The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Why I hate the suburbs

As I mentioned in my post about Hailstorm Brewing that went out earlier today, you can have an excellent brewery with a TV-free taproom within 1500 meters of a Metra station and still qualify for the Brews and Choos project only on special dispensation. Because wow, getting from the Metra station to Hailstorm (and by extension, when I go later this spring, to Soundgrowler) might kill you.

Here's the path from the Hickory Creek Metra stop to Brothership Brewing:

It's short (just under a kilometer), along nearly-deserted exurban streets, and the streets have sidewalks for most of the way. Sure, you pass this:

But that's a typical landscape in northern Will County.

Now look at how you get to Hailstorm:

Why did I go through an ugly subdivision, several parking lots, and behind large industrial buildings instead of just walking down 80th Avenue? Because 80th Avenue is a six-lane arterial with no sidewalks and not a lot of stoplights. Cars drive down it at 90 km/h with nothing to slow them down except the stoplight at 183rd and the railroad tracks to the north.

And when I say "ugly subdivision," I mean a complete horror show of exurban McMansion architecture:

I really wanted to run over to some people I saw sitting in their garage and ask what series of life choices brought them to the decision to buy such an ugly house?

So, yes, I liked Hailstorm, and I hear good things about the tacos at Soundgrowler. But the entire point of the Brews and Choos Project is to drink beer safely. That means without driving to the breweries. But it also means not getting run over walking there. And the suburban/exurban landscape along the Cook-Will border (183rd St, on the map above) will kill your body if you walk along 80th Avenue or kill your soul if you walk through this development.

</rant>

Top of the inbox this morning

The CDC just released guidance on how vaccinated people should behave. It doesn't seem too surprising, but it also doesn't suggest we will all go back to the world of 2019 any time soon.

In other news:

And now, I have to wait for IT to unlock my work account, after fat-fingering my password once too often.

And that's the way it is

It was 40 years ago today that Walter Cronkite signed off for the last time:

Over the previous 19 years, Cronkite had established himself not only as the nation's leading newsman but as "the most trusted man in America," a steady presence during two decades of social and political upheaval.

Cronkite had reported from the European front in World War II and anchored CBS' coverage of the 1952 and 1956 elections, as well as the 1960 Olympics. He took over as the network's premier news anchor in April of 1962, just in time to cover the most dramatic events of the 1960s. The Cuban Missile Crisis came six months into his tenure, and a year later Cronkite would break the news that President John F. Kennedy had been shot. The footage of Cronkite removing his glasses and composing himself as he read the official AP report of Kennedy's death, which he did 38 minutes after the president was pronounced dead in Dallas, is one of the most enduring images of one of the most traumatic days in American history. Cronkite would cover the other assassinations that rocked the country over the coming years, including those of Martin Luther King, Jr.Robert F. Kennedy and John Lennon. He also reported on some of the most uplifting moments of the era, most famously the Moon Landing in 1969.

Yesterday was the 30th anniversary of Amy Grant's album Heart in Motion, which matters a lot less in the scheme of things but makes me feel a lot older.

The pandemic is still making us crazy

I read three things to reinforce this today. First, National Geographic acknowledges the global mental health crisis, and how we're procrastinating more as a result:

People don’t necessarily procrastinate because they are lazy. Procrastination has roots in our evolutionary development, with two key parts of the brain vying for control.

“Procrastination is an emotion-focused coping strategy,” says Tim Pychyl, a psychology professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario, and author of Solving the Procrastination Puzzle. “It is not a time-management problem; it is an emotion-management problem.”

Experts who study procrastination define it as the voluntary delay of an intended act despite the fact that you can expect to be worse off in the long run by putting off the task. We know the task doesn’t go away, but sometimes we let our emotions get the best of us. Our “present self” calls the shots, and our “future self” suffers because of it.

Neuroscientists have found that procrastination is a battle between an ancient part of the brain called the limbic system and a relatively younger part known as the prefrontal cortex.

However, when strong emotions such as anxiety and fear become overwhelming, the impulsive limbic system can still win out.

Paul Krugman today describes another form of insanity, in which the states of Texas and Mississippi (34th and 46th in public education rankings, respectively) have consigned a non-zero number of people to death because of the politics of masks:

Wearing a mask in public, like holding it in for a few minutes, is slightly inconvenient, but hardly a major burden. And the case for imposing that mild burden in a pandemic is overwhelming. The coronavirus variants that cause Covid-19 are spread largely by airborne droplets, and wearing masks drastically reduces the variants’ spread.

So not wearing a mask is an act of reckless endangerment, not so much of yourself — although masks appear to provide some protection to the wearer — as of other people. Covering our faces while the pandemic lasts would appear to be simple good citizenship, not to mention an act of basic human decency.

Refusing to wear a mask has become a badge of political identity, a barefaced declaration that you reject liberal values like civic responsibility and belief in science. (Those didn’t used to be liberal values, but that’s what they are in America 2021.)

I don’t know how many people will die unnecessarily because the governor of Texas has decided that ignoring the science and ending the mask requirement is a good way to own the libs. But the number won’t be zero.

Finally, I got a lengthy email today that someone sent through Weather Now, for some reason, warning me of the dangers of vaccination:

I was praying and fasting, regarding the Covid-19 vaccine during the time I’ve received this dream:

In my dream, God took me into the near future of America. I was overlooking America (like a birds eye view), and I looked to my right of America (the Eastside) and was overlooking New York State as well.. And I saw millions of people in America, had received the Covid-19 vaccine.

And also throughout America, I could see 5G towers monitoring VERY closely the covid-19 vaccinated individuals (victims).

When I saw this, I immediately asked God, “How are they completely connected to these 5G towers and the towers to them?” Right after I asked God this, He took me to a hospital in New York. There, I saw a doctor giving a patient, the covid-19 vaccine. (The doctor and patient couldn’t see me.)

