Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
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Wednesday 26 August 2015

Chicago has five of the 20 most-congested roads in the U.S.:

Drivers in the northeastern Illinois-northwest Indiana region suffered the misery of 61 extra hours behind the wheel on average in 2014 — equivalent to a week and a half of work — because of delays caused by gridlock, construction zones and collisions that tied up traffic, according to the Urban Mobility Scorecard released late Tuesday by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute.

The Los Angeles area took the top three spots on the congestion scorecard last year. Locally, different stretches of the Kennedy and Dan Ryan Expressways (Interstate 90/94) gave motorists the biggest headaches, accounting for three spots in the top 20. Two areas on the Eisenhower Expressway (I-290) also were among the 20 most congested.

Coming in at No. 4 nationally was I-90/94 westbound from 35th Street to the Edens junction. The report noted that 4 p.m. on Fridays tended to be the worst time to be driving on the 13-mile section of road where average speeds were as slow as 16 mph. The eastbound stretch from Montrose Avenue to Ruble Street, just south of Roosevelt Road, ranked seventh nationally.

Chicago also ranks #3 in total travel delay (302.6 million hours) and cost of truck congestion ($1.5 bn). But the 1.6 million CTA rides and 300,000 Metra (heavy rail) rides every weekday probably prevent Chicago from becoming a true dystopia, like Dallas.

Wednesday 26 August 2015 15:24:01 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | US | Travel#
Wednesday 19 August 2015

W00t!

[M]any of the 4m Britons who travel to the United States each year will no doubt be delighted to hear of a plan to station American immigration officers at two British airports, London Heathrow and Manchester. These will process travellers before they leave the country, and with luck considerably speed up entrance at the other end. And, as the Telegraph goes on, processing people before they board the plane would be popular on both sides of the pond....

Pre-arrival clearance has been available for those flying from, or refuelling at, Shannon airport in Ireland for some time. This was one of the bonuses benefits of IAG, the parent of British Airways, acquiring Aer Lingus, an Irish carrier. Eight other European airports may also be included in the scheme, reports the Telegraph, including Schiphol in Amsterdam, Madrid-Barajas and Arlanda Airport in Stockholm. Still, it will probably take two years for officials on both sides of the Atlantic to agree upon and then implement the scheme in Britain. And, of course, there is always the danger that the immigration officers that are sent over here will be just as surly and incompetent as those they employ at home. But let’s stay optimistic.

The other benefit to pre-clearance is that travelers will be able to connect directly to domestic flights in the U.S. Right now, people going from London to, say, Des Moines, have to land at O'Hare, go through customs and immigration in Terminal 5, and then re-check their bags and go through security in whatever domestic terminal they're leaving from. This makes the minimum sane connection time about two hours. With pre-clearance, passengers can get off their plane and walk a few gates over to their connecting flight.

For me, though, it'll probably only save about fifteen minutes, thanks to Global Entry. (If you travel outside the U.S. more than once a year, definitely apply for this program.)

It's not clear when this will actually happen. There are challenges. The Department of Homeland Security has not yet announced a date for implementation.

Wednesday 19 August 2015 13:44:09 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | London | US | Travel#
Tuesday 18 August 2015

The point of the Illinois State Fair is food. Despite most people in the state living in urban or suburban areas, most of the state's area is agricultural. So when one goes to the fair, one eats. A lot.

That said, a remarkable proportion of food choices at the fair are fried meats. Even in the "ethnic village" section, where ostensibly they have about 20 different cuisines represented, things aren't quite...ethnic:

At least this year the Romanian kiosk wasn't covered in vampires. But still...not sure what's Romanian about elephant ears and polenta.

Also, we observed a skunk slink under a wall into the Greek kiosk after it closed. I sure hope he left before they opened the next morning.

