The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Fun weather for travel

We got about 150 mm of snow this morning, thanks to the giant lake a short walk from my house. This made getting Cassie to school a slog (she loved it, though), and made me seriously worry about my flight this evening.

Now it's sunny, and the roads are clear.

If only I knew how many parking spaces O'Hare had right now...

Thanks again, Bruce!

Former Illinois governor Bruce Rauner (R, of course) famously stopped almost all discretionary spending in the state during his term in office by continually vetoing state budgets passed by the Democratically-controlled legislature. His term overlapped with a project to rebuild 11 railroad bridges on the North Side of Chicago, and which included a companion project, partially necessitated by the track reconfigurations required to replace the bridges, to rebuild the Ravenswood Metra station serving Uptown and Lincoln Square.

That's my Metra station.

The project started in 2013 when the railroad opened two temporary platforms north of Lawrence Ave. and removed the inadequate but semi-permanent platforms south of the street. The old platforms had a couple of small shelters; the "temporary" platforms did not.

Nevertheless, the outbound (West-side) platform opened in late 2016, more or less on time. They couldn't open it until the west-side bridges were up, and the outbound track rebuilt, so we all completely understood the delay. The inbound (east-side) platform had the same issue, so when the bridge project finished in 2017, we could all imagine a day just a few months later when we'd have a shiny new platform with end-to-end shelters, a heated waiting area, and other amenities that most other Metra riders get for free.

But because Rauner stopped paying Illinois' portion of the station rebuild, work stopped on the inbound platform until 2020, and when it resumed, it didn't exactly go at full speed. We are now nine years into the project. This morning, I had to wait for fifteen minutes in blowing snow, all because Bruce Rauner (a billionaire) didn't want to release state funds for a project to which the Federal government contributed 75% of its costs:

Rauner now lives in Florida. I guess he got tired of his neighbors—yes, even his rich Winnetka neighbors—telling him to do his fucking job.

If I ever encounter a Djinn, I might wish for all the anti-tax billionaire politicians to spend a year with the consequences of their decisions. In Rauner's case, that would look like having to take underfunded public transit everywhere, with occasional videos of European transit systems to see what it could be.

Happy 2nd Covidversary! And 5G...

Yes, today is the second anniversary of the first confirmed Covid-19 case popping up in Washington State. But that's not what this post is about.

No, instead, I want to highlight two articles about why airlines really do not like 5G mobile networks—at least, not the way the US implemented them:

“TO BE BLUNT,” reads a statement from ten U.S. airline executives, “the nation’s commerce will grind to a halt.” That was in a letter sent to the White House, the FAA and the FCC. “Unless our major hubs are cleared to fly,” it continues, “the vast majority of the traveling and shipping public will essentially be grounded.”

There’s perhaps an element of hysteria and hyperbole in play here, as you’d maybe expect. But there’s also a big problem, and unless things are quickly worked out, the potential does exist for massive flight disruptions.

Most of the issue revolves around a cockpit device known as a radar altimeter (sometimes called a “radio altimeter”). Unlike the plane’s primary altimeters, which measure height above a particular barometric pressure level, the radar altimeter measures height above the ground itself. Essentially it bounces a signal off the terrain below and determines its vertical distance, displayed in feet.

What this interference would actually look like, I’m not sure. Would it be some transient flickering? A failure of the instrument? Whatever it might be, the implications of an outside signal messing with this data, when you’re low over the runway in the fog or blowing snow, hardly need explaining.

The FAA has published a list of at-risk runways; there are hundreds of them. Pilots may not land on these runways during low-vis conditions that require a radar altimeter — i.e. Category II or III approaches — without a special authorization. That authorization comes in the form of something called an “alternative means of compliance,” or AMOC. Two types of radar altimeters commonly installed on Boeing and Airbus models have been judged safe for operation into certain runways. For now, however, this AMOC clearance applies only to around 20 percent of the country’s busiest airports.

The entire thing is a mess. And we saw it coming. Airlines, along with pilot unions and other industry groups, have been sounding the alarm on this for the better part of two years.

How did this happen? Well, the previous administration didn't believe that governments should interfere with business, so no one at the FCC (which approved the 5G implementation) discussed it with anyone at the FAA until the FAA blew a gasket. And yet, in other countries, 5G rollouts haven't caused any of these problems. Maybe because the other countries, with their functioning governments, got the implementation right:

The French antennas have permanent safeguards in airport buffer zones that provide more protection than the US ones. Further, the French antennas near airports have to be tilted downward to reduce interference, and the French antennas have far less power. Not mentioned here but also notable is that in Europe, the C-Band spectrum is in the 3.4 to 3.8 GHz range, so it’s further away from the range that radio altimeters use.

The FAA has a handy infographic explaining this in more detail:

It must be nice to live in a country with a functioning government.

