The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

How Evanston got rid of cars (mostly)

Politico has a long-form article describing Evanston's efforts to rid its downtown of cars:

With stops for Chicago Transit Authority buses and its “L” rail line, Metra suburban rail’s Union Pacific North line and the Pace suburban bus, Evanston always had great transit bones. For much of its history it had also been a relatively prosperous North Shore city, its growth initially spurred by the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, as Chicagoans fled its chaotic density, and in the 20th century, its share of once-famous industrial names, from Rust-Oleum Corp. to Shure, the audio products company, to Bell & Howell, then best known for its film cameras and projectors.

The answer to the suburb’s economic woes, as it turned out, lay in embracing Lerner’s theory that “city is not the problem, city is solution.” Beginning in 1986, a new plan for Evanston embraced the idea of a “24/7” downtown, pouring resources into increasing the density of its downtown—a density that also meant decreasing residents’ reliance on automobiles. As a compact city, Evanston couldn’t compete with the vast sprawling parking spots of the Old Orchard Mall. It had to build a different sort of appeal.

Evanston’s approach mixed investments in mass transit—including building a new downtown transportation center—and relaxing its zoning restrictions along two designated corridors, Main and Central Streets, to permit increased residential density. “Nobody wanted a 20-story building in their downtown,” recalls Aiello-Fantus, the former assistant city manager. “There was this perception that we’re just a little town and having something 20 stories changes that character.”

I'm glad Evanston's planning is getting national press. I love the place, which is why I lived there for many years (and may do again). For many years before then, my mom lived along the Main Street corridor mentioned in the article—and then moved up to Central Street later on. And, of course, I was just there a couple weeks ago.

Interesting aside: 116 years ago today, the village of Austin ceased to exist as it was absorbed into the City of Chicago by legislative fiat. The city might have swallowed Evanston as well. How Evanston avoided that is a story in itself.


This post has a personal and a technical significance.

Personally: exactly 10,000 days ago, I was graduated from high school, at about this time of day.

Technically: The new blog engine let me pre-post this several days ahead, something the old blog engine thought it could do but never quite succeeded.

That is all.

Last night on Michigan Avenue

My new LG G4 phone has one hell of a camera:

That's what came out of the phone, unedited (except for location tagging). The phone can save photos in raw .dng format, which Adobe Lightroom reads just fine. This enables full editing control and zero data loss, among other things. Pretty cool.

Mexican villages about to get destroyed by climate change

Hurricane Patricia, which will slam into the Mexican coastal villages of San Patricio and Barra de Navidad in just a few hours, is the strongest hurricane ever observed:

Packing 200 mph winds, the U.S. National Hurricane Center described Patricia as the "strongest hurricane on record" in the Atlantic and eastern North Pacific Basins.

At 8 a.m. ET, Patricia was about 230 km southwest of Manzanillo, and about 340 km south of Cabo Corrientes.

Hurricane warnings stretched from San Blas to Punta San Telmo, an area that includes Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo. CONAGUA, the Mexican national water commission, predicted waves about 40 feet at landfall.

Up to 20 inches of rain was predicted for the Mexican states of Jalisco, Colima, Michoacan and Guerrero through Saturday, the NHC said.

The NHC estimates landfall this evening.

As for the climate-change aspect of the story, the Washington Post has it covered:

Certainly, record-breaking hurricanes raise questions about longstanding predictions that global warming, by raising ocean temperatures, should also strengthen these storms. The issue, however, is beset by data-related difficulties, since storm measurement techniques are continually improving (creating a kind of apples-and-oranges problem when comparing past strong storms with present ones) and are also highly variable around the world — thus, hurricane hunter flights are far more common in the Atlantic than in the Northeast Pacific, where Patricia formed.

Still, there have been widespread predictions that hurricanes should become stronger, on average, in a warmer world. Summarizing the current research, the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration puts it this way: “Anthropogenic warming by the end of the 21st century will likely cause tropical cyclones globally to be more intense on average….This change would imply an even larger percentage increase in the destructive potential per storm, assuming no reduction in storm size.”

Yes, because it turns out, when you put energy into a system at a constant rate but decrease the rate that the energy can leave the system, the system has more energy. And half a century of dithering on climate-change policy has caught up with us.

Big beer companies don't actually like beer

Not that it should surprise anyone, but brewing giants like InBev and MillerCoors aren't buying craft brewers to distribute them more widely. Just the opposite:

[T]he Department of Justice and regulators in California were investigating whether InBev, which makes Budweiser and Bud Light, was buying up beer wholesalers to curb sales of craft beers in bars and grocery stores.

“When a big brewery buys an independently-owned distributor they would evaluate each one of those brands and not keep all of them,” said Tom McCormick, executive director of the California Craft Brewers Association and a former beer distributor. “The bulk of their attention would be on their in-house brands.”

Even as the big players merge, they may not be able to run ahead of consumer tastes. In the last 10 years many Americans have cut back on beer in favor of wine and liquor. And though InBev is very profitable, its beers have been losing market share as more people buy imported and craft beer. [Brooklyn Brewery founder Steve] Hindy said that’s because smaller brewers are just more single-minded about taste. “We make beer,” he said. “They make money.”

The craft brewing phenomenon terrifies companies like InBev because it's literally impossible for them to compete with micros. Once InBev buys your micro, it's no longer micro. You can't scale a micro up very far, either, or it ceases to be a micro. (See, e.g., Boston Brewing Co. and Goose Island.)

