Saturday, August 30, 2008

b'bye bar cars

I wasn't exactly heartbroken over this week's news that Metra is eliminating bar cars on its trains. I hope it will cut down a little on the number of out of control drunks. It might reduce the noise level on trains.

What I'd really love to see is a designated quiet car, for those of us who would like to read, or sleep, or simply have a quiet ride. If you like this idea too, please send a letter to Metra Passenger Services. They won't know unless we tell 'em.

it's not too late register for the Boulevard Lakefront Tour. This amazing ride, with 15-mile, 35-mile and 62-mile options, will be happening on Sunday 9/7. This year the 62-mile option includes some beautiful south side neighborhoods, including Avalon Park, Beverly and Morgan Park. Check it out! You'll be glad you did.

Friday, August 29, 2008

funky Friday

Here's a funny response to last week's video. WARNING: don't watch this if your boss or little ones are within earshot.

sprayed on your ride?

Are you a bicyclist who has been sprayed by a mosquito spraying truck while out on your ride? I understand that it has happened to some people.

Advance publicity by the Chicago Dept. of Public Health continues to be poor. They have e-mail blasts, so if you are on their list or the list of a community group in an affected area, you get advance notice. There is NO notice in the media, so the vast majority of people who may be affected get NO notice until a truck shows up where they are. Then they get sprayed and their home probably gets spray in it. The city claims that this stuff is "safe" but we've all heard that before about many things that turned out not to be so safe.

If you are interested in this and other issues of environment and social justice, you might want to check out Beyond Today. They have a page specific to pesticide spraying issues, which includes links for two Yahoo groups.

If you are a cyclist who has been sprayed while riding and would like to make a report for the purpose of their study, click here to send an e-mail.

not-so-free advice

another morning funny

going green on a large scale

One of Boston's largest property owners is going green, partially due to pressure from tenants. They are seeking green certification for all of their office buildings. I would love to see similar news here, from a company like Friedman Properties, which owns half of River North. A green parking garage is an oxymoron. Here in Chicago, I would love to see a real estate behemoth like Jones Lang LaSalle to commit to going green on a large scale. Now THAT would mean something.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

separate but unequal

Cheryle Jackson of the Chicago Urban League had a good op-ed piece in the Trib this week. I've heard the same stories from too many teachers in inner city schools of school budgets that do not even cover basic supplies, leaving the teachers themselves to buy chalk, paper, and other items that we take for granted in better funded schools. Some schools do not have adequate books. The books may be outdated or simply worn out from years of use. Students may be working by photocopied handouts, sometimes paid for by their teachers, because that's all there is.

This isn't an "us vs. them" situation. Lack of educational opportunity affects ALL of us.

Of course, the elephant in this particular room is parent participation. In neighborhoods where schools are severely underfunded, there are many other issues, beginning in students' homes. Parents may lack time because they're working 2 or 3 jobs to support their kids. They may have done poorly in school themselves and may not know how to help their children learn well. Kids may be living with grandparents or in foster homes.

I hope that the Urban League's next step will be pushing for more mentoring programs to help kids build the skills they need to learn well in school. Without that, increased funding is unlikely to solve the problem.

things a non-cyclist might not understand

If you drive but don't ride a bike, please take a few minutes to read this excellent post. There are probably things about cyclist behavior that mystify and infuriate. This Toronto blogger may make some sense of it for you.

There are rational reasons involving self-preservation as to why we don't hug a line of parked cars, come to a full stop at every stop sign, etc. I'm not justifying every bit of cyclist behavior, but many of us do want to co-exist peacefully with other forms of traffic. Many of us do use hand signals to let other folks know that we're turning or slowing down. Next time you're in traffic, try to remember what she wrote. If we understand each other a little better, it's easier to share the road.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

state of insecurity

Are we hearing about potential terrorists being caught by our overzealous airport security program? Rarely. The majority of accounts are like this one: a law-abiding person simply trying to get through the system and being screwed by it. Yeah, like this really makes me feel more secure.

tough sledding

a laugh for your Monday

morning laugh

Click here for a funny political statement from The Boondocks.

breaking out of the box

Yesterday's Sun-Times ran a story about one couple's experience with going car-free.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

on NPR Talk of the Nation today

One bicyclist in Dallas has started wearing a video camera to document cars that nearly run her down. The War of Wheels, Tuesday on Talk of the Nation. Listen locally on WBEZ 91.5 FM 1:00-2:00 p.m. (Central) or online at

making lemonade from lemons

During the clean-up of contaminated Barrie Park, Oak Park purchased 6 homes, which are being renovated as green homes, a showcase for environmentally friendly technology and practices. What a great way to turn that situation around.

