The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

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.

Horse Thief Hollow, Chicago

Welcome to stop #57 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Horse Thief Hollow, 10426 S. Western Ave., Chicago
Train line: Rock Island, 103rd–Beverly Hills
Time from Chicago: 26 minutes (Zone C)
Distance from station: 1.3 km

About 180 years ago, the low, swampy area where 111th Street meets Vincennes Avenue today provided excellent cover for a band of horse thieves who plagued the farmers far to the south of Chicago. In 2013, Neil Byers opened a restaurant and brewery nearby.

Eight years in, they are worth the trip to the hind end of Chicago. They not only have many tasty beers, but also they have a smoker and lots of pork to smoke in it. I tried their flight, which comprises six 100-mL pours:

I started with the Little Wing Pilsner (5.2%), a crisp, malty lager with a clean finish. Next, the Annexation West Coast IPA (7.2%), bursting with Citra fruitiness and almost a little tartness, a good example of the expression—but my socks stayed on my feet. The Kitchen Sink "Old School" APA (5.7%) was very good, more flavorful than the Annexation but not obnoxiously so. I had two Spoonful double dry-hopped hazy IPAs (6.5%), and found them nice and hoppy with good juiciness and a clean finish. Finally, I tried the Mannish Boy American Stout (5.0%), which was dryer than I expected, with great flavor, and a long hoppy finish I liked.

The pulled pork sandwich did, it turns out, knock my socks off. So did the beer garden, which (alas) will revert to being a parking lot when the weather turns colder.

As I mentioned yesterday, I got pinned down for an hour by a fast-moving but strong thunderstorm. Fortunately they serve beer inside as well. After the storm passed I had about 25 minutes to walk to the Metra, so I took my time strolling through Beverly. About three blocks in, I encountered this guy:

He didn't seem particularly interested in me, though he kept his distance. Instead he rid the neighborhood of at least one rat and carried on with his evening. Thanks, friend fox.

Beer garden? Yes (summer only)
Dogs OK? No
Televisions? A few, avoidable
Serves food? Full menu
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

What happened to public transit in the US?

In a CityLab article from this summer (which for some reason they put on today's newsletter, and not the one from June 25th), Tony Frangie Mawad examines the decline in American public transit since the late 20th century:

Back in 1970, 77 million Americans commuted to work every day, and 9% of them took a bus or a train. By 2019, the number of U.S. workers had nearly doubled, to more than 150 million. But the vast majority of these new workers chose to drive: The number of public transit riders increased by only around 1 million during those years, and their share of the country’s overall commuters collapsed to 5%.

“In a number of other countries, the Department of Transportation and the Department of Housing and Urban Development are combined in one entity,” [said Yonah Freemark, a senior research associate with the Urban Institute]. “In the United States, we ended up with two different entities.” As a result, housing and mobility needs have been poorly aligned; the landscape is laden with housing that lacks access to public transportation, light rail lines that course through sparsely settled areas, and too many cities whose transit networks can’t connect riders with jobs.

But as Freemark’s new analysis of commuting data shows, based on his database of long-term trends in U.S. metros, regional patterns reveal a more complex story. Some cities have bucked national trends and gained transit commuters over the last 50 years. Coastal cities like New York City, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Seattle, and Boston saw an increase of hundreds of thousands of transit commuters between 1970 and 2019. Pre-pandemic, 3 million New Yorkers commuted by bus, subway and train daily — 500,000 more than in 1970 — and the region’s share of transit commuters held relatively steady.

Cities where transit use has seen massive reductions tend to be those that have endured deindustrialization and suburbanization during the last 50 years, with a concurrent rise in investments in highways designed to shuttle car-driving commuters in and out of town. “These used to be places that had really successful downtowns, but now most of their workforce has suburbanized,” says Freemark.

Here in Chicago, former Illinois Governors Bruce Rauner (R) and James Thompson (R) starved the Regional Transit Authority of funds—Rauner going so far as to halt almost all infrastructure improvements throughout the Chicago transit area.

