The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

View From Your Window contest

Welp, I was about 99% correct, but this week they had over 100 correct answers, so no prize:

It’s the John A. Blatnik Bridge connecting Duluth and Superior. It was finished in 1961, when I was about 10, and I remember my first drive over the bridge on the day it officially opened — five kids, mom and dad in the Plymouth, topping out 120 fucking feet(!) above the harbor surface. At that time, it was the highest distance above earth I had ever been. The Blatnik Bridge had replaced a swinging bridge that carried trains as well as cars across the harbor.

As for the exact location and window? 212 Piedmont Avenue [in Duluth, Minn.]

I got right block, but the wrong house. My guess:

I was so sure it was an East Coast bridge that I spent half an hour ranging up and down from Virginia to PEI looking for east-west rivers that a bridge that size could cross. Then I started searching for bridge types, and found https://bridgehunter.com/. Eventually I looked up the Bayonne Bridge to figure out what type it was (steel through arch), and just started looking at all of them, comparing the photos with the VFYW. I’d find one that looked promising, then examine Google Maps to find other features I’d noticed: industry on both sides of the river, the bridge coming to a T intersection on the near side with another highway, a rail yard between the photographer and the bridge, and a Y intersection close aboard to the photo at just the right angle to the bridge.

Once I found the John A. Blatnik Bridge in Duluth, things came together quickly. Here’s the map I drew in my head with my guess about where the photographer must have been (first photo). Then I zoomed in north of the rail yard and started looking for the weird Y intersection that ended in “W **** St” (second photo).

Ah, well. This week's contest looks very French, but I'll find out with everyone else next Friday.

It's over (mostly)

After 448 days, the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago have lifted all capacity limits and most other intrusive Covid-19 mitigation factors. We haven't gone completely back to normal, but it feels a lot more so than it did even a month ago.

The Tribune has a round-up of what rules remain in place and what has lifted. Mainly we still need masks on public transit and in places where owners or managers require them, and some "Covid theater" will continue where people demand it. But restaurants, movie theaters, and grocery stores can now go back to business as usual.

Even before today, some businesses had changed their signs to require masks only for unvaccinated customers. I will continue to mask up in those places, as well as in confined areas where I can't predict whether the people around me have gotten their jabs. If I'm in an airplane or a hospital, I'll even use a KN-95 instead of a decorative cloth mask.

Still, it's really (mostly) over. And we're all incredibly relieved.

Heavy competition for "Dumbest in Congress" award this year

Many of the top contenders for the bottom position on the US House of Representative's intellectual achievement league table have only recently joined the august body. First-term representatives Lauren Boebert (R-CO), a high-school dropout, and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), have backed up their sterling educational credentials with solid records of stupidity. Of course, US Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) would win by two lengths if he served in the House instead of the Senate. Fortunately, the House has Jim Jordan (R-OH) to represent the same demographic (stereotypical meathead football coaches with neolithic political views).

Yesterday, however, Louie Gohmert (R-TX), a perennial contender and multiple-year winner of the award, lowered the bar dramatically with a truly remarkable idea he shared with the House Natural Resources Committee and an associate deputy chief of the US Forest Service:

"I was informed by the immediate past director of NASA that they've found that the moon's orbit is changing slightly and so is the Earth's orbit around the sun. We know there's been significant solar flare activity," he said. "And so, is there anything that the National Forest Service or BLM can do to change the course of the moon's orbit or the Earth's orbit around the sun? Obviously, that would have profound effects on our climate."

Eberlien responded, smiling, "I would have to follow up with you on that one, Mr. Gohmert."

"If you figure out there's a way in the Forest Service you could make that change, I'd like to know," Gohmert said.

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) helpfully provided an answer for his astronomy-challenged colleague:

Gohmert, now in his 7th term in Congress, faces no significant challenger in 2022. And with this, he may not face a serious challenge to his title of Dumbest in Congress for the 13th year running.

Metra highballs towards the 21st Century

Work continues on the Ravenswood Metra station, letting us commuters believe that finally! we might not have to stand in the rain waiting for an inbound train sometime this autumn. Until then, we still have to wait on a rickety wooden platform that now extends four meters from the original rickety wooden platform, meaning we have a worse station experience than our great-grandparents would have when the station opened in the 1890s. Of course, once we board the trains, our overall travel experience on Metra more resembles our grandparents': some of the rail cars (carriages) that Metra operates date back to the 1950s, though the Union Pacific routes mostly seem to have cars built in the 1980s and early 2000s.

So imagine my glee when I read this press release from French manufacturer Alstom:

Alstom has received an initial order from Metra, the commuter rail system in the Chicago metropolitan area serving the city of Chicago and surrounding suburbs, to supply 200 push-pull commuter rail cars. This follows Metra Board of Directors’ approval in January 2021 to award Alstom a vehicle procurement contract for up to 500 rail cars. This initial order of 200 rail cars is worth approximately €650 million.

The multilevel cars incorporate new design features to improve passenger experience, including: a streamlined, modern and welcoming interior, equipped with USB plugs and boasting large windows and a layout to improve passenger flow and traveller comfort; seating and spacing to allow for additional ridership and physical distancing; touchless doors; improved bogie design for improved ride quality; and multiple wide doors on each side of the cars to reduce passenger boarding times and improve access to passenger areas.

They even have a slick video, which I would expect as part of a $800m contract.

The combination of the new Ravenswood inbound platform and the slick new French cars will make parts of Metra's network almost as good as London's was in 1990. All Metra needs to do to get us into the 2000s is to get rid of their mobile soot factories diesel locomotives, but I fear that kind of infrastructure modernization would require the replacement of one of the country's main political parties with an real one.

Wednesday afternoon

I spent the morning unsuccessfully trying to get a .NET 5 Blazor WebAssembly app to behave with an Azure App Registration, and part of the afternoon doing a friend's taxes. Yes, I preferred doing the taxes, because I got my friend a pile of good news without having to read sixty contradictory pages of documentation.

I also became aware of the following:

Tomorrow morning, I promise to make my WebAssembly app talk to our Azure Active Directory. Right now, I think someone needs a walk.

The world still spins

As much fun as Cassie and I have had over the last few days, the news around the world didn't stop:

Finally, journalist Jack Lieb filmed D-Day using a 16mm home movie camera, which you can see on the National Archives blog. It's really cool.

Yet more Cassie beach photos

Just look at this beauty:

This dog had way too much fun on Sunday. Towards the end of her time at the beach, she chased this dude all over:

I have almost as much fun as she does, watching her open up to full speed. Wow, she is fast.

More beach photos

I didn't have as much time to edit photos yesterday as I expected, so I only have two more for today:

And I want to give a big shout out to this little guy, named Bear, who forded the 5-meter-wide tidal pool all by himself: