Monday, December 31, 2007

one man's trash

How many of us think about how much trash one person can generate in a year? This is a thought-provoking, if somewhat extreme, example.

We can each find practical ways to reduce the trash we generate. Bags are a biggie for me. If I'm at a store, I often have a tote bag with me and put my purchases into it rather than accepting a plastic bag. If I don't need a bag, I try to avoid taking one. I try to buy items with less packaging when possible.

Look at your patterns of use. Replacing one or two disposable items with reusable ones can make a big difference. Here's to a new year of less trash. Cheers!

when in a bureaucratic SNAFU, DIY

Bureacratic snafus involving parking tickets and stolen cars certainly aren't limited to Chicago. Check out this story from San Francisco.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Beverly All Stars

If all the holiday madness has torn you away from your regular Wednesday live jazz fix, or you're looking to check out something good in the new year, you can see the Beverly All Stars on Wednesday nights, 7:30 to 10:00 p.m., at the World Music Company, 1808 W. 103rd St., just east of the Metra tracks ($3 cover).

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

R.I.P. Oscar Peterson

The music world has lost another giant, Oscar Peterson. He died on Sunday in Toronto at the age of 82, after giving us the gift of great jazz for many years.

Click here for Oscar Peterson's web site. This link is a CBC archive page that includes links to audio and video interview clips.

If you enjoy jazz but aren't familiar with his music, check it out. I think you'll like what you find.

cool yule

Click here for a cool animated version of an old Christmas favorite.

Monday, December 24, 2007

wrong side of the window

Apparently some guy on State Street last night made the Channel 7 news at 10 p.m. a bit too interesting for the anchor. Check out the video. Dude, you're supposed to watch the show from outside the window!

Chicagoist has a follow-up on this item with more detailed video from the newscast that was in progress. Kudos to Ravi Baichwal for keeping a straight face and being thoroughly professional in spite of this bizarro crash.


'tis the season for the faux tradition of airing grievances.

One of my biggest pet peeves at this time of year is people who don't clear their sidewalks. C'mon, folks! Some of you may live in your cars, but many of us need to be able to walk without falling on our asses and having inconvenient fractures. If you can't do it yourself, please pay someone to do it. A certain family on Winchester deserves to have their rarely-removed snow and the poop from the ever-barking dogs left on their doorstep. They win my Grinchy Bad Neighbor award.

So, what's your biggest pet peeve? Do tell.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

our toddlin' town

Ah, it just keeps getting better. Here's a Todd-related item from Chicagoist.

coming up fast

The New Hampshire primary is coming up fast. Having lived in New Hampshire, I think there's more than a bit of lunacy in having it so early in the year. It's too close to the holidays. Extreme weather that could reduce turnout is more likely. But they're not going to change the date on my account.

If you put any stock in polls, you might be interested in checking out this week's Boston Globe poll of New Hampshire voters.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Blago under siege

It's about time that the feds put Blago under closer scrutiny. Tighten the screws!

holiday lights - a different take

The new thing in holiday lights is LEDs. However, not everyone loves their look, as noted in this recent Boston Globe article. Your $0.02?

Friday, December 21, 2007

it's in the bag

This article in today's San Francisco offers some nice solutions to help eliminate one of my big pet peeves: the proliferation of plastic bags. They list a variety of online sources for reusable bags to use for shopping, lunch, etc.

I have a collection of assorted canvas and nylon totes that I use for groceries and other shopping errands, carrying extra items to/from work, extra carrying capacity for travel, etc.

If you've thought about getting some tote bags and just haven't gotten around to it, or the ones you've seen are too expensive, check out the list of vendors at the end of the article. Some of their options are quite affordable, and they come in fun colors and patterns, too.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

no fix for transit this year

Today's news that the stooges in Springfield have failed yet again to agree on a transit funding plan was no great surprise, unfortunately. Rod Blagojevich and Mike Madigan deserve big lumps of coal in their stockings. Julie Hamos deserves the reward of a long-overdue agreement. Stay tuned for the next round after the first of the year....

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

puppets on wheels

I caught a bit of this show at Christkindmarket today. Fun stuff!

untapped source of revenue

I noticed a recent comment on a local blog that reminded of something I've often said in passing. There are thousands of Chicago property owners who violate city ordinance by failing to clear snow and ice from their sidewalks. They endanger those of who need to walk on their sidewalks.

I've often joked that the city could have a revenue gold mine if they hired aides to go around and write tickets on all the property owners who neglect their sidewalks. At $25-50 a pop for a first offense, and more for subsequent offenses, the city could make some real money. The citizens would benefit by having sidewalks that are safe to walk on. It could also create jobs. Local youth job councils could be a source of snow shovelers for those folks who would rather pay someone else to clear their sidewalks. Could be a win-win. Your $0.02?

last minute shopping

Something to keep in mind for your last minute Christmas shopping, as well as future shopping for any kids in your life.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

for the holidays

If you haven't yet visited Christkindlmarket at Daley Plaza, you haven't run out of time. It's open thru Christmas Eve. There's still plenty of food and drink and interesting things to buy. Great for people watching, too.

Monday, December 17, 2007

killing time at work

funny video - NOT suitable at work where the boss might see it

Monday morning wake-up

Sunday, December 16, 2007

CTA doomsday survival guide

If the CTA doomsday actually does happen, consider riding a bicycle for at least part of your commute. Chicagoland Bicycle Federation (CBF) has a page of suggestions for some bus route substitutions. If you usually take a bus to a train, you might use a bicycle for that portion, as there are now bike racks in and around many CTA and Metra stations.

For everyday or year-round use, a beater bike might be appropriate. Working Bikes and Uptown Bikes are good sources for used bikes. Police auctions are another source. When buying a used bike from any source, it's worthwhile to take it to a bike mechanic you trust to check it out and make sure that all is in safe operating condition.

The Chicago Bike Shop Directory is a good source for finding dealers and mechanics near you. It includes user reviews.

The Bikewinter web site has lots of useful tips for riding in winter, and if you want to meet folks to ride with, there are plenty of events.


Saturday, December 15, 2007

bedtime for Blago?

Looks like the feds are closing in on our chief crook, I mean gov. Could they have a special gift for Blago, too? Please, Santa, do you have a special lump of coal in your stocking for Blago. ;)

Friday, December 14, 2007

our work isn't done

Warm up your typing or dialing fingers again. The transit funding mess still isn't resolved, and the hole keeps getting deeper. If you need the names of your legislators and their contact info, click here to look them up.

Get ready to kiss billions of federal matching funds for transit capital improvements goodbye unless the folks in Springfield come up with the state matching funds soon enough to claim that federal $$$$.

Meanwhile, Monday's threatened walkout by CTA workers has been called off, but the underlying problem still not solved - boneheads in Springfield still need to agree on funding. For all the hard work Julie Hamos has done, I'd like to see Santa reward her (and all of us) with an agreement on funding that will actually last a while and not be another band-aid.

Let's take time out from the holiday rush to call, e-mail or fax our legislators one more time, then hope for a Christmas miracle.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

score one for the taxpayers

On Wednesday, Cook County board members voted against Todd Stroger's mega tax increase proposal. I put in my $0.02 with the board members on that one, and I know plenty of other folks did, too.

But Stroger doesn't give up. When is this clown going to get a clue that he needs to make some cuts closer to home before people are willing to throw more money his way?

Mr. Wiggles

An oldie but still funny from Sesame Street

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

automatic confessional machine

The Catholic Church has installed a new automatic confessional machine.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Friday, December 7, 2007

dig it!

It's time to break out the snow shovels. Even if you just go from your door to your car, you need to shovel the sidewalk across the front of your property. Many of your neighbors depend on having clear sidewalks to walk to and from the train or bus, school, etc. It's also required by Chicago law. Please be a good neighbor and keep your sidewalks clear and safe, especially if you live on Longwood.
Chicago Municipal Code10-8-180 Snow and ice removal.