Tuesday 18 August 2015 17:27:26 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Geography | Kitchen Sink | Travel#
Monday 17 August 2015

Another consequence to a four-hour drive and lots of household chores yesterday was my first Fitbit goal miss since June 6th. I only got 8,000 steps yesterday, after exceeding 10,000 steps for the last 71 days straight. It was also the fewest steps I've gotten since May 29th. I traveled on all three days, which explains the correlation: lots of sitting in vehicles and not a lot of opportunity to move.

It didn't help that the temperature has hovered around 32°C for the past few days, forecast to cool off tomorrow or Wednesday.

Still, I hate missing goals, even arbitrary ones like this. Fortunately, since June 6th, I've averaged around 14,000 steps per day, so one day under 10,000 won't defeat my fitness plan.

Monday 17 August 2015 14:25:21 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Travel | Weather#

Saturday I promised Illinois State Fair photos "tomorrow." Yesterday I drove home, and for a variety of reasons (including having to do everything I ordinarily do on weekends Sunday evening), didn't look at any of them.

They're not that great, unfortunately. I'm not happy with the light nor with the visual interest. So all I have for you is this one:

Also, here's Peter Scott, lead vocalist for Captain Geech and the Shrimp Shack Shooters, an impressive local Springfield cover band:

I may post some of the less-interesting shots later.

Monday 17 August 2015 12:20:24 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Photography | Travel#
Saturday 15 August 2015

I'm at the—no kidding—state fair. It's warm. And way outside my normal life. But I did see the butter cow, so it's worth the trip.

Full report tomorrow.

Saturday 15 August 2015 16:57:08 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Travel#
Friday 14 August 2015

Via IFLS, the Independent reported yesterday that the Prime Meridian is not at 0°W:

Every year, hundreds of thousands of tourists from all over the world descend on the Royal Observatory in Greenwich to pose for a photograph astride the Prime Meridian, the famous line which divides the eastern and western hemispheres of the earth.

There is just one problem: according to modern GPS systems, the line actually lies more than 100 metres to the east, cutting across a nondescript footpath in Greenwich Park near a litter bin. Now scientists have explained why – and it all comes down to advances in technology.

According to a newly published paper on the discrepancy, which has existed for many years, tourists who visit the observatory at Greenwich often discover that they “must walk east approximately 102 meters before their satellite navigation receivers indicate zero longitude”.

I've visited the Royal Greenwich Observatory a couple of times, first in 2001. This sign was inaccurate then, but most people didn't realize it:

If you look at that photo's metadata, you can see the GPS location that I added using the mapping feature of Adobe Lightroom. According to Google Maps, the monument is actually at 0°0'5"W.

But the Prime Meridian was always primarily a reference point for time, not space, and therefore is exactly in the right place. As a commenter on the IFLS post pointed out:

The article uses the term "wrong" when in actuality Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) is still based on the Prime Meridian, though with the network of atomic clocks it isn't used much anymore, however the marker itself is very much in the right place. It is just when you use the coordinates on a GPS you end up at a different location. This is because GPS doesn't use the Prime Meridian as a starting point. GPS uses multiple locations all across the globe as anchor points in which to triangulate a location from called the geodetic system. The system does not rely on fixed straight lines as we see on a map but rather contours to the physical and gravitational shape of the Earth. So in essence just as the gig line (navy term) of my shirt doesn't lie straight and flat across by oversized 50 year old belly neither does the imaginary geodetic lines. These imaginary lines if drawn on a map would deviate east and west and would appear wavy. In the end, it is not about being wrong (as the article implies) but rather why do the two systems not match up.

(See? Sometimes comments on the Internet are reasoned and mostly correct.)

And this is science, too. As the Royal Observatory's public astronomer Dr Marek Kukula told the Independent, “We’re forever telling this story, making the point that as we refine our measurements and get better technology of course these things change, because we want to have the best possible data."

