The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

The creepiest forest on Staten Island

Arborist William Bryant Logan takes a trip to the botanical hell that is the Fresh Kills Landfill, and finds something wonderful:

From a coyote’s-eye view, you could see what the trees were up to: Growth, failure, decay and the drip of acid water through the gravel were mixing a dirt out of the detritus. This hideous forest, I suddenly realized, was there to repair the damage done, and not at our bidding. Its intent was not to look good. Its intent was to stay alive, year by year, century by century, until at last it had recycled even the nylon stocking.

We know how long it takes most kinds of leavings to decay. Organic material goes quickly: cardboard in three months, wood in up to three years, a pair of wool socks in up to five. A plastic shopping bag may take 20 years; a plastic cup, 50. Major industrial materials will be there for much longer: An aluminum can is with us for 200 years, a glass bottle for 500, a plastic bottle for 700, and a Styrofoam container for a millennium.

The forest does not know this. It does not think. It just acts. Because it is so good at sprouting, resprouting, reiterating, and repeating the entire process, it can keep up the living and dying for as long as it takes, even if that is a thousand years. The trees are not conscious. They are something better. They are present.

It almost makes one want to visit the place. Almost.

Cooldown

For seven of the last 11 days Chicago has had highs above 32°C, maxing out yesterday afternoon at 35°C. Then around 4pm yesterday, a cold front dropped temperatures 10°C in an hour—along with 20 mm of rain.

It wasn't the worst summer weather Chicago has had in its history, but we're pretty sure it'll be more common in years to come.

A Harlequin hacker romance?

Via Bruce Schneier, this is literally* a thing:

The book opens with Massimo working in his combination laboratory and server farm; we know it's ironclad because of the required thumbprint and biometrics scan, but we also know it's classy because it's in an old wine cellar beneath his family villa outside Milan. Plus, he has three screens, so you know he's a serious cybersecurity hacker man.

Nat is a 20-something who lives a poverty-driven boho life. Massimo—who is Mr. Cyber—is, in her eyes, a "sleek, lean, sex-on-legs stud" who looks nothing like the stereotypical tech billionaire. And the chemistry between them ignites as he drags her back to his server room and tells her to do some... penetration testing.

She demurs.

Six chapters in. I am convinced that this book was written by a Harlequin Markov bot.

I may not add this to my book list just now. But at least I know it's out there...

*Yah, sorry. That's "literally" twice.

The thing you're not supposed to look at

So, it turns out, the President of the United States is a racist bigot, who has calculated that the best way to win re-election is to smash all the norms we've had for a century and a half.

OK, noted. Now let's see what all that sound and confusion might be covering up? How about the dismantling of the administrative state and the removal of any meaningful checks on corporate power:

There are daily proof points that the former lobbyists in the administration are advancing Trump’s quest to eviscerate the administrative state. Just last night, for example, the Environmental Protection Agency quietly rejected a petition by environmental and public health groups to ban a widely used pesticide that has been linked to neurological damage in children, even though a federal court said last year there was “no justification” for such a decision.

“The Obama administration had proposed in 2015 to revoke all uses of chlorpyrifos after EPA scientists determined that existing evidence did not meet the agency’s threshold of a ‘reasonable certainty of no harm,’ given exposure levels in Americans’ food supply and drinking water,” Brady Dennis and Juliet Eilperin report. “EPA staffers cited studies of families exposed to it in apartment buildings and agricultural communities that found lower birth weight and reduced IQ, among other effects. But before the ban was finalized, in March 2017, then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt rejected the agency’s own analysis, saying the agency would reassess the science underpinning that decision.”

Part of the battle to deconstruct the administrative state is a war of attrition. Two research agencies at the Agriculture Department are uprooting from D.C. to Kansas City this fall, for instance, but many staffers have decided to give up their jobs rather than move, prompting concerns of hollowed-out offices unable to adequately fund or inform agricultural science.

This is the flipside, the actual goal, of all the anti-American rallies and palling around with terrorists that the president has done in his administration. All of that is just to stay in power. It's what he has done with the power that will have the longest and most dangerous effects on the country.

Why can't we live on the moon?

As we approach the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing Saturday afternoon, CityLab asks the obvious question:

Many experts say there was nothing stopping humanity from following the Apollo missions with a permanent settlement. We had the technology to do it. But given the huge expense involved in such an endeavor, humans opted to spend limited resources solving (and, well, creating) problems here on Earth.

“The bottom line why we’re not there is there hasn’t been political will for it,” said Joanne Gabrynowicz, a professor emerita of space law at the University of Mississippi.

A range of experts agreed that technology was never the primary obstacle to establishing a permanent presence on the moon after humans had proven the capability to travel there and back. Instead, it was a cost-benefit analysis that settling the moon didn’t have enough payoff for the cost.

