The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Who needs privacy?

Republican Illinois governor Bruce Rauner, the best governor we have right now, vetoed a bill that would have required companies to get affirmative consent from consumers before selling their geolocation data:

“The bill is not overreaching,” said Chris McCloud, a spokesman for the Digital Privacy Alliance, a Chicago-based nonprofit advocating for state-level privacy legislation. “It is merely saying, ‘If you’re going to sell my personal geolocation data, then just tell me upfront that’s what you are going to do so I can make a decision as to whether I want to download this app or not.’ ”

The Federal Trade Commission has issued general guidance, and there are a variety of industry self-regulatory codes of conduct, from automakers to online advertisers, but federal law does not provide clear geolocation privacy protection.

The online advertising industry increasingly depends on tracking consumers to serve up lucrative and effective targeted ads. Data collection enables advertisers to learn everything from your search habits and recent purchases to where you travel, often in real time.

Remember: you're the product, not the customer. And that's how Republicans like it.

Really gross September weather

It can get warm in Chicago in September, but not usually this warm. The forecast today calls for 34°C with a dewpoint above 21°C, the epitome of the worst July weather we get here.

The culprits are the tropical systems currently destroying islands in the Atlantic. A dome of unseasonably warm air has stalled over the eastern US and Canada, because Jose and Maria are dumping energy into the air right off shore.

So, today's temperatures will be 12°C above normal and will likely surpass the record 33°C set in 1970. Same tomorrow. Saturday and Sunday will also be hot but probably not quite as hot—though, I have to say, 31°C still really sucks the day after the September equinox.

The gross weather pattern should clear out by Wednesday. I really hope so; I want autumn.

Update: Yesterday's 33.3°C high also broke a record (32.7°C set in 1933).

Mispronouncing street names

Historian John Schmidt posted today about the 11 most-mispronounced street names in Chicago:

(1) Devon. Like those posts note—and like most Chicagoans I know—I pronounce it dee-VAHN.

(2) Leavitt. Forget the part that looks like “leave.” It’s LEV-itt.

(3) Paulina. Not pronounced like the girl’s name. The street is pull-EYE-nuh.

That last one is part of a joke: What are the three street names that rhyme with female anatomy? Paulina, Malvina, and Lunt.

It also reminds me of Yuri Rasovsky's infamous 1972 recording, "The Chicago Language Tape:"

Not many of those street names sound like that after 45 years. But it's still hilarious if you're familiar with the city.

Change to Illinois small business insurance

With only a very small group to insure, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Illinois is leaving the Obamacare exchange for small businesses:

Calling all small businesses with a Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Illinois plan through the Obamacare public health insurance exchange: Look out for an email this week informing you that the state's largest insurer is officially leaving the online marketplace.

That leaves small employers looking for an exchange plan for 2018 with one option: downstate Health Alliance. Chicago-based Blue Cross, which has a dominating market share in Illinois among consumers and small businesses alike, still plans to woo small employers with plans off the exchange.

To be sure, the so-called Small Business Health Options Program, or SHOP, where small businesses nationwide can buy coverage on the federally-run online marketplace HealthCare.gov, never gained steam for a host of reasons. For one, small employers prefer trusted brokers instead of using their time to navigate the incredibly complex world of health insurance.

Blue Cross disclosed in August that it planned to leave SHOP, while the insurer proposed rate hikes for individual plans sold on the exchange. The online marketplace wasn't the most effective way to offer employers choice, said Brian Cheney, Blue Cross vice president of the small business market. Besides, businesses can buy the same sets of Blue Cross plans and rates on and off the exchange.

BCBSIL has no plans to leave the individual Obamacare exchange.

Slosh modeling started here

The science of modeling hurricane storm surges started here in Chicago after the seiche of 1954:

When the surge hit Chicago, it hit a city that housed one of the world’s great meteorology departments, at the University of Chicago. One of its professors was the meteorologist George Platzman....

The meeting of those two freak concepts—real but rare deadly Great Lakes storm surges, and the bizarre possibility of an atomic bomb detonating in Lake Michigan—along with his computer-forecasting experiments, led Platzman to take up the nonexistent science of storm-surge prediction, beginning with an attempt to reverse-engineer the 1954 tragedy. His first model, in 1958, got the timing right, but was off by half on the height of the surge; nonetheless, it was used to accurately predict a 1960 Lake Michigan storm surge on Chicago, resulting in a public warning that may have saved lives.

