Wednesday, April 29, 2009
*NOTE*.... these are photos taken from flikr, so to see more from these flikr photographers, please click on the photos, which should take you back to their pages.
To view other Featured Flikr Photos, see previous posts about college life at Moody, drinks from around the world, Papuan village life, Sentani, and Jayapura.
Most Romantic Places in Downtown Chicago
1. Art Institute, South Garden
Ah yes, it just so happens that Isaac and I discovered this place on our first date, walking home from the Celtic Fest. It is right in the busiest part of the city, but is set off the road and the garden is lower than street level and sheltered by low-hanging trees that make it feel like a secret garden. I'm sure it's busy during business hours, but in the evenings it is incredible.
2. Millennium & Grant Park and the Lakefront
Really seeing Chicago requires a lot of walking, particularly for this part of the city. As long as you make sure there isn't a big festival going on in these downtown parks, Millennium and Grant Park provide huge areas of green lawns and rose gardens and old and new sculptures and statues, as well as the beautiful walk by the lake. On the other hand, on busy summer evenings I advise you to avoid the area at all costs, because it will be chock full of tourists.
Some elements of the Parks are:
The Pritzker Pavilion, a beautiful outdoor concert venue where you can see free concerts all summer. It also sort of looks like an aluminum can that exploded.
The harbor (I always wanted to set up a picnic for Isaac and I on one of the little piers, but never did)
And of course, the "Bean" (the real name is Cloudgate, which is cool). It has fast become one of the most photographed items ever. It really is stunning, so please indulge a few extra photos. I love that it takes on the mood of the city.
3. Alfred Caldwell Lilly Pool
I love this place and it is not very well known. It is hidden between Lake Shore Drive and the zoo. I just walked in and suddenly found these beautiful sights:
4. North Avenue Beach Pier and Lighthouse
Don't go to North Ave. beach on a summer afternoon, or you will be swarmed by tourists and Chicagoans desperate for their yearly quota of sun. This place is best at sunset,twilight and evening. Walk out on the pier to this lighthouse... it's beautiful. One time Isaac and I sat and watched a lightning storm off in the distance on lake Michigan. Yes, it's rusty, but it is truly a fantastic view.
5. Garfield Park Conservatory
I catered here many times and I LOVE this place. Room after room of beautiful greenery, ponds, flowers, little walkways, and some benches that would be perfect for sitting and chatting. Again, avoid peak tourist season.
(this is actually my personal photo)
6. Fourth Presbyterian Church
Fourth Pres. is stunning because it is in SUCH a busy area, but if you walk into the little courtyard you'll find a picturesque little place of peace. I've seen wedding pictures taken there, sat and journaled for hours, and had long chats with Isaac.
7. Bughouse Square/Washington Park/Nearby Park
This vote is totally biased. It the the park "nearby" Moody, hence the nickname, and hence my affection for it. I spent hours here on my own and with Isaac, and between the birds, the flowers, and the old Russian immigrants that sit and chat on the benches, it's totally cute.
(the above photo IS actually my photo)
8. The view of the city from Museum Campus, by the Planetarium
I rollerbladed all over Chicago, and this area was surreal because you would blade down the waterfront, turn the corner around the Shedd Aquarium, and suddenly all city and traffic noise disappear, and you'd be left with a stunning panoramic view of the city over the lake. I used to go here with my group of girls sometimes. We would load up in Missy's car (sometimes in our pajamas!), unload and wrap ourselves in blankets as we talked quietly and enjoyed the view. As the last photo shows, if you join the crowds on the right evenings, you can catch the Navy Pier fireworks.
