First of all, I'm thinking of going into meteorology. There's just no way I could possibly do worse than saying at 7:30 in the morning that the rain wasn't going to start until 9 when it was pouring by 8:05. That's failing to predict the weather thirty five minutes in the future. The forecast I looked at this morning also claimed that it was going to rain a bit around 3:00 but it'd be okay by five. Guess what started at 4:30 and continued well past six? It certainly wasn't anything that made me any dryer.

So, I set out this morning cheerfully biking along with the wind at my back, enjoying the nearly 60-degree weather when it started to rain. Not drizzle, but arrhythmic giant gobs of water that seemed aimed specifically at the holes in my helmet. I figured it'd be fine, but by the time I got to about 23rd street it was pouring and even I tried to hide under the eaves of the McCormick center, hoping it'd let up, but the rain was relentless and in the end I showed up to work looking like a drowned rat. Even my spare clothes were soaked through (thankfully they soaked up all the water that would've otherwise soaked poor Hrunting). So I was soggy and uncomfortable all day (and even the quiet partner made a special point to drop by and make fun of me), and then once I'd finally dried off (and worked an extra hour in the hope that the rain would pass since it was supposed to be over before five), I had to walk my umbrella-less self to the bus stop, affix my bike to the bus, try not to drip on anyone, and then bike the four blocks home in rain that was still somehow at torrential downpour level.

And the awful thing is, if I'd just paid attention to my instinct this morning when I left, I would've brought my bike back in, grabbed an umbrella, and been... well, probably still wet since the rain was pretty thorough about its work, but at least I wouldn't have been literally dripping for the first hour of my day.

It's going to start snowing sometime this week, but I think if it's above 32 tomorrow morning I'm going to tough it out and bike one last time, just so Chicago doesn't win by spiting me with a 60-degree day that rains only when I'm on my bike.
I am absolutely digging this 60-degree weather we're having. Last week (and even this weekend) I thought I was going to have to give up my bike for the winter, and now I've had two absolutely lovely nights of biking home without even needing a jacket. And it's a good thing, too, because otherwise I would be pulling out my hair.

Even the city is giving me advice now:

I spotted that as I was crossing the bridge over the Metra tracks by the Art Institute, and I figured, okay, it's the Blue Cross building, they're probably telling me to quit something. (Yes, despite that seemingly-strategic lamp, it does actually say "QUIT.") Smoking? Eating junk food? But... apparently no. Unless the array of blue lights above it is actually meant to represent a blue Tetris block and it's telling the city to stop playing Tetris?

I'm going to choose to interpret it as a Sign, because today we had two people give their notice, and both of them were of the rare, sane variety, who actually do work. We still haven't replaced people who left in August. I don't think there's a single department in the office that isn't behind right now, and I don't know how they're going to cope with losing two competent, well-adjusted people. (I'm almost certain I'm going to lose all my help, and I would crawl under my desk and cry except there's no room because of all the files at my desk.) I haven't filed something on time in more than a month... and I used to be the only one who was ahead. Now I spend all my time fighting with other legal assistants and attorneys to get their work done and have no time to do anything I'm actually supposed to be doing. Stupid nightmare job.

One positive upshoot of the current situation, though, is that I've been listening to a lot of music lately to drown out Ego Girl, and I recently wore out my crappy old $15 headphones. So today I invested some of my overtime money into a set of actually-good headphones (it actually occurs to me to be embarrassed as to how much I just spent on headphones). But music... guys, music has bass! And dynamics! And... and... I forgot how much I was missing by just listening to things on crappy headphones and crappy laptop speakers. (I thought I wouldn't like in-ear headphones, but it turns out they're not as creepily claustrophobic as noise-cancelling ones and the general effect is that the music is right there and all the outside noises are behind it. I rode past a helicopter on the lakefront tonight and could still hear my music, but I could also hear other cyclists coming up behind me at times when there was no helicopter. Fancy!)
I've had a rash of flat tires lately. It's been a massive pain in the butt, and yesterday's flat on the way in to work somehow foiled every attempt I made to patch it, so I had to take it in to the bike shop after work. I'm pretty sure every mechanic there knows me now, as I've been in for various things about once every two weeks. The problem here, though, is that my bike shop is pretty busy, and on weeknights I usually have to wait an hour or so for my bike to make it through the queue. So I tend to wander the neighborhood, which brings me to endless yuppie niche stores full of wondrous fascinating things, the worst of which is the Spice House, though recently it has a contender: The Old Town Aquarium.

Having spent so many hours recently wandering through Old Town, I've developed an bit of a fixation on something I met at the aquarium. I've always had a soft spot for awkward-looking impractical animals like puffer fish. I once met a fish I dubbed the "hover slug" there, and I think I held a similar desire to bring it home. Point being, recently I met a hovercraft boxfish. And though perhaps you're doubting that's a real name (perhaps because I just used the word "hover slug"), that is an official name. The very one printed on the placard next to the tank. You'd think I wanted this fish just because it's called a hovercraft boxfish (and who wouldn't want an animal with a name like that?) But look at it! Just look at it! They have personality. Some of them even have horns! And it's a square fish. It's fantastically goofy-looking (which makes it adorable). If only I thought I could maintain a saltwater aquarium, I would have one of these almost immediately. (It occurs to me that this is hardly the first time I've sat around doting on ridiculous-looking animals... it's much better than dwelling on just how many people have quit at my office in the last three months (hint: it's now more than two a month)).
evilhippo: hippo (40 [ellipses])
( Jul. 13th, 2010 11:09 pm)
Today marks the very first time I nearly hit another cyclist! And I don't mean "Oops, got a little close on the trail there, sorry" hit (that happens a lot). I mean "That would've been a spectacular and deadly crash!" hit. This fantastic buttmunch ran a red light while I was leaving from a green light (because I stop at lights when they're red) and was riding in the crosswalk, which is acceptable only when... never. I expect this kind of behavior from bike messengers, and, in fact, I tend to shrug it off when they do something that looks like it would kill anyone else who tried it. But that kind of risk is their job, and I generally assume that they do crazy things with an understanding of the consequences. Also none of them have ever killed me. Generally, though, they don't run red lights in the crosswalk, because that's just dumb, and the sort of thing only a helmetless blue button-downed crazy McBroker face would do on his thousand-dollar Yupster bike just to show how fast he could pedal (Note: Not Fast Enough, given how slow I am out of the starting blocks).

I'm all for the bike commuting. I'd go so far as to say I love it. But this guy clearly thought he was cool, and that's just not how it works. Today I left work with one plaid pant leg rubber-banded up almost to my knee so my chain wouldn't eat it... I was wearing a tight black tank top with my work shirt on over it, because I was going to the store and didn't want to walk in looking half-undressed. I was also wearing bright green and purple athletic shoes. It's humid now, too, so every time I take my helmet off my hair is apparently replaced by the top half of a lion. Point being: You cannot effectively commute by bike without looking like a looney. (Part of my particular problem is that I'm too lazy to get proper biking clothes. The other part is that I don't want to haul an extra pair of pants to work in addition to my lunch, snacks, proper topside attire, and my bike tools. Looking a fool is efficient. Also I'm hoping it'll stop the evening janitor hitting on me quite so much when I leave work late. Which is always.) And have you ever seen a bike messenger? They only look cool because they've been mismatched and weird for so long they've become one with it (or they were mismatched and weird to begin with and that's why they thought it'd be cool to be a bike messenger).

Lesson for everyone here being... um. Don't be a tool. I'm starting to think the reason people in cars hate people on bikes is that we're unpredictable and behave like we have an inalienable right not to ever have to brake or lose momentum. And by "starting to think" I pretty much mean "realized as soon as I got up the nerve to start biking downtown." We'd all be much better off if people would just signal and obey reasonable traffic courtesy. I mean... weaving in and out of a traffic jam is one thing (that "one thing" being "very satisfying"), as is riding very wide of parked cars (which I acknowledge is very annoying for anyone behind me, but man guys car doors hurt, I'm sorry, some day I'll get over it), but blowing through a busy intersection during rush hour is entirely different. I was in a car with a friend a few weeks ago and we were coming up toward Millennium Park and I had to warn him that a couple of cyclists were going to cut him off because no one in their right mind wants to be on a bike next to a taxi in the turning lane (something you learn on about day two of biking downtown, but never learn if you've never biked downtown). But did they give any indication that they were going to cut over in front of him? Did they even look? Nope! And if he had hit them there's no way they would've been at fault. (This is actually part of why I refuse to drive downtown.)

I was going to whine about something else, like how my internet is so slow lately that I can't even use Hulu or how work is insane, but this will do for now.

But oh! Okay, one more thing, and then I'm going to bed. Has anyone else read Kafka's Metamorphosis? I finally got around to reading it (... as a break from Finnegan's Wake. Let's just ignore this bit, okay?). And... um. I found it kind of cute, poignant, and sad. It's supposed to be really crushingly depressing, right? But mostly I was thinking "Wow, Kafka leaves this all up to interpretation, nice!" Perhaps this is because I'm used to The Angst being hammered home very obviously. Maybe it's also because the translation I read was pretty matter-of-fact and not flowery at all (I think the only bit of extraneous description that I remember was to do with the light from the street outside). I mean, I know I'm meant to employ the sort of literary tools I left sitting next to those dissected seasons of Doctor Who I have lying around over there, but lots of people have done that already, and I was just after the gestalt of the thing. I was afraid I was going to read this and go "Oh man my job... it's turning me into a bug too!" but instead I read it going "... You know, this just gave me an excellent idea for a backstory for a character. Or a children's book." Perhaps this is a sign that it's already too late for me? (Day 9317: Still no apple lodged in my carapace. Things are a-ok!)
evilhippo: hippo (97 [one of those days])
( Jun. 9th, 2010 11:32 pm)
I took the Stig in to the shop today. I'd been worried since the car door incident, and he'd been scraping and wobbling a bit. They took a look at him, at me, noted that they were impressed that I wasn't in worse shape ("hey man take a look at this--she got doored" "whoa"). They had him in the back for maybe ten minutes before the official diagnosis came in.

The Stig is totalled. Apparently the dent is a symptom of the entire frame being bent (which explains the wobbly-scrapey).

I should've known that a black Stig wouldn't last, but I mistakenly figured as long as I stayed away from nitrous and aircraft carriers it'd be okay. Let this be a lesson to all of you. Don name your vehicle after a character that dies.

Now, on top of everthing else, I have to somehow convince the guy's insurance to replace my bike. Not how I want to spend my summer!
evilhippo: hippo (97 [one of those days])
( Jun. 6th, 2010 07:16 pm)
You know what I hate more than anything? What, if I had a true nemesis, that nemesis would be?

Car doors.

I can't wait until this bruise on my arm blooms out fully, if the half-dollar sized dent in The Stig is any indication of the damage. Ow. SUV doors really pack a punch.

Hate car doors.

On the plus side, this guy was super cordial and apologetic about it. I mean, it's a freak sort of accident, and I don't hold it against people unless they're complete tools like Mr. "Don't Worry About My Car!" I feel bad that I actually was hurt badly enough that I had to file a police report this time, because it probably ruined his evening, but man, ow. And I shouldn't feel bad about going to get my wrist checked out tomorrow, but I do, because his insurance is probably going to go up just because he didn't check his mirror before he opened his door. I mean, it was right into me. I didn't even see it coming. Stupid 53rd Street. At least it was just after a stop sign, so no one was going fast enough to run me over afterwards. Which, of course, didn't limit the terror of finding myself flat on the pavement looking back at an oncoming red car. I immediately panicked and rolled away, and then had two almost-simultaneous thoughts, which were: 1) Omg did that just break my arm? followed by 2) I was almost Sam Tylered there. And that made me laugh until I started crying. The poor man, he probably thought he'd really hurt me. Then I told him my shoe was still under his car. And that's when the police came.

And crap what is this now like, twice in a month? Geez. I guess I need to start riding in the middle of the road so cars can hit me head-on instead.

But now, aside from being very sore and covered in ice, I'm mostly sad that I didn't make it to Doctor Who night. Darnit, car doors. Way to interfere with my already-meager social life.
evilhippo: hippo (25 [space])
( Jun. 3rd, 2010 09:45 pm)
On a completely different note from the usual ranting... I've had two flat tires in the last week. Which would really suck, except... The first time I was already on my way to the bike shop, so it wasn't a big deal. Yesterday, however, I was on the trail in the giant exitless zone between Roosevelt and 31st. Apparently there was a small bit of brown glass that was in exactly the wrong spot. But, lucky for me, there was a guy heading in the other direction who stopped and (after apologizing for not having the right size inner tube on him), produced a patch kit and proceeded to fix my front tire for me. I thanked him profusely, but felt kind of... unsure. Based on the conversation we'd had (about how he works in a bike shop and stops to help people out all the time) and my general impression of him, giving him money for it seemed kind of out of place (and I only had a 20, and asking for change would've been worse). But I still needed to pay him back somehow, so I offered him pie. The one problem with this (other than my general disdain for pastry crust) is that I pretty much don't know anything about types of pie. The only pie I've made recently was a strawberry-rhubarb pie, which turned out well enough to get rave reviews from the people who tried it, so I generally feel confident that I can turn out a pie that will be to his liking. But I'm just not creative or knowledgeable when it comes to kinds of pies, so I turn to you...

[Poll #1574068]

Also I kind of actually finally got a call back about a job so yaaaaaay. Except it's an Americorps position and as awesome as it sounds, I'm not sure how I feel about consigning myself to a year of minimum wage, even if it'd make a good dent in my student debt and actually be... good (in fact, I'd kind of be working on the opposite side of things, so maybe I could make a dent in my karmic debt, too). But, for now... ponderponderponder.
Normally I don't go pedalling podcasts, but the first half of this week's This American Life is amazing. Not particularly because of how it occasionally pretends to be impartial but clearly doesn't mean it, but because the story is like a terrible science fiction plot. I mean, the evil corporation? It's named after a freaking black hole. And, with cynical insiders at the helm, it comes in and absorbs a significant portion of the housing market when things would otherwise have slowed down and kills everyone and nothing escapes basically makes everything more of a disaster. It's classic evil villain, except it actually happened. True, what the NPR story covered up with tongue-in-cheek neutrality I have now multiplied by about fifty-three, but it sounds better this way. It's so ridiculously overwrought and symbolic it can't possibly be real. (But you know me, I'm always into finding other things to blame for the terrible economy, especially when they're 1) based in Chicago, and therefore easy to find and throw rocks at 2) directly related to the housing crisis which, while technically keeping me employed, is also probably the reason I can't find another job.) A secondary effect of this story is to re-bunny me for something I really want to work on, but don't have the people necessary to do so. (There's a part of me that wants to bang out/clean up my outline/spec script and troll through C2E2 this weekend to find the sort of people I need buuuuut I'm awkward so no.)

That aside, on things I do go pedalling [on]: I've reached the point that I am really properly in love with my bike. I adore it. Frighteningly, it's best on the streets. With cars. But don't tell anyone else that! (I think I just like the terror of rush hour. I've stopped hopping off and pushing it through the Loop, and have instead hunted out a street with wide-enough lanes.) I'm actually getting to work faster now, so I'm not even finishing entire albums anymore. I even got to work more than ten minutes early once this week (needless to say, I did not make that mistake a second time).
Today it was 70 out and beautiful. If I'm not mistaken, it snowed a Saturday or two ago... but as far as manic spring weather goes, I much prefer things in this direction. I rode my bike to work for the second time, which was lovely. I'm wondering if I'll ever get tired of the lakeside commute if I keep it up all summer (I'm already tired of the north side lakshore trial, but that's because it's too crowded). I'm also enjoying figuring out which albums I have that are almost exactly the length of my commute. Today's was Akron/Family's Meek Warrior, which is exactly as long as it takes me to get from the 55th street entrance onto the Lakeshore trail to my office door (including locking my bike up).

Work was the usual, so we'll skip that part. I got it in my head yesterday that what I really needed to do was go see Spoon, Deerhunter, and Micachu tomorrow night. Honestly, it's rare that a show has three bands I'd really like to see, and three I haven't seen, at that. And if I could dodge the ticketmaster fees, it was under my $30 limit for a show. So, I decided, why not just bike up to the Vic (which has a functional box office that sells tickets for the Aragon). I think, at least I'm pretty sure, I had some idea of the fact that I was going to have to make this trek on city roads. And so I set off northways after work, trying to find roads downtown that weren't full of cars during rush hour (this is impossible). Miraculously, there was only one jerk taxi that tried to run me onto the sidewalk, and everyone else, every single other car over the five-mile journey (during rush hour!) was courteous. Probably because it was nice out, so everyone in Chicago was in a much better mood. Though I did have bike lanes once I was out of the loop, so that helped too. (Holy crap I can't believe google tells me it was five miles up there. It went by so quickly I even overshot the street I was looking for! Probably because I was terrified... And because, unlike the lakefront, it wasn't windy).

The ride back was kind of like a fantastic version of I-Spy for city-dwellers. There was an Asian guy on rollerblades in a bright red cape (my personal favourite), businessmen sitting in the sand with their feet in the lake, a dude with a car stereo installed on his bike, newscasters (going "Look! The sun has returned to us!"), and a gaggle of gay men having some kind of photoshoot, all crammed together with the usual north side rabble of joggers and homicidal people on race bikes who think they're Serious Business, plus all the normal people who were out to try to shake off the horrid Chicago cabin fever. I will probably be doting on my bike for the next forever, but (un)surprisingly it was almost suited to dodging through this sort of nonsense. Hooray for lightweight, nimble bikes! (My poor old 6th grade bike was just... not meant to be a city bike. Poor thing. It tried so hard to explain this to me.)

So... my day was surprisingly nice and very active. I consider it a success. Though I've now finished consulting the google, and it tells me I biked a total of about 25 miles today. And my entire journey back down the lakefront was against the wind. I am going to feel this tomorrow. I am going to feel it very, very badly (also, I've already concluded that every bit I save in transit costs is going to go right back into my food budget. I've had two dinners tonight...)

I also think it's time for me to name my bike. I'm open to suggestions, because otherwise... er... it may end up being named The Stig, because it's been hanging out in my apartment with me, kind of looming in the background with its arms folded. Some say he thinks that pants are an acceptable road trip snack, and this is why all of my clothes now have mysterious holes in them. All we know is... he's called The Stig.
Today's interesting way of measuring time: My commute home by bike is exactly the length of Jose Gonzalez's Veneer. ... Technically, though, just the bit from Monroe and Lake Shore down to my apartment, so that cuts out all the terrifying street biking. The weather down was amazing, though. It went from about 60 degrees when I started to what felt like about 30 by the time I got back to Hyde Park. Hooray for spring in the midwest!

In my infinite foolishness this morning, I decided to actually try biking inside the loop downtown, on real, car-occupied roads. I hopped off of the lake trail at Roosevelt (which is 12th street, and the first major road you can get off of LSD onto; also the only one with a bike lane), which was terrifying. Then I went north on State, which was terrifying, so I turned and went a bit west on Harrison (6th street) which turned out to be also terrifying, then I went up Dearborn with a bus on my tail for three blocks which was, surprisingly, terrifying, but not as terrifying as finding myself in between two cars with the bus right next to me instead. Once I got within a block of work I just got off my bike and walked. It crossed my mind several times that I could have died with a bunch of complaints strapped to my back like some kind of suicidal bike messenger. Suffice to say I will probably not be trying that again... until it gets warmer out. And when I'm not carrying files. And when I know my bike a little better and am not getting my pants caught in the chain every quarter-mile. ...Or next time I'm biking to work and am really late.

Bonus points today to my office doorman, who saw I was carrying my front wheel and insisted that I wasn't allowed to bring my bicycle inside. I feel somewhat bad that my response was "Yes, that's why the rest of it is still outside." I think just being inside my building now makes me irritable and surly. Normal-me probably would've gone back outside and locked the wheel up properly.

So, my general verdict on my bike (this one, but with straight black handlebars and a black seat post instead) is that I like it quite a lot. I'm just not... as madly in love with it as I would've been with the $700 one I really wanted. But I know deep down in my heart that this bike will be pretty much exactly what I need around here once I get the fenders and rear rack on it, and I will come to love it far more than I would've loved the slightly uncomfortable and impractical pretty-bike. Alternately: Hooray for/curse pragmatism!
Brief summary of today:

Workworkwork, walk outside, workwork.
Have a salad that contained exactly three leaves. (Everything else was beets and goat cheese and walnuts and mandarins. It was delicious. But not a salad.)
Go to the bike shop. Waffle over bikes. Decide I don't really want the very pretty one, but end up enamored with a very practical black one.
Go for a walk. Waffle some more. Call mother. Discuss bicycle issue.
Return to bike shop. Convince salesman to correct the hideousness of the bike's handlebars. Replace most shiny things on the bike with matte black.
Buy bike.
Realize it's very nearly 9:00.
Bike very quickly to the movie theater to watch ODDSAC.
Attempt to find some kind of plot line in said movie, despite being almost 20 minutes late and it being an experimental film.
Never look at marshmallows the same way again.
Have a very odd urge to find a good-quality bootleg of it for iconing purposes.
Sit in amazement while witnessing actual militant feminist film critics snarking at the director (fantastic).
Introduce the new bike to the CTA. (I can carry it up stairs. With one hand! It is fantastic for that reason alone. But also it is very fast (nearly a street bike, really). And pretty in a much more practical way. I think we will be great friends. Especially since it's going to be 65 for the next two days.)


evilhippo: hippo (Default)


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