Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Train Ride

So I tried to keep pretty good tabs on what was going on during my trip home. It turns out that the guy's column was kind of boring because riding the train is a pretty pedestrian activity. Still, though, this might give you a decent picture as far as what happens on a typical trip home for me.

It seemed quicker than usual, probably because I was scribbling on a notepad furiously throughout. I ended up using Post-Its, mostly because it was a choice between those and a legal pad. And constantly checking my phone for the times that I've put down. We'll see.

1:01 AM-Left Pancoe Life Sciences Buiding. I'm the last one out, so I shut down everything and locked the doors inside the lab. Flipped on a podcast of On Point, this week's "Week in Review" thing. Lots of talk about the Democratic Debate. As I didn't see it, I don't really know how much of what they said was actually insightful. But whatever. I'm heading to Davis, which is not the closest stop. The closest is Noyes (and is about 15 minutes worth of walking from Pancoe). Foster's about as far. Davis, however, is a much nicer station, in that there's not big holes in the roof. It's not raining currently, but it was earlier in the day, and so there's bound to be small ponds at Noyes and Foster. Plus, I could use the walk.

1:09am- Off campus. The academic part of it, at least. Left past the Business school.

1:15 AM- Downtown Evanston. Past the Tower. I've seen a total of four people so far on the walk here, which is a bit strange. The answer to "where the hell is everyone, it's 1am on a Friday on a college campus" reveals itself. They're all at Burger King. All of them. Eight thousand undergrads. It's only slightly less full than the first day of the spring quarter, when it seemed that everyone had deeply missed the Evanston Burger King for the entirety of spring break.

1:22 AM- Arrived at Davis station. Northbound train arrived and departed on time. This is the real reason I think I felt like doing this. Just to see how long I was actually on the train. There was, according to the schedule, last a train here at 1:12 and one should be by at 1:27. If I've somehow missed that, there should be one at 1:42. We'll see which of these shows up. Five people were on the platform when I showed up. Two left. There's a new set of stairs that lead onto the tracks from the platform (behind a gate). I have absolutely no clue what color they are. The lighting is this really dull orange, so I have no idea.

1:29 AM-"Attention Customers: An inbound train, toward the Loop, will be arriving shortly"

1:32 AM-Victory! A train! The car I got on was empty, had an pretty neutral smell for this time of night and had a bunch of garbage from Dunkin' Donuts strewn about. Some ads about a radio station, a floral service, and why you should give your seat up for people.

1:33 AM-Passed Dempster at a pretty good clip without stopping. There was no one on the platform, but I'm sure if I were going to Dempster, I'd be really angry.

1:34 AM-Main Street. We stopped, so that's new. There are no lights on on Chicago Ave. I'm glad I'm not riding my bike.

1:38 AM- We're pulling into Howard. Looks like I'm not going to ride my bike in tomorrow. They're tearing up the southbound platform, and that means delays. Train operator's trying to be helpful about what's going on, but he's doing so by repeating everything over and over and not shutting the hell up. Actually got to the platform at 1:41.

1:45 AM- Departed Howard. There was some 20 year old kid at Howard sleeping against a garbage can with headphones on, six other people on the train, four of them conscious, and I'm switching to listening to actual music. Putting this thing on shuffle, because I never do that and it might make up for the fact that this is a really boring experiment.

First song: December 4th-Jay Z from The Black Album. Works for me.

1:49. There's some guy who keeps getting up and sitting back down and looking nervously out the window. We get to Morse, and a few people actually get on this thing. About half the people I see get on are wearing thick winter coats, which is surprising on in that it's like 48 degrees. It's not cold. Next song. Stagger Lee-Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds off of Murder Ballads. Awesome.

1:50 AM- Loyola. Two people get on, then the driver has to open the doors again to let on the other person that was on the platform the whole time, but apparently forgot that if you want to actually travel south on the train, you need to board it at some point. She's screaming into a cell phone. As we pull away, there's some guys running up the stairs and realizing that they've just missed the train. That's been me pretty much every time I try to board at Loyola. We pass the hostel on the way to the next stop, my old stop, Granville. It's not really interesting except in that there's a guy who walks up and down Broadway just north and south of Devon asking for money from passers-by and gives the excuse that he needs $6 to stay at the hostel. I have no idea if this is true or not. I've seen him often enough to think that it's probably not. He holds the distinction of being the only person to ask me for money on the sidewalk who stopped me while I was riding my bike by just standing right the hell in front of me.

1:55 AM- Thorndale. I'd occasionally use this stop when I lived at my old place, but didn't like to during the summer or when it was raining. This is because the roof just barely exists, such that if it rains, there's no real cover. The summer bit is because the rotting wood of the roof is apparently a haven for innummerable spiders. And I'm not fond of them. New song: Pez King-Less than Jake from Losers, Kings, and Things We Don't Understand. Interesting switch.

1:59 AM- Lawrence. Northbound train sitting at the station is packed. Mine might be as well, but I took the front car which tends usually to be a bit less crowded, and so can't tell. New song: Quatre Parishe-Dr. John from N'awlinz: Dis, Dat, or D'udda. Again, a really abrupt switch.

2:01 AM- Another Northbound train goes by, also packed. Clearly I missed something that was going on downtown tonight. The only thing with any lights on around here is the Uptown Tattoo Factory. I'm not a big fan of the immediate area around the Uptown stops, but I haven't had any real experience in the neighborhood and don't want to write it off without that experience. New song: Political Science-Randy Newman from whatever the hell album I've got on here. Another northbound train passes. I have a bit of trouble keeping the iPod, which I need out in the event I don't know what one of the songs is (like "Pez King", which I haven't heard in forever) balanced on my leg. Some guy in a hat, a sweatshirt and a windbreaker (who's got both hoods on) starts looking at me funny. I imagine I look a bit off.

2:03 AM- Sheridan. Which they should just call Irving Park, because even though the station goes over Sheridan, that's a north-south street and so telling you you're getting off "on Sheridan" on a train that generally runs parallel to it is less useful than telling you the name of a street that actually tells you how far north you are. New song: Keep Him Away-The Slackers from Live at Ernesto's. Hearing a live track out of nowhere is odd, especially as the track starts with an explanation of the previous track on the album.

2:05 AM- Addison. Bar patrons board.

2:07 AM- Stop awaiting signal clearance. New song: Fertile Crescent-Bad Religion from Generator, which I really ought to listen to more. It's got some good tracks on it.

2:09 AM- Belmont. Another new song, The Answer-Bad Religion also off of Generator. Clearly my iPod is psychic and will be appearing on talk shows soon.

2:11 AM- Fullerton. So, you know how I mentioned that I was balancing things on my leg? I was doing that by propping my left leg up on my right knee. As a result, my leg is completely asleep. I limp off the train, which actually doesn't look that odd compared to the twenty-five college kids that stumble off of the other cars. I'm not that old, and I can't figure out why these guys look like they're twelve. Maybe they are. But they're giving off that "drunk freshman" vibe. They're in about two groups (I think this is why I dislike college kids on the El. They travel in freaking packs.), the latter of which is having much more trouble navigating things. When we all get to the stairs, most of them make it down ok, but one girl in the back has apparently forgotten how to use them. She seems kind of afraid, but mostly frustrated that she can't get her enormous chunky heel to go through the first step so that she can use the next. All of her friends stop to look, but not to help. I'm not actually sure if they got her down from there. New song: All You Need Is Love-The Beatles from Magical Mystery Tour. That's a swing and a half in terms of musical styles.

From here, there's just the walk home, which took a bit longer as I stopped to look at a beat up car that was parked next to the McDonalds at Lincoln and Fullerton with its doors open, a police car right behind it with lights going like mad and a kid in an orange striped shirt with his hands behind his back. I don't know what the hell was going on. Either way, the walk home was pretty uneventful except for passing a few more packs of college kids, listening to Last Dead Mouse-Mighty Mighty BossTones from Don't Know How to Party. I really like that album as well, by the way, and only purchased it recently. It's much closer to the whole ska-core thing they were doing on Devil's Night Out and a far cry from the more popular Let's Face It, but it's got a whole lot going for it. If you like Dickie Barrett's voice, that is. Following that, Burn On-Randy Newman from Sail Away, which is the album that Political Science was on earlier, incidentally. I don't know why I keep getting hits from the same albums out of a thousand or so songs. Skipped ahead to Fever-Rhymefest off of last year's Blue Collar which is a really solid record. I would like to claim that I knew enough about Rhymefest to know to buy it outright, but it was pretty much a five minute interview clip I heard (on NPR, no less) and the fact that the final track of the album is a version of "Build Me Up, Buttercup" done by Rhymefest and Ol' Dirty Bastard recorded when, well, he was alive. The last bit of the walk consisted of Materialist-Bad Religion from The Process of Belief, which I repurchased recently after realizing that whie I really like that album, I lost it something like four years ago. Shame. Arrived at my building's entrance at 2:28 AM (but not before noticing that of the four cars at the intersection, there was a total of one hubcap, and the shaky ride up the "fixed" elevator to the tune of Dem Bones from Alice in Chains Dirt.

