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Showing posts from August, 2014

Buffalo Grove Stampede race report

Waking up at 4:30am on your birthday is not how some people would choose to celebrate. But we got the kids dressed and headed to the northwest suburbs for a 10k. (And my final race before the marathon in October.) I wanted to get this review up on the blog while it's fresh in my head and before I head off to birthday festivities...there will be cake and tapas later.

There is almost nothing bad to say about this event. Congrats to the race directors, volunteers, and organizers on just a really, really well done race. The one comment I overheard and agreed with was maybe cups of water at the start on a warm, sunny day like today? We also had to turn around at a dead-end because one of the entrances was not blocked off yet at 6:15am when we were looking for parking.

That's it.

Otherwise, there were plenty of volunteers at turns, the roads were blocked off by police, the water stops were placed at the right spots with plenty of fluids, there were bananas and bagels at the finish, …

Becoming a commissioner

A bit of background first...I live in a town in the Chicago region of about 50,000 that is "home rule." In IL, that means that our village is largely left to govern ourselves without interference from Springfield. We're free to choose our form of government, tax, make laws, the whole thing.

The way we actually go about that is...unique. We're a council-manager form of government which means we have an elected village president for an elected village board--they then hire a village manager to run the day-to-day operations of the town. So all of our police, fire, engineering, health inspections, meter enforcement, garbage collection, etc. is run by departments where the boss is a hired professional supervisor chosen by our elected officials from a pool of candidates.

Still with me? This is where it starts to get really complicated.

The elected trustees then have the job of setting policy, approving ordinances, and directing staff to implement changes and procedure. The…

Some thoughts on turning 35

I turn 35 this weekend.

Somehow that seems immensely older than 34. At 34 you can still round down. Culturally, you can still pretend to be closer to your youthful 20's. "Early 30's" has a certain ring to it. Turning 35 there is no pretending as "early" gives way to--at best--"mid." More realistically it's closer to late-30's. Round up. Middle age. As a white male born in 1979, I can expect to live 74.6 years.

I'm running a 10k the morning I actually turn this hallowed birthday. I'm thankful for that. That's not something I could have contemplated in my youth. The fact that I'm able to train and finish marathons and a possible Ironman is amazing. I am, physically speaking, in the best shape of my life. (Even if I have a bit of a gut, my arms aren't as toned as they once were, and my face is rounder.)

Mentally, I've learned a few things. The Mama and I always joke that we would have hated each other if we'd met e…

"...Privations Endured by the Early Pioneers, Indian Wars, Predatory Incursions, Abductions and Massacres..."

You gotta love that subtitle.

The full title of the 1889 book by John Franklin Meginness is Otzinachson:A History of the West Branch Valley of the Susquehanna: Its First Settlement, Privations Endured by the Early Pioneers, Indian Wars, Predatory Incursions, Abductions and Massacres, Together with an Account of the Fair Play System; and the Trying Scenes of the Big Run-away ... Biographical Sketches of the Leading Settlers ... Rev. EdThat's a mouthful. (Note that it's the revised edition!) 
I found it while doing a little research on a Colonial-era ancestor of mine--Col. David Schamp (1755-1839). Among other things, he was a spy for General Washington and officer in the Revolutionary militia. The author probably does a better job of conveying the story than I ever could so I'll let him speak for himself...

The upgrade downgrade

My son is starting a new school and new program for preschool this year. Tonight is the parent meeting and we have very mixed feelings about the whole thing. But those of you who have been readers long enough to remember last year will note that we were pretty unsure last fall about how it would go. It ended up, however, that his teachers were amazing and the year was a huge success.

Last school year, in fact, was such a success that he no longer qualifies for Special Education in our district. So he loses his teachers, his friends, and bus. His new program is a cooperative class where the funding comes from the State of IL, but it's held at a local elementary school. It has eligibility criteria mostly for at-risk kids and it's meant to help ease them into kindergarten.

So a lot less formal and individualized than last year. It's a bigger class with fewer teachers. There will be less formal instruction (it's more child-directed is my understanding) and less access to s…

Discrimination against young/beginning farmers?

The title of this post very well could be "A Farm That Got Away."

I happened, by chance, across a tweet from a farm organization that was retweeting a land conservation non-profit's bid process on a 35 acre historic farm in Vermont. The photos were lovely. It had an old, well-maintained house, a picturesque red barn from 1911, green pastures, trees, hills, and the property was cut into halves by a river. And the asking price was (irony you'll see later) about the same as our 2-bedroom condo here in Chicago. So it wasn't some unrealistic $800,000 giant mass of acres somewhere with tons of equipment. It has an ag easement on it...but if you've read my previous posts that scares me none. We intend to keep it agricultural. They want food or fiber to be produced? Check. Totally onboard with the mission to preserve farmland. They had nice aerial maps and a great description of all the outbuildings along with a soil map.

