Posted by: Tyler Green | 12/03/2015

Onwards and Upwards

It has been a dream of mine for some time now to have a website of my own. This WordPress blog was very useful to me over the last 5+ years, but I’m thrilled to announce that I have a new personal website at TylerAGreen.com. There, you’ll find a blog for documenting my public transit and urban adventures. I’m excited about the opportunities that come with a big-boy domain and hope you’ll join me!

So long, Green Machine…

Advertisements

This post has been moved and will be maintained in a new location on my new personal blog.

Do you know how many Starbucks locations are contained within the Loop?  The gourmet coffee chain’s prevalence inside this 0.24 square mile area of Chicago’s business district gives new meaning to the phrase “on every corner”.  On Wednesday afternoon, 03/19/14, Pushpinder, Dhawal, and I set out to take a #selfie in front of all 18.  That’s right: one eight.

Background

The three of us were about through exploring The Shops at North Bridge shortly before noon.  We were stumped on what should be our next adventure.  Our Amtrak train was not scheduled to depart from Union Station until 5:45 PM, leaving us several free hours.  We were hoping to stay in the downtown area and preferably find something that was outdoors, cheap, and, most importantly, fun!  Everyone had really enjoyed our breakfast at Starbucks in Wrigleyville that morning, so coffee was not far removed from our minds.  During our walking about downtown, our group had already commented on how there seemed to be a Starbucks on every corner.  I had tweeted the same observation during my September 2013 trip to Chicago.  All of this came together when, suddenly, Dhawal said, “We could take a picture in front of every Starbucks!”  I immediately responded with my “this sounds ridiculous and useless, but doable and awesome” face.  Obviously, a goal like this would need a well-defined boundary.  Fortunately, Chicago’s transit system provides this quite elegantly.  Enter: the Loop.  This circuit of elevated track services the Orange, Green, Purple, Brown, and Pink lines of the CTA rapid transit system.  The keyword which made it even more usable: elevated.  You can plainly see what is inside the loop (Wells to Wabash W->E, Lake to Van Buren N->S) versus what is not.  I pulled up my Starbucks app on my phone to see approximately how many Starbucks locations were inside this region.  The count: 18.  Those inside the marked region of the map below became our master list.

Starbucks_map_clean_&_border

We made the decision to not count a Starbucks on the outside side of one of the boundary streets.  The only other rule needed was that we should all be in each photo.  While Dhawal had a nice DSLR with him, my HTC One’s front cam was decided upon as the camera of choice.  We would all become quite familiar with its 3 second count down and face-skewing effects over the next 4 hours.

The Quest

[I just sat down to write this section.  I have no succinct thoughts.  I could use some coffee.  Where is the nearest Starbucks? I wish I was still in the Loop!]  We crossed the Chicago River from the north on State Street and headed towards our first ‘bucks.  The plan was to start in the northeast corner and work our way across the north side.  Quite easily, almost too easily, we found…

