Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
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Monday 30 March 2015

At least there isn't any more snow:

Monday 30 March 2015 16:56:46 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Thursday 26 March 2015

Sigh. I just don't have the slacker skills required to read these things during the work day:

Continuing, now, with a database migration...

Thursday 26 March 2015 15:17:39 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Chicago | US#
Monday 23 March 2015

The northern hemisphere's first full day of astronomical spring was Saturday. Yesterday, this is what it looked like in Chicago:

And here's this morning:

And, more than likely, it'll be sunny and warm on Wednesday. The snow on the ground this afternoon should be gone by then.

Chicago weather certainly builds character.

Monday 23 March 2015 14:23:56 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Wednesday 18 March 2015

Just hours after a jury handed down a $26-million verdict against the company, Yellow Cab filed for bankruptcy protection overnight:

The verdict was reached around 7 p.m. Tuesday. At 3:45 a.m. Wednesday, Yellow Cab Affiliation Inc. of Chicago filed for Chapter 11 reorganization with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Chicago, according to the court documents.

In its filing, company officials said Yellow Cab is "experiencing financial difficulty due to, among other things, a judgment entered against the company in the Circuit Court of Cook County."

Robert Clifford, the lead attorney for the couple, said the bankruptcy filing means "they may never see a dime."

Given that the verdict was announced around 7 p.m. and the court hearing ended at 8 p.m., the bankruptcy filing must have been a "long planned strategy to avoid accountability and responsibility," Clifford said.

Not that taxi companies have a history of shady dealings, despite my ongoing efforts to retrieve an insurance deductible from an incident a few months ago. And not that private-ride companies are grinding down taxi profits even more. But still, this is egregious.

Wednesday 18 March 2015 14:51:43 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | US#
Tuesday 17 March 2015

Yesterday evening when I walked to rehearsal the temperature in Chicago was 22°C. Four hours later it was 8°C, and it fell to 2°C by sunrise.

This is what we call a "pneumonia front," especially when this sort of thing happens mid-day. People go to work or school dressed for warm weather and catch pneumonia on the way home.

Add to that the 46 km/h wind gusts out of the north and it's a banner spring morning here in Chicago.

Sláinte!

Tuesday 17 March 2015 11:19:33 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Monday 16 March 2015

I was nowhere near Wrigley Field over the weekend, which is good because the St. Patrick's Day "celebration" up there netted 17 arrests (by 3am Sunday) and over 90 police visits to a single McDonald's:

1:47PM — RING THE BELL! We have our first knock-out of the day. An ambulance is summoned for “a guy so drunk he can’t stand up” at 3525 Clark.

1:49PM — Another prize is awarded as police issue the day’s first ticket for drinking on the public way. Rahm’s budget office thanks you, sir.

[many, many reports later]

9:44PM — Couple having sex on the wood chips at the back of a playlot. 918 Fletcher. “It’s unknown if it’s consensual.”

I lived in that neighborhood from 1994 to 1997, and I don't remember it being that bad. Ever. But since about 2010, street festivals and major drinking holidays have made the area impassable. Maybe there are some policy options, do you suppose?

It didn't help that we had our first tolerably warm weekend of the year. I mean, freezing rain would have quelled the violence a bit, I think.

Monday 16 March 2015 09:44:19 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Politics#
Sunday 15 March 2015

Apparently my last four weekends have been pretty busy. Once again I have almost no time to post anything, not least because it's sunny and 13°C, so Parker and I are getting ready to go hiking.

So here's a listicle. Generally I hate them, but this one from Inc. listing frequently-misused cliché phrases made me point to my screen and shout "yes, that!"

11. Baited breath
The term "bated" is an adjective meaning suspense. It originated from the verb "abate," meaning to stop or lessen. Therefore, "to wait with bated breath" essentially means to hold your breath with anticipation. The verb "bait," on the other hand, means to taunt, often to taunt a predator with its prey. A fisherman baits his line in hopes of a big catch. Considering the meaning of the two words, it's clear which is correct, but the word "bated" is mostly obsolete today, leading to the ever-increasing mistake in this expression.

I'm waiting with bated breath for the next bit of list bait to cross my Facebook feed...

Sunday 15 March 2015 12:03:15 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Parker | Weather | Writing#
Friday 13 March 2015

I'm in my office, looking outside at the sunny 15°C day and—oh, dear, I must be coming down with something, perhaps I should go home and rest?

Chicago was last this warm on November 10th, when it got up to 17°C. That was four months ago. Four. Months. One hundred twenty-three days.

*cough*

Yep, definitely too sick to stay in the office now...