As a bonus, here's a photo from my most recent visit, in 2009. Look at all the tourists lining up on the 5-seconds-west line:

Friday 14 August 2015 16:27:49 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Geography | London | Travel | Astronomy#
Thursday 13 August 2015

I go through Heathrow often enough that this pisses me off:

To the anger of many travellers, some airport concessions have been reclaiming taxes on purchases for consumption outside the European Union (EU) rather than passing the saving onto the shopper. The wheeze is simple. When you line up with your sandwich, suncream and bottled water, checkout operators ask to scan your boarding pass. If it is for travel within the EU then the VAT, or sales tax, goes to the government. If it is for travel outside the EU then it should be tax free, but the shop charges you the same price and pockets the difference—20% of the retail price.

The practice is legal but many think it downright dishonest. Travellers who ask why they need to produce boarding passes for items as innocuous as chewing gum are often told that it is for "airport security". Unsurprisingly, never, in Gulliver’s experience, have they said that it is actually so they can pocket the tax differential. The practice has prompted a backlash. David Gauke, a treasury minister, said the tax-relief measures were designed to be passed onto the consumer, not pocketed by the retailer.

I usually don't buy much in the cavernous post-security shopping mall, but the next time I do—potentially three weeks from Sunday—I'm going to be more vigilant.

Thursday 13 August 2015 13:11:30 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | London | Travel#
Tuesday 11 August 2015

For my upcoming trip to London I have once again planned a trip to West Sussex. I last visited six years ago this week, and walked along the River Arun and through the village of Amberley before refreshing at The Bridge Inn and heading back to London.

For just £13 I've booked a train not to Amberley, but one stop further, to Arundel, on my birthday. The plan is to walk through the village, past Arundel Castle, and then on various footpaths up the River Arun to Amberley and, yes, the Bridge Inn.

Wow, I hope it doesn't rain.

This is all part of a plan to catch up on reading, you see. And to catch up on cheese and onions crisps, which are hard to find in the U.S.

Tuesday 11 August 2015 11:05:11 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | London | Travel#
Sunday 9 August 2015

After not going to a Renaissance Faire in so long I don't even remember my last visit, it was fun going three times this summer, each with a different group of people. Yesterday was Steampunk Invasion, which attracted crowds one of the more regular Faire attendees in our group called "epic."

Great costumes though:

I didn't do real costumes myself this season, but I have been informed that next season, there will be a costume, oh yes, there will. This should be interesting...

Sunday 9 August 2015 09:20:17 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Photography | Travel#
Friday 7 August 2015

Traveling to San Francisco and London as often as I do underscores to me how crappy some things are in Chicago. Take our ridiculous transit fare systems. Metra, the heavy-rail system, still uses little paper tickets, while Ventra only works on CTA buses and trains. I want one card that would let me tap in and tap out of any public transit service in the city.

Citylab says this may be coming soon, at least to some cities:

Unified mobile ticketing means riders no longer need to worry about having the right change for the bus, or having time to buy a train ticket at the station after hitting a major traffic jam. And there’s seamless transitioning between modes of transit. But the digitization creates a lot of savings for the transit agencies themselves.

Then there’s the data. When transit operators have a massive live stream of data on how many people are buying tickets, where they are, where they’re headed, it allows for much more responsive management. They can tweak bus routes based on how the customers actually buy bus tickets and ride. Granted, this approach can’t truly transform American cities until everyone has access to the critical technology.

Given the speed of technological change in Chicago, we can probably expect this in the mid-2040s.

Friday 7 August 2015 14:20:07 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | US | Travel#
Tuesday 28 July 2015

I really love my camera:

Tuesday 28 July 2015 14:19:26 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Baseball | Photography | Travel#

While in Phoenix, I took an unscheduled side-trip to Rúla Búla in Tempe:

The bar features prominently in Kevin Hearne's Iron Druid series, which one of my oldest surviving friends turned me on to about a year ago. In the series, the protagonist frequents the bar, including at one point to buy a shot for Jesus. (Yes, that Jesus, in one of the funniest scenes in the novels.)

Since I was only 18 km away, I just had to make a field trip. I did not, alas, have the fabled fish and chips, so I'll never know if they're better than the Duke's.

