Monthly Archives: September 2005

No Surprise

Everybody else is showing me theirs, so i’ll show you mine. From The Politics Test:

You are a

Social Liberal
(80% permissive)

and an…

Economic Conservative
(78% permissive)

You are best described as a:


Link: The Politics Test on OkCupid Free Online Dating

No surprises there. Right smack in the middle of libertarian land. it’s lonely up in that corner: Just me, Thomas Jefferson, and the Unabomber.

Fear of Photographs

I only got really interested in photography a little less than a year ago. I’ve taken more pictures since then, almost 9000, than in the previous 40 years. I’m especially fascinated by street photography—just wandering the streets of the city taking pictures of people and streets and buildings and how they all fit together.

Apparently, this is a bad time for it. Ever since 9/11, a lot of authoritarian types are suspicious of people taking pictures. Take a picture of a bridge or tall building or federal building and they get all excited and start yelling and threatening.

Here are some depressing stories about anti-photography zealots.

Commandress in Chief

I keep seeing ads like this:

This Fall A Woman Will Be President

Commander In Chief

It’s a TV series on ABC. That’s all I know about it. I don’t know who’s in it or who made it, and I don’t want to know.

I guess it’s about a woman president. How does that make it a series? Every time I see that ad I think “Okay, a woman president and…and…?”

I’m trying to picture what it could be about. I mean, if “The President is a Woman” is your only series concept, how many episodes can you get?

  • Week 1: (Pilot) Inauguration Day
  • Week 2: Sexual Discrimination
  • Week 3: Women in the Military
  • Week 4: Sacrificing a Female Staff Member To Prove She Doesn’t Discriminate Against Men
  • Week 5: Equal Pay
  • Week 6: (November sweeps weeks) Rape
  • Week 7: (November sweeps weeks) Abortion
  • Week 8: (November sweeps weeks) Lesbians
  • Week 9: (November sweeps weeks) Rape, Abortion, and Lesbians

That gets them to the winter hiatus. After that, they’re out of series-specific story ideas, so they’re just West Wing with a chick. I suppose they could stretch it with a few episodes about how hard it is to be a President and a mommy or something.

Heck, I don’t know anything about it. It could be brilliant. But can I just point out that Battlestar Galactica has had a woman president for almost two years now?

Update: I gave in and checked out the show a little more.

Geena Davis is playing Vice President Mackenzie Allen, who succeeds a dying President.

Sample dialog (via

Vice President Allen: I’m going to go out there, and I’m going to take the oath of office. I’m going to run this government…. and if some Islamic nations can’t tolerate a female president, then I promise you…. it will be more their problem than mine!


Jim: Madame Vice President, I must insist that you strongly consider resigning…..

Vice President Allen: Jim, you’re not in a position to insist how I take my coffee!

Apparently, an episode has already aired. Little did I know.

Sportif Importer Ltd

Ever since the Supreme Court decided against private property owners in Kelo v. City of New London, local governments all over the United States have returned to the task of taking properties from their current owners and giving them to developers and corporations, under the supposed justification that the new owners will do something with the property that is better for the community.

Here in Chicago, one target of eminent domain abuse is the Sportif Importer Limited bike shop at 5225 W Lawrence Avenue.

Sportif Importer Ltd
Larger ImageSportif Importer Ltd

According to a recent Sun-Times article by Abdon M. Pallasch, the shop is a thriving business that has been operating in the Jefferson Park business district for 35 years.

That hasn’t stopped the city from trying to take the land. In order to keep up appearances with regard to the “just compensation” part of the Fifth Amendment, the city has offered owner Donald Zordani the grand sum of $480,000. A quick search on finds 32 single-family homes in the same zip code that are listed for more than half a million dollars. You’d think a large lot in the business district would be worth more than a single-family home on a side street, wouldn’t you?

Surrounding Vacant Lots
Larger ImageSurrounding Vacant Lots

The city’s official explanation is that the little local business district is “blighted,” allowing the city to condemn the property so it can be used for something else. It almost looks blighted too, judging by the vacant lots surrounding the store. Of course, the reason they’re vacant is because the developer is holding them empty until he can tear down the bike shop. Then he’s going to build a seven-story condominium.

Here’s a view across the east lot from the rear:

Copernicus Center
Larger ImageCopernicus Center

The red brick building on the right is the Copernicus Center in the historic Gateway Theater, which is the largest theater on Chicago’s northwest side. Among other things, they hold the “Taste of Polonia” festival every year. Vice President Dick Chaney was at the festival a few years ago, and the elder President Bush visited in 1992.

The tall building visible over the top of the Sportif building is the office complex at Veteran’s square, built just a few years ago. And only about 200 feet west of Sportif is this brand new CVS Pharmacy:

CVS Pharmacy
Larger ImageCVS Pharmacy

I’m not saying there isn’t any blight of any kind. For example, just west of the Copernicus Center is this strip of stores, one or two of which are clearly not in use:

On the other hand, at that same intersection—about a minute’s walk from Sportif—is Hoyne Savings, which has been there forever.

