31 July 2008

Well, we're boned

At both the national and the state level.

So let's all read The Right Stuff, for some reason. When in doubt, reminisce about the Cold War era, where the country seems to have permanently ensconced itself while the rest of the world actually did move forward into The Future(TM).

Don't mind me, just hatin' on everything. Hate gets feedback; fawning praise, boundless enthusiasm, and just plain useful information are too boring even for the crickets. God, I hate the Internet.

30 July 2008

Please advise?

Given this, this, and this (PDF), would you pick this or this?

Is that anybody's neck of the woods? Am I entirely nuts for considering it?

Bike racks of Hyde Park: Vine edition

Technically in Woodlawn. Someone with a camera that's not a phone is welcome to try for a better shot and get a zillion hits on Flickr.

Also, what the duck is this?

Did they think nobody would notice there was a parking garage hiding back there?

Bike racks of Hyde Park: Tree edition

In other news, I didn't understand any of this. My sport was basketball.

Speaking of beer...

Did someone say "beer"?

Anyway, I always thought a "beer garden" ought to be more like a vegetable garden instead of just a bar with outdoor seating. You know, like a place where you grow your own grain and hops. That's the kind of place I'd enjoy patronizing.

When people think "winery" they imagine acres of grapevines growing peacefully on a sunny hillside:

[Massbach Ridge Winery]

But when they think "brewery" they imagine large vats in an industrial/warehouse district:

[Two Brothers Brewing Co.]

But hops also grow on vines, so surely there are acres of hop vinyards somewhere? Like in Europe or something?

Suddenly for some reason I really want to find a potted hop vine and try to grow it in my kitchen. ("It's my indoor container beer garden!") Maybe it would fare better than the tomato seedling I acquired back in spring.

Sorry, it's hot and my mind is wandering.

In other news, ISS transits the Sun. C'mon, transits are cool!

29 July 2008

Event ride update

The Perimeter Ride is too cool for a Web site, so I can't confirm any of the three different dates I've heard for it. (Aug 9, 16, and/or 19) Ask the Critical Mass people when they're sober, I guess, which gives you some idea what kind of ride it is. Great fun while you last.

Rolling on the River (Aug 16) always sounds like fun but I'm never able to go. Perhaps you can.

The Boulevard Lakefront Tour (BLT, Sep 7) needs volunteers. If you contribute at least six pre-event hours you can do the ride for free. Contact the people in charge at the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation for details on that.

But wait---the Illinois Great Rivers Ride (Sep 7-13) starts the same day as the BLT. Decisions, decisions.

The Shawnee Weekend Forest Ride (SWFR, Oct 18-20) also sounds like fun; I'm theoretically going this year.

What is the Tour Da Lakefront Bicycle Challenge? I rode the whole thing in '03, can I still get a t-shirt or do I have to ride it again? Aw man, the north side's all crowded...


My comments policy is that I don't have one, but there are certain sources that I do not accept as legitimate evidence in support of a claim:

*a link to a Wikipedia article (don't trust it)
*anything whatsoever on Facebook (not on it)
*any sort of Web video (as already mentioned)

In addition (as also already mentioned), if you don't have a compelling reason for me to check out your Flickr set then I won't.

Yes, I'm Web 2.0-impaired. Deal with it.

On not biking to the supermarket

I enjoy a good walk now and then, but the way some people react to seeing me sans bike you'd think it was the ultimate sacrilege. Jennifer's walking! Horrors! It's the end of the world as we know it!

Perhaps I've just fallen into my own trap.

Once someone at work wanted some advice on grocery shopping by bike, and she was shocked---shocked!---to learn I hardly ever do it. It's one thing to stop at the store on my way home from somewhere else when I'm already on my bike, but for actual grocery shopping with a list and everything I don't bother.

"So what do you do?" she asked, and then, glancing nervously askance, lowered her voice to a whisper: "drive?"
"Do you use Peapod, then?"
"Hell no; they're overpriced and park like shit."
"Then... how do you buy groceries?"
"I walk to the store and I buy them."
"You... walk?"
"How far is it?"
"Dunno, a few blocks maybe?"
"Oh, see, I'm like half a mile from Whole Foods."
A half a mile is a few blocks, I thought, but I didn't say anything. I saw that I wasn't going to get anywhere with her.

My rule of thumb is that a few blocks isn't worth the time and trouble it takes to drag my bike downstairs and then make sure everything is loaded on properly when I'm done shopping, so it's actually easier for me to just walk to the supermarket. I solved the problem of how to carry everything long ago by doing what everyone else in Hyde Park does: I got a folding grocery cart.

Really, folks, if the supermarket is only half a mile away, then your biggest problem should not be how you're ever going to load all those groceries onto your bike instead of inside your car.

28 July 2008

Blues Brothers in Grant Park

I think Hyde Park Cycling died, so I'll try this here instead:

Friends! Neighbors! Bicyclists!

It has come to my attention that The Blues Brothers is playing at the Chicago Outdoor Film Festival in Grant Park tomorrow evening. I think we should get a ride together and head up there to celebrate obscure Chicago trivia and the best police car chase scenes ever.

Let me know if you're vaguely interested in joining me and what the heck time you think we should meet because for some reason I never pay much attention to how long it takes me to get downtown by bike. Showtime is given as 8:44 and I don't want to get all icky. Bring your own blanket.

There will be a bike valet at the NW corner of LSD and Monroe, but bring your lock anyway in case it fills up. Also bring bug spray.

Or else I'll just go by myself like I always do and blog about it in excruciatingly tedious detail.

In other news, texting will kill us all! Seriously, I'm not sure what to make of that, except to feel relieved that my job and social life are both so dull that my mobile phone can remain safe inside my huge bag.

27 July 2008

The magical, far-away land of Wisconsin: Oak Leaf Trail edition

Adventures with a folding bike, episode 4: Let's go to Milwaukee! Everyone else is doing it, so why not me? But being me, I had to do it my own way: alone, carlessly, and with a vengeance. I had an old score to settle with Milwaukee, and it was high time I did.

The distance between Chicago and Milwaukee is roughly a century. Any Real Cyclist could do that in a day and still have time to clean up and hit the town the same evening. Many do exactly that on a Saturday and then the reverse on a Sunday. Most take Sheridan Road.

Well, I'm not a Real Cyclist, I just play one on the Internet. I don't do centuries, I just ride around from here to there, and if I travel 100 miles in a single 24-hour period it's because I'm amazingly energized and fantastically lost. I don't do Sheridan Rd., either. Why risk your neck on Sheridan Rd. when there's a nearly continuous series of bike trails between Milwaukee and Chicago? The key word here, though, is "nearly"; the other is "limestone screenings." So there's some gravelly off-road adventure and some potentially on-road getting lost involved.

And now I can finally, finally say I've done it all.

In 2006 I hit the Lakefront Path down the street from my apartment and got as far as the Oak Creek Parkway in South Milwaukee. In 2007 I took Metra to Kenosha and picked up the Kenosha County Bike Trail, then later veered off the Oak Leaf Trail in Oak Creek so I could cross the city boundary at it's most accessible (to me) point, south of Mitchell Airport. In 2008 I looked at my folding bike and thought, "Well, let's finish this." No doubt in 2009 I will again attempt to do the whole route in one trip, and in 2010 I might try for a single day. Maybe in 2011 I'll finally take Sheridan Road.

