Archive for November, 2007

Pretty Lights

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

One of Columbia University’s best traditions (aside from Orgo Night) was the lighting of the trees along College Walk for the holidays. Michigan Avenue does it up okay, but the trees at Columbia were amazing. There were so many lights wrapped around every branch!

I don’t celebrate Christmas, but I sure like it a lot. I loved those lights and I love Christmas carols and I love It’s A Wonderful Life.

If I did celebrate Christmas, I’d definitely invest in some new LED Christmas lights. If you’re a Chicagoan, you can buy them at a discount from ComEd’s online store. Christmas lights are an ideal candidate for LEDs. Here are five reasons that have nothing to do with “saving the earth.”

  1. LEDs are naturally colorful. It’s only recently that a good white LED was created.
  2. Christmas lights are left on all the time. LEDs consume about 1/8th as much electricity as incandescents.
  3. Christmas lights don’t actually need to illuminate a room. LEDs aren’t actually that bright.
  4. They run a lot cooler than normal lights in case you’re putting them next to something flammable like, say, a tree.
  5. These days, they’re basically the same price as standard incandescent Christmas lights.

So there you go.

Good Morning Montrose, How Are Ya?

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

I ran into the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Montrose brown line stop today. At first I was going to just hop on the train, but I figured I’d linger about and see if anything interesting happened. It didn’t. There were speeches from CTA head Ron Huberman, Alderman Gene Schulter, and Congressman Rahm Emmanuel. They were all quite boring. “Blah blah blah senior citizens blah blah federal funding blah blah blah cooperation blah blah state of the art.”  They were so boring that I didn’t even stay for the cutting of the ribbon.  I’m sure it was boring.

I also got a chance to chat with a couple of the workers who built the station. They seemed really proud of it. And they should be. It’s probably the nicest El station I’ve ever been in.  In?  On?  Whatever.

Cheer For Cherry Pie

Sunday, November 25th, 2007

My cousins from the Bay Area have been coming into town for the last couple thanksgivings. Like many families, we spend the weekend eating non stop, catching up, and playing games.  Last year I happened to have an XBox with Dance Dance Revolution on it so I brought it up to my parents’ house where we all could play. After my brothers and cousins and I sufficiently humiliated ourselves, we tried to get our grandma to give it a try. And wouldn’t you know it, she did.

I don’t think she really knew what was going on, but she had a big smile on her face as she poked the buttons randomly with her cane. I think she did better than my dad.

This thanksgiving, Guitar Hero was the game of choice.  All three of my living grandparents were there.  They weren’t big fans of the music, complaining that it was too noisy and they couldn’t understand the words.  They complained, that is, until Warrant’s “Cherry Pie” came on.  For some reason they all liked that song.

GRANDMA JANET: This one’s pretty.
GRANDMA BEVERLY: Cheer for cherry pie, Jerold!

I’d Guess No

Friday, November 23rd, 2007

Last weekend I was watching the Bears game with my brothers as I often do.  After so many disappointing games this season there’s not much left to talk about.  I mean, how many times can someone criticize Cedric Benson?   As Rex Grossman fumbled his way to another Bears loss, my brother Brian tried to spark some conversation:

Brian: Do you think the coaches take showers after the games?


Sunday, November 18th, 2007

On November 26, CTA will reopen the Montrose station to customers and temporarily close the Damen station for up to 12 months.

Buy My Friends’ Music

Friday, November 2nd, 2007

Two friends of mine recently released CDs and I’m gonna recommend them to you… right… now:

I went to high school with Eliza Lynn but didn’t really get know her until a new year’s party a couple years ago when I first heard her sing her bluesy, old-timey tunes. Holy smackers! That night she gave me a copy of her first CD, Frisky or Fair, in exchange for my as-yet-then and as-yet-now unreleased album. She’s still waiting. (It’s almost done, Eliza!) In the meantime, she managed to record and release The Weary Wake Up. I’ve been listening to “Weary” (the song) pretty non stop the last couple days — especially the vocal good times towards the end. It makes me happy. Almost as happy as “Puddin’ Pie.”

I only knew Thea Lux a couple of weeks before I went to see her band, “Let’s Get Out of This Terrible Sandwich Shop,” and like most of the others in the audience that night, I didn’t really know what to make of them. I was pretty sure, however, that they were awesome — weird and awesome… and fun… and awesome… but definitely weird. They just released their first full-length CD: Listening. If you like short songs, you should definitely go buy it right now. Go buy it on iTunes. For some reason it’s only $5.99. There are few things better in life than hearing Thea sing “Loved Song,” although I’m also a sucker for “VIP Room.”

What are you waiting for?

Better Than A Coal Powered Garbage Can

Thursday, November 1st, 2007

This is a solar powered garbage can. Go ahead and mock it for a second. I know I did.

When I walked by this thingamadongus on the corner of Clark and Diversey I took a picture with the intention of mocking it for quite a bit longer than a second, but the more I think about it the more I think it’s actually a useful, well-designed device.

With the exception of the lady who shoved a whole pizza box out of her car window while parked in front of my apartment, I think we can all agree that litter is a bad thing. Non-solar-powered garbage cans do a pretty good job of accepting litter and holding it until it can be disposed of, thus keeping it off of our streets and babies, but they aren’t the greatest in high-traffic areas where garbage cans either turn into overflowing piles of refuse or need to be emptied several times a day.

This trash receptacle, known as Big Belly, uses solar power to run a compactor that allows it to store about 5 times as much as a normal trash can. I’ll leave it to city bean counters to decide whether or not its price tag (about 100 times the cost of a normal garbage can) is offset by the reduced labor cost (although I’m not sure how much I trust their decisions.)

I guess what seemed mock-worthy is the “Think Green!” sign on the side. Just because something is solar powered doesn’t mean that it is especially “green.” The Big Belly is no more energy efficient than an average 55 gallon drum that doesn’t doesn’t consume any power at all.

Just as the “reduce, reuse, recycle” credo establishes a hierarchy of environmentally beneficial waste management, energy management should also begins with reduction.  In other words, it makes a lot more sense to get an efficient refrigerator in your house than it does to put solar panels on your roof to power an inefficient one.

That said, I like these electric garbage cans.  Besides, you could make the argument that fewer pickups require fewer garbage trucks and thus less fuel, so maybe they are “thinking green” after all.