There I was, cruising through Delta Quadrant at warp 7, when a giant cube appeared on the view screen...

And so I signed up for the Book of Face.

This will give me another thing to feel guilty about not updating.

Good morning, Ireland, how are ya?

B and I went to England for Worldcon, and then to Ireland because she never had, and because at least one of her ancestors  was from Cork. We learned nothing new about Peter Murphy, nor did we expect to, but now she's seen the Auld Sod and we had many adventures. Here's one.

We were in Portmarnock, a resort town just north of Dublin, to visit a friend and to decompress a little before our flight back to America. The hotel restaurant was broken up into a bar and restaurant area, and the only thing wrong with the restaurant was that they were playing muzak that obscured the live music in the bar. B was having none of that, and I soon found myself with a Guinness and my trip notebook writing notes while B went up and sang with the guys doing a jam session.  It took me somewhat longer than I care to admit to realize that one of us was having way more fun than the other, so I jammed my notebook into my pocket and went to join the fun. One of the guys, Kirin, asked B where she was from. She answered "Chicago."  "Where in Chicago?"  "Northwest side." "Where on the northwest side?"

Turns  out the guy had lived in Edison Park, a Chicago neighborhood that B rides her bike through everyday on her way to work, for sixteen years. Ireland is like that. First time I went, I had people asking me how the Cubs were doing. Someday, Sinn Féin will claim Cook as a lost county.

Anyway, we sang. We sang a few Irish tunes, but mostly we sang American rock. City of New Orleans is prominent in my mind. John Denver came up, though one of the players hated his music. One of the guys was an Irish Catholic Neil Diamond clone, and we sang more of his stuff than I had ever realized there was. The whole bar joined in on America while beaming at us.

We went to bed at midnight, exhausted and happy.

So far, so good.

There are places where a 5 or 6 inch rain is no big deal, Chicago, whose name comes from a Pottawatomie word meaning: "What kind of moron builds a city in a swamp?" is not one of them.

The North Branch of the Chicago River has wandered about 150 yards closer to our house than is its usual habit. Also, it traditionally flows under, rather than over the bridge at Foster Ave. Since it's still about a half-mile away from us, this is no cause for alarm for Bonnie and me, but does give our neighbors to the north a topic of conversation. Ironically enough, Deep Tunnel, a major chunk of civil engineering intended to alleviate flooding, runs directly under the affected real estate. It doesn't seem to be helping them much.

On the other hand, our new sewer appears to working just fine; we're high and dry. Maybe I'll cancel the gopher wood order.

Someone Has Stolen Our Sidewalk...

...but it's OK, they promptly replaced it.

Not so much the street we live on, which is still missing.

Let me explain: Last December we got notice from the City that (using a combination of Stimulus and TIF money) they were going to replace the sewers on our street--built in 1912--with sewers that might actually have the capacity to drain away storm water before it floods everyone's basements.  This was quite welcome news: since Chicago uses a mixed sewer system, with rainwater and sewage running through the same pipes, basement floods are... unpleasant.

People's Gas decided that this would be a good opportunity to replace some similarly aged gas lines, and the Department of Water Management decided, oh, what the heck, let's put in a new water main and fire hydrants.

So every day since just after Christmas, Kewanee Ave, the street that fronts our house, has gotten a little more chewed up.  For you GTers out there, think of a wider version of the last two miles to the stamp sands. For those of you who've never had the pleasure, let's just say that I'm glad our car has high ground clearance.

Chicago's subsoil is clay; this clay was, as best I can tell, developed by the 3M company for maximum adhesive properties while wet, and to set to a concrete-like hardness when dry.  We've become considerably more familiar with this stuff, and the gravel that the contractors are using to fill the holes they make in it, than we ever wanted to be.

We live on the corner, our "front" door is actually on the side of the house, on a street that has, so far, not been torn up.  This would be pretty good, except for the river of mud that flows down that street when it rains, and the dust storms that blow down it when it's dry.  Ah well, the City told us it would be a month, and it's only been a little over three, so they're pretty much on schedule.  I was chatting with some of the workers the other day, and they think they'll have Kewanee repaved in about two weeks; they put in new curbs yesterday, so this is actually plausible.  If the new sewers work as advertised, it will have been well worth the inconvenience.