Friday 13 March 2015 13:41:57 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#

Yesterday NPR's Fresh Air interviewed Lee Jackson, author of Dirty Old London. Apparently my second-favorite city in the world came late to the sanitation party:

[B]y the 1890s, there were approximately 300,000 horses and 1,000 tons of dung a day in London. What the Victorians did, Lee says, was employ boys ages 12 to 14 to dodge between the traffic and try to scoop up the excrement as soon as it hit the streets.

This is the thing that's often forgotten: that London at the start of the 19th century, it was basically filled with these cesspools. There'd be brick chambers ... they'd be maybe 6 feet deep, about 4 [feet] wide and every house would have them. They'd be ideally in the back garden away from the house, but equally in central London and more crowded areas it was more common to have a cesspool in the basement. ... And above the cesspool would be where your household privy would be. And that was basically your sanitary facilities, for want of a better term.

He goes on from there.

Chicago, one should remember, also had disgusting streets, and nowhere to put sewers. Our solution? In the 1850s, we raised the city about 1.2 meters above the surrounding terrain. Note that it still took London 50 years to develop that level of sanitation.

Now London is one of the cleanest cities in the world. Still, people from outside the city—particularly from the north of England—refer to it as "the Big Stink." Cultural memories last for a long time.

Friday 13 March 2015 09:38:05 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Geography | London#
Friday 6 March 2015

Following up on the previous post, this is what my bus stop looked like at 7:45 this morning:

Yes, it's pretty, but we're really over it already.

Friday 6 March 2015 12:59:27 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#

Tom Skilling started his Explainer column today by depressing the hell out of me:

Chicagoans haven’t seen a temp above 8°C since late December. And a reading of 12°C or higher has been a no-show here since Nov 11th when the mercury last made it to 14°C. As if that’s not been bad enough, the city’s sat beneath a cover of snow that’s been at least 125 mm deep since Feb. 1—a run which moves into a 34th consecutive day Friday. Thursday’s bone-chilling and unseasonable -9°C high–a reading 14°C below normal and just 2°C shy of tying a 1901 record for max temp—only poured salt in the wound. It qualified as the coldest March 5th daytime high in 114-years. And, following Thursday morning’s lead, overnight temps [dipped] to sub-zero [Fahrenheit] levels over much of the metro area away from Lake Michigan one last time in the current cold siege–an arctic blast which has produced significantly below-normal temps for 22 consecutive days.

Yes, this has been our third really bad winter in five years. But it is March, so something has to change eventually right? Right:

[B]eyond this weekend and barring unforeseen changes going forward—the sudden appearance of a Chicago-bound backdoor cold front capable of turning winds off Lake Michigan’s icy waters would be an example—the area is in for one impressive warm-up by Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday next week. It doesn’t signal that cold air or snow is completely finished for the season—history shows the area has been vulnerable to snows of some substance into April in some years— but it sure marks a major step in the transition from winter the the warmer days of spring.

How much warmer? Estimates by the four major weather models range from 28°C to—no kidding—41°C warmer than last night's -18°C low. Given that the lake is mostly frozen and we still have 125 mm of snow on the ground, the current forecast for The Daily Parker predicts 10°C on Tuesday and 12°C on Wednesday—warm enough to walk to work. And with above-freezing temperatures predicted from tomorrow forward, all that snow should melt.

Stay tuned.

Friday 6 March 2015 10:37:32 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Wednesday 4 March 2015

On only six occasions in recorded history has Chicago experienced a temperature below -18°C in March.Tonight could be the 7th:

A sub-0 reading at O’Hare by daybreak Thursday would be the latest a low temp has dropped below 0 [Fahrenheit] here in the 33 years—–since 1982. The -19°C reading being predicted is hardly a common occurrence so late in a cold season. In fact, of Chicago’s 1,041 sub-0 readings in 144 years of official temp records, only 6 have occurred beyond March 5th (Thursday’s date). And on a broader scale, only 12 of the 144 Marches on the books since official records began here in 1871 have managed one or more sub-zero temps.

But:

Daytime highs could register as much as 28°C warmer in a week

What’s to happen in the wake of the frigid late-season chill of the next two days is the most significant pattern change across North America since December. Major warming is projected. The pace of the warming will depend on the speed with which snow melts and on wind direction, since any “easterly” winds at this time of year deliver a very chilly brand of air off ice-cluttered Lake Michigan.

Oh, and we've had snow on the ground now for 34 days straight, which isn't a record but is unusual this late in the year. It's not the snow on the ground I find objectionable, either; it's having to keep a pair of shoes at the office and clomping to work wearing boots every day. I hope next week's warm-up finishes that phase of the year.

Wednesday 4 March 2015 08:57:57 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Monday 2 March 2015

Posting might be a bit slower than normal this week given three full rehearsals in advance of our concert at Rockefeller Chapel on Saturday.

