Category: Outsider

Chicago Beers! Three Floyds Brewing is the Rave for Chicago Beer Enthusiasts

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By , December 11, 2011 9:04 am

Funsherpa is on a mission to discover what Chicagoans love.  We are going beyond the tour books and yelp reviews and are asking YOU, Chicago.  Funsherpa kicked off our series of surveys in honor of the Chicago Craft Brewery Convention with our beer survey.  The contenders were Allagash, Dogfish Head, Goose Island, Half Acre, Metropolitan, SKA Brewing, Three Floyds, and Two Brothers.  We are excited to announce that Three Floyds Brewery took the prize as Chicago’s favorite craft beer, with Chicago’s own Goose Island Brewing in a close second.

Who Are The Three Floyds

Three Floyds

Three Floyds Rules in Neighboring Chicago

Brothers Nick and Simon and father Mike Floyd founded Three Floyds Brewing Company in 1996 in a small warehouse in Hammond, Indiana.  To give you an idea of their humble beginnings, their first brewery housed a used 5 barrel kettle, attached to a wok burner, with swiss cheese tanks turned into beer fermentation vessels.  But this simple brew house was all the Floyd’s boys needed to turn their dream into a reality.  They set out to brew beer that distinguished itself from other craft brews, with a motto of “it’s not normal”.  Three Floyds grew in popularity and eventually moved to Munster, Indiana which today is still the home of the brewery and their brew pub.

It’s Not Normal

With names like Alpha King, Gumball Head and Apocalypse Cow, and bottles featuring labels with trippy artwork, you can tell that Three Floyds Brewing is not your average brewery.  But it’s more than their unique branding that has given Three Floyds their cult-following – it’s their absolutely amazing tasting beer.  One of the Funsherpa team’s favorite brews is Gumball Head, named after a little known comic book cat.  Gumball Head was created to be a summer time wheat ale, but due to the great demand, it is now available all year round.  This wheat beer has a refreshing hoppy aroma, with hints of grapefruit, lemon, marmalade, and peach.  Three Floyds says “these flavors combined with low bitterness make Gumball Head a refreshing American Wheat Beer that doesn’t suck”.  Now if that doesn’t sell you, we don’t know what does.

I’ve Got a Golden Ticket

While Three Floyds doesn’t have a chocolate river or freaky little Oompa Loompas, their golden ticket is equally coveted.  Three Floyds Dark Lord Day is an annual

Dark Lord planning its takeover of the beer world

“Fantasy Beer Drinking Event” that happens on the last Saturday of April.  Selling out every year, Dark Lord Day gives beer enthusiasts from around the world a chance to sample craft beers, including Three Floyds own Dark Lord.  The Dark Lord Russian Style Imperial Stout is brewed with Chicago’s own Intelligentsia coffee, mixed with Mexican vanilla, and Indian sugar.  These intense flavors and the 13% alcohol content make Dark Lord Chicago’s most sought after beer.  To get your chance to try the Dark Lord you must buy a golden ticket, usually open for sale in early March, which entitles you to buy four bottles of the brew.  But don’t drink up just yet, the Dark Lord gets better with age, and most beer enthusiasts just now opened their 2009 bottle.

What You Crave

While we at Funsherpa definitely recommend taking a trip over to Munster for a brewery tour or a bite at the Brew Pub, you can find Three Floyds right here in Chicago too.  Try the Map Room or Sheffield’s Beer Garden.

From the Metropolis to Suburbia with Peanut Butter All Over

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By , May 5, 2010 8:00 am


Where's the peanut butter?

This week funsherpa ventures out into suburbia to discover Mom’s who’ve traded in lake shore jogs for lawns and garage space.  Melissa, our featured mom of the day, talks to us about her transition out of the metropolis and ability to enjoy Lake County’s unique forest preserves.  When not parenting and enjoying the great outdoors, Melissa writes Peanut Butter in My Hair, a blog that highlights her family, struggles with parenthood, and tips for the everyday parent.

F: Your blog has a very cool title – ‘Peanut Butter in my Hair’.  Can you tell us how you came up with the title and what does it mean?

M: Well kids ARE really sticky. My daughter was born with lots of hair and when we feed her everything, I mean everything ended up in her hair! Peanut Butter was the hardest to get out, and one day it was in my hair too. My husband joked that Peanut Butter in my Hair sounded like a name of a blog. I was currently writing at a different title and wasn’t feeling it and I liked the name, it stuck.

F: You’ve left the city for suburbia.  What keeps you busy out in the suburbs aside from raising your kids?

M: Driving everywhere! Only sort of kidding. We are very involved in our local MOMs club and the school. So we have a weekly playdate and there are classes and school of course. I actually try to be not so busy. We truly enjoy the local  forest preserves and playgrounds but I am busiest just going about the day to day. Volunteering for my sons school (I chaired their fun day silent auction) and I organize the playgroups for our MOMS club. For myself? Well I try to avoid housework so I sew and craft and blog (of course). I enjoy running and would love to one day run the Chicago Marathon. I also make sure to get at least one, night out a month with other moms. Usually I drive back to the city to see the moms that I don’t get to see everyday anymore.

F: When you first moved out to suburbia, what shocked you most about the move?  Have you gotten used to it?

M: Driving! I knew I would be driving more, I was really not prepared for how much time we spend in the car. We could go a week in the city never getting in our car. For me to go a week without a car i would have to never leave my house. I have gotten used to it most days. I have learned the area a little better, though not having a grid system still really throws me off.  There are still days though, especially in the winter when everyone is all bundled up where I think, hmmm, maybe we’ll stay home today just so I don’t have to drive.

F: Are you still able to enjoy the great outdoors with your kids around?  Do they share your interest in the outdoors?

M: YES! My kids LOVE being outside. Especially my son. We are so lucky to have a fenced in backyard where they can play and most days they spend a lot of time out there. We live in Lake County and they have some of the best forest preserves in the state. I have visited a lot of parks and forests, my husband and I traveled all over the state before kids camping and hiking and so I feel like I know a good park when I see it, and they have the best. We frequently take the kids on hikes or my husband takes them fishing.

F: If you could take your kids anywhere, where would you take them? Why?

M: Probably to the Shedd Aquarium or one of the Zoos. My kids love animals and the Shedd is one of my son’s favorite places in the world. I love that no matter when we go we never do or see the same things and every trip is a different experience.

F: What are some of the cool toys kids play around with these days?  Do you find the technology/social media bug creeping down to their lives?

M: My children are only 2 and 5 so I don’t really see the social media bug creeping into their lives yet. My son does love the computer and playing games on it but we really limit how much he uses it and what sites he can go to. They have a whole lifetime to play video games and surf the web but he will only be 5 once we don’t want him to grow up so fast! My kids are really into old school toys the love blocks and Legos and anything messy (playdoh, paint, markers). I think some of the coolest new toys are the educational ones, although I am completely overwhelmed by them! We have two learning lap tops (one Thomas and one Pink) that they can learn and practice numbers, spelling, math…there are 30 different games on it and it’s been a toy that has grown with my son. He has had it since he turned 2 and still plays with it.

F: We understand that you don’t enjoy doing house work.  What short cuts or tips can you share with other Moms to get the house work done?

M: Divide and conquer! I refuse to do it all myself. For one I don’t enjoy it and for 2 why should I? I am not the only one making the mess so I make everyone pitch in.  My kids help in age appropriate ways, cleaning up their toys, picking up their clothes, clearing the table. I also try to make things into a game for me and the kids. I will set a timer for 15 minutes and I will clean what I can in these 15minutes and tomorrow I will tackle another room for 15minutes.

F: What have some of your best experiences on Mother’s Day been?  What would make your perfect Mother’s Day holiday?

M: My best experience would be having my son! He was due on Mother’s day I ended up having him two days before, but it’s still a very special memory to me. A perfect holiday for me would be one where I got to sleep in and do nothing all day! I would like a nice brunch where my kids don’t make a mess and use their forks. I’m pretty low key, so as long as everyone is taking care of me that day, even if it’s just a construction paper card and little toddler hugs I’m good!

Injecting gusto into life with Vicki’s fresh produce

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By , October 19, 2009 9:47 am
Sharing Organic Produce

Sharing Organic Produce

Vicki Westerhoff demonstrates the importance of a good diet to funsherpa.  Curing herself through a diet based on organically farmed food, Vicki Westerhoff, the community farmer behind Genesis Growers, talks to us about the benefits of fresh farmed food and her life in the world of agriculture.

F: Reading a writeup of you, I discovered that a personal sickness drove you to start organic farming.  Can you walk us through how you felt before you started eating ‘fresh’ and what major transformations occurred after you got involved with organic farming?

V: I was to the point where I slept 16-18 hours daily and when I was awake I never felt good at all.  Three months after I began my new routine I began to feel the first signs of improvement.  It took 6 months to know I was truly better and a year to make it the whole way.  Now I often work 16 – 18 hour days and am full of vigor.  What a switch around.

F: You started this a long time ago before organic farming, Whole Foods, and local sourcing became hip.  Are you surprised how large the movement has become or did you have a clear picture of where this was heading back when you started?

V: I am not sure really.  I suppose I felt there was an enduring aspect to organics – perhaps with roots going back into the 60’s and 70’s – doing things differently.  I was absolutely sold on organics as the way to go and assumed the world would come to agree.

F: Are big industrial farmers afraid of you?  Should they be?

V: No, they are not.  Rather, they have begun to infiltrate and attempt to take over organic agriculture.  Now the movement is not only organic, but has moved into the local movement.  I am sure agribusiness will do their best to move into that arena as well.

F: Seems like we still have a long way to go to change the direction of our fast food nation.  If you were President, what 3 things would you do to improve the food we eat?


a)      Put real food back into the school systems of the nation

b)      Require all food stamp and WIC purchases be used for real food

c)      Oh well, I have two

F: Chicago seems to have a lot of great environmental programs and people who care about the environment.  Can you share with our readers some things they can do to experience and learn more about environmentalism?

V: First, learn to appreciate nature.  Go to nature centers, wildlife areas, looking for specifics to a given area.  If in Florida, check out the Everglades.  In Colorado, check out the Forest lands, etc.   See what environmental groups are in an area.  Join a river clean up, sponsor a road clean up, etc.  Just get out there and see what is in one’s area.

F: What types of fresh fruits and vegetables are popular with local Chicagoans these days?  Why is that?

V: All fresh foods, pretty much.  They like the staples, like tomatoes and so forth, but are very open to the new and unusual.  Almost any crop we might grow folks are willing to try.  Chicagoans are very food oriented and gourmet cuisine tempts their pallets, so we have a great marketplace.

F: You seem to be one of the pioneers in the field of local and organic farming – who are your mentors or who do you learn from?

V: I research many sources, but my best mentors are the older folks in the farming community who say I grow the old fashioned way.  These are fellows who knew how to grow food before chemicals were the main stay of farming.  Much of my learning comes from perusing University web sites on organics and from trial and error. 

F: Can you share with us some of the feedback you get from your customers who decide to switch over from traditional industrially farmed food to your locally grown produce?

V: Hands down it is the taste that wins them over and keeps them coming back for more.  One CSA member told me her Iguana sold her.  She did an experiment with store bought kale and our kale.  The iguana always went for our kale and left the store bought to rot. 

F: You can’t be farming 24/7 – can you shed some light into your life outside of farming?  What else do you enjoy doing?

V: I do farm 24-7 during the season.  It is my life.  Hopefully some day in the future I may get more free time, and it would be spent enjoying nature.  When I do get away, I always head for the great outdoors.

F: Do you have any words of wisdom for people out there who are contemplating on pursuing their passions/interests?

V: Do it with clear thinking, carefully evaluating the costs and investment necessary.  Then, go for it with gusto.

Dhur, vallagena explained by Salma Rosey

By , July 6, 2009 8:00 am
Salma explains what Aami tomakay valobashi means

Salma explains what Aami tomakay valobashi means

Always on the go and either posing for the camera or starring in South Asian films, Salma Rosey, actress, model, and world traveler, sits down with us to give us some insight into Bangladeshi life in Chicago.  Although she unfortunately escaped Chicago winters and moved to Dallas, she admits that she misses Chi-town dearly and can’t wait for another meal at Devon Ave.

F: You graduated with a degree in Bio-Chemistry.  What did your parents think when you decided to go into acting/modeling?

S: I started my career as a Chemist but since I had a passion in modeling and acting, I could not ignore the opportunities I had to pursue my passion. Initially, none of my family members were happy, but after seeing my passion for modeling and acting they eventually accepted!

F: What are you up to these days?

S: I just finished a digital feature film ‘Street Singer’ in Dallas, which will be aired in Bangladesh. I played the female lead. I also finished a 14 episode mini TV series ‘Far Far Away’. Both the film and the serial were produced by Chicago Bioscope. I’ve recently been cast for several TV productions, commercials and films but most of them will be shot in Bangladesh, so I’m heading off to Bangladesh soon.

F: So, why’d you leave us in Chicago and move to Dallas?

S: I’m a very family oriented person. My two brothers, five sisters and one cousin live in Dallas. We have now a big family of about 34 members including kids and parents. That’s one of the biggest reasons for me, aside from escaping the terrible Chicago winters.

F: From all the short films you’ve done, which one is your favorite?

S: My favorite one is ‘His Dream, His Nightmare’; the Bengali title is ‘Ekjon Ajmal Hossain’. Based on a true story, it was written, co-directed and produced by Farhad Hossain of Chicago Bioscope. I like it the most because I knew the real people who the story was based on. I also loved the teleplay ‘Chicago Hridoy’ where a Bangladeshi girl got lost in Chicago when she came from Bangladesh for the first time to meet her husband. I played the lead role and got to use my local Bengali accent…I enjoyed it so much!

F: Teach us some Bengali?

S: The word I use most is ‘Dhur, vallagena’ means Oh, I’m bored.  My most favorite word would be ‘Aami tomakay valobashi’ which means I love you.

F: What are some of your biggest fears?  Anything keep you up at night?

S: I’ve fear of ghosts. I know you’re all laughing at me but yes I’ve trouble sleeping at night if I’m home alone. (Boo!)

F: South Asian films appear to be making an entry into American mainstream media with the arrival of Slumdog Millionaire.  What are your thoughts about the film?

S: Though the film is set solely in the slums of Mumbai, it has themes that appeal to individuals everywhere around the globe. The film has been well accepted by older, younger, South Asians, Americans, and everything in between. That’s really the special thing about this film- the impact it has had on such a widespread and diverse movie-going population. After all, who knew that a film with a British director, an Indo-British leading man, and Indian heroine could have such a global impact and win the Golden Globe and Academy Award for the best picture?

F: If you could import a piece of Bangladeshi culture to our own mainstream culture, what would you bring in?  Why?

S: I would definitely import the traditional culture of staying close to family; love, care and respect for parents, Deshi style hospitality and of course the delicious food. And also my favorite outfit – the ‘Saari’ with traditional jewelry. It’s so elegant and I look really beautiful in a Saari.

F: Any advice you’d like to share with people who want to become models/actresses?

S: Have the passion, don’t give up, never let your dreams go.  If you can dream it, you can become it. The only thing that will stop you from fulfilling your dreams is you!

F: What do you miss the most from Chicago?

S: I used to live in the Rogers Park area for a long time. I often went to the beaches close by and sat by the lake during my free time. The things I miss are unlimited. I really miss going to Northwestern, Lake Michigan, and Lake Shore Drive…seeing the downtown skyline, walking down Devon Avenue, and being with my two year old nephew Ronit and my friends. Ah, and sitting by the Adler Planetarium and watching Chicago skyline at night is definitely my favorite and most missed part of my life in Chicago.

F: What’s the closest we can get to Bangladesh in Chicago?  Any places or restaurants out here remind you of the South Asia?

S: Two Bangladeshi community associations organize a Bangladesh Day parade (March/April) and cultural program to celebrate the Independence Day of Bangladesh at Devon Avenue. Hundreds of Bangladeshi people living in Chicago attend this parade which involves a colorful cultural program that definitely portrays a mini Bangladesh.

The whole Devon Avenue including all the shops and most of the restaurants reminds me of South Asia!

F: Do you miss the winters?

S: I initially enjoyed the snow and eventually got frustrated. The Chicago winter is one of the major reasons why I moved down to Dallas!  A Windy City winter isn’t for everyone, with the breeze blasting off of Lake Michigan, it was difficult to find things to do. But with Chicago’s wealth of indoor attractions, excellent restaurants and lively nightspots, some people can make it worthwhile.

From Amish Country to a place almost like Atlantis: Dale reveals his passion for SCUBA diving

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By , July 1, 2009 8:00 am

Dale Rush in disguise

Dale Rush in disguise

Dale may not have found the lost city of Atlantis yet, but he’s definitely finding some cool things under Lake Michigan.  As a SCUBA diving instructor in Chicago, Dale shares the unique wonders of the deep lake with hundreds of students.  The lake may not exactly be the Great Barrier Reef, but there are some awesome sights, such as ship wrecks and sunken cars underneath the deep blue lake. Dale shares more about this and a few tips on how to eat seafood responsibly below.

F: How long have you been diving for?

As a kid I loved the water.  However, growing up in central Illinois did not provide for too many water-related activities.  It wasn’t until about 5 years ago that I decided I wanted to learn how to scuba dive.  I talked to a couple of other fellow divers and then called up a local PADI dive shop and signed up.  Once I jumped into the pool and took my first breath underwater, I knew my life wouldn’t be the same.  It’s even easier to get started with scuba diving these days because of the online courses PADI provides.

F: What was it like growing up in the heart of Illinois’ Amish country?  What’s the coolest thing you’ve learned from the Amish people?

I first moved to Arthur when I was 6 years old and I couldn’t even imagine why people wanted to travel by horse and buggy.  I began to learn that the Amish are very simple and peaceful individuals who contribute a lot to the community and to their neighbors.  They have learned to appreciate the simple things in life and to enjoy everything life offers.   I think if everyone would take a little bit more time to appreciate the little things in life, the world would be a much happier and peaceful place to live.

F: Diving Lake Michigan just seems pretty treacherous – cold water with questionable fish.  Can you tell us why we’re wrong?

Yes, Lake Michigan is a little bit colder than the Caribbean.  However, with the appropriate wetsuit, Lake Michigan can offer something salt water environments can not:  fully intact shipwrecks from the 1800’s.  Because of the cooler, fresh water, there are many shipwrecks, from the 1800’s and 1900’s, which are well preserved.  The wrecks also provide a unique history of the times.  There is one shipwreck that sank in 1929 that has three vintage automobiles that you can dive and examine:  a Hudson, an Essex and a Chevrolet touring car.  In salt water, most wrecks will only last about 50 or 60 years but I have dove on wrecks in Lake Michigan that date back to the 1860’s.  Plus, the reality is we live in Chicago and we are not that close to the Atlantic, Pacific or Caribbean.  Therefore, why travel hours to go diving when you have a water playground in our own backyard.  It is also important to note that you may find some hidden treasures in our lakes.  But I do warn you, make sure you are aware of the local, state and federal laws governing the wrecks and treasures in our lakes before you decide to try and bring something up.

F: What are your best diving experiences?

My BEST moments have been on every single dive I have been on.  From diving in our training lake in Kankakee to diving in Fiji or the Caribbean, I have always loved to dive where ever there is water.  I have encountered a new experience every time I have dove which has included everything from the blue gills protecting their eggs to seeing my first Moorish idol to having a 15 foot Tiger shark swim 10 feet over my head.   Until you have had a chance to get into the water and dive you can’t even imagine the wonder and serenity you experience every time you scuba dive.

F: If you could be any marine species for a day, which one would it be?  Why?

I think I would want to be a shark for a day.  They are beautiful, magnificent and powerful creatures that glide through the water commanding the attention of everything around it.  I would want to experience what it would be like to be one of the most dominating marine animals in our oceans.

Dale acting like a hammerhead shark

Dale acting like a hammerhead shark

F: What if you were a pioneer like Jacques Cousteau, what piece of SCUBA equipment would you invent?

This is a hard question.  Over the last 30 or 40 years, scuba diving manufacturers have been very innovative in the equipment they have created for the divers.  I think I would have to go the Trekkie route and create a linguistic device that would enable us to talk with the fish.  There have been times I have been down at 60 feet and I am face to face with a fish.  Their little beady eyes staring at you and all I can think about is what is that fish thinking?  I can only imagine how the conversation would go:

Me:  How is it going Mrs. Parrotfish?

Parrotfish:  What’s up???  Why do you keep on insisting on sticking that black box in my face and flashing that bright light into my eyes?

Me:  I am just trying to take some pictures to show my friends how beautiful you are.

Parrotfish:  Can’t you see I am trying to enjoy my breakfast and then make some sand???

Me:  Sorry

I think a linguistic device would add to the fun of scuba diving.

F: Our readers are the curious bunch and probably want to learn how to dive.  Any advice on how to get started?

Well, if anyone is serious about scuba diving, they can always email me (see info below).  I work out of Scuba Emporium in Orland Park and I can help them get signed up to become a scuba diver.  I can also help answer any questions anyone may have about scuba diving and what is involved to get certified. In fact, for those of you not sure if you want to sign up but maybe want to try scuba diving first, I can get you into the pool and we can do a Discover Scuba first.  Trust me though, once you put your face into the water and take your first “Darth Vader” breath underwater, you will be hooked.  Shoot me an email and I can help guide you on your way to becoming an elite member of scuba diving.  You can also check out all of the great resources and offers.

F: SCUBA divers, like some of us at funsherpa love the open water and tend to be overprotective of it because it is just damn gorgeous.  What’s your advice for everyone else out there to help protect our aqua ecosystems?

First of all, I always recommend scuba divers to take the Underwater Digital Photography class.  This will help you learn how to take wonderful pictures of our aqua ecosystem to share with your friends back on land.  What I have learned is that many people, who are not scuba divers, do not even realize the impact we have on our oceans, lakes and rivers.  By showing them not only the beautiful pictures of the marine life and colorful coral reefs but also the trash and debris found in our waterways, we begin to educate individuals about how their everyday activities and decisions may impact our aqua ecosystem.

What is interesting is that Jean Michel Cousteau recently aired a show on PBS highlighting the high level of toxins that are being found in Killer Whales.  More importantly, these same man-made toxins are now being found in our own blood streams.  What happens to our marine life can happen to us.

I would recommend individuals checking out organizations like: Project AWARE, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program

Both of these organizations provide a wealth of information about conservation issues and what we, as divers, can do for our waterways.

F: Do you feel guilty eating seafood?  Where’s the best place to find seafood in Chicago?

When I became a scuba diver, I did begin to feel a little guilty about eating seafood.  However, I wasn’t educated enough about seafood fisheries and making sustainable decisions about the choices we make.  There are some types of fish that are overfished and we, as consumers, need to do our part by not eating them.  There are other types of seafood that come from contaminated waters and we should eat them as well.  To learn more about the types of fish that are good choices and which ones to avoid, get the Shedd Rite Bite card, or check out the Monterey Bay website.

One of my favorite seafood places is Wildfire which has locations in the burbs as well as the City.  Some other great choices can be found at the Shedd website.

F: What is your favorite post-dive food and drink and where do you get it?

Especially diving in the Caribbean, I love to have my Dos Equis or Tecate after a great dive.  Here in Chicago, I don’t mind stopping at Artopolis in Greektown for a nice spinach and feta artopita.  They also serve a nice variety of wines and drinks.

F: Where does a scuba diver like yourself go to grab lunch…(please don’t tell us some place underwater :)) ?

I am fortunate to work around Greektown and Little Italy.  However, one of my favorite lunch spots is Fontano’s located at 1058 W Polk St.  They have some of the best Italian subs you can find and they provide daily specials.

F: Any cool romantic dinner spots you’d like to share with our readers?

One of the first places I took my wife to was Café Bolero.  They serve some of the best Cuban cuisines I have ever tasted and the plantains are to die for.

F: Any particular dive site you’d recommend that we check out?

I am still new to diving in Lake Michigan so there are hundreds of sites I have yet to dive.  However, I love to dive the Straits of Mackinac.  There is a fully intact 204 feet car ferry that sits in 80 feet of water.  Since I enjoy diving wrecks and going deep, this is always a great dive.  However, I am sure my favorite dive site is still to come as I continue to explore other parts of Lake Michigan.

F: How do our readers get in touch with you to start learning how to dive?

Maybe you are unsure about learning how to dive or perhaps you are just looking for a dive buddy, I can help answer any questions you may have.  Feel free to email me.  You can also contact ScubaEmporium and let them know Dale sent you.

Walking the catwalk and building superstructures with Jennifer Lynn

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By , June 22, 2009 8:00 am

Jennifer building the next Chicago super structure

Jennifer building the next Chicago super structure

In this feature, we talk to Jennifer Lynn, a model, civil engineer, and cancer society volunteer.  While Jennifer used to run NCAA Division I cross-country too, an accident 5 years ago shortened her competitive running career.  Always the glass half-full type of person, Jennifer used her downtime from the accident to begin her modeling career.   Read more below to unravel the world of modeling and also find out why civil engineers aren’t boring people.

F: We’re amazed at your accomplishments to date…why the dual track in modeling and civil engineering?

JL:  I formerly ran on cross country but post accident I was no longer able to run due to the damage to my back and leg.  Therefore, I had ample amount of free time and the modeling jobs paid well so I opted to try it out.  The jobs I had were fun, allowed me a creative outlet it my otherwise technical life, and helped me pay for school – it was a win-win situation.  I continued to pursue my engineering degree while juggling my modeling jobs and still do to this day because it has become part of who I am and more simply, just what I do.  I feel very blessed for the opportunity and ability to do both.

F: If a really strange opportunity came up for you to relive a segment of either Joseph Strauss’ (the chief engineer of the Golden Gate Bridge) or Twiggy Lawson’s (pioneering English model) life, who would you choose?  Why?

JL: I would choose Joseph Strauss as his work will live on much longer than the work of Twiggy and he has done more for bettering humanity than that which a model can ever accomplish, in my opinion.

F: What goes through your mind when you pose for a camera?

JL: Modeling is a little difficult because, unlike engineering, everything isn’t black and white.  It is an art where beauty is in the eye of the beholder and that which you are creating can only be as good as the worst party involved in the process.  What may be ‘right’ on one shoot might be ‘wrong’ on another.  While posing I try to concentrate on how my body is angled and shaped in reference to the lights and my facial expression for the particular pose, then I try to imagine how I look from the photographers point of view.

F: Out of all the photos taken of you, which one is your favorite?

JL: My favorite photos are those which I perform all duties (makeup, hair,

Jennifer, the junk yard warrior

Jennifer, the junk yard warrior

etc) aside from that of the photographer.  Of all the photos I have taken to date, the ‘Junk Yard Warrior’ and ‘Steel Siren’ photos are my favorites because I poured so much of myself into it as I did everything besides take the photo, and the final product met and exceeded my expectations.

F: If you could build something, anything, what would it be?

JL: A time machine! Then I would meet myself in 20 years and take my own advice, my own version of ‘Back to the Future’! I think I would need an electrical, mechanical, and computer engineering degree for starters, so my civil engineering background really wouldn’t help.

F: We like geocaching too!  Have you found a geocache in any place interesting?

JL: I found one in some sort of military box.  The box itself was what I wanted to take rather than something inside the box.  For the difficult cache’s, I found one about ten feet off the ground in a hole in a tree.  We spent quite a bit of time looking before we were able to narrow it down to the hole we couldn’t reach then my friend put me on his shoulders and ta-da, success!

F: What’s the sexiest piece of infrastructure you’ve seen?  Why?

JL: Argonne National Laboratory is in my neck of the woods and one of the most impressive buildings I have been in to date.  The amount of research that goes on there, the security they have to protect it, and the actual layout of the building is beyond impressive.  They first came to the forefront from their participation in the Manhattan project aka developing the atom bomb (some of the remains from the project are buried in the surrounding forest preserves through which I run in Palos called Red Gate Woods, markers are there if you wanted to check it out).  My favorite part of the building is the electron storage ring.  It is a radiation proof ring inside the experimental hall that houses magnets through which electrons are sent.  When all is said and done, it creates the brightest x-ray beams in all of the Western Hemisphere!

Few questions about Chicago

F: Who are your favorite clothing designers in Chicago?  What are your favorite clothing stores?

Tatyanna Merenyuk is an up and coming designer, she makes some really cute dresses.  Veronika Kotlakic makes sexy couture wear.  Another designer/store would be Akira by John Cotay.  His following has grown with leaps and bounds over the past few years.  For mainstream brands, I love to shop at BCBG, Guess, Bebe, and Marciano!  I love their designs and the way their clothing fits my body!

F: What is the best place to enjoy nature in Chicago?

I am a suburban girl so I rarely go to the city to enjoy nature; I go to the city to enjoy the city!  In the burbs there are several amazing nature trails that are part of the Cook and Dupage Country Forest Preserves you can find me running through on a regular basis.  One of my favorites is called Waterfall Glen in Darien, Illinois.  It surrounds Argonne National Laboratory and has several waterfalls, ridges, and amazing trails that will show you nature at its finest and only 30 minutes from the city.   Bring your bike, your running shoes, your dog and make a day of it! The largest trail is a 10 mile loop and you are free from cars, shaded from the sun, and don’t have to run on the concrete or pavement!

F: What do you recommend people do this summer?

If possible, take some lazy summer days and fill them with sailing and boating on Lake Michigan.  You can bask in the glory of our skyline and listen to the sounds of birds from above and the water hitting the boat below.  I had a new appreciation for the city once I saw it from the lake.  It epitomizes the beauty of Chicago and all it has to offer.

F: Favorite buildings in Chicago?  How about favorite green structures?

JL: My favorite building is the Trump Tower.  It is the second tallest building on our skyline, the largest concrete-reinforced building in all of North America, has some amazing views of the city, the location is superior to that of the Sears Tower (more recently known as the Willis Tower), their restaurant sixteen is simply delicious, and I was there when they finally put the spire on the top in January!

The residential building 340 on the Park (340 East Randolph St) was the first silver level LEED certified building in the Midwest and it is right here in Chicago! One of my friends lives there and I love all the measures the designers and engineers took to reduce their environmental impact so it is by far my favorite green structure, and the view of Millennium park from the building is also amazing.

F: Where can we find civil engineers in the city?

JL:  Contrary to popular belief, civil engineers are not bookworms, have social lives as well as friends, and a sense of style.  For dancing you can find us at the clubs on the dance floor dressed to the nines (I am currently a frequent visitor of Manor, Level, BonV, and Rino).  Because we love to help people, we also like to volunteer.  My NFPO of choice is the American Cancer Society; I have been assisting with their Relay For Life fundraising projects since I was in high school.  Many of us are in various organizations that specialize in what we do.  I am on the board for an energy group called the Chicago chapter of Young Professionals in Energy.  Feel free to Come to our next event!  Good food is another key to keeping a civil engineer happy and unwinding from a long day. Some of my favorite places to go for dinner are Rockit Bar and Grill, Japonais, the Oven Grinder, Tru, and sixteen for starters.  We are just your average Chicagoans that take part in mainstream activities who just happen to also love math, science, and structures in general.

Being enlightened in the world of poetry with Bob Archambeau

By , June 15, 2009 8:00 am

Thinking about words with Bob

Thinking about words with Bob

Poets are quite difficult to find, good ones even harder, and funny ones almost impossible. We find ourselves lucky to be able to chat with Bob Archambeau, a professor of poetry and literature at Lake Forest College about his inspirations and thoughts on Twitter. An avid Notre Dame fan, Bob still waits, along with the other hundred million loyal Fighting Irish, for a real bowl appearance.

Things a poet does out in Chicago

F: Favorite place to read a book in the city?

B: Best place? Is it summer or winter? In summer, the bit of Millennium Park furthest to the east, across the bridge, is quiet and has great views. In the winter I like to hole up in the Classics Coffee Shop at the University of Chicago.

F: Where do you go when you need to relax?

B: My hammock. Unless it’s right after a faculty meeting, in which case I hit The Lantern, the sole virtue of which is that it’s the closest bar to Lake Forest College.

F: Your favorite poetry readings occur at…?

B: Danny’s Tavern. Myopic Books is good, too. And there’s a great series at Woodland Pattern Books in Milwaukee.

F: To learn more about poetry, one should check out:

B: Ron Silliman has a blog that offers two kinds of posts: his opinions on poetry, which I disagree with about half the time (that’s not a bad thing, I think), and sets of links to stories about poetry on the web. The links are great.

F: What is your favorite drink and where can you find it?

B: I like Duvel, a beer you can get here and there, notably at the Hop Leaf.

F: Who are your favorite writers in Chicago?

B: I think Simone Muench is one of the best poets of her generation, and she’s in town.

F: What neighborhood do you live in? What are your favorite things to do around there?

B: I live in Highland Park, and my yard abuts the Green Bay trail, a bike path that runs from Chicago to Wisconsin. You can take a spur off of it to the Chicago Botanic Gardens, and south of that to the Skokie Lagoons. It’s a great ride. Just north of us is Highwood, which has my favorite dive bar (The Silver Dollar) a Cuban/French place called Miramar that makes a mean Cubano sandwich and a meaner mojito, and will give you a little plate of sausage and peccarino if you ask for it. Closer to home there’s a hole-in-the-wall Israeli joint called the Mizrahi Grill. You want shawarma? They got shawarma you wouldn’t believe.

Learning more about Bob

F: What were the defining moments in your life that made you go down this path?

B: I suppose there were two defining moments. First, there were the short films I made as a student: I realized when making those that I really wanted an art form I could work on alone, without needing a lot of funding or equipment. My film prof was a guy named Steve Snyder who worked with the incredible filmmaker Guy Maddin, and from listening to him I realized how rare it is for someone making movies to find a group of people with whom one could really collaborate. I used to be a moody bastard (maybe I still am), and I thought that if I ever found a group like that, I’d probably end up alienating half of them. So I wanted a solo art. Then, ironically, I fell in with a crowd of poets: some established figures on the local scene in Canada, and some people my own age. And I ended up with exactly the kind of crew of co-conspirators I thought I wouldn’t find.

F: You teach “Creative Writing – Poetry”. What do people need to know about poetry to understand and appreciate it appropriately?

B: Good question! Most people who arrive in the course are pretty appreciative, but those who have a hard time with it are generally people who don’t like to think of poetry as an art: that is, they don’t like to think that there are techniques to be learned, just as there are in, say, calligraphy or figure drawing or in playing music. It’s not necessarily bad to get yourself a musical instrument and sort of noodle around on it without taking lessons or reading up on how it works, but you can get a lot more out of it if you see the learning of technique as a means to expression, rather than an impediment to it. Poetry’s like that, too.

F: After you publish a piece or a book, do you ever read through it again and wish you could change certain sections or words? Why?

B: Always! I think it was W.H. Auden who said that poems are never finished, only abandoned, and I feel the same way. Sometimes there’s a line or a turn of phrase I know I could do a better job of, now, but more often I just want to work variations on the old piece of writing. Most of my poems are reworkings of found texts (sometimes other people’s poems, sometimes something that was never intended to be literary), and I like nothing more than to pick up a piece of writing and sound out its other possibilities by playing with it. My own published poems are no exception, but of course there are better things to work with than those!

F: What do you think about Twitter?

B: I blog, and I post to Facebook all the time, so I haven’t felt the need to work with Twitter yet myself. It seems to be something people like, and I’m skeptical of its skeptics: every new technology generates a bunch of cranky people who claim it will bring about the end of civilization. So far they’ve been wrong.

F: If you were to Twitter a poem in under 140 characters what would you say?

B: I think I’d wait to get a tweet I really liked and then rework it somehow. That’s my m.o.

F: What was it like growing up in Canada? Are there any Canadian stereotypes that you think are false?

B: Cold. It was what meteorologists refer to as ass-bitingly cold for about half the year. Eliot was wrong about April being the cruelest month. In Winnipeg, it’s February. As for stereotypes? Well, I suppose the idea is that Canadians are polite. I think it’s mostly true. They also have better donuts.

F: We understand that you are a fan of the Fighting Irish. How difficult is it to be a Notre Dame fan given its current struggles?

B: Awful! Terrible! I can hardly stand it! I mean, I was at Notre Dame during the Lou Holtz years, when Rocket Ishmael used to sail down the sidelines at the speed of sound and land a touchdown about every fifteen minutes. There have been good things to watch since then: Brady Quinn and Jeff Samardzija were a great combination. I think Charlie Weiss is a good, hard-working, honest man, and not a bad coach, but the guy can’t recruit and develop talent the way you need to in the NCAA. I suppose it was different with the Patriots. Anyway, as a Cubs fan I used to look forward to college football season as the time when I could finally see a team I support rack up some wins. Now, not so much.

Gulp! Expanding the beer horizon with Mark McDermott

By , June 8, 2009 5:39 pm

Activating beer vision with Mark

Activating beer vision with Mark

Interested in getting past the traditional Coors, Bud, and Stella bottles? Today’s feature presents Chicago’s very own beer connoisseur. Fortunate enough to catch Mark McDermott in between a few of his favorite barley wines and Russian Imperial Stouts, we chat with him to discover the world of craft beers and local breweries. Aside from being a beer geek, writing about his favorite drink, and rating beers (he’s rated over 1700), Mark is a proud parent and former Trekkie / comic book geek!

Mark’s thoughts about beers and comic books…

F: Lets talk about you for a minute.  You are a beer connoisseur, collector, and a guy who keeps beer coasters.  What do you do that doesn’t revolve around beer?

M: In real life, I’m a husband and father of an adorable 8-year old boy and an equally adorable 16-month old girl, yet I just celebrated my 50th birthday. My day job has me setting covers and other parts of catalogs and doctor directories for Chicago’s largest printing firm. Before I was a beer geek, I was a Trekkie and comic book geek: in the past year I’ve had essays published in scholarly books on Star Wars and on Captain America.

F: How did you get started in drinking beer?  Do you remember your first drink of beer?  What was it like?

M: When I was a pimply adolescent, my Dad would allow me sips of whatever was in the fridge, meaning Grain Belt of Hamms. It was an interesting drink that made me feel like I was part of the adult world, but also light, fizzy barley water with a little bitterness you don’t find in other kid drinks. When I finally turned legal (18 in Iowa in those days) it was not a big deal; I didn’t need to go and get plowed. That summer, on a visit to the “real” Adventureland, an amusement park near Des Moines, I discovered my first different “kind” of beer: Schlitz Dark.

I finally hit upon craft beer when I moved to Chicago in 1987 and shortly discovered the new Goose Island brewpub, when it was still part of a repurposed warehouse on an iffy block of Clybourn. On one visit, they debuted Bourbon County Stout, which made me say “Oh… My… God!” Beer can be like this!

F: Why do alcoholic beverages have connoisseurs and non-alcoholic beverages have no one but vending machines?  You never hear of an orange juice connoisseur.

M: I can’t speak for orange juice, but I think we could find more than a few raters of sodas out there. Look at the “Throwback” Pepsi and Mountain Dew, a limited release that uses real cane sugar, and the people who get Coke at Mexican mercados for the real sugar. A lot of craft brewers make root beer and sods, but as far as I know there’s no professional taste competition for them, perhaps because they’re still aimed at the kids.

F: You brew your own beer.  What is the hardest part in the home brew process?  Do you ever get sick from your own beer?

M: The hardest part is cleaning up afterward, because there’s always some sticky, scorched on wort on the floor or the stove somewhere, just waiting to attract ants. When we moved to our current house with an attached garage, my wife banned me from brewing in the kitchen, so I’ll need to add a high-powered propane burner to my brewing arsenal.

One of the truisms of homebrewing is that even if you get a nasty bacterial infestation, it still won’t make you sick. Probably. The alcohol in the beer will knock most dangerous bugs, so you’ll just get a bad taste or a “gusher” bottle. As homebrew guru Charlie Papazian says, “Relax, don’t worry, have a homebrew.”

F: What are your favorite beer varieties and how are they different from each other?

M: Like most beer nuts, I tend toward barley wines and Russian imperial stouts. Both are high-alcohol behemoths that can be cellared, and which develop complex tastes depending on how old they are when you pop the cap. Barley wines push lots of caramel malts and can be light brown in color, and will tend to a slightly fruity ale character. Imperial stouts have much darker roast grains in their malt bill, and can run the taste gamut from coffee to chocolate to what you think motor oil must taste like. It’s a bonus when they’ve been aged by the brewer in whiskey or bourbon barrels, like the aforementioned Bourbon County Stout. Both these style came from England: Imperial stout was created for the court of Catherine the Great in 1796, while Bass first marketed “Barley Wine” in 1900. I’ve got whole cases of Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barley Wine from 2002 and 2004 in my cellar, waiting for me to finally want to dig in, among others. I’ve also had the patience to hold on to a 2003 Brooklyn Brewing Black Chocolate Stout, plus their 2003 Monster Ale, and a few 2002, 2003 and 2004 bottles of Dogfish Head Worldwide Stout, which clock in at up to 23% alcohol by volume. This is a very modest collection as most beer cellars go. It actually resides in a root cellar built under the front stoop of our house.

My favorite style to make has been chile beer. Rather than just try to cause people pain, I’ve looked for styles and pepper blends that work well together, like Molé porter or Chipotle Scotch ale.

F: You’ve rated over 1700 beers.  How do you keep your rating consistent?  Do you test yourself with blind tastes and see if your score comes out quite similar?

M: I just can’t worry about consistency; beer ratings can also involve the circumstances and environment in which you try the beer. I enjoyed a cheap Schafer Light much better when I tried it at a hot, southern Illinois roadhouse in July than I could have sitting before my computer with a tasting glass.

I’ve done two taste comparisons around Old Style. For years, Old Style has been contract brewed for Pabst by Miller in whatever plant they have available. But the original brewery in LaCrosse, Wisconsin re-organized as City Brewing and makes LaCrosse Lager, which is said to have the actual Old Style yeast and recipe, plus the added step of Kraeusening before packaging. LaCrosse came out the clear winner. This year, when Pabst announced they were going back to Krausening, I matched up the revised old style with the older version. Found they had different factors weighing for and against them.

F: Food critics tend to pair food with their favorite wines.  Any suggestions as to what food to pair with specific beers?

M: There are two different ways to match a beer to a food: contrast or compliment. I would go with contrast: spicy foods like chili or barbequed meats need malty beers like bocks or Oktoberfest beer to cool the fire. Something lighter, like fish, or steak with few seasonings, can take a hoppy IPA.

A local’s secrets to the rich Chicago beer culture…

F: Chicago locals tend to like what type/brand of beer?  Why do you think so?

M: The local beer most represented on bar taps seems to be Goose Island 312. I think that’s simply because it’s the local beer that tastes most like the usual pale lager, even if it is a wheat ale.

F: What is your favorite place to drink beer in Chicago?

M: I lived for many years in the south suburbs so I was quite attached to Flossmoor Station. Through the tenure of two brewmasters, they came up with some fantastic beers in different styles, served in a casual atmosphere that got it named Best Small Brewpub in America at the 2006 Great American Beer Festival. I have not made it back out since their latest brewmaster, Brian Shimkos, took over, but he assisted Pete Crowley at Rock Bottom Chicago, so I have no worries. RB Chicago, on State & Grand, is also a great destination when you’re downtown.

F: What brewery do you recommend people check out?

M: Everyone knows Goose Island, but in the past few months, Metropolitan Brewing in Ravenswood has come out with some German style lagers, Half Acre on N. Lincoln has just come on line. I would also recommend keeping an eye open for Revolution Brewing in Logan Square, started by one of the principals behind Handlebar restaurant.

The best-kept secret in Chicago is the Wild Blossom Meadery and Winery in Beverly. It’s an offshoot of the Bev-Art homebrew supply store that makes meads in a “dry” precinct, so they can’t sell on-premises. You have to go across Western Avenue to a liquor store in Evergreen Park to buy them.

F: Favorite beer that you can only find in Chicago?

M: Taking the question literally, Half Acre has been popular enough that its entire production is distributed on the North Side, so I haven’t even been able to get some yet. My favorites to find are the Flossmoor Station Brewer’s Whim series of india Pale Ales. It’s a  fancy silkscreened 22 oz. bottle filled with whatever IPA they’re brewing at the time; the only difference being the color of the wax seal on top. Those are available at fine liquor stores throughout the region. You need this guide to know what you’re getting.

F: Favorite festival to taste or drink beer?

The rare and highly rated Dark Lord

The rare and highly rated Dark Lord

M: You will not find a more amazing, spontaneous local fest than Dark Lord Day at Three Floyds. On the last Saturday of April, an inudstrial park in Munster is overrun with thousands of beer geeks, hoping to get a bottle or just a taste of Three Floyds Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout, ranked as one of the very best beers in the world. No matter how tightly they limit purchases, the Floyds always sell out within a few hours. So they provide live music, food and other beer at their brewpub. Meantime, there are tables set up in the parking lot where attendees bring beers of their own to trade, taste and share.

If you want a better chance at some headlining beers, there the “Night of the Living Ales,” a cask beer fest put on in March by the Chicago Beer Society.

F: If you are still reading this, then you can probably help us out.  Fill out our survey (if you haven’t already) and get a chance to win a $100 dining certificate to Avec.

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