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Monday 15 September 2014

Yesterday I got accepted into the Apollo Chorus in Chicago.

Apollo performs Händel's "Messiah" every year at Chicago's Orchestra Hall. This year we're also doing Schubert's Mass in A-flat, plus a number of South American works in the spring, plus a performance to celebrate the Auditorium Theater's 125th anniversary.

I'll have more as the season goes on.

Oh, and: subscribe!

Monday 15 September 2014 11:26:31 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Kitchen Sink#
Thursday 11 September 2014

The Chicagoist reports that new FDA regulations may curdle the raw-cheese market:

...due to the FDA’s decision to change the allowance for non-toxigenic Escherichia coli (E. coli) in dairy products. Non-toxigenic E. coli is a typically harmless bacterium found in the human gastrointestinal tracts as well as in raw milk cheeses. Recently, the FDA changed their allowance for this bacteria from a Most Probable Number (MPN) of 100 per gram, a fairly average amount in raw cheese, to 10 MPN per gram. Because of this drastic decrease, Roquefort and other cheeses such as raw milk versions of Morbier and Tommes de Savoie are now on Import Alert. The cheeses are held on Detention without Physical Examination, the FDA's infamous "red list."

The FDA is detaining the raw milk cheeses in order to take at least 1,600 samples. Their goal is to determine how often certain foods, specifically raw milk cheeses, are liable to become contaminated under the new definition. ... The FDA wrote this letter to the American Cheese Society, outlining their objectives in this study.

Fortunately, the U.K. still exists allows raw cheeses to be sold. Unfortunately, the U.K. still has a bit of BSE floating around....

Thursday 11 September 2014 13:40:23 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Saturday 6 September 2014

Birthday dinner last night at Tru followed by burlesque. I have wonderful friends.

Saturday 6 September 2014 11:19:54 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Kitchen Sink#
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#
Thursday 28 August 2014

On those rare occasions when I opt for it, I usually enjoy having in-flight WiFi. At this particular moment, however, I'm staring down another two hours of flying time with WiFi throughput under 200 kbps. That speed reminds me of the late 1990s. You know, half the Web ago.

This is painful. I'm not streaming video, nor am I connected to a remote server like the guy next to me. I'm just trying to get some documents written. I believe I will have to write a complaint to GoGo Inflight, as this throughput is completely unacceptable.

But enough about that minor sadness; I've found something truly horrible.

Everyone who took English 1 at my college had to read George Orwell's Politics and the English Language. (I would actually extend this mandate to everyone on the planet who speaks English if I had the power.) In the essay, Orwell calls out a specific passage from Ecclesiastes to show how business English can destroy thought:

I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

He renders it in modern English thus:

Objective considerations of contemporary phenomena compel the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account.

Two things. First, "modern" English in 1946 seems a lot like modern English in 2014. Frighteningly so.

Second, there are worse translations of that passage in actual, printed Bibles. Now, I'm not a religious person, as even a causal reader of this blog knows. But I have an appreciation for language. So it pains me to see that some people learned Ecclesiastes 9:11 like this:

I saw something else under the sun. The race isn't [won] by fast runners, or the battle by heroes. Wise people don't necessarily have food. Intelligent people don't necessarily have riches, and skilled people don't necessarily receive special treatment. But time and unpredictable events overtake all of them.

("GOD'S WORD® Translation")

Or this:

I have observed something else under the sun. The fastest runner doesn't always win the race, and the strongest warrior doesn't always win the battle. The wise sometimes go hungry, and the skillful are not necessarily wealthy. And those who are educated don't always lead successful lives. It is all decided by chance, by being in the right place at the right time.

NO! No, no, NO! This isn't a children's book. Why does anyone need to dumb it down? I mean, fine, vernacular and all, but can't we at least keep the poetry?

It's no wonder the religious right have such poor cognitive skills. The one book they were allowed to read as children has been reduced to pabulum.

Thursday 28 August 2014 17:57:34 MDT (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation | Kitchen Sink | US | World#
Monday 25 August 2014

Someimes—rarely—I disconnect for a couple of days. This past weekend I basically just hung out, walked my dog, went shopping, and had a perfectly nice absence from the Web.

Unfortunately that meant I had something like 200 RSS articles to plough through, and I just couldn't bring myself to stop dealing with (most) emails. And I have a few articles to read:

Now back to your regularly-scheduled week, already in progress...

Monday 25 August 2014 12:25:01 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Baseball | Chicago | Kitchen Sink | US | World | Travel#
Monday 18 August 2014

And wow, is it frustrating.

I mentioned last week that my cousin, a professional musician, had replaced his old stage piano and given me the old one. I implied but never stated explicitly that I took many years of piano lessons as a child, ending about 30 years ago. Off and on since then I've picked up some music and banged away at it in a practice room—I was a music major for a year, after all—but I haven't done anything of significance in such a long time I'd almost forgotten what it was like.

So I've been practicing again, and it's incredibly frustrating.

Take Petzold's simple Menuet in G that ever kid learns. In only two or three playings, I could get my right and left hands to sail through it independently at about 132 to the quarter note. Putting them together even at 108 was excruciating, however. Fingers on one hand would fire out of sequence while the other hand stammered along like a wounded cicada; transitions I'd practiced two dozen times would fall apart for no reason; my mind would go blank for half a second causing the whole edifice to fall. And this is the 16-bar Petzold menuet, not a freakin' prelude and fugue, FFS.

Yes, this is normal, I know. It's just that I'd forgotten. And also that I'm doing pieces every 10-year-old can do. But after only a couple of hours, I got two Petzold menuets back to fighting strength (at least until the next time I practiced), so it's more encouraging than discouraging.

And finally, I'm experiencing the chagrin that adults have always felt. Remember when your parents told your teenaged ass you'd kick yourself for giving up piano/horseback riding/competitive Yahtzee when you got older? They were right.

Monday 18 August 2014 11:43:48 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Wednesday 13 August 2014

Really a sad week in American entertainment. Lauren Bacall died today at 89.

If you haven't seen To Have and Have Not, stream it tonight:

Tuesday 12 August 2014 22:12:12 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Tuesday 12 August 2014

Shazbat.

A friend sends this clip:

Monday 11 August 2014 23:11:20 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Monday 11 August 2014

Crain's has a good summary today of new moderate-alcohol beers that craft brewers in the area are making:

In June, Temperance Beer Co. released the first batch of Greenwood Beach Blonde, a creamy ale that checks in at 4 percent alcohol. The beer became the Evanston brewery's second-most popular, and the first batch sold out so quickly at Temperance's taproom that owner Josh Gilbert decided to broaden his focus: When Temperance made a second batch last week, it was immediately canned and sent to distributors.

The session-beer trend isn't limited to upstart microbreweries. Some of the largest craft breweries—including Founders Brewing Co. of Grand Rapids, Michigan; Deschutes Brewery Inc. of Bend, Oregon; and Lagunitas Brewing Co. of Petaluma, California, whose Midwest and East Coast operations are based in Douglas Park—now are making ales with less than 5 percent alcohol content year-round.

Premier local breweries such as 3 Floyds Brewing Co. of Munster, Indiana, and Two Brothers Brewing Co. in Warrenville are marketing session brews, and this summer Half Acre Beer Co. in Chicago's North Center neighborhood collaborated on a session ale with a brewery in Maine. The king of lagers, Anheuser-Busch InBev NV, is filling out its line of ballpark beers with Endless IPA from Goose Island, a limited-run ale with a 5 percent alcohol content.

I've had a couple of these, including Lagunitas All-Day IPA and even the InBev Endless IPA. I've also written about English craft beers that fall into the American "session" category because most English beers are 5% or so anyway. Even my go-to Belhaven Twisted Thistle is only 5.3% ABV.

I always knew the hop-and-high-alcohol fetish beers would give way in time to much more drinkable brews. I'm glad the market has responded so quickly and affirmatively.

Monday 11 August 2014 12:16:31 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Best Bars | Chicago | Kitchen Sink | London#
Sunday 10 August 2014

My cousin, a professional musician, parted with his stage piano recently, so now I have it. Since I last took piano lessons during the Reagan administration, I worried I'd have to start from scratch.

