This is wrong

frozen_riverThe Chicago river isn’t supposed to freeze until January. Last night’s low on my balcony was 1 degree (I have a digital thermometer with a 12-hour min/max memory). The past week has been the 8th coldest period in 143 years of record keeping. That’s impressive.

It’s going to be a long winter.

Siri just got useful

siri1I was cooking dinner earlier this evening and discovered I only had two more stalks of celery left. I knew I’d forget to add it to my shopping list (and if it’s not on my list, I won’t remember to buy it), but I was in the middle of cooking and my hands were dirty and I didn’t want to stop.

Then I thought about Siri. I have a list called “Shopping List” in Reminders on my iPhone, and I wondered if Siri could figure that out. My iPhone was sitting on the counter, so I used a knuckle to hold down the home button and bring up the Siri prompt. Then I said, “Add celery to my shopping list.” Sure enough, Siri found the Shopping List and offered to add celery to it – all I had to do was say “yes” when prompted to confirm.

siri2I also discovered that I can say “Show my shopping list,” and Siri will bring up the list, complete with radio buttons I can tap when I’ve added an item to my basket.

This is actually the most use I’ve gotten out of Siri since I upgraded to a Siri-capable iPhone over the summer. Mostly I’ve just used Siri to be stupid and have fun. I changed the voice to male and asked if he was gay. He responded with, “I can’t answer that.” Ask him why not, and he just says, “I can’t say.” (I bet there are a few celebrities out there who wish they had Apple programmers as their publicists.)

Other people get a lot more use out of Siri than I do. I was riding in a car with my aunt a while back, and she asked Siri for directions to Midway Airport. (Yes, while she was driving. And no, I don’t know how to get to the airport – or anywhere else – by car. I don’t drive, so I don’t need to know “how” to get to my destination, just “where” it is.)

I’m glad I’ve finally found a use for Siri. I was starting to feel left out.

Way to go incognito

Jared Leto Bundles Up in Faux Fur Lined Winter JacketI rarely write (or even talk) about celebrities – I have such an aversion to this “celebrity culture” that modern technology has created – but someone sent me a link to this picture of Jared Leto at LAX earlier this week. The temperature couldn’t have been colder than 60 – they wear shorts in January in LA – but here he is wearing a winter coat heavier than the one I’ve been wearing the past two weeks of subfreezing temps up here in the Arctic Circle (a.k.a. Chicago). If he doesn’t want to be noticed, he should dress more like the guy behind him, who’s practically naked compared to Jared.

Disclaimer: I wouldn’t have recognized him if he had walked past me wearing that getup. Then again, I wouldn’t be able to pick him out even if he were the only person in the room.

Daddy issues

exam231013PatrickScottWeddingI guess straight men aren’t the only ones who hook up with people young enough to be their kids. This couple in Ireland that just got married includes a 93-year-old and a 57-year-old – and they’ve been together for 37 years. That means they were 56 and 20 when they met. Ouch! I can’t imagine, though I can only hope if I’m still single at 56…

Gay pasta

bertolli Buitoni

I’m really amused by the whole controversy surrounding the CEO of Barilla denouncing gay marriage and saying his company would never use gay couples in its advertising. He said “if gays don’t like it they can go eat another brand” – leading to boycott calls. Other pasta makers are salivating over the prospect of getting more gay dollars, with a couple releasing these amusing advertising photos on social media, while Barilla is scrambling to do damage control. It’s going to be fun to watch this play out.

(For the record, I don’t have any Barilla pasta in my pantry – and not because of a boycott. I don’t have any Buitoni or Bertolli, either. Sorry – they all taste the same and have the same ingredients, so I just buy what’s on sale. I don’t eat a lot of pasta, anyway. I’m from Louisiana – I grew up on rice.)

Swimming in liquor

The city council just passed a moratorium on issuing new tavern licenses in my neighborhood. In 14 square blocks, there are 140 liquor licenses, including restaurants, bars, grocery and convenience stores, and liquor stores. That’s 10 licenses per block. Eighteen of those are bars that are not part of restaurants – 18 dedicated bars in 14 blocks. The moratorium means there won’t be anymore for a while.

This pleases me. While I appreciate living in such a popular neighborhood and the taxes tourists bring in, it’s becoming increasingly inconvenient for residents. Last night around 8 p.m., I walked to the grocery store four blocks away. I had to walk in the street to get past all the drunken tourists and suburbanites, and dodging cab drivers blocking crosswalks and rushing to get the next fare is putting your life in jeopardy. Then there’s all the garbage these non-residents leave on our streets – Sunday mornings are filthy. And don’t even get me started on the panhandlers who are attracted to the prospect of easy money – in one walk to the aforementioned grocery store, I was hit up for money eight times in four blocks. Needless to say, I took a different route home that avoided the main tourist strip.

I don’t want to see downtown Chicago go the way of other downtown areas in cities around the country. Downtown Chicago is the place to be, and it’s becoming increasingly popular as a residential area. The 42nd ward, which covers most of downtown, is the only one of Chicago’s 50 wards that had to be reduced in size after the last census – the population had nearly doubled since the 2000 census. This is a good thing, and it’s happening because of all the resources available to residents.

But now it’s time to take a break, to slow things down a bit. I’ve lived here for more than a decade, and the landscape has changed significantly. Almost every surface parking lot has been replaced by residential or hotel highrises. Businesses are opening left and right to provide services for all these new residents and tourists. But the growth needs to be managed, and I’m glad the city council has recognized that with this moratorium. The danger is that people who live in this area will get tired of all the drunks and move. Then you’ll have dozens of empty residential highrises and property values will plummet, and that would be even worse than the current situation.