FitBit attack vector?

Via Schneier, a report that FitBit trackers could, in theory, spread malware to users' computers:

The athletic-achievement-accumulating wearables are wide open on their Bluetooth ports, according to research by Fortinet. The attack is quick, and can spread to other computers to which an infected FitBit connects.

Attacks over Bluetooth require an attacker hacker to be within metres of a target device. This malware can be delivered 10 seconds after devices connect, making even fleeting proximity a problem. Testing the success of the hack takes about a minute, although it is unnecessary for the compromise.

"Fortinet first contacted us in March to report a low-severity issue unrelated to malicious software. Since that time we’ve maintained an open channel of communication with Fortinet. We have not seen any data to indicate that it is currently possible to use a tracker to distribute malware," [FitBit said].

The researcher has made it clear that this is a proof-of-concept attack, and not one that exists in the wild.

Was it a great year for the Cubs?

The Tribune waxes rhapsodic about the season that was:

Let's take stock of all that before we start with the wait-till-next-year business.

Let's celebrate this year.

It was awesome. It was unexpected. It was thrilling.

It was a gift to the city of Chicago from a team of overachievers, including four standout rookie starters.

Ladies and gentlemen, we give you Cubs all-time postseason home run leader Kyle Schwarber, age 22. Rookie of the year candidate Kris Bryant, 23. Cardinal-killer Jorge Soler, 23. And who knows how this series might have ended if clutch-hitter Addison Russell hadn't been forced to sit out with a pulled hamstring? He's 21.

Sure. Let me put it another way, in October 1918:

Let's take stock of all that before we start with the wait-till-reparations-are-paid business.

Let's celebrate this war.

It was awesome. It was unexpected. It laid waste to Belgium.

It was a gift to the nations of Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, and Russia—sorry, the Soviet Union (a brand-new country!)—from a team of overconfident aristocrats, including four standout emperors.

Ladies and gentlemen, we give you the largest sum ever spent on a war in the history of mankind: $337 billion, which will be $5.3 trillion adjusted for inflation just 97 years from now. Fourteen million dead (equivalent to 56 million in 2015), not including the 20 million who are about to die of influenza. And who knows how this war would have ended had we not attacked American ships in the Atlantic? Maybe we would have held Alscace for another century. And who will ever forget how tanks changed the game entirely? No more endless trench warfare! Huzzah!

No, guys. The Cubs lost. Again. They lost the league for the 70th time in a row. They haven't won the World Series since just after Henry Ford sold his first Model T. They bloodly lost.

So win the damn pennant, and STFU until then.


It's a little like hearing from an abusive partner a year after breaking up. Glad you're doing better, glad you're getting on your feet, but you're still doing the really bad things that led to me leaving, so no, don't call again.

I've been a Cubs fan for most of my life, as were my parents before me, and some of my ancestors before them. My mother lived and died without seeing them in the World Series, as have about two billion other people who were born after October 1945. It's possible I may never see them win the pennant either.

After last season's 89 losses—not a great improvement over 2013's 96 losses—I broke up with them. They kept saying, "I promise to do better, if only you'll give me another $1,800 and buy some $9 hot dogs." And every year, I'd fork over the money. And then I stopped.

This year they won 97 games. Mazel tov. But when it counted, when they really needed to get their shit together and win, they completely fell apart. Tonight's 8-3 loss to the Mets ended what the Tribune unironically called the Cubs' "Magical Season," perhaps forgetting that they've done this repeatedly.

Keep in mind, they were the wild card this year; the Pirates and the Cardinals had 98 and 100 wins, respectively, putting the Cubs in third place at season's end. And the Cubs had 97 wins in 2008, another heartbreaking year. (And 98 wins in 1945, which wasn't so heartbreaking only because no one could foresee, just a few weeks after the end of World War II, and after the Cubs had just played their third World Series in 10 years, that the Cubs would never win another pennant.)

So tonight, I have mixed feelings. I'm happy the Cubs did better this year than in the preceding six. And I think they have some potential to win next season. But after 70 years, I just can't keep expending emotional energy on them anymore.

Someday, probably, they will win the pennant. Someday they might even win the World Series. But after so many chokes, after so many goats, after so many abject failures when it really counted, I'm done. I was done at the beginning of this season, and I'm still done. I wish the team well in 2016. I hope the fans enjoy the games. But until the Cubs actually win the National League Championship, I'm not giving them a dime. You can call me a fair-weather fan, or you can acknowledge that after hoping against reason for more than 40 seasons that this year could be the year, not giving any more shits is a rational response.

Maybe next year...but I won't be there.

Note: The title of this post echoes a sign across Sheffield from the park. The letters "AC" mean "Anno Catuli:" "Year of the Cub." The first two digits (00) count the years from them last winning the division, the second two (70) from the National League championship, and the remainder (107) from the World Series. They had to add another digit after the 2008 season. That should have told you something.


A funny thing happened on my way to lunch

When the weather is like this (22°C and sunny) in the middle of October, I happily walk the kilometer and a half to the nearest Whole Foods to grab a salad. (When the weather isn't as good, I still walk, just not as happily.)

Today I had a slight delay:

The city raises the bridges most often in October and April to let sailboats through. The whole process takes about 10 minutes, and on a day like today, I'm happy to watch.