3.5 stars

Submission - Historical Map: Chicago CTA Rapid Transit Map, 1983

Submitted by our resident repository of Chicago transit map knowledge, Dennis McClendon, who says:

This map of Chicago’s rapid transit network originated in the 1970s (this one is from June 1983), and this style was used until routes received color names in 1993. Happily, by that time digital printing in fiberglass-embedded signs made full-color maps easier to place in graffiti-prone environments.

These maps were silk-screened onto [blue] color blanks, and every color of ink added cost. So the CTA’s six lines are represented by using only two colors. Simple black is used for three “extension” lines that never overlap. A simple white line is used for the north-south line those connect with. For the two other through routes: black with white casing and white with black casing.

The side ticks for stations work fine, but a box for the places where transfers are possible is not altogether intuitive.  The CTA of that era employed skip-stop spacing, so alternate trains stopped at A or B stations only. Another graphic decision that might have deserved more thought:  the names of various suburbs—only a few of which can be reached by rapid transit—floating in their vague geographic positions, but no indication of Chicago city limits or Lake Michigan.


Transit Maps says:

I have to say that I actually really like the forced graphic simplicity of this map. There’s only two colours to work with, so every element has to be very carefully considered and balanced against others for the map to work at all. That it manages to keep the route lines recognisable and separated in the downtown Loop area without the use of an inset map is quite an achievement.

The famous “A-B” stopping patterns are shown pretty deftly as well, being mostly placed on the opposite side of the route line from the station name. The few stations where this doesn’t happen (due to crowding or space limitations) stand out like a sore thumb – Jarvis on the North-South line, and many of the stations on the Ravenswood line. There are also two stations with their labels set at an angle: Merchandise Mart is almost completely unavoidable, but Harvard on the Englewood Line could easily have been fitted in horizontally.

I think the “boxed” interchanges work well enough, having seen similar devices on quite a few maps (the Paris Metro included) now. I also like the extra detail included on the map: station closures on weekends and nights, direction of travel around the Loop, inbound boarding only on the last three stations on the Jackson Park North-South Line, and more.

I would agree with Dennis on the locality names, that just seem to float in space. The biggest offender is “Evergreen Park”, right at the very bottom of the map, below the legend!

As for depicting Lake Michigan, that seems like a good idea, but I struggle to think of a way of doing it without upsetting the delicate balance of the map. You can’t really use a white line, as that could be confused with all the white route lines, and you can’t have a large white area as that would be visually way too heavy. In the end, the lake isn’t that important for such a graphically stylised map (it really just delineates the eastern side of the map), so I’m not too upset by its absence.

Our rating: A fine historical example of how to use a limited colour palette effectively. Minimalist but still effective. Three-and-a-half stars.

Oh. I see. So, the difficulty in attaining such complex positioning in a zero-gravity environment, coupled with the adverse effects it would have on the psychological well-being of the average human being, is what makes the anecdote so amusing.

Yes. Very humorous indeed! Hysterical, in fact.

'The Monsters Inside' Review

Quick Facts!

  • Written by Steven Cole
  • Published in 2005
  • 256 pages
  • Features the Ninth Doctor and Rose Tyler

Um…hi. Guess who’s back with a review for the first time in months? It’s me! (I’m terrible, I know, but I’ve long since accepted and even embraced my terribleness.) Anyway, on to the review!

The Doctor takes Rose to her first alien planet, where they are promptly assaulted, jailed, and shipped to different sections of the galaxy, because the universe hates them. The Doctor ends up being forced to work for a matronly plant-named scientist, while Rose becomes the hero of her prison.

Oh yeah, there’s also Slitheen (and Blathereen!), in case you wanted to see more of the enterprising gaseous aliens. Their plans have taken a step up this time around, though, as they’re plotting to relocate an entire solar system, regardless of the cost of life…

This book contains instances of…

  • Very deep plant metaphors
  • Rose starting a food fight riot in jail and attempting to unzip someone’s head
  • The Doctor flirting with a lump of sugar
  • Attack globs
  • An arsonist with a crush on Rose
  • Several gassy aliens

In conclusion…

3.5/5 stars. Not a bad book by any means, and thoroughly enjoyable to read! The whiplash between the childish humor and descriptive gore was a bit too much for me, however.

Unofficial Map: Circular Sydney Suburban Railways by Maxwell Roberts

I have to admit: I’m still not entirely convinced by either the usability or the aesthetics the new “circular transit maps” design trend. However, I think I’ll make an exception for this diagram of my hometown of Sydney, Australia, which is… just beautiful.

