Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Yes, Blogging is Still Worthwhile

I know, I know.

I promised I wouldn't let this blog lie dormant again, in 2018, but I haven't posted a sentence here since. The reason is simply that I've been occupied with a much larger writing project, that has consumed the bulk of my time away from my job, from which I retired yesterday.

At last I have the time free not only for other writing projects, but for this blog, and another I started a few years ago, but which I hid as I simply had not the time to spare for it, In Search of Civilization, a place to discuss anything that doesn't concern neighborhood and Chicago matters. I expect to have the blog live in a few days, but my posts on both sites will be rather sporadic, because there are many more claims on my time than I expected to have in retirement. Really, I don't know how anyone can be bored in retirement; most people I know find that their calendars fill up quickly- writing projects, painting, working out, travel, socializing, in addition to hundreds of books to be read and events to attend, in addition to the usual course-of-living chores.

Many people might wonder why anyone who doesn't already have a well-established blog with a large readership, would bother with one these days. It's thought that social media has made blogging beside the point, and that may be true for people for whom a blog was merely a place to post favorite news articles, and connect with friends. Facebook performs those functions rather well, and I've found it useful and entertaining. But it's limited in what you can really do with it. I mean, you can't really write on Facebook, never mind sites like Twitter and Snapchat, that I don't even bother with. A blog is yours, in a way that your social media page can never really be, where your readers will not be distracted by hundreds of other posts from a list of thousands of "friends", to say nothing of advertisements, and you can control the content and appearance to an extent not possible on someone else's site.

As in the past, this blog will focus on Chicago's far north lake front neighborhoods: West Ridge, Rogers Park, and Edgewater, and on issues that effect their residents.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Has it really been six years since I posted anything on this blog?

Yep..my last post here was in 2012, just before my mother's passing, and that of my brother-in-law a year later, and two close male friends of decades. Since that time, I've moved twice, buying two West Ridge condos and selling one in a four-year period, and became immersed in a large writing project... and social media.

Many people are saying that the social media sites replace blogging, but to me, at least, there is a gaping void left where dozens of neighborhood and personal blogs used to be. For one thing, a Facebook post just can't have the depth and detail that a personal article of a few hundred words or more, never mind a 140-character " tweet".. You have to fear for your civilization when major issues are reduced to one line, especially those lines are the principal manner of communication with the public by the leader of the semi-free world.  Additionally, most people tend to be allover the map on their social network pages, posting everything from pics of of family and friends, to political statements, to links to articles. These sites are useful and fun, but really not very satisfying.

So I'm reviving my blogs. I have two- this one, which is dedicated to all things to do with the neighborhoods on the far north lake front of Chicago; and In Search of Civilization, which has been "parked" for nearly a decade, and which is more general, and focuses social and economic issues. With luck, I'll be posting on both at least once a week. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Let's Keep Pushing Back on Proposed E-Cigarette Ban in Chicago

Supporters of the proposed ban on e-cigarettes in Chicago, which would classify them as "tobacco" products and subject them to the same restrictions as burning-leaf tobacco, have not been discouraged by the considerable push back by Chicago aldermen and their constituents. The measure was proposed by Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and is strongly supported by prominent Nanny State Fascist, Alderman Ed Burke, 14th Ward.

So far, there has been a lot of spirited resistance, notably from 42nd Ward Alderman Brendan Reilly, who puffed on his e-cigarette in council chambers and stated that the devices were aiding him in ending his smoking habit.

Let's keep pushing back. In spite of exerting itself to the utmost to find a reason to regulate and restrict the use of e-cigarettes and liquid nicotine, the FDA has not been able to establish that the use of e-cigarettes harms the user or persons near him.The user exhales water vapor, not smoke, which is by and large odorless and harmless to persons nearby. Supporters of a ban report that some people are "annoyed" by the use of the devices in public place, while others rail that the products are being marketed to children, because of the prevalence of candy-flavored e-liquids, though all sites and outlets marketing the cigarettes and e-liquids restrict purchases to those age 18 and over.

 Those who support the ban are trying to have the Joint Committee on Health and Environmental Justice & Finance vote on the proposed ordinance tomorrow, January 13, at 11:00 AM.

You can voice your opposition to this unwarranted intrusion into our lives and businesses by writing or calling your alderman. If you don't know who your alderman is, go to City of Chicago and type in your address. You will be provided with a link to your alderman's page with contact information.

Friday, February 10, 2012

CTA Update: Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of Red Line North

The Chicago Transit Authority held two public open house meetings, one in Evanston, and one in Edgewater at the Broadway Armory this past Tuesday evening, to update the public on plans to rehabilitate and reconstruct the north branch of the Red Line and the Purple Line.

There are four alternatives under discussion: Reconstruction and consolidation of some stations; reconstruction without consolidation; minimal rehabilitation; and no rehabilitation, with only minimal repairs.

Reconstruction will involve completely rebuilding the Purple Line except at stations where the roadbed has been replaced already, and the Red Line north of Addison. The plan calls for a new elevated structure with four tracks, the replacement of several stations with new ADA-compliant stations with 24'-wide platforms, elevators, and escalator; rebuilding the Wilson and Loyola stations as transfer points on the Purple Line; and the possible elimination of the Lawrence, Thorndale, and Jarvis stops on the Red Line, and the Foster and South Blvd stations on the Purple. Red Line platforms would be extended to accommodate 10-car trains and Purple Line Stations would be extended to berth 8-car trains.

It's hard to think of a more critical issue for the city than the rehabilitation and expansion of our century-old rapid transit system, which has been allowed to become extremely degraded while ridership has grown rapidly in the past decade. Ridership of CTA trains in the city has boomed, and in 2010, ridership on the Red Line reached the level of 1927, it's previous peak, hauling nearly a quarter-million people per day, for 38.5 million riders in 2010, surpassing that of the previous peak in 1927.This increase has mostly been on the north branch of the line. The three major north side lines- the north branch of the Red, the Brown Line, and the O'Hare branch of the Blue line, together haul 59% of the CTA rail system's passengers.

The boom in ridership is no doubt due to the sharp uptick in fuel prices in the past decade, with the promise of many more increases and possibly shortages to come, as the peaking of liquid fuels gains traction and car ownership becomes an unbearable burden for urban denizens. This development is likely to be permanent, and the next decade will most likely see steeply reduced rates of auto ownership along with swelling demand for public transportation. Cities will need improved public transportation in order to remain competitive. Therefore, it is imperative that any major overhaul and reconstruction of the system be planned to allow for the addition of new lines and greatly increased population density in Chicago as people abandon their car-dependent lifestyles in the auto suburbs of the 20th century and return to cities and towns where they have access to public transportation and can live within walking distance of services and jobs.

The plans made so far do not project increased ridership greatly increased over current levels, and what is being planned at this time is the replacement of the line between Addison and Howard. The rebuild would merely replace the existing decrepit structure with a greatly improved line, and while it will permit longer trains and feature greatly improved comfort and safety by building wider platforms and larger stations with improved egress, it will not permit more trains than can currently be safely run, and most of all it is "closed" in that no provisions are being made for new lines to connect to it, such as a connecting line that runs over Touhy Ave between the Cumberland or Rosemont stations on the Blue Line and the Howard station on the Red;  or- dare we dream- crosstown lines over Belmont and Lawrence to bypass the nightmarish congestion on these narrow, heavily traveled throughways. Another timely addition would be a spur on the Brown Line into West Rogers Park, another high-density neighborhood, to run from the Lincoln/Western station up Western to Howard. This would relieve overcrowding on the Red Line, and it might be that a whole new line is justified here. Yet more rail lines, including a another "loop" track to handle extra lines into the downtown area, should be figured into any plans we make now, even if it is another two decades or more before we actually build them. Failure to allow for upgrades and additional service means greater costs down the road, as we can see from the newly built stations at Belmont and Fullerton- will these stations need further expensive expansions to accommodate 10-car trains, which CTA has never run before? If planners had allowed for greater train lengths when designing these two stations, this rebuild would be a little cheaper.

The reconstruction of the Red Line is a once-in-a-century opportunity to plan for demand that does not exist yet but that could materialize very quickly given the trajectory of energy supplies and prices, which foretell an epic economic shift that will likely reverse the social and economic trends of the past 60 years. This shift will most likely bring more people into the city, for much greater population density than exists at this time. The planning process should allow for more retail/transit/mulitfamily housing hubs, where mixed use retail/commercial/mulitfamily housing could be built around rail stops and adjacent bus plazas.

Whatever we do here, it is imperative to seize the moment to make cohesive plans that will enable Chicago to handle higher population densities and supply housing, transit, and services for many more people than we have at the present.

Thorium Energy Alliance Conference to be Held in Chicago May 31-June 1 2012

T.E.A. Conference 4 - May 31, 2012

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More information on the conference location and schedule can be found below.
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Saturday, February 4, 2012

Public Meeting: CTA Update on Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of Red Line

The CTA is conducting two public meetings to discuss the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the Red Line, and possible closure of some stations. There will be a meeting in Evanston on Monday evening, February 6, at the Evanston Public Library on Orrington Ave, and in Edgewater at the Broadway Armory, 5917 N Broadway, on Tuesday evening, February 7th.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Pillars Social Cafe Opens

The eagerly anticipated Pillars Social Cafe has at last opened up in the vast corner commercial space in the 1200 W. Pratt building, at Pratt and Sheridan, and this formerly moribund corner now has two attractive alternatives to the corporate Starbucks down the block. The glossy,stylish cafe has a full compliment of coffee house fare, including hot and cold sandwiches, salads, soups, and pastries. Prices range from $7 to $9 for most menu items, and $2 to $4 for most pastries, with a less expensive children's menu.

I've stopped in a couple of times for pastries and a Pillars Panini, and am pretty well pleased.  The service is very courteous, and the place gleams with cleanliness and is very well-staffed. Opening a large restaurant in the current economic climate takes a lot of courage, but the bet looks like it might work, for every table was occupied when I stopped in this afternoon, and the place has been fairly well filled every time I've passed it on the weekend in the afternoon.

Here is hoping this great place will succeed rapidly and stay in the neighborhood for a long time.