The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Collateral damage from urban interstates

I've written before about urban highways, never favorably. Ploughing massive roads through dense urban areas has done incalculable damage to North American cities that tearing them down or burying them has only just started to fix—but usually with an order of magnitude more cost than their initial construction.

Today I got an innocent little email listing houses for sale around Chicago, both because I'm interested to see what's out there, and also because I've been too lazy to turn it off since I last moved. But one house stood out today: a beautiful, 4-bedroom Victorian built in 1898 with a lovely wraparound porch, tons of light and air, steps from everything.

I would love to live in a house just like this. In fact, there are similar houses near me, with price tags around $2-$3 million.

This stately lady in Old Irving Park can be yours for only $750,000. And that jaw-dropping difference in value is entirely due to its location.

You see, even though this house is steps from everything—only four blocks to the Metra, three blocks to the El, close to the shops in the historic commercial corridor along Elston—it's also just 200 meters from the 10-lane I-90/94 expressway:

I mean, holy hell. Getting to the El or to the Metra stations at Mayfair or Irving Park requires crossing all those lanes of traffic. I've done it; the Montrose and Irving Park bridges are soul-crushing for pedestrians. Worse, the Keeler underpass (which you'd take to the Irving Park station) requires you to cross two entrance and exit ramps on either side of a half-block-long underpass.

I'm not even going to talk about how loud the 10 lanes of traffic must be.

In short, this beautiful house, "the second built in the area," can't get anywhere near the price it would had the city not destroyed the neighborhood in the 1950s.

Sad.

Tuesday night round-up

In other news:

And finally, a glimmer of hope that the 10-year project to build one damn railroad station near my house might finally finish in the next few weeks.

Shooting in Half Moon Bay

Longtime readers will know that I have spent a lot of time in Half Moon Bay, Calif., over the past 15 years. So yesterday's events shocked me:

Seven people are dead following two linked shootings in the Northern California city of Half Moon Bay, officials said.

The San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office tweeted at 3:48 p.m. Monday that they were responding to a shooting “with multiple victims in the area of HWY 92 and the HMB City limits.” The office tweeted roughly an hour later that a suspect was in custody and there "is no ongoing threat to the community at this time."

San Mateo County Sheriff Christina Corpus confirmed at a press conference Monday evening that seven people were killed in two related shootings. She said four victims were found dead from gunshot wounds at a location in the 12700 block of San Mateo Road, also known as Highway 92, around 2:30 p.m. A fifth victim was discovered with "life-threatening injuries" and transported to Stanford Medical Center. They remain there in critical condition.

California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) learned of the shooting while at the hospital with victims of Sunday's mass shooting in Los Angeles.

Neither the National Rifle Association nor the right-wingers suing Illinois over its latest attempt to regulate military weapons commented, though we can all expect them to say it's "too soon" to talk about why we're still the only country in the OECD where this happens. Perhaps they'll talk to the San Mateo County farm families mourning their loved ones today?

Molly White is exactly who we need right now

Accused fraudster Sam Bankman Fried did what every prosecutor hopes a defendant will do: start a blog. Researcher Molly White annotated his first post:

Sam Bankman-Fried has apparently decided to fill his time spent confined to his parents' Palo Alto home with blogging, perhaps in the hopes that he can just blog his way out of the massive criminal and civil penalties he's facing.

Although many of his statements here repeat things he's said elsewhere, I think it is useful to be able to analyze some of the story he's trying to spin all in one place, rather than cobbling his narrative together from multiple sources.

It's remarkable the extent to which SBF outright lies, or at the very least twists his version of events to distort reality in his favor. I don't intend to annotate further posts from him—which I suspect will be many—but instead hope that this will be sufficient to give some idea of just how thoroughly misleading his statements are.

Sample annotation:

If I was going to try to pick out a crypto firm that suffered large losses in an attempt to say "look, it was happening to everyone!", I might not pick the one whose founders have allegedly been in hiding for the last six months.34

And this:

It's clear that SBF's definition of "accurate" differs from most people's. SBF seems to think that if you tell someone that you have $1,000, and then later you say "...in monopoly money", it was still an accurate and defensible statement.

You know, I'm beginning to think 2023 will be the year people lose patience with lying fraudsters.

I just want to see the sun again

The graphical forecast for Chicago encourages me: it shows that the 100% overcast we've had for the last week will get a bit thinner tomorrow afternoon, then a bit thinner Tuesday morning, then...go back to another week of 95% cloud cover. Sigh. At least the sun finally sets after 5pm on Thursday.

Of course, the clouds actually keep Chicago warm in the winter, and the warm air keeps the clouds from thinning out until a strong enough front blows them away. So despite the lack of sun, the temperature still won't go below -8°C, which isn't bad at all for January.

Anyway, if I see the sun tomorrow, I'll post a photo, if for no other reason than to give me something to look at when it goes away for the next week.

How far from the park to downtown?

I love this chart from Twitter user Jay Cuda:

If you don't want to click through to Twitter, here's Jay's chart:

The chart doesn't tell the whole story, does it? For example, both Chicago teams, both New York teams, Boston, DC, Seattle, Philadelphia, and Oakland are all about the same distance from downtown, but easily accessible by train. (Chicago's are both on the same El line, in fact.) Atlanta's and LA's parks, by contrast, are approximately the same distance but completely inaccessible by any form of public transit. (Atlanta's new park even appears deliberately located to prevent those people from getting there.)