  1. Leo Burnett Starbucks, 40 W. Lake Street
    Right out of the gate on our lofty quest, we were faced with a moral quandary.  The pin for this Starbucks on the map was inside the Loop, but the location was on the outside side of Lake Street.  Just minutes before, we had decided to not count this, though this had been with thought process of considering pins that were also outside the Loop.  For completion, we felt we had to include this.  You always would rather do too much, than too little, right?  One could argue that the final number would then be only 17, but then again, who cares?  We were taking selfies in front of coffee shops.
    IMAG1170(3)
  2. CT&T Building Starbucks, 161 N. Clark Street
    Just around the corner, our second photo was easily captured.  There was no question as to whether this one was inside the Loop or not.  You have to wonder how this location got left behind when the logos were upgraded, but we were feeling pretty good.  Little did we know it, but in this shot we arrived at our go-to formula of me in the center and holding the camera high (instead of low, like in the big-nosed first photo).  Plus, we got to explore the atrium of the Thompson Center across the street, an awesome building we would have never discovered if we hadn’t started this quest!
    IMAG1171(3)
  3. Lake & LaSalle Starbucks, 180 N. LaSalle Street
    Early on, we were still developing our strategies for locating each store.  We had noticed that there were a similarly large number of Dunkin’ Donuts, so Pushpinder established the rule of just looking for Dunkin’s instead to locate the likely Starbucks across the street.  It was actually successful in locating Lake & LaSalle!  As Dhawal indicates, number three had just been checked off!  Maybe next time we’ll take selfies in front of all the Dunkin’s outside the Loop.
    IMAG1175(3)
  4. Randolph & Wells Starbucks, 171 W. Randolph Street
    Randolph & Wells gave us no trouble to spot and capture.  If we had known what was headed our way, we would have treasured the simplicity of this photo more than we did.  Look at those faces and smiles; bright-eyed and bushy-tailed would be an understatement.
    IMAG1177(3)
  5. 30 N. LaSalle Starbucks, 30 N. LaSalle Street
    30 N. LaSalle was a bit tricky to spot due to it’s lack of an awning or large exterior entrance, but just like that, we were finished with our first five locations.  Had the first location’s signage been back-lit like this one, we may have quit right there due to non-ideal imaging conditions.  Fortunately, Starbucks respects proper exposures and would employ only unlit corporate markings for the rest of their Loop locations.  Now, we were ready to head back east for the first time!
    IMAG1178(3)
  6. West Washington Starbucks, 111 W. Washington Street
    On the south side of Washington street, we easily located our sixth store.  Again, this one was was still adorned with old logo mounts, but we were on a roll.  Any other day, we would have probably gone to joked about going to the Grub Hub, but not today!  We had one goal in mind!
    IMAG1179(3)
  7. Daley Center Plaza Starbucks, 66 W. Washington Street
    By this time, I had begun cross-checking the Starbucks map pin location with the listing on Google Maps.  By the name of this location being “Daley Center Plaza” and not an intersection, we assumed it was in some sort of building atrium.  However, we were looking into the lobby of the Daley Center and no Starbucks was jumping out at us.  There was a staircase which led into what we thought may be an underground food court, but the entrance was blocked.  We were having thoughts that the end of the quest might be near.  As a last resort, we consulted the Yelp listing for this location.  We were eternally indebted to Jenna S. for mentioning in her review that “This Starbucks is carefully hidden at the end of the Daley Plaza Pedway to the Blue Line…”  We quickly found another staircase near the Blue Line entrance and proceeded earthward.  What we discovered was a crowded office exchange complete with security-guarded tributaries and lots of business-class individuals.  Acting like we belonged, we finally stumbled across the location.  Knowing that photography indoors (typically, private locations) is frowned upon much more than street photography, we quickly lined into place, anxiously waited our front cam requisite 3 seconds, shared a nod, and started off.  A janitor saw me putting my phone away and said, “You can’t take photos here.”  He was simply being a helpful soul though, because when I apologized, he said, “I don’t mind, but I know they don’t want it”, as we passed one of the Daley Center security checkpoints.  Relieved to be finished with number 7, we quickly scurried back up the rabbit hole.
    IMAG1180(3)
  8. Macys – Chicago/Lower Level Starbucks, 111 N. State Street, Marshall Fields Department Store
    We were hoping this location would be number 9.  However, locating both of the Macy’s locations proved exceptionally difficult, almost as difficult as coming up with a legit reason for wanting to take selfies in front of 18 Starbucks.  Macy’s on State is a massive 12-story establishment and listed Starbucks locations on both its first and lower levels.  The store directory confirmed this, but no floor plans were present to provide further aid.  Since we saw a downward-leading escalator, we hoped on and found the lower level location awaiting us at the bottom.  The unspoken pose instructions must have been “raise your eyebrows”.
    IMAG1181(3)
  9. Macys – Chicago/First Floor Starbucks, 111 N. State Street, The Miracle Mile – Marshall Fields
    Proceeding back upstairs, we resorted to asking a Macy’s employee to point us towards the first floor Starbucks.  After being directed to the only spot on the entire first floor we had yet to comb, we were able flank the joint to capture a straightforward outside photo.  This location made us realize an interesting point: except for our quest, there was no almost reason to inquire about the location of a particular Starbucks in the loop.  If you can’t locate the one you were looking for, all you have to do is walk another block and you will catch a whiff of Starbucks distinctive fresh brew.  Naturally, you need to be at the right location if you are meeting someone (unless it is your mother-in-law; then you can say, “Macy’s first floor?! I totally thought we were meeting in the Macy’s basement!”).  However, if all you want is a Grande Caffè Americano, the Loop is a good place to be.
