Thursday, January 31, 2008

not dead yet

a quick bit of video humor
[safe for general audiences]

dropping like flies

The presidential candidates are dropping like flies. Now that Edwards is out, will he end up as a VP candidate with Obama?

I'm not sorry to see Giuliani out on the Republican side. My best is that we'll see McCain vs. Obama in November.

Loop scene

As I was walking past the post office at Clark & Adams last night, I was passed by a little old lady wearing a knee length fur coat zipping along on a Razor scooter. Different.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Groundhog Day

If you're looking for a bit of semi-local amusement, check out the Groundhog Day festivities in Woodstock.

this Friday in Pullman


Friday, 2/1, 7pm - Historic Pullman Visitor Center; 112th &
Cottage Grove Ave.

10,000 MEN NAMED GEORGE: Story of the Pullman Porters
- Film, discussion with Sam Greenlee, refreshments

the bloggies

Yes, there's a "people's choice" award for blogs, and you can vote. The selection and range of categories is impressive.

wacky pre-primary Wednesday

Here's a very silly video for your amusement. Note Hillary's new face late in the video.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

today in Pullman

FUN DAY IN HISTORIC PULLMAN - Old Time Radio Production

Remember "the good old days" before television? Before the Internet?

Join us for a fun afternoon in Historic Pullman on Sunday, January 27, to see Those Were the Days Radio Players--South perform two old-time radio skits.

The show starts at 3:00 p.m. at the Historic Pullman Visitor Center, 11141 S. Cottage Grove Avenue. The two vintage radio programs to be presented, complete with genuine sound effects, will be:

Columbia Workshop: Odyssey of Runyon Jones
X Minus 1 Productions: Chain of Command.

Following will be a short Question and Answer period about old-time radio, plus complimentary refreshments. A free-will donation will be requested, with proceeds going to Pullman seniors and youth groups.

The Historic Pullman Foundation Visitor Center is located at the corner of S. Cottage Grove Avenue and 112th Street, west of Exit 66A on I-94. Pullman-era artifacts are included in this building, while the famed Hotel Florence, Greenstone Church, Pullman Horse Stables, and Pullman factory buildings are nearby, all within one block of the Visitor Center. For driving directions or train travel, call (773) 370-3305.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

99th St. Metra construction continues

A few months ago, I wrote about the long-anticipated construction finally starting at the 99th Street Metra station. At that time, Metra announced that the platform would be reconstructed within 2 months. When I talked to my regular morning and evening conductors about it, one thought it would take at least 4 months, and the other predicted 6 months. Construction started on 8/27. Now we're 5 months into construction. Stay tuned...

Thursday, January 24, 2008

jazz fair this weekend

This Friday there will be some fine jazz groups performing at the Chicago Cultural Center: Von Freeman Quintet, "Jazz Sings the Blues" with Dee Alexander and Billy Branch, New Directions (Nicole Mitchell and Jim Baker), Edwin Sanchez Project, Chuck Hedges Swingtet, Jazz Links Ensemble, and All-City Jazz Ensemble - 7 pm to midnight, Friday 1/25.

On Saturday 1/26, "Cinema Jazz" will run from 11:30 am to 5 pm in the Claudia Cassidy Theater, featuring rare film footage.

All at 78 E. Washington St. - Free

yet another one out of the race

Today it looks like Kucinich is out.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

a music & dance two-fer

Here's a bit of Scrubs fun for a cold day. And another bit for good measure... Friday's almost here.

a sad loss

I've watched Heath Ledger's recent films with great appreciation of his acting talent. I hoped that he would continue to choose quality roles and have a long, rewarding career. I know that I'm not the only one who was saddened by the news of his death yesterday.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

another one bites the dust

Fred Thompson is out of the running in the Republican side of the presidential race. Please let Huckabee be next.

Monday, January 21, 2008

the race for Cook County State's Attorney

Toni has written a detailed post on the candidates' debate in this race. Click here to read it. The candidates vary considerably in their qualifications.

In addition, Howard Brookins cites his political heritage. However, while he does have experience as Asst. State's Attorney, he has been the subject of slumlord lawsuits in addition to being sued for unpaid rent on his Loop law office. He has also been sued for unpaid rent on office copiers. He has gotten a substantial campaign contribution from Elzie Higginbotham, slumlord extraordinaire.

If you want more on Higginbotham, click here, here, and here. I remember many more stories of problem buildings, but they go back far enough that most are not readily available online.

