Basic Bus Station Design

I went to Chicago (it’s a Grinnell thing, you wouldn’t understand) the last week in September. This is what the Greyhound station looked like when I was waiting to head back.

You’d think there would be a clock. Why is there no clock?

Chicago Greyhound station
Where the heck is a clock? It’s a bus station for heaven’s sake.

Nope. No clock visible from the spot where you charge things. Huh.

Edit: I looked again, turning myself about 120 degrees to the left, and spotted a grayish digital clock over Gates 1 through 12. I suppose that works, but it wasn’t that noticeable and… hey, bus station. People do need to know what time it is!

Here’s the other thing. Sadly, I was unable to snag a clearer photo of this particular design flaw because a rather aggressive police officer told me that “for security” I can’t take pictures there. (It probably is indeed illegal, because the world is still crazy over fake “terrorism,” but what a stupid law.)

Greyound station in Chicago, zoomed view
These gate numbers look nice, but they block your view of the buses’ destination signs.

Anyway, the other thing I’m trying to show you is visible in this zoomed-in image. Do you see the horizontal panel highlighted by my green rectangle? Okay, those are the express (red) gate numbers. Guess how high off the ground they are.

I don’t know either, but they’re at exactly the same height as the destination signs on the buses themselves. Come on. From across the room I might see that there’s a bus at Gate 15, but I can’t tell where it’s going. They could have raised or lowered the red panel, or left it out entirely.

Clearly, the “user experience” part of this design was not thought out. The architect made something pretty and modern but missed badly on some practical issues.

Why I'm not dumping ice on my head

Dammit. Dammit.

I got tapped the other day by my best friend and favorite person in the world, Dr. Katherine H. Clark, to do that “ice bucket challenge” thing. I was dreading that, and I really hate to say no to Dr.

Here are a few things about it:

  1. Bluntly, even though I know a bit about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) I… still don’t care that much about it. It’s a rather rare disease, terrible for those who are affected by it but… sigh. We can’t fix everything right away. I wouldn’t start there.
  2. The gimmicky nature of this thing pushes my “KONY 2012” buttons.
  3. Oh. I’m really uncomfortable with the part where you call your friends out publicly. I’m not Jewish, but I’m a big fan of Maimonides’s Eight Levels of Charity. Long story short, if people know you’re donating, it’s less of a mitzvah. This thing is designed to draw attention to your donation. It makes me uncomfortable.
  4. Furthermore, a hundred bucks to me isn’t the same as a hundred bucks to someone else.  I know a lot of people who would have to turn down (gently deflect, awkwardly ignore) the challenge because they money is just too much. I realize that it’s totally allowable to donate less if that’s what you can afford, but it’s still putting the expectation out there. It’s extra discomfort for people who don’t need one more thing to feel guilty about.
  5. Back to the gimmick–I realize that nonprofits do all kinds of clever things to attract attention and get people to give money. I’ve done fundraisers where you pay to join your friends for dinner, or where you pay for a concert, or where there are silly prizes. Sure. The ice-on-your-head thing, though, huh. Maybe I’m old and cranky. I guess the silliness ratio is just too high for my taste.
  6. Admittedly kind of a non sequitur: For the last two weeks I have been absolutely sick over the police-state bullshit going on in Missouri. It’s driving me crazy that people who consider themselves good Americans aren’t outraged by it. So part of me wants to say “Forget being ‘aware’ of a disease that isn’t anyone’s fault. Let’s all be a hell of a lot more aware of effectively losing the Bill of Rights.” Obviously the ALS fundraiser isn’t the problem here, but it still grates.
  7. My convenient excuse! My cardiologist says I need to avoid sudden extremes of heat and cold. There you go.
  8. Finally, now we’re deciding who lives and dies based on which charity has the silliest fundraisers? Cringe?

My objections add up to… not much really. I can’t find the exact words right now, but Dr said something like “Look, if you think it’s dumb that’s fine, but people are doing a fun and silly thing that is nice and helps others and I’m always in favor of doing nice things.”

Hmm. Dilemma. Dr’s right. I don’t want to bug out of doing a nice thing that helps people, but I don’t like this bucket-of-ice thing either and I am not that concerned about ALS.

Now something I do care about is kids with cancer. It’s not so rare: 1 child in 300 is diagnosed with some form of cancer before turning 18. Research into childhood cancer benefits everyone, including adults, and successful treatment of cancer in children obviously has the best payoff if you’re counting future healthy years.

And finally, one of my children was saved from a particularly harsh form of leukemia by an aggressive chemotherapy program that was part of a research project funded by the Children’s Oncology Group, which is now known as CureSearch. (They look pretty good on Charity Navigator too.) I’ll throw $100 in today, and rather than specifically calling out my friends I’m just going to ask you to consider doing the same.

Best of luck to the ALS people.

Stragglers gotta straggle.

Last night I went (again) on this semi-regular cycling event called The Slow Roll. As usual, Sam the organizer picked a spot, put out a Facebook event, and announced that the gathering starts at 6:00 and the actual ride starts at 6:30.

Also as usual, nobody’s wheels moved until about 7:00.

Now I would start showing up half an hour late for these things, but I can’t count on the half hour. Sometimes it’s twenty minutes. Sometimes it’s longer. Sometimes the waiting around is kind of fun. (No, it isn’t.) I can’t make plans around this.

Last night it was all census-taking, repeatedly, until the last few stragglers showed up from some other event. I’m still not clear on why they couldn’t just join us in progress–Lakewood isn’t that big a town. Stragglers gotta straggle.

So from now on, rather than stewing at the starting line, I’m going to start the Roll on time for myself and whoever else Rolls along. Maybe we’ll do a half-hour sized lap around the neighborhood.

When Sam’s crowd is ready to roll too, that’s great. They can catch up, or not. Riders gotta ride.


Best ice cream joint in Cleveland?


Last weekend I tried to take Grace Ellen and Adele to see Romeo and Juliet in Lincoln Park, but that didn’t work out so well because of the rain.

We bailed on the show but got some ice cream over at Churned, which has… basically nothing but ice cream, paper bowls, cake cones, and sugar cones. And they were out of sugar cones.

How can I describe the Churned experience? It’s ridiculously creamy, not too sweet, kind of dense, and smooth. (Huh. I’ve had dates matching that description. )

Anyway, you should try this place. It’s amazing.

I started this thing.



I don’t know if I told you this already, but I got a bike! I got a bike! For real! I might be a little excited about it.

How this happened

For years I put off acquiring a bicycle. It seemed like a really good idea, and lots of people I knew were really into cycling, and it would be easier on this one bad knee than running for exercise, and I was getting really tired of driving half a mile on errands when I was in a hurry because walking was taking too long. My best friend (henceforth known as “Dr”) has this thing where we make lists of “wants and needs.” She’s pretty clear on including things you want, not just things you need. My list included things like “I need a lot more silverware because I’m tired of running out of clean spoons all the time” and “I want the entire back catalog of Bikini Kill because I missed Riot Grrl punk the first time it came around.” When Christmas came around, we were invited to the new suburban home of my Future Ex (long story there) and The Smartest Guy I Know. Great fun and food was had, and someone brought chocolate, and I brought a microwave for Dr because she needs one and it was on her list. The event was all kinds of awesome. Among other things, Dr brought me a big pile of forks and knives and spoons; an original Sleater-Kinney CD; and an envelope with two shiny new $20 bills in it. Along with a note that said she was going to buy a gift certificate for Joy Machines but the shop was already closed so I had to play along and spend the forty bucks on a new bike. I sat on that for quite a few months, but finally I walked over to Fridrich’s (because I’m old school that way) and bought a bike! A red bike! It’s amazing! It’s the best thing ever! It cost a bit more than forty dollars but I’m okay with that. (Dr says I’m five years old now. Whatever.)

What it’s like

Okay, I’ve had this thing about three weeks and I think I last put gas in my car a month ago. And there’s still a third of a tank left. I just don’t drive anywhere I don’t absolutely have to. Getting on the bike is cheaper! It’s exercise! It’s getting out and seeing my friends! It’s being in the weather! It’s easy to park at the West Side Market, even on Saturdays! It’s like zero carbon! I am having absolutely the best time ever with this.

The Social Ride

Turns out, Cleveland has a pretty intense cycling culture. I think it’s because we’re dense enough that you can realistically bike to a lot of things but not dense enough to make walking and subways very practical. Whatever the reason, people do turn out for the Insomnia Ride (random late nights), Critical Mass (fourth Fridays downtown), and the Slow Roll (most Mondays). There’s even a group that goes from Westlake to Lorain for ice cream on Wednesdays. You can’t go wrong.


For me, though, the best thing is simply being able to go anywhere without caring much about the RTA schedules and not stressing about blowing carbon unnecessarily. Instead of driving to Dave’s Supermarket (about 2/3 of a mile) and thinking “geez, how wasteful” I can bike there and think “what a nice break!” It’s especially nice that every RTA bus has bike racks for two, and it’s easy to roll a bike onto the Red Line. (The Green and Blue are actually kind of inconvenient because the trains have a rather tight stairwell.) It’s not uncommon for me to catch the Red Line at the West 65th stop and get off at West Park or West 117th. (Most Red Line stations have elevators in case you don’t feel like hauling a cycle up steps too.) So, this is kind of my thing now. I feel like cycling anywhere is “free” and fun. I think I’ll use my new lights and take a lap around the neighborhood right now!