Archive for the ‘Chicago’ Category.

Rambling Thoughts About A Spanish Lady

I got an email recently from my Spanish non-girlfriend. I have not seen her since I left Chicago, but we have kept in touch via email. Now she is back in Spain. Her father is in the hospital. I got the impression from her last, brief email a month ago it’s serious. I have a feeling that soon, she will come back to Chicago one last time to wrap things up, and go back to Spain for good.

Romantic opportunities do not come often for me. Women who are not spiritual or religious are pretty rare. Women who do not smoke or drink alcohol are rare. Women who fit both categories are rarer still. She did. And she did not seem to hate me.

Unfortunately, she did not seem interested in any sort of serious relationship with me either. For a very brief period, I thought she might be interested. Either I missed the opportunity, or, more likely, I was just kidding myself. I have sometimes joked (mostly to myself) that my only hope of getting married is finding a woman who is willing to lay on her back to get a green card. And then a foreign woman who meets my three criteria (along with the unstated fourth of not being fat), and it’s hard to not let my imagination run away.

As a sidenote, I have noticed that women seem more likely than men to drink alcohol, at least in the atheist/skeptical community. It seems odd to pride yourself on your logic and critical thinking skills, and then turn around and knowingly ingest a toxic, addictive substance. And be proud of yourself for it to boot. I think it is really a dumb thing for women in particular. They are at a disadvantage in just about every way; two I am thinking of are finance and health care. So why spend money on something that destroys your health? When I was in Chicago, I noticed most of the men did not drink alcohol, while most of the women did. I not only joined the atheist/skeptical community to be part of a community, but also to find a woman. No such luck. I sometimes wish my libido had an “off” switch.

There was another women who did not drink alcohol, but she showed up once and never came back. I was unemployed at the time, and not feeling my sexiest.

The Spanish Lady did not seem interested in being in a relationship with anyone. I don’t know if that is a good thing, or not. She did not seem happy with her life, and seemed resigned to the idea of going back to Spain to take care of her family. I admit, I had an agenda/fantasy of my own. But what’s wrong with wanting to do something for her? Who will be there for her? Another woman in Chicago thought the Spanish Lady’s family (or at least some of them) wanted her to go back so they could live off her money. I don’t think she had a lot, but she works for the Spanish government, so she might have a pension. I just want to make her moan and scream during anal sex and not drink booze or go to church. I want her body and her mind, not her money. Maybe that is wanting to use her. But in the fantasy world in my head, she would love every minute of it.

I know one of her brothers is severely autistic, and lives in an institution in Spain. A couple of other siblings have some issues as well. But as I stated, I don’t think she is really choosing this. I have always felt that she felt pushed into that decision and seemed resigned to it. In my defense, I did not set out to save her. The complexity of her situation became apparent to me over time.

I know it’s kind of sad to be pining away for a woman I have not seen in a few years. But things aren’t going well in Austin. I spend a lot of time in my car going to and from work. I am trying to learn a new programming language so I can get a different job, and it is taking me a lot longer than I thought. And my current job is not going too well. I did not like my brief time in a startup, but big companies seem to have a lot of chaos as well. I need a job where I can work on only one thing at a time.

Plus no woman. There are not too many at the atheist/skeptical meetups that I go to. It is still pretty guy-heavy. There was one geared towards women, but I think the leader of that one broke up with the guy leading all the other ones. And I have started going to yoga, but sometimes that seems pretty heavy on the lez.

Other people seem to find new romantic sexual partners like putting on a new pair of shoes. I still cannot figure out how to get anywhere with women. For me, it is like women are from Mars and men are from Venus. Or whatever. Sometimes I am a bit envious of gay people. It seems like there is less misunderstanding. It seems like (in some contexts) it is okay for them to be more open about sexual interest. Aside from people trying to kill them and take away their civil rights, it seems like an okay life. (I am estranged from big chunks of my family, so that part I am used to.)

I always plan on getting stuff done every weekend (work on software, blog posts, meditate, work out), but I just surf the net and don’t get much done. On top of that, I am gaining weight. Working out is not a problem, but eating less is. The only part of my body that ever gains any muscle is the inside of my thighs. It can make life uncomfortable.

Then again, if the Spanish Lady comes back to Chicago, it’s not like she would want to be with me. And she might not want to stay anyway. Illinois has gone downhill with Rauner. Like Wisconsin with Walker. And Louisiana with Jindal. And Kansas with Brownback. Seriously, people: state elections matter.

Except here in Texas, where the Republicans just get crazier and crazier. When they are not denying climate change and talking about secession, they are asking for federal disaster relief.

Plus, if Trump is president, the Spanish Lady will almost certainly stay away. I think a lot of people in foreign countries will stay out of the US.

Image from Wikipedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use. A larger version is here; you can read some of the labels in the larger version. North is towards the upper left corner.

Thoughts On Scotland, Water and the Future

During the decade or so I was living in Chicago, I thought that I was going to be in Chicago for the rest of my life. Then I wound up in Texas. But I do not think I will spend the rest of my life here.

One major reason is water. There was an excellent article in Men’s Health called “Who Stole the Water?” about water in Texas. Governor Goodhair is telling everyone to come down here, but not telling people that the water is running out. And since this is Texas, nobody wants to spend any money. As I wrote before, when you want to point out magical thinking, you say, “X does not just fall from the sky.” Water actually does fall from the sky, just not when and where you want it to.

I think Texas will not do well in the future. Climate change will hit Texas hard. It is already too hot for me already. According to the Drought Monitor, Illinois is doing fairly well. So I might go back to Chicago. Or perhaps up to Canada. I had thought about Portland or Seattle, but it looks like the northwest is getting a bit dry as well. I always thought the northwest was the best place to be to deal with climate change. Plus I don’t understand how Portland can have a drought. They are right on the Columbia River. Are they starting bonfires every time they light a joint?

I am toying with the idea of checking out Scotland. Part of my family is from there. Part of my family is also from Ireland. (Being Scottish AND Irish is NOT the same as being Scots-Irish. Scots-Irish are Lowland Scots who moved to northeastern Ireland. Some of them were not Scottish at all.)

My mother offered to take me to Scotland for a few weeks. I have not given her an answer either way. She is retired, and needs her money more than I do. But all the news about the independence referendum has got me thinking about looking into moving there. It would be a long shot. If they become independent, they will probably allow more people in. I hope they need software developers.

Another reason to go would be to find a wife. I have not had much success with women, so the idea that one woman will choose to do something that no woman until now has chosen to do is pretty slim. Plus, I do not want to break the chain.

I do not know too much about my family history. My great-grandmother came to the USA from Ireland with her parents when she was very young. She married an Irish man. All of her siblings went into interracial marriages. Polish and German I think. My grandmother married a man who was mostly Scottish with some Irish. Again, her siblings got their swirls on with Polish or Germans. Same with my mother’s siblings. And now my siblings are in interracial marriages. My sister-in-law is badda-boom-badda-bing, and my brother-in-law does not speak any Polish but has a last name with five consonants in a row that none of us can pronounce. (The “ski” at the end I can say.)

So if the chain is going to continue, it is up to me. Women have picked guys who beat the crap out of them over me. They can write me off in two seconds knowing nothing about me, yet somehow everybody fools everybody else. I do not assume that I will rank any better over there, but I could not rank any worse.

I did look at Craig’s Lust for Dublin, Glasgow and Edinburgh. There are a LOT of American women who are interested in Irish and Scottish men. I am guessing it is the accent, because being Irish and Scottish has not worked at all for me. Seeing some of these ads gives me pause. Moving to another country is a lot more difficult than moving to another state. Moving inside of Chicago was a major hassle. Some of them are really delusional. One said “I want a older rich man who can come t the states (florida) and take me to vegas and marr and take me back to their country. And live happly forever.” Another said she was part Irish and part Croation. She’s soooooo Croatian, she doesn’t need to spell it correctly. Why place a personal in another country? What do these women think will happen? Then I think to myself: I am reading these ads, so maybe I am a bit off the wall thinking about this as well.

My employer does have an office in Edinburgh. I am guessing that the clients are probably in the financial sector, which I have heard is pretty big in Edinburgh. Many financial firms said they would leave if Scotland voted to become independent. (After that news came out, the “No” gained a bit in the polls; it makes me wonder who does Scotland really need to be independent from?)

Lately I have been spending more time learning some new software languages. That is one reason I have not posted here as much. I need to get a Plan B ready. So I guess my future might lie in Chicago, Toronto, or Edinburgh.

Image from Wikimedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

Thoughts On Austin

I have been in Austin since October, 2012.

When I moved here, a friend of mine from college let me stay for a couple of months in a condo she owns. I spent that time looking for a more permnanent place. It was harder than I thought.

I was still on a contract, not a full-time employee. Some landlords had a problem with that, others were concerned that I had been unemployed. I made a copy of my savings account statement. I have enough in there to live for a year. The guy at the bank was impressed, but apartment companies did not care. If you brag to other states about all the jobs you have, you are going to get some people with spotty histories. I wondered that if someone had no job and no savings, then would they be able to find a place to live here? So much for second chances.

Just about all the apartment complexes have a pool, which I have no interest in at all. I guess it’s nice if a family has kids, but I still do not like the fact that I have to pay for something that I do not want.

Costs are starting to go up here. I was paying $675/month for about 575 square feet. I looked at a few other places, but I was not able to find anything better in time. Besides, I think with moving I would come out behind. But still, my rent is now $715/month. A new person moving into that space would pay $750. I am also paying more for cable, as I have mentioned before.

I would have liked to find a studio like I had in Chicago, but I could not find any small apartments. I did not want to live near campus. I have heard that everything around campus is very expensive.

There is not much mass transit here. There is a system that seems geared towards the university. Needing a car to go everywhere is a real drag. My brakes started making some grinding noises, and I thought that I might need a new car. But I got them fixed.

The traffic lights are not as rational as Chicago. There, north and south get the left turn, then the green light. Then east and west get the left turn, then the green light. I have never quite been able to discern the pattern here. Honestly, I get too frustrated sometimes to try to sort it out. I think it is something like north gets the left turn, then north and south get the green light, then south gets the left turn, then east and west go through the cycle. What I can tell you is that I have spent quite a bit of time at red lights when people travelling in three directions are waiting, and there is nobody going in the direction that gets the green.

Plus merging onto and off of highways can be a pain. When you go onto a road, you are merging to your left, but when you get off you merge to the right, into the same lane as people merging into the traffic. I am surprised there are not more accidents. I wonder why the roads were not designed such that you enter on the left and exit on the right.

There are a lot of yoga studios here, as well as a few Zen groups. I would like to spend more time on those. I might look into living in an “intentional community”. There are a couple of those in Austin. I’ve been unemployed, so technology takes priority over other things. So if Secular Texas meets on the same night as the Groovy/Grails group, I go to Groovy. So I am not as involved in the atheist community here as I would like.

The atheist community is not as large or robust as I would like. There is a podcast made here called “The Atheist Experience”. I have not gotten around to listening to it yet, but a lot of people in other parts of the country listen to it. I somehow got the impression that the atheist/skeptical community would be bigger. I have heard that the people who make the show do not mix much with the other atheists in Austin. There is no group with the work “Skeptic” in their name.

There is a branch of the CFI here, and that is a good group. They usually have something once a week. Secular Texas is a spin-off of that. They also have a group for atheist/skeptic women called Secular Suzies. Perhaps I will find my dream woman in Texas.

I have been going to quite a few meetups. There are a few oriented around games and science fiction. Geekdom is pretty large. It is for people who are into science and technology, as well as science fiction, fantasy, comic books, and stuff like that. Sometimes somebody there gets on my nerves. There is a LOT of science fiction out there. If you think about how much there is to “Star Trek”, “Star Wars” or “Doctor Who”, there is a lot of stuff. I hate it when someone quotes a movie or something, and I ask them what they are referencing, and they will look at me like I have two heads and say, “Haven’t you seen XYZ?” No I have not. There is a lot to see.

I have also started going to the Austin Celtic Meetup. When I was in Chicago, one of the most Irish cities in America, I never really looked into Irish or Celtic culture. But somehow I found out these guys were giving Gaelic lessons, so I decided to go. In Chicago I also went to the Latino Atheists group, and now I live in an area with a lot more Latinos, yet I do not really know too many Latinos.

I have met Hispanics who grew up in Texas, yet do not speak any Spanish. Granted, it has only been a few so far, but it was surprising. It seemed odd since this used to be part of Mexico.

Sometimes I think Austin needs to get over itself. I am sure there are people who grow up in small conservative towns all over Texas, who dream of the day they can get out. To someone like that, Austin would probably seem like heaven. But if you have lived in another big city (like Chicago, Portland or Madison) or another college town, it is easy to look at Austin and not see what the big deal is. I guess nobody told them that it is not the only place in the world with a few blocks of bars.

I said this at a meetup, and there was a woman there from another part of Texas, who told me that “you just don’t get it. I have lived all over Texas, and Austin is different.” I did not respond, because it was hard to without calling her stupid. I stated I had been here less that a year. Maybe Austin is unique compared to the rest of Texas, but if you think about the whole country it is not that unique. Besides, if you cannot think about the world beyond Texas, then perhaps Austin is not the place for you.

I don’t know if I will spend the rest of my life here. I would like more control. Right now I do not feel like I have it. Things are not going too well at my job.

Everyone has the best BBQ in Texas. It’s like a religion. They can’t all be right. One guy from Chicago thought it was funny that Austin has a reputation for good food and restaurants. He said it’s a good place if you like beef.

One of the things that was really bugging me about Chicago was there always seemed to be parades, or street fairs, or art fests, or streets getting closed so a few hundred people could ride their bikes. Buses were getting re-routed for these things, and it could make it hard to drive around. If I want to go somewhere, I just want to get in my car (or on a bus or on a train) and go from point A to point B. I shouldn’t have to check a website to see if I need to change my route.

Now Austin has Formula One. (It might also get a soccer team, or something.) I had to travel for work the same day as Formula One (or the day after). So it was really crowded. I would like to live someplace where I can just go about my business.

One thing about Chicago that I really did not like was the constant sirens every night, and sometimes all day. Here I can go several days without hearing a siren.

I have noticed that people from different parts of Texas seem to not like Houston.

People keep mentioning that Texas has no income tax, as if that is the only reason to live here. It is easy to have no income tax when you have oil. Sales tax seems pretty high. Perry is trying to convince more people from blue states to move here. Why not try to recruit from states that have Republican governors? If you are goint to brag to people in New York about Texas’ lower costs but not do the same for New Jersey, then you are a liar, an idiot, or both.

Those blue states have higher taxes because they actually build roads and educate their kids. (So Perry is a typical conservative: Someone else foots the bill, and he takes the credit.) If people in Texas want the growth to continue, eventually they will have to start paying for roads and schools. Either Texans will start paying more, or the model will break down. You can’t steal smart people from other states forever.

Sometimes I think that this is all a dream, or illusion. I’ll be putting gas in my car, and I will think, “This has been nice, but I am going to go to sleep tonight, and tomorrow I will wake up in Chicago, and get on with my life.” Over the past few days, I have thought a few times: I was in Chicago, then I was in Austin, now I am here. How did that happen?

Image from Wikipedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use

Thoughts On Leaving Chicago

I have been posting a lot on leaving Chicago. My main potential destination has been Texas.

We are starting to see a better, more robust startup scene here in Chicago, although I feel the startup and Ruby scenes here are still a bit too Groupon-centric. I have always been a bit skeptical about startups. There seems to be a lot of circular reasoning about startups. People at startups tell themselves that they are sooo much better and smarter than bigger companies because they are more flexible and innovative because we are startups which means we are innovative and flexible because we are startups which means we are…….etc, etc. That may be true, but that doesn’t mean their product and/or execution are any good.

The point is that since things are changing, a lot of people think I am crazy for wanting to leave just when things might be starting to get good.

But I think I have hit upon part of the reason.

I went to Moo of I, down in Urbana-Champaign. I have kept in touch with about a dozen people from Moo of I. There are a lot of Moo of I alumni here in Chicago, but the few that I still talk to have all left Illinois. Most are in other states. One is in Jordan. He is Korean, so I am not too clear why he is in Jordan.

Amongst the people that I have gotten to know/became friends with over the past ten years, a lot of them are from other states. A few are from other countries.

So I think part of the reason I want to leave is that sometimes I feel like the whole world is moving, and I am standing still.

I have noticed that people from New York and California seem to have a hard time getting it in their heads that those locations are not on my radar. If you put a New Yorker, a Californian and a Texan in a room together, would they notice?

 

Cities On The Rise in 2012

I am always looking at articles that I come across about different cities in the USA to help me decide if I should stay in Chicago or leave for some other city.

Main Street came up with a list of 10 cities that they think will do well in 2012. For the most part I can agree with some of their findings. Some of the cities on the list are Chicago, Austin and Houston. So it is pretty interesting.

The positives for Austin are the usual: the University of Texas, state government, and increasing employment in the private sector. The positives for Houston are the energy sector and a more stable housing market.

The reason that Chicago will do well in 2012 is because the next G8 meeting will be here. So there will be a lot of spending on security and because of all of the people coming in for the meeting. So while that means Chicago will see an uptick in 2012, there is no long-term trend as we see for Austin and Houston.

Many of the other cities are also on the list because they are the sites of one-time events: the Super Bowl (Indianapolis), the Democratic nominating convention (Charlotte) and the Rescumlican convention (Tampa). So what happens to all these cities in 2013? Will they rise or decline? If I leave Chicago, it will not be a short-term change.

What About North Dakota?

Map of North Dakota In the past I  have thought about going to North Dakota for a job. I have no idea if there is a need for software developers in North Dakota, or if my options would be oil rigs or nothing.

I saw an interesting article on Business Insider (the original article is here) about some of the things North Dakota has done over the past decade to improve their economy and stop the brain drain. It’s more than just oil.

One interesting tidbit was that people are moving there from many states, and some people are moving there from Texas. So it looks like my Plan B is someone else’s unsuccessful Plan A.

Image from Wikimedia

 

Back In Chicago

I am back in Chicago. As James Altucher said, things don’t always work out.

Reason 297 To Leave Chicago

On my way home from work I got stuck at an intersection for about 10 minutes because there was some sort of “bike parade”. There were hundreds of people on bikes going down the street. They passed by the Belmont el station right when I got off. They turned left onto Clark, so I was kind of stuck. For about 10 minutes. As were the cars. As were all the other pedestrians.

I am really getting tired of this sort of thing. When I got back from Texas a couple of weeks ago, the traffic in my neighborhood was even worse because there was some neighborhood street fair. I do not think that I should have to change my routine for any fest or parade or art fair or any of that junk.

All people did during this fest was get drunk and make a lot of noise. Which is usually what they do in that part of the neighborhood when there is no fest.

If our new mayor wants to make Chicago a better city and if he wants to make it more business-friendly, here is my suggestion: end all of these fairs, fests, parades, etc. I want to live someplace where I can just go from Point A to Point B without anything unexpected getting in my way. I leave. Then I arrive. That is it. I honestly would not recommend that anyone move to Chicago. I really do not care about taxes. I just want to go about my business.

Going back to the bike parade: I am pretty sure that it had some sort of city sanction or permit. There were quite a few police officers in the parade. I am not sure what the point of it was. Was it to encourage people giving up their cars and bike more? If so, I guarantee it was a failure. It made bad traffic even worse. If you are the reason someone is spending even more time in traffic, they will not listen to what you have to say on transportation.

Image from Wikipedia

 

 

Delayed Update

Originally posted 2011-05-30 20:35:04

I had planned on posting at least once a week. But last week I was not in a good mood at all.

I went to see a few friends in Oak Park, and I had another event planned in the city. So I had to drive back in. But traffic ground to a halt on Lake Shore Drive. So I got off, and wound up taking a detour. Some of the detour was on streets that were unfamiliar, so I spent some time going in the opposite direction that I wanted to go in.

Other streets were crowded and slow, and others were under construction. We have had construction all over the city for as long as I can remember. Why can’t anyone in this city build a road?

I went down to Texas last year, and from what I remember the roads seemed better. They do love their cars in Texas.

Another thing that happened is that I was talking to someone who had interviewed with a job in Denver, and I am now thinking about going to Denver. But I am still leaning towards Texas.

Image from Wikipedia

CTA Delayed

Originally posted 2011-05-17 07:26:54

Yesterday Rahm Emmanuel was inaugurated as mayor. A lot of people think that having a new mayor will revitalize our city. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. I hope things get better around here, but I don’t know if it will be enough to get me to stay.

At the hour of the inauguration, I was on the CTA. There was a delay due to some signal problems. So I was on the CTA for an additional 30 minutes. I think it was pretty ironic. The start of a new era and I was motionless.

Image from City of Chicago website