Ever since I started this blog, I’ve made a big effort to post regularly. Unfortunately, I slacked off last week. Well, I don’t know if packing, putting our junk into storage, and moving to the other side of the country is considered slacking, but I do feel badly about falling out of the loop and not blogging. In addition, I was horrified to find how much I had to read in my aggregator when I was finally able to get online today. My problem is that I always worry I’ll miss something interesting or important in one of the blogs or journals I read, so I’m completely unwilling to nuke the posts and start from zero. And I keep old posts from other blogs forever on topics that I might want to blog about one day, so I’m now faced with hundreds of new and old posts. I can’t believe I’m even a pack-rat in my online life!

So we’re here now in Chicago; just got in yesterday. It’s rather surreal to get into a car one morning in nice warm Florida and find yourself the very next day sprinting to a CompUSA through a mix of driving snow and sleet. But I’m still glad to be here. It’s nice to be able to walk outside and have a bookstore, a Banana Republic, a gourmet market, and a library right down the street. There are so many great museums and cultural activities here. This is my first experiment in city living and it will be fun temporarily until I find a job, or permanently if that job happens to be in Chicago. I’m just going to keep on looking for jobs and enjoy my time in Chicago — however long or brief that time may be. If you know of any fabulous places I must visit or restaurants I must try, please let me know.

There are two websites I’ve been using that have been amazingly helpful for getting my bearings in Chicago. Those are Google Maps Beta and A9. A9 I’ve written about before, and I have used it frequently in the past few weeks to find cool places in Chicago. Using Block View, I could tell if those “cool places” were in neighborhoods I’d feel comfortable visiting alone. How cool!

Google Maps is the first of the online map programs I have not gotten totally annoyed with (at least not yet). It allows users to easily zoom in on an area in the United States, and the zooming is smooth and quick, unlike its competitors. When you punch in an address, it zooms in on it and asks if you want directions either to or from that address. If you’re looking for a specific business, it’s also easy to find. If I was looking for the local pizza joints in my area, I could simply type in “pizza in 60611” (or “pizza in chicago” if I wanted to search a larger area) and the results will apear on the map with little flags and a list of the places on the right. It’s intuitive, fast, and easy to use. Andrea at Library Techtonics wrote a more in-depth critique of Google Maps that’s worth checking out. I’m just thrilled that finally, someone figured out that usability should be a concern in creating a web-based mapping program! If I had to wait for Yahoo! Maps to reload one more time, I may have gone mad! A9 and Google Maps are definitely usable, useful, and fun to use.