Also, we're pretty much sick of the weather here. February tied with 1875 for the coldest ever, at -9.7°C, and third-snowiest, with 681 mm. That last comes with a star as this was one of only 6 Februaries in history in which we had snow on the ground for the whole month.

Oh, and the forecast through our concert calls for significantly below-average temperatures until Sunday, except for Tuesday, when we'll have freezing rain and snow. Yum.

Monday 2 March 2015 09:35:28 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Kitchen Sink | Weather#
Friday 27 February 2015

Depending on tomorrow's weather, this month might be the coldest February in Chicago history:

As of Friday morning, the average temperature for the month was -9.33°C, surpassing the average of -9.27°C in 1936 that is currently ranked the second coldest February, according to the National Weather Service.

Could Chicago see its coldest February ever? That record, an average of -9.67°C, was set way back in 1875.

Oh, and:

This month currently ranks as the third snowiest February on record with 671 mm recorded at O'Hare International Airport. The second snowiest February was back in 1896 with 706 mm, according to the weather service.

We're overjoyed, really, this is a great honor.

Friday 27 February 2015 11:44:45 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Thursday 26 February 2015

CityLab's Eric Jaffe takes a good look:

Let's acknowledge, right from the start, that there's a lot to like about Chicago's long-awaited, much-anticipated Central Loop BRT project, which is scheduled to break ground in March. The basic skeleton is an accomplishment in its own right: nearly two miles of exclusive rapid bus lanes through one of the most traffic-choked cities in the United States. The Central Loop BRT will serve six bus routes, protect new bike lanes, connect to city rail service, and reduce travel times for about half all people moving through the corridor on wheels. Half.

Officially, CTA says the Ashland plans are proceeding at pace. The agency is considering public feedback gathered during community meetings in 2013 and working through the "higher-than-anticipated number of comments," as part of the standard procedure for a federal environmental analysis. Meantime, CTA continues to pursue funding for the project's next design. Spokesman Steele says it's "too soon to tell" what a timeline for the corridor will be.

BRT solves the problem of getting people around quickly without building new rail lines. Chicago's geography makes BRT development a lot easier than it would be in other cities as well. It would be cool if, a year from now, I'm whizzing to the Loop in 20 minutes by bus, instead of my current 40.

Thursday 26 February 2015 12:18:01 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Geography | US | Travel#
Wednesday 25 February 2015

This morning's -10°C temperatures weren't that much better than yesterday's, but it still felt warmer, maybe because we got all the way up to -2°C by 6pm.

The sun may also have helped:

More cold coming. Spring, too, should be here in a couple of weeks months.

Wednesday 25 February 2015 09:16:40 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#

Chicago's municipal election last night failed to elect a mayor:

Chicago's incumbent mayor now is destined for an April 7 runoff election against Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia in an unpredictable battle over the city's future and the right way to get there.

With just 5 percent of precincts yet to report, Emanuel had 199,861 votes, a bit over 45.4 percent. He hovered at that level most of the evening.

It was agonizingly close for him, but still short of the 50 percent-plus-one vote he needed to avoid a runoff.

So, six weeks from now, we have another election. It's not clear at this point which of them will win, because all of Emanuel's challengers appear to be endorsing Garcia now.

Wednesday 25 February 2015 09:12:38 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | US#
Tuesday 24 February 2015

The temperature in Chicago hasn't gone above freezing for 12 days, and got down to -20°C only last night. So right now, at -2°C, and with the sun out, it feels positively tropical.

Unfortunately, the forecast doesn't show us actually getting above-freezing temperatures as far out as it goes. Medium-term forecasts also show below-normal temperatures all the way out through mid-March. And in the latest bit of good news, the Great Lakes are almost 86% covered in ice, close to the record of 94.7% set in 1979. For perspective, a year ago the lakes got up 93% coverage and the last ice didn't completely melt until June 12th.

So, we could be in for another chilly spring and cool summer, followed by (one hopes) a mild autumn, just like last year.

And because warmer temperatures to the west of us seem to have caused this pattern to emerge both last year and this year, it could become a permanent feature of north-eastern North America's climate.

Tuesday 24 February 2015 16:24:32 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#

Between rehearsals, work, and life, I haven't had a lot of time during the day to goof off keep abreast of world developments. So here's what got sent to my Kindle just today:

Also, if you live in Chicago, go vote today.

