I listened to a lot of music in college. That’s not to say I didn’t listen to a lot of music before and now after college, but college was the first time I had access high speed internet and I downloaded and listened to as much as I could. I spent a lot of time at the local record stores: Green Street Records until it closed down, and at Parasol Records afterward, buying everything local they had. Or I would order things from the local record label, Polyvinyl - I remember waiting at the mailbox for the first Headlights EP to arrive in 2004 since at the time it was mail order only.

I listened to as much local music and went to as many local shows as I could fit in my schedule, and there was no shortage of bands in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois (or bands from there). Braid, Wolfie, Absinthe Blind, Headlights, American Football, Hum, and on and on. I remember being blown away by Absinthe Blind around the time Rings came out in 2002. And with the campus and Polyvinyl Records in town, there were a lot of great bands that came through. In addition to local bands, I think I saw nearly every band on the Polyvinyl roster at the time when they came to down (Saturday Looks Good to Me and of Montreal at Highdive - separate shows; Mates of State of The Like Young at Cafe Paradiso - same show; among others), and a ton of other bands that came through. Since a vast majority of the campus hailed from the Chicago area, I learned about bands from there too and checked out as many as I could, the names of which are too many to list.

One of those Chicago area bands I listened to was Troubled Hubble. I first found out about Troubled Hubble when I was at a Red Hot Valentines show at the Cowboy Monkey in downtown Champaign in 2003. The keyboardist (Tyson Markley as far as I can tell) was wearing a Troubled Hubble t-shirt with a maple leaf on it. I went on the band’s website later that night and listened to a couple songs from Penturbia and bought the album immediately. I went on to see Troubled Hubble 3 times while I lived in Champaign. The shows were fun and the band was great and made great music.

In 2005 I moved away from Champaign. My time at the University of Illinois was over. I moved to Chicago and have lived in the area since. I saw Troubled Hubble in Chicago a couple more times in 2005. And then as many bands do, they broke up. Time moved on. The lead singer of Trouble Hubble, Chris Otepka, moved on. He moved to the west coast and pursued other projects. I went to see him at South Union Arts in Chicago after work one day when he was in town playing as Heligoats. I continue to follow his music and still buy everything he releases, but that was the last time I saw him play for a long time. I moved on. I got married to my girlfriend of many years. And now we’ve been married for 8 years and have 2 kids.

I’ve gone to a ton of other concerts since then, nearly all stemming from the music I listened to in college. These days though, with kids, my wife and I rarely get out to shows (I can count on both hands how many bands I’ve seen since having kids, and still have a few fingers left over). It has to be a pretty special band to get out for the night, and there are only a few that I feel that passionately about.

Instead, I get to listen to music at home alongside the kids. Saturday Looks Good to Me is weekend morning music, Mates of State is bathtime music, Headlights and Wolfie are general listening in the afternoons or evenings, Eluvium at bedtime, and a healthy mix of other stuff to fill in the cracks.

My son turned 1 last September. I don’t know where the year went, but I don’t know where most years go when they come to a close. Exactly one week before our son was born, my wife and I went to see Troubled Hubble at the Subterranean, the band’s first show in a decade. Most of the crowd was our age, having listened to the band 10 years ago. It was refreshing to see an older crowd at a venue, most times I feel well out of place when I go to shows. It was a fairly surreal experience. Here’s a band I saw a decade ago, back again, and everything felt like 2005 again. Thax Douglas was even there and declared that “10 years ago, Troubled Hubble was Chicago’s favorite boy band, but now they’re Chicago’s favorite man band”. I couldn’t agree more.

The same day my son turned 1, I had an interview for the MBA program at the University of Illinois. On the train ride downtown I closed my eyes, listened to Absinthe Blind, and thought back on my time in Champaign-Urbana. The interview went well and the next day I got a call. “Welcome back to the University of Illinois”.

Nothing is like what it was a little over a decade ago, but at the same time, everything is.

Every day I write a digital journal entry about my day and attach a photo of one or both of my children, with very few exceptions. Sometimes I’ll be away on a business trip and will attach a photo of my day, unless my wife sends a photo of the kids. This day in 2015 was one of those exceptions, and even more of an exception coupled by the fact that I was at home that day and had taken plenty of photos of my kid (there was only 1 at the time).

There was a time where I used to read Twitter during the day and I kept up with it all the time. Now with limited free time and a non-stop day at work, I usually catch up with it late in the evening. So it happened that I didn’t catch up on Twitter until around 10pm on May 12, 2015.

