Chicago! And what's going on in general
Wow, 2 months without an entry. Crazy to see how fast creativity stops when works gets more stressful. And this already the description of the main part of my life in the last couple of weeks, working and more working. After finishing up one big project in February, I've been waiting for things to be slow down, but somehow, they just refused. Well, that's not entirely true, it has become a bit more relaxed and I was able to have a bit more free time. But more on that later.
In terms of general news, I have extended my contract at Purdue until end of March next year, so I will be staying in the US a bit longer. Looks like I am indeed enjoying my stay :-)
I will be at CERN in April, but after that, getting a car is high on my priority list, so I can explore a bit more of the country and make the best out of my time in the US. Another reason why it will be useful is that I will be spending a lot of time at Fermilab over in Illinoius in the second half of the year. That's a major particle phyiscs lab and an important center for the US contributions to CERN. They are founding me as a visitor for some time later this year to collaborate with other scientiest stationed there. So I will be going back and forth between there and West Lafayette quite a bit in late summer and the fall.
But life has to offer more than just work, and so I finally managed to do my first trip within the US, to Chicago. I took the train up there on Saturday morning, which was a bit of bad timing, as the city greeted me with fog and lots of rain.
So it was time to activate plan B and I headed over to the Field Museum, which, being one of the top addresses among the natural history museums, is located in an impressive building close to the lake.
The museum houses a couple of very impressive specimens. Foremost among them is probably Sue, one of the best conseved T-Rex skeletons. She greets you directly in the entrance hall and is surely an impressive beast.
A large portion of the museum houses the classic natural history museum stuff, so lots of dioramas of stuffed animals. I didn't get much out of those, and I suspect that the time for this kind of exhibition of nature is coming to an end. But there are of lot of other great exhibits in the museums which make is more then worth the price of admission. I was very impressed with their exhibitions on the history of indigeneous american peoples, covering a large number of cultures from all over the Americas, from the earliest immigrations to the Aztecs and Incas of the Natives of the grait plains. What stood out to me that they always tried to connect these cultures to the modern days, featuring many statements of members these cultures living today, talking about how they live their heritage after so much of it has been destroyed and lost over the centuries.
Another highlight for my inner child was certainly the exhibition on mass extension, featuring the dinosaur hall, which has a truly impressive set of skeletons. Triceratops, Stegosaurus, Apatosaurus, all my favourites from when I was six were there. Further great exhibits covered China, ancient Egypt, the cultural history of tattoos, and the one I was most fond if: The scientitic work the museum does with its hundreds of thousands of specimens. It illustrates for example how they can use their collections of animals gathered over many years to pinpoint the effects of human internvention on the physiology of different species.
After spending the day in the museum, it was time to check into the hotel and grap dinner. As a tourist in Chicago, this of course means deep dish pizza.
Very tasty, but also very different from what you normally would recognize as a pizza. With the thick crust, it feels more like eating a quiche. After dinner, I spent some more time walking around the now slightly dryer city, but I was tired and called it a night quite early.
On Sunday, the weather had improved, but was still very foggy. On this day, I made my great tour of the city, which presented itself from it's magical, though slightly depressing, side, espeically in the almost empty park at the lake shore.
Later that day, the weather cleared up a bit and I spent the rest of the day walking in between the skyscrapers in downtown Chicago. One tourist attraction not to miss is the bean, a metal sculpture which nicely reflects the skyline of the city.
Chicago is certainly with impressive architecture, with it's countless skyscrapers from many decades of construction activity.
There are of lot things still to be discovered in Chicago (musems, theatres), so I will certainly be back. But it was a great first trip (which got much better after I realised that the bad weather actually made for interesting pictures :-) ). And so I dragged myself back to train station, along the Chicago river, with a big blister on one of my feet, and was very happy, but also very very tired, when I could take the train back home and finally fall into bed.