Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
Friday 6 March 2015

Following up on the previous post, this is what my bus stop looked like at 7:45 this morning:

Yes, it's pretty, but we're really over it already.

Friday 6 March 2015 12:59:27 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#

Tom Skilling started his Explainer column today by depressing the hell out of me:

Chicagoans haven’t seen a temp above 8°C since late December. And a reading of 12°C or higher has been a no-show here since Nov 11th when the mercury last made it to 14°C. As if that’s not been bad enough, the city’s sat beneath a cover of snow that’s been at least 125 mm deep since Feb. 1—a run which moves into a 34th consecutive day Friday. Thursday’s bone-chilling and unseasonable -9°C high–a reading 14°C below normal and just 2°C shy of tying a 1901 record for max temp—only poured salt in the wound. It qualified as the coldest March 5th daytime high in 114-years. And, following Thursday morning’s lead, overnight temps [dipped] to sub-zero [Fahrenheit] levels over much of the metro area away from Lake Michigan one last time in the current cold siege–an arctic blast which has produced significantly below-normal temps for 22 consecutive days.

Yes, this has been our third really bad winter in five years. But it is March, so something has to change eventually right? Right:

[B]eyond this weekend and barring unforeseen changes going forward—the sudden appearance of a Chicago-bound backdoor cold front capable of turning winds off Lake Michigan’s icy waters would be an example—the area is in for one impressive warm-up by Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday next week. It doesn’t signal that cold air or snow is completely finished for the season—history shows the area has been vulnerable to snows of some substance into April in some years— but it sure marks a major step in the transition from winter the the warmer days of spring.

How much warmer? Estimates by the four major weather models range from 28°C to—no kidding—41°C warmer than last night's -18°C low. Given that the lake is mostly frozen and we still have 125 mm of snow on the ground, the current forecast for The Daily Parker predicts 10°C on Tuesday and 12°C on Wednesday—warm enough to walk to work. And with above-freezing temperatures predicted from tomorrow forward, all that snow should melt.

Stay tuned.

Friday 6 March 2015 10:37:32 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Thursday 5 March 2015

Since the middle of August, before I got my Fitbit but after my Android phone started tracking my steps, I've lost 7.6 kg, finally hitting my goal yesterday. This morning I was only slightly above the goal; and also for the last three weeks I've been barely creeping towards it; so I figure this might be permanent.

I only made two adjustments that I'm aware of: one, I pretty much stopped drinking beer in favor of other things; and two, I'm much more likely now to make detours that add walking distance to whatever I'm doing. I might have gotten more disciplined about food, but I don't think so, as the meals I eat now are pretty close to the meals I ate a year ago.

It does make sense that a small change can, over time, have an effect like this. So I think beer and the Fitbit probably did cause the weight loss.

Of course, if it turns out I have some horrible illness instead, I'll be very annoyed. But a 250-gram-per-week loss is more consistent with tweaks to diet and exercise than it is with, say, tapeworm.

Thursday 5 March 2015 11:31:25 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Wednesday 4 March 2015

NPR takes a look at how the Internet never forgets and what that means to people who find themselves going viral:

Some unwitting meme celebrities embrace their fame. Earlier this year the Washington Post profiled Kyle Craven, more popularly known as "Bad Luck Brian," a meme about a boy with hilariously and often very dark bad luck. Craven, who was always a class clown, capitalized on his fame. The Post reports that between licensing deals and T-shirts, he has made between $15,000 and $20,000 in the past three years.

Others have tried to use their Internet fame as a catapult for an entertainment career. Laina Morris' picture is easily recognizable — the bulging, crazy-looking eyes and loopy smile made her best known as the Overly Attached Girlfriend who makes ridiculous demands and accusations. Morris has tried to create a comedic career out of her online celebrity. She has a YouTube channel where she posts skits, and a Twitter account.

But for others, it's a nightmare. Perhaps one of the most notable cases is Ghyslain Raza, "Star Wars Kid," who in 2003 became one of the first viral memes. This was before YouTube launched, and Raza did not even post the video. He simply taped himself doing Star Wars-style fighting for a school video club. His classmates secretly posted the video online, and it spread like wildfire. By the end of 2006, it had been clicked on more than 900 million times. It has more than 27 million views on YouTube and was parodied on Family Guy, The Colbert Report and South Park.

Oh, poor "Star Wars Kid."

My question is, how long until people adapt and wonder what was this "privacy" thing the old people keep babbling about?

Wednesday 4 March 2015 10:02:12 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Blogs | Security#

On only six occasions in recorded history has Chicago experienced a temperature below -18°C in March.Tonight could be the 7th:

A sub-0 reading at O’Hare by daybreak Thursday would be the latest a low temp has dropped below 0 [Fahrenheit] here in the 33 years—–since 1982. The -19°C reading being predicted is hardly a common occurrence so late in a cold season. In fact, of Chicago’s 1,041 sub-0 readings in 144 years of official temp records, only 6 have occurred beyond March 5th (Thursday’s date). And on a broader scale, only 12 of the 144 Marches on the books since official records began here in 1871 have managed one or more sub-zero temps.

But:

Daytime highs could register as much as 28°C warmer in a week

What’s to happen in the wake of the frigid late-season chill of the next two days is the most significant pattern change across North America since December. Major warming is projected. The pace of the warming will depend on the speed with which snow melts and on wind direction, since any “easterly” winds at this time of year deliver a very chilly brand of air off ice-cluttered Lake Michigan.

