Monday, October 26, 2009

Home again

I'm home from the tax conference in Chicago (well, see the previous post - came home in time for the concert) and most of the e-mail deluge is cleaned up. Three days (purposely) without electronic access meant much time spent deleting viagra and nigerian scam mail before getting to the meat of the matters.

And that was just on the work account.

Bits and pieces of the trip:

In spite of having over two hundred and fifty lawyers (tax lawyers, to boot) and c.p.a.s in the same spot for an extended period of time, the conference was informative and worthwhile. In the tradition of university administrators worldwide, we spent a bit of time griping about the money pit that is the Athletic Department at each of our schools. Some things truly transcend the public/private university divide.

Chicago architecture is simultaneously charming and utterly appalling. Neither the older nor the newer construction fell mostly into one category over the other; it seems every generation has had at least one planning board/committee with the power to approve building projects that has been utterly blind to grace and beauty.

You can earn big points with your boss when you realize he really wants to order the fillet, but doesn't want to unless you do as steak I've had in ages (Carmines on Rush Street - yes, we went to an Italian restaurant and had steak; see reference to earning points).

Westin on Michigan I could not for the life of me get a decent cup of coffee out of them, whether in the room (where the in-room coffee stash was decaf only when I arrived), from the catering staff or at the coffee stand in the lobby. They serve Starbucks coffee, but apparently do not brew it quite the same way. I liked the Intercontinental much better three years ago - part of the hotel is the old Medina Athletic Club, and the interior on that section has to be seen to be believed. Better service (and coffee), too.

The view on the train trip home was simply divine. It had been raining for the previous two days; while the rain had stopped, the skies were still that gunmetal grey of threatening storms. The wet darkened the tree trunks, while the red and gold leaves blazed against the darker background. Much prettier, to me at least, than on a sunny day.

Union Station is a perfect example of a place that has been remodeled hodge-podge over the years. The grand hall is gorgeous, naturally. The food court/concourses are drab, dim and depressing. The waiting areas - at least for Amtrak - are anything but inspiring. But you have to love the vaguely Art Deco movie-theater marquees over the entrances to the platforms.

Later this week I need to haul out my notes and come up with an attack plan for this year's 990. The government (or rather, Senator Grassley) has it in for Higher Ed, and I fear this fully redesigned form is just the tip of the iceberg. As long as he goes after the most highly compensated employees first - those would almost universally be the Athletic team's coaches, if you were wondering - I'll be content.

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