Wednesday, March 28, 2007

but wait, there's more...

Just when it seemed that the "Hillary 1984" hoopla had died down, there's more about why Apple Computer didn't sue the creator of the Youtube video.  A previously unknown party owns the rights to "1984."  Read more here.   Yes, folks, truth can be stranger than fiction.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

no paper, no plastic

San Francisco's Board of Supervisors voted 10-1 to prohibit petroleum-based plastic checkout bags at large markets and pharmacies and mandated the use of biodegradable plastic and recyclable paper bags in their place.

This is step forward for San Francisco. Would Chicago consider such a move? I hope so, if Mayor Daley is at all serious about making the city greener and more eco-friendly.

Monday, March 26, 2007

what's all the yelling about?

It seems like people are yelling everywhere. People are yelling into their cell phones. People talking to each other on Metra are yelling. People at the office standing a few feet away from each other are yelling - and they're not having an argument. Do people think their voices don't carry?

Wouldn't it be great if Metra would have a designated quiet car on each train? If you agree, write to Metra.

  Metra Passenger Services
  547 W. Jackson
  Chicago, IL 60661
  (312) 322-6777 - Weekdays 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM

I have to wonder if a large percentage of the under-65 population is rapidly going deaf from overly loud music - both from earphones and car stereos.

Friday, March 23, 2007

public comment sought on extending the Red Line

The CTA is seeking public comment on extending the Red Line to 130th Street. This Trib article gives details. Your $0.02?

spring springs

Thursday, March 22, 2007

no rules

The revelation of ParkRidge47's identity shows that the old rules of political campaigning don't seem to apply anymore.

An individual took independent action in a way that reflects on his employer's business relationship with one of the candidates. The candidate did not ask that the Youtube video be taken down. Apple Computer, whose ad was altered to create the video, did not ask that the video be taken down. No lawsuits were filed.

More DIY actions seem likely in the future. I'm curious to see exactly what forms they may take.

blowin' in the wind

Last night when I was walking from work to LaSalle St. station, the howling wind was making me grateful that it wasn't raining hard or 30 degrees colder. It was the kind of intense wind that takes your breath away at winter temperatures. The occasional bits of rain stung from the wind's intensity.

It was good to get to the station. As I walked through the tunnel towards the platforms, I heard the acoustic guitar guy who often plays and sings there. His tune of the moment: "Blowin' in the Wind."

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

and the buzz goes on

There are some interesting theories out there about the identity and motivation of the mysterious ParkRidge47. If he/she is ever revealed, wouldn't it be a scream if it turned out to be Steve Jobs? What's your $0.02?

a brave new world for political campaigning

The emergence of the Hillary 1984 Youtube spot raises a lot of interesting questions. How and where do we get information on political candidates? Who is responsible for the material? How does it compare to official campaign "spin?" Is the source an independent grassroots voice, or is it actually disinformation from the campaign that is designed to appear as independent?

In case you're not up to speed on this, a digitally re-edited version of Apple's 1984 Think Different ad has appeared on Youtube, posted by someone using the pseudonym ParkRidge47 (referring to Hillary's hometown and year of birth). It ends with a link to, but Obama's campaign says they had no part in creating this ad.

The explosive growth of blogs and Youtube is rapidly changing the political campaign process, creating many grassroots opportunities to affect campaigns from the outside. It is much easier to expose questionable campaign donors and other information that usually would not see the light of day in the pre-digital age.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer ran news article on the phenomenon.

It feels like the winds of change are blowing in a big way. I'm seeing the effects on local campaigns, such as the 49th ward aldermanic run-off. I'd imagine that political campaigns may be very different 10 years from now, as grassroots efforts increase in prominence and influence. Power to the people!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

blue bag blues

A local protest song (MP3)...

Monday, March 19, 2007


If these blasts of cold wind in between the warm days are getting you down, remember that it is still March. To put things into perspective, look at this picture.

Central New Hampshire (same latitude as us, more or less) just got 10 inches of snow. In the picture, the snow and ice are far from gone there. We don't have it so bad.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Jazz: America's classical music

Jazz is one of America’s homegrown musical genres, but it has been treated like a less favored stepchild for much of its history. In its early days, some of the finest jazz talent was found in the brothels and saloons of New Orleans. Its roots are closely linked with blues, but it has followed a slightly different path over the years.

