The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

You can't buy labor at below-market rates

Chicago Transit Authority president Dorval Carter, Jr., blamed "extremely higher-than-normal call-offs" (i.e., a blue flu) for the New Year's Eve failures that left The Daily Parker waiting on a platform 35 minutes for the El:

It’s not unusual for CTA workers to “call off” on holidays, but the CTA has in the past been ready to replace them. But this year, with a shortage of train operators in the ranks, the CTA couldn’t deliver the number of free trains it promised.

The CTA promoted increased service on the Blue and Red lines on New Year’s Eve, advertising free train rides sponsored by Miller Lite. Carter did not say how many workers called off, and CTA officials did not provide a number after Friday’s meeting.

CTA worker unions, represented by Local 308 and Local 241, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. 

Carter said he would work with the unions and employees to come up with better ways to incentivize staff to come to work. Disciplinary measures could only go so far, considering the worker shortage, he said.

“We are operating very close to the margins,” Carter said. “I am trying to both put out a level of service that is within the constraints of the workforce that I have, but recognizing that in order for that to work, my workforce has to show up.”

One factor possibly limiting the available workforce: wages that have not kept up with inflation. If you want more people to work for you, pay more; QED. But even Chicago, with one of the best transport networks in the world, still struggles to see public transit as a public service rather than a profit-making enterprise. So who should pay more for the CTA? All of us in Chicago, perhaps by taking back some of the Federal money we send to Oklahoma for their useless freeway projects.

At least I didn't get too cold on the Brown Line platform on New Year's Eve. I still would have liked to see my friends earlier than I did.

Three cheers for the Secretary of State's Office!

Because I moved, I had to change my drivers license in-person at an Illinois Secretary of State Drivers Services Office (our DMV). Let me tell you how hard that was:

  1. I went online yesterday morning and, after a few clicks, got to "Same-Day Appointments."
  2. I found that the facility closest to me (about 5 km away) had appointment times in the late afternoon, so I signed up.
  3. The sign-up process took me to a checklist that helped me figure out what documents I needed to bring. It took me about 15 minutes to assemble those documents in a folder.
  4. Half an hour before my appointment, I drove to the facility, and found a parking space right away.
  5. I went into the Vehicle Services Office next door, and got redirected to the correct building.
  6. There was no line. I went right to the first station, showed him my documents, and was directed to the photo area.
  7. There was no line, so I got my photo taken, and was directed to the to the document verification window.
  8. After waiting 30 seconds in line, the nice lady at the documentation window went over all my documents, verified and scanned them, signed me up for Motor Voter registration, and sent me to the cashier.
  9. There was no line, so I paid my $5, waited for a few seconds while my temporary license printed out, and that was it. Total time: 22 minutes.
  10. Since I was right there anyway, I went next door to Vehicle Services and updated and renewed my car registration. Total time: 6 minutes.

It took me longer to drive to the facility than to update my drivers license, apply for a Real ID, update my auto registration, and renew the same.

I love living in a state where we care about government enough to fund it properly!

Stories to roll your eyes to

I mean, why? Just why?

  • The XPOTUS, as predicted, announced his run for the 2024 election, despite looking like a total loser in the 2022 election. But narcissists gonna narcise.
  • The Illinois Worker Rights Amendment passed, and will now become part of the state constitution. I think this will have a bunch of unintended consequences not beneficial to workers, so I voted against it. We're stuck with it now.
  • Boomer Kathleen Parker spends her column today tut-tutting Boomers for not understanding Millennial jobs, picking "influencer" as just one example. I'm an X-er who completely understands "influencer" (i.e., children monetizing their own narcissism) and "change manager" (i.e., operations flunky) just fine, and suggests that the problem lies not with the Boomer parents but with the Boomer executives. (Longer post, maybe?)
  • Pushwoosh, a Russian software company that writes spyware has pretended to be an American company, for reasons left as an exercise to the reader. About 8,000 apps use their stuff. As Bruce Schneier has said, supply-chain security is "an insurmountably hard problem."
  • Bloomberg laments that "the wrong Americans are buying electric cars."
  • Julia Ioffe cautions that Ukraine's re-taking of Kherson could lead to dangerous overreach as the war goes on—and a difficult diplomatic situation for the US.

