Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category

Zoo Lights at Lincoln Park Zoo

Santa Claus and His Sleigh

Santa Claus and His Sleigh

If you’ve never been to Lincoln Park Zoo, Zoo Lights provides a perfect avenue to visit the zoo after hours.  While you’ll still run into the crowds and their kids, but the zoo is a bit more subdued at night. Christmas lights line up the open parts of the zoo and you can still catch great apes napping in their straw nests, smaller lemurs and primates acrobatically jumping and swinging, and take a gander at some armadillo and bats and still manage to buy yourself a popcorn.

Green Plastic Gorilla Mold: $2

Green Plastic Gorilla Mold: $2

The highlight of my trip was recovering a long lost childhood relic.  Once receiving this fine toy as a youngster, I remember the plastic smell of the gorilla statue.  Seeing this, I could not turn down the opportunity to regain this relic for a mere $2!

Would I do zoo lights again?  Yes, but with a lesser dose of rain and cold and maybe a pair of boots.

#35 – Visit the Chicago Data Center, Hub of the Internet.

Chicago Data Center

Chicago Data Center

If you’ve ever gone by McCormick Place by 350 E. Cerkmak, chances are that you’ve probably never noticed a six story brick building with relief art decorating its thick walls. Welcome to the Chicago Data Center, the veritable Fort Knox of IT in the Midwest, and the largest data center in the world.

What is the Chicago Data Center? Think of all of the fiber optic cables that connect the Internet all over the country and the Chicago Data Center is where everything intersects all in one building for all of the Internet in the Midwest. There are smaller data centers in the outlying suburbs but they play Palwaukee or DuPage to Chicago’s O’Hare.

350 E. Cermak

350 E. Cermak

Due to the value of the data stored here and the actual hardware, you can’t just walk into the Chicago Data Center. Nearly every major company with data going through the Midwest likely has servers transmitting data all over the country here. High frequency traders move their servers to be that much closer to downtown to reduce latency by a couple of milliseconds that makes a big difference. As such, armed guards will be at the front door ready to sign you in. Nearly every inch of the Chicago Data Center has cameras and there are dozens of security monitors watching your every move.

Hand Scanner

Biometric Hand Scanner

Once in the Data Center, I left my camera in the car and we passed through two security checkpoints and had to sign in at each one. We then had to go through a man trap which basically once you scan you punch in the pass code and scan your hand, you are moved to another room and have to wait for one door to close before you can scan your hand and punch in your code again.



After this we entered an area that looked like the front desk of any office and we shuffled off onto a stairwell and into a hallway. In the hallway the only light was blue track lights above and no other light save that coming from the servers locked in cages all over the place. If you didn’t have a map and never had been there you’d probably end up running in circles without ever finding what you were looking for. Servers the size of refrigerators blinked in the background in the darkness and the path was lit with blue lights making it kind of looking like a scene out of Star Trek.

Chicago Data Center Hallway

Chicago Data Center Hallway

Eventually we reached the proper cage and scanned through again to reach the servers my friend had to work on. Each cage can cost $100,000 a year to rent depending on size and comes loaded with fiber optic cables, telephone lines, and power lines tied up in neat bundles. The noise coming from the Data Center can be a bit overwhelming but after awhile you get used to it.

Random Data Center Cage (found on Internet)

Random Data Center Cage (found on Internet)

Inside the cage there were giant servers blasting heat or cold air depending on what you were standing next to. Giant racks holding e-mail servers, voicemail servers, web traffic, simulated web attacks, firewalls, and any other servers you might need. My friend’s coworker was installing some piece of equipment and wires were sticking out all over the place. The racks were neat pieces of equipment, able to fit large and small servers and each piece had power and network cables running in and out. I got a quick tutorial on the various servers, where their backups were, rundown of various manufacturers, and how things move in and out of the data center.

The amount of power needed to keep the data center running has got to be astronomical. Power cables flow into every cage and we really were in the middle of the biggest internet hub out in the Midwest. If you’ve ever seen Fight Club you’ll recall that they blow up all of the buildings to destroy bank records and reset everyone to zero. Even though we were in the middle of it all, even if terrorists did blow up the data center there are backups all over the country. Part Star Trek, part myth, the Chicago Data Center was 100% techgeek and I am glad my oldest friend that I’ve known since kindergarten gave me a chance to check it out!

