The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Lovely March weather we're having

We have a truly delightful mix of light rain and snow flurries right now that convinced me to shorten Cassie's lunchtime walk from 30 minutes to 15 minutes to just 9 minutes each time I came to a street corner. I don't even think I'll make 10,000 steps today, because neither of us really wants to go outside in this crap.

I'm also working on a feature improvement that requires fixing some code I've never liked, which I haven't ever fixed because it's very tricky. I know why I made those choices, but they were always the lesser of two evils.

Anyway, elsewhere in the world:

Finally, the cancellation of the UK's HS-2 project north of Birmingham has left more than 50 homes empty for two years. Can't think why the affected constituencies have flipped from Tory to Labour, can you?

The dread of a colorful radar picture

Ah, just look at it:

Rain, snow, wind, and general gloominess will trundle through Chicago over the next 36 hours or so, severely impacting Cassie's ability to get a full hour of walkies tomorrow. Poor doggie.

If only that were the worst thing I saw this morning:

  • The XPOTUS called for an end to the war in Gaza, but without regard to the hostages Hamas still holds, irritating just about everyone on the right and on the left.
  • Knight Specialty Insurance Company of California has provided the XPOTUS with the bond he needed to prevent the Manhattan District Attorney from seizing $175 million of his assets, which makes you wonder, what's in it for the insurer?
  • Related to that, Michelle Cottle analyzes the Republican Party's finances and concludes that the XPOTUS is destroying them.
  • These are the same Republicans, remember, who are threatening to block money needed to re-open the Port of Baltimore and replace the Key Bridge.
  • Massachusetts US District Judge Allison Burroughs has ruled that a case against the private air carrier who flew migrants to Martha's Vineyard may proceed, and the case against the politicians who paid for the flight could come back with an amended complaint.
  • Charles Marohn argues that cities using cash accounting, rather than accrual accounting, end up completely overwhelming future generations with debt they would never have taken on with an accurate view of their finances.
  • But of course, the prevalence of the city-killing suburban development pattern in the US has an upside of sorts: everywhere you go in the US feels like home.

And after all this, does it surprise me that Mother Jones took a moment to review a book called End Times?

Really busy couple of weeks

Through next weekend I'm going to have a lot to do, so much that I've scheduled "nothing" for the back half of next week going into our annual fundraiser on April 6th. I might even get enough sleep.

I hope I have time to read some of these, too:

Finally, submitted without comment: Grazie Sophia Christie, writing in New York Magazine, advises young women to marry older men.

Chicago's Near North Side will never smell as sweet

The Blommer Chocolate factory, just outside Chicago's Loop, routinely flooded the Near North Side with the delicious odor of chocolate several times per week until environmental laws required them to install scrubbers in their exhaust stacks. Still, every so often, one could smell cocoa cooking when the wind blew just right.

Sadly, that era will end very soon:

The chocolate supplier today announced it will close its manufacturing plant at 600 W. Kinzie St. and relocate its headquarters and local research and development operation to the Merchandise Mart, according to a statement from the company. The production facility, well known for spreading the scent of cocoa throughout parts of the River West neighborhood, debuted as Blommer's original manufacturing plant in 1939.

The move not only marks the end of Blommer's long history on the site, but it also raises the prospect of the 5.5-acre property being sold for redevelopment. The company's plans for the facility are not clear, and a spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.

Blommer is the largest cocoa processor in North America and has more than 900 employees, according to the company.

Who knows, though? Marshall Field's manufactured Frango Mints on the 9th floor of its State Street store from 1929 to 1999, when Marshall Field's moved production to Pennsylvania. But Federated Department Stores, who bought Marshall Field's and Macy's in 2005, brought production back to the city in 2009. So Blommer's may rise again—just not on a small lot worth at least $5.5 million that has local developers drooling all over themselves for the confection.

Heading home soon

American Airlines says my flight home has a 45-minute delay at the moment (though of course that could get worse). So I just spent 35 minutes walking in a big circle around the southwest corner of downtown San Diego. I don't think I'd ever live here, but I do enjoy the weather.

Meanwhile, as if I don't have too many things on my to-be-read shelf already, the New York Times book editor has released a list of the 22 funniest novels since Catch-22. Maybe someday I'll get to a few of them?

Anyway, I should be home with Cassie in about 11 hours. If she understood English and had any concept of "future," she'd be excited too.

Another busy day

Getting ready for a work trip on Monday plus (probably) having to do a demo while on the work trip means I spent most of the day getting ready for the demo. In a bit of geography fun, because the participants in the demo will be in six different time zones from UTC-7 (me) to UTC+10 (the client), I got the short straw, and will (probably) attend the demo at 3:30 am PDT.

I say "probably" because the partners on the call may take mercy on me and let me brief them instead of monitoring the technology in the actual meeting. Probably not, though.

So in this afternoon's roundup of news and features, I'll start with:

  • Teresa Carr's report in Undark explaining how people in "eccentric time localities" (i.e., on the western edges of time zones) experience negative effects that people east of them don't.
  • President Biden's budget proposal includes a $350 million grant to extend the CTA Red Line.
  • Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the country's most-senior Jewish official, gave a scathing speech in the Senate this morning calling on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud) to resign and hold elections. Josh Marshall puts this in context. (tl;dr: it's a big deal, and Schumer is really the only one in Congress with the heft and history with Israel to make this speech.)
  • US Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), who faces 18 felony counts in Federal court, may run for re-election as an independent so that he can use his campaign funds to pay his legal bills. Why anyone would give him money to do this I cannot determine.
  • Chevrolet and other car manufacturers routinely hand over data about how you drive to a company that then hands that data to your auto insurer, because the US does not yet have anything like the GDPR.
  • Julia Ioffe outlines how Ukraine can (sort of) win against Russia if it can hold out until 2025.
  • Hopewell Brewing and other Illinois craft brewers have started selling THC-infused beer, taking advantage of a loophole in both the state's brewing and cannabis laws.

I will now check the weather radar to see how wet I'm going to get on the way home...

It's all Billy Joel to me

A friend posted on Facebook that Billy Joel's album Glass Houses came out 44 years ago today. That means it's as far behind us as the 1936 Olympics was from Billy Joel at the time. A horrifying pun war followed, but that has nothing to do with the horrifying fact that people have known "You May Be Right" for 44 years.

And speaking of things that happened a long time ago, it turns out the President's memory is just fine, thank you, despite what Republican Special Prosecutor Robert K Hur said in his memorandum last month:

A transcript of a special counsel’s hourslong interview of President Biden over his handling of classified files shows that on several occasions the president fumbled with dates and the sequence of events, while otherwise appearing clearheaded.

In a report released last month, Mr. Hur concluded that there was insufficient evidence to charge Mr. Biden with a crime after classified documents ended up in an office he used after his vice presidency and in his home in Delaware. But the report also portrayed Mr. Biden, 81, as an “elderly man with a poor memory,” touching off a political furor amid his re-election campaign.

Mr. Biden’s lawyers, who were present for five hours of questioning over two days, have challenged the damaging portrait by Mr. Hur, a former Trump administration official. But the transcript had not been publicly available to evaluate Mr. Hur’s assessment that Mr. Biden’s memory has “significant limitations.”

But Mr. Hur made a particularly striking assertion in stating that Mr. Biden “did not remember when he was vice president.” As evidence, Mr. Hur quoted him as saying, “If it was 2013 — when did I stop being vice president?” According to the report, Mr. Biden displayed similar confusion on the second day of questioning, asking, “In 2009, am I still vice president?”

The transcript provides context for those lines. In both instances, Mr. Biden said the wrong year but appeared to recognize that he had misspoken and immediately stopped to seek clarity and orient himself.

I wonder how Hur would have done in a similar situation? And can you imagine how the XPOTUS would handle a deposition like that? Oh, wait—we don't have to imagine it, we have ample evidence of his inability to get through one without falling apart completely.

Before I start ranting more about the way the press treats President Biden's occasional (and rare) senior moments versus the way they treat the XPOTUS being unable to string together a coherent though, I'll go back to the original topic and leave you with Weird Al's eloquent response to Glass Houses:

Monday afternoon with no rehearsal

We always take a week off after our Choral Classics concert, which saves everyone's sanity. I in fact do have a chorus obligation today, but it's easy and relatively fun: I'm walking through the space where we'll have our annual Benefit Cabaret, Apollo After Hours, and presumably having dinner with the benefit committee. I'll be home early enough to have couch time with Cassie and get a full night's sleep.

