The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

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.

Healthy, happy dog once again

Cassie and I just got back from her vet, with a good 2 km walk in each direction and treats at both ends. The semi-annual wellness check was only $88, and pronounced Cassie in perfect health. Even her weight (25 kg) is exactly what it should be, so I can start adding a little kibble to her meals if we walk a lot.

Of course, the heartworm pills were $230 and the fecal test was $107, so not everything about the checkup was great. Le sigh.

Also, it's warm today: 27°C for both walks, which is more like June 14th than May 13th (normal high: 20.9°C). I even had the air on last night. But I can see a cold front approaching from the west, with an expected temperature crash around 6pm and temperatures barely above 10°C (March 24th!) tomorrow. I'm glad we got our walks in already—looks like the first thunderstorm could hit before 3pm.

And check back tomorrow and Wednesday for two more Brews & Choos reviews from this past weekend, including a brand-new brewery that just opened 2 km from my front door.

Holzlager Brewing

Welcome to stop #102 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Holzlager Brewing, 150F S. Eastwood Dr., Woodstock
Train line: Union Pacific Northwest, Woodstock
Time from Chicago: 91 minutes (zone 4)
Distance from station: 1 km

Woodstock isn't the farthest Metra station from downtown Chicago; that honor goes to Harvard, which is almost 20 minutes farther out. But getting to Woodstock by train on a weekend takes about 2 hours when you have to change trains at Clybourn. And no small irony, the train taking me the one stop from home to Clybourn was 30 minutes late, cutting our overall travel time by that amount.

My frequent Brews buddy and I went to the town, made famous in the 1993 film Groundhog Day, and spent a few hours wandering around and drinking beer. We stopped first at the farthest (walkable) brewery, Holzager, which turned out to be at the end of a strip mall off a stroad just outside the historic section of town.

At least they have an outdoor space, which we found pleasant despite the traffic noise. And they make pretty decent beer. We each got a flight of four 150 mL pours, and tried 7 beers total (we both had Clown Hammer):

  • Agrarian Pale Ale (5.4%, 36 IBU): lots of hops, nice finish, some malt.
  • Clown Hammer AIPA (7.6%, 63 IBU): big hops, big malt, big flavor, maybe some banana and apricot notes. The brewery's #1 seller.
  • Fruit Warmer: the fruit rounds out the hop bitterness; big pineapple and apricot notes.
  • Let Go My Belgo Pale (6%, 26 IBU): "I love the name. It tastes like it's designed like a Belgian but lacking the complexity."
  • Malina Raspberry Ale (5.7%, 14 IBU): Uncomplicated, and tastes like real raspberry.
  • Moostache Milk Stout (5.7%, 18 IBU): Burnt notes, with coffee and a little chocolate, but thinner texture than expected. My friend added, "it's like an Imperial stout, but where's the ABV?"
  • Wooly Haggis Scotch Ale (10.1%, 26 IBU): very malty at first but changed after the initial few moments, with a very long finish. Again, some banana notes, which we pretty consistently tasted in all their beers.

We both want to explore Woodstock a bit more, but probably not this summer. And probably not in the beginning of February, either. Cute town, passable first brewery.

Beer garden? Yes
Dogs OK? Yes
Televisions? Yes
Serves food? Bar snacks, but allows BYOF
Would hang out with a book? Maybe
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Maybe

New Brews & Choos reviews soon

My frequent Brews buddy and I trekked out to Woodstock, Ill., yesterday, and visited the two breweries in town, then took Cassie to the newest brewery in my own neighborhood. I'll be going through notes and photos later today, so expect the reviews up tomorrow through Wednesday.

Meanwhile, for some reason, Minnesota unfurled a new state flag yesterday:

Minnesota's new flag went into official use Saturday, which has many wondering why the state adopted a new flag. The controversial replacement of the old flag requires an explanation of that emblem's history.

The legislature established the State Emblems Redesign Commission during the 2023 session to redesign Minnesota's flag and seal.

The reason for the change, according to state officials, was twofold. Primarily, officials were concerned with the scene depicted on the old flag, which many found offensive. First adopted in 1957, the flag showed a White settler tilling land as an Indigenous man rides horseback. Indigenous members of the State Emblem Redesign Commission said it was harmful to their communities and promoted the "erasure" of their people from the land.

Here's the flag. Enjoy:

Solar storm tonight, aurorae possibly visible in Chicago

NOAA has predicted a severe geomagnetic storm watch for tonight:

NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) — a division of the National Weather Service — is monitoring the sun following a series of solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs) that began on May 8. Space weather forecasters have issued a Severe (G4) Geomagnetic Storm Watch for the evening of Friday, May 10. Additional solar eruptions could cause geomagnetic storm conditions to persist through the weekend.

A large sunspot cluster has produced several moderate to strong solar flares since Wednesday at 5:00 am ET. At least five flares were associated with CMEs that appear to be Earth-directed. SWPC forecasters will monitor NOAA and NASA’s space assets for the onset of a geomagnetic storm.

CMEs are explosions of plasma and magnetic fields from the sun’s corona. They cause geomagnetic storms when they are directed at Earth. Geomagnetic storms can impact infrastructure in near-Earth orbit and on Earth’s surface, potentially disrupting communications, the electric power grid, navigation, radio and satellite operations. SWPC has notified the operators of these systems so they can take protective action. Geomagnetic storms can also trigger spectacular displays of aurora on Earth. A severe geomagnetic storm includes the potential for aurora to be seen as far south as Alabama and Northern California. 

The local media picked it up as well, but noted that the sky will probably look like this over Chicago when the storm reaches maximum:

That's the sky this afternoon, anyway. It might even rain tonight. I'll at least be able to read about it tomorrow.

If you love dogs, get a mutt

Cognitive scientist Alexandra Horowitz, author of the excellent book on dog psychology Inside of a Dog, explains how breeding dogs for specific characteristics inflicts pain and suffering on the results due to generations of inbreeding:

Breeders are not typically mating siblings, though it is not prohibited by the American Kennel Club and is not unheard of. Any mating within a closed gene pool of candidates will do, as far as breeders are concerned. But according to research published by a team from the University of California, Davis, and Wisdom Health Genetics in Finland, purebred dogs have, on average, a “coefficient of inbreeding” of 0.25, the same number you get when two siblings have a child. This number indicates the probability that two individuals will share two alleles from a common ancestor, like a parent or grandparent. And this number — 0.25 — is a problem.

The results of pure-breeding, on display starting this Saturday at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York, are profound. The radical morphological diversity of dog breeds today — from four-pound Malteses, white-haired and small-faced, to 170-pound Great Danes, large of body and of presence — is due to selective breeding.

So, too, are the consequences: the occurrence of several hundred health disorders related to genetics or to adherence to the standards set by breed groups that have emerged since dog pure-breeding took off in the 19th century. These include changes to anatomy so drastic that they affect reproduction (the bulldog’s head is so big that the overwhelming majority cannot be birthed naturally), respiration (the pug’s small skull leads to a constellation of abnormalities that make breathing difficult) and recreation (the German shepherd and other large-breed dogs are prone to debilitating hip dysplasia).

Right now, the American Kennel Club has no constraints on inbreeding (even as it encourages breeders to remember that “crippling or fatal” hereditary diseases may result). But I am not counting on the American Kennel Club. Instead, we could make outcrosses — the introduction of different genetic material to breeds — the norm.

Or we could, you know, just stop breeding dogs, and let them make their own offspring however they will. With millions of healthy but unwanted puppies in the world, and millions of purebred dogs suffering with genetic diseases brought on by generations of inbreeding, just adopt a mutt. Everyone wins.

Friedman on campus protests

Columnist Thomas Friedman, who identifies himself as "a hardheaded pragmatist who lived in Beirut and Jerusalem, [and] cares about people on all sides," finds American campus protests troubling because they're missing the larger context and workable goals:

In short: I find the whole thing very troubling, because the dominant messages from the loudest voices and many placards reject important truths about how this latest Gaza war started and what will be required to bring it to a fair and sustainable conclusion.

My problem is not that the protests in general are “antisemitic” — I would not use that word to describe them, and indeed, I am deeply uncomfortable as a Jew with how the charge of antisemitism is thrown about on the Israel-Palestine issue. My problem is that I am a hardheaded pragmatist who lived in Beirut and Jerusalem, cares about people on all sides and knows one thing above all from my decades in the region: The only just and workable solution to this issue is two nation-states for two indigenous peoples.

If you are for that, whatever your religion, nationality or politics, you’re part of the solution. If you are not for that, you’re part of the problem.

I am intensely both anti-Hamas and anti-Netanyahu. And if you oppose just one and not also the other, you should reflect a little more on what you are shouting at your protest or your anti-protest. Because no one has done more to harm the prospects of a two-state solution than the codependent Hamas and Netanyahu factions.

The whole column encapsulates a lot of my own struggles with this particular moment.

My home town's village board caught sleeping

After rejecting several proposals for what to do with a 51-hectare golf course that closed in 2018, the Village Trustees in Northbrook, Ill., woke up this week to discover that the DuPage County Water Commission bought it for $80 million. The western suburban county plans to build a water treatment plant on the land, which seems somewhat less pleasant than the housing development and senior living facility that the Village rejected earlier. Oops.

Meanwhile, in other news:

  • President Biden raised about $2 million in downtown Chicago yesterday. I'm a little bummed I missed him, but not bummed that, because I take public transit, his motorcade didn't disrupt my commute at all.
  • Gonzo right-wing spoiler candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., disclosed that doctors years ago found a dead tapeworm in his brain. It's still there, taking up space. (The poor thing must have starved.) Oh, he also mentioned the mercury poisoning for which he's currently undergoing chelation therapy. I have no idea which ailment affects cognition and judgment more, but I do know they both affect cognition and judgment a lot.
  • The usually-sleepy House Rules Committee has become the latest battleground in the Republican Party's civil war. As usually, the country suffers.
  • Soon-to-be former US Senator Kyrsten Sinema (WTF?-AZ) warns that the Senate filibuster will probably disappear when the next Congress convenes in January, conveniently forgetting that a minority of Americans already controls the Senate, and anyway the minority party right now wants to burn it all down. But sure, it's the Democrats, not the vandals on the other side, who wrecked the Senate. You can sit down now, Senator.
  • Police in Washington, D.C., have started going after porch pirates with Apple Airtags and some cooperation from local residents. They've got nothing on this guy, though.

Finally, a church near my house will host its last Mass on the 19th as members of the community have banded together to buy the building from the Archdiocese. The church has an amazing history, including a painstaking move and 90-degree rotation from its original location across Ashland Ave. in 1929.

Also: watch for some new Brews & Choos reviews early next week. This chorus season really did a number on my free time. I'm starting to get moving again.

Watching for Air Force One

The President arrived in Chicago a little while ago, but sadly I haven't seen either his airplane or his helicopter. Apparently he's just a couple of blocks from me. I'll wave if I see him.

Meanwhile:

Finally, London houseboats, which one could pick up for under £40,000 just a few years ago, now go for £500,000 plus thousands in costs, pricing out the lower-income folks who used to live on them. They seem pretty cool, but good luck finding a mooring.

Energetic atmosphere today

Today's second round of severe thunderstorms has arrived:

The National Weather Service issued a tornado watch for parts of eastern and central Illinois until 8 p.m. Tuesday as severe storms redeveloped in the afternoon and were expected to continue through the early evening.

Severe weather hazards include damaging hail as big as tennis balls and gusty winds up to 70 mph as the storms move west to east, according to meteorologists.

Tennis balls? Ouch. That sounds way worse than tennis elbow.

Looks like it'll pass through the area quiclky, though:

I got lucky walking Cassie and getting to the El this morning. I hope I get lucky on the reverse trip this evening. (I actually remembered to bring an umbrella today, though!)