But while the doctor was injecting into the patient’s arm, the covid-19 vaccine shot.. I saw hundreds/thousands of little specs of microchips, [nanobots] INSIDE the covid-19 vaccine, flowing through the shot, and into that individual.

The email went on like this for five pages. I selected only the most coherent bits for this message. I should point out, however, that the IP address from which the message originated is in Vietnam, so I'm not too worried there's an unhinged fundamentalist trying to save my soul through a weather application's feedback page. I am worried that fear leads to stupidity (a crucial step Yoda forgot to mention) and stupidity leads to people believing crazy things.

Craziness usually follows plagues. Let's hope we get through our crazy period as rationally as we can.

Good morning

I'm once more back in my downtown office, and today spotted one of my co-workers: an IT guy who's been here the whole time. I didn't see him Monday because he works on a different floor, and management discourages us from leaving our own these days. But like seeing a crocus sticking out of the snow, saying hello to another human being at work felt like a sign of spring, especially since it's Day 350 since the pandemic first sent everyone home.

And because in the spring, a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of...baseball? I can't remember, not being a young man anymore...here is a BBC article from last month on historical romances:

He had good posture and pale skin, perhaps reddened slightly with sunburn. Around one of his thick, muscular biceps he wore bracelet of eagle-talons. She was an early modern human, clad in an animal-skin coat with a wolf-fur trim. She had dark skin, long legs, and her hair was worn in braids.

He cleared his throat, looked her up and down, and – in an absurdly high-pitched, nasal voice – deployed his best chat-up line. She stared back blankly. Luckily for him, they didn’t speak the same language. They had an awkward laugh and, well, we can all guess what happened next.

While we will never know what really happened in this encounter – or others like it – what we can be sure of is that such a couple did get together. Around 37,000-42,000 years later, in February 2002, two explorers made an extraordinary discovery in an underground cave system in the southwestern Carpathian mountains, near the Romanian town of Anina.

That's right, the BBC has summarized everything you wanted to know about sex between modern humans and Neandertals. Share and enjoy.

Evening news

Just a few stories:

Finally, it only took 375 years and satellite imagery, but geologists have demonstrated that New Zealand is on its own continent.

"Just F this guy"

So says Josh Marshall who, after five years of being obligated by his job to listen to the XPOTUS's speeches, finally turned him off this week:

Part of this may be fatigue. I want to be done with this guy. But I don’t think it was mainly that. I’ve wanted to be done with him for years. The centrality of Trump, what’s held so many of our attentions for years is the inescapable reality that he was President. He controls the FBI, the DOJ, the military, what other countries sometimes call the ‘power ministries’. He’s got the nukes. However terrible and absurd he may be what he says and what he thinks and even his mood really matters because of the awful powers he had acquired by being elected President.

Many times I’ve analogized the Trump presidency to living in a household with an abuser. Part of that experience is hyper-vigilance and attention to the actions and moods of the abuser. That person has the power. That person controls the violence. Absent that power, though, Trump’s lies and general crap don’t really matter to me as much. Absent that power, he’s just another entitled jerk who wants space in my head.

Josh, I turned him off years ago. But it's nice that no one has to listen to him any more.

Odds and ends

Just a couple passing stories this afternoon:

Finally, Merck and Johnson & Johnson announced a plan to combine production of Covid-19 vaccines, an "unprecedented" collaboration between competitors.

One year later

The first official Covid-19 death in the US happened on 29 February 2020, 508,949 deaths ago. On Weekend Edition Sunday this morning, NPR talked to a few people about when they realized things had changed. (I realized it on March 12th, when our dress rehearsal for Bach's Johannespassion became our only performance of the work when the venue voted to close while we were rehearsing. At least we got a good recording of it. [I can't link to the video because of music union rules.])

Things continue to improve, though. US regulators Friday cleared the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for general use:

The FDA said J&J’s vaccine offers strong protection against what matters most: serious illness, hospitalizations and death. One dose was 85% protective against the most severe COVID-19 illness, in a massive study that spanned three continents — protection that remained strong even in countries such as South Africa, where the variants of most concern are spreading.

J&J initially is providing a few million doses and shipments to states could begin as early as Monday. By the end of March, J&J has said it expects to deliver 20 million doses to the U.S., and 100 million by summer.

J&J also is seeking authorization for emergency use of its vaccine in Europe and from the World Health Organization. The company aims to produce about 1 billion doses globally by the end of the year. On Thursday, the island nation of Bahrain became the first to clear its use.

“This is exciting news for all Americans, and an encouraging development in our efforts to bring an end to the crisis,” President Joe Biden said in a statement. “But I want to be clear: this fight is far from over,” he added, encouraging people to stick with masks and other public health measures.

Meanwhile, Dr Anthony Fauci urges everyone to get whatever vaccine they can, when they can:

In an interview with "Meet the Press," Fauci said that he would take any of the three approved vaccines — from Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson — because all provide strong protection from severe disease related to the coronavirus. As director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Fauci was vaccinated late last year amid an early push to inspire confidence in the vaccine rollout.

“All three of them are really quite good, and people should take the one that's most available to them,” he said.

"If you go to a place and you have J&J, and that's the one that's available now, I would take it. I personally would do the same thing. I think people need to get vaccinated as quickly and as expeditiously as possible.”

We might not have a completely-normal summer, but if we "keep our foot on the accelerator," as Dr Fauci urges, we can have a completely-normal autumn.

Last weekday of the winter

I get to turn off and put away my work laptop in a little bit in preparation for heading back to the office on Monday morning. I can scarcely wait. 

Meanwhile, I've got a few things to read:

OK, one more work task this month, then...I've got some other stuff to do.