The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Late autumn in Chicago

Sunday morning, after Saturday's snowstorm:

Last night, making mini turkey pot pies for tomorrow:

That's all from scratch. Inside a rosemary-sage crust, from the bottom we've got turkey, pinot noir-reduction gravy, stuffing with organic Italian sausage, and cranberry sauce made with cranberries, orange, honey, and a secret ingredient that makes them amazing.

I think I'm going to gain three kilos this weekend.

Whoops (10 years, plus a few days)

I missed an important anniversary last Friday, probably because I was traveling and got distracted.

The Daily Parker is now ten years (and six days) old. I launched it officially on 13 November 2005, from Inner Drive Technology World Headquarters in Evanston, Ill.

In the 10 years ending last Thursday night, I posted 4,842 entries, averaging 40 per month, or one every 32 hours or so. Not a bad record.

Any odds the blog will be around another 10 years?

New colors

So the masthead is blue now. Any thoughts?

Parker and I managed to go for a one-hour, five-kilometer walk earlier today, as hoped. So my lazy Sunday hasn't been entirely lazy. But just on principle, I think the rest of the day will involve a nap and some time at a local bar with a book.

A year of FitBit

I forgot that I picked up my FitBit a year ago this week. So how am I doing since 24 October 2014?

  • 4.76 million steps (13,000 per day)
  • 4,081 km (11 km per day)
  • 4,557 floors (12 per day)

By FitBit's reckoning, that puts me somewhere around the 90th percentile of FitBit users worldwide. It also means I've walked the entire length of Japan and climbed enough stairs to reach the normal cruising altitude of a commercial jet.

And Parker and I are about to get more steps in just a few minutes.

Milestones

This post has a personal and a technical significance.

Personally: exactly 10,000 days ago, I was graduated from high school, at about this time of day.

Technically: The new blog engine let me pre-post this several days ahead, something the old blog engine thought it could do but never quite succeeded.

That is all.

Divvy is faster than the El, usually

Now that Chicago's bike share has hundreds of stations, its efficiencies are becoming clearer:

But what about convenience? Recently Divvy held its second annual data visualization challenge, and one of the winners, by Shaun Jacobsen at Transitized, compares the speed of Divvy with the speed of the CTA. And Divvy wins by a nose.

Jacobsen’s “Who’s Faster” project starts with a look at the 1,000 top “station pairs"—i.e. the places that people most often go from point A to point B using Divvy. Then, those are compared to the same route on the CTA at noon on a Monday.

And a couple patterns emerge. One is that the bulk of station-to-station trips are faster, centering on five minutes’ savings. It might not sound like much, but it adds up; Jacobsen calculates 32,023 hours saved over 571,634 trips. The other is that the most heavily-used station pairs tend to save more time than less frequently-used ones, as if people are starting to figure out how it works.

Cool stuff.

Bloomingdale Trail opening June 6th

After almost two years, the trail opens June 6th:

Built on a long-defunct railroad line, the trail runs through Bucktown, Wicker Park, Logan Square and Humboldt Park.  Work on the $95 million project began in fall 2013.  Take a look at the path under construction.

When the trail opens, four of the access points will be through ground-level parks: Walsh Park, 1722 N. Ashland Ave.; Churchill Park, 1825 N. Damen Ave.; Julia de Burgos Park, 1805 N. Albany Ave.; and Park 567, 1805 N. Milwaukee Ave.

When completed, the 606 it will include six parks, an event plaza, an observatory, art installations, educational programming and other amenities, Emanuel said in a news release.

Parker and I will take a hike on it as soon as practical—possibly June 7th.

FitBit challenge: crushed

The final score from my FitBit challenge over the weekend was: friend, 33,800; me, 37,800. Yesterday I gave Parker 3 hours of walks and also walked home from dinner instead of taking public transit or a Divvy, which got me almost to 23,800 steps (and 17.7 km) for the day.

There was a cost. My feet hurt, Parker was lethargic this morning, and I ate too much. And this week it's not likely I'll get 10,000 steps in every day this week because I've got an all-day meeting Wednesday. Which is probably a good thing, according to my feet and my dog.

Are zombie bikes coming to Chicago?

Electric bikes that move between bike share stations may solve the bike-rebalancing problem:

The goal of this research is to derive algorithms directing the vans and trucks that bike-share operators use to shuffle bikes from station to station within a city. Trouble is, rebalancing is a moving target with several layers of complexity. You not only need to predict how many bikes a station will need at a certain time, but you need to minimize the (costly and time-consuming) movement of these vans and trucks—and you need to do it all while the system is in use.

Algorithms aren't the only option. Wald reports that at least one researcher is modeling a system in which driverless bike-share trucks could rebalance stations automatically. Of course, an easier way would be for bike-share systems to use electric bikes that shuffled themselves. But the thought of a bike traveling without a rider does bring up the problem of, you know, balance.

Meanwhile, Chicago's Divvy system will add another 100 or more stations next year, all the way up into Rogers Park and down to the far South Side.

Modest Divvy program losses last year

Crain's reported this morning that the Divvy bike-share program lost $150k on $2.2 million in revenue last year:

Though the operating loss is not unexpected, and the amount is relatively small, it comes at a time when Mr. Emanuel is under intense pressure to cut costs and avoid tax increases. The bicycle-sharing program has not yet reached many neighborhoods, reinforcing a view that Divvy is merely a toy for yuppies and tourists.

With the program expected to ramp up this year, achieving profitability is crucial to its long-term success. The administration expects Divvy to at least break even this year.

The program has proved popular with out-of-towners, but it must win over more price-sensitive customers, such as city residents.

So, the program seems on track, and the $12.5-million infusion from Blue Cross certainly hasn't hurt. I'm encouraged.