Friday, March 31, 2006


Busy Summer


Whatever the calendar might say, my summer began at 2:23AM this morning when I hopped on my bicycle and pedaled to work for the first time this year.  

It was a spectacular night for a first ride.  The streetlights were off for much of the south side bike path, so I rode in darkness with my way illuminated by the distant glow of the downtown skyline ahead of me.  The wind pushed up behind me at a gusty 30mph to the point where I kept upshifting to keep up with the tailwind until I ran out of gears!  Then the gusts would change direction without warning, and a couple of times I was almost thrown into the lake.

Soundtrack: "Louder Than Love" by Soundgarden
Highlight: Riding in the pouring rain under the Van Buren Street elevated tracks, a guy came out of the 7-11 and yelled out to me, "You crazy, man, you crazy!"

I'm really going to try to make an effort to ride my bike to work at least four times a week.  I need to get my bike muscles in shape for "Bike-the-Drive" and for what is likely to be several bicycling pub crawls with crazy Jay.

Goals for Bike-the-Drive:
  1. Keep up with Shea for at least the first ten miles
  2. Eat as many free candy bars as possible

Goal for bicycling pub crawls:  Avoid getting hit by Manh Le's car.

In addition to bicycling (along with the accompanying alcohol and candy bars) there is going to be a lot to keep me busy this summer.

Here's what's going on:

There will come a point, likely some Saturday night in July or August, when I am no longer so busy.  When that day comes, I hope that all of you will feel welcome joining me for whiskey on the back porch.

Until then, if you see me at all it will be either at the other end of an e-mail or passed out on your sofa.

Note: A special shout out to my co-worker Jay who just signed up for CARA's 10K training program!  Jay's goal is to lose 3 pounds while managing his current level of beer consumption.  Jay is going to make a great runner.  Let's all wish him luck!

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Thursday, March 30, 2006


passed out *before* whisky!


I had been looking forward to attending the Whiskeys of the World expo at Binnys yesterday, featuring over 100 whiskeys from all over the world.  The plan was to attend this event by myself (I don't have enough friends who like whiskey) after running with Jeanne and then return back to her place for dinner.

But it didn't work out that way.

Instead, after a five mile run, I passed out on Jeanne's sofa and went into a deep coma.  Jeanne encouraged me to still go and drink whiskey, or at least eat dinner, but I was determined to remain in my coma until well past 11PM.

I'm just a wild and crazy guy.

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Friday, March 24, 2006




Following Erika's example, I've updated my Flickr page.  Browse if you are bored, or if you are just dying to see more photos of my pugs and their friends.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Most Retarded Election Ever

Yesterday was municipal Election Day (aka. the primaries) in Illinois.  In presidential election years these elections are an exciting exercise in choosing Democrat and Republican party presidential candidates who have already been chosen by earlier elections in other states.  The other three out of four years are generally a yawner because local government in the Chciago area is still a one-party machine.

But this particular off-year primary was special to me because it was the most retarded election ever!

Let me tell you about it.

First of all, the Democratic Machine(tm) put up their lamest slate of candidates, even by Illinois standards and even where there was real competition.

Let's start with our governor, G-Rod.  Ever faithful to the rule that the biggest faker politicians have the poofiest hair, Governor Blagojevich has already once before given gullible voters the false impression that he is some kind of reformer.  "Ha!" I say.

In absence of real leadership, the governor occasionally comes up with pie-in-the-sky ideas along the lines of "let's send all of our pre-schoolers to Mars" or "free healthcare for all newborn kittens."  This guy is so lame he actually makes me long for our last governor, who is probably about to go to prison.

Unfortunately, the only slated competition from another Democrat was (surprise) a machine politician.

Then there's John Stroger, our Cook County Board President.  I don't even know where to begin with this guy.

For those of you not from the area, Cook County is kind of like a giant jobs program for people with connections who are looking for easy work or have small-time political ambitions.  Can you believe our county government employs more than 20,000 people?

The king of this patronage empire is John Stroger.  Ambitious from the start, Commissioner Stroger cut his teeth in the 1980's by being the only black politican to offer early support to Richard M. Daley, who has returned the favor ever since.  But even Daley--the most successful and beloved corrupt Chicago politician in 40 years (going back to his dad!)--realizes that Stroger has gone too far and accumulated too much power.  While Daley is a new-style Chicago politician (corrupt but reform-minded) Stroger is old school, and has fought against clean government for most of his carear.  So even though Daley endorsed Stroger, he all but outright campaigned for the other guy (his former chief of staff, another machine politician).

Stroger has managed to build a major cult of personality around himself.  The signs with his name on them that dot almost every single front lawn in my neighborhood remind me of the statues of Joseph Stalin that one used to see across the old Soviet Union.  The guy even had a hospital named after himself!

Anyway, I could go on and on, but I wont bore you any further with additional insight into our Borg-minded local leadership.  Suffice it to say, there wasn't one good candidate on the entire slate.  I had to resort to my fallback of writing in Carol Mosley Braun as a write-in candidate whenever possible.  She deserves another chance at some kind of elected position, especially compared to the clowns we've got.

For me, it wasn't just the candidates that made this year's vote particularly retarded, but the election experience itself.  In my precinct, the vote was held as usual at our local community center on the corner.  You really have to be a local to find this place.  Only one small sign out front designates the building as a polling place, and the view yesterday was obstructed by about a dozen school busses parked for the church across the street.  I pity anyone who just moved to the neighborhood and was looking to vote for the first time.

If that wasn't bad enough, the front door to this building was locked.  I had to wait around for someone to let me in, and I saw a number of other potential voters give up and go home.  The only sign on the front door read "no public washroom."  Nothing to indicate a polling place except for the hidden sign out front.  (Ironicly building staff did allow me to use the mens room.)

The vote was held in the basketball court (also no sign) and was staffed this year by the most confused bunch of misfits ever.  As I was sent from table to table, given conflicting directions, and generally turned around like I was playing some big game of Twister, I felt like I was back in Asia again.

Even the actual act of voting was retarded.

To prevent the kind of mistakes and outright fraud from the old punch card system, this year many counties in Illinois rolled out new electronic voting machines.  But not where I live!  In Cook County, or at least in my precinct, the reformed voting process took the form of a paper ballot where you select candidates by using a standard issue ballpoint pen to write an X next to each candidate you want to vote for.  Yeah (sarcastic tone here) no possible mistakes here.

The final indignity came when I presented my ballot to the election monitor whose job it was to insert the ballot into the ballot machine.  "Let's have a look at this," he said, as he actually started to read my ballot to see whom I had voted for!  Sensing my unease, he quickly looked away and inserted my ballot into the reader.

But it was too late.  

My faith in local government is now completely dead.

On a brighter note, here is a cute snapshot of Holly, caught snoozing under a blanket on the sofa.

As democracy around me crumbles to dust, I am at least comforted by the face lickings and/or rambunctious barks of my pug dogs when I return home from work each day.

Monday, March 20, 2006


Happy Spring! Now let's get active the geeky way.

Happy Spring, everybody!

Now that the days are getting longer and the weather is getting nicer (even in Chicago) what do you say we all go outside and play?

As you may have noticed from my prior posts, I've been running lately.  My pace is very slow, but at least I can run 5 miles without wanting to throw up.  (That's a big improvement over my college distance record of about 4 blocks.)  I've also dusted off my bicycle and am looking forward to a thrilling summer of playing chicken with downtown delivery trucks.

Of course if you enjoy biking/running/walking/crawling, and you are a total geek like me, the real fun begins with mapping your route.  This is the point where I mention my favorite webiste in the whole world: Gmaps Pedometer.

Gmaps Pedometer is a Google hack of Google's popular map site.

I've been playing around with this site for a long time; it's a lot of fun to zoom in on satellite images of friends' houses.  Now I get even more use out of it by tracking the distance of my runs and rides.

For example, here is the route I will bike to work as the weather gets warmer.

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Friday, March 17, 2006


Happy St. Patrick's Day!


Fun times at Poag Mahoney with the bad boys of the JPMC CIS Project crew.

The corned beef was only so-so, but we ate it up anyway.

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Wednesday, March 15, 2006


New Hours

Starting Wednesday night I'll be working 4:00AM-12:30PM.

This is mostly an improvement over my current hours, because I'll now be able to go to sleep at home most evenings like a normal person.

Another change is that starting in May and lasting through the summer I will often be working an additional overnight shift on Friday nights.

To simplify the situation for those who might want to get a hold of me during hours I'm awake, here's a breakdown:

Monday-Friday 4:00AM-12:30PM = at work
Monday-Friday ~10PM-2:30AM = asleep
Saturday (sometimes) midnight-7AM = at work
Saturday 8AM-noon = running

When in doubt, send me an e-mail.  I often check my in-box.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2006


Sisters of Mercy at the Metro

Saw Sisters of Mercy with Justyna and Jim Watson at the Metro tonight.  

The show was characterised by an older crowd and an overused smoke machine.  The three of us found a good spot to stand and we had a great view, though my experience was almost ruined by the drunken suburban military guy to my right who kept talking loudly through most of the show and also the guy behind me who kept rubbing his big fat stomach against me as if to suggest something more intimate.  

I took a quick video of my favorite Sisters of Mercy song, Mother Russia.  

Most enjoyable to me was the opening act, "the Warlock."  Haven't been able to find much information on this group.  They played some good songs tonight that seemed to match the mood of the audience.

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Sunday, March 12, 2006


Congratulations Stephen!

Tonight Erika and Antonia threw a party to celebrate Stephen's graduation.

Relieved at last from the bonds of homework, the man could party at last.


   Dance Dance Revolution!

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Friday, March 10, 2006


First Outdoor Run

Just completed my first outdoor run of the season.  Here is the route I took.

Distance:  4.6 miles
Time:  53 minutes
Pace:  11:30

I'm now ready to get out there and run with other crazy people.


Wednesday, March 08, 2006


Begin my summer of running


Ran 8K (5 miles) for the first time today, and without stopping to walk.  My time was 56:44.

I needed to do this to prove to myself that I am ready for the Shamrock Shuffle and that I can handle CARA's training program for the North Shore Half Marathon.

My summer of running is now underway.

Also, inspired by Shea and his "strategic vegetarian diet" I am adopting a "tactical vegetarian diet," wherein I limit abstain from meat consumption Wednesday-Friday of each week so my system is relatively clear for weekend races and practice runs.

Saturday, March 04, 2006


Breakfast in Milwaukee


Dana and I began our Milwaukee walkabout at the Comet with a bloody mary (garnished with bacon) and a beer chaser.

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