The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

What is it with weekends?

It's odd that I haven't posted on a Saturday since January 23rd, and I haven't posted on both weekend days since December 5th-6th. I'm not sure why, really.

This time, it's because last night I had a big party, so I didn't have any time to post. Today I have no creativity. But I still wonder at the pattern.

It mights gonna to be a bit vindy

As I mentioned earlier, there's a light breeze:

It's so windy that the Randolph Street Bridge is closed. Cromidas saw this too. Officials told her they were worried debris from a nearby construction site (the same one where a wall collapse a few months ago) would be blown into traffic. Fire officials tweeted that building occupants at 150, 180 and 191 N. Wacker Drive were all evacuated because of debris falling from the construction site at 150 N. Riverside.

It's so windy that a woman almost blew away trying to get into a cab. NBC caught her ordeal on tape.

O'Hare's 4pm reading had winds down to 55 km/h with gusts of only 83 km/h. So conditions are improving a bit... Plus, it's still 11°C outside.

Parker is freaking out because wind makes a lot of scary noise (to a dog, anyway), and he's now stress-farting, so we're going for a walk. I'm a little disappointed that temperatures will return to seasonal chills by Monday, too. So make hay while the wind blows at 52 knots, right?

Good news, bad news kind of weather

The official temperature at O'Hare got up to 15°C this afternoon, which you'd expect in early April and not in mid-February. That's the good news. The bad news is the warm air mass is being driven by converging jet streams more or less directly over Chicago, giving us 67 km/h winds gusting to—I am not making this up—100 km/h. Buildings in the Loop are being evacuated because windows are popping out. Also, people are giving cranes wide berths.

Have I mentioned that anthropogenic climate change will (a) be pretty good for Chicago, for a few decades anyway, and (b) pump more energy into the atmosphere causing these kinds of wind events?

Craft distilleries expanding this year

Crain's lists five Chicago-area distilleries, including Few (my favorite), that have run out of room:

  • The West Loop's CH Distillery plans to build a 20,000-square-foot distillery in Pilsen on the site of the old bottling building of the long-defunct Schoenhofen Brewery. It aims to boost capacity to more than 100,000 9-liter cases per year, up from about 8,000 in its current distillery and tasting room. The two-and-a-half-year-old distillery, whose top products are vodka, rum and two types of gin, produced 5,000 cases last year, up from 2,900 in 2014.
  • Few Spirits in Evanston is seeking its fourth expansion in five years to meet demand for its barrel-aged products. The company doubled the size of its warehouse two years ago and is again running out of space. With production doubling last year, led by sales of gin and whiskey, Few is looking to expand again.

Local booze-makers are riding a boom in sales of craft spirits, which jumped 35 percent in 2015 to about 2.4 million 9-liter cases from 1.7 million in 2014, according to the American Distilling Institute's annual survey. That's after 42 percent sales growth in 2014 and a 50 percent spurt in 2013.

While figures aren't available for Illinois, the breakneck growth of CH Distillery, which distributes only in-state and has no immediate plans to do otherwise, offers a clear indication that the local market is just as robust.

I love Few's barrel-aged gin, which is as much a sipping spirit as a good Scotch or Bourbon. CH doesn't make all of their own stuff yet, so them opening their own distillery is good news.

The GOP reaps what it sowed

New Republic's Jeet Heer points out how the Republican Party's "Sourthern Strategy," going all the way back to the 1950s, led more or less directly to Donald Trump's campaign:

Far from being a “cancer” on Republicanism, or some jihadi-style radicalizer, he’s the natural evolutionary product of Republican platforms and strategies that stretch back to the very origins of modern conservatism in the 1950s and 1960s.

The racist voters swarming around Trump didn’t just pop out of nowhere. The Republicans have been courting them for decades now, in a dramatic break from the party’s origins. From its creation in 1854 in opposition to the expansion of slavery until the 1940s, the Republicans were the party of the North, and more anti-racist (albeit sometimes only marginally so) than the Democrats, whose most reliable base of support was the “solid” white South. 

The Southern Strategy was the original sin that made Donald Trump possible. If Republican voters were anywhere near as diverse as the Democrats’, a candidate like Trump would have been marginalized quickly. Conservative elites can denounce Trump all they want as a “cancer” or an impostor. In truth, he is their true heir, the beneficiary of the policies the party has pursued for more than half a century.

It's a long-ish article, worth the time.

Apple refuses order to cripple its products

U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym yesterday ordered Apple, Inc., to bypass security on the iPhone 5c owned by the San Bernadino shooters. Apple said no:

In his statement, [Apple CEO Tim] Cook called the court order an “unprecedented step” by the federal government. “We oppose this order, which has implications far beyond the legal case at hand,” he wrote.

“The F.B.I. may use different words to describe this tool, but make no mistake: Building a version of iOS that bypasses security in this way would undeniably create a back door,” Mr. Cook wrote. “And while the government may argue that its use would be limited to this case, there is no way to guarantee such control.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit organization that defends digital rights, said it was siding with Apple.

“The government is asking Apple to create a master key so that it can open a single phone,” it said Tuesday evening. “And once that master key is created, we’re certain that our government will ask for it again and again, for other phones, and turn this power against any software or device that has the audacity to offer strong security.”