Nope. I remember a lot of the pieces I worked on as a kid (mainly from the Anna Magdalena Bach notebook), and I'm even making some of the same errors I did back then. It's pretty cool. And I found most of my old books, including exercises, which I'm also doing just fine except that my hands aren't as strong as they were when I played every day.

My goal for the remainder of this year is to get back to the level of skill I had in 1983. We'll see.

Sunday 10 August 2014 17:14:06 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Saturday 9 August 2014

As a city boy, the country occasionally surprises me. The Cleveland client has an office well outside Cleveland in rural Geauga County where we've spent some time over the last few weeks. One of the senior guys there hunts. And this is how I got to taste fresh, smoked pheasant last week—complete with a warning about birdshot:

Saturday 9 August 2014 09:29:09 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Travel | Work#
Thursday 7 August 2014

- There's something very important I forgot to tell you.

- What?

- Don't reboot Ghostbusters.

- Why?

- It would be bad.

- Look, I'm fuzzy on the whole good-bad thing. What do you mean 'bad?'

- Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light.

- Total studio reversal!

- Right. That's bad. Okay. All right. Important safety tip. Thanks, Egon.

Wednesday 6 August 2014 22:21:47 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Wednesday 6 August 2014

New York Times writer Tim Kreider reflects on his 19-year-relationship with a stray cat he adopted while on vacation:

Biologists call cats “exploitive captives,” an evocative phrase that might be used to describe a lot of relationships, not all of them interspecies. I made the mistake, early on, of feeding the cat first thing in the morning, forgetting that the cat could control when I woke up — by meowing politely, sitting on my chest and staring at me, nudging me insistently with her face, or placing a single claw on my lip.

WHENEVER I felt embarrassed about factoring a house pet’s desires into major life decisions, some grown-up-sounding part of me told myself, it’s just a cat. It’s generally believed that animals lack what we call consciousness, although we can’t quite agree on what exactly this is, and how we can pretend to any certainty about what goes on in an animal’s head has never been made clear to me. To anyone who has spent time with an animal, the notion that they have no interior lives seems so counterintuitive, such an obdurate denial of the empathetically self-evident, as to be almost psychotic. I suspect that some of those same psychological mechanisms must have allowed people to rationalize owning other people.

We don’t know what goes on inside an animal’s head; we may doubt whether they have anything we’d call consciousness, and we can’t know how much they understand or what their emotions feel like. I will never know what, if anything, the cat thought of me. But I can tell you this: A man who is in a room with a cat — whatever else we might say about that man — is not alone.

Kreider's blog post made me think about the way two of my closest friends have (or had) cats, whom they called "Cat." One explained further: "It's not his name, it's his role."

Wednesday 6 August 2014 14:27:09 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Tuesday 5 August 2014

Two housekeeping items.

Number 1: Walking to the airport. I finally found a path through the parking garage that looks intentionally constructed. It took me about a city block out of my way, but also prevented me getting run over by cars.

Number 2: Suburbistan dinner options. Thanks in part to Yelp, I wound up at Taza Lebanese Grill in Woodmere, Ohio. I'll write a Yelp review later this week. In sum: very good hummus, tasty kifteh, and bold-as-brass sparrows that actually took pita right off my table. Because honey sparrow don't care.

Tuesday 5 August 2014 08:37:15 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Travel | Work#
Monday 4 August 2014

We put in ridiculous hours last week on my Cleveland project so that today we only had to polish and sand a few spots to feel like we're in a good place for a client presentation first thing tomorrow. So tonight my PM is heading to a workout class and I'm having a good dinner.

To that end, though: what in the world did people do before Yelp?

I'll tell you what we did: we had lots of bad meals while traveling. Even out here in the buttskirts of Cleveland, Yelp has located at least three restaurants worth trying. And I will.

Meanwhile, walking distance from my hotel—that means, within this shopping center, because I'm surrounded on four sides by unwalkable roads—are Chipotle, Abuelos, Chik-fil-A, and Olive Garden. So: thank you, Yelp. I mean it.

Monday 4 August 2014 18:07:12 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Travel | Work#

From my hotel room right now I can see the A-concourse at Cleveland Hopkins Airport about 500 m away. Between here and there is a parking lot and the terminal access road. The setup isn't fundamentally different from the location of the O'Hare Hilton, except a few trees and traffic levels. Oh, and the walkway.

The O'Hare hotel connects directly to all three terminals via underground walkway as well as surface paths through or around the parking structure. In other words, a traveler can walk from his plane to the O'Hare Hilton directly, without taking his life into his hands.

Not so here. Look (click for full size):

If you walk along the terminal access road, you run out of sidewalk by the first curve. Somehow there's a path through the parking structure, but again, once you get to the edge of the parking lot southeast of the structure, you're climbing through sod and ground cover to get to the hotel's ring road.

Still, I did it last night, and from my gate to the hotel took 17 minutes. Last time, when I waited for the hotel shuttle bus, it took twice as long. Fortunately it didn't rain either time, but if it had rained, waiting for the shuttle bus would have been damper.

Now I've got to catch the rental car shuttle, which picks up back at the terminal, so I'll have to pick my way across the parking lot and parking structure until I find a way though to the pick-up spot. Because no one wanted to build a sidewalk to bridge the one-block chasm between the hotel and the airport.

Related: NPR reported this morning that our food intake hasn't changed in 10 years; we're all getting fat because we don't walk enough.

Monday 4 August 2014 08:15:07 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Aviation | Geography | Kitchen Sink | Travel#

Nah, I've just been super-busy the past few days. Regular posting should resume shortly—depending on how this week in Cleveland goes.

Sunday 3 August 2014 21:39:35 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Blogs#
Tuesday 29 July 2014

Client deliverables and tonight's Cubs game have compressed my day a little. Here's what I haven't had time to read:

Now back to the deliverable...

Tuesday 29 July 2014 12:00:52 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Geography | Kitchen Sink | US | Weather#
Sunday 27 July 2014

I love these guys. The indie duo Pomplamoose are back on tour after this coming Tuesday's album release.

Jack Conte, one half of the group—he and band-mate Nataly Dawn are also partners in real life—founded Patreon last year. The site brings patrons together with artists. I'm not the only one supporting Pomplamoose. My $5 is one of 1,600 pledges totaling more than $5,600 per video, enabling them to (a) eat and (b) produce really slick videos. Here's their latest, showing that you really don't need autotune if you have a great voice:

Sunday 27 July 2014 11:11:23 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#

Via Sullivan yesterday evening—and for no other reason—I'm passing on an old Baffler article about the morning after:

There’s certainly nothing pious or heroic in a hangover. But, trapped in its clutches, you can begin to see it as a wonderful counterbalance, an essential link in the rhythm of life, a stern ebb to an indecorous flow. The hangover is what prompts you to vow, as you fester with your cellmates in that island sanitarium of the demetabolized, “I will never drink again.” Without its vengeful wrath, only guilt would be left to direct us to moderation. For Jack Kerouac, Dylan Thomas, and countless others whose lives met premature and tragic closures, the end may have come even sooner had they never had to cruise the ghastly straits of detoxification. And what of the proud, local folklore of the hangover remedy, or the pathetic morning embrace of the “hair of the dog?” Would the word that has been used so aptly to describe the aftereffects of sprees like Laffer’s 1980s slowly lose its resonance and vanish?

[Kingsley] Amis, the poet laureate of the hangover, was one of the few to fathom its intricacies and divine its transcendent qualities—to find, if you will, the spiritual in the spirits. The hangover, he wrote once, is no mere physical affliction, but a “unique route to self-knowledge and self-realization.” This is usually lost on sufferers of the “physical hangover,” obsessed as they are with feeling fresh again. But as they spend the morning shuffling through the Sunday supplements, unable to finish the simplest articles, drinking tomato juice as the sunlight stalks the living room floor, on come those colossal feelings of guilt, inadequacy, and shame—the metaphysical hangover. The best, and really the only, cure for this condition is to simply acknowledge your physical hangover for what it is, rather than attributing these unsettling thoughts to your job or to your relationship. As Amis puts it, “He who truly believes he has a hangover has no hangover.”

More seriously, it's interesting that medicine still doesn't understand the physiology of hangovers. The best guess is that alcohol (ethanol) metabolizes into acetaldehyde, which affects the way the body uses glucose and water. Drinks also contain varying amounts of methanol, which breaks down into formaldehyde, something you really don't want in your bloodstream.

Preventing hangovers is simple: limit drinking. Water, NSAIDs, and caffeine can reduce hangover symptoms, and there seems to be some truth in the notion that fatty foods can prevent ethanlo absorption in the first place. Otherwise, as ever, moderation works.

Sunday 27 July 2014 09:45:11 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Tuesday 22 July 2014

Downloading to my Kindle right now:

...and a few articles I found last week that just made it onto my Kindle tonight.

Oh, and I almost forgot: today is the 80th anniversary of John Dillinger's death just six blocks from where I now live.

Tuesday 22 July 2014 18:22:54 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Geography | Kitchen Sink | Parker | US#
Thursday 17 July 2014

The Atlantic's CityLab blog, of course:

For all the monorail enthusiasts out there just now learning that New York once had its own single-track wonder, put your excitement on hold. For on this date in 1910, during its inaugural journey, the monorail lurched over, sending scores of people to the hospital.

The painful incident can be traced to the slick salesmanship of one Howard Tunis, who did so well demonstrating his novel design for an electric monorail at a 1907 exposition in Virginia that he gained the attention of the Interborough Rapid Transit Company. The IRT, the original operator of New York's subway line, asked Tunis if he could assemble a similar prototype for use up north. That the inventor did, and soon enough it was ready on a track stretching from a railroad station on the borough's mainland a short distance down to City Island.

Now, if I only had time to read the article...

Thursday 17 July 2014 06:31:22 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Travel#
Tuesday 15 July 2014

For once I'm not ranting about politics. No, check out these spite houses:

About a century ago, a Bay Area man named Charles Froling was just learning that he wouldn't be able to build his dream house. An inheritance had gifted him a sizable chunk of land, but municipal elders in the City of Alameda had decided to appropriate most of it to extend a street. So Froling sadly rolled up his blueprints and murmured, "Ah well, that's life."

No, of course he didn't do that. Having a constitution made from equal parts righteous indignation and pickle juice, the frustrated property owner took what little land he had left and erected a stilted, utterly ridiculous abode. The house measured 54 feet long but only 10 feet wide, as if a tornado had blown away two-thirds of the original structure.

They have art. I can't tell if the houses depicted are cozy or horrifying, though.

Tuesday 15 July 2014 16:47:13 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Geography | Kitchen Sink#
Thursday 10 July 2014

Tatiana Maslany, who plays Sarah Manning (and Alison, Cosima, Helena, Rachel, etc.) on BBCA's "Orphan Black," was not nominated for an Emmy award this morning. Before hearing from the critics why this pretty much invalidates the Best Actress category this year, take a look:

The Toronto Sun leads the prosecution:

Emmy Award voters must have broken their clickers.

Had they been able to change the channel every once in a while, they might have run across a Canadian actress named Tatiana Maslany and a show called Orphan Black.

Jokes about broken clickers aside, maybe this actually is a U.S. channel problem.

In Canada, Orphan Black airs on Space, which has a far higher profile in our country, comparatively speaking, than Orphan Black's U.S. network, BBC America, does in the States.

And it also must be noted that Maslany's category – lead actress in a drama – was particularly competitive this year. Keri Russell of The Americans and Elisabeth Moss of Mad Men didn't make the cut, either.

Still, this sucks, Canada.

American critics are disappointed too. Insider daily Hollywood Reporter's Tim Goodman thinks this shows bigger problems in ATAS:

This is not one of those years when Emmy voters get forgiveness on their oversights simply because they seemed to be progressive in a few categories. That's because the rubber-stamping seemed especially gratuitous and the Big Mistakes seemed more prominent and damning.

Tasked with celebrating and rewarding the achievements from within its own industry, Emmy voters continue to come off as half-involved, behind-the-times clock watchers instead of guardians. It's as if the admittedly daunting task of actively sampling the ever-changing content of their own makes them crumble before even making an effort.

I mean, even by the low bar of Emmy standards, 2014 is a real omnishambles.

If you're paying attention at all, Tatiana Maslany from BBC America's Orphan Black is not a dark horse contender anymore. She should have been a slam dunk, not a snub for the second year running. Overlooking The Americans and The Good Wife as best drama is almost startling. In a world where Downton Abbey is going to get a slot, add Masters Of Sex and The Walking Dead to that list.

Part of the yearly problem with the Emmys is the institutional habit of returning an ungodly percentage of past winners into the nomination ranks despite downturns in series quality or superior acting performances from competitors.

And here are just a few things my friends are saying on Facebook:

  • Tatiana Maslany was not nominated for an Emmy. ALL AWARDS ARE NOW INVALID TO THE END OF TIME.
  • WHY IS TATIANA MASLANY NOT ON THIS LIST? Stupid ATAS.
  • I love tofu, esp tofu tacos!

(That last one may not have been, strictly speaking, on point...)

Of course, the Emmys haven't influenced my TV viewing since...well, ever, so I'm not really sure it matters. But what a stupid omission.

Thursday 10 July 2014 13:21:29 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Sunday 6 July 2014

Way back in the Ford and Carter administrations, part of my family lived in Manhattan Beach, Calif., a close-in suburb of L.A. During that period, Steven Spielberg made Jaws.

And then this happened yesterday:

A swimmer was attacked by a shark Saturday morning. The unidentified victim, described as a long-distance swimmer between 35 and 40 years of age, suffered a single bite wound on the right side of his rib cage. He was taken to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center and was described as stable.

Witnesses told authorities that the shark bit the anchovies-and-sardines bait on the hook a fisherman had thrown into the water from the edge of the pier. They said the shark was hooked for about 45 minutes and was thrashing around in the water when he bit the swimmer about 9:30 a.m.

“He was trying to get off the line,” said Capt. Tracy Lizotte, a Los Angeles County lifeguard at the beach. “He was agitated and was probably biting everything in his way and then the swimmer swam right into the shark's line.”

So, sharks rarely attack people, but this one was provoked. OK. But I used to boogie board by that pier.

Sunday 6 July 2014 08:14:07 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Saturday 5 July 2014

Nothing of political or social import this morning. Just a photo from yesterday, of my friend's 20-month-old daughter climbing up a slide. I watched this kid go up and down this slide structure like she owned it. I'm no developmental psychologist, but it sure seemed to me she was way ahead of where a 20-month-old would ordinarily be in spatial reasoning and motor control.

Plus she's damn cute:

Saturday 5 July 2014 08:40:03 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
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#
Saturday 21 June 2014

The flight from New York to Chicago takes two hours in the air, and is on-time if it takes three hours from gate to gate. Yesterday my flight was not on time:

  • Late crew arrival: boarding starts at the scheduled departure time.
  • APU inoperative: mechanic inspection and sign off takes 40 minutes.
  • JFK on a Friday evening: 55 minutes from push-back to take-off.
  • ILS inoperative on one of O'Hare's runways: take a 10-minute holding loop over Michigan.
  • Landing runway 9L: spend 17 minutes taxiing to the gate.
  • Friday night at O'Hare: 35 minutes from gate arrival to bag delivery.
  • Friday night at O'Hare: taxi line takes 20 minutes.
  • Cabbie forgets the biggest traffic news in Chicago: miss two available exits because the Ohio ramp is closed.

Total time from leaving my hotel in New York to arriving at dinner an hour late: 8 hours, 28 minutes. (On average, my door-to-door time from New York is just over 5 hours.)

And none of it was American's fault, except for the bit about being one of 40 airlines to schedule a 5pm departure from Kennedy.

I chose the departure from JFK because, using miles, my options were limited, and spending 20 hours in my third-favorite city in the world seemed like a good end to the week. It wasn't until I tried to leave that random events started conspiring against me.

Still, it was a fun trip. I read four books entirely, got most of the way through one and started a sixth. And I had two new beers at Southampton Arms: Jones the Brewer's Abigail's Party Ale and a special pale whose name I forgot to write down, apparently.

Saturday 21 June 2014 17:30:42 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Kitchen Sink | London | Travel#
Friday 20 June 2014

When I get home I'll post a screen-shot from my phone showing how, at exactly the time I arrived in Manhattan tonight, the only rain cloud within the tri-state area was dumping its contents on Midtown. It felt like being at a Cubs game.

However, the little cloud either dissipated or moved out over the Atlantic in short order, so I discovered that Hotwire had put me in a hotel only two blocks from the airport express bus stop, and within one block of hot, greasy, New York pizza. If I only have one night in New York, that's dinner. Always.

And now, getting up at 3:30 New York time this morning is backing up on me a bit, and the hotel apparently has a 300-baud modem handling its internet[1], so I think I'll crash now.

*plotz*

[1] Seriously, it took several attempts and 25 minutes to post this entry. Google is slow, too, so it's not the Daily Parker—though I am checking the VM right now.

Thursday 19 June 2014 22:49:37 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Travel#
Wednesday 18 June 2014

...but it's really tasty. I ate tonight at Estaminet Chez la Vielle, in Lille, France. The name translates literally to "Little Flemish restaurant at the old woman's house." (An estaminet is like a restaurant, but Flemish. Lille borders Belgium and was, at one point, the biggest city in Flanders. QED.)

It's cute:

And the vol a vent with chicken and mushrooms in a béchamel sauce made my arteries freeze on sight:

Tomorrow I'll have one or two more photos of Lille, as well as an explanation why I get to spend three hours at De Gaulle tomorrow. (Hint: it has nothing to do with aviation.)

Wednesday 18 June 2014 22:18:36 CEST (UTC+02:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Travel#
Saturday 14 June 2014

As of yesterday around 4:15pm, I'm no longer with 10th Magnitude. I start a new role as an architect with West Monroe Partners' technology practice a week from Monday.

So, I'm technically unemployed for nine days. Which means I have lots of free time, right?

Well, later this morning I have a three-hour rehearsal for tomorrow's performance of Verdi's Requiem in Evanston. Tonight I'm going to see Dar Williams Honesty Room tour. And Monday I'm going to Europe for four days.

Maybe I should have scheduled a little down-time...

Saturday 14 June 2014 10:04:31 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Work#
Friday 13 June 2014

I was losing by 118 points to a really good Scrabble player. Then this happened:

That was fun.

Friday 13 June 2014 08:38:14 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | 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#
Tuesday 10 June 2014

Via the Atlantic, how far could the Proclaimers actually walk?

[W]hile "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" does a great job of laying out the folk-rockers' intentions to complete the full thou', it is lousy about providing the specifics of their journey. What direction are they walking, for instance – south toward London, or north to the frigid, rocky shores of the far Highlands? Then there's the problem that if they walked 500 x 2 miles in a straight line from any point in the U.K., they'd hit water. Would they stop and reconsider their travel plans (buy a jet-ski, perhaps)? Or would they keep on walking straight into the briny waves, plodding along the ocean floor to some remote island where their seagull poo-splattered lover is waiting?

It's a catchy song, but it leaves so many questions! Fortunately, there's a guy hard on the case to unravel its mysteries. Kenneth Field is a 40-something cartographic product engineer in Southern California who's made a fun map showing all the places the band could walk to in a 360 degree field if they began in Leith, the birthplace of twin-brother singers Craig and Charlie Reid.

And apparently, if you like that, there's a subreddit of map porn. I'll be back...

Tuesday 10 June 2014 14:20:02 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Geography | Kitchen Sink#
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

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#
Thursday 5 June 2014

Long-time readers know I rarely post directly about my personal life, but this one is kind of big.

After nearly three years, I'm moving from 10th Magnitude to take a new position as a .NET Architect with West Monroe Partners. I've learned a lot working with 10th, and I wish everyone there the best in the future.

I'll have more to say about this in the coming weeks. I'm excited about the change, and looking forward to some totally new challenges with WMP.

Thursday 5 June 2014 13:34:04 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Business | Work#
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#
Sunday 25 May 2014

According to Douglas Adams, every planet in the universe has some variation on the drink gin & tonic. On this planet, the drink may have changed history:

Without quinine, malaria would have felled the conquerors; without gin to alleviate the bitterness of this highly effective anti-malarial, the soldiers would have refused to down their medicine.