So Saturday I took Scooty-Puff the Useful Folding Bike onto the Hiawatha and got off at the Mitchell Airport stop. Or at least that's what I planned to do. What actually happened is that I missed the 6am train, (turns out it leaves from the south concourse, not the north one), so I had to hang around Union Station for two and a half unbearably boring hours while dragging 20 lbs of bike and 10 lbs of invisible cinder block in a huge duffel bag with a high center of gravity and lots of unyielding sharp corners, and then I took it onto the Hiawatha and got off at the Mitchell Airport stop.

Once there I reassembled everything back into bike formation and wondered what the hell to do now. Well, first I ought to take a picture of the Mitchell Airport Railroad Station:

A charming piece of work done in the Prairie style and landscaped with actual prairie plants. What could be better?

Well, for one thing, not being at an airport with a bike would be better. Airports are usually the very definition of bike hostility, and even relatively small ones like Mitchell can be a royal pain to navigate. Air Cargo Rd. was marked as a bike route on my Milwaukee by Bike Map, but the cluster of sternly worded orange barriers succeeded in deterring me. (It's not like I had a plane to catch.) So I ended up on College Ave., which was disagreeable but not dangerous on a Saturday morning, then south on Howell Ave., much the same as College except with a paved shoulder as wide as an entire lane. (Remarkably free of debris, too.) I took that to Drexel Ave., where I spotted a Culver's and decided that I was hungry.

As you can see I opted for a salad instead of a Butterburger and fried cheese curds, but as this particular salad was piled high with fried chicken and blue cheese it was probably only symbolically healthier. Maybe the iceberg lettuce at least prevented me from dying of a heart attack on the spot.

Across the street was Delco Electronics. I don't know what they do, but evidently precision geodetic reference involves equipment that's housed in a dome.

After lunch I got on the Oak Leaf Trail in the form of a sidepath along Drexel Ave. and was finally on my way up to Milwaukee along the trail route from roughly the place where I had left off twice before. This led to the Oak Creek Parkway, where I spotted a decent photo-op for Scooty-Puff in front of some signage with, appropriately, a lovely grove of leafy oak trees in the background:

I was forced to make a detour off the trail because I ran into a cross street closure for a parade (good grief, is anything not on YouTube these days?), but the detour was actually a pretty significant shortcut straight east to Rawson Park, so I didn't terribly mind. From there the Oak Leaf Trail meanders north through a series of parks along the lakefront. One of them is Sheridan Park, which has a swimming pool...

...with a fabulously Art Deco entrance!

Or at least it looks fabulously Art Deco. Or at least it looks fabulously Art Deco to me. It probably isn't. In any case, I really liked it.

Farther up the trail, the view opens up dramatically of the Milwaukee skyline across the water.

Lake and prairie.

Scooty-Puff likes to pose; here it is admiring the scenery.

There was another impressive view from Bay View Park. (I think.)

At some point I realized that the big-ass boat I was looking at might be the Lake Express Ferry and got a picture, but now I am not so sure.

Then the trail ended, and unfortunately so did the good part of my day.

In case of emergency?

aLex got a tag for Hank's handlebars, Bike Noob put a laminated card in his jersey pocket, and I know other people get Medic-Alert-style bracelets or pendants. But I don't want my personal information dangling on my bike, I have exactly one jersey with pockets and I wear it maybe twice a year, and I'm not one for jewelry (suddenly every straight guy in the world wants to marry me) because I can't stand wearing it unless all I have to do is sit still and look pretty. And I'm not a sit-still-and-look-pretty kind of cyclist.

However, I never go anywhere without my driver's license, emergency contact info card, and insurance card on my person. Usually that means it's in my pocket, but when I don't have any pockets available I have to put it in my purse (or whatever it is I'm using as a purse).

Should I be worried? Should I really not expect EMTs to go through my pockets and find my wallet so they can figure out who I am, whom to call, and whom to bill, or is that just a lie spread by the ID tag industry? Does it really matter, considering that a bike-specific ID tag would be pretty useless if I were hit by a bus while walking down the street? Or that plenty of people get into car accidents without taking elaborate steps to identify themselves and nobody seems to mind?

Basically, I'm just wondering lately if this is a problem that even exists. (Being told to get off the street and find Jesus makes one think about these things, I guess.) If biking is statistically more risky than anything else that I do then it would make sense for me to be concerned about it, but if it's not then I don't see how a wallet in my pocket wouldn't suffice.

The pretty much nonexistent road tax

I have another crazy idea. This crazy idea is to carry around a wallet full of singles whenever I ride my bike, and when I encounter a driver who yells at me to get off the road because I'm not paying for it, I will say "alright, here you go!" and hand over a few.

The beauty of this crazy idea is that it rarely ever actually happens on the road. It happens in Web forums, old-fashioned letters to the editor, and heated discussions with my father. On the road, drivers see bikes merely as a nuisance. It's not until they get home and think about it that they start to see us as an expensive nuisance.

However, this common complaint (I won't even deign to call it an "argument" anymore) has two basic flaws:

1. If the various levels of government really did use only the money they collect from gas taxes and motor vehicle registration fees to maintain the roads, every road in the country would be gravel, maybe chip seal if you were lucky. You'd also have a lot more to worry about on the road than just a few bikes because there wouldn't be any sidewalks, either. And the interstate highway system? Forget it.

2. The majority of bicyclists are also car owners (and the majority of those who don't own still have reason to buy gas from time to time; I often wonder if I'm the only carless blogger on the Internet who doesn't drive, period), so it's all beside the point anyway.

But if you still insist on an argument, there's an excellent rebuttal here. [Via.] Not that it really matters. Some people are just beyond argument.

The magical, far-away land of Wisconsin: "Frak Wisconsin!" edition

Dear Milwaukee: We're through.

I was having fun until the trail ended; then all hell broke loose. The small folding bike with no momentum, the chain that desperately needed to be lubricated, the long night without sleep, the heat and the headwind, the glaringly bright haze that was somehow worse than direct sunlight---it all suddenly caught up with me, and I simply wasn't having fun anymore. I was exhausted and sore and just wanted to go home. I'd been creeping along at an excruciatingly slow pace all day, yet I was still covered head to toe in sweat and grime and couldn't seem to breathe enough air. I felt like I'd gone 60-70 miles even though it couldn't have been more than 15. I cursed the folder for being so difficult to ride until I remembered that only a fool blames the bike instead of the rider. (Yes, I do eventually learn.) Then I cursed myself for being so damned weak.

But before that I was having a wonderful ride, though slower and somewhat more difficult than I had expected. Somehow the problems began when the trail ended. Perhaps it was psychological. You see, here's the difference between the Oak Leaf Trail in Milwaukee and the Lakefront Trail in Chicago (will somebody please make an official Web site for it? I'm looking at you, Chicago Park District): The former is a 100+ mile network of interconnected trails and parkways that loops around the whole of Milwaukee County. (And it's all under the management of Milwaukee County Parks, so nothing crazy happens at municipal boundaries. Take a ride on the North Shore Channel Trail if you don't understand what I'm talking about.) But it's not continuous. The southeast portion begins at the county line and eventually meanders toward the lakefront, but the off-street trail ends quite abruptly a mile or two into the City of Milwaukee. By the time it picks back up again you're already in the downtown area.

