Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Aunt Renee's Weekend in Chicago

It's been a couple years since Aunt Renee last came to visit, but this Memorial Day weekend presented the perfect opportunity to remedy that.

She and Adrienne (a friend) arrived Saturday morning and, while Adrienne kicked the shopping part of the weekend into gear, Auntie, Heath and I had a delicious lunch at the Grand Luxe Cafe just off Michigan Ave. and then went on a scavenger hunt for this little antique button shop that used to be Rush St. Having no luck in our search, we drowned our disappoint in Starbucks, catching up on our lives since Aunt Renee and I are both terrible phone people.

We headed back to the hotel to catch the tail end of the Yankee's game and then change for dinner. Aunt Renee treated us to an incredible meal at Spiaggia, the best Italian restaurant in Chicago (possibly the U.S.) and a favorite of Barack and Michelle Obama. After the first bite you could understand why — from the bread to the antipasti, main course and dessert, everything was DELICIOUS.

On Sunday, we picked the ladies up for a driving tour of Garfield Park and Hyde Park before heading back downtown for a late lunch at Gino's East, our favorite deep dish joint.

From there, we walked down to the Wrigley Building to catch the Wendella Boat Tour, the lake and river tour Heath "guided" a couple summers ago. While our tour guide wasn't as good as Heath, she did a great job showing off our beautiful city.

Luckily, we had picked up a hotel blanket on our way to the boat because for late May, it was COLD on the water!

Monday was pretty chill. Aunt Renee came up and we had brunch with her and Richard at Cafe Selmarie in Lincoln Square. From there, we walked down to the Davis Theater to catch an afternoon showing of "Star Trek." I thought it was EXCELLENT...a lot of fun, true to the original but fresh, good story and great cast.

After that, we met up with Adrienne for dinner at Opart Thai and then made our way over to Wrigley Field to watch the Cubs play the Pittsburgh Pirates. It was a close game (solid hitting, terrible pitching) which ended with our Cubs losing — bummer. Luckily, we were warm and had peanuts to munch on.

The weekend went by too quickly, but it was great having Aunt Renee and Adrienne here for even a little while.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Good news all around...

On this, our 201st post, we'd like to congratulate...

Aaron and Lenore for welcoming Baby J into the world:

Elijah Barton Knight Johnson was born Monday, May 25 @ 11:59am. He weighs 8lbs 11oz and is 21 inches long.


And my dad, who just got a fantastic promotion described below:

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 26, 2009—Anthony R. Pietrangelo has been elected senior vice president and chief nuclear officer at the Nuclear Energy Institute. He had previously been vice president of regulatory affairs, a position he has served in since 2006.

As chief nuclear officer, Pietrangelo will lead NEI’s nuclear generation division in a variety of areas, including generic nuclear plant technical and management issues, safety-focused regulation and interaction with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, used nuclear fuel management, nuclear plant security and implementing policy and programmatic activities supporting the development of new nuclear plants.

“Tony is an industry leader who has an in-depth knowledge of all aspects of nuclear technologies and operations and has been an effective industry leader throughout his career. He has been a major asset to NEI for two decades,” said Marvin S. Fertel, NEI president and chief executive officer. “I look forward to working closely with him to maintain the exemplary reliable and safe operations of our industry and in moving ahead with development of new nuclear facilities.”

Pietrangelo has been with NEI and its predecessor organizations since 1989, responsible for the management of safety focused regulatory initiatives, performance-based regulation and other comprehensive technical and regulatory issues.

Pietrangelo has nearly 30 years experience in the nuclear energy industry. Prior to joining NEI, Pietrangelo was a project engineer at Westinghouse Electric Corp., where he worked on the construction, testing and start-up of nuclear power plants in the United States, Brazil, South Korea and the Philippines. He is a graduate of the Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Science and holds a Master’s of Business Administration degree from the Keller Graduate School of Management.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Priestly Kingdom: Social Ethics as Gospel

"We call a nonviolent man 'Lord' and in his name rekindle the arms race. We call a poor man 'Lord' and with his name on our lips deepen the ditch between rich and poor. We call 'Lord' a man who told us to love our enemies and we polarize the globe in the name of Christian values, approving of 'moderate repression' as long as it is done by our friends.' - From the book's final essay, "Civil Religion in America"

My John Howard Yoder kick continues with this collection of essays. I find aspects of Yoder attractive - his rigorous critique of the church's collaboration with nationalist projects, his uncompromising commitment to pacifism. But at the same time, I continue to find him elusive. As I mentioned in my earlier review of The Politics of Jesus, Yoder believes the church should engage in "revolutionary subordination" vis-a-vis the state. I understand the subordination piece, but have yet to figure out the content of the revolutionary - and in the absence of that, his social ethic devolves, in my view, into an unacceptable quietism. I was reassured to find in this volume, however, praise for the likes of William Lloyd Garrison, Martin Luther King, Jr., and William Jennings Bryan. Maybe I am a Yoderian yet...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Weekend with Jenny

While I'm bummed that my wonderful in-laws no longer live in Southern Cal, my annual trip to the CDA conference in Anaheim still comes with visiting perks since Jenny and Tyler live in LA (or The Valley, I think).

