Category: Uncategorized

Automatically post your Flickr photos to your Mastodon account

One process I’ve relied on in the past to keep my Twitter postings fresh is automatically cross-posting photos that I upload to Flickr to Twitter. This is done through Zapier and inspired by this answer in their forums.

Zapier currently doesn’t have any Mastodon integrations, but it’s possible to use Mastodon’s API and Zapier’s webhook function to notice your newly-uploaded photos from Zapier’s Flickr integration and “toot” them to your Mastodon account.

Note: I originally set this up as an RSS feed to Mastodon Zap before realizing that Zapier already has a Flickr integration.

First, to prepare for creating a Zap later, you’ll need to create an app in your Mastodon server. You can create an app by going to edit your profile and then opening the “Development” tab.

Select the “New application” button, give it a name, change the privileges, and use “http://zapier.com” as the only Redirect URI. Then check the appropriate boxes so that only a single privilege is checked: “write:statuses”.

Give your application a name, enter https://zapier.com as the Redirect URI, and check only the box next to “write:statuses”.

Want to get more advanced? Read the Mastodon API docs.

Mastodon will create a token for you to insert at the end of this URL that Zapier needs: https://mastodon.social/api/v1/statuses?access_token=INSERT_YOUR_ACCESS_TOKEN

If your Mastodon account is on a different server, then replace “mastodon.social” with the domain name of the server where your Mastodon account is.

Secondly, go to your Zapier account and create a new Zap. Search for the trigger app “Flickr” and then connect Zapier to your Flickr account if not already connected. The trigger should be something like what you see in the screenshot below.

When you make a new zap, use these settings: “Connect this app…Flickr…with this one…Webhooks by Zapier”. Then, “When this happens…New Photo…then do this! POST”. Zapier will automatically give it a name that you can try later and then you can select the “Try it” button to get stated and customize.


You’ll need to customize the action that Zapier takes each time there’s a new photo. Until there’s an integration with Mastodon there’s a little complexity to defining the webhook action that Zapier will do.

The type of webhook you’ll create is a “POST” and you only need to add one field to the payload that’s sent from Zapier to your Mastodon: “status”. The value of “status” can be whatever combination of text and fields that Zapier pulls from your Flickr.

The minimum field to insert is the link to the Flickr photo page. Mastodon will need this to generate a rich media preview to add to the Toot (since it’s not possible to send image attachments).

You can start your Zap now! And follow me on Mastodon.

Want to use RSS instead?

Here are some loose instructions on how to set up the RSS feed that your Flickr account produces.

Insert your Flickr ID (not your username or email, find it here) into this URL which will be the RSS URL for Zapier to check:

https://www.flickr.com/services/feeds/photos_public.gne?id=INSERT_FLICKR_ID&lang=en-us&format=atom

Deferring a trip to another time is a part of “trip chaining”

A “trip” is the transportation planner’s name for the action of leaving home (H) to go somewhere else, and also going from that somewhere else (SE) to another somewhere else, and from the last somewhere else back to home.

Another way to write that would be to compare a “chained” trip (H-SE-SE-H) to two separate trips (H-SE-H + H-SE-H; also called “unchained” trips).

Trip chaining is a common pattern practiced by many people who usually use bicycles or transit for their trips so as to reduce effort and monetary cost, respectively. (I think there is also something to be said that trip chaining is also a natural way to “use time wisely”, but there are ways to use time wisely on long trips via transit.)

Effort in the context of the trips I tend to make can have many meanings: it can be the physical work put into riding a bicycle, but it’s also the time and energy to get ready to leave the house for several hours, the friction of moving my bike out of a building’s bike room and wondering if someone else will park there bike in “my” space when I’m gone, as well as the stress that comes with bicycling in Chicago.


Today I did a big trip chain…

  1. I walked to the Harrison Red Line station to ride the ‘L’ to Fullerton, after which I walked over to Wrightwood 659 to see two art exhibits.
  2. Then I walked back to Fullerton to take the Brown Line ‘L’ to Lincoln Square to pick up a new homemade CO2 sensor.
  3. After that meeting I took the ‘L’ to Clark/Division so I could shop at Aldi (a block walk in each direction).
  4. Finally I took the ‘L’ a fourth time back to Harrison.

Trip #2 was a deferred trip. The sensor was ready for me to pick up two weeks ago but it was unnecessary to make a trip just to go get it. I had no other errands to run in the Lincoln Square area, and no compelling reason to invent other trips between home and Lincoln Square (although I guess I could always stop at Aldi to restock certain groceries I prefer to buy there).

Trip #2 was a necessary but time insensitive trip.

A week ago, however, I scheduled to visit the galleries at Wrightwood 659. Because I would already be halfway to Lincoln Square I then scheduled the pick up.

Trip #3 was a spontaneous trip. Since I had such a long distance to go from Lincoln Square back to the Harrison station I figured that I might try to do some other things along the way…would I need to pick up beer at Off Color Brewing’s Mousetrap, should I stop at a Whole Foods (there are two along the Red Line, although there used to be a third one, next to the Fullerton station), or something else?