Designed by the man at the vanguard of this design movement, Maxwell Roberts, this map actually has a lot of visible advantages over the current official Sydney rail map (Sept. 2012, 3.5 stars), not the least of which is consistent, evenly spaced station labels (all of which are set horizontally).

Wisely, Roberts has confined his map to Greater Sydney alone (i.e., the standard suburban services only, rather than including interurban services to far-distant places like Newcastle, Nowra and Goulburn), something I actually advocate for the official map as well. This is what gives the map far more room to breathe than the official one.

The “hub” of the map is obvious: the aptly-named “City Circle” that loops through Sydney’s CBD, and everything radiates out from there. The visual highlight for me is the treatment of the Cumberland Line, which is one of the few lines that doesn’t route through the city itself — running instead from Blacktown to Campbelltown in Sydney’s far western suburbs. It’s shown as one lovely, giant, sweeping arc for most of its route, which suits its orbital role in the system perfectly.

However, the radial treatment does mean that some destinations are in a slightly unexpected place: Bondi Junction appears far further north than it should be, while in reality Epping and Carlingford stations are just a few kilometres apart, not the vast distance they appear to be here.

The treatment of the inner west light rail line (curiously called the “Lilyfield Tram” here) is also a little problematic, as it appears to extend almost all the way to Meadowbank. In reality, Lilyfield is pretty much due north of Stanmore, much closer to the city’s core. However, station labelling requirements pretty much demand that the route line extends this far on the map, and it’s no worse than the official map in its execution. Some mode differentiation between this route and the main line trains would have been nice, as well as a note that the two systems currently use different fare systems with limited transfers between them.

Minor quibble: “Saint James”, “Saint Marys”, “Saint Peters” and “Saint Leonards” should be written as “St. James”, “St. Marys”, “St. Peters”, “St. Leonards”. No signage in the Sydney system spells out the “Saint”.

Finally, the map is missing the informational icons that are present on the official map — disabled access, parking, etc. — which makes for a much cleaner look, but at the expense of important information.

Our rating: Probably the most aesthetically pleasing circular map I’ve seen yet, quite lovely in its execution. Missing a lot of information that’s present on the official map, so it’s hard to do an “apples-to-apples” comparison. Let’s call it a draw. Three-and-a-half-stars.

Source: Crikey.com.au — The Urbanist

P.S. - For more information on Mr. Roberts’ circular maps, visit his website by clicking here.

Official Map: TILO Commuter Rail – Ticino, Switzerland and Lombardy, Italy

The emergence of a unified Europe has led to a gradual but noticeable blurring of borders between countries in Europe, which now seem to often exist only on maps. With free and easy travel between the European countries that are bound by the Schengen Agreement, it’s not impossible for people to live in one country and work in another, especially when they live close to a border.

This map shows transit services in such an area, the border between Italy and Switzerland north of Milan. Here, Italian Lombardy (shown with a grey background) borders the Italian-speaking Swiss canton of Ticino (white background). Transit between the two areas is becoming more intertwined and reliable, as this map illustrates. The services offered by the issuer of the map — TILO — are the two-digit “S-number” lines: S10, S20, S30 and the narrow-gauge S-60. However, the map also shows the lines of Milan’s own commuter rail network that interact with these services: the S4, S5, S9 and S11 routes, as well as indicating a (slower) regional service that runs between the two provinces. Even the extent of Milan’s Metro is indicated, as are its interchanges with these commuter rail services.

The map itself is quite handsomely produced, and has a distinctive look of its own. The typeface used – Syntax – has a friendly, slightly quirky look to it that helps lift the map up from that typically efficient but clinical Swiss design. The “subway map” stylings definitely help to convey a sense of modernity and speed, even though the main centres shown on the map would take quite a while to travel between (1.5 hours from Milan to Bellinzona; almost three hours from Milan to Airolo).

If there’s a weakness to the map, it’s probably the multitudes of blue bus routes shown on the Swiss side of the border: they clutter that part of the map with a lot of visual noise and probably don’t contain enough routing information to be that useful past an initial confirmation that a town is serviced by a bus route.

Our rating: An attractive and modern-looking map that combines information from different transit agencies to benefit its customers: always a good thing! Three-and-a-half stars!

(Source: Official TILO website)

A Chance of Snow (Lifetime, 1998)

"He proposed again too. He came to the school with a firetruck, and told her that she still sets his heart on fire."

