Wednesday, October 01, 2014

What I learned about working Downtown, Part 2

After working in the Ravenswood neighborhood for 13 years, my company moved to a new space in downtown Chicago.

These are some of the things that I've learned in my short time of working in our new space:

The prices for snacks is too damn high - alright, I know, we're downtown.....downtown is expensive, but dayum!

Seriously though, at Ogillvie Transportation Center there is a bookstore that sells small packages of Swedish Fish, a 5oz bag mind you, for $5.19.  Woah Nellie!  That's expensive, I'd really need to be jonesing for some Swedish Fish to pay that price!

Fortunately there are regular stores around here (Walgreens, CVS, Walmart) so if you take the time you can get good prices, but if you're in a hurry and want it now - well god damn it, you're gonna pay for it!

But still, I'll just go to Target in Evanston and get my fill for the cheap and stock my drawer!

I enjoy riding the train to/from work - I've been taking Metra (the commuter train) to/from work for about 2 months now.

It's nice to just jump on the train, find a seat, pull my Kindle out and read uninterrupted until we reach our destination.  Yes I may need to move my knees to let someone get by, but not having to worry about traffic, or speed cameras or anything road related is the most calming thing of all.

Plus I've been reading like CRAZY!  I've always liked to read, but as I get older the only time I read is when there is NOTHING else to do.  The train is perfect for that!  I'm embarrassed to admit that I am almost finished reading The Maze trilogy, which I just started reading about 6 weeks ago.

I've got 25 minutes of uninterrupted reading going both ways - and yes I go both ways!

You can eat lunch at a different place every day - WOW much food, such choices, so good!

In Ravenswood, where our office was before, we had limited choices for lunchtime - really limited.  But now that we're downtown we could eat at a different place every day for a year and never have to repeat - there's just that many.

Want Cinnabon for lunch - Check!  Want Chinese for lunch - Check!  Want Greek for lunch - Check!  There's everything and anything you want to eat and even more stuff you want to eat but you know you can't eat - yes Garrett's Popcorn - I'm talking about you!

The food choices is beyond amazeballs, the best thing though is that we found out we're only 10 minutes to the gym.  So even if I eat like a little piggy I can make sure that I work out and not take on the shape of a little piggy!

Monday, September 29, 2014

What I learned about working downtown, Part 1

After working in the Ravenswood neighborhood for 13 years, my company has moved to a spectacular new space in downtown Chicago.

There's been a big learning curve about what it takes to work downtown, a BIG learning curve, for example:

Some people just can't merge - whether they're driving a car or walking down the sidewalk, some people just can't merge. It's like their brain throws up the blue screen of death and they just walk right into you.

People on the Metra though are usually pretty good about merging, we're all going the same way, we're all gonna get off the train eventually so people will let you out in front of them. On the street though it's a totally different story.

Just this week some woman walked right into me, even though I was on the correct side for my direction of traffic and she was coming in at a 90 degree angle - she just couldn't merge! I have a feeling she may drive the same way.

Some people are just oblivious to their surroundings - our new office is not really in the touristy part of the city, but it is right next to Union Station.  So there are a lot of touristy-esque people arriving via commuter train, mega bus and Amtrak who are making their way "through" the business district to get to the tourist district.

You can usually tell who they are because they're lugging a suitcase (without wheels) and walking three-abreast on the sidewalk having a three-way conversation that is way too loud and WAY too personal to be having on the sidewalk.

The best though is when it's lunch time and someone has just arrived and they feel the need to have their picture taken on one of the bridges, in front of a non-descript highrise all while blocking pedestrian traffic both ways while they try to see the screen of their phone to get the perfect shot.  It's even better when they don't apologize for holding up traffic because everyone else has the common decency to not walk through while they're taking a picture.

It's not as easy to navigate a revolving door as you think - Revolving doors are easy, right?  WRONG!

If you're the only one around then YES revolving doors are thuper easy, but if there is a mass of people it's almost pandemonium.

Imagine you're approaching the revolving door, as you get closer you see someone on the other side of the door trying to get in.  You've got to time it perfectly so that when you (or they) push the door to get through that you're not blocking the other person - that's just an asshole move!  You've also got to make sure that you don't push the door too fast, in case the person behind you, in front of you or trying to get in doesn't move as fast as you do.

Finally, if you're like me and you're going through a revolving door with a lot of people, it's better to just pretend that you're pushing the door when you put your hands on the rail, just put 'em there and enjoy the ride.  Let those other suckers spin the door for you!

