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Annual Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Posted on October 16th 2010 by Arthur in Birds, Chicago, Nature

Many birds are migrating through the area these weeks. We get some extra birds in our backyard too, ones we don’t usually see. Today, on 16 October, we had a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. That’s the first time we see one of those in our yard since 16 October last year! Wow, I wonder if it’s the same one!

Ruby-crowned Kinglet- My Back yard- Peachtree City, GA
Photo by davidcreebirder

80’s Weekend at McHenry Outdoor Theater

Posted on September 18th 2010 by Arthur in Chicago, Life in America, Movies

It’s 80’s Weekend at the “C” You At The Movies outdoor theater in McHenry IL this weekend and last night we saw The Goonies and Back to the Future, a double feature! We arrived at 6:30pm when the gates opened and found a nice place next to a speaker pole. In the next hour the place filled up with cars. Many people took out chairs and sat outside their vehicle while others pulled in backwards and sat in the back of their car, or on top in case of trucks. It had been at least ten years since we went to a drive-in theater and it was a lot of fun.

Top view from Google Maps, with the screen in the upper-left

McHenry Outdoor Theater
Back of the screen

McHenry Outdoor Theater

McHenry Outdoor Theater

McHenry Outdoor Theater

McHenry Outdoor Theater

McHenry Outdoor Theater

Paris-style metro entrance in Chicago

Posted on August 5th 2010 by Arthur in Art, Chicago

We came across this Paris-style Metra entrance in Chicago the other day. It is based on the famous Art Nouveau Metro entrances by Hector Guimard. The entrance to the Van Buren station was given to Chicago by the city of Paris in 2001. The cast iron entrance was taken from the original molds.

Paris metra

Here is the original in Paris (photo by adfoto), which was introduced to Paris in the early 1900s.

metro Monceau

There is also one in Montreal. I wonder if there are any anywhere else.

Eye and Cardinal in Chicago

Posted on August 3rd 2010 by Arthur in Art, Chicago

There’s a new eyeball in town, and it’s three stories tall! The art installation by Tony Tasset can be found at Pritzker Park at State and Van Buren in Chicago, from July through October 2010. It is called Eye and Cardinal.

Eye and Cardinal by Tony Tasset

It’s a bit creepy, if you ask me. Looks like a giant got his eye poked out by the spikes on Sears Tower Willis Tower.

Eye and Cardinal by Tony Tasset

The Cardinal-part of Eye and Cardinal is in the form of 156 vinyl banners on State Street. The banners have flying Northern Cardinals on them, the state bird of Illinois.

Eye and Cardinal by Tony Tasset

Eye and Cardinal by Tony Tasset

Eye and Cardinal by Tony Tasset

The three-story eyeball sculpture is part of the Chicago Loop Alliance art collection. For more information see Chicago Loop Alliance.

Eye and Cardinal by Tony Tasset

More photos of Transformers 3 filming in Chicago

Posted on August 1st 2010 by Arthur in Chicago, Movies

Today we went down to Chicago again to see more of the filming of Transformers 3. This time we saw a huge action scene with explosions, lots of gunfire and a bus and cars flying in the air. We also got good looks at Shia LaBeouf, Michael Bay, Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson. Today’s action took place on E Wacker Drive between State and Wabash. We had a great place to stand across the river from the action, where hundreds of people had lined up to see some of the movie magic.

Transformers 3 set
Some impressive set pieces as if they had fallen off the building

Transformers 3 set

Transformers 3 set

Transformers 3 set

Transformers 3 set
Note the damaged awning and the destroyed news stand

Transformers 3 set

Transformers 3 set

Transformers 3 set

Tyrese Gibson
Tyrese Gibson

Josh Duhamel
Josh Duhamel, who was limping around the set today after injuring himself yesterday

Transformers 3 cars

Transformers 3 set

Here’s a video (from someone else) of the action scene we saw:

Transformers 3 fire
After the explosions there was a huge fire and a fire truck came immediately to put it out.

Transformers 3 chair

Transformers 3 set

Transformers 3 set

Transformers 3 set


You can see director Michael Bay in the background here directing the soldiers.


We saw Shia LaBeouf from pretty close this time, but only got pictures from the back

Optimus Prime
Optimus Prime was parked in an alley

Optimus Prime
Under protest from the crowd workers cover up Optimus Prime to keep him shiny

Transformers 3 filming in downtown Chicago

Posted on July 17th 2010 by Arthur in Chicago, Illinois, Movies

Through August 23rd, Paramount Pictures is filming Transformers 3 in Chicago. It’s been all over the local news here these last couple of weeks as the road blocks and detours cause a bit of extra chaos downtown, especially on the weekends when most of the action takes place.

This weekend the production crew took over Michigan Avenue Bridge and part of Michigan Avenue and turned it into a war zone. We drove down to Chicago today to witness some of the movie magic. Here are movies and pictures from our visit.

