February 28, 2006
Today saw the closure of Berghoff's restaurant in Chicago. Although it has been in existence for 107 years the first time that I ate in it was yesterday. What was unusual about this closure was that on every day that I spent in the city there were long lines of people queueing up to enter the restaurant. Berghoff's is a Chicago institution, a bit like Beweley's used to be in Dublin. "They have no sausages left" joked one man who exited the restaurant as we waited to enter. This was a clue as to the kind of German fare that made Berghoff's famous. Other "Classic Berghoff Favorites" from the menu included Sauerbraten, Wiener Schnitzel, Geschnetzeltes, Jagerschnitzel and the like. They also have their own draught beer.
The restaurant was also known for its cheap prices. The decor resembled Beweley's in Dublin and even the waiting staff were dressed in black and white. "I have been coming here since I was in my twenties and now I'm in my seventies" explained one woman to a waiter. Another customer who seemed to be much older claimed that he had been coming here every Friday for as long as he remembers. All the waiting staff knew him by name. But, now the restaurant was closing because the family no longer wish to continue the tradition.
Why did people seem so sad to be losing a restaurant when there are many other good restaurants in Chicago? We discussed this and the best reason we could think of is that people are tired of predictable food from menus of franchised and chain restaurants. Berghoff's seemed to offer genuine, distinctive food and what it lacked in presentation it compensated for in wholesomeness. In a world rushing to conformity of taste, Berghoff's offered an alternative. We need more Berghoff's and that is why it is sad to see it closing.
February 27, 2006
I am now in my mid (to late!) thirties and having had no regular exercise for several years, last year I took up jogging and I never looked back. I got into this by doing a course in running organised by Matt and Monica the owners of Tortoise and Hare (http://www.tortoiseandhare.com/) in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Monica represented Ireland in the 1984 Olympics and she still runs a lot.
They introduced me to a way of running that is really simple:
*Getting good running shoes, fitted by someone who has experience doing this; a heart-rate monitor and suitable running gear.
*Doing 80% of your running at aerobic maximum heart rate (calculated by subtracting your age from 180.)
*Doing a 'lactic threshold' run once a week (where you raise your heart rate by 20 beats per minute)
*Doing interval training
*Doing stretches and other running exercises.
A good friend, Richard, was interested in doing this type of running too so I promised him that I would search out some information on the web. I haven't found that much but this pdf page seems to be quite good: http://www.denison.edu/human_res/payroll/Level25k.pdf. Please add a comment if you can suggest more suitable online materials.
February 26, 2006
Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
I read this book earlier this year and here are some quotations from the book that impressed me:
"When we are left alone with no demands on attention, the basic disorder of the mind reveals itself...it begins to follow random patterns usually stopping to consider something painful or disturbing. Unless a person knows how to give order to heis or her thoughts, attention will be attracted to whatever is mosr problematic at the moment...Entropy is the normal state of consciousness - a condition that is neither useful nor enjoyable. ..This explains why such a huge proportion of time is invested in watching television despite the fact that it is very rarely enjoyed."
"It is a mistake to assume that creativity and rote learning are incompatible. Some of the most original scientists ... have been known to have memorized music, poetry, or historical information extensively...Educational reformers at the start of the twentieth century claimed that 'rote learning' was not an efficient way to store and acquire information. As a result...rote learning was phased out of the schools...If you decide what you would like to have in memory...the whole process of learning by heart will become a pleasant task."
Here is a list of websites that I regularly visit with a brief comment on each.
This website has links to discussions on a wide range of topics, all from an Irish perspective.
A great site to go to for reviews, trivia, summaries and other details about every film you ever saw or wanted to see.
This is a discussion about (mainly but not exclusively U.S.) TV programmes and when (if) they passed their peak.
This blog is about life and teaching which just about covers anything. There will also be pieces about writing from time to time. One thing that I just learned recently is about how to structure a paragraph. Maybe everyone else just knows this but this was interesting for me. A paragraph should consist of the following parts:
1. State the main point
2. Make the main point more specific
3. Give evidence or support for the main point
4. Give your own view and support it
5. State what your insight is
6. Make a transition statement to the next paragraph.
Thanks to Caroline Eisner of the Sweetland Writing Center for this advice.
SHORT TRIP TO CHICAGO
Am starting this blog in the Windy City. Travelled here by train from Ann Arbor. If you're going to travel in the US by train it really matters that you reserve your ticket in advance. Prices from Ann Arbor to Chicago cost $26 initially but as demand rises so does price and I ended up paying $46 for the trip. It goes even higher as demand rises.
Staying in Club Quarters, a hotel that I got on www.priceline.com for $80 a night. It's situated in The Loop. Went to the John Hancock observation tower yesterday and to the Museum of contemporary art http://www.mcachicago.org/. Look out for the big baby and the small Hitler exhibits in this museum.
What I found out today, though, was that you can get a City Pass book of tickets for around $50 which gives entry to The Art Institute of Chicago, the Shedd Acquarium, the Planetarium, the Field Museum (though you have to pay extra for the Pompeii exhibition), the Museum of Science and Industry and the Hancock Observatory.