On Friday, Death Valley National Park hit 55°C—130°F—on Friday and 54°C yesterday. Friday's temperature tied the record for the highest-known temperature on the planet:
As the third massive heat wave in three weeks kicked off in the West on Friday, Death Valley, Calif., soared to a searing 130 degrees. If confirmed, it would match the highest known temperature on the planet since at least 1931, which occurred less than a year ago.
Death Valley also hit 130 degrees last August, which at the time preliminarily ranked among the top three highest temperatures ever measured on the planet. It is still being reviewed by the World Meteorological Organization, which is the arbiter of international weather records.
The 130-degree reading observed Friday and last August only trail two other high temperatures ever measured on the planet: 1) The high of 134 set in Death Valley on July 10, 1913, and 2) a 131-degree reading from Kebili, Tunisia, set July 7, 1931.
But Christopher Burt, an expert on world weather extremes, questions the legitimacy of both of those measurements. He called the 1913 Death Valley reading “essentially not possible from a meteorological perspective” and wrote that the 1931 Tunisia reading has “serious credibility issues.”
In other words, the 130-degree readings from Death Valley on Friday and last year, if validated, may be the highest pair of reliably measured temperatures ever observed on Earth.
The National Weather Service forecasts today's high will hit 54°C again. By the time the heat wave finally breaks (sort of) on Tuesday, the weather station will have tied the record for the most consecutive days above 52°C (125°F):
The record for the number of consecutive days at 125 degrees or higher is 10, set in 1913 (June 28-July 5). This year, Death Valley hit 126 on July 7 and will likely continue that stretch of days with 125-plus temperatures through Tuesday. This would be eight straight days, which would be the second-longest streak in recorded history (tying eight days in 2013).
"An anomalously strong high pressure system overhead will remain overhead for multiple days," said Chelsea Peters, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Las Vegas. "When the overnight low is warmer than the previous day's and similar temperature trends are expected, the daytime high would likely end up being just as hot, or hotter than the previous day."
Here in Chicago, we've got an England-like 20°C with very English rain, which could continue through Tuesday.
I last visited my second-favorite city in the world in November 2019. At my day job, I report just two levels up to the head of the London office, so had things gone to plan, I'd have visited at least three times since then. But time and chance happens to us all, as everyone now knows.
This week the UK's Departments for Transport and of Health & Social Care announced a loosening of travel rules that, I hope, signals the possibility of going back this fall. As of July 19th, UK residents returning from most countries (including the US) who have NHS jabs can skip testing and quarantine in most cases. The next step for the UK will be to allow people who've gotten vaccinated abroad to do the same.
When that happens, I will follow NPR's Frank Langfitt's latest report, and visit three historical pubs in various parts of the capital:
I started at The Mayflower, which sits along the south bank of the Thames about a mile and a half downstream from Tower Bridge. I first got to know The Mayflower several years ago when I attended a Thanksgiving celebration there with fellow Americans. It was an appropriate venue. In 1620, the Mayflower, the ship, was moored just off shore and began its long voyage to what would become America. In honor of that trans-Atlantic connection, the pub flies a U.S. and British flag from either end of its deck.
Along the walls of the dimly lit pub today, you can see replicas of the notes some of the passengers left, bequeathing wages and jewelry to their loved ones if they failed to survive the journey. Behind the bar, manager Leigh Gillson keeps a guest book, signed by some of the passengers' descendants who've visited.
He also stopped at The Eagle in Farringdon, not too far from my company's office in the City, and at The Carlton Tavern in Maida Vale, about a 10-minute walk from Abbey Road Studios. The latter got destroyed illegally by a property developer, who then had to rebuild it brick by brick under court order.
I really miss the Big Smoke. It looks more likely by the day that I'll get to visit her sometime in 2021.
CityLab's Feargus O'Sullivan riffs on an Instagram account that celebrates Scooby-Doo's Victorian backdrops:
It should come as no surprise that creaking mansard roofs, vaulted dungeons and abandoned one-horse towns occur so often as settings. Americans have been identifying the Victorian with the macabre for more than 100 years. It still seems not completely coincidental that these particular backdrops were so often used for a show in its heyday in the late 1960s and the 1970s.
This, after all, is a period when America’s Victorian architecture lay on a major fault line. Long decaying as wealthier residents moved to the suburbs, America’s many Victorian neighborhoods fell prey to demolition during this period as urban renewal projects smashed through buildings that were often seen as musty, decrepit hangovers from a poorer, miserably car-less past.
San Francisco’s Fillmore District, for example, was substantially redeveloped, scattering its mainly African American residents to the East Bay, while the now celebrated Victorian district of Old Louisville saw over 600 buildings demolished between 1965 and 1971 alone.
Indeed, the show sometimes tackles these issues directly. The classic Scooby-Doo villain is a developer or greedy landowner, scaring people away from their property by dressing as a ghost or monster, only to be unmasked and confess everything to the band of “pesky kids” just before each episode’s final curtain. Occasionally, even urban renewal itself crops up. In one episode a developer constructing new buildings in Seattle is also secretly plundering treasures from the subterranean street network built in the aftermath of the Great Fire of 1889.
