The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

The life and death of a Chicago squirrel

Wow, is this a Chicago story.

On January 6th, a local comedian posted a photo of what he thought was the impression of a rat in concrete on a Chicago street. (Local residents claim it's actually the death mask of a very unfortunate squirrel that fell from a tree into the wet concrete decades ago.) Quickly dubbed the "Chicago rat hole," it went viral, and so far thousands of people have made pilgrimage to 1918 W. Roscoe St. to see it.

Well, yesterday, some jagoff filled it in with "a plaster-like substance." But fear not! Locals rushed to its rescue in a way one can only hope they rescued the original artist:

NBC5 reported the rat-shaped sidewalk hole near near 1918 W. Roscoe St. was filled in with a “concrete-like material.”

t’s not clear who has a problem with the rat hole and doesn’t want us to have nice things, but Lakeview neighbor Johnathan Howell grabbed his license plate and went to work digging out the hole, NBC Sports’ Alex Shapiro reported. Other neighbors joined in, using other small tools to help.

By early afternoon, the hole looked mostly back to normal, though remnants remained of the filling, melted snow and slush.

The material used to fill in the rat hole appeared to be some type of plaster or modeling clay. Neighbors who had made a pilgrimage to the rat hole during their Friday lunch were relieved the desecration of the landmark was not permanent, they said.

The Lakeview Roscoe Village Chamber of Commerce launched a contest last week to come up with a nickname. The five finalists:

  • Lil’ Stucky
  • Splatatouille
  • Splat
  • Roscoe Road-dent
  • Dibs

You know, as a student of history, I always wondered why people spent most of the 1920s and 1930s chasing silly fads. (Woody Allen nailed this phenomenon in his 1983 film Zelig.)

So here we are: a beloved Chicago fad, defiled by a spoilsport (my money's on Streets and Sanitation), rescued by neighbors. That's us.

How to explain this to future generations?

Twenty years ago today, former Vermont governor Howard Dean (D) showed enthusiasm for his 3rd-place finish in the Iowa Caucuses in a way he came to regret:

Conventional wisdom says that this scream tanked (see what I did there?*) his campaign, but really, Dean never had the momentum or following needed to win the nomination. Plus, President Bush had taken us to war with the Taliban in Afghanistan and with common sense in Iraq, so war hero John Kerry looked like the best person to challenge him.

I can't remember exactly, but I think I voted for Kerry, mainly because the nomination was sewn up by then. More importantly, though, I voted for Illinois State Senator Barack Obama (D-13th) in the primary to fill the US Senate seat of retiring US Senator Peter Fitzgerald (R). My guy won that election (if you recall), and I got to go to the victory party on primary night. Fun!

* See, e.g., this clip from 1988.

You'll get there in a few millennia

An Ottawa judge told the Crown Prosecution Service to return a suspect's mobile phones after prosecutors failed to unlock them after trying 175 million passwords:

The police seized the phones in October 2022 with a warrant obtained based on information about a Google account user uploading images of child pornography. The contents of the three phones were all protected by complex, alpha-numeric passcodes.

Ontario Superior Court Justice Ian Carter heard that police investigators tried about 175 million passcodes in an effort to break into the phones during the past year.

The problem, the judge was told, is that more than 44 nonillion potential passcodes exist for each phone.

To be more precise, the judge said, there are 44,012,666,865,176,569,775,543,212,890,625 potential alpha-numeric passcodes for each phone.

In his ruling, Carter said the court had to balance the property rights of an individual against the state’s legitimate interest in preserving evidence in an investigation. The phones, he said, have no evidentiary value unless the police succeed in finding the right passcodes.

The article helpfully describes how dictionary attacks work, but doesn't attempt to figure out how long it would take to brute-force them. (I'm not going to attempt that, either, but I expect it's a while.)

Cold snapped

Around 7 this morning, the official Chicago temperature at O'Hare went above -15°C for the first time in 81 hours, the longest such cold snap since February 1996:

In the 1996 stretch, O’Hare recorded highs of -20.6°C on Feb. 2 and 3, and of -16.7°C on Feb. 4, according to NWS meteorologist Casey Sullivan.

Sullivan said the longest stretch of temps below -15°C in the area was a period of five days in the 1880s, according to NWS records, which go back to 1871.

“It doesn’t look like we’re going to do that, but it’s unusual, not unheard of,” Sullivan said of the cold streak.

There may be some — albeit slight — relief from the extreme cold on the way in the coming days. High temperatures Wednesday should climb to a high of around -8°C, the NWS said.

Thursday’s high temps could end up near -5°C, and Friday’s high is expected to be near -9°C.

As of 1pm we've gotten up to -9°C, but the sun is out, and we have brisk west-southwest winds, both of which should help. As long as it stays above -10°C I can walk Cassie home from day camp. (I had to drive her yesterday and today.)

The National Climate Prediction Center says the Arctic Vortex will get back to where it once belonged next week:

I sure hope so. And if Cassie understood "future" as a concept, so would she.

Still chilly, but not like 1985

My socials today have a lot of chatter about the weather, understandably as we're now in our fourth day below -15°C. And yet I have vivid memories of 20 January 1985 when we hit the coldest temperature ever recorded in Chicago, -32°C. The fact that winters have gotten noticeably milder since the 1970s doesn't really matter during our annual Arctic blast. Sure, we had the coldest winter ever just 10 years ago, but the 3rd and 5th coldest were 1977-78 and 1978-79, respectively. I remember the snow coming up to my chin those years, and the never-ending below-freezing temperatures (like the 43 days from 28 December 1976 to 8 February 1977).

That said, I completely support the Chicago Public Schools closing today and tomorrow. And that they smoothed out all the streets since I was younger, so kids don't have to walk uphill both ways in the snow. But given the wind-chill advisory in effect until tomorrow morning, none of us wanted to go into the office either.

So instead of commuting, I'll have some time to read these as I shiver in my home office:

Finally, should I get an induction burner? I've been using my electric teakettle to pre-boil water for pasta, which saves a ton of time. The Post looked into the benefits of induction vs natural gas, principally around air quality. Looks like it's worth $120 to reduce my gas use. Of course, since I have gas furnaces, it might not do a lot for me this week.

Chilling at home

Our company has Martin Luther King, Jr. Day off, which will allow me to get a bit of rest after my lightning trip to Seattle. And to celebrate, I've broken out the Arran sweater and long-johns, because wow is it cold:

The National Weather Service reported extreme cold and a wind chill of minus 40 in Aurora on Sunday morning and issued a wind chill warning through noon Monday.

Weather service senior meteorologist Brett Borchardt said Chicago narrowly missed breaking the record — 1 degree — for the lowest maximum temperature for Jan. 14. The temperature at O’Hare was 3 degrees “for a few minutes” after midnight Sunday before falling below zero, he said.

“But the air temperature has been below zero [Fahrenheit] during daylight hours today, so I would call that unusual,” Borchardt said.

Sunday night’s low of minus 15 will be the coldest since the polar vortex of 2019.

The official low yesterday was -23.3°C. At last report O'Hare had -22.2°C with a wind chill of -32.3°C, while IDTWHQ reported -19.1°C.

Walking down the jet bridge from the plane to the terminal at O'Hare gave me just a little taste of the cold; walking Cassie this morning gave both of us a full serving. She lasted 4 minutes before pulling towards the house. I don't think she'll get her usual hour of walkies today, and I don't expect to get my usual 11,000 steps. But it should get much warmer on Wednesday—maybe even up to -8°C! So we might get them later in the week.

Now to offload all the crap that accumulated on my phone over the week...

Too short and too cold

I'm watching my plane arriving from Chicago to get all of us going back there on it, a little remorseful that I couldn't spend more time in Seattle. I last visited in 2013 to watch the Cubs hold their own against the Mariners for 9 whole innings, only to lose with no outs in the bottom of the 10th. On that June day Seattle had sunny 30°C weather. This morning we had sunny weather, I'll give it that:

But warm? No. In the 38 hours of my trip it only got above -6°C once I got to the airport to go home.

I'll be back this spring. I'll even stay longer than two days.

Meanwhile, Cassio got to play a Casio. I hope she's doing her finger exercises:

I look forward to a recital when I get home in a few hours.

Old Stove Brewing, Seattle

Welcome to an extra stop on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Olkd Stove Brewinig, 1901 Western Ave., Seattle
Train line: Sound Transit, University St
Time from Chicago: about 4 hours by air
Distance from station: 400 m

Except for picking the coldest weekend in years to visit Seattle, I enjoyed the Pike Place Market a lot. At its north end I found the Old Stone Brewing Co., with a view of the Puget Sound that would have knocked my socks off if doing so wouldn't immediately have led to frostbite. Even being inside a place with "Stove" in its name didn't help as Seattle buildings generally don't approach insulation the same way Chicago buildings do. Nice views, though.

Still, spending $18 and 90 minutes in the place kept me warm and got me an extra 75 pages through the excellent polemic I'm reading, Cory Doctorow's The Lost Cause. (I should finish it today on the plane.)

They have two brewer's-choice flight options plus a DIY option. I didn't feel like having 6 beers s I chose 5 from their long list and sipped. From left to right: the Old Stove Pilsner (4.2%, 35 IBU), the Streaker Citra pale (5.7%, 30 IBU), their flagship Two Pronged Crown IPA (6.66%, 53 IBU), the No One Knows hazy IPA (6.2%, 25 IBU), and the Dark Passage American stout (7%, 46 IBU). All tasted great, and I'd drink any of them if presented. I liked the No One Knows the best. The stout was less stout and more dry than anticipated, but still good enough to finish the 100 mL sample.

Next time I'm in Seattle, I'll choose a warm, dry day to sit outside this place with a full pint. Possibly my friend's dog, too.

Beer garden? Yes, looking over Puget Sound!
Dogs OK? Outside only
Televisions? Two, avoidable, but only showing 1950s through 1970s beer commercials
Serves food? Full pub menu
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

That was a very long trip

My five-and-a-half-hour-delayed flight got to Seattle in the usual amount of time, but the door-to-door duration—my house to my friend's house—set a new record for domestic travel: 15 hours and 20 minutes. That's the longest travel duration for any flying trip since I had a long connection going from Chicago to London two years ago and longer than any domestic trip I can recall.

But at the end of the voyage, Hazel was very glad to see me:

My friend has an all-day meeting that neither of us is particularly happy about, but I have her car and a comfortable seat at a quiet coffee shop in the Belltown area of downtown Seattle:

I said hi to this guy, too:

I haven't yet figured out what to do with the next couple of hours. I've never seen the top of this thing, though:

There's a non-zero chance I might do a Brews & Choos review after lunch, too. Stay tuned.