First glimpse of Tilt at 360 Chicago

A glimpse of Tilt at Chicago 360 ( formerly the John Hancock Observatory).

A glimpse of Tilt at Chicago 360 ( formerly the John Hancock Observatory).

While its opening date keeps getting pushed back (the second week of May is now apparently the target), Tilt at Chicago 360 is looking impressive.

While most of  the work remains hidden to public view, there are small peepholes allowing for a glimpse at the new attraction, which promises to give customers a downward-facing view of Chicago from 94 stories above street level.

Here’s a sneak peek at the city’s newest coming attraction. Experiencing Tilt will set you back $5, but I’ll definitely try it at least once.

One of the cool things about Tilt is the way it is designed to blend in to the John Hancock’s exterior. The Montparnasse 56 Group, the company which owns Chicago 360, has a snazzy little video of what Tilt will look like in action.

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John Hancock Observatory renovation nearing completion

The John Hancock Center

The John Hancock Center

One of my favorite things to do in Chicago is fly up to the top of the John Hancock Center and take in the view from the Observatory. I say fly because the fastest of the more than fifty elevators in the buildings travels at more than 20 mph. If you live anywhere near downtown and like to get away from it all for a little perspective on the world, an annual Sky Pass is one of the best deals in town.

Men at work: contractors have been readying for the opening of "Chicago 360."

Men at work: contractors have been readying for the opening of “Chicago 360.”

Recently they’ve been doing a lot of work up on the 94th floor, in what is to be a complete overhaul of the observatory experience. Apparently a new company is taking over, and will rename the venue “Chicago 360.” All the old “John Hancock Observatory” memorabilia is marked way down in the gift shop to make way for the new and improved gear that is soon expected. (Wish they would have told me that before I bought my jigsaw puzzle a couple months ago!)

View to the North from the 94th floor John Hancock Observatory.

View to the North from the 94th floor John Hancock Observatory.

I’ve chatted up a few employees around the observatory and apparently, there will be a new attraction when Chicago 360 opens, allowing visitors to be somehow “strapped in and suspended” for an even more miraculous – and intense – viewing experience. That was confirmed this Friday in local news reports, as ABC News Channel 7 informs. “Tilt” is designed to compete with the glass viewing deck over at Sears Willis Tower, no doubt.

It also looks like there’ll be additional casual seating areas and potentially a lighter, airier feel with a floor plan that seems to open up a little more than it does currently. At a minimum, all the construction mess that’s been there for months will be out of there!

photo 1-30

Much of the work is being carried out behind temporary privacy barriers that have been erected out of platform boards, mostly on the South side of the building where the screened-in, open air viewing deck is. Visitors are being treated to previews of the new look, however, in a series of artists renderings that adorn the makeshift walls.

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Rahm goes after Uber

Chicago Mayer Rahm Emanuel is going after Uber and Lyft, the super-convenient, app-based car services that pick you up when you need a ride. These car sharing networks represent a logical evolution of taxi services in the internet age, so it was only a matter of time before Emanuel and the Democrats went after them, as they have in other cities like Washington, D.C. Jacob Huebert of the LIberty Justice Center, in a piece published by the Illinois Policy Institute, takes a point-by-point look at the anti-competitive legislation proposed by the mayor. 

Let me tell you, I use Uber regularly, often to call a taxi or more often these days, to call an UberX car if one is available. The taxi service side of Uber is convenient and it seems like a good way for cabbies to enhance the number of fares they pick up. The private car side of Uber is even better: without fail, literally every time I have ridden in an UberX car, the ride has been as good or better than the ride I get in normal taxis around town. The cars are always clean and sometimes very nice (like the time three friends and I were picked up in a black Mercedes for a ride to a coffee shop), the drivers are kind and courteous, and and top of all that, it’s often cheaper than a regular taxi. 

I’ve talked with some taxi drivers about Uber, and have heard some complaints. In fairness to them, it’s true that there is probably not a level playing field when it comes to the traditional taxi industry and its newer, nimbler competitors. The solution to that is not to hamstring Uber, Hail-O and other future transportation network services, but rather deregulate the taxi industry! Open things up and let everybody compete on a level-playing field in a way that’s good for competition and good for the consumer.

According to Wikipedia, the last major innovation in the taxi cab industry was thirty years ago, in the 1980s, with the advent of computer assisted dispatching. Before that it was the two-way radio, introduced in the 1940s. Isn’t it about time for a little more transformation and progress?

Uber, et al, have harnessed the disruptive technology of the smart phone that puts the internet in everybody’s pocket, to give us a lift from Point A to Point B in the physical world around us. Only in a deluded mind would threatening that be worthy of the label Progressive

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Smart phones in focus

I’ve been warning a few friends and family about what I see as a looming problem, and that is the potential negative impact to eyesight posed by smartphones. Here’s another article from CBS Pittsburgh about the increased incidence of nearsightedness among young people, tied perhaps to the rise of personal electronic devices. (Via Drudge). 

So, beware! Take breaks when reading on a smart phone or tablet, or doing anything on them for that matter, and adjust the brightness down when appropriate. Try to limit the time you spend on electronic devices before you go to bed. (I say that, naturally, as I type this on my laptop at nearly 1am!). 

Goodnight. 

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The rising cost of college

Excellent short documentary from the National Inflation Association, which notes that government’s increasing role in subsidizing higher education has contributed greatly to its rising cost over the years. The film also pokes holes in the conventional wisdom that a college graduate earns on average a million bucks more over the course of a lifetime than a high school graduate.

Very interesting stuff, and worth watching:

College Conspiracy

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Ducks quack back

I watched an episode of Duck Dynasty a few months ago, simply to see what all the fuss was about. Frankly, I was underwhelmed.

But the media controversy over one of the star’s comments recently published in a magazine interview, and A&E’s rush to pull him from future filming, illustrate the ridiculousness of where we’ve come as a society when it comes to “public discourse” – if it can even be called that anymore.

The rush to declare anybody or anything that does not toe the politically correct line as “Offensive” and “Unacceptable” has reached warp speed and intensity. Should you dare utter anything that betrays a sentiment counter to the prevailing cultural orthodoxy, as defined by a handful of activist groups and the media elite (an overused term which nonetheless seems to apply here), then you are to be publicly excoriated and removed from participation in at-large society. Ideally, you will also be shamed and ridiculed, and stripped of your livelihood – not merely by present job loss but by the permanent taint attached to the individual who shows either an accidental ability (i.e. someone who just happens to step in it) or an intentional willingness (e.g. Phil Robertson, who probably knew his views on human sexuality could be seen as controversial) to break stride with the moral mandates placed on us all by today’s liberal cultural elite.

These tendencies are unhealthy signs for the emotional maturity, logical ability, and pluralistic capability of our free society.

It does look like the Ducks are fighting back. The family has said they cannot imagine going forward without Phil, and various public figures have chimed in with support for the show. Camille Paglia, the left-libertarian social critic and lesbian feminist, has called the attack on Robertson “utterly fascist, utterly Stalinist.”

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Chicago alderman launches pre-emptive strike against drones

Chicago alderman Scott Waguespack (32nd Ward) has introduced two city ordinances to prevent or limit the potential use of drones by local law enforcement. The Chicago Sun-Times reported yesterday on the measures, the first of which would impose a moratorium on the use of drones through 2018. The second would limit the use of drones to emergency situations only, and prevent them being used to collect personal information, from being weaponized or used for crowd control, or to establish probable cause for further search or seizure. 

The moratorium bill can be found on the city’s legislative information center here. The restriction/limitations bill can be found here

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