Monday, August 25, 2008

two way street

There has been a lot of online discussion lately about the city's crackdown on cycling scofflaws. Everyone in the bicycling community does not agree with me on this, but courtesy on city streets needs to be a two-way street.

How well do you know the laws concerning bicycling on Chicago streets? Take this quiz.

jazz at BAC tonight

Check out Cool Jazz Mondays (FREE!) 7-9 PM

The Pat Noland Group featuring Patrick Noland (piano and guitar), Pete Vancura (bass) and Rusty Jones (drums) will play jazz in the Beverly Arts Center courtyard every Monday night thru 8/25. Bring picnic blankets or chairs. (In case of rain, concerts will move indoors.) Tonight is the last night this summer!

caution: distracted driver ahead

As if we don't see enough moving traffic hazards due to people yelling at their kids, shaving, talking on cell phones, doing makeup or other things they shouldn't do while driving. Now we have the potential of mobile WiFi, so they can crash into other people while surfing the net. Charming.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

next step for solar energy?

Researchers at MIT have come up with an idea that could greatly expand the potential of solar energy. Click here to read about it.


Have you sampled the sweet wares of this local business? They're available at several stores along Western right in the neighborhood.

Friday, August 22, 2008

music at Millennium Park on 8/25

Made in Chicago jazz series: 6:30 p.m. Aug. 25: Mike Reed's People, Places and Things Octet. Drummer Reed partners with Chicago jazz masters of the 1950s and '60s: Art Hoyle, Ira Sullivan and Julian Priester. Free

funky Friday

Here's a morning caffeine break for your Friday: a cup of brown joy. TGIF!

Thursday, August 21, 2008


I wish there was a reasonable cure for this insidious disease.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Lincoln Park pirates strike again

The legend lives on, and not in a good way. Sheesh! It gives new life to the old Steve Goodman song.

mosquito spraying this week

FYI - There will be mosquito spraying this Thursday night 8/21, but NOT here in the neighborhood. From around 8:00 p.m. to midnight, there will be spraying in two very limited areas on the Far South Side, parts of the West Pullman and Riverdale neighborhoods.

The first area is bounded by 115th St. on the north, 127th St. on the south, the MWRD Calumet water reclamation plant on the east, and Yale on the west. The second area is bounded by 130th St. on the north, the Little Calumet River on the south, Doty/Bishop Ford Expressway on the east, and city limits on the west.

The word is that no further spraying is planned anywhere else in the city this week, but that could change if mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus are found in the traps that are being monitored.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

music at Millennium Park on 8/21

Made in Chicago jazz series: 6:30 p.m. Aug. 21: "Celebrating Nat 'King' Cole." Freddy Cole will sing a tribute to his brother, joined by Chicago singer-pianist Audrey Morris and the Jeff Lindberg's Chicago Jazz Orchestra. Free

documenting the ephemeral

My cyber-friend Archie has done some intriguing work with abandoned (perhaps soon to be gone or altered) spaces. Chuck has accumulated quite a collection of abandoned space photos. Here's a Brooklyn counterpart.

Elsewhere in NYC, these cool bike racks by David Byrne are a temporary installation.

gas prices and transit ridership

No big surprise.

Twin Cities, Seattle, New Jersey, and Madison.

but operating costs for transit systems are up, too.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Sunday, August 17, 2008


I'm sure that some of you have been aware of for a while. To others, it will be new. This well designed web site allows searches by zip code, address or neighborhood and brings back a wide range of information, from police reports on all types of crime to restaurant inspections, liquor license applications, building permits, property transfers, and more.

Today's Trib ran an interesting article about how this extremely useful online database tool got started.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Friday, August 15, 2008

Thursday, August 14, 2008

technical difficulties

when online mapping steers you wrong...

a little less waste

The news about state legislators rejecting their pay raise was a bright spot in this week's news. After this year's failure to again cope with the state budget crisis (for which Gov. Blagojevich earns a greater share of the blame), they certainly haven't earned any raise.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Monday, August 11, 2008

a curious garden friendship

For the last few days, I've noticed a robin hopping or walking near my veggie garden. It appeared to be sick or dying. It didn't go very far if I walked into the area and didn't fly. Yesterday it was barely moving. Two mourning doves stayed nearby, being near the robin on the ground and not going far from it if I came near, coming right back to the robin when I moved away.