Tuesday 24 February 2015 10:07:53 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | US | World | Weather#
Monday 23 February 2015

Saturday night I attended the Chicago Symphony's performance of Mozart's Piano Concerto #24 and the Requiem, both pieces I know well. I was disappointed, particularly in Riccardo Muti's direction of the Requiem.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus comprise some of the best musicians in the world. The CSC, in fact, had a reputation for being the best chorus in the world when I was growing up. But Saturday, they seemed robotic. Every note, rhythm, cutoff, dynamic, and pronunciation was perfect; and yet, the performance was boring. It was like watching a 1-0 baseball game that goes into extra innings. Every play might be perfect but the overall effect is "so what?"

Chicago Classical Review writer Lawrence Johnson heard the same thing:

Muti used the traditional Süssmayr completion as well as a now-untraditional full complement of the CSO Chorus. While grand in sonic scale, the chorus sounded top-heavy in this repertory, even with dexterous balancing.

Still, everything was technically in place, tempos well-judged and the orchestral playing as refined and responsive as one would expect, with standout turns by the basset horns of John Bruce Yeh and J. Lawrie Bloom, bassoonist William Buchman and a rich and rounded trombone solo from Michael Mulcahy in the “Tuba mirum.”

Yet the overall effect was of an emotionally cool and expressively straitened performance, lacking intensity, energy and an engagement with the spiritual drama of the mass setting. Everything emerged clearly and forcefully yet the roiling drama and interior introspection were only fitfully evident.

The CSO Chorus, directed by Duain Wolfe, performed with customary polish and corporate cohesion, though here too there was little expressive warmth and too much generalized singing in ensemble passages. Perhaps the performance will fill out over the weekend, but Thursday night it felt very much like a firmly drawn outline of the score rather than a deep and probing account of the drama within.

What would have made it better? Vocal lines that went someplace; a smaller group; and in some parts, quicker tempi.

I texted a friend later on: "Epiphany: Apollo can be a better chorus than CSC." We'll prove it a week from Saturday at our spring concert, too. (Saturday March 7th, 7:30pm, Rockefeller Chapel. Buy tickets now!

Monday 23 February 2015 09:50:16 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Kitchen Sink#

Last week, Parker's daycare and boarding facility had a serious scare when two men stole one of their vans:

The van was found abandoned near 21st and Wabash — dogs still inside — by a Good Samaritan who notified authorities. On Wednesday, two gunmen took the van, which was left running and unattended in the 800 block of West Superior, police said. Though the driver wasn’t in the van when it was taken, the robbers did point a gun at someone who tried to stop them, police said.

Joseph Giannini, owner of the dogsitting service that owned the van, Urban Out Sitters, said the incident was “probably the most devastating thing I’ve had to deal with” in 15 years of business.

He said a driver he employed was getting ready to take the dogs home when one of the armed men approached and told him to get out of the van — a story that doesn’t precisely match the version of the offense police gave later Thursday.

Late Friday night, Giannini sent out an email laying out in detail what happened:

In the video footage, the two assailants approached the vehicle. The vehicle was not running or left unattended. The driver had two keys one was in the van ashtray, the other with him on his key ring. He thought he locked the car, as we have a two key system in place. In the footage, you can see the van’s exhaust spurt out by the engine being turned over. The van was located directly near the front door of the facility (with the driver only steps away in front of the van) by the time he could get the vehicle, the two men already started the car, reversed the van, and sped away. At this point, the driver and a UOS dog walker immediately jumped into action, got in their car and bike to follow the carjacked vehicle. The driver (witness) and walker chased after the van and the driver confronted the two thieves at one of the intersecting streets near Milwaukee, Chicago and Ogden area. At this point the driver (witness) cornered them. At the vehicle one of the thieves in the van pointed a gun at the driver (witness) and told him to exit away from the vehicle. I was shocked and appreciative how he put his life in a dangerous situation by chasing and confronting the assailants. UOS is working diligently with investigators (which you can verify) to get camera footage from the blue light cameras showcasing the secondary confrontation Urban Out Sitters is also organizing a search for the two assailants by offering a reward to anyone who may know who they are.

Going forward, all of their vans and dogs will have GPS trackers on them. I'm not sure I'm thrilled with Parker having the tag on all the time when he's not at UOS, simply because I take him with me a lot. ("Ride in the CAR? Ride in the CAR? Who's a good dog?")

I'm glad the dogs got home safely, and that it wasn't as cold Wednesday night as it was other nights last week. I'm sticking with UOS as I have for 7 years so far.

Monday 23 February 2015 09:35:52 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Parker#
Friday 20 February 2015

Yesterday was 17°C below normal in Chicago, the 8th consecutive day of frigid temperatures here, including a new record low maximum yesterday of -16°C. And while 19 states had record lows yesterday, western states are baking:

"Winter seems to have completely forgotten about us out here," Kathie Dello, deputy director of the Oregon Climate Service at Oregon State University, told the Associated Press. "If we could find a way of sending [the Northeast] snow out here, we'd really, really appreciate that."

- Las Vegas [had a] record high of 26°C, and Reno had its warmest Valentine's Day on record (as well as a record high) when the thermometer hit 23°C. Salt Lake City (16°C) and Pocatello, Idaho (13°C) broke their daily high temperature records on Valentine's Day as well.

- Phoenix has seen high temperatures in the 80s [Fahrenheit] since Feb. 5, with the exception of one Thursday which recorded a high of 26°C.

Thank a meandering jet stream and a strong polar vortex over eastern Canada, which sounds familiar. The vortex is forecast to hang around through next week. Add frozen Great Lakes and we could have a very cool spring.

Friday 20 February 2015 10:53:25 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Thursday 19 February 2015

...and we had record cold this morning:

Around daybreak, the temperature at O'Hare International Airport dropped to -22°C, beating the record of -21°C for this date set in 1936. Winds from the northwest at 15-25 km/h made it feel like -30 to -35°C, and a wind chill advisory remained in effect until noon.

The coldest places this morning included -25°C in Aurora, Harvard and Island Lake, -24.4°C in DeKalb and -23.9°C in Mundelein, Union, Waukegan and West Chicago. Wind chills ranged from -33°C in Fox Lake and Wilmette to -36°C in DeKalb.

A brief return to normal this weekend (albeit with some snowfall) will precede another arctic blast next week. When meteorological spring begins on March 1st, we'll still be running 6°C below normal.

This is not helping my Fitbit numbers.

It's also worth noting that, on this day in 1847, rescuers reached the Donner Party. So it could be worse...

Thursday 19 February 2015 11:18:36 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Tuesday 17 February 2015

Oh, joy. Tomorrow night into next week, Chicago could set some cold-weather records for the month of February:

Daytime highs Wednesday and Thursday are predicted to reach no higher than single digits [Fahrenheit] over much of the area–a rare development this late in a cold season. Just how rare?? There have been a grand total of 17 single digit daytime highs beyond Feb. 17 over the past 144 years which averages out to JUST ONE single digit high beyond Feb 17th per decade!

The chill’s not going away anytime soon. Were sub-freezing temps to hold the remaining 11 days of February–something which looks plausible at this distance—Feb 2015 could be in line to add another record to its lineup. Never, in the 144 years of official records here, has a February moved from the 17th to its conclusion having no generated freezing or above daytime highs.

The record low temperature for February is -29°C set 9th February 1899. We're in no danger of breaking that. But 17th February 1903 got down to -24°C, about Thursday night's forecast low.

Can't wait.

Tuesday 17 February 2015 12:13:14 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Monday 16 February 2015

After nearly a week walking my ass off in reasonable early-spring weather, I arrived back in Chicago last night to -11°C, which dropped to -15°C for my commute this morning. It is strangely not comforting that it has been this cold this late on only 12 days since 1871. Or that it's going to be even colder Wednesday and Thursday.

Will it warm up? Eventually. But the National Climate Prediction Center forecasts below-average temperatures for the next couple of weeks.

It was really nice to be able to walk 10-14 km every day for a week. Maybe sometime in June I'll be able to do that again.

Monday 16 February 2015 09:41:32 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Thursday 5 February 2015

With a little more than five days until my next international flight, I'm stocking up my Kindle:

UAT release this afternoon. Back to the galley.

Thursday 5 February 2015 11:48:42 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation | Chicago | Cubs | Geography | Software#

Getting out of a snowy parking space is tough. Getting into one can be tougher. Boy, do I like my car's all-wheel drive and manual transmission:

I'm actually far enough from the car behind mine that, should he manage to dig himself out fore and aft, he'd have no trouble getting out.

And, wow, has this weather been hell on my Fitbit numbers.

Thursday 5 February 2015 11:41:38 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Travel | Weather#
Monday 2 February 2015

So, I'm sitting here, generally unperturbed by the blizzard yesterday, and it turns out it was the fifth-worst in history:

After further review and the addition of the storm’s last flakes that fell early Monday morning, the final numbers for the historic Super Bowl Blizzard are in. It is interesting to note that this storm fell exactly four years to the days after the city’s 2011 Groundhog Day Blizzard.

The addition snowfall that fell late Sunday and early Monday morning now makes this storm the city’s 5th heaviest snowstorm.

  1. 584 mm January 26-27, 1967 The Big Snow
  2. 585 mm January 1-3, 1999 The New Year’s Storm
  3. 538 mm January 31-February 2, 2011 Groundhog Day Blizzard
  4. 516 mm January 12-14, 1979 Blizzard of 79
  5. 490 mm January 31-February 2, 2015 The Super Bowl Blizzard

Huh. So maybe it was a big storm after all.

