The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Erev Christmas Eve evening roundup

As I wait for my rice to cook and my adobo to finish cooking, I'm plunging through an unusually large number of very small changes to a codebase recommended by one of my tools. And while waiting for the CI to run just now, I lined these up for tomorrow morning:

Finally, the CBC has an extended 3-episode miniseries version of the movie BlackBerry available online. I may have to watch that this week.

Early stirrings of El Niño

The WGN Weather Blog noted that today's forecast high temperature at O'Hare (11°C) is an incredible 29°C/52°F warmer than the high temperature a year ago.

Last December 22nd stayed above freezing until just before noon, then slid all the way down to -21°C at midnight. And it kept getting colder overnight. Last December 23rd, Cassie got all of 13 minutes of walkies. She's already gotten half an hour this morning with promises of 2 full hours before we go to bed.

I know it's a lot to ask for, Santa, but can this whole winter be like this? Oh, wait, the Climate Prediction Center has a thought about that:

Updates as conditions warrant.

In other crimes...

May your solstice be more luminous than these stories would have it:

  • Chicago politician Ed Burke, who ruled the city's Finance Committee from his 14th-Ward office for 50 years, got convicted of bribery and corruption this afternoon. This has to do with all the bribes he accepted and the corruption he embodied from 1969 through May of this year.
  • New Republic's Tori Otten agrees with me that US Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) is the dumbest schmuck in the Senate. (She didn't use the word "schmuck," but it fits.)
  • Texas has started flying migrants to Chicago, illegally, in an ongoing effort to troll Democratic jurisdictions over immigration. This came shortly after they passed a manifestly unconstitutional immigration law of their own.
  • Millennial journalist Max Read, a kid who took over the Internet that my generation (X) built from the ground up, whinges about "the kids today" who have taken it over from his generation. (He thinks a gopher is just a rodent, I'd bet.)
  • Hard to believe, speaking of millennials, that today is the 35th anniversary of Libya blowing up Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

Finally, a court in California has ordered one "Demeterious Polychron" to destroy all extant copies of what I can imagine to be a horrific example of JRR Tolkien fanfic that the court found infringes on the Tolkien estate's copyrights. Note that Polychron (a) put his self-published fanfic for sale on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, (b) after sending it to them with a letter call it "the obvious pitch-perfect sequel" to The Lord of the Rings, and then (c) suing them when they allowed Amazon to produce its own prequel, Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power. Note to budding novelists: if you're writing fanfic, don't sue the underlying material's copyright owner for infringement.

European cities mend car-centric streets

Paris, Barcelona, and Brussels have taken back streets for pedestrians, streets never designed for cars:

Strategies vary, from congestion charges, parking restrictions and limited traffic zones to increased investment in public transport and cycle lanes. Evidence suggests that a combination of carrot and stick – and consultation – works best.

A startling statistic emerged in Paris last month: during the morning and evening rush hours, on representative main thoroughfares crisscrossing the French capital, there are now more bicycles than cars – almost half as many again, in fact.

The data point is the latest to comfort Anne Hidalgo, the Socialist mayor, who since she was first elected in 2014 has pursued some of the toughest anti-car policies of any major city – starting with closing the 1970s Right Bank Seine expressway to traffic.

Hidalgo has since sealed off famous streets such as the Rue de Rivoli to most traffic, created an expanding low-emission zone to exclude older cars, and established 1,000km (620 miles) of bike routes, 350km of them protected lanes.

Due in part to her policies and those of her predecessor, Bertrand Delanoë, driving within Paris city limits has fallen by about 45% since the early 1990s, while public transport use has risen by 30% and cycle use by about 1,000%.

I admit that the US has huge difficulties breaking away from its car-centric development pattern because most existing US infrastructure was built for cars. But the inability of US voters to imagine a better life with alternatives to driving hurts us as well. I've chosen to live in a city that pre-dates mass car ownership (at least in some parts), but even here, we struggle with compact, walkable development.

Still, Paris and other European cities are showing that it's possible to undo some of the damage cars and car-centric development cause. I hope more of the US catches on to this in my lifetime.

Wormwood liqueur is as tasty as it sounds

Scott Simon explains Malört, which you have to try to understand Chicago:

Malört is a digestif distilled from the wormwood plant that tastes of pencil shavings, old battery rust, citrus zest, and ear wax.

