30 June 2008

Avenger speaks

Actually, Avenger the Moody Hybrid speaks about as often as a guy on the couch with a Guinness in one hand and the TiVo controller in the other, which is to say, not at all to me. But Dingbat guessed what might be going on in his headset and probably nailed it. My apologies for forgetting to link that at the time.

Extremely local news: What's the Point?

The Point is not the Palisades; I believe I have sufficiently demonstrated that. If you want to see harsh beauty, go west and a little north to Savanna and beyond. If, however, you would like to see the harsh reality of neglect masquerading as "preservation," then we've got plenty of that right here at Promontory Point, as Hyde Park Progress has been reporting in great detail. The latest installment of their series (is it a series?), Promontory Point Update: or Rebutting the Herald...Again, includes the best quote I've seen all day:

"Preservation Chicago is a private organization with no state authority. It's not the same as the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency (IHPA), which is an actual player in the Point controversy. Fencke may as well have told you that my private organization, Fama Family Swimmers, has placed Promontory Point on its list of Build the Frickin' Compromise Plan Already."

Wow. Moral of the story, be nice to swimmers.

As a biker/cyclist (I somewhat recently participated in a drunken casual debate about those terms; did we ever settle it?), I'm just disappointed that people would rather see limestone crumbling uselessly into the lake than concrete poured to stabilize what's supposed to be underneath. (Bicycle enthusiasm heightens your awareness of, among other things, huge gaping holes in the ground.) I love limestone as much as anyone else around here, but a large, haphazard pile of it is not supposed to be normal. What if Harper Library collapsed into a heap of rubble? Would we all be standing on the Midway admiring its harsh beauty?

Souh Shore Cultural and Natural Center

I knew there was a nature sanctuary maintained by the Chicago Park District somewhere on the grounds of the Chicago Cultural Center (formerly the South Shore Country Club, for all you Chigeeks of a historical bent). But as many times as I've passed it, I'd only ever been there once---for a wedding, and one does not go scuffing through the simulated wilderness in a skirt and heels. Besides, it would have been extremely rude to my hosts and date; in addition, on any given pleasant evening every halfway secluded spot on the lakefront is likely to be crawling with couples.

But this wasn't a pleasant evening, it was a stormy afternoon. I guessed that I'd have the place pretty much to myself, if I could find it.

I finally did, and had indeed guessed correctly.



The shoreline was an absolute wreck, which I suppose was the Park District's excuse for creating a nature preserve there. I'm not sure what those rocks are, but they sure aren't limestone. I wonder if they might actually be huge chunks of industrial byproduct.

Not sure what that is, but it looks kinda cool.

More flowers.



Pieces of glass embedded in a piece of concrete.

A submerged structure of some sort stretching out into the lake.

More submerged structures, and the skyline again.


I'd grown tired of being eaten by various insects, so I departed. After all, I had a lake to find, and a long way yet to go.

Powderhorn Lake, weather or not

The storm approaches...

...and arrives.

Well, I could stay in my stuffy apartment and do laundry all day, or I could risk the scattered rainstorms and go for a bike ride. Guess which one I picked?

When the rain stopped I headed out. I couldn't go north along the lakefront without running into a bajillion people (Taste of Chicago + Pride Parade = way too crowded), so I headed south instead. I figured I may as well try to get all the way down to Powderhorn Lake (as seen in Chicago Wilderness magazine), the last of the lesser lakes remaining to be visited by me.

I went the usual way: Lakefront Path south, then along the marked route to the Burnham Greenway, following that to Wolf Lake. Powderhorn Lake is a little farther to the south.

Stormclouds looming over Promontory Point.

Woo-hoo, I'm riding in that direction!

Water intake cribs at 68th St. (cool diagram here).

I made a long detour (timewise) at the South Shore Cultural Center, taking many pictures of pretty flowers and dramatic skyline views at the nature sanctuary. I've dumped those into another post.

Industry meets nature at the Burnham Greenway.

Powderhorn Lake! Mission accomplished.

As usually happens, I returned northwestward straight into a headwind. And I wasn't going to barely miss the worst of the rain for much longer. 'Twould be a long ride home, but I've had worse.