Declines in transit use, therefore, come from policy decisions that we can reverse. Let's start by adequately funding the existing transit networks, and de-funding highway expansions, for example.

The last Sears store in its home state will close

Eddie Lampert, corporate murderer, has managed to drive his once-great company out if its home state:

Sears' last Illinois location, at Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, is set to close in November.

The Hoffman Estates-based retailer’s parent company, Transformco, announced the decision today.

"This is part of the company's strategy to unlock the value of the real estate and pursue the highest and best use for the benefit of the local community," the company said in a statement.

Ah, yes, because under the sociopathic, finance-driven Lampert, Sears is nothing more than a series of cash flows. It has no people, no history, no relevance, no value to him, other than money.

Obviously Lampert isn't unique. Venkatesh Rao wrote a magnificent description of modern corporate thinking in 2009 based on the TV series The Office. Sears just inhabits the end stage of the "MacLeod Life Cycle," as Rao describes it. But it's a particularly tragic example.

How many steps must a person take?

About 7,000 a day, though it won't hurt to do 10,000:

[T]wo studies, which, together, followed more than 10,000 men and women for decades, show that the right types and amounts of physical activity reduce the risk of premature death by as much as 70 percent.

But they also suggest that there can be an upper limit to the longevity benefits of being active, and pushing beyond that ceiling is unlikely to add years to our life spans and, in extreme cases, might be detrimental.

[A]t 10,000 steps, the benefits leveled off. “There was a point of diminishing returns,” said Amanda Paluch, an assistant professor of kinesiology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, who led the new study. People taking more than 10,000 steps per day, even plenty more, rarely outlived those taking at least 7,000.

Both studies pinpoint the sweet spot for activity and longevity at somewhere around 7,000 to 8,000 daily steps or about 30 to 45 minutes of exercise most days. Doing more may marginally improve your odds of a long life, Dr. O’Keefe said, but not by much, and doing far more might, at some point, be counterproductive.

I get about 13,000 per day, in part because of Cassie. Which seems fine, according to the report. Note that neither study actually found a causal link between steps and health; the effects only appear related.

What have we learned?

Elections have consequences. The events of 20 years ago transformed the world in ways I can't imagine happening had the Supreme Court not thrown the 2000 election. Of course, had Al Gore won, the terrorists probably would not have attacked; they wanted the rage and violence that followed as part of their plan to drag the world back to the 12th Century.

But because the president was a draft-dodging chickenhawk, and because his vice-president was a power-hungry paranoid, the terrorists won:

The terms of the debate were set by the Islamic extremists on one side, and Western neoconservatives on the other. People like me found ourselves caught in the middle. Through my entire adolescence and young adulthood, I was forced to distinguish myself from the terrorists, to prove I was one of the “good ones.” George W. Bush had called it a “crusade” against an elusive foe who might be your neighbor. He said that you were either with us or with the terrorists, implying that anyone who did not support the United States was supporting Al Qaeda. Those were the parameters of the post-9/11 era.

Only by getting the West drawn into endless wars abroad, and into plots against enemies at home, could [Osama bin Laden] bankrupt the American behemoth. In the decade since his death, the results have been plain to see: conflict and instability across the greater Middle East; more refugee flows into the West, combined with anti-immigrant violence in response; the rise in America of terrorist attacks carried out by white extremists, goaded on by an authoritarian leader who made a name for himself demonizing Muslims. The surveillance state now has extensive access to every facet of our lives. Trust in political institutions is decaying. Democracy itself is in peril.

[S]omething much worse than terror wounded our society over the last two decades. An essential faith in the future was lost. Perhaps this is true for the end of all empires, and despair always precedes the fall. But if younger generations are to emerge from the darkness of the 9/11 era — and it remains my naïve hope that they will — we must first acknowledge the damage we wrought on ourselves. That was the deepest cut of all.

It helped them that we got everything wrong after 9/11:

The nation’s failures began in the first hours of the attacks and continue to the present day. Seeing how and when we went wrong is easy in hindsight. What’s much harder to understand is how—if at all—we can make things right.

The most telling part of September 11, 2001, was the interval between the first plane crash at the World Trade Center, at 8:46 a.m., and the second, at 9:03. In those 17 minutes, the nation’s sheer innocence was on display.

[A]fter that second crash, and then the subsequent ones at the Pentagon and in the fields outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania, our government panicked. There’s really no other way to say it. Fear spread up the chain of command.

Rather than recognizing that an extremist group with an identifiable membership and distinctive ideology had exploited fixable flaws in the American security system to carry out the 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration launched the nation on a vague and ultimately catastrophic quest to rid the world of “terror” and “evil.”

[R]emoving the terror cases from traditional federal courts and sending them to military tribunals has still produced no closure for the families of 9/11 victims. So far, none of the alleged 9/11 plotters sitting in Guantánamo have faced trial. Military-commission proceedings for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, allegedly a mastermind of the attacks, and four co-defendants are still in a pretrial phase.

DHS has the wrong DNA. Unlike the Justice Department, it has no institutional culture rooted in respect for the rule of law. Unsteeped in America’s traditions of freedom and openness, the new department was built to view everything through a lens of “Can it hurt us?” This corrosive mindset became particularly visible on immigration and border-control issues, as a culture of welcoming new citizens and families shifted to one of questioning and suspicion—especially if you happened to have dark skin.

Meanwhile, for all the original talk of banishing evil from the world, the [Global War on Terror's] seemingly exclusive focus on Islamic extremism has led to the neglect of other threats actively killing Americans. In the 20 years since 9/11, thousands of Americans have succumbed to mass killers—just not the ones we went to war against in 2001. The victims have included worshippers in churchessynagogues, and temples; people at shopping mallsmovie theaters, and a Walmart; students and faculty at universities and community colleges; professors at a nursing school; children in elementarymiddle, and high schools; kids at an Amish school and on a Minnesota Native American reservation; nearly 60 concertgoers who were machine-gunned to death from hotel windows in Las Vegas. But none of those massacres were by the Islamic extremists we’d been spending so much time and money to combat.

Looking back after two decades, I can’t escape the conclusion that the enemy we ended up fighting after 9/11 was ourselves.

Other analyses:

And the New York Times has a running blog on the events of today's anniversary.

Lunchtime lineup

It's another beautiful September afternoon, upon which I will capitalize when Cassie and I go to a new stop on the Brews & Choos Project after work. At the moment, however, I am refactoring a large collection of classes that for unfortunate reasons don't support automated testing, and looking forward to a day of debugging my refactoring Monday.

Meanwhile:

And now, more refactoring.

Bug report: Garmin Venu - Usability - High severity

Summary: When displaying a notification over a paused activity, swiping down will delete the paused activity instead of the notification, without an Undo feature.

SeverityHigh (accidental but irrevocable data loss)

Steps to reproduce:

  1. Take a PTO day to enjoy a 7-hour outdoor exercise.
  2. Start the exercise on the Garmin Venu device.
  3. Spend 82 minutes in the exercise.
  4. Press Button A on the Venu to pause the activity. The activity will show as Paused, with a Discard (X) indication on the top of the display and a Save (check) indication on the bottom.
  5. Have a friend innocently text you about a nonessential matter. A notification shows up on the Venu display.
  6. As you have done thousands of times before, swipe down to dismiss the notification. The activity is deleted, but the notification just stays there, mocking you.
  7. Stare at the device for a moment in stunned silence.
  8. Frantically swipe up on the device to try to undo the deletion. Nothing happens because there is no Undo feature for this action.
  9. (Omitted)
  10. (Omitted again, but this time with reference to the usability engineers at Garmin who apparently forgot the rule that inadvertent data loss must never happen.)
  11. (Omitted once more, but this time with reference to said engineers' standardized test scores, parentage, and general usefulness to humanity.)
  12. Begin drafting a strongly-worded bug report to share with the above-mentioned Garmin usability engineers.
  13. Spend the next five and a half hours trying to calculate split times without knowing for sure that the first activity was 82 minutes, not 75 or 90.

Device details: Garmin Venu, SW version 6.30, API version 3.2.6