By contrast, our beloved Lakefront Trail is less than 20 miles long and doesn't connect to other Chicagoland trails in any obvious way. (The Chicago Bike Map is invaluable, of course, but everyone has their own favorite route from trail to trail. And the bike signs are really helpful if you already know where you are and where you're going, but rather confusing otherwise. I found that out the hard way shortly after they went up some summers ago.) But those paltry tens of miles are continuous, all the way from South Shore to Edgewater Beach, with the Loop and Grant Park right in the middle. You couldn't ask for more---unless you're the Friends of the Parks, I suppose, but really, you couldn't ask for more. Gosh, no wonder the Lakefront Tail gets so agonizingly crowded and "path rage" flares up in such abundance that serious athletes and bike commuters long for winter. Blair Kamin, in his infallible architectural wisdom [/snark], blames the lack of comparable facilities in other parks throughout the city, but to be perfectly frank I think he has his head up his ass. First, the phrase "designed by architects" comes to mind; second, there's no lack whatsoever of perfectly good places to walk, run, or bike in Chicago away from the lakefront. But there's only one lakefront. Nothing else can compare. Not even in another city.

I think the termination of the Oak Leaf Trail only a few miles from downtown Milwaukee must have made me homesick. I didn't take advantage of getting lost to explore the artsy-looking neighborhood where I ended up. (Where did I end up?) I felt no desire to pick up the trail again and ride farther up the lakefront just to say I did, or to wander from the designated on-street route to see what there was to see. I just headed straight---slow but straight---for the Milwaukee Intermodal Station because I desperately wanted to be home. I'd come all that way only to desperately want to be home. Funny how it works sometimes. Rather anticlimactic. At least the trail had been a nice ride, so it wasn't all for nothing.

But even before all that I first had to get to the Oak Leaf Trail, which had presented enough of its own problems. No wonder I had such a terrible afternoon; it had already been a very long day.

[To be continued in another post, where I will start at the beginning instead of the end.]

24 July 2008

An open letter to Sam Zell

Dear Mr. Zell,

Copy editing is actually quite important, you stingy bastard. Hire some folks who know how to do it for the Red Eye, please.



23 July 2008

Well, that was odd

At a red light:
"Get the hell out of the lane!"
"You got a death wish or somethin', girl?"
"Yes!" (Chew on that, I thought.)
"Girl, you gotta let Jesus in your heart!"

Harassed and proselytized at the same time. That's a first.

The light turned green and I took off; the driver cut a right turn---without having signaled---in front of an elderly woman who'd stepped into the crosswalk.

Apparently there's a class of angry drivers who think that Those Damned Bicyclists just need to find Jesus. To learn about love and compassion and so on, I suppose.

Dear drivers

At night, please turn your headlights on before you pull out into the traffic lane.

Thank you.

22 July 2008

Go visit your Illinois state parks, trails, and historic areas while you still can

Pantagraph Blogs & Columns:
IDNR budget cuts plague all involved

Sigh. Via.

So, anyone want to go to Wolf Lake? Like, now?

21 July 2008

Extremely local news: What?

The Trib's been pissing me off lately, so I've been reading the Sun-Times more (mostly just to remind myself why I never read the Sun-Times). I bumped into their Jump Local feature, and thence ended up here. You learn something new every day.

Speaking of Hyde Park and learning something new every day, it somehow took me nearly eight years to realize that the Hyde Park Historical Society building looks suspiciously like a railroad depot:

[That's the Illinois Central grade right behind it; hence the suspicion.]

Intrigued and stubborn, I attempted to navigate their Web site in search of more information so I wouldn't have to break down and ask Benjamin. Turns out that was a cable car waiting room during the World's Columbian Exposition. I can't believe I didn't know that.

The Slow [censored] Movement

[Dutch bikes aren't kinky enough, declares hedonistic cycling advocate...]

It's a matter that has puzzled me (and probably a few of my readers) for some time: why am I so put off by the Slow Bike Movement? Hybrid aside, I should be its biggest fan. Doesn't it take me all day to ride distances that Real Cyclists could do before breakfast?

Well, I've finally nailed it, so I'll just come out and be explicit (well, slightly less than explicit): It's the language.

"If you're breathing too hard, then you're trying too hard."
"Slower is better."
"Bending over like that is uncomfortable."
"What's the point in getting all sweaty?"
"Since the important parts are covered, there's little need for regular maintenance."
"Riding hard and fast is just too stressful."
"This way you don't have to worry about getting dirty."
"Why bother with all those special accessories and gadgets?"
"It's just so much easier and more fun this way."
"You don't need to get all dressed up in spandex just to have a good time."

(Replace the word "spandex" with "latex" if you still don't catch my drift.)

I thought the whole point of the Dutch bike craze was to make bicycling as fun and sexy as possible in order to lure more "normal" people into it, but then the slow bicycle enthusiasts make the whole thing sound like the opposite of sexy: Wholesome. Prudish. Uncreative. Boring. Missionary. (Er, you know, like they're on a mission or something.)

Well, I suppose we all roll our own way...

Coming soon: More Dutch bikes

Ignore my previous post (or make plans to hawk that dorkcycle you might win) and wait 'til fall, 'cause allegedly Dutch Bike Co. Seattle is coming to the Windy City.

Hmm, anyone want to start a betting pool on where it'll be located? I'll put my Arkel MapCase on Lincoln Park. Gotta go where the money is.

In gutter news, here's the quote taken grossly out of context of the day:

"Nobody needs to be bent over and sweaty."

(That's what he said!)

[Helmet tip to Hank & Me.]

Obligatory post about the Trek Go by Bike Challenge

Ignore my previous post and Go by Bike---you could win a Trek hybrid!

Okay, well, it's the thought that counts.

20 July 2008


I remember driving.

The summer of '01 I worked at a Girl Scout camp in rural Kane County. (Or at least it used to be rural Kane County; it might not be so rural anymore.) I kept the family sedan with me at camp because my parents were sick of driving me back and forth every other weekend. You've got your own job now, they said, drive yourself and buy your own gas. Actually I don't think they ever said "buy your own gas," it was just implied. Gas wasn't expensive enough to be its own issue back then. I had my own cell phone, so I paid my own bill; I drove myself, so I bought my own gas.

When I had the night off I could go anywhere I wanted, so long as I was back by midnight because that's when the property manager locked the front gate. But we were in the middle of nowhere and there really wasn't anyplace to go, save the 24-hour Wal-Mart in Plano. Didn't matter; it was somewhere that wasn't camp. The counselors had the run of the place that late, along with all the bored local teenagers. There wasn't anything else for any of us to do 'cept drive to Wal-Mart to hang out for an hour or two, and then drive back again. I don't think it ever crossed any of our minds that it might be considered wasteful, pathetic, and just a little bit sad.

No, I didn't really care where I went, so long as I was going somewhere.