RedEye Royalty: One Year Later


I don’t remember why I began using Twitter, I couldn’t tell you who I followed or what I was even tweeting about. I remember the first tango with the social media whirlwind was with Yelp. I met people, tried new places that I never been to before (a feat that becomes increasingly difficult with every passing year spent in Chicago), and learned how to navigate through the landscape. I’ve made lots of friends from social media, and I don’t mind saying that because you can’t do that unless you’ve got an open mind and a taste for ideas and experiences that are not your own.
Yes, I remember my first tweetup. It was @FaithandWhiskey, I had just finished some delicious pho’ with @TheAW1 and @cassidycody and we all hurried down to check what the tweetup was about. One friend who wasn’t with us wouldn’t go because the idea of going to a tweetup hosted by someone called @AccidentallySxy didn’t seem like his scene. I think all three of us were very confused because we didn’t know anyone and there’s nothing worse than sticking out in a crowd of people who all knew each other (or did they?).
I remember meeting @ErnestWilkins, dressed in a slick suit with the classic glasses he was human hurricane meeting and greeting and hosting. He gave me the RedEye Royalty tweetup pin and I gladly accepted. My friends got very tired of the scene and didn’t want to meet so after twenty minutes or so we all left and went off to the next party. Being pulled away from something you want to see and investigate can be frustrating but I’m never one to hold friends hostage.
I did not quit the Twitter game that night. I kept tweeting and discovered more Tweetups and eventually ran the Chiditarod with @ErnestWilkins and @hankbausch a month later. Coincidentally, @Henjealy revealed herself to be a trash-talking machine throughout the whole race and I found myself a whole new branch of people to talk to on Twitter.
One Saturday night I found myself at the Chicago Theatre after my friends disgracefully bailed out on the noontime scavenger hunt to get the On Location badge on Foursquare. This time I decided to go alone because I wasn’t going to have people keep me from doing what I do best: meeting people!
It was an awkward time, I met one guy there who did not know what a Tweetup was and had never used Twitter in his entire life. I had just started The Chicago Bucket List and pulled out my trusty notebook to ask his ideas on what he thought would be things to do before leaving Chicago for good.
“Pay down some debts, that’s definitely what I would do,” he said.
My eyebrow raised but I nodded in agreement and said that it was a great idea. That guy soon left and I was left to my own devices trying some free @baomouth baos while drinking a Honkers Ale. As it was my luck, I had competed in the MBA Cup the previous fall and met a schoolmate who worked for Metromix. As it so happened, she was at the Tweetup and kindly introduced me to @crushgear and several more of her colleagues even though she didn’t have to.
In some ways, I reflect on that moment as a pivotal inflection point on Twitter, tweetups, and the social media universe. There it was that one person I personally knew introduced me to people I virtually knew who then introduced me to more people and I watched right before my eyes the giant multiplier effect like neurons transmitting at the speed of light. A week later I found myself inducted into RedEye Royalty, my new social media crew that never fought and never had time for drama. It was a great time getting to know the legends of RedEye Royalty.
It’s been a great year and I’ve had many a good time with my RedEye Royalty crew having great dim sum brunches, Sunday fundays, and of course the obligatory barbecue. Some days I find myself hanging out with RedEye Royalty and often forget how we even know each other because in reality it was all the brainchild of little miss @crushgear to create her own personal army of social media brand ambassadors diverse as there are colors under the sun. @crushgear‘s long gone and we miss her dearly for forging something out of nothing. As the days of this blog come to an end so too do my words fade like etchings in the sand but one thing’s certain: I’ve made some great friends and have had some damn good times.

Best of 2010


As we close the books on 2010, it’s always worth the time to take a look back and reflect on the things that we’ve achieved during the past year. I want to give my gratitude to everyone who takes time to visit my blog and hope you will find new things that you haven’t seen in Chicago. I love hearing new ideas and am always open to trying something I’ve never heard of before! Without further ado, let’s chop up the best of 2010:

Chicago on a Low Budget: A Survivalist Kit


It happens to everybody – at some point there just isn’t more money to spend and we can’t issue bonds like the US government with its unlimited credit. A few summers ago before I enrolled into grad school I recall that they were some of the brokest days of my life. Very little money generally means a limited range of options, not being to hang out with friends when they price you out, and having to eat with austerity.

Things have changed, while I’m longer scrounging around spare change bins and asking friends for a spot, every once in awhile I take a look at what’s cheap and what’s new. To begin, let’s take a look at the I am po’ survivalist kit.

1) Metromix – Did you know you can find hundreds of things going on any given night? With features such as Booze for the BuckCheap Swills, and Best Budget Bites of ’09 – you’ll be equipped with good ideas. Don’t forget Metromix also lists all specials at all bars.