Every owner, lessee, tenant, occupant or other person having charge of any building or lot of ground in the city abutting upon any public way or public place shall remove the snow and ice from the sidewalk in front of such building or lot of ground.

If the sidewalk is of greater width than five feet, it shall not be necessary for such person to remove snow and ice from the same for a space wider than five feet.

In case the snow and ice on the sidewalk shall be frozen so hard that it cannot be removed without injury to the pavement, the person having charge of any building or lot of ground as aforesaid shall, within the time specified, cause the sidewalk abutting on the said premises to be strewn with ashes, sand, sawdust, or some similar suitable material, and shall, as soon thereafter as the weather shall permit, thoroughly clean said sidewalk.

The snow which falls or accumulates during the day (excepting Sundays) before 4 p.m. shall be removed within 3 hours after the same has fallen or accumulated. The snow which falls or accumulates on Sunday or after 4 p.m. and during the night on other days shall be removed before 10 a.m.
(Prior code § 36-19)

10-8-190 Liability for civil damages.

Any person who removes snow or ice from the public sidewalk or street, shall not, as a result of his acts or omissions in such removal, be liable for civil damages. This section does not apply to acts or omissions amounting to wilful or wanton misconduct in such snow or ice removal.
(Prior code § 36-20)

Sunday, December 2, 2007

green for Christmas

As more people considering the ecological implications of various choices in their lives, they are presented with more dilemmas. This article in the San Francisco Chronicle raises some good points about the pros and cons of real vs. artificial Christmas trees.

I love the smell of a fresh tree, and I've occasionally gone to a tree farm to cut one. I think it's an ecological extravangance. There are enough decent looking fake trees out there to offer us some good options. A good fake can last many years if it's treated gently. Buying a real wreath can give the scent of a real tree with a much smaller ecological impact.

What's your $0.02 on the issue?

Friday, November 30, 2007

Iggy Pop chats with Dinah Shore

Yes, Iggy did chat with Dinah - it happened in 1977. For your amusement....

Thursday, November 29, 2007

winter parking fun

Don't forget: Chicago's street parking ban starts Saturday. About 107 miles of Chicago streets will be tow-away zones from 3 am to 7 am from 12/1 to 4/1 . Another 500 miles of streets are designated no parking when at least 2 inches of snow is on the ground. If you're thinking of parking on a main street, double check - read the signs.

"These arterial routes are as important to Chicago as your arteries are to you," said Matt Smith, chief spokesman for the Department of Streets and Sanitation for Chicago. "When you have parking on these streets, emergency vehicles can't get through, just like a blockage in your arteries."

If you ignore the signs and park in the wrong place, you could get hit with a $150 towing fee, a $50 ticket, $10 storage fee daily and relocation of the vehicle.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Jungle Boogie on Soul Train

The video quality on this one isn't great, but the outfits and the moves are a trip.

Click here to enjoy.

Monday, November 26, 2007

send a message to Stroger

The Tribune did us a fine service today by giving us the scoop on which of the Cook County Board members seem likely to rubber stamp Todd Stroger's quest for a tax increase of nearly $900M. Eight board members have made it clear that they think the county is already collecting enough in taxes. The other nine could use our input. I've included their contact info and Stroger's below. More info is included in this Tribune editorial.

Please vote with your dialing or typing fingers.

Todd Stroger:, 312-603-6400 and 312-603-5500.

Earlean Collins, West Side, west suburbs:, 312-603-4566 and 773-626-2184.

William Beavers, South Side and south suburbs:, 312-603-2067 and 773-731-1515,

Jerry "Iceman" Butler, Near South Side, south suburbs:, 312-603-6391

John Daley, South and Southwest Sides, southwest suburbs:, 312-603-4400

Roberto Maldonado, North and Northwest Sides:, 312-603-6386 and 773-395-0143,

Joseph Mario Moreno, Southwest Side, Cicero:, 312-603-5443 and 773-927-7154

Joan Patricia Murphy, south suburbs:, 312-603-4216 and 708-389-2125

Deborah Sims, South Side, south suburbs:, 312-603-6381 and 708-371-4251

Robert Steele, Near North, Near West and Near South Sides:, 312-603-3019 and 773-722-0140

holiday creep

Why do the retail sector and certain segments of our population need to stretch out the holidays so much? I started seeing Halloween store displays at Labor Day, and Christmas stuff before Halloween. I'd be perfectly happy if I only saw holiday lights from around 12/10 to just after 1/1.

WLIT radio's all-Christmas-music format (started 2 weeks ago) makes me gag. When I go to the pool, they're now playing it there. Uggghhhh!!!! Makes me glad my head is underwater most of the time while I'm there.

IMO, the holidays are more special and meaningful if they are confined to short and distinct periods. And we've got enough
Hallmark holidays already.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

fixing a blight

I noticed an excellent letter to the editor in Thursday's Sun-Times. He made some good points about TIFs, including the expiration of the Central Loop TIF in 2008 and its diversion of over $100M from the city budget last year. The purpose of TIFs, at least in theory, is to improve blighted areas. What part of the Central Loop is more blighted than the CTA?

Can anyone give me a good answer as to why none of this $100M+ was offered to the CTA? If this TIF is continued, it's time to start speaking up. For the city to put so much money towards the "superstation" at Block 37 and a paltry $3M towards the CTA in general is rather shortsighted, considering the key role that the CTA plays in the city's vitality. It's time for King Richie to agree to fork over a bit more. Today would not be too soon.

Friday, November 23, 2007

rockin' fun Friday

Click here for a rockin' Friday video. Happy Friday!

Monday, November 12, 2007

a victory for nature in the Sierras

A major piece of wildlife habitat near Lake Tahoe has been saved from development. Read more here.

Friday, November 9, 2007

fuzzy Friday

My two cats are not exactly pals and they have their turbulent moments. It was refreshing to see them sharing some peaceful time.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

a loss for the neighborhood

This morning I got out for a walk to some places I hadn't seen in a while, since my knee surgery has left me less mobile for a while. I've missed going to Cafe Luna and was going to stop in for a while today. As I crossed the tracks at 99th St., I saw an unwelcome sight: paper over the windows at Luna. They've closed. The signs in the window said that they've decided to relocate, their equipment is for sale, and the Beverly All Stars will now be bringing jazz to Beverly Bakery Cafe on Wednesday nights (10528 S. Western).

I really will miss having Cafe Luna in the neighborhood. Starbucks doesn't create the same inviting atmosphere. When Starbucks opened on 103rd, I hoped that it would not kill off Luna. To the proprietors of Luna: thank you for creating a special place. I wish you well in your future ventures.

Friday, November 2, 2007

a different shade of green

Today's San Francisco Chronicle ran a story about a new green building that has the potential to give green architecture and construction a major boost.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

cat alarm clock

Those of you who have lived with cats know the reality of this one.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

wild turkey

Here's one variety of wildlife I haven't seen around here - yet.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

a temporary park

I recently posted an item about National Park(ing) Action Day, and a related local demonstration in Pilsen. A smaller demonstration in River North was not as successful. A friend posted pictures from the Pilsen demonstration, along with an item on his blog, which includes links to photos from other temporary parks set up that day. Thanks, Payton!

Friday, October 12, 2007

sorry about the interruption

I messed up my knee a few weeks ago and just had knee surgery. It may be another week or two before I'm up to speed again, at least online.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

paradise paved

Since I moved back to Chicago from New Hampshire over 10 years ago, I’ve had a change of heart on the subject of parking and its costs to society and the environment. Increasing reliance on private vehicles doesn't just create traffic congestion, road rage, obesity and air pollution. Increasing the availability of parking to accommodate all these vehicles creates more impermeable surfaces, which reduces the earth's ability to absorb rainwater, increasing flooding and sending more pollution (oil from roadways and other pollution) directly into our lakes and rivers instead of letting nature filter much of it out in soil. This Slate article makes a lot of other related points. Your $0.02?

