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Sunday, November 09, 2008
  Parking? Or Bike Lanes?
By Yokota Fritz 
Urbana, Illinois...
Business owners on the north side of Main Street love the idea of adding diagonal parking while some council members are strongly committed to adding 5-foot-wide bicycle lanes along Main Street.

City Public Works Director William Gray says flatly that bicycle lanes and diagonal parking aren't compatible on Main Street between Broadway and Race, that the street isn't wide enough.

Main Street business owners say they like the fact that diagonal parking would add eight spaces on the block between Broadway and Race.

"The idea of going green is all good, but my shoppers aren't going to ride a bicycle," said Van Boyd, manager of Heel To Toe, a shoe store at 106 W. Main St.
Read more in the News-Gazette: "Cycling concerns have Urbana in parking predicament"

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008
  Chicago passes bicycle safety ordinance
By Yokota Fritz 
(I almost wrote "ordnance," which could either be really good or really bad for cyclists).

The City of Chicago passed the Bicycle Safety Ordinance this afternoon. The new law now establishes fines for turning left or right in front of a bicyclist, passing a bicyclist with less than three feet of space, and opening a vehicle door into the path of a bicyclist. Fines range from $150 to $500 and go up to $500 if the violation results in a bicycle crash.

It also establishes a fine for double-parking in a marked shared lane, and increases the fine for driving, standing or parking in a bicycle lane.

"We are committed to making Chicago the most bicycle friendly city in the country, and safety is a very critical part of the plan," Daley said after the measure passed. "More than 6,000 crashes between bicycles and motor vehicles were reported in Chicago between 2001 and 2005. Unfortunately, 30 bicyclists were killed. These new laws will help prevent injuries and save lives."

Daley defended bike messengers when asked about their sometimes risky riding and rude behavior. "The bike messengers are a breed unto themselves," Daley said, smiling. "I got to meet a lot of them so I know a lot of them. They've got a job to do, and like anything else, they are respecting the laws on the road and all that, and the rules."

From Chicagoland Bicycle Federation via Jennifer in Chicago. Dave also points us to an illustrated PDF with photographic examples of the types of actions this law prohibits.

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Monday, October 08, 2007
  Sadie Hawkins' Day race and style ride
By Yokota Fritz 

The Sadie Hawkins' Day bike race and style ride takes place Saturday, November 10, 2007 in Chicago, Illinois. Other events include the Pre-Party IRO Sprints on Friday night and a Bike Polo tournament. Proceeds benefit the Chicago Women's Health Center. See the MySpace page for details. Click on the poster image for sponsor details. Via Zugster Bags.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007
  Chicago and the end of Critical Mass
By Yokota Fritz 
When I first saw this news from the Chicago Critical Mass Grand Finale Committee that organizers planned to end the Critical Mass rides on September 28, I thought it was some kind of joke. I've received assurances from Da Square Wheelman and others that they are indeed planning a final ride on September 28, 2007 -- the 10th Anniversary of Chicago Critical Mass.

The Chicago Critical Mass Daley Plaza rides will celebrate its 10th anniversary in September. In recent years, the Chicago Critical Mass has steadily grown, with summer and fall rides typically attracting thousands of cyclists.

As the rides have grown, some feel that Critical Mass has strayed from its original altruistic roots and has become 'just another big bike-a-thon'. Others have been offended by public drunkenness, nudity, noisy sound systems and ill manners that now are all too common on many mass rides.

Accordingly, many feel that the 10th anniversary ride on September 28, 2007, should be the last Chicago Critical Mass ride-- a grand finale to commemorate the original values on which the ride were based: civility, self reliance, fresh air and fellowship.

There's a hint, however, that CCM may rise from the ashes of death in October with a new crew of organizers. Stay tuned.

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Thursday, March 22, 2007
  Jerry Keiper
By Yokota Fritz 
I was reminded recently of Dr. Jerry Keiper. I worked in Champaign, Illinois when Keiper was struck down by a hit-and-run motorist. Keiper was cycling northbound on Prospect Avenue; as I recall, the elderly motorist who eventually turned himself in never realized he hit somebody, thinking he hit a pothole. I don't recall any charges ever being filed against the driver.

Keiper is an individual worth remembering and emulating.
Jerry B. Keiper (1953-1995) An Obituary written by Stephen Wolfram.

Jerry Keiper, leader of the numerics research and development group at Wolfram Research, was killed in a bicycle accident on January 18, 1995 at the age of 41.

Keiper's life was a rare and wonderful mixture of brilliance and achievement with modesty and humanity. He was driven by a profound desire to do good in the world, while not burdening it with any of his own personal needs.

Keiper was born in Medina, Ohio on October 20, 1953, the second of eight children. He spent his early years on the family farm. Then, after graduating from high school, he enrolled in a technical school, planning to become an electronic technician. But he excelled in mathematics, and even though none of his family had ever gone to college before, he decided to enroll at Ohio State University. He received a bachelor's degree in mathematics from there in 1974, and a master's degree a year later. His master's thesis showed that the Riemann zeta function could be expressed as a fractional derivative of the gamma function--the first of many results he was to obtain about special functions.

Throughout his life, Keiper was deeply influenced by religion. He was raised as an Apostolic Christian, but in his college years joined the Mennonite church--a branch of protestantism with a prohibition against military service and a tradition of humanitarian activity. Keiper's religious views initially made him decide not to pursue a career in mathematics, and instead to become a high-school teacher. He spent a brief time in 1977 as a teacher in the Michigan public school system, but found that, in his own words, "there was very little teaching involved in the work."

Having been disappointed by teaching, Keiper spent a year constructing a pipe organ--indulging his lifelong enthusiasm for things mechanical. But in 1979 he returned to mathematics, and in 1981 he earned a master's degree in applied mathematics at the University of Toledo, Ohio. That same year he left the U.S. to work with the Mennonite church in Nigeria, and after various delays and adventures spent three years teaching at a university in central Nigeria.

Keiper returned to the U.S. in 1984, and enrolled as a graduate student in computer science at the University of Illinois. He specialized in numerical analysis, working particularly with the well-known numerical analyst Bill Gear on the solution of differential algebraic equations.

In the spring of 1987, Keiper heard about the early development of Mathematica, and approached me about working on the project. Knowing his interests in both special functions and numerical analysis, I suggested that Keiper might work on finding general methods for the numerical evaluation of special functions. Existing academic and other work had been concerned mostly with evaluating specific functions to a specific precision for specific ranges of parameters. But I wanted Keiper to make Mathematica be able to evaluate any of the functions found in standard books of tables, to any precision, anywhere in the complex plane. Many numerical analysts thought this was an absurdly ambitious project, but undaunted, Keiper set about doing it.

His crucial idea was to use the symbolic capabilities of Mathematica to automate the process of finding optimal approximation algorithms. In the past, such algorithms had mostly been worked out by hand, on a case-by-case basis. But Keiper wrote systematic Mathematica programs to find algorithms for any function. Sometimes it took a month of CPU time to generate a particular optimal algorithm. But once generated, the algorithm could be executed very rapidly. And the result was that for the first time it became possible to assemble reliable algorithms for evaluating hundreds of special functions to any degree of precision for any values of their parameters.

In addition to special function evaluation, Keiper also worked on other numerical features of Mathematica, particularly numerical quadrature and root finding. Initially he used mainly refinements on algorithms already in the literature, but increasingly he developed entirely new algorithms, typically based on integrating the numerical and symbolic capabilities of Mathematica.

After Mathematica was released in 1988, Keiper briefly returned to his Ph.D. thesis project concerning differential algebraic equations, and with the help of the capabilities he had put into Mathematica, he was rapidly able to complete his thesis, officially receiving his Ph.D. in 1989.

Following his deeply-held personal and religious beliefs, Keiper lived in a very simple manner. He wore simple clothes, ate simple food, and used a bicycle as his primary means of transportation. He also felt that to be consistent in not supporting the military, he should avoid paying taxes to the government. For a while, this meant that he would accept almost no salary. But in the end he worked out a scheme for donating all but a small percentage of his salary to charity. In addition, Keiper set up a foundation, which he named the Michael and Margarethe Sattler Foundation, after two early Mennonite martyrs. As part of Keiper's compensation, Wolfram Research then made donations to this foundation. The foundation solicited proposals, and in turn supported various colleges, giving them both funds and copies of Mathematica.

As the popularity of Mathematica grew, Keiper was very happy to see his work used so widely. But in 1990 he felt a need to contribute more directly to education, and so he decided to apply for teaching positions at a number of colleges. Assured of financial support from Wolfram Research, he sent out a resume with the line "salary goal: not an issue," and planned to ask for no salary for his teaching. The reaction he got from the academic establishment was less than appreciative, and as a result he decided to pursue his educational interests in other ways.

For about a year he moved to Kansas and helped set up an educational lab based on Mathematica, while continuing his work on the development of numerical algorithms for Mathematica. During this time, he also began writing a textbook of numerical analysis based on Mathematica, in collaboration with Bob Skeel, a numerical analyst at the University of Illinois. The book was published by McGraw-Hill in 1993 under the title Elementary Numerical Computing with Mathematica, and is now a standard text in numerical analysis courses.

Since the mid-1970's, Keiper had maintained a keen interest in analytic number theory and its investigation by computer. In early 1988, Keiper used a prototype of Mathematica to explore various relations between zeros of the Riemann zeta function. He hesitantly wrote to D. H. Lehmer, a pioneer of computational number theory, describing his results, and Lehmer replied warmly, encouraging him to publish what he had discovered.

In the course of the next several years, Keiper began to overcome his shyness, and to publish some of his mathematical work. He was particularly interested in finding formulations of the Riemann Hypothesis that would make it more amenable to investigation by numerical methods. He did many large computer experiments both on the ordinary Riemann zeta function and on generalizations and related functions such as the Ramanujan tau functions. A few months before he died, Keiper told me he felt he had made considerable progress. And when he died there were several of his programs found on computers at Wolfram Research that had been running for more than 2000 CPU hours--generating results intended for Keiper to interpret.

Although Keiper did his work on the zeta function mainly to investigate basic questions in number theory, he always made sure that relevant pieces were integrated into Mathematica. And in 1990 it was his work that made possible the six-foot-long poster of the Riemann zeta function that Wolfram Research produced for the International Congress of Mathematicians in Kyoto. This poster is now to be found displayed in most mathematics departments around the world. (A special new memorial edition of the poster is being produced.)

In the past few years, Keiper became interested in the fundamentals of computer arithmetic, and forthcoming versions of Mathematica will include some major innovations that he made in the basic handling of numbers on a computer.

Keiper attended Mathematica conferences around the world, speaking about the numerical capabilities of Mathematica. He was also a frequent participant in discussions on computer network newsgroups. He was always extremely patient, although in private he would often express his frustration at those who chose to attack Mathematica without understanding it or giving it the thought that it deserved.

Keiper was outstandingly modest about his own abilities. But in his quiet and unassuming way, he over and over again managed to far surpass what others had done. His published papers provide hints of his ability, but his greatest professional achievements are embodied in the internal operation of the numerical functions of Mathematica. And although only specialists may be concerned with exactly how these functions work, a million people around the world make use of them, executing over and over again the code and algorithms that Jerry Keiper created.

Keiper is survived by his former wife of fifteen years, Susan Diehl, as well as by his parents, five brothers, and two sisters. Wolfram Research is planning to establish a Keiper Memorial Fund which will be used to support educational programs of the type in which Jerry Keiper was interested.

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