So yeah. That was probably boring and really long, but that's kind of what I do around here. I'm going to bed.

More things

Isn't this guy kind of terrifying? I mean, I suppose you might want that in a mascot, but I'm not so sure about this whole thing. I suppose as long as it's not cheerleaders. Why am I ok with the Pirate Parrot, but this guy's creepy?

Actually, no. Mascots aren't supposed to be terrifying, except for Youppi. Children are supposed to like them. Children tend not to like things that are going to eat them, as Bert's uncle might do at some point. Whatever. He's still orders of magnitude better than Jolly Roger.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Sticks, Hawking, El blogging

You know what's awesome?

Consistent posting.

In lieu of that, you know what's awesome?

Floating Stephen Hawking. Dr. Hawking flew with a company that does the whole parabolic flight thing to simulate weightlessnes and apparently had a really good time. Good. If you revolutionize an area of physics, you should get to do whatever you want, basically. His eventual goal is to actually make it into orbit, which would also be pretty amazing. There have been concerns about how being in orbit might affect him considering his condition, and for how much I'd like him to be able to get there, how bad would it be if we ended up trying to send the smartest guy into space and accidentally killing him?

Other than that, it's really late here. I'd like to go home. I've got to take a few more measurements. And so I'm probably not in the most lucid state. But even now, there are some things I think I'll tend to pick up. On the way to go grab another one of my samples to take an aliquot that I can dilute and analyze, I nearly reached the door before NPR reminded me that it's NPR. And again, I'm often surprised when people don't listen to NPR more. Most of it's fascinating, there's some really off-beat stuff and I really enjoy it. Then, they say things like what I heard when I was leaving, apparently discussing a structure in an arboretum, and I'm reminded of what people must hear when they tune into this.

"It had a certain kind of grandeur that you wouldn't expect with sticks."

I'm just freaking stunned. Here's the piece. It's nothing stunning. Just that one sentence. Oh, and the reporter sounds like he's being punished for something when he's signing off.

There was a piece in some garbage Lakeview publication a long time ago that Jenna and I found while eating at a pretty good Hawaiian BBQ place down the road. I didn't really like how it was done. It seemed like something that was being written with the intention of being this big freaking thing, then failed. It just sounded kind of forced. My favorite part of it, actually, is when he gets afraid of all the black people at the late, late hour of 6:30pm and puts away his laptop. I think I'm going to try the same thing tonight, and there are a few reasons I think it will work. First, it's going to be about 1:30am when I get out of here, and I think the El is probably more interesting at that time than at rush hour. It's also Friday, meaning I'll be the only sober person on the train. Maybe the driver. We'll see.* I'm going to try to avoid commenting on the size of buildings in Edgewater as opposed to those in Uptown. Unfortunately, I'm going to do it with a pen and pad because, frankly, my laptop is locked to my desk and I'm not sure where the key is. Also, most of my observations will probably be colored slightly by the fact that I have the worst luck imaginable with the CTA and so hate them. And it'll still probably be really lame, but as my readership currently exists of six of you and I post twice a month anymore, I figure that in this case, any content is a bit better than really old posts sitting here forever.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

I'm Boxes

While I'll likely never be important enough to warrant an actual page on Wikipedia barring something massively embarrassing, I occassionally edit. Mostly unimportant articles on podcasts, sports franchises and fraternities. I did intend to change the values on some of the chemistry pages while I was TAing as an attempt at teaching the undergrads who were in my class that they should check Wikipedia's sources, but I never did actually get around to it. Still, as a very occasional Wikipedian, having an account brings with it a userpage. Unfortunately, as with many profile-type pages, it appeared to demand that I actually come up with a coherent article about myself. Most of you know that I'm not very good at coherence. Luckily, userboxes exist and require very little in the way of design, which is good. Because I suck at design. I no longer need to find a way to work into an article the fact that I, too, enjoyed the Big Lebowski and drink water and know that 0.999~=1. These little things can do it for me. And so, direct from Wikipedia, my userpage.

In the process of filling those out, I took the Political Compass test again. I think this is the first time I've ever actually been on the right of center on the economic axis, though I'm still pretty much within "centrist" on that, as far as I can tell. Unsurprisingly, I'm about as wacky left as you can get on the Libertarian-Authoritarian axis. If you take it, or have taken it in the past, let me know where you are.