Friday, November 30, 2007

Hot or Not - D-town style

So y'all remember that Hot or Not website? You'd spend hours looking through photos judging total strangers on their looks. Well, here's your chance to do it again, 1999-style.

My friend Tim's brother, a resident of the Detroit area, is in a contest to see who is the hottest guy in Detroit. I know what you're thinking, that's like being the cool kid in engineering school (or so I've been told), but hey, he'll win a trip to Mexico if he is chosen to be the hottest.

So go to this website (both of you), and vote for SHAWN GREENLEAf!! Thanks

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Cable-Stay This!

OK, those of you who know me well, and especially those who know me from back in the day, as it were, or rather, my college days, know that I LOVE BRIDGES!! They are my favorite part of the built environment. I love how simple and functional bridges are, yet how unique each one can be. My favorite bridges are (in no particular order, and only ones I've been to):

and now there's a new entry to this list....

The Midtown Greenway Bike Bridge in Minneapolis!

This bridge opened within the last few weeks connecting the Greenway segments on either side of Hiawatha Avenue so that bikers/pedestrians do not have to wait at the 4 minute (literally) stop light. It's a sweeping bridge that actually adds about a quarter mile or more to a bike ride due to the site constraints of existing buildings and the light rail. One has to ride to the north 2 blocks, cross the bridge, and then travel south 2 blocks to return to the Greenway. On the west side of the bridge, one has to cross a somewhat busy 4 lane road (28th Street) with no signal. It's a slightly dicey crossing. And the bridge cost $5 million. So $5 million to create a crossing that is a longer distance and adds an uncontrolled intersection... Interesting.

I have been using the bridge for a few weeks (mostly on my early morning trips to Uptown to have breakfast with Team Whitney). So I know you're all dying to know my opinion on the bridge and whether or not it was worth the $5 million. Well, there has been a lot of chatter and blogging about this bridge for a year or more on just those issues I mentioned above. A lot of the blogging has been at the Strib's Roadguy blog. Here's his most recent post here.

While watching the building of this bridge, I was very excited. I love cable-stayed bridges for their elegance, and I was happy to have one being built right on one of my usual bike routes! So I definitely was more optimistic than most on how useful it would be. But that also means my expectations were high and frankly, this bridge does not live up to my expectations. To be honest, the extra distance IS annoying, and if I were walking, I would probably just cross at the light on Hiawatha and skip the bridge altogether. With biking, it's about the same amount of time.

And the 28th St crossing? It is VERY dangerous. It seems more dangerous than the Hiawatha crossing because there is no control. Traffic moves very quickly here and is looking AHEAD towards the light at Hiawatha, and is not paying attention to the bikers/peds in the crosswalk.

Here's what works: This bridge is gorgeous. It gives great views of downtown, and great views of the neighborhood. There was a recent Strib editorial that said the bridge was good IN SPITE of the views of the industrial area around the bridge. I think those views ENHANCE the bridge. We're talking about Midtown, you've got to love it for what it is. The view of the old water tower and Midtown Commons in the background make this trip worth it.

Case in point, this morning as I was biking to breakfast, the wind was howling and gusting to 25 mph out of the NW. So what do I do? I bike up the ramp to the bridge directly into the wind instead of the easier crossing at Hiawatha. What? Because I love the views, I love the beauty of this bridge (especially before sunrise). But maybe I bike over it because we paid $5 million for that bridge and darn it, I'm going to get my money's worth. Ever buy a bagel or a donut and it's a little dry, not very tasty. Do you throw it away? NO! You eat it because you paid for it! So I'll be biking on my new favorite South Minneapolis bridge, on good days and bad, and I'll enjoy, whether I want to or not!

Thoughts on the new bridge? Anyone else have a favorite bridge they'd like to share? A few photos of some of my favorites below (photos that I happen to have on my computer right now):

Duluth Lift Bridge...

Rail Bridge in Minneapolis

Big Sur!!!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Trials Tragedy

Most of you have probably heard about the tragedy at the US Men's Olympic Marathon Trials yesterday. Ryan Shay, a highly competitive marathoner, and considered a dark horse in the trials, collapsed at mile 5.5 and died. Most of the runners, including his good friend and eventual winner, Ryan Hall, had no idea of Shay's death until almost 2 hours later. This is a sad day for the running community, but especially for Shay's family, friends, and his recent bride, Alicia. We should keep them in our prayers, and since the competitive running community is so close, there's a chance that someone reading this knows someone personally touched by his death. Shay's friends and family will need all the support they can get.

I was watching the Trials yesterday, while here on the East Coast visiting friends. I took the early Chinatown from DC to NYC in time for the start. Due to the nature of the race course, I was able to see the start at Rock Center, and get up to Central Park and see the marathoners 8 more times as I ran around the course. After the start, I hurried up to mile 6. The packs were still pretty tight then, and I watched all the racers pass before moving up the parkway to get about a half mile or up the course (I was trying to get to 79th St or so.) I saw one of the marathoners pass me walking (Abdi I think), and I thought, that's weird, I guess it just wasn't his day. Next thing I saw, there was a runner laying on the ground with about 5 or 6 people over him giving him CPR. All of us who were walking had to walk around him due to the lack of sidewalks, so we walked within feet of him. I looked over as I stepped past, and I felt sick. I could tell that their CPR wasn't working, but I said a prayer for him and hurried away so that the ambulance (which still wasn't there yet) could get by without spectator interference. The rest of the race I had no idea what had happened to this runner, and it was obvious the finishers didn't know either since at the finish, the look of joy on Ryan Hall's face was incredible. It wasn't until I saw the news ticker in Times Square that I learned of Shay's fate.

There are some good postings and links to stories about Shay's life on

Aside from that tragedy, it was a really good race. It was great to be able to cheer for so many great runners with Minnesota connections. The highlight really was tracking Jason Lehmkuhle's performance throughout the race, and being able to watch the runners pass so many times. It was like watching a cross country race for over 2 hours. I really hope that this sort of event happens more often than every four years, and that the course is tailored to spectators like this one was. It made it much more of a sporting event. Usually a marathon is much easier to watch on TV, this one was better in person.

I could write more about this race and how well Ryan Hall ran. Perhaps later I'll post some photos, but sadly the story here is about Ryan Shay. Hall, Ritz, and Sells have a lot to run for and to inspire them in Beijing.