Update: The Times columnist Peter Coy has more about the previous administration's political infighting that led us here.

Civis romanus sum

A grand jury convened by the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York has indicted four Belarusian security officials for air piracy:

In response to a purported bomb threat, Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, Belarus’s authoritarian president, sent a fighter jet on May 23 to intercept the Ryanair Boeing 737-800 carrying some 170 passengers from Athens to Vilnius, Lithuania — among them the journalist, Roman Protasevich. The forcing down of the plane and his seizure led to international outrage.

The bomb threat was a fake, orchestrated by senior Belarus officials who were seeking to detain Mr. Protasevich in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, the indictment says.

The move was seen as a marker of how far Mr. Lukashenko, with the support of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, was willing to go to repress dissent in his country.

The criminal complaint acknowledges that the incident occurred "out of the jurisdiction of any particular State or district of the United States," but 49 USC 46502(b)(2)(A) gives the United States jurisdiction over any unlawful seizure of an aircraft when a US national is onboard. This comes by way of the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft, which the US signed in September 1971 and, here's the thing, Belarus signed on December 30th of the same year.

I doubt that any of the defendants will avail themselves of the American justice system voluntarily. But the SDNY has issued arrest warrants for them, and I expect Interpol will get the warrants soon. And guess what? Belarus is a member of Interpol.

This indictment also won't bring down Lukashenko's government, especially not with Russia's dictator Vladimir Putin needing a pliant Belarus to maintain his own internal power. But the four guys who actually carried out his illegal orders might wind up leaving Belarus in someone's diplomatic bag.

Property crime stories that have deeper meanings than I first thought

On this day in 1950, eleven thieves stole $2.7m ($29.8m today) from the Brink's Armored Car depot in Boston. They would have avoided prosecution had they just followed the plan, but the Liddy Rule got them in the end ("three people can keep a secret as long as two of them are dead").

Flash forward 72 years and we find that theft again dominates the news in Los Angeles, as thieves plunder stopped trains outside the intermodal depot in Lincoln Heights. If your package is delayed, it might have helped derail a freight train just down the hill from Dodger Stadium.

Finally, FedEx has asked the Federal Aviation Administration for permission to install anti-missile lasers on its A321-200 cargo jets. I couldn't find statistics about how many airplanes have taken fire from portable missile batteries, but apparently FedEx has enough trepidation about them to want countermeasures on its planes.

I just realized I put those stories in order of increasing chaotic destruction. Hm. More to think about.

Technically a good landing

The pilot of a Cessna 172H that crash-landed near Burbank, Calif., earlier this week survived with non-life-threatening injuries, but he came uncomfortably close to a really bad landing—and they most assuredly cannot use the plane again:

LAPD officers pulled an injured pilot from a crashed Cessna 172 moments before it was struck and destroyed by a commuter train. Mark Jenkins, the 70-year-old pilot, was pulled from the wreckage of the aircraft after he crash landed on railroad tracks near Whiteman Airport, which is located in the north Los Angeles suburbs near Burbank Airport. Police body camera footage revealed that several officers acted quickly to free and remove Jenkins just seconds before the Metrolink train obliterated it.

The police body-cam video shows just how close everyone came to the train. Jeebus.

Winter in Chicago

The temperature bottomed out at -14.4°C around 1:30 am, and has climbed ever so slowly since then to -0.3°:

Will we get above freezing? The forecast says yes, any moment now. But the sun will set in about 5 minutes. Anyway, a guy can dream, right?

Meanwhile, Chicago's teachers and schools have agreed to let the kids back tomorrow, even as the mayor herself tested positive for Covid. And the Art Institute's workforce has formed a union, which will operate under AFSCME.

And that's not all:

And finally, just as no one could have predicted that more guns leads to more gun violence, the same people could not have predicted that the NFT craze would lead to NFT fraud.

Double Clutch Brewing, Evanston

Welcome to stop #69 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Double Clutch Brewing, 2121 Ashland Ave., Evanston
Train line: UP-N, Central Street
Time from Chicago: 16 minutes (Zone C)
Distance from station: 800 m

This car-themed brewery opened on October 31st, about 18 months after their originally-planed April 2020 opening. (This has become a theme of the Brews & Choos project.) That gave them enough time to figure out their operations, however, and also to get a foothold in local restaurants and liquor stores.

They specialize in German lagers, with one IPA thrown in for the bourgeoisie like me. And going with the automobile theme, flights come in an engine block:

The Märzen (5.9%) has a lovely golden color, with a lot of malty complexity (pear, honey, raisin) I found a little too malty for my palate. The light and crisp Helles Lager (5.1%) also had a lot of malt, but a hoppier balance I think will taste great on their patio in the summer. The Little Juice Coupe Hazy IPA (5.7%) had a good Citra fruitiness and, yes, still just a little too much sweetness for me. I finished with the really malty Schwartzbier (4.7%) and its intricate coffee and chocolate notes I would go back to. The bartender also asked me to taste the Rausch Märzen, which has a similar recipe to the regular one but with smoked malt. The Rausch tasted like sitting by a fire pit in late October, which is exactly where I want to have another one.

