Sunday, November 14, 2010
it's here: http://publictransitbug.blogspot.com/
Public transit, traffic, highways, bicycles, whatever I feel like ranting or raving about at the moment.
enjoy if you will...
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Chicago's Metra commuter trains provide a vital service to the public and are an asset to the entire area. However, their ability to handle high capacities leaves something to be desired.
Think about that.
When you take the CTA train or bus home after a Cubs game or after Lollapalooza, do they let you ride for free? No.
When you drive to the Taste of Chicago, and the Millennium Park garages are packed, do they just open the gates and let everyone park for free? No.
This is, in essence, what Metra is doing... whenever their trains are too full for the conductors to walk the aisle and collect fares.
Their system does not scale. It cannot handle high capacity. It's not the fault of the conductors, it's the system. The fare collection system must be updated, able to handle all capacities, especially at the high end. In a time when companies and families are tightening their belts and trying to run more efficiently, it is baffling why Metra would be allowed to continue to forego collecting fares during the very times when their revenue and profits would be highest. Back of the envelope calculations suggest that they are forgoing hundreds of thousands of dollars if not millions... every year.
Metra needs to find a way to charge all of their customers, all of the time, ESPECIALLY during the times when the trains are the most packed. Private companies live and die by their highest volume days. However, by virtue of being a public entity, Metra doesn't seem to have to follow the same rules. But as a taxpayer, and a regular, avid Metra rider, I believe that this is unfair to the taxpayers of Illinois and unfair to other Metra riders who have to pay their fares.
Full disclosure: I love public transportation. I love trains. I love transit. I've been to Japan and South Korea. They charge all of their customers, all the time (unless the train is extremely, horribly late, in which case you can apply for a refund).
Friday, August 27, 2010
- Pizza crust (available at our local Jewel-Osco supermarket, NOT the frozen kind)
- Fresh Mozzarella cheese (round, sliced)
- fresh herbs from the garden - basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, etc.
- fresh tomatoes from the garden (this is tomato season after all...)
- Red bell peppers
- Pizza 1 : Turkey pieces (pre-cooked, chopped small)
- Pizza 2 : Turkey sausage (pre-cooked, chopped small)
- artichoke hearts
- button mushrooms
- Pesto, olive oil
- Peachy Canyon Red Zinfandel (wine, very good)
- Yeti Imperial Stout (beer, not my favorite, but not bad)
Saturday, August 7, 2010
b: skilled at or given to extemporaneous utterance
c : happening suddenly and often unexpectedly and usually without clearly known causes or relationships
"a great deal of criminal and delinquent behavior is…extemporaneous — W. C. Reckless"
2 : provided, made, or put to use as an expedient : makeshift
— ex·tem·po·ra·ne·ous·ly adverb
— ex·tem·po·ra·ne·ous·ness noun
One of my students was inclined to give extemporaneous piano performances, though she often said she played "at random." At the time, I suggested she use "I played an improvised piano piece" (suggesting no prior preparation) but she could say: "I played an extemporaneous piano piece" if there were some preparation ahead of time...
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Sunday, July 11, 2010
We did all regular tourist stuff near Honolulu, nothing fancy:
We visited Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona battleship memorial monument. Climbed up to the top of Diamond Head (not actually that exciting...). And we spent a lot of time on Waikiki Beach relaxing, watching a canoe race, enjoying 4th of July fireworks, tanning, boogie boarding and bodyboarding.
We also enjoyed some tasty meals, including the following one at the fancy pink hotel's restaurant, Azure.
On our second-to-last day, we managed to take the bus up to Shark's Cove for some snorkeling. The bus trip is really long (passes by the Dole Pineapple Plantation halfway through), so for anyone planning on doing this I'd highly recommend renting a car/motorbike, or just staying at a hotel/hostel on the north shore, far away from touristy Waikiki.
Next time, we'll have to go to Kawaii, Maui and the other islands.
Footprints in the SandOne night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand. Sometimes there were two sets of footprints, other times there was one only.This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life, when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow or defeat, I could see only one set of footprints, so I said to the Lord,“You promised me Lord, that if I followed you, you would walk with me always. But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there has only been one set of footprints in the sand. Why, when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?”The Lord replied, “The years when you have seen only one set of footprints, my child, is when I carried you.”Mary Stevenson, 1936
Monday, June 14, 2010
Yamaguchi, Japan makes it pretty easy to bike anyplace by providing covered bike parking.
At the community center where I teach class... it's a lifesaver on rainy Fridays. I have to bike on Fridays, so it's nice to know that I won't have to deal with a soaked bicycle at the end of the day. Just put on my rain coat, pop open my clear, see-through umbrella, and ride single-handed back to the office. (Also helps to have a wheel-friction-powered LED headlight, sturdy metal basket, splash guards, and built-in rear wheel lock as standard equipment on my inexpensive, but solidly-built grandma bike).
Covered bicycle parking outside the central post office...
Supermarket bicycle parking (right in front of the entrance), sharing the lot with cars (but the bicycles are much higher density).
