Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
Thursday 4 October 2012

Behold, the Like-a-Hug:

Designed by MIT researchers, the Like-A-Hug coat senses when a Facebook friend "likes" your picture of a sweater-wearing cat or wistful update about finding true love. Then, via some complicated electronic mechanism that's not quite clear, it rewards the wearer by filling with air to mimic a "hugging" sensation.

So basically this is an article of clothing that broadcasts the owner's craven need for approval, as well as suggesting his or her crushing failure to attract hugs from flesh-and-blood beings.

The project team has produced a video, too:

And hey, after last night, who doesn't need a hug?

Thursday 4 October 2012 11:43:31 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Wednesday 3 October 2012

The Chicago Transit Authority replaced two viaducts over Evanston, Ill., streets in June, the fifth and sixth of 17 century-old structures. The Daily Parker watched them replace one back in 2006; in 2012, the CTA took video. Here's Greenleaf Street, replaced on June 11th:

And here's Dempster Street, replaced two weeks later:

It's all part of a plan to rehabilitate the Red and Purple lines that may get finished in my lifetime. (The RPM project, one aspect of the plan, is going forward, soonish.) If only there were a massive source of interest-free money available to fund the project, and millions of unemployed people to hire for it. Oh, wait...

Wednesday 3 October 2012 16:01:30 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | US | Travel#

I made a mistake Monday: the Astos and Cubs will probably end the season with a combined 208 losses, not 207. It's a bit damp at Wrigley today, so they may not play; but if they do, either the Cubs will wind up 60-102 or 61-101 (to the Astros' 56-106 or 55-107, respectively). That's impressive.

Meanwhile, the new wild-card arrangement has gelled for the National League (Washington, Cincinnati, San Francisco clinch their divisions; Atlanta and St. Louis are wild cards), but the American League might not get everything sorted until tomorrow. The A's and Rangers are tied in the AL West, but since they play each other this afternoon, that will get settled. Detroit eliminated the White Sox already this week. That leaves Baltimore one game behind the Yankees in the AL East, so if Boston beats the Yankees and Baltimore beats Tampa tonight, they'll be tied, forcing a one-game playoff at Camden Yards on Thursday. And the loser will still be in the post-season as a wildcard.

What a weird end to the baseball season. Except for us in Chicago, it's pretty exciting.

More: MLB has an exhaustive guide to the wild card rules for anyone who has trouble sleeping tonight.

Wednesday 3 October 2012 11:17:51 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Baseball#
Tuesday 2 October 2012

The Tribune just foisted two news alerts on me that I already knew. First, the Cubs lost their 100th game, which, it turns out, has only happened three times in the last 140 freaking years. The Trib's lede is beautiful:

Fifty years ago this week, only 595 fans showed up at Wrigley Field for the opener of the Cubs-Mets series, the last time two teams with 100-plus losses faced each other.

The '62 Cubs — with future Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Lou Brock, Billy Williams and Ron Santo on the roster — wound up taking two of three from the expansion team, finishing with a franchise-worst 103 losses, to the Mets' major league record 120.

Wow. I mean, wow. It takes a special kind of baseball team to lose 103 games in a season, so the talent and vision that went into the Mets' 120 losses in 1962 defies rational belief. I am cowed. And I am also thankful no team has gotten to that record in my lifetime, if only because the Mets occupy the rung on my baseball ladder just above the American League and just below the one I try to scrape off before walking in the house. (The Astros occupy that rung, it turns out, only because they were the first team I ever saw play the Cubs).

All righty then. One must look forward, to the horizon of a National League win. And again, I say: Go Giants.

Almost forgot: The other news alert, announcing that the Tigers have eliminated the White Sox, did not distress me much, as it only concerns the minor leagues.

Monday 1 October 2012 22:50:40 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Baseball | Chicago#

It is a mathematical certainty that the combined losses of the Astros and Cubs will get to 207 when the season ends Wendesday. They're playing each other right now, with the Cubs heading for their 100th loss of the year. One cannot but marvel at the prowess of both teams, both fighting quixotically for their respective honors. The Cubs can't possibly be the worst team in baseball this year, because the Astros have so totally dominated them in that respect. And yet, the Astros will move to the American League next year, meaning that both they and the Cubs will begin 2013 being the worst teams in their respective leagues as the new season begins.

New rule: Once your home team loses 100 games in a season, you get to pick another team to root for. And so I say, from now until the next opening day: Go Giants!

Monday 1 October 2012 21:50:02 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Baseball | Chicago#
Monday 1 October 2012

Chicago hit a new record for most consecutive months with above-average temperatures, which ended August 31st (only we didn't know for sure until yesterday):

For the first time in a year, Chicago has logged a month with below-normal temperatures. Averaging 17.8°C, September finished 0.3°C below normal, ending the city's record run of 11 above-normal months that began in October 2011.

Despite the lower-than-normal temperatures, sunshine was plentiful, averaging 75 percent of possible, the highest here since 2007 when 76 percent was recorded.

Climate-change deniers will no doubt take this as evidence that global warming has ceased. I mean, if there were global warming, shouldn't it always be above average?

