A few articles to read at lunchtime today:
- Will Peischel, writing for Mother Jones, warns that the wildfires in Australia aren't the new normal. They're something worse. (Hint: fires create their own weather, causing feedback loops no one predicted.)
- A new analysis finds that ocean temperatures not only hit record highs in 2019, but also that the rate of increase is accelerating.
- First Nations communities living on Manitoulin Island in Lake Huron—the largest freshwater island in the world—warn that human activity is disrupting millennia-old ecosystems in the Great Lakes.
Fortunately, those aren't the only depressing stories in the news today:
Now that I'm thoroughly depressed, I'll continue working on this API over here...
The New York Times analyzed eight social-studies textbooks published in both California and Texas. Both states have state-wide standards for education, which textbook makers have to honor given the number of students in each state. You can guess some of the results:
The books have the same publisher. They credit the same authors. But they are customized for students in different states, and their contents sometimes diverge in ways that reflect the nation’s deepest partisan divides.
Hundreds of differences — some subtle, others extensive — emerged in a New York Times analysis of eight commonly used American history textbooks in California and Texas, two of the nation’s largest markets.
The differences between state editions can be traced back to several sources: state social studies standards; state laws; and feedback from panels of appointees that huddle, in Sacramento and Austin hotel conference rooms, to review drafts.
Requests from textbook review panels, submitted in painstaking detail to publishers, show the sometimes granular ways that ideology can influence the writing of history.
Context: I have a Bachelor's in history, and a law degree, which means I have read a lot of social studies texts (not just textbooks) in my life. I have Howard Zinn next to Paul Johnson in my bookshelf, for example. So I favor the California method of teaching kids about the warts. I also believe that knowing how we screwed up in the past helps us become a better nation.
I'm glad the Times did this analysis. It helps show one more way in which we live in two Americas, and how politicians try to keep it that way.
But I think George Washington's farewell address might guide us even today: "One of the expedients of party to acquire influence, within particular districts, is to misrepresent the opinions and aims of other districts. You cannot shield yourselves too much against the jealousies and heart-burnings, which spring from these misrepresentations; they tend to render alien to each other those, who ought to be bound together by fraternal affection."
(The title of this post refers to this bit from Evita.)
...as long as you aren't in Chicago:
Lake Shore Drive was being hammered with waves Saturday morning causing officials to shut down the bike path in some parts on the North and South sides.
Officer Michelle Tannehill, a spokeswoman for police, said the northbound path remains closed between Ohio Street and Fullerton Avenue as of 11:30 a.m. There also were reports of trouble on South Shore Drive in the northbound lanes from 7100 to 6700 South Shore Drive.
Still under a winter weather advisory until 3 a.m. Sunday, parts of Cook County along the shoreline were expecting winds to reach up to 50 mph as rain showers threaten to create slick conditions.
It gets better:
Those in and around Chicago can expect snow by Saturday night, but before then, a complex and messy storm will possibly bring freezing rain, thunderstorms, sleet and dangerously high lakefront waves into early Sunday, forecasters said.
A winter storm warning was in effect for McHenry and other outlying counties northwest and west of the city from 9 p.m. Friday until 3 a.m. Sunday, with snow as deep as 7 inches predicted in some areas. A winter weather advisory was in effect for Lake and Kane counties starting at 3 a.m. Saturday and for Cook, DuPage, Kendall and LaSalle counties, lasting until 6 a.m. Sunday.
Officials said the storm will start with rain and sleet. There may also be ice pellets, but it might not freeze all surfaces, which may cause patchy slick spots in the area. It is expected to snow after 5 p.m. Saturday and continue snowing till 1 a.m. Sunday, Friedlein said.
Tonight I'm hosting some fellow singers for madrigals and wine. (You read this blog and didn't realize I'm a nerd?) Fortunately I'm close to public transit. I hope I'm not stuck with too much extra cheese and wine; that would be tragic.
On Tuesday I mailed my passport to the National Passport Agency in Philadelphia with an extra $60 so they'll expedite its replacement. I feel a little anxious without it. Not because I live in 1950s Czechoslovakia or anything; more that I love travel so much, not having a passport even for two weeks every 10 years feels a little off.
Well, not exactly 10 years, more like 9½. While US passports last 10 years, many countries—for example, the UK, where I go several times a year—won't let you in if your passport will expire within six months. For me, my August 2010 passport would not meet UK entry requirements at the beginning of next month, so off it went. But I held onto it until after the new year so that the new one expires in 2030 instead of 2029.
I'll get the new one probably in two weeks. Meanwhile, the only sign of life I have is the certified mail receipt the Postal Service emailed me yesterday. So my old passport arrived safely in Philadelphia after all. I can hardly wait for the new one.
The National Weather Service predicts tonight will be fun:
A hard-to-forecast, complex and messy storm will hit the Chicago area starting Friday night, bringing possibly freezing rain, thunderstorms, sleet, snow and dangerously high lakefront waves into early Sunday, forecasters said.
Ice accumulation of a quarter inch could hit the far northwest parts of the area, with another inch of sleet, but Thursday and Friday’s warm weather could help keep the ground warm enough to keep totals down.
With strong winds of 60–80 km/h predicted with the storm, a lakeshore flood warning was in effect from midnight Friday through 6 a.m. Sunday, with “Significant lakeshore flooding” expected, according to the weather service.
“Waves of 4.2–5.4 m are forecast along the northeast Illinois shore and 3.6–4.9 m along northwest Indiana lakeshore will result in inundation of flood prone areas, possibly including some roads and likely bike paths,” with waves sometimes as high as 7 m, according to the weather service.
Waves of how big? Don't plan on driving down Lake Shore Drive, people.
Updates as events warrant.
A coyote (or coyotes, but maybe just one) has had enough of humanity in Chicago:
Another coyote attack was reported Wednesday night when a man walked into a hospital with a wound on his buttocks that he says came from a coyote.
The 32-year-old man showed up at Northwestern Memorial Hospital with a scratch on his behind, according to Chicago police.
He told officers that on Wednesday evening a coyote attacked him from behind and bit him in the buttocks while he walked on a sidewalk in the 700 block of North Fairbanks Court, police said.
Earlier that afternoon, a 5-year-old boy was bitten in the head by a coyote on Wednesday afternoon outside a nature museum in Lincoln Park.
This coyote (or coyotes) is not behaving normally. First, they're primarily nocturnal animals. Second, while they have acclimated to humans, they do not typically approach humans. According to local Animal Care and Control officials, however, the increased aggression may come from simple hunger, as food supplies dwindle during the winter.
If you see a coyote, "making loud noises, or using a whistle, is a good way to spook a coyote into leaving. Waving your hands and jumping up and down can also work, according to experts."
About 4,500 coyotes live in Cook County, with about 2,000 of those in Chicago. Longtime readers of The Daily Parker will remember that the cemeteries north and south of my apartment have multiple dens, and also that AC&C officials pulled a coyote out of a drinks cooler in downtown Chicago about 12 years ago.
More on coyotes from the Cook County Forest Preserve District.
Climate change has caused water levels in the Lake Michigan-Huron system to swell in only six years, creating havoc in communities that depend on them:
In 2013, Lake Huron bottomed out, hitting its lowest mark in more than a century, as did Lake Michigan, which shares the same water levels, according to data from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Around that time, the lake withdrew so far from the shore around Engle’s resort — then a collection of 12 rustic cabins and three docks — that mud was all that remained beneath his boathouse.
In just 3½ years, levels rose more than 1.3 m and last summer peaked at nearly 1.9 m above the record low.
Climate change is amplifying variability in lakes that are naturally predisposed to fluctuation. Unlike lakes Ontario and Superior, which are regulated by dams and binational regulatory boards, lakes Michigan and Huron, measured as one body of water because they are connected at the Straits of Mackinac, have no such controls and consequently have experienced the greatest variation from record low to high in the Great Lakes.
As the amount of heat-trapping greenhouse gases has spiked over the past century, the Earth’s warmer atmosphere is capable of holding additional moisture, which scientists say is resulting in more frequent and severe storms. Across the Great Lakes region, precipitation has increased 14%, and the frequency of heavy storms has risen 35% since 1951, contributing to widespread flooding. In the past two years, the states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio each have endured a string of 12 consecutive months that have been the wettest in 124 years.
Here is the latest water-level chart from NOAA. Notice that last year's levels hit record highs during the summer and ended the year just below the record for December--meaning they started January considerably higher than the record for the month:
At least we have a lot of fresh water nearby. That might come in handy someday...
Of all the things in the New York Times today, the fact that a census found 2,373 squirrels in Central Park made my day. Parker's too, no doubt, though he has trouble comprehending numbers larger than 2.
I finally got 7 minutes to watch this. I'm still crying. But in a good way, unlike the people in the room:
Not that anything has happened lately...
Finally, the New York Times had a feature yesterday on new architecture for Antarctic research stations. Cool stuff (ah ha ha).