A Fair Day for a Faire

One reason I love Chicago is the street fairs. There are street fairs going on all over the city throughout the summer. Last Saturday I went to the Custer’s Last Stand Festival in Evanston. It was conveniently nestled around the Main St. El stop, so it should have been simple to get to.

The General Himself

General George Armstrong Custer, in the flesh.

Even more pictures (and, incidentally, some more words) after the cut. Continue reading

Friday Food Review – June 8th 2012

One of the beautiful things about living in a big city like Chicago is the infinite variety of food offerings. Especially a city that worships food the way Chicago does — I’m looking at you, Taste of Chicago (which I will actually be able to attend this year!). You can get off at just about any bus stop or El station and have hundreds of different little (and big) local food joints within easy walking distance. That number climbs into the thousands if you want to take a nice long walk to work off those calories!

And I love food, so I will be partaking of Chicago’s food variety as often as my budget allows. So because I wanted to post some lighter fare before Part 2 of Networking for the Socially Challenged–and because this blog is as much about me being in Chicago as much as my job hunting/networking issues–I’ve decided to create a repeating feature in which I talk about some of the food I’ve eaten here recently. It will also serve as emergency filler when I need a post but can’t think of a topic. It won’t be every week; I don’t eat out that often (but I wish I did!). I’ll post whenever I amass enough photos to make it interesting.

Fondue, pancakes, hot Asian buns, and soup after the cut. Continue reading

Doin’ that tourist thang…

…although if I live here, I guess I’m technically not a tourist.

My colleague and former classmate Roger Renteria (author of the WriteTechie blog) arrived in town yesterday for the STC Summit, so I decided to take a break from my “personal branding” project (more on that in a future post) and show him around downtown. I hadn’t done more than pass through downtown on the Orange Line since I moved here, so I figured I was due.

Way too many photos after the cut.

Continue reading

Of Western and Women

I play a game called Starcraft II, which has a very active online community. It also happens to have a very active “real life” community here in Chicago. Within hours of my arrival, I knew that there was an Internet cafe/gaming lounge with SC2 player meetups every Thursday. The cafe, Ignite Network, has similar brethren in Albuquerque, but they never seemed particularly successful, so I was skeptical. However, I could make no judgments until I got there.

Which meant navigating Chicago’s public transit system.

Ignite Network

Ignite’s cafe as seen from behind my assigned monitor.

This wasn’t a particularly bad thing. Chicago’s transit is so far ahead of Albuquerque’s that you really can’t even compare them. Plus, I’m armed with Google Maps and GPS on my smartphone to ensure that if I somehow got lost, I’d be able to get un-lost.

The route seemed pretty easy: Grab a westbound bus from near where I’m staying, and then grab the southbound bus at Western. However, it is not clear from Google Maps that Western actually has three distinct bus routes: North Western, Western, and South Western. With minimal overlap. So I hopped on the North Western bus, only to get booted off to hunt down the Western bus. It wasn’t hard to find, but it did mean a 15-minute wait I could have avoided by taking the train-to-bus route option instead. Well, lesson learned.

Anyway, I got to Ignite and had a good time. There were other girls there! Most SC2-related events have very few, and most of those are wives/girlfriends who don’t actually play. I come from a school and a work environment where a male-female ratio of 3:1 or even 4:1 is normal. You get used to being “one of the guys,” but it is really fun to be able to meet and connect with other women who play.

We’ve come a long way from the isolated basement gamer stereotype. Online gaming and Facebook have really enabled these tight-knit, and surprisingly large, geek communities. However, even among guys, it’s hard to find people who really “get” gaming and its community–especially in a game like SC2 that has a very specific niche audience. Most people still believe in the basement gamer, so it’s even more amazing to find other women within the community who genuinely enjoy playing.

I had a great time. The atmosphere is great, the people were welcoming, and the cafe makes a good cup of tea. And it was nice to be able to play and chat with other women and not feel like “one of the guys” is the only option.

There’s a joke among gamers: “There are no girls on the Internet.” I’m glad to say that’s finally changing.

Oh Sweet Home Chicago

Ever since I was a little girl, I have wanted to live in Chicago. My dad was one of six born and raised in Chicago, and most of them stuck around. As a result, we visited the Second City nearly every summer. More recently, we began visiting in the winter as well. Despite having seen Chicago weather at its worst–July and December–I still fell in love. Born and raised a New Mexican high desert rat, I could not be attracted to a more dissimilar climate. But the allure of the buildings, the “L”, the parks, the lake shore, the festivals, the museums, and the concerts all greatly outweigh the cold and the humidity.

Lake Point Tower and Navy Pier

Some day I will live here… (via )

And now, nearly one year after I graduated from New Mexico Tech with a BS in Technical Communication, I have my chance. My contract with the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array is winding down, so my boss gave me permission to travel to Chicago while telecommuting part time. I also have some freelancing work I can do to help bolster my savings while I hunt for my city dream job.

So I packed as many necessities as I could into a suitcase and pulled up my roots to move to Chicago and dwell in my aunt and uncle’s basement. I will spend the next three (or more) months searching for a job. If I get one, I will move here permanently, and my childhood dream will come true.

Part job-hunt blog, part travelogue, this blog will detail my various misadventures as I try to make my way in the big city. This is my Second City Odyssey.