The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Divvy supply management

My experiment with Divvy—the ugliest form of transportation in Chicago—continues. Yesterday I took, I think, five Divvy rides of varying length, and ran into a problem that will always exist in their model.

It wasn't weather. In fact, on reflection I believe that being able to park and forget the bikes means not caring at all about whether it's going to rain later. If it does, all one needs to do is take another way home.

No, yesterday I encountered a supply problem at the remotest Divvy station on the north side. After a 7 km ride, I got to Logan Square, only to find the Divvy rack was full. I had nowhere to put the bike.

First thing to do in this situation is ask for more time. The kiosks have a "station full" button that gives you 15 extra minutes to find another station. Only, in this case, I felt a little put out, because the station map said the full rack I was staring at actually had two free spots. It continued to say this for an hour, until, like a stuck clock right twice a day, there were finally two open spots.

Fine, the map at Logan Square showed a station only 800 m away. Only, my phone didn't. I went to investigate anyway and discovered, nope, no station, but a spot where they intend to put the station "soon."

I wound up parking the bike at California and Milwaukee, about 1500 m from my original destination, and the weather was gorgeous so walking didn't really bother me that much. But it put me on notice: when a remote station shows nearly-full, don't believe it.

I'm also going to download the developer's tools to find out how often the data get updated. I'll post when I find out.

Best bars to work in: Duke of Perth

I'm starting a new post series born out of frustration with existing restaurant and search tools. Simply put, most entertainment sites (e.g., Yelp) don't have easy ways of searching for good places to have a beer while working.

Anyone who's read The Daily Parker knows I usually have a "remote office." Often, after regular working hours, I relocate from my regular office to a quiet bar to do another hour or two of work. Right now my remote office is Duke of Perth, where I wrote much of the Inner Drive Extensible Architecture and good hunks of other projects.

Right now, the Duke of Perth is clearly my favorite place to work. What makes it so?

Location: Notwithstanding its objective characteristics, it's a favorite because it's only one click from my house. My other remote offices have been similarly proximate to my daytime offices or my homes.

No TVs: TVs distract me from reading, writing, and talking with people. Plus they're ugly. Duke of Perth doesn't have a single TV anywhere.

Beers: I like to sip a medium-hop, moderate-alcohol pale ale when working. Duke of Perth has Belhaven Twisted Thistle, a well-balanced British IPA that clocks in at 5.3% ABV and around 45 IBUs.

Food: The Duke has a good spread of Scottish pub food (including, yes, haggis) and for no apparent reason the best wings in Chicago. One of their servers finally gave me a hint as to why: they use fresh wings and fresh batter. And orphan's tears.

Staff: Mike has managed Duke of Perth since 1990, and Colin has owned it for a couple years longer than that. Server, cook, and bartender turnover is low. And the staff are uniformly smart and laid-back.

Dogs: No, Parker isn't allowed at the Duke. But that's OK. While I like dog-friendly bars, Parker can be a big distraction while I'm working. If I'm just hanging out with a book, though, he's less of a bother.

Even though Duke of Perth remains my favorite after-work work bar, I'm going to spend the next few weekends looking for other places like it as a public service. Look for more posts on this topic, or download the data, which I'll update from time to time.

Is LinkedIn worth it?

I've never had much user for LinkedIn. Apparently I'm not alone:

The site’s initial appeal was as a sort of self-updating Rolodex—a way to keep track of ex-coworkers and friends-of-friends you met at networking happy hours. There’s the appearance of openness—you can “connect” with anyone!—but when users try to add a professional contact from whom they’re more than one degree removed, a warning pops up. “Connecting to someone on LinkedIn implies that you know them well,” the site chides, as though you’re a stalker in the making. It asks you to indicate how you know this person. Former coworker? Former classmate? Fine. “LinkedIn lets you invite colleagues, classmates, friends and business partners without entering their email addresses,” the site says. “However, recipients can indicate that they don’t know you. If they do, you’ll be asked to enter an email address with each future invitation.”

This frenetic networking-by-vague-association has bred a mordant skepticism among some users of the site. Scott Monty, head of social media for the Ford Motor Company, includes a disclaimer in the first line of his LinkedIn bio that, in any other context, would be a hilarious redundancy: “Note: I make connections only with people whom I have met.” It’s an Escher staircase masquerading as a career ladder.

I'll keep my LinkedIn profile active, of course, because I have to in my industry. But it's not like I'm hard to find online.

Favorite pubs in the world

The question just came up in an email exchange with a friend's friend's sister: what are my favorite pubs in the world?

After a couple minutes' thought, I got here:

1. Duke of Perth, Chicago. Obviously; it has been my remote office off and on for over 20 years.

2. Southampton Arms, London. If I ever live in the UK, this may switch places with the Duke. It's just hard to say a place is my favorite when it's 6,000 kilometers away and I only go there twice a year.

3. Tommy Nevin's, Evanston, Ill., my former remote office.

4. Nag's Head, Hoboken, N.J. Another that used to be my remote office—but in the days before Wi-Fi and ubiquitous laptops. I still visit if I have time while I'm in New York.

5. Guthrie's Tavern, Chicago. Since the Duke of Perth is halfway between my house and Guthrie's, I don't get there as often as I used to. But it's worth the trip.

