Jul 09 2010

Fireworks in north Chicago

Another day, another phone cam video.

This one was shot on the Fourth of July on the shore of Lake Michigan.  You could see fireworks stretching all the way from downtown Chicago to Evanston.  What’s even better is that the beach was just full of people, all shooting off their own arsenals before, during, and after the “official” Chicago shows.

Lots of fun.  I’m glad that Chicago decided to split up the city’s show into three different ones that ran the length of the coast.  It spread people out, and made it easy to get a great view.

May 12 2010

Top 5 reasons why driving in Chicago sucks

Traffic? You're soaking in it.

So, for the first year that I lived in the city, I barely drove at all. I literally would go for weeks without so much as looking at my car.  I bought a mere four tanks of gas for the first twelve months that I lived in Chicago.

However, since I’ve been needing to get to work on time in the mornings for the last few months, I’ve been doing a fair bit of driving, between home in Rogers Park, and work in the West Loop, a commute of about 10 miles.

Now, anyone that knows me well knows that I’m a pretty safe driver.  My philosophy is that it’s more important to arrive safe, in one piece, with no damage to your car, than it is to arrive exactly “on time”.  Consequently, I follow the speed limit (generally), use my turn signals when changing lanes, and I like to do my best to be courteous to others on the road.  In exchange for these little things, the universe has generally tended to be good to me.  I’ve never been in an accident that was my fault.  I’ve gotten a ticket or two before, but you could count them all on one hand.  I’ve never killed anyone.

But I have to say, driving in Chicago is really, really a pain in my ass.  I’m sure it’s the same in every bigger city.  Here’s why:

5. The traffic.

Ok, I know, everyone hates the traffic.  There’s not much that can be done about it.  More people = more cars = more traffic.  It’s unavoidable, but I hate it still.  I mean, it can take me as much as an hour to drive 10 miles in the city.  That’s just ridiculous.

4. Bicycles.

Hey hipster, I know you’re in a rush to get to Whole Foods to pick up some tempeh for your girlfriend’s vegan potluck stich-and-bitch, but that fixed-gear ten-speed you’re riding counts as a VEHICLE.  That means you’re obligated to follow the same laws as every other vehicle.  Which means stopping at stop signs.  Which means not zooming in between cars which may well start moving on you unexpectedly.  Which means signalling when you intend to turn.  Oh, or does your zero-carbon-footprint entitle you to act like you’re the only person on the road? (Edit — this goes for you motorcycle jerks too.)

3. Parking.

So, if you have an Illinois plate and you want to park in the city, you have to buy a city parking permit.  Which authorizes you to park … well, nowhere, actually.  Anywhere you’d want to park requires you to pay.  Now, ok, fair enough, the money benefits the city, right?  Nope.  Actually that parking money goes to a private corporation.  None of it goes to the city.  Unless of course you’re parked illegally, in which case the “Department of Revenue” (oh, the delicious honesty) will ticket you.  Because you didn’t pay the corporation.  Three tickets and it’s the boot.

2. Big-ass trucks.

A week or so ago, I was driving my normal route home, when I discovered that traffic was extremely snarled in an unusual way.  After meandering for about 25 minutes to make it a mile, I saw why.  Some idiot had driven his 18-wheeler under the Loyola Red Line stop without taking into account the clearance for the trailer, and had peeled back the top of the trailer like the lid of a sardine can.

This is why we have truck routes, people.  This is why trucks are prohibited on many roads.  If you don’t know where the truck routes are, YOU’RE NOT QUALIFIED TO DRIVE A FREAKING TRUCK.

1. Taxis.

Seriously, taxi drivers, I hate you.  You are the worst.  Literally, the worst.  Your driving is like a fart on an elevator.  It stinks up the whole place, and latches on to your clothes, so the stink is still around even after you’re gone.  Taxi drivers are such terrible, terrible drivers, that they make MY driving worse, simply by being on the same road as me.

I’ve seen taxi drivers make an illegal u-turn on a one-way street.  I’ve seen them drive over medians so they wouldn’t have to turn around at the end of the block.  I’ve seen taxi drivers break every traffic law you care to name.  And they’re jackasses about it.  They routinely cut off others for no good reason, tailgate, stop short, you name it.

I’m seriously thinking about filing a FOIA request to find out how many accidents in a given month involved taxis, versus how many were simply private individuals.  I’m willing to bet that taxis are the single greatest cause of fender benders in the city.  By a wide, wide margin.

And tell me, who are they constantly talking to on their bluetooth headset?  Is the life of a taxi driver so incredible they all have to narrate it constantly to some mysterious third party?

