randoms, eg Kate Winslet, Woody Harrelson, Chiwetel Ejiofor..

Yo, best you be planning a cinema trip for your next birthday, Sephyroth.

Of course release dates can and do change, I’ll keep an eye on it.

Me personally, I don’t really do birthdays myself, nor do I tend to remember other peoples birthdays. I actually seem to remember other things, eg I have a friend whose birthday is the day after International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Yes, that is a thing and it gets mentioned around the web quite a bit in the lead up to the day, so it is like a little reminder for me.

Update –

Did you guys know that Sephy has a login for my blog? No? Well, now you do. And of course you can guess that Sephyroth happened to log in on Monday, for reasons but that is another post, and he saw this post scheduled and could not help but read it. He then forwarded me the email I sent him, and here tis.

Subject: Happy Non-Birthday

On Sep 11, 2011, at 5:49, Snoskred (snip) wrote:

As I cancelled your birthday and rescheduled it to Feb 18th, today is no longer your birthday, officially.

So Happy Birthday for next Feb 18th, instead. :)

Your new birthday is the anniversary of this –

1977 – The Space Shuttle Enterprise test vehicle is carried on its maiden “flight” on top of a Boeing 747.

It comes with a photo!

And this

1979 – Snow falls in the Sahara Desert in southern Algeria for the only time in recorded history.

Your new birthday is also the birthday of – 1968 – Molly Ringwald, American actress

It is also –

Christian Feast Day:
Colmán of Lindisfarne
Flavian of Constantinople
Simeon of Jerusalem (Western Christianity)
February 18 (Eastern Orthodox liturgics)
Independence Day, celebrates the independence of the Gambia from the United Kingdom in 1965.

Pls to note that on almost everyone’s birthday, something not awesome happened. EG on my birthday –

1896 – The deadliest tsunami in Japan’s history kills more than 22,000 people.

Had that happened in 1996, my birthday would be quite the bummer. :(

Anyway, happy Non-Birthday. And if you don’t like Feb 18th, pick another one, There’s 363 other days you could choose. :)

So, its night to me.. :)

Blog Friends, Sephyroth, things to remember