The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

How's that open-plan house these days?

The Atlantic's Megan Garber looks at how the popular floorplan can make people crazy, which is what you get when architecture follows dudes liking TV shows with sledgehammers:

The popular open layout, for example, eschews walls and other spatial divisions in favor of openness, airiness, “flow.” (“Look how everything flows!” Brian Patrick Flynn, the designer of HGTV’s Dream Home 2020, says in a promotional video.) On the plus side, an open floor plan allows for constant togetherness. On the minus side … an open floor plan allows for constant togetherness. The style meant to reject domestic confinement can end up replicating some of the very flaws it was meant to mitigate, precisely in its eagerness to sacrifice privacy for openness.

“In general, it’s wonderful,” [Architect Susan] Susanka said of the open-concept approach to living spaces. “But when it’s done to an extreme, it makes it very difficult to live in the house, because your noise, whatever you’re doing, goes everywhere.” When the home involves kids, that borderlessness becomes even more acute. A child might need to be entertained or fed while her mom is on a conference call. An older sibling might be playing video games or watching a movie while her dad is trying to cook dinner. Another sibling might need a retreat from his co-quarantiners, and have no place to go. In an open space, one person’s activity becomes every person’s activity. Alone together, all the time: For many, that is the current state of things. The “See Also” section of Wikipedia’s “open plan” article cites only one related page: “panopticon.”

Last year, to mark the 25th anniversary of the launch of HGTV, the journalist and design critic Ronda Kaysen gave an interview to NPR. As she talked with the host Lulu Garcia-Navarro about the impact HGTV has had on American home design, Kaysen mentioned one of the design elements most readily associated with the network: the open-concept living space. “I spoke with HGTV executives,” Kaysen said. “And the reason that they are so big on open concept is because it gets the male viewers. Like, guys like to watch sledgehammers and, like, taking out walls.”

“Wait a second,” Garcia-Navarro replied. “Are you telling me that the open-plan concept, which we are all prisoner to, is because dudes like to watch HGTV and sledgehammers?”

Yes, was the answer. “Dudes will only watch HGTV if there’s sledgehammers,” Kaysen said. That assumption makes it way into the architecture. Openness remains the trend.

Me, I like my 1910s-era flat walking distance to just about everything. I've got real rooms!

A to Z postponed for coronavirus

I had plans to do the Blogging A-to-Z challenge this year as I've done the last two, but reality intervened. In theory I have more time to write than last year. In fact I didn't have the energy required to plan and start drafting entries mid-March, for obvious reasons.

Things have stabilized since my office closed on the 17th, and I've gotten back into the swing of working from home every day. But I feel like a full 26-post series this month would not rise to my own standards of quality for permanent, information-based writing.

Check out my 2018 A-to-Z posts on C# programming and my 2019 posts on music theory. I'll do it again in 2021—or, possibly, in May.

The economy and what I'm doing about it

Goldman Sachs released an economic outlook this morning predicting GDP growth of -9% in Q1 and -34% in Q2, along with 15% unemployment by June 30th. Both Calculated Risk and Talking Points Memo believe the recovery will take longer than the slowdown. In other words, we won't have a V or an L but probably something more like a U with a wide bottom.

I looked at some figures of my own. Looking at 4-week moving averages, as of Sunday my spending on groceries is up 37% from the period between January 27th and February 23rd, which includes a massive grocery bill for a party I threw on February 15th. But my spending on eating out is down 46%, and on lunch (I buy lunch nearly every day when I work downtown) is down 36%. And I have not taken public transit since March 16th, saving $45 a week right there.

I haven't stopped buying food from local restaurants entirely because I want them to be around in three months. Just, I get a lot less take-out food (every 5th lunch and every 5th dinner, staggered), and I don't buy take-out alcohol. (Of course, a local bar has a special deal of a fried chicken sandwich and old fashioned cocktail for $20.) I also have my dog walker coming in twice a week because I want him to be around in two months. His other job is that he plays jazz sax, so without the few walks I and other customers of the walking service send him, he'd have no income at all.

Obviously the uptick in groceries means I'm cooking more. Like last night, when I made my mom's tuna fish casserole recipe, and it came out like I remember it from childhood:

Illinois on lock-down, day 3

The governor ordered everyone to stay at home only a few days ago, and yet it seems like much longer. I started working from home three weeks ago, initially because my entire team were traveling, and then for safety. My company turned off all our badges yesterday so I couldn't go back even if I wanted to. And I find myself planning meals a week out because I find it nearly impossible to cook small amounts of food. (Sample entries: Monday dinner, shrimp in garlic, butter, and wine sauce with wild rice; Tuesday lunch, leftover grilled chicken with wild rice. The shrimp were delicious, by the way.)

It doesn't help that the President and Senate Republicans are trying to turn this whole thing into a corporate giveaway. Some other lowlights:

But in one bit of good news, China announced an end to the two-month lockdown of Hubei province a few hours from now. Could we also start getting back to normal mid-May?