Friday, September 28, 2007

remembering Phil Frank

Back when his comic strip was "Travels with Farley," I became a big fan of Phil Frank's humor. In 1985, he decided to go local and change it to "Farley," focusing on San Francisco area humor. I was sad to read of his passing in yesterday's San Francisco Chronicle.

A fellow Chronicle cartoonist pays tribute to Phil Frank and Farley. Here's a 2005 tribute to Phil Frank. Sounds like Phil got quite a send-off in San Francisco the other day.

I will miss his unique, clever humor. Vaya con dios, Phil!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Break the Gridlock PARK(ing) action day

This happened last Friday. ZDnet ran a story on San Francisco's efforts. And here's a write-up on another local temporary park.

Residents to call attention to threatened community garden this Friday

Pilsen, Chicago: in conjunction with international Parking Day, Chicago activists, artists, and local residents will transform parking spaces into gardens in the Pilsen neighborhood.

The action is to take place in the 1900 block of S. Halsted street, from 6 P.M. to 8 P.M. on Friday September 21 2007.

The site was chosen to call attention to a garden space which was deeded to the community by former alderman Ambrosio Medrano, which garden stewards charge was innapropriately sold to Pilsen property mogul John Podmajersky Jr . by current Alderman Daniel Solis. Neighbors and participants in the care of the Cesar Chavez Community Garden, located at 19th and Canalport, were shocked earlier this summer
to find workers cutting down trees on the site, reportedly to create a parking lot for a nearby condominium development. Residents of east Pilsen have organized to fight for continued access to the garden, and will be on hand Friday to help raise awareness of the struggle.

Members of Chicago's growing carfreedom movement saw an opportunity to partner with proponents of the fight to save Jardin Cesar Chavez by targeting Pilsen and Podmajersky with this Friday's action. Payton Chung, a 26 year old urban planner, explains, "Podmajersky and Solis want to replace a garden with parking, so we're going to replace parking with a garden!"

According to the website, PARK(ing) Day challenges people to rethink the way streets are used and reinforces the need for urban open space. Pioneered by San Francisco arts collective Rebar in 2005, PARK(ing) Day 2007 is organized by Rebar and San Francisco nonprofit Public Architecture in association with The Trust for Public Land, which is coordinating a parallel national effort.

Public participation in Friday's action is sought, and participants are encouraged to add their own touches to the installation--additional plants, garden furniture, tiki lights, and outdoor decorations such as trellises and fencing are welcome.


Monday, September 24, 2007

Ground Zero and what is means now

The Boston Globe ran an excellent op-ed piece on this subject today.

Shrub continues to do the American people a great disservice, turning Ground Zero into a monument to America’s culture of victimhood. If our diplomats visited Ground Zero with Ahmadinejad, it could be an opportunity to start reversing our country's course of alienating Iran. This alienation only pushes our nations closer to the brink of war. Instead, Shrub, Hillary Clinton, and Rudy Giuliani are perversely united in denying Ahmadinejad a visit to Ground Zero.

While I am no fan of the current regime in Iran, continuing to insult Iran does not serve our nation or any other. Finding a way to step back from the brink would be a much more suitable memorial to those who died on 9/11.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Three for laughs

Nothing earth shattering here, just three “news of the weird”-type items for your amusement.

Genius #1
Genius #2
Genius #3

Hard to pick a winner in this particular race, but it seems like these folks are a few brain cells short of a normal quota. Who gets your vote? ;)

Friday, September 14, 2007

cool September bike rides - updated

This Sunday the North Shore Century awaits. There are routes for riders of all abilities, from the 10 mile family route to the 25, 50, 62 and 100 mile routes. You can see different areas of the north shore, and visit the Kenosha velodrome if you're up for 100 miles. Food at the rest stops is great. There is mechanical assistance available along the way if you have problems. Live entertainment and a massage tent await at the finish.

This ride benefits the Evanston Bike Club, which donates a large portion of the proceeds to local bike-related organizations and programs.

* * * * *

Last weekend's Boulevard Lakefront Tour was a success. It featured a 15-mile family route, a 35-mile route, and a 62-mile route (metric century), with lunch and live entertainment at the post-ride festival. The ride started and ended in Hyde Park, highlighting Chicago's system of boulevards and parks. Rest stop locations include Palmer Square and Ping Tom Park. Here are a few highlights of locations featured on the ride: Logan Square/Palmer Square, Washington Park, and the recently revived Drexel Boulevard

This ride benefits the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation, our local bike advocacy group. They work to improve bicycling in the Chicago area through education, municipal bike plans, and efforts to make bicycling more feasible as practical transportation.

* * * * *

The Pullman Labor Ride is done. Beautiful day for it. It's a tale of 2 factory towns: Pullman and Marktown (part of East Chicago). If you can ride 30+ miles and have an interest in local history, it's very worthwhile. This ride benefits the Pullman Civic Organization, which was founded in 1960, when the entire historic section of Pullman from 111th Street to 115th Street was threatened with total demolition to create an industrial park. It continues the work of preserving the architectural and historical integrity of the community and helping to make it a good place to live.

For more info on Pullman, click here or here.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

more changes at the Chicago Reader

As of 10/5, the Chicago Reader will be changing its format and changing its distribution day to Wednesday. Will this be a good thing or a bad thing? Guess we'll have to wait and see. Click here for more details.

Monday, September 10, 2007

teenage heroes

Once in a while I see a story that restores my faith that there are still some ordinary people out there who will go out of their way and risk their lives to save a stranger. This is one of those stories. My hat is off to Tom Foust and his friends for saving an elderly driver from being killed by an oncoming train. You are true heroes.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

the beat goes on

The Boston Globe recently ran a series about retracing the route of Jack Kerouac's "On the Road" 50 years later. Kerouac's widow says his message was misunderstood. I haven't picked up my copy of "On the Road" in a while. Time to revisit the journey...

Slate ran a piece that includes some interesting quotes from folks who were close to Kerouac. And here's a Sun-Times piece to add a bit more.

When I lived in New Hampshire, I visited Lowell many times. It was interesting to experience the transition of the Lowell millyard and nearby millworker housing from gritty, neglected bits of history to national historical site and Kerouac memorial. The blue collar life of a French-Canadian millworker family that Kerouac lived is a common thread in New England culture. I knew a number of people there whose parents or grandparents worked in the textile mills that were the lifeblood of the region until the Depression of the 1930s.

Every March, Lowell celebrates Kerouac's birthday. And they have another big celebration planned for October. Kerouac's scroll manuscript is on display at the Boott Cotton Mill Museum through the end of the October festivities.

If you happen to take a trip out that way, consider a stop in Lowell - for Kerouac, for all the history, and a taste of modern Lowell culture.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

landmark idol

If you have an interest in architectural landmarks and would like to see your favorite landmark win a generous preservation grant, check this out. It's an interesting list of landmarks. Vote early and often! You can vote once per day until October 10th.

honeybee update

If you are as curious as I am about the recent problems with colony collapse disorder affecting honeybees, here's an update on the story.

is your dog missing?

This morning I was walking to the Metra station and was asked by a police officer if the wandering dog she'd picked up was mine. She found the dog roaming in the area of 99th & Damen, crossing back and forth at 99th. In the morning rush hour traffic, I'm amazed she wasn't hit.

I didn't recognize the dog or know its owner. The dog is an older female, medium-sized, somewhat overweight, possibly a collie mix. If this is your dog, or you know the owner, the officer was planning to transport the dog to the Animal Welfare League at 103rd and Southwest Hwy., rather than city animal control.

Friday, August 31, 2007

appreciating what isn't there

In art and life, sometimes we most appreciate what isn't there.

Monday, August 27, 2007

more mosquito spraying tonight and tomorrow

The Chicago Dept. of Health sent an e-mail notice that they will be doing mosquito spraying again on Monday 8/27 and Tuesday 8/28 from dawn to dusk.

TONIGHT (7:00 p.m. Mon. 8/27 to dawn Tues. 8/28):
Far South/Southeast/Southwest** most of the city that is located south of 83rd Street

** area roughly bounded by the city limits on the north, North Ave. (1600N) on the south, Kostner (4400W) on the east, and the city limits on the west.

