Wednesday, November 30, 2005


Crain's New York Business is reporting that the last seven private, mass transit lines in New York are coming under the rubric of the Metropolitan Transit Authority ("MTA"). There are seven bus lines in Brooklyn and Queens that collectively run 700 buses and carry 136,000 people perday that were run privately. This is a fascinating New York carry over.

In the Chi the mass transit was consolidated into the Chicago Transit Autority in 1947. Before that, the street car, elevated, and subway lines were all private, for profit systems. For a variety of reasons, the trains were built so as to minimize head-to-head competition. Thus, while there was historic overlap heading to the North Shore, for instance, generally the train lines went north, northwest, west, southwest, and south. They all radiated from the Loop (which was not yet the Loop). World War II stopped the Franklin Street subway from being built, and then the lines were consolidated into the CTA. In other words, the changes since 1947 have been planned to avoid competition and wasted resources. Thus, the Orange Line to Midway nicely filled a gap in the city's train coverage. Ditto the expansion of the Dearborn Street subway (Blue Line) to O'Hare.

New York, on the other hand, will not close down the private era until January 1, 2006. Frankly, a quick look at the subway map makes clear that the tremendous resources that go into building subways probably could have been directed a little better.

By the way, here are a few of my favorite mass transit links (it is an interest of mine)
Chicago Tunnels
New York City or here
Los Angeles
Rochester, NY

Monday, November 28, 2005


I am a Bears fan. I am not a Lions fan. The only time I pay attention to the Lions is when the Bears beat up on them. That being said, on Thanksgiving I watched the Lions absolutely quit against Atlanta. It was a discreditable performance. It looked like time to clean out the locker room and start off.

The Lions did the next best thing to firing the players. They fired their coach. Steve Mariucci was fired after going 15-28 in two-and-a-half seasons. That is not good. On the other hand, the Lions have sucked for a long time. Interestingly, Matt Millen, the team president assembled the roster of quitters Mariucci had to coach, and has been in Detroit since 2001 and the team's record has been 20-55 during his tenure. That's a .267 winning percentage. Mariucci's winning percentage is .349. Oh, and by the way, Mariucci had a winning percentage over .500 in San Francisco and led them to the playoffs four times.

The Lions' official web page says "in addition to the personnel changes on the field, one of Millen’s most important moves was the 2003 hiring of Head Coach Steve Mariucci, who guided the San Francisco 49ers to four 10-win seasons six years at the helm, as the Lions’ new head coach."

Hard to believe that Mariucci got fired. Matt Millen, I'm looking at you.

Sunday, November 27, 2005


Today's New York Times magazine had an "Idea Lab" on the banlieues in France, and the debate over whether the location of the French projects or the architecture of the French projects caused the riots in France. The article discusses the projects in Paris versus those in Marseilles, as well as comparing the projects of Amsterdam to the projects of Rotterdam. Their conclusion? The high rise projects in Paris and Amsterdam don't work. Also, this quote:

In the course of the October uprising, French observers called this slum-based sense of place a "nationalisme de quartier." It is a problem. Residents of some of the most dismal projects have often proved unwilling to relocate, even when the government has promised to move them into much nicer places. Perhaps they have grown attached to their dangerous homes and neighbors. It is more likely that they're leery about accepting the promises of any government that once stuck them in such a depressing spot to begin with.

Thank goodness we have the clever people at the New York Times staring intently at Europe for this sort of insight. Meanwhile, in Chicago, we have been tearing down high rises since 2000. People have resisted relocating to mixed-income townhomes in the same area. The residents talk about the "community" they felt in the high rise projects.

In other words, back when Europe was still reeling from Clinton being replaced by Bush, Chicago was acting on what Europe is now contemplating. Unfortunately, this all happened in fly-over territory, so nobody thought of it until France burned...

Saturday, November 26, 2005


Today is all about words. The word of the day is "defenestration." This is defined as the act of throwing someone or something out a window." While the word makes sense, one might wonder why one would need such a word. It turns out that the Bohemians are the cause of this term.

In 1419 seven members of the Prague city council were thrown out of windows to their deaths by a Hussite crowd. This sparked a series of wars, called the Hussite Wars. This was the First Defenestration of Prague.

In 1618 two Imperial governors were thrown out a window in Prague by local Protestants. They landed in a pile of dung and consequently survived, bruised and stinking. This was a major cause of the Thirty Years War. This war killed between 15% and 30% of the population of Germany and depopulated several cities. It was as bad as World War II for Central Europe. That war probably was going to break out anyway, but the defenestration helped trigger it. This was the Second Defenstration of Prague.

In 1948 Tomas Masaryk was found in the courtyard of the Foreign Ministry. The Russians said he jumped. In retrospect, it is clear that this was the Third Defenestration of Prague.