9. Michigan Ave. during the holidays
I LOVE Chicago around Christmas time. The city is gorgeously decorated with Christmas lights on the Magnificent Mile, and when you add snow it's just like a Christmas movie... they totally should set more in Chicago. Forget New York! You get the lights, the Christmas music, the bustle of Christmas shoppers and pink cheeks and hot drinks... oh so romantic. Of course, my memory may be tinged by the fact that Isaac proposed to me at a big bay window overlooking the lights and snow. :)
(the above photo is not me)
And, while we're on the Christmas theme, I LOVE the German Christmas market that Chicago holds, Kristkindlmarkt. It's the largest one outside of Munich. It's a little touristy, but I just love the nut crakers and apple cider and crepes and pretzels and carols and the huge Christmas tree.... *sigh*.... it's about as old-world European as Chicago gets.
10. Millennium Park has an ice rink that opens during the winter. Sometimes it's packed or so cold you can't even hold hands or your fingers will fall off. If you can get there on a good day, though, it is filled with cheerful skaters, Christmas songs fill the air, and you're surrounded by city lights. And again... hot chocolate. I've totally seen romance bloom on that skating rink... several times. :)
Okay, this has already gone on way too long, but for honorable mention, these are not in downtown Chicago, but one must visit the Chicago Botanical Gardens or Ravinia if you're looking for a good date. Ravinia in particular. Great music under the stars with a candle-light picnic? Man... that's hard to beat.
And one thing I couldn't find a picture of and most people won't ever do is to go to Wells Street bridge and find the trap door in the middle. This is the only trap door that isn't locked. You can scurry down onto the platform and dangle your legs over the edge and enjoy the private view of the river, the city, and the lights, knowing it was probably supposed to be locked, but until then... :)
So there you go. Chicago.... City of Romance....
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
I only have one hope left - I might get home and find that if I hit Ctrl-V, it will still be saved from when I copied it into a post. Maybe.
So - in the hope that I can find it tonight, it will be posted tomorrow. In the meantime, I'll post my WFMW post early, since I am feeling a need to have something new posted today.
Works-for-me-Wednesday (one day early): Paperback Swap
I forget what first led me to the Paperback Swap website a few weeks ago. At first I thought it was essentially FREE books as long as you had books to give away, but I forgot about shipping costs. In the end, you're getting books for about $3 each.
Here's the deal. You sign up to join the Paperback Swap website. In order to begin the process, you find 10 books that you can give away (that are in decent shape). That was easy for me, I already had a stack of books to take to Half-Price books, but I get more bang for my buck this way. You upload the ISBN number of each of your 10 books. This starts your account, and you are given two credits to start off with. Each credit is worth one book, so you now get to search for a book that you want to read. When you find one you like, just select it and it will be sent to you.
When someone on the website wants one of the books you've listed, you'll be notified via email, and you click in to print off a label for your book. You can wrap it in plastic wrap and the printed label, and send it media mail for about $3. Easy. No stamps. No mailing bags or padded envelopes. When the person receives the book, you are credited and able to pick another book for yourself.
I've received two books so far and sent out five, and I'm almost done with Jhumpa Lahiri's "Interpreter of Maladies". When I'm done, I'll post it online and get another one back to me. I have created my "wish list" of books, so whenever I'm ready for a new book I check to see which of my wish list books are currently available.
This is cheaper than Half-Price books, amazon.com, and definitely cheaper than Borders and Barnes & Nobles. It is not cheaper than the Library, so if that's your go-to book source, I don't know that I'd recommend a switch. It is also not for you if you like to keep all of your books, because you have to keep posting books in order to keep receiving them.
Oh, and contrary to the very clear name of the website, it is not all paperbacks.
Monday, April 27, 2009
"What is your definition of liberty? What difference does it really make in your
life? Is it worth defending, fighting for, dying for? Would you die to be free,
as you understand it? What degree of slavery to the government is acceptable?"