Ramshackle old warden's house (right?) at Eggers Grove. (Dear Forest Preserve District of Cook County: Why is your Web site impossible to navigate? I give up.) I was amused by the TV aerial for some reason.

Someday I'll find Andreas Von Zirngibl's grave at the riverside scrapyard, but in the meantime...

A couple of scrapped CTA buses.

And then the rainstorm hit, so I took no more pictures today.

29 June 2008

I'm totally framing this postcard

[Violating intellectual property law for your pleasure.]

It came with the new movie. And if you don't know what's going on, then you probably don't want to.

In other news, this: what I get to do several times a week, through the eyes of a visitor. Viva Lakefront Path!

27 June 2008

Attn: Pre-couples who are not yet comfortable enough with each other to share the same lane of the Lakefront Path

Would it be possible to find an alternative location for your awkwardly platonic evening stroll?

If not, then please note that both of you need to amble uncertainly to the right side of the path when a jogger or cyclist approaches. This goes for approaches from behind as well as in front.

Thank you.

Congratulations, City of Destiny!

Yes, that's Katharine of Chicago in the Chicago Reader, sort of. Yes yes, I know, it's all about your Flickr stream, but I don't do Flickr so you'll have to keep up here in Bloggerland too.

Here's to her continued success, and my desperate hope that I'm still too self-absorbed and potty-mouthed to be discovered. (Aw fuck, is that another ingrown toenail? I'll have to post pictures.)

In other news, sculptures! And more sculptures! Hey Hyde Park Cycling Committee Club, who's up for a public art ride sometime?

26 June 2008


I've found a bike that actually made me drool. Saliva and everything.

Dahon Tournado

[What hybrid?]

According to the review in Adventure Cyclist Magazine it would likely need a million or so modifications to suit me (I like my cushy dork saddle and huge granny gear!), but whatever. I'm incredibly attracted to the fact that you can take it apart and put it in a suitcase. Hott! Of course it's expensive as hell, but come on, you can take it apart and put it in a suitcase! With wheels!

But now somebody's going to tell me that there are twelve dozen far superior models that do the same thing better. Well, good, I don't care for brown anyway. (Why do touring bikes always come in such dull, subdued colors? Would a nice eye-catching cerulean blue be too much to ask? Is that "too triathlon" or something?)

It's time for another game of What the *&^%$#@! is G-Rod Doing Now?

Okay, when did this happen?

Transit Riders' Alliance:
Act Now: No Amtrak Cuts!

"On Tuesday, June 24, Governor Blagojevich threatened to eliminate two programs that matter to transit riders. The first was the State support for student & disabled riders and free rides to seniors.* Those services are mandated. The end result would be reduced transit budgets statewide.

"More shocking, however, is the Governor’s threat to eliminate the Amtrak Illinois program.
[link] This program was doubled in 2006 and has far surpassed all expectations. The Governor’s outline of the threatened cuts states that since 2007 ridership has increased 'from 42% to 67%, depending upon the line.' Trains are frequently sold out. Service needs to double again to meet growing demand.

"(To illustrate the scale of the Amtrak funding, the Illinois DOT recently received a special appropriation for roadkill cleanup that was roughly double the size of the annual Amtrak appropriation.)"

That's right, folks---we spend more on roadkill than we do on Amtrak. If you are similarly disgusted, that link in boldface takes you to a page that lets you send an email to our esteemed governor [/sarcasm], which he will probably ignore, but go ahead and do it anyway.

(So this appears to have happened sometime between the server fiasco and all my work from two weeks ago getting dumped back into my inbox. And people wonder why I'm so reluctant to cash in vacation time.)

Needless to say, people all over the state are pretty mad.

