Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
Tuesday 5 June 2012

Because they improved downtown L.A. immensely:

In 1999, Los Angeles passed its Adaptive Reuse Ordinance, making it easier and cheaper for real estate developers to convert old offices to new housing. While the ordinance arguably jump-started the revitalization of downtown L.A., a key (though overlooked) element was pet-friendly policies in these newly converted lofts.

Walking dogs drove residents out of their homes and into the street at least twice each day. Elsewhere in Los Angeles, where single-family homes predominate, dog owners often have the luxury of sending Fido out to the yard to do his business. But downtown, dogs and their owners have become a crucial component of the rebounding neighborhood's culture.

Of course, if the office dog poops on the CEO's carpet, he'll still get fired.

Tuesday 5 June 2012 12:27:13 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Parker | Business#

Assuming the polls are correct, the contest in Wisconsin today will be close. Whatever the result, Scott Walker can hardly claim a mandate with somewhere around half the state wanting to take the unprecedented (for Wisconsin) step of yanking him from office. This is not trivial: voters have to overcome their natural disinclination to end a governor's term early, and then they have to select someone who lost an election just two years ago.

I look forward to the results.

Tuesday 5 June 2012 11:37:31 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#
Monday 4 June 2012

Apparently it's more common than I thought to gag on raw tomatoes even while having no problem with tomato sauce:

People like me just lack certain key taste receptors, preventing us from appreciating the rich, sweet, meaty flavor of raw tomatoes that the rest of you are always rhapsodizing about. The problem is that tomatoes have something on the order of 400 volatile compounds and who knows which one of those (or combination thereof) might be responsible for the harsh reaction many of us experience in response to raw tomatoes?

Frankly, the scientific community has been sadly remiss in getting to the bottom of the mystery of why raw tomatoes make some of us gag, despite a few scattered flavor studies. But they’re hot on the case of cilantro, an even more polarizing herb. I love cilantro. To me, it tastes fresh and citrusy with just a tinge of an herbal edge to it. But to some people, it just tastes like soap. Or worse. They have as strong a visceral reaction to cilantro as I have to fresh raw tomatoes.

Of course, it could be the gloppy, lumpen nature of tomatoes that makes us gag, too. I'll stick with purée.

Monday 4 June 2012 15:31:19 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Sunday 3 June 2012

As feared, Chicago is experiencing a weekend of perfect weather. As a consequence, Parker and I just finished an hour-and-three-quarters walk that had to include time at Noethling Park (aka "Wiggly Field"). We're recovering for a moment before heading outside again for another one.

Regular updates will resume when the crisis concludes.

(Note: Ordinarily I would have linked to the Chicago Park District's official page on one of its parks, but apparently they forgot to pay the Internet bill, so at this writing their site dead-ends at Network Solutions. Nice work, guys.)

Sunday 3 June 2012 13:15:56 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Parker | Weather#

After logging the warmest spring and third-mildest winter in Chicago history, we have a huge likelihood of a warmer-than-normal summer. Yesterday, though, we had one of those perfect days Chicagoans can count on two hands every year: sunny, dry, and 24°C, the kind of day that Parker and I spend entirely outside.

It turns out, a relatively unusual weather pattern could give us more than a week of this sort of thing:

[C]omputer models indicate what is meteorologically-termed an upper-level "Omega Blocking" pattern will establish itself over the United States for the remainder of the workweek. With a trough of low pressure over the east and west coasts and a high pressure ridge over the central plains. This will establish an extensive low-level cool high pressure air mass over eastern Canada into the northeastern and north-central U.S. For Chicago, situated in the southwestern quadrant of the high pressure, it in turn means an extended period of east to southeasterly flow, relatively dry conditions and daily temperatures around normal levels, except cooler readings along the lakefront and beaches.

The official forecast calls for temperatures around 20°C (after 26°C today) and sunny skies through Saturday.

It's all very confusing to us here, all this nearly-perfect weather. We'll just have to muddle through...

Sunday 3 June 2012 09:39:11 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Saturday 2 June 2012

As just about everyone who watches these things predicted, Groupon's shares declined 9% just as soon as insiders were able to start trading them:

Friday marked the end of the company's lock-up period, which prevented insiders from unloading their Groupon stock. Groupon went public in November with a small float. The expiration of the lock-up period puts into play 600 million shares, amounting to 93 percent of the company's total outstanding shares. About one-third of those shares will not be sold, as they are in the hands of co-founders Andrew Mason, Eric Lefkofsky and Brad Keywell. Mason, who is also chief executive, said last month that the trio had no intention of selling their holdings.

Analysts had said they expected downward pressure on Groupon's shares as a result of the lock-up expiration but that many insiders -- a group that includes current and former senior executives, board members and early investors -- would hang onto their stock to wait for a rebound in the price. While Groupon's shares rebounded last month after the company reported first-quarter earnings, they remained well below their IPO price of $20.

Why did Groupon even have an IPO? Probably for the same reason Facebook did: to enrich the VCs and founders. That's easy. But why did anyone buy Groupon at $20 or Facebook at $38? Because math class is tough, but history is tougher, apparently.

Saturday 2 June 2012 11:13:27 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Business#
Friday 1 June 2012

As I mentioned yesterday, Illinois state climatologist Jim Angel has certified that March 1 to May 31 was the warmest spring in Illinois history:

This year the statewide average temperature for spring in Illinois was 15.1°C. That makes it the warmest spring on record for Illinois. The statewide records go back to 1895. The [three] warmest springs in Illinois were:

2012 with 15.1°C
1977 with 14.1°C
1921 with 13.3°C

It was also Illinois' fifth-warmest May ever. And so far, it's the warmest year ever in Illinois (since January 1). Interestingly, Angel points out, "of the top five warmest January-May periods, three have occurred in the last 15 years."

