Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Moth

My friend Dubi Kaufman won tickets to The Moth’s Chicago Story Slam and graciously allowed me to be his guest. The Moth is a New York based organization that presents live storytelling events around the county. The premise is that the stories told at true and are all told without notes.

I first learned of the Moth from my NPR gateway show, This American Life. After I started subscribing to the Moth podcast, it quickly became went into heavy rotation. My favorite was a story told by Kira Salak about traveling alone in Africa:
“My trip to Africa had been tough, but incredible. It was the most empowering thing I’d ever done. I think many young women may experience the same thing I did before I went on that trip: underestimating their true potential, undervaluing their worth.

Her story inspired me, I immediately related and I hope that I can soon follow in her footsteps.

Last night’s Story Slam was entertaining. Perhaps in a year I can come up with a story to tell up on that stage.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Carrying stuff

While I carried a much bigger load earlier in the day, on my way to a balloon gig, I neglected to take any pictures. Fortunately, I was going to a potluck, so I stopped at Jewel to pick up a few things.

I know it’s lame to bring non-homemade things to a potluck…but it was hot and I had to work earlier in the day.

At the Jewel we picked up some simple, tasty items: Watermelon, Cider, Cookies, Chips and Salsa.

The Haul

Everything but the chips fit in my pannier. The chips went in Zach’s backpack so they wouldn’t be crushed.

In my Panniers

And away I rode…getting cheers and waves as I had kept my helmet d├ęcor on from earlier in the day ( dropped the rest of my rainbow get up, fortunately).

Pride Helmet

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Interview with me....

www.Vocalo.org is a project that Chicago Public Radio is producing in order to open up the airwaves to the community. It's a kind of youtube for the Radio. If you want to get on the air, it's just a matter of signing up for an account and producing content. If you have a telephone, then you have a recorder as they have a call in number for people to record content.

Vocalo even offers session where contributors can come into the studios and learn how to use professional audio equipment for free. It's an amazing experiment.

Recently, another contributor took me aside at the WBEZ social to interview me about my balloon biking.

Check out the interview here.

Thursday=band night

Today is Thursday, which means that tonight is band. I'm proud to be a band geek, even though I'm much less of a band geek than I once was.

Currently I perform with the Chicago Concert Winds. We are a community band that rehearses on the north side of Chicago. Our conductor, Ross Nuccio is an avid collector of sheet music. This band originally met as a loose group of musicians who met to site read the sheet music Ross and others in group collected. Now it is a slightly more polished group who rehearses and performs in nursing homes, schools and other community events.

I started playing clarinet in 5th grade....though I really stopped improving quite a while ago. It's great to have an excuse to get out my clarinet and play away.

If you are a former band geek and are thinking about trying to play again, check out this page to find a group in your area.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Penguin Eats...

It was a lovely day...my ass. Try being happy-go-lucky when you have the kind of body designed to conserve heat at all costs.

It was hot, and I was cranky. And when I am cranky, I like to eat.


For an appetizer, I had a quick nibble of some fish. Yellow fish.

Hopefully it was endangered.

I stormed out of the aquarium and set my sites on my next victim. I don't think she was too happy to go down my gullet.

Finally, I was just fed up. The sun was just disgusting and I felt like I was boiling. I took a nice, satiating bite of Chicago.

Penguin Eats Chicago

Bleh.....tastes like dank sausage.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Kidical Mass




Kidical Mass is a new movement that a few bikers are trying to get started in Chicago. These are rides that are kind of like the children of Critical Mass. The idea is to get kids out riding in a safe, fun and bike positive manner.

So far in Chicago we are doing a monthly ride in the Logan Square neighborhood and then a floating ride that goes to different neighborhoods around the city. So far this ride has happened in Logan Square, Lincoln Square, Rogers Park and most recently Pilsen/UIC. Next month it is going to be in Albany Park on July 17th, 2010.

A route is determined ahead of time, and we bike in a manner to keep the kids as safe as possible. We also generally make a route to accomodate younger kids who might want to ride a few miles and then just play and also older riders who want to stretch their legs a bit.