TOMORROW NIGHT (7:00 p.m. Tues. 8/28 to dawn Wed. 8/29):


** area bounded by Diversey (2800N) on the north, Cullerton (2000S) on the south, Halsted (800W) on the east, and Central Park (3600W) on the west.

** much of the city that is located south of Cermak (2200S), north of 83rd Street, and west of Wentworth (200W)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

for your garden: upcoming bulb sales

Bulbs are popular in the garden catalogs right now. There are some big local sales as well.

The Chicago Botanic Garden (1000 Lake Cook Rd., Glencoe) will be hosting the Bulb Bazaar at from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 29 and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 30. More than 200 varieties will be available, including many suitable for indoor forcing. Volunteers and experts will offer advice. See the catalog online at or call 847-835-5440 for more information.

Also check out the Hyde Park Garden Fair Committee’s Fall Mum and Bulb Sale from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 15 at the Hyde Park Shopping Center, 55th St. and Lake Park Ave. 773-241-6943 or (click on "Committees" and then "Garden fair").

Friday, August 24, 2007

construction update - 99th St. Metra station

Starting Monday 8/27 at 9 a.m., things will be a bit different at the 99th Street Metra station for a while. The construction is going into high gear. Most of the platform will be torn up for a while. The area near the trailer (temporary station) will remain intact, and passengers will board only the rear 2 cars from that location. This is expected to last a month or two.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

saving public transit

This CTA news is yet another reminder that our state legislature is still failing us. Mayor Daley is stepping up and pushing for a sales tax increase to pay for the level of transit service that our local economy needs. Some of our legislators have pursued this option for a while.

If funding is not in place in the next few weeks, we're looking at these fare increases and these service cuts. BTW, if you weren't following the earlier rounds of this nasty game, the routes at the bottom of the service cut page were on the original list but have been restored in this latest version.

Public transit makes it possible for many Chicago residents to live car-free. Many of those who do not currently have cars cannot afford all the costs of owning and maintaining them. We do not have enough room on many streets for more cars.

Meanwhile, there have been hints about fare increases and service cuts at Pace and Metra starting soon. What most folks don't realize is that Metra has already made some cuts. Rush hour service is unaffected. However, the number of cars that are open on night and weekend cars has been reduced in many cases. A UP-Northwest line run that I often take at night is now running with 1 or 2 cars open, instead of the previous 3. Some evening/late night Rock Island runs are running with one less car now. This means fuel savings (lighting and ventilation systems) and fewer conductors. Trains are more crowded and much noisier.

Next Tuesday 8/28 there will be a rally in support of transit funding and reform at the Thompson Center (100 W. Randolph in downtown Chicago) starting at 11:30 a.m. Whether or not you can get to the rally, please contact your legislators and voice your support for transit funding and reform before we've lost service that may be difficult to restore. Our city and our jobs depend on it.

BP backs down

Today's good news: BP has agreed to stay within the limits of its current discharge permit, rather than increasing its discharge of ammonia and sludge into Lake Michigan. After initial insistence that the increased discharge was necessary, then a hint that they might reconsider, this news is very welcome. A big thumbs up to everyone who wrote or participated in a protest to help make this happen!

new in the neighborhood

I've been meaning to check out Jimmy Jamm Sweet Potato Pies since the place opened recently. A Trib piece on it last week gave me a reminder. I tried the basic sweet potato pie and the non-dairy soft serve "ice cream" (created as a treat for the lactose intolerant). Both were melt-in-your-mouth delicious. They also have a praline & pecan version, a sugar free version (for diabetics), baked sweet potatoes with different toppings (meat or veggie), deli sandwiches, muffins, cookies, etc.

If you've never tried sweet potato pie, it's similar to pumpkin. Tasty stuff! Great addition to the neighborhood.

Check out Jimmy Jamm at 1844 W. 95th St. (773-779-9105) 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Saturday.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

more rabid bats

More rabid bats have been found in Cook County. Be careful out there.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

mosquito spraying this week - updated

Here's an alert from the Chicago Dept. of Health:

The City of Chicago Department of Health will be spraying to combat West Nile Virus on tonight (Tuesday). Spraying will begin promptly at 7:00 pm and conclude at 2:00 am.

The trucks will be using Anvil, an insecticide approved for use by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The trucks are staffed by licensed mosquito abatement technicians who dispense an ultra-low-volume spray. Residents are advised to keep their families and pets indoors and close their windows while spraying is underway.

Additionally, in the morning following the spraying, you may want to hose down any outdoor furniture or recreation equipment. The Department of Health is also advising residents to drain water from outdoor birdbaths and children's wading pools every four days and beware of old tires, jars, or other containers that may contain standing water.

If you have questions about these efforts, please see our website at

FSBO gone wrong

There were so many quirky things about this FSBO gone wrong that I'd bet the attorneys' fees easily eclipsed what the buyer would have paid a realtor in fees. Oops!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Rabid bat alert

Animal Control put out an alert yesterday about an incident that happened this week in Rogers park. On Monday someone found a bat in their 3rd floor apartment on the 7400 block of N. Hoyne. They called 311. Animal Control came to remove the bat.

The bat was DOA at Animal Control HQ. It was sent to a lab for rabies testing, per normal procedure. The bat tested positive for rabies. This is the 6th rabid bat found in Cook County in 2 weeks. Rabies is not unusual in wild animals, especially at this time of year, but it's a good idea to take a few precautions. Please have your pets vaccinated for rabies. Don't handle dead animals. If you find a living wild animal that if injured or confined, or a dead animal, don't touch it. Call 311 for help or instructions on safe disposal of a dead animal.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Garfield Park Conservatory plant clinic

Weekend Plant Information Clinic
Saturdays and Sundays (throughout the year)
Hours: Drop in between 11 am - 4 pm
Where: Conservatory Front Lobby
Cost: Free

University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners are available in the Conservatory's front lobby to look at your plants or just answer questions Saturdays and Sundays, 11 am - 4 pm. Drop by with your plant or questions. Or you can call in your questions to (773) 265-9587, fax them to (773) 265-9588, or email questions to wolfordr at mail.aces.uiuc dot edu

BP to reconsider

This week's news about increased pressure on BP's refinery expansion plans and today's update that they may reconsider has been welcome.

Towards the end of the article, there's a quote that makes me wonder whether this guy was misquoted or if his priorities are actually that twisted. David Ullrich, former EPA bigwig, who is now director of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative (advocacy group of the region's mayors) is quoted as saying "There will be a day when water is more important than gasoline."

Huh? Our bodies and those of most living beings on earth can't survive without water. We don't require gasoline to physically exist. I sure hope that was a misquote, otherwise this guy is in the wrong job.

But back to BP....apparently the underlying issue is that BP's existing land does not have enough room for expansion of the water treatment plant to treat discharge to eliminate the increased pollution that would come from their refinery expansion. If they're reconsidering on the pollution issue, perhaps they can come up with a revised plan. It seems we've gotten their attention.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Friday funny

Here's a very punny news story from the Trib - how a wiener can be a loser. TGIF.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

interesting twist in presidential campaign

Today's news: Rudy Giuliani’s daughter is on board with Obama. Now this is an interesting twist. ;)


I was surprised that no one commented on this issue. Your $0.02?

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Tour de France - now and future

This year's Tour de France is a unfortunate reflection on the sad state of sports. It's hard to know who is honest and who is doping. It's hard to believe in the achievements we see. Both the best and worst are represented in the Tour de France. Bobby Julich gives an inside perspective, as a former professional racer. Bonnie DeSimone offers her view on the future.

green choices - recycle in your garden

Here are two good ways you can recycle in your garden: composting and mulching with newsprint.