    IMAG1182(3)
  10. East Washington Starbucks, 25 E. Washington Boulevard
    The East Washington location was cake, as we had seen it out the window of Macy’s while we were searching aimlessly around its first floor.  We were pretty tired by this point, but apparently not too tired to take our first photo with a variation, lots of which would follow.  While writing this, I noticed my jacket collar is uniformly non-uniform in all of the first ten photos.  Lunch at the Macy’s cafeteria would provide a jacket reset, as you can confirm beginning in photo at store #11.  By this point, the difficulty of locating stores 7 through 10 had us a little fatigued.  If we weren’t having a good time, there was no reason to continue, because, as we joked throughout the quest, “what we are doing is completely useless”.  It’s usefulness was derived entirely from us enjoying being goofy in an exciting environment like the Chicago Loop, and we vowed to come back from lunch with that attitude renewed.
    IMAG1183(3)
  11. Palmer House Hilton Starbucks, 17 E. Monroe Street
    Energized from our lunch break, we were hyped and ready to knock out our last eight locations.  We decided on a north-south zig-zag working our way west to finish up near Union Station.  There were now 3 hours before we needed to catch the train.  We had begun casually mentioning how we would relax with a Venti cup of Pike Place Roast at the last location.  It was similar to how my Boy Scout patrol used to dream about downing a juicy burger after an exhausting camping trip; instead of hiking tens of miles up hills with a weekend’s worth of gear on our backs, we were walking around a city taking selfies in front of coffee shops.  I know, the similarity is striking.  This location being named “Palmer House Hilton” lead us inside a hotel lobby, where we passed a security guard who was standing very near the Starbucks entrance.  We casually circled all the way around the building to the alternate entrance to Starbucks, struck our pose, and were set.  We were hoping to start having more fun taking each photo, but in the indoor locations, we stuck to business.  “Business” here refers to taking a selfie in front of a coffee shop.
    IMAG1185(3)
  12. State & Adams Starbucks, 131 S. State Street, Dearborn Center
    My Google Maps cross-checking had shown from Street View that this location would be very easy.  To add to the challenge, we decided to mix it up with an across-the-street selfie.  Fortunately, we captured some nice cheesing from Pushpinder and a pretty slick car blurring by in the background.  Had we waiting to employ the across-the-street scheme for the last location, one might have called the laziness card on us; since it was only no. 12 out of 18, the word that should come to mind is revolutionary.
    IMAG1186(3)
  13. Clark & Madison Starbucks, 70 W. Madison Street
    We decided to get really creative at Clark & Madison.  Almost in a chorus, Pushpinder and Dhawal chanted, “Let’s go in front of the Starbucks and you take the photo from across the street!”  This seemed like a great variation!  We were all set up.  They were in front of the store.  I was just pulling up my front cam.  All of a sudden, three fire engines (and accompanying sirens) proceed in between us, each about 30 seconds apart.  Alright, that had been a disturbance, but we were back!  With my high camera angle, it looked like I could even shoot over passing cars!  Here we……..[enter a CTA bus].  Alright, we can just wait for that bus to leave and….[enter a second bus, this one even longer and articulated].  It had been a great idea, but I simply crossed the street to join them.  New plan: everyone look away.  Having to simplify was a let down, but we were not going to let an accordion on wheels stand in between us and our goal!
    IMAG1187(3)
  14. Chase Tower Chicago Starbucks, 21 S. Clark Street
    Another inside location meant another no-frill operation.  Luckily, there was an open table in the Chase Tower atrium right outside the crowded Starbucks.  We sat down as if to relax, snapped a selfie, and were on our way.
    IMAG1188(3)
  15. LaSalle & Monroe Starbucks, 39 S. LaSalle Street
    LaSalle & Monroe looked like a classic street-corner Starbucks just asking for a creative selfie.  Construction on Monroe meant that active fire engines would probably not be routed down that street in the next five minutes, so we went for the both-sides-of-the-street pose.  Luckily, this store was not a booming transit hub like number 13 and we left chuckling proudly.  We had selfie’d the first five post-lunch locations in just 45 minutes!  We were really starting to smell those roasted dark beans of energy awaiting us at the finish line now!
    IMAG1189(3)
  16. West Adams Starbucks, 105 W. Adams Street
    A news kiosk in front of the West Adams location was a blessing in disguise.  We had already decided not to smile for the photo, but an awkward angle forced us to all to our left.  The result: a selfie which, in any other context context, would be a uniquely awkward and pointless photo.  Okay, so that describes it in this context too.
    IMAG1191(3)
  17. Bank of America Building Starbucks, 231 S LaSalle Street
    With only two Starbucks remaining, our success was starting to get to our heads.  An indoor location?  Sure, we can still strike a pose!  We were brought back to Earth a bit when it took a second try to take this photo correctly.  Yes, we were only one Starbucks away from taking a selfie in front of all 18 loop locations, but we were still human and this episode reminded us of this.
    IMAG1193(3)
  18. Van Buren Starbucks, 175 W. Jackson Boulevard
    The 18th and final location was an elusive one.  It’s pin was literally in the middle of a building, so we had to just pick a side and traverse, in the worst case, the entire block.  Even with a Jackson Boulevard address, which was for the entire building, the Starbucks was on Van Buren facing the ‘L’ track.  This Street View shows just how near the border of our range of interest this location actually was.  There was no question for our pose for this one: thumbs up all the way.
    IMAG1194(3)

Aftermath

We had just taken a selfie in front of all 18 Starbucks in the Loop!  While we hoped we would feel like this…

IMG_8430(2)

…in reality, we felt like this…

IMAG1200(3)

We wanted to relax at the last location, but the Van Buren store and the few before it were not very conducive to sitting.  We were understandable though; the Chicago Loop coffee market is driven by those grabbing a cup of joe on their way to work, so small stores make sense.  There was another potential location just a block away, so we settled on 209 W. Jackson as our celebration station.  While the first ten selfies had taken 2 hours, the last eight locations were completed in just a single revolution of an hour hand.  During our 90-minute respite, there was an occasional mutter of, “What did we just do?”, but it was always followed by something along the lines of, “I don’t know, but it was awesome!”  Below is our original master map, now with the addition of our afternoon route.  It’s not hard to tell which Starbucks were the most difficult to find: #7 (come on, Daley Center!) and #9 (Macy’s, isn’t the ‘bucks in the basement enough?).

Starbucks_map_w_route_&_border

The adventure and resulting accomplishment left us in great spirits as stepped outside into the Chicago rush hour.  We had turned a potentially boring (browsing more malls), or expensive (dining at a nice restaurant), or both (going to a museum), afternoon into one that was priceless.  We all had a blast exploring the Loop and doing something that had no intrinsic value (if you are reading this and are an interested advertiser, please drop me a line) with people who enjoyed the same types of experiences.  As we walked to Union Station, hoards of homeward-bound downtown employees shared the sidewalk with us.  Many of them had spent the day helping grow the GDP of America’s third largest metro area; we had taken a selfie in front of 18 Starbucks.  One thing was the same: we had all taken advantage of Chicago and the unique offerings of its bustling downtown Loop.  Until next time, Windy City…

starbucks_collage

Posted by: Tyler Green | 08/23/2011

Stonehenge

Stonehenge by tgreen8091
Stonehenge, a photo by tgreen8091 on Flickr.

Posted by: Tyler Green | 08/20/2011

Mysteries from Britain

What do Jack the Ripper, Harry Potter, Sherlock Holmes, Titanic, and the Loch Ness Monster all have in common?  I was fortunate enough to visit their respective “homes” on my recent London and British Isles trip.  I am used to visiting popular tourist sites of both national and global recognition, but these stops were unique because their character or legend is what makes them famous, not simply the site itself.  Even though this list contains a mix of fiction and non-fiction, I felt their fame and mystery merit the grouping.  To combine five of them on a single hop across the Atlantic was quite a thrill.

Jack the Ripper – Whitechapel District, London, England
I took an evening walking tour through the streets of the Whitechapel District, where Jack the Ripper is credited with the murders of 5 prostitutes in 1888.  Even though most of the architecture was fairly new due to the reconstruction after the WWII bombings, there was no obvious industrial or residential influence to give the area an active feel.  I think the area would have been terrifying back in 1888 while riddled with widespread poverty, but even the present-day winter (and, therefore, in the dark) tour would have been pretty frightening as well.

