Saturday, August 30, 2008

Yellow Pages opt out

In the past year I've lived in Chicago, we've received enormous phone books at least twice. They get delivered to buildings where no one lives, can get soaked by rain and snow before getting picked up, and most seem to sit on the sidewalk for several days before ending up in the garbage. We have no need for a phone book (and apparently neither did anyone else in our building since they never brought them inside) so we recycled most of them.

Yellow Pages Goes Green is an organization committed to reducing the distribution of unwanted phone books. Ideally, the Yellow and White Pages should be delivered to people and businesses that request them. You can sign up to opt-out of the Yellow and White pages (there's still a possibility you'll get one anyways). The organization is trying to spread the word, so tell everyone you know to opt out! They won't share your information with anyone but the Yellow Pages to ask them to stop sending you phone books. It takes 30 seconds to sign up! What are you waiting for?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Vine on bike

While we were away for a week doing this:

And seeing this:

(Eastern red bat, Lasiurus borealis, in Virginia)

My cucumber was doing this...
...slowly trying to claim my bicycle as its own.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Boulevard Lakefront Tour

I just read about this on General Carlessness. The Boulevard Lakefront Tour has been going on for 20 years. They have different tour lengths highlighting the architecture and history of various Chicago neighborhoods. It sounds like fun!

Little Village Environmental Justice Organization

A friend just sent me a link to this organization. Little Village is located west of Pilsen, so it's not far from where we live. It sounds like they're working on some great campaigns and have done some good events.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Thanks Rachel!

One of my four readers gave me an award! Thank you Rachel.

I definitely don't have seven people to nominate, but there are a couple other Chicagoans worth noting for their beautiful blogs, and a California urban chicken blogger.

1. A WindyCityGal's Weblog
2. 24 boxes
3. Urban Chickens

I've got to figure out how to beautify my blog. It's so plain! Anyways.

Award Rules:

1. The winner can put the logo on her blog.
2. Link the person you received your award from.
3. Nominate at least 7 other blogs.
4. Put links of those blogs on yours.
5. Leave a message on the blogs of the people you’ve nominated

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Does this worry anyone else?

Every day on my way to UIC I bike under the train tracks that separate Pilsen from University Village/Little Italy. I most frequently bike under them on Morgan Street, but also on Racine and Halsted. Metra, Amtrak, and freight trains use these tracks continuously throughout the day. All of three of these train bridges are in a terrible state of decay. Yes, decay is the most fitting word. They are literally crumbling.

Those are holes on the right, and those flakes all came off of that column.

There are several tracks running across the bridge, and there is obviously an older part of the bridge and a newer concrete part. The new part looks fine, as far as I can tell. It's the old part that has me worried.

When I moved here a year ago and first saw the rusting supports, I thought, Eeek, that doesn't look good. I guess they don't use those tracks anymore. Then I saw an engine parked right on top of it, right on top of the crumbling supports.

This morning when I biked under the Morgan Street bridge the engine didn't stop right over it, but you can see the flatbed cars parked on top of it in this picture. Thankfully they're empty.

Above you can see the upper support beams (forgive me, I'm not an engineer) rusting away, and yes, that's daylight you can see through the holes.

Not only are the columns and support beams rusting, the concrete at the sides of the bridge is crumbling. I think the big storm on August 4 really made the erosion worse.

Below is a closer shot of the concrete erosion at the top.

I know that bridges are designed with structural redundancy, but I have a hard time believing that these rusty things are doing their job supporting the several freight trains that run over this particular part of the bridge several times each day.

Who should know about this? Who declares this safe?

How can Chicago possibly be a safe, resilient, efficient city if our railroad infrastructure is crumbing?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Urban fungi

On Friday I was walking from Union Station to the #60 bus stop when I spied something a little out of the ordinary. There was a mushroom growing in the few inches of bare ground between the sidewalk and a parking garage.

At first I just walked past, but then I thought, wait a minute, I don't remember the last time I saw a mushroom growing in downtown Chicago! So I stopped and took a picture of it, much to the bewilderment of the passers-by.

We know very little about fungi compared to plants and animals. The mushrooms that we see are like the tip of the iceberg- mushrooms are just the reproductive, spore-spreading structures for a vast below-ground network of fungi. I think this one probably immigrated with the mulch that you can see at the base.

I hope it goes without saying, but I'll add that I have no idea what kind of mushroom this is and therefore you should not eat it.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Erosion from the storm

I was at a conference in Milwaukee when the big storm happened last week, but I could easily see there had been a lot of rain in a very short period of time. I bike under the train tracks on Morgan between 15th and 16th almost every day and there are huge amounts of gravel all over the road because the railroad right-of-way is steep and eroding.

This is the gulley that formed just north of the tracks near University Village.

You can see the path the gravel took from the slope down to the road and under the underpass. It's all over the road.

The real bummer about this for me is that late last winter I spread a prairie seed mix all over that ugly brown area in the hopes that some of it might establish and make the place a little less of an eyesore. By mid-June it was covered in green but then a sad, but not entirely unexpected, thing happened. It started turning brown. Unnaturally brown. And it only got browner. The whole area was sprayed with herbicide, and now it is dead and ugly like you see in the photos. I know there wouldn't have been nearly as much erosion if they hadn't herbicided my plants. I wish I'd taken a picture of it when it was green.

I know that they spray railroad right-of-ways to reduce the fire risk, but did they really have to spray all the way down there, way below the tracks?

Saturday, August 2, 2008

First Pilsen Farmers Market!

Sunday, July 26, 2008, was the first Pilsen farmers market at the Community Bank and 18th Street and Halsted. Here are some photos from the event. The weather was perfect and the turnout looked good.

I bought cherries, blueberries, Echinacea (purple coneflower), Monarda (bee balm), and sugar snap peas. I learned that there is a beekeeper in my neighborhood with a hive just a few blocks away! I think I've seen her bees at my squash blossoms.

*Sorry I didn't actually post this sooner- I was waiting to download the photos from my camera.

Friday, August 1, 2008


I followed a link for a sponsored ad in my Gmail for vDumpsters. It looks like a cross between craigslist and freecycle. Virtual Dumpsters has branches in Australia and the UK as well. Has anyone tried it? I'm curious but don't want to make an account yet.