If I had a car, I could run downstairs, jump inside it, and go somewhere. And it wouldn't much matter that it's midnight on a Sunday and there's really nowhere I need to go. It would be enough just to get out of here and drive around for a while until I felt like driving back.

But I can't.

And the buses and train stop running in an hour, the lakefront is closed, and I'm not brave or defiant enough to ride on King Dr. by myself this late unless I have to and I'm already on my way home. Nothing to do and nowhere to go---and no way even just to get out for a while. I'm stuck here 'til dawn. I can't escape.

All that aimless, frivolous, unnecessary driving that we're not supposed to do anymore, in order to conserve fuel and save the planet and blah blah blah. How I miss it. All of you car owners and recent former car owners turned car-sharing members who have been curbing your mileage this summer to save money and trying to convince yourselves how much more freedom you have now, really, well, welcome to my world since '06 or so. Night after night after endless night, stuck at home with no escape. Perhaps I'm a better person for it, but it certainly doesn't feel that way right now. All I want right now is to get out of here, and I can't.

Oh yes, I remember driving.

19 July 2008

Another one with the phone

Taken at the start of the Ladies' Moon Mass (there were six of us) at Daley Plaza.

In other news, there are certain things even I won't do.

Oh, and to any of you aghast folks who heard me tipsily exclaim "I love bureaucracy!": I was exaggerating. Mostly.

18 July 2008

Claiming the lane, or This is the thread that never ends...

The following post on Commute by Bike had become so popular that even angsty drivers have taken notice (and yet---as usual---they fail to get the point), so it's high time I shared the love:
Top 5 Reasons to Claim the Lane (and why it’s safer)
1. Drivers give you more room. The day I started claiming the lane is the day I stopped getting regularly buzzed to close by cars. [It's true! On rural highways, too!] As mentioned above, when you are all the way to the right then cars will almost always try to squeeze by. When you claim the lane, they are forced to slow down and wait for an opportunity to pass you which means they take plenty of room to do it.

2. You are more visible. Drivers are used to looking for other large, metal boxes. And they’re used to looking in the middle of the lane ahead of them. When you hug the side of the road you are often outside their field of vision. By claiming the lane you are much more likely to be seen by oncoming traffic.

3. You avoid dangerous debris and obstacles. the sides of roads are usually covered in debris. Stuff that can slash your tires and/or fly up and hurt you. There are also things like sewer grates and uneven shoulders to worry about. By claiming the lane you avoid all of this.

4. It’s an easier, more enjoyable ride. When stuck squeezing the side of the road or riding on the sidewalk, feelings of stress abound. Constantly watching the terrain ahead of you, swerving out of the way of obstacles, slowing down for pedestrians and many other things that you are forced to pay attention to are reduced when you claim the lane.

5. You are making a statement. While not as important as the previous safety related reasons, this has long term effect. On many roads bicycles are seen as an annoyance that shouldn’t be allowed in the road with other "real" vehicles. By claiming the lane you are making a statement that we belong on the road and have all the same rights as cars.

Also, the deadly door zone. If a driver honks or yells at you, try shrugging, putting on your most distressed, panic-stricken face, and wailing "I don't want to hit a car door!" Surprisingly, this seems to have worked once or twice (near the Lab School, if that matters).

Fear the parked cars, not the moving ones that are honking at you. The still, silent ones are always the greater danger.

17 July 2008

Decisions, decisions

I'm torn---Hiawatha to Mitchell Airport and complete my last remaining segment of the Chicago-Milwaukee trail route, or South Shore to Michigan City and bop over to Michiana for another county in a whole new state?

Digi's still broken either way, so any pictures taken will suck.

In other news, this. Oh. My. Goodness. Any Kansasans here? I'm figuratively dying to know what you think.

Here we go again...

From the Chicago Tribune:
RTA warns of service cuts or fare increases to make up for governor's budget cut

"Mass-transit service cuts or fare hikes might be needed to make up for a $37.3 million fare subsidy that Gov. Rod Blagojevich chopped from the state's budget, Regional Transportation Authority officials warned Thursday.

"Most of the money helped cover the free rides that Blagojevich gave senior citizens in January..."

There's really no point in reading the rest of the article. Somebody, please, stop the stupid...

In other news, how the heck did I miss the alligator in Bubbly Creek last month?

It's hot and I'm boring

So here are some pictures of the University of Chicago campus that I took with my mobile phone camera on a misty green evening in early June. They're terrible, but I need something vaguely Portland-ish to look at right now. :-p

You must watch this video

I repeat: You must watch this video.

Entirely safe for work, unless you might get in trouble for exclaiming "Whoooooaaaa!" aloud.

[EVA helmet tip to Bad Astronomer, of course.]

Gripe of the day: People who don't appreciate scientific research

First of all, sociology is a science. Physicists, chemists, and biologists who insist otherwise should take a methods course.

Now with that out of the way, here's a commenter on Chicagoist:
Study Says Uptown Chicago's Most Diverse Neighborhood

JoeM500: "They had to make a study for that? maybe they should have studied how to stop the crime in other neighborhoods, instead."

Hey, you know what would be completely useless? Studying how to stop crime without any shred of understanding on why crime even starts. And understanding the "why" behind the "how" requires a deep understanding of the environment, the people, and the circumstances. You won't ever successfully "stop crime" in West Englewood or Auburn-Gresham by blindly ignoring the fact that those are some of the least diverse neighborhoods in the city by any index. And it would be unfathomably stupid to attempt to address segregation without some idea of why some neighborhoods are more integrated than others. And to understand that, it would help to know which ones to study.

So kindly remove your head from your anus and let the researchers do their jobs, okay?

Grrr, it's like the people who whine and moan that we're wasting time and money studying fruit flies while people are dying of cancer, or demand to know why we send probes to Mars when there are so many environmental problems here on Earth. And then they wonder why we don't have a cure for cancer yet, why the climate still defies modeling, why there's so much crime in some neighborhoods. And why nobody's doing anything about it.

16 July 2008

Dear Blackstone Bicycle Works: I hate you

Update: Okay, okay, I don't really hate Blackstone Bicycle Works. I love them. They're right behind my office, never sold me the wrong size inner tubes, and even talked to Joe freaking Breeze himself when Scooty-Puff's chainguard (or whatever it's called) broke off. Is that awesome or what? So imagine a cute girl (or me, in lieu of one) pouting attractively when something doesn't quite go her way; that was my reaction, not actual hatred. I'm just miffed that keep signing up for things over there and then never hearing anything again until after the fact and secondhand. Maybe I should try the Experimental Station's RSS feed instead. I'm trying to Get Involved, really...
I asked you to tell me when you were going to offer your next beginning bike mechanics class series for adults, and I just now find out it starts tonight, and you didn't tell me. Hrmph, see if I come by for repairs anytime soon or refer any more of my colleagues.

Quite miffed,

Edit: Okay, now every hip 19-39-year-old in the city is going to tell me to go to West Town Bikes, which I'm sure is a swell place---if you already live in or anywhere near Humboldt Park. Kind of a haul for yours truly from the supposed bike-cultural wasteland of Hyde Park/Woodlawn. I've been trying to keep things more local this summer, and for the most part it's been working. (Surprised?) It is indeed possible to live down here without having to travel 12 miles in order to do anything else. Usually.