Southern Illinoisan:
Amtrak trains to Carbondale threatened with cutbacks

Bloomington Pantagraph:
Passenger train group criticizes proposal to cut state's support of Amtrak

Chicago Tribune:
Budget stalemate threatens Amtrak

Well, maybe people in Chicago are actually more ambivalent than angry about the news, given that the Trib is only copying that AP blurb and the Chicago Sun-Times isn't reporting anything at all. But there's a crisis brewing downstate (really, really downstate). More from the Southern:
Blagojevich: Cut 2 of 3 Carbondale trains
Amtrak cuts would leave only early morning train departures available
If Blago cuts Amtrak, we'd have only an after-midnight train

Everyone and their houseplant is chalking it up to yet another political stunt (what else is new?), but it's still a horrifying thought: the entire Illinois Service cut just like that. Just when we need it most. What a phenomenally stupid idea.

[Catch an Illinois Train---while you still can. Actually... what's wrong with this picture?]

*Which was his own *&^%$#@! idea in the first place! Grrrahh!!!

Dear Iowa: You suck

I mean, your county officials are wetting their pants over the thought that a cyclist might get hurt---not because they really give a gosh darn about our safety, but because they're afraid of expensive lawsuits? So they're doing everything in their power to discourage if not outright ban bicyclists from their roadways? Nice one, Iowa. I can just feel the love.

From Roger Kramer Cycling Blog:
Bicycle battles in Iowa
"'I don't understand what they are so upset about,' Crawford County Board Chairman Dan Mulbauer told The Daily Nonpareil of Council Bluffs. 'We are not against the riders. We need to have some liability protection. We can't afford another $350,000 lawsuit from someone saying our roads aren't good enough.'

"In response to the liability issue, the Iowa State Association of Counties drafted a sample draft ordinance that requires all bicycle rides to provide a certificate of insurance. It would require the sponsors of any qualified bicycle event to purchase a $1 million policy that also covers the county. Violators would face fines of at least $750.

"You know cyclists are in trouble when you read the first section of the draft ordinance: 'County roads are not designed for bicycles. According to the National Highway Traffic Administration,* bicycling results in more emergency room admissions than any other sport or activity. Large organized bicycle events that use County roads create a unique risk of injury to bicycle riders. Allowing such rides puts the County, and County taxpayers, at risk for lawsuits and large damage awards.'"
[emphasis added]
Ah, there it is, the dreaded s-word again. Cars are transportation; bikes are athletic equipment, and cycling nothing more than an extremely dangerous sport. This isn't about any potential lawsuit at all, is it.

Now, not to rip on roadies (aren't I turning into one, sans the bike and the shoes?), but the thought of "nearly 100" of them going critical mass---complete with being a little unclear on just what it is that they're protesting---strikes me as utterly hilarious.

[Road rage.]

Anyway, I hope this whole things resolves soonish on the side of common sense, or we might find ourselves with an unpleasant precedent next door. Here in Illinois we've still got that Boub thing hanging over our heads, you know. My goodness, has it been a whole decade? Why does it take so long to make sausage?

In other news, perhaps GM should buy Specialized after all.

*Wait a minute, how are they getting data on "sports and activities" from the National Highway Traffic Administration? I smell dead, rotten fish on a hot day.

25 June 2008

What's in a surname?

There sure are an awful lot of people running around with the same last name as I have. We can't all possibly be descended from the same family in Wales. Or can we?

Not to blab too much about my job, but... Different languages and cultures have different conventions when it comes to surnames. (Spanish double surnames come to mind.) So with foreign authors we sometimes need to confirm that their first and last names are divided correctly. (In the world of electronic publishing this is a crucial matter, for technical reasons that I won't bore you by explaining.) Once I had a paper by an author at a university in Wales whose name seemed ambiguous, and an author search turned up two or three different ways to divide it. I didn't want to guess and pick the wrong one, so I queried him somewhat apologetically about it. In his reply he added, in the manner of lighthearted teasing, that with my name I was clearly of Welsh descent and should know these things.

Thing is, I'm of Welsh descent several centuries ago, so far back it hardly matters anymore. I have my last name because mom married dad, and my first because she heard it on TV while in the hospital and thought it sounded like a nice name. (Turns out the combination is one of the most common in the city; the credit bureaus seem to have a hard time keeping track of all of us.)