And that is the definition and background of the word defenestration.

I have not done a "book review" post in a long time, and nobody really responds to them anyway. TOO BAD!

Childhood and Other Neighborhoods: Stories, Stuart Dybek. This guy grew up in Pilsen and Back of the Yards. Both are South Side hoods in the Chi, and during Dybek's childhood they changed from Slavic neighborhoods to Spanish neighborhoods. The stories are from that period, and are fantastic. By the way, my buddy F recommended the book. Recommendation: NOW THAT YOU KNOW, YOU MUST BUY.

The Coast of Chicago, Stuart Dybek. These stories are later in Dybek's life, I think. They are a little more magical, and the first one is set near Loyola University, which is a North Side institution. Still good stories, but I really loved Childhood, whereas I liked this one. Recommendation: BUY.

The interesting think about Dybek's writing is that he was a South Sider, and I was a North Sider. He was older than I. Nevertheless, the language, experiences, and other elements of the book all were so comfortable and familiar that I felt like I was having a discussion with a "guy" from the Chi, rather than reading a book.

The Coffee Trader: A Novel, David Liss. Historical fiction about the people who introduced coffee in commercial quantities to Holland. Really much more interesting for the history of the conversos and their lives in Amsterdam. The book also does not do a very good job explaining the futures market, and I say that as a life long Chicagoan, with the predominant futures markets on the planet. Recommendation: BORROW. MAYBE ACTUALLY WALK TO THE CPL AND BORROW.

Choke, Chuck Palahniuk. I won't even summarize. Suffice it to say, I did not enjoy this book. I did not feel like it had any tension driving it forward. I did not really know or care what the point was. Recommendation: AVOID.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon. On the surface this book is about a murder mystery. But it isn't really. It is really a journey of discovery for an autistic boy. Self-discovery. He, of course, learnes about other people, but being autistic, any discovery about someone else he can internalize is a self-discovery. That's fine, but it really is not very entertaining. Recommendation: GRAB IT OFF A TAKE-ONE LEAVE ONE RACK.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


L and I often marvel at the fact that certain retailers seem to know our hearts and souls. For instance, after we registered for our wedding, Target sent us a wedding registry booklet. At least every page had an article that we had registered for. They KNEW us.

Apparently the world knows HER. On the same day that I opened an invitation to become a member of the ACLU, I opened a flyer from the American Compass. Now, I did not transact business with either of them, but I have to say that Ann Coulter is only hot in a room with Newt Gingrich, Zell Miller, and their ilk. In addition, when the hell did Michael "I Review Movies" Medved become a serious conservative political commentator?

The important thing is that I am being solicited by both of these groups. All hail the enigma.

So, many moons ago I blogged about a roller derby league here in Chicago. I stand by what I blogged, mostly because I think it is fair to take a group like this at face value from their web page, and there was some stuff on their page I was not impressed with. That being said, I just got a long, impassioned comment from one of them. Since she posted it to a June 2005 post, it will be buried from the world (both of you) unless I call attention to it. In the interest of fairness, the comment is here:

"Hi David....i know just as little about you as you know about Chicago Roller Derby. But i figured, i'd be so kind as to educate you just a little bit, me being one of those "goofs." Windy City Rollers' Roller Derby is all about opportunity and growth for the sixty some of us who've devoted over a year of our life to it. It is much more than wrestling on skates. It's sixty strangers managing to pull together some incredible skaters, trainers, designers, photographers, business women, lawyers and social workers to form a phenomenon that pulls in an excess of 1800 people once a month to see just how serious we all are about the opportunity we've been given. It's skating four hours a week until our thighs burn and then taking hits and skating some more. It's running and squating a few additional hours in that same week, to work through that pain. It's doing all our own advertising, merchandising, community activism, recruiting, training and production. It's pulling together such an athletic and entertaining show that, despite very few people knowing what derby is about, we pack the historic Congress THEATER with 2000 people by the end of your season and have them loving the game and on their feet chanting our name for two hours straight. It's sixty women doing all of this for nothing more than the love of the sport we've resurrected and being able to say we did this ourselves, without the backing of a major corporate sponsorship, nor trust funds nor connections, just good people. It's being proud to say that in less than a year we were able to raise more than $16,000 for local charities and volunteer in our community. It's being talented and smart enough to recognize that we've achieved more in one year than most rock bands, actors, atheltes and small businesses hope to achieve in five years or their whole careers. It's being acute enough to recognize that in a world where men's versions of most sports far surpass the marketability and financial investments of women's sports, we've promoted a sport that will always have a higher draw as a female sport. It's realizing how to balance femininity with toughness and power and style. It's knowing what we've created in the Windy City Rollers is solid and has afforded each one of us professional, personal, corporeal and social benefits and opportunities.
And yeah, you SHOULD go check out us "clowns" in action before you try to post more comments questioning the merit of roller derby as it pertains to opportunities and women or suffrage.
And yes, our names and motivations most definitely ROCK. We'd be happy to show you how much at any time. See you at the derby, David.
Your friendly neighborhood Derby Dame, Varla Vendetta, #25, CoCaptain of the Hell's Belles, Windy City Rollers all girl, flat track, slap you in your face, Roller Derby"