My coverage of the 2011 storm is here and here.

Monday 2 February 2015 10:59:14 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#

Chicago officially got 450 mm of snow yesterday; here's Lincoln Park this morning:

Fortunately, my car is parked on a stretch of street that acts as a wind tunnel during typical Chicago blizzards, so I'll actually be able to move it today:

The car has all-wheel drive and the "winter package," and handles beautifully in snow. Unlike this poor Beetle just a few meters away:

In other news, Punxsatawney Phil saw his shadow, which means mostly that there is a very irritated rodent in central Pennsylvania.

Monday 2 February 2015 09:51:10 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Travel | Weather#
Sunday 1 February 2015

A slow-moving winter storm has moved into the Chicago area. Compared with the truly awful storms we've had over the years, it doesn't seem so bad, so far: only 150 mm so far with another 150 mm predicted through tomorrow morning. This comes, of course, with falling temperatures and increasing winds as the low passes to our south, but again, nothing we can't handle.

As usual, Parker enjoys it:

As usual, my car doesn't:

And new this year, but most likely a usual problem in the future, my Fitbit numbers have not looked great. My daily step average went from 11,700 in December to 10,300 in January—265 km vs. 233 km. One bright spot: I lost 2.3 kg from January 1st through today, so I'm doing something right. (Or I'm dehydrated.)

Parker got a 20-minute walk this morning which included some off-leash time at the park. He'll probably get another pair of walks in as we go over to J's Old Lincoln Park for the Superbowl. As mentioned, today is J's last day open, so there will probably be a good number of Euchre players there to wish the owner well. (Of course, we'll probably see him at the next meetup on Wednesday.)

Sunday 1 February 2015 09:59:55 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Kitchen Sink | Parker | Weather#
Tuesday 27 January 2015

January is long, cold, and dark in Chicago. We've got no more holidays, we've got much more snow, and we hardly see the sun.

So January 28th always makes me a little happy, because it's (usually) the first day in almost four months that the sun sets after 5pm. (The last time was November 1st.) It marks the log-jam of dark and cold nights breaking up. Sunset will slide to 5:30 in only three weeks and, thanks to Daylight Saving Time, blast almost to 7pm two weeks after that.

Of course, it's still another week and a half until the sun rises before 7am...

Tuesday 27 January 2015 15:28:24 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Astronomy#
Monday 26 January 2015

Duke Basketball coach Mike "Coach K" Krzyzweski won his 1,000th Division 1 game yesterday:

Mike Krzyzewski earned his 1,000th career win Sunday, making him the first NCAA Division I men's coach to reach the milestone, when No. 5 Duke surged past St. John's in the second half for a 77-68 victory at Madison Square Garden.

When the final horn sounded, Blue Devils players engulfed Krzyzewski and he received a bear hug from assistant Jeff Capel. Photographers swarmed the coach on the court, and players were given T-shirts that read "1,000 Wins And Kounting."

Today is also the 29th anniversary of the only time the Chicago Bears won the Superbowl.

Monday 26 January 2015 10:27:46 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Duke#
Wednesday 21 January 2015

Today is the last day the CTA will run 1970s-era trains from the 2400 Series:

With their traverse-style seating, return to sliding doors and bicentennial trim, Chicago Transit Authority’s 2400-series rail cars proved popular with riders when they first debuted in 1976. CTA also got more than their money’s worth from the 200 cars they ordered from Boeing-Vertol, as they were only phased out of use once CTA began adding the Bombardier 5000-series rail cars to its fleet.

Over the next four decades the 2400-series cars provided thousands upon thousands of rides and arguably as many “hobo corner surprises” while the last of the cars were eventually pulled from the Orange and Brown lines. To commemorate their service, CTA is saying C-YA to the 2400 series cars with a fanfare-studded “final ride” Wednesday, Jan. 21. A train of eight 2400-series cars will roll along the tracks in the Loop, on the Brown Line, the North Side Red Line and South Side Green Line, to and from the Ashland/63rd Street station. The cars will be decorated in their original bicentennial detail, follow their original routes and contain interior map and advertising cards from the period when they first launched. CTA also plans on having shuttle bus service to pick up riders to board the trains in the Loop at Washington and Wells.

This doesn't mean a lot outside the city, but for we who take the El often, it's a good thing. The 40-year-old cars will not be missed by the average commuter.

Wednesday 21 January 2015 12:12:36 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Travel#
Tuesday 20 January 2015

Yep. Pretty dreary today:

At least it's above freezing.