They plan to build an outdoor space in the spring, and they've got weekly trivia and other events. Since it's Evanston, however, dogs won't be allowed until the city elects a new city council.

Finally...Star Wars fans, tell me what's missing from this lineup?

Beer garden? Seasonal
Dogs OK? No, it's Evanston
Televisions? Three, avoidable
Serves food? Full pub menu (try the buffalo balls)
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

Statistics: 2021

After the whipsaw between 2019 and 2020, I'm happy 2021 came out within a standard deviation of the mean on most measures:

  • In 2020, I flew the fewest air miles ever. In 2021, my 11,868 miles and five segments came in 3rd lowest, ahead of only 2020 and 1999.
  • I only visited one other country (the UK) and two other states (Wisconsin and California) during 2021. What a change from 2014.
  • In 2020, I posted a record 609 times on The Daily Parker; 2021's 537 posts came in about average for the modern era.
  • Cassie got almost 422 hours of walks in 2021, a number I don't think I ever achieved with Parker. And given I only had her for 291 days of 2021, that's an average of 1:27 of walks per day. According to my Garmin, she and I covered over 684 km just on walks that I recorded with my watch. A young, high-energy dog plus working from home most of the time will do that, I suppose.
  • Speaking of walks, in 2021 I got 4,926,000 steps and walked 3,900 km—about the straight-line distance from New York to Seattle. Those numbers came within 2% of 2020 and 4% of 2019. I also hit new personal records for distance and steps when I walked over 51 km on September 3rd. And I hit my step goal 355 times (cf. 359 times in 2020), though not all in a row.
  • I drove 4,242 km in 2021, almost exactly the same amount as in 2020 (4,265 km), but I used a bit more fuel (116 L to 79 L).
  • I spent 1365 hours working from home and 521 in the office in 2021, about the same (1327 and 560) as in 2020. I expect about the same in 2022.
  • Personal software development took up another 184 hours, almost all on the really cool thing I'm going to soft-launch tomorrow.
  • The Apollo Chorus took up 222 hours of my time, including 100 in rehearsals and performances and about the same amount on my duties as president. In 2020, that was 57 and 71 hours respectively, mainly because we didn't have any in-person performances.
  • Finally, I started only 28 books in 2021 and finished 23, after dropping a couple that dogged me for a while. That's more than in my worst-ever year, 2017 (18 and 13), but down a bit from the last two years. That said, my average numbers for the past 10 years are 28.2 and 23.3, making 2021...average. I also watched 51 movies and 48 TV shows, which just means I need to get out more.

So, will 2022 return to normal (-ish)? Or will some of the trends that started in March 2020 continue even after the pandemic has long become something we scare children with?

Goldfinger Brewing, Downers Grove

Welcome to stop #68 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Goldfinger Brewing, 513 Rogers St., Downers Grove
Train line: BNSF, Fairview Ave
Time from Chicago: 43 minutes (Zone E)
Distance from station: 500 m

Goldfinger Brewing opened in July 2020, which really sucked for them. But because they focused on making nothing but high-quality, traditional, Central-European lagers, they attracted an immediate following that kept them going.

Fun fact: Lagers take about three times longer to brew than ales, which explains in part why so many breweries specialize in the latter. The longer brewing times also mean that Goldfinger only has a few taps open at once. When I visited Wednesday evening, they had five of their own plus a visiting beer.

Naturally I had to start with the Original Lager (5.2%, 18 IBU). It had a complex, malty flavor that won me over even though I usually find lagers too sweet. (Theirs wasn't.) The Baltic Porter (7.7%, 28 IBU) caught my attention next, and wow, I almost bought some to take home. It had deep chocolate notes among other robust and complex flavors, with a long, lingering finish. I chased that with their Pils (4.9%, 35 IBU), an excellent representative of the style that I found crisp and fresh with a complex malt and hop interplay that they helped along with a five-minute-long multi-step pouring process. Goldfinger really wants you to take your time with their beers, as they have certainly done so. 

I am disappointed that the Village of Downers Grove doesn't allow dogs inside bars. Apparently the Village allowed dogs in the outside tent Goldfinger erected over the summer, but then they changed their mind and also told them to take down the tent. Suburbs, I swear, they just find new ways of failing at basic human-interaction design every year.

Beer garden? Not unless Downers Grove elects a new village board
Dogs OK? No, because again: stupid village board
Televisions? None
Serves food? BYOF, but they have this pretzel you should try
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes