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Showing posts from September, 2016

Wading into the pool debate again

For those of you reading who are not from Oak Park, we have a local paper with a decently active comments section. I read but rarely post. Which I suspect is true for many others. It's not a bad little local paper. Could be better--could also be dead like most other small newspapers. So it's easy to forgive. But it's also easy to forget that the negative views expressed there do not represent the entire community. It becomes an echo chamber. (And especially confusing now that multiple viewpoints are being expressed with comments on all of them at the same time.) You'd never guess that while I'm out on my weekly long runs around the village that the yard signs in favor of the high school facilities plan outnumber the opponents about 10-1.

A few people who have lived here longer and know a bit more about "typical" election cycles will tell you that a school tax issue in the general election is terrible because "regular" voters tune out and vote no …

Incremental parking change

I have to say that last night's Transportation Commission meeting was pretty demoralizing. Not because it wasn't productive. It was. But because I found it philosophically challenging. After 3 hours--keep in mind this is a project we've been working on for 18 months--we took no vote after extensive public testimony and feedback. And it's not that I was itching for a vote. Rather, if one had been will eventually be taken...I'm still not sure where I come down on the issue. It probably would have been a "no" vote last night. Not because I disagree with the work we've done up to this point but because I think it falls drastically short of what is actually needed. 
The problem is that we've been tasked to improve the parking situation in the Y2, Y3, and Y4 zones in Oak Park. Clearer signage. Eliminate (unnecessary?) confusion. Simplify. Find more spaces. Which we've done. Sort of. The problem I'm having in my head is that we can t…

2016 Illinois Bike Summit

It's been an unusually busy week here for me. I had family in town and spent two evenings at Wrigley watching the Cubs in addition to being away all of Monday. So today is the first time I've had a chance to catch up on my inbox and blog.

I took Amtrak from Chicago to Bloomington-Normal...that itself could be a blog post. My experience down was great but less so on the way home. Anyway, the venue for the 2016 IL Bike Summit was fantastic--only positive things to say about that. Overall, I went to 4 sessions during the day plus there was a really intriguing lunch speaking from IDOT who spoke at length about culture change at the state level trying to budget and implement bike projects. There was one session on bike law. Another session on kids and biking with an emphasis on starting community and school programs. Plus a super interesting history of early IL bicycling. Again, these all could get their own blog post.

The one I came home from the conference really thinking about, …

Electoral reality

2016 has become the year that jumped the shark a long time ago. It's a post-factual, anything goes, not required to obey logic, reason, or science year. But, usually, the newer world of data geeks taking polls and coming up with probabilities has taken some of the pundit nonsense out of the process. Election year polls that you can't make heads nor tails of have given way to polling averages and complicated formulas for predicting how various states will vote based on demographics and likely turnout models. A few outlets are even experimenting with predicting results early based on turnout and whether candidates can hit precinct-level benchmarks. (I welcome it, with reservation, but many are not so optimistic and I could do a whole post just on that topic alone.) Long story short is that in years past forecasting models have been fairly competitive with each other for accuracy in determining election results. A few reach near 100% precision. But those of you with a science bac…

The homework dilemma

Our 1st grade son loves his teacher. We're not so sure.

As parents, we already have pretty strong feelings about the amount of recess and free play time that has been removed from early elementary school day. Kindergarten, as you've probably heard, has been transformed from dress up and pretend with a few stories mixed in to an endless year of reading and handwriting expectations. And there's hardly any method parents can use to fight back. Teachers are certainly under pressure to engage students in the new learning standards which prepare them for standardized testing and high academic performance.

For 1st graders, the National PTA recommends 10-20 minutes of homework per night with 10 minutes added per night each grade level after that. (So a 2nd grader could receive up to 30 minutes.) There's a mix of research on the impact and outcomes related to homework. Surveys indicate that time spent doing homework is going up in the early grade levels while the overall amount…

Election 2016 geek time

Click the map to create your own at

The above images give you a fairly decent snapshot of where the 2016 race for President stands as of Labor Day. Clinton's probability of winning--depending on which forecast model you use--varies from 70% to 93%. The race has tightened a bit since Clinton's post-convention polling bounce, but she remains overall a very strong favorite to win. (Clinton currently leads by 5% on average.) She has an especially strong edge in swing states though her starting point is already above the 270 Electoral Votes needed to win. There is some disagreement in the forecasting world about just how strong a favorite she is. Almost everyone agrees she is the likely winner, but a 20% spread in chances for Trump is pretty big. Does he have a very tiny chance or is he a more modest-but-still-underdog? I'd explain this variation, mostly, as a disagreement over whether her actual lead is closer to 4-5% (Obama levels) or something larger like the 1…