Meanwhile:

  • Former presidential speechwriter James Fallows annotates President Biden's State of the Union Address.
  • Today's TPM Morning Memo blows up US Senator Katie Bush's (R-AL) response to the SOTU, but really I think Scarlett Johansen did it best:
  • Jennifer Rubin throws cold water on the belief that the United States is "polarized," given that one party wants to, you know, govern, while the other party wants to prevent that from happening so they can take power and therefore preserve the status quo ante from the 1850s: "America is divided not by some free-floating condition of “polarization” but by one party going off the deep end. And that’s a threat to all of us."
  • Greg Sargent points out the fundamental and ugly scam right-wingers like the XPOTUS perpetrate when they blather on about "border security:" it has a lot more to do with demographics (see, e.g., "great replacement theory") than crime.
  • Charles Marohn warns that blaming drivers for buying bigger cars shifts the blame from planning departments to individuals, where your state's DOT would prefer people put it.
  • Kensington Palace has apologized for sending out an obviously-edited photo of Princess Catherine with her children, causing the family some embarrassment, and distracting for a moment from any questions about why the people of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland continue to pay for Kensington Palace.
  • Seattle police impounded the oldest newsstand in the city after the landlord complained, repeatedly, over the course of three years.
  • If you have a couple of extra bucks lying around and you want a cool place to live, Block Club Chicago has a list of seven historical buildings you can live in, from a $318,000 condo in Marina City on up to the $3 million Edwin J Mosser House in Buena Park.

Finally, Crain's slices into the six best thin-crust pizzas in Chicago, a list that includes three I've personally tried (Bungalow by Middle Brow, Michael's, and Jimmy's), and three that I now need to try soon. (I have some Michael's in my freezer, in fact, which I'm planning to eat for dinner tomorrow.) I would add Barnaby's in Northbrook and Flapjack Brewery in Berwyn, by the way.

Nice review

Chicago Classical Review reporter Tim Sawyier liked what he heard last night:

The number of American performing ensembles that can date their lineage to the Romantic era is small and dwindling. Yet it is striking to consider that Anton Bruckner was still in his forties when Chicago’s Apollo Chorus was founded in 1872, in the wake of the Great Fire; the group was entering its second decade when the composer completed his Te Deum in 1884.

The Chorus also offered three smaller, a cappella Bruckner selections: Os justi meditabitur (WAB 30), Locus iste (WAB 23), and Ave Maria (WAB 6). These intimate settings made a lovely counterpoint to the more dynamic larger works, coming across as inward, ardent proclamations of faith, with an almost monastic feel to them, befitting the composer’s deep belief. Alltop oversaw fluent, nuanced accounts that drew the best from his devoted volunteers.

We're doing it again this afternoon, at the Elmhurst Christian Reformed Church. Tickets still available!

Bruckner's 200th

We're just a few hours away from our Choral Classics concert celebrating the 200th anniversary of Anton Bruckner's birth. Tickets are still available! But I've got a lot to do before then, not least of which is making sure that Cassie and I get enough walkies today. (Lots of standing and sitting at concerts, if you're performing.)

But before I take a nap continue preparing for the concert, I want to point out that people finally have come around to the idea that English isn't Latin:

Late last month, Merriam-Webster shared the news on Instagram that it’s OK to end a sentence with a preposition. Hats off to them, sincerely. But it is hard to convey how bizarre, to an almost comical degree, such a decree seems in terms of how language actually works. It is rather like announcing that it is now permissible for cats to meow.

The first person on record to declare opposition to ending sentences with a preposition was the poet John Dryden in the 17th century. ... [E]ven grammarians like Lowth stipulated that keeping prepositions away from the end of sentences was most important in formal rather than casual language. But the question is why it is necessary there, since it usually sounds stuffy even in formal contexts.

The answer is: Latin. Scholars of Lowth’s period were in thrall to the idea that Latin and Ancient Greek were the quintessence of language. England was taking its place as a world power starting in the 17th century, and English was being spoken by ever more people and used in a widening range of literary genres. This spawned a crop of grammarians dedicated to sprucing the language up for its new prominence, and the assumption was that a real and important language should be as much like Latin as possible. And in Latin, as it happens, one did not end sentences with a preposition. “To whom are you speaking?” was how one put it in Latin; to phrase it as “Who are you speaking to?” would have sounded like Martian.

A friend recently started quoting from a grammar book they had borrowed from my downstairs library, leading me to ask, "What did you bring that book that I didn't want to be read to out of up for?" (Take that, John Dryden.)