Thursday, September 25, 2008

Thai in Little Italy

When I was asking my students about their weekend on Monday, one of them said "We went to Little Italy and had Thai." I knew exactly where they had gone - but I was struck with how he said it - he was awe struck. Later that day, I was driving through my old neighborhood, Pilsen, I was realizing how much it looks like Little Italy - which you have to look for the old country Italian -among the stereotypical college town street along Taylor. Pilsen is becoming that - lots of different preppy stores are popping up as well as all the ethicities of eatteries can be found due to the UIC growth.

What does this mean for the City of Neighborhoods? When the neighborhoods change and become less distinct, is that good, bad or just frustrating? UIC's growth is more than frustrating....neighborhoods that have a long ethnic history and then are taken over by mobile college students is a problem. And yet, what does it mean that I just went to that Thai place in Little Italy last night?

How are concerned people to care for this in economic and political terms? For an cup-is-half-full-girl, I am not sure if the cup is half-full on this issue.

Monday, September 22, 2008

"TV" dinner

Tonight, I made supper using two things I learned on TV.

First, we bought a Good Eats DVD awhile ago - and we both like watching it. Everytime Jim watches it I get reminded that he really likes Mac and Cheese - so tonight I made oven baked mac and cheese from Good Eats. It was a bit oniony, but overall fairly good even for the expert on mac and cheese in the house (Jim). It is way better than the one either Betsy or I made in our demonstration for 4-H.

Second, I steamed some broccoli in Ziploc steamer bags that I saw on last season's Biggest Loser and bought way back then but hadn't used them. I really liked them. I might even recommend them.

That reminds me of another cooking story that I haven't shared yet. Last week was a potluck at church. I baked three loaves of bread and my pumpkin spice muffins. As one of the elders of the church was chewing my bread, she came over and asked "When your parents in town last, this bread tastes really fresh." My parents are famous for baking bread for DOOR - but I laughed and said I made this bread last night. I was a bit insulted as I bake bread probably on a more regular interval than mom and dad do, but the people who eat it the most think it is just from when mom and dad visit!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Please welcome MJ

M.J. is the newest addition to our household. Yesterday, we adopted her. She is 6 months old and very sleepy and likes to purrrrrr.... She had 6 visitors yesterday to welcome her; and she did very well...

Ron Huberman, who's that?

This is Ron Huberman, the president of the CTA and the person I had coffee with on Saturday morning along with other readers of the CTA Tattler, the blog that you may have heard of due to Jim and I being featured on our anniversary this past April. I was asked to keep this meeting underwraps until the meeting - I was so excited. Talk about being geeky about something - even Jim was calling me a geek in excess. I took some notes on the around 90 minute conversations and here are those highlights.

First, I should say that I really like what this CTA president has done - I am impressed that he rides the CTA each day to work; and it is well noted that he is on the CTA most days....something that other CTA presidents have not done. He seems well connected to what people actually care about as riders and I was excited to see if this was true. It seems to be true; I mean this guy did give up a couple hours of a Saturday to hear from riders.

The question that I had prepared that I was unable to ask due to the conversation that ensued; that I think I will continue to look for the answer was: What do you see as the cost savings of not having cash transfers? How much money is this making the CTA? Is it worth the cost of making the poor more than the rich?

Mr. Huberman first talked about the strides of the CTA in the past year which mostly had to do with capital work. From trying to eliminate bus bunching (which he explained to us how things like that happen, when to the common eye it seems like an easy problem to fix), the work on the EL tracks (using plastic ties instead of wood due to longer life span, are recycled and are quieter), helped us understand the loop signals that are taking longer than the public expected, and the greening of the CTA including a hybrid bus that runs only on battery at 20mph or less. A funny story that he talked about was the elevators of the stations. He asked for all the elevators to have their floors ripped out and replaced with plastic lining that has lips - so that urine does not ruin the floor and can be cleaned. He laughed and said -"It seemed easier to do that then try to get to stop urinating in the elevators." Another capital improvement is the rapid buses. On test routes starting in 2009 - people will pay at the bus stop and then just get on the bus - so the buses have a different design with 3 doors to be more rapid entry. One test route is Halsted #8 bus.

The coming year the focus is communication. The CTA is trying to work on getting more information to the public when service is different than normal. Contracts are being signed for plasma screens to be installed in all the EL stations to announce next train coming and advertising unless there is an emergency when the whole screen is used for communicating the problem and alternate routes around the problem. They are currently working on updating the alert systems for live alerts. They are going to post a 800 number in each train to call for updates if folks are stuck on a train. They also have given red and blue line drivers special phones to get into the control center so that they can get information directly in an emergency because traditional radio that are used in normal everyday communication are totally taken over by the folks that are fixing the train or problem instead of communicating with the driver and then the customers the problem. They will be unveiling a new website (that looks really cool) in the next 6 months. The website will change from a normal website to an emergency message if an emergency exists.

The folks sitting around with Mr. Huberman mostly raved about bus tracker. I also think it is amazing! Currently, he reported that the reliably at around 90% due mostly to ghost bus problems, the system thinks a bus is there when there is not. They want to work out those kinks before adding more bus lines, and only as an entire bus route has new buses (a plan for the capital side) does bus tracker go online for that route. Bus stops will soon offer a number to text to recieve a text back when the next bus will arrive in addition to the steps already in place. On the new website there is a section entitled "Rides tool lab" which will be a open source area with all the data that techies can use in many ways to write there own programming (Jim was excited and gave me an example- he could, using this open source, write a program specifically to tell him the fastest way to work each morning. I am excited for that because of all the ways that Jim can make that work for me.)

We talked about bus transportation as well. Recently, they changed the way they change bus drivers. We live right by Kedzie garage where many drivers start and end shifts (or at least it feels that way). It used to be that one driver could leave the bus and that shift change could take up to 10 minutes - with riders on the bus waiting. Now, those shift changes can only take up to 60 seconds before managers are alerted. This lead into conversations about what was accepted and not accepted as driver behavior. Drivers, Huberman said, are not even allowed to talk using bluetooth. He encouraged to take pictures with our phones if we saw drivers eating, talking on phones or other behavior that was not accepted. He did emphasize that most drivers (and I agree) are wonderful. Bus drivers often work split shifts that are a total of 10 hours a day and he gave them credit for working so hard. I thought of my singing bus driver that is often found on the Madison #20 bus.

We talked about budget a bit; due to that being in the news of late. Ron Huberman was quite happy where the budget was and while the media has been portraying it as a "doomsday" it seems that he doesn't name it that way due to there are no service cuts on the line. Fuel for the buses is up 80% from last year, energy for the EL is also about 30 million more (I think that is what he said, I was unsure.) Due to the soft economy, the income from sales tax is down (my understanding is that about 1 1/4% of the sales tax in Chicago goes to the CTA) and the income from the real estate transfer tax is also down (50% less than last year, if I understood correctly). The free ride program that was enstated as a part of the state bailout last year has cost about 66 million, 8 million more free rides than the previous year. The fare increase that has been tossed around in the media is probably coming.

Huberman shared that the idea of extending the red line to 130th would be one of the best ideas to expand ridership. He mentioned the circle line being on the table still.

I was quite impressed with the President; he knows his stuff. I was impressed with his education model - he really is wanting to educate people about the CTA; helping people understand the bigger picture and I hope that a communication focus for the coming year helps the whole organization to be more educational in this way. I was impressed with his detail of knowledge about the bus routes and stations, his not sugarcoating issues, and his ability to converse.

My concern lies in the same vein that my question that I had crafted, I suppose. All that were sitting around were asked to share their commute and I was the only one who did not live and primarily use northside routes. There are reasons for this - due to the blog that I read I already know that many of the folks that read CTA Tattler are indeed northsiders. I hope that more and more the CTA looks to improving the whole system and not just the folks that have the luxtury of raising a stink and spending a saturday morning drinking expensive coffee and smoothies talking to the president. I recieved hope in Ron's comments about extending the red line and other comments but I do worry about the system as a whole.

If you got to this far in the post, bless you and thanks for reading.

Small town Chicago

Growing up, if a package came to our address they just left it on the porch. They don't do that in Chicago. Instead, the postman fills out a form and says to pick it up at the neighborhood post office. I don't like doing this - while the post office isn't far away it is in the direction that I don't often go by so I do have to make a special trip during post office hours which is often quite hard to do. However, Friday I went to pick up a package and when I went to the window with card and my ID all ready - the friendly woman handed me my package. Normally, they check the id and the card, go search for it and 10 minutes later get the package. Admiring my shock, the postwoman said - I saw you coming in the front door when I was in the back - I just pulled it then. I really like being in a neighborhood long enough for people to know you like that!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Theology and politics

I am interested in theology and politics, obviously. I have been reading and reflecting about Sarah Palin's comment in her speech at the RNC about how (Obama's) community organizing was just like being a mayor of a small town except organizing doesn't have any responsiblities. What? REally?

This is an interesting take on that.

Click Here.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Several things

1. It scared me a bit that yesterday at the grocery store, Jim picked out some cups and lids that are just like the ones that my dad bought at Costco. I thought maybe he didn't know what he was doing -
so I said, "Why are you getting those?"
"your dad has the right idea - perfect to take to work"
So, Jim didn't buy 100 - but enough to know that Jim is indeed in many ways just like my dad.

2. We bought our plane tickets for vacation this evening - for $15 - thanks to my frequent flyer miles! I still have almost 40,000 left!!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

lovey dovey Krista

Nothing like a wedding to make me think. This song came on shuffle on my ipod (on one of those albums I don't usually listen to) today and it sounded so much like my relationship with Jim - it is comfortable and homey.

Life as we know it

I wake up with the sun on my face
On the edge of the bed, babe you're taking up all the space
I roll you over then I give you a kiss
Meet you in the middle
That's where all the fun is

Life as we know it
It's going good
That's an understatement
It's going better than I ever thought it could
Never been so happy, so content
Oh, I wish i could freeze this moment
Life as we know it... now

You're doing dishes if I'm cooking the meal
We got an understanding, and it's a pretty good deal
We read our books at each end of the couch
No conversation needed
To stay in touch in this house

Life as we know it
It's going good
That's an understatement
It's going better than I ever thought it could
Never been so happy, so content
Oh, I wish i could freeze this moment
Life as we know it... now

I whisper... I love you
You tell me... you love me too
It's so easy, so simple
I wonder why we didn't think of this before

Life as we know it
It's going good
That's an understatement
It's going better than I ever thought it could
Never been so happy, so content
Oh, I wish i could freeze this moment
Life as we know it... now

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Top Ten Reasons why Krista hasn't posted lately

10. The amount of Krista is writing for work is fairly large - lots of those self directed projects with no solid deadline which is driving me crazy. I finished a book outline on Thursday (it did have a deadline - today). I am writing a book on behalf of DOOR and Mennonite Mission Network.
9. Krista tried taking a week of vacation last week. I worked a lot though, not enough, but a lot.
8. Krista spent the week in Ohio. I spent the week thinking of the phrase "you can’t go home again”. From the changes that are happening in my home town, to stopping in at my seminary and seeing it changed, and visiting my ailing grandma, it doesn’t feel like home. I wouldn’t change going home- I love doing it – it just is never what it was like growing up.
7. Jim and I went to the Croc’s outlet – bought 3 pairs of shoes for $30!
6. I bought 2 cases of Hershey nuggets at Sam’s. Two days later I returned 1 ½ cases of Hershey nuggets at Sam’s. We miscalculated the amount of chocolate we needed for favors.
5. We drive along the National Lakeshore of the Indiana Dunes – wow is it beautiful! Why I haven’t been there before is beyond me!
4. Baked communion bread for during the wedding and made mom’s 3 day cinnamon rolls for the brunch after the wedding on Sunday.
3. Took a professional dance lesson with Jim! Fun times that hopefully made us look less junior highish at the receptionist.
2. Tried to help make favors, dropped off welcome bags, helped arrange a brunch at my mom and dad’s house.
1. Got to be the matron of honor and general onlooker on the marriage of my sister and my new brother in law. It was a wonderful day – Betsy was stunning, the wedding was inspiring, and the cake was amazing. Celebrating the love of family, God, and each other was a reminder of all of that in my life. I am happy to have new family members and loved watching Betsy love and be loved by her new big family!

This past weekend

I know Krista will probably post all about her sisters wedding we went to but I wanted to point out some of the weird things that happened this weekend

As we were shopping I overheard a Mom tell her son:

"No you can't be a monster for halloween you were a monster last year"
-I love hearing parents try logic on their children

When I was the same age 10-12 I wore the same Ninja costume, my parents didn't even put up a fuss, it certainly was cheaper for them.

In a similar tale where we were at a mall a week ago I was babysitting our neice which is about 3 1/2 and I overheard something very similar a father was trying to explain why they couldn't play on the rides any more because he didn't have enough money to his daughter who was about the same age and then get frustrated when she couldn't understand.

It's only funny because in the limited amount of time I've babysat Joslyn I've learned diversion tactics work the best and even parents who've had the kid for 3 years+ couldn't learn that...

I was told by an older man when trying to get into a bathroom stall that I shouldn't rush things...

I learned how to dance professionally for the first time

My suit I wore to the wedding told me I'm getting fluffy. It's been 1 1/2 years since I've had to wear it...

I was so peopled out by Sunday morning I just wanted to crawl into a computer/tv.

I was able to get a King sized bedroom at a Knights Inn when they were the last resort and had initially just 2 double sized beds and it was a "smoking" room