The ability to withstand malaria helped Britain to conquer half of Africa and keep India subjugated (more or less). So much misery, engendered by one of the world’s most inspired taste combinations.

Of course, cold gin with a splash of dry vermouth works just fine for those of us in more temperate climates. Put olives in for perfection.

Saturday 24 May 2014 19:04:41 PDT (UTC-07:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Wednesday 21 May 2014

Three more photos from Sunday's publicity shots.

Shaina Summerville and Stephen McClure:

Shaina Summerville and Parker, behaving for about 30 seconds:

Zach Blackwell, Shaina Summerville, and Stephen McClure:

My direction for that last one was, "Imagine something horrible. It's Sarah Palin. She's got a gun. She's coming toward you. And she's naked." They look truly horrified, don't they?

Wednesday 21 May 2014 16:56:34 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Photography#
Tuesday 20 May 2014

Good advice:

Rule 1: You probably shouldn't approach a stranger's dog. Well, ok, that's not exactly true. But you should never simply approach a stranger's dog without asking - from a distance - if it's ok. Some people don't want their dogs to interact with people they come across on the street. Some dogs look well-behaved but when they get around a human that is not their owner, they freak out. Even the most well-behaved dog is still an animal that acts on instinct and could flip out and attack if scared. Keep that in mind.

Rule 2: If you must approach a stranger's dog and the owner gives you permission, you shouldn't simply start petting it. Some dogs are picky about where they like to be touched.

Fortunately for people, Parker is a pushover and likes pats. Unfortunately for people, Parker does not like it when other dogs approach while he's on-leash. And yet stupid people let their dogs pull them towards us while yelling "Can he say hi?" No, he may not say hi, unless you want to pay both vet bills.

So pat Parker, but be careful of strange dogs you meet on the street.

Tuesday 20 May 2014 12:09:06 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Parker#

I've got approval from Spectralia to post some publicity shots from Sunday.

Zach Blackwell:

Shaina Summerville:

Stephen McClure and Shaina Summerville:

More a bit later.

Tuesday 20 May 2014 11:39:55 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Photography#
Monday 12 May 2014

I'm uploading a couple of fixes to Inner-Drive.com right now, so I have a few minutes to read things people have sent me. It takes a while to deploy the site fully, because the Inner Drive Extensible Architecture™ documentation (reg.req.) is quite large—about 3,000 HTML pages. I'd like to web-deploy the changes, but the way Azure cloud services work, any changes deployed that way get overwritten as soon as the instance reboots.

All of the changes to Inner-Drive.com are under the hood. In fact, I didn't change anything at all in the website. But I made a bunch of changes to the Azure support classes, including a much better approach to logging inspired by a conversation I had with my colleague Igor Popirov a couple of weeks ago. I'll go into more details later, but suffice it to say, there are some people who can give you more ideas in one sentence than you can get in a year of reading blogs, and he's one of them.

So, while sitting here at my remote office waiting for bits to upload, I encountered these things:

  • The bartender's iPod played "Bette Davis Eyes" which immediately sent me back to this.
  • Andrew Sullivan pointed me (and everyone else who reads his blog) towards the ultimate Boomer fantasy, the live-foreverists. (At some point in the near future I'm going to write about how much X-ers hate picking up after both Boomers and Millennials, and how this fits right in. Just, not right now.)
  • Slate's Jamelle Bouie belives Wisconsin's voter rights decision is a win for our cause. ("Our" in this case includes those who believe retail voter fraud is so rare as to be a laughable excuse for denying a sizable portion of the population their voting rights, especially when the people denied voting rights tend to be the exact people who Republicans would prefer not to vote.)

OK, the software is deployed, and I need to walk Parker now. Maybe I'll read all these things after Game of Thrones.

Sunday 11 May 2014 21:15:29 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | US | Software | Business | Windows Azure#
Monday 5 May 2014

...these:

More later.

Monday 5 May 2014 13:24:16 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Kitchen Sink | US | Religion#
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#
Monday 28 April 2014

Or, a few reasons why the "Send to Kindle" button helps me get through the day:

Monday 28 April 2014 12:35:41 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | US | Travel | Work#
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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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