Finally, the Missouri Department of Transportation proudly announced the 50th anniversary of their engineers killing downtown Kansas City, and the Internet let them have it.

Between a demo and a 5-point feature

I'm running all 538 unit tests in my real job's application right now after updating all the NuGet packages. This is why I like automated testing: if one of the updated packages broke anything, tests will fail, and I can fix the affected code. (So far they've all passed.)

This comes after a major demo this morning, and a new feature that will consume the rest of the sprint, which ends next Monday. Oh, and I have two opera rehearsals this week. Plus I have to vote tomorrow, which could take 15 minutes or two hours.

So it's not likely I'll have time to read all of these:

Regardless, I'm setting an alarm for just past 4am to see the total lunar eclipse tonight. NOAA predicts 17% sky cover, so I should get a good view of it. Unless I go back to sleep.

Lunch reading

I'm starting to adapt my habits and patterns to the new place. I haven't figured out where to put everything yet, especially in my kitchen, but I'll live with the first draft for a few weeks before moving things around.

I'm also back at work in my new office loft, which is measurably quieter than the previous location—except when the Metra comes by, but that just takes a couple of seconds.

I actually have the mental space to resume my normal diet of reading. If only I had the time. Nevertheless:

Finally, does anyone want to go to New York with me to see a play about Robert Moses starring Ralph Fiennes? Apparently tickets are only $2,000 a pop...

Monday afternoon links

Busy day today, but I finished a major task at work just now. As I'm waiting for the CI system to finish compiling and pushing out a test build, I'm going to read these:

Finally, we got our first official (trace) snow of the season this morning, even as forecasters predict temperatures over 21°C this weekend. While I'm packing. All day.

Tracy Flick was never cruel

A first-year undergraduate twerp with obvious narcissistic tendencies went through a homeless encampment handing out fake eviction notices earlier this week:

The one-page notices titled “Maria Hadden’s Five Day Notice To Vacate” were stuffed into belongings and posted on signs in and around Touhy Park, 7348 N. Paulina St., residents said. They were dated Sept. 27 and listed the name of Hadden, the 49th Ward alderperson, in bold blue type over a line reading “landlord/agent.”

The notice says Touhy Park residents have five days to leave and clear the area of “all buildings, sheds, closets, out-buildings, garages, barns and other structures used in connection with said premises.”

It also says residents will be relocated for free to the Four Seasons Hotel in Gold Coast. Their stay at the hotel, 120 E. Delaware Place, would be open-ended “for as long as it takes for Maria Hadden to find you appropriate housing,” the notice states.

The notices say they were “served” by Bill Morton, president of the Rogers Park Chamber of Commerce and candidate for 49th Ward alderman. Sarah Lim, a DePaul University freshman who is considering a run for mayor, is listed as the document’s “affiant,” or someone who files an affidavit.

Lim said she was solely responsible for the fake eviction notices. Morton denied having any involvement.

Lim fantasizes that she's a candidate for mayor next year, and also fantasizes that she didn't do anything wrong with this stunt:

Lim, who is planning on running for mayor of Chicago, said she taped up the bogus flyers so that she could “get my name out there.”

By circulating the sheets, she also hoped to get publicity directly to her website. The site assists high school and college students in attaining internships.

“I started the website last summer,” Lim said. “It has really been a struggle to get more traffic to it, which is why I resorted to the publicity stunt.”

Lim, reached by phone late Thursday afternoon, said she didn’t mean to offend anyone and was only seeking publicity.

“I have no hatred against homeless people,” said Lim, who said she came up with the idea last week because she knows the encampment is controversial. “People want something done about it,” Lim said of the homeless people living there.