Blackstone: Seriously, what's up? I swear I wrote my email address on a piece of paper on a clipboard somewhere.

We're No. 51!

Men's Health has ranked 100 metro areas according to... actually, I still for the life of me can't figure that out. They've assigned numbers to cities for various categories under "Where Our Cars are Killing Us" without any explanation as to what the numbers actually mean. (Could we get an actual sociologist to present those data in a way that makes sense, please? I know how to read a stupid graph.)

I'll guess that smaller is better for "overall rank," since Seattle made No. 1 and Arlington, TX No. 100, and I would quite safely guess that cars are not a hundred times more deadly in the ultra-green Pacific northwest than in Texas. But either way, Chicago's "overall rank" is a middling 51. Milwaukee ranks 49 and St. Louis 45, for comparison (to the extent that you can compare anything, given these near-meaningless numbers).

Curiously, the Men's Health number crunchers seem to have omitted statistics on motor vehicle collision fatalities from their (apparently grossly unscientific) study on killer car commutes. I wonder why? Leave that to Women's Health, perhaps? I mean, there is that stereotype among (male) bike commuters that women are more worried about crashing than anything else; perhaps a bit of truth is lurking behind the myth. I do get more tut-tutting about biking everywhere ("It's dangerous!") from my fellow females...

(Note that Men's Health is not the same as Men's Fitness, which as you may recall declared Chicago to be the fattest city in America back in early '06. Go us.)

[Helmet tip to Gristmill.]

Seriously though, Sports Beans are the best

Another sweet one from Fat Cyclist:
The Next Big Thing in Sports Nutrition
"So, to recap, I ate candy, ice cream, and drank soda for most of this very intense ride. But I never would have even considered doing this if PowerBar hadn’t packaged up gummy bears in an expensive foil pouch. Or if Jelly Belly hadn’t put a handful of jelly beans in a cellophane wrapper, called them sports beans, and charged me a dollar for them.

"And I’ll bet I’m not alone here. I’m betting, in fact, that you too need to have your favorite junk food rebranded and repackaged so that you can eat it on your next bike ride, and still feel good about yourself."

Johnsonville Sports Bratwurst. I almost died laughing.

In other news, Words of wisdom from the guy on the windshield, as seen on EcoVelo, Biking Bis, and probably a million other places by now.

And in other other news, as a tribute to digi (and to maintain visual interest in Teh Blog), I will at some point fire up ElderMac and find some more pics from the pre-General Carlessness archive to share with you all. I've got whole bunches more from southern and northwestern Illinois, the University of Chicago campus, pretty sunrises and sunsets from my apartment, random Chicago cityscapes, the whole bit. Nobody but myself has ever seen most of them. What did we all do before Web albums?

Retirement nonplans: In which I attempt to win a toeclip kit from Cyclelicious

Bicycle Blog:
Win this leather toe clip sewing kit

Okay, I finally thought of a thing to tell about myself that most people don't already know. (Oh, I hate the Internet. Will I never learn?)

What I used to really want to do (and to some degree would still really like to do) when I retire is sell everything, get a big ol' RV, and just drive around the country for the rest of my days. Maybe up to Canada and down to Mexico just to say I did, but really concentrate on visiting all of the contiguous 48 states and seeing what there is to see from coast to coast to coast. (The Gulf of Mexico is a coast, right?) Circle Lake Michigan and cross every bridge on the Mississippi River. Drive down the Atlantic and up the Pacific, time it so that I could spend every winter someplace sunny and warm and every summer someplace leafy and cool. Rent a few P.O. boxes near major cities so that people can keep in touch if they really want to; keep a scrapbook full of postcards that I decided were too pretty to send in the mail. Just drive around until I find someplace nice and scenic to die. (In my sleep, hopefully, not while on the road.)

I don't think this will be possible by the time I retire. (Let's set aside the matter or whether or not it will be possible for me to retire at all.) Even assuming that some decades in the future it might just barely still be economically possible to drive a house on wheels all over the place for the hell of it, there's still the issue of whether or not it would be ethically possible. If car culture is really on its way out and driving the new necessary evil that people pride themselves on not doing, then what kind of a selfish asshole publicly admits to dreaming about driving back and forth across the country in a behemoth the size of my apartment?

Well, I, Jennifer the Generally Carless, am that asshole.

But I also dream about, among other things, being the mayor and going into space. (Possibly at the same time! First mayor in space! Beat that, Richard M. Daley!) So keep that in perspective.

15 July 2008

Jaybiking, path-cutting, and other law-scoffing

From TheWashCycle:
The Myth of the Scofflaw Cyclist

"Whenever you read an article about cycling in the city, or a discussion of transportation involving cycling it is highly likely that you'll read a comment like this:
I will "share the road" when cyclists start "obeying the traffic laws."
"My point isn't that two wrongs make a right or that drivers are worse than cyclists. My point is that it's hypocritical to call your neighbor rude, because his loud stereo makes it difficult for you to focus on your backyard chainsaw sculpting."
"Which goes back to the question of what can be done about jaybiking. I said there was nothing, but that's not true. I've told this story before, but here it is again. A college professor told me about this.

"On campus they laid out the sidewalk to a building in the shape of an L. Students ignored the sidewalk to walk along the hypotenuse wearing a path in the grass. The school planted hedges to 'guide' them. Students cut a rut in in. The school put up a fence. Students climbed over it until it broke. Fed up, the school got an architect to design a fix. She tore up the old sidewalk and laid another new one along the path. Problem solved."

I was, of course, reminded of Hyde Park Urbanist's thoughts on Architecture that Respects Pedestrians:
"[This picture] shows what happens if you ignore function. That's the corner of 59th and Ellis. You'll notice that the corner was taken up with plants even though pedestrians want to veer off diagonally to the southeast at this corner. So, a trail has been worn through the bushes. The designers should give up and do the right thing---tailor the paths through the Midway along functional lines."

So there's what planners and architects want people to want, and what people actually want and end up doing. Cyclists run stop signs and red lights because they want to keep going without losing any momentum (and unclipping from their pedals, if applicable), so let's decriminalize jaybiking. Pedestrians knock down fences and trample landscaping because they want a direct path from where they are to where they're going, so let's design more ped-friendly architecture. Function over form. Right?

All fine and good, but we forget the elephant in the room---automobiles. Motorists want a quick drive with few obstacles, a convenient place to park, cheap gas, and as few fees and fines as they can get away with. All those are needed in order for automobiles to function as intended. Yet the whole essence of urban planning seems to be figuring out how to make car ownership and driving as expensive and inconvenient as possible, in order to discourage it.

I think I finally see the cagers' beef. Doesn't mean I agree with it, mind you, but I can now see where the "arrogant" half of the "arrogant scofflaw cyclist" stereotype comes from. Well, one could argue (and many often do) that we've designed our entire civilization around automobiles for the past half-century, and now in light of various economic pressures it's only fair and just to try to undo some of that. Still, who died and made driving a deadly sin? Why is that sometimes the only thing on which so-called New Urbanists can agree?