Then things got dicey when I asked them on Fa…

Michigan Fiber Festival & Bluefaced Leicester National Show report

By the time we left Chicago on Friday evening it was nearly 6:00pm and the accidents and construction on the way to Grand Rapids quickly turned a 3 hour drive into a 4-5 hour drive. We checked into the hotel room at close to midnight (you lose an hour), turned off the lights, and went to sleep. 
Saturday morning we grabbed some free breakfast at the hotel...self-serve waffle-making stations are neither quick nor without social etiquette we won't go into here...then got on the road to the fairgrounds. Of course, what should have been a 45 min drive ended up taking longer because I missed a turn and we had to double back an extra 20 miles. 
My impression of Michigan, having never been there, is that it's more hilly than I imagined. The county fairgrounds where the festival is held sits back off the main road in a residential area on a series of bluffs next to the Kalamazoo River. Very bizarre. The parking lots are on multiple terraces with the actual events area on the large mid…

Wildlife sighting: Pack of dads

Welcome to our park. Please be aware that rare wildlife has been sighted in the area today. Use caution as animals may defend territory and need plenty of space to care for their young. 
Time: 10:30am (approx.) Location: Playground equipment, benches, open fields. Species: 10-12 adult males with offspring
It's unusual to see this sub-group a dozen at a time caring for their children as a pack. Adult males are identifiable by the presence of a diaper bag on shoulder, flip flops, t-shirt or golf shirt. Young are much smaller and frequently seen carrying peanut butter sandwich or juice cup. Rangers ask that you do not feed the wildlife as some are on special diets. Ask before taking photos. 
There was a group of us at playgroup in the north suburbs yesterday and my son was in rare form. I had a super proud moment where an older kid fell off his bike while Cole was watching and Cole came to get an adult for help. Well done. Mostly he ran around with a group of boys who had a noise gun. My…

Chicago City Dads on the Wrigley Rooftops

I've been to many a game at Wrigley Field, but last night was my first time hanging out on the rooftops across the street. Met a great group of guys, talked a little baseball, talked a little child-rearing, ducked for cover for a little bit while it rained, and had an overall fun time.

Strangely enough, one of my old co-workers was posting pics on Facebook of her view from Left Field and it turns out we were just a few addresses apart on Waveland. I was fairly impressed with the setup of our location. Not that different from a luxury suite...just really far away from the action. After giving your name at the door, you head up to the 3rd floor where there is a narrow room with large windows to watch from inside (useful and crowded during the storm). The bar and main food station was at the back with a small appetizer self-serve bar up front. Arriving up at the rooftop, there's a small front patio with nice furniture then terraced tables which they had reserved for each group. A…

There's a name for that...

Edit: I forgot the Minsky! See below. 

First of all, the word you're thinking of is "aglet." That's the name for the plastic or metal sheath at the end of shoelaces, cords, or drawstrings. It's from the Latin for needle or pin. Nobody seems to ever know what they're called even though we use them everyday.

And that's what this post is about. Things you know well but didn't know the name for. I see it as an extension of my "dark history of..." series where I've been discussing the hidden past of everyday children's songs. A special area I find fascinating is musical tropes, especially.

So enjoy and feel free to add your own if have one!

My entry point to this topic was stumbling across information about stereotypical riffs--musical phrases--that stand in for national or ethnic backgrounds in the media. "La Marseillaise" is a great example. If you hear the first few notes of the French national anthem it instantly brings to m…

Cyclists helping cyclists

Last night was not my night.

I hadn't been out on a weekly group ride in several weeks so it felt kind of strange anyway. About 5 miles in, I realized that the cleats on my bike shoes had started to come loose so I rode to the halfway/turnaround point--another 5 miles--with a wobble on my left pedal. That was bad enough. I didn't have my full multi-tool of wrenches in the saddle bag so I had to borrow someone else's. After screwing all three screws in, I was good to go.

About 15 miles in, however, was when I got a flat. My second ever. My first on the new bike. And my first time trying to change one on the side of the road and not in the safety and comfort of my basement or a bike shop. We were riding in a strange "connector" between 2 towns that is essentially an industrial park with train tracks, lots of debris, lots of truck traffic...there's your first clue. We were nearly back to a nicer road when I heard the heart-sinking rush of air that can only mean …

Bossy little girls and clingy little boys

The moral of today's post is that I hate having to parent someone else's kid when the parent is around.

And I don't mean that they've gone to the bathroom or asked me to keep an eye out while they chase down another. I mean...sitting...right...there. I'm here watching mine. You're here...totally not bothering to say anything to them so that a total stranger has to step in to correct their behavior? As the "other parent" in that scenario, it puts someone in the horrible position of not knowing whether to say something to your kid, you as a parent, give you more time to get it together, etc..

Twice in the last two days--once in our backyard and once at the library--I've had the children of total strangers hanging on me. Not just too close. I'm talking about physically using me for climbing, putting their hands on me, pulling my hand to come participate in an activity, scratching me, leaning on me. If I did the same to your kid, the police would …