Oh, and we've had snow on the ground now for 34 days straight, which isn't a record but is unusual this late in the year. It's not the snow on the ground I find objectionable, either; it's having to keep a pair of shoes at the office and clomping to work wearing boots every day. I hope next week's warm-up finishes that phase of the year.

Wednesday 4 March 2015 08:57:57 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Tuesday 3 March 2015

Yeah, when my friend sent me an email about "Spocking the five" yesterday, I read it a couple of times before giving up, too. But the Bank of Canada has no problem with it:

It turns out there's not a lot of logic in the belief that it's against the law to Vulcanize Sir Wilfrid Laurier's likeness on the $5 bill.

The death of Leonard Nimoy last week inspired people to post photos on social media of marked-up banknotes that show Canada's seventh prime minister transformed to resemble Spock, Nimoy's famous "Star Trek" character.

For years, Canadians have doodled Spock's pointy Vulcan ears, sharp eyebrows and signature bowl haircut on the fiver's image of Laurier, the first francophone PM.

Contrary to popular belief, it's not illegal to deface or even mutilate banknotes, the Bank of Canada said Monday -- although the publication of a banknote's likeness is still prohibited, except under certain conditions.

In other words, you're allowed to do this:

Photo: Tom Bagley, The Canadian Press

LLAP, Canada.

Tuesday 3 March 2015 10:58:04 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | World#
Monday 2 March 2015

CitiLabs' Feargus O'Sullivan thinks London should stop looking to New York for guidance and concentrate on a city closer to home:

[L]et me outline the difficulties the U.K. capital faces. London's property prices are spiraling, products of a housing drought that's turning decent apartments affordable on a working class wage into urban legends. The city's inequality chasm is widening inch-by-inch, and once economically diverse neighborhoods risk becoming monocultures. This has helped to deaden and marginalize aspects of the city's cultural life that made London vibrant in the first place—a lesser point than displacement, no doubt, but a problem nonetheless. Meanwhile, the city's regenerative energies are ignoring the small print of daily livability and being channeled into ridiculously flashy grand projects that see the city as a mere display cabinet in which to cluster expensive, largely functionless infrastructural tchotchkes.

Does this all sound familiar, New Yorkers?

What makes [London mayor Boris] Johnson's NY-LON obsession more frustrating is that London actually has a far more relevant role model closer to home. It's a place that has strong historical connection with London, a city whose architecture and cultural life London long strove to emulate. Obviously, I'm talking about Paris.

It's worth a (quick) read.

Monday 2 March 2015 13:05:27 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Geography | London | World#

Posting might be a bit slower than normal this week given three full rehearsals in advance of our concert at Rockefeller Chapel on Saturday.

Also, we're pretty much sick of the weather here. February tied with 1875 for the coldest ever, at -9.7°C, and third-snowiest, with 681 mm. That last comes with a star as this was one of only 6 Februaries in history in which we had snow on the ground for the whole month.

Oh, and the forecast through our concert calls for significantly below-average temperatures until Sunday, except for Tuesday, when we'll have freezing rain and snow. Yum.

Monday 2 March 2015 09:35:28 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Kitchen Sink | Weather#
Friday 27 February 2015
Friday 27 February 2015 13:33:23 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#

Depending on tomorrow's weather, this month might be the coldest February in Chicago history:

As of Friday morning, the average temperature for the month was -9.33°C, surpassing the average of -9.27°C in 1936 that is currently ranked the second coldest February, according to the National Weather Service.

Could Chicago see its coldest February ever? That record, an average of -9.67°C, was set way back in 1875.

Oh, and:

This month currently ranks as the third snowiest February on record with 671 mm recorded at O'Hare International Airport. The second snowiest February was back in 1896 with 706 mm, according to the weather service.

We're overjoyed, really, this is a great honor.

Friday 27 February 2015 11:44:45 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#

My old company wants to add 200 people in 2015:

A Chicago consulting firm plans to hire 200 people this year, a one-third expansion of its staff, to keep up with increased business from middle-market companies needing help with business and technology strategies.

The 200 new hires will be primarily project managers and experts in banking, retail, healthcare, manufacturing, and energy and utilities.

Of West Monroe’s 600 current employees, 400 work at the Chicago headquarters, which the company is expanding by 8,000 square feet, bringing the total space to 50,000 square feet, primarily to handle the expansion of a call center in which technologists solve clients’ problems.

Well, 200 new employees are a lot to absorb. I'm still absorbing it myself. I may have a more considered reaction later, but at the moment, I'm wondering where they expect to find 200 qualified people in the current environment.

I'll be watching this closely.

Friday 27 February 2015 11:14:25 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | 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#
Wednesday 25 February 2015

This morning's -10°C temperatures weren't that much better than yesterday's, but it still felt warmer, maybe because we got all the way up to -2°C by 6pm.

The sun may also have helped:

More cold coming. Spring, too, should be here in a couple of weeks months.

Wednesday 25 February 2015 09:16:40 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#

Chicago's municipal election last night failed to elect a mayor:

Chicago's incumbent mayor now is destined for an April 7 runoff election against Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia in an unpredictable battle over the city's future and the right way to get there.

With just 5 percent of precincts yet to report, Emanuel had 199,861 votes, a bit over 45.4 percent. He hovered at that level most of the evening.

It was agonizingly close for him, but still short of the 50 percent-plus-one vote he needed to avoid a runoff.

So, six weeks from now, we have another election. It's not clear at this point which of them will win, because all of Emanuel's challengers appear to be endorsing Garcia now.

Wednesday 25 February 2015 09:12:38 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | US#
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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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