Celebrate New Year's Eve at RoPa

RoPa, located at 1146 W. Pratt is offering New Year's Eve specials as well as their regular menu.  Don't forget to call and make a reservation (773-508-0002). Read about it on the Rogers Park Business Alliance blog.

Grand Victoria Casino, Elgin

Saturday was our first wedding anniversary, and since we were married in Vegas, we decided to adventure out to a casino to celebrate. It was, uh, an adventure.

Yikes: Tribune's New CEO & Freedom of the Press?

Hard to say what's worse: That the Tribune's new CEO Randy Michaels is an ex-shock jock who sounds like he's the embodiment of the bad end of the sophomoric element of morning radio; or that NBC Chicago squashed a pretty straightforward piece on this guy, and nobody's got the balls to give author Steve Rhodes an honest answer as to what happened.

Verizon: FAIL

Well, that was a short adventure. On Wednesday, I stopped into a Verizon Wireless Store and picked up a Mifi 3G pocket router/modem. It's small, it's neat looking, it's easy to configure.

3G vs. 3G: Whose mobile data network is best?

My colleague Matt shared this very detailed article from Telephony Online that breaks down who actually has the best 3G network. It's nice to see some data applied to the question of whose network is better; I trust data more than I trust Luke Wilson.

The Ethics of Content Syndication (or "Theft")

This weekend, while dealing with yet another dillhole who thinks it's kosher to republish content I've authored sans consent, I figured that perhaps it was time to again point out the ethical considerations relating to content syndication and republishing.

New Website!

Yesterday I set up a website for my favorite hot dog stand, the Wiener and Still Champion in Evanston. Why do people charge so much for websites? I just don't see the point, unless there's some big, significant value being added over what you can do on your own, with a few hours of elbow grease. The site is hosted (free) with Blogger. I think it cost, in total, $6, for the first year of the domain registration.

I ended up starting with this "Natural Health" Blogger template -- which I think is pretty funny considering it was going to be for a hot dog stand -- and tweaked it until I ended up with the yellow, orange and red thing you see before you today.

Country-Fried Gyros!

Are you tired of me talking about Wiener and Still Champion yet? No? Good.

Last night Kate and I made our way up to WaSC in Evanston after work, both to meet up with our friends and to sample some of the new goodies on the menu. Our trip was well worth it, we were rewarded with many delicious deep-fried treats.

Hana Restaurant on Sheridan

Hana Restaurant is open! Located in Rogers Park at 6803 Sheridan, in the old Mandarin Restaurant space, they serve delicious Japanese cuisine, including teriyaki and and sushi. I stopped in for lunch today and had the pleasure of being the second customer. I loaded up on sushi rolls: California, Spicy Tuna, and Philadelphia. The kind proprietor also gave me a piece of nagiri to try; I think it was barbecued unagi, and it was delicious. Didn't see that on the menu, but I'll be sure to ask about it next time I stop in. Everything I tried was all very good and I can't wait to go back some time soon for dinner with my wife. I imagine she'll try the teriyaki or tempura, since she's not much of a sushi fan.

Hana Restaurant
6803 N Sheridan Road
Chicago, IL 60626
(773) 338-8815 Phone
(773) 338-8895 Fax
Menu (PDF Format)
Google Maps

Saturday with Copying Files and Crazy Rebooting XP Funtime

I walked up to my office on Saturday to catch up on work (having been out at two conferences the whole week prior), and also to swap some hardware around. All because I really want an iMac.

Hey, what's a Bacon Rodeo?

You might have noticed (or might not have noticed) that this blog now lives at www.baconrodeo.com. I've decided to move the blog off of aliverson.com and turn that URL into a sort of a calling card website with links to all my different blogs and projects and such.

Sullivan's $69 for Two

Thinking I was over my bit o' viral unhappiness the other night, Kate and I wandered downtown to go to the post office and have dinner.

Blogger Lookin' All Fancy 'n Stuff

Check out my fancy new Blogger template. After I re-skinned Spam Resource last week, I figured it was about time to update this blog, as well. I can't remember which tempate this is, but I got it from btemplates.com. It wasn't too hard to drop into place, and wow, it looks so much better than any of the default Blogger templates. It took a bit of time to add-in all the widgets I wanted, and to re-add any links that fell off when I swapped out the template, but that was no big deal.

