Chicago airport

Guess what? American Airlines were so happy about their 100% delay record that they kindly delayed my flight to Argentina as well! And by 80 minutes too! Thanks guys, I love spending hours at the airport, its so much fun!

Update: credit where it’s due, they moved me so I get noone sitting next to me.

Thoughts on the Smart Home

I said I’d discuss in more detail about why I didn’t like the Chicago Smart home. I don’t really want to be too political/critical in my blog but the environment is a really important issue at the moment and it really affected me that it really wasn’t very good. The building itself was designed to be a high technology sustainably built and run building for the future.

My main objection was their inability to provide any serious figures on things, and where figures were given they weren’t in units that could be used to compare to other data. I remember that CAT (the Centre for Alternative Technology) in Wales gave figures when solar panels cost less to make than the electricity they produce which was really important. In the Eco/smart home an example they were able to say how much the home cost to construct ($450,000 to $500,000) but although those figures excluded the price of the land they were unable to provide figures for a standard house with the same 2400 sq ft of space inside. One of my friends in Chicago suggested around $250,000 which is a lot less. They also didn’t give figures of the efficiency of there appliances something that has been required since the beginning of 1994 under EU law for white goods purchases.

When touring the home in the child’s bedroom they had an OLPC. They were describing the project as a success when in fact it has been an abject failure. I wonder how many other times they did that in the house…

Let me explain the OLPC in more detail; it is a project set up by MIT to distribute laptops for $100 to developing countries like Nigeria and Vietnam. In theory it sounds like a great idea to improve access to technology so that rather than having to use an Internet cafe people have their own machines. Unfortunately the laptops now actually cost $188. . To complete the problems they’ve also lost a huge number of senior staff from the project some of whom have come out and described the issues in the organization first hand.

Then there are the homes credentials: the home itself is designed to reduce emissions by 50% over a standard new US home; now that is fairly impressive but in fact the British government has already defined a law to reduce emissions by 60% by 2050 (source). Though to be fair CAT’s suggestions for an eco-house also produce a 50% improvement over current UK building regulations. The problem with that comparison is that a 1930’s US house only uses 130% of the energy of a current building regulations US house whereas in the UK a 1930’s UK house uses 270% of the energy of a UK building regulations house. Furthermore if you take the windows in the smart home they are double glazed with low-E coating and argon centre which follows CAT’s recommendations but their own house is quadruple glazed.

I was also unable to get any serious figures on how long the building would last. It was due to last 25 years without maintenance but how significant the maintenance would be was also unknown. Surely a less Ecologically built building could be better for the environment if it lasted considerably longer.

They do also get some things right the technology for controlling the home mostly works well though the media features need further work and the active cooling system using shafts to the roof to allow air circulation is recommended by CAT.

Anyway that sums up my dissatisfaction with the Smart Home.

The rest of my time in Chicago

Yesterday evening I went out to Plymouth bar in downtown Chicago; this bar had a roof terrace which was popular though it had a great view overlooking a car park and the “L” tracks. I also had burger 4 of my time in Chicago there (I had 2 on Sunday and 1 more on Monday evening) Then the next morning I headed back to Oak park and took a look around Frank Lloyd Wrights house and studio (this was very interesting) as well as unity temple which he also designed (that is a really inclusive church, which was great to see!) the building was pretty good too. After lunch I headed back to the Hemmingway museum which had a lot of interesting information on the author, maybe I should read some of his books! Afterwards I headed back into Chicago. If you’re in Chicago head to oak park it’s on the green train and is well worth a visit.

After that I headed up to Boystown and Wrigleyville, Boystown is the gay district in Chicago and they had rainbows attached to phalli along the road which was interesting. After that I had a look around Wrigleyville, as a Cubs baseball game had literally just finished I didn’t manage to take a look at the stadium itself. Then I headed back into town to pick up my laundary. I fortunately walked slowly enough that I avoided the total crush on the train and eventually got a seat (can you tell from the excessive detail that I’m writing this as it happened :p).

I think tomorrow I’m just going to see the theatre and relax before my flight to Argentina.

Museums in Chicago

Yesterday I had some chores to complete including uploading some more photos; due to Vista having problems remembering how to drag files from my camera there may be some strange immissions but there should be still a good selection.

After completing my chores for the day I headed to the museum of contemporary art as it’s free on Tuesdays. They currently have a major exhibition by Jeff Koons this was OK but it made me thing about myself differently which was interesting.

After seeing that I headed to Chinatown and had some excellent food. Unfortunately I felt a bit rough so went back home to bed afterwards.

Then today I headed to the museum of science and industry. Unfortunately it was really aimed at children rather than adults so I didn’t spend that long there.

They also had a smart/eco home there which I strongly disliked primarily due to the lack of figures given; as the environment is important I’ll be writing about that in a separate post.

After that I headed out to Oak park where Ernest Hemmingway was born and Frank Lloyd Wright grew up I was there quite late so only saw a few buildings and the tour of Hemmingway’s house before it closed.


After arriving yesterday in Chicago I went out in the evening with some friends and we went to a Chicago pizza restaurant called gramaldies then we headed to a bar with live music called the Hideout which was hidden away in an industrial district in northern Chicago.

Then the next day I went to watch the chicago air show with one of my friends we then headed down to millenium park and saw the bean sculpture and the Chicago Tribune building which contains parts of many other buildings in its construction. The day was fun but I managed to get subcream in my eye after buying own brand suncream which even though it cost $8 it was actually rubbish!

Then we went to a bar called Moody’s in northern Chicago which served Chicagos best burgers so I of course had one and it was pretty damn good.

We also had a chat about the US, my friend was telling me about his trip west of the Missisippi in the US. He went on the train ad was shocked at the standard of housing there and said that they essentially lived in shacks, he was surprised if they have running water! He also said that the houses in Flint Michigan in Michael Moores film fahenheit 9/11 are good by comparison; as Flint looks like an Aftican state after a war you can’t imagine what it’s like there.

Then this morning I completed a few chores before heading to the Aquarium, it seems pretty good though it is expensive at $25 also the cages seem much smaller than at aquariums in Europe. They do serve lunch for less than $10 though which is a miracle in itself.