Harry Potter – King’s Cross, London, England
I rode the Underground to the King’s Cross station to try and push the luggage trolley through the wall at Platform 9 3/4.  Several other fans had the same idea and there was a line to take pictures that was just long enough to make it feel worthwhile, but not too long as to be frustrating.  It is not often when a fictional character is honored a physical memorial, so it was neat to visit this one.

Sherlock Holmes – 221b Baker Street, London, England
Just a ways down the line from King’s Cross was the Baker Street stop, and I was able to tour the retroactively-established residence of the world’s most famous detective.  Mr. Holmes is another character that has been introduced into reality with the installation of his Baker Street flat.  The skinny 4-story apartment is filled with period items and, in pure Victorian style, no air conditioning.

Titanic – Harland and Wolff Shipyard, Belfast, Northern Ireland
The RMS Titanic was constructed at the Harland and Wolff Shipyard from 1909 to 1911, and I was able to see large yellow cranes currently used for shipbuilding at this site while driving through the Port of Belfast.  I also went to the grounds of Belfast City Hall and found the Titanic Memorial, which was erected in 1920 and illustrates the importance of the ship to the city, as it had spent the majority of its life there.  After fascinating the masses for decades due to its failure, it was neat to visit the origin of the topic whose books occupied a sizable portion of real estate on my childhood bookshelves.

Loch Ness Monster – Urquhart Castle, Loch Ness, Drumnadrochit, Scotland
I was able to explore Urquhart Castle, which is the location of most of the sightings of the Loch Ness Monster.  Unfortunately, Nessie did not make an appearance during my visit, but the souvenir shop had plenty of books exploring the mysterious “Surgeon’s Photograph” and other famous glimpses.  Even without viewing the monster, the castle and lake provided a gorgeous Scottish vista.

Posted by: Tyler Green | 06/02/2011

Discovering Strategy in Baseball

Three times in the past week I have seen strategy in baseball work, and it has come as a welcome relief as I near the end of my first year as a baseball fan.  About a year ago, I decided the sport was worth caring about.  There are not too many other exciting things happening in the sports world in the summertime, and the sport must be at least slightly interesting to earn the title of “America’s Pastime”.  I have watched/attended several professional and college games, learned to keep a scorecard, and read a few books, but I still hadn’t had much experience knowing what a team could do in a given situation, seeing it happen, and the team being rewarded for it.

The three scenarios I was glad to see were:

  1. In the bottom of the 9th inning of the Reds-Phillies game last week (yes, the one that the Reds lost in 19), the game was tied 4 – 4, and the Phillies had runners on second and third with one out.  I have always heard that you should intentionally walk the batter to produce a force out at any base, and here the Reds did it successfully.  The next batter after the walk fouled out to set up a bases loaded, 2-out situation.  The following batter grounded to the shortstop, who made an easy toss to the second baseman for the force out at second to end the inning.  Without the bases loaded, there would have been no force out at second, and the resulting toss to first would have been much more difficult and error prone.
  2. In the Cubs-Pirates game I attended at Wrigley Field on Sunday, the Cubs successfully executed a hit and run.  With a runner on first who is theoretically not fast enough to steal second, he took off for second during the pitch.  The batter swung way out of the strike zone simply to make contact with the ball to avoid an easy throw out at second and hit a grounder.  With the extra step, the runner made second easily, avoiding the double play, and the batter beat the throw to first.  This advanced a runner who would have been unable to steal and avoided the double play to result in a hit.  The Cubs did not end up scoring in this inning, but advancing the runner into scoring using the hit and run position majorly increased their chances of scoring, and it would probably be beneficial in future situations.
  3. Earlier in this same Cubs-Pirates game with a man on 2nd, the Cubs batter performed a sacrifice bunt, being thrown out at first, but advancing the runner to third to result in the first out.  Now with less than two outs and a runner on third, the situation called for a sacrifice fly.  This exactly what the next batter did, hitting a fly deep enough to right to allow the runner from third to arrive home safely.  Though it took two outs to perform these two sacrifices in the bottom of the third inning, this ended up being the winning run as the Cubs held on in a scoreless remainder of the game for a 3-2 victory.