And there it is. I stand corrected. Their bouts were at the Congress Theater, rather than the Congress Hotel. I stand by the rest of what I said. Broken Cherry? Good grief.

Sunday, November 20, 2005


The State of Illinois just ran a "Click it or Ticket" commercial for seatbelt use. A young balck man got pulled over. There's a shock. A cop pulling over a young black man. Anyway, just as I am thinking that the state needs a PR person involved, the cop turns out to be . . . black. Oh, that hardly seems racist at all. The ad here is not the same ad, but the only black cop is giving a ticket to the only black driver. Interesting...

By the way, check out the uniform on the Washington State trooper uniform. Very nice. It'd be real hard to get a ticket from this guy without giggling.

I wrote a few weeks ago about the Bears moving in the right direction. Today they beat a team that is officially a "contender" in the NFL sweepstakes. Frankly, the Panthers did not realy look very good. The Bears defense was dominating.

Now I don't know what to think about this team. I had thought they were the products of a weak schedule, but I guess we have to at least contemplate the possibility that they are a decent team. The offense is pretty weak in the air, but the D and running games look solid.

By the way, the Bears had eigth sacks today, and all eight were by the front four. No sacks on linebacker or safety blitzes. Hey, Jake Delhomme, get rid of the damned ball!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


Nobody comes out with more cool stuff than google. I will not argue about this. Apple is fine, but when I am at my desk, google can make me more productive and entertain me, all in under a second. I have just become aware of google video search. I fully appreciate that this could be God's gift to the porn consuming world. However, like so many things, it has a fugitive use too. You can actually find cool, non-porn, videos with it. Shocking.

I googled "baseball." Lots of videos came up, including this. Watch with the sound on.

I googled "mxc" and got this. If you are unfamiliar with the show, shame on you. You should be more culturally sensitive, like me. It is footage from 1980s Japanese game shows that is dubbed by a couple of U.S. comedians. It rocks.

Finally, in the bad taste category, "suicide bomber."

This could lead to weeks of fun and enjoyment.

I was about to post making fun of Pamela Anderson for her anti-fur activism, and Whole Foods for their initiative to make the lives of live lobsters more humane from the sea to the shopping cart.

Then I read this instruction: to kill a lobster for broiling or grilling, place it belly-down and insert a knife tip at the junction of the body and tail shells. Cut the body in half lengthwise, remove the stomach and black intestinal vein, and crack the claws. Rinse the lobster well.

No kidding. Hacking the living animal in half will kill it? Do you think? I hope they don't tell you how to slaughter sheep. I think it might read something like this: tie sheep to middle of road. Hit with car. Clean well. Cook.

Maybe they are on to a little something, just not as much as they think...

By the way, although no animals were harmed in the making of this entry, I did come across this fascinating scam obviously designed to get women trying to look sleazy in pleather to send you pictures of themselves.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


Chicago is on Central Time. Detroit is on Eastern Time. Somewhere in between, the sun leaps from location to location at noon. That space is the border between time zones. This border does not, in the United States, follow the state borders. There are areas of the Dakotas, Idaho, Kentucky, Tennessee, Nebraska, and Washington state that are on different times than the rest of their state. However, nobody, and I mean nobody (note that India and several other are on 1/2 hour increments while the ENTIRE rest of the world is on full hours) can touch Indiana for screwing up the concept of time zones.

Stated briefly:

77 counties (including state capital Indianapolis) are in the Eastern Time Zone but do not change to Daylight time in April; instead they remain on Standard Time all year long; [yellow on map and chart]

10 counties -- five near Chicago, IL, and five near Evansville, IN, are in the Central Time Zone and use both Central Standard and Central Daylight; [red on map and chart] and

five other counties -- two near Cincinnati, OH, and three near Louisville, KY -- are in the Eastern Time Zone but use both Eastern Standard and Eastern Daylight. [green on map and chart]

Thus, when dealing with Indianans, it is the ONLY time in your life that it is meaningful when they say that a conference call (for instance) is at 3 EST, or 3 EDT. I have no idea which time we are on right now. We fell back, whatever that meant. Is that Daylight, or Savings? I don't know, and frankly I don't care. Except when dealing with Indiana.