“Whatever the intention, it was a very cruel act for all of these people who are pretty vulnerable and seeking housing,” Hadden said. Some are on waiting lists to be placed in homes.

When Lim was told that Hadden thought the fake notices were “cruel,” she said: “I think that instead of trying to turn me into a criminal, Hadden should be focusing on the issues right now.”

A bewildered Hadden said she had no idea why someone would do this. “You can’t make this stuff up,” Hadden said.

I make the comparison to the character Tracy Flick in Tom Perrotta's novel Election because Flick frequently gets held up as a sociopathic striver who would do anything to get elected class president. Except anyone who's read the novel can understand that Flick is actually the good guy; she wins on her merits, and never acts as cruelly as the social-studies teacher who has it in for her.

Sarah Lim, however, seems like a true sociopath in a way that most 17-year-old humans have already grown out of. I sincerely hope she matures in college, but it looks like she has a long way to go just to get to the first-year baseline.

Anthony's Song

I'm movin' out. A lovely young couple have offered to buy Inner Drive World Headquarters v5.0, and the rest of the place along with it. I've already gotten through the attorney-review period for IDTWHQ v6.0, so this means I'm now more likely than not to move house next month.

Which means I have even less time to read stuff like this:

Finally, American Airlines plans to get rid of its First Class offerings, replacing them with high-tech Business Class and more premium coach seats. I'd better use my miles soon.

Writing to alderman and newspaper gets results

Every time I commute to work from the Ravenswood Metra station, I get annoyed. Metra has yet to finish the inbound platform after almost 10 years of delays. So I emailed the alderman to ask why, and CC:d Block Club Chicago, the local news outlet. Reporter Alex Hernandez called me the next morning, and ran this story today:

The Ravenswood Metra station overhaul that began more than a decade ago is hitting yet another bump. 

The $30 million project to renovate 11 bridges along Metra’s Union Pacific North line was announced in 2010. Construction of the western side of the Ravenswood station, 4800 N. Ravenswood Ave., was completed in 2015 — but the rest of the project is ongoing.

Previous delays to the project were caused in part by a polar vortex in 2014 and cuts in funding to Metra in 2010. The work was fully funded in 2020, and officials planned to begin the final phase of the eastern portion of the station in the spring.

But now it’s supply chain issues that are delaying work, Metra spokesperson Meg Reile said. 

“It’s still up in the air because of supply chain issues,” Reile said. “That’s what’s holding up the end of this project.” 

Reile did not provide specifics about what items crews are waiting for, but she said the goal is to complete the eastern side of the Ravenswood station by the end of the year.

Good to know. My conversations with Hernandez Wednesday and yesterday were enlightening to both of us. And today, I actually saw someone in a hard hat and vest working on the platform, though I have no idea what he was doing.

Will the platform open by year's end? Will the Cubs lose 95 games this season? Will any former presidents get indicted this fall? No one can yet know the answer to any of those questions.

Bog-standard August

Despite record temperatures in late spring, Illinois had a perfectly average August, which the state climatologist for some reason refers to as "mild:"

May kicked off summer early in Illinois with a very unusual heat wave. Then came a very warm June that had this winter lover wishing for sweater weather. Fortunately, a slightly cooler July was followed by a very mild August.

August average temperatures ranged from the low 70s [F] in northern Illinois to the high 70s in southern Illinois, within 1 degree [Fahrenheit] of normal statewide. The warmest place in the state last month was Bean Ridge in Alexander County with an average August temperature of 25.6°C. The coolest place in the state–other than my house–was Shabbona in DeKalb County with an average August temperature of 20.6°C.

Overall, the preliminary statewide average August temperature was 23.2°C, 0.1°C above the 1991–2020 average and the 58th warmest on record going back to 1895.

I'll take it. August felt just fine to me, and the forecast for this coming weekend looks pretty good, too.