Archive for December, 2008

CPL is Netflix for Books

I love libraries and I’ve been a proud Chicago Public Library card holder since I moved here. But while the CPL system has a ton of books, they’re spread out over all the different branches and it seemed that after a short while I had read all the books in my local branch that I was interested in. The central Harold Washington library has the most in one place, but it always seemed difficult to get there before they closed on a weekend. There may have been a way to request books from a different branch, but it wasn’t obvious and so I just… stopped stopping in at my local branch.

Recently, though, I discovered that the CPL has spiffed up their website with some features that make it a snap to get any book (or CD or DVD) in their catalog delivered (nearly) to your door.

You just log in to the “My CPL” section of the website with your library card number and zipcode (if you’ve moved and haven’t updated your info with the CPL, it might be an old zipcode) and then start searching the catalog for books. When you find one you want, click the “Place on Hold” button. It’ll ask if you want it held at your preferred library or a different one and you’re done. But here’s the magic part — “hold” in this case means “get it to my preferred library and then hold it there”. So the system will find a checked-in copy, dispatch a no-doubt-over-worked library employee to fetch it off the shelf, and then transport it to your local library. With 79 branches, there’s bound to be one just blocks, nay mere steps from your front door. (OK, maybe I’m spoiled since I’m literally a half-block from our local branch.) When the book arrives you get a rather bare-bones email (it doesn’t actually tell you which held item has come in — but you can always go back to the website to check) and you have 9 days to stop in and pick it up.

Obviously, there’s still a wait for popular books — on my last visit the librarian informed me that I was number 745 on the waiting list for the CPL’s 121 copies of Twilight. But you can have up to five holds going at once, so I’ve got other books coming while I wait to find out what all the vampire fuss is about.

Ads of the CTA

Same photo

Hey McDonalds, we might not notice that you’re using the same photo for both hot chocolate and mocha if you didn’t cover the train car in both ads. Or is it that your food technology is so advanced that, indeed, every single drizzle of chocolate on every single drink in every McDonald’s everywhere is exactly the same. Spookily possible.

One week left and the Bears finally get interesting

That. Was. Ridiculous.

As is observable by my incredible lack of posts here, the Chicago Bears this season have been nothing to write home about. Sure, Kyle Orton was better than expected, but he’s not the second coming of Jim McMahon. The offensive line has been adequate. Special teams have been less special than usual with Devin Hester’s season-long touchdown slump. Hester has shown improvement as a wide receiver, but in general the receiving core has been uninspiring. And the defense has been just plain bad. Their play has improved in the last few weeks, but so far they’ve only managed to climb back to average. On the plus side, we do have Matt Forte to scrub away the bad aftertaste of Cedric Benson.

In spite of their best efforts, the Bears somehow still find themselves in the playoff race here at the end of the season. They have the good fortune to be in a horrible division. The Detroit Lions are set to be the first team in NFL history to lose sixteen straight in a single season, and the Green Bay Packers misplaced their defense about six weeks ago and only just started finding pieces of it again last night. That leaves only the Minnesota Vikings, who have managed to keep pace with the Bears for the entire season, with one noteworthy edge: The Vikings beat the Bears in both meetings this season, meaning that if the two teams finish with equal records the Vikings win the division by virtue of owning the tiebreaker.

At the beginning of this past weekend, things looked grim indeed for the Bears’ playoff hopes. If the Vikings beat the Atlanta Falcons or the Bears lost to the Packers, the Bears were out of the division race. If the Vikings won, the Bears would still have a slim shot at a wild card – but only if the Buccaneers, Eagles and Cowboys ALL lost. One could say that hell would have to freeze over for the Bears to keep their shot at the playoffs alive after this past weekend.

I don’t know about hell, but Chicago certainly froze over, and apparently that was good enough. The Vikings lost. The Bucs, Eagles and Cowboys – all of whom were favored to win – lost. The Bears? Last night’s game against the Packers was the coldest Bears home game since 1963. They played a straight-up horrible first half. They came into the second half with more energy, but that led to huge mistakes as much as gains. Late in the fourth quarter Forte literally saved the season by an inch as he just barely made a critical fourth-down conversion. That drive ended with a game-tying touchdown, but things almost went down the crapper again on the following kick-off, when Adrian Peterson drew a personal foul on a hit out of bounds. The Packers looked ready to put the game away with a go-ahead field goal, but defensive end Alex Brown managed to get his huge hand up high enough to block the kick, sending the game into overtime.

Even the coin toss went weird. The referee bounced the coin off Brian Urlacher’s helmet, and everybody had to run after it to see where it landed. In the end the Bears won the toss, Kyle Orton put together a decent drive, and Robbie Gould sealed the deal with a game winning field goal.

What does this mean? Hard to say. There is only one week left in the regular season, so it all comes down to this. The Bears have to win against the Houston Texans, who have been showing real signs of life in the past few weeks. And the Vikings still have to lose. The good news there is that they play the reigning Super Bowl champions the New York Giants. Sports Club Stats puts the Bears’ chances of reaching the playoffs at 31.9 percent. Considering the way the season has gone so far, I’m glad they’re finally starting to make things interesting.

We’re #6 and that’s not bad

Public corruption convictions per 100,000 residents

“As we can see here clearly, Illinois, though more corrupt than average, isn’t close to the top.”

Refreshing!

Jen and Erica are very excited

Thanks, Café Descartes, for reminding us that nothing is as welcome this time of year as a ice cold coffee beverage.

Ebert vs. Zell

I love Roger Ebert.

Feds Take Blago into Custody!

Breaking News! According to the Trib, Federal Agents have taken Gov. Blagojevich into custody this morning. No word yet on the charges, but he’s been the target of Federal investigation into corruption and influence peddling for quite some time. I’m sure more details will come later…

Update:Well, the details are coming out. Apparently, Blago tried to *sell* Obama’s Senate seat?! If any of these charges are proved up, Blago is not only the most arrogant politician I’ve ever seen, he’s also the dumbest. Who, when they *know* they are under the Fed’s magnifying glass tries to pull this kind of thing? I mean, he was *daring* people to record him, you know? Sheesh.

Chicago Tribune files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

The Trib has been looking a little frayed around the edges lately, what with it’s new layout looking like a desperate attempt to copy the competition (in this blogger’s jaded opinion). I also heard they were trying to sell the Cubs, but my utter hatred of sports makes it impossible for me to finish listening to sentences once I hear words like “field” or “ball”.

But it looks like they’re in worse shape over there than most people realized.

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