With all of that said, it is perhaps sad that Indiana's legislature voted to move their clocks in all counties, and asked the Department of Transportation to clarify the border between the time zones in Indiana. One more reason to mock Hoosiers will have fallen to modernism, phones, and business.

On Sunday the New York Times ran a story about a town near Fort Worth, which I am lead to believe is near Dallas, which I am lead to believe is infinitely far from Houston (*big breath*) called "White Settlement." The linked web page (for those of you too lazy to click the damned link) says that White Settlement is a "Unique Name for a Unique City." Uh oh. That's a bad start.

The page goes on to explain that White Settlement is so called because it was near several Indian villages and the whiteness of its settlers was the distinctive characteristic of the settlement. It was not, according to the page, some proto-apartheid, Jim Crow, Plessy v. Ferguson cracker-assed "no coloreds" town. I am willing to give the good people of White Settlement the benefit of the doubt (as if that matters). Still, tough name.

However, change is afoot in White Settlement. The name is not changing (the article was about a referendum in which residents voted by a 9-1 margin to keep the name), but there are two exhibits of change in the article. First, Wendell Sowards, 72, used to own an auto repair shop, but the auto repair shop has been converted by new owners into a Mexican restaurant. Mr. Sowards sayeth, "we don't have any racial problems; we just like our name." Second, Mr. Paris Ray, who is black, is an entrepeneur in town who does not believe that the name needs to change. He runs a store with his wife, who has a different last name from him(!) that sells imported products from the Philippines. Ay carumba!

The Atlantic Monthly this month (which is apparently December 2005) did short little articles on two things I think are interesting. First, apparently starting in 1979 a number of (un)fortunate coincidences befell the Iraqi effort to enrich uranium. Initially, the reactor cores that the French sold the Iraqis were scheduled to ship from France to Iraq in April. However, the French Ecological Group blew them up in a warehouse in France. Interesting. That group has not been heard from since, and had never been heard of when the explosion happened. The cores shipped in October 1979 instead. Ooopsy.

In 1980 an Iraqi scientist in the Iraqi program was in France in connection with the program. He was found dead, stabbed and blugeoned to death. The hooker he spent the night with, "Marie Express," died in an unsolved hit and run soon after. Ooopsy.

Thereafter workers who worked at companies supplying materials to Iraq were threatened, bombs went off in their offices, and two more Iraqi scientists died of poisoning. Ooopsy.

Finally the Israelis bombed the Osirak reactor and put paid to the 1970s efforts to get The Bomb.

I remember when they made this into a movie and Matt Damon was kicking ass in the United States consulate in Geneva, and he and Marie went to Paris and he killed that guy with a pen.

Good God, don't mess with the Mossad. That and "Marie Express" does not come up when you google it. Just in case you were wondering.

Second, the Monthly has a picture entitled "The Other 'El Norte'" of which I was unable to find a copy to which to link. Too bad, because it is something. There are two fences that the caption says are ten feet high with razor wire on top of each. A guy is climbing over. It looks like the Mexican border. Except that it is not. It is Europe's border with Africa.

Melilla and Cueta are both what are called "exclaves." They are integral parts of Spain that reside on the Moroccan coast of Africa. Immigrants from all over Africa try to cross into the European Union here. Their Spanish nationality appears to be a hangover from the Reconquista, and perhaps more trouble than they are worth. That being said, exclaves are pretty interesting. For instance, the Europeans are going to have to figure out what to do about Kaliningrad with the Russians. The Namibians finally got Walvis Bay back from South Africa, so that exclave is cleared up, but the Northwest Angle persists.

We won't even get into enclaves.

Monday, November 14, 2005


The Bears are like prodigal sons, returning from the wasteland of Wannstedt/Jauron induced haze. Let's be clear about something. The Bears are not good. They stink. Thus, when Lovie Smith says in reference to his team that good teams find ways to win, he is spreaking a truth not relevant to this squad. However, for the first time in years the Bears all appear to be on the same page, moving in the right direction, and playing hard. At one level, that is all I ask. That and beat Green Bay twice.

By the way, Fred Miller was not on the O line for the Bears yesterday. Wonder why? It seems he and a teammate got in a fist fight and Miller injured. He will miss next week as well. That is stupid. What is embarassing is that Miller is 6'7" and 320 lbs., and he got his jaw broken by Olin Kreutz, who is 6'2" and 292 lbs. Both big boys to be sure, but Kreutz was giving away five inches and almost 30 lbs.? Miller's kind of a wuss I guess.

By the way, the Bears were the first NFL team to win 650 games (which is 40+ perfect 16-0 seasons). The Bears also have 26 Hall of Famers, although none greater than Walter Payton.