2) Smalltabs – Any neighborhood, any kind of drink special, any night of the week. Not only is this good for when you’re low on coin, it’s also good when one of your friends insists on staying in a neighborhood but refuses to spend anything!

3) Drinktown – Need a more visual presentation of bars and their drink specials? Drinktown is it, they show the map where the goods are and you can sort by food or drink specials. Zip code search is kind of a hassle and you do have to log in, so it’s certainly lost a bit of its luster.

4) Brokehipster – Use Brokehipster to find free and cheap things to do around the city on any given night. Brokehipster has given me the scoop on several open bars, launch parties, and random free stuff.

5) Chicago Specials – While Smalltabs and Drinktown may be encyclopedic in their listings, think of Chicago Specials as a tiny cheat sheet. Chicago Specials is more like Smalltabs Lite.

6) Local Tourist – Here is another cheap deal search sortable by neighborhood and day of the week. It’s a fairly comprehensive list, too bad you can’t look at all of the specials at once.

7) Centerstage – Looking for a specific special? You can look for specials like Stella Artois in Uptown on a Wednesday in West Loop.

From personal experience, you can always search through all of these sites to find something new but I do have a few favorites that have stood the test of time no matter the circumstance. Here are my best bets:

Goldies – Daily $1 PBR / $4 Pitchers. Do you like board games? They’ve got it. How bout some Pac Man? Yep. Steel darts? Definitely. Pool? Amen! Old school Nintendo? Oh you got that right! Goldie’s is the #1 for being po’ hands down.

Christina’s Place – Every day all day until 4 in the morning you can get Guinness for $2. $2 for a Guinness is a deal, although you may have to deal with a few roughnecks in this Avondale bar. Fortunately, the hipsters and popped collar drunkards of Wicker Park/Lincoln Park won’t be found in this northwest side haven. If you’re looking for some serious pool competition get on over! My favorite bartender in the world, Silvana is there on the weekends, so tip her well!

Weekly Budget Hotspots

Monday: Kelly’s Pub – $1 Coors Light Drafts & $1 Tacos. Yes, you WILL have to deal with the Lincoln Park DePaul students, and you will have to be in popped collar and backwards cap heaven, but if you are penny pinching you’ve got to make every last dollar count. With this combination you will get your fill of drink and eats on the cheap.

Tuesday: Joe’s on Weed – 25¢ Beer, $2 Pitchers, Half Price Pizza. Nope, you won’t be getting some high quality beer here, but beer is beer! For a $3 cover before 9pm or $5 cover with student ID / $10 cover with no student after 9pm you can rush to the bar, grab a seat, and stop worrying about the horse by loading the wagon.

Wednesday: Brownstone Tavern – $5 All You Can Eat Wings with purchase of $5 Jumbo Drink. Last time I went here for my birthday the service was tremendously poor and I was outraged. If you are looking to get your fill of wings and beer you will likely get the job done if your server complies. The deal itself is terrific and the food tasty, but exercise caution lest your server ruin your evening.

Thursday: McGee’s Tavern & Grille – $1 Bud, Michelob Ultra, Rolling Rock – Just like Kelly’s on Monday it’s going to be filled with DePaul kids. That’s not always a bad thing is it? For $1 you will get your money’s worth with cheap beer and cheap thrills as DePaul students launch their weekend with drink til you get sick hijinks.

Friday: Duffy’s Tavern & Grille – $20 All You Can Drink Drafts, Well Drinks, and Food Buffet 6:30-11:00pm – Is this list getting a bit Lincoln Park-centric? That’s because Lincoln Park has the highest numbers of bars and places to drink. How high is your tolerance for chads and trixies? If you have a limitless tolerance then head on over for their excellent beer selection featuring Bell’s Oberon, Stella Artois, and Guinness. $20 is not too steep when it’s an all-you-can with the goods. Food includes corn dogs, wings, and some other foods I haven’t been able to eat due to people snatching up the food as soon as it comes.

Saturday: Crossroads Public House – $20 All You Can Drink Domestics, Well Drinks, and Food Buffet. You will find yourself in Lincoln Park yet again. As long as it’s not college football season, Crossroads will not be filled to the brink Duffy’s-style and you will be able to get a booth, walk around unimpeded, and get a drink in a reasonable period of time. The pizza is good and the drinks will work their magic on the cheap.

Sunday: Day of rest. Seriously, if you are trying to get wrecked on a Sunday there is probably a reason you need a Chicago on a Low Budget Survivalist Kit. Just kidding 🙂