I'm not sure what people guess when they see me, beyond just "white." My skin's so pale I sometimes feel embarrassed (and the constant sunburn all summer long is a pain), but I lack the blond hair and blue eyes that stereotypically go along with it. A friend was floored once to learn that a quarter of my family is just as Italian (and Catholic) as half of his (albeit an extra couple of generations back); he'd guessed that I was just another WASP. But maybe I only look WASPy relative to a half-Italian who looks for all the world like his entire family came straight from Ireland. Dad swears I'm more German than anything ("German" being used rather loosely, since a few immigrated from nations that no longer exist), but grandma's side is full of dark hair and eyes. Jewish? Nope---Catholic through and through. Grandma's spent decades trying to untangle those branches, and I need to talk to her again because I'm suddenly just as confused as you probably are.

I got my Welsh-ish last name from grandpa, but he was Lutheran; like "Catholic," the word implies not just a religion but a whole culture. He was baptized and confirmed at their wedding, I think, just like papa. That quarter I'm pretty sure was Scotch-Irish, illegal immigrants back in colonial times who ended up in Appalachia and pretty much stayed there. That's the only branch of my family tree that makes any sort of sense.

This is all essentially a very long complaint about how tired I am of getting my neighbor's mail. Somebody asked the other day if we were related. I almost laughed, but checked myself; it's extremely impolite, after all, to assume anything around here. There's a guy down the street who's actually half-Kenyan, for example.

In other news, this. I heart Snob, I really do.

24 June 2008

Another episode of Hybrid and Folder: Welcome back

Folder: Hey, you're back! How was the GITAP?
Hybrid: Ugh.
Folder: That bad?
Hybrid: Oh no, it was great, I'm just exhausted. Hills, headwinds, abysmally bad pavement, eight inches of standing water... Did you know Moline has really bad rushhour traffic?
Folder: No kidding? That's kind of funny.
Hybrid: Hey, you try following a bunch of dots painted on a busy highway at 4:30pm on a Wednesday sometime.
Folder: Why didn't you just take the trail along the Ben Butterworth Parkway?
Hybrid: It was flooded.
Folder: Again?
Hybrid: Yep.
Folder: Wow.
Hybrid: Oh, and Bike Lane Hottie over there didn't think to ask if I needed a new chain.
Folder: Oh my gosh, what happened?
Hybrid: She brought me to the ride mechanic the very first night because I was "making a funny noise."
Folder: *folds up and bursts into laugher*
Hybrid: Yeah, you laugh now...

Dear Senator Obama:

I cordially invite you to join the Hyde Park/Kenwood Hybrid Riders Alliance, a mostly social bike club that I just invented. Members include myself, Eric, and roughly half of the bike commuters at the University of Chicago Press, although I'm sure many more will come out of the woodwork as soon as they see a great hoard of us rolling proudly through the neighborhood.

Our motto is "We're Dorks---So What?" I'll put in the t-shirt order as soon as I get everyone's sizes, but I'm also looking into some of those technical fabric t-shirts that are like jerseys in disguise. (Gotta stay cool even when you look it, you know.) I believe somebody may also have suggested water bottles, but that idea might have been dismissed as "too roadie." What do you think?

The inaugural ride down the lakefront to Calumet Park will be as soon as I feel like organizing it, but I'll try to pick a day when you're in town. Bring the whole family. And your Secret Service posse, of course, but they have to promise not to ride on the sidewalk.

Hope to hear from you soon!


[Based on a dream I just had. No kidding.]

23 June 2008

The great GITAP photo dump

Grand Illinois Trail and Parks 2008

Day 1: Sauk Valley Community College to Lowden State Park


Nachusa Grasslands. More in Radish Magazine: Dedicated volunteers revive a native Illinois landscape. Wow. You can have your scrubby pioneer plants in empty lots, but give me restored swaths of native grasses and wildflowers, rooted deep in rich soil and rippling in the wind, where the butterflies flutter and the birds swoop and sing. Ah, the Illinois prairie. We must never lose it.

Nachusa Grasslands.

Nachusa Grasslands.

Nachusa Grasslands.

Nachusa Grasslands.

"Agriculture, Mother of Civilization," formerly "Demeter over Illinois," in Oregon. There was a lot of rather absurd controversy about it 2-3 years ago.

Byron Nuclear Generating Station from across the rolling farm fields of Ogle County.