Friday, November 11, 2005

KYLE F-ING FARNSWORTH? had a stupid poll in which they asked the following:

12) What should the White Sox do with Bobby Jenks?

(a) Trust him as the closer, with Dustin Hermanson, Damaso Marte and Luis Vizcaino as insurance.

(b) Keep him as the closer but pursue pricey veteran insurance like Tom Gordon, Bob Howry or Octavio Dotel.

(c) Move him to set-up work and pursue a FA closer like B.J. Ryan, Billy Wagner or Kyle Farnsworth.

Kyle Farnsworth is a closer now? I had no idea that Mr. Tightpants was a closer. I was confused, since he has 20 career saves in over 400 career games. Granted, 16 of them were in 2005, but that is less than a month of work for the elite closers in the game. He is also no Eric Gagne, who was a bust as a starter, then became a closer. The Cubs tried to make Mr. Tightpants into a closer for about 350 of those 400 career games, and if the Tigers and Braves think he is a closer, why is he a free agent?

Even granting that Mr. Tightpants is a good fighter (see his patented move here, as well as the result of that moved against Cincinnati here and here), brawling does not a closer make. Especially in the same sentence with Billy Wagner.

The NCAA today ruled that the University of Illinois could keep the names "Illini" and "Fighting Illini," since these names are derived from the name of the state. However, the NCAA also ruled that Chief Illiniwek, as well as the Indian head logo were "abusive and hostile" to Indians. This means that all Illini teams would be barred from post-season competition as of February 2006. As a point of order, they said "Native Americans," but I find this term to be ridiculous and refuse to use it. The NCAA is quoted as saying:

"The NCAA staff review committee found no new information relative to the mascot known as Chief Illiniwek or the logo mark used by some athletics teams that depicts a Native American in feathered headdress, to remove the university from the list," said Bernard Franklin, the NCAA's senior vice president for governance and membership.

I have two degrees from Illinois. L has two degrees from Illinois. We are pretty active with alumni associations, etc. I went to the Final Four game against Louisville. I have a winter hat with the Indian head logo on it. I generally think the U of I has never gotten a very good deal from the half-assed NCAA. All that being said, this is probably not a terrible outcome. Chief Illiniwek was not that big a deal when I was an undergraduate, until the protests started. He is a dork in a costume. Let him go.

The Indian head logo is a little more problematic. It is not a caricature. A caricature is:


A representation, especially pictorial or literary, in which the subject's distinctive features or peculiarities are deliberately exaggerated to produce a comic or grotesque effect.
The art of creating such representations.
A grotesque imitation or misrepresentation: The trial was a caricature of justice.

tr.v. car·i·ca·tured, car·i·ca·tur·ing, car·i·ca·tures
To represent or imitate in an exaggerated, distorted manner.

Chief Wahoo is a caricature. It is hard for me to believe that the logo reflects any stereotype. That being said, this issue has been around too damned long and the logo can be replaced. In fact, the orange Block I has already largely replaced it, and they will never stamp out all of the unlicensed merchandise with the logo.

I think the Trustees should call it a day, get rid of the Chief, get rid of the logo, participate in NCAA post-season events, and blame the NCAA for the whole thing. Let us never speak of this again.

My high school in the Chi, Lane Technical High School, aka School of Champions, has a fantastic collection of WPA-era art distributed throughout the first floor. The Sun-Times ran a story today about a rediscovered mural from the pre-WPA era that the school thought had been lost.

The coolest thing about this art is that when you go to Lane is slowly seeps into your brain. They did not ever teach us about the art, but over the four years I was at Lane, I learned about history, politics, and culture from the paintings. They were like a background to all sorts of things I was learning. Nobody would ever pay to have this sort of educational background noise now, and we are worse off for it.

By the way, Lane's page says that

Lane holds deeply to traditions established 90 years ago. Maintaining its high goals and ideals, Lane retains the majority of all athletic championships, many Illinois High School Association titles, and has a college attendance rate of 85%. Its music program has provided the Chicago Symphony Orchestra with many players. More Ph.D's have graduated from Lane than any other high school in the nation.

I don't know if that is true, but we kick ass anyway.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


L noted something when she first started coming to the Chi. Honestly, I never noticed it before, but today's Tribune reflects nicely what L noticed:

A crash involving a car and a semi-trailer truck on the Kennedy Expressway, and debris on the CTA Red Line tracks on the city's South Side snarled the rush hour this morning for Chicago commuters, WGN-Ch. 9 reported.

A Lexus station wagon and a truck collided shortly after 7 a.m., shutting down all lanes of the inbound Kennedy at Sacramento Avenue on the city's Northwest Side.

