The war on small ziplock bags

Chicago Sun-Times: Tiny plastic bags used to sell small quantities of heroin, crack cocaine, marijuana and other drugs would be banned in Chicago, under a crackdown advanced Tuesday by a City Council committee. Ald. Robert Fioretti (2nd) persuaded the Health Committee to ban possession of “self-sealing plastic bags under two inches in either height or width,” after picking up 15 of the bags on a recent Sunday afternoon stroll through a West Side park.

Happy medium needed

In Chicago, the police are asking loyal citizens to report anyone seen using a map or binoculars, or taking photographs. Meanwhile in California, police are stopping drivers who have done nothing wrong in order to compliment their driving and give them $5 gift vouchers. Both of these seem to me to be misguided. The former is obviously nutty; do they really want the 911 dispatchers bothered by some paranoid who just saw someone take a picture of Chicago’s art deco architecture?

Flying back to England

It had been some four years since I had last visited England. Given how little time off Americans get, visiting my family means not actually having a proper vacation that year, so I don’t get to go back as often as everyone would like. This time the visit was for a particular event: my brother Edward was getting married. I know I have some friends who don’t really understand the whole “marriage” thing.


I’ve had a stressful couple of weeks. At work, on the 1st we rolled out a brand new replacement I had built for a heavily-used database system. It’s now in use across the USA and Latin America to manage high profile events leading to multi-million-dollar business deals. Everything went fairly smoothly in the end, but still–stressful. Then last week I had a business trip to Chicago. My hours there were pretty much 100% filled; although the scheduled meetings ended early on the second day, I then had a server crash and some network problems to deal with, plus a new server build that I confirmed was OK just in time to get in a cab and dash to the airport.

Transparent society update from Chicago

An amazing article from the Chicago Reader describes a recent incident in which an out-of-uniform police officer who was late arriving to work, shot an unarmed man in the head at point blank range, in full view of security cameras. The officer lied and said that at the time of the shooting he was surrounded by 4 or 5 men who had threatened his life. When police discovered that the video footage existed, the story was changed to say that the victim had raised a fist and attempted to disarm the officer, and that the cop had raised his arm and accidentally shot the victim through the head.

Flight from hell

I’ve had some pretty hellish experiences on plane flights. I’ve traveled from the UK to the USA while suffering from the ‘flu, on a plane filled with rowdy cheerleaders. I’ve been trapped for several hours on a motionless plane in Chicago, with all the ventilation and air conditioning turned off. However, a recent news story is putting my experiences into perspective. An elderly woman died near the start of a flight from India.

Summer camp with a difference

Recently I watched a documentary about a group of 5 UK teenagers who went away to a Summer Camp in the US.

I remember Charlie Brown used to go away to summer camp. I always thought it was a strange idea; one of those very American institutions that Americans probably assume exist everywhere, like college fraternities and drive-through restaurants.

This particular summer camp was more of an institution than usual, though: it’s a camp for children who suffer from Tourette Syndrome, often as well as OCD and ADHD.

Four fried chickens and a Coke

I’m in Chicago to put signs on doors. No, really. IBM is setting up a swanky new customer briefing center, where major customers are given custom presentations, attend hands-on technical demonstrations, and are shown proof-of-concept systems. Outside each room will be a video screen. The plan is for each screen to show the room number and name, the title of whatever event is happening at that moment (or starting soon), the times of the event, and the name and e-mail address of the IBM contact responsible for the event.

Prius filter hack

Looked at the air conditioner filter in the Prius. Saw that it was encrusted with filth, covered in tufted seeds (dandelions?) and had collected a few leaves too. Checked the price of a replacement filter: $19 for a regular one, $35 for an electrostatic. Went to Target, got a 3M electrostatic filter for $4, cut it to fit the Prius’s filter holder. Job done. Surprisingly, Reader’s Digest ranks Austin as the 8th cleanest city in the USA.

Home alone

So, on Monday morning sara set off to catch a 10:00 flight to Chicago. At around 16:30, she called to tell me she was still at Logan airport. I’m sure she’ll have a few words to say about United Airlines when she returns. Monday was Patriots Day, notionally a holiday in Massachusetts. It was also a Bank Holiday in the UK. I decided to work anyway, as it was a good opportunity to roll out a redesign of a vital 3GB database while nobody was likely to be needing it.