This morning I went out to water the veggie garden. The robin was lying dead on the ground. The mourning doves were sitting near the body. They still weren't leaving their friend. They wouldn't go anywhere until I scooped up the robin to dispose of the body. Then they disappeared.

getting a bit better

Over the weekend I drove out to Evergreen Park via 99th St. and was very happy to see a coat of new asphalt on 99th and the formerly rough part of California. Now I'll be able to ride my bike safely on 99th again, after a year of tough conditions. Yeah!

Of course, I did end up waiting for freight trains at 99th & Rockwell in each direction. To the NIMBY whiners in Barrington, it's time to share the burden of freight traffic. The EJ&E deal will benefit far more communities than it will hurt. I'd love to see a bit less freight traffic in the southland.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

amazing things you can do with a bike

Someone I know once moved a piano by bike. And here's a guy who plays a piano bike. And a guy in Ottawa, Canada, moving the contents of his home by bike. Here's another bike move in Austin, Texas. A group of folks in Portland, Oregon, moves puppet theater props and puppets by bike. I've got a ways to go before I can equal these. What's the most creative thing you've done with your bike?

Saturday, August 9, 2008

bats in the ecosystem

A while back, I noticed an article about large numbers of bats mysteriously dying in New England. More recent articles 1 (with link to video) and 2 follow up on the topic. Scientists may be getting closer to solving the mystery. The problem appears to be spreading to other states. If bat populations are severely reduced or lost entirely, I wouldn't be surprised if we see a huge increase in mosquito-borne illnesses. I hope the bats can recover.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

long and winding road

I've heard a few recent reports of local Paul McCartney sightings. I guess it's for real. Very cool.

bike commuting survey

Do you commute to work by bike, or have you considered it? Chicagoland Bicycle Federation is doing a survey to examine the role bike facilities play in decisions to commute to work by bike, with the goal of increasing the number of bicycling commuters in Illinois.

Please take a minute to do this brief online survey of your bicycling habits, interests and needs. If you complete the survey, you will be entered into a drawing to win a $50 gift certificate to Kozy's Cyclery. Thanks for helping out. This project is funded through the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

green bungalows and graystones

The Chicago Architecture Foundation is running a workshop this Saturday on green rehabs for historic bungalows and graystones. Speakers are Annette Conti of the Historic Bungalow Assocation and Matt Cole of the Historic Chicago Greystone Initiative. Free. Call to reserve a spot 312-922-3432 x224.

back to normal

Phew! What a relief to have the power back and get back to normal after Monday night's storms! We had over 2" of rain in the garden. Guess I won't have to water for a few days.

quite a show

Monday night's storms really gave us an amazing light show. Now that our power is on again, I can write this from home. Today's Trib article added a lot of detail about what happened. More cool pictures here.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Monday, August 4, 2008

music at Millennium Park on 8/7

Made in Chicago jazz series: Amir ElSaffar's Two Rivers Large Ensemble. Chicagoan ElSaffar, an Iraqi-American trumpeter, combines elements of Middle Eastern music with modern-day jazz improvisation, and with Jeff Parker, Rudresh Mahanthappa and Zafer Tawil. 6:30 p.m. Aug. 7 - Free

Ginza Holiday festival 8/8-8/10

If you're interested in Japanese culture, check out this festival at the Buddhist temple in Old Town (435 W. Menomonee St.), featuring traditional Japanese art forms, crafts, food, and performances. Dharma talks are presented regularly during the festival by a resident minister, and tours of the temple are offered.

Hours 8/8: 5:30-9 p.m.  8/9: 11:30 a.m.-7 p.m.  8/10: 1:30-6 p.m.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

e.e. cummings' revenge

In the last few years, I've noticed that texting is having bad side effects. Many people working in business environments, where literacy in standard English is critical, are falling into the trap of using sloppy shortcuts inspired by texting. I'm getting a bit tired of having to play 20 questions with co-workers who use brief, cryptic abbreviations. Litigation requires attention to detail and precise communication. Ambiguity can be expen$ive.

Friday, August 1, 2008

funky Friday

Here's some old time stuff for a change of pace: Tommy Dorsey's Opus One