Chicago Divvy Bikes Problems

I was a huge fan of the Chicago Divvy Bike system (http://www.divvybikes.com) when it was introduced last summer. It provided a very convenient, cheap, personally beneficial and eco-friendly method of transportation in a city where those criteria can usually never be completely or concurrently fulfilled. I quickly signed up for an annual membership at $75, and used the system sparingly but happily throughout the warm months.

I’m not sure if the harsh winter of 2013/14 took it’s tool on the equipment, or if there the rapid expansion of the Divvy system itself is to blame, but my experiences this summer have been lacking to say the least. I’ve taken 4 trips on Divvy so far this summer and here are the problems I’ve encountered:

  1. Credit card reader malfunctioning: The card swipe device just refused to even acknowledge that a card was being dipped at all. This happened two machines that we encountered, forcing us to walk to the nearest station, about 2-3 blocks away.
  2. On a trip to Montrose beach, the one station int he vicinity of the beach, and nowhere near any other station, had 3 open docks to store my bike. Great, no problem, I thought. Wrong. All 3 docks were in the locked position, not allowing a Divvy bike to be plugged in. Rider after rider came up to the station, only to be forced to go to another station. On top of that, the console did not allow for extra time to be requested, apparently thinking that it had 3 open docks. So after riding a mile to this station, my wife and I had to ride the mile back to the nearest station, dock the bikes (luckily there were open, functioning docks there) and then walk back to Montrose, where we were now late to our volleyball league game.
  3. On top of the above story, my wife had just bought an annual pass, but could not use it since the key had not yet arrived. No temporary code or pass is offered in this situation. When she tried to dip her credit card in the console, the machine said that our Visa was not a supported credit card. 5 attempts later, it was finally accepted.
  4. Again in the #2 situation above, and in every trip I’ve taken this summer, the bikes have been in a horrible state of disrepair. The gears slip very often, almost causing me to lose traction on the pedals and fall off the bike. The fenders are loose and rattle with each bump. The gear shift rarely clicks and stay into its (admittedly horrible) 3 gear slots. Possibly related, the mechanism used to dock the bike may be so mashed up that it is causing some docks to lock without a bike in them.
  5. Paying for a one-day pass at a kiosk involves WAY too many steps. On busy weekend days, there are often multiple people waiting to take out a bike, and each person has to spend an almost 5 minute process clicking through each of the steps and acknowledgements on the kiosk screen.

I definitely do not blame the Divvy company for trying; this system is a blessing to Chicago and with the right amount of maintenance and upkeep it can be great. But right now, I believe that Divvy has grown beyond its capacity for quality and has instead concentrated on quantity.

I will not be recommending Divvy to anyone until I see that the quality has caught up with better functioning kiosks and docks, repaired bikes, and better options for riders stranded at remote stations.

Love and Other Drugs

From July 2008 until July 2011 I lived alone, in 2 cities and 2 separate single-bedroom apartments. What set it off was a breakup with my girlfriend of 3 years, something I initiated. The details of that breakup are portrayed from the other side in multiple blog posts and published in a book(!), all of which don’t really paint me in the best of lights. To sum it up, I came to a very quick realization, acted on it, and ties were severed quickly. I was able to move on very quickly. The other party was not. The rest is history. Opinions vary on if I’m the bad guy.

So I bachelored it in a new apartment far away from downtown and pretty much out in the sticks. It was a 25 minute drive to school, where I had one more year to complete my bachelors degree. I also joined the club volleyball team. I was hoping to find some sort of social connection at school but, being 8-10 years older than most everyone, was unable to fit in much. I made a few connections but they were mostly hometown ties as opposed to new friends and groups.

But I enjoyed being alone and exploring where I wanted to go and who with. I did not date, but that didn’t stop me from falling in love. There were probably 3 women who I was madly in love with, without even so much as a lunch date with any of them. Girl “A” was a friend of a friend, we all went out a few times and I paid much more attention to “A” than our mutual friend, who liked me. Girl “T” was a fantastic person who I met in class and fell for on the first day. We actually became friends and still are to this day. Girl “K” lived in Chicago and was miles away but on a couple visits I felt like she was fun, pretty and wholesome. Despite knowing her hardly at all, and despite her being one of my best friend’s best friends, I thought she was perfect for me.

But alas, hindsight is 20/20. I understand now, 3 years later, that I was merely alone and I was reaching. I was reaching for companionship, manifesting it in my mind wherever I found friendliness, and even mild attraction. I was looking for a quick solution to what I thought was a non-problem: not having anyone to share my life with.

I moved to Chicago in 2009 and almost immediately started online dating. I found one girl who was fun to be with but we had hardly anything in common. I broke things off with her once I met Girl “B”. I though “B” was great but it was the same thing as before: I was creating love where there was just companionship and a list of commonalities. So when I started attending volleyball meet ups and meeting new friends I found that I just wanted to hang out with them instead of with her. She was a great person, but we just weren’t as compatible as I had told myself we were. After 3 months I broke it off when I realized what was happening.

I swore off of online dating and just dedicated myself to having fun with friends. I wasn’t necessarily looking for love or even a date, I just wanted to explore the city and have fun with new companions. What happened was that one of my new good friends turned out to be my current wife.