The Tribune recently ran an excellent article about Thelonius Monk's musical legacy.

There are excellent sources for listening online. The links below offer a small selection of what’s out there.
WDCB Chicago/Glen Ellyn
WDNA Miami
Danish Radio Copenhagen

Cafe Luna on 99th St. is a great place for local jazz on Wednesday nights and sometimes on other nights.

I’ve often wondered why jazz, in all its variations, is so underappreciated by the general public. At its simplest, it offers catchy toe-tapping tunes. At its deeper levels, it has developed a level of complexity and eloquence to merit the label "America's classical music." In the broad spectrum of jazz, there is a flavor for anyone.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Green choices - shopping and how we get there

[part 3 in a series]

Taking reusable tote bags to the store (any store, not just the grocery store) instead of taking home lots of plastic shopping bags also reduces oil consumption. Plastic bags are not accepted in most recycling programs. Too many of them end up as shredded garbage festooning trees and shrubs. The only practical way that many of us can recycle them is by giving them a second use as small household garbage bags or for scooping up after dogs. A reusable tote bag is fairly inexpensive. Many stores sell them for less than $10. They can be washed occasionally and used for many years. My oldest is about 15 years old and still going strong. Over that time, that one tote bag has taken the place of hundreds of plastic bags. I have several tote bags, so I have enough to handle most shopping trips.

Buying products with less packaging also reduces energy consumption. A product encased in a lot of plastic uses more oil than one in simple cardboard packaging. The plastic may or may not be recyclable.

We can choose to shop closer to home when possible, going on foot, by bike or by public transit (CTA, Metra, Pace) instead of driving. For heavier loads, I use a trailer with my bike.

If we don’t need to use a car on a daily basis, I-Go and Zipcar now have many locations in Chicago and nearby suburbs. These car share programs make cars available in increments of ½ hour, making them much more affordable than traditional full-day car rentals. I’ve used I-Go for several months now. In an average month, I get a car 3-4 times for a few hours at a time, at an average cost of $15-20 per trip. No parking tickets for a car that sits on the street most of the time. No additional maintenance costs. No worries about having to move the car for street cleaning.

Until all wards in the city have curbside recycling, the addition of local recycling centers makes real recycling (as opposed to the ridiculous blue bag program) more feasible for a higher percentage of city residents. Most of these locations have large dumpsters accepting plastics marked 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 7, aluminum cans and foil, tin cans, glass bottles, newsprint and magazines, phone books, white paper, and cardboard. If one recycles as much of these items as possible, one can reduce the amount that goes into the trash can by 50% or more.

The net impact of these little choices (and many others) can make a big difference in one's personal and household energy consumption.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Green choices - what we eat

[part 2 in a series - continued from yesterday]

Buying fruits and vegetables produced within a few hundred miles of your home consumes a lot less oil and generates a lot less pollution than produce from across the country or across the ocean. Given the limited selection in colder climates, opting for U.S. grown winter produce from across the country is a greener choice than produce from overseas. In the warmer months, we have farmers’ markets.

CSAs (community supported agriculture) are another option for local produce. This link gives information on how CSAs work and has additional links to find CSAs near you. CSAs work by subscription. For example, person A gets a subscription to Joe’s Farm for 20 weeks of crops. During the growing season, Joe’s Farm makes regular deliveries to a city or suburban location where A and other subscribers can pick up their box of produce for the week. Selection and quantity varies depending on what is ready for picking that week. Subscribers are effectively shareholders in the farm, providing capital for the farm’s operating costs and sharing its risks. They get an opportunity to reconnect with the natural cycle of growth and to share in the bounty if the year’s crop yield is exceptionally good. The farmer gains financial security, gets a better price for crops, and can spend more time and energy on farming that might otherwise be diverted by marketing efforts.

Another installment tomorrow...

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

jazz at Luna

We have a gem of a neighborhood hangout in CafĂ© Luna. So many neighborhoods don’t have a place anywhere near this cool. It’s a great place to check out live jazz on Wednesday nights, and live entertainment on some other nights, or just stop in for coffee or tea on your way to the 99th St. Metra station.