And finally, enjoy some scampi:

Yes, it's the Trump Pandemic

The President's disdain for expertise and his malignant, narcissistic character cost us weeks—or months—when we could have prepared for the pandemic we now face. Michelle Goldberg summarizes the case for slapping his name on the resulting disaster:

[W]hile the calamity we are experiencing is not Trump’s doing, his dishonesty and incompetence have exacerbated it, and continue to do so. To point this out is not to dwell on the past but to confront the scale of our present crisis. Trump has been giving daily televised briefings in which he overpromises and spreads misinformation. He makes bad decisions and reverses himself only under the pressure of bad press. That makes frankness about his catastrophic ineptitude imperative.

It can become tedious to dwell on the fact that the president is a dangerous and ignorant narcissist who has utterly failed as an executive, leaving state governments on their own to confront a generational cataclysm. But no one should ever forget it.

Soon, even if the pandemic is still raging, there will be an election, and the public will be asked to render a verdict on Trump’s leadership. Being clear that people are suffering and dying needlessly because the president can’t do his job isn’t looking backward. It’s the only way to move forward.

Meanwhile, over at the Washington Post, Margaret Sullivan joins the chorus of journalists who say we should stop broadcasting the president's dangerously misinformative press conferences.

And because I did not wish to fight madding crowds for needed groceries yesterday, I shall now go to Whole Foods. And Mariano's. And Trader Joe's. And Jewel. And hope that between the four of them, I can scrape together enough perishables to make semi-nutritious meals for myself this week.

Extraordinary measures in the UK

I'm trying to get my mind around a Conservative government announcing this a few minutes ago:

The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has announced the government will pay the wages of British workers to keep them in jobs as the coronavirus outbreak escalates.

In an unprecedented step, Sunak said the state would pay grants covering up to 80% of the salary of workers kept on by companies, up to a total of £2,500 per month, just above the median income.

“We are starting a great national effort to protect jobs,” he said. “It’s on all of us.”

Sunak said there would be no limit on the funding available to pay people’s wages.

The government is also deferring the next quarter of VAT payments, which is the equivalent of injecting another £30bn into the economy and is designed to help companies stay afloat.

(Another thing that I just learned: Sterling has dropped 12% against the dollar in the past week, hitting £1 = $1.1641 a few minutes ago.)

Closer to home:

And finally, Mother Jones asks "How do you know if you're living through the death of an empire?"

We now return to your pandemic, already in progress

Today's news:

President Trump claims he knew COVID-19 was a pandemic all along, even though he had a strangely ineffective way of showing it.

Finally, and not related even a little to COVID-19, Olga Khazan writes in the Atlantic about "the perks of being a weirdo."

Screeching to a halt

Illinois governor JB Pritzker has closed all bars and restaurants (except for carry-out and delivery) from the close of business tonight until March 30th:

“There are no easy decisions left to make as we address this unprecedented crisis,” Pritzker said at a news conference Sunday afternoon. “Every choice now is hard, and it comes with real consequences for our residents. But as your governor I cannot let the gravity of these choices prevent us from taking the actions that the science and the experts say will keep people safe.”

Effective end of business Monday, bars and restaurants will be closed to dine-in customers, with options of delivery, drive-thru and pickup through March 30, the governor said. The state is working with bars and restaurants across the state to ensure they can keep kitchens safe enough to continue home food delivery.

The closure of bars and restaurants goes a step further than an earlier announcement by Chicago officials that the city would limit any establishments that serve liquor to 100 people, or half their regular capacity.

This quite obviously suspends the Brews & Choos project, at least until April. Fortunately I've already written the next four posts and I've got a fifth one ready to go. I'll just space them out a little bit more. So after tomorrow's post, expect to see a new one every three days instead of every two.

Statement from my chorus

We just sent this out:

Apollo community,

After much deliberation, and in consultation with Music Director Stephen Alltop, the Elmhurst Symphony Orchestra, and both of our concert venues, we have decided to cancel our concert at St Luke’s scheduled for this Saturday March 14th.

The ESO has agreed that tickets to Saturday’s performance will be honored on Sunday at 3pm at the Elmhurst Christian Reformed Church performance. If you bought a ticket through our online system for Saturday’s performance and provided an email address, we will also be in contact with you directly.

The health of our members, our audience, and our communities is our first priority. We will continue to monitor this situation, and abide by requests from CDC and other government entities. Tonight and on Sunday, we will have hand sanitizer available throughout ECRC, and church staff and ushers will be wearing gloves on Sunday.

Thank you for your support of the Apollo Chorus of Chicago during this difficult time.

Let me just say that the board meeting we had a couple of hours ago had surprisingly little acrimony.

I wrote three versions of the release, one for our members, one for the community at large, and one for our ticketholders. It's been a busy afternoon. And we're still rehearsing tonight for Sunday's performance, just with more hand sanitizer than usual.