Kitchen waste (fruit and veggie peels and non-seed parts, egg shells, tea leaves, etc.) can be mixed with yard waste (grass clippings, broken up tree branches, leaves, dried up flowers) and newsprint (non-slick pages) to make a great nutrient booster for your plants and trees. You can build your own compost bin, or buy one. The city of Chicago periodically has them available for Chicago residents at a subsidized price. Look for announcements in the local papers (usually in spring) or on the city's Dept. of Environment web page.

I got one of the city bins last summer. It got a slow start. I found that the compost needed to be turned regularly (once a week or more) and needed a certain level of moisture for things to decompose quickly. Turning the pile with a pitchfork or hoe or shovel can be challenging unless you have a fair amount of upper body strength. When I got a compost turner tool, it made the job a LOT easier (5 minutes with the tool, compared to 20-30 minutes with a shovel) and speeded up the process of decomposition by about 5 times. One trick I learned was to rinse the tool afterwards to keep it from getting clogged. I do this over the bin, adding moisture to help the materials rot.

When I pull weeds, I hold a bunch together and cut them with scissors before adding them to the compost bin so that they rot quicker. I crumple dry leaves up and break or cut small branches into pieces. Whatever you add rots faster if you shred it or break it into smaller bits. This is true for newsprint as well. BTW, the newer inks now used in newsprint are often soy-based and generally use non-toxic pigments, unlike the inks used years ago.

One warning: do NOT include seeds when you're adding to your compost bin. Unless your compost gets really hot, it will not kill the seeds, and you'll be spreading them wherever you spread your compost. If seeds are from an invasive weed, it could get everywhere fast.

Now that the compost is rotting fast, I've got a ready supply of black gold for the garden. My strawberries had stopped producing at the end of June. I put compost around the base of each plant and watered well. Within a week, the plants had new flowers on them. Now I'm eating strawberries again. Plants that were looking so-so are doing a lot better with the addition of compost. Of course, regular watering is a key piece of the equation.

You can use newsprint as mulch. Lay 3 or 4 sheets over an area, either around existing plants or poking holes where you'll plant new ones. It helps keep weeds from getting light to grow. You can add a light layer of damp leaves or bark mulch on top to hold it down and make it look nicer. Use a thicker layer of newsprint to kill grass in areas where you want to later remove grass for new flower or veggie beds.

Newsprint can also be used to make starter pots for seeds.

It's cool to be able to recycle and grow things at the same time.

Friday, August 3, 2007


The invasion has begun. *sigh* Wouldn't it be nice to have a summer weekend to be able to enjoy downtown and the lakefront without a huge festival overrunning everything and clogging the streets and the trains with too many people?

Thursday, August 2, 2007

BP update

When I read about the EPA's refusal to reconsider allowing BP to go ahead with increased dumping of ammonia and sludge into Lake Michigan, it was a rude slap in the face, another reminder that we're still deep in the unethical heart of Shrubland. Anything goes as long as the oil companies make more money.

At least King Richie has a spine on this issue.

What's wrong with this picture, folks? How can an agency whose stated purpose is to protect the environment say that it's okay to pollute more?

I hope that things don't get much worse before the next election, and that enough votes are cast by people who have both a brain and a conscience to turn this misguided ship around.

vivid landmark inspires new musical

An amusing story from Seattle...

Friday, July 27, 2007

taking action against BP

I was glad to hear about State Representative Harry Osterman’s proposed HR 626 urging Congress and the U.S. EPA to put a stop to BP’s plan to increase ammonia and sludge discharges from its Whiting refinery.

"Our beaches are precious and the water of Lake Michigan is transported and used by people all across our state," Osterman said. "It's important for the federal EPA and Congress to take a stand when a body of water that is shared among several states is threatened by the actions of one. I will continue working to make sure that protections of Lake Michigan are upheld in the future and no backsliding is allowed."

He encouraged Illinois residents to join in the petition campaign to show local opposition to the higher pollution levels that will result from BP's refinery expansion under the current plan.

Please visit the Chicago Park District web site or Environment Illinois to show your opposition or get more information.

on a lighter note....

Tourists fined for cycling nude in Serbia. TGIF...

Thursday, July 26, 2007

$54M pants (and a few friends) to the rescue

The now infamous pair of pants was featured at a 7/24 Washington D.C. fundraiser. Proceeds from the fundraiser will help pay the legal bills of Jin Nam Chung and Soo Chung, owners of the dry cleaning business that misplaced and later found the pair of pants. Roy Pearson brought in the pants and filed suit over their loss, originally demanding $67M, and later dropping the demand to $54M. To make it worse, this jerk plaintiff is a judge. When the Chungs found his pants and offered to return them, he refused, saying it was too late, and continued with his lawsuit.

The Chungs won the lawsuit. The judge ordered Pearson to pay court costs. However, the Chungs also incurred about $100K in legal fees. The American Tort Reform Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform help the fundraiser to help the Chungs cover their legal costs. They raised over $64K, and pledges are still arriving. The groups advocate for tighter guidelines for filing lawsuits, hoping to eliminate frivolous suits like this one. They hoped that the fundraiser would help publicize their mission to reform tort law, especially in the light of cases that unjustly attack small businesses.

If the Chungs’ motion for legal fees is granted, forcing Pearson to bear the costs of his ridiculous suit, fundraiser proceeds in excess of the family’s costs will be donated to charity. I hope that Pearson gets his arrogant a$$ nailed when the judge in this case makes a ruling on the Chungs' Motion.

If he had asked them to reimburse the cost of the lost pants, it would have been reasonable. To force them to bear the stress and financial burden was far from it. It would be poetic justice if he gets taken to the cleaners.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Tour de dope(s)

The news from this year's Tour de France has me shaking my head in disgust. Many cycling fans became increasingly cynical after last year's stunning victory by Floyd Landis was tainted by charges of illegal testosterone use.

This week has been a continuing implosion of the credibility of professional cycling.

Yesterday Alexandre Vinokourov was booted from the race after testing positive for an illegal blood transfusion, and his Astana team withdrew from the race, taking Andreas Kloden out of contention.

Today was Cristian Moreni's turn, this time for illegal testosterone use. His team, Cofidis, is out of the race with him.

The kicker was the news late in the day that Michael Rasmussen, the current leader of the race, was fired by his team (Rabobank) for violations of team policy related to drug testing.

I keep wondering who will be next and how they can take such a huge chance, given the extensive drug testing programs now in place and the sophistication of today's lab tests. Is there a cure for the disease of corruption afflicting professional sports? I hope that professional cycling will be able to rebuild from the wreckage of this year's Tour. If not, can we ever believe that future victories are legitimately earned?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

an independent sells out

I was disappointed to read the news that the Chicago Reader has been bought by a Tampa-based chain. I can only hope that they won't mess with the product. It's such a quirky-good mix of features.


You're gonna love this one. I was talking to a police officer friend who works in the 18th district (the station on Division just east of the river, among the remnants of Cabrini-Green). He says the station is infested with mosquitos. The front desk now has its own bug zapper and citronella candles. One of the desk sergeants was joking that the candles create a special ambience for yuppies brought in after being arrested. One joker suggested tiki torches, but that was vetoed as a fire hazard.

Note: the 18th district station is recent construction, about 5 years old. If it has enough of a water leak for a mosquito population, we're talking some fine construction. ;)

Monday, July 23, 2007

it's not just about the southwest side

Last week's alarming news story about the fight in Durkin Park and slow emergency response is about a lot more than what's happening on the southwest side. Twenty six minutes is a long time to wait for emergency response in a potentially lethal situation. One boy was beaten into a coma. Eight were struck by an SUV driven into the crowd by a 15-year-old boy. The 911 center received 51 calls from the time the fight started around 10:19 p.m. until police dispatch was notified 26 minutes later. No squad cars were actually dispatched until an officer working in another district got a call from his son at the scene and then called police headquarters.

In the words of one officer: "the incident started when a group of white teenagers who were drinking in the park, decided to chase a black teenager but was unable to catch him. Then the mob turned their sight on another black teenager who was walking with a girl, they chased, caught and beat him until a resident came to his aid."