Hoyne Savings
Larger ImageHoyne Savings

And just south of that is this vibrant stretch of stores:

On the north side is this mix of old and new construction:

Mixed Construction
Larger ImageMixed Construction

Further down that road is the cluster of businesses around the Jefferson Park CTA station for buses and trains. Glance down a side street and you’ll see a pleasant residential district. I’m just not seeing the blight.

Nearby Residential Street
Larger ImageNearby Residential Street

Understand, I have nothing against new construction, and unlike some of the local activists, I’m not too concerned if the seven-story condo planned for Sportif’s location doesn’t “fit in” to the neighborhood. I’ve seen some of the buildings going up and I’ll admit I don’t like them much.

Ugly New Building
Larger ImageUgly New Building

I think this building is pretty ugly, and if I had a say in the matter, it would never have gone up. The thing is, I don’t have a say, because it’s not my damned property.

To tell the truth, if Sportif Importer is bulldozed and a seven-story condo is built there, I won’t miss it a bit. I don’t think I’ve ever been inside until I stopped in to ask if I could take pictures inside and the guy behind the counter (who must have been Zordani himself) told me I couldn’t. That’s why I have no pictures of the inside, because I respected his right to control his property.

Too bad everybody doesn’t have that respect.

[More pictures of the threatened property here.]

One of Those Weeks…

I haven’t been posting anything because I’ve been having a rough week. My car’s oil light lit up on Saturday just as I pulled up at a friend’s house. There was plenty of oil according to the dipstick, so I decided to leave the car there until Monday then have it towed to the shop. The tow charge plus the repairs plus a new set of tires before winter added up to $800 that I hadn’t been planning to spend.

Next, I’ve been upgrading my computer. I made a change which I thought would be simple, but between an IDE disk controller that was too old for my new disk drive and some bad RAM from Crucial, I spent most of the last two days untangling computer problems.

Then on Monday night my wife’s computer developed a problem of its own. After a little time running, the computer would crash and not reboot, saying it couldn’t access the disk drive. If I let it “rest” a while, it would all come back and run for maybe an hour before crashing again. I suspect the disk controller is flaky and acting up when it gets hot.

My wife’s computer is a laptop, so I can’t do much to fix it myself. We had to spend several hours power cycling her computer and copying off the important stuff to a portable USB hard drive. Then I packed it up and shipped it off to a computer repair place that supposedly fixes Toshiba laptops with a quick turnaround. It got there this morning, so we’ll see. That’s $140 just for shipping and diagnosis. Fixing it will cost more.

All this made me realize that a lot more of our lives are on the computers than ever before and (as usual) our backup strategy hasn’t kept up. For several years, we’ve been using Iron Mountain’s Connected Data Protector on-line service for backups. Every night, our most important 10 Gigabytes of data—personal and corporate financial data, email, various projects—are backed up to some remote site. The Connected Data Protector service is less expensive than its competition, but it’s not cheap. Nevertheless, it’s an excellent service that I highly recommend if you can afford it.

The plan was that if we ever lost a disk drive we could just re-install Windows and all the important software from scratch. It would only take a day or so. Then we download the critical data from Connected and we’re back in business.

I realized now, however, that our computer usage has grown and changed a lot in the past year. My new digital photography hobby is chewing up a lot of disk space, and I don’t want to lose those pictures. I have a lot more downloaded software than ever before. I could burn some of this stuff to optical media, but doing that on a regular basis would be tedious. We had to change our backup and disaster recovery strategy.

So I went out and bought a terabyte of disk storage.

One thousand gigabytes. One million megabytes.

Half of it was a pair of SATA drives which I set up as a 250GB RAID 1 (mirror) pair in my desktop computer to replace the 80GB IDE drive I had been using as a software/media library for stuff like downloaded programs, CD disk images, and all our pictures and music. Both drives have identical copies of the data. If either drive breaks, the other one still runs. If no problems develop with the RAID drives, I’ll probably RAID the system disk as well. That should cover me for hardware failures.

The other half terabyte was a pair of push-button backup drives that connect to the USB ports and are sized to backup everything on both of our computers. I think pushing the button will be a lot less tedious than burning DVDs.

That covers us for hardware, software, and user error problems. In case of disaster—hurricanes seem to be in vogue these days—we’ll still have all our most critical data stored off site, courtesy of Iron Mountain corporation.

Including disks, tools, and software, that’s about $1200 I wasn’t planning to spend.

Meanwhile, last night my wife’s brand-new Casio Exilim digital camera broke in a non-warranty kind of way. We’ll probably have to replace it. Crap.

Just in case some random multimillionaire is reading this and is moved by my heart-rending story—and is tired of donating to whining hurricane victims—the PayPal button is on the right.