I'm sorry, I think my mind wandered far, far away from my point. I can't even remember what it was. Well, the WashCycle post is worth reading, regardless of how you walk or roll. Helmet tip to CycleDog for that one.

The last picture digi ever took

My camera died on Saturday, July 12, sometime betweeen 10am and midnight. The last picture I got to take with it wasn't anything beautiful, just something I found really, really annoying:

I wanted to find the owner of that parking lot and give him a good thwack or two with my umbrella. I don't know the whole story here, but I can guess: Once upon a time, the stairs were built so that pedestrians could access the riverwalk on the north bank of the Main Stem from the bridge at Columbus. But then the owner of the property decided that a surface parking lot was a far more noble purpose for that bit of land, and so fenced off the riverwalk and fenced in the stairs in order to keep trespassers out. So now it's a stairway to nowhere, and peds have to walk all the way around to the plaza by the Gleacher Center in order to access the riverwalk. (Oh, but you're free to enter that truck staging area under the bridge if you really want to, apparently.) Private automobile storage trumps walkability yet again.

Then again, it's Streeterville, so perhaps no one ever notices.

Sigh. I've had that camera since late '02. (Birthday or X-mas, I can't remember which.) It's served me well.

Another stolen bike recovered

From the Chicago Tribune:
Crystal Lake teen gets back her stolen custom-made 3-wheeler: $2,000 bike was designed for kids with special needs

"A stolen custom-made three-wheeler was returned to Allison Babiarz, 13, about 5:30 p.m. Monday by Crystal Lake police officers who found it on a nearby street. Allison has cerebral palsy and used the special bike to cruise around her neighborhood. It was stolen Saturday.

"The bike was muddy, the seat was ripped and the chain was off.

"Kim Babiarz, Allison's mother, said someone probably took it for a joy ride.

"'We're just happy to have it back,' she said."

In a perfect world the thief would be found and brought to justice, and perhaps made to pony up for repairs. An embarrassing public apology might also be in order.

But at least Miss Babiarz did get her bike back, which the important thing, right?

In other news, Jenny in Chicago complainingly asks what it is with all the grown men riding around in the city. Well, my dear, I've seen plenty of grown men form obsessive and far more questionable attachments to motor vehicles, so maybe it's just you.

Update: "I like that concept.

-CTA Tattler on the bike shelters. Put that on a plaque when they're built.

14 July 2008

Bike to Work: The Book

Coming soon, as seen in Commute by Bike and Cyclelicious: Bike to Work, for people who learn best by reading printed volumes.

For those of you who have embraced Web 2.0 with both arms and haven't touched a printed volume in years, I understand that parts of it will also be PDFified and available via "pod-cast" and streaming motion picture video.

Have fun!

By the shiny metal ass of St. Bender, are some fixie snobs full of themselves or what?

Dear that one guy in Madison:

Having a bike that "would be useless to most riders" is no excuse for leaving it unlocked, as I hope you have now learned.

For example, Avenger the Far-Coasting Hybrid would be useless to most riders because it's a piece of shit with "Dork!" written all over it. (Actually it's a piece of shit with "I'd rather be on a fast train!" written all over it, but the translation is roughly the same.)

In addition, my Trek is worth about 1/100th what yours is worth, but you don't see me leaving it unlocked while I run to the ATM. Oh no, I just use my debit card everywhere so I can completely avoid running to the ATM.

In any case, glad to read you got it back, I guess. Just remember: Not all bike thieves are incapable of locking their knees.

Lots of ironic bike love,


See, down here we call that "late"

I'm bored.

I should move to the north side, where there's so much to do at night there are traffic jams at three in the godforsaken morning.

I could learn to be charged double for a beer and smile at people, I guess.

12 July 2008

Food for thought

So, if sandwich deliverers count as ultra-hip "bike messengers," then what about delivery boy Phillip J. Fry, the lovable loser of the 20th century?

[Rock those fenders!]

And in Old New York, of all places.

Just sayin'.

Edit: Look, honestly, I'm not being mean for the sake of being mean here. (Well, no more than usual, anyway.) I was watching Bender's Big Score for the umpteenth time, and this occurred to me.

There's a brief scene with some wonderful animation and a lovely score (of course there is, it's Futurama) when Fry picks up his life back in the 20th century: He's delivering a pizza on his bike, dodging traffic and scoffing law just like the best of them, and he's having the time of his life. Except Fry isn't exactly the poster boy of "bike messenger culture"---he's overweight, wearing baggy clothes, and pedaling an old cruiser that's very likely not so much "vintage" as simply the same bike he's had ever since he was a kid. (Plus, it's Fry. If you're familiar with the series and/or his character, that should suffice.) And yet there he is, zipping around New York with all the ease and nonchalant recklessness of long experience. He's a delivery boy; that's what he does. How... authentic. That tricksy word.

I love it. I keep watching it over and over again. Maybe it's not the best movie bicycle scene, but it's become one of my favorites.

And suddenly, for really obscure reasons, I want this to be my new avatar:

Except the gender is wrong. Ah well.

11 July 2008

For people who don't use modems...

...videos on the Web! What a novel idea!

Fritz passed along a video, "How to adjust your derailleur," which looks like it would be a lot more useful if I didn't see just a big black blob with a guy pointing at it. But this is my work monitor, and the contrast is adjusted for text. Plus I always have the sound muted, and I haven't gotten around to stealing the speakers out of Benjamin's old cubical yet so I can use headphones.

Anyway, I was just thinking: wow, I wonder if there are any other good bike videos on the Internet? Well duh, of course there are---I just never watch them. At work I have no sound, and at home I have a modem that can barely load somebody's Flickr page. (This is why I'm always asking seemingly inane questions that were answered in that video that you just sent me the link to. And why no, I did not see those pics you just uploaded to Flickr, sorry.) But the latter may change eventually.

So... what are some good bike maintenance how-to videos on the Internet? Tell me again if you already have, and I'll pay attention this time.

Does anyone else do this?

Hyde Park Urbanist:
The Generalissima

"The problem occurred when I got doored on the way to work. My face and jaw slammed right into the edge of the door. My dentist was worried for awhile that I might lose some of my teeth. Fortunately I didn't, but since then I have always preferred riding opposite to the parked cars, so I can see directly through the windshield and they have a hard time missing me." [emphasis added]
I still feel the prickles of danger (huh? where the hell did that metaphor come from?) when I think about riding against traffic, even when the idea is put that way (to avoid being doored). That still couldn't be any safer. Or could it? Once upon a time I wouldn't dream of riding with traffic; my mother had to beat the habit out of me when I was a kid. (Figuratively, of course.) Oh, where's cold, hard data when I need them...

Clearly, the best solution is to require people to parallel-park backwards. [/snark]

In other news, this. [Via.] For a pleasant surprise, check out the comments. Hmm, time to move?

The curious concept of the "staycation"

You must understand, people just recently figuring out what I've already known for years as though it were some sort of wonderful new revelation strikes me as deliciously ironic and utterly hilarious. But people still failing to get the point after all is a little irritating.

Take the "staycation," this idea of having fun close to home because gas is so expensive and flying such a pain in the rear. Phrases such as "save money," "be creative," "make do," and "in your own backyard" often pop up in a discussion. I see and hear the words "forced" or "driven" a lot.