Wednesday night's community meeting at St. Bede's drew an enormous crowd of neighborhood residents. Racial tensions have been brewing in the neighborhood for years, and smaller incidents have happened before. This problem did not appear out of nowhere.

One of the major issues here is a dirty little secret that is off the radar of most folks who are not police and are not involved in CAPS: our police department is seriously understaffed. I've been hearing this from a number of police officer friends for years, and the situation is getting worse. Classes of police academy recruits are nowhere near large enough to replace the number of officers who retire or otherwise leave the job each year. Administrative snafus have cost the department potential recruits. I know 3 young guys who actually took the entrance exam for the police academy but were never notified of their test results. They know a bunch more who got the same non-response.

In 8 and many other districts, too many beat cars and rapid response cars are often not on the street or are one-person cars because there are not enough available officers to staff the cars. A one-person car is limited in its effectiveness, because many types of incidents need two officers to ensure safety, both for the officers and for civilians on the scene. One officer I know, who works a rapid response car (dispatched to specific incidents in progress rather than assigned to patrol a specific beat) often works alone because no one else is available for the car. As he puts it, "if it's a domestic or bar fight or any kind of violent incident, I can't go in there alone. I have to wait until at least one more car shows up, otherwise the situation could get even worse." Note: this officer works in the best staffed district in the city.

Many police are less than thrilled with the operations of OEMC (Office of Emergency Management and Communications), which handles 911 service, traffic management, etc. It sounds like there are procedural issues that need to be ironed out between how 911 calls are prioritized, how they are dispatched, and how communications are handled between OEMC and CPD. The OEMC web site has a notice to the effect that the actions of the dispatchers handling the Durkin Park 911 calls are currently under investigation and that the dispatchers involved are on leave pending the outcome of that investigation. I'll be curious to hear the results. These blog items give the dispatchers' side of the story.

There's been a lot of discussion on the Second City Cop blog about manpower and procedural issues, with follow-up today. Some of this is accessible to anyone, and some won't mean much unless you're familiar with CPD and police jargon. A police officer friend who took his entrance exam 10 years ago said that over 20,000 took the exam that year and that it was the last large (10,000+) group. That was the year that the city started requiring at least 60 college credit hours as a prerequisite for entrance into the police academy and stopped accepting applicants who were military veterans but did not have college credit. There has to be a way to balance the need for a more educated police force with a method for getting enough recruits. When a test group might be as small as 1,000 and fewer than 10 percent of those actually get through the process of becoming officers (entrance exam, physical exam, drug testing, psychological screening, background check, police academy), it's a drop in the bucket compared to what the city needs.

CPD is supposed to have 13,200 officers, if all positions are filled. Depending on whose numbers you want to believe, the number of sworn officers is around 9,900 or 11,000. Either way, that's a bit of shortage. For comparison, NYC has a population around 8 million and 41,584 officers. Chicago has about 2.9 million population and let's say 10,500 officers (split the difference on the numbers above). Los Angeles has about 3.8 million population and 18,000 officers (combining LAPD and sheriffs - structured a bit differently than here. They also have a much larger geographic area).

Another sore point among police is the number of officers faking illness or injury to collect $$$ while sitting at home, or doing anything but their jobs. I can't verify the accuracy of the following quote. If it's halfway accurate, it could explain part of the big picture. "We hire and train 50 officers a month on average. We have over 700 officers on medical leave or light duty on any given day. Those officers alone collectively represent the 3rd largest police department in Illinois, behind the CPD and State Police. ... Cracking down on medical abusers alone would greatly reduce our manpower shortage."

The 8th district, where the Durkin Park incident happened, is geographically larger than many suburbs. The northernmost point is around 37th St. The southern boundary is 87th St. That's 6 1/4 miles. East-west, the northern half of the district (which includes Midway Airport and some industrial areas) runs from just each of Western to Harlem Ave., also 6 1/4 miles. It contains populated areas interspersed with some large industrial areas, connected by major streets that are sometimes serious traffic bottlenecks. Many officers feel that redistricting to improve police coverage and response times is long overdue. I think it's an issue worth examining.

Some officers are on regular detail watching aldermen's offices, aldermen's homes, the mayor's home, the cardinal's home, park basketball tournaments and other events. These officers are not sent to emergency jobs, no matter how busy it gets in their districts.

Where's the media coverage on these issues, folks? Is this incident enough of a wake-up call, or do a bunch of people have to get killed for police issues beyond the rogue cop incidents to magically appear on the public radar?

save our lake

Campaigns are popping up to fight Indiana's approval for BP's expansion and increased dumping of ammonia and sludge into Lake Michigan.

Click here for the Chicago Park District's web page and petition.

The Illinois Coalition for Peace and Justice also has a web page and petition on the subject.

It's no big surprise that BP's faux environmental image ("green" image logo and yellow ad campaign) is greenwash. The real plan: expansion of the Whiting refinery to process heavier, dirtier crude oil from Canada's tar sands (article 1, article 2).

The fact that oil companies are desperate enough strip mine vast areas and spend big bucks to develop refinery capacity at a much higher cost per barrel should be a wake-up to a gas-thirsty America. It's time to say enough.

Time to reduce consumption, folks. How about increased CAFE standards and a carbon tax? This affects much more than Lake Michigan water quality.

Oil companies are making record profits and should be required by law to invest more in reducing pollution of all types. Letting them produce more pollution is not an acceptable option.

Is Blago in the house?

Is Blago in the house? Inquiring minds want to know....whether he'll get down to business and actually act like a leader by setting a responsible example, or keep wasting the money of Illinois taxpayers indefinitely.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

BP is such a lovely neighbor

Why should Indiana be able to okay increasing pollution from BP's Whiting oil refinery that is likely to affect Illinois and Michigan much more than Indiana? The planned BP expansion may help ease ease the supply crunch for the special gas blend required here to lower air pollution, possibly lowering gas prices down the line. However, that does not justify the fact that BP did not give any advance notification to city of Chicago officials, who read about it in last Sunday's Tribune.

I'm glad to hear that our elected representatives are taking action to get Indiana to reconsider this environmentally costly decision. I have to wonder why the EPA ever approved this. Oh wait, this is the EPA under Shrub....

rabbits rabbits everywhere

I noticed an item in today's Sun-Times about this years rabbit population explosion. It gives some interesting theories that may explain why so many areas are seeing many more rabbits than usual.

I can tell you from my own experience that hardware cloth (heavy wire mesh) makes an effective rabbit barrier. I used it to build a cafe around my tiny Japanese maple when rabbits started eating it this spring. There is a similar product labeled "rabbit fence" which has the wires more closely spaced near the ground, also very effective. I used that around my veggie garden. Now I'm enjoying the veggies instead of the rabbits.

BTW, there is an effective repellent that the Sun-Times article doesn't mention: predator urine. This stuff isn't cheap, but it works. I picked up a container of coyote urine in a concentrated crystal form at the garden center and sprinkled it around planting areas that were not fenced off (didn't want to look at fences everywhere>. Every so often I reapply it. The rabbits are staying away.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

bagging it

The other day I was got lunch from Sopraffina and noticed something different. Instead of the usual petroleum-based plastic bags, they had cornstarch-based, biodegradable plastic bags. I hope that we'll be seeing more businesses offering these in the near future.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

if it's Wednesday, it must be Falun Gong

One of the perks of working in the Loop is all the free entertainment available at lunchtime. I'm not just talking about free concerts at Daley Plaza, the Cultural Center or other places. There's plenty of entertainment to be had thanks to all the political demonstrations at Federal Plaza, Daley Plaza and Thompson Center. Sometimes it's just goofy. Sometimes it's educational.

I work near the Federal Plaza. Over the last few years, I've seen demonstrators for Falun Gong nearly every Wednesday year round. It's usually a small group of demonstrators handing out literature, holding signs, doing slow tai chi to gentle music. It tends to be one of the mellowest protest groups.

