Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
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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#
Friday 1 May 2015

Citylab has a must-read on Spiro Agnew and the legitimization of right-wing suburban fears that led to the current policing crisis in America:

Initially, Governor Agnew offered a rather moderate response to the riot. But he soon took the lead of a conservative backlash that blamed radical agitators (that should sound familiar) and liberalism for nurturing black misbehavior. Agnew's pivot to the right came as the riot subsided, on April 11, when he met the state's mainstream black leaders and accused them of harboring a "perverted concept of race loyalty" that "inflamed" militants. Baltimore's fires were not "lit from an overwhelming sense of frustration and despair," he said, but were instead "kindled at the suggestion and with the instruction of the advocates of violence," like Stokely Carmichael.

Agnew, who served as executive of Baltimore County before his election as governor, became the consummate new right suburbanite. Indeed, he was the nation's first high-profile suburban politician, according to Levy. Agnew was Nixon's attack dog, holding up the ideals of Nixon's silent majority over the loud minorities in the streets and promoting a conservative manliness in the face of what he saw as an effeminate liberalism that indulged black and student protesters. And for many suburban voters, he provided a more sober alternative to the rabid George Wallace.

There's a straight line from the civil unrest in 1967 and 1968 to the anger we're seeing today. People have been saying for years that increased policing and incarceration is not helping anyone. And here we are, less than 50 years from the last time we failed to deal with the problems faced by cities, facing the same problems again.

Friday 1 May 2015 13:17:34 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Geography | US#
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#
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#
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#
Friday 3 April 2015

Guess the city by its transit stops.

Friday 3 April 2015 12:27:50 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Geography#
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#
Tuesday 24 March 2015

With meetings and a new developer on the team occupying almost all my time today, I've put these things aside for the half-hour I have at 6:30 to read them:

Now to jot down some policies on our new Microsoft Surface setups...

Tuesday 24 March 2015 16:32:06 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Geography | US | Cool links | Windows Azure#
Sunday 22 March 2015

The French abbey Mont-Saint-Michel was completely cut off from land yesterday as once-in-a-century tides flowed into the English Channel:

Tens of thousands of curious visitors have crowded historic Mont Saint-Michel and other beauty spots along the French coastline with the promise of a ‘tide of the century’, but it may not have lived up to everyone's expectations.

Anticipating a wall of water that could equal the height of a four-storey building, tourists and locals staked out positions around the picturesque landmark last night and again today, including the partially-washed out causeway as the tide retreated.

They travelled to France’s northern coast for the first giant tide of the millennium, with experts predicting that it could reach as high as 14 m - 5½ m above normal - thanks to the effects from yesterday’s spectacular solar eclipse.

And once the tide flowed out, people had the rare opportunity to walk across the salt flat to the Mont. The tides were so high that UK authorities closed the Thames barrier for the 175th time in its 30-year history.

According to the Daily Mail, "the last 'tide of the century' occurred on March 10, 1997 and the next will take place in March 2033."

Sunday 22 March 2015 08:24:06 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Geography | Astronomy#
Friday 20 March 2015

Things I will read or explore more this weekend:

Must run.

Friday 20 March 2015 16:04:20 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Geography | US | World | Cool links#
Tuesday 17 March 2015

Very cool simulation:

A new data visualization from a coder named Will Gallia shows commuters working their way through a day in the life of London’s Tube as exactly that: busy little pixels of commuting energy.

There are a few fun takeaways from this living, breathing transit map. Things get really, really busy, for instance, at around 8:40 in the morning, and again at around 6:10 at night. But there are also areas of consistent low activity: The Hainault Loop in the far right corner, for instance, attracts few riders even at the craziest of commute times. All transit lines are not created equal.

This is catnip to me.

Tuesday 17 March 2015 13:36:04 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Geography | London#
Monday 16 March 2015

Anthropogenic climate change may have permanently destabilized both the West and East Antarctic Ice Sheets, meaning the planet could experience 3.3 to 4.3 meter sea-level rises in the next few centuries. And even better, gravity will push more towards North America than towards anyplace else:

In the event of a collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet, scientists have determined that the United States will receive moresea level rise than almost any other part of the world. (Granted, so will other countries in North America, like Canada and Mexico, which have considerably less global warming responsibility.)

In this case, West Antarctica is so large that it pulls the global ocean toward it, which slopes upward toward the ice sheet and the Antarctic continent in general. But if West Antarctica were to lose a substantial part of its ice, then the gravitational pull would relax, and sea level would actually decrease near the ice sheet even as it spreads and increases across the global ocean.

But not evenly. Instead, areas farther from West Antarctica would get more sea level rise, and North America and the United States might get more than any other inhabited place on Earth. “The water that had been held close to West Antarctica spreads out across the ocean,” explains Penn State glaciologist Richard Alley, “and we’re far enough away that we weren’t in the ‘pile’ that was held close to West Antarctica when the ice sheet was there and its gravity attracted the water to make the pile, but we get our share of the water from that pile when it spreads out.”

So possibly, a couple centuries from now, there will be an enormous dam protecting the Long Island Sound from the Atlantic, and Florida will be an artificial island somewhere near Miami. Good work, humans.

Monday 16 March 2015 15:53:05 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Geography | World | Weather#
Friday 13 March 2015

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#
Monday 9 March 2015

People who have read The Daily Parker know I have strong feelings about Le Corbusier, the French architect who nearly destroyed central Paris and who designed the vertical slums that packed in impoverished Americans like cattle. So I found it interesting when I received this email:

I saw that you were interested in Le Corbusier when I stumbled upon your page - www.thedailyparker.com/PermaLink,guid,a36518c4-5f44-4e64-813a-2a9c08ef9c9d.aspx By happenstance, I’ve been working on something that you might find compelling.

For the past two years, Artsy has developed a beautifully designed informational page for Le Corbusier. It includes beautiful images of his work, exclusive articles, and up to date information about his exhibitions. Artsy offers a new way to explore art around the world. I’d like to suggest adding a link to Artsy's Le Corbusier page as I believe it will give your audience a fresh perspective on art.

Oh? Well, I come to bury Corbi, not to praise him. My response:

Thanks for reaching out, and for sending the link. I’d like to post your message (with identifying information removed).

The thing is, though, I really despise Le Corbusier. His architecture was almost anti-human both at a macro and a micro level. He advocated destroying some of the most livable and inviting urban areas in the world—Greenwich Village, the 5th Arrondissement of Paris—in favor of concrete slabs surrounded by dead zones that no sane person would ever want to inhabit. Where he succeeded in this vision, the results have been disastrous. Here in Chicago, for example, the Corbusier-inspired Robert Taylor Homes and Cabrini-Green housing developments became vertical slums within a year of opening, and no amount of evidence that this was happening could convince Le Corbusier to change his approach.

Without Jane Jacobs to shut down his soul-destroying efforts in New York, he and Robert Moses would have destroyed the city. Here in Chicago we’re only now clawing back the damage his ideas did to our environment.

As intellectual exercises his buildings are interesting. As structures that people live and work in, they’re harmful.

So, OK, link posted, with both perspectives as presented. But as I've said before, I look forward to the day when people generally hold Le Corbusier in the same esteem they hold Pachelbel and Kinkade.

Monday 9 March 2015 16:34:32 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Geography | US | World#
Monday 2 March 2015

CitiLabs' Feargus O'Sullivan thinks London should stop looking to New York for guidance and concentrate on a city closer to home:

[L]et me outline the difficulties the U.K. capital faces. London's property prices are spiraling, products of a housing drought that's turning decent apartments affordable on a working class wage into urban legends. The city's inequality chasm is widening inch-by-inch, and once economically diverse neighborhoods risk becoming monocultures. This has helped to deaden and marginalize aspects of the city's cultural life that made London vibrant in the first place—a lesser point than displacement, no doubt, but a problem nonetheless. Meanwhile, the city's regenerative energies are ignoring the small print of daily livability and being channeled into ridiculously flashy grand projects that see the city as a mere display cabinet in which to cluster expensive, largely functionless infrastructural tchotchkes.

Does this all sound familiar, New Yorkers?

What makes [London mayor Boris] Johnson's NY-LON obsession more frustrating is that London actually has a far more relevant role model closer to home. It's a place that has strong historical connection with London, a city whose architecture and cultural life London long strove to emulate. Obviously, I'm talking about Paris.

It's worth a (quick) read.

Monday 2 March 2015 13:05:27 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Geography | London | World#
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#
Sunday 8 February 2015

After a nearly two days with above-freezing temperatures, our sidewalks have become passable and our faces have stopped falling off from the cold. Consequently I've spent a good deal of time today walking places. Consequently, though it's just 3pm, I've gotten better Fitbit numbers (15,000 steps, 11 km) than on any day since January 3rd (16,800 steps, 12.1 km).

From January 3rd you have to go all the way back to November 30th (23,500 steps, 18 km) to find better results. I'm not going to do that today; but I am going to walk Parker more than he's been walked in a couple of weeks, and try to hit 18,000 steps or so.

I also discovered that Google knows everywhere I've been since I got my Android phone. (If you have an Android phone, go to https://maps.google.com/locationhistory/b/0 to see your history.) That's creepy. And so interesting. For a while I've been outlining an app that would aggregate all of this kind of information and form a searchable tick-tock record going back as far as I have data. That might be cool—or it might be scary. Haven't decided yet.

Sunday 8 February 2015 15:07:24 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Geography | Cool links#
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#
Friday 16 January 2015

I'm taking a quick trip to New York this weekend so The Daily Parker may be a little quiet. Here's what I'll be reading about on the flights:

One more bug to fix before I can do a test deployment...

Friday 16 January 2015 09:35:54 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Geography | US | World | Business#
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#
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#
Thursday 25 December 2014

I only got 13,000 steps yesterday owing to Christmas Eve dinner and some ill-timed rain. (Perhaps 25,000 may have been too ambitious?) This included two walks around Half Moon Bay State Beach:

I even shot some video, in the stiff breeze:

Later, we went to Christmas Eve dinner, where poor Roger once again had to wear a Santa suit:

Thursday 25 December 2014 06:43:23 PST (UTC-08:00)  |  | Geography | San Francisco#
Wednesday 24 December 2014

While we're getting ready to celebrate the birth of Baby X this Xmas, links are once again stacking up in my inbox. Like these:

That might be it for The Daily Parker today.

Wednesday 24 December 2014 10:46:35 PST (UTC-08:00)  |  | Geography | Kitchen Sink | US | Cool links | Security#
Wednesday 10 December 2014

Because I stayed in the Airport Sheraton, had only carry-on bags, and got my boarding pass last night, I got on my flight home less than half an hour after leaving my hotel room this morning. Then, at O'Hare, because of the aforementioned lack of checked baggage, a New York-style walking speed, and Global Entry, I got from the airplane to my car in exactly half an hour. Parker was in the car half an hour after that.

Compare that to the trip out, when I left my house at 7, the plane finally left the gate at 10:30, and—oh, right, it only took me 55 minutes to get from the airplane to my hotel in London, including the ridiculously long walk from Terminal 3 to the Heathrow Express and flagging down a taxi at Paddington.

Anyway, dog and man are home, I've completed my deliverable for tomorrow, and I will now get a nap before Euchre Club meets at 7:30.

Wednesday 10 December 2014 16:51:40 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation | Geography | London | Travel | Work#

I had a pretty good blog entry to post a couple of hours ago, and I forgot it totally. This is because I was wrestling a virtual machine to the ground because it had gone somewhere HTTP requests could not follow. I'd have posted about that nonsense, too, except the VM hosts The Daily Parker, you see.

I am therefore reduced to a link round-up, though this time I will embed, rather than link to, two of the things that people have sent me in the past day and a half:

  • I had an excellent dinner tonight.
  • Science writer Michael Hanlon thinks innovation peaked in 1973. I disagree, but I haven't got a rebuttal yet.
  • People in L.A. suspect that arsonists burned down one of the most anti-urban development projects ever thrust upon Americans.
  • My flight Sunday got delayed in part because of de-icing. Patrick Smith explains why this happens.
  • Chicago steak houses are suffering because the price of wholesale beef has shot up in recent days. I feel for them, I really do, but I also want to have a Morton's steak before year's end. Anyone want to join me?
  • Talking Points Memo has a timeline of the New Republic's self-immolation. I still mourn.
  • I got some personal news today that will make Daily Parker headlines when it's officially announced next week.
  • I'm staying up until 3am CET (8pm Chicago time) because I don't want to fall asleep at Euchre tomorrow. Just remember: the left bower is trump, you idiot.
  • A propos of nothing, I'm posting one of the best speeches by one of the worst characters in all Shakespeare:
    There is a tide in the affairs of men.
    Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
    Omitted, all the voyage of their life
    Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
    On such a full sea are we now afloat,
    And we must take the current when it serves,
    Or lose our ventures.

You have been patient, and have earned your reward. Here are your two videos, hat tip to reader MG:

And this, but you have to skip ahead to 37m 53s to get the point:

Wednesday 10 December 2014 02:10:14 CET (UTC+01:00)  |  | Geography | Kitchen Sink | London | World | Travel | Work#
Thursday 20 November 2014

Mayor William Ogden inaugurated the Galena & Chicago Union R.R. on this date in 1848:

In the fall of 1848, the Galena & Chicago Union Railroad began laying track. On November 20, a group of distinguished citizens boarded Chicago’s first train. They sat on wooden benches in a pair of crude baggage cars, pulled by a wood-burning steam engine. Ogden gave the signal, and they chugged off at a breath-taking fifteen miles-per-hour. In a half-hour they reached the end of track, eight miles out on the prairie, in what is now Oak Park.

Ogden had provided the rides for free, as a publicity stunt. And it worked–the riders were enthusiastic. On the way back to the city, two of the passengers spotted a farmer driving a load of wheat and hides behind a pair of oxen. The passengers were merchants. They had the train stopped, bought the wheat and hides, and hauled in the railroad’s first load of freight.

The railroad evolved into the Chicago & North Western, and then got absorbed into Union Pacific in the 1990s. But it still runs down the same track along Lake Street—the right-of-way first laid out 166 years ago.

Thursday 20 November 2014 10:00:32 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Geography | Kitchen Sink#
Thursday 13 November 2014

The Atlantic's CityLab blog brings us the work of Ignacio Evangelista, who has photographed European border crossings abandoned after the Schengen treaty came into effect:

Evangelista has photographed many of these checkpoints over the last couple of years. Aptly titled "After Schengen," his project reinforces the suddenness with which many of Europe's border crossings went silent. Brightly colored vehicle gates remain at some boundaries, but they stand open, implying a warmer "Welcome," rather than "Stop!" (the latter can still be found on weathered signs and asphalt).

Despite the irrationality sometimes associated with national borders, the Schengen Treaty is as much an anomaly as it is an achievement. Many nations within the Schengen Area—Austria, Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, Spain, France, and others—once represented a web of ambitious empires. The sudden abandonment of border crossings displayed in Evangelista's work, therefore, offers a reminder that Europe is in fact enjoying an historic era of peace.

I love borders. I have an idea for a coffee-table book, exploring borders and boundaries at various levels of abstractions, that I may just do someday.

One of these borders will surely be in the Baltics. The weirdest border checkpoint I saw was in Talinn, Estonia, at the ferry terminal. Finland and Estonia are both in the Schengen zone, but 25 years ago they were practically different civilizations.

Thursday 13 November 2014 14:08:33 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Geography | Photography#
Sunday 2 November 2014

Ah, FitBit. I'm guessing the device only stores time stamps and not time-and-date stamps. I'm also guessing they haven't worked out daylight saving time, either. Because apparently going to bed before 1am CDT and getting up at 7:30 CST was only 5½ hours. (It was actually 7½.)

This seems related to a problem I saw Wednesday. I got to Atlanta just past midnight and synced my FitBit to my phone—which had already switched to Eastern time. Since the device never got past midnight, it's daily summary value started at the total step count for Tuesday, so my total steps for Wednesday and for the week were overstated by 16,000.

Look, I get that time zones are hard, but they're not that hard. It's also not hard to use date-time stamps with unambiguous values—for example, always using UTC internally and only using local time to display and calculate things that depend on local time.

I've got a support incident open with them. I hope I can help them fix this problem, but it may be a hardware issue. That's disappointing.

Meanwhile, I'll make my first attempt at a workaround on Tuesday morning after I land at Heathrow. (The flight crosses local midnight in Chicago but not London.) I'll sync the device in Central time before changing my computer's time zone to GMT, so that it will have experienced midnight in its local time zone. Then I'll re-sync in GMT and see what happens. At the very least I'll get some data on what is causing this defect.

Sunday 2 November 2014 08:52:02 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Geography | Software | Travel#
Thursday 30 October 2014

For the record, I hate Hartsfield-Jackson airport. More specifically, I hate the people who are responsible for signage here.

Mostly, they forget to put up the last sign in a sequence, both inside and outside the airport. Say there's a turn, followed by a straight path, then a Y-shaped fork, then another straight path to the destination. At ATL, they'll have a sign telling you which way to make the first turn, a sign along the straight path, and then...nothing.

I know now what lies along every fork at the airport.

In other news, the diligence effort for next week looks extremely likely to take off. But yesterday at this time, I'd have said I was 95% certain of going to L.A. next week. So, you know, consulting.

Thursday 30 October 2014 08:39:00 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Geography | Travel | Work#
Friday 24 October 2014

I'm a little busy today, preparing for three different projects even though I can only actually do 1.5 of them. So as is common on days like this, I have a list of things I don't have time to read:

I really would have liked another week in London...

Friday 24 October 2014 12:59:53 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Geography | Kitchen Sink | US#
Thursday 9 October 2014

Vox's Sarah Cliff reports some data from health gadget maker Jawbone about when we go to sleep, and for how long:

Jawbone's data shows that, on average, no major American city gets the National Institute of Health recommended seven hours of nightly sleep. You see that in the light green areas [on the interactive map], which tend to surround large populations.

Jawbone also put together a map of when people go to sleep. And there you see mostly people who live in large cities and college towns staying up later. That shows that people in Brooklyn, NY tend to have the latest bed time in the United States (they turn down, on average, at 12:07 a.m.) where as people living in Maui, Hawaii get to bed the earliest at 10:31 p.m.

In a similar vein, people in Massachusetts are grumbling about their time zone again, thinking that year-round daylight saving time (or year-round observance of Atlantic Standard Time) will somehow make life better:

As sunset creeps earlier—it’s down to 6:19 p.m. today in Boston—we’re already dreading what happens a month from now: Clocks turn back. The first Sunday morning, it’s fantastic. An extra hour of sleep! Later that day, though, the honeymoon ends. Why is it pitch black before dinner?

The same weekend we experience these conflicting emotions, Americans in Arizona and Hawaii will do something foreign to most of us: They won’t change their clocks.

More evening daylight could be part of a broader solution to retain the bright young people who come to New England from afar to our world-class colleges and universities. Retaining college graduates is so important to our region that the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston is studying the issue. But consider the actual experience of students who come to Boston for their education: On the shortest evening of the year, the sun sets here at 4:11. When they graduate, they might find themselves with options in New York, where the shortest day extends to 4:28, or Palo Alto, where it’s 4:50! Shifting one time zone would give us a 5:11 sunset—a small but meaningful competitive change.

Well, sure, but the sun would rise as late as 8:15 am in December, which would cause parents to complain. (For an excellent takedown of the Globe's argument, check out Michael Downing's Spring Forward.)

Thursday 9 October 2014 16:20:57 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Geography | Kitchen Sink | Travel | Astronomy#
Tuesday 7 October 2014

The earth will blot out the sun tonight, if you're standing on the moon, but the earth's atmosphere will bend red light just enough to put on a great show:

Much of North America will have front-row seats for this special sky show, which will particularly favor the western part of the continent. Sky-watchers there will be able to see the entire eclipse unfold high in the western skies; East Coast observers will see much of the first half of the eclipse. For early risers in the East, the full moon will be sinking below the western horizon around sunrise, just as the total eclipse is getting under way.

The eclipse begins with the partial phase, when the moon enters Earth's dark shadow (also called the umbra shadow). That begins at 2:15 a.m. PDT (5:15 a.m. EDT). Then the umbral shadow will spread across the moon's disk, moving from left to right.

At 3:25 a.m. PDT (6:25 a.m. EDT) totality begins, when the moon is fully engulfed in the umbral shadow and turns a shade of orange red. The deepest or midpoint of the eclipse will be at 3:55 a.m. PDT, and totality continues until 4:24 a.m. PDT. The last phase of the partial eclipse ends at 5:34 a.m. PDT.

I'll at least get up to check the weather on my mobile around 5:30am tomorrow, and if it's clear, Parker might get a really-freaking-early walk. In Chicago, the moon will be close to the western horizon, but it should still be visible.

Then, on the 23rd, a partial solar eclipse will be visible throughout most of the United States and Canada from 16:43 Chicago time until sunset. Peak eclipse occurs at 17:43 Chicago time as the sun is close to the western horizon.

And for those of you who thought of it immediately, turn around, bright eyes.

Tuesday 7 October 2014 16:58:44 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Geography | Astronomy#

While I'm up to my eyeballs at work, I've got a backlog of articles to catch up on:

Once I've got some free time (maybe this afternoon) I'll talk about yesterday's Supreme Court non-decision that changes civil rights in the U.S. forever.

Tuesday 7 October 2014 13:16:16 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Geography | US | Software | Weather#
Monday 29 September 2014

CityLabs has a cool pictoral on the evolution of Manhattan's Meatpacking District from the mid-1980s to now:

From the High Line to the expensive shops and restaurants along the old cobblestone streets, everything looks quite different from when Brian Rose first brought his camera to the Meatpacking District. A young photographer in 1985, Rose spent a few days that winter walking around the area in the mid-afternoon, after the meat markets closed and before the sex clubs opened. Right around the time Rose took his photos, one of those clubs, The Mineshaft, was shut down by the city for permitting "high-risk sexual activity" during the worsening AIDS epidemic.

Rose never got around to printing the film from that shoot—until 2012. Blown away by what he saw when compared his photographs to those same streets and buildings today, he decided to re-create each shot. The result is an incredible set of then-and-nows in the new book Metamorphosis: Meatpacking District 1985 + 2013.

The neighborhood's transformation is epic, especially if you spent time in New York over the last 30 years.

Monday 29 September 2014 13:20:06 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Geography | Photography#
Friday 26 September 2014

And it's 5pm. And I'm still working on Thursday's work. Ex-cellent!

While I'm figuring out what part of the week I missed, read about how a group photographers explored subterranean London.

Friday 26 September 2014 17:08:08 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Geography | London | Photography#
Saturday 20 September 2014

My friend is getting married in just over four hours, right around the time some weather is due to move in. So I'm going for a walk while I can.

Yesterday I took the hotel desk clerk's recommendation for lunch at Greenbush Brewery in Sawyer, Mich. Yum, both to the food and to the beer. I'm looking forward to having more of the latter back home.

Saturday 20 September 2014 11:54:52 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Best Bars | Geography | Travel#
Friday 19 September 2014

A clear majority of Scots have rejected independence and elected to remain in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Irleand:

With the results in from all 32 council areas, the "No" side won with 2,001,926 votes over 1,617,989 for "Yes".

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond called for unity and urged the unionist parties to deliver on more powers.

Prime Minister David Cameron said he was delighted the UK would remain together and that commitments on extra powers would be honoured "in full".

Mr Cameron said the three main unionist parties at Westminster would now follow through with their pledge of more powers for the Scottish Parliament.

The Economist's headline: "Britain Survives:"

By a margin of 55% to 45%, and on a vast 85% turnout, Scots voted to stick with the United Kingdom on September 18th. Thereby they ensured the continuation of the nation state that shaped the modern world, one which still retains great capacity for good. They also preserved the British identity which over a third of Scots, English, Welsh and Northern Irish consider of primary importance. Had around 200,000 more Scots answered “Yes” to the question “Should Scotland be an independent country”, these precious attributes would have been damaged, or destroyed, and Britain with them.

Beginning with tiny Clackmannanshire, a deprived fief of the separatist Scottish National Party (SNP) in central Scotland, which declared for the union at 1.30am, the No vote held up surprisingly strongly in most of Scotland’s 32 councils. The Gaelic-speaking, SNP-voting Western Isles delivered another early snub to the separatists. Dundee—dubbed by the SNP’s leader, and Scotland’s first minister, Alex Salmond, as the “Yes City”—gave him a rare victory, but on a relatively low turnout, of 79%, and by a narrower-than-expected margin. In Angus and Mr Salmond’s own Aberdeenshire, the Yes campaign suffered defeats in the SNP’s heartland. When, at around 4.30am, mighty Glasgow delivered only a modest win for the Yeses, with 53% of the vote, the verdict was clear.

I hope Holyrood can now get on again with the business of governing Scotland as a part of the UK. Alex Salmond isn't going away, but he's largely done now. Good.

Rule Britannia.

Friday 19 September 2014 09:57:30 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Geography | London | World#
Wednesday 17 September 2014

With only a few hours to go before voting starts in Scotland, things are really weird in the UK:

Has [Prime Minister David Cameron] been on the hustings in Scotland, taking his case to the people? Not exactly:

Sadly, only a small number of Scots got to hear his appeal [last week] directly. That’s because the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom wasn’t actually able to walk the streets of the United Kingdom to deliver his message. He had to stay safely within the confines of a small building for his own security. Yesterday, Ed Miliband, the man who would be the next prime minister of the United Kingdom, also tried to take his case for the Union out onto the streets. And he was chased from those same streets by an angry mob.

You can see the chaos when Miliband tried to walk the streets of Edinburgh here. And, yes, they yelled at him, calling him a “fucking liar” and “serial murderer” (!) to his face. Some of that is from the usual thuggish suspects – but the atmosphere in the campaign has gotten ugly in the past week or so. The one thing that my friends in Britain tell me about politics right now is that there’s enormous discontent with all the major party figures. They seem like a distant metropolitan clique, cushioned in super-safe districts – not real representatives of actual people.

At the moment, No (secession) is ahead by just a bit, but the "undecideds" still make up 10-15% of polling data.

I'll be watching with interest tomorrow. So will tens of millions of Brits.

Wednesday 17 September 2014 11:19:17 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Geography | London | World#
Monday 15 September 2014

No kidding:

“Our study shows that the longer people spend commuting in cars, the worse their psychological well-being,” says Adam Martin from the University of East Anglia. The study, just published in the journal Preventative Medicine, concludes that commuters with “active travel modes” are associated with higher rates of well-being than those who drive or use public transportation. Over an 18-year span, 18,000 British commuters were asked a number of questions to gauge their various levels of “well-being.” The questions ranged from, Have you been feeling unhappy and depressed? to Have you been able to enjoy your day-to-day activities? Responses were then correlated with the type of transportation used to arrive at work. The findings offer additional evidence that active commuters are thought to be happier, more focused workers.

The solution? Walk, even if just for part of the way:

Simply adding ten minutes of walking time to your commute, the study concludes, is associated with a boost in well-being. Importantly, the scientific definition of "well-being" is influenced by work-related traits like problem solving and completing tasks. Therefore, the researchers believe improved well-being also correlates to a more productive worker. The psychological benefits of an active commute appear so significant that driving should be a last resort. Even if you can drive to work in 10 minutes, the study suggests, an hour-long walk may be better for your well-being.

“We conclude that the potential benefits available to car drivers if they switched to active travel, and walking in particular, exceed any potential benefits associated with reducing commuting time,” write the team of researchers.

This is why I get off the bus a few stops early every morning. Oh—and why I live and work in a big city in the first place.

Monday 15 September 2014 11:48:40 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Geography | Travel#
Thursday 11 September 2014

From my first trip to New York, August 1984:

Thursday 11 September 2014 08:51:18 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Geography | US | World | Religion | Travel#
Friday 5 September 2014

CityLab's Kriston Capps wants to stop Florentijn Hofman:

The Dutch artist has just debuted, and I cannot believe I am about to write this word, HippopoThames, a wooden hippo river sculpture headlining a festival on the Thames. At least, that's what it's doing this week. In the months to come, you might find it on the Yangtze or the Ganges or the Rhône.

Rubber Duck, on the other hand—that's the floatation for which Hofman is best known—is a decidedly Western fixture. Los Angeles sculptor Peter Ganine patented the design for the original toy duck in 1947 and went on to sell millions of them. A generation later, Jim Henson breathed life into the rubber duckie with the greatest song about bath time ever recorded: "Rubber Duckie" only lost the 1971 Grammy Award for best children's recording because the statue went to the full Sesame Street album featuring the song.

Cities that cash in with Rubber Duck are outsourcing their public art, meaning they aren't doing their artists or themselves any favors in the long run. In the same sense that building another Ferris wheel is a sure bet—if one that emblandens a city—tugging the same old Holman into the bay is a lost opportunity for a place to reach for greatness. Creativity is and ought to be a source of pride for cities as diverse as London, Beijing, and Los Angeles—and an engine for their economies. When I see images of it floating in a new harbor, I can almost hear Rubber Duck whispering, in a raspy duck voice: The place you love is no more.

The worst part of this story is, now I've got the Bert & Ernie song in my head...

Friday 5 September 2014 13:28:42 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Geography | Kitchen Sink#
Wednesday 3 September 2014

The Atlantic's CityLab blog looks at American streetcars and finds that infrequent service and slow speeds are their main problems:

Very few next-generation streetcar lines run with the sort of frequency that might counterbalance slow speeds or short distances. In a very smart post at his Transport Politic blog a couple weeks back, Yonah Freemark lamented that many U.S. streetcar (and, to be fair, light rail) systems built since 2000 fail to meet minimal service standards—often running just a few times an hour.

Good public transportation requires trains or buses to run every 10 or 12 minutes, five or six times an hour. Only two streetcars (Tacoma and Tucson) hit this mark. It's perhaps no coincidence that the brand new Tucson line also met its early ridership projections, even after ending a brief free-ride campaign and even before University of Arizona students were back on campus.

It's almost cargo-cult urban planning. Some streetcar systems—notably New Orleans'—work very well. So naturally urban planners saw streetcars as a way to improve central cities. But through lack of funding or lack of comprehension, they implemented the systems inadequately.

Of course, much of this comes from an inability to address the biggest issue with modern American infrastructure: we beatify cars. Maybe thinking about how to get people from one place to another without cars might help.

Wednesday 3 September 2014 11:34:52 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Geography | US | Travel#
Tuesday 2 September 2014

My new Android phone has a built in-GPS and a fairly large Google Maps cache. I'm sure this is true of other phones, but not of my old Windows phone, so until this past trip I couldn't do this:

And then, a few seconds later, I could do this:

I love this phone.

Tuesday 2 September 2014 15:48:34 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Geography | Cool links#
Saturday 30 August 2014

The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates spent seven weeks this summer at an immersion French course at Middlebury College:

I was there to improve my French. My study consisted of four hours of class work and four hours of homework. I was forbidden from reading, writing, speaking, or hearing English. I watched films in French, tried to read a story in Le Monde each day, listened to RFI and a lot of Barbara and Karim Oullet. At every meal I spoke French, and over the course of the seven weeks I felt myself gradually losing touch with the broader world. This was not a wholly unpleasant feeling. In the moments I had to speak English (calling my wife, interacting with folks in town or at the book store), my mouth felt alien and my ear slightly off.

he majority of people I interacted with spoke better, wrote better, read better, and heard better than me. There was no escape from my ineptitude. At every waking hour, someone said something to me that I did not understand. At every waking hour, I mangled some poor Frenchman’s lovely language. For the entire summer, I lived by two words: “Désolé, encore.”

From this he examines scholastic opportunity and achievement, how different ethnic groups approach intellectuals in their midst, and class conflict in general, as only Coates can. It's a good read.

Saturday 30 August 2014 10:26:01 PDT (UTC-07:00)  |  | Geography | US | World#
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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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