This reminds me of the incremental logic of Joss Whedon's Dollhouse, where every choice the characters make along the way seems like the right thing to do at the time, if you skip the inconvenient implications of it.

Maybe Raspberry Pi to start?

On Friday I mused about which new technology (or technologies) I should learn in the next few weeks. As if they're reading my mind (or blog) up in Redmond, just this morning Microsoft's Brady Gaster blogged about a little Raspberry Pi project he did:

I broke out my Raspberry Pi and my Azure SDK 2.8.2-enabled Visual Studio 2015 Community Edition and worked up a quick-and-dirty application that can send sensor data to an API App running in Azure App Service. This post walks through the creation of this sample, the code for which is stored in this GitHub repository.

The code that will run on the Raspberry Pi is also extremely simple, deliberately so that you can use your own imagination and add functionality however you want. Here’s a picture of my Raspberry Pi running in our team room, on the big screen. As you can see the app is quite basic – it consists solely of a toggle button, when clicked, kicks off a timer. Each time the timer fires, a request is made to the App Service I just deployed.

Since Gaster is the Azure SDK & Tools Program Manager, his post is really about Azure. But hey, for $50, why not whip up a little toy?

One of the companies I work with recently used Raspberry Pi devices with motion sensors to publicize when conference rooms were free. Maybe I can resurrect the Parker Cam with a motion sensor?

No, we're not moving to global UTC

CATO institute fellow Steve Hanke and Johns Hopkins physics professor Dick Henry advocate eliminating time zones:

The plan was strikingly simple. Rather than try to regulate a variety of time zones all around the world, we should instead opt for something far easier: Let's destroy all these time zones and instead stick with one big "Universal Time."

While it may ultimately simplify our lives, the concept would require some big changes to the way we think about time. As the clocks would still be based around the Coordinated Universal Time (the successor to Greenwich Mean Time that runs through Southeast London) most people in the world would have to change the way they consider their schedules. In Washington, for example, that means we'd have to get used to rising around noon and eating dinner at 1 in the morning. (Okay, perhaps that's not that big a change for some people.)

Washington Post writer Adam Taylor interviews the two cranks men to get the whole story. They also advocate for a universal calendar that includes an extra week belonging to no specific month between December and January.

There is some reason to suspect that the duo are not entirely serious...

Millions of blue bikes

Software developer Todd Schneider has analyzed 22 million CitiBikes trips (the New York equivalent of Chicago's Divvy). He's even got some cool animations:

If you stare at the animation for a bit, you start to see some trends. My personal favorite spots to watch are the bridges that connect Brooklyn to Lower Manhattan. In the morning, beginning around 8 AM, you see a steady volume of bikes crossing from Brooklyn into Manhattan over the Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Williamsburg bridges. In the middle of the day, the bridges are generally less busy, then starting around 5:30 PM, we see the blue dots streaming from Manhattan back into Brooklyn, as riders leave their Manhattan offices to head back to their Brooklyn homes.

Sure enough, in the mornings there are more rides from Brooklyn to Manhattan than vice versa, while in the evenings there are more people riding from Manhattan to Brooklyn. For what it’s worth, most Citi Bike trips start and end in Manhattan. The overall breakdown since the program’s expansion in August 2015:

  • 88% of trips start and end in Manhattan
  • 8% of trips start and end in an outer borough
  • 4% of trips travel between Manhattan and an outer borough

There are other distinct commuting patterns in the animation: the stretch of 1st Avenue heading north from 59th Street has very little Citi Bike traffic in the morning, but starting around 5 PM the volume picks up as people presumably head home from their Midtown offices to the Upper East Side.

Schneider previously analyzed 1.1 billion New York taxi trips.

Quel week-end

I haven't had a moment to blog this weekend, but wow, what a major political event yesterday. Justice Scalia died suddenly on Saturday, and almost immediately Senate Republicans said they won't allow any nominee from President Obama to come to a vote. As Josh Marshall points out, this had no purpose save one:

In a typically insightful Twitter spree last night, David Frum noted that "McConnell’s precipitate statement [that he would refuse to hold a vote on any Obama appointee] is wrong not only on grounds of appropriateness & timing, but even politics ..." As Frum notes, it is entirely unnecessary for McConnell to make this stark pronouncement. He and his Senate caucus could simply decide in advance to judge any nominee beyond the pale, reject them on a party line vote and run out the clock.

Part of me thinks this too. And I agree with David that it is simply wrong. But I think I know why McConnell is right out of the gate with a principle he seemingly has no need to explicitly invoke:to normalize the behavior, to stake out the maximalist position early in order to allow it time to become accepted as a given. And more than this, it makes sense for him to do so while the White House is bound by normative rules of propriety and decency to focus on statements and gestures of mourning rather than political brinksmanship.

As I said, there's no debate here. It's just a power-play, a refusal to fulfill a straightforward constitutional duty, which no one, not the President or anyone else, has the power to prevent. Let's not pretend otherwise.

Because the Republican Party doesn't want to govern; they want to rule. And this has been the case since 1964.