A little busy today, so I'm putting these down for later consumption:
Now, I must prepare...for Whisky Fest!
Bloomberg has released its list of the best steaks in Chicago for 2017. It leaves off my current favorite (Kinzie Chophouse) and my old favorite (Morton's on State, before they got bought out), but it's not a bad list:
If you had to name one quintessential steakhouse in Chicago, it would be Gibson’s, which serves expert, icy martinis at the bar and stellar beef from the grill. (It is the first steakhouse to be awarded its own USDA Prime Certification—USDA Gibsons Prime Angus Beef. Local hero chef Tony Mantuano is a fan. “Gibson’s is clearly a classic, the one that every steakhouse is compared with. The bone-in ribeye is my favorite cut, since it gives you different textural experiences. There are different types of muscle in this cut—the deckle, or rib cap, at Gibson’s is one of the most delicious bites of steak you'll ever eat.”
Situated in an old butcher shop, Boeufhaus looks more like a Brooklyn hangout than a classic Chicago steakhouse. For one thing, it’s compact, with only 34 seats; for another, it’s decorated with filament light fixtures. Also, the menu starters include fluke crudo with sea beans and Burgundy snails—no mac and cheese or seafood towers here. Chef Paul Berglund loved it all, in particular his steak. “Boeufhaus may not be the most traditional Chicago steakhouse, but I had an amazing celebratory meal there post James Beard Awards [he won Best Chef Midwest in 2016]. We ordered the 55-Day Dry-Aged Ribeye and 35-Day Dry-Aged Ribeye (market priced), served side by side on the table. This restaurant is doing great stuff with local, grass-fed beef. It’s a really cool place to eat meat.”
So for my next celebration, I'm going to try one of these places. I'm sure I'll find something to celebrate soon.
Cracked did a great video last November that everyone who hasn't paid attention to U.S. defense spending needs to watch:
But hey, without the largest military in the world (times ten), we can't be New Rome, can we?
I especially liked his comparison of the JSF to Star Wars. Just watch.
Matt Tyranauer directs Citizen Jane: Battle for the City, a documentary about my hero Jane Jacobs.
Jane Jacobs moved to Toronto in 1968 after being arrested during her ultimately successful battle against Robert Moses and his plans for a Lower Manhattan Expressway. In her new city, where she stayed until her death in 2006, Jacobs fought off yet another planned expressway, consulted on occasional development projects, spoke out against amalgamation, and continued to write books.
But in 2017, the story of how she helped defeat the world’s most infamous urban planning villain still generates inspiration from old and new audiences in New York and afar. A new film by Matt Tyrnauer, Citizen Jane: Battle For The City, packages that story around the damage felt across so many American cities in the 20th century through urban renewal. But it also reminds viewers that today’s urbanizing world has no lack of bad ideas worth fighting against right now.
Citizen Jane doesn’t necessarily shed new light on the main characters or the plot, but it does serve as a concise and approachable lens into what Jacobs stood for. It also shows just how she was able to hand Moses a rare loss in a career that allowed him to easily bulldoze—literally and figuratively—through the five boroughs.
Tyrnauer’s documentary is popping up in select theaters across the country this spring.
It's on my list. But unfortunately not scheduled to open in Chicago this spring.
The Apollo Chorus of Chicago held its annual benefit on April 7th, with me as benefit chair. We raised more money than at any previous benefit, as far as we know. I've got some photos to post; here's the first, of soprano Meaghan Stainback and alto Molly Mikos:
A combination of really nice weather, a shift in my project at work, and a loyal dog (who is now loyally pooped) has let me get some serious Fitbit steps recently:
That 7-day total is my best since I got a Fitbit in October 2014. The previous record was 129,249 set on June 16th last year—the day I walked 40,748 steps over 35.6 km.
Also on June 16th I set a 30-day total step count record of 507,849, which I'm unlikely to beat soon. As of yesterday, my current 30-day count is 435,763, so I've got a lot of steps to get to hit 508,000.
That said, today's steps might set a new 7-day record. I just need 19,300 for the day to do so. We'll see.
Back in 2011, after holding elections in 2005 and 2010, the British Parliament made an all-party agreement to hold elections every five years instead of just when the government needed to shore up their power. Today PM Theresa May tore up that agreement:
In a surprise statement outside Downing Street on Tuesday morning, the prime minister claimed that opposition parties were jeopardising her government’s preparations for Brexit.
“We need a general election and we need one now,” she said. “I have only recently and reluctantly come to this conclusion but now I have concluded it is the only way to guarantee certainty for the years ahead.”
May claimed the decision she would put to voters in the election, the announcement of which was a tightly guarded secret known only by her closest aides, would be all about “leadership”.
Under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, May cannot call an election directly, but she said she would lay down a motion in the House of Commons. This will require two-thirds of MPs to back it.
Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour party, said he welcomed the decision, suggesting his MPs would back the Commons motion.
No, Corbyn, you feckless twat, don't do it! You really don't get how this will screw the Labour Party, do you?
My prediction: Labour loses seats, the Liberal Democrats vanish entirely, and the Scottish National Party completely take over Scotland, ensuring five more years of Conservative rule and a bruising battle over Scottish independence.