Friday, September 12, 2014

What a way to shame me ComEd


I got this letter in the mail today from our energy carrier ComEd of Illinois, shaming me into using 673% more energy last month than my neighbors.  How in the world could I use 673% more electricity than my neighbors?

Now here's what had happened:  The room where the electric meters are had a lock changed in November....unbeknownst to us, ComEd was no longer able to get into the room to read the meters so from November '13 through almost June '14 they were estimating our monthly bills

Yes, for almost 7 months they were guesstimating what our usage was....usage history from last year, the year we didn't have a horribly cold and treacherous winter, and it was grossly under estimated. That's ok though because we're using Budget Billing and it really doesn't matter to me - it all comes out in the wash.

We finally had the issue corrected, they got access to the room, they read the meters that day and our next bill was Actual instead of Estimated - hooray!

Because of the long period between actual readings and ComEd's gross under reporting for estimated use, it appeared as though we used 1794 kWh for the month - which is a shit load of electricity!

So they send me this "Home Energy Report" showing that last month the average of all my neighbors electricity use was 232 kWh and the "most efficient" neighbors barely used 112 kWh, all the while I used a whopping 1,794 kWh for the month.  I'm awaiting a knock on my door from the authorities to bust me for having an illicit grow house in my spare bedroom (which by the way I don't), but if the electric company thinks that my absurd electricity use is worth a letter - who knows what anyone else thinks.

I just hope that the police look at next months bill to see that I'm not using all that much energy before they come knocking.

**UPDATE** Uhm yeah, about that next month thing.....we waste energy....I'm expecting a knock any day now!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A fond farewell to Ravenswood

A fond farewell to Ravenswood:  Newark has been at the corner of W Lawrence and N Ravenswood Avenue for more than 30 years.  As of close of business on Friday, we are officially a "Downtown Company".

I've enjoyed working in this building for 13 years, but I won't miss working here.  It's been close to home, but the new office is only a 10 minute longer commute by train.

This week has been bittersweet as we've been forced to pack up our belongings by tossing in orange crates going downtown or gray dumpsters on their way to the trash.  It's been cathartic to get rid of things, to question the validity of others and realize "you just don't need this anymore so toss it gurl!"

Pictures came off the walls, drawers were emptied, files were purged and it all ended with taking my nametag off of my cubical wall and putting it with the others I've collected along the years.

We said our goodbyes to neighbors, people we see on the street everyday or that serve us our coffee or lunches.  We went to our favorite haunts to have a last hurrah, we made peace with the idea of maybe never stepping in the neighborhood again.

Come Monday, it will be an all new adventure.  I've been joking all along that we're gonna be like the Beverly Hillbillies on our first day, looking up at the skyscrapers, can't believing there's that many people on the street.  It'll be fun in our new home, finding new places to eat, places to sit, places to drink, places to visit.

Although I'll fondly miss the view out the window, behind my cube, of the beautiful Golden Nugget Restaurant, I know that I'll love my 22nd floor west side view everyday.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Way back in 2005 I conducted an unofficial poll to find out what Jolly Rancher flavor was the most popular.

One of the results of that poll was also finding out what flavor was the least popular.

The other day as I was walking back from a friends house I stopped in one of the little bodegas and they had this big container of Jolly Ranchers on the counter, only a nickle a piece.

But what got me was the predominant flavor that was in the container was GRAPE - the same reviled flavor that I discovered way back when.....only now, here it was in real life.

People had the choice to get whatever flavor Jolly Rancher they wanted and almost everyone has left the poor little Grape one in the container.

It was just funny to see the Jolly Rancher Experiment on a larger more public scale and they came to the same results as I did.....no one likes Grape.

But we like Grapes and Grape Jelly, so why not Grape Jolly Ranchers?

Why don't you like Grape Jolly Ranchers, you need to explain yourself?

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Why do you torment me like this

F5 F5 F5 F5 F5 F5 F5 F5 F5 F5 F5 F5

That's what runs through my mind ever afternoon about 3:30....that time when it's a few hours after you've eaten lunch and still quite sometime before dinner.

That time when you've got a rumbling in your tummy but there's nothing to eat at your desk, well besides Jolly Ranchers and Hershey Bars!

That time when you think you're just going to fall over because the pains in your stomach are causing you to fold in half to hide the noises emanating from deep within you.

Damn you Little Debbie, I hate you for being so crunchy and oh so delightful!

Why do your crisp wafer layers have to be separated by smooth peanut butter and dipped in a light but ever present chocolate topping? WHY?

Why can't you taste like a stale tortilla chip dipped in rancid guacamole?

I hate you for being so convenient as well. Why do they have to put you in the vending machine where I can easily obtain you? Why don't they only sell healthy things in that damn machine? WHY? That's all I'm asking, WHY?

I hope you burn in hell Little Debbie, that's all I pray for every day. Well that's what I wish for every day when I'm munching on your lovely sweet goodness (uhm, get your mind out of the gutter please).

Rot in hell Little Debbie, Rot in Hell!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Gettin Jiggy With It "Old Style"


This was originally written on January 27, 2001, but for some reason I must have hit "save" instead of Post. So here you go.

A friend surprised me this week with a vintage present, a cassette tape of the original "Into The Woods" cast album! We've been talking about this show recently, because it's Sondheim and we've been on a Sondheim kick since we went to NYC and saw Company. He asked me if I knew the music and I said "Oh yeah, I used to have it on cassette tape and it was one of my favorite tapes when I was growing up. "

Which made me have a vintage thought........thinking about the last time I really listened to this tape.....on a cassette player.....I was suddenly transported back to the late-mid-Eighties (That's the nice way to say 1987)....there I was in High School with my big hair and geeky glasses....pretending I was straight.

Looking back on it, I was SO GAY the funny thing is that I REALLY thought I was hiding it. I used to listen showtunes on my cassette player for God's Sake. I had all the hits of the day on cassette: CATS!, Phantom and Les Miz. I had listened to those cassette tapes so many times that the ink was rubbed off of the label....and then somewhere around 1987 or so "Into the Woods" came around. I had already been to New York several times by this time and I was mad that I heard about Into the Woods - after it had already closed.

I love this soundtrack, a few months ago The Boyfriend bought the "revival" version with Vanessa Williams - ick she can't hold a candle to Bernadette Peters. I used to listen to this tape more often than the others because I knew all of them by heart and this was new. Also this was Sondheim, and to me Sondheim was hi-brow! You either appreciate Sondheim or you don't, I'm not going to try and explain it. Unfortunately I never had the chance to see this live, but I used to sing the songs all the time. I'm sure I was singing out loud in the car and not even caring, all the while thinking that people thought I was straight.

The only problem with this gem of a musical find is that I only own one cassette player (remember when it used to be "I only own 1 CD player) and that is in the boombox that I keep in my bathroom! (And it's the same one that Ms. Mac has) So the last few days I've been listening to it while I'm getting ready for work in the morning. I've been singing in the shower, surprised at how many lyrics I remember.....it's really weird, I haven't listened to this version in probably 15+ years but it comes back so quickly.

Isn't it great though when you can be transported back to a place just by listening to music?

So, I'll share my High School picture if you'll share yours....who's going first?

**POST SCRIPT** I still love "Into the Woods" and I'm really excited that a movie version is being filmed now and will be out soon.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Does Uber Hurt Taxi Services?

I'm sure that it does, but in my experience NO!

I just started using Uber about a month ago and I've used it about 6 times so far.  All of the trips have been short (going to the besties house to hang out and drink) but they were efficient.

The neighborhood that I live in is not well traversed by Taxis, in fact I don't think I've ever seen an empty Taxi on my street looking for fares.  Even if I walk two blocks to the "main thoroughfare" it's still hit or miss, there is no reliable Taxi service in my neighborhood.  Yes I can call a Taxi company and order a Taxi but there are many problems with that: firstly, just trying to get to dispatch.  The few times I've called to order a Taxi it has taken multiple calls to the dispatch to even TALK to someone who may or may not be able to get a Taxi for you.  They'll "say" they're sending one out, but there's no guarantee, so you could be sitting there forever waiting for a cab.  Even if they do dispatch, that doesn't mean that a driver will pick it up.  Most drivers want long expensive fares to the airport (who can blame them) they don't want to schlep me between my house and my besties.

The nice thing about Uber is that it is FAST, I mean like super fast.  You can't order an Uber car until you're ready to walk out the door.  The first time I ordered an Uber it was there before I was done brushing my teeth.  When you pull up the Uber app you see immediately how long it will take to get a car, the longest I've ever seen it for my neighborhood was 7 minutes and it arrived a few minutes less than that.

After you order an Uber you immediately know who your driver is (one day my drivers name was Sunday) along with a picture, the kind of car they're driving and their license plate number.  Then it's just a matter of waiting, but there's not much waiting.  You get a text to confirm your Uber and you get a text when they're close by.  Heck you can even follow along in the app to see EXACTLY where they are.

Once you're in the car is the only time I've had an issue with Uber.....where to sit, front or back?  It feels natural to get in the back seat of a Taxi, because you're protected by that plexiglass separating you and the driver, but in an Uber it feels weird to get in the back seat, like you're Miss Daisy or something.  I've ridden up front twice in my trips the rest were in the back seat, its cool, it just feels weird.

The other nice thing about Uber is that it's cashless.  No fumbling trying to pull money out of my pocket, no trying to figure out how much of a tip I should give, you just get in the car, politely tell the driver where you'd like to go and that's it.

I know the Taxi companies are complaining that Uber is not playing fare, but in my opinion it's the Taxi companies that need to step up their game.  If a Taxi company could provide me with the level of service that Uber provides me, I would use it!  But they don't.  You can't track an ordered cab, that is if you can order it to begin with, you can't be guaranteed you'll find a cab on the street, you can't go cashless (I REFUSE to use my credit card on one of those machines in a cab), but you do always know that you should sit in the backseat!

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Nintendo discontinues online gaming for Mario Kart - I'm devestated

Why Nintendo, why did you do it?  Why did you discontinue the Wi-Fi connect service for Mario Kart?

Is it all because your shiny new Mario Kart 8 came out for Wii U a few days ago?  Are you just trying to be mean?  

I'm not buying a Wii U, dude, so I guess it's over between us. 

Mario, we had a good run.  I bought you a year after you came out and we played a lot of games.  First we played tennis, oh god did we play tennis.  We got to the point where we were playing 2-player/4 handed tennis.  Where one remote controls the front player and one controls the back player. I'll tell ya, my roommate and I were REALLY good at 4-handed Tennis.  

We had our Wii-mbledon Tournament that one year, where I had fake grass as a table cloth and we had a ten dollar entry fee.  The winner, after many rounds won the grand prize of a $109 and a tiara.  And then we met Mario Kart.

Sorry Tennis, your old hat now and we've played you so many times that even we were bored of you - it was bound to happen.  Mario was new and shiny and bright....and FAST!  

And you could play online against people around the world!  Oh the joy of being able to beat a kid in Germany who you knew was only 5 and taking a whipping from the Granny in South America.....playing you online was fun!

The first time I saw Rainbow Road I think I peed a little - that thing scared the crap out of me!  Not anymore, now its the one I choose when I want to fuck with a group or show them who's boss....and then get quickly knocked off the first jump by that Asian person who is up at 6am playing before work, WTF!

The other great thing was that you could play against friends, and set up your own races, and we did that too.....with Conference Calls!  Oh yes, you heard me right.  We had a standing Sunday night invitational set up that started with everyone getting on a Conference Call.

Playing online against people you don't know is cool.......but playing against people you know AND be able to talk shit while you're playing them is fucking priceless.  We did that for about six months, it was fun while it lasted....but you can only talk so much shit...and play so many rounds before even that gets boring.

But I wasn't done with you Mario Kart, nope.  Even after my BFF and I would play online against each other, until.....he sold his console.  So then I was left to my own vices.

Oh Mario Kart, you don't know how sad I was tonight.  I had gotten home from work, went to the gym, had eaten and taken a shower and I said "Hey, I'm gonna play some Mario Kart tonight" and I was happy.  

I turned on the TV, the Wii powered up and made that nasty whine, I punched through the menus and hit the Wi-Fi Connect service.....and that's when I got the error.  Error....oh that's strange?  Oh wait, I don't think I'm connected, I changed my router...let me check.

I went through all the diagnostics, did a system update and thought "well that's fixed it" to only be presented with the same error......to which this time I read.....at first the words didn't make sense, I didn't want them to make sense....service....discontinued......no longer available.....that's when things went grey and and I slumped back in my chair......I clutched my pearls and whispered "discontinued" over and over like someone doing the rosary.

A few hours later I came to, my hand hurting from clutching the Mario Kart steering wheel so tightly.  I thought, I can get through this.....let's play a game.  

Well that didn't work, it sucked.  Just KNOWING that I was never gonna be able to yell at some 7-year old somewhere in the world who was fucking bumping into me and being a pain made me not able to play.  I just couldn't enjoy it.  

Playing the computer sucks!

There is some joy in this though, it's not just me.  Nintendo discontinued the entire Wi-Fi Connect Service for Wii and DS.  

You always know it's going to happen, in the back of your mind, you don't want to think about when it's going to happen, but you know it's gonna happen. Sooner or later, but it's still hard when it happens.  You're just not as strong as you thought you'd be when it happened, but you get through.....you get through.