"The liberties of our country, the freedoms of our civil Constitution are worth defending at all hazards; it is our duty to defend them against all attacks. We have received them as a fair inheritance from our worthy ancestors. They purchased them for us with toil and danger and expense of treasure and blood. It will bring a mark of everlasting infamy on the present generation – enlightened as it is – if we should suffer them to be wrested from us by violence without a struggle, or to be cheated out of them by the artifices of designing men." -Samuel Adams”
I think that when our fierce independence results in our inability to ever give to our government and our society without being angry about it and acting as though our personal rights are being infringed on, we have become spoiled, suspicious, and unhelpful to our democratic system. Maybe it's time we reevaluated the words of John F. Kennedy: And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country.
Do not mistake me. I am not criticizing protest, a variety of opinions, or the need to hold the government in check. I do, however, question the idea that our current government is pushing into our constitutional rights and making us slaves.
1. First off, as I've said before, I believe that the area where the U.S. President is given the most independent power and influence and long-term effect is that of our foreign policy. And... foreign policy matters a LOT to me. So - I was fascinated by this article by Foreign Policy magazine called "Obama's Report Card" that has 40 top foreign policy experts in the country give Obama a grade for his actions thus far.
2. Andrew Sullivan wrote a post today about the UN Convention on Torture that Reagan supported and signed.
It's really striking. It is just so clear and uncompromising. I do not understand how our government could possibly have been okay with compromising these standards. I agree with the Overeducated Underachiever that the lack of value for the dignity of humanity that it reflects makes me feel sick when I read about it.
Article 1.1. For the purposes of this Convention, torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the
consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an
official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from,
inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.2. This article is without
prejudice to any international instrument or national legislation which does or
may contain provisions of wider application.
Article 2.1. Each State Party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction.2. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.3. An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Last Friday I wrote about finding out that there is a massive community of refugees right here in Dallas. Next week I will write about what it was like to mentor a newly-arrived family, but right now I wanted to run through some of the information about refugees here in Dallas that I learned at a volunteer training meeting with the International Rescue Commission (IRC).
The IRC works overseas doing disaster relief and aid work, and has since the end of WWII. Here in the US they are strictly a resettlement agency. People that have been identified as refugees by the UN High Commission on Refugees are allowed to resettle wherever foreign government will accept them. Only about 1% of the world's 21 million refugees are resettled, most of the rest just remain in limbo and in displacement camps (as in Sudan). Every year the number of refugees accepted by the US is determined by the President and Congress and then apportioned by country (80,000 last year, though only 70,000 actually made it in). These numbers are split between 9 different agencies, and those agencies resettle the refugees wherever they can find a place for them throughout the country.
The IRC is mostly on the two coasts and in TX, they have no offices in the mid-west. They resettled almost 7,000 refugees in 2007 and over 9,000 in 2008. The Dallas office worked with 600 clients (I believe this is families, not individuals) last year and expect to exceed that this year.
The countries that refugees are coming from changes constantly, and this year and last year the predominant countries represented are Iraq, Burma, and Bhutan.
Iraqi refugees just started flooding in last year - only 4,000 came in previous years, and then last year it was 12,000, and this year they expect 19,000. I think this is an amazing opportunity - if we want to make something good out of the Iraq war, it is our responsibility to care for those that have been displaced by it. They are generally wealthier and more educated than other refugees because they have had to flee war. In some cases that makes it tougher, because they have to start again at the bottom of society working menial jobs when they are used to being respected professionals. Most of them speak English.
The refugees from Burma (Myanmar) are the ones that I have had the most contact with. Myanmar's government has discriminated against the minority people groups in the northern part of the country (Chin, Karen, and Kareni people) by choking off their income, persecuting them for their faith, and kidnapping men and boys to join their army. Many, many people have fled the country for Malaysia and Thailand, and they are not allowed back in the country. Most of them are not allowed to work while they wait in refugee camps, and they have been waiting for YEARS. My family waited for 7 years, but some have been waiting much longer.
The Bhutanese are a sad story. They are ethnic Nepali people that settled in Bhutan generations ago. They were kicked out by a dictatorial government in Bhutan and have waited and waited, hoping for the chance to go home. They finally made the corporate decision to resettle, and so they began to flood in for the first time last year.
