Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Gala event

A very special performance took place tonight in the Camp Chicago area. The Beastie Boys played a Gala Event at the Riviera Theatre in Uptown. My quick analysis is that the Beastie Boys have parlayed a really stupid album from the mid-1980s ("Licensed to Ill") into a platform for some great music and a lot of fun. They actually still seem to like each other and their audience. The brilliant New York trio opened the show up to cameras and camcorders. I have a lot of footage and photos besides this one.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Uptown scene

Video is definitely still a new frontier for this blog. A digital camera video plus YouTube compression leaves a lot of detail out of the above (warning: 1 minute, 47 second video).

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Weekend rambles

There are some new photos posted at from travels around Chicago the past two weekends.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Roasted bunting

I didn't know until today that songbird eating was a tradition in France. It's illegal, but many still eat roasted ortolan. This bunting species breeds in Europe and migrates to Africa in the winter. It's best eaten whole: bill, bones, feet and all.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Motorboat terror

My biggest fear when camping isn't bears, squirrels or wolves. It's people. One or two rivercombers can ruin even the prettiest night under the stars. And the isolation of camping makes these encounters all the more terrifying. These drillrods ruined lots of family vacations in the Boundary Waters.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Window birding

I don't have much to report, but it does seem like birds are on the move. The New York Times wrote a nice story about fall migration season. Yesterday, I counted eight species from my cubicle window: common grackle, american kestrel, red-tailed hawk, american crow, rock dove, mourning dove, european starling and ring-billed gull. It doesn't sound like much, but it was quite a day. And when I wasn't gazing out the window, I got a whole lot of work done, too.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Blue harbor

The early meteorological autumn chill has continued in recent days. This morning, Freeport, Ill., on the edge of the Driftless Area, registered a 32-degree reading. According to, this breaks the previous record of 38. It was just 42 at O'Hare this morning and 36 at Aurora. Madison, Wis., and Fond du Lac, Wis., reached 33 degrees for overnight lows, and Champaign, Ill., chilled to 37 degrees (accuweather lists the record as 40). The crisp air has made for near unlimited visibility. The colors were particularly vibrant at Montrose Harbor today (above).

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Autumn declared

Is it fall? Yes. And no. Is it still summer? Yes. And no. Meteorological fall began on Sept. 1, according to WGN-TV meteorologist Tom Skilling. Astronomical fall usually begins around Sept. 21. This morning it was 44 degrees in Peoria, Ill., for example, which is fall-like. I believe in the meteorological seasons rather than the astronomical seasons for Midwestern climes.

The meteorological seasons begin on Sept. 1, Dec. 1, March 1 and June 1. Of course, it can be hot here in early September and frigid in early March. And brisk in early June. Still, most of us think of June as a summery month and December as a wintry one. Our climate just doesn't quite align with the solstices and equinoxes.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Nuthatch horn

Today was fall-like. Temperatures just barely reached 70, and it was gloomy all day with drizzle. The chillier weather brought a few birds along with it. I saw an immature cooper's hawk outside the office. I may have heard the tin horn call of a red-breasted nuthatch along our Uptown street. If so, this would be a personal first nuthatch for our neighborhood.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Beard update

I'm still clean shaven, but I have made some Rocky-like strides this week. The latest is that I can fully pedal a bicycle now. Actual bike riding on the street is going to have to wait for a while, though, as the new ligament is still in a delicate phase.

Chicago aerials

Lupe Fiasco's video for the skateboard anthem "Kick, Push" has some great Chicago scenery in it. This song is so great I just had to post this.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

River roadkill

While BP is in the news for its refinery waste in Whiting, Ind., Ohio saw a strange form of environment tampering recently. A construction company inexplicably dredged an 8,700-foot stretch of the Chagrin River, a State Scenic River that runs into Lake Erie from the uplands east of Cleveland. The river is home to a rare variety of brook trout.

Also, a driftless area correspondent reports that St. Paul, Minn., is home to red squirrels. (Best I can tell, St. Paul is not actually in the Driftless Area. This is instead referencing someone who reads the blog.) In addition, roadkill observations indicate that fox squirrels do reside in Williams County, Ohio, in the extreme northwest corner of the state.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Forest clubbing

Forest City Yacht Club is a place where you can see a polka band one moment and a sleek cigarette boat (not pictured) the next. We spent the day as guests at the club, which served as a vantage point for the Cleveland Air Show, not to mention double-crested cormorants and a great blue heron. Cleveland's nickname of the Forest City has roots that extend to Alexis de Tocqueville.

Butterfly effect

I don't know much about butterflies, but I sure have seen a lot of monarch butterflies around in Chicago and Cleveland during the past week. A quick check of Wikipedia seems to indicate they are migrating to their wintering grounds in Mexico.

Other recent wildlife highlights: two coyotes lounging in the grass along Lake Shore Drive just south of McCormick Place; a broad-winged hawk at my friend's house in Avon Lake, Ohio; red-tailed hawk, fox squirrel, turkey vulture and most notably yellow-billed cuckoo here at the homestead.

Texas-wide web

Picture it, a dew-laden morning in August 2004. It's the River Ridge trail in Central Illinois. It's steamy, but not especially hot--in the 70s. There are a ton of trees down from a recent storm. Spiders, and their webs, are everywhere. With every few sweaty steps, a run-in with an annoying web that has been spun across the trail. Now there's a giant spider web in a Texas park that could make for a very uncomfortable hike.