If anybody out there wants help reskinning their Blogger-hosted blog to make it look a little better, don't hesitate to reach out. I'd be happy to help. I'm looking at you, Toni!

Photoshop 7 Works on Linux!

Woot! It turns out that Photoshop 7 runs fine under Wine on Ubuntu. Annoyingly, my legal copy of Photoshop is version 6, and it does not run in Wine. It runs through the startup process, then dumps out right as it tries to draw the tools palette.

New Video Store?

Looks like Tom Westgard's old office space at (I think) 6970 Sheridan (at Lunt) is going to become a video store, according to the notice of a zoning change request found taped to the window as I walk by it today.

What's a video store? People actually use those nowadays?

Now Open: Five Guys

Over on her Tales from the Lake Shore blog, Neighbor friend Red Haired Girl reports on the new Five Guys Burger Joint, just opened at Sheridan and Arthur/Loyola.

I can't wait to try this place out. I tried to go there for lunch yesterday, but it was too busy. And I'm in Indiana for most of the rest of the week, so it will have to wait until this weekend.

400 Theater Opened Last Night

Kate and I went to see Public Enemies at the New 400 Theater (formerly the Village North) last night. Our experience was mostly positive, and we're definitely glad that the theater is back open again. I hope they're not quite done renovating; there's some disappointing, incomplete facade work on the outside around the doors, and the inside hallways and lobby looks like the grandest expense spent was put toward a coat of white paint. Also, the screen in auditorium #4 seems to have a hot spot in it, perhaps due to a bump on the wall or a shadow from some leaking light source.

I'm sure I've made the new owner very unhappy with those statements, but I have to call it like I see it.

That being said, it's great to see the theater here; it provides a valuable service to Rogers Park, and helps to keep our neighborhood alive and vibrant. I want the theater to succeed, and I hope the plans for success include putting a little more elbow grease into making the place shine.

Parking on Pratt and Sheridan?

We rented a car to go out of town last week, as we occasionally do. We returned to Chicago on Monday night, but weren't able to return the car until Tuesday morning, as Enterprise wasn't open in the evening. Yuck, a night of street parking. My least favorite thing about Rogers Park.

That got me thinking -- is it possible to get occasional temporary parking permits for the permit parking in the neighborhood? I don't actually own a car, so I wouldn't be buying a city sticker. If it's allowable to occasionally get a temporary permit, how does one go about doing that?

Beware: Woot Sent My Mom Dying Flowers, Doesn't Care

I just wrote the following email to Consumerist, CC'ing Woot. If you're considering buying something from Woot, you might want to read this first.

Dear Ben and Co. at Consumerist,

Straight Dope Chicago: Is Rogers Park as bad as they say?

Cecil Adams answers the question, is Rogers Park unsafe? Short answer no, he says, followed by a ton of detailed analysis on crime statistics and comparison data between community areas. A very interesting read.

(H/T to Thomas Westgard)

It's Office Hunt Time

I'm considering moving my office out of the building where Sonny's is. The owners of that building have been nice, but I either want to move downtown or find something with more light and a more interesting space in the neighborhood.

As I embark upon my investigation, I note a couple of empty spaces nearby.

Wife in Chicago Tribune Today

Here's a link to the story online.

You'll have to stop in to your neighborhood 7-11 and pick up the print version to see the pictures. If you do, make sure you buy at least 150 copies, because the Trib needs money.

In the article, I'm referred to as an Internet marketing director, which is my Standard Answer to the "so, what do you do?" question, the one I give when I don't want to explain about email and spam fighting.

Enterprise Rent-A-Car in Rogers Park

Kate and I rented a car for a long weekend drive to Minneapolis and back. Looking online, I found that there is a new Enterprise Rent-A-Car in Rogers Park, at 6816 N Clark Street (between Pratt and Farwell).

When making the reservation online, I found that I couldn't include the damage waiver and liability insurance in the online quote. This isn't that uncommon, as it seems that most rental companies don't allow you to include that in the online quote. This bothers me, though, because the insurance is an amorphous blob of a cost center, something they can puff up the price of at the counter to see if you're paying attention. (At least, that's been my experience in the past.) I wouldn't even utilize the insurance, but now that I have no car, why have car insurance? So, I use the car rental company's insurance when renting a car. Not cheap, but still cheaper than owning a car.

