December 30, 2009

The disaster that is my man cave.

These out of focus photos reflect the horror that is my room. I have a plan to get the room under control. It is the 2-for-1 plan. For every one item that comes into the room as a new (or new-to-me) item, two items must be removed from the room. This plan will continue until no more items can be removed, or the room is just how I like it.

Some of the ground rules I've set for myself include:

  • A box of stuff counts as a single item. I can't count all the items in the box.

  • I can't count things like dishes or clothes that end up here. Those things have a place; they need to get there.

  • I should try to get the things that leave the room out of the house, but if I don't want to get rid of them, they have to go in the basement or the garage.

  • If something belongs in the room and I take it out, I can bring it back in without getting rid of two other things. For example, my laptop bag that I take to school everyday gets to come back into the room everyday.

I'd like to figure out a cool way to track all the stuff that is going out (and coming in) but for now, I guess I'll just list what I've done here in the blog.

November 06, 2009

R. wins 292-270

R. wins 292-270
Originally uploaded by achmorrison.

At Molly's Cupcakes on a Friday afternoon. Renae had the bingo: gropers

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September 25, 2009

R. wins 301-300

R. wins 301-300
Originally uploaded by achmorrison.

R. wins again. Didn't hurt that she started the game with a bingo: braised. One point at the end was the difference.

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June 26, 2009

R. wins 358-304

R. wins 358-304
Originally uploaded by achmorrison.

One bingo: painter, but didn't help me in the end.

May 23, 2009

The Girlfriends Got Dumped

Yesterday, I was syncing my ipod with freshly downloaded podcasts when I noticed that one of the WGN Kathy and Judy Show uncut podcasts was titled "The Final Kathy and Judy Show". BWAH?! K & J had been on WGN radio (AM 720) for 20 years, and both R. and I enjoyed listening to them. I never completely agreed with their opinions, and sometimes they were overly catty, but in general they were really good radio. They always had interesting discussion topics, even if sometimes the directions they took the topics were kinda loopy. You could tell that they let their show evolve naturally, never forcing anything.

I have been reading some of the blog posts and articles covering the cancellation. What was more interesting than the articles are the comments about the programming on WGN. I understand that not everyone who listens to a talk radio station will like every on-air personality on the radio station. Example: we don't go out of our way to listen to Steve Cochran. What surprised me was how vocal people can be about not liking whichever host they happen to not like.

I'm surprised at the number of comments by people who don't like John Williams. I'm surprised there aren't more comments by people disliking Steve Cochran. Can you tell which ways my opinion tends to sway? What I learned is how varied opinions can be on the various shows.

And this change to the morning line-up is just the latest in recent changes to the programming, thanks to "Pig Virus" programming director Kevin Metheny.

So, I don't want to get all mad and huffy and threaten to never listen to WGN again, but I'm seriously going to look for other radio entertainment while the Cubs are not on the radio.

May 22, 2009

A. wins 303-288

A. wins 303-288
Originally uploaded by achmorrison.

No bingos tonight, but we were at new (to us) coffeeshop in Batavia.

May 17, 2009

When I actually started to write this entry, it was Sunday, but now the clock has already flipped to half past midnight, and I'm not even remotely done with anything I wanted to accomplish before finishing a write-up of today's events.

Our main activity today was a bike ride to Graham's 318 in Geneva. This place is rapidly becoming our favorite coffee shop. We rode our bikes there and back, 28.4 miles in a little over an hour and forty minutes. JB Weld, but never made it to the hardware store to get any. The adhesive worked well enough to keep the magnet on for this ride. Renae's bike computer and mine matched up until the last tenth of a mile of the ride, which was pretty impressive.

Here's a photo of the magnet, and you can get a sense of how far away the magnet was from the pickup. No wonder it never gave very accurate readings.

May 12, 2009

I found the way to the Fox River Trail that starts in Aurora and goes runs along the the river. My goal was to bike to a coffee shop where I could work on my presentation for DePaul. I found that I reached Geneva in just over an hour, and it probably would have been quicker had I been more familiar with the trail. I'm not saying that the trail is poorly marked, but there were places where I pedaled into a town and couldn't see exactly where to pick up the trail again.

The other thing I learned is that I tend to over-estimate the lengths of the trips that I am planning. I had assumed a ride to Geneva would be closer to 20 miles one way, but it was only 14 miles. Good to know; next time I can go further north and then come back to Graham 318 if I don't find a good cup of joe.

April 29, 2009

The physics of revolving doors

I think that it is not at all uncommon for a child to be utterly facinated by the wonder which is the revolving door. I remember, as a young boy, getting to go somewhere with my mom or dad or the whole family, and if the building had a revolving door I would behold that door as if it were a wonder of the modem mechanical world. I don't really know why I was so intrigued by these portals to the inside. Certainly, it was not that we were going anyplace particularly upscale or posh. In my mind, I want to believe that we were going somewhere in downtown Des Moines, like the fancy hotel or department store. Likely, we were going to the mall.

I remember the Mauker Student Union on the UNI campus had revolving doors. This was one of the most heavily trafficed buildings on campus. The doors were there to attempt to keep the energy costs associated with heating and cooling the building down. Flanking the revolving doors were standard doors for handicapped accessability. By the time I started college my mom had mostly been using a wheelchair for mobility. I remember many times passing those doors and being reminded of the trade-offs that must often be considered in pursuit of ecological design.

These days, when my commute is such that I can take the Metra between Evanston an Chicago, I will typically have to pass through two revolving doors. One door is at the entrance to the Ogilvie Transportation Center; the other is between the main hall and the platform. A line of people start going through one of these doors, will each exert a torque about the axle. Once the inertia of the initially stationary door is overcome, the rotation of the door will quickly pick up speed such that I have occaisionally seen a nervous commuter elect to skip her turn to go through the door so that the friction of the door on its bearings can slow down the door enough to safely jump in a slot without clipping ones own ankle.

I've seen purses, umbrellas, boxes and bags become temporarily caught in the door. I can't begin to count the number of people dragging their rolly-bags behind them and realizing too late that the bag is not going to make it through with them.

To be fair, most of the daily commuters are seasoned pros at navigating the spinning gauntlet of the OTC doors. It's rare that I witness a revolver incident in the morning, when the vast majority passing through are regulars. Contrast that with the afternoon ride that I share with surbanites coming to the city for dinner or Chicagoans who live close enough to a Metra station to make it a convenient mode of transportation. Last Friday I was behind 6 teens who thought it was a riot that they went through the door at the platform two-to-a-wedge. In general there is a wider range of people riding in the afternoon. In general then, there are more people riding who are unfamiliar with the general ebb and flow of the train station.

Today, I was getting off the train and was the last off the car, although I had been in the front car of the train. The platform has 2 revolving doors to choose from that exit to the main hall. One of the doors had 6-7 people queing up to pass through it. The other door had only 2 people approaching it, so I headed for that door. The person in front of me was moving slow enough that by the time I could start going through the door, I could have gone through the other door just as quickly. But, I was already committed, so I followed right behind her.

As there was now two people pushing on the door the speed of the rotation picked up, as I explained above. Normally, this is not a problem for people passing through these doors. Except, the woman in front of me was looking at her phone while the door was turning. As soon as she detrmined she was "through" the door she came to a full stop. Of course, I was still coming through the door, and the turning door clipped her heel.

This woman, about 10 years younger and 20 pounds heavier started barking at me. I made a quick determination that she had no business slowing down and stopping in front of a revolving door while people are getting off the train behind her. I had a brief notion to just acknowledge her and let her blow off some steam at me. But, even though I heard the sounds of her rebuke coming at me, I had no idea what she was saying. I was wearing my in-ear headphones which pleasantly block annoying sounds.

Typically I think of annoying sounds as the chug of the locomotive's diesel engine or the rumble of the CTA cars on the elevated tracks. Now I can add another sound of those pleasantly blocked by these headphones. :)

April 24, 2009

April 06, 2009

Job search woes n+1

Today I found out that my one-year contract for teaching at the university has no chance of renewal for next year. The department had a record number of faculty on sabbatical this year, and next year no one was granted leave. I was getting to the point where I was about to ask for any update on next year, when my supervisor wandered into my advisor to deliver the news.

As much as I am disappointed to not be back next year, I am not really upset. First, I knew from the outset it would likely only be one year. Second, the department informed me of their intentions as soon as they had figured out next year's schedule. That doesn't really excuse the lateness of their decision, but they are on a quarter system, so they feel they can be slower than other places.

So, I have had 2 phone interviews this year that went nowhere. And, I have one application that I never heard back from one way or the other. So, I sent that place an email to inquire on the status of that search. Then, I sent an email to a contact I had made at a nearby university several years ago at a conference. I asked if he had any research opportunities available to apply for or knew of anyone in the area who does. Within 20 minutes, he replied asking for a resume! I'm certainly not counting any chickens on that front, but it was temporarily exciting.

Keeping my fingers crossed!

March 08, 2009

A wins 215-214-82

A wins 215-214-82
Originally uploaded by achmorrison.

Scrabble with the gals who were sock knitting.

February 07, 2009

A wins 324-256

A wins 324-256
Originally uploaded by achmorrison.

At Prisco's bingo: opaques.

February 01, 2009

Link dump

I've got a bunch of links that I've been collecting in my browser that have nowhere else to go, so I'm going to plop them here. In no particular order:

January 24, 2009

R. wins 349-329

R. wins 349-329
Originally uploaded by achmorrison.

This was a back and forth game, but my one bingo was not enough to win.

January 14, 2009

Arrival times are meaningless

There's a tough lesson to be learned in commuting from a far west suburb to a north suburb. The idea that you can predict (or control!) when you'll arrive at your end point is pointless. You'll either arrive before you had hoped to get there or after you would have liked to have been there.

I've been taking the train every work day for roughly five and a half months. My daily commute presents me with essentially two options: I either take the commuter train from Aurora to Union Station, walk to the CTA station and take the Purple Line to Evanston, or I take the commuter train from Aurora to Union Station, walk to Oglivie Transportation Center and take a commuter train to Evanston. The first route takes longer on the train, but it's a shorter walk at the end. The second route is faster, and the longer walk doesn't bother me, but the trains are much less frequent and I end up more often than not taking the first route. Either way, I have to take the train from Aurora to Union Station. When I get to Union Station, I make a choice as to which way to go to get up to Evanston the soonest.

When I realize last Fall that I had two options, but that my second option was limited, I made a note of all the possible combinations of trains that would work to cut as much time off of the on-average two hour one-way trip. I realized that the best way to get on the second commuter train would be to catch the 6:47 a.m. train. In order to catch that train, I would have to leave the house at 6:27, to guarantee that I could drive to the station, park, pay for parking and walk all the way around the train in order board before the doors close at 6:47 a.m. Not being a morning person, and not having a morning class to teach last term, I often slept late and caught either a 7:07 a.m. or a 7:22 a.m. train. This term, I teach a 10:00 a.m. class every MWF, and in order to give myself an hour of buffer (in case the trains are delayed) I need to get on the 6:47 a.m. or the 7:07 a.m. train. And, if I have to get one of those trains, why not make it the early one, so I can cut the commute down as much as possible?

So, for the first eight work days of the year, I have tried to leave the house at 6:27. It's easy to time it, because the traffic reports on WGN are give "on the sevens" in the morning. More often than not, I end up leaving closer to 6:30. I know that 6:33 is the absolute latest I can leave and still have ANY hope of catching my early train.

But once I leave the house, I have little control over how quickly I get to campus. This morning, I actually left at 6:27, as the traffic was being read. (I could have left 2 minutes earlier, but I left my wallet upstairs and had to run back up to get it.) It had snowed overnight, which you might think would slow me down. True, I drive at a slower speed, and take turns more cautiously, but the streets I take are on a bus route, which is kept fairly well cleared of snow, so I'm not slowed too much by the snow.

What I couldn't anticipate this morning was that at 6:31, several garbage trucks would be turning onto the street I take make the weekly collection. I have driven on that street every Wednesday for 5 months at nearly the same time and have NEVER before seen a garbage truck making rounds. Usually, the trash is collected after I pass through. There was a car ahead of me which stopped between the garbage truck and the curb, in order to pick someone up. I'm sitting in my car, waiting for this mini traffic jam to clear, and there is nothing I can do.

The rest of the drive is uneventful, and I get to the parking lot with 5 minutes to spare. Because parking is a premium in Aurora and the waiting list for monthly parking passes is over a year long (last I knew) I park in the daily lot, which means I have to pay for parking at the machine off to the side of the lot before getting on the train. After depositing my $1.50, I start walking to the train. There is a tunnel that I walk through to go underneath the freight tracks running next to the Aurora station.

When I emerge from the end of the tunnel, the train is sitting right in front of me. It takes no more than 30 seconds at most to walk from the parking pay station to the side of the train. I could walk right up onto a brand new platform and touch the side of the train, if I chose. I could touch it, but I cannot board it. For some inexplicable reason the conductors will only open the doors on the opposite side of the train. Everyone who parks in the East lot is forced to walk around at least half of the train. Everyday, I trudge past five or six train doors that remain closed. I have yet to work up the courage to ask a conductor why they cannot open any of those doors, but I feel that day is coming.

Today, because it was so bitterly cold this morning, I decided to sort of walk/run around the train. Good thing I did, because as I went around the front car, the bell started to ding, meaning it was about to take off. I made it in ahead of three other people who were also running to make it.

I made the 6:47 train, which means I should have been getting off the train at 7:40, with enough time to get to Oglivie Transportation Center for the 7:52 train to Evanston. Except that the train did not get to Union Station until 7:51, meaning I might as well go straight to the Purple Line.

I walked down to the Quincy Station and swiped my Chicago Plus card. There were a lot of people standing in the station trying to stay warm. I took that as a good sign that there might be a Purple Line train coming soon. Ten minutes later, when I overheard someone who had been there longer than I had asking about whether the Purple Line was running at all (!) I understood that the train had been seriously delayed. It did pull in soon enough, but by the time I got to Evanston, my total train time had been going on 2 hours, 20 minutes. Certainly, I did not save any time on my commute this morning by catching the 6:47 train.

So that is the lesson that I've been slowly learning. However, none of that compares to the craziness of what I read on one of the local paper's website:Secret Service Agent caused Metra Scare

A Metra train headed to Chicago from Aurora was stopped in Lisle on Wednesday morning and everyone on board was searched by police after an armed Secret Service agent caused a scare by asking a ticket agent about security on board.

If you read the article, you'll see that not only was everyone searched, but some cars were emptied and people were forced to stand out in the cold and snow while the situation was being cleared up. The article does not say how late the train ended up being, but it was at least an hour past due when it started moving again, and was probable closer to two hours behind when it got to Union Station. Reading between the lines, it seems that this Secret Service agent, who may have never ridden the train before, was asking the at the ticket window about security procedures for the train regarding his gun. He did not identify himself as Secret Service (Why not? Is it a secret?) which was a huge mistake. The ticket agent got scared and called police, thinking that a random person had a gun on the train. I'm not going to say that the ticket agent overreacted, per se... But can you even IMAGINE what it would have been like to be on that train? And that train is an express that I rode several times last fall. It's just another example of how train riders lose most of their control over arrival time once they leave their house.

I wrote all of this after getting on the train tonight, for a train that was supposed to leave at 4:28 pm, but didn't leave until 5:20 p.m. because an Amtrak train derailed outside of Union Station and blocked all but one or two commuter tracks.

Ahhh....we're here.....

January 05, 2009

New year - new(ish) commute

Today was my first day back to campus for the new year. I got downtown and decided to take the Purple Line up to Evanston. I had about 10 minutes before I needed to be up on the platform, and since today is Monday, that means free McLatte at Mickey-D's. So I walked in and asked for the small latte, and they asked me for $2.22. To me, that seemed like a lot for a free latte. So, I said that I wanted the free latte, and I got a dirty look and a free latte.

Since that transaction took a little longer than I had hoped, I ran up the steps at Quincy and saw a sign on the lower landing saying that the Purple Line was going to be boarding on the inner loop side from now on. It was news to me that the whole time I've been riding the Purple Line it was actually NOT on its "normal" track. Apparently, the CTA construction projects forced the Purple Line to the outer loop tracks. The net effect is that I save about 10 minutes in the morning if I have to take the CTA to Evanston. If I have to take the CTA to the loop in the afternoon, however, I might consider changing to a Brown Line so that I don't have to go all the way around the loop to get off at Quincy. But, most likely this quarter I'm going to be taking Metra back in the afternoon to Oglivie.

Tonight I took a late train out of Evanston. I was surprised that the waiting room at the Davis Street station was open so that I didn't have to wait in the cold. (Another new twist to the commute!) The waiting room being open may have something to do with the coffee shop in the station actually being open in the evening. It didn't look like they were getting too much business at that time, but it did look like they had a carpenter in there who seemed to be taking measurements for making some updates to the shop.

I got a little confused at Union Station and hopped on local train to Aurora. I am about 80% sure that it was still my fastest option for getting home, but I didn't reach our garage until right before 8:00 tonight.

Now, bed!

January 03, 2009

A. wins 421-273

A. wins 421-273
Originally uploaded by achmorrison.

First game of the new year! I had two bingos and R. had one.

January 01, 2009

A wins 387-243

A wins 387-243
Originally uploaded by achmorrison.

First game of 2009 was with Robby Mac! We played at home. No bingos in this game.