Some honorable mentions:

  • Bucktown Pub, Chicago. I'm starting to warm to the place, especially after many trivia nights there. Unfortunately, I don't live in Bucktown.
  • Peddler's Daughter, Nashua, N.H. (A former temporary remote office.)
  • The Bridge, Amberley, England. A real, live English country pub.
  • Kennedy's, San Francisco. By day, on its patio, it's wonderful. At night, it gets a little too loud and crowded, and there are too many TVs. Still, I almost always stop in when I'm out there.
  • Tigin, Stamford, Conn. My then-girlfriend lived right around the corner.

And some that are no more, and missed: Abbey Tavern, New York, where I hung out weekly from 1997 to 2000; closed in 2006. And The King's Head, Earls Court, London—which was really great before the new owners turned it into a trendy gastro-pub.

I'm always looking for suggestions.

Quick morning commute; not sure about the evening

I signed up for Divvy only a few days ago and got my key yesterday. This morning I zipped to work in 28 minutes, door to door, which is about 33% faster than taking the quickest public transit route. (Cabs are still the fastest, but also the most expensive.)

Of course, now I get the flipside. It's almost 5:30, and I have to contend with this:

At least it looks to end soon.

What Shakespeare sounded like

I live for this kind of thing:

What did Shakespeare’s English sound like to Shakespeare? To his audience? And how can we know such a thing as the phonetic character of the language spoken 400 years ago? These questions and more are addressed in the video above, which profiles a very popular experiment at London’s Globe Theatre, the 1994 reconstruction of Shakespeare’s theatrical home. As linguist David Crystal explains, the theater’s purpose has always been to recapture as much as possible the original look and feel of a Shakespearean production—costuming, music, movement, etc. But until recently, the Globe felt that attempting a play in the original pronunciation would alienate audiences. The opposite proved to be true, and people clamored for more. Above, Crystal and his son, actor Ben Crystal, demonstrate to us what certain Shakespearean passages would have sounded like to their first audiences, and in so doing draw out some subtle wordplay that gets lost on modern tongues.

[D]espite the strangeness of the accent, the language can sometimes feel more immediate, more universal, and more of the moment, even, than the sometimes stilted, pretentious ways of reading Shakespeare in the accent of a modern London stage actor or BBC news anchor.

Next trip to London, I want to catch an OP production at The Globe.

In 1787, I'm told, our founding fathers did agree...

In honor of Constitution Day, I'll be spending time at the Cook County Criminal Courts at 26th and California. Jury duty starts at 9am. I couldn't ask for a to serve on a jury. (Of course, the part of the Constitution guaranteeing jury trials didn't come about until 1791.)

And I couldn't let such a personally-relevant Constitution Day go by without re-posting this:

End of the story; or, why Noah isn't the only one who needed an arc

Just a brief note, when I should be sound asleep. I caught up on Aaron Sorkin's Newsroom tonight, and realized that the episode ended the story.

I could be wrong. I called my dad immediately, asking for some assurance that I wasn't insane about it ending all three* of the basic conflicts that make up the story, but he hadn't seen it yet, as he's two time zones west of me.

So, all you've got until I get his reflections, dear readers, is an amateur opinion. But as far as I can see, the story has nowhere to go after tonight.

I'll very likely address this later in the week with spoilers. For now, I welcome—I encourage—arguments against my hypothesis.

Tonight's show was the season finale. But for expletive's sake, was it also the series finale? Maybe my confusion was I didn't realize it was a season finale. So all the threads coming together seemed like the end to me—but I could be wrong.

My aforementioned dad reminds me that show business is best expressed thus:



Of course. Yet I like stories, and I like good writing, and I like getting carried away. From tonight's Newsroom, I worry that it's another four years until I get to watch Aaron Sorkin's writing again.

I would have hoped the business let the show go on for another season. Except...I think the story ended tonight. And no matter what Sorkin might do for a third season, it will have to be a different story. I'm sure the suits know that. They may not have a fiber of creativity to share amongst them, but they know damn well when the party's over.

All I can conclude from this is that Sorkin needs to write features. Not TV; features. He can't keep doing this to his fans in 20 episodes. (Disclosure: I really liked Studio 60. But he really ended it after one season. Is that what happened tonight?)

Will-Mac; Maggie-Jim; Everyone-Reese.

Missed a Cubs milestone

The Cubs won on Friday, which pushed them over an important hurdle this season. After playing 147 games, it finally became mathematically impossible for them to lose 100 this season.

They've lost both games since then, and they're 63-86 for the season, putting them firmly in last place—but at least they can't lose 100.

Small blessings.

Once more, with policy

Paul Krugman points out, one more time, that we haven't solved the root problems that led to our 5+-year recession:

Suppose you’re a hedge fund manager, getting 2 and 20 — fees of 2 percent of investors’ money, plus 20 percent of profits. What you want to do is load up on as much leverage as possible, and make high-risk, high return investments. This more or less guarantees that your fund will eventually go bust — but in the meantime you’ll have raked in huge personal earnings, and can walk away filthy rich from the wreckage.

What brings this to mind is a new Center for Public Integrity report on the lifestyles of the rich and infamous — finance honchos who brought down their companies and much of the world economy with them. So, Lehman’s Dick Fuld gets to ruminate on what went wrong in his Greenwich mansion or his 40-acre ranch, or maybe his 5-bedroom house in Florida. Jimmy Cayne of Bear Stearns plays bridge from his $25 million apartment in the Plaza Hotel. And so on down the line.

So it really was heads they win, tails we lose, with all the incentives being to take maximum risks and let the taxpayers clean up the mess.

Luckily, it won’t happen again, because we’ve had comprehensive financial reform. Right? Right?

As one commenter wrote, "The Occupy Wall Street folks were on to something."