Monday, July 16, 2007

What did your second cousin think of "To Kill a Mockingbird"?

I'm not sure if you've noticed this, but the Internet's mostly social networking sites these days. That and blogs. The former serves to provide an easy way to keep in touch with old and current friends (by current I mean people you met at a party last week, and by old friends I mean people you didn't talk to in high school) while the latter serves as a platform to the world so that you can convince everyone how intelligent and witty you are, and how your opinion on things is necessary for any true sense of understanding in the world. Finally, these two noble enterprises have been combined into one single entity with which you can keep in touch with friends while impressing them with how smart you are.

Enter Good Reads. It's essentially a book review site, but allows you to rate and review every book you've ever so much as glanced at and share those reviews and ratings with your friends, who also have lists of things they've read and commented on. It likely also has some function as a way to find out about new and exciting books, but as I'm behind on the things I'm actually supposed to be reading, I haven't tested that yet.

So yes. If you're reading this, go to Good Reads. Sign up. Let me know you've done that so that I can get to know the real you by finding out what you thought of 1984. I like playing tenth grade English teacher. It's fun.

Also, their list of the Most Popular books for this week includes six Harry Potter books in the top TEN. I'm officially the only person that hasn't read any of them. In addition, "this week" apparently started almost a month ago. Who knew.

Get the Hell Out of My Way: The Bicycle Chronicles

You know, I think what I might do is just keep writing these whiny "here's how you should act to not irritate me" lists. If you'll remember, a little while back I wrote about how much I enjoy the hell out of coffee dispensaries which serve food to keep from being boring (read: diners). In it, I wrote a kind of passive-agressive "Hey waitress, you're awesome and everything but please with the more coffee now" list of directions for action.

I'm not going to diners so much in the past few weeks, primarily because the sweet, sweet taste of ever more coffee has been outweighed by the pleasure of sitting in an air conditioned apartment, playing Megaman and NHL 06 and yelling obscenities at people in Italy, Mississippi, South Carolina and New Zealand. Plus, going to the diner requires actually walking to the diner, and I am frequently in this strange thing called pain. On these strange things i've never noticed that are evidently "leg muscles". Who knew. Which leads into what I'm not so happy about at the moment. I've been biking to and from work almost every day. It's got the upside that I have heard it's healthy to bike twenty miles a day, but the downside that I've had to resort to taking like six hundred showers per day. This post, then, is addressed to everyone in Chicago who might actually come into contact with someone on a bicycle. So all of you. I'll break it down though.

Fellow Cyclists:

1. I understand. You're a sixty-year old woman, or you're three hundred pounds, or you're trying to cruise along on the Lake Shore Drive parallel path on some kind of ridiculous mountain bike with tires as wide as my apartment and more shock absorbers than a dune buggy. That's great. Biking is fun. But please, if you're going to be going slow enough that you're being passed by families pushing strollers and empty Miller Lite cans being blown along by the wind, be good enough to stick to the far right of the lane you're in. Far too many of you ride the center line, meaning I've got to go at least to the center of the oncoming traffic lane to avoid clipping you. Often times, this is impossible because there's, you know, oncoming traffic, and so I've got to stop entirely so as not to wreck into you. It's annoying. Cut it out.

2. For those of you that aren't observant, the path along the lake that stretches from approximately 5700 N to freakin' Alabama is marked kind of like those road things you may have seen. If you've gone further north than Ardmore, certainly as you are relegated to one of those mysterious road things at that time. If you're really observant, you'll notice that it's slightly narrower than those road things. The width of the lane is roughly the size of a large green truck that has "Parks and Recreation" on the side of it. The lesson? Stop riding like four abreast. Your frriends are riding with you. Great. But you're blocking up like 70% of the road and it's impossible to pass you if you're going the same direction as I am and it's impossible to get far over enough without running off the road to avoid you if you're coming towards me.

In-line Skaters:

1) You and I are of a kind. We're both using wheeled transport to get us to our destination or for exercise (though seriously I doubt that I'd be doing this if it weren't quicker than the freaking train; more on that later). I've done some inline skating in the past. I'm familiar with the concept. From what I've experienced, I'm not sure you need to make your pushing-off-with-your-skates width the same width as the lane. But that's ok. I can deal with that. When your effective width is one and a half lanes, you're in my way, and that makes me surly.


1) Pay attention, dammit. Don't go bounding across the bikepath without looking. Would you do this on Lake Shore Drive? No, you wouldn't. or at least, you haven't, as evidenced by the thing where you're still alive. Why on earth is that cool just because the vehicles on the road are smaller and less stable?

2) "On the right." or "On your left". Those are things that people commonly shout ahead to warn you that they're coming and they're going to pass you either on your left if you're a normal person or on your right if for some reason you're skipping around on the far left of the path. If you hear this, do not walk into the direction that was indicated. Similarly, don't stop and turn around to look at me. You can look over your shoulder, I promise. And the drastically changing your course in a way counter to the information you've been given just makes it more likely that I have to swerve to miss you because you didn't believe me when I said I was coming up on you.

3) These roads and sidewalks and paths and things have a finite width. Cool that you've got an entourage of thirty goddamn seventeen year olds, but if you could not so much with the all walking side-by-side thing. It's annoying.

4) Leave the garbage there. I'm not going to wreck if I hit it, but I will wreck if you jump in front of me to get it and I have to swerve to avoid hitting you because you're eighty and will snap in two if touched.


1) Don't honk at me. I know I'm slower than a car, and I would be going faster if the roads were actually, you know, paved and if the mirrors on SUVs didn't stick out seven feet from the car. So I know I'm inconveniencing you for thirty seconds. I'll get out of your way as soon as there's somewhere for me to go. But if I'm without an exit and you're still honking at me because you're a prick, I reserve the right to catch up to you at the next light (because you will have to stop in the next two minutes because lights and traffic are freaking nuts) and break your windshield with my bike lock.