Tuesday 20 January 2015 12:56:59 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#

Interesting things to read:

Before reading all of those I need to get a production deployment ready for this weekend. It would help if I were completely certain what's in production right now...

Tuesday 20 January 2015 12:30:14 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation | Chicago | US | Cool links | Weather | Windows Azure#
Monday 19 January 2015

Via Chicagoist, a compilation of Super-8 movies showing Chicago more than 45 years ago:

Monday 19 January 2015 16:00:44 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago#
Saturday 10 January 2015

Sure, it's -17°C, and it's been colder than that the last six nights in a row, but let's put this in perspective: last year was way, way worse:

The new year has opened very wintry bringing the city major league doses of snow and cold. Through January 9 temperatures have averaged a frigid -10.9°C and there have been 193 mm of snow. But, it was much colder and snowier during the same period last year with temperatures averaging -13.4°C and the city buried under nearly 509 mm of snow.

With clear skies and a fresh snow cover, Saturday will dawn bitterly cold with another round of subzero [Fahrenheit] temperatures, but readings will moderate in the afternoon as highs approach the upper teens [Fahrenheit]. Slow warming will continue with the mercury flirting with the freezing mark by Thursday and closing in on 6°C by next weekend. The only significant snow threat on the horizon comes Sunday night and Monday as a weather system moves through the Midwest, but current forecast trends point to the bulk of the snow falling south of Chicago.

Yesterday, white-out conditions contributed to a 193-vehicle pile-up in central Michigan that killed one and hurt 23:

There were 26 semis and 34 cars involved on the eastbound side of the freeway, and several vehicles there were burning in the pileup west of exit 92. Among them was a truck that carried 20 tonnes of hazardous materials and another hauling fireworks. Shortly before noon, those fireworks caught fire, causing an extended display of aerial explosions. Police said crews are still fighting flareups and monitoring the air as of 8:23pm [Saturday].

The westbound side of the freeway saw 50 semis and 83 cars involved.

More than 12 hours after the pileup, wreckage was still smoldering and emergency crews were still cleaning up.

I-94 is closed in both directions from exit 88 east of Galesburg to exit 92 west of Battle Creek, the Michigan Department of Transportation said. The expressway is expected to remain shut down until at least midnight.

More personally, on Monday night my car got tapped by a taxi who locked his brakes and slid right into the corner of my bumper causing $3100 in damage to my car and, of course, none to his.

So: if you're not familiar with snow, don't drive in it; drive more slowly than you think is necessary; and know exactly how your car behaves.

Saturday 10 January 2015 09:16:11 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Thursday 8 January 2015

However, with -13°C snow blowing around at—no joke—59 km/h, it looks like this:

I still will never move south of Interstate 80. Never. This is just character-building weather, and it will pass.

See? These guys (Titus and Honey Baked Hamlet) know how to stay warm:

They trotted over to the Euchre Meet-Up last night. Parker didn't, because J's is just far enough from home that Parker would have been too cold. (He usually attends.)

Thursday 8 January 2015 15:30:02 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Wednesday 7 January 2015

Chicago is under a hazardous weather outlook this morning because it's -18°C with wind chills around -30°C.

Schools all over the area have closed, prompting our operations manager to declare a work-from-home day. I might have done anyway, because I've caught a chest cold that has gotten worse since Sunday to the point where all I want to do is nap.

All of this will improve soon. Temperatures are expected to rise to more-seasonable (-3°C) levels by Sunday, and I expect to have defeated this invasion of pathogens well before then.

And, of course, all of this builds character, because it's Chicago.

Wednesday 7 January 2015 07:48:04 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Tuesday 6 January 2015

Therefore, another link round-up:

There are a couple of other articles on my Kindle too, I just haven't got time to link them.

Tuesday 6 January 2015 13:07:34 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Geography | London | US | World | Weather#
Monday 5 January 2015

Isn't this pretty?

Yes. Yes it is. But taking the picture almost caused my fingers to freeze off, because it's this bloody cold:

And it's going to be colder this week: -15°C is forecast for Wednesday—as the high.

I expect to have dismal Fitbit numbers for a few days, too. Ordinarily Mondays my schedule allows me to walk quite a distance. Today, as you can see above, I said to hell with it and drove.

Monday 5 January 2015 09:27:03 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Sunday 4 January 2015

Writing in today's Times, Richard Florida explains the long-term costs of red state/blue state differences:

The idea that the red states can enjoy the benefits provided by the blue states without helping to pay for them (and while poaching their industries with the promise of low taxes and regulations) is as irresponsible and destructive of our national future as it is hypocritical.

But that is exactly the mantra of the growing ranks of red state politicos. Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, a likely 2016 G.O.P. presidential candidate, has taken to bragging that his state’s low-frills development strategy provides a model for the nation as a whole. But fracking and sprawling your way to growth aren’t a sustainable national economic strategy.