Green choices - what we buy

Little choices can make a big difference in terms of environmental issues. If we choose to use disposable plastic or foam cups or plates, they may or may not be recyclable, as many recycling programs only accept #1 and #2 plastics. That assumes that one chooses to recycle at all. Even if we do recycle, it does not negate the fact that oil is a key ingredient in manufacturing this plastic. More oil is required to transport the crude oil from its point of origin to a refinery, then a distilled portion of that crude from refinery to plastic factory.

Buying drinking water in serving-size or 1-gallon plastic bottles raises the same issues. Using a filter system and tap water from your sink (unless you have really horrible water) is a greener choice, as it uses only a small fraction of the plastic (and oil for transportation) required by buying bottled water on a regular basis.

Buying products with less packaging also reduces energy consumption. A product encased in a lot of plastic uses more oil than one in simple cardboard packaging. The plastic may or may not be recyclable.

More tomorrow....

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Wolfhounds on parade

The South Side Irish parade was quite a show.  My aunt and uncle came down with their Irish wolfhound (Mona).  We walked with them in the parade with the Great Lakes Irish Wolfhound Association, behind St. Patrick and Uncle Sam.  Quite an amazing thing to see 22 wolfhounds all in one place, socializing with each other and the crowd.  Most of them were thoroughly enjoying all the attention, getting petted by lots of people.

Mona loved it.  Between so much petting and a very long walk, she was a very happy dog.  She's about 140 lbs and was one of the smaller dogs in the group.  Most of them were male and 170-200.  That's a lot of dog.

Relaxing now after being out for hours.  Back to the grind tomorrow...

coming soon

Since this is our first spring here, and we inherited these bulbs with the place, we'll find out soon what they are.

Saturday, March 10, 2007


By the end of today, it could all be gone. Yeah!!!!

Monday, March 5, 2007


This is some real silliness, courtesy of Bicycling magazine.

Bring Your Own Big Wheel (no rubber tires allowed)

Six Easters ago, artist Jon Brumit decided to ride a plastic Big Wheel down San Francisco's Lombard Street, said to be one of the most crooked roads in the world. As with so many really good bad ideas, others quickly recognized the appeal of his ride. In 2006, the event drew 17 racers and about 500 spectators - and lasted about one minute. Riders apply duct tape to their shoes for extra stopping power on the bricks, and compete for Brumit's handcrafted pricez, including string art, shellacked plaques and underwear with custom iron-on patches. Bonus tip: Last year's champion was the last to cross the start line (he was meditating), which allowed him to avoid the inevitable carnage at turn 1.

Jon Brumit's web site has pictures and info. Very entertaining pictures.

technical difficulties

If you read this blog over the weekend or tried to post a comment, you may have noticed incomplete posts or been unable to post comments. It seems that Blogger was having technical difficulties. Seems to be working now, at least for the moment.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

mystery traffic plan

A few months ago, a flyer appeared on my door concerning a proposed traffic plan for the 19th ward.  I visited the web site (link above) mentioned on the flyer and was stunned to see 3 levels of major changes ward-wide.

The potential effect of the proposed changes (at the 2 more invasive levels) would be extreme, very much like the rat-maze effect in the north end of the ward (from 89th to 95th, from Western east to the Metra tracks), putting the brunt of incoming traffic from major streets on a small handful of blocks.

I have asked some of my neighbors about their opinions on the plan.  They had never gotten the flyer and were not aware of the plan.  They were extremely upset that a plan that would have such a significant impact on traffic flow and quality of life in the neighborhood could be proposed without proper notice to ALL residents of the ward.

For example, the 9500 blocks of Damen and Leavitt would bear all incoming traffic from 95th St. under the more extreme levels of the plan.  This would be a significant increase in traffic, noise and pollution for these 2 blocks, and would certainly have a negative impact on quality of life and property values on these blocks.

Cul de sacs, mid-intersection circles, and cross-intersection diverters are not the answer to our traffic problems.  IMO, the biggest issue is speeding.  Raised crosswalks, curb bump-outs and more police writing tickets would be more effective and less invasive.

Is this the private fiefdom of Ginger Rugai or a democracy? The
residents of the 19th ward should decide whether their streets will be
turned into a human-scale rat maze.

one more

The unicycle kid on Longwood has a unicycle buddy, and they were both out there today.  Let 'em roll!