Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
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Thursday 21 May 2015

WBEZ's Curious City has the story:

Every town that folded into Chicago, from Lake View to Hyde Park, had its own system for naming and numbering streets. Some towns counted out addresses starting from the Chicago River, while others started from Lake Michigan. Some placed even numbers on the north side of the street, others put them on the south. Some even let developers choose their own street names or numbers if there wasn’t a lot of local opposition.

Edward Paul Brennan was a delivery boy for his father’s grocery store, and later a bill collector for the music company Lyon & Healy. He was so frustrated with the chaos of Chicago’s address system that in 1901 he came up with his own. But it would take him years to get it implemented.

Beginning in the 1890s he started a scrapbook, collecting newspaper articles about problems with city navigation or delays due to address confusion. Articles had headlines like “Streets in a Tangle. Visitors Lost.” One report tells about a doctor who couldn’t find a patient during a house call emergency.

Today, Chicago addresses increase by 100 per block, 800 per mile. (Miles are significant because of the way land is surveyed in Illinois.) It's an easily-understood system that makes it hard to get lost in the city.

Thursday 21 May 2015 10:02:04 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Geography#
Tuesday 19 May 2015
Tuesday 19 May 2015 13:13:16 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | London | US | World | Travel#
Monday 18 May 2015

The Economist quotes a study finding that a quarter of American schoolchildren believe Canada is a dictatorship:

Most of the closed [Chicago Public School] district schools were in deprived areas. Nearly three-quarters of the children were black and more than 90% were poor. The report [from the Thomas Fordham Institute] concluded that “though fraught with controversy and political peril, shuttering bad schools might just be a saving grace for students who need the best education they can get.”

They do. And nationwide, many are not getting it. The National Assessment of Educational Progress, which periodically tests sample-groups of America’s children on various subjects, this week released disappointing results for history, geography and civics for 13-year-olds. Pupils showed no improvement since 2010. Most know little about history: only 1% earned an “advanced” score in that subject. Geography scores are even worse. Most did not understand time zones, and a quarter thought Canada was a dictatorship. Results have been flat since 1994.

Speaking of Chicago public services, now that Illinois actually has to follow its constitution and pay the pensions it promised, the only way to make up the deficit is (obviously) to raise taxes. Crain's takes a look at what that would mean. Despite the newspaper's general right-wing slant, even they see the logic in it:

Gov. Bruce Rauner had proposed reducing state employee retirement payments to partly close a nearly $6.2 billion deficit in fiscal 2016. But there also are big pots of money to tap, if the governor and legislators can overcome their distaste for raising taxes.

For instance, raising income tax rates 1 percentage point would bring in nearly $4 billion, eliminating two-thirds of the deficit in one fell swoop, according to one estimate. Taxing services, such as those provided by lawyers and consultants, could yield more than $900 million annually, while taxing some retirement income could produce between $1.5 billion and $2.0 billion.

“Given the state's politics and short amount of time between now and the start of the state's fiscal year, it's hard to see how some sort of temporary tax increase or tax-base broadening could be avoided,” says Carol Portman, president of the Taxpayers' Federation of Illinois, a Springfield-based fiscal policy group.

We had a 5% income tax for a short while until the legislature allowed it to lapse. Now we're back to 3%, one of the smallest in the country (of states that have income taxes). Even though it would affect me directly, I'm not only in favor of increasing state taxes to 5%, but also of adding a 1% income tax for Chicago workers (not residents) that would work the same way New York's does.

Stop trying to destroy state and city services in order to make tax cuts seem reasonable. Well-funded public services, including pensions, make cities better to live in, as Europe has demonstrated for 60 years.

Monday 18 May 2015 08:45:31 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | US#
Sunday 17 May 2015

A pile of Gulf moisture has arrived in Chicago making the otherwise-comfortable 22°C feel like a sauna. I'm using the day to do some planning for my next trip (11 days, 22 hours!) and move (28 days, 22 hours!), client work, and taking Parker to an interview of sorts at a new daycare facility. Yes, an interview: he has to play with the other dogs for two hours so they can decide whether to allow him to come back. I hope he passes.

Results from that, as well as a probably thunderstorm (unrelated), later today.

Sunday 17 May 2015 10:35:16 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Parker | Weather#
Friday 15 May 2015

I went to the NPR show's taping last night:

The show will be broadcast tomorrow. It's going to be hi-larious.

Friday 15 May 2015 15:18:11 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Kitchen Sink | Politics#
Thursday 14 May 2015

After Moody's cut our credit rating this week, people are starting to compare Chicago with Detroit:

here are five reasons, now more than ever, that suggest Chicago is akin to Detroit—or, by some measures, even worse. Or, as Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner put it last month: “Chicago is in deep, deep yogurt.”

BIG, SCARY NUMBERS: Chicago's unfunded liability from four pension funds is $20 billion and growing, hitting every city resident with an obligation of about $7,400. Detroit's, whose population of about 689,000 is roughly a quarter of Chicago's, had a retirement funding gap of $3.5 billion, meaning each resident was liable for $5,100. A January 2014 report from Morningstar Municipal Credit Research showed that among the 25 largest cities and Puerto Rico, Chicago had the highest per-capita pension liability.

Yes, it's bad, but wow. Has the author ever been to Detroit?

But yeah, it's pretty bad.

Thursday 14 May 2015 11:20:58 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | US#
Wednesday 13 May 2015

It surprised no one at all that Moody's cut Chicago's credit rating to junk yesterday:

Chicago today became the first victim of the Illinois Supreme Court's ruling on pensions, as Moody's Investors Service reduced the city's credit rating to junk bond status.

In a statement that specifically cited the court's May 8 decision overturning cuts in state pensions, the credit rating agency said the city's options now “have narrowed considerably.”

The downgrade is a blow to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who during the mayoral campaign stressed his expertise to deal with the city's financial challenges. Emanuel labeled Moody's decision “irresponsible,” but did not deny its impact.

The downgrade also is a major blow to taxpayers because the city's cost of borrowing will rise, perhaps a lot, even if other bond ratings agencies do not follow Moody's lead.

If Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor's Financial Services follow suit, the city's financial position could spiral downward—potentially forcing the city to come up with as much as $500 million quickly.

I wonder if it's possible that, now that the city's history of corruption and shady dealing is costing us real money, perhaps things will start to improve? I mean, could voters rise up and punish the self-dealing politicians who got us here?

Ah, ha ha. Ha.

Wednesday 13 May 2015 11:23:01 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | US#
Tuesday 12 May 2015

First, because NASA's reputation is such that climate-change deniers have difficulty refuting the agency, Republicans in Congress are trying to get NASA out of the discussion:

As has been widely reported, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee recently approved a bill that would cut at least $300 million from NASA's earth-science budget. This comes after the head of the Senate committee overseeing NASA claimed the agency should stop doing earth-science and focus only on space exploration.

Honestly, when it comes to getting the science of climate change right, who are you going to believe? A radio talk show host or NASA? The angry denialists in the comments section of this blog or NASA? The politician who says, "Well, I am not a scientist" or the scientists at NASA?

Then, closer to home, a group of residents in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood really don't want a Whole Foods Market in their back yards:

The grocery giant's current Lakeview store, at 3300 N. Ashland Ave. opened in 1996 and is 31,500 square-foot—a speck compared to the labyrinthine, 79,000 square-foot Whole Foods located near North Avenue. That is why the company plans on opening up a 75,000 square-foot store one block away, at 3201 N. Ashland Ave. The building will feature 300 parking spots on the first floor and the basement, and a full store on the second story.

Speaking for the Melrose Street Concerned Residents, Tricey Morelli summed up the fears of the locals:

"Subconsciously, you see a big building like this and there's no windows into the building, so it makes you think, like, 'Why aren't there windows on the main floor? Are they fearful that someone's going to bash the windows? Is there going to be crime?' It kind of almost makes it look a little bit like a mean street."

This woman is speaking about a Whole Foods store in Lakeview, which has us confused. Are there roving bands of recent college graduates and moms with strollers running around, smashing windows and defacing property? We certainly can't discount the possibility.

I really don't understand what it's like going through life afraid of fantasies...

Tuesday 12 May 2015 14:21:09 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | US | Weather | Astronomy#

The Chicago Tribune has a graphic this morning showing that tree pollen counts are the highest they've been in Chicago in 120 years of record keeping. Also, yesterday we hit 2,300 mold spores per cubic meter—a new record—breaking the previous record of 2,200 on...Friday.

Feeling congested much?

Tuesday 12 May 2015 09:11:32 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago#
Monday 11 May 2015

It's just past 9am on Monday and already I'm reduced to this kind of blog post. Tomorrow I may have some more time to read these things:

  • Cranky Flier analyzes Malaysia Airlines' struggles.
  • Microsoft is building subsea fibre cables between the U.S. and Europe and Asia.
  • TPM explains exactly what Jade Helm 15 really is.
  • Missed Microsoft Ignite this year? Here's the Channel 9 page.
  • We're starting to set up JetBrains TeamCity to handle our continuous integration needs. Explain, however, why the user manual is all video? Guys. Seriously. I haven't got time for this.
  • So now that Illinois actually has to pay the pensions we promised to pay, what now? (Hello, 9% income tax?)

Four-hour design review session is imminent. I may post later today...or I may lock myself in my office and stare at the wall.

Monday 11 May 2015 09:17:21 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Chicago | Geography | US | Business | Cloud | Windows Azure#
Monday 4 May 2015

Yesterday's forecast didn't pan out exactly as plans. Afternoon rains held the temperature down to 26°C, so rather than being the warmest day since September 29th (28°C), it was the warmest day since...April 17th.

Today it's just soggy, and we're about to get a cold front. So I'm going to dash over to the nearest Whole Foods for lunch to make sure I get my steps in.

As for the concert, well, we sounded better than we did on Friday, but there were more people on stage than in the audience. That's one of the hazards of performing in Suburbistan. Our next concert is November 8th in Chicago, where we'll probably have much better turnout.

Monday 4 May 2015 11:59:42 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Sunday 3 May 2015

If you want this view:

...let me know. The apartment will be available July 1st. I'll post the listing once it's up.

Sunday 3 May 2015 10:45:58 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Geography#

As I mentioned yesterday, we finally have a late-spring weekend in Chicago. It got up to 24°C officially at O'Hare yesterday; today's forecast high is 27°C.

Parker got a 3=hour, 12.5 km walk, while I managed 26,000 steps and 21.4 km of my own. And we just got back from another 5,000-step walk before he gets to do his second-favorite activity: a Ride in the Car!

Apollo's final concert of the season is this afternoon, too. I'm kind of sad not to see the chorus again until rehearsals resume mid-September. But there's a lot going on this summer, including moving IDTWHQ. Stay tuned.

Sunday 3 May 2015 09:15:12 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Kitchen Sink | Weather#
Saturday 2 May 2015

Blogging might be spotty this weekend. After last night's concert, a group of us from the chorus went out and stayed out. Fortunately none of us seems to have any real responsibilities today.

Even better, the forecast calls for the warmest day of 2015 so far on Sunday, when we expect 27°C. That would also be the warmest temperature since September 29th.

So Parker and I may spend a good bit of time outside. Possibly I'll break last week's Fitbit record. Or possibly I'll just take a nap...

Saturday 2 May 2015 09:00:35 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Friday 1 May 2015

It's 15°C and sunny outside; why am I inside? Right. Work.

I did get a 5 km walk this morning, but somehow I think I'll need more steps today. The nearest Whole Foods is 1500 m away, for example. I feel a walking lunch coming on.

Still, though. Work.

Friday 1 May 2015 10:05:05 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Thursday 30 April 2015

Color me excited:

Aerican Airlines will use a Boeing 787 Dreamliner on a regular route between Chicago and Japan, the airline told employees Thursday.

It will be the first U.S. airline to use the highly touted aircraft on a regular route at O'Hare International Airport, although some foreign airlines use it.

American will start daily service Aug. 18 from O'Hare to Narita International Airport near Tokyo, according to a memo Thursday to Chicago employees from Franco Tedeschi, an American Airlines vice president and its top Chicago-based executive.

Before starting the Japan route, American will break in the new 787 temporarily on a domestic route between Chicago and Dallas-Fort Worth starting May 7.

I'm tempted to do a mileage run this summer. Possibly for my birthday? I mean, the fare's less than $2,000...though aa.com doesn't seem to have the 787 up yet. Hm.

The O'Hare to Dallas flight leaves at 10:25pm. Tempting though...

Thursday 30 April 2015 16:04:12 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Chicago#
Wednesday 29 April 2015

A massive effort to rebuild the hundred-year-old El tracks between Howard and Lawrence moved forward this week with the CTA's announcement that work will start in 2017:

Construction will be divided into two segments: The first is expected to keep the Lawrence and Berwyn stations closed for about 18 months; the second will involve closing the Berwyn, Argyle and Lawrence stations and restricting the Bryn Mawr station to southbound boarding only for 18 months to two years.

The station redesigns are expected to include new elevators; wider platforms to reduce boarding times; larger canopies to guard against the elements; and more benches. New bridges won't require pillars in the median, which should provide better sightlines for drivers, [CTA spokeswoman Tammy] Chase said.

This project will complement the ongoing UP-North improvements Metra has been working on since 2013.

This interests me even more than it used to because IDTWHQ is moving to the affected area in just under seven weeks.

Wednesday 29 April 2015 10:12:16 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | US | Travel#
Monday 27 April 2015

To read:

Back to cleaning up after a production bug this weekend.

Monday 27 April 2015 13:45:16 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Chicago | Geography | Kitchen Sink | US | World#
Sunday 26 April 2015

This was the view at the top of North Pond on my walk this afternoon:

Sunday 26 April 2015 17:53:26 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Photography#

After seeing Carousel yesterday, I'm going to take advantage of really gorgeous weather today. Parker will also benefit. Updates as the situation warrants.

Sunday 26 April 2015 09:26:38 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Kitchen Sink | Weather#
Thursday 23 April 2015

Wow, I have a lot of things on my Kindle. And I'm adding more:

Back to debugging...

Photo: Chicago at night. Note the yellow-orange sodium vapor lamps.

Thursday 23 April 2015 15:08:54 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Geography | US#

First, a not-so-smart car:

I'm not sure what amused me more, the disproportionate tow truck or that the Smart Car driver parked in a rush-hour tow zone long enough for Streets & Sanitation to remove him.

Then, for everyone who takes his dog to work, there's this food truck:

I didn't pick anything up for Parker yet. ($2.50 per biscuit? Did I read that right?) But if it comes back, maybe.

Thursday 23 April 2015 13:44:11 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Kitchen Sink | Parker | Business#
Wednesday 22 April 2015

Now that Chicago's bike share has hundreds of stations, its efficiencies are becoming clearer:

But what about convenience? Recently Divvy held its second annual data visualization challenge, and one of the winners, by Shaun Jacobsen at Transitized, compares the speed of Divvy with the speed of the CTA. And Divvy wins by a nose.

Jacobsen’s “Who’s Faster” project starts with a look at the 1,000 top “station pairs"—i.e. the places that people most often go from point A to point B using Divvy. Then, those are compared to the same route on the CTA at noon on a Monday.

And a couple patterns emerge. One is that the bulk of station-to-station trips are faster, centering on five minutes’ savings. It might not sound like much, but it adds up; Jacobsen calculates 32,023 hours saved over 571,634 trips. The other is that the most heavily-used station pairs tend to save more time than less frequently-used ones, as if people are starting to figure out how it works.

Cool stuff.

Wednesday 22 April 2015 15:29:53 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Biking | Chicago | Geography | US#
Monday 20 April 2015

After almost two years, the trail opens June 6th:

Built on a long-defunct railroad line, the trail runs through Bucktown, Wicker Park, Logan Square and Humboldt Park.  Work on the $95 million project began in fall 2013.  Take a look at the path under construction.

When the trail opens, four of the access points will be through ground-level parks: Walsh Park, 1722 N. Ashland Ave.; Churchill Park, 1825 N. Damen Ave.; Julia de Burgos Park, 1805 N. Albany Ave.; and Park 567, 1805 N. Milwaukee Ave.

When completed, the 606 it will include six parks, an event plaza, an observatory, art installations, educational programming and other amenities, Emanuel said in a news release.

Parker and I will take a hike on it as soon as practical—possibly June 7th.

Monday 20 April 2015 13:18:09 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Biking | Chicago | Geography#
Friday 17 April 2015

...and also preparing for a fundraiser at which I'm performing tomorrow:

And did I mention Apollo After Hours?

Thursday 16 April 2015 20:31:05 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Geography | Photography | Software | Blogs | Weather | Windows Azure | Work#
Monday 13 April 2015

The Trib expects noise complaints to take off:

The Federal Aviation Administration is expected within the next four months to release a preliminary report based on thousands of computer-generated flight simulations involving what will become O'Hare's fifth east-west runway and a subsequent runway that the city plans to open in 2020.

All this work, however, might not bring relief after a record year for O'Hare jet noise complaints. The simulations are aimed in part at finding the best way to squeeze in hundreds more daily flights at the airport.

Suburbs expected to hear more jet noise as the result of the 7,500-foot runway opening this fall include Bensenville, Franklin Park, Wood Dale, Bloomingdale and Addison, FAA and city aviation officials say.

So, people in Bensenville—which lies along the southern edge of O'Hare and is notable for its immense rail classification yard—are unhappy with their noisy neighbor. Keep in mind, the runway plans have been around for over 10 years. And jet noise today is far lower than before.

Monday 13 April 2015 15:17:28 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Chicago | Geography | US#
Thursday 9 April 2015

My to-do list today only has 14 items on it, of which 6 are checked off already. The actual time it will take to accomplish the remaining eight items varies between 20 minutes (laundry, tonight, essentially a fire-and-forget activity) and four hours (Staging release of the Holden Adaptive Platform).