There was a time before Twitter though, and during that time there was a thing called "photoblogs". Sure, they still exist now, but not in the way they did several years ago. I started mine toward the end of college. I was encouraged by someone on an indie music message board to put together a website after sharing some of my photos. After moving to Chicago I tried to connect with a couple local photobloggers, but at that time I only had a 2 megapixel point and shoot digital camera and and I wasn’t really in a place to talk about cameras or photography in depth with people. It happened by accident though that I met Michael Chu while taking photos at the Chicago Marathon in 2005. Mike was injured at the time and couldn’t race like he normally would have. Instead by chance we were both on the Randolph Street bridge over Columbus Drive (I snapped a photo of him there). I don’t recall how the conversation started, but I do remember knowing his website at the time. I followed another photoblog named Whateverland, run by Archie FlorCruz, and it happened that both Mike and Archie had been to the same art festival in Wicker Park at different times on the same day and had taken the same photo (Mike’s photo, Archie’s photo). Mike and I became friends after that, and I befriended a number of other local photobloggers as well, including Vallen Graham. The earliest email I can find from him dates back 10 years.

Then on December 16, 2007 I met Vallen for the first time. There was a fresh few inches of snow on the ground and as a result it took me forever to get downtown that morning (I drove to a CTA station and then took the blue line downtown from my home in the suburbs). We walked around the city for a couple hours, taking photos of snow and chatting, and then parted ways. I continued to meet up with Vallen regularly and we now communicate nearly daily. We never talk on the phone, and we only see each other in person once a year or so these days since we live 733 miles apart, but we communicate in some way nearly every day. The only other person I have that much communication with is my wife.

We were texting on May 11 of last year. Vallen was in Washington DC for the weekend with his girlfriend and was headed back to New York the following day. So when I caught up on Twitter the evening of the 12th and saw that there was an accident on an Amtrak train headed from DC to NYC my heart sank. I quickly texted him to see if he was on the train. Then I checked Find My Friends (yeah, we can follow each other’s every move). There he was, right where the crash had taken place. With no word from him, I spent the next hour comparing the location of his phone to photos and videos of the crash online. The best I could tell was that he was in car 3, but there’s only so accurate that it gets and at times it looked like maybe he was in car 1. I called 3 hospitals that victims were being sent to that night to see if he was ok, but none of them had admitted him. I cried. I didn’t sleep that night. The next morning the news added 2 more hospitals to the list. Thankfully one of them had admitted and released him. Waves of relief swept over; doomsday scenarios vanished. I was just hoping that he had fared well from the accident. He wrote his account of it all, and it’s very much worth a read. He certainly didn’t come away unscathed, though he made it out alive.

The photo from May 12, 2015 was a shot of the accident. I certainly didn’t have to face the accident, but one of my closest friends did. I haven’t had a close friend die yet, and I’m glad that’s still true. I couldn’t imagine losing my friend Vallen, but a year ago my mind was going wild with thoughts of never seeing or talking to him again. I’m overwhelmingly glad that didn’t come to pass.

The internet is weird. It was because of a message board that I expanded my photography hobby and started my photoblog in the first place. And it was because of that photoblog that I met some great friends. The internet is weird, and I like it.

Tonight I walked across the Potomac Rivier. I didn’t intend to do so. I didn’t even know I could.

I’m in a small alcove in Maryland at a conference and I wanted to get away from the isolation for a short time. So I took a cab to old town Alexandria, VA. I like talking to cab drivers. They usually have good stories about life or are just good conversationalists in general. This man talked about how he was part of a boat club that was founded in the late 1800s (what is he doing driving for people if he’s in a boat club?) in Alexandria, but that the club was being town down by the city to make room for a new boutique hotel. Everyone loves eminent domain. I asked him to give me recommendations for things to do in the short time I had. He told me some good places to walk and a couple good places to eat - the main reason I wanted to take a cab in the first place was for the recommendations. I could have taken a water taxi, but there’s no guarantee that anyone would actually be from the area and would know a good place to grab a drink/meal. I’m sure I could check an app too, but I prefer someone’s in-person opinion. Anyway, the cab conversation was good and he gave me some good recommendations.

I walked around on my own for an hour or so, taking photos of things that looked interesting - as interesting as a place can be that is half touristy (maybe?) and mostly residential, with a ton of old homes. Then I stopped in at the bar/restaurant that the cab driver recommended. The place had a great vibe, good drinks, and decent food. Not in the least touristy, which is perfect. I had a couple drinks and some dinner. A regular who also happened to be a bartender came in at one point and the bartender started talking to him about the new boutique hotel that was opening soon and about how he was going to make bank working at it. He was going to make bank, but didn’t know the name of the hotel. Having walked by the construction during my photo walk, I interjected with the name. I also brought up that it used to be a boat club (making assumptions based on previous conversation in the cab). The bartender acknowledged that, but of course he wasn’t going to make bank from the boat club, so who cares. Turns out that even historic towns and people in them have no sense of or care for history.

