Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
Monday 19 March 2012

Mostly, I walked, from Gare du Nord to the Pont Neuf and thence Châtelet. I also stopped at the Musée du Louvre, unfortunately only about an hour and a quarter before closing time. Fortunately, it wasn't that crowded. Apparently on a busy day I'd never have gotten to see this:

Oh, wait, that's the wrong angle. I mean, this:

Don't get me wrong, I think it's a great painting. But if you look at the top photo, you'll notice it's not the only painting in the museum. I think this is a fascinating phenomenon: going to see something because it's something to be seen. Well, I've now seen the actual Joconde—from two meters away, with a few score of my best friends—but I really feel I should spend some time seeing the rest of the museum.

On the other hand, I'd never been in the building before, so I just had to see the thing. I think it's a good start from a promising young painter. I can't wait to see what else he does.

Monday 19 March 2012 17:55:07 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Travel#

I'll have more weekend photos later today (but probably not another post on our record heat wave. Before that, I just found out some great news about Chicago's next major park:

[Chicago mayor Rahm] Emanuel said [at a press conference last week that] initial funding had come together for the $100 million project, which is expected to begin construction later this year and be completed by 2014. Designed by Arup, Ross Barney Architects and Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, the new park will have benches and foliage on either side of a two-way path.

It looks in renderings much like New York City's High Line, but will be nearly twice as long and with gentle curves and dips. It will also allow bike traffic and include several green space access points at ground level.

Besides offering expansive views across several Chicago neighborhoods, the new park will improve local transport links. The multi-use trail will connect the west side to areas near the lake and the Loop, and the anchor parks will link the trail to L train stations and major bus stops.

The Chicago & Pacific Railroad originally built this 4300 m stretch of rail line at ground level in 1872. After a series of accidents involving pedestrians, the tracks were elevated about a century ago, but have been out of use since the mid-1990s. Within a couple years, the determined and the curious will no longer be forced to slip through fences to use the space and enjoy the view.

I've been looking forward to the project getting off the ground moving forward for years. I haven't taken Parker up there yet, because it's (a) trespassing and (b) covered in broken glass, but possibly in the next week or two I'll go up there with my camera.

For more background, the Chicago Reader had a long article about the trail a couple years ago.

Monday 19 March 2012 14:14:43 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago#
Sunday 18 March 2012

Apparently I've missed some unprecedented weather back home this weekend:

Saturday's high temperature at Chicago's official O'Hare International Airport observing site hit 28°C—the unprecedented fourth consecutive day in the 80s [Fahrenheit]. Sunday's anticipated 29°C high will make it a record 5 straight 80-degree days. Weather records dating back to 1871 should continue to fall as Chicagoans experience a stretch of warm temperatures never before observed in March. Sunday will mark the 6th straight day of 70-degrees or higher, eclipsing the previous record 5-day run on March 12-16, 1995.

The other shoe will drop mid-May or early in June. After the previous 5-day record in 1995, we experienced the hottest summer on record. The lake never froze over this year, and right now it's 6°C warmer than usual, so it won't hold off the summer heat effectively.

I'm afraid. I'm very afraid.

Sunday 18 March 2012 15:48:08 GMT (UTC+00:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#

Two photos from yesterday at a plausibly recognizable location:

The rain didn't even bother me, because it looked like this:

More when I get back to Chicago.

Sunday 18 March 2012 15:41:08 GMT (UTC+00:00)  |  | Photography | Travel#
Friday 16 March 2012

When visiting a familiar place, it helps to sit on the plane next to someone who lives there. The local person, recognizing that you've already done the tourist stuff, can recommend places that you might not see otherwise. I had this good fortune yesterday.

This afternoon I traipsed around Marylebone, which is just north of Hyde Park. My seat-mate recommended two places specifically, so I went to them. First, Daunt Books, on Marylebone High Street:

I love bookstores; I miss real bookstores; I could spend a day in this one:

After wishing for half an hour that I could buy half a tonne of books, I went around the corner to La Fromagerie. Next time I'm in London, I'm going to eat everything in the store. Even the little cold cheese room made me swoon. Instead of getting a 10-kilo variety pack, I settled for a simple, £2 medallion of unpasteurized goat cheese. Words are insufficient to describe it, other than to say, it was yum.

Then I hopped on the Tube to this famous location:

Yes, that's Abbey Road, and those are a bunch of tourists blocking traffic. In the 30 minutes I hung out there, no fewer than 10 groups posed on the zebra crossing. (I confess, I took photos for two of them.)

Now, off to find food and ale. Relatively early bed tonight: tomorrow the Chunnel.

Friday 16 March 2012 17:14:27 GMT (UTC+00:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Photography | Travel#
Thursday 15 March 2012

I've just boarded a flight to London, but it was a lot closer to a miss than I've had in years. Fortunately, the cab to the Blue Line (after trying to flag one down for 10 minutes), the El, and even the friendly TSA pat-down in the "Discrete Room" weren't enough to stop me from boarding this plane. I will, however, take a few moments to calm down before settling in.

Thursday 15 March 2012 09:29:19 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Travel#
Wednesday 14 March 2012

As of 13:51 CDT, the official temperature at O'Hare hit 26°C, passing the previous March 14th record by a degree. Will it get warmer?

Wednesday 14 March 2012 14:49:39 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#

The high temperatures at O'Hare the last three days have been 21°C, 18°C, and 21°C, all of them very close to the normal temperatures for mid-May. Right now it's 21°C, and forecasters expect record temperatures today and tomorrow (with a brief interlude tomorrow afternoon as temperatures plummet 11°C for a few hours).

The record high for March 14th is 25°C, set in 1995, during Chicago's longest string of 21°C-plus temperatures in history (5 days, from March 12 to 16). With a forecast (record!) high of 27°C tomorrow (beating the record of 23°C, also set in 1995), it's more like June than March.

Not to beat the drum or anything, but warm springs usually lead to really hot summers. Expect whinging from The Daily Parker in about two months.

Wednesday 14 March 2012 11:23:51 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Tuesday 13 March 2012

Yesterday, probably when I got on the bus going home, I lost my Starbucks card and a credit card. I have another card on the same account, but with a different number, that I keep out of my wallet in case something like this happens. As soon as I discovered the missing credit card, I called the issuer's customer service line, and...you can see where this is going, right?

Yes, they closed the card I still had and left the lost one open. I discovered this a few minutes ago. Fortunately, the person I talked to just now understood what I was saying, saw what had happened, and is now sending both replacement cards overnight. (The haste is required because I'm going to the UK this weekend, and I need at least one credit card overseas.)

So, points to the issuer for correcting a mistake expeditiously. That just about evens out my frustration this morning trying to get coffee.

Oh, and about that trip to the Land of Uk: it's a pretty quick weekend, courtesy of ridiculously low fares from American Airlines earlier this year. I also scored a ticket on the Eurostar Saturday for £49.50 outbound, which was too good to pass up. I'm so looking forward to the weekend. I just hope I have at least one credit card to use...

Tuesday 13 March 2012 09:28:16 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Travel#
Monday 12 March 2012

The United Kingdom has no Constitutional prohibition against established religion; in fact, the head of state is also the head of the church. But the UK has a much deeper secular grain than we have, to the extent that many people in the country get quite exercised about even public prayer. The Washington Post explains the latest row:

Local lawmaker Clive Bone, an atheist, was backed by four of his peers in challenging the long-standing tradition of opening public meetings with blessings by Christian clergy. After losing two council votes on the prayer ban, Bone took the town to court — winning a ruling last month that appeared to set a legal precedent by saying government had no authority to compel citizens to hear prayer.

Bone, a transplanted Londoner and retired management consultant who has given up his seat on the council, said: “This isn’t about freedom of religion. I will defend their right to pray in their churches to my dying breath. Just don’t make us listen to it anymore. It is a backwards tradition that alienates people in this country.”

Most people I know in the UK say religion is entirely private, and would likely be offended at having to listen to prayers at minor public meanings. It's yet another example of how really out of step the rest of the Western world are with us.

Monday 12 March 2012 18:23:33 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | World | Religion#

As I mentioned last night, the U.S. Census Bureau uses a different algorithm to estimate world population than the U.N. So despite all the stories last October about the U.N.'s population estimate hitting 7 billion, the Census estimate hit 7 billion...about 20 seconds ago:

Thanks for playing. Check back in about 12 years for the 8th billion mark.

Monday 12 March 2012 07:51:08 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | World#

Back in October, the United Nations declared that the world population had hit 7 billion. The U.S. Census Bureau, however, believes differently. Here are the World and U.S. population clocks from a moment ago:

So, as far as the Census is concerned, we'll hit 7 billion tonight sometime.

That the Census didn't update its estimates to match the U.N.'s suggests they're confident of their more conservative model.

Sunday 11 March 2012 22:08:18 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | World#
Sunday 11 March 2012

I've never felt great about the Daylight Saving Time switch happening in the beginning of March, but here it is. Oddly, I have no trouble changing eleven or twelve time zones, but the one-hour change in the spring (but not the fall) always messes me up.

Anyway, if you live in the U.S. or Canada (excluding Arizona and Saskatchewan), it's probably an hour later than you think it is.

Sunday 11 March 2012 10:47:25 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Astronomy#
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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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