The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Neighborhood bars save lives

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.

Warmest spring ever

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.

How to stop 500,000 people from getting home

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.

Why Johnny Can't Ride

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.

I'll stick with airplanes

I'm not sure what to make of this:

Inside, the capsule's sole passenger would ride in a near-standing position, wearing a G-suit to help force blood to the head during acceleration. The passenger's head would sit in a transparent hemispheric dome topped with an aerospike for better supersonic performance. It gets better.

Dimensions of the capsule's cabin area are roughly two feet (diameter) by 7.5 feet (length). There will be no room in the capsule for movement once the vehicle goes weightless. After launching to 100 miles, parachutes will be used to slow the final descent.

That sounds...well, "fun" doesn't come immediately to mind.

At least it got to O'Hare

The last time I flew home from San Francisco, we landed in Rockford after missing the approach at O'Hare because of wind shear.

Yesterday, we didn't divert to a different airport, but neither did we take the most direct path:

We almost flew into Canada, according to the captain. As it is we were only about 20 minutes late.

The best parked plans...

Before leaving for California last weekend, I made sure to park my car on a street not scheduled for street cleaning while I was away.

At 9:02 this morning, with me still half a block away, I watched a cop put a ticket on the car.

Two minutes. Because I stopped for coffee. Herp derp.

In transit; link dump

I'm once again in an airport, on my way home. While you're waiting eagerly for my next blog post, check these out:

Share and enjoy.

Oh, and there's a Lufthansa Airbus 380 parked here today. I really must see one of those monsters up close someday.

Two IPOs, one story

At dinner last night with some of my B-school friends, conversation turned to the two most perplexing stock offerings of the last year: Facebook's and Groupon's. In both cases, the companies' very young owners and very rich venture capital investors got rich, but what happened after that? Here's Facebook's performance this week:

And Groupon's:

This morning, Groupon announced a proposed settlement in the class-action suit accusing them of practicing their well-known business model:

If you purchased or received a Groupon Voucher issued for redemption in the United States between November 1, 2008 and December 1, 2011, then you are a member of the class (“Class Member”) for purposes of this class action settlement, and may be entitled to receive settlement benefits, unless you are one of the following: (1) an employee of Groupon, Inc.; (2) a business with whom Groupon has partnered to offer Groupon vouchers (“Merchant Partners”); or (3) a parent company, subsidiary, affiliate or director or officer of Groupon or a Merchant Partner.

Facebook has its own problems. It's been a public company for less than three days, and already the SEC is investigating. Where they go, lawsuits surely will follow:

[R]egulators are concerned that banks may have shared information only with certain clients, rather than broadly with investors. On Tuesday, William Galvin, the secretary of state in Massachusetts, subpoenaed Morgan Stanley over discussions with investors about Facebook’s offering. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Wall Street’s self-regulator, is also looking into the matter. The chairwoman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Mary L. Schapiro, said Tuesday that the agency would examine issues related to Facebook’s I.P.O., but she did not elaborate.

Morgan Stanely, the banker in question, led both the Groupon and Facebook IPOs.

At least they didn't lose $2 billion last week gambling with money insured by us taxpayers.