View down the Rock River from Lowden. Again. But this time late in the afternoon.

A cat I saw wandering around the hiking trails at Lowden, not quite feral because it clearly wanted attention and maybe some food. I sure hope it wasn't abandoned by somebody recently; it's so cruel when people do that. Take care of yourself, kitty.

"The Eternal Indian" (aka "Black Hawk Statue") with some Foreground Trees(TM).

"The Eternal Indian" at sunset.

Sunset at Lowden.

Day 2: Lowden State Park to Mississippi Palisades State Park

View up the Rock River from the IL-64 bridge in Oregon, with "The Eternal Indian" far in the background.

Flowers and railroad bridge west of Polo.

The Mississippi River valley from Thomson Road, approaching Thomson.

Thomson Road.

Thomson Road.

Thomson Road.

Flooding at Big Slough Landing, Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife & Fish Refuge.

Big Slough Landing.

Flooding at Spring Lake, Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife & Fish Refuge.

Flooding on the Great River Trail south of Savanna. I chose this over the road, IL-84, which I've never liked. The trail is still incomplete; thanks for nothing, G-Rod.

Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife & Fish Refuge. The river is wide and wild through this stretch. Dammed, leveed, girded with bridges, loaded with barges---it will still do what it will, and must be respected as the force that it is, one never fully to be tamed.

Savanna was very welcoming. Unfortunately, the Hiawatha Train Car Museum (aka Savanna Train Car Museum) was closed when I got there.

Day 3: Loop ride from Mississippi Palisades State Park

The Mississippi Palisades from the Great River Road (IL-84), heading south.

Mississippi Palisades.

Mississippi Palisades.

Savanna-Sabula Bridge (US-52), so delicate and graceful, dwarfed by the surrounding bluffs. Compare to the brawny Skyway, which carries interstate traffic across the piddly little Calumet River high above the glacier-flattened shore of Lake Michigan. The differences are astounding, from a bike. Sabula is visible across the river in the background.

Another Totally Cliche Rural Illinois Photograph in Jo Daviess County. I really liked the way the wind moved through that grass; you can sort of see it here.

Massbach Ridge Winery.

That evening I set out on foot with my painfully inaccurate park map to find the scenic overlook at High Point; an allegedly 1.5-mile hike easily turned into about quadruple that owing to several wrong turns and dead ends. I finally found a handsome CCC-looking lookout shelter (which I didn't think to get a picture of), just in time for sunset, just me and a few turkey vultures and a freight train rumbling downriver on the Iowa side. It was worth the whole trip.

I was disappointed by the large number of Foreground Trees(TM), which obstructed view instead of enhancing it. They looked to be younger than the lookout shelter, so perhaps it had a clearer view when it was built.

Sunset through the trees, over the bluffs on the Iowa side.

Sunset over a flooded field near the river.


The second most dangerous photograph I have ever taken. That bit of limestone in the foreground is actually the edge of a pretty high sheer cliff. I had ventured beyond the lookout shelter for this shot and was maybe three feet from nothing at all for a long way down.

Day 4: Mississippi Palisades State Park to Augustana College

Savanna-Sabula Bridge from the Illinois side. The number one most dangerous photograph I have ever taken, two feet from a steady stream of fast truck traffic around a blind curve and clinging rather precariously to the waist-deep grass growing at the foot of the bluff right behind me.

Great River Trail bridge over railroad tracks in Savanna.

Prickly pear cacti at Thomson-Fulton Sand Prairie (more here).

Fun with macro setting.

Avenger the Hybrid That Just Won't Die at Thomson-Fulton Sand Prairie.

Day 5: Day off in the Quad Cities

Centennial Bridge (US-67), linking Rock Island and Davenport.

Centennial Bridge. Beautiful.

Flooding in Davenport from Centennial Bridge.

Rock Island Arsenal and Lock and Dam No. 15 from Centennial Bridge.

Day 6: Augustana College to Morrison-Rockwood State Park

[No photos, sorry.]

Day 7: Morrison-Rockwood State Park to Sauk Valley Community College

[No photos, sorry.]

Boring details later.