“It’s kind of like asking, ‘Why don’t we have condos in Antarctica?’” said Darby Dyar, a professor of astronomy at Mount Holyoke College who has worked on lunar geology for decades. “We could get stuff there. We have the technology to build structures there. But it would be incredibly expensive to heat them. And why would anyone want to live there?”

Still. It would be great to see a permanent settlement up there.

While we're on the subject, where the hell is my flying car?

What's the fastest way to O'Hare?

Four Chicago Tribune reporters had a race from Randolph and Michigan to O'Hare:

We sent four reporters, with carry-on luggage, in a personal car, a ride-share, on CTA and on Metra, starting at 2:15 p.m. Wednesday at the Prudential Building at Michigan Avenue and Randolph Street. The destination was Security Gate 3 in O'Hare's Terminal 1, with the goal of catching an imaginary 5 p.m. United Airlines flight.

The winner was an Uber ride-share that took 69 minutes, followed by the CTA at 80 minutes, a private car (parked at an economy lot) at 90 minutes and Metra at 98 minutes.

It's clear from our test that the fastest way is not the cheapest, while the cheapest way may not work for everybody. We also know the fastest way could have been the slowest if we had tried the race during rush hour. Improvements to the Blue Line and more frequent and/or express Metra North Central Service trains would have made these options even better than they already are.

The more nuanced verdict: If you're coming from most parts of the Loop, the Blue Line is probably your best value, especially during rush hour. From the West Loop (close to Union Station), at certain times of the day, Metra would be.

The article's graphics and animation are kind of cool. It's almost like the Tribune has brought itself into the 21st Century.

It's hot. Damn hot. Real hot.

The forecast for much of the US Friday calls for hot and shitty weather, with continued hot and shitty weather into Saturday:

A heat wave featuring a life-threatening combination of heat and oppressive humidity has begun to spread across the United States, with excessive heat warnings and heat advisories in effect for at least 22 states and the District of Columbia. According to the National Weather Service, 51 percent of the Lower 48 states are likely to see air temperatures reach or exceed 35°C during the next seven days, with 85 percent experiencing temperatures above 32°C during the same period.

Washington could see its first high temperature at or above 38°C since 2016. In Chicago, the air temperature is also forecast to approach the century mark.

The heat index, which is a measure of how hot it feels to the human body when air temperatures are combined with the amount of moisture in the air, are forecast to climb into rare territory in many cities, from Chicago to Kansas City and eastward all the way north into southern New England.

According to the Weather Service forecast office in Chicago, “The heat is forecast to be oppressive and dangerous everywhere, with possibly some of the hottest conditions since 2012."

Yuck.

Stay cool, y'all. Excessive heat is the most dangerous weather. Hydrate, stay inside cool spaces, and limit your activities. Fun times, fun times.

Because they're racists themselves

After a contentious session during which Speaker Pelosi was found out of order, the US House of Representatives voted 240-187 to condemn "President Trump's racist comments directed at Members of Congress." Only four Republicans joined House Democrats in supporting the measure.

We know the Republican Party has descended into white nationalism and outright racism. Individual Republicans can't criticize the president because they depend on his supporters to keep them in office. Meanwhile, all this nonsense detracts from the work of actually governing the country.

But remember: the Republican Party doesn't want to govern; they want to rule. And they will if we keep getting distracted from that simple premise.

More on the whack-a-mole White House

Yesterday David Frum wrote that every time the President sends out another outrageous Tweet, he's doing it to distract and divide his opposition. Josh Marshall extends the thought:

There’s a pattern: Outrage. Some still remaining levels of shock. Demands for apologies. Demands for denunciations from Republicans and for Democrats to do something. Each of these steps in the process makes sense and is inevitable and right. But taken together there is a Groundhog Day quality to it. It generates a unique form of literal and moral exhaustion. Haven’t we been through this storyline – the “Mexican” judge, “very fine” nazis? We know this. Right? We know this person. This is no different from a feral animal on its 10th attack.

Demanding denunciations, asking for Republicans officeholders to say it’s wrong, somehow gives them all too much credit. Better to say this is who you support. We knew this was him yesterday just as much as today and whether you express “deep concern” or even a more fulsome criticism hardly matters because you supported him and followed him yesterday and you’ll be doing exactly the same thing tomorrow. And because of that support, to voters, to everyone who isn’t a diehard in Trump’s camp the message should really always be the same: You have one chance to end this in 18 months and you have one chance to send a real message to every elected official who supports it. Everything else is just preening or deflection or playing again a record we’ve heard before.

Exactly. Our priorities as a party for the next 16 months are, in order: winning the White House; holding the House; keeping the Michigan, Minnesota, Alabama, and Virginia Senate seats; and picking up Senate seats in Colorado, Arizona, Maine, North Carolina, and Georgia.

We can win the table, if we hammer the Republicans on their deeply disturbed and dangerous party leader, as well as their ongoing efforts to enrich billionaires and keep everyone else in debt and close to poverty.

As one of my friends says, this isn't rocket surgery. We can do this. Let's stop getting distracted and start grinding the Republicans down.