Traffic quickly backed up to Harlem Avenue as emergency responders rushed to the scene, WGN reported. Some traffic was squeezing past the accident scene on the shoulder as crews worked to remove the car and truck.

The inbound Kennedy was reopened shortly before 8 a.m.

Information about the accident and injuries to those involved was not immediately available.

The story was traffic. The possibility of injuries or death was raised *after* the fact that some cars were able to squeeze by on the shoulder.

Welcome to the Chi. Stay off the streets.

Monday, November 07, 2005


One of my complaints about Manhattan is that there is garbage on the curb at night. This leads to rats on the sidewalks, and all sort of businesses and their waste fouling the pedestrian way. Not good design. Bad design. The solution is the humble alley.

The Chicago Tribune has put together a tribute to the lowly alley. I don't know if you'll need to register, but it is pretty cool. Of course the Trib, being the right wing rag it is, insists that Haymarket was a "riot." Of course, in more leftist circles it was the Haymarket Massacre, while in rightist circles it was the Haymarket Riot. Needless to say, in school we learned that it was a riot. Anyway, cool tour. Check it out.

So, France is burning. Underclasses around the world tend to snap every so often, and God knows the French are no exception. This time it is a little different than 1789, since there is a racial/religious element to the underclass. Frankly, c'est la vie, as our French cousins would say. I am not spending blog space talking about al Queda in France, or any of those big issues. Plenty of bandwidth will be burned elsewhere on those topics.

The funnier thing is that the United States, Russia, and other countries have "advised their citizens to . . . stay away from violence-hit areas." Now, if I am recollecting properly where in Paris this is happening, the only way a tourist will end up in these suburbs is if they fall asleep on a train. Nobody is leading a tourist group to the projects in St. Denis. Ever.

Sunday, November 06, 2005


Here I sit, in the parking lot at church. L is inside for choir, but Mass does not start for half an hour. I am listening to For Boston by the Dropkick Murphys and thinking about the fact that Chicago has a fine song, but For Boston may be more fun. I am also thinking about the fact that I am on someone's wireless network (clever network name: linksys) and am getting pissed because their connection is all over the place in strength and size. Crappy stolen wireless. These people ought to be more considerate.

Thursday, November 03, 2005


I am slipping away from the media. I am reading too many blogs, and just skimming the news. I discovered podcasts yesterday and listened to a bunch of news and ESPN via podcast.

Now I am exploring the world of podcasts. They are not unlike blogs in their unedited content, but it takes longer to decide that you are not digging someone. For instance, I am listening to Barefoot Radio right now. I can't decide whether the hosts are Beavis & Butthead or not. Towit:

Guest: So, you're back from Italy . . . and you still have some, what do they use, Lire?
Barefoot1: Um no. Actually, they converted from the Lire to the Arrow, er, Euro, which is an interesting story because it basically doubled the expense of living, but it didn't double the wages.
Barefoot2: That sucks.
Barefoot1: It does. Are you there?
Guest: Yeah, I'm here.
Barefoot1: *chuckle* Uh, it was a neat neat thing. We were having a lot of conversations about that actually. A lot of people are bummed out because their going broke quickly. Especially poor people. It's bad for poor people. But uh . . .
Guest: Did you speak to a lot of poor people while you were there?
Barefoot1: Oh my God. Half the town is poor. Yeah.
*all three chuckle*

Barefoot Radio 33, 28:15-28:58

So, good insight about the inflation the switch to the Euro has caused. On the other hand, talking about your trip to Italy in an interview is sort of bad form. Also, "it was a neat neat thing" and "people are bummed" both speak to a weak vocabulary. Sort of a wash, but I'll give these guys a couple of episodes and let you know.

ADDENDUM: Well, they only got one episode. Barefoot1 had never heard the term "Axis of Evil." Barefoot2 wasn't sure what countries were in the Axis of Evil. Syria and Afghanistan kept replacing North Korea. In any case, while I have no problem with Bush bashing, I do demand a certain amount of knowledge from people who do it. Just brutal.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


Dresden is one of the cities that L and went to on our honeymoon. We started in Freiburg (Breisgau), where we met. We then went to Dresden, Goettingen, and Aachen before heading home. Each place was cool in its own way, and Freiburg will always be a special city for us. However, Dresden knocked our socks off. It is, of course, all rebuilt, since it was firebombed in World War II. Nevertheless, the city was beautiful.

While we were there the government was trying to restore the Frauenkirche. That was three years ago, and the church was just reconsecrated last weekend. ZDF has a fantastic tour of the restored church. The narrative is all in German, but the pictures are worth it (unless you speak German. Then the narrative is interesting too.) Make sure to look at the view from across the Elbe. The Hofkirche, Semper, and the rest of the Terrace of Europe is on full display. Choose your modem speed (ISDN or DSL). "Die Kirche" means the church. "Die Geschichte" means the history. "Die Menschen" means the people. Then choose whether you want a Quicktime movie or a Java applet.

