Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
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Monday 21 July 2014

Since Cabrini-Green came down a couple of years ago, developers have salivated over the possibilities for the Near North area. This morning's Crain's has the latest:

Construction crews recently were busy drilling holes for the foundation of an 18-story, 240-unit apartment building at Division and Howe streets, one of several private developments sprouting just steps from the former Cabrini-Green towers.

“The skyline's going to change really quickly over there,” says Matt Edlen, director of Midwest and East Coast acquisitions at Portland, Oregon-based Gerding Edlen Development Inc., which is building the apartment tower. “There's so many possibilities for that neighborhood and how it comes together.”

It's coming together already. A Target store opened north of Gerding's site last fall, and a developer is negotiating to buy a parcel just northeast of the store and may build apartments there, says Chicago-based Baum Realty Group LLC Vice President Greg Dietz, who's selling the property. He declines to identify the developer. Chicago-based Structured Development LLC and John Bucksbaum are building 199 apartments and 360,000 square feet of retail space on the former site of the New City YMCA at Clybourn Avenue and Halsted Street. And a 190,000-square-foot retail-and-office development and new store for boating retailer West Marine are in the works at Division and Halsted streets.

Crain's, concerned exclusively with business, doesn't ask: what happened to all the previous residents? I guess, once you've gotten rid of all the poor people, they're someone else's problem.

Monday 21 July 2014 07:37:38 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | US#
Sunday 20 July 2014

Once the Tribune published a story about strange, unexplained spikes in red-light traffic camera tickets, even Ted Baxter could foresee the lawsuit. But even before that scandal, there was this one, which has also spawned a lawsuit:

Matthew Falkner, who received a red-light ticket for $100 in January 2013, alleges in the suit that Redflex was only able to generate more than $100 million in revenue over the last 11 years because it had bribed a city official to get the contract.

The lawsuit alleges a former employee of Redflex blew the whistle on an improper relationship between the company and a Chicago Department of Transportation official in charge of the red-light camera program and that bribes given to that city official helped secure the city's contract for Redflex.

Ah, Mayor Daley, why again did you decide to retire at the end of your last term?

Sunday 20 July 2014 13:09:24 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago#
Friday 18 July 2014

Stuff to read this weekend, perhaps on my flight Sunday night:

Now back to the mines. Which, given the client I'm working on, isn't far from the truth.

Friday 18 July 2014 11:55:03 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | US | World | Travel#
Sunday 6 July 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 .)

In the early part of July, we hardly notice sunrises and sunsets. Days are long, it's still light out at 9pm (in Chicago), and we commute to work in broad sunlight. About a month from now we'll get a twinge when the sun sets at 8pm, and then, faster and faster, we'll notice the days getting shorter and our morning commutes getting darker.

Meh. That's in a month. Let's just enjoy the daylight we have now.

Date Significance Sunrise Sunset Daylight
2014
2 Jul 8:30pm sunset 05:20 20:30 15:10
16 Jul 5:30am sunrise 05:30 20:24 14:54
9 Aug 8pm sunset 05:53 19:59 14:06
16 Aug 6am sunrise 06:00 19:50 13:50
29 Aug 7:30pm sunset 06:13 19:30 13:16
14 Sep 6:30am sunrise 06:30 19:02 12:32
15 Sep 7pm sunset 06:31 19:00 12:22
22 Sep Equinox , 21:29 CDT 06:38 18:48 12:10
25 Sep 12-hour day 06:42 18:43 12:01
3 Oct 6:30pm sunset 06:50 18:29 11:39
12 Oct 7am sunrise 07:00 18:14 11:14
21 Oct 6pm sunset 07:10 18:00 10:50
1 Nov Latest sunrise until 1 Nov 2016
Latest sunset until Mar 5th
07:24 17:45 10:21
2 Nov Standard time returns
Earliest sunrise until Mar 2nd
06:25 16:44 10:19
6 Nov 6:30 sunrise 06:30 16:39 10:09
15 Nov 4:30pm sunset 06:41 16:30 9:49
2 Dec 7am sunrise 07:00 16:21 9:20
8 Dec Earliest sunset of the year 07:06 16:20 9:13
21 Dec Solstice , 17:03 CST 07:15 16:23 9:07
2015
4 Jan Latest sunrise until Oct 29th 07:19 16:33 9:14
28 Jan 5pm sunset 07:08 17:00 9:53
5 Feb 7am sunrise 07:00 17:11 10:11
20 Feb 5:30pm sunset 06:40 17:30 10:50
27 Feb 6:30am sunrise 06:29 17:39 11:09
7 Mar Earliest sunrise until Apr 12th
Earliest sunset until Oct 30th
06:17 17:48 11:31
8 Mar Daylight savings time begins
Latest sunrise until Oct 25th
Earliest sunset until Sep 22nd
07:15 18:49 11:34
17 Mar 7am sunrise, 7pm sunset
12-hour day
06:59 19:00 12:00
20 Mar Equinox 17:45 CDT 06:54 19:03 12:08
4 Apr 6:30am sunrise (again) 06:29 19:20 12:50
13 Apr 7:30pm sunset 06:14 19:30 13:15
22 Apr 6am sunrise 06:00 19:40 13:39
11 May 8pm sunset 05:35 20:00 14:25
16 May 5:30am sunrise 05:30 20:05 14:35
14 Jun Earliest sunrise of the year 05:15 20:28 15:12
20 Jun Solstice 11:38 CDT
8:30pm sunset
05:16 20:30 15:14
27 Jun Latest sunset of the year 05:18 20:31 15:12

You can get sunrise information for your location at wx-now.com.

Sunday 6 July 2014 08:55:09 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Astronomy#
Tuesday 1 July 2014

Wow, last night's rain was officially epic:

The rate at which rain fell across the Midwest Monday was extraordinary in a number of locations.

Highland, Park’s 98 mm fell between 6 and 11:59 p.m. In just a fraction of that period, Midway Airport logged 20 mm. It fell in just 7 minutes! Lake In the Hills , IL received 66 mm in just 2 hours.

But rainfall rates west in Iowa were even more dramatic. Williamstown received 133 mm in the day’s 3 waves of rainfall while 114 mm of Muscatine, Iowa’s 207 mm of rain fell between 7 and 8 p.m.

Yes, 207 mm fell on a town in Iowa. That's 207 liters of water per square meter of ground, which works out to 8,280 tons—almost 8.3 million liters—of water per Chicago city block. (A Chicago city block is 200 meters to a side.)

Ah. My air boat has arrived. Off to work now...

Tuesday 1 July 2014 07:33:18 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#

I've written about weather for a while. And despite my raising the alarm about anthropogenic climate change, I'm not given to hyperbole. But, wow. This is going on in Chicago right now, and it's epic:

Seriously, I think one of my neighbors just ushered a pair of squirrels into the boat he built today...

Play us out, EFO:

Monday 30 June 2014 22:38:07 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Sunday 22 June 2014

The Chicago Art Institute has released a video showing how conservator Faye Wrubel restored Caillebotte's masterpiece:

The striking results of the restoration reveals greater saturation of color, sharper edges, and more contrast with an overall effect of more visual depth. Overpainting was removed from the once yellow sky, exposing a bluer surface with gradation indicating light and movement.

“What we have been seeing all these years may have been beautiful, we may have all loved it, but it wasn’t right,” Wrubel said of the findings’ impact.

In addition to visible details that were brought to light, conservators uncovered new information about the masterpiece by comparing the ultraviolet and x-ray images to a preparatory sketch for the painting as well as study residing at Paris’ Musée Marmottan.

Here's the video:

Sunday 22 June 2014 18:17:33 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Kitchen Sink#
Wednesday 11 June 2014

A whole list of interesting articles crossed my inbox overnight, but with only two days left in my job, I really haven't had time to read them all:

I can't wait to see what happens in the Virginia 7th this fall...

Wednesday 11 June 2014 09:48:40 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Chicago | Kitchen Sink | US | Travel#
Sunday 8 June 2014

Parker and I walked up to Ribfest yesterday (11 km round-trip). I had four 3-bone samplers:

  • Mrs. Murphy's Irish Bistro, of course. Fall-off-the-bone, tasty meat with a tangy, spicy whiskey-Guinness sauce. Yum. 3½ stars.
  • Wrigley BBQ, my favorite from last year, was a little less impressive this time. Tug-off-the-bone, well-smoked meat, not a lot of sauce. Still yum, but only 3 stars this year.
  • Smokin' Woody's: tug-off-the-bone, lean, smoked meat, with a good sweet/smoky sauce. 3 stars.
  • BBQ King Smokehouse from Woodstock, Ill.: the meatiest ribs I've had at Ribfest, with really good smoke and a good amount of sweet/smoky sauce. 3½ stars.

I still have a few tickets left, so I may go back for dinner.

Sunday 8 June 2014 12:56:00 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Kitchen Sink#
Saturday 7 June 2014

Thursday at lunchtime I caught some bridge maintenance in downtown Chicago:

Saturday 7 June 2014 09:51:03 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Geography#

Today is the annual Ribfest in the North Center neighborhood of Chicago. Parker and I will be heading out there for the 6th time, and enjoying the amazing weather (sunny and 22°C).

Here's our history so far:

2013:

2012:

2011:

2010: We didn't go to Ribfest because of my sister's wedding. A fair trade, I think.

2009:

2008:

Reviews and photos later today or tomorrow.

Saturday 7 June 2014 09:25:57 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Kitchen Sink#
Wednesday 4 June 2014

Yesterday I mentioned three things that weren't connected except they all ended recently. This morning Chicago Tribune columnist Phil Rosenthal has an op-ed about one of them:

HomeMade Pizza Co. was in the right business and exactly the wrong place.

We consumers indeed are buying more fresh prepared meals to eat at home or elsewhere, like the take-and-bake pizzas HomeMade hawked from 1997 until its abrupt closing Friday. These kinds of meals have become a $26 billion business in this country and are growing at a healthy clip.

But we're not buying most of those grab-and-go meals at stand-alone storefront operations, where costs for an operator like HomeMade, which had more than 20 outlets when it shut down, include the lease and utilities, and whatever it takes to let potential customers know that it's there and why it's worth a visit.

The fresh pre-prepared food business is proving a boon to food/drug stores, where almost three-quarters of these meals are being sold, according to NPD Group. Savvy supermarket operators are offering an expanding array of menu items, increasingly going beyond heat-and-serve home-style meals. Some have added restaurant-quality entrees, various cuisines and occasionally palate-challenging fare.

While you're chewing on that, here's another passing: the Cubs are ending their 90-year relationship with radio station WGN:

The team tomorrow will reportedly announce a new seven-year agreement with WBBM-AM/780 to air the team's games beginning in 2015, ending a run with WGN-AM/720 that dates back to 1924.

"The economic terms just don't make sense for us,” WGN Radio President Jimmy de Castro told media columnist Robert Feder. “So it's really not us saying we don't want them anymore. It's the Cubs saying that the economics they need are much greater than what we think they're worth or what we'll pay. They chose to go another way economically and made a decision to move on.”

Sic transit gloria etuli.

Wednesday 4 June 2014 09:42:41 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Cubs | Business#
Monday 2 June 2014

Three unrelated passings this weekend:

  • Chicago's NHL Blackhawks ended their season last night, losing 5-4 in overtime to the L.A. Kings. It's always nice when a Chicago sports team makes it to the post-season, and also disappointing when they don't make the finals. The Kings will play the New York Rangers for the Stanley Cup.
  • Chicago-based HomeMade Pizza Co., started in 1997, abruptly ceased operations Friday, closing all their stores and online presence without notice. When the chain first started, it quickly became my mom's favorite take-out pizza. The company prepared raw pizzas that you would then bake at home, the idea being the pie would be hot and crispy when you ate it, because there would be no delivery time. Apparently that concept didn't scale to 40 stores in four states.
  • Spain's King Juan Carlos has announced his abdication after 44 years on the throne. He's 76 years old and believes his 45-year-old son, Prince Felipe, will have the "impulso de renovación, de superación, de corregir errores y abrir camino a un futuro decididamente mejor" (motivation of renewal, of action, of correcting errors and making way for a decidedly better future). No word yet on whether HM Queen Elizabeth II, now on the throne 52 years and whose own son is scarcely much younger than Juan Carlos, plans ever to retire.

None of these is connected, as far as I know.

Monday 2 June 2014 08:19:43 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Kitchen Sink | World#

My dad just sent me this. His comment: "This was done by somebody who either has Asperger's or way, way too much time on his hands."

Yah, but it's cool, right?

What is not so cool is that the Kings are up 4-3 with 17 left in the 3rd. If none of that makes any sense to you, clearly you don't care about hockey or Chicago sports.

Sunday 1 June 2014 21:14:26 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Kitchen Sink | Cool links#
Saturday 31 May 2014

It's the end of May, and the weather matches. I pushed some software into production this morning, which is already more productivity than necessary on a day like this.

Forget it. I'm going outside. See you in June.

Saturday 31 May 2014 14:44:43 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Thursday 29 May 2014

Crain's reported this morning that the Divvy bike-share program lost $150k on $2.2 million in revenue last year:

Though the operating loss is not unexpected, and the amount is relatively small, it comes at a time when Mr. Emanuel is under intense pressure to cut costs and avoid tax increases. The bicycle-sharing program has not yet reached many neighborhoods, reinforcing a view that Divvy is merely a toy for yuppies and tourists.

With the program expected to ramp up this year, achieving profitability is crucial to its long-term success. The administration expects Divvy to at least break even this year.

The program has proved popular with out-of-towners, but it must win over more price-sensitive customers, such as city residents.

So, the program seems on track, and the $12.5-million infusion from Blue Cross certainly hasn't hurt. I'm encouraged.

Thursday 29 May 2014 11:41:09 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Biking | Chicago#
Thursday 22 May 2014

Even though the Cubs are officially the second-worst team in baseball right now, Cubs owner and chairman Tom Ricketts is tired of negotiating with the neighborhood:

The Cubs announced early Thursday that they plan to ask the city to approve more signs in the outfield at Wrigley Field, a move that comes after "endless hours" of negotiating with rooftop owners have gone nowhere, Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts said in a video.

In the six-minute video to fans, Ricketts blamed rooftop owners for delaying the renovation of the field, saying "Despite the city's approval and our clear contractual rights, they plan to file lawsuits to stop our renovation and expansion plans."

Well, sort of. The Cubs agreed to a 20-year contract with the rooftop owners in 2004, so the rooftop owners actually have a case.

Of course, a Jumbotron in left field is exactly what the organization needs to win ballgames. I mean, there couldn't be any other reason, right?

Thursday 22 May 2014 13:58:30 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Cubs#
Friday 16 May 2014

Yesterday my trip to work was cold and wet, while on the West Coast it was so warm people in San Francisco were trying to remember if their apartments had air conditioning. (They don't.)

Well, it's no longer quite as hot in San Francisco, but here in Chicago it's still cold and wet: 4°C and—wait, you'll love this—snow.

That's right, past the mid-point of May and only two weeks from the start of meteorological summer, it snowed in Chicago.

Friday 16 May 2014 08:18:44 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Thursday 15 May 2014

Last night the temperature here got down to 5°C, which feels more like early March than mid-May. Meanwhile, in San Francisco, yesterday got up to 33°C, which to them feels like the pit of hell. In fact, even in the hottest part of the year (early October), San Francisco rarely gets that warm. The Tribune explains:

The North American jet stream pattern, a key driver of the country’s weather, has taken on the same incredibly “wavy”—or, as meteorologists say —“meridional”—configuration which has so often dominated the winter and spring. This sort of pattern leads to temperature extremes across the content.

Pools of unseasonably warm air are in place on each coast while unseasonably cool air is sandwiched between and dominates Chicago and Midwestern weather.

It’s within this slow-moving pool of chilly, unstable (i.e. cloud and precip-generating) air that Chicago resides—a situation likely to continue into Saturday. This is to keep extensive cloudiness and the potential for sporadic showers going over that period of time.

In other words, the forecast for this weekend is continued March with a possibility of April by Monday.

Thursday 15 May 2014 09:50:24 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | San Francisco | Weather#
Wednesday 14 May 2014

Actually, there are two scandals: first, red light cameras in general, and second, an alleged $2m bribe:

The former City Hall manager who ran Chicago’s red-light camera program was arrested today on federal charges related to the investigation of an alleged $2 million bribery scheme involving the city’s longtime vendor, Redflex Traffic Systems.

A federal complaint filed in U.S. District Court today accused John Bills of taking money and other benefits related to the contract with Redlfex. Mayor Rahm Emanuel fired the company amid the bribery scandal.

The Tribune first revealed questions about a questionable relationship between Bills and Redflex in the fall of 2012, triggering a scandal that has shaken the foundation of the company and its Australian parent, Redflex Holdings Ltd., which acknowledged last year that its Chicago program was built on what federal authorities would likely consider a $2 million bribery scheme involving Bills. Six top Redflex officials were jettisoned, and the company has come under scrutiny for its procurement practices across the country.

Now, it's not hard to believe there was some "where's mine?" in a City of Chicago contract, but $2m seems a bit much. That's nothing to the $300m in fines the city has racked up using the things.

So, did Mayor Daley know about this? Is he going to be charged?

Wednesday 14 May 2014 15:13:29 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | US#
Tuesday 13 May 2014

Ten days until I get a couple days off...

Tuesday 13 May 2014 15:17:29 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | US | Cool links | Weather#

The FAA facility handing arrivals and departures for Chicago's two main airports shut down earlier today:

The FAA started issuing revised flight departure times to airlines Tuesday afternoon after an approximately two-hour “ground stop’’ halted all flights to and from Chicago’s two airports because of smoke in an air traffic radar facility serving northeastern Illinois, airline officials said.

The ground stop was ordered as FAA workers were evacuated from the radar facility and operations transferred to the FAA's Chicago Center in Aurora, which usually handles just high-altitude traffic.

The smoke was traced to a faulty ventilation motor and the workers were allowed back into the facility around 1 p.m.

No planes were imperiled by the outage. The Chicago Center facility has no trouble handling arrivals for an hour or two.

Tuesday 13 May 2014 15:00:47 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Chicago#
Sunday 11 May 2014

The Chicago Tribune has an infographic this weekend with the final statistics of the past winter. After defining the "cold season" as the "period from the first freeze of the fall to the last freeze of spring," and asserting we've had our last freeze (I'll let that float for now), then the 2013-14 winter looked like this:

Measurement Value
First freeze Oct 22nd (-2°C)
Last freeze Apr 16th (-4°C)
Days below freezing 76 (Nov through Mar)
Days below -18°C 26 (Dec through Mar)
Total snowfall 2,082 mm

It would have been helpful, I think, had they included some comparison data. It still encapsulates a really crappy winter, which now, finally, seems over.

Sunday 11 May 2014 08:35:15 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Thursday 8 May 2014

At 1pm, the official temperature at O'Hare was 28°C. It has not been this warm in Chicago since November 7th, six months ago. The last time we had weather warmer than that was September 28th (29°C).

Good thing I'm inside...working...

Update: The official 2pm temperature of 30°C has not occurred in Chicago since September 11th, 239 days ago.

Thursday 8 May 2014 13:48:45 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Friday 2 May 2014

Chicagoist graphically demonstrates why I don't want to live where I do anymore:

The explanation:

Chicago has several major douche vortexes. It’s important to map them out because many innocent people stumble onto them by accident. Recent Chicago transplants and tourists are the most common victims. They’re drawn in by some of the traps in the vortices, which range from hip bars to music venues, and then they find themselves stuck in a zombie-like horde of belligerent drunks.

The douches are many. And they are easy enough to stereotype - they tend to be veterans of the Greek systems in Big Ten schools, and they like to wear popped polo shirts and Cubs hats. But really anyone can be a douche. It just takes this simple formula:

Money + Large Amounts of Alcohol + Total Disrespect For Other People’s Boundaries = Douche Vortex

They've even got an interactive map if you want more details.

Friday 2 May 2014 10:26:17 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Kitchen Sink#
Thursday 1 May 2014

Today is May Day, but it feels like mid-March. Instead of the normal 18°C for May 1st, we're going to get, if we're lukcy, 9°C, with some gray skies and drizzle to drive the point home.

The WGN Weather Center has more:

A sprinkly, damp chill hung over Chicago as April 2014 closed overnight. The month finished 0.2°C below normal—a fraction of the deficit that’s been recorded in a number of recent months.

The shortfall, small as it is, means April goes down in the record books here as the 6th consecutive month with an average temperature cooler than normal.

The 12°C high with which the month closed Wednesday was coolest final day of April in 18 years. That reading was, in marked contrast, a full 18°C cooler than the 29°C high recorded on April 30th a year ago.

Chicago’s cloud cover has been extensive over all four days that the area’s weather pattern has been under the influence of the most recent mammoth spring storm. Sunshine during that period has amounted to a paltry 16%–less than a third normal. Historically, Aprils have produced 52% of their possible sun.

One of the coldest winters in history has given way to one of the dreariest springs in recent memory. No wonder so many people want to leave Illinois.

At least it should be warmer next week.

Thursday 1 May 2014 08:08:45 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Wednesday 30 April 2014

Today wasn't nearly as pretty:

Wednesday 30 April 2014 09:56:24 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Photography#

If so, these are queued up:

More later...

Wednesday 30 April 2014 09:38:27 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Cubs | US | Security#
Tuesday 29 April 2014

Here:

More later.

Tuesday 29 April 2014 17:08:11 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | US | Software#
Saturday 26 April 2014

I didn't post a lot yesterday because (a) I had tons to do for work and (b) once I'd finished, I had to go out into this:

It got all the way up to 21°C, briefly, and there were actual leaves on the trees for the first time since November.

Today it's sunny and 7°C. It might get up to 14°C sometime this coming week, once it stops raining.

Hey, at least it's spring.

Saturday 26 April 2014 09:12:12 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Friday 25 April 2014

The New York Times has an interactive map of which ZIP codes support which baseball teams, according to Facebook.

Some teams, apparently, just can't catch a break.

Oh, there they are, that other little team in Chicago:

Friday 25 April 2014 16:35:10 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Cubs#
Thursday 24 April 2014

I mean that literally. With the wind whipping off the lake, our shaded seats never got above 10°C, and felt a whole lot colder. We fled after the 5th inning.

One of the (metaphorically) cool things was how the Cubs used the names of the two teams that played at Weeghman Park when it opened on 23 April 1914: the Chicago Federals and the Kansas City Packers. Here's the scoreboard:

And here's first baseman Mark Rizzo in his historical uniform:

The Cubs lost, of course, 7-5. Some things really never change.

Thursday 24 April 2014 10:14:23 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Cubs | Weather#
Wednesday 23 April 2014

The park is 100 years old today:

The ballpark, which opened April 23, 1914, and celebrates its centennial Wednesday, is a quintessential Chicago building: practical, quietly graceful, a creature of function, not fashion. Despite those rationalist roots, it's a vessel for human emotion: hope, dreams, escapism, nostalgia, wonder — and, as Cubs fans know all too well, disappointment, disgust and bitterness.

Only a smattering of those fans, I suspect, could name the original architects of Wrigley (Zachary Taylor Davis — who also designed Comiskey Park — and his brother Charles). Fewer still would be able to tell you that the ballpark actually reflects the hand of many architects, including the designers of the eclectic Wrigley Building and the art deco Chicago Board of Trade Building.

What those architects wrought, working in a sequence that now covers 10 decades, is remarkable: a building shaped by many different hands that still hangs together beautifully. It helps us hang together, too, creating a shared, almost familylike experience that's all too rare in a world where people devise their own reality on smartphone screens.

Yes, Wrigley needs help; some fans call it a dump. The ballpark is rich in lore but poor in amenities, and its bones have shown inevitable signs of age. Netting prevents chunks of concrete from falling on fans.

A planned revamp, part of a $500 million redevelopment of Wrigley and its environs, promises to finally bring the ballpark into the 21st century. But it's stalled by a bitter dispute between the Ricketts family, which owns the Cubs, and the owners of rooftop seating perches that peek into the ballpark. Work isn't expected to start until next offseason. So with Wrigley in limbo, here are five reasons why the ballpark captivated us in its first century...

Naturally, as an involuntary season-ticket holder, I'm going to the game, and possibly some of the pre-game festivities. And because it's a beautiful, sunny morning in April, I'm wearing long johns, heavy wool socks, a long-sleeve shirt, an undershirt, a warm hoodie, a winter coat, and fleece gloves. How else would someone dress for a game at Wrigley before Memorial Day?

Game-time forecast: sunny, breezy, 6°C. Brrr.

Wednesday 23 April 2014 08:05:42 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Cubs | Weather#
Monday 21 April 2014

CTA service on the Skokie Swift (now Yellow Line) began 20 April 1964:

The five-mile-long Niles Center branch of the ‘L’ had opened in 1925. Using the tracks of the North Shore electric interurban line, trains ran from Howard-Paulina station to Dempster Street in the suburb of Niles Center (today’s Skokie). There were seven stops between the terminals. North Shore continued to run trains after CTA service was discontinued in 1948.

In 1963 North Shore itself went out of business. During the fifteen years since CTA had eliminated the Niles Center branch, Skokie and other nearby towns had enjoyed a population boom. Perhaps the old ‘L’ line could now earn some money.

CTA’s new plan was to make the line a feeder to the mainline North Side ‘L’. Trains would run express between Dempster and Howard, with no intermediate stops. In a savvy bit of marketing, the re-born service was named the Skokie Swift.

Service officially began on April 20, 1964. Ridership surpassed all expectations, and CTA soon increased the number of trains. Today the route is known as the Yellow Line.

Before 1963, the North Shore Line actually ran trains all the way up to Mundelien.

Monday 21 April 2014 07:04:48 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Travel#
Sunday 20 April 2014

I just returned from Outer Suburbistan in record time, in under an hour, which was pure dumb luck. As soon as I change I'm going out into the 25°C afternoon. We still haven't hit the 28°C we last saw November 7th, but this is close enough for me.

More later, including possibly some interesting stuff about how I've started (slowly) refactoring the 10-year-old Inner Drive Extensible Architecture to use modern inversion-of-control tools including Castle Windsor and Moq. First, I need to walk the dog. A lot.

Sunday 20 April 2014 16:04:07 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Cool links | Weather#
Friday 18 April 2014

Crain's reported today (sub.req.) that Lagunitas Brewing will cap their first Chicago-brewed beer today:

Workers at the 300,000-square-foot Douglas Park facility are firing up the bottling line this morning and slapping on Lagunitas India Pale Ale labels. Once they flip the switch, the line will fill 500 bottles a minute.

"It's just the IPA right now," said owner Tony Magee. "It's the beer we know best."

The first 750-barrel batch of beer was mixed a few weeks ago before heading to the brewery's fermenting tanks and filtration system. Other batches of IPA are right behind as production begins to ramp up. The Chicago brewery is set to start making Little Sumpin' Sumpin' beer next month.

Crain's also reports that Lagunitas is now Illinois' largest brewer, with a capacity of 200,000 barrels—23.5 million litres—per year.

Friday 18 April 2014 12:05:16 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Kitchen Sink#

After years of doing whatever they were doing, the CTA has released details of its planned Red and Purple Line renovations north of Belmont:

We already know the first phase of the project, set to begin in 2017, will involve rehabbing the Lawrence, Argyle, Berwyn and Bryn Mawr Red Line stations and replacing tracks for the Red and Purple Lines at those stations to reduce slow zones. CTA has started the process of securing federal funding to extend the Red Line from its current southern endpoint at 95th Street to 130th Street, using existing freight rail tracks. That project would cost $2.3 billion.

The aspect of the Red/Purple Line rehab we’re most impressed by is a “Belmont bypass” allowing the Brown Line to continue along its route by riding above the existing Red and Purple Line rails. Currently the Brown Line has to negotiate its route by crossing those rails, resulting in 40 percent of weekday trains being delayed by up to three minutes.

In order for the bypass to be built CTA will have to buy 16 buildings between Belmont Avenue and Addison Street in order to make room for the project. The total cost of the Belmont bypass is included in the $1.7 billion cost the first phase of Red and Purple Line rehab is expected to cost.

The CTA says the bypass project will save 500,000 passenger-hours per year.

Friday 18 April 2014 08:28:19 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Travel#
Tuesday 15 April 2014

This lovely spring morning in Chicago:

It's April 15th. And we have snow on the ground. Again.

At least we got a new record:

Snow has historically been no stranger in Chicago during the month of April. Official snow records indicate a trace or more of snow has fallen this late in 86 of the past 129 seasons dating back to 1884-85. That’s 67% of the time.

But the amount of snow which fell Monday and the fact it occurred within 3 days of 27°C warmth (on Saturday) and on a day which opened near 20°C is without precedent. Neither has occurred before over the 129 year term of official Chicago snow records.

Monday’s preliminary snow totals through 10 pm came in at 30 mm at O’Hare and 25 mm at Midway.

The 30 mm tally at O’Hare equals the amount of snow which typically falls over the full month of April and was the heaviest official snowfall to occur here so late in a season in 3 decades.

Winter, you're drunk. Go home.

Tuesday 15 April 2014 13:11:55 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Monday 14 April 2014

I just took Parker for his evening constitutional, and discovered it's really warm out. My kitchen thermometer says it's 17°C, but the official temperature at O'Hare is 9°C. That's...unusual. In fact, here's what the weather near me looks like:

So, O'Hare and Midway, which are about 25 km apart, have a temperature delta of fully 10°C. If you look at a slightly more distant pair, say Waukegan and Gary, which are both on Lake Michigan but separated north-to-south by less than 100 km, the temperature delta is almost 16°C. That is one hell of a cold front.

And it's coming...this...way...

Sunday 13 April 2014 22:45:23 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Sunday 13 April 2014

Just this morning I wrote about how warm the weather had gotten (finally!) but how it would get cooler throughout today.

Well, between 10:45 and 11, while I was in the grocery, the wind shifted, plunging the temperature 7°C and making me suddenly under-dressed. Plus, it's foggy.

Spring, we hope, will return in two weeks.

Sunday 13 April 2014 11:23:59 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#

Yesterday Chicago got up to 27°C, one more "warmest day since November 7th." We've had a few of those recently. (November 7th got up to 28°C.)

It stayed relatively warm overnight, though, so for the first time in half a year I got to have dinner outside. This morning it's still warm enough to go outside without a jacket.

But this is Chicago. The forecast calls for falling temperatures and rain starting this afternoon, falling to 3°C tonight and slipping below freezing Monday night. With snow.

Sitll, for the next few hours, we have some sun and some warmth, so Parker and I are going outside for a bit.

Sunday 13 April 2014 09:09:48 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Friday 11 April 2014

Forget the Kennedy Expressway during rush hour; Chicago's railroads are worse:

Come to the west side of Chicago to find out why a power plant in Michigan is short of coal and a biodiesel maker in Brewster, Minnesota, can’t get enough grain.

The answer is found near Western Avenue, where rail cars from Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. (ADM), the largest U.S. publicly traded ethanol producer, rest idle on the track above the Dwight D. Eisenhower Expressway. A short drive away a burnt orange, yellow and black locomotive from Warren Buffett’s BNSF railway sits on an overpass as motor traffic is snarled below.

They can’t move because increasing oil production from North Dakota’s Bakken field, a record grain crop and unprecedented cold weather overwhelmed the U.S. railroad system. In part because of transport delays, coal inventories were down 26 percent in January from a year ago. A quarter of all U.S. freight rail traffic passes through Chicago, or 37,500 rail cars each day. The trip through the city can take more than 30 hours.

This has pushed up coal prices and cut coal consumption, which Bloomberg sees as a problem but I'm not so sure actually is. Also, BNSF is spending $5 billion on service upgrades near the oil fields, including adding 500 locomotives, 5,000 rail cars, and 300 crew members.

Friday 11 April 2014 11:52:18 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Travel#
Tuesday 8 April 2014

Via Illinois State Climatologist Jim Angel, Australia's weather service has observed a growing ENSO event that has implications for the U.S.:

It is now likely (estimated at a greater than 70% chance) that an El Niño will develop during the southern hemisphere winter. Although the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is currently neutral, surface and sub-surface ocean temperatures have warmed considerably in recent weeks, consistent with a state of rapid transition. International climate models surveyed by the Bureau indicate continued warming of the central Pacific Ocean in coming months. Most models predict sea surface temperatures will reach El Niño thresholds during the coming winter season.

Accuweather says not to worry:

While El Niño will not have an impact on this spring and summer's severe weather, it may come on early enough and strong enough to have impact on the upcoming hurricane season in the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific.

Disruptive winds, known as wind shear, often develop off the Atlantic coast of the United States and sweep over a large part of the basin during El Niño.

The greatest effects on the weather pattern in the Lower 48 states, including California, occur during the cold season.

El Niño winters are noted for wet and stormy conditions in the South and less-frequent, less-severe cold episodes in the Northern states.

There is a tendency toward dry conditions in the Northwest and North Central states during an El Niño winter.

A nice, warm, dry winter next year would be super. Here's hoping.

Tuesday 8 April 2014 15:42:11 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Saturday 5 April 2014

The Cubs lost 7-2 yesterday, and we didn't even stay to the end. It was depressing. Here's the happy scene before play commenced:

You can't quite see the 40 km/h winds blowing in from left field, nor can you see how I was in long johns, four layers, a winter coat, hat, hoodie, scarf, and gloves, because it was 3 frickin' degrees C.

Today and tomorrow should have better weather, and we should actually have spring weather by Thursday. And the Cubs, having now won only 25% of the games they've played this season, might win a game.

Then, while walking home from the game, I discovered what we in software might call a "human-factors" failure. Note to the City: you may not want to pour fresh concrete walking distance from Wrigley on opening day during high winds that might knock down the barriers. Otherwise you'll get a permanent record of (a) a barrier having fallen into fresh concrete and (b) that drunk people were nearby at the time:

Don't get me wrong; I'm not blaming the victim, who in this case would be the City of Chicago. But, come on, that concrete was practically asking for it. Maybe it shouldn't have gone out alone in Wrigleyville on opening day.

Saturday 5 April 2014 08:30:23 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Baseball | Chicago | Cubs | Weather#
Friday 4 April 2014

A little. Not a lot:

Today: A 20 percent chance of showers. Cloudy, with a high near 7°C*. Windy, with a south wind 24 to 32 km/h becoming west southwest 40 to 48 km/h in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 72 km/h.

So, high winds blowing straight out? Probably won't exactly be a pitchers' duel then.

Photos and details coming after the game.

* Did you know you can hover over these dashed lines to see the Imperial conversions? I've been doing this for years, but not everyone seems to know about the feature. Enjoy.

Friday 4 April 2014 07:43:20 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Cubs | Weather#
Wednesday 2 April 2014

Crains reports this morning that a local Chicago technology start-up (not mine) has just gotten a ton of money:

Bswift LLC, a healthcare-benefits software firm, has received $51 million from a private-equity fund to keep up with torrid growth.

The Chicago-based company has been growing at more than 40 percent annually for the past four years and is enjoying a surge in demand, in part because of the Affordable Care Act. Bswift's technology is used by companies to provide comparison shopping, enrollment and administration of health insurance benefits. It also operates insurance exchanges for private and public markets.

Bswift's business is exploding. Headcount at the firm, which is based in the West Loop, has soared to more than 300 from 165 a year ago. A year ago, the company had expected to hire 100 people over three years.

“We've added 45 people since the beginning of the year,” [Bswift CEO Rich] Gallun said. “We'll be over 400 by the end of the year.”

Wow. And whoa. And woe.

That's really good news for Bswift's owners and stakeholders. I'm concerned what it's like to work there, though. Managing any growth taxes the abilities of any manager or business owner. Growing staff by 5% every month—they've added 45 employees this year alone—has to be a strain.

I'm curious what it's like over there right now, and how they're managing the growth. With this infusion of cash, they're going to have a lot of pressure to grow even faster. How will they maintain their culture? How will they manage quality and delivery? What do their clients think?

Wednesday 2 April 2014 08:31:30 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Business#

It's official: the meteorological winter (December 1 to March 31) that just ended was Chicago's coldest winter in history:

The impressive cold this past winter continued during March...with a monthly average temperature of only -0.2°C for the month. this ranks as the 19th coldest march on record in Chicago. however...of even more interest is the fact that with the abnormally cold March across the area...this made the average temperature for the December through March period in Chicago -5.6°C ...which is the coldest such period on record for Chicago dating back to 1872!

On the other hand, the same period was one of the warmest winters ever globally. Both things are likely related, but we won't know for a while until more data comes in.

Meanwhile, here's the forecast for opening day at Wrigley the day after tomorrow:

A chance of rain and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 8°C. Breezy, with a south wind 25 to 30 km/h becoming southwest 35 to 40 km/h in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 60 km/h. Chance of precipitation is 40%.

At least our seats are under the awning.

Wednesday 2 April 2014 08:17:01 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Cubs | Weather#
Monday 31 March 2014

The Cubs will start the season in Philadelphia this afternoon, so at the moment they have a perfect record. That will likely change within the next 36 hours, so we're not to jazzed about it in Chicago.

When they open at Wrigley Field on Friday, it may be cold and drizzly according to the National Weather Service forecast this morning, but at least they'll finally have good beer:

After 25 years, Goose Island finally has a home field advantage at Wrigley Field.

Chicago’s longest-tenured beer maker will be abundant at Clark and Addison this season for the first time, with both 312 Urban Wheat Ale and the newly released 312 Urban Pale Ale to be sold by vendors throughout the stadium, according to the Cubs.

Goose’s Green Line (a pale ale available only in Chicago and on draft), Matilda (a Belgian-style pale ale) and Sofie (a saison) will also be available at Wrigley in 2014.

The reintroduction of Goose Island and departure of Old Style will come about because InBev now owns Goose Island. InBev also owns Budweiser. So Goose Island isn't by any stretch a craft brewer anymore, but they still make better beers than MillerCoors.

Still, it pains me to quote the end of the Tribune article: "U.S. Cellular Field will again be dominated by MillerCoors products (Miller Lite, Coors Light, Blue Moon and Redd’s Apple Ale), but will again feature a solid and varied lineup of craft beers that includes Bell’s Oberon, Revolution Anti-Hero, Rogue Dead Guy Ale, Lagunitas Daytime and Sierra Nevada Pale."

And there's Wrigley Field for you: Loser team, loser beers, sells out every home game. There is no god.

Monday 31 March 2014 09:21:27 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Cubs | Kitchen Sink#
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David Braverman and Parker
David Braverman is a software developer 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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