Jenny picked me up at LAX on Wednesday and took me to Anaheim for some tasty In-n-Out before heading back to her place. Then, after a busy couple days of conferencing,she picked me back up so that we could enjoy a lovely Saturday evening together. Sushi and the Hollywood hills were involved—awesome—as well as my first pit stop at Pinkberry. Definitely lives up to the hype!

Later that night, we headed to a bar in Santa Monica for a friend's birthday, before crashing in Jenny's cozy apartment.

The next morning it was bagels at Noah's in Burbank and then back on a plane headed home to Chicago. Great trip, just never enough J-time.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

We can't all be Michelle...

In a moment of boredom I took Elle's "First Lady Quiz" to see who I matched best with: Michelle Obama, Caral Bruni-Sarkozy or Sonsoles Espinosa.

As it turns out, I am most like Ms. Espinosa, the first lady of Spain. Who knew?

Do you think I match the description?

A well-done blend of tasteful elegance and funky cool, you know how to take risks and break the fashion mold in the most graceful, tasteful way. The key is in the way you keep the core of your outfit classic—a pantsuit, a trench coat—and then make it interesting with unusual fabrics (leather, textured silk) and by adding statement-making accessories. Unlike others who shy away from seeming too "styled," you show your wardrobe off to the maximum—belting, accessorizing, and cuffing like a pro.

Take the quiz yourself here.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Rome | Day 7

On our final day in Rome we decided to go way off the beaten path and take the train out to Ostia, a beachfront town near the city. One Euro, three trains and one hour later, we were knee deep in the ruins of Ostia Antica — kind of like Pompeii except it never got covered in ash.

This ancient town is remarkably well preserved and set up to allow visitors to actually walk among the ruins instead of just around them. It was a great way to spend the morning.

Of course, it can’t be all churches, museums and ruins. We got back on the train and headed a little further out to the beach at Lido Central in Ostia. The tour book recommended taking advantage of the private beach clubs, so we paid 7 Euro in exchange for a changing area, shower, sun chairs and a prime beachfront location. It was a fantastic way to spend our last few hours before heading back to the hotel for dinner.

After our final dinner with the Xlear folk, Celeste and I finished the evening with Bellinis in the hotel bar. Tomorrow, we fly home.

Arrivederci, Roma!

Rome | Day 6

Friday was our second and final trip with the whole Xlear crew. We took a high-speed train up to Florence, which made for a trip that was both pleasant and fast.

Upon exiting the train we were herded over to meet our local guides. We were shuffled in with Anna Maria, a friendly, funny older Italian woman who was a little irreverent at times and extremely knowledgeable — we got a real kick out of her.

The first “sight” outside the station is the Church of Santa Maria Novella which, if I’m remembering correctly, is the one with the unfinished fa├žade. Michaelangelo was commissioned to design the church, but was put on another project before the final marble was placed on the front.

We then passed by the Church of San Lorenzo and the Medici chapels. The Medicis were big shots in Florence and had a hand in much of the art and life of the city.

The Academy of Fine Arts started as a place where art students could learn from and copy the masters. Today, even with the many artists represented, it is a tribute to Michaelangelo. In addition to four unfinished statues of “prisoners breaking free,” this is the place to find the original statue of David. No pictures were allowed, but we have shots of the copy coming later.

Anna Maria shared this Michaelangelo quote with us… When asked how he was able to create such striking sculptures, he responded that, “God places the sculpture in the stone. I just take pieces away to reveal it.” - I love that! David is so lifelike that you almost feel as though he could climb down off the pedestal and walk out the door. Everything from his facial expression to the way Michaelangelo sculpted the veins in his neck and hands really puts into perspective that art like this doesn’t happen much anymore.

We then walked on to admire Giotto’s Tower on il Duomo (the cathedral) in the center of town. It is right across from St. John’s Bapistry, which features the aptly named “Gates of Paradise” depicting various stories from scripture.


[baptistry & gates]

All this led us into the Palazzo Signoria where we saw the copy of David and several other statues that tried to reach his level, but—according to the people of Florence—fell short.

The palace-looking structure is now functioning as Florence’s city hall, I believe. Here are some great pics from inside:

We had lunch on the Palazzo Signoria before taking advantage of our free time. We would have visited the Uffizi museum (where you’ll find Botticelli originals), but the line was SO LONG. Instead, we walked along the river and then over to the Church of Santa Croce where Michaelangelo and Dante (of Divine Comedy fame) are buried. No pics allowed inside, but I love the couple of shots we got of Celeste in the garden.

In addition to checking out local artists and leather goods, we picked up our second helpings of gelato this trip and then swung by Dante’s house to pay our respects.

By the time we were back on the train, the week was definitely catching up with me and when we got back to Rome, we decided not to go out to eat but instead, Celeste went over to the local grocery store and we had a lovely dinner of bread, cheese, prosciutto and Chianti on our hotel room patio. Perfect!