"Staycation" is a cager term, of course. Normal people have cars and drive for everything, including fun. When you go on vacation, you drive somewhere or head to the airport. When fuel prices make both of those things economically infeasible, you're forced to stay home. So you call it a "staycation" and try to have fun anyway. (And maybe someone at the Trib leaves multiple messages on your answering machine because they're desperate to interview some average Jill for a story on vacations that are by bike instead of by car.*)

The implication being that it really isn't very much fun at all.

It's an insidious notion. I myself frequently complain that I never go anywhere fun, but what I mean is that I never go anywhere far. I don't drive and I hate airports; ergo, I'm forced by default to "staycation" just like the people who would normally go on an actual vacation to some exotic destination like... I dunno, wherever it is that people around here go when they don't go to Wisconsin.**

I also frequently complain that my life is boring, but that's because there aren't many people in it, I have what the rest of the world would consider a very dull job, and I save money by drinking at home by myself instead of going out to bars all the time, which is the unfortunate baseline social activity for single people above the age of 19 or so. (And I don't drive or fly, but that that's just ironic self-deprecation.)

But to my surprise, I'm told every once in a while that I seem to have a pretty interesting life. I'm always biking somewhere. I'm blazing the Grand Illinois Trail bit by tiny bit. I know the Metra system like the back of my hand. I've been riding Amtrak to visit friends and family since before it was cool. I take advantage of living in the city and often get out to the suburbs and beyond. I'm always talking about or posting pictures of some relatively nearby festival, museum, park, or nature area that I've visited. I randomly go places on a whim just to see what there is to see, or simply wander around my own "boring" neighborhood and enjoy the heck out of it. Shoot, even just living in my apartment building is more nonstop craziness than most people could handle.

Hot damn, my life is pretty interesting. And I don't even drive.

But people who do drive, who've felt gas prices cramp their plans or their style, seem so desperate to do something "fun" that they can't see what's all around them. They search the Chicago Tribune for "midwest destinations" and "local getaways." They buy pools, grills, and fancy patio furniture so they can have fun in their own backyards. Or they buy bikes to save money on gas, so they can take that big trip after all.

I feel kind of sad for these people; they seem to be missing the point. "Fun" isn't something you shop around for, it's something you have. If you convince yourself that you won't have any fun simply biking or hiking on the area trails all summer for free, then you won't. If "going somewhere" means crossing several states or even leaving the country, then you'll always feel stuck at home when you can't do that. And if the City of Chicago doesn't provide enough amusement and adventure for you, then I don't know what will. (As Time Out Chicago says, "If you're bored, it's not our fault.")

I should take my own advice more often, I know.

*True story. Folks, could you please stop giving my contact info to Real Media Outlets? Thanks.

**Note to non-midwesterners: For most people in the Chicago area, the entire state of Wisconsin is considered to be "our own backyard." So they call us "FIBs" and pretend they don't need the revenue in tourism, while we call them "cheeseheads" and pretend that northeastern Illinois has trees, hills, and beer in abundance. It's an odd relationship. Somebody may as well build a big fence.

Bikes off Metra?

Is it the end of a short era?

Daily Southtown:
Rocky relationship between bike owners, Metra

(They yelled at Al Sturges. I can't believe it.)

I haven't been denied boarding since 2005, when the program began: once because the bike quota was already full (the BNSF used to have only one ADA-compliant car per train), once because of a Cubs game, and twice because the conductor didn't understand the rules, but both of those times another conductor corrected him and let me board. In fact, a very nice conductor on the UP-W once let me on even though it was a blackout date. Most of the harassment I've gotten about my bike has been from other passengers, the usual gripes about being forced to accommodate the special privileges of a whiny minority. But it's starting to sound like I've just been lucky, and can't count on that luck for much longer.

Fuel prices shouldn't be pitting bikes against trains; that's the exact opposite of what we need right now. Someone at Metra needs to talk to someone at Caltrain and learn how they do it out there.

[Helmet tip to bike>>blog.]

Downtown dump

Seen at Millennium Park. That can't possibly be legal.

Also seen at Millennium Park. Heh.

Behind the scaffolding hides the Louis Sullivan masterpiece that used to be Carson Pirie Scott on State Steet. I used to shop there all the time. (And by "all the time," I mean "when I could afford it," which wasn't very often on a student budget.) Carson Pirie Scott decided that they were too good for Louis Sullivan and moved out last winter. But behind that beautiful facade was an interior that was rather shabby and unkempt (compared to Marshall Field's wonderful shopping palace up the street, anyway), so perhaps it was for the best after all. Here's hoping the new tenant does a better job, whoever it is again. (And here's yet another glare at Macy's for selling crappy merchandise at swanky department store prices. And another for doing the same thing to Famous Barr.)

I always liked this building, southeast corner of State and Balbo. Perhaps better known as the South Loop Club. Taken from inside the #6 Jackson Park Express, which actually makes a pretty good tour bus if you're lucky enough to grab a window seat.

10 July 2008

Late to the EcoVelo party

But here I am now, crashing like everyone's least favorite drunk. Huzzah! So go share the bike love and ogle the bike porn over at EcoVelo, if you aren't already.

Now I want a shiny new bike all over again, but not to ride, just to photograph. Maybe get some hot chick in a skirt to pose in my helmet and pretend to be me, to lure more people into transportation cycling. (Because let's face it, I'm not exactly the best candidate for that sort of thing.)

But EcoVelo, now, they've got all the style and good taste that I completely lack. Check it out.

Daytripping in the Shawnee National Forest

Well, it's a day trip if you live there. Which I don't. Long story.

View from the observation deck on the water tower at Giant City State Park. I think the tiny blob on the horizon to the right is Bald Knob Cross. It was a very hazy day, so it's hard to tell.

View from Bald Knob.

Another view from Bald Knob.

Bald Knob Cross. It's in pretty bad shape, as you can see. There's a group trying to raise money to save it. Best of luck to them; saving things can be a real headache. Yet another way in which rural small towns and urban neighborhoods are more alike than people realize.

I have more from other times in the past, but they're on another computer. (Oh yes, and Giant City '07, which I keep forgetting. That's how awful it was.) And then there are the pre-2003 prints. I need to find all those.

09 July 2008

Wait a sec...

Scooty-Puff the Adorable Folding Bike does not have quick-release wheels. Nor does it have totally bad-ass puncture-resistant tires. (Although I really want a pair. Do they come that small?)

Does this mean I should be carrying around a wrench (in addition to the screwdriver, hex wrench set, tire levers, pump, spare tubes, flashlight, compass, various maps, Metra schedule, first aid kit, ACE bandage, personal items, tissues, wallet, spare wallet, chain lube, toothbrush, reusable shopping bag, ibuprofen, camera, bungee cords, emergency poncho, mobile phone, extra bike lights, and extra batteries) in my bike bag, in case it flats on me?

For the woman who has everything... something else.

Another dream

In this dream (a decade or so in the future because I had kids---yikes!) Illinois finally enacted a bicycle licensing scheme, but not in the way that the cagers had hoped. No, the state basically rolled biker's ed into driver's ed, but provided no further funds for the latter, placing even more strain on cash-strapped school districts that were already struggling to conform with ever stricter driver's ed requirements. There was a school funding referendum on every ballot that election. Most failed, a record number of school districts fell into state control, and taxes were raised anyway.