(by the way, the above photo is of a Bhutanese's family resettled by the IRC and their first day in the US)
Texas is a mixed bag for refugees. Most refugees have to take low-wage, entry level jobs, and in the rest of the country these jobs are non-existant at the moment. Here in Texas they have dropped a little, but we have the best economy in the nation at the moment, and most refugees are still able to find work. On the other hand, to quote the IRC representative, "Let's be honest, Texas is not the most friendly place to people coming from other countries." Texas is not proudly multi-cultural, so there is a loneliness to live here for quite a while.
Some of you have asked how you can get involved. If you live in Dallas, I highly recommend checking out the IRC website. If you live in Fort Worth, check out World Relief. And let me direct you to another blog I'll be talking more about, Refugee Arts, where two of my friends (Ian and Ruthie) from Moody post stories and photos of their work with refugees in Atlanta. It really gives you a feel for some of the refugees and their stories.
I loved what Ian said in an article he wrote for The Brew online magazine.
"In this way, by coming to us, the ends of the earth have made up for our trepidation and long, cowardly strings of excuses for avoid going out to them. Now it is as if Jesus has said to the world, 'Go ye into Georgia’s churches…' and as they stand and sit and crawl and weep at our doorstep, Jesus himself, unclothed, hungry, and thirsty, stands with them, and I am of the opinion that if those of us who are able still refuse to meet Him here, He will shake our dust off his feet, and we will hear His voice no more."
When I put this blog together I added a photo that I took of my sister when my family was up at Pikes Peak last summer. While I still think it's a good photo, it does nothing to convey what this blog is about, and it's too big.
Do you have any suggestions of what type of photo would be a good header for the blog... or if it should just stick with the title?
I'd appreciate any thoughts you have!
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Wrong. I love it. I got chills.
I love that the choir teacher is hip and cool and obviously is passionate about teaching these kids to love music and sing it passionately. I love seeing 5th grade public school kids get into the music and be so expressive. Turns out they have a blog. I love it. Passionate teachers can have such an affect on kids. It was an amazing art teacher that made me love drawing, and a passionate history teacher that made Isaac love history.
Here is what bothers me. Both sides whine. I haven't seen the movie Expelled because the way it was marketed bothered me. It was whiny, "Nobody likes us, no one will listen to us." Know what I mean? It made the academic and intelligentsia's resistance to ID seem like a conspiracy, and that fed into the Religious Right's conspiracy tendencies.
I equally hate the way the scientific establishment reacts when anyone mentions ID. They dismiss it out of hand and automatically associate whoever suggested it with some conservative religious plot to overthrow scientific truth.
Both sides react with fear rather than reason (which is why I really liked this talk - it used evidence and reason rather than insults and fearful condemnation). It reminded me of my experience with being taught science in school. When I was in a conservative missionary school, the mere mention of evolution brought immediate defensiveness and was dismissed automatically. The effort was to disprove evolution rather than to investigate what is possible and true.
Then I would return to the US and go to public school, where the mere mention of creationism or intelligent design brought the same reaction. It was scorned and dismissed, never discussed.
Neither approach is helpful, and neither is real education, it is indoctrination. A good education will teach children HOW to think and then allow them to investigate the evidence on either side and follow it to conclusions. It is sad when schools don't do this, but it's worse when scientists make the same mistake.
Someone named Bob left a comment on my last post about this presentation that said this: "Competent scientists don't invoke intelligent design, also known as supernatural magic, to solve scientific problems. Invoking magic is giving up and real scientists don't do that."
My response was this: "Bob - you are right, but only IF science disproves intelligent design. If, however, science points to intelligent design, it would be unscientific to be unwilling to investigate it simply because the scientific community or your philosophical presuppositions don't like it."
That is where I am left. I rarely see people willing to truly look at all sides, and that's frustrating.