2) None of this thing where you play gracious and we do this "You go. No, you go." shit. Either go or don't. If you go, that's fine, but this "I'll move forward three feet then realize there's a cyclist coming at me and stop in the middle of the intersection which helps no one and why is he screaming and waving that bike lock around" has got to stop.

3) If I'm passing you, it means you're going too slow.


1) It takes, as of right now, given where I live, about one hour twenty minutes door-to-door by bus or by the Red Line. The purple line cuts that down to one hour. Riding my bike, it takes about 50 minutes. This is not ok. I'm on a bike, powered by cola and poorly made hamburgers and frozen flavored applesauce. You're a train. You're faster. We settled this in 1840. Act your speed.


1) Why can't you not have flat tires once in a while? Also, please be powered by some kind of motor soon. And actually be enclosed. Have four wheels. The sooner you can be a car, the happier we'll all be.

Also, this appears to be Post Two Hundred. Good for that.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

He's a wreckin' machine.

Not him. I mean, also him, but that's not what this story is going to be about.

I haven't updated this garbage since the Truman administration.

To the point, I am continually intending to update, but never quite get around to it. So here we are. First things first, Meadville is in ruins.

And the now-famed photograph.

For those of you who aren't familiar with me, I spent four years of my life in Meadville, Pennsylvania, toiling away at undergrad, getting to know the quiet bald dude that worked the 2 a.m. - Armaggedeon shift at Wal-Mart, enjoying Hank's ice cream, freedom fries from Eddie's Footlong, making massive errors in hot sauce consumption at Compadres and weeping softly in a laboratory. Good times, despite the whole thing where there was nothing to do and the local economy was absolute garbage and everyone in the town hated everyone in the college. So I've got some attachment to the place. Apparently, they've decided that too much of Pelletier library has been hanging about town, stealing the lunch money of the nearby Language houses and intimidating the nearby Observatory-cum-security office/parking permit dispensary. The best way to take out troublesome library bits is, apparently, wrecking ball. Oh. Also, Allegheny's kind of on a big hill. The town of Meadville lays below and those meddlesome kids hang out on the hill with their book learning and their raging keggers. It's such a defining feature of the place that the Jazz House radio show was titled "On the Hill" for the years I was there. I think. Something like that anyway. It made reference to the hill. That's what you need to know.

So they're knocking bits of the library down. Good times. This would work just fine in any other North American city. No complication whatsoever. But this is Meadville. This place isn't doesn't just happen upon a Peebles no one goes to and a Super Buffet that gets to 100 items by including Gummi Worms. It earns it with strangeness. In this case, a confluence of events. First, the aforementioned hill. Second, the fact that they apparently attach wrecking balls to cranes with rope improvised by Bear Grylls out of weeds and snake innards. Third, apparently wrecking balls in Meadville are roughly spherical, rather than shaped like a propane tank, which allows it to roll. If there were, say, a slope. So yes. Cable snaps, ball starts a-rollin', and hilarity is bound to ensue.

But wait, there's more!

Enter Bob Boring, crane operator. Mr. Boring would like to stop the wrecking ball, because of his absolutely correct conclusion that this thing is incredibly dangerous. I have no clue what I would do if I were driving up the road and saw a certain adventurer who's not getting a job at the "Guess my Weight" booth and ball running at me. Probably scream some obscenities and make for the nearest side street tout de suite. See? I'm multilingual. Anyway, Mr. Boring's plan is to throw something in front of the ball, which isn't a terrible idea apparently if what he was throwing was a Ford Taurus. It wasn't. It was bricks. Now, I've already pointed out on this magical land of the internets that the point of a wrecking ball is that its motion is not impeded by freaking bricks. It has occurred to me as I am writing this that the likely source of the bricks Mr. Boring was throwing at the rolling death ball was likely the wall that was being knocked down by the ball, meaning that not only had these specific bricks not-stopped this specific ball once before, but it had gained their power by vanquishing them in battle. So Mr. Boring, despite his noble efforts to save whoever was at the bottom of N. Main from a very real danger, was injured by throwing bricks at a huge rolling deathsphere.

Mr. Deathsphere bounces off of several of the cars parked along N. Main (I almost never parked my car there, incidentally. Science building lot or the Delt house. That was it for me) and screws up the curb (which a KDKA story I don't feel like finding makes a big freaking deal out of) and ends up in the trunk of Mr. Alex Habay, a student at the college, former Gibsonia resident and former owner of at least a minimally operational Ford Taurus. Apparently the trunk isn't built to hold half-ton wrecking balls. Who knew? You can be sure that Ford will fix this oversight on future models.

So there it is. Something mildy goofy for Meadville happens in Meadville, which qualifies as incredibly wacky for everywhere else on the planet, and so Meadville gets some recognition. Some mild injuries occur, but everyone will recover. A Taurus is crushed, but it was probably a few years away from that fate anyway. The Head Shed is unharmed, and so all is well with the world. I can't begin to explain the sheer morale crushing blow that would have been delivered had the Ball of Doom continued its fatal rolling through the town, crushing cars and the baskets of puppies they use as traffic lane demarcations and into some unsuspecting groups of sixteen year olds driving around Diamond Park over and over again.

So there it is. A return to blogging and an explanation of why Meadville is briefly in the news (and with no mention of Sharon Stone, who may or may not have actually originated from Saegertown anyway. The wiki's unclear. She was likely born in Meadville, but in the same sense that I was born in Pittsburgh because that's where the hospital is). I look forward to writing about why the hell I've disappeared for so long, this mess and more in the coming weeks.

I should get some kind of award for making it through that without making a testicle joke.