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I come out and do balloon helmet decorations and also bike adornments. Local bike activist Todd Allen has been bringing out his amazing bike trailer with a sound system and sometimes even a live musician. In the past, others have brought face paint, kids games and more.

It's a lot of fun. Go to http://www.thechainlink.org/group/kidicalmass

kidical mass

lookback

Boyswitheyes

Storm-Gazing

For about a month I was looking forward to a stargazing ride which I had organized for this past Friday. If you live in Chicago, you know that my timing wasn't all that great. A very strong thunderstorm hit the city and knocked down trees, light poles and blew out windows in downtown high rises.

I pushed the time back and thought that no one would be showing up to do the ride. With that in mind I wore inappropriate shoes, didn't bring my camera and went to the meeting place. A few brave souls turned out afterall and by group consensus, we went ahead and did the ride...though we did follow a shorter route than initially planned.

Mercifully, we had very good timing. There were two storm fronts and we made it from Lincoln Square to Evanston in some nice pleasant weather. We watched some carp, saw the skyline and got some time to chill out. The sun set and the moon peaked between some clouds.

Unfortunately, it wasn't clear enough to get to use the telescope at Northwestern University's Dearborn Observatory. We did get to learn about the history of the telescope and got to see the dome turn and the telescope move, which was neat.

Towards the end of the presentation, we saw some lightening in the clouds and got ready to move on to dinner. We spent just a few minutes too long making a decision. As we left, the weather started to pick up. The wind was really blowing and right as we got to the restaurant in Evanston, it started pouring down rain.

However, we were able to enjoy some food and drinks in comfort while the worst of the storm blew over.

Northwestern University Stargazing nights are a must for me to do on a clear evening. Find information here.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Planning August Trip

Since I dream about going on a long distance bike tour, I figure that I should probably try going for a tour that's longer than a weekend. In that vain of thought, I've requested the first week of August off from work and am going to do it.

Now is the time for me to plan this trip and make some reservations and such. August isn't my favorite time to be traveling as I'm a bit of a wimp about heat and humidity, but it's what works with my work schedule.

Since I want to spend as much time riding as possible, I'm going to make this a local ride and will either take the train or drive to the starting point.

Idea 1: Bike around the Manistee National Park and along the West Coast of Michigan. I'd likely drive over and then bike around the the east part of the forest and have a grand finale along the coast. This would average about 50 miles a day.

Idea 2: Bike to various breweries and wineries in South West Wisconsin. For this I would either take a bus to Madison or a train to Harvard, IL and bike from there. I've mapped a rough outline here: http://bit.ly/9Pgi1c

Idea 3: Take the train to St. Louis and bike North along the Mississippi, eventually going inland and catching a different train back to Chicago. This sounds like a fun ride, but I'm really worried about the heat.

Hopefully I'll make up my mind soon, and find companions for all or part of my trips. This summer is really shaping up to be a lot of fun!

LGRAB Summer games: Bike Maintenance

Having a chain that runs smoothly can really improve bicycle performance. Wiping on grit and other matter can also make the chain last longer and also keep your chainring and cogs from wearing out. It's also something that I neglect.

Last week I took advantage of a window of time between work and a party and cleaned my chain.

I started propping my bike up on its seat and handlebars so I could have access to the chain. Then I loosed up the gunk by dabbing a bit of lubricant onto each link of my bike.

Next, I used some scraps of an ugly tshirt to wipe the chain. I did this by rotating the pedals and holding the chain in the cloth. I went through a few small pieces of fabric. I also wiped the cogs and chainring as well as my derailleur. After it was less filthy, I applied some more lube and then wiped it off again so that it wouldn't be dripping.

After that i turned the bike over again and was on my way. I had some dirt on my hands, but i washed up and was ready to party. Oh, and my bike is quieter and feels quicker. Yay!

bike chain is clean

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Becoming an Outdoors Woman



On Sunday afternoon I got back from the Illinois Becoming an Outdoors Woman seminar. I attended this last year and was eager to go back. Everything from the facilities to the classes to the food was fantastic and the people were absolutely terrific.