The allure of cheap growth has handed the red states a distinct political advantage. ... As long as the highly gerrymandered red states can keep on delivering the economic goods to their voters, concerted federal action on transportation, infrastructure, sustainability, education, a rational immigration policy and a strengthened social safety net will remain out of reach. These are investments that the future prosperity of the nation, in red states and blue states alike, requires.

The article has a chart showing the relationship between affordable housing and the 2012 election. It turns out, San Francisco and New York are the bluest and most expensive cities, while Tulsa, Okla. and Knoxville, Tenn. are the cheap, red cities. Chicago shows up well: more than 2/3 of housing is affordable to the local middle class, and we went pretty strongly for our man Barack.

Sunday 4 January 2015 11:05:20 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Geography | US | San Francisco#
Saturday 3 January 2015

Today's Fitbit numbers will probably not wow anyone, owing to the 2°C rain keeping our layer of slush from solidifying entirely.

Enter next week's forecast to put things into perspective:

Tuesday
A 30 percent chance of snow showers. Mostly cloudy, with a high near -6°C.

Tuesday Night
Partly cloudy, with a low around -18°C. Blustery.

Wednesday
Mostly sunny and cold, with a high near -16°C. Blustery.

Wednesday Night
Partly cloudy, with a low around -20°C.

Thursday
Mostly sunny, with a high near -10°C. Breezy.

Oh, joy. Break out the Aran sweater and long johns...and wait for the warm-up on Thursday.

Saturday 3 January 2015 14:49:51 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Wednesday 31 December 2014

Here's the semi-annual Chicago sunrise chart. (You can get one for your own location at http://www.wx-now.com/Sunrise/SunriseChart.aspx.)

Wednesday 31 December 2014 09:34:36 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Astronomy#

We woke up this morning to a brisk -16°C with an even brisker wind chill around -25°C. It hasn't been this cold in Chicago since the -19°C we had on March 3rd, 303 days ago. And still, no measurable snow in December, which has happened only four times in recorded history.

Even Parker didn't want to go for much of a walk this morning. And I'm not confident about my Fitbit numbers for the day...

Also: Happy New Year to Australia, Papua New Guinea, Japan, and in less than an hour, Singapore.

Wednesday 31 December 2014 09:18:34 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Tuesday 30 December 2014

Vacation. It always makes me a little crazy. I need stuff to do. And even though the temperature has plummeted to -12°C overnight, that means going outside and not sitting at my computer.

When Parker and I get too cold, I'll start reading these articles:

And because my (irritated) Euchre coach demands it, I'll review (one more time) Harvey Lapp's Ten Commandments of Euchre.

Tuesday 30 December 2014 09:36:08 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Kitchen Sink | US | Weather#
Monday 29 December 2014

As of Saturday, Chicago set a new record in gloominess by having no sunshine at all for 17 days in December:

Low pressure passed to our north and a cold front swept through our area from the west Saturday. Winter Weather Advisories for 50 to 200 mm of snow were in place from northeast Nebraska through northern Iowa and southern Minnesota into northern Wisconsin and Upper Michigan, while cloudy skies and widely scattered light rain showers prevailed across the Chicago area. But those clouds cut off the sun – Frank Wachowski’s sunshine recorder measured no sunlight – making Saturday the record 17th day this December with zero percent sunshine – the old record was 16 zero percent sunshine days registered on 4 separate years – the last in 2009.

The clouds have persisted into the nighttime hours as well – trapping the nighttime heat and keeping our overnight lows so far this month 4.7°C, and boosting our overall temperature average to 3.3°C above normal. These relatively mild temperature should be reflected in lower December heating bills.

The sun is peeking out today after being out all day yesterday.

And still no snow this month, nor any in the forecast. Weird. In fact, this December's weather has been much more like a typical November in Chicago: gloomy and cold, but not that cold, and not that snowy.

We'll get snow, though. Oh yes. We will...

Monday 29 December 2014 11:14:20 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Friday 26 December 2014

...I stopped here one more time this morning:

At the moment Chicago's weather isn't too bad. At the moment. But it's still nothing like this.

By the way, I've actually reduced the saturation in this photo a bit. The sun was directly behind me and relatively low on the horizon, so the colors in this shot are very close to what I saw.

Friday 26 December 2014 11:38:26 PST (UTC-08:00)  |  | Chicago | San Francisco | Weather#
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David Braverman and Parker
David Braverman is the Chief Technology Officer of Holden International in Chicago, and the creator of Weather Now. Parker is the most adorable dog on the planet, 80% of the time.
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