Of the candidates in this race, some are obvious "pay to pay" characters, who seem likely to perpetuate the corrupt legacy of the Toddler's Crook County. It pays to read the background and make an informed choice when you vote.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

opportunity for change

"Change" has become a bit of a cliche in the current presidential campaign. However, we are facing a very real possibility for change in various forms. 9/11 could have been an opportunity for Shrub to unite warring factions in our country. Instead, that chance was squandered, and we are more divided than at any time in my lifetime. The legacy of Vietnam has grown like mushrooms. Will November's election results make the Vietnam-related rifts even deeper, or will we begin to heal as a nation? For all the rhetoric spewed forth in the campaign, the unspoken potential of various candidates to heal our wounds and create new bridges with other nations should not be overlooked.

There's a thought-provoking article in The Atlantic that is well worth a read. I find the fear-mongering e-mails being circulated about Obama to be sad and short-sighted. I do not see perfection in him. He is human and faults like any of the candidates. I think that one of his most promising qualities is his inborn talent for bridging gaps and bringing people together. In such an era of bitterness, this may prove more valuable than many of us now realize.

Friday, January 18, 2008

dance fun

Here's a bit of Scrubs dance fun for your Friday night. Enjoy!

new addition to the periodic table

I got this bit of political humor via e-mail and thought I'd share. Wish I could take credit for it. Given the current state of local politics, I think it's very timely. TGIF.


A New Addition to Chemistry's Periodic Table

Research has led to the discovery of the heaviest element yet known to science. The new element, Governmentium (Gv), has one neuron, 25 assistant neurons, 88 deputy neurons, and 198 assistant deputy neurons, giving it an atomic mass of 312. These 312 particles are held together by forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons. Since Governmentium has no electrons, it is inert; however, it can be detected, because it impedes every action with which it comes into contact. A minute amount of Governmentium can cause a reaction that would normally take less than a second to take from four days to four years to complete. Governmentium has a normal half-life of 2-6 years; it does not decay, but instead undergoes a reorganization in which a portion of the assistant neurons and deputy neurons exchange places. In fact, Governmentium's mass will actually increase over time, since each reorganization will cause more morons to become neurons, forming isodopes.

This characteristic of moron promotion leads some scientists to believe that Governmentium is formed whenever morons reach a critical concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as critical morass. When catalyzed with money, Governmentium becomes Administratium, an element that radiates just as much energy as Governmentium since it has half as many peons but twice as many morons.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

garage burglaries in the neighborhood

This morning I heard about a group of garage burglaries on the 9700 blocks of Damen and Winchester. On Tuesday night (1/15), a burglar went into one garage through an unlocked side door and stole a snowblower and garage door remote. The location of the snowblower in the garage (pinned in by cars) led the homeowners to assume that more than one burglar was involved. The burglars also broke into the garage of their next door neighbors, but did not take anything. When they filed a police report, they discovered that the burglars had stolen similar items from 3 other garages on the block on the same night.

At this time of year, snowblowers are certainly in demand, so the burglars have a market for their loot. Make sure your garage doors are locked.

I reported these incidents to BAPA, which offered these suggestions:

Be observant and call 911 when anyone in the least bit suspicious is observed. One tactic for such burglars is to break into several garages and leave things near the trash and then come back later and collect it all. Another group to watch out for are the junk collectors. It is illegal to pick trash without a license. License information should be clearly marked on the side of the truck along with the company name. People should not hesitate to call 911 and to make police reports of the incidents.

If you or your neighbors are interested, the 22nd District is giving out
free reflective numbers for the back of the garage or house to help
police/fire personnel to respond in an emergency.

Even if the burglars do not take anything, filing a police report can help police to establish a pattern which may aid to catching the culprits.

safe for now

The state legislature has averted the latest transit funding doomsday. Phew!

I'm relieved that they finally passed this bill. However, I have to wonder how much Blago's free rides will contribute to future doomsday scenarios. In the short term, how soon will the rest of us have a fare increase to pay for those free rides? I'll bet that it will happen within the year. And how many non-seniors will borrow grandma's card to get free rides. Probably more than a few.

Some seniors are truly deserving of a free ride, but many of them have the money to pay. Many say that the existing reduced fare program is just fine. As a demographic category, the percentage of single mothers who are desperately poor is probably a lot higher than the percentage of seniors who are very poor.

The State Constitution should be amended to allow a simple majority to override a Governor's veto, particularly when the veto is used to bludgeon the legislature into passing a half-baked measure as Blago has done today.