Starring: JoBeth Williams, Michael Ontkean, Barbara Barrie, Dey Young

Plot Synopsis: After signing her divorce papers, a woman heads out to her Minnesota airport with her sister and daughters for a flight to her mother’s home. At the airport, her sportswriter husband shows up to catch a flight to Miami to visit his father. When a blizzard hits, the two suddenly find they have time to re-evaluate their relationship with assistance from an older couple. (x)

In My Humble Opinion: It may be weird to say this, but I love this movie purely for its subplots. Its subplots which feature old people in love (a weakness of mine), and two old classmates (including a single dad!) reconnecting and falling in love while playing arcade games are decidedly adorable, and right up my alley.

As for the main plot, it’s pretty paint by numbers, couple on the outs reconcile while trapped at an airport before Christmas Eve with the help of many other trapped passengers. It’s not one of those plots that are especially memorable, but the movie has enough charm that you are never really rolling your eyes and counting down the minutes until its over.

I first watched this off a recommendation from a friend, and I think it lives up to what she had to say about it. Is it cute & fun & likable, if not maybe groundbreaking.

Watch If: You think the best time to flirt is when playing arcade games, you think that six is the prime number of roses to give to a lover, or if you know that the best way to work through your relationship is to find an older couple who went through a similar situation years before and talk to them.

Skip if: The idea that old people have fantastic sex is disgusting to you, if you were that weird kid who made farmyard noises during class, or if you think ruining your hair for airport security is dumb.

Final Rating: ★ ★ ★ (★) ☆

Series Review: Liveship Traders by Robin Hobb

Series Review: Liveship Traders by Robin Hobb


You know when you find an author that just writes books that you love? Especially when they’re fantasy, it feels like you’re transported to another place, and you can just sink into the book even if it’s not a fast read. I’ve now read 2 Robin Hobb series this year, and while they’re always slower reads for me, often one I read off and on for a few weeks at a time, they’re highly…

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Single Santa Seeks Mrs. Claus (Hallmark, 2004)

"Come fly with me child! Come fly with me on a magical mission!!!"

Starring: Steve Guttenberg, Crystal Bernard, Thomas Calabro, Dominic Scott Kay

Plot Synopsis: Nick’s plan to let fate bring his wife to him must be altered because he must replace his father as Santa Claus on December 26. Ernst, the right-hand man to several generations of Santas, generates a list of potential mates. Nick dutifully sets off to meet them, but fate may have a candidate after all. (x)

In My Humble Opinion: The best part about this movie is that it finally answers the question that lingered on everyone’s mind for years: If you merged Obi-Wan Kenobi and Buddy the Elf into a single character what would that be? The answer: Steve Guttenberg’s version of Santa. Well, Santa Jr. to be more precise… he can’t take over the Christmas throne yet, because he isn’t married! Which wouldn’t be a problem for Nick (like he was going to be named anything else), it’s just that he hasn’t found “Someone who feels like the other half of [his] heart.” Understandable. Even if it made me puke on the insides a little bit with its cheesiness. I digress though.

The main draw of this movie really is to see Steve Guttenberg in action. The overarching romance is fine, if a tad super predictable (She’s a career woman AND single mom [because they are near always single moms in these movies], and she’s cynical and she falls in love with Nick and after they leap over that cynicism hurdle everything works out.) Steve Guttenberg, though? A MASTERPIECE. Like I said, he is Obi-Wan Kenobi (using the force on hotel clerks so that they don’t care he has no last name) and Buddy the Elf (see above quote), and it’s so ridiculously perfect that I nearly wept at how ridiculously perfect it was. The one problem I had with the performance is a the end, he does this natural laugh that turns in a natural “Ho Ho Ho” laugh that Steve Guttenberg obviously practiced really hard at perfecting, but still comes off as creepy. It marred the ending of the movie for me, a tiny bit.

I would be remiss to not mention that while Single Santa Seeks Mrs. Claus features a child, Jake, they managed to make him 1000% more bearable than the child in A Christmas Caper. I really appreciated not completely hating him.

So, in general, this movie is a not too bad way to kill 85 minutes on a Sunday. Especially if you need a Steve Guttenberg fix. (And that Party Down episode he was in was quite some time ago, so I could completely understand if you needed to fulfill the Guttenberg urge.)

Watch If: You really loved Santa Clause 2 and wished all the movies had a similar plotline, you want to learn how singing “Bum Bum Bum Bum” repeatedly can improve your basketball game, or if you want to know why Santa believes strategy games could possibly corrupt our youth.

Skip If: Southern accents annoy you endlessly, watching adults whimsically play on a children’s playground in the middle of the day pisses you off because you know kids want a chance to swing on the swings too, or if the idea seeing Thomas Calabro play a douchebag ad exec instead of a douchebag doctor throws you off too much.

Final Rating: ★ ★ ★ (★) ☆