Girl “N” and I had a lot in common, and we talked a lot in the early days as friends. But even from the beginning I could tell there was more to her than anyone I had ever met. She understood me, she supported me, she leaned on me, and she boosted my confidence. We ended up spending more and more time together and eventually we realized we were more than “just friends.” We were in love. It wasn’t forced, it wasn’t an expectation that I created out of nowhere. It was organic and pure attraction and emotion. We just loved being together and talking to each other about our lives, about our friends, and about our futures. So much so that we ended up moving in together and eventually getting married. And now she’s the love and light of my life.

I guess the point of this post is that being alone is kind of like being stranded in the middle of the desert. You have to be really careful or you’re going to encounter mirages. Your mind is going to crave water and shelter so bad that it will create it at some point. A lonely person will create emotion and connection where it isn’t if it gets to a certain point. I feel like patience and even restraint are the best practices for someone who is alone and unsure of where they will find love. Because it will most assuredly come from somewhere that you don’t expect.

Why and How I Use Twitter

I use Twitter every single day of my life, and have my live stream of tweets open on either my computer when working or at home, or on my phone when I’m commuting or waiting in line somewhere. A lot of people ask what Twitter is used for, and why they would need to know when someone is “eating dinner or going to the bathroom.”

Twitter started out that way, yes. It was a simple, text-based system to tell your friends what you’re doing “right now.” But in the years since it was introduced, Twitter has blown up and become a vital part of our society. It’s a prominent method of communication and a vital part of the public sphere. You cannot watch TV or go online without feeling Twitter’s presence.

So how is it used? I’ve seen a lot of new users to Twitter follow people like celebrities, only to quickly realize that this tends to be more towards the “I’m having dinner” type of information stream. In contrast, I only follow a handful of celebrities and/or actual “people.” They are the ones I’m either really interested in their opinions, or I find their tweets to be hilarious distractions from my day.

The rest of those I follow are news sites (APNews, BuzzFeedNews, local newspaper), Sports related (ESPN, DetroitBadBoys), Tech related (AppleInsider, various software companies), and web development bloggers and resources (SmashingMagazine, Zeldman, AListApart, etc.). I follow accounts for any services I use, such as Gmail, Twitter, and Dropbox, so that I can get updates on outages and new features as soon as possible.

Of course I also follow my friends and colleagues, as I like to read their witty tweets about whatever is bothering or exciting them at the time.

So the gist is that I recommend using Twitter as less of a celebrity and sports team-following service, but rather as more of an information-stream, news and opinion service.

Reverted back to @Spotify from @Rdio. Rdio had too many UX annoyances that just didn't work for me. Miss the design though.

Canceled Spotify, now using Rdio. Rdio is just so much cleaner.

Chauncey Billups just signed with the Detroit Pistons again and rocked my world. #MrBigShot #fb

Another horrible signing by Joe Dumars for the @detroitpistons. Bye-bye Joe. (Unless you sign Rondo)

Thoughts On Dwyane Wade

I make it no secret that I hate the Miami Heat. And I hate Lebron James. And I hate the star-system that has taken over and ruled the NBA ever since Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen joined the Celtics in 2008.

But I can deal with it all in some fashion or another. However I can’t deal with my absolute hatred of Dwyane Wade and the miserable human being he is. This is a pretty close summarization of my thoughts on him, via Grantland:

Andrew Sharp: To review:

• He dresses like Lucille Bluth.
• When he’s struggled, he’s generally refused to take responsibility.
• He remains king of the cheap shots.
• He nicknamed himself “WOW” earlier this season, and even LeBron said it was corny.
• He’s been a liability for the majority of the Heat’s playoff run, and before Thursday, there was plenty of evidence the Heat are better without him.
• Even when he plays well, he still dominates the ball, complains to the refs constantly, and hijacks the Miami offense for possessions at a time.

This is an incomplete list of Dwyane Wade transgressions, but you get the idea.

And he’s not getting traded. No matter what anyone says about the Heat maybe possibly parting ways with D-Wade, no matter how badly he falls off, it’ll never happen. Because he played a crucial role in the shady process of recruiting LeBron, because he is a certified deity in South Florida, because nobody would ever trade for him at this point. In other words, we’re stuck with Wade front and center on the best team in the NBA for at least the next year or two. After Game 7 he told reporters to call him “three,” and then corrected a reporter who called him “Dwyane.” It’s horrible. He is horrible.

But he played well last night. And came up huge in a must-win Game 4. And in the two biggest games of the Pacers series. And in the closeout game against the Bulls.

I wrote about this a few weeks ago: You can hate Dwyane Wade, you can curse his name during every Heat game, and you can make jokes about how objectively horrible he’s become, but he always finds a way to show up and silence everyone. He did it again in Game 7 — 23 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks — because of course he did.

And when he was giving drunk interviews and doing confetti snow angels and giving himself nicknames last night, I was even a little happy for him. Just for a second. He deserves it, because he sold his soul to the devil and/or Pat Riley, got baptized in Moët and/or ate Rony Seikaly’s heart, and because he probably played through an ungodly amount of pain the past few months. He’s incredible whether we like it or not.

See you next year, D-Wade. Hate you. Love you. Will never escape you.

Found a good Google Reader alternative: Feedbin $2/month but worth that so far if it stays simple, and stays around feedbin.me