The topic moved to the place where I was staying and how there was a casino going in - something the cab driver also brought up in our earlier conversation. The bartender was really looking forward to visiting. He loves slot machines and the glitz and glamour of Vegas-style casinos. I often go back to the theme of “lifestyles”. Everyone has their own lifestyle. Mine is a 180 degree difference from this bartender’s. I went to a seemingly old city to get away from the lights and sound of where I was having my conference. When I was walking around taking photos, there were times where it was so quiet that I could hear every footstep, I could hear every time my camera strap moved ever so slightly, and I could probably hear a pin drop. But then I stepped into a bar in this town and instead of having the same lifestyle and same reason for being there, the person had dreams of bigger and better things. I want quiet; he wants loud. Maybe the grass is always greener, or maybe it’s just lifestyles.

As I was in the car on the way to Alexandria, we drove over the Potomac. I noticed that there was a pedestrian walkway on the side and I was intrigued. It wasn’t a short bridge - it’s over a mile long (the Woodrow Wilson Bridge), so I was surprised to see as many people as I did - maybe a dozen or two as we drove along. After hearing some more conversation about the new casino and area where I was staying, I started to get the urge to be one of those dozen pedestrians too. I wanted a break from the lights and sounds, but now I was right back in them. I’m a technology director, but sometimes I want to just be alone with nature. My dad used to take me to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. It was his way of getting away. He was an electrical engineer and was constantly busy and constantly thinking about work. He would wake up at 2am and draw some ideas out on paper at the kitchen table. Often when I woke up there would be his scribbles sitting around - results of his overnight idea sessions. He used the BWCAW (I prefer BWCA) to get away, as a refuge for his mind working 24/7. He told me that someday I would understand and would also take refuge in something. He was right. I use photography, but at the same time sometimes I just like to be in the middle of nowhere, disconnected, and in complete quiet. Sometimes I still think about work, but at the very least, it’s some semblance of being able to process whatever needs to be processed. I asked the bartender if it was possible to walk across the bridge. He knew exactly how, and I was thankful. A refuge. I finished my meal and drink and cashed out and checked out. No more boat club, no more discussions about where I needed to go back to.

I walked across the Potomac and it was lovely. It was strange, but lovely. As I flew into the city yesterday, I saw the Washington Monument seemingly feet away, from the airplane window. Now I was seeing it from many miles away - a beacon in the distance, over a long stretch of freezing water. It shimmered, along with the Capitol dome, and a faint lightened White House. I felt so very American and at home in that feeling, but at the same time so far away from home - my wife and kids back in my real home so far away. Traffic zoomed by, just feet away, enveloping me in noise, beautiful noise. I wished I had a tape recorder so I could record this for later. But there was something more lovely about not being able to record this. By now, my phone was nearly dead and I was out of film. I could just look and listen and nothing else. Disconnected.

Tonight I walked across the Potomac River, disconnected, and it was amazing.

I felt the need to start this blog up again. Why? I’m writing things down to remember now, and I’m writing things down to remember later. I’m writing things down because I enjoy writing. I like seeing my thoughts on a page or a screen. Also because I forget things, often just a few minutes after thinking of them. And more often than not I wish I had written those thoughts down at that moment. Too often thoughts come into my head and leave just as quickly, never to be remembered again. Lately I’m getting better at capturing those thoughts, but I need a place to store them long term that I can easily look back on. That’s what this is.

TheCornfields.com was the first domain name I ever bought, back in 2003. I originally bought it with the idea of making a satirical website like The Onion. That idea never got off the ground. Since then it has been a site about Minneapolis (my home town), a photoblog, a regular blog, a photo portfolio, a blog again, a web design portfolio, a blog yet again, a site with my web development projects, then nothing. It has been nothing since 2012, and yet I refuse to give up the domain name. I’m just too tied to it to ever let it go. The site has really been a long string of discarded projects or things that couldn’t hold my interest long enough to last.

During that time that this site has laid in waste, I’ve run my photoblog, PhotoEntropy with a photo every day since May 3, 2005. And I ran Chicago Past with 2 photos a day for about 2 years. I can keep some projects going. Writing is harder though.

I’ve tried to maintain a blog in the past but it’s never worked out well. Sometimes it lacked direction, sometimes I would start writing ambitious posts and then never finish them. Or I would go too long without posting and then either forget or feel so bad about not posting that I just take the website down. I’m determined to change this. Every night after my daughter goes down to bed I sit down and write 500-1000 words about my day. No matter where I am or how tired, I force myself to do this daily and I’ve been successful for the past 18 months. This daily task makes running a blog feel much more manageable. Of course that doesn’t mean I’m going to write daily blog posts. The posts will likely come monthly, sometimes more often, sometimes less often. They’ll also likely be longer posts.

If I’m going to write something here it’s going to be meaningful to me and hopefully to you. I have a great number of interests that I’m passionate about and anything that ends up here will hopefully show that. I’m not here to convince anyone of anything. I’m just here to write down and share my thoughts before I forget them again.