Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Chicago...what a pleasant surprise!

First impressions are everything, they say.

Our earliest impressions of Chicago were brought to us by "Bob & Emily Newhart", leading me to believe that "Chicagoans" live in high rise apartments near elevated subways. However, the most impactful impression of Chicago were brought to us compliments of the Chicago Bears, Mike Ditka and the hysterical Saturday Night Live Parodies of the 80's. Of course, outrageous sports fans are found in most any big city, so it really isn't fair to judge a city by it's parodies. Just like Boston - oh, wait, most parodies of Boston are true!

So back in July '08, I had a conference to attend in Chicago and Roger and I went out a couple of days early to poke around. We absolutely loved what little time we had to explore and were completely blown away by what a fabulous place Chicago is. We stayed at the Chicago Hilton with magnificent views of Lake Michigan and the parks that line the shore. There was so much to do outside of the hotel; the parks to stroll, excellent dining and shopping, museums. In fact, Chicago is one of the few cities that we would love to return to and really take our time seeing the sites and the museums.

Roger and I agree that Chicago is definitely one of the cleanest cities we've ever seen. So clean in fact, that the hotel staff of the Chicago Hilton didn't just hose down the exterior marble walkway- they painstakingly mopped it!

You could easily spend a solid week doing something different every single day and enjoy each and every minute of your time. If you do go, bring a good pair of walking shoes, or lots of money for cab fare, as everything was much further away than it seemed.
Or, better yet, do as these folks and rent a Segway.Your choices are absolutely endless and next time we go, we hope to sample the jazz clubs, steak houses and hopefully catch a game at historic Wrigley Field.

Until you get a chance to see Chicago for yourself, you can enjoy this final view of the Chicago waterfront.


What's the difference between Philly and Boston? The streets in Philly are straight and set in a very practical grid pattern. Boston on the other hand is a maze of madness - just ask Roger. With a few other exceptions, that's pretty much where the differences end when considering either town for a peek into history.

Boston has Paul Revere, Philadelphia has Benjamin Franklin, who so happened to hail from Boston.
Philly has the Liberty Bell, Boston has "Old Iron Sides". My preference is to tour an actual ship that they actually rotate every so often, as opposed to a bell that doesn't ring anymore, but that's just me.

Both cities feature Duck Boat Tours that annoy the heck out of the locals, but they're so much fun! Speaking of Duck Boats, both cities sit on a waterfront. However, if you head due east from Boston and keep your bearings straight, eventually you'll hit Portugal. Head due east out of Philadelphia, you run smack dab into Camden, NJ. Once you get to the other side, be sure to look to the left of the "Benjamin Franklin Bridge" and notice the barbed-wire fencing of the "Riverfront State Prison". Note - prison, not state park, though it sounds so serene.
A few other similarities include a large population of registered Democrats. In fact, Philly is 80% democrats compared to 76% in Boston. Its that 4% difference that put Mitt Romney in as Governor of Massachusetts.

Of course, both cities have more than their fair share of very old cemeteries.
And of course, the presence of Ivy League universities. Philly has UPenn, Boston has Harvard. Okay, so technically Harvard is in Cambridge (don't ever accuse a Cambridge resident of being from Boston), but two of Harvard's campuses are located across the Charles River.

If you're afraid of falling ill while traveling, choose Boston. We have twice the number of doctors.

If you're into sports, okay, winning sports teams, come to Boston. Across Baseball, Hockey and Basketball, Philly has a paltry 6 championships, compared with Boston's whopping 29 championships. Notice I didn't include football? That's because the New England Patriots don't play in Boston.

All things considered they're both beautiful historic cities. I had a chance to travel to Philadelphia in March of 2008 for a conference. Personally, I'd avoid both cities until they've had a chance to thaw a bit more.
Ulimately, I suppose your decision could come down to your choice of foods. Allergic to shellfish? Avoid the Clam Chowder and go to Philly. Have a strong dislike of CheeseWhiz? Then avoid the Cheesesteak and head to Boston. Oh, and Philly also has this odd meat thing called "scrapple", if that has your curiousity up, then head to Philadelphia!

Just in case you're wondering, all above images were taken in Philadelphia!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Due to Mother Nature we opted not to have a Christmas tree this year. We always get a fresh tree, but the ice storm put those plans on, well, ice. Below is this year's substitute. What do you think? Would Martha approve?

Then, the Snow Storm Cameth

48 hours of constant snow, and we were still very fortunate that we didn't end up with more snow than we did. We were also fortunate it was mostly a weekend event, so we didn't have to contend with commuting to and from work. In fact, the prediction from one meteorologist, "the snow will arrive as a wall of snow". Sure enough, she was correct! Below are images from my office in Medford, which is one of the towns just north of Boston.

Its been rumored that once upon in time in Medford, the mafia buried a guy in a snowbank and wasn't discovered until the spring thaw. Having read this before we moved to New England, I thought the story was rather implausible. After living here more than 8 years now, I can see how this could happen. We average 56" of snow each winter and we have 3 feet to go! That, coupled with the fact that I'm 99% certain there's still a handful mobsters in Medford, what will we find in our parking lot come springtime?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Ice Storm Cometh

On December 11th, parts of Massachusetts, including our little neck of the woods, Maine, and most all of New Hampshire were hit by high winds and ice. Power outages and fallen trees were, and still are, the norm across the area. The magnitude of the storm can only be expressed by noting the work crews with out of state license plates. On our street alone, we had a crew from Ohio. Another road over, the crew was from Iowa.

We were fortunate that our outage lasted only 28 hours. I say, fortunate, because many people will be without for the next few days. Oh, and right now as I type this, we're at a balmy 18 degrees!

While we were spared any damage to our house, we did lose our favorite tree. A huge mulberry tree that provided us with so much delight.

In the summertime, the branches are so heavy with fruit they nearly touch the ground. When we mowed the yard would nibble mulberries with each pass. On weekend mornings the rising sun would shine so brightly into the tree that you could see the reddish fruit all the way from our back deck.

Birds by the dozens flitted in and out of the tree, providing the ultimate Sunday Brunch. But not only did the birds benefit, we also have a family of woodchucks that would munch the day away eating the fruit that literally covered the ground underneath. At dusk we would see the occasional small herd of deer having their fill.

While we'll tremendously miss our tree, we are very lucky that our other favorite tree survived with only a few small branches tumbling down from the weight of the ice and winds. This tree, our maple, hovers way above our house providing loads of shade in the summer.

We'll take a fallen mulberry out in the back forty over a fallen maple into our home anyday!