I've seen Israelis vs. Palestinians out there. Needless to say it is anything but mellow. Falun Gong draws no police attention. Israelis vs. Palestinians gets a large police presence with barriers. When the Enron/Arthur Andersen debacle was going on, I remember looking out the windows onto Dearborn to see thousands of Arthur Andersen employees pouring out of their office building, across the street from ours, filling the street and shutting down traffic in a large area of the Loop during lunch. Even if you weren't watching, it was hard not to hear the sounds of 6,000 voices.

Aside from political demonstrations, another form of lunchtime entertainment is media campouts around City Hall, the Thompson Center, and the courts at the Daley Center and the Dirksen Federal building. There's been a lot of action lately, with the Conrad Black trial and the Family Secrets trial.

Things have quieted down a bit since most of the action is done with the Black case. Looks like they're waiting for more action in Family Secrets today. I was amused by the appearance of one press photographer, with two enormous Nikons sporting giant telephoto lenses and flashes and two camera bags, all slung across his body, making him look like the photo bandito.

Ah, what entertainment will tomorrow bring?

save the car kabob

If you remember, I wrote recently about the possibility that the car kabob in Berwyn could disappear. The Berwyn Arts Council has a petition on its web site to save this landmark of kitsch.

the buzz about bees

There's been a lot written recently about mysterious die-offs of honeybees. So far, it sounds like Illinois honeybees are doing okay.

I know of a few locations within Chicago where bees are kept. Some folks in Logan Square have started a blog about their beekeeping. I've met a guy in Pullman who has kept bees and produced honey for years.

Another writer speculates that the problems affecting bees may be a bit of Darwinian natural selection in action. I guess we'll have to wait and see how the story evolves.

whale watchers see boat his whale

A news of the weird item from New Hampshire.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

not getting things done

Check out this excellent article on how to tackle the reasons why getting tasks from the TO DO list to the DONE list can be so tough.

gun turn-in day 7/21

The city of Chicago is having a gun turn-in day this Sunday 7/21 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Please click the link above for more information, including a list of locations.

Dragon Boat race

Here's a cool event happening next Sunday 7/21 in Chinatown. The Dragon Boat race was started in 1999. Many different teams (including Chicago Police Dept., Fire Dept., Citibank and others) compete in rowing races on the Chicago River at Ping Tom Park (300 W. 19th St., viewable from the south side of the 18th St. bridge). Opening ceremonies start at 8:30 a.m., and the races happen between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.

There will be acrobats, live music, food booths, bubble tea, Indian dance, caricature artists and other activities at the park.

Good cop, baby cop

Here's another silly Will Ferrell video.

Boss/kid alert: lots of 4-letter words

Monday, July 16, 2007

transit and leadership

Could Pace officials consider setting an example and make decisions based on experience and actually ride their buses once in a while? And what about our governor and other elected officials?

It would be refreshing if they actually saw the inside of buses and trains once in a while and could make informed decisions about the transportation that is so critical to our region.


Sunday, July 15, 2007

micro beans

If you want to see what the giant beans in yesterday's post look like as tiny baby beans, check this out.

The flowers have just fallen off of these, so they're a day or two old. The longest is about 1" long.

cell phones in bathrooms

I commented on this a while back.

Reading this article gave me an idea. Perhaps the next market for JC Decaux is public cell phone booths. These could be similar in design to the bus stop shelters - clear glass on 3 sides (one being a door) with advertising on one side. They could charge a quarter for 15 minutes to give people a place to take a phone call in places that are otherwise too noisy and/or crowded for it. Think there's a market for this?

Saturday, July 14, 2007

update on internet radio

Here's a bit of encouraging news about the negotiations on internet radio royalties. I hope that they can resolve the issue and that all the fine internet radio that currently exists will not be lost.

one day's harvest

I had no idea how prolific these green bean plants would be. To give you a sense of scale, the longest beans in these containers are 11" long. No lie. The interior of each container is 6" wide.

In the picture below, the 1" white PVC cross-piece at the bottom of the picture is 4' above the ground. The top of the pole that the bean stalk is climbing is about 7' off the ground. I think I'm going to be freezing a LOT of beans.

Fake cop stops wrong car

This guy was definitely in the wrong place when he decided to do something stupid.

What's in Beverly?

The Sun-Times ran a nice feature yesterday listing a selecton of what can be found here in the neighborhood.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Chicago's mail delivery woes

A few months ago, Chicago's new postmaster pledged to fix our broken system and return us to reliable, prompt mail delivery. Well, that hasn't quite happened. Here's a 4/17/07 NPR audio story and a 3/11/07 Sun-Times article on the subject.

I've heard reports from some neighborhoods of very late delivery - as late as 11 p.m. I've heard about and experienced very slow delivery - sometimes 3-4 days or more for mail within the city of Chicago. I've had a lot of experience with non-delivery of forwarded first class mail and heard about that problem from all areas of the city, not just the long-time problem zip codes (60640 and 60626). It's not unusual for me to get mail for someone who lives on the next block.

I have made many phone calls and sent many faxes to the carrier supervisor at the post office, with no results. Other folks I know have had the same experience.

To satisfy my curiousity and test the system, I've sent 6 pieces of mail over the last several months in various envelopes (plain white #10, bright red #10, business letterhead #10, and greeting card). All of these were going to the same Chicago address, used varying return addresses and should have been forwarded. One of the six was actually forwarded and arrived in about 2 weeks (bright red #10 envelope). One was returned to sender (plain white #10 envelope, Evanston return address). Four are MIA - all with different Chicago return addresses, either in plain white #10 envelopes or greeting card envelopes.

*sigh* Yet another reason to be a squeaky wheels, folks. It's gotta be better than this.

Shrub parody

Here's a low-key parody starring Will Ferrell as Shrub.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

positive expression

I saw something on the red line the other night that gave me a smile. I noticed a woman sitting near me on the train. I'd guess that she was 35-40ish and a cancer patient. Her bare scalp (sprouting new hair stubble) had that look. You know how kids will write on a friend's cast when the friend has a broken arm or leg? She had doves, flowers and other positive images drawn in marker on her head. After some heartbreaking experiences with friends and family who died of cancer, seeing someone who looked like she was beating it and feeling good about it made me happy.

CTA working on rail slow zones

It's about time! This is some welcome and long overdue news.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

RIP Doug Marlette

I've always enjoyed Doug Marlette's "Kudzu" cartoon and his editorial cartoons. I will miss his wacky sense of humor.

back again

Cicadas are back, but of a different variety. The annual cicadas that usually arrive in August are not as intense an experience as the 17-year brood we just experienced. I wasn't expecting to see the annual guys for a few more weeks, but discovered a newly emerged one in my garden yesterday.

And on an odd, related note, I saw something online about cicada ringtones for cell phones. Is it just me, or is the while ringtone thing getting a little too strange?

man disguised as tree robs bank

This is a true story from Manchester, New Hampshire. Suitable "news of the weird" item for today. I guess he decided to leaf no stone unturned, branch out a bit.... Ah, the pun-sibilities here are endless.

The Landlord

If you're looking for something silly to watch, you might be amused by this silly Will Ferrell video. FYI - The little girl is Pearl McKay (daughter of Shira Piven and niece of Jeremy Piven).

Boss/kid alert: Plenty of 4-letter words

car kabob going away?

A bizarre local landmark may bite the dust - if the nascent campaign to save it doesn't succeed. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

garden moment

Ah, coreopsis - a bit of summer sun come to earth...

green choices - garbage

The Tribune Home & Garden section ran an excellent article about reducing household waste on Sunday. Well worth a read and some thinking about garbage we don't need to generate.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

more on biofuels

Here's a new Slate article continuing an idea from a previous post.

green choices - manufacturing

Today's Sun-Times has an interesting article on one possibility that could be good for Chicago economically and environmentally: green manufacturing.

I've got some related links here: Solargenix Energy, Chicago Center for Neighborhood Technology, and Chicago Center for Green Technology.