Tuesday 28 July 2015 13:59:53 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Baseball | Kitchen Sink | Travel#
Monday 27 July 2015

Why would anyone go to Arizona in July? A geas. On Friday I visited Park #26:

The trip also gave me a chance to take my 7D Mark II for a spin. Sitting 18 rows behind the Diamondbacks' dugout, I was able to get photos like this, no problem:

Let's take a closer look, yes? This is at ISO-3200, 1/500 at f/5.6, from about 100 meters away:

Cool, right?

More photos of the game and of my field trip to Tempe later.

Monday 27 July 2015 14:50:45 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Baseball | Photography | Travel#
Monday 20 July 2015

During the first half of 2015, I took four trips, slightly fewer than the 22 I took in the second half of 2014. As of today I have four scheduled in the next three months—still not a huge number by historical standards.

This coming weekend I'm restarting the 30-Park Geas. Then from mid-August to mid-September I've got trips planned to downstate Illinois, London, and San Francisco, the last one to attend the Dreamforce conference.

It's still murder on my EQM numbers. It will hurt in 2016 if I can't somehow fly about 11,000 miles farther than I have planned through the end of 2015. Once you've gotten platinum status, you never want to go back.

Monday 20 July 2015 13:16:30 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Business | Travel | Work#
Thursday 9 July 2015

The Atlantic's CityLab blog has a host:

Train stations in America span all the styles of architecture this nation has to offer. There’s the the gorgeous Italianate train station in Jackson, Michigan. The Amtrak station in Raton, New Mexico, is a beautiful example of Mission Revival. Even the humble lil’ train station in Mineola, Texas, has got some flair. Whatever you might think about Orlando’s train station, it no doubt looks historic.

The stations I want to talk about are not those train stations. These are not the Art Deco transit hubs that look like vintage monuments to the future, or the Spanish Colonial stations that summon visions of desperados waiting for a train. These are the other train stations—the ones that make you wish you’d left the house a little later so you’d have to spend that much less time waiting at the station.

Warning: truly depressing train station photos follow. And depression, according to a new meta-analysis, damages your brain. So after looking at these photos, go for a walk, and then write your member of Congress to restore funding to Amtrak.

Thursday 9 July 2015 13:13:56 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Geography | US | Travel#
Wednesday 17 June 2015

Here are the last two photos from Milan: the Duomo.

Later, that same day:

And this concludes (for now) the Italian portion of our program.

Wednesday 17 June 2015 12:23:23 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Travel#
Tuesday 16 June 2015

It hardly feels like eleven days have gone by since we passed through Como on our way to Milan. Como seemed like an Italian lake town with a heavy tourist population, which, it turns out, it is. But there were a couple of nooks:

Then there was Milan. I didn't have a great impression of the city when I visited in 2007, and this sign, glimpsed on the way to drop off our rental car at the airport, didn't inspire confidence:

Translation: "For about 10 years, this road will suck. Sorry." And suck it did.

Tomorrow I'll show how my opinion of the city changed, like night and day.

Tuesday 16 June 2015 14:41:41 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Travel#
Friday 12 June 2015

One step in the Inner Drive Technology World Headquarters move this weekend was to get my Internet connection turned on at my new place. Unfortunately this meant moving the modem from the old place, so I will have only a little bit of Internet this weekend, if any. I still have a bunch of photos to post.

Meanwhile, I wanted to post some context. Here is the map of where Google thought my phone was last week; it's remarkably accurate:

Here's the same data constrained to Wednesday through Friday:

I have a few thoughts about Google Location Services, but none that I'm going to share as I'm trying to leave the office right now to get to Ribfest. And to pick up my dog, who's with his new pack.

All of this comes after getting a major project moved from "nice to have" to "must have by Monday." Because why wouldn't I want to create a major policy document over the weekend I'm moving when I'll have almost no Internet connectivity?