It's a version of Swedish bitters introduced to Chicagoans in the 1920s by Carl Jeppson, a Swedish immigrant. He convinced officials of the Prohibition era that his 70-proof liquor tasted so odiously medicinal, it was obviously a treatment for stomach worms, and not an alcoholic drink anyone would quaff for sinful purposes.

You may wonder: why is a spirit that tastes like cigar ash, singed eyebrows, and Liquid Plumr still brewed? It's a tradition, darn it, so Chicagoans can tell visiting New Yorkers, "You think you're tough? Take a swig of this, Gothamite!"

This year, the CH Distillery, which now brews Malört, produced a candy cane infused version — as festive as a mouthful of Christmas lighter fluid!

But the people who run the Nisei Lounge, a sticky-floored bar which has sat just south of Wrigley Field for 67 years, felt the distillery's Candy Cane Malört amounts to rotgut plagiarism.

Nisei Lounge is its own kind of Chicago tradition, too. Like your obligatory shot of Malört, once you've had Nisei Lounge, you don't have to have it again. This controversy could only happen in this city.

Bienvenido, El Niño

The El Niño part of the ENSO typically gives Chicago warm, dry winters (relatively—it still gets cold and snowy here, just not as cold and snowy as usual).

Exhibit 1, a map of temperature anomalies in the Continental US for the first 12 days of December:

I'm about to leave the office to go home, where it's 8°C, after hitting 11°C at O'Hare a couple of hours ago. Tomorrow it might get warmer. And that's OK by me.

Howard Street Brewing

Welcome to stop #91 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Howard Street Brewing Co., 1617 W. Howard St., Chicago
Train line: CTA Red and Purple Lines, Howard
Time from Chicago: 25 minutes (Purple Line)/45 minutes (Red Line)
Distance from station: 100 m

Sadly, the brewery will close on Sunday. But I had the opportunity to visit last night, so the Daily Parker can preserve its memory.

I'm sorry I didn't go before. It's a cute place, and the beers I tried were quite good. I had a pint of the Better Late than Never Pilsner (5.4%), and tastes of the Dark Link Stout (6.5%) and the Sex Panther Kolsch (5.5%). All were quite serviceable and I would have them again.

So what happened? According to Block Club Chicago:

The tight space and business regulations made it hard for Howard Street Brewing to meet consumer demand while adapting to shifts in the craft beer industry, [Owner Chuck] Patella said.

Howard Street Brewing didn’t have space to produce nitro beers or hard seltzers, two popular products. There also wasn’t space for a kitchen, and its license prevents it from offering cocktails or wine, Patella said.

The closure is another loss for Howard Street, which has struggled to retain businesses and has seen violence in recent years.

Sol Cafe, which briefly expanded its hours to offer food service for the neighboring Howard Street Brewing, closed in July after 10 years. Its owner cited floods in the building and nearby shootings as reasons for the closure.

Howard Street Brewing is at least the fourth craft brewer to close in Chicago recently.

Metropolitan Brewery in Avondale will close Sunday after 15 years in business. Lo Rez Brewing closed in Pilsen this summer after seven years, and Rock Bottom Brewery left River North in January after more than 20 years in business. Empirical Brewery closed its Ravenswood facility late last year after being evicted over unpaid rent.

Yes, Howard east of the El has struggled with violence and poverty for, oh, 60 years or so. I admire Patella for trying to change that, but even I didn't visit for almost its entire 18-month run. The area around the Howard Street El just isn't great.

I'm still going to give it a "would go back" rating, but on the map it'll show as "closed." Patella said he's going to try opening in a different spot later on. I hope he does.

Beer garden? No
Dogs OK? No
Televisions? None
Serves food? No, BYOF
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

Post-concert fun and enjoyment

Our performances at Holy Name Cathedral and Alice Millar Chapel went really well (despite the grumblings of one critic). But part of the fun of serving as president of the chorus meant I got to go back to Holy Name this morning to sign off on 128 chairs and 4 dollies getting into a truck:

They say Mass at noon every day. The window the rental company gave me was "ESTIMATED to arrive one hour before or after 10:53 AM." They actually showed up at 11:37. Fortunately, I had 4 of the 13 stacks you see above positioned by the door before he arrived, and I got the other 9 trundled across the chancel just in time (11:59). (Only four dollies, only four stacks pre-positioned.)

That said, it really is a beautiful building:

Tomorrow I hope will be a more normal workday. Tonight I hope to get 9 hours of sleep.