31 July 2009

In other news, this

I did not like St. Louis

Except for the riverfront, but I always like riverfronts.

All of you who love to bitch and moan about how terrible the cycling conditions are in Chicago and what a joke it is to call this city "bike friendly" and the grossly inadequate number of bike racks installed and the asinine bike lane striping and the morons clogging the Lakefront Trail and how much politics and marketing have stood in the way of real progress should drag your bikes on a Lincoln Service train down to St. Louis for an afternoon. Seriously.

28 July 2009

Conceptual distances, or What happened to me?

Density influences the perception of distance. Five miles through open farmland seems a lot farther (sometimes agonizingly so) than five miles in the city. Corn gets kind of boring after a while, you know.

Safety also influences the perception of distance, and I don't just mean traffic safety. Point B seems a lot farther away from Point A if it's separated by a large ghetto economically distressed area, and if you're frightened by the (sometimes mostly imagined, but sometimes very real) risk of being mugged, assaulted, or caught in the crossfire of gang warfare along the way from Point A to Point B.

I should add that this doesn't just apply to biking and walking. It also applies to public transit (how long will I have to stand there waiting for the bus? how long will I be stuck on the train platform?) and even driving. (Ask me how Google's driving directions always tell me to go anywhere from my apartment.)

Original Rainbow Cone is delicious and in Beverly. I am craving delicious ice cream and in Hyde Park. But there's just no good way to get from Hyde Park to Beverly. The distance isn't far by any geographical standard, but Beverly may as well be in China because it's separated from Hyde Park by a large swath of the highest crime neighborhoods in the city. I'm not sure I'd even bother cajoling someone else into driving me there.

Some years ago I would have told anyone "Just ride your bike, duh!" (I probably did so on more than one occasion.) But I'm no longer quite as brave about that sort of thing as I used to be. I'm not sure why.

I often think to myself, if only it were all corn...

"High speed rail"

My fellow Americans, we have experienced a vocabulary shift. Thanks to the combined efforts of politics and media, the phrase "high speed rail" no longer has the same meaning in the U.S. as it does in Europe. Here and now, the term "high speed rail" refers to anything greater than Amtrak's current top speed of 79 mph and current average speed of "Why the *&^%$#@! are we crawling through Champaign like this?!?!"

But I suppose it's a start, because people who don't understand how intercity trains work in Europe (and how truly pathetic our current system really is) are more likely to get excited about High! Speed! Rail! than about rebuilding and re-upgrading a system that was mostly (and quite stupidly) dismantled nearly half a century ago. (While we're at it, let's put a shiny new name and logo on Amtrak, since arbitrarily renaming things without really changing what they are seems to work so well. Look, more money!)

Anyway, since the definition of "high speed rail" has shifted so dramatically in actual common American usage, I have therefore decided to cease being such a stickler about the term. I will remain so privately, of course, because I am a technical editor, and protecting the technical usage of technical terms in a technical setting is what I do (technically), but I'll try to avoid grumbling about it to everyone all the time.

So with that in mind, let's celebrate the latest step forward for American "high speed rail." (I suggest that beer from Indiana that has a picture of a depot on the box. I can't for the life of me remember what it's called or who makes it, and I've not seen it anywhere since I-forget-who brought it to my place for a Futurama movie viewing, whichever one it was. So perhaps I only imagined it.) In any case, from Trib:
High-speed rail picks up speed in Midwest

27 July 2009

Water, water, over there

Is there enough to drink?

Journal Sentinel special series:
Great Lakes, Great Peril

Whiting, IN ("Refining the Heart of Community")

23 July 2009


Wildcat Canyon, Starved Rock State Park.


LaSalle Canyon, Starved Rock State Park.


Sam Vadalabene Bikeway. I'll be back soon.


Nebraska Zephyr at Illinois Railway Museum.

Endangered species

Preserved at the Illinois Railway Museum. Can still be spotted in its natural habitat every now and then.

Granite City again

Sort of, not really. Illinois Railway Museum, Union.


Interstate 270 across Chain of Rocks Canal, Granite City. I think.


Old Chain of Rocks Bridge.

Longest bike/ped bridge ever!

Quite possibly.

21 July 2009

What to do, what to do

I dunno, I don't think they put up enough signs here...

I need to break a snowglobe

But carefully. It's a music box glitterglobe, an 8th-grade graduation gift from my late great-grandmother, but the water has become cloudy and approximately the same color as urine. I'd like to remove the fluid-filled glass globe while leaving the statuette inside intact. Ideally, I'd also like to avoid getting broken glass and glittery pee-colored water everywhere. And I don't want the music box mechanism to get wet, either. (So no chucking the whole thing down the stairwell, obviously.) Any ideas?

Melon Metric, and then what?

I'd love to do the Melon Metric this coming Sunday, except due to general carlessness I would be stuck with about eight hours to kill in Plano.

I don't think this is going to work.

20 July 2009

Nobody thought of this before?

Those permanently attached locked storage bins like you see on some motorcycles. Put them on a longtail or box bike.

I just don't trust the bag-in-a-basket paradigm. Weather can change. People steal things just because they can.

19 July 2009

Train news

Associated Press via Chicago Tribune:
New rail money to put the 'go' back in Chicago

Chicago Tribune:
Ultra-fast trains ordered [by Wisconsin]

Something different

2009 Route 66 Trail Ride
Saturday, August 29 to Thursday, September 3
St. Louis (Granite City, IL) to Chicago

16 July 2009


Does anyone else look at these two together and think "Awww, that's cute"? It's like they're just begging to be modeled as cuddly little plush toys.

Brain damage

I woke up to find a shattered CFL all over my bathroom floor. I do not recall that happening.

Man, mercury poisoning sure works fast...

In seriousness, is it safe to assume that the vapors would have been sucked out by the ventilation fan by now? It has to have been at least several hours.

15 July 2009

How did I miss this?

The Onion:
Shitty Neighborhood Rallies Against Asshole Developer

14 July 2009

Bike to the train museum

I got tired of waiting for Some Guy to take me to the Illinois Railway Museum in Union. Well, isn't that why I have a bike? So last Saturday I finally went there myself.

It's about 10 miles from the Woodstock Metra station (Union Pacific Northwest line, out of Ogilvie Transportation Center). I might have saved a few miles if I'd gone to Crystal Lake instead, but Crystal Lake has sprawled the size of a small republic with correspondingly nutty traffic. I didn't want to deal with that, and it was high time I took on some bona fide country roads this season anyway. That turned out to be a good plan---it was a pleasant ride, and the drivers were (*gasp!*) courteous and safe, although I'd still try to avoid Dean Street in the future. Hills plus headwind plus heavy traffic is more than I'd prefer to handle at the same time, at least when I'm riding through a rural area. Or what's supposed to be a rural area. Or at least for now.

The museum wasn't quite what I was expecting, but I still had a geeked-out great time. If only I hadn't had to leave in such a hurry later that afternoon in order to catch my train back to Chicago. The subtle irony of this did not escape me, given that most of the other visitors riding the two demo trains running that day probably hadn't ridden any sort of normal train recently. Whereas I ride both diesel and electric trains all the time, some of which probably even qualify as "vintage," unfortunately. (Dear Amtrak: The fact that the passenger cars currently in use were built in 1979 really isn't something that should be bragged about.) It's just like riding a real train, I thought, complete with the repeating chorus of "are we there yet?" in shrill, youthful voices almost as soon as we'd pulled out of the depot.

This coming weekend is Diesel Days, so I'll probably be heading back to partake in the awesomeness. With better planning I would have put off my trip for another week anyway, since by midnight I was so tired that I ended up skipping the L.A.T.E. Ride. Again. As I had figured that I probably would. (And I'd finally snagged a rider number in the first wave, too.) Well, most of my adventures are pretty spontaneous. I needed to get out, and the Illinois Railway Museum was the first crazy idea that popped into my head at 6am. (Long story.) You do one L.A.T.E. Ride by yourself, and you've done 'em all.

13 July 2009

Save American jobs without driving off a cliff

Is there any good reason the Big 3 couldn't get into train car manufacturing? The federal government orders trains from Japan even as it flings money around attempting to lure citizens into purchasing American cars. It makes no frackin' sense!

Support the Calumet-Sag Trail and win a sexy, sexy bike

The Friends of the Calumet Sag Trail is having a raffle: For just $5 per ticket or $10 per three tickets, you could win a 2009 Trek Soho, an 8-speed belt-drive bike in Trek's Urban Series.* Even better, for every $5 you spend on raffle tickets, you compel the federal government to give us $25 to build the Calumet-Sag Trail.

Super special thanks to RBikes in Palos Heights, Trek, and Senator Durbin.

*Of course, this is not to say that any other kind of bike is not urban, or that "urban bikes" can't be ridden outside major cities. Don't let marketing gimmicks tell you what you can and can't do!

11 July 2009

Gender confusion

I don't understand how on the same day (in the same outfit and on the same bike) I can be both borderline sexual harassed and then actually harassed by some homophobe who mistook me for a guy.

07 July 2009

Two cyclists struck, one killed, in Yorkville

Darlene McCue, 46

04 July 2009

Multicorporate train

CN, CSX, BC Rail, and Illinois Central locomotives all pulling the same train. It was kind of cool.

[And that is quite possibly the most interesting thing that will happen to me today.]

Michigan about to axe Amtrak

From AP via Detroit Free Press:
Michigan may cut subsidies that keep Amtrak running
"The Pere Marquette and Blue Water trains wouldn’t run without a state contract, Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said. He indicated it’s unclear how service would be affected, however, as legislators aren’t finished drawing up the budget for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1.

"Mass transit advocates are worried enough, though, that they staged bake sales in four cities Wednesday to bring attention to the proposed cuts to Amtrak and local bus operations."
[emphasis added]

"'We need to have state and federal support,' said Todd Tennis of the Let’s Get Moving Coalition, a group of public transportation supporters. 'We can’t support public transportation funding with bake sales.'"
In other news, this.