This video starts with the sky divers gliding around Trump Tower. They were actually gliding for a while before the video starts, it was very neat. We later found a great place across the river to see some shots of Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Josh Duhamel and the other soldiers running up and down stairs. We watched them for several hours as they were being directed by Michael Bay

Movie helicopter
This helicopter with camera in front was flying around most of the afternoon, presumably taking shots of the skyline and buildings to later add CGI robots

Shortly after we arrived we saw five stuntmen jump out of a helicopter, glide around Trump Tower with their winged suits (very cool!) and then open their parachutes and land on a barge in the Chicago River. We saw this twice but it was done at least once more before we arrived. The skydivers jumped out of a black helicopter while the above white helicopter circled around filming them

Some of the tall buildings had camera men on top to film the skydivers

Scuba divers
Scuba divers of the Chicago Police were ready to jump in the water in case a skydiver ended up in the river. All went well what we saw, except once one of the gliders missed the barge and ended up on Wacker Drive

There were a lot of Paramount trucks and trailers everywhere around the set

These actors just picked up their machine guns and other weapons at a wardrobe trailer and are walking to the set. The second guy from the left is Josh Duhamel, who also played Major Lennox in the first two Transformers films

The bridge was partially opened all day with several wrecked cars attached to the north side of the bridge. The cars were hanging from steel cables.

Car wrecks
Pile of cars in front of the bridge

Movie set
Area in front of the bridge, with wrecked taxis, parts of buildings and lots of smoke and fire. One of the taxis had a 555 telephone number on it 🙂

Transformers HOPE posters
Transformers “Hope” posters based on the Obama poster by Shepard Fairey

Car wreck
In an alley off E Wacker Drive we saw people positioning an upside-down MTA bus (a fake Chicago CTA bus) with some other debris

Car wreck
This wrecked truck was right in front of the Corner Bakery where we had lunch

Car wreck
Same car from the side

Car wreck

The Transformers cars were parked on Michigan Avenue and covered up to keep them clean

More Transformers

More Transformers

Terminator 3 Public Assistance T-Shirt
All around the area were people in these yellow t-shirts telling people to keep moving and not block sidewalks or get too close to the set


Lots of other people have posted videos on YouTube. Here are some nice ones:

Video by billyripkin, from YouTube

Video by spudart, from YouTube

Video by mjleshock, from YouTube

Video by zztopeurope, from YouTube

Looking for injured birds in Chicago

Posted on April 15th 2010 by Arthur in Birds, Chicago, Nature

On the last few Thursdays we have been volunteering with the rescue and recovery of injured birds in downtown Chicago. We do this with Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation, which organizes rescue and recovery twice-yearly for 10 to 12 weeks during bird migration.

Chicago Skyline at Night
Chicago skyline via Flickr

Thousands of birds strike Chicago’s tall buildings every year as they migrate through the city. The stunned birds fall to the ground where they lie unconscious and risk being eaten by gulls, stepped on by pedestrians or dying from their injuries. Teams of volunteers go out every morning during migration to look for injured birds. They probably only find a fraction of the birds that hit, as many of them will fall on awnings, ledges and rooftops. Fortunately, about 90% of the birds rescued by volunteers from Flint Creek recover after treatment and can be released back into the wild. This is a great program.

Another city that I know of with a similar program is Toronto, where since 1993 FLAP volunteers have picked up over 44,000 birds from 162 species!

American Woodcock
Our team salvaged and rescued several American Woodcocks in the last few weeks
(photo via Flickr)

Today was our fifth time. We got up at 3:45am, left the house at 4:00am and arrived in Chicago at 5:00am. It is nice to see that many of the buildings in Chicago have their lights turned off during these migration months, which is an effort that has helped reduce bird strikes in the last few years. We drove and walked around Chicago’s downtown loop until about 7:30am today. It’s a large area to cover, so we run around a lot, with our large net, flashlight and backpack full of paper bags. Amy and I also carry walkie talkies which makes it easier to split up and cover different parts of a building and stay in contact.

Brown Creeper ... landed next to me today
Volunteers have also been finding a lot of Brown Creepers these last few weeks
(photo via Flickr)

We try to do the buildings that we have to check along the Chicago River before the sun comes up and the gulls come out, as they are known to snatch up injured birds right in front of rescue volunteers!! Flint Creek has provided us with maps of the City. There are over 125 buildings on the map marked in pink, and these are the buildings that we need to check. This is a huge area, so we’ve split the area up in three parts. Amy and I do one part and two other volunteers do the other areas.

Map of Chicago with rescue area

Flint Creek has two locations in the suburbs and a facility at Northerly Island. This last place is only a 10-minute drive from downtown (see map above), which is great for the birds! Timely treatment is important to survival rates and bringing them to this nearby location increases their chance of survival. After finishing our route we call our two teammates and check if they found anything. If they did we swing by their locations to pick up any bags with birds and then head to Northerly Island, where a triager takes care of them.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (photo via Flickr)

This morning we found a live Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (see above) and dead Palm Warbler (see below). Fortunately, we have not found so many birds yet on our days. I don’t know whether it’s still too early in the season, if it’s the weather or if we haven’t been looking in the right places. In any case I’m happy when we find less birds as that means more birds made it through Chicago without hitting buildings.