Kids under 16 who did not yet have their bike license and learner's driving permit were banned from riding on streets and roads, which meant that every single street and road in the state that lacked sidewalks or a sidepath needed to have them built, effective immediately. So---oh darn---taxes had to be raised yet again in order to cover the cost of construction. (Apparently, future Illinois politicians will prefer to get things done quickly, but not any more cheaply.)

Nobody was happy, least of all sullen fixed-gear hipsters and grumpy roadies, who did the unthinkable and united in protest. Some sort of press conference was called at the Thompson Center, where guys in skinny jeans (was retro totally retro again?) mumbled about greenhouse gasses while chain smoking and professional racers weighed a bike license plate (a little smaller than a postcard, to be attached to the back of the saddle) on a laboratory balance to prove its shockingly huge weight and presented the results of wind tunnel experiments that clearly demonstrated that it would increase drag by a fraction of a percent. Then Richard M. Daley, Mayor, said a few words, but nobody understood them because he was completely senile by then. (And yet he'd just been reelected by a landslide. I guess people were reluctant to have their tax dollars spent repainting all the signs.) My kids that I had for some reason thought the whole thing was hilarious.

So I went to the Department of Motor and Nonmotor Vehicles to take my biking test (I lost points for failing to signal a stop when a pigeon suddenly flew at my face and I hit both brakes in sudden alarm) and pick up my bike license plate. It looked exactly like the Illinois car license plate, except Lincoln's face was all wrong. Upon closer inspection I realized that it wasn't supposed to be Lincoln at all. And the slogan printed at the bottom?

Land of Obama


And then I woke up.

John McCain would kill the train

Interesting discussion on Gristmill:
Derailed: McCain just not that into Amtrak

Someone mentioned Greyhound's fares being consistently cheaper than Amtrak's, but that seems like an apples-oranges comparison to me. I think passenger rail's competition is more with regional jets (you know, the ones that are disappearing) than with intercity buses. If I may be a grossly politically incorrect uber-snob for a moment (what, me?), intercity buses are for poor and/or desperate people and suck incredibly huge donkey balls. I would gladly pay whatever extra simply to avoid taking Greyhound anywhere ever again. (I would also pay extra to kick the Megabus riders far, far away from Canal St., but that's another matter.)

In addition, buses are subject to the very same problems that plague automobiles (fuel prices, traffic congestion, etc.). Their biggest (if not only) advantage over private autos is that someone else does the driving---but I already don't drive, so for me it's moot. Besides, trains are romantic and sexy. Maybe that's just more snob appeal, but seriously: when's the last time you daydreamed about taking a cross-country journey on a bus?

Finally, those Greyhound ads that show a bus driving into the sunset along a sweeping interstate on-ramp are an arrogant mockery of classic railroad promotional posters, and I hate them.

(Hmm, that was more than I intended to write. Oh well.)

Campaign by bike

Oh, I forgot! I wanted to pass this along, from Roger Kramer Cycling:
Campaigning by bicycle

"Scott Hays is running for a District 1 seat on the Champaign County (Ill.) Board, and he's campaigning by bicycle -- and kayak and foot.

"'In an effort to really get to know all of District 1, I have set a goal to cross District 1 by many different routes and in many different ways,' Hays says on his Web site. 'This includes by bicycle, by kayak, on foot and any other means. .... If you see me, say hi! I'll be the guy in the yellow hat (or black bike helmet) and purple Hays for 1 t-shirt. Better yet, anyone is welcome to join me for any of my treks...'"

Check it out while I imagine Todd Stroger kayaking down the Chicago River. And remember to share the road with farm equipment, if you encounter any.

Extremely local news: Safe sex on the beach

From Architecture Chicago PLUS:
What's the Point?
"It's an expressway for moving bicycles and people with the least possible resistance, a giant stretched condom sheathing the observer from any conception of the natural intersection of water and land..."

Okay, well, I grew up playing with the chunks of asbestos that washed up a stone's throw from a nuke plant with an unimpressive safety record, so get that condom on. Appeals to "interest" and "wonder" just don't do it for me, sorry.

Besides, there's nothing natural about Chicago's lakefront. What's to preserve?

08 July 2008


Whoo, only a few more days until the L.A.T.E. Ride! Here's some L.A.T.E. breaking news:

"Want to be on TV Wednesdsay morning, July 9th to help us promote the ride?

"We have a Fox News segment scheduled for Wednesday morning at the McDonald’s on Irving and Elston. It is called the Fox Breakfast Buzz. This McDonald’s is along the LATE Ride route, by the way.

"The segment airs close to 9:00am, so you would need to be there from about 8:15 - 9:00am. Wear your McDonald's L.A.T.E. Ride 2008 t-shirt! (If you're riding, make sure to wear a helmet! You don't have to ride there, but you can still come in cycling clothes if you want. Street clothes are ok, too).

"Everyone is invited!! No need to rsvp. We want a big, enthusiastic group on TV to help promote the ride!!"

Hey, that's tomorrow. And nowhere near me, but maybe it's near you.

Red folder down

Okay folks, help Eric out: Who knows how to get a back wheel off to fix a flat tire if it has an internal hub? (Or which Web page has that information and presents it the best? I'm lazy and don't feel well.)

I have seen too many bikes go unridden because they're broken and the owners give up on fixing them or getting them fixed because it's perceived as too much of a hassle, and damned if I'm going to let it happen again on my watch.

Edit: For the record, that's his secondary bike. (Welcome to multiple bike ownership! Soon you too will know the joys of having both malfunction at the same time!)

07 July 2008

TATI needs women!

Wait, that came out wrong...

Women Riders Wanted

"If you are a woman aged 18+ and are interested in increasing your skills, getting stronger, and possibly racing -- Team TATI wants you!

"Our squad currently consists of one masters rider, one CAT 3, and two CAT 4s (as well as a half dozen junior girls). We'd like to fill out our CAT 4 (novice) category in order to make training workouts more fun and team tactics a feasible option for racing.

"If you are a triathlete or unsure about road racing, don't fret --"

Too late; all I ever do is fret. I don't even know what a CAT is. But hey, if you're an XX and you're usually in too much of a hurry to stop and photograph the flowers (and already own a Real Bike, and don't mind orange), then you should check it out.

Also to be checked out but more likely to be participated in by me: LIB's Shawnee Weekend Forest Ride, October 18-20 in beautiful southern Illinois. Don't miss it!

More deadblogging on the Illini

Carbondale. The station's poor design makes Chicago Union Station look efficient.

Du Quoin.


Effingham. I tried to get a picture of the cross, but stuff kept getting in the way. ("You will never be bigger than the things that upsets you"? Sorry, I'm not inspired.)










I had a window seat this time, but as I was crammed on a sold-out train, there were myriad limitations to the shots I was able to take. (Except for Centalia; I made my way to the cafe car for that one.) Tell you what, though, whipping out your camera at every stop on the freaking Illini is a surefire way to get people to leave you well alone the whole ride.