The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Hot date tomorrow

Anne and I have arranged a blind date with Parker tomorrow:

We may even take him home. He's a beagle-rat terrier-German shepherd mix from a farm in downstate Illinois. We think he'll take to urban living like a duck to water.

Two quick hits

First, I just put a major project to bed. It was my first time out doing litigation support, meaning I wrote software to crunch a whole bunch (= about a billion) of numbers for a law firm who represent a large (= about 350,000) class of plaintiffs. They got the results just now, so unless the defendant chooses not to settle and I get subpoenaed, I believe I'm done.

Second, at least one petty little man on the South Shore Line apparently doesn't "get" the whole idea of bikes on a train:

A day trip to South Bend ended up costing a Lincoln Park man $150 in cab fare after a South Shore Line crew member told him he would have to get his bicycle off the train.
What startled Alan Forester, 34, was that he had taken the South Shore Line to South Bend earlier in the day Sunday and no one said anything to him about his bike. Even more puzzling, he said he had followed the bicycle policy that he read on the railroad's Web site.

I had a similar problem about two years ago, when, after bonking on a very long ride, I attempted to board a Union Pacific North Line train at Highland Park, and got turned away by a conductor who thought my bungee cord was too short. (I think I may have told him at least I had a bungee cord, but we won't go there right now.)

The CTA largely gets it right. All CTA buses have bike racks. This means people can get out of their cars and save the environment by biking without worrying they'll be stranded because of weather or traffic. Why is Metra so opposed to the idea?

Biking the way it ought to be

Yesterday I posted that even a bad ride on my new bike is better than a good ride on my old bike. Today I had a good ride on the new bike, and boy, it's a very good thing.

As you can see from my biking stats (at least as of this writing), I set eight personal records today, including one that stood for more than 21 years. There's a stretch of Sheridan Road that has a 14 m (45 ft) drop and a nice, straight, stopsign-free flat after it, where today I got my bike up to 53.4 km/h (33.2 mph), breaking my old record of 52.0 km/h (32.3 mph) set (probably on the same hill) in May 1985.

Yes, I live in a place where a 14-meter drop is the biggest hill around.

Anyway, I'm very pleased with today's ride, and I'm excited about doing 120 km (75 mi) on the Katy Trail next weekend, and then 161 km (100 mi) on the North Shore Century in three weeks. And I promise to have bike photos tomorrow or Tuesday.

Chicago's <i>foie gras</i> ban

Letter to the Chicago Tribune:

The August 24th editorial on the Chicago City Council implies that the Council's recent actions, including its enacting a ban on the sale of foie gras, are paternalistic: the Council is "meddlin'," a "bossy governess," a bunch of "scolds"; its decisions are "petty intrusions in people's lives."

All of those words and phrases describe paternalistic actions; that is, actions whose purpose is to save people from themselves. The foie gras ban is intended to save geese from people. The distinction is clear as day, yet opponents of the ban keep missing it.

—Guest blogger Anne

More about the new bike

First, I promise to take some photos today. Possibly I can convince Anne to take an action shot or two, which I will post, forgetting for a moment that no one—I mean, no one—can possibly avoid looking like a total dork while wearing bike gear.

Second, I've revised and moved my biking stats page. I thought it was only fair to split off my old bike's records into their own table, because my new bike is so much faster it just wouldn't be fair. Case in point: yesterday, I did 40 km (25 mi) along the lakefront, but I wasn't feeling great. It was warm and humid, I was tired, I hadn't eaten very well, there were children and dogs on the bike path, and I had a couple of minor issues with the bike (trouble clipping in, chain slipping off inner chainring, etc.).

Even with all that working against me, I bested my previous 40 km record by more than four and a half minutes. In other words, a bad ride on my new bike was 5% faster than the best comparable ride on my old bike.

As you can see from the chart, though, comparing Wednesday's OK ride to the previous records shows an 8% improvement over 5 km (3 mi) and an 11% improvement over one hour.

Finally, on the chart you may notice my spot-speed record of 52 km/h (32.3 mph), which I set in May 1985. Yes, in 21 years I haven't managed to make a bicycle go faster than that. Well, watch this space, because today I intend to break that record.

Tommy Two-Cats (1988-2006)

My dad's oldest cat died Tuesday night. He was 18 1/2.

Here's Tommy in 1997:

He was the sweetest cat ever. Not the brightest (we called him "Forrest") nor the slimmest ("Tommy Two-Cats"), but definitely the sweetest.

Tom is survived by his best friend, Reggie.

The point of terrorism

Bruce Schneier reminds everyone how we can really defeat the terrorists:

The point of terrorism is to cause terror, sometimes to further a political goal and sometimes out of sheer hatred. The people terrorists kill are not the targets; they are collateral damage. And blowing up planes, trains, markets or buses is not the goal; those are just tactics. The real targets of terrorism are the rest of us: the billions of us who are not killed but are terrorized because of the killing. The real point of terrorism is not the act itself, but our reaction to the act.
And we're doing exactly what the terrorists want.
The surest defense against terrorism is to refuse to be terrorized. Our job is to recognize that terrorism is just one of the risks we face, and not a particularly common one at that. And our job is to fight those politicians who use fear as an excuse to take away our liberties and promote security theater that wastes money and doesn't make us any safer.

Best laid plans

I was going to have action shots of my new bike this morning, but I decided to take the bus to my office instead of riding for some reason:

I'll have more on the bike later, including the results of my first real ride on it (whee!), but right now I have to crunch a few million data points. I'm also suffering from the after-effects of a midnight inspiration last night, which (a) led to two hours of coding starting at 1:00 am, and (b) got the total speed of the application up 40%.