The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Then and Now, Lawrence and Broadway

Now that I have a drone, I've been looking for historical aerial photos of Chicago. I found this 1933 photo of Uptown through the Chicago Public Library collection:

Here's approximately the same view about an hour ago:

Some things immediately jump out. First, the trees. My how they've grown! Second, in the distance you can see the construction of Montrose Harbor in 1933 and the completed harbor (by 1937) in 2020. Third, we have a lot more parking lots and a lot less grime on our buildings these days. And what the hell is that huge industrial building billowing smoke at the corner of Montrose and Clarendon (upper-right corner of 1933)?

Since drones can only legally fly 120 m above the ground in the US, I couldn't get exactly the same angle as in the original photo. My best guess from a number of clues is that the top photo was taken from an airplane flying about 250 m (maybe not even that high) AGL shortly after 1pm on a sunny but hazy early-April afternoon. The air quality in Chicago in 2020 is so much better than at any point in the 20th century that almost no aerial photos from that era will have light as sharp and clear as we get today.

I have a couple more of these up my sleeve. Stay tuned.

Afternoon news roundup

My inbox does not respect the fact that I had meetings between my debugging sessions all day. So this all piled up:

Finally, conferencing app Zoom will roll out true end-to-end encryption in July.

Returning to normal, slowly

Finally, after 97 days and an hour-long webinar on Covid-19 safety precautions, I will finally get to work in my actual office on Monday. We're allowed 2 or 3 times a week, with masks, sanitizer, and no passing between floors. (This matters only because my floor doesn't have an ice machine.)

During the informative webinar just now, I scheduled walks for Parker and started rejiggering my meal plans. (We're discouraged from using the refrigerators, so I'll have to scrounge lunch downtown.)

I'm actually kind of excited about this. And today, the city allowed bars and brewpubs to open, so maybe...could it be...the Brews and Choos Project can resume this weekend?

Another perfect night to fly

The Mini has a service ceiling of 120 m AGL (above ground level) by default. I can jump through some hoops to increase that, but for now, while I'm getting to know how the aircraft handles, that seems just fine.

For example, here are two shots from 110 m half an hour after sunset:

The second one is a dry-run for a before-and-after pair I really can't wait to share. I just want to say, I hope I'm giving historians of the future some good data.

Why didn't I get one of these things years ago?

Happy birthday, Parker!

My bête noir turned 14 (fourteen!) today. I could not decide which photo of him to use so here are three:

For comparison, here's what he looked like on his Gotcha Day almost 14 years ago:

Beautiful night in Chicago

A combination of crystal-clear air, calm winds, and a setting sun gave me some great shots from the Mini this evening. I visited two locations in Lincoln Square: Welles Park, and the corner of Wilson and Ravenswood. I got this still just a few seconds after taking off:

And here's the highlight reel:

After dinner, I discovered on a third flight that it doesn't shoot great video in low-light conditions. Good to know.

Update: Here's the raw video from my altitude test this morning:

Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent

This sort of thing keeps happening, and explains why the police hate the public's ubiquitous video recording:

When CTA supervisor Martesa Lee attempted to lodge a complaint against a Chicago police officer in February, she was given a choice:

Drop her grievance against the officer she accused of pushing her out of an unmarked crime scene on a Red Line platform or face possible arrest.

“Is it worth it to you?” Chicago police Sgt. William Spyker asked her.

It was.

Authorities arrested Lee in front of her co-workers and a platform of CTA riders after she informed the sergeant she would not let the matter go. With her hands cuffed behind her back and tears streaming down her face, she refused additional opportunities to retract her grievance and regain her freedom.

Looking at the facts in the light most favorable to the police, I see no reason to arrest Lee. The time to arrest her for "obstruction of justice" would have been as she actually entered the active crime scene—but even then, it seems clear why the officer chose to let her go.

Spyker's instinct was to arrest someone who disagreed with him, who threatened to make someone on his team fill out some paperwork. He made a blatant argument to force: do this or I will inflict physical violence on you. "Spyker raised the specter of arrest within 35 seconds of Lee approaching him with her concerns," the Tribune pointed out. Despite Spyker's calm demeanor in the video, I'm guessing he didn't have a lot of other tools to use in resolving this dispute.

In fact, "it’s unlikely Haran would face discipline for removing Lee from the crime scene as he has a responsibility to protect the scene’s integrity," one source told the reporter, meaning that all Spyker had to do was take down the complaint and move on with his day. The body cam footage of Lee's initial confrontation with the police is murky at best about who was at fault. Spyker's handling of the situation after the fact is what got this into the newspaper.

(The title of this post is from Foundation by Isaac Azimov.)

Calm winds, altitude test

We had calm winds in my neighborhood this morning, so after walking Parker I grabbed my Mini and did an altitude test. I discovered that I had to replace 3 damaged propeller blades (more on that later), but after fixing the aircraft, I popped it up to 90 m and had a look around:

In the climb to that altitude I discovered that the tallest building in the area is only 70 m tall, and trees tend to be around 25 m tall. These are very useful data points when flying a tiny UAV that doesn't have obstacle-avoidance features.

Update: Here's the raw footage from the test:

Pwning the Libs!

I'll just start with the headline:

Trump supporters burn Michigan absentee ballot applications

Walker, Mich. — People burned letters informing them that they can vote by absentee ballot in future elections during a protest near Grand Rapids.

The applications were burned Friday during an event called Operation Incinerator outside the DeltaPlex Arena in Walker. Many people had flags, shirts and signs showing support for President Donald Trump and Republicans.

“For them just to issue them without merit, without request to absolutely everybody — that is a great waste of taxpayer money,” said Michael Farage, president of the Grand Rapids Taxpayers Association.

Murcia Fuck Yeah!

I really hope these people feel like voting is a waste of money, so they stay home in November. That would suit me just fine.

Chicago skyline

It was too windy today to get above 30 m, so I just snapped this still before taking the Mini on a "walk" down the block. But I also didn't want to waste a perfectly clear day, so I snapped this before bringing the drone back down to eye level:

When you learn how to fly real planes, you learn slow flight first, because it teaches you how to control the plane precisely. And before I do something to permanently damage the Mini, I thought learning how to control it made a lot of sense.

Alas, the forecast calls for breezy weather all weekend and into early next week. Someday I'll get up to 120 m and let it get farther than half a block from me. Someday.