The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Just too damn hot

Phoenix hit a record high temperature yesterday of 48°C, and it's already that hot again today. And right now, it's 50°C in Needles, Calif. In fact, it's too hot for airplanes to take off:

As the Capital Weather Gang reported, the Southwest is experiencing its worst heat wave in decades. Excessive heat warnings have been in effect from Arizona to California and will be for the remainder of the week.

And it was so hot that dozens of flights have been canceled this week at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

American Airlines alerted its customers over the weekend, offering fee-free changes to upcoming flights that were departing or arriving at Phoenix between 3 and 6 p.m., when temperatures peak.

Regional flights on American Eagle were the most affected, because they use Bombardier CRJ planes that can only operate at temperatures of 48°C or below, Feinstein said. Flights on larger Airbus and Boeing planes were not canceled because they are able to operate at higher maximum temperatures: 52.7°C for Airbus and 52.2°C for Boeing.

Meanwhile, a cold front has come through Chicago, dropping the temperature to 18°C at O'Hare around 2pm. And I'm about to walk home in it.

We're #16!

Real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield has published a list of the top-25 tech cities in the U.S. It turns out, we're not Silicon Valley:

The report’s authors analyzed data from a variety of sources to measure factors such as universities, capital, talent and high-growth companies. The authors evaluated the cities on the potential for tech to affect the commercial real estate business, they wrote in the report.

Chicago’s overall rank, No. 16, placed it behind Portland and New York and ahead of Atlanta and Los Angeles. The authors addressed the low rankings of the country’s two largest cities in a release, saying New York faced a historic lack of engineers — which may change as investment in local universities and tech schools increases — and that Los Angeles’ economy is too diverse for tech to be a driving factor. They wrote that Seattle, home to tech giants Microsoft and Amazon, is likely the biggest competitor to the Bay Area.

The percentage of Chicago’s workforce made up of tech workers is also relatively low compared to other tech cities on the list, at about 5 percent. That places Chicago just behind Indianapolis and just ahead of New York, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Moody’s Analytics. Compare that to Silicon Valley, where more than 27.4 percent are tech workers.

We're still living in the Greatest City in North America. But as far as tech goes, we're a little behind the Bay Area, Boston, and Raleigh-Durham.

The Roman Tube

While we wait for former FBI Director James Comey to finish testifying before the Senate today, take a look at this really cool thing:

They say all roads lead to Rome, but they also lead outward to a number of intriguing places. There’s Antinoopolis in northern Africa, Londinium in what we now know as the U.K., and—should funding from the mighty Emperor Hadrian arrive—the yet-built Panticapaeum station along the Pontus Euxinus, or Black Sea.

Or so says this wonderfully thought-out fantasy transit map from Sasha Trubetskoy, showing the major thoroughfares of the Roman Empire circa 125 A.D. as dozens of stops along multicolored subway lines. Trubetskoy, who when not dabbling in history has explored the judgmental cartography of the Bay Area, started poking into the idea after noticing there was a dearth of good maps of Rome’s old road network, let alone train-themed ones. So he decided to go for it, pouring about 50 hours of research and design work into his sprawling “Roman Roads.”

“I enjoy reading about history, though I’m not a huge classics buff,” says Trubetskoy, a 20-year-old statistics major at the University of Chicago. “But there’s something alluring about Rome’s ability to carve out such a huge and advanced empire, with a legacy that lasts today.”

And hey, he's in Chicago.

Regressive taxation in Illinois

The Chicago Tribune today published the first in a three-part series showing how Illinois property tax assessments contribute to rising inequality while failing to fund schools:

The valuations are a crucial factor when it comes to determining property tax bills, a burden that for many determines whether they can afford to stay in their homes. Done well, these estimates should be fair, transparent and stand up to scrutiny.

But that’s not how it works in Cook County, where Assessor Joseph Berrios has resisted reforms and ignored industry standards while his office churned out inaccurate values. The result is a staggering pattern of inequality.

 

The assessor’s office says it does not check its own work for fairness and accuracy, as is standard practice for assessors around the world.

So the Tribune stepped in, compiling and analyzing more than 100 million property tax records from the years 2003 through 2015, along with thousands of pages of documents, then vetting the findings with top experts in the field. The process took more than a year.

The conclusion: Residential assessments have been so far off the mark for so many years that the credibility of the entire property tax system is in doubt.

I've advocated for my entire adult life in favor of progressive income taxes and against regressive property and value-added taxes. I hope the Tribune gets some traction on this.

I read the news today, oh boy

Item the first: S&P just cut Illinois' bond rating to one level above junk. Thanks, Governor Rauner.

Item the second: According to Brian Beutler, at least, President Trump could be in serious trouble after James Comey testifies before Congress next week. Will Trump care? Will he even notice?

Item the third: May was cold and dreary in Illinois. Today it's 24°C and sunny, which is neither cold nor dreary.

Item the fourth: Cranky Flier believes that we absolutely should open up the U.S. to foreign airlines, so they can lose money just like American companies.

Item the fifth: People on Chicago's west side oppose extending the 606 Trail because it would increase property values.

I am now going to take a walk because it's emphatically June outside.

A year of Google Maps

Via my company's Slack #general channel, San Francisco cartographer Justin O'Beirne has analyzed the changes Google has made to its Maps feature over the past year, while Apple Maps has stagnated:

So it seems that Apple is updating its map more frequently than Google.