Friday 1 June 2012 11:27:20 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Thursday 31 May 2012

This should not be news to anyone who's watched someone drive home from a not-so-neighborhood bar. Neighborhood bars help their neighborhoods in other ways, too:

The vaunted “third space” isn’t home, and isn’t work—it’s more like the living room of society at large. It’s a place where you are neither family nor co-worker, and yet where the values, interests, gossip, complaints and inspirations of these two other spheres intersect. It’s a place at least one step removed from the structures of work and home, more random, and yet familiar enough to breed a sense of identity and connection. It’s a place of both possibility and comfort, where the unexpected and the mundane transcend and mingle.

And nine times out of ten, it’s a bar.

Atlantic Cities writer Kaid Bailey elaborates:

What does this have to do with sustainability? Well, quite a bit, in my opinion. The more complete our neighborhoods, the less we have to travel to seek out goods, services and amenities. The less we have to travel, the more we can reduce emissions. People enjoy hanging out in bars and, especially if they are within walking distance of homes, we can also reduce the very serious risks that can accompany drinking and driving.

On that subject, my friend Scott Doyon has gone so far as to map "pub sheds," or five-minute walking zones from pubs in the Atlanta suburb of Decatur. Writing in his firm’s excellent blog PlaceShakers and NewsMakers, Scott concludes that the community is fairly well covered. He further suggests that, if one extends the walkability zones to ten-minute distances, it would be well-covered indeed.

Long-time readers will know that substantial portions of my software was written at Duke of Perth, one of Chicago's best bars. Evanston's Tommy Nevin's served the same purpose a few years back, especially when they allowed dogs on the patio. I can imagine living in a city without neighborhood bars, a thought that drives me deeper into my Chicago—New York—London—San Francisco worldview.

Thursday 31 May 2012 13:28:27 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Geography | Kitchen Sink#

Meteorological spring ends today, and despite the dreary weather (9°C, rain), the last three months have been the warmest on record:

The weather as meteorological spring 2012 draws to a close couldn't be less representative of the season as a whole. Abnormal warmth has characterized the past three months. Spring 2012 is to go down in the record books as Chicago's warmest in 142 years running a stunning 5°C above normal!

The last spring with temperatures even close to the one about the end occurred 35 years ago in 1977 when temperatures finished within a degree [Fahrenheit] of this one.

The state climatologist should weigh in tomorrow morning with the exact figures.

Thursday 31 May 2012 13:15:28 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Wednesday 30 May 2012

Have a really big fire right next to the El:

All CTA trains on the Red, Brown and Purple lines north of downtown were halted for nearly three hours at the height of the evening rush because of an extra-alarm fire that broke out in a furniture store along the tracks near DePaul University.

Adding to commuting headaches, a Metra train struck a person on the Union Pacific North Line near the Ravenswood stop on the North Side around the same time, causing the cancellation of at least one train and delays of more than two hours on others.

And a fire near the Rockwell Avenue stop delayed Brown Line trains around that station for nearly an hour, also late in the afternoon.

By about 6:20 p.m., Red and Brown Line trains were still experiencing delays, but were able to get past the site of the fire at Roy's Home Furnishings, 2455 N. Sheffield Ave., according to the CTA website.

A close friend of mine lives directly across the street from the furniture shop. She reports having a smoke-filled apartment that she and her dog have been unable to approach for four hours.

Having discovered this from her and from the Tribune before leaving work, I took a cab...right into the biggest traffic mess I've seen in Chicago in years. Nothing was moving. I finally got out of the cab a mile from home and walked past buses, cars, other cabs, and I think a taxiing airplane, which still might be stuck on Lincoln Avenue.

Tuesday 29 May 2012 19:52:06 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago#
Tuesday 29 May 2012

Via reader AS, a frustrating story of suburban kids not allowed to bike to school:

[Saratoga, N.Y.,] Maple Avenue {Middle School]'s student body of 1,650 is delivered via 39 school buses—and as at thousands of other communities around the country, many parents elect to drive their children. Thus, every weekday morning, scores of idling cars line up behind dozens of buses disgorging waves of kids. Amidst this, Janette and Adam—each of whom was about 5 feet tall—seemed like a pair of diminutive daredevils wading into a tsunami.

As Adam locked his bike to a fence, a radio call came in to the administrative office. "Security told me that two bikes were getting involved with the buses," remembers the school principal, Stuart Byrne. "We hadn't heard from anyone beforehand. My assistant responded and said, 'Where are they?'"

An assistant principal, Robert Loggins, found Janette in front of the school, waiting for a lull in the traffic so she could depart. Adam had already gone inside.

"What are you doing here?" Loggins asked Janette.

Janette thought this an odd question. "It's Bike to Work Day," she said. "Did you ride your bike to school?"

"Bicycling isn't allowed at Maple Avenue School," said Loggins.

I imagine that when they grow up, the portly children of Maple Avenue School will drive to the gym twice a week.

Fortunately, the story has a (relatively) happy ending. But it highlights a number of symptoms that have created a generation of mentally-helpless children: helicopter parents, fear of lawsuits, car worship, middle-school assistant principals—evils which never seem to go away, despite clear evidence of the harm they cause.

Tuesday 29 May 2012 09:41:15 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Biking | US#
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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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