Down the street from me, a 6-bedroom house built in 1897 just sold for $412,500—less than half its estimated value, and probably closer to a third of what it might fetch once its restoration finishes next year. It went for $28,500 in 1979, which works out to about $110,000 today, during the worst period of urban decay in Uptown. Other gorgeous houses and apartments from the 1890s through 1920s in Chicago barely survived the 1970s, sometimes only because no one wanted to invest in the neighborhoods.
I've written about this phenomenon before, of course.
But he still has a lot to say about what he calls "successor ideology:"
The best moniker I’ve read to describe this mishmash of postmodern thought and therapy culture ascendant among liberal white elites is Wesley Yang’s coinage: “the successor ideology.” The “structural oppression” is white supremacy, but that can also be expressed more broadly, along Crenshaw lines: to describe a hegemony that is saturated with “anti-Blackness,” misogyny, and transphobia, in a miasma of social “cis-heteronormative patriarchal white supremacy.” And the term “successor ideology” works because it centers the fact that this ideology wishes, first and foremost, to repeal and succeed a liberal society and democracy.
In the successor ideology, there is no escape, no refuge, from the ongoing nightmare of oppression and violence — and you are either fighting this and “on the right side of history,” or you are against it and abetting evil. There is no neutrality. No space for skepticism. No room for debate. No space even for staying silent. (Silence, remember, is violence — perhaps the most profoundly anti-liberal slogan ever invented.)
And that tells you about the will to power behind it. Liberalism leaves you alone. The successor ideology will never let go of you. Liberalism is only concerned with your actions. The successor ideology is concerned with your mind, your psyche, and the deepest recesses of your soul. Liberalism will let you do your job, and let you keep your politics private. S.I. will force you into a struggle session as a condition for employment.
Obama was a straddler, of course, and did not deny that “so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.” I don’t deny that either. Who could? But neither did he deny African-American agency or responsibility:
It means taking full responsibility for own lives — by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.
To say this today would evoke instant accusations of being a white supremacist and racist. That’s how far the left has moved: Obama as an enabler of white supremacy.
Personally, I favor liberalism, and I always will. We have the most successful multiracial society in history. We can do better; we must do better; but damn, we're not all good or all evil.
Dan Egan, author of The Death and Life of the Great Lakes (which I read last November while staring out at one of them), explains in yesterday's New York Times how climate change will cause problems here in Chicago:
[T]he same waters that gave life to the city threaten it today, because Chicago is built on a shaky prospect — the idea that the swamp that was drained will stay tamed and that Lake Michigan’s shoreline will remain in essentially the same place it’s been for the past 300 years.
Lake Michigan’s water level has historically risen or fallen by just a matter of inches over the course of a year, swelling in summer following the spring snowmelt and falling off in winter. Bigger oscillations, a few feet up or down from the average, also took place in slow, almost rhythmic cycles unfolding over the course of decades.
In 2013, Lake Michigan plunged to a low not seen since record-keeping began in the mid-1800s, wreaking havoc across the Midwest. Marina docks became useless catwalks. Freighter captains couldn’t fully load their ships. And fears grew that the lake would drop so low it would no longer be able to feed the Chicago River, the defining waterway that snakes through the heart of the city.
That fear was short-lived. Just a year later, in 2014, the lake started climbing at a stunning rate, ultimately setting a record summertime high in 2020 before drought took hold and water levels started plunging again.
Egan explains in detail what that means for us, culminating in the harrowing near-disaster of 17 May 2020, when record rains combined with a record-high lake to make draining downtown Chicago almost impossible.
I should note that, after falling for 11 consecutive months, the lake has started to rise again (blue line), and we haven't even gotten down to our long-term average (green line):
I've said for decades that Chicago will fare better than most places, but that doesn't mean we'll have it easy. Nowhere will.
Southport Lanes, the 99-year-old bar and bowling alley in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood, has closed permanently:
The bar, restaurant and bowling alley at 3325 N. Southport Ave. is permanently closed after efforts to revive the business were unsuccessful, said Lacey Irby, a spokeswoman for the group that owns the building at Southport and Henderson Street.
The business had reopened in mid-July after coronavirus restrictions lifted before closing again in the fall, and has not reopened since.
“After giving it a lot of thought, building ownership decided to go the route of auctioning off the assets for the business formerly known as Southport Lanes,” Irby said. “Ownership, unfortunately, does not see the business recovering any time soon, so the business is now permanently closed.”
Items for sale include the venue’s famous sign, bowling lanes and equipment, and pool tables and equipment, according to the Winternitz website.
Other items available in the auction include kitchen equipment, televisions, furniture and two large murals.
Also, The Daily Parker exchanged emails yesterday with Begyle Brewery's front-of-house manager Brett Knickerbocker, who informed us that—no! wait! They're not closing! Read the whole thing!—they have to stop letting dogs in the taproom because they lost the larger upstairs area during the pandemic.
