The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Gonna be a hot one

I've got a performance this evening that requires being on-site at the venue for most of the day. So in a few minutes I'll take two dogs to boarding (the houseguest is another performer's dog), get packed, an start heading to a hockey rink in another city. Fun! If I'm supremely lucky, I'll get back home before the storm.

Since I also have to travel to the venue, I'll have time to read a few of these:

Finally, the Post examined a Social Security Administration dataset yesterday that shows how baby names have converged on a few patterns in the last decade. If you think there are a lot of names ending in -son lately (Jason, Jackson, Mason, Grayson, Failson...), you're not wrong.

All the (other) things!

As I mentioned after lunch, a lot of other things crossed my desk today than just wasted sushi:

Finally, Taylor Swift fans have roundly rejected Ticketmaster's monopolistic gouging by flying to Europe to catch the Eras Tour, often saving so much money on tickets that it pays for their travel. I personally know one such Swiftie who took her honeymoon in Stockholm, where Swift played earlier this year. It turns out, Europe has stricter rules against the kind of parasitic behavior Ticketmaster perpetrates on Americans.

Definitely summer in Chicago

Cassie and I just got back from a short walk around the block. We did a 45-minute walk at 7:15, when we both could still tolerate the temperature, but just now my backyard thermometer shows a temperature of 33.1°C with a dewpoint of 23.3°C, which gives us a heat index of 38.5°C (101.4°F). Honestly, I prefer winter to this.

The National Weather Service predicts the heat wave could extend through the week.

Meanwhile, in the rest of the world:

Finally, author Edward Robert McClelland visited all 77 community areas in Chicago, and lived to write about it.

Sure, they get a party

Dignitaries and Metra executives celebrated the opening of the Peterson-Ridge station on the UP-North line this past Sunday:

Hopefully West Ridge, Edgewater, and Lincoln Square residents remembered that patience is a virtue, as they waited for more than ten years for Metra's new Peterson/Ridge station, 1780 W. Peterson Ave., to serve their communities. The commuter railroad, elected officials, and neighbors rejoiced over the completion of the Union Pacific North line stop, which opened on May 20, with an official ribbon-cutting ceremony this morning.

The $27.8 million project included a pair of new six-car platforms; heated concrete stairs and wheelchair ramps; a warming house; two shelters; an access drive; and lots of car and bicycle parking. It was bankrolled with $15 million from the state's Rebuild Illinois capital program, with the remainder of the cash coming from the Federal Transit Administration.

The new station was discussed for over a decade, and took more than two-and-a-half years to construct. That was about a year longer than planned, and the project cost roughly $5 million more than expected, according to a Tribune report last month by Sarah Freishtat.

"I'm glad it's finally done!" local alder Andre Vasquez (40th) told Streetsblog this morning. "This was like, I wouldn't say a CTA-level delay, but it's completed, so that's awesome... We kind of showed up on the last leg of it. [Ald. Vasquez took office last year.] During the [Governor Bruce] Rauner era there were funding challenges."

Just 3 km south, the Ravenswood station—my damn station—took more than 12 years to rebuild because of "Rauner era funding challenges." When it finally opened almost a year ago, did we get a fancy ribbon-cutting? No. Did politicians show up and give speeches? Nope. Did anyone even mention it before, one day, they cordoned off the 10-year-old "temporary" platform? Guess again.

Ravenswood, by the way, was the busiest station on the UP-N and the 3rd-busiest overall just before the pandemic. Ridge-Peterson never existed before, though trains used to stop at the Rosehill Cemetery gate two blocks south and at Granville, a block north, until 1958. (A 1955 schedule I saw showed a 40-minute travel time between Ravenswood and the Loop. It's now 16-18 minutes.)

Who is buried in Couch's tomb?

I remembered that Chicago used to have a cemetery at what is now the south end of Lincoln Park, near State and North. But I never connected the dots that a small building over there actually had dead people in it:

In 1869 Chicago City Cemetery was taken over by the Lincoln Park Commissioners for conversion to a park. The bodies were transferred to Graceland, Rosehill, and other graveyards. The Catholics also vacated their cemetery, using the land for a new archbishop’s residence.

One story says that the Couch family fought removal of the tomb all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and won its case. However, nobody has found any documentary evidence of such a decision. Perhaps the mausoleum is still there because neither the park commissioners nor the Couch family wanted to pay for tearing it down. That’s the kind of explanation that makes sense in Chicago.

After decades of neglect, the park district renovated the Couch tomb in the 1990s. The shrubs were cut down and the limestone structure itself was repaired. Now a spotlight illuminates it at night. The civic embarrassment has become a point of civic pride.

My city has a lot of history, even though the first settler got here so recently his house would be considered "new" in most of Europe.

Two anniversaries and a passing

Seventy-five years ago today, George Orwell published 1984, a horrifying novel that gets closer to reality every day. Also on 8 June 1949, the FBI released a report naming acting stars and filmmakers "communists," kicking off a horrifying chapter in American history that gets closer to coming back every day.

And yesterday, NASA astronaut Bill Anders died in a plane crash. You may not know who Anders was, but you've seen the photo he took on Christmas Eve 1968:


By NASA/Bill Anders (Link) Public Domain

Oh, and today is also (possibly) the anniversary of Mohammed's death in 632 CE. (Calendars didn't measure time the same way back then that they do today, so we can't really be sure.)

What news?

Oh, so many things:

Finally, after it took the Ogilvie Transportation Center Starbucks over 30 minutes to make my iced tea this morning (and I ordered it from 15 minutes away on my inbound train), it turns out the Starbucks staffing algorithm might be to blame. This is why I only get that one drink from Starbucks: it's really hard to screw up and usually takes them half a minute. Fortunately, I got my morning coffee at the cute local bagel shop on my walk to Cassie's day camp (and they gave Cassie a dog treat to boot), so I wasn't feeling homicidal.

Heads-down research and development today

I usually spend the first day or two of a sprint researching and testing out approaches before I start the real coding effort. Since one of my stories this sprint requires me to refactor a fairly important feature—an effort I think will take me all of next week—I decided to read up on something today and have wound up in a rabbit hole.

Naturally, that means a few interesting stories have piled up:

Finally, Lagunitas Brewing will move its brewing operations back to Petaluma, Calif., (which is a million times better than Megaluma!) and close its Chicago taproom this summer, so I suppose the Brews & Choos Project should get its ass over there pronto.

Heading for another boring deployment

Today my real job wraps up Sprint 109, an unexciting milestone that I hope has an unexciting deployment. I think in 109 sprints we've only had 3 or 4 exciting deployments, not counting the first production deployment, which always terrifies the dev team and always reminds them of what they left out of the Runbook.

The staging pipelines have already started churning, and if they uncover anything, the Dev pipelines might also run, so I've lined up a collection of stories from the last 24 hours to keep me calm (ah, ha ha, ha):

  • James Fallows, himself a former speechwriter for President Jimmy Carter, digs into President Biden's commencement address yesterday at Morehouse College, saying: "It showed care in craftsmanship and construction. Its phrasing matched Biden’s own style and diction. It navigated the political difficulties of the moment. And it represented Biden’s attempt to place those difficulties in a larger perspective."
  • Economist Paul Krugman explains the insignificance (to most people's lives) of the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing above 40,000 last week, and how the news nicely illustrates "he gap between what we know about the actual state of our economy and the way [the XPOTUS] and his allies describe it."
  • Speaking of the stock market, Ivan Boesky, one of the greediest people ever to walk the earth, died last week at the age of 87.
  • Speaking of economics, Bill McBride takes us through the history of paying off the national debt, or increasing it as tends to happen under Republican presidents. He lists 8 events from 2000 to 2021 that significantly increased it, only two of which Democratic administrations oversaw.
  • Speaking of debt, Crain's scoops up the Oberweis Dairy bankruptcy case, and how it appears that a failson (actually a failgrandson in this case) killed it, as sometimes happens with inherited wealth.
  • Speaking of things falling abruptly, a Singapore Airlines B777-312ER encountered severe turbulence over the Andaman Sea near Bangkok yesterday, and a 73-year-old British passenger died of what appears to be heart failure. Other passengers and crew suffered head injuries. This is why you need to keep your seatbelt on at all times in an airplane.

Finally, Block Club Chicago readers have sent in cicada photos from the south and west sides of the area. Still none in my neighborhood, though a colleague in Wilmette said she saw a couple yesterday. I want to see the bugs!

The Ohio Feeder must die

The Ohio Feeder runs about 2 kilometers from Chicago's River North nightlife area to the Kennedy Expressway (I-90/94). As former Milwaukee mayor John Norquist told Streetsblog on Friday, just like San Francisco's Embarcadero Freeway and Seoul's Cheonggyecheon, we need to remove the Ohio Feeder:

Swapping the expressway extension for a surface-level boulevard would be an obvious choice to make this part of town safer, more efficient, more environmentally friendly, more vibrant – and more profitable. "Instead of making it harder to get to River North from the Kennedy, it would expand River North closer to the Kennedy."

SF actually saw travel times shorten when the Embarcadero Freeway was removed after being damaged by an earthquake, Norquist noted. "At rush hour, a boulevard carries more traffic because drivers move at the optimal speed. More and more research is piling up about the harmful aspects of urban freeways, including sprawl, pollution, congestion, and increased travel times. And you can't build a coffee shop on a freeway."

Transforming the Ohio Feeder into surface road, similar to what was done with Milwaukee's Park East Freeway "really won't require a change on every part of it," Norquist he said. "The bridge over the Chicago River was built in 1962 and fixed up in 1992. It's going be due for a rehab soon anyway. And it's not like you have to teat the whole freeway down. Much of it is practically at-grade, so you could turn it into a boulevard pretty easily."

With the redevelopment of the former Chicago Tribune printing plant 200 meters to the north, and the potential for having unimpeded bike, pedestrian, and (yes) car traffic between Kinzie and Chicago, it would transform the neighborhood. We might be stuck with the Kennedy and the Dan Ryan, as abominable as those two highways are; but we can—and should—open up River North to development west of Orleans by removing the ugly scar connecting it to the Kennedy.