Welp, there’s an Aldi store one block away from the Clark/Division Red Line station. Perfect! My chained trip became even more efficient!

INVEST South/West funding sources come from several corporations and philanthropies

It’s always been clear that the dollar figures in Mayor Lightfoot’s administration’s INVEST South/West talking points was a combination of existing city-funded projects and future projects to be funded by city and non-city funded sources.

Now I have a better idea of where the non-city funding comes from.

In November 2021, Lightfoot announced the two-year anniversary of ISW and said it “generated $1.4 billion in investment commitments to date”.

Here’s how they get to $1.4 billion:

  • $525 million in city investments
  • $300 million in the RFP projects in the ISW corridors (mostly mixed-use with an affordable housing component)
  • And $575 million in “corporate and philanthropic commitments”
The vacant lot on the left of Ogden Avenue is one of the INVEST South/West RFP sites. The police station parking lot on the right will also be redeveloped. Both are getting mixed-use (housing + retail) developments.

It’s the last funding source, of “corporate and philanthropic commitments”, that I was most interested in, so I asked the Chicago Department of Planning & Development to break that down. The breakdown follows:

  • Over $200 million in commitments towards housing and small business support from Community Investment Corporation (CIC) and JP Morgan Chase
  • ~$95 million in project costs for Amazon distribution centers in Humboldt Park and Pullman
  • ~$33 million in investment towards the new Southside Discover (the credit card company) call center 
  • $20 million commitment by Fifth Third Bank towards the South Chicago community 
  • $20 million from Fifth Third Bank for opportunity zone investments in ISW neighborhoods 
  • $12.25 million towards the Reclaiming Chicago housing initiative in North Lawndale
  • $10 million from Pritzker Traubert for the Chicago Prize winner on the Auburn Gresham corridor 
  • Over $2 million for the Pre-Development Fund launched by the Chicago Community Trust for minority developers involved in ISW RFPs or Chicago Prize finalists 
  • ~$8 million in capital from the Entrepreneurs of Color Fund
  • $10 million committed from Starbucks for small businesses in ISW neighborhoods 
  • $10 million committed to United Way from BMO Harris Bank in Austin community

Two-flat journal 7: Plans are issued for bid

My architect has issued architectural plans for bidding!

(This happened a month ago, and I don’t dedicate enough time weekly to send the bidding instructions to general contractors and to follow up with them asking if they’re still planning to send a bid.)

If you’re an interested GC, look at the “bid package” where you’ll find…

  • links to the architectural plans
  • structural plans (for the basement)
  • photos of the interior and exterior
  • schedule book

What’s happening in the neighborhood

The house is one block away from the Kedzie Green Line station, which offers a 20-minute ride to downtown or to Oak Park. Behind the station is The Hatchery, a major shared commercial kitchen and food business incubator.

The Cook County Land Bank Authority owns several properties on the block and is marketing these to developers for new housing.

Starting in 2022, the City of Chicago began the process to redevelop land it owns adjacent to the Kedzie station into mixed-use buildings.

How I’ve found general contractors

I’ve already had a few GCs walk through the house and tell me they’re going to submit a bid. I found them either by asking architects I know, and by scouring the Building Permits Browser on Chicago Cityscape.

I filtered the permits, looking for “renovation/alteration”, set the estimated project cost from $100,000 to $400,000, and then skimmed the project descriptions for words like “two-flat” and “rehab”.

I made a list of those contractors and found their phone numbers and emails elsewhere (the city used to include their phone numbers in the building permits dataset, and took it out in 2019 or 2020).

This photo gives you a glimpse of some of the exterior issues (look at the cornice, especially at the far left corner). All of the windows and doors are proposed to be replaced. The awning will be removed eventually (it helps keep the snow off the front porch).

Two-flat journal 5: Costs

Updated May 3, 2021, to add more insight from Robinson Meyer (The Atlantic) as to why lumber prices are so high.

My architect and I are still working on plans, slowly but surely. Read my previous entry, Two-flat journal #4, to understand why that seems to be taking awhile.

There is something else on my mind as we work toward the goal of a gut-rehabbed two-flat: How much this whole project is going to cost.

I’ve talked to several contractors, engaged a structural engineer to specify and design the new steel beam in the basement, and obtained quotes for all new windows from four manufacturers.

One contractor happily gave me an estimate, based on incomplete plans, that was about $220,000. That price could go down with more specific plans and instructions, as the estimate had variability based on unknowns, and it doesn’t include the cost of purchasing the windows. More likely, I think the price will go up due to material costs.

How much windows might cost

All window quotes I’ve obtained include installation by the manufacturer’s selected installers, which has a benefit from some companies, mainly that the maker will guarantee the installation for a period of time.