Friday 12 June 2015 17:21:59 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Geography | Travel | Work#
Thursday 11 June 2015

Today I'm going to get a salad from Whole Foods Market. But last Thursday, at Ristorante Arté al Lago in Lugano, Switzerland, I had this:

That is a venison tortellini in a broth that must have taken them two days to cook. The only pasta I have ever had in my life that topped it was the peacock ravioli I ate at Mistral the night before.

Why did we go hiking so much? So we could fit into the clothes we brought with us, of course.

Thursday 11 June 2015 12:08:34 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Travel#

Part of the reason one stays in an Agriturismo is to go hiking. This is a state highway (scala provincale) near the closest village:

Despite being as far north (46°27') as Quebec City and Portland, Ore., Dosso del Liro is surprisingly warm and dry, the perfect environment for these guys, which we saw all over:

These guys (common Italian wall lizards) are about 8 cm nose to tail, and very fast. We didn't even try to catch them. But they're also hard to photograph; I got lucky and moved very slowly for this shot.

Thursday 11 June 2015 10:28:01 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Geography | Photography | Travel#
Wednesday 10 June 2015

Northern Italian Alpine lake village, go:

This is another example of how a little HDR makes a big difference.

Tomorrow: photos from Thursday, including lunch in Lugano.

Wednesday 10 June 2015 17:52:16 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Photography | Travel#

Last Wednesday we had one of the best dinners of our lives at Mistral, in Bellagio, Italy. I don't have the ability at the moment to describe it, except to say that I will never look at a peacock again without salivating. We had 8 courses each, one set of molecular-gastronomy dishes and the other more traditional, ending with a batch of vanilla gelato made with eggs, milk, cream, sugar, and liquid nitrogen.

Oh, and we had a view:

Someday, I will have better words to describe the food. I think it was better than the other Michelin-starred restaurants I've been to, but I'm not sure. More field investigation is required.

Wednesday 10 June 2015 11:31:06 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Travel#
Tuesday 9 June 2015

When you're crossing Lake Como from Cadenabbia to Bellagio on a sunny day, it looks like this:

I've also uploaded a full-sized JPEG (15 MB) to Azure storage. Enjoy.

Tuesday 9 June 2015 17:02:44 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Photography | Travel#

I can imagine why the Catholic Church build Gallio Palace on the shore of Lake Como:

We didn't make it to the palace because we were distracted by food. I'll have more to say about Wednesday's dinner in my next couple of posts.

Tuesday 9 June 2015 15:10:16 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Photography | Travel#

After Venice, we stayed here, way up in the hills above Gravedona on Lake Como:

It was gorgeous, and Mariella was a gracious and lovely host. Just one thing, though. It's 825 m up in the foothills of the Alps, reachable on a winding road with 6 km of switchbacks, ending at this driveway:

In this car:

We named the little guy Boba Fiat. It's not one of those high-powered North American models; no, it's a 0.9-liter European model that took four attempts to get up the Agriturismo's driveway the first time. (The trick turned out to be revving the engine up to 3,000 RPM and sliding the clutch in slowly.)

Boba Fiat got us all over Northern Italy on one tank of petrol, though. That was helpful.

Tuesday 9 June 2015 10:10:37 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Travel#

The Venetian church, viewed from the terrace of the Hotel Danieli:

Monday 8 June 2015 20:39:18 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Photography | Travel#
Monday 8 June 2015

I took 324 photos on Monday, so I'm not all the way through them yet. I'll just start with a photo of our hotel's lobby. We stayed at the Hotel Danieli, a 193-year-old hotel in a 600-year-old building:

This was our one hotel splurge. I do not know the exact bill, except that it was approximately the same as the next four nights' lodging combined.

Monday 8 June 2015 14:24:26 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Photography | Travel#
Sunday 7 June 2015

I've got about 990 photographs to comb through, which I'll start doing later this afternoon. Meanwhile I'm unpacking so I can do laundry and pack again.

It's weird to think I'll only be in my house another seven days after spending the last nine away from it.

Sunday 7 June 2015 14:17:55 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Travel#
Thursday 4 June 2015

First of many:

Many more coming. So far I've shot 930 images...and haven't even seen all of them yet.

Thursday 4 June 2015 21:41:39 CEST (UTC+02:00)  |  | Travel#
Tuesday 2 June 2015

I'm in a remote area with slow Internet for the next couple of days. You will see photos, and descriptions, and probably Yelp reviews coming up...but for today and probably a lot of tomorrow, less so. (Click on the globe icon below for some insight.)

It turned out, visiting Venice for only one day worked exactly right. More on that, too, as time warrants.

Tuesday 2 June 2015 23:55:17 CEST (UTC+02:00)  |  | Geography | Travel#
Sunday 31 May 2015

The Southampton Arms remains my favorite pub in London, but The Blackbird comes in a close second:

I wound up having breakfast and dinner there yesterday, followed up with drinks at a suburban-feeling club down the block. (Maybe not suburban; more like bridge-and-tunnel.)

Now I'm at Gatwick waiting for my next flight to phase II of this trip: Venice. So far the flight is only delayed 40 minutes. And I may have figured out the Lightroom problem, or at least found a workaround. More on all of this later tonight or tomorrow.

Sunday 31 May 2015 17:55:20 BST (UTC+01:00)  |  | Geography | London | Travel#
Friday 29 May 2015

Traveling today, so no postings until much later. Possibly tomorrow.

Photos too. I did a field-test of my Surface, and everything worked, once I re-installed Lightroom. I hope I don't have to do that again.

Friday 29 May 2015 07:52:46 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Travel#
Thursday 28 May 2015

You know, it sucks to be Greece right now, and Germany is really screwing itself by not negotiating with them. But as an American tourist about to visit the continent, this is a nice thing to see (particularly after the bump earlier in the month):

This doesn't completely suck, either (I'm stopping in London on the way):

Thursday 28 May 2015 15:55:23 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Geography | London | World | Travel#
Monday 25 May 2015

With the Inner Drive Technology World Headquarters move only 21 days from now, this was bound to happen:

Also in the next three weeks is a big vacation. So, you know, no stress...

Monday 25 May 2015 08:35:52 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Travel#
Tuesday 19 May 2015

Via Citylab, the clearest explanation yet for why subways have delays, courtesy NYMTA:

Tuesday 19 May 2015 13:20:05 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Geography | Travel#
Tuesday 19 May 2015 13:13:16 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | London | US | World | Travel#
Wednesday 29 April 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday 29 April 2015 10:12:16 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | US | Travel#
Tuesday 28 April 2015

I had my office door open most of the day and people kept walking in and speaking before I could acknowledge them. Hilarity ensued. Then I closed my office door and people who had appointments to talk to me simply walked away without knocking.

While that fun was happening, I didn't read any of these:

Off to more meetings.

Tuesday 28 April 2015 14:45:07 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US | Travel | Work#
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#
Tuesday 17 February 2015
Tuesday 17 February 2015 12:17:23 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Photography | Travel#
Monday 16 February 2015

I've finally pulled my photos off my real camera, but as I have actual work to do for my employer, it'll take a couple of days to publish some of them. This one, though, this one I'll publish today:

This guy chased me around a park in Słubice. This may be a life-size image, too. Once I crouched down to take his photo, he got a little freaked out, and bounced around for a while before his owner called him back.

That was the most hostile reaction I got from any living thing in Poland or Germany last week.

Monday 16 February 2015 10:07:24 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Travel#
Sunday 15 February 2015

Since last report, I've spent time at two bars known for their craft beer selection. Even though I've seriously reduced my beer intake for a variety of reasons (especially its effect on my Fitbit numbers), spending a couple of days away from home let me feel a certain license in my consumption.

Friday night, therefore, I found Kaschk, a Swedish-owned pub on the fringes of the Mitte district in the former East Berlin. Within a few moments of entering I knew I'd come to the right place:

Old Rasputin on draft? And what's this Brewfist Spaceman pale—Italian?

After a 90-minute conversation with the manager, Rab (yes, Rab: he's Scots), I actually accepted that somewhere in Italy someone knows how to make small-batch craft beer.

Then, last night, back to Southampton Arms, we had a rare (for Saturday night) sighting of Fred the Bar Bitch:

And as Southampton Arms is a true pub, the evening wound up with me and a very cool couple (Chris and Jess) closing the place down before I hit the Night Bus back to my hotel. After that began a disappointing and ultimately futile search for kebab. No matter; it was a great evening, with a limited number of very tasty beers, including Redemption Big Chief Ale.

And now I'm back at Heathrow, with a 20-minute walk to my gate commencing in just a moment. Then Chicago, then routine. And less beer.

Sunday 15 February 2015 15:45:17 GMT (UTC+00:00)  |  | Best Bars | London | Travel#
Saturday 14 February 2015

Berlin's Tegel airport is supposed to close at some point, so I shouldn't be too surprised at some of the, ah, artifacts in the place. For example, in the A terminal, the security checkpoints only control pairs of gates, so once you're through you're totally stuck with whatever concessions are inside that gate pair. In my case this means €9,60 (about $12.50) for a ham sandwich and a latte. (Come to think of it, that's about what it would cost at Starbucks...)

This is apparently a feature, not a bug:

"It's super convenient," says Winnie Heun, a Berlin-based cinematographer and Tegel fan flying to Kiev to film a commercial.

"Because of the round design, you can drop off at the gate and from there it's 30 meters to check-in. And right behind the check-in, is security. It's super fast."

This is true. I just wish I'd known that before getting stuck 10 gates away from the lounge.

The other thing is that while they do have free wi-fi (an unbelievable rarity in Germany), it's kind of slow. I mean, modem slow. But at least I can read a couple of emails before boarding.

Waaah, waaah, waaah.

My airplane is here, boarding starts soon, and in less than three hours I'll be in the Tube. Berlin was worth the trip; maybe I'd stay another day or two to see some of the museums I missed.

Saturday 14 February 2015 13:07:29 CET (UTC+01:00)  |  | Travel#
Friday 13 February 2015

Another big walking day in sunny weather took me up to Bernauerstraße and the Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer (Berlin Wall Memorial):

That's a mostly-preserved but partially-reconstructed section of the wall at the corner of Bernauerstraße and Ackerstraße, near the site where the first person trying to flee over the wall was killed. It's hard to imagine that the place I'm sitting now was once in East Berlin, just a few hundred meters from the place by the Wall where Reagan gave his famous speech in 1987.

I ended the walk at the DDR Museum, which outlined what life in East Germany was like from 1945 to 1990. In between I walked down Big Hamburger Street Große Hamburger Straße, in the old Jewish quarter, and stopped to check email (and have some non-German beer) at Sophie'n eck:

This is just a few meters from the monument to all of Berlin's Jews killed during the Holocaust. More grim history.

It's also fairly close to Museum Island which—wait for it—is an island on which sits nothing but museums (and the occasional cathedral). Here's the view looking downstream from the northern tip of Museums-Insell:

Upstream a bit is the Berlin Dom, which is not a BDSM maneuver but is still big, intimidating, and German:

Note that all of these photos are from my mobile phone. I have a few hundred on my real camera, but they're inaccessible right now because I forgot the proper cable. I aim to have some of those photos up by Wednesday or Thursday.

Tomorrow I'm off to my second-favorite city in the world, where I have set aside time and calories to park at Southampton Arms for a couple of hours.

Tonight, though: I've got another 6,000 steps to go. I missed 20,000 yesterday by just a handful, but I have over 100,000 for the week, putting me almost up to 80 km. (I've yet to hit 15 km in a day. Maybe tomorrow?)