Monday 1 October 2012 16:42:50 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#

Last night, in the West Loop:

After tomorrow's performance in Madison, Wis., Girlyman will be taking a break from performing. I'm glad I got a chance to see them.

Doris and Ty:

And the opening act, Chastity Brown, whose CD I bought on the way out. Great stuff:

Monday 1 October 2012 16:13:16 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Sunday 30 September 2012

Just two more photos from last weekend in Cincinnati, though to be precise, I took both from Kentucky. I love repurposed obsolete infrastructure, like the New York Highline and the coming Bloomingdale Trail. In Cincinnati, they have the Purple People Bridge, which one imagines used to rain soot and cinders down on what has become, since the bridge was built in 1999, a beautiful riverfront.

Here's the bridge from the Newport, Ky., side:

Closer to Ohio—Kentucky owns the entire river, almost up to the bank—you get this view:

I'll have to go back there, as long as I can explore the city and not the depressing exurbs to the north.

Sunday 30 September 2012 09:25:38 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Baseball | Travel#

Nate Silver finds no consistent bias in the history of presidential polling:

In the 10 presidential elections since 1972, there have been five years (1976, 1980, 1992, 1996 and 2004) in which the national presidential polls overestimated the standing of the Democratic candidate. However, there were also four years (1972, 1984, 1988 and 2000) in which they overestimated the standing of the Republican. Finally, there was 2008, when the average of likely voter polls showed Mr. Obama winning by 7.3 percentage points, his exact margin of victory over John McCain, to the decimal place.

In all but three years, the partisan bias in the polls was small, with the polling average coming within 1.5 percentage points of the actual result. (I use the term “bias” in a statistical sense, meaning simply that the results tended to miss toward one direction.)

On the whole, it is reasonably impressive how unbiased the polls have been. In both presidential and Senate races, the bias has been less than a full percentage point over the long run, and it has run in opposite directions.

That does not mean the pollsters will necessarily get this particular election right. Years like 1980 suggest that there are sometimes errors in the polls that are much larger than can be explained through sampling error alone. The probability estimates you see attached to the FiveThirtyEight forecasts are based on how the polls have performed historically in practice, and not how well they claim to do in theory.

So in 2012, as Krugman puts it, "the facts have a well-known liberal bias."

Sunday 30 September 2012 08:38:40 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#
Friday 28 September 2012

Finally, by the end of 2014 Chicago will have one transit card to rule them all, called Ventra:

The CTA and the Regional Transportation Authority are leading an effort to create an open fare system in which bank-issued cards and universal transit cards will be accepted on CTA, Pace and Metra.

The RTA system faces a 2015 deadline to fully implement an integrated fare system. Part of the challenge is including Metra, which is slowly modernizing its antiquated fare-collection system that still involves conductors punching paper tickets and passes.

When Ventra begins next summer, CTA and Pace will continue to offer special fares for students and senior citizens and various-priced fare products, like 30-day and 7-day passes, and will still accept cash on buses.

The official site explains:

Here’s how it works:

Ventra Card: This contactless card works like the current Chicago Card Plus, only better! Just tap on a card reader for quick and easy boarding on trains and buses. Plus, you can manage your account and balance at Ventra vending machines in CTA stations, numerous retail locations, online or over the phone.

Ventra Ticket: These contactless tickets work just like the current magnetic stripe cards but are even easier to use. Just tap and ride! Choose from a single-ride or 1-day Ventra ticket.

Bankcard: Ventra introduces another way to pay for transit fares by using the bankcard already in your wallet. Simply register your personal bank-issued contactless credit or debit card, add transit passes and value or pay as you go for rides.

And someday, they hope, they'll have a mobile phone option.

Other transit systems, including those in San Francisco and London, have had similar systems for a while.

Friday 28 September 2012 12:09:59 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Travel#
Thursday 27 September 2012

A couple weeks ago, I finally tasted whisky from the FEW Distillery in Evanston, Ill. FEW is named for Frances Elizabeth Willard, who, in the mid-19th century, ran the Women's Christian Temperance Union and later bequeathed her house to the organization.

In other words, this is a distillery named after one of the leading advocates for prohibition, headquartered in a city that was dry for more than a century.

Also, FEW's master distiller, Paul Hletko, is one of the first people I met in law school. Mazel tov, Paul: you've made a great collection of spirits.

Thursday 27 September 2012 11:49:31 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Kitchen Sink#
Wednesday 26 September 2012

Monday's SSD crash took an annoying, but reasonable, amount of time to fix. Otherwise I would have posted this photo of Great American Ball Park yesterday:

And, of course, an obligatory photo of Cincinnati's most recognized landmark:

I'll have a couple more in days to come.

Wednesday 26 September 2012 11:58:43 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Baseball | Geography#
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On this page....
Submitted without comment
How to replace a century-old viaduct without affecting commuters
Swansong of the Astros
News alerts to make the baby cheeses cry
Truly impressive series to end the season
New record, but it's over
Girlyman and Chastity Brown at City Winery
Final Cincinnati photos
Historic bias of poll results? Not so much
Chicago regional transit fare systems to combine
Rye sense of humor, distilled
More from Cincinnati
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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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