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January 24th, 2011 - Chic-a-go, Chic-a-go... you fill in the rest.

Holy Cripes, another post already. And the ink's barely dry on the last one. And it looks like I've given up not starting sentences with a conjunction. Or next I'll leave my participles dangling all over. Well just nevermind about grammar fer now. 
So yeah I was in downtown Chicago last week for a Trade Show, and I took a few pictures with my "little" camera. (That would be the Olympus Stylus 850-SW as opposed to the Nikon D80, which was too much baggage for this trip).
We were working the show down on Navy Pier, a large convention center and amusement park which overlooks the lake. Lenny and I were usually there very early in the morning and leaving about sunset, both great times to take photos.

I always come away with mixed feelings about the downtowns of most big cities.
I love nature and being out in the wilderness, but steel and glass and stone have a strange appeal too. Something about the massiveness, and the symmetry. You can say all you want about Ayn Rand being a capitalist prick, but she was very good at describing this sort of thing. Anyway, I'm not sure if Chicago is a toddlin' town, but it's alright. 
I think Chicago's redeeming values are that it's old and worn down enough not to take itself too seriously.
I come away from some cities feeling like they are trying to be more than they really are, and in doing that, they end up without a soul. 
Chicago has the lakefront (Lake Michigan) the river (the Chicago River, green at times, no one knows exactly why) and a lot of very cool Art Deco architecture. A nice mix of old and new.
New York has a soul, and I don't have anything personal against New York, but it seems to have something personal against me. 
Bob Seeger calls it a "friendly old ghost," but in my experience it's more of an evil-tempered poltergeist waiting to grab your legs from under the chair. I've had a few good experiences there, but mostly it just seems to be out to get me.
The last time I flew out of JFK I flipped it off from the window of the plane screaming, "Ugh! You couldn't pay me to go back there! Die monster, die!" And the like. But that's a
nother story. And I digress. There, I did it again. Twice.

Every morning at 7 AM as we drove past the Pier on the shuttle bus coming from the hotel, there would already be people sitting out on their plastic five-gallon buckets, fishing. We got there super early on the last day of the show and no one was out yet, albeit it was - 10 F with a hellacious windchill. It didn't stop the early morning joggers and the pedestrians though, so I assume it was fishin' business as usual after the sun came up.

I managed a couple shots of the harbor light, definitely a different scene on different days. It would be fun to go back in the summer and contrast these pics to summertime pics from the same spot. Looks like a crazybusy place during warmer weather.

On our walk into convention area every morning we passed through the "Stained Glass Museum," which was amazing, and was a great moral booster for starting the day.
At different times of the day the pieces looked very different. Some of them are lit by outside light, and some by totally interior artificial lighting.
There is some amazing glasswork there. Lots of single panes, but also complete doors, windows, and three-dimensional sculptures made from thousands and thousands of pieces of stained glass.

There were a lot of "Coney Island" type distractions at the pier as well, the ubiquitous "Maze of Mirrors", the souvenir shops, cruise ships and boat tours in the summer, greasy carny food, interspersed with lots of historical images and museum pieces from Chicago's past to adorn the walls.
But I was seriously surprised at the numbers and types of people that were drawn in and took the time to look closely at the stained glass exhibits.
Many of these people were busy show exhibitors like us, but the colors, textures, and intricacies of the glasswork tended to suck you right in.
It was a good place to practice photography skills as well. Some of the pieces were inside glass cases, and the lighting was very inconsistent. A good challenge for someone with no tripod and used to mostly shooting outdoors with natural light.

Incredible stuff.

As far as the show itself, it did not disappoint. It was busy most of the time, and as with most trade shows, was an eclectic mix of industry mishmash and hoohah.

If you needed some snake repellent, they had that. Though I'm not exactly sure why you'd want to repel snakes from your plants, as they are strict carnivores and actually eat a lot of the rodents that cause the most plant damage. Maybe they just make you feel too oogie to be worth the payoff. I had to look at the ingredients list to see where the magic came from, and was not surprised that the main active ingredient was "putrefied egg solids," a common denominator in many of these repellents.  I guess if you don't like snakes, you probably aren't going to want to putrefy your own egg solids, and would happy pay someone else to do it for you.

I was also entranced by this massive trippy cacti and succulent display. 
They seem to be the "more cacti per square inch cacti" so as to put more cacti in a small space for your best value-added return, for the more-cacti-per-capita slamma-jamma.
Anyway they are a texture-lover's wet dream. Looks like a nice place for some spiders and insects to have a hoe-down, or could maybe be used to remove those tough baked-on food messes left on last night's cookware.
That's my take on the whole shebang.
Next I need to go through the seven zillion images I took from multiple angles on the concourse and stitch together some panoramas of the entire auditorium show floor.
We'll see how good my stitching program really is. I've been using the one that came with my Canon setup (Canon PhotoStitch), but just downloaded the Microsoft ICE freeware version as well.
Maybe a side-by-side comparison is in order.
Till next time, happy snappin' -
And watch where you sit when you're in the cactus booth.

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