Library bicycle (and scooter) parking.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Mt. Ishizuchi is the tallest mountain in western Japan and is located on the island of Shikoku. It's one of Japan's 7 holy mountains and the shrine at the top is accessible only by foot. The climb takes 6 hours (round-trip) at a moderate pace with a 45 minute break at the top. The most interesting features of the mountain, however, are the chains. There are 3 chains that "short-cut" the hiking path, as well as a bonus "Trial Chain" (which we climbed last time, discovering that it leads to a lonely peak, beautiful view, and another chain down). They range in length from 38-74 meters long. You don't have to be an experienced climber to do them, but you do need some faith in yourself. You can do it! This was definitely one of the best experiences we've had in Japan.
Here's a map I edited for English speakers (full size here):
The final chain leads directly to the small shrine on top of the mountain. You can then proceed to Tengu-dake, or Goblin-nose Point, the very distinctive tip of the mountain. Sadly when we went it was so foggy we could barely see in front of us so the tip was completely shrouded in clouds.
There's also a small restaurant there with cup noodles, water, snacks, trinkets, curry rice, toilets and a heater. The staff live up there! I wanted to ask how often they go down, but my Japanese isn't that good. I'm happy to report that they were open for service even on a Monday in off-season. You can sleep here for roughly $90 a night (per person), but it makes more sense to climb the mountain in 6 hours and go camp nearby at Furei No Sato which has big baths. Mmm....
The best part of the trip (other than the chains) was the people. The man who ran the parking lot chatted us up and gave us a banana (so sweet and random). Only one other couple was climbing that day and we talked with them several times on the trail and at the top, and they gave us candy!
Oh Japan, we're going to miss you so much.
Saturday, May 22, 2010
by Susan Stamberg
and it linked to this video from 1944 (Government-produced film attempting to defend the massive internment of Japanese Americans in concentration camps during World War II.):
Monday, May 17, 2010
Our favorite restaurant in Ishigaki. Great food, great value, really great people!
A&W is a famous American root beer (soda) brand. They also run their own fast food joints, but these are not so common in America these days. They were more common in the 1950's or 60's I believe... back in the days of the soda fountain.
Monday, May 10, 2010
Sunday, May 9, 2010
When we were leaving for Japan, so many people tried to give us advice about the food, the people and the culture. I was shocked when someone told me Japanese people would ignore it if someone tripped on the street because it would embarrass the 'trippee' further; that saving face was all-important.
Living here now I can't believe I listened to this person. What an absurd thing to say! First of all, it's a blatant stereotype, which I should have never believed. Secondly, it's a classic tale told in the West to make the East seem as foreign and opposite from us as possible. Here is some direct proof that you can't always believe what you hear:
- A motorcyclist lost control and fell off her bike on a main road. No less than 3 groups of people stopped to pick up the bike, take care of her wounds and block traffic around her.
- During a tea ceremony, my hosts gently corrected me every time I made a mistake instead of letting me err unknowingly.
- A 70-year old lady repeatedly asked a man to sit down during Okinawa's Dragon Boat Races because he was blocking everyone's view. Very loudly I might add... lol. But she liked us because we instantly sat down when no one else did. She even loaned Brian her umbrella to block the sun and gave me a fan!
"The problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but they are incomplete." -Chimamanda Adichie
Same applies here. All the Japanese people I know would most definitely help someone who tripped on the street. But they would also manage to do so in a tactful and unembarrassing way.
If you don't have anything nice to say then don't say anything at all.
Friday, May 7, 2010
Friday, April 30, 2010
Monday, April 26, 2010
Thursday, April 15, 2010
One of these kei-cars is the infamous Nissan Moco.
For those who speak Spanish, you already get the joke. :)
The word "moco" in Spanish means "booger" (the hard crusty version of 鼻水-hanamizu).
It even comes in moco colors - green, yellow and brown.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
The funny thing is... the cheese here is not always what you'd expect...
Saturday, April 10, 2010
Friday, April 2, 2010
Friday, March 26, 2010
We were reviewing adverbs of frequency when this little gem came up:
"Do you ever play computer?" he asked.
"No, I rarely play computer games," I responded, thinking he forgot the word 'games.'
"I always play computer. I play blogs," he replied with a smile.
I was going to correct him and say, "Ahhh, you mean you have a blog," but a funny thought struck me: maybe his way of saying it is better.
According to dictionary.com, "Play" can be defined as to engage in (a game, pastime, etc.) or to do or perform (in certain contexts).
Originally uploaded by bderstine
This photo has gotten quite a bit of views on my Flickr page. It is the 90-year-old Cherry Tree (Sakura-no Ki) in at Mukoshima Elementary School near where I play tennis every Sunday.
Saturday, March 6, 2010
"Yatta", according to the internet, can be roughly translated as "I/We did it!" But my students seems to use it for everything from picking a good card in UNO to receiving an extra chocolate.
This song captures the joy and exuberance of that word (only partial sarcasm here... it is really happy!). I'm only sad to admit that I found out about it today and not 9 years ago.
Sunday, February 28, 2010
Monday, February 22, 2010
Discovery of the Week!
(courtesy of a generous, thoughtful student and Izutsuya Department Store where she bought it)
The brewery... looks like it's in the German countryside!
Behind the brewery, a gorgeous waterfall and interesting Japanese rock carvings.
So, after the Chocolate Valentine's Beer post a few weeks ago, one of my students realized I had a thing for Chocolate Stouts, and brought me a new one from our local Izutsuya department store. It turns out that they beer had a website on the label, which in turn had a map to the brewery, which happened to be about a 10 minute drive from our apartment.
So now we can visit our own local European-style brewery/restaurant... plus an extremely scenic waterfall just behind it. They brew and serve 6 different beers: pilsner, stout, porter, pale ale, chocolate stout, and weiss. They also offer tasty, handmade pizzas, pastas, beef cutlets, a fountain of chocolate, etc.
So, next time I'm getting a 6-pack variety box.
Friday, February 19, 2010
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
(Update: It's also available at grocery stores like The BIG.)
Thursday, February 4, 2010
(says the small print on the packaging... the white text on the black background)
This sandwich is one of those more humorous examples of daily 'Japanese-English' that we encounter here in the fine land of Nihon. I like having an egg and tuna "sand" from time to time, I just wish they wouldn't use mayonnaise! At 185 yen (about $2) from convenience stores like Popular, 7-eleven or Lawson's, sandwiches aren't super cheap, but they're tasty and filling in a pinch between classes.
Sunday, January 31, 2010
"Maku" is the verb for 'roll' or 'coil' in Japanese. Let's take that to mean that there is no right or wrong way to make maki, so long as they're rolled.
- rice (I'm lazy, so this is just regular rice, no vinegar/sake/mirin/etc. Still tastes good!)
- nori (seaweed sheets - as you can see, mine are actually for hand rolls)
- fillings (avocado, thinly sliced cucumber, kani kama a.k.a. fake crab, and cream cheese)
- wasabi paste (not shown)
3) Place fillings at the edge of the rice adjacent to the blank space. Don't cover more than 50% of the rice, otherwise it won't close!
4) Dab some wasabi on the end if you dare.
5) Wrap the goodies with the blank nori edge using the bamboo mat to grab the lump and make it round.
6) Open the mat and re-adjust the maki towards the end of the mat closest to you again.
7) Finish rolling the maki until all the nori is incorporated. Squeeze it gently and try to make that round shape again.
8) You can now cut the rolls into thin, bite-sized rounds with a sharp, slightly wet blade (so it doesn't stick to the rice), but remember I'm lazy, so I just eat them!
I know full well that this isn't the "correct" way to make maki. Usually you have to take the freshly cooked rice, mix it with the perfect amount of vinegar, etc and special stirring techniques, but I think that scares people away from just making the things. Plus, I like the taste of plain rice better. Most people use too much vinegar and then you can't even taste the fillings or fish.
Monday, January 18, 2010
Our tree-house! No bats as one of the reviewers claimed. I was actually a bit disappointed :(
Go monkey go!
A super enhanced picture of a kingfisher. These guys were hard to photograph!
All smiles on Saonui
Yum. Don't worry, it's too stinky to take a bite.
Sweaty and happy with the Rafflesia
Bird of Paradise growing wild
Monday, January 11, 2010
(side note: Malaysia Airlines is amazing. Best airline food I've had, best service, best outfits, and very comfortable. They routed us through Kuala Lumpur actually, and since we booked 6 months in advance, there was (of course) a schedule change, so they ended up paying for one night's stay for us in KL. Fun!)
We arrived at our super friendly, cute, and highly-recommended hostel, Niras Bankoc... after getting scammed by the taxicab driver (FYI: always pay the tolls yourself when the cab arrives at the toll booth, because you pay them in the end anyway, and if you wait to the end of the trip then the taxi driver might lie and try to confuse you about the total cab fare and cause a scene).
Anyway, Niras Bankoc hostel: Highly recommended, once again. Only a 20 minute walk from the "lively" Khao San Road (read: full of foreigners, street vendors trying to distract you with green laser beams and sell you something and random noisy chaos), and 20 minutes walk in another direction from all the main Wats (Buddhist temples), it was perfect. At one point, no less than 9 Americans teaching English in Japan were in the hostel lobby, which is hilarious considering the hotel only has 7 rooms (some of which are dorms).
DAY 1: Shopping Day
The first full day we spent shopping, since Bangkok is the place to do it. On advice from our hotel and our guide book, we went to MBK, a 7-floor mall with approximately a bazillion independent shops selling everything from electronics to clothes to food to decor (many of them selling the exact same thing at different prices). And all prices are highly negotiable.
DAY 2: Sightseeing Day (plus Christmas Eve)
The second full day was crazy hectic, but fun. We managed to visit the major Wats in Bangkok: Wat Sraket, Golden Mount, Wat Mahathat, Wat Phra Kaew- home of the 'Emerald' Buddha, the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, and Wat Phra Chetuphon - home of the 46m Reclining Buddha.
We ended our stay in Bangkok by going to a lady-boy cabaret show at Calypso Cabaret.