Friday, March 25, 2011

Cycling Season

From today's Voice of the People in the Chicago Tribune:
Cycling season
Warm weather has returned, and so have the arrogant bicycle riders who disregard the highway, street and sidewalk bicycle laws. It was the taxes on the automobile that helped these ignorant, riders who think they own the roads ride.
It is time for the police to enforce the bicycle rules of the road and issue tickets to bike riders who disregard the laws. Bicycles should have licenses for people who want to ride on the streets and .
Nancy Walker, Homer Glen
Cyclists who make the rest of us look bad by weaving through traffic and blowing stop signs aside, methinks Nancy needs to take a chill pill.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Active Shooter

On campus we have an alert system that sends out emails and, if you sign up, text messages in the event of emergencies.  These can include updates on things like crime and weather.

This morning I, along with everyone else on campus, received the following message via the alert system:

Subject: Active Shooter/Threat

Body of Message:
Active shooter at BUILDING NAME/INTERSECTION. Escape area if safe to do so or shield/secure your location.
Kind of scary right?  Especially since the message did not specify where this threat might be located.

Then, 8 minutes later we all received the following message:

Subject: All Clear

Body of Message:
"The previous message was sent in error. For details, please read forthcoming MassMail."
Kind of a big error don't you think?  During that 8 minute span, facebook and twitter blew up with people panicking.

This whole alert system doesn't really seem to be working very well. Today's example is probably the most extreme failure, but since it has been implemented we get regular updates on crimes that happen on or around campus. These can range from petty theft to more serious offences like assaults and attempted rape.

I think this is a case where more information may not necessarily be a good thing.  People seem to think we have had an increase in crime on campus. However, crime is actually down according to some people "in the know" that I have talked to, it's just that now anything that happens is more directly publicized.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day

I am spending St. Patrick's Day 2011 working from a hotel room in Atlanta.  Conference meetings over the next two days before heading back to IL for my spring break (which will be anything but).  I think my days of drinking beer - green or otherwise - in excess may be over.
Halloween 2007. And yes, that is a corn cob pipe in my mouth.
Thankfully getting old and becoming more mature are not necessarily the same thing.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Riding in the Desert

This weekend I spent 3 days doing some mtb riding with a buddy in the Phoenix area.  Each day we got out for 3 to 4 hours of riding, the best of which was day 3 when we hit up a local trail system.

Riding in the desert was fun, but I prefer sheltered trails in the woods with roots and ruts to open desert with rocks and, well, rocks.  I got to know a few cacti more intimately than I would have preferred, and tried to do as much climbing as I could possibly find.  And I got to ride a pretty sweet full suspension rental.

While I have no real intention or desire to move to a place like Phoenix - I would likely get skin cancer (or melt) within a matter of months - I have to say it was pretty sweet to enjoy 85 degrees and sunny clear skies in the middle of March.

Monday, March 7, 2011

On Social Contracts: Public Bathroom Etiquette

Social contracts refer to those agreements we have between one another and our environment which dictate our behavior and the nature of our interactions. These unwritten rules are the cornerstone of our society.

For example, technically marriage and manogamy represent a kind of social contract.  It is not illegal to cheat on your spouse or significant other, but it is generally agreed upon that it is a bad thing to do.

Other examples include holding the door open for a person behind you (although I am not sure if I am supposed to hold the door open for women now, or slam it in their faces to show them how much I support feminism), saying excuse me or god bless you, or - a topic near and dear to my heart - public locker room etiquette.

Today, I would like to broach a related subject, namely that of public bathroom etiquette.  Using the restroom is something we all do on a daily basis, most likely multiple times.  However, we seem to at least try to deny this.  For example, characters in movies or television rarely even use the restroom, let alone take a dump. And, as much as I think we'd like to assume otherwise, even girls have to poop sometimes.

Why do we ignore this basic human function, or at least downplay its signficant role in our lives?  Probably because it is kind of gross, and awkward.  And I am cool with that. 

However, most of us have to leave our homes for extended periods at some point and thus cannot avoid using a public restroom. Whether it be at work or while you are out doing something else, we are all faced with having to use a public bathroom on an almost daily basis. These situations can be quite awkward and, in some cases, even very stressful when you encounter other people - be they friends, colleagues, or complete strangers - who are in the same proverbial boat.

Thus the need for a social contract governing public restroom use.

In my opinion, there are some basic universal rules that should constitute this important agreement.

Rule #1: No talking, especially if either party is in the act of "doing their business." In fact, eye contact should even be avoided. A simple nod of the head is more than sufficient to not seem rude.

Rule #2: The every other seat/station rule.  Basically, if there is an option, you leave a space between you and the next user. Furthermore, upon entering an empty bathroom you should make your station choice so as to make it possible for incoming users to abide by Rule #2.

Rule #3: Any natural sound effects should be disregarded.  All involved parties should continue on as if nothing just happened.

So why I am posting this today?  Well, here is a picture of the "stations" in a public restroom I tend to frequent.

Today I had an encounter in the bathroom that involved the breaking of Rules 1 and 2.  You get the idea. Personally, I think the middle station should just be removed altogether.  

Thursday, March 3, 2011


It's been "warm" this week.  My car has not left the garage since Saturday, yet I have been to work everyday and made a small grocery run on Monday. With gas at $3.50/gallon, my most recent bike purchase is already paying for itself.

I have also been wearing the same pair of socks all week. And the same baselayer.  After roughly 60 bike commuting miles and 16 running miles neither one of them stink. In fact, they do not have any discernible odor.  Not surprisingly, both are Smartwool products made from merino wool.

I wonder how long I could keep this going?