Very cool. Thanks to L for sending it to me.

Pluralitas non est ponenda sine neccesitate.

So sayeth Franciscan Friar William of Ockham in the 1300s. Simply stated, it means that if you have two theories that are otherwise equal, choose the simpler one. In the law, start with the statute and get more complicated as needed. In life, start with the answer that is most straightforward and only add complication as needed.

By the way, William of Ockham was called to Avignon to answer to charges of heresy, then wrote a document indicating that Pope John XXII was a heretic. He ended up under the protection of Louis IV of Bavaria, and died in Bavaria, possibly having been excommunicated.

Voters in Denver voted to legalize possession of small amounts of marijuana for adults. Essentially this would mean that being a smoker would be decriminalized, while being a dealer would not be.

Denver is unique as the Mile High City because it has very thin air. In baseball the effect is well documented, and summarized by the following quote, "the ball still travels 9% farther at 5,280 feet than at sea level. It is estimated that a home run hit 400 feet in sea-level Yankee Stadium would travel about 408 feet in Atlanta and as far as 440 feet in the Mile High City." I wonder if tokers get 9% higher in Denver than at sea level.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


One of the smartest things on radio is Extension 720, hosted by Milt Rosenberg. Make no mistake, Milt is a proud conservative and makes no bones about it. That being said, if you can listen to one episode and not learn something, you are smarter than I.

The old episodes can be downloaded from WGN radio and must be played on a RealPlayer. You can also hear it streaming from 9-11 Chi time.

The Chi is a cab city. In fact, maybe the oldest cab company in America is from the Chi. You can easily get cabs throughout the loop, as well as many neighborhoods on the North Side. There are some variables for getting cabs that people in other cab cities will understand. Being in a minority neighborhood will cut your chances of getting a cab. Being in a residential area will cut your chances of getting a cab. Being a minority will cut your chances of getting a cab. All of that being said, all of my adult life in the Chi I have counted on cabs as a means of transportation.

One reality of the taxi cab industry is that it is an entry-level of job for many new immigrants. Signs are close to international, the city is a grid, so pretty easy top get around, and driving is driving. This means that many cab drivers do not speak English. Instead, many of them listen to National Public Radio, or talk on mobile phones in languages other than English. This can be a very big downside for cabbie interaction. Therefore, you are generally not likely to have a good speaking interaction with a cabbie. The three below are culled from over a decade of adult cab rides. We are the poorer for it. On to the tales.

Fourth of July

The Chi has a very large fireworks display every 4th of July. It coincides with the end of the Taste of Chicago, which means that an estimate 1.5 million people will be along the lakefront the night of fireworks. Philadelphia has about 1.5 million people. Detroit and Boston combined are about 1.5 million people. It’s a lot of people. Generally, these people get to the lakefront at different points during the day. Some go to Taste. Some take a base to North Avenue and walk south along the lake. They dribble in.

Then the fireworks end. Everyone along the lakefront decides to go home as soon as the fireworks end. Thus, while the city’s infrastructure is able to handle a city moving in to the loop during the course of the day, it is not equipped to move them all out simultaneously. The Metra trains are packed and run more frequently than normal. The el and subways are packed, with lines out the turnstiles, up (or down) the stairs, with dangerously packed platforms. The roads are chaos and nobody moves quickly up or down Lake Shore Drive or on the expressways. There is no good way to leave the loop for at least two hours after fireworks end.

It is in this context that me, DB, and DX were trying to leave the loop after the fireworks in about 1993 or so. We were trying to get from the loop to Roscoe Village, where DB and DX lived. We were going to get on the el, but the line was literally down the stairs and half a block along Lake Street on either side of State. We could see that the same was true at Randolph/Wabash. We decided to walk to the west end of the loop and get on the empty trains entering the loop rather than the full trains leaving it. Good idea, but useless by the time we got to Randolph/Wells. The line there was even longer than on the north end of the loop.

We thought we might consider finding a way to get a drink, although the loop is not the best place to do that. We walked to Franklin, where we saw complete gridlock, and . . . an empty cab.

We decided that an empty cab was a better place to be than wandering around Sears Tower looking for a drink. DB and DX jumped in the back, and I jumped in the front. The cabbie was wearing a suit that people describe as “sharp.” It was sort of a Burberry plaid check with a vest, bell bottoms, and a snappy hat pulled down over one eye. The driver had reggae music bumping just past the abilities of the speakers to handle, and was slumped over to the left in a modified pimp lean.