The first floor living room window is currently double hung with a mullion and a tripartite transom window above it (with stained glass, that’s been covered on the inside). This window will become a “Chicago window” with a centered picture window flanked by casement windows.

I would share the quotes with you but I don’t think they would be very helpful at this point because I haven’t evaluated each of the quotes on the quality of the window. For example, one of the window quotes was three times higher than the next highest quote, but the maker guarantees installation for 10 years and is a higher-quality window. But what is the factor of difference in quality, is it three times? And how valuable is a 10-year installation warranty? It’s unlikely I would need to avail that benefit and the three times difference in price means I could replace all of the windows *again* two times for the same price! (Assuming prices didn’t increase between now and that future moment.)

The 15 new windows, according to the four quotes, will cost anywhere from $12,000 to $46,000. I should mention that the highest quote doesn’t include any discounts or special offers, as those will be offered once I re-engage the estimator and ask for one.

Look at windows 1.1 and 1.3, which look like bay windows. These are both Chicago windows, which have a center picture (fixed) window flanked by two operable windows (casement windows, in this case).

There are a couple of opportunities to reduce window costs. I could convert more of the casement windows to be double hung windows (which I don’t want to do as I prefer single hung windows), or I could change the window opening size. A couple of the window openings are taller than most of the window makers have in their standard window design, so an upper transom (fixed) window would be required. However, changing the window opening size may end up shifting costs to a different plan of adding bricks and adjusting walls.

Another way to reduce the window cost would be to use models that are less energy efficient, but I also don’t want to do that. I’ve insisted that every window be Energy Star certified – this is about the only certification standard that I understand, and it’s common across most window makers in the Chicago area. (There are also Passive House and Passivhaus certified windows, and companies that import higher-quality and more efficient windows from European manufacturers, but I haven’t bothered with any of those because I assume the prices will be even higher.)

Lumber and other construction materials

That lumber prices have more than doubled over prices a year ago is well known if you read real estate industry news media, or if you’ve shopped for wood at Menards to build a couple of benches for some nicer outdoor space or installed a new porch.

My gut rehab will require a lot of plywood (to replace the subfloor), “soft lumber” replacement studs, and some replacement joists.

The St. Louis Federal Reserve maintains “FRED”, an amazing website with interactive charts to explore economics statistics, including lumber. The pricing information comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and their Producer Price Indexes.

The chart for the plywood price index below shows very stable pricing in fall and winter 2019-2020, and then in May 2020 prices start climbing and the index increased by 100 points to March 2021.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Producer Price Index by Commodity: Lumber and Wood Products: Plywood [WPU083], retrieved from FRED, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/WPU083, April 25, 2021.

BLS has monthly detailed reports so you can find data about more than the products FRED has charts for. Let’s dig in to the March 2021 report (indexes mean that the pricing represents percentage changes based on 100% being the price when the index was established):

  • “Softwood dressed 2-inch lumber, 2 inches in nominal thickness only, not edge worked” (a.k.a. 2×4 studs) (index established June 2012):
    • March 2020: 205.1
    • March 2021: 324.1 (this means that the price has increased by 119% year over year, a more than doubling of price)
  • “Softwood plywood products: rough, sanded, and specialties” (index established December 2011):
    • March 2020: 139.0
    • March 2021: 242.9 (again, this means that the price has increased by 103.9%, doubling the price)

In addition to general demand being much higher, there are other reasons why lumber costs so much more right now, according to Robinson Meyer writing in The Atlantic last week.

Since 2018, a one-two punch of environmental harms worsened by climate change has devastated the lumber industry in Canada, the largest lumber exporter to the United States. A catastrophic and multi-decade outbreak of bark-eating beetles, followed by a series of historic wildfire seasons, have led to lasting economic damage in British Columbia, a crucial lumber-providing province. Americans have, in effect, made a mad dash for lumber at the exact moment Canada is least able to supply it.

[snipped]

“There are people who say, ‘Climate change isn’t affecting me,’” Janice Cooke, a forest-industry veteran and biology professor at the University of Alberta, told me. “But they’re going to go to the hardware store and say, ‘Holy cow, the price of lumber has gone up.’”

[snipped]

It has lost 2.5 billion board feet of annual production capacity since 2019, enough to shift prices in a North American market of 70 billion annual board feet, Jalbert said.

Read Robinson’s full article to see how the bark-eating beetles overwhelmed the forests of British Columbia and the northern forest belt in Canada and why their rampage is fueled by climate change.


The same contractor, when they checked in with me recently, said that the prices of other construction materials had gone up, too.

In the same Producer Price Index report, it looks like wood doors and door frames went up 29.2% from March 2020 to March 2021; metal windows are up 7.1%, double hung wood windows are up 6.8% and wood casement windows are up 5.1%; wood moldings are up 16.9%.

I didn’t see any notable price increases in plumbing materials or kitchen cabinets – all were close to inflation. The PPI doesn’t have vinyl window products, or I don’t know under which category it falls.