The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Ah, spring

Winter officially has another week and a half to run, but we got a real taste of spring in all its ridiculousness this week:

Yesterday the temperature got up to 13°C at O'Hare, up from the -10°C we had Monday morning. It's heading down to -11°C overnight, then up to 7°C on Sunday. (Just wait until I post the graph for the entire week.)

Welcome to Chicago in spring.

Elsewhere:

  • Republicans in New York and Illinois have a moan about the redistricting processes in those states that will result in heavily-skewed Democratic legislatures and House delegations, even while acknowledging that we've agreed to put down our gun when they put down theirs.
  • The pillowmonger we all know and love, who rails on about unauthorized, disease-carrying immigrants to our country, got all pissy with Canada when they kicked him out for being an unauthorized, disease-carrying immigrant.
  • The pillowmonger's friend the XPOTUS had a no good, very bad, rotten week that he totally deserved.
  • Voters roundly ejected the president and vice president (plus another divisive member) of the San Francisco School Board that the Editor in Chief of Mother Jones says was for incompetence, not politics.
  • Alaska Airlines has a new subscription deal for California that could become more common with other carriers if it takes off.

Finally, if you're in Chicago and want to hear a free Apollo Chorus concert tonight, leave a note in the comments. We perform at Harris Theater at 8pm.

Slow-ish afternoon

I've sent some test results off to a partner in Sydney, so I have to wait until Monday morning before I officially mark that feature as "done." I'm also writing a presentation I'll give on March 16th. So while the larger part of my brain noodles on Microsoft Azure CosmosDB NoSQL databases (the subject of my presentation), the lesser part has this to read:

Finally, software developer Ben Tupper has created a Myst-like game surrounding the mysterious door at 58 Joralemon Street in Brooklyn Heights. I walked past that door every day for almost two years, and even got a peek inside once. It's not really a townhouse, after all.

Three notable recent deaths

In no particular order:

  • Dale Clevenger played French horn for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1966 to 2013. He was 81.
  • Sheldon Silver went to jail for taking bribes while New York Assembly Speaker. He was 77.
  • Lisa Goddard made climate predictions that came true, to the horror of everyone who denies anthropogenic climate change. She was 55.

In a tangential story, the New Yorker profiles author Kim Stanley Robinson, who has written several novels about climate change. (Robinson hasn't died, though; don't worry.)

Fast and furious?

Josh Marshall lays out the evidence that the Omicron Covid variant hit hard and fast, but as in South Africa, appears to have a short life-span:

New York City was one of the first parts of the United States hit by the Omicron variant. The trajectory of the city’s surge now appears remarkably similar to the pattern we saw earlier in South Africa and other countries.

Data out of South Africa showed a roughly four week interval between the start of the Omicron surge and its peak. “Peak in four weeks and precipitous decline in another two,” said Fareed Abdullah of the South African Medical Research Council. “It was a flash flood more than a wave.”

New York City numbers appear to match this pattern almost exactly.

It looks like we may have much lower Covid numbers by the end of January here in Chicago. That said, not that it surprised anyone, but the way the city and State of Illinois have managed testing here seems a bit...hinky:

As Omicron cases surged, Chicagoans were told repeatedly by city, state and federal officials to get tested for COVID-19 — but few testing options were available.

The city previously shut down many of the free testing sites it ran, and the few government-run sites and health clinics still open were booked up. At-home tests sold out. Thousands of people turned to pop-ups that promised quick results, especially as they tried to keep family and friends safe during the holidays.

Now, many who tested at pop-ups are questioning if they got accurate results — and wondering where they can go to for trusted testing. Some have said they’re frustrated the government hasn’t done more to provide legitimate testing options, stockpile testing supplies and shut down bad actors.

Last week, Block Club highlighted how one locally based chain — the Center for COVID Control, with 300 locations across the United States — is now the subject of federal and state investigations after numerous people filed complaints about not getting results or getting delayed results. Authorities said the chain wasted more than 40,000 PCR tests and didn’t properly process rapid tests in multiple instances, among other concerns.

Officials are also beginning to crack down on the pop-ups. The Illinois Attorney General’s office and other agencies are investigating the Center for COVID Control, and the Attorney General’s Office has warned people to be cautious around pop-ups in general.

So, some opportunists predicted a Covid surge in December, bought up all the rapid tests, then opened pop-up stores to bilk the government and the people out of hundreds for "free" tests they could have gotten without "help" from the pop-ups.