Becoming an Outdoors Woman is a program that was founded in Wisconsin. As their site says:

Becoming an Outdoors-Woman (BOW) is a non-profit, educational program offering hands-on workshops to adult women. We encourage a supportive environment conducive to learning, making friends, and having fun. No experience is necessary and BOW is for women of all ages and fitness levels.


Go to http://www.uwsp.edu/cnr/bow/ to find seminars in states that offer BOW workshops.

This past BOW workshop was true to form. Participants ranged in age from 18 (at least two brand new high school graduates) to well over 65.



Many classes were offered at this workshop. I participated in Firearms Safety, Kayaking (which was unfortunately rained out), Shotgun I, and Handguns. Shotgun was probably my favorite activity. Shooting moving clay pigeons was a lot of fun, though I need to work on my skills to hit them when they are moving across the field in front of me.


BOW is an awesome program and allows women to try out activities without a lot of pressure or investment. I strongly recommend going to a seminar near you.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

My bike: 2008 Jamis Aurora


About a month after I got my current job, I spent the money to get a brand new bike. My touring dreams were already planted in my head, so I made sure that I got a bike that would be able to handle it. I chose the Jamis Aurora.

My reasonings for picking this bike weren't the best. I liked that the Jamis could look like Jami's with the introduction of a single apostrophe. If I were to shop again for bikes, I'd definitely do a little more comparison shopping.



However, the Jamis Aurora has proven to be a good friend these past two years. It is a touring bike. The geometry is relaxed, it has eyelets for fenders and racks in both the front and back. Compared to other touring bikes, it is fairly inexpensive.

Some negative aspects:

The sizing is a little strange. I'm between sizes on the bike. I'm riding a 50 CM with the seat set rather high. When I tried the 53 CM size, it was definitely way too big. I'm 5'8" and would normally ride a 54 cm bike. It works, again, I wish I would have tried out some different bikes when making my purchase.

The paint seems to chip pretty easily. Since this bike is also my commuter and I lock it up on a daily basis...the paint definitely shows wear.

Shorter wheelbase than other tourers. When riding fully loaded, care must be taken to make sure your feet don't strike panniers mounted the rack.

Overall, this bike has served me very well. I've logged thousands of miles with the bike and haven't had any complications that were the bikes fault. All complications were most likely my own fault, or freak accidents.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Daydream Planning

It's the morning and I'm getting ready to go to work. While I feel quite fortunate to have a job, it's always in the back of my mind, and often in the forefront that I'd rather be doing something else. For the past few years, I've been thinking about starting a bohemian-like lifestyle.

This bohemian lifestyle would hopefully involve travel, balloon twisting and learning experiences. I imagine biking around the country, visiting new places, twisting balloons as needed to earn extra money, but generally living as cheaply as possibly. I'd camp, couch-surf, do work exchange, volunteer or whatever to get by. I'd document my experiences and try to stay as connected as possible.

My feelings of responsibility are holding me back, but I'm also thinking that it might be the more responsible thing to go ahead and take the plunge. I probably just need a push to go and do it and that is starting to look like organizational changes at my place of employment. When I first heard that they might to layoffs, I couldn't help but imagine the changes that I would make if I were cut and I wasn't upset.

Naturally, I could always make the choice myself, but I feel like I have financial obligations and requirements that I'd like to fulfill before becoming a bohemian. Hopefully, in the next month I'll get to see what develops at work and can make the next steps in my plan.

What kinds of risks have others taken? Did everything workout in the end?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Public Radio




In addition to biking and making balloons, I'm also a bit of a public radio fanatic.

When I drove to Chicago after college, a few friends had made me mixed CDs to keep me entertained for the drive. One friend had told me about This American Life while I was still in Spokane and I thought it sounded like the most boring thing I could imagine. Well, when he made me a CD, he slipped on a few This American Life Episodes...and I was proven wrong.

I'll always remember the first This American Life Episode I ever heard: Promised Land From the Ira Glass's atonal singing, to Starly Kine's deadpan delivery about her childhoon non-adventure, adventure, I was hooked.

During the next 3 years, I systematically listened to EVERY episode of This American Life. When I had first moved to Chicago, I had a job that forced me to drive a lot, so I had a lot of opportunities to listen to National Public Radio.

