The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

RIP Carmen Sancicada (2007-2024)

I had a dentist appointment up in Hubbard Woods this morning, so I took half a day off and had a relaxing walk through Winnetka. And as on Sunday, I encountered a lot of cicadas.

I found one attached to my bag as I boarded the train back to the Loop:

She* tried wandering off the bag in various directions, which prompted me to help her out from time to time. She could not get a grip, mentally or physically, on the outer surface of my bag, nor on the vinyl seats or metal frame of the train car. By the time we got to downtown Chicago, she had gone about 2,000 times farther than she ever would have gone without bumping into me (unless the wind or an animal gives them a push, cicadas live and die within about 15 meters of where they emerge), and she was thoroughly exhausted. I suspect she was already exhausted when she attached herself to my bag, though.

She finally stopped trying to go somewhere and remained attached to my bag as I got off the train:

Alas, when I stopped to get another selfie with her by the schedule board, she was gone. I infer she jumped or fell off my bag onto the platform, and with all the people getting off the train, I further infer that she remains on the platform still, albeit a lot thinner and a lot less alive.

Poor thing. I hope she at least enjoyed the adventure, and that she died quickly and painlessly. I suspect, however, she spent the last hour of her life completely bewildered.

* Female cicadas have pointy abdomens, while male cicadas have buzzing plates on the thorax. Also, male cicadas tend to buzz when you pick them up; females don't.

Long, loud walk

Cassie and I took two long walks yesterday. We drove up to the Skokie Lagoons before lunchtime and took a 7.25 km stroll along the north loop. The weather cooperated:

I wanted to go up there in part because a 100-year-old forest had a higher probability of cicadas than anywhere near my house. We were not disappointed. Cassie and I both had passengers at various points in the walk:

And wow, were they loud. I forgot how loud they got during the 2007 outbreak. Even at the points on the walk closest to the Edens Expressway, the cicadas were often louder than the hightway:

On Saturday we're heading out to a friend's house in Wheaton, and we'll take our dogs around that neighborhood. My friend complained that the cicadas have taken over her backyard. Can't wait!

Piping plover egg spotted at Montrose Beach

Piping plovers Imani and Searocket, the former an offspring of the famous pair Monty and Rose, are expecting:

A piping plover nest has been spotted at Montrose Beach.

The nest, which has one egg, is the result of a recent pairing between the beloved Imani, a male plover born at Montrose Beach in summer 2021, and Searocket, a female chick released at the beach last summer, according to a Friday news release from the Park District.

The egg is expected to hatch “within a month,” according to the Park District. The nest is “a win for conservation efforts citywide,” Matthew Freer, Park District assistant director of Landscape, Natural Resources and Cultural Resources, said in the news release.

Piping plovers are a federally protected species. In 2019, Monty and Rose landed in Chicago, making it the first time piping plovers chose to nest in the city in five decades. Their arrival was a local sensation, even causing a beachfront music fest to be canceled that year.

Many things could go wrong, of course, and most of the things that could go wrong have legs and mouths. But we're all hoping for a baby piping plover in July!

Last days of spring

I just popped out for lunch. It's 17°C in the Loop with lots of sun, the kind of day when I wonder why I went back to the office. Summer begins Saturday. Ah, to be French and take an entire month off...

This time of year has other features, many of which popped up in my various RSS feeds this morning:

And finally, Block Club Chicago sent a reporter to the Duke of Perth yesterday to surveille the packing. Other than giving GM Mike Miller a completely new last name, he generally got the story right, and even included some photos guaranteed to make anyone who loved the place hold back a tear.

When the rain comes

I took Cassie out at 11am instead of her usual 12:30pm because of this:

The storm front passed quickly, but it hit right at 12:30 and continued for half an hour with some intensity. It'll keep raining on and off all day, too.

Other things rained down in the past day or so:

Finally, Super Size Me director Morgan Spurlock has died at age 53 of cancer. No word whether the production of the 2004 documentary contributed to his early demise.

Heading for another boring deployment

Today my real job wraps up Sprint 109, an unexciting milestone that I hope has an unexciting deployment. I think in 109 sprints we've only had 3 or 4 exciting deployments, not counting the first production deployment, which always terrifies the dev team and always reminds them of what they left out of the Runbook.

The staging pipelines have already started churning, and if they uncover anything, the Dev pipelines might also run, so I've lined up a collection of stories from the last 24 hours to keep me calm (ah, ha ha, ha):

  • James Fallows, himself a former speechwriter for President Jimmy Carter, digs into President Biden's commencement address yesterday at Morehouse College, saying: "It showed care in craftsmanship and construction. Its phrasing matched Biden’s own style and diction. It navigated the political difficulties of the moment. And it represented Biden’s attempt to place those difficulties in a larger perspective."
  • Economist Paul Krugman explains the insignificance (to most people's lives) of the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing above 40,000 last week, and how the news nicely illustrates "he gap between what we know about the actual state of our economy and the way [the XPOTUS] and his allies describe it."
  • Speaking of the stock market, Ivan Boesky, one of the greediest people ever to walk the earth, died last week at the age of 87.
  • Speaking of economics, Bill McBride takes us through the history of paying off the national debt, or increasing it as tends to happen under Republican presidents. He lists 8 events from 2000 to 2021 that significantly increased it, only two of which Democratic administrations oversaw.
  • Speaking of debt, Crain's scoops up the Oberweis Dairy bankruptcy case, and how it appears that a failson (actually a failgrandson in this case) killed it, as sometimes happens with inherited wealth.
  • Speaking of things falling abruptly, a Singapore Airlines B777-312ER encountered severe turbulence over the Andaman Sea near Bangkok yesterday, and a 73-year-old British passenger died of what appears to be heart failure. Other passengers and crew suffered head injuries. This is why you need to keep your seatbelt on at all times in an airplane.

