The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

A hot time in the old town tonight

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire, which burned for two days and left 100,000 people homeless. But only for a short time; by 1874, when the city had a second big fire, our population had already grown by about that number.

Flash forward to now:

Finally, last night I attended an actual live theater performance for the first time in 19 months, and it was amazeballs. If you live in Chicago, right now you need to go to the Chicago Shakespeare Theater website and buy tickets to As You Like It, which plays through November 21st.

Busy day in the news

So many things this morning, including a report not yet up on WBEZ's website about the last Sears store in Chicago. (I'll find it tomorrow.)

  • Jennifer Rubin advises XPOTUS "critics and democracy lovers" to leave the Republican Party.
  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) completely caved against a unified Democratic Party and will vote to extend the (probably-unconstitutional) debt limit another three months.
  • An abolitionist's house from 1869 may get landmark approval today from the Commission on Chicago Landmarks. (It's already in the National Register of Historic Places).
  • Could interurban trains come back?
  • Arts critic Jo Livingstone has a mixed review of No Time to Die, but I still plan to see it this weekend.
  • 18 retired NBA players face wire-fraud and insurance-fraud charges for allegedly scamming the NBA's Health and Welfare Benefit Plan out of $4 million.
  • Even though we've had early-September temperatures the past week, we've also had only 19% of possible sunlight, and only 8% in the past six days. We have not seen the sun since Monday, in fact, making the steady 19°C temperature feel really depressing.
  • Two new Black-owned breweries will go on the Brews and Choos list soon.
  • Condé Nast has named Chicago the best big city in the US for the fifth year running.

Finally, President Biden is in Chicago today, promoting vaccine mandates. But because of the aforementioned clouds, I have no practical way of watching Air Force One flying around the city.

Update, 12:38 CDT: The sun is out!

Update, 12:39 CDT: Well, we had a minute of it, anyway.

First Monday of October

The United States Supreme Court began their term earlier today, in person for the first time since March 2020. Justice Brett Kavanagh (R) did not attend owing to his positive Covid-19 test last week.

In other news:

So how did facebook.com disappear from root DNS, the day after 60 Minutes aired a segment on Haugen?

Joni Mitchell was right

Chicago's Navy Pier organization wants to cut down the trees and put 'em in a tree museum:

Navy Pier’s Crystal Gardens could be removed and replaced with what’s billed as “the next generation in immersive entertainment” — but a petition to save it has racked up more than 15,000 signatures.

Crystal Gardens is a 1-acre indoor garden that is free and accessible to the public. It’s often used as a venue for events or for people to stop by and escape chilly weather.

But a new attraction is set to take its place: Illuminarium, which uses projected images, sound, scents and vibrations to give paying visitors the sense they are in different places, like Africa. The change has already been approved by the city.

“Illuminarium promises to be an exciting experience center that will enhance Navy Pier’s visitation and educational strengths,” said spokeswoman Madeline Sweeney.

Sweeney said Navy Pier has developed free green space at other spots on the pier — including at the 15-acre Polk Bros Park — but Crystal Gardens is “underused” and the nonprofit must develop attractions to help businesses there.

“We understand that some guests may have an attachment to Crystal Gardens and appreciate their concern,” Sweeney said.

We appreciate Sweeney's insincerity. And, let's face it, I wouldn't send a tourist to Navy Pier unless the rest of the city had disappeared into a space-time rift. But this makes the space-time rift that much more appealing.

Third Monday in September

Today might be the last hot day of the year in Chicago. (I hope so, anyway.) While watching the cold front come through out my office window, with the much-needed rain ahead of it, I have lined up some news stories to read later today:

And finally, Metallica has an unexpected show tonight at Metro Chicago, about two kilometers from my house. Tickets are $20. I hope people show up for my board meeting tonight.

End-of-summer reading

Only about 7 more hours of meteorological summer remain in Chicago. I opened my windows this afternoon for the first time in more than two weeks, which made debugging a pile of questionable code* more enjoyable.

Said debugging required me to put these aside for future reading:

Finally, one tiny bit of good news: more Americans believe in evolution than ever before, perhaps due to the success of the SARS-COV-2 virus at evolving.

Goodbye, Summer 2021. It's been a hoot.

* Three guesses who wrote the questionable code. Ahem.

Light, air, dog

The environmental change I alluded to yesterday went much more smoothly than anticipated.

When I moved to my current place, I put Inner Drive Technology World Headquarters (IDTWHQ) in the room that most clearly said "office," the one off the kitchen with all the built-in bookshelves and the A/V stack the previous owners left behind. It faces south, but it has bay windows covered in ivy, providing subdued indirect light in the summer and lots of direct sunlight in the afternoon from October to March. While the bay windows provide some ventilation, the room gets a bit stuffy when they're closed, and doesn't really get much airflow when they're open. Also, the geometry of the room never quite worked with my desk. I had to squeeze around it to get into my chair, making the whole thing feel a bit constraining.

Add in 3-5 days of working from home every week, with my work laptop and secondary monitor occupying a hunk of real estate on the desk while dropping wires and power cables on the floor between the door and Cassie's bed, and the whole thing has felt really cramped for the last 18 months:

That, my friends, is bad feng shui.

Meanwhile, my easternmost room, overlooking the leafy side-street I live on, naturally became a sunroom:

I mean, light, air, and about half the time a dog on the couch? What's not to love? In fact, now in the second summer of working from home 60% or more, most days I wanted to sit on that couch with Cassie and read—especially when the weather permitted me to open all nine of those windows.