Via Bloomberg CityLab and Block Club Chicago, the University of Illinois at Chicago started a project in 2017 to chart the "displacements of people and struggles over land, housing, and community in the city of Chicago:"
The issue of displacement and the efforts to stop it, in fact, has been present in Uptown for nearly 200 years. That history — in the words of the people who were displaced — is now being recounted through a new University of Illinois Chicago research project.
“In general, it’s poor communities and communities of color that have faced the brunt of the efforts to develop neighborhoods,” said UIC Professor Gayatri Reddy. “Uptown captures some of these remaining issues.”
The project also recounts the efforts to stop displacement and points to how modern activist movements have picked up the mantle from previous generations in the still very-much-alive fight in Uptown, the professors said.
Displacement and development that adversely impact the poor and communities of color have been happening in Uptown, and America, since its founding. But at least in Uptown, the scale of displacement has accelerated in modern times, Reddy said.
“It seems to us that there has been a steady rise in the breadth and scale of such efforts in the last 20 [plus] years,” she said. “With gentrification and other displacement mechanisms impacting an even wider swath of the population.”
The project site has interactive and VR visualizations of Uptown's history, with scads of GIS data and spotlights on specific instances of uncomfortable history.
Two sad-funny examples of how, nah, we're exactly that dumb. The first, from TDWTF, points out the fundamental problem with training a machine-learning system how to write software:
Any ML system is only as good as its training data, and this leads to some seriously negative outcomes. We usually call this algorithmic bias, and we all know the examples. It's why voice assistants have a hard time with certain names or accents. It's why sentencing tools for law enforcement mis-classify defendants. It's why facial recognition systems have a hard time with darker skin tones.
In the case of an ML tool that was trained on publicly available code, there's a blatantly obvious flaw in the training data: MOST CODE IS BAD.
If you feed a big pile of Open Source code into OpenAI, the only thing you're doing is automating the generation of bad code, because most of the code you fed the system is bad. It's ironic that the biggest obstacle to automating programmers out of a job is that we are terrible at our jobs.
I regret to inform the non-programmer portion of the world that this is true.
But still, most of the world's bad code isn't nearly as bad as the deposition Paula Deen gave in her harassment suit in May 2013. This came up in a conversation over the weekend, and the person I discussed this with insisted that, no, she really said incredibly dumb things that one has to imagine made her attorney weep. She reminds us that the Venn diagram of casual bigotry and stupidity has a large overlapping area labeled "Murica."
Just wait for the bit where the plaintiff's attorney asks Deen to give an example of a nice way to use the N-word.
I will now continue writing code I hope never winds up in either a deposition or on TDWTF.
Yale history professor Timothy Snyder warns that "memory laws" recently passed in several Republican-held states bear a strong resemblance to similar laws supported by horrifying regimes:
After the Soviet Union came to an end in 1991, citizens of a newly independent Ukraine began commemorating the dead of the 1932-33 famine, which they call the Holodomor. In 2006, the Ukrainian Parliament recognized the events in question as a genocide. In 2008, the Russian Duma responded with a resolution that provided a very different account of the famine. Even as Russian legislators seemed to acknowledge the catastrophe, they turned it against the main victims. The resolution stated that “there is no historical proof that the famine was organized along ethnic lines,” and pointedly mentioned six regions in Russia before mentioning Ukraine.
This ordering became habitual in the Russian state press: Mentions of the famine included an awkwardly long list of regions, downplaying the specificity of the Ukrainian tragedy. The famine was presented as a result of administrative mistakes by a neutral state apparatus. Everyone was a victim, and so no one was.
This spring, memory laws arrived in America. Republican state legislators proposed dozens of bills designed to guide and control American understanding of the past.
[T]he most common feature among the laws, and the one most familiar to a student of repressive memory laws elsewhere in the world, is their attention to feelings. Four of five of them, in almost identical language, proscribe any curricular activities that would give rise to “discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress on account of the individual’s race or sex.”
In most cases, the new American memory laws have been passed by state legislatures that, in the same session, have passed laws designed to make voting more difficult. The memory management enables the voter suppression. The history of denying Black people the vote is shameful. This means that it is less likely to be taught where teachers are mandated to protect young people from feeling shame. The history of denying Black people the vote involves law and society. This means that it is less likely to be taught where teachers are mandated to tell students that racism is only personal prejudice.
The Republican Party continues to follow established patterns to further its goal of minority rule. Memory laws fit them like a comfortable pair of jackboots.
Cassie and I had a long day yesterday, which included several rides in the car and lots of play time. It also involved tons of fireworks. And a raw, marrow-filled bison bone:
Adding more data to the "failed hunting dog" hypothesis of Cassie's origin, we walked through a neighborhood southwest of the city with fireworks exploding left and right, and Cassie didn't care. We did normal leash work, in fact, because the fireworks didn't even distract her. Happy dog: