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Thursday, 27 July 2006
Topic: Food

Last week I attended, with my companion from Keipopnation, my cousin's wedding in central Pennsylvania. It was great seeing my family, and everyone had a good time. There are many things I could discuss here about our visit, but will instead use this medium to share with my audience our discovery of an unhealthy snack food called Hulless Cheese Puff' N Corn (whose discarded remains [right] have been lying on my floor since July 18).

I am confident that at some point everyone has become frustrated with popcorn's offensive texture. That is, its tendency to disintegrate into an armada of fibrous, undigestible pellets and flakes that lodge themselves in your gums, teeth, throat, and probably digestive tract. Somehow Snyder of Berlin, a snack foods manufacturer based in Pennsylvania, whose product we discovered at a gas station in that state, has created an enjoyable, artificial-cheese-infused snack that boasts the airy, slightly gritty aspect of popcorn without the inedible obstacles.

Suspiciously, Snyder of Berlin (pronounced BER-lin) is located near the location of the better-known/more widely distributed Snyder's of Hanover, though their packaging declares, "We are not connected with Snyder's of Hanover, Inc." In fact, it seems they were once the same company but split in 1981, at which point the Berlin plant became the lesser-known company. However, Snyder's of Hanover does not offer Hulless Cheese flavored puffed corn, giving Berlin a distinct advantage. But you know who does? Utz Quality Foods, located in...Hanover, PA. It seems Pennsylvania is home to an incestuous and overly complex battle of snack foods.

Posted by thenovakids at 11:18 PM CDT
Updated: Friday, 28 July 2006 8:24 AM CDT
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Thursday, 29 June 2006
Topic: Miscellaneous
For several years I have ignored the hype and barrage of commercials FOX runs for 24, remembering Kiefer Sutherland as no more than the punky teenage vampire gang leader in The Lost Boys, and son of Donald, the elderly vampire slayer mentor from the Buffy movie.

But then the more contemporary, non-vampirical, potential awesomeness of Kiefer was communicated to me last July (spent in Yokohama), via a Calorie Mate commercial in which Jack Bauer crushes through a subway car full of school girls. That was my first exposure to his shouting (which I now look forward to seeing in each episode), made all the more sweeter by being directed at seemingly innocent high school girls.

I should metion that Calorie Mate is a nutrient-rich blocky biscuit thing, whose purpose is analagous to that of the PowerBar. They also make a gel (as in the embedded commercial) and flavored drinks. Details of their products can be found here: Calorie Mate.

The 24 campaign has an exciting site, as well: CMT24

Posted by thenovakids at 10:52 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, 29 June 2006 11:02 PM CDT
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Thursday, 22 June 2006
Topic: Architecture / Travel
The famous Japanese architect, ISOZAKI Arata, known for a number of international projects including LA's Museum of Contemporary Art and Kyoto's concert hall, appears in an interview regarding Japan's results in the World Cup. An interesting choice, but since it's pretty much just soccer talk, it's probably only interesting if you like soccer more than architecture:

Posted by thenovakids at 11:58 AM CDT
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Tuesday, 20 June 2006
Topic: Architecture / Chicago
Metra, the Chicago area's commuter rail system, antagonizes expressway drivers with its self-rightous billboards that boast, "We're On Time. Are You?" It's their job to be on time, and not their business whether mine is. Otherwise, from my one experience riding one of their trains, I think they do fine. But if especially irritated, one might be tempted to pose a similarly accusatory question like, "I Don't Present Myself as a Pile of Standard Lumber Scraps Nailed Together Haphazardly. Do You?"

Earlier this month the Chicago Tribune printed an article on Metra's Roosevelt Street Station. Despite being a primary city hub for the system, located across from the Museum Campus, it is a long-neglected and never fully realized facility. It is built from standard 2-bys, and is crooked and leaning. Walkways are reinforced with diagonal members that prop them up from the sides. I have admired its ramshackled crudeness from the CTA bus many times, but it seems like people are getting pretty sick of it. It is certainly absurd that neither the public, the city, or Metra's own dignity have demanded its replacement. The Tribune article offers explanations about budget delays, and other predictable set-backs. But with the shiny new condos going up around it, I imagine something's going to have to happen soon.

Chicago Tribune: "Showcase Metra Station Suffering"

Posted by thenovakids at 10:42 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, 20 June 2006 10:43 PM CDT
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Monday, 5 June 2006
Topic: Site Features
The 1908 Chicago and Northwestern Railway Bascule Bridge south of Kinzie Street has been added to TAKOTRON BRIDGES. The site is now up to date and complete, at least until another wave of research and accompanying field trip takes place.

Posted by thenovakids at 2:40 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, 5 June 2006 2:49 PM CDT
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Monday, 29 May 2006
Topic: Architecture / Chicago
TAKOTRON BRIDGES is now up and ready for your consumption. The site contains information I have compiled and photos I have taken of some of Chicago's moveable railroad bridges. Chicago was the home of various modern engineering marvels, including the elevator and skyscraper, and the marriage of such innovation with the city's place as America's railroad hub yielded some incredible new bridge designs. Most notable is the Strauss trunnion bascule bridge, designed by Joseph Buermann Strauss, better known for the Golden Gate Bridge. Other methods for accomodating both the railroad and an open waterway were developed as well, including this unique vertical lift solution in which a 1500-ton span is elevated 130 feet above the Chicago River.

Posted by thenovakids at 11:32 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, 29 May 2006 11:55 PM CDT
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Sunday, 28 May 2006
Topic: Food / Chicago
The other night I took Miss Keipop to the Bridgeport institution, Schaller's Pump, for dinner and a drink. Schaller's is a family owned pub that's been around since 1881, a staple of the working-class neighborhood that has served as the epicenter of Chicago politics and Sox-pride (on the walls are posters of the owner, Jack Schaller, holding the 2005 World Series trophy).

Once inside the square brick box at Halsted and 37th, we found ourselves in the midst of what felt like a small-town, old-timer bar. Miller and Bud are the choices from the tap, while the basic menu is similarly unpretentious, offering inexpensive burgers, sandwiches, and slabs of meat. The food was great, the people friendly, and the environment comfortable.

Partway through our meal a man came in to do what seemed like a regular 'dinner-music' gig, playing corny old tunes on an electric Yamaha piano. It was pretty charming, and some of the old-timers even came up and sang along, as Mr. Schaller himself hummed along the whole time.

Other write-ups:
Chicago Public Radio, Oct 25, 2005 (13 min through)
Metromix (Tribune)
Chicago Foodies
AOL Cityguide

Another folksy place that pulls for the Sox, if you're in the loop, is the Exchequer at 226 S Wabash.

Posted by thenovakids at 1:40 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, 29 May 2006 11:45 PM CDT
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Tuesday, 23 May 2006
Topic: Site Features
I am working on a website devoted to the historically significant but overlooked railroad bridges over the Chicago river system. I will introduce the site more formally when it is presentable, but it can be visited while under construction at:

Posted by thenovakids at 1:30 AM CDT
Updated: Monday, 29 May 2006 11:47 PM CDT
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Tuesday, 16 May 2006
Topic: Architecture / Chicago
When I first passed by the Chicago Board of Trade, I thought I recognized its logo from somewhere. Upon reflection, I realized it is extremely similar to that of Omni Consumer Products (OCP), the sinister corporation that runs Detroit in the 1987 film Robocop. One or two friends confirmed this similarity, so I thought I would investigate. The website RoboCop Archive has a whole page dedicated to logos used in the films from which the rightmost image was extracted (and modified). As you can see, both logos are octagonal, divided into 3 rings with a center, with the outer 2 rings broken by an extension radiating from the inner ring that is the width of that ring's side. Coincidence or influence?

Posted by thenovakids at 9:57 AM CDT
Updated: Monday, 29 May 2006 11:51 PM CDT
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Monday, 15 May 2006
Topic: Food / Chicago
IIT M.Arch Program 3 Year 1 has ended, and I am back on earth, reemerging into society for the summer. It is high time I resume my duty of sharing with the world my discoveries in the complex folds of our contemporary urbanscape.

Let us start with Chicago's Deluxe Diner.
One of Long Island's key features is its plethora of 24 hour diners, complete with neon, chrome, and frosted glass. I remember at one point the short-lived, LI-based little sister of the Village Voice had a feature in which the author and a friend ate at 24 24-hour diners in 24 hours--a masochistic gastrochallenge. Small towns seem to have their own humble analogues in Perkins, Denny's, or Waffle House, but Chicago presents the late-night diner with a multitude of (fried) options: the delicious and ubiquitous Golden Nugget Pancake Houses, IHOPs, and independent greasy spoons like the personal favorite, White Palace Grill.

But if you find yourself on the far north side in the middle of the night, heavily intoxicated and in need of processed meat, pancakes, and/or onion rings, you absolutely must go to Deluxe Diner on Clark and Devon. Their food, accompanied by off-brand soft drinks (left), is a cut above the late-night expectations, and, in my experience, there is almost always an interesting incident. For instance, once a couple got in an argument and the woman threw her plate, smashing it against the wall. Another time there was an African-American man in a Hasidic get-up who kept wandering in and out of the restaurant, twitching and mumbling to himself. That same night a group of extremely drunk college seniors(?) arrived. The boys were all dressed identically in nice jeans and untucked, vertically-striped dress-shirts. One girl kept falling out of her chair and making loud, amorous phone-calls. Another eventually vomited all over the table and left a trail across the floor and out the door. Unfortunately, it also seems the Deluxe Diner was once host to a much less funny, more extreme incident. But don't let that discourage you. The servers are patient and friendly, and the food is tasty at all hours.

Posted by thenovakids at 11:17 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, 29 May 2006 11:49 PM CDT
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Sunday, 9 April 2006
Topic: Miscellaneous

There is, of course, also a google moon, which I thought would be less exciting...until I zoomed in past the resolution of available data and found myself facing a screen full of cartoon cheese! Good geek humor!
Straight Dope: How did the moon=green cheese myth start?

Posted by thenovakids at 10:22 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, 29 May 2006 11:55 PM CDT
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Topic: Miscellaneous
I suspect this is a long-term investment, so when we get around to colonizing, Google will be raking in fortunes off all the casual map-users.


Posted by thenovakids at 4:09 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, 29 May 2006 11:53 PM CDT
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Saturday, 8 April 2006
Topic: Music

"The AZ-1 is a 41-note velocity and aftertouch sensitive performance remote keyboard MIDI controller. 2 wheels, 2 switches and 1 slider are user assignable to different MIDI functions. A row of buttons is used to access 128 program change commands. 2 switchable MIDI channels allow you to switch between two synths or performances on the fly. There are also dedicated sustain and portamento controller buttons. Lightweight and battery-powered. (1986)"

Posted by thenovakids at 3:51 PM CDT
Updated: Monday, 29 May 2006 11:55 PM CDT
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Tuesday, 28 March 2006
Container City

Topic: Architecture / Travel
Another installmant of observations and highlights from London, after a brief hiatus--we've been holed up in our busy workshop.

In the docklands of east London are some architectural suprises. The landscape is former-industrial, with some remaining oil tanks, dumps, and emptied wastelands. Popping up all over are expensive new condos, which seem an odd fit. The Richard Rogers-designed Millenium Dome, the world's largest dome, sits on the Thames, a budget blowout temporarily abandoned. The Greenwich Meridian you set your watch to runs across it.

Across the Thames, near the River Lea, is a complex that harks back to the site's industrial past in a more creative way than the repetitive high-rise condos. Devised by Urban Space Management, Container City is literally just that, a mixed use complex built entirely from corrugated steel shipping containers fitted with spray on insulation and inhabited by various artists' studios, workshops, and small offices (zoning restrictions prohibit straight residential use).

Bright colors and unexpected angles make it more interesting than it might be. Intelligent re-use is found in less obvious manners as well: the newest block is built over a rain collection reservoir that pumps water up through the building for services like toilet-flushing. The site is also home to a lighthouse designed in 1863 for Michael Faraday, who used it in his experiments with optics and light projection.

Millenium Dome
Container City
Housing Prototypes: Container City

Posted by thenovakids at 12:40 AM CST
Updated: Monday, 29 May 2006 11:53 PM CDT
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Wednesday, 15 March 2006
Takotron Media

Topic: Site Features
A new, more austere portal to the works of TAKOTRON has been envisioned, engineered, and uploaded. With a white background, of all things. Visit this sexy new thing here:


Posted by thenovakids at 2:13 AM CST
Updated: Monday, 29 May 2006 11:56 PM CDT
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