Wanna raise money for the city?  Just deploy some cops downtown between 4:30pm and 6:30pm on weekdays, with the sole point of ticketing asshole taxi drivers casually breaking the law.  Revenue problem fixed.  You’re welcome.

Jan 14 2010

Loyola to Granville

My hand needs a tripod.

Nov 22 2009

One of the last nice days for awhile


This may be the last pleasant day until spring. And pleasant it is, indeed. This is Loyola Park, in north Chicago.

Jul 29 2009

Chicago police sensitivity training video

This comes my way via Everything is Terrible! Excellent.

Jul 23 2009

Photos from the International Museum of Surgical Science

Send us your bones, dummy!

Send us your bones, dummy!

Today, Kat and I went to view the wonders on display at the International Museum of Surgical Science, here in Chicago.

What an excellent way to spend an afternoon.  They have piles and piles of bonesaws.  Was everybody into amputation back in the olden days?

Other highlights — a full recreation of a 19th century apothecary, an iron lung, and a human skull elongated by binding.

Photo gallery here. Also accessible from my Photos page on the menu above.

Jun 29 2009

Man, I’ve been slacking on the blog.

Les and I visited the Art Institute museum when she was in town.  Here she is with kitty litter and wallpaper!

Les and I visited the Art Institute museum when she was in town. Here she is with kitty litter and wallpaper!

Sorry, everyone.

Things got kind of busy there; relaxing, but busy.

During the break, Lesley Massey and I got to hang out in Chicago, and we went around and had a grand old time.

Then, almost immediately thereafter, quarter 3 started up.  I have a feeling that I’m through the hardest parts at Medill, and so now it’s more depth and thoughtfulness, rather than just pumping out work day in and day out.

And last week, in addition to the first week of classes, my dear friend Alicia visited from L.A., and that was good fun too.  We saw that new sci-fi movie Moon (I thought it was pretty darn good), and we went bowling.  Fun fun!

But now it’s back to the grind.  Nothing distracting on the horizon, just head down, plow-through-it time.

Jun 12 2009

Quarter 2 is in the bag

Just finished up the last of my work for the second quarter at Medill.

It turned out to be a pretty darn productive quarter, if I do say so myself.  I was generally pleased with the work I produced, and I did work very hard to get everything done.

So now, I’m on vacation until June 22.  That’s when the next quarter’s classes start.  I think I’m lucky on Q3, since I have classes only on Mondays and Tuesdays.  That means five day weekends for the next 10 weeks!

Plus, now it’s sunny and nice in Chicago, so it’s a great time to have some freedom to explore the city.

Lesley Massey is coming for a visit this evening, and we’ve got tickets to see the Cubs play at Wrigley Field this Sunday, so that should be a bit of fun.

Now, if only I could get rid of this pain in my back.  Got some muscle relaxers from the doctor, but they’re only partially killing the pain.  How does that rhyme go?  Pain, pain, go away, come again some other day…

May 18 2009

Trip to Fermi Lab

The view from the 15th floor of the main Fermi Lab building

The view from the 15th floor of the main Fermi Lab building

So on Friday, my health and science reporting class took a road trip to Fermi Lab, about an hour outside of Chicago.

They’ve got a particle collider there, and they smash protons and anti protons together to see what happens.

Over the years, they were responsible for the discovery of three primary particles, including the bottom and top quarks.

It was a fascinating trip, even though the weather was against us.  The campus is large, and primarily looks like prairie.  You wouldn’t know there was a particle collider there, unless you saw the huge earth birms from above.

Here’s a trailer for a PBS special that was filmed there called “The Atom Smashers”.  Bonus — the special was scored by Ghostly International’s Kate Simko.

Want to see some more pictures I took at Fermi?

Read more »

May 03 2009

Mysterious lights — cpd 20931 7322

This weekend, twice I have driven north on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, and approaching downtown from the south, in the skyline, several buildings had offices lit up spelling out a series of messages.

One building read “CPD”. Another read “20932″ and “7322″

A google search turns up a Chicago police officer named Joseph M. Airhart, Jr. that was killed in the line of duty. His badge number was 20921.  Another search turns up an officer named Nathaniel Taylor, Jr. with badge number 7322, also apparently killed in the line of duty as well.

But I wonder:

  • Why is this happening now? Airhart and Taylor were killed in 2008.
  • Who’s responsible? CPD? The Police Benevolent League? Someone else?
  • How was it coordinated across several buildings at the same time?
  • How come Google knows nothing about it? Was it a secret or something?

If you happen to know anything about this unusual display, drop me an email or leave a comment here.