Blago's reckless, irresponsible spending of money the state does not have may do lasting economic damage. It does not help that he has a childish, petty tendency to pick unnecessary arguments with people he should have a working relationship with. The prospect of how much damage he could do in the remainder of his term is truly scary. He lives in a bubble, out of touch with regular people, too much like Shrub. The Feds can't indict his sorry a$$ soon enough.

Julie Hamos deserves our everlasting gratitude for her persistence in getting this bill passed. I hope she's having a fine celebration tonight.

transit funding vote TODAY

Have you called or send an e-mail to urge your legislators to vote for
HB 656 in today's session? It is critical that they pass the bill
TODAY in order to avoid the CTA/RTA doomsday this Sunday 1/20.

Even if you don't use public transit on a regular basis, the proposed
service cuts WILL affect you - in the form of greatly increased car
traffic and air pollution.

Click here to send an e-mail or fax today.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

green alleys

Here's a positive change we'll see more of this year: green alleys Many of us have runoff from alleys into our yards, sometimes contributing to basement flooding. Additional alley runoff can create street flooding - water that sometimes ends up overwhelming the drainage system, resulting in large stormwater discharges that often result in beach closures later.

What if the city, or you in your own back yard, changed the pavement to a permeable variety so that much of the water was absorbed into the ground, filtered as nature intended, rather than creating flooding? Having large areas of concrete in your yard can add to flooding. If you replaced your asphalt or concrete driveway with this, you could create additional green space, reduce runoff, and reduce the amount of radiated heat. The comments below the photos are worth reading.

At many houses on city lots, replacing a side driveway and patio with permeable pavement could double the amount of green space and significantly reduce heat in the area around that house. I've seen one house in Beverly where they tore out the driveway and replaced it with a beautiful garden. The car sits on the street, and the garage is used for storage.

Food for thought....

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

taxes and change

This morning's Trib article about the proposed increase in the real estate transfer tax and a related item on Toni's blog reminded me of when I lived in New Hampshire. Migration across the border to escape some of the reach of the Tax-achusetts bureaucracy was increasing. Lots of folks who live in Tax-achusetts shop in NH, because it has no sales tax.

The tide of population shift that started in earnest while I lived there has continued, as evidenced by the change in New Hampshire politics. The place was scary-conservative when I first moved there in 1987. I never would have guessed that things would change enough for the state to elect a female Democrat as governor and that increasing numbers of independent voters would vote Democrat, to the point that NH became a blue state in the last presidential election. Taxes can have interesting secondary effects.

I don't know that things would shift to the same degree here. I know some people who have moved from Chicago or suburbs to Indiana or Wisconsin for economic reasons. Metra and the South Shore make that more feasible than it might otherwise be in our congested Chicago-Gary-Kenosha mega-sprawl.

If Chicago continues to get more expensive for the average person, it
might be Indiana and Wisconsin's gain and our loss.

public hearing on transit funding

As Julie Hamos pointed out on Chicago Tonight last night, they are required to hold a public hearing on changes in transit funding. Even though it's last minute, there will be one tomorrow, Wed. 1/16, 2 p.m. at the Thompson Center, 100 W. Randolph.

I'd like to send out another big thank you to Julie Hamos for her tireless work to pass this funding bill in spite of the clash of enormous egos that's been going on around her.

government by gimmick

State Senator Matt Murphy hit the nail on the head on Chicago Tonight when he described Gov. Rod Blagojevich's vote-whoring amendatory veto as "government by gimmick."

And did Blago talk to anyone, even the CTA president, about his brilliant idea before he popped it out? No.

Keep sending the message to Blago that he needs to work with the legislature and get this bill signed, preferably without his senior freebie.


A Scrubs video two-fer for your Tubesday....

99 Luft Balloons

more than a feeling

Okay, if you check out the original 99 Luft Balloons, it's a three-fer


Monday, January 14, 2008

bike in the new year

If one of your New Year's resolutions is to get more exercise, riding a bicycle is one good way to get it. If you're thinking of commuting by bike, even better. Winter Bike to Work day is next Friday 1/18. Come on down, enjoy hot chocolate and Eli's cheesecake, meet other bike commuters and maybe win something in the free raffle.

For more notes on the Chicago bike scene and some good resources, click here and here.

If your bike commute is too long to be feasible in winter, start with something easier: shopping or dining by bike. Instead of getting into the car, get on your bike. Take a ride to the Beverly Arts Center or World Music Company for art or a movie or music. Ride to your favorite restaurant. If you're going to the hardware store and not buying anything too large or heavy, take the bike with panniers or backpack.

It's a great way to start the year!

some seniors don't buy it

It seems that some seniors aren't drinking Blago's Kool Aid.

another steaming heap

Blago continues to pile it on. If you believe that this idiot actually has sympathy for regular folks, I've got a bridge I'd like to sell you.

Star Wars guide to the candidates

With the Illinois primary coming up soon, being informed on the candidates is essential. A straightforward guide to the candidates can be helpful. This is not such a guide. Enjoy a humorous version first.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

mass transit success

The flipside of my previous post on transit funding is this success story.

new year's wishes

I keep wishing that I'd wake up and find that we actually have adequate transit funding, that we will be able to maintain and improve service and infrastructure and won't see another CTA/RTA doomsday anytime soon.

Have you figured out why it is that our idiotic Gov. Blobhead is so determined to cripple the RTA and flush Chicago down the economic toilet? How can he spout pure bullshit like this, then turn around and pull another last minute delaying tactic like this out of his twisted hat?

King Richie hasn't spoken up nearly enough. We need a bit more of this, but it's probably too little too late.

If I got my wishes, we would have:

1. A long-term transit funding plan in place;

2. A legal mechanism to give our chief imbecile, Gov. Blobhead, the boot and replace him with someone competent.

If I only got the first one, I'd be happy enough. Seeing the idiot kicked out would be icing on the cake.

And what are you wishing for at the start of this new year?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

another good reason to choose organics or grow your own

Freshness and convenience have always been good reasons for growing your own fruits and vegetables. The food safety issues of recent years, such as e. coli and other types of contamination have given me a bit more motivation.

The recent EPA approval of this toxic pesticide is yet another reason to consider buying organic or growing your own, as well as being a good illustration of why the EPA under Shrub is an absolute mockery of the agency's stated purpose.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

two unusual art shows

For a slightly different vision of life in Chicago, check out an exhibition of anti-car and pro-bicycle sculpture, paintings, and photography created by participants of Chicago Critical Mass. THIS WEEK! Friday January 11, 5-9pm: Art Show Opening Party at Mercury Cafe, 1505 W. Chicago Ave.

Check out the other anti-car Art show in town: Pedestrian Hell, at Efebos CafĂ©, 1640 S. Blue Island Ave. (312-633-9212). January 25 – March 6, 2008.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

burning the midnight oil

Peter Garrett of Australia's Midnight Oil has taken his activism to the next level - from rock to legislation. After previous attempts, he was elected to the Australian Parliament and has been appointed environment minister by the new Prime Minister.

I hope that the U.S. elections in 2008 will bring us a change that is similarly positive for the environment. It can't get much worse than Shrub.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

1/20 is coming

The latest CTA doomsday is fast approaching now that the holiday are past. If you haven't checked out the service cut list on the CTA web site, it has changed since the previous round. The northwest side and north side along the lake are the biggest losers. Many NW side routes will be cut, and all the Lake Shore Drive express buses (which have very heavy ridership) will be gone. 81 of 154 bus routes will be gone (52.5%). Looks like all the proposed changes are now on the bus side of the equation, as they do not show any trains on the service cut list.

For the fare side of the picture, click here. It continues the trend towards incentives to switch to the Chicago Card or Chicago Card Plus.

For more info from CTA, click here.

Meanwhile, Pace has their own list of proposed cuts, mostly evening (after 7 p.m.) and weekend service and not a lot of route eliminations. What does that mean around here? ALL evening service on the 349 Western and 352 Halsted buses would be cut.

Metra is proposing either a 5 percent or 10 percent fare increase, plus the elimination of the $5 weekend pass (to be replaced by a $7 all-day fare good for travel on either weekend day. They have already been making some cuts which are invisible to anyone but regular riders, reducing the number of open cars and conductors on some off-peak trains. If the system doesn't get additional funding, off-peak service cuts would be proposed in 2009. For more detail, click here (large PDF).

To put in your $0.02 worth yet again, click here. Bug the governor. Bug your legislators, mayor, and aldermen. Geez, I really hate that we're in this position yet again, after our train wreck of a state government has failed us for the umpteenth time in this critical issue.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Friday, January 4, 2008

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

amusing commute story

Back to work after the second 4-day weekend in a row... Ah, I could get used to this. For those of you who haven't run across the Home Improvement Ninja blog in your internet travels, here's an
amusing commute story to take some of the pain out of our collective return to work.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

walking Halsted

Recently a couple of urban adventurers decided to explore Chicago in a different way - seeing it up close, on foot, walking Halsted St. from one end to the other. For pictures, click here. I've done similar explorations by bike. I give these guys extra points for doing it on foot.