The other frustrating thing is that all of these discussions - materialism vs. intelligent design and creationism vs. evolution - they all are made out to be scientific arguments, but most of the argument is actually philosophical. We have some scientific evidence that can back up certain points, but when you're talking about questions of origins, we really don't know because we can't see it and test it, which is what is required for theories to be determined to be true. So science invades the realm of philosophy, which is inevitable, but most of the time people act as though it's all science.
Isaac always says - leave the philosophy to the philosophers and the science to the scientists. When scientists are unable to address evidence because of their philosophical presuppositions, the whole thing is messed up.
So - without further ado, some of my favorite fun beverages and where you can find them. And, to see a related post, see A Coffee Story for my history with coffee.
Chai (specifically chai from the subcontinent):
My family lived on the Subcontinent and while visiting them at Christmas I realized that Chai is everywhere, all the time. Little vendors with little cups of steaming chai run through marketplaces and train stations, so you're pretty much always caffeinated. My mom's recipe for chai is as follows :Chai for 3: Boil 4 cups of water. Add 2 tbsp. of chai (which you can find at your local indo/pak grocery store, or you can use whatever strong black tea you have) and 1/4 cup of sugar. Boil 2-3 min. add 1 c. milk. Bring to a boil again.--then strain out the leaves. Adjust the sugar to your liking. If you like it Indian style, add a pinch of tea masala.
Boba (Bubble) Tea:
This one you'll have to get at local bubble tea shop, or perhaps a Taiwanese store. Boba refers to the black balls you see - they are tapioca and they are chewy. Critics say they remind them of eyeballs, but I LOVE them. You can usually get this either smoothie-style or with just a sweet iced milk tea. I either get Hong Kong milk tea, green tea, or taro flavor. SO GOOD.
It's just coffee - except thick and strong, and sweetened with sweetened condensed milk. You will be wired. You can find it at any Vietnamese restaurant, or you can make your own.
Thai Iced Tea:
Milky, creamy iced tea with a unique flavor. Available at most Thai restaurants. Very sweet.
I LOVE horchata. It's a Mexican drink that you can find at most Mexican restaurants and stores. You can buy it in instant powder form, juice box form, or (best of all) fresh. Horchata looks like milk but it's actually white from powdered rice and flavored with cinnamon, almonds, lime, and sugar. Delicious. If you want a recipe, it's here, but I suggest getting it at a Mexican restaurant.
Following on the idea of horchata, aguas frescas are essentially juice, mostly Mexican-style but this is also popular in the Caribbean and elsewhere. Horchata is one of them, but I had to highlight it individually because I love it. You will also see aguas jamaica (made with roselle - whatever that is), and aguas tamarindo (made with tamarind). My local Mexican grocery story has an aguas frescas bar with about 10 different flavors, some of which are made from fruits I've never heard of before. It's always an adventure, and I love it.
Thick, dark espresso with sludge on the bottom. Pure caffeine. Do not try this unless you love coffee. I would also go to a restaurant for this one.
In college my friend Andres, who is from Uruguay, would drink mate around campus and it looked like he was using drugs. Other kids thought it was cool and it became all the rage to buy one of their funky little mate cups and buy real mate from South America. It's just herbal tea, and I gotta tell you, I actually don't like it. Too bitter for me. If you're interested, you can buy it online.
Young Coconut Milk (Es Kelapa Muda):
Fresh and sweet, Es Kelapa Muda is big in Indonesia, where I grew up. It looks funky, but it's good. Here in the US you can generally find it at festivals with any significant Hispanic population. It will be sold inside coconuts, with a straw. Yum.
Indonesian Dessert Drink - Es Cendol:
This drink freaked me out as a kid. Green wormy looking things in my drink? No thanks! Now I like it, but chances are you won't find it in the US unless you live in LA. Read more about it on this blog.
**I keep remembering more!
Champurrado (Mexican Hot Chocolate)
Anyone have any to add?