Doing my research onlilne, I found that Budget's online quotes can include insurance if desired, so I quoted it out via Budget as well, figuring that if I didn't like what I was hearing at the Enterprise counter, I'd walk and head on down to Budget instead.

Thankfully, that turned out not to be necessary. Enterprise called me an hour before my reservation, confirmed everything, and at my request, quoted me an updated price that included the damage waiver and liability insurance. (The full cost turned out to be much lower than Budget, too, even accounting for insurance.)

They provided me with a PT Cruiser, which is one of those many cars that I would never buy for myself, but it worked fine, and it was in very good shape. Very happy with it.

Long story short, next time we need to rent a car for an out-of-town trip, I'll go with Enterprise again.

Gizmodo: Thanks, but no thanks.

Tis a shame that Gizmodo doesn't get any sort of active feedback when I unsubscribe from their RSS feed, as I've done today. I'm a long time reader of their blog, but they've gone overboard today. The site is completely unreadable, and the posts are filled with crap and/or fake, made up stuff. I know it's April Fool's day, but it's just not funny. One joke (maybe) is funny. Screwing up a large, active site entirely for a whole day is lame.

So, goodbye, Gizmodo. You've been removed from my RSS reader.

And thank you, Engadget, for not doing the same thing.

We love the Wiener! (And Still Champion!)

My mom is visiting this weekend. Kate and I dragged my mom to Wiener and Still Champion in Evanston. My mom had a Dippin' Dog, WASC's name for their hand-battered corn dogs, which she loved. Kate and I each had a dog and split an order of fries. Afterward, we were still a bit hungry, so we went back for more, and I ordered three more dippin' dogs. Man, those were good. I love the batter on the dogs; it's very similar to corn bread. Yum. Definitely worth the train ride to Dempster.

Amazon EC2

Does anybody out there use Amazon EC2 to host their web sites and/or web applications? I'm intrigued by the concept, and am debating signing up, spending a few bucks, checking it out. No server to colo, yet you're not restricted with regard to what OS you can run and what apps you can run on it. So, I could have a custom Ubuntu box doing whatever I want -- hosting all my websites, running a bit of MySQL, etc. Is it worth the effort?

Heartland Cafe Reopens

Read about it here.

From reading the Channel 2 News Story, sounds like the owners have caught on to the fact that whining about their situation wasn't helping their case in the press (or on the blogs). Now I'm seeing Ms. Hogan talk more about the future, how they've fixed things, taking this very seriously, and not seeing any more "OMG, the city was so mean to us!"

We're trying to decide if we want to come check it out or not. We're glad to hear that things may be cleaned up and improved, but I'm also thinking that RoPa is much more deserving of our limited entertainment dollars.

Help My Friends Peter and Ericka?

My friends Peter and Ericka in Minneapolis are struggling under the weight of the sagging economy, and their home is facing foreclosure. I've known Peter long enough and well enough to know that he's not a screw up -- he's not secretly taking donations and using them for drugs or something. He's a hard worker who's been out of work lately. Ericka is disabled. Their home has been significantly modified to make life easier and more comfortable for her. That's the kicker. If they lose their house -- they're not only out the house, but wherever they end up next, they'll have to modify that place for Ericka, and that won't come cheap.

They were actually only about $9k in the hole, and they've already made up some of that through some hard work on Peter's part and through the kindess of friends and strangers. Would you consider donating a few bucks toward helping them save their house? Any amount would help.

Why not take that money you were going to donate to public radio this time around and donate it for this cause instead? The reward is that you're actively helping someobody to keep a roof over their head.

For more information, and a link to donate via Paypal, visit http://tinyurl.com/by9xot

Thanks for listening, and I'll stand down off my soap box now.

Heartland Cafe

I just saw this article linked from the front page of the Chicago Tribune. Was already aware, first heard about it on Twitter, and then on the blogs, but here's some more detail.

Heartland Cafe was closed for the following health code violations: mouse feces throughout; a slimy black mold inside its automatic ice machine that was dripping into the ice-forming tray; and 24 pounds of food that should have been stored at below 40 degrees Fahrenheit that was warmer, including shredded chicken, tofu and cut vegetables.

All together now.......EWWW.

Read the whole story here.

