The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Barn door: closing

Today the city of Chicago finally got around to building emergency turnarounds on Lake Shore Drive, on which hundreds of cars got stranded last Feburary:

Both escape routes are on the near North Side - one will be at Armitage; the other at Schiller. Chicago Department of Transportation officials say those spots were chosen because they're prone to snow drifts.

They will create turnaround access to north and southbound lanes during emergency situations, like last February's 20 inches of snow blizzard. Drivers and vehicles were stranded on the Drive for hours.

It's not clear how these two turnarounds would have helped in February, though I suppose more cars would have gotten off the road before it became completely impassable.

Here's another look at the gorgeous weather that shut the Drive. Can't wait for more this winter!

Unethical offer of the month

"Leading e-commerce development and acquisition group" KASA Capital sent me this email over the weekend:

I'd like to contribute an article to your site, - I can select a topic that matches the tone and theme of your site, or if you prefer, I can write about something of your choosing. The article will be unique and interesting to read. In return, I ask that I be able to subtly include a link to my site ____ within the article.

If you are able to put a permanent link to the article in a prominent place on your website, I may be able to make a one time Paypal donation as well.

Sure. Just a couple of things. First, the article you submit will have your byline. Second, the article will clearly state the financial relationship you have to the website you're "subtly" promoting. Third, the post containing the article will note that the article is "paid advertising." Finally, the article will end with a link to this post, to ensure that readers don't confuse your paid advertising content with anything I've ever written. If these conditions are acceptable, the fee for publishing your article will be $2,500.

Thanks for the offer, guys.

Full primogeniture in the UK

The Commonwealth has approved gender-neutral primogeniture for the British throne. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's firstborn will become the heir apparent, whether it's a boy or girl:

"Attitudes have changed fundamentally over the centuries and some of the outdated rules — like some of the rules of succession — just don't make sense to us any more," [British Prime Minister David] Cameron told reporters in Perth.

"The idea that a younger son should become monarch instead of an elder daughter simply because he is a man, or that a future monarch can marry someone of any faith except a Catholic — this way of thinking is at odds with the modern countries that we have become," he added.

The legislation does not affect anyone currently alive, which hardly matters as the first person with an eldest daughter is so far down the list one hopes the question would never come up.

Even I'm impressed

Despite the teams involved, I must (begrudgingly) accept that yesterday's bottom-of-the 11th, two-out, two-strike World Series home run was pretty damn cool. (So was the bottom-of-the 9th, two-out, two-strike game-tying triple that the same guy hit a few minutes earlier.)

And yes, I would say the same thing if the American League team had done it.

For readers outside the U.S.: The Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals have a baseball rivalry going back over a century. Think Arsenal and Chelsea, only without the hooligans; for hooligans, see under "Chicago White Sox."

Quick hits

Two tangentially-related stories this afternoon. First, from HuffPo, President Obama did not sic the FBI on medical-marijuana dispensaries in California; the U.S. attorneys did it on their own:

Obama as a candidate promised to maintain a hands-off approach toward pot clinics that adhered to state law, with Attorney General Eric Holder publicly asserting that federal prosecutors would not initiate enforcement actions against any patients or providers in compliance with state law, deeming it an inefficient use of scarce government resources.

Such language didn't stop federal prosecutors from launching an attack on medical marijuana shop owners earlier this month, vowing to shutter state-licensed marijuana dispensaries regulated by local governments and threatening landlords with property seizures.

Still, why are California's U.S. attorneys doing this? Does Agent Van Aldren work for them?

And next week, the Chicago city council will start looking at an ordinance to decriminalize small amounts of pot:

Under a proposal [25th Ward] Ald. Daniel Solis...will introduce at next week's City Council meeting, people caught in Chicago with 10 grams or less of marijuana would get a $200 ticket, and up to 10 hours of community service.

Police Supt. Garry McCarthy has mentioned the possibility of issuing tickets for marijuana possession as a way to keep his officers on the streets rather than tying them up processing people.

Excellent. Let's have the cops go after actual criminals instead of harmless pot-smokers.


I'm at a client site today and tomorrow, jamming on database optimization. Expect regular posts to resume Friday.

Nineteen building types

Via Atlantic Cities, the recession may help move developers away from the 19 standard building types identified in a report from UC Berkeley in 2005:

[T]he Grocery Anchored Neighborhood generally about 5 or 6 hectares in size on a plot of land that’s 80 percent covered in asphalt. It’s located on the going-home side of a major four-to-eight lane arterial road, where it catches people when they’re most likely to be thinking about what to buy for dinner.

It has a major, 4,600 to 6,500 square-meter supermarket on one end and a drug store with drive-through on the other, with national and regional chain stores, maybe a Hallmark and a Starbucks in between. The parking lot contains four or five spaces per thousand square-feet of retail. There is, in theory, a sidewalk, although no one is expected to use it. Every shop is designed to be seen by potential customers passing by at 45 mph. And – with the exception of a few last-minute regionally specific touches for art-deco paint schemes or Mediterranean roof tiles – this L-shaped shopping center looks the same whether you’re pulling into it from Denver or Orlando.

Seventeen of the 19 types create what one of my friends has called "Suburbistan," a landscape oriented towards cars and tract homes. But:

In Washington, D.C., one of the few U.S. cities largely immune to the real estate downturn, construction has continued, and Leinberger estimates that a good 90 percent of new development in the area has lately been planned for walkable, high-density living (see the makeover of Tyson’s Corner and the new Navy Yard development around the Nationals’ ballpark). These are the real estate products [Christopher] Leinberger believes we’ll need going forward: ground-floor retail with rental apartments on top, hotel/convention centers with condos above and a subway corridor below. These models may very well become standardized, too.

One can hope. Walkable cities, with good transit, are good for almost everyone.

Correcting the record

Reader AT actually met Tom Shanks, the chief programmer behind the ACS Atlases, and corrects my understanding of how the ACS team put it together:

Contrary to what you assume in your post, Tom Shanks did not hack his atlas into an Apple II. ACS was rather professional in their IT. The worldwide city database with longitude and latitude they had licensed from on of the big atlas (map atlas) publishers, if I remember correctly Rand McNally. The timezone history data they had collected from numerous published sources..., and partly also from field research and grass root contributions by their own astrology service clients.

The reader also gave me the story about an ongoing effort to extend the tzinfo database, and the provenance of Astrolabe's alleged copyrights. (Note that this is the precise, legal meaning of "alleged:" in a civil complaint, just as in a criminal complaint, the parties "allege" each fact in their filings.) If the reader gives me permission, I'll post some of this information.