The United Airlines debacle at O'Hare last week underscored how much people really hate airlines:
The severity of the situation really dawned on me last Thursday as I sat in an interview with a local Fox reporter. We started talking about the Chicago Aviation Police, and that’s when it hit me. Over the last few years, police violence has been a hot-button issue. It has spawned the Black Lives Matter movement, and it has polarized people around the country. And here was a textbook example of what people have been rallying against… a defenseless, older minority was dragged off an airplane by the police, and he was severely injured (though not killed, fortunately) in the process. You would have thought this would have ignited another round of vitriol aimed at the police, but no. Everyone blamed United. The Chicago Aviation Police even suspended officers over this, but nobody seems to care. It’s all about United, and that really says a great deal about just how much people hate airlines.
And unfortunately, there is no quick fix:
Can they do that? Well they’re trying. Flush with reasonable profits instead of the razor-thin margins (often negative) they’ve lived off of for years, airlines in the US are investing in their products. It’s now fairly normal to get free video content and free snacks when those were far from the norm just a couple years ago. And this stability also makes it a better work environment for employees. That should result in better service.
But while airlines have started to improve, they’ve also introduced product changes people instantly dislike, including Basic Economy and the decision to add more seats to airplanes. There may be rational justification for these moves, but they don’t play well publicly. Two steps forward, one step back. Or maybe it’s one step forward and two steps back. Either way, any improvement is met by the public with skepticism as people wait for the next axe to fall.
I wonder if people faced similar problems booking passage on sailing ships 200 years ago?
The Washington Post's Daily 202 column yesterday pointed out how difficult President Trump's job is because President Trump doesn't know anything about history:
[T]he fact our president needed an introductory tutorial on Sino-Korean relations to understand how hard it is to contain Pyongyang is just the latest illustration of one of his blind spots: He and his inner-circle have very little sense of history.
It is a cliché, but there is truth to it: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
Sean Spicer’s cringe-worthy comments this week that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s actions were worse than Adolf Hitler’s suggested a more endemic problem of historical illiteracy in the White House. The press secretary has since apologized for saying that Hitler “was not using the gas on his own people in the same way that Assad is doing.” He also referred to concentration camps as “the Holocaust centers.”
Because Spicer made his comment on the first day of Passover, the observant staff members at the Anti-Defamation League had their phones and televisions off. So they didn’t find out until Wednesday night what had happened. Leaders of the group reached out to the White House yesterday to offer a training session on the Holocaust.
Josh Marshall thinks it's not just ignorance, but militant ignorance:
What is key though is to understand that this is not just ignorance. Ignorance is just the first stage of Trump’s fairly advanced problem. He is not only ignorant but clearly unaware of his level of ignorance. This is compounded by a seeming inability to understand that everyone else isn’t equally ignorant to him. Those of us who are parents know the wonder of discovery experienced by small children. They find out there were things such as dinosaurs or close primate relatives called lemurs. As loving parents we indulge them, sometimes feigning ignorance of things we actually already knew to support a child’s joy in discovery.
But Donald Trump is a 70 year old man. And not a terribly nice man.
His ignorance is not endearing. We don’t need to lie to him to make him feel good about himself. Still it is good to understand his condition. Ignorance is just lack of information. But there’s something wrong with Trump’s brain – maybe cognitive, perhaps simple entitlement or just broad spectrum derp – which appears to make it genuinely impossible not to project his own ignorance onto everybody else.
Lest you think this problem may abate, Jeet Heer says Trump isn't actually learning, he only cares about winning.
Only 1,376 days left in this awful, awful presidential term.
On 13 April 1992, a hole opened under the Kinzie Street Bridge and drowned Chicago's Loop:
During the Great Chicago Flood of 1992, 250,000 gallons of water had the city drowning by the hour.
The leak that sprung in the old freight tunnels under the city quickly turned into a major flood often referred to as the "unseen catastrophe.”
It was a calamity that filled the basements of buildings on State Street, LaSalle Street and even the Merchandise Mart. Water rose to 7 feet, then 10 feet and up. It cut power and evacuated trading floors at the Board of Trade and the Mercantile Exchange. It closed major retails stores like Marshall Fields and even left the Merchandise Mart wet and flooded.
Water poured in from the bottom up. But where was it coming from?
Back in September of 1991, wood pilings were driven into the Chicago River to act as bumpers for the Kinzie bridge house so passing boats wouldn't knock it over. Story has it, the contractor hired to install the pilings hit an underground freight tunnel in the process creating a slow leak that got bigger and bigger with time until the tunnel gave way seven months later: April 13th, 1992.
Historian J.R. Schmidt has more:
It was an odd disaster. At street level, everything looked as it always had. Officials assured the public that the situation was under control. Governor Jim Edgar met with Mayor Richard M. Daley at City Hall. Afterward the governor told reporters there was no need to call out the National Guard.
About 11 a.m. the river locks were opened. That let the Chicago River resume its natural course into Lake Michigan. The water in the tunnels continued to rise, but more slowly.
By evening the water level had finally stabilized. Now the cleaning up and pumping out began. It would take weeks. A private contractor finally had to be brought in to seal the original leak at Kinzie Street.
The water emergency was expensive. Some estimates place the price tag for damaged goods, repair costs, and lost business at over $100,000,000. For insurance reasons, the event is officially classified as a “leak.” But no matter what name is used, those who experienced it firsthand often echo the reaction of their mayor—“What a day!”
Public transit services shined that day, evacuating about a million people from downtown in only a few hours with no injuries or crime.