In the article, the owner complains that the city's response was harsh. I disagree. When somebody gets sick and the health department comes in and takes a look, it is standard practice to shut the place down until all violations are rectified. Why? So nobody else gets sick before everything is resolved. You don't get "a few days" to work that out while staying open.

Kate and I stopped going here long ago because the food never seemed to be hot enough, the silverware and glasses were always grimy, and the general environment of the place just wasn't clean enough to our standards. Is that related to the current issues? Hard to say, as I'm not an expert on these things. But, in my uninformed opinion, I guess this doesn't surprise me all that much.

Finally, I would point out that though I'm no longer a vegetarian, I was one in the past. I regularly eat vegetarian and vegan fare, and I really enjoy tofu. Ever tried a veggie burger with bacon and cheese on it? It's confusing, but delicious. So I really, really wanted to enjoy the Heartland Cafe. The menu seems right up my alley. So trust me when I tell you that I'm not trashing the place due to a dislike for the "granola nature" of this place. If they could actually pull it off, I'd be over there for lunch or dinner a couple of times a week.

RoPa Reminder

Have you stopped into RoPa on Wednesday night for a $4 martini yet? They make 'em right. And the food is good, too. My fave of late is the cajun tilapia.

RoPa is at 1146 W Pratt, just east of Pratt and Sheridan. Good stuff!

Uncommon Ground on Devon

Uncommon Ground over on Devon got a quick, but positive write up over on Chicagoist today. Read it >>

Music in the Park – Rogers Park

Kate and I got home late last night after a long (and fun) week in San Francisco. In between the work functions I was out there for, we found a lot of good places to eat. A couple of which had music, but for the most part, we didn’t partake of any live music. Nor did we make it to my favorite club, the DNA Lounge. (To whom you should donate a buck or two, since they’re currently being hassled by the man.)

I regret reading (most of) the neighborhood blogs while I was gone. The Morse Theatre’s investor troubles lead to a mountain of speculation about what the Morse is or isn’t, and what it should be or shouldn’t be.

The Morse Theatre is a beautiful space. If it closes, I’m going to be saddened. I hope that it gets another shot at life – someday, somehow. Bloggers and commenters speculate about what would happen if it were opened up to those awful “rock-n-roll” shows, waving sadly aged concerns about a “Neil Peart”-loving crowd overrunning the corner of Morse and Glenwood, and all the implied damage that implies to the event space and the neighborhood.

Yeah, what? I don’t get it either. First, they were already doing shows other than jazz. There was/is definitely some stunt-booking going on. And I don’t blame Andy & co. for going that route. Starting up a new music venue is tough, and never guaranteed to do anything but lose money. The only ways to be even worse off are to open up in an economic downturn, and try to focus on jazz exclusively. I imagine that the negative impression Morse Avenue doesn’t help too much, either. (And that’s sad, because we need more stuff like the Morse Theatre to succeed, if that area is going to improve.)

I used to work for a jazz club in Minnesota – doing whatever I can to help get more people into the club. Working for free, running their website, trying to come up with occasional promotional opportunities. It was never easy – and the club in Minnesota was on a much more solid footing (read: “life was tough but relatively debt-free”) than the Morse is.

A jazz club is almost a losing proposition from day 1, in this day and age. Like some of the other commenters, I think it might benefit the club to open themselves up to more of the alt-rock indie-rock crowd a bit. I don't think it can hurt. (The real question is, are there shows out there to book, shows that'll make money. The economy is clamping down hard on entertainment dollars.)

If I ran the Morse, would I have done a lot of things differently? Sure, I would have. (And I would have started by complete discarding the restaurant’s wacky sausage-laden menu.) But, I don’t have any clue that anything I would have done would have helped them to prevent the situation they’re in. And, I strongly commend Andy McGhee for everything he’s done. And I wish I could have done something to help it succeed, something beyond dropping in for a show periodically. I guess the best thing I can do now is stop in a few more times, have a few drinks, and wait and see what the future brings.

On an unrelated topic, is Morseland a "hip hop nightclub"? Yeah, what? Angry Blogger is convinced of it, but I'm not so sure. Kate and I stopped in last night, for a late dinner after getting home from the airport, they were playing some pretty cool deep house and older dance music. You know. Music. From a vinyl record. Like a lot of bars do. Yes, they did play “Everyday People” by Arrested Development last night, but this does not make a venue a hip hop night club. Not even on Dirty Thursdays. (Actually, should I care if it’s a hip hop night club? I’m not sure that I do. I think this might actually be a cloaked concern about the kind of clientele that might attend a “hip hop club” – and I think that’s as much as I’ll say on that topic.)