Finally, Block Club Chicago readers have sent in cicada photos from the south and west sides of the area. Still none in my neighborhood, though a colleague in Wilmette said she saw a couple yesterday. I want to see the bugs!

They're almost here!

Cicadas were spotted inside the city limits this week:

Some Block Club readers in Beverly on the Far South Side reported spotting the large insect Friday for the first time since 2007.

Cicadas are crowding the leaves on the old growth trees on Longwood Drive in Beverly — all in different stages of the cicada life cycle. Some are starting to emerge from their winged bodies, while others are in the creepy hollowed-out husk stage clinging as if in still life to the trunks of trees. 

On some streets, you can only take a few steps before spotting what looks like a massacre of a small cicada party on the sidewalks, Block Club readers said. And be careful which lawns you tread. The grass is not swaying gently in the breeze; those are cicadas crawling for higher ground.

Photos and update as conditions warrant.

Another lovely day

Except for the sun blinding me around 5:30 pm every day due to a quirk in my house's architecture (I will eventually fix it with window treatments), I love sunny spring days. Cassie and I have already spent almost an hour outside and we'll spend another 45 minutes or so when I get back from an odd music gig that I'll describe tomorrow or Monday.

I wanted to highlight just one story from earlier this week, by New Republic's Kate Aronoff, with the accurate and delightful headline "Anything Elon Musk can do a bus can do better:"

Whether on electrification or autonomous vehicles, Tesla has long been hailed as a company uniquely capable of revolutionizing transportation, with Elon Musk portrayed as the big brain in charge. A series of high-profile blunders, though—like Cybertrucks with stick accelerators and a wrongful death settlement—have cast doubt on Tesla’s capacity to speed the world toward an electrified future. Policymakers might want to start asking themselves: When it comes to creating a transportation system fit for our climate-changed twenty-first century, what can Elon Musk do that the humble city bus cannot?

Public buses are an unbeatable value. Here in New York City, $2.90 will get you between and within boroughs, usually just a few blocks from your door. A pilot program initiated last fall included one fare-free route in each borough, in the hopes of eventually making buses free throughout. Boston made a number of bus lines fare-free this year, as well. Olympia and many other Washington municipalities have embraced free buses throughout their entire transit system, following the example set in 2019 by Kansas City, Missouri, and Raleigh, North Carolina. Luxembourg offers free public transit nationwide, and several other countries offer free buses, trams, and trains to people under 18, students, and senior citizens.

The cheapest Tesla, by contrast, costs nearly $40,000, which isn’t counting the cost of insurance, financing, and all the other headaches involved in purchasing and owning a car. Elon Musk has allegedly scrapped plans to make what would have been Tesla’s most affordable offering yet, a smaller car slated to be priced at around $25,000. That announcement had already been delayed for several years, reportedly because Musk demanded that his engineers produce a vehicle without pedals or a steering wheel.

Finally, public buses offer something to the challenge of decarbonizing transportation that Elon Musk never can: scale. If the goal of decarbonized transit is to get as many people moving using as little carbon as possible, then it’s wildly more efficient to invest more public resources into electrifying and expanding mass transit options than in helping a billionaire sell more luxury items.

Aronoff doesn't even need to point out that Musk himself has never invented a single goddamned thing. He leveraged a family fortune made in Apartheid South Africa into controlling shares of several companies that eventually all failed, whether completely or just simply never lived up to the hype.

But Aronoff is right. I've visited London 20 times in the last 10 years and only twice have I had to resort to taking a hired car—once when the Southern Rail went on strike the day I flew into Gatwick last summer, and once when I was well pissed and didn't want to wait for a bus in the rain. Trains and buses cover the entire Southeast region, run all night in most cases, and don't cost all that much. Chicago has them too. Who needs a Tesla truck that will cut your fingers off if you try closing the trunk?

Hoping not to get rained on this afternoon

A whole knot of miserable weather is sneaking across the Mississippi River right now, on its way to Chicago. It looks like, maybe, just maybe, it'll get here after 6pm. So if I take the 4:32 instead of the 5:32, maybe I'll beat it home and not have a wet dog next to me on the couch later.

To that end I'm punting most of these stories until this evening:

Finally, if you have an extra $500 lying around and want to buy a nice steak with it, Crain's has options ranging from 170 grams of Chateau Uenae rib-eye steak (and a glass of water) at RPM on down to a happy hour of rib-eye steak frites for eight at El Che. The txuleton at Asador Bastian for $83 seems like a good deal to me, even without three other people or a bottle of wine to bring the bill up to $500. But the Wagyu? Maybe if I get a bonus next year. A guy can dream.

One news story eclipsed all the others

Ah, ha ha. Ha.

Anyway, here are a couple other stories from the last couple of days:

Finally, Ohio State wildlife and ecology professor Stanley Gehrt has written a book I will have to stop myself (for now) from adding to my ever-expanding shelf of books I need to read. Gehrt spent decades studying Chicago's coyote population and how well they co-exist with us, tagging more than 1,400 coyotes and collaring another 700.

My only complaint about the animals is they don't eat enough rabbits. I live near several suspected dens, the closest only about 400 meters from my front door. I can't wait to read the book.

As for the risks coyotes pose to humans, he lets us know who the real enemy is: “If you were to ask me, ‘What’s the most dangerous animal out there [for urban dwellers]?’, it’s white-tailed deer,” Gehrt said.