Palm Warbler (Yellow -Eastern form) - Peachtree City CBC. Dec '09
Palm Warbler (photo via Flickr)

For more information about rescue and recovery in Chicago see the Flint Creek website. For the Toronto program see

Day at the Field Museum

Posted on September 26th 2009 by Arthur in Chicago, Illinois, Museums

Today we spent the day at The Field Museum in Chicago. It had been a while since we had been to this excellent museum. One of the reasons we went today was to see a lecture by author Glen Chilton on his new book about Labrador Ducks. Amy wrote some more about this here.

Field Museum
Main Hall of the museum

Field Museum
Me in front of the display of T-Rex Sue

Celebrating Apollo 11: An Evening with Astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Jim Lovell

Posted on July 23rd 2009 by Arthur in Chicago, Illinois, Space

Yesterday we spent the day in Chicago to visit the Adler Planetarium and see legendary Apollo and Gemini astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Jim Lovell at a special event organized by the museum. We had a great time and even got to shortly meet Buzz Aldrin in the end as he signed our copy of his new autobiography Magnificent Desolation.

Adler's Apollo celebration poster
Poster for the Apollo 11 Celebration at Adler Planetarium with the famous picture of Buzz Aldrin on the moon with Neil Armstrong and the lunar module reflected in his visor

We took the 7:38am train from Round Lake Beach and arrived at Chicago’s Union Station at 8:55. Here we took bus 130 to the Museum Campus where we spent the rest of the morning and better part of the afternoon at the Adler Planetarium. The last time we had been here was about 10 years ago, and a lot of the exhibits had changed since. There’s a nice new exhibit about the Apollo program called Shoot for the Moon that tells the story of astronaut Jim Lovell’s life and career using artifacts from his personal collection. It even includes the fully-restored Gemini 12 spacecraft flown by Captain Lovell and Buzz Aldrin in 1966, which is on long-term loan from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC.

Jim Lovell's artifacts
Jim Lovell’s helmet and glove. Note the glove has a little booklet attached to it with instructions about the extravehicular activities the astronaut was supposed to perform on the moon, but unfortunately it was never used because Apollo 13 never made it to the moon

Shoot for the Moon was closed for the public for a short time in the morning and in the afternoon as Buzz Aldrin and Jim Lovell were visiting. We did not get to see them there, but that was okay as we were going to see them in the evening anyway. After the museum we walked to Shedd Aquarium and took a Shoreline Sightseeing water taxi to Navy Pier where we had dinner at Capi’s Italian Kitchen.

The special event with the astronauts took place starting at 7pm at the Thorne Auditorium of Northwestern University, just north of Navy Pier. We walked there and there was already a huge line outside when we arrived at 6:15pm. Unfortunately it was not allowed to take pictures during the interview but everyone started to take pictures when it was over so we quickly took this one:

Jim Lovell's artifacts
From left: moderator Craig Nelson, Buzz Aldrin and Jim Lovell

The two astronauts were on stage talking about their experiences in the Gemini and Apollo programs. They received a huge applause from the 800 people in the auditorium when they arrived and a standing ovation when they left. The interview was moderated by author Craig Nelson (Rocket Men) and lasted about 90 minutes. Questions that had been gathered from the audience were read and answered too.

It was wonderful to see the two American heroes in person and afterward Buzz Aldrin was available to sign his new book Magnificent Desolation.

Buzz Aldrin signing books

The interview ended at about 8:30pm and people poured out of the auditorium to stand in line for Buzz’s book signing in the hall, where a table had been set up. I think that they underestimated the number of people interested in the signing as it was a bit of a chaos to get everyone organized into an orderly line, which eventually extended to well outside onto the street. We were toward the end of the line and people there were getting worried that it would take hours to get through the line and that Buzz may not stay that long. A couple of the organizers came outside to reassure people that Buzz knew how long the line was and that he personally guaranteed that everyone who wanted to get a signature would get one, even if you have multiple books to sign. That was nice!

It actually went pretty fast and within an hour we were there. Buzz was signing very quickly and was not doing any personalizing. When it was my turn I thanked him profoundly and told him what an honor it was. He looked up, smiled at me and moved on to the next book. He is without a doubt the coolest person I have ever met in person. He was the second person to walk on the moon, which is probably the highest achievement of mankind.

Here I am proudly displaying my signed book before we ran to catch our train:

Signed book

Our Visit to Fermilab

Posted on May 28th 2009 by Arthur in Chicago, Illinois, Science & technology

Yesterday we visited Fermilab, home to the world’s largest operaring particle accelerator. I hear you say: but wait, isn’t the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland larger? Yes, but it isn’t operating yet; they’re still fixing the mess since it broke down in September last year. When the LHC goes online it will be the world’s largest and highest-energy particle accelerator, with a tunnel of 17 miles / 27 kilometers. The Tevatron at Fermilab is still 3.9 miles / 6.28 kilometer. You can see it on the following map.

Map of Fermilab

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