Thanks, Sort Of!

The Chicago Reader was kind enough of to list my blog in its list of Rogers Park blogs in the most recent issue.

Tis a shame it was in the context of an issue of the Reader entirely focused on trashing the neighborhood and lots of the great things in it. Oh well. It was particularly (not) awesome of them to list U Lucky Dawg as open (last time we checked, it had gone out of business), and to give a snotty and unfair review of a couple restaurants that we actually really enjoy.

Been to RoPa Lately?

Hey, if Kate and I are cutting back on eating out (and we are), then holy hand grenades, Batman. The economy really is in the dumps. It never hurts to set more money aside to prepare for an uncertain future (and help to cover our upcoming wedding reception). For us, that means a lot more casseroles and a lot fewer visits to good restaurants. For restaurants, that means there are now a lot of people who, like us, are stopping in an awful lot less than in months prior.

That being said, we're still doing our part to try to help RoPa succeed. We still try to stop in for dinner every week or two – and I think you should do the same.

RoPa has great food. I've had steaks and pasta there, mainly. I like the Ribeye quite a bit, and have had it a few different times. Also, their chicken skewers are really, really good. Last time we were there, they had steak skewers for a special. Kate ordered them – and in hindsight, I wish I had ordered them as well. Kate let me have a taste, and they were fantastic. “Shish Kabobs, like we would call them in Turkey,” according to Ozkam. For appetizers, we have found the artichoke dip and calamari to be delicious.

RoPa now has a three course dinner option for $17.95, with various choices for soup/salad course, main course, and dessert. For entrees, this includes a choice of steak, pasta, pork chop, and another option or two. This is an excellent deal, and if you haven't stopped by RoPa yet, do you need any more reason to check it out?

RoPa is located just east of Sheridan and Pratt, at 1146 W. Pratt Blvd. Their phone number is 773-508-0002. Their website (sadly, under construction), can be found at www.roparestaurant.com. Visit Yelp for more reviews and to see RoPa's star ranking (4 stars). RoPa offers full cocktail service and a wide selection of wines.


Check out this article from Cockeyed.com about Cash4Gold. According to the site's author, Rob, when you send in gold to sell, they supposedly offer you a low-ball amount for your gold, and only come up to near market value if you complain or ask for the gold back.

The moral of the story is -- if you're going to sell gold or jewelry, have it appraised by somebody other than whom you're selling it to. Don't trust a potential buyer to give you a fair deal. (Something readers of Consumerist should already know. They mentioned Cash4Gold back in October.)

Rob from Cockeyed.com reports today that Cash4Gold has contacted him, looking to come to some sort of mutually-agreeable resolution that would help hide Rob's article about Cash4Gold from search results.

I thought it would be helpful to include a link to the story here, to help keep this information available in Google search results.

More (Moore) on the Village North Theater

On January 19th, Joe Moore sent out an email detailing the future plans for the Village North Theater. I'm not real big on reprinting Machine Propaganda, but I'm not seeing much mentioned elsewhere, so I thought I'd pass it along.

Joe Moore writes: "The Village North Theater at 6740 N. Sheridan has closed its doors, but will open again soon under new ownership after extensive interior and exterior renovations.

The theater, and the building which houses it, was purchased last year by Anthony Fox of CDF Capital. Mr. Fox has already restored much of the terra cotta facade and will soon begin the interior renovations. He shared his plans with community residents at a meeting last June.

Mr. Fox will continue to show new-release movies in all four theaters, but plans also to occasionally show art films and provide some live performances in the largest theater, such as poetry readings, comedy acts, children's activities and other cultural events.

The building which houses the Village North is also home to a Starbuck's and a Thai restaurant. Both businesses will continue to operate.

Mr. Fox tells me he hopes to reopen the theater in late spring."

January 20, 2009

Village North Theater

Looks like the Village North Theater has closed. I'm torn; it was great to have a set of movie screens so close to home. But, the place was a dive. Here's hoping that it'll be renovated and reopened as a movie theater!