Which brings me to the sidewalk.  The sidewalk in question is in front of our house, and had badly subsided. I was expecting to have to have it replaced sometime in the next few years, an expense I was not looking forward to.  Imagine my delight when I looked out my front window bright and early Monday and saw a guy in a Gradall tearing up said walk, doing a remarkably efficient job of it, in fact.  I watched him for a while, marveling at how he was popping each square out of the ground, delicately balancing them on the bucket and loading them into a waiting dump truck.  He took up about 30 feet of walk in the ten minutes or so I watched.  "Excellent, I thought,  "New sidewalk, here we come!"  Then I went and did something productive for the next several hours.

After lunch, I went for a walk, and discovered that only our, and our neighbor's walks had been taken up. Given the rate of destruction, I thought they would have managed the whole block by then.  I asked one of the construction guys about it, and he started laughing. It seems that the work order was for tear out and replacement  of two squares on the corner that had been damaged  by  running heavy construction equipment over them, not the whole block!  Apparently, there was some consternation when the City inspector showed up.

The upshot is, we've got a brand new sidewalk, paid for by the contractor, rather than out of our tax money or our pockets directly.  First time I've ever had something nice to say about a City inspector.

The Good News Is: The Airbags Worked Perfectly!

And Bonnie is just a little bruised and scraped.  She should be fine.

Our new (the Ropers' old) minivan, not so much.

It happened on Elston, just north of Addison.  Bonnie was going northwest, coming home from work, when a young lady going southeast decided to be in the northwest lane for a bit. Apparently, she was watching a guy who was tailgating her, rather than where she was going, when she decided to go around a parked bus.  Not the best possible decision.  Several witnesses came forward, and they all told the same story: there was nothing Bonnie could do.  The other driver got two tickets, and the accident report makes it clear Bonnie was blameless.

I'm a bit frazzled. First phone call went, more or less:  "Hi, I was in a head-on collision."  "What!? Are you hurt?"  "I don't know, I don't think so. I have to go, they're loading me into the ambulance."  "Which hospital?"  "Don't know, I'll call you back. Bye."

I found this conversation to be unsatisfactory in several respects.

Several phone calls later, I knew where she was (Swedish Covenant Hospital) and that, while a bit banged up, she had no serious injuries.  Bonnie's folks and I picked her up and got her home.  We'll see how she feels in the morning.

Go airbags!

SOPA redux

My Representative, Mike Quigley, has come out against SOPA.  I'm going to flatter myself that my phone calls and emails had something to do with that.

He gets a thank you call tomorrow. Durbin gets more nastygrams.

SOPA dope

Just got off the phone after calling my legislators. Results:

Senator Mark Kirk (Republican) opposes PIPA/SOPA.

Senator Richard Durbin (Democrat) is cosponsoring PIPA (the nice lady who took my call seemed rather sheepish about this)

Representative Mike Quigley (Invertebrate) is still on the fence.

I, of course, told them I support censoring the Internet, because, well, what good is freedom of expression if it means screwing up some dinosaur's business model?

If you feel otherwise, and are an American, go to Wikipedia. The blackout page has a link to contact info for your congresscritters.

News from the Future!

January 20, 2013--Washington, DC

Rick Perry, as his first, and apparently last, official act as President of the United States, today signed an Executive Order abolishing the entire Executive Branch of the US government.

"Energy Department, I meant Energy Department!" the now former President exclaimed as he was escorted from the shuttered White House. "I knew it was something that started with an 'e'!"  As there is no Executive Branch at this point, Mr. Perry is no longer President, and so cannot revise the EO in question.

Frantic attempts to convene the Supreme Court in emergency session to rule on the constitutionality of the order were thwarted by the inability of any of the Justices to stop giggling.

Ask a stupid question...

Two weeks ago, I asked if we could have the 4th amendment back.

Yesterday, in an eight to one decision, the Supreme Court answered with a hearty "Fuck you!"

Thank you, Justice Ginsburg, for dissenting.  I take back many of the nasty things I said about you after the Kelo case. (Edited to replace dead link)