So, with a little help from Comcast to fix the cable running into my living room, yesterday I moved my office into the sunroom. Even with my work crap still occupying the same hunk of real estate, it just looks and feels so much better:

And the office? It became a sitting room:

I don't know how much I'll actually sit there, but its proximity to the kitchen means that when I entertain, people will use it for kitchen-adjacent overflow.

Cassie, naturally, freaked out a bit, and it took some coaxing for her to get back on the couch (probably because it was in the wrong place!). But as I write this, she's in the room with me, psychically commanding me to take her outside.

I don't understand why I didn't do this last year. It would have made the pandemic lockdown a ton more enjoyable. I mean, it only took me six years to configure my place in Lincoln Park correctly, but that had to do with the physical constraints imposed by having an entire server rack in one corner of the living room in an era before gigabit wi-fi. (The server rack had to go next to the POTS line jack because I used a DSL, and running a network cable through the walls to the other side of the living room was the only real option.)

This room really does feel better. And tomorrow, after Chicago's fever breaks, I'll open the windows.

Two big wins for all of us

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his resignation this morning:

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York said Tuesday he would resign from office, succumbing to a ballooning sexual harassment scandal that fueled an astonishing reversal of fortune for one of the nation’s best-known leaders.

Mr. Cuomo said his resignation would take effect in 14 days. Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, will be sworn in to replace him.

“Given the circumstances, the best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to governing,” Mr. Cuomo said from his office in Manhattan. “And therefore that’s what I’ll do.”

The resignation of Mr. Cuomo, a three-term Democrat, came a week after a report from the New York State attorney general concluded that the governor sexually harassed nearly a dozen women, including current and former government workers, by engaging in unwanted touching and making inappropriate comments. The 165-page report also found that Mr. Cuomo and his aides unlawfully retaliated against at least one of the women for making her complaints public and fostered a toxic work environment.

Good. He needs to go. And yes, I am happy that my party threw the book at one of our own. We hold ourselves accountable, unlike the other guys.

But that's not all the Democratic Party did today. We also passed a $1 trillion infrastructure bill in the Senate with the support of nine Republicans:

The 69-to-30 vote follows weeks of turbulent private talks and fierce public debates that sometimes teetered on collapse, as the White House labored alongside Democrats and Republicans to achieve the sort of deal that had eluded them for years. Even though the proposal must still clear the House, where some Democrats recently have raised concerns the measure falls short of what they seek, the Senate outcome moves the bill one step closer to delivering President Biden his first major bipartisan win.

The bill proposes more than $110 billion to replace and repair roads, bridges and highways, and $66 billion to boost passenger and freight rail. That transit investment marks the most significant infusion of cash in the country’s railways since the creation of Amtrak about half a century ago, the White House said.

The infrastructure plan includes an additional $55 billion to address lingering issues in the U.S. water supply, such as an effort to replace every lead pipe in the nation. It allocates $65 billion to modernize the country’s power grid. And it devotes billions in additional sums to rehabilitating waterways, improving airports and expanding broadband Internet service, particularly after a pandemic that forced Americans to conduct much of their lives online.

If this bill becomes law, it's possible that within my lifetime the United States could have the same quality of roads, bridges, and trains that Western Europe has today. (NB: I expect to live at least another 50 years.)

Meanwhile, as if to underscore this week's IPCC report, the dewpoint outside my window right now has almost reached 26°C, giving us a delightful heat index of 38.7°C. Even Cassie didn't want to be outside for her lunchtime walk.

Update: the 2pm readings at O'Hare show even lovelier weather: temperature 33°, dewpoint 25°C, heat index 40.4°C. Bleah.

More stuff to read

I know, two days in a row I can't be arsed to write a real blog post. Sometimes I have actual work to do, y'know?

Finally, as I've gone through my CD collection in the order I bought them, I occasionally encounter something that has not aged well. Today I came across Julie Brown's "The Homecoming Queen's Got a Gun," which...just, no. Not in this century.

The preservationist leanings of Scooby-Doo

CityLab's Feargus O'Sullivan riffs on an Instagram account that celebrates Scooby-Doo's Victorian backdrops:

It should come as no surprise that creaking mansard roofs, vaulted dungeons and abandoned one-horse towns occur so often as settings. Americans have been identifying the Victorian with the macabre for more than 100 years. It still seems not completely coincidental that these particular backdrops were so often used for a show in its heyday in the late 1960s and the 1970s.

This, after all, is a period when America’s Victorian architecture lay on a major fault line. Long decaying as wealthier residents moved to the suburbs, America’s many Victorian neighborhoods fell prey to demolition during this period as urban renewal projects smashed through buildings that were often seen as musty, decrepit hangovers from a poorer, miserably car-less past.

San Francisco’s Fillmore District, for example, was substantially redeveloped, scattering its mainly African American residents to the East Bay, while the now celebrated Victorian district of Old Louisville saw over 600 buildings demolished between 1965 and 1971 alone.

Indeed, the show sometimes tackles these issues directly. The classic Scooby-Doo villain is a developer or greedy landowner, scaring people away from their property by dressing as a ghost or monster, only to be unmasked and confess everything to the band of “pesky kids” just before each episode’s final curtain. Occasionally, even urban renewal itself crops up. In one episode a developer constructing new buildings in Seattle is also secretly plundering treasures from the subterranean street network built in the aftermath of the Great Fire of 1889.

Down the street from me, a 6-bedroom house built in 1897 just sold for $412,500—less than half its estimated value, and probably closer to a third of what it might fetch once its restoration finishes next year. It went for $28,500 in 1979, which works out to about $110,000 today, during the worst period of urban decay in Uptown. Other gorgeous houses and apartments from the 1890s through 1920s in Chicago barely survived the 1970s, sometimes only because no one wanted to invest in the neighborhoods.

I've written about this phenomenon before, of course.