Friday, July 6, 2007

old-fashioned entrepreneur

The other day I was home during the day - unusual for a weekday. Contractors were working on the house across the street. I heard a ringing bell, similar to what I've heard on ice cream pushcarts. A short time later I heard it again. It was an old timer with a pushcart, but no ice cream. He had a pedal-powered grinding wheel to sharpen tools and knives and was making the rounds, offering his services to contractors working in the neighborhood. Now that's the ultimate green small business: keeping tools useable longer and doing it in a way that generates no pollution and gives him exercise in the process.


If you're looking for a bit of physical stress relief this weekend, perhaps Sunday's car smash at UIC might be right up your alley.

report from Cicadaland

The cicadas are gone now. The other day I heard one buzzing along Damen near 96th, but that had to be one very lonely cicada. I guess that guy missed the party.

It seemed like the city's mother lode was here in Beverly. A co-worker who lives around 98th & Lowe had none near her. A friend near 121st & Western (Blue Island) also had none. It was the same with many friends in different neighborhoods around the city.

The Tribune still has their cicada map online, linked to this story.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

no penalty for taking 8 lives

What incentive is there to drive responsibly if a careless driver who kills 8 people can get off with no charges at all? If this type of stupidity can't be charged as reckless driving, perhaps our lawmakers should be revising a law or two. How can this non-response possibly represent any kind of justice? The Amish families who lost 5 of their own may find forgiveness in their hearts, but I find it difficult to excuse this guy's carelessness.

green choices - sharing transportation

Happy Independence Day! Here's an item from Paris about one more way to declare our energy independence.

Paris Set for Bike-Share Scheme to Cut Congestion
by Alexandra Steigrad

PARIS - It's summer in Paris and the French capital is preparing to offer bikes for anyone who wants to take a ride.

By July 15, the city plans to park 10,648 bicycles at 750 stations and nearly double that by 2008, with riders able to take bikes from one station and drop them off at another.

Work on "Velib'" (short for 'free bike' in French) is just starting, but it is already sparking enormous interest.

The concept evolved from utopian bike-sharing programmes in Europe in the 1960s, aimed at reducing the use of cars and cutting down on traffic congestion and air pollution.

The most famous case was Amsterdam -- a flop because bikes were either stolen or too beaten-up to ride.

Now, many cities are giving it a go again by partnering up with advertising firms that will provide bikes equipped with anti-theft systems in return for city-wide advertising opportunities.

In the residential 15th district in southwestern Paris, a parking spot next to a corner cafe is being adapted to become home to a fleet of sleek, grey bicycles.

"I think the programme is a good thing, and it will help reduce the number of cars on the street," said Jean-Michel Bourdet, who owns a nearby video store.

"I used to ride bikes all the time, but they all kept getting stolen. Now I'm going to start riding again," he said.

In an effort to prevent thefts crippling the network, Velib' bikes will be equipped with a lock and an alarm that will sound if the bike is not returned to a station. There will also be a security deposit that riders will lose if their bike vanishes.

Velib' is part of a wide-ranging plan drawn up by Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe to encourage residents to leave their cars at home and reduce both the pollution and the gridlock that often snarls the city's broad boulevards.

"We hope car use will diminish and that people will opt to take a bicycle or the bus," said City Hall spokeswoman Gwenaelle Joffre, who is overseeing the project.


She said Delanoe's plan was aimed more at locals than tourists looking to take a ride along the banks of the Seine.

"Our programme is for people travelling short distances, from point A to point B," Joffre said. "It's for people who don't want to take the bus. They'll take a bike instead of taking the metro and transferring."

Renting a bike is simple: cyclists choose a bike and insert a pre-paid card or credit card in a terminal to unlock it from the station. When they are done, they lock it up at any station.

If a bike is used for less than 30 minutes, the credit card will not be charged. Every half hour after that costs 1 euro (US$1.33). Weekly rentals cost five euros and yearly rentals just 29 euros.

To help riders navigate the streets, maps and safety manuals in several languages will be available at every station.

How Paris will cope with this flood of new bikes is not clear, but Joffre saw no problem because the city has 371 km (230 miles) of cycle paths.

Raphael Bohkobza, a salesman at Au Reparateur, a popular bicycle repair shop that sells used and new bikes in the centre of Paris, wasn't so sure.

"It might be a big mess," he said, worried that there could be a jump in road accidents and noting there is no law in France forcing riders to wear helmets.

"Normally, bike rental agents are people. Now it's machines. What if people are drunk and are renting bikes? It can be dangerous," he said. "Also tourists who don't understand the system might cause problems."


In 2006, France was the fourth largest cycle-buying country in the world, according to the National Council of Professional Cyclists. Part of that may be a "Tour de France effect"-- long-distance bicycle riding is a popular sport here.

But many French also took to cycling during a crippling month-long transport strike in 1995 -- and the habit stuck.

Velib' is paid for by JCDecaux, Europe's largest outdoor advertising firm, in return for more advertising around the city.

It first launched the programme in 2002 in Vienna and in the Spanish cities of Cordoba and Gijon. Today the service can be found in cities such as Brussels and, since 2005, Lyon, France's second largest city.

"Lyon began with 2,000 bikes and we'll be increasing to 4,000 bikes," said Agathe Albertini, JCDecaux vice president of communications. Other cities such as Mulhouse, Aix-en-Provence, Marseille and Besancon have signed up and more are watching.

But the Paris project is very ambitious and will show whether major cities are ready for a two-wheel revolution.

"It's very impressive," Joffre said. "Paris will become the first world capital to have so many bicycles freely available."

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Apu comes to Chicago

Well, not quite, but it's an amusing marketing tie-in to promote "The Simpsons" movie. And here's a San Francisco story on the promotion.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

finally free

Now that the cicadas are gone, I was finally able to free my tiny Japanese maple from the netting that's been wrapped around it to protect it from egg-laying damage.

welcome to my jungle

life in hell (or air travel 2007)

I'm hearing more and more horror stories about air travel in recent weeks - flight delays, absolutely full flights, cancellations, horrendous lies by airline personnel, and a general lack of customer service. This week a friend of a friend went to NYC for what was supposed to be a one day trip. When she went to the airport for her return trip to Chicago on Thursday, she was told that her flight was cancelled. She was offered a ticket on the next flight with any available seats - on Saturday. The airline did not make any attempt to help her get back to Chicago sooner. Phone calls to other airlines did not get her anything better. If she's lucky, maybe she'll get home from NYC tonight, after paying for 2 additional days of hotel and meals, not reimbursed by the airline.

And then there's the hell that some guy from Ft. Worth just went through, courtesy of Delta. The Youtube video included in the article gives a much more complete picture of how bad it was and how badly the airline handled it.

I'd like to take a trip later this year, but the growing list of nightmare stories does not exactly motivate me to fork over a chunk of cash for this game of travel Russian roulette. It's making Amtrak look a lot more appealing. At least if you have delays on Amtrak, you have access to food and you can get up and walk around. They rent digital video players too. The idea of settling into a comfortable seat, enjoying the scenery, having good food in the dining car, and walking around as much as I want is pretty nice compared to the possibility of being stranded at my destination if my return flight is cancelled, at an unknown additional cost for hotel and meals.

I think we can officially declare our airline transportation broken, folks. The question is how and when it will be fixed.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Ted's band

A bit of Scrubs musical silliness for your Friday...

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

time to take care of business in Springfield

Our elected genius Blago has been setting a fine example by wasting taxpayers' money on state aircraft to shuttle him back and forth between Springfield and Chicago 3 times a week during the emergency budget session. State Rep Bill Mitchell has proposed bringing him and legislative leaders down to earth in future years. Sounds like a fine idea, especially since they have failed to meet the 5/31 budget deadline for 4 years under Blago's stellar leadership.

Meanwhile, it's time to Springfield to meet the efforts of the CTA and RTA halfway and keep our public transit moving.

How 'bout getting your priorities straight, people? A few of you privileged characters in Springfield are winging home on our dime, but we're getting closer to a doomsday scenario where the regular folks who pay your salaries may not be able to get to their jobs.