We hopped in and told the guy where we were going. We told him that we were not in a big rush (since the traffic was still gridlocked). He kind of looked at us, and nodded. He then floored it directly at the cab in front of us, swerving at the last second through a gap between the cab in front of us and parked cars on the right about 1/3 of an inch wider than the cab we were in. This got him to the curb, where he alternated four wheels on the road and two on the curb. All at about 30 miles an hour in very heavy traffic. He took the el supports along Franklin as a slalom course until he turned on to the Kennedy. We thought he would relax on the Kennedy, but it is fair to say that the reggae and his success on Franklin inspired him. He approached the Kennedy like a football player approaching the line of scrimmage. He weaved through traffic, using the shoulders as needed, and exited at Armitage/Ashland, passing cars headed east on Armitage in the left lane (meant to turn west on Armitage), and cutting them off at the last possible second to make the right on to Armitage.

From Ashland/Armitage to Roscoe Village was nothing. Sure, the driver went 70 up Ashland and flew through the residential neighborhoods as if he were on a closed circuit. Still, in the context of the ride up to that point, we hardly noticed. We had sort of decided that we would likely live through the ride.

The driver screeched (literally) up to the front of DB and DX’s building less than 20 minutes after we got into the cab in the loop. The music was still pumping. The guy had not really moved at all. We were all scared as hell. However, we were happy to be back so quickly, so we gave him a tip equal to the meter and hopped out. He then screeched off in search of his next fare/victims.

Backwards on Wacker

The summer between my first and second years of law school, I worked as a temporary law clerk in the loop. It was a pretty crappy job, but it paid and it was related to the law, so it was not all bad. In any case, the out-of-town lawyers I was working for were not very familiar with the loop. One day at the end of the day they asked me to take some documents from 100 South Wacker (more or less) to 300 South Wacker (more or less). I told them I would walk the documents over. They said I should take a cab. I told them it would take longer than walking. They were adamant that I take a cab. Must have had budget to burn through.

I walked out of the building on the east side of Wacker. That is northbound. I needed to go two blocks southbound. I could have crossed the street to get a southbound cab, but frankly I was sort of pissed at my stooped instructions. And so I jumped in a northbound cab and told the driver the address to which I needed to go.

Now everything starts to go in slow motion. The driver asks me if I know that is two blocks behind us. I say I do, but I am working for some asshole Washington lawyers and need to take a cab. He turns, looks at me, and slams the cab into reverse. Wacker is three lanes in each direction at that point. It is very, very busy. We start to shoot backward. The driver is looking right at me and tells me to stay away from banks because they plan to put chips in our rear ends to control us. We are flying backwards. I have my head against the headrest so that I may, may survive when we slam into something. The driver hands me a pamphlet on the danger of ATM chips in our asses. We continue to fly backwards.

The driver slams on the brakes and slides us against the curb. I pay the meter, which is about $3, and get out, pamphlet in hand. The driver roars away.

Hop Leaf

Last week L and I were meeting friends for dinner at a very, very cool place in Andersonville called Hop Leaf. I walked out of my building and tried to get a cab. There were NO cabs. None. Anywhere. The hotels were going crazy, the cab stands were empty, people were wandering around with their hands in the air trying to hale cabs that were not present. It was bad. Then a woman I work with came out and needed a cab too.

I finally flagged a cab. She had to go to Armitage and Halsted, I had to go to Clark and Foster. More or less on the way. I invited the woman to share a cab to her destination. The driver was very normal for this leg of the trip, only explaining to us that there were no cabs because it was a holiday for Muslims and so there were no Muslim drivers out. Good enough.

My co-worker got out of the cab, and the driver immediately went nuts. First he was telling me about all of the connections he has at all of the cab companies who send him private information about events in the city that give him a leg up on the competition. He then told me about growing up in Albany Park, which was a Jewish neighborhood at the time, but how he was Italian, and how that meant that he knew things. He then told me about a lunch he had at the Tre Kroner, after which he met some Assyrians, who, by the way, are Christian, who bought his parents’ house. This segued without any apparent connection in to the fact that he has clout in the cancer research “racket.” He also has clout with Doctor Woo (or “Wu”), who is a “big wheel” in Chinese medicine and can guarantee cancer treatments. He knew people who died of cancer who decided not to use Doctor Woo, but they’re all dead now. When we got to Hop Leaf he told me that he knew “Bruno” and that he told “Bruno” to start the place.

The funny thing about all of this is that there was absolutely no connection between one sentence and the next. I had absolutely no idea where he was going next. It was entertaining, but maybe not the best thing for a professional driver.

Upon further reflection, I should probably point out that Pat Stack's blog from last week about great public trans incidents he had witnessed caused me to think about some of these things. An inspiration to us all, and now hanging with Rob from Clublife!