Now that I rarely drive, most of my audio consumption comes from my Ipod and I have learned to love NPR podcasts. I'll be posting reviews of some of my favorites.

Chicago's local radio station is WBEZ 91.5. It produces This American Life and Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, among other shows.

Last summer they began hosting these Open House Events, where folks could visit the studios, enjoy some drinks and food, and rub elbows with other public radio fans.

These are starting up again this summer with the first WBEZ social on Wednesday, June 9. Check out the their facebook event.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Getting to know you..

Now that I've been bike commuting regularly for a few years, going on roughly the same route, at roughly the same time, I now recognize several other commuters.

Some are people whom I'll chat with about biking, life or whatever. One's become a very good friend. Some I see and wonder about their story or what they do.

Rarely a day goes by these days where I bike to or from work and DON'T see someone who I either know or at least recognize.

It really makes the world seem like a much friendlier place.

So, to the lady who wears a red helmet with plastic bags in the winter....
The guy who rides the purple bike...
The guy with the bunny ears...
The guy with the Orange Neon bike...
The lady with the green panniers..
To my boss...
To Anne...
To Julie...

To all the people who make my day brighter, who give me an idea on if I'm running late or ealier to work, who create a commmunity on the streets....


Thank you!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Summer Games: Say Hi!

My Summer Games Entry: Say Hi to Another Rider:



Ever since I moved into my apartment in January, I had noticed a bike locked up to a pole across the street. It was almost always there, through snow, rain, sun and wind.

Sometimes I thought that it had been abandoned, but every once in a while, I'd see that it had been moved or wasn't there for an evening.

On my way home from work one evening, I noticed it propped up on it's kick stand right in front of my apartment and saw a young gentleman walking towards it.

I took this opportunity to comment that I had seen it and discovered that the owner was named Roger and lived in the same building as me. Actually, we share a wall (though not an entrance, which is why we had never spoken).

After a brief conversation about our building and landlord and such, Roger took off and I went inside...happy knowing a new neighbor and fellow biker.

Social Ride: Ride of Silence

This is my social ride entry in the LGRAB Summer Games.




I go on a lot of group rides. I’ve even led a few. Usually they are fun, chatty, exhilarating experiences. Last nights ride was in a group, but instead of the usual feelings invoked by groups, instead it brought about sorrow, pensive and profound thoughts.

Last night was the Ride of Silence. In coordination with bikers around the world, we silently road through the streets en masse and visited the sites where other bikers had been killed.

While biking is fun and there is a lot that you can do to minimize the danger, sometimes accidents are unavoidable. A door might open, a car might swerve, a pedestrian may step out, a part may fail. Fortunately for me, all of my accidents have been minor and I’ve walked away with just bruises and a bit of soreness. However, it’s important to remember, and show support for those who were not so fortunate.

In Chicago, bikes painted white and called ghost bikes are often placed near the sites where cyclists are killed. They are a reminder to motorists and cyclist to be safe. The ride last night visited several of these sites.

Hopefully awareness and consideration with prevent more ghost bikes from having to be constructed.

Lets Go Ride a Bike: Summer Games


Let's Go Ride a Bike is a neat blog that highlights how biking can be simple, fun and still stylish. I am not stylish, but I like simple and fun, so I follow them. Check them out: http://letsgorideabike.com/



Right now they are doing a Summer Games Contest, which runs a few months this summer. Participants just have to do some activities during that time for a chance to win all sorts of prizes, including a brand new bike. Check out their Site for information: http://letsgorideabike.com/blog/2010/05/announcing-the-lgrab-summer-games-2/

I'm participating in it and will be including my entries here in the next few weeks.

Welcome to Balloon Biker

I'm Jami, otherwise known as the Balloon Biker. I'm a balloon twister and avid bike rider. Yes, I can make a bicycle out of balloons.

My balloon twisting website is www.balloonbiker.com Go there to see previous examples of my works, get information to hire me for your events or to do a delivery piece.

This forum is going to be a place for me to just write about whatever. Honestly, I just need more practice writing. Expect typos, lame pictures and possibly too much information.