None of these three plays were highlight-reel-worthy, but they were all executed with purpose and proved successful.  I hope to continue to be able to pick out plays like these, and maybe even predict what teams will do in future situations.  Regardless, I am learning a lot about the game as I try to fully experience “America’s Pastime”.

Posted by: Tyler Green | 05/09/2011

502 Notes

In an effort to document my summer internship with CBS Interactive, I am going to start a list of 502 notes, in honor of my current area code.  There is a large chance I will never make it anywhere close to 502 items, and dropping the middle zero will provide a better estimate of total entries, but here goes nothing.

1. Downtown Louisville is totally empty on Derby Day.  This is great if you want to avoid traffic, but unfortunate if you want to be around excited people.  Or people at all.

2. Derby Day is treated as a state holiday, and therefore the public libraries are closed.  It is one of 8 days annually they are closed, and the first I attempted to visit.

3. It is fun to work in an office with higher-level corporate funding.  I showed up to the office today and they handed me a computer to set up out of a box and a telephone with my own work number.

4. I was greeted at my cubicle desk with a gator head, a gift from a co-worker and University of Florida graduate.  When he learned I was arriving from UK, apparently he couldn’t resist.

5. The KFC Yum! Center is not welcoming when you are touring during off-hours and with the arena lights turned off.  If a side door is unlocked though, there is no way I am not going to explore.

6. The Second Street bridge to Indiana is really long.  I walked across it just to say I did, and it took approximately 14 minutes one-way.  With the return trip necessary and my frequent stops for photos, this was a more time-extensive excursion than I had anticipated.

7. I had no idea what I was working on for most of my first day today, but somehow came away victorious.  After most of the others had left, I was able to follow some code models and successfully pull some info from a database just before bouncing.

8. I picked up my Louisville Free Public Library card today, and it fits nicely next to my Lexington Public Library card.  I may need another one soon though.  Owensboro?  Bowling Green?

9. Since I am in a different town than I have spent the entire rest of my life, I get excited every time I see someone wearing UK apparel, as if I were on vacation.  I have to quickly contain myself from commenting on their clothing as it is very normal to run into a Kentucky fan in… Kentucky.

10. I have passed several sports stores in malls and downtown and they all carry equal amounts of UK and U of L gear.  This seems pretty fair to me, but then I smile as I walk out remembering that sports stores do not carry U of L gear in Lexington.

More to follow.  Hopefully 492 of them.

Posted by: Tyler Green | 03/24/2011

The Importance of Talking

It is all too easy to decide that you do not want to talk to anybody who isn’t a friend during the course of the day, and for reasons very easy to understand.  I am starting to realize though just how beneficial it is to avoid this trap, and want to pursue it even further.

There are many different levels of conversations with people who we aren’t itching to have a conversation with, but the ones I have paid attention to recently are complete strangers (cash register workers, someone who holds the door open), acquaintances (someone from class who chats with you about the weather and basketball), and friends whose relationship with you is non-disclosing.  The third category might not seem to fit in the idea where you don’t look forward to talking to them, but I frequently have noticed that while these conversations are indeed pleasant, the non-disclosing property leaves both parties desiring a full-disclosure conversation (having a pleasant time finishing homework with a friend, but wanting to go laugh with your roommate about how your latest date went).

Even though these three categories vary widely by the person’s familiarity with you, the results are often very similar.  First, you often come away smiling at the fact that you enjoyed talking and being friendly with someone who might not have been your first choice of conversations.  Second, for at least a few minutes afterward, you aren’t thinking about the stresses that were occupying your mind before the conversation.  Both of these are absolutely huge to maintaining a positive outlook, the first providing a positive, and the second removing a negative.  The result: a worthwhile pursuit.

Of course this all fails is the person is extremely obnoxious, but judgment can be used up front to keep these situations short, while still trying to learn something from the conversation.  If nothing else, you can learn how to not be annoying.

While I don’t do it enough, when I have made the decision to talk to people in any of three categories, it never fails to put me in a better mood.  Hopefully, this consolidation of my thoughts will help me continue these efforts, and remind me that it really is worthwhile to say “Hello” to as many people as possible tomorrow.

Older Posts »

Categories