Five years later, Platzman published a much more ambitious run at the phenomenon, crunching 20 years of hourly wind and water-level data at six weather stations on Lake Erie. He also used a much more sophisticated model than his 1958 study—which didn’t include wind stress—a level of complexity only possible in the computer age. And it worked, with an accuracy of about 90 percent.

The models improved into today's SLOSH model, which meteorologists have been using with abandon the past two weeks.

Monday afternoon I'll-read-this-later summary

Articles I haven't got time to read until later:

That's all for now. Busy weekend behind me, another one ahead.

Have a Zima with your Zestimate

On Tuesday, a Federal judge in Chicago dismissed with prejudice a case against Zillow that alleged its "Zestimates" made houses harder to sell:

In the suit, first filed in May, Glenview homeowner and attorney Barbara Andersen alleged that the estimates Zillow posts with for-sale listings essentially act like an appraisal of exact market value. Under Illinois law, only licensed appraisers can issue an appraisal. Andersen's suit alleges Zillow is engaging in illegal practices.

Not so, U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve wrote in her dismissal. "The word 'Zestimate'—an obvious portmanteau of 'Zillow' and 'estimate'—itself indicates that Zestimates are merely an estimate of the market value of the property," St. Eve wrote.

"We always say that the Zestimate isn't an appraisal," [Zillow's] Emily Heffter told Crain's earlier this year. "It's a starting point that people can use when they're working with a professional appraiser or a professional agent to determine the home's value."

St. Eve also wrote that Zillow's estimates do not constitute an invasion of privacy because they are based on public records, with additions submitted by the homeowners if they choose to.

It zeems obvious, when you think about it.

Drawing pictures in the sky

Chicago-based Boeing tested new engines on a 787-8 Wednesday, and chose an imaginative flight path:

Quartz has the story:

Without context, this seems like a publicity stunt. The distance covered in the flight is estimated to be about 25,400 km (15,800 miles). By one estimate, the 787-8 dumped more than 300,000 kg of carbon dioxide in the process.

The endeavor was not a complete waste. A Boeing spokesperson told Quartz that today’s flight was to test the endurance of new engines and it was required by regulatory agencies. “Rather than fly in random patterns, the test team got creative and flew a route that outlined a 787-8,” he said.

Boeing's company blog has more:

With time to spare in the air, a Boeing test team got creative, flying a route that outlined a 787-8 in the skies over 22 states. The nose is pointing at the Puget Sound region, home to Boeing Commercial Airplanes. The wings stretch from northern Michigan near the Canadian border to southern Texas. The tail touches Huntsville, Alabama. The flight plan is visible using a flight tracking website like Flight Aware. The 787 Dreamliner is designed to allow carriers to provide more direct flights on long-distance routes.

Hey, if you have to fly for 18 hours straight, at least have some fun with it, right?

So long, big guy

Yesterday around 7pm, as I dropped a friend off at O'Hare, I was lucky enough to see the last United 747 take off from Chicago:

Chicago-based United still has 14 747s in operation that typically only fly from San Francisco to a handful of cities in Asia and Europe.

But United will have one of its 747s fly from Chicago's O'Hare International Airport to San Francisco on Friday, the airline said. Tickets for the flight — UA2704, departing Chicago at 6:30 p.m. — went on sale Tuesday, said United spokeswoman Maggie Schmerin.

Here's the airplane's flight track.

It was majestic, this huge thing taking off over Terminal 5 just as we were pulling up. And then it was gone, never to return.

Kind of like the American 767s that used to fly from Chicago to London twice a day. My flight next Sunday will be on one of American's brand-new 787-8 airplanes, and wow, am I looking forward to it.

Could be worse. Will be worse.

Heading home from New York just now, and came across an infographic from today's Chicago Tribune about the weather in Chicago on this day in 1934. My heavens. After 21 days of 32°C-plus temperatures, Midway Airport hit 43°C on July 23rd, with the official temperature at University of Chicago hitting 41°C the next day—the hottest temperature officially recorded in Chicago history. (Lakeside temperatures were 9°C cooler than even a short distance inland.)

It's not quite that hot today, but it could be again in a few years. Regularly. But at least it won't be as bad for us as for the folks in the Southwest and Southeast.