But when we look closer, this doesn’t seem to be what’s happening. For instance, near the park’s southeast corner, there’s a group of three auto service-related businesses: Domport Auto Body ServiceFell Street Auto Service, and California Detailing...

Google has distinct locations for each. But Apple plots them at the same location...

...and as the months pass by, Apple cycles through all three – padding our addition/removal counts...

A number of the additions and removals we counted earlier on Apple are similar – the map is cycling though businesses plotted at the same location.

This all seems to suggest that Google’s location data is more precise than Apple’s. (Or that Apple’s geocoder is buggy.) And perhaps here we’re seeing the fruits of Google’s decade-long Street View project...

It's a long essay with tons of examples and animations. Total Daily Parker bait.

Speaking of my company, I'll have a post up on the company's blog shortly which I'll cross-post here. Keep your eyes peeled.

Walking through the neighborhoods

I took a short walk today, from Central Street in Evanston to my house. Totals: 16.37 km, 2:25:29, 8'53" per km, 18,357 steps. It's not as far as my epic 28 km walk last June, but I'll probably do another walk that distance sometime later this year. I mean, why not a 32 km walk?

Right. Because my feet hurt.

So far today I'm just shy of 30,000 steps. So I'm not quite in the top 5—but I will be if I walk another thousand steps, which seems pretty likely:

2016 Jun 16 40,748
2016 Oct 23 36,105
2016 Sep 25 32,354
2016 Jun 8 32,315
2015 Apr 26 30,496
2016 Mar 8 29,775
So far today 29,445

And here's the meandering route I took:

Don't push that button!

British Airways cancelled all of its flights out of its two biggest hubs in London today because of a power-supply failure:

The airline hoped to be able to operate some long haul inbound flights on Saturday, landing in London on Sunday, Mr Cruz added.

The GMB union has suggested the failure could have been avoided, had the airline not outsourced its IT work.

BA refuted the claim, saying: "We would never compromise the integrity and security of our IT systems".

All passengers affected by the failure - which coincides with the first weekend of the half-term holiday for many in the UK - will be offered the option of rescheduling or a refund.

The airline, which had previously said flights would be cancelled until 18:00 BST, has now cancelled all flights for Saturday and asked passengers not to come to Gatwick or Heathrow airports.

Some things never change.

Post-revival Chicago

The U.S. Census Bureau yesterday released new estimates showing that Chicago's population declined slightly last year. The deeper numbers are more troubling:

According to Alden Loury, director of research and evaluation at the Metropolitan Planning Council, while the degree of black flight from the city has slowed some this decade, it's still averaging about 12,000 a year, based on data from the American Community Survey, also issued by the Census Bureau. Blacks leaving Cook County tended to move either to northwest Indiana or farther out in the metro area, or to Atlanta, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Dallas-Fort Worth, Indianapolis or Milwaukee, in that order of popularity of destinations.

The same data show the population of whites, Latinos and people of Asian heritage growing, he said.

Loury's conclusion: "The numbers show Chicago has an issue. . . .Areas around the Loop and the central area are doing well, but overall, the city as a whole is not doing well."

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner blame each other for the declines.

Citylab, analyzing a Times Op-Ed by Jed Kolko, adds color:

A more finely grained geographic analysis shows that the closer you get to the city center in most metros, the stronger has been the performance. While it’s true that the more outlying parts of some cities are losing population, their cores are becoming increasingly vibrant. As we’ve noted, that notion of critical mass at the neighborhood level is one of the defining characteristics of urban growth.

[And] there’s a baseline issue here. City growth has decelerated from the past year or two. But city growth this decade looks far different than it did a decade ago. While Kolko’s FiveThirtyEight.com post just shows the change in city and suburb growth rates over the past few years (and emphasizes the one-year change between 2015 and 2016), his longer blog post on his own website shows the change in population by type of county since 2001. Taking this longer view, it’s apparent that growth rates in suburbs have declined sharply since the last decade, while growth rates in urban counties were up.

We're still not candidates for The Atlantic's latest (really cool) photo collection of "A World Without People," thankfully.

Justice Thomas joins the liberals

In yesterday's ruling in Harris v Cooper, the Supreme Court ruled against North Carolina's blatant gerrymandering. The surprising bit is that Justice Clarence Thomas voted in the majority on both issues. New Republic's Scott Lemieux postulates reasons why:

In a 2015 case, Thomas provided the fifth vote to an opinion holding that Texas was not required to issue license plates with the Confederate flag as part of its option of personalized license plates. It is not terribly surprising that even a conservative African-American who grew up impoverished in the rural Jim Crow South would have a different perspective on the Confederacy and its legacy than the typical conservative.

Thomas’s votes yesterday were squarely within that tradition. His brief concurring opinion emphasized that the result comported with two of his longstanding views. First, he believes that any use of race by the government, for any purpose, triggers strict scrutiny, a high burden North Carolina could not meet. Since the state conceded that District 1 was intentionally created as a majority-minority district, this made the case easy for Thomas as well as the other conservatives.

He also explained that he joined the liberal faction with respect to District 12 in part because of his belief in deferring to the findings of the trial court unless it clearly errs.

This isn't an evolution, but who Thomas really is, Lemieux says. Maybe Antonin Scalia so overshadowed Thomas that we really didn't see it? I'll need more convincing.