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Monday, October 26th, 2009

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The Fail of Despereaux
Melinda and I both wanted to see The Tale of Despereaux when it came out last Christmas but, we both being at our respective homes and not together for the holidays, we missed the opening. And, being busy otherwise, we missed all theater opportunities in January to catch it. Not until last night did we finally see the movie. It wasn't worth waiting for.

In Melinda's words, "I didn't know that a movie staring a mouse could be bad." Knowing nothing but the movie poster artwork for the movie we expected: rodents; adventure; swashbuckling; something fun and cute. Instead, we got an unengaging plot, a collection of unrealistic characters, a string of almost but not really exciting events, a mouse with amusingly large ears, and an ordinary and unattractive rat. In every way that Ratatouille was cute, heartwarming, compelling, and just the right mix of believable and unlikely, The Tale of Despeareaux wasn't. At several points we questioned whether we should finish the movie, but having rented only one thing last night we didn't have a plan B.

I'm glad to have seen the movie if only to know what it was about and why I wouldn't need to see it again. I'm glad I didn't see it in theaters.
Pictures are still on the camera; I'll post again in a few days when I upload them. We spent time on Saturday and Sunday this past weekend in Doug's garage. Melinda made pendants, earrings, and a marble while I made a marble, a Christmas tree decoration, and a small vessel. The decoration was inspired from something I saw at the Fields museum in Chicago, labelled as having come from Murano and costing $188. It looked like a Christmas tree, vaguely, and while mine isn't a very close replica I think I figured out the approach pretty closely. And, at least to me, it looks like a tree. You can judge for yourself when I next upload pictures.

We're out of oxygen again.

Oh, and: there's a chance I'll be getting a Cheetah soon. I'll know more tomorrow.
The big conference for neuroscience, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, was in Chicago this year. Melinda attended and I joined her afterward for a few days to explore the city (reverse of last year, when we arrived early to explore Washington, D.C.). For Melinda's part the conference sounds like a success: she presented a poster; her work, featured in Cell, was also featured at the Cell publications booth; many people had interesting things to say to her about her work; she met other people doing interesting work. So, it was all good.

For my part, I flew in Wednesday afternoon and met Melinda as the conference wound to a close. The weather was spotty for the entire weekend while I was there but was at its best Wednesday evening. The walk from the Orange line station to the hotel (Sheraton) was surprisingly nice given I was toting luggage and fearing sub-50F weather. In general, in fact, Chicago's streets were surprisingly walkable: wide sidewalks, good lighting, and enough other people walking the streets that it wasn't spooky. But, mind you, we were staying just off Michigan at the Chicago river and never strayed far from the lake shore. I hear that more than a mile or so from the lake the neighborhoods aren't so great.

Okay, rather than one long post, let me summarize the trip. Wednesday: deep dish pizza dinner at the original Pizzeria Uno then a walk out the by-then closed Navy Pier. Thursday: good morning pumpkin latte at Argo Tea then an hour or so at the Smith Museum of Stained Glass. Met Melinda's great uncle and aunt for lunch then a few hours at the Art Institute of Chicago where we saw, among other things, Seurat's A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, Grant Wood's American Gothic, Edward Hopper's Nighthawks, Ivan Albright's deeply disturbed Picture of Dorian Gray that was used in the original movie, and a large collection of glass paperweights (we even bought a book about them). Dinner in Chinatown, still with the aunt and uncle, then back to the hotel for the night and to say good-bye to the relatives. Friday: slept in (due to the weather) and, despite the weather, had lunch at the Signature Room on the 95th floor of the John Hancock Center. The meal was tasty and reasonably priced ($18 entrees) and the wind swept the clouds away off and on enough for us to see at least a mile or so out the window; enough to see the lake the streets below, and the streets expanding out from the building a good ways. By 2p we taxied to the Field Museum and saw countless stuffed animals, Sue the T-rex, and a pretty well done exhibit on the evolution of life on the planet. The place closed at 5p and we were ushered through the most recent 2 billion years of life, unfortunately. Friday night dinner at Grand Lux Cafe, which someone on Yelp accurately described as very much like Cheesecake Factory. Lots of food for the price and not too long of a wait for two people. Flew home Saturday morning and back in time for most of the weekend in the Bay Area.

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