Friday 13 February 2015 20:22:45 CET (UTC+01:00)  |  | London | Photography | World | Travel#

Nobody, I think, visits Germany for the food (or the UK, for that matter), but when in Berlin, one does as...a tourist to Berlin. And that is why I got suckered in by this guy:

And ordered this:

That is (literally) a hot mess of grilled pork and chicken (though which bits no one can say) in a cream-of-mushroom sauce with some fried potato bits on the side. You think yesterday had surplus calories? I am actually shocked that Germany isn't as fat as the US, on average. Fortunately, I walked another 14.5 km today—er, yesterday—and plan to walk at least 20 km today. (Once I wake up, of course.)

Also, their website promised:

Wir haben Leberkäse, Lammstelzen, „Kasspatz’n“ und weitere Spezialitäten, für die unsere Küche geschätzt wird. Alles wird in Handarbeit hergestellt und frisch zubereitet. Hier können Sie bayerische Küche genießen und sich dabei wie Gott in Frankreich fühlen.

Which I believe means, "We have meatloaf, lamb stilts, 'Kasspatz'n' and other specialties for which our kitchen is appreciated. Everything is handmade and fresh. Here you can enjoy Bavarian cuisine and feel like God in France." (Google might have influenced this belief. Though why one would want to feel like a God in France is a little beyond my understanding of German cuisine.)

I get back to Chicago on Sunday, and I think from Monday morning until I can't take it any more, I'm going to eat nothing but raw spinach, carrots, and maybe a slice of cheese.

Friday 13 February 2015 03:28:47 CET (UTC+01:00)  |  | Travel#
Thursday 12 February 2015

For just a few euro and an hour each way by train, I visited my 24th country this afternoon. Here is the heavily-guarded border between Frankfurt an der Oder, Germany and Słubice, Poland:

Seriously, though, if I hadn't had a phone with a GPS and cached Google Maps I would not have known exactly where the border was. It's not marked; there's just a two-lane bridge with sidewalks. The border is about 100 m from the German bank of the Oder, with no indication that you've entered Poland until the roundabout on the other side.

The trip started at the newish (1998) Berlin Hauptbahnhof:

And on the way there, I passed through the center of German government, including past the Reichstagsgebäude:

Despite spending a whopping €3,60 on a Bockwurst mit Brot und Bier at the Frankfurt (Oder) train station (ugh), I'm going to find some real food in a bit—food that involves walking some more. Later tonight I'll report on some seriously good Fitbit numbers.

* The question came up after posting this: which countries? So here they are, in order of my first visit, excluding the United States: Canada, the U.K., France, Switzerland, Germany†, the Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal, Spain, Ireland, Italy, Sint Maarten/Saint-Martin‡, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates, India, Japan, China, Finland, Estonia, Russia, Korea (ROK), Korea (DPRK), Norway, and today, Poland.

† I'm old, but not that old: I first visited Germany in 1992, which was close to reunification, but sufficiently after the even that no one thought of it as "West" Germany anymore. And I'm writing this from a hotel firmly inside East Berlin as it existed when I was planning my first trip to Europe in the 1980s.

‡ I'm counting the island as one country, even though it's a territory inside two other countries. I feel this is an appropriate compromise, since neither the Netherlands nor France recognizes their bit of St. Martin Island as an independent nation. So: Both Sint Maarten (Netherlands Antilles) and Saint-Martin (French Overseas Collective) are, on this list, counted as one country.

Thursday 12 February 2015 18:53:45 CET (UTC+01:00)  |  | Travel#
Wednesday 11 February 2015

Fitbit says I've gotten 10.4 km in so far today, over to the Brandenburg Gate, through the Holocaust Memorial, down to Mehringplatz, then up Friedrichstraße past Checkpoint Charlie and back to Unter den Linden.

I might have some more walking in me yet. One bonus (at least on that front) is that my hotel room is not only one of the furthest from the hotel entrance, but it's up one flight of stairs and down another to get there. Nice room, though, with windows that actually open, which is unusual these days.

As it's just noon in Chicago, and possibly due to the walking, I'm a bit hungry, so I'm off to find some Schnitzel. Photos later.

Wednesday 11 February 2015 19:04:02 CET (UTC+01:00)  |  | Travel#
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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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