I speak from personal experience, as long-time Daily Parker readers know: I've been to every one of them, except the new Atlanta park, which I refuse to visit because of its anti-democratic location.

But soft, what light through yonder window breaks!

I've barely finished my coffee so I'm still processing this amazing news:

Monday
Sunny, with a high near 2. West southwest wind 10 to 15 km/h increasing to 20 to 25 km/h in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 35 km/h.

"Sunny." I hope...I hope...I hope...

Of course, temperatures will fall below normal for the first time all year by Thursday, and the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts believes Chicago has a 31% chance of getting 100 mm of snow by Thursday with most of it falling tomorrow evening...but at least we'll have sun.

Friday night I crashed your party

Just a pre-weekend rundown of stuff you might want to read:

  • The US Supreme Court's investigation into the leak of Justice Samuel Alito's (R) Dobbs opinion failed to identify Ginny Thomas as the source. Since the Marshal of the Court only investigated employees, and not the Justices themselves, one somehow does not feel that the matter is settled.
  • Paul Krugman advises sane people not to give in to threats about the debt ceiling. I would like to see the President just ignore it on the grounds that Article 1, Section 8, Article VI, and the 14th Amendment make the debt ceiling unconstitutional in the first place.
  • In other idiotic Republican economics (redundant, I know), Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA) has proposed a 30% national sales tax to replace all income and capital-gains taxes that I really hope the House passes just so the Senate can laugh at it while campaigning against it.
  • Amazon has decided to terminate its Smile program, the performative-charity program that (as just one example) helped the Apollo Chorus raise almost $100 of its $250,000 budget last year. Whatever will we do to make up the shortfall?
  • How do you know when you're on a stroad? Hint: when you really don't want to be.
  • Emma Collins does not like SSRIs.
  • New York Times science writer Matt Richtel would like people to stop calling every little snowfall a "bomb cyclone." So would I.
  • Slack's former Chief Purple People Eater Officer Nadia Rawlinson ponders the massive tech layoffs this week. (Fun fact: the companies with the most layoffs made hundreds of billions in profits last year even as market capitalization declined! I wonder what all these layoffs mean to the shareholders? Hmm.)
  • Amtrak plans to buy a bunch of new rail cars to replace the 40-year-old rolling stock on their long-distance routes. Lots of "ifs" in there, though. I still hope that, before I die of old age, the US will have a rail travel that rivals anything Europe had in 1999.
  • The guy who went to jail over his fraudulent and incompetent planning of the Fyre Festival a couple of years ago wants to try again, now that he's out.

Finally, Monica Lewinsky ruminates on the 25 years since her name popped up on a news alert outing her relationship with President Clinton. One thing she realized:

The Tonight Show With Jay Leno died in 2014. For me, not a day too soon. At the end of Leno’s run, the Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University analyzed the 44,000 jokes he told over the course of his time at the helm. While President Clinton was his top target, I was the only one in the top 10 who had not specifically chosen to be a public person.

If you don't follow her on social media, you're missing out. She's smart, literate, and consistently funny.

Warm and cloudy January

With 10 days to go to solidify the record, Chicago has tied for cloudiest January in history, with 20% of possible sunshine (normal is 40%), with 11 of the first 19 days of 2023 giving us exactly zero sun. The record, set in 1998, is 20 of 31 days without sun, and three recent Januaries (2017, 2020, and 2021) saw no sun on 16 of 31 days.

The cause, though, is reflected in us seeing the second-warmest January since records began in 1871, with every single day having an above-normal temperature.

The culprit? A persistent La Niña system in the south Pacific combined with global warming, as WGN-TV meteorologist Tom Skilling explains:

You know, this is a La Niña winter and we’ve done some in-house work on these. Since 1950, La Nina winters have been very volatile in this area. You move from arctic air masses one week to unseasonably mild air the next. We had that cold blast that hit around Christmas week. Now, we’re in the 22nd consecutive day of above normal temperatures. This already is the second-warmest January on the books here — at least so far it is. You have to go back to 1850 to find a January 1-17 period that’s warmer than what we’ve seen this year.

January is typically our coldest and one of our snowiest months and home to some of our blockbuster historic snowstorms, not the least of which is the benchmark blizzard of 1967 that shut the city down.

In Chicago, the winters of the 1970s were collectively our coldest and snowiest on record — and we have records that go back to 1871 and the Great Chicago Fire.

The coldest temperatures occurred in the 1980s. We had back-to-back 26 below zero temperatures in January 1982. And then we had the all-time coldest three years later in 1985 (that was minus 27 degrees).

If you don’t believe climate change is at work, just look at what’s happened to the character of our winters around here. While the decade of the 1970s was the coldest and snowiest on record, we have warmed precipitously since then.

Last time I looked, our winters are running more than 3 degrees on average warmer than the winters of the ’70s, which is a big change. I don’t know if you remember the 1970s, but those winters were barbaric. We’d have these incredible snowstorms and then they’d be followed by these sieges of subzero weather. We don’t get that anymore.

We still have 38 days of winter left, however, and Sunday could see more normal temperatures plus 25 mm or more of snow. And someday, we might even see the sun again.