So, once again, I'm going to shove a bunch of articles to my Kindle:

Now to do the next few things on my list...and watch the thunderstorm outside my office window.

Thursday 9 April 2015 11:52:21 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Chicago | Geography | Kitchen Sink | Photography | World | San Francisco#
Wednesday 8 April 2015

It looks like I went .500 yesterday in voting for mayor and alderman.

Rahm Emanuel won his runoff against Chuy Garcia:

With near-complete totals in, Emanuel had just under 56 percent of the vote, narrowly topping the 55.28 percent he received four years ago in first winning the office. He had 315,545 votes to 250,773 for Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, who got enough in February to force Emanuel to a runoff. Emanuel's 55.72 percent of the vote may rise slightly in coming days as thousands of mail ballots arrive and are counted.

My alderman, Michele Smith, also appears to have won her runoff, but it's very close and not all the ballots are in yet:

With about 96 percent of the precincts reporting,Smithwas leading with 50.4 percent compared to Caroline Vickrey with 49.6 percent.

That left two remaining precincts whose votes were not in as of late Tuesday as well as absentee ballots that will be counted in the coming weeks.

No surprises, then, though I suspect Smith might feel a little jittery. Ward races rarely go to runoffs, let alone to runoffs decided by 100 votes. I'll keep my eye on this.

Wednesday 8 April 2015 10:45:50 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Politics#
Tuesday 7 April 2015

Today is the runoff election in Chicago between Rahm Emanuel and Chuy Garcia:

"This is a big election, with clear choices," Emanuel told reporters at a Lakeview campaign office, with a backdrop of volunteers calling potential voters. "There's a lot at stake for the city of Chicago."

Defending his Democratic credentials, Emanuel pointed to backing from some elements of organized labor, his support for raising the minimum wage and having real estate developers set aside money for affordable housing.

"That is what people are voting for, they're voting for the basic things that they want for their families, their neighborhoods and their communities," said Emanuel, who added, "Yes, my name's on the ballot. That's also true, 'Chuy's' name is on the ballot. But what's on the ballot is Chicago's future. That's what's on the ballot."

I was in and out of my polling place in six minutes. It took five minutes and 30 seconds to check in, get my ballot, and go to a booth; 3 seconds to make two marks on the ballot (one for mayor, one for alderman); and the remaining 27 seconds to slide my ballot into the ballot box. Remarkably, I didn't have an undervote this time: I actually voted for 100% of the offices on the ballot. (Sometimes, though it pains me to say it, I skip the dozens of judicial retention votes.)

I'll have an update tomorrow. I don't think the election will surprise anyone, though.

Tuesday 7 April 2015 10:14:38 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Politics#
Monday 6 April 2015

Parker and I walked about 10½ km yesterday, resulting in plenty of sleep and (probably) sore paws for both of us. We also got caught in a pneumonia front, in which late-afternoon cooling stops driving a land breeze and allows denser, cooler air from the lake to spread outward over the shore. Temperatures dropped from 18°C to 9°C in twenty minutes—unfortunately, the 20 minutes coinciding from our farthest distance from home. This bothered Parker a lot less than it bothered me, owing to his two fur coats, but fortunately I had an extra layer available. And I walk fast.

I also stayed away from Opening Night at Wrigley, the first regular game of the baseball season, in which the Cubs got their asses handed to them by the Cardinals 3-0. (They went 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position, too. Great work, guys.) The New York Times called the game "beginning their 107th year of waiting for a World Series title." Sounds about right.

Monday 6 April 2015 08:40:15 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Cubs | Parker | Weather#
Saturday 4 April 2015

It's not a bad morning in Chicago:

Saturday 4 April 2015 10:22:43 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Thursday 2 April 2015

I didn't post this yesterday for obvious reasons.

I've just executed a lease on a new place about 5 km northwest of where I live now. I'm extra-special-happy that I won't have to move a whole damn server rack, but not especially happy that I'm renting the new place because I can't yet sell my current place. At least, not for an amount that would make me extra-special-happy.

The new apartment is twice the size and has probably double the electricity bill of my current place. It also has lots of east and west light, a huge kitchen, and a separate room to house the IDTWHQ.

Parker also got to see the place and he approved, particularly because it's only one flight up instead of three, and he's pushing nine years old. (Fortunately he didn't mark it as his own; that would have been a problem.)

Possession is slated for June 15th. Updates as conditions warrant. And if anyone is interested in a cute 1-bedroom vintage walkup in Lincoln Park, email.

Thursday 2 April 2015 16:28:38 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Geography | Kitchen Sink#
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#
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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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