Archive for the 'Urban Exploration' Category

Kwik Hits

Random observations from Minnesota, the “if you don’t like the weather, wait an hour, and it’ll change” state:

So, the other day we bought a package of “fresh” boneless chicken breasts from the grocery store. As I was opening it up to make dinner, I had two observations:

One, the package was marked “Sell by 7/5/2011″, more than two weeks in the future. Now, part of the reason we buy “fresh” chicken is because the frozen stuff (“may contain 15% by weight [random chemicals] to enhance appearance, texture, smell, or taste”) is kind of scary, when you stop and think about it. This “fresh” chicken has a shelf-life of, what, eighteen, twenty, twenty-one days? Maybe more? You can’t tell me that’s natural.

Two, the package was also marked very prominently “Use or freeze within 48 hours of purchase”. Let’s think about this for a moment. It can sit in the cooler at the grocery store for three weeks or more, but the manufacturer wants you to use it or lose it at home within two days? Holy FUD, Batman!

On an unrelated note, we’ve been eating a lot of fish on the grill lately. Mmm, grilled fish. Some of the Asian markets here in Saint Paul have really good deals on fish, so it’s hard to say no. Only catch is it’s mostly fish varieties which midwestern white folk have never heard of. “Swai”? “Basa”?

If you ever have the opportunity to buy Swai, I suggest you do so. It’s often described as “kind of like catfish”, which is pretty damned absurd. It’s nothing like catfish; it’s a firm, flaky white fish that’s fairly mild in smell and taste, and reminds me a lot of Northern Pike. It’s also, depending on the store, from $2-4/pound (i.e. right around the price of pork, the traditional cheap protein source), which you can hardly complain about.

Good stuff, if you’re willing to broaden your horizons a bit.

Completely unrelated to anything else, but this is just awesome. A government agency with a sense of humor? Who knew?

In Cypress, Texas, 28 people searched for hours for a teenager climbing into a storm drain. Way to horribly react to an urban explorer, Cypress.

Published in: 'D' for 'Dumb', Geekiness, General, Urban Exploration | on June 22nd, 2011 | No Comments »

Hamm’s Demolition Continues

Plans for the old Hamm’s brewery complex on Saint Paul’s east side to be redeveloped into anything seem to be going nowhere in a hurry, which is extremely unfortunate. Riding by on bicycle yesterday, however, I noticed that efforts to demolish some of the (perceived) less-redevelopable buildings has once again resumed…
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Published in: General, History, Urban Exploration | on April 13th, 2011 | No Comments »

The Dale St Reservoir, 1918-2010

The Pioneer Press today runs an article about a beautiful piece of Twin Cities critical infrastructure – the Dale Street Reservoir in Roseville, which supplied drinking water to a large part of Ramsey County from 1918 to earlier this year.

It held thirty million gallons of water within its depths, and according to folks at the water department, plans were originally made to build an expansion to the south, which would have doubled its capacity. That expansion was never built, and never will be; the reservoir was demolished earlier this month.

Why? It had some cracks, to be sure, but mainly it was just too large. Water usage in the inner metro area has declined over the decades, partially a result of water-conservation efforts, but also because, regrettably, a lot of the water-hungry businesses of yesteryear are no more. (Since the Dale Street Reservoir was completed in 1918, Saint Paul has lost three breweries and virtually all of its heavy industry, not to mention a lot of other heavy water users like the commercial laundries and the stockyards.)

I don’t pretend to be a civil engineer, but apparently running a water reservoir at reduced capacity can cause issues – something about stagnation and contamination, I guess.

Anyway, I’m always sad to see underground structures, particularly critical infrastructure, go away, but it’s especially saddening when it’s something as beautiful as the reservoir – a structure whose beauty is, I think, apparent to a lot of people, and not just urban explorers or architecture nerds.

Ah, well; not for nothing is is said, “they just don’t build ‘em like they used to”.

(You can see a friend’s picture of the reservoir at the bottom of this page.)

Published in: General, History, Urban Exploration | on April 28th, 2010 | No Comments »

Oooh, That (Indescribable) Smell

When people find out I like to participate in urban exploration, they’re usually full of questions – some of them good and pertinent, some of them less so. Isn’t it dangerous? Isn’t it illegal? Isn’t it scary? Have you ever found a dead body? A meth lab? A Satanic altar?

I generally have answers – most of them good and pertinent, I like to think, but a couple somewhat unavoidably less so.

A surprisingly common question is “Don’t sewers smell bad?”, and the easy answer is no, they don’t. Is “damp” a smell? Or “damp concrete”? If not, the best way to describe is is to say that a storm sewer generally smells slightly musty, like the inside of a refrigerator, perhaps.

Sanitary sewers – the kind that carry, you know, sewage (which is mostly water) are another story. They have a kind of distinct smell that’s incredibly hard to describe. It’s complex, but kind of sweet, is usually how I describe it, often to slightly incredulous looks. It’s one of those things that, if you’ve ever been in a sanitary sewer, you’ll never forget, because it’s pretty unique.

To be fair, I should point out that this is only really true of sewers in residential and commercial areas. Sewers near factories tend to smell like whatever the factories put down the drain – a sewer near a brewery has to be one of the foulest places on earth, whereas a sewer near a shampoo factory can smell disturbingly… girly. (There’s something fundamentally wrong about a sewer that smells like flowers.) Someone like Sangamon Taylor would probably greatly enjoy the wide variety of subtle odors found in sewers near industrial areas. I’m not Sangamon Taylor.

Anyway, over the weekend I was at a Bruegger’s bagel shop, and ordered a bottle of Naked Juice‘s “Strawberry Banana” smoothie drink to accompany my bagel.

I don’t know how they do it, but this smoothie stuff is truly amazing – it pretty much looks like vomit, right down to the consistency, and it tastes exactly the way a sanitary sewer smells, if that makes any sense.

I mean that in a good way, let me point out before the lawyers come knocking down my door. I happen to like how sewers smell – not in a “I love the smell of a sewer in the morning!” kind of way, but in more of a “I find that unobjectionable” way.

So… if you’ve ever really wondered what a sanitary sewer smells like, buy a bottle of Naked’s Strawberry Banana smoothie, and take a sip. Then you’ll know.

Published in: Geekiness, General, Urban Exploration | on April 13th, 2010 | 1 Comment »

Respirator Fit-Testing for Noobs and Amateurs

I know it’s not a subject that’s of terribly high interest to everyone, but I figured I’d do a couple of paragraphs on properly fitting and fit-testing a respirator. This is not meant for people who are required to use one at work, but aimed at urban explorers, in particular – and anyone else who might have the desire to use respiratory protection in an avocation of their choosing.

The reason for this is simple – there has been a goodly amount of discussion in urban exploration circles on respirator (or gas mask) choice, and while this is a good thing, in that urban explorers are becoming more safety-conscious, nobody seems to be taking a particular interest in how to properly fit the damned things, thereby potentially negating the protection on offer.

So…
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Published in: Geekiness, General, Urban Exploration | on March 3rd, 2010 | No Comments »