The only people who could have predicted this turn of events were millions of us who grew up in Chicago.

The Empire State Trail

The kids today don't know how good they have it. When I lived in New York more than 20 years ago, I would have gotten on a bike and ridden this trail:

Last December, the Empire State Trail — a sprawling, 750-mile cyclist and pedestrian route that connects Buffalo to Albany and New York City to the Canadian border, forming what looks like a sideways T — opened to the public. Considering the pandemic bike boom, the timing was perfect.

About 400 miles of greenways, repurposed rail lines and bike paths already existed in New York. So, when the $200 million project was announced in 2017, the state rushed to fill in the gaps between them.

Where new bike trails were not possible, blue-and-yellow signs were installed on roads signaling the way, and some guardrails were added to protect cyclists from vehicular traffic.

The result — a combination of protected paths, city streets, highway shoulders and country roads that pass by small towns and cities — offers views of wetlands, waterways, grasslands and mountain ranges. It is a showcase for New York State’s history and natural beauty.

Of course, before my knees told me I had to stop biking, I also planned to ride RAGBRAI, so maybe this wouldn't have happened. Still: the kids today have opportunities my generation never had.

And they should get off my lawn.

Catastrophe?

I said before lunch I wouldn't post barring catastrophe. This may qualify:

Over the weekend in California, a storm system dropped to a barometric pressure of 945.2 mB, making it the strongest storm to affect the Pacific Northwest on record. For perspective, this is equivalent to the central pressure you would see with a strong hurricane.

For Sacramento, the stats are even more startling. Sacramento picked up 5.44 inches of rain Sunday, making it their wettest day in history (or any calendar month). Making this even more remarkable is that this came on the heels of a record dry streak of 212 days in a row with no measurable rain. That just ended on Oct. 18.

This example of drought to deluge, also known as precipitation volatility, is exactly what's expected to occur more frequently in California with climate change, where a moisture-loaded Pacific storm system brings a brief period of record rainfall in the middle of an extreme drought exacerbated by record high temperatures.

I mean, wow. And right now, the storm that battered Chicago this morning will head east on a trajectory to give the East Coast a hell of a Nor'easter tomorrow and Wednesday.

But by all means, let's forget about climate legislation to save the last 36 coal jobs in West Virginia, shall we?

End-of-summer reading

Only about 7 more hours of meteorological summer remain in Chicago. I opened my windows this afternoon for the first time in more than two weeks, which made debugging a pile of questionable code* more enjoyable.

Said debugging required me to put these aside for future reading:

Finally, one tiny bit of good news: more Americans believe in evolution than ever before, perhaps due to the success of the SARS-COV-2 virus at evolving.

Goodbye, Summer 2021. It's been a hoot.

* Three guesses who wrote the questionable code. Ahem.

Lunchtime roundup

Stories from the usual suspects:

Finally, Whisky Advocate calls out a few lesser-known distilleries in Scotland worth visiting—or at least sampling.

Prince Humperdink of New York

Reporter Miriam Pawel, who has covered Albany, N.Y., since the early 1980s, explains the critical difference between Mario Cuomo and his son Andrew:

Even in those early years after Mario Cuomo was first elected governor, in 1982, the differences between the two men were as apparent as their similarities. Both were ruthless competitors, prone to bullying. Both were control freaks, inclined to trust very few people outside a small circle of confidants.

But Mario Cuomo’s sharp elbows on the basketball court and pugilistic verbal gymnastics were wrapped in moral complexity, intellectual heft and Jesuitical questioning. His son exhibited none of those qualities. He had inherited his father’s fierce, win-at-any-cost competitive spirit without the humanity or introspection.

Perhaps the most telling difference between father and son was that people liked Mario Cuomo. He had a large circle of lifelong friends, from college classmates to gubernatorial appointees. Many remained loyal long after they stopped working for him; he generated genuine affection.

The same was not true for Andrew Cuomo. “The problem with Cuomo is no one has ever liked him,” Richard Ravitch told the Times reporter Shane Goldmacher. “He’s not a nice person, and he doesn’t have any real friends.” Mr. Ravitch should know: He served in various high-ranking state positions, including chair of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority while Mario Cuomo was governor in the early 1980s, and lieutenant governor while Andrew Cuomo campaigned for the top job.

There's a reason for the ancient trope of good kings fathering evil princes.

Corny ball games

Chicago's minor-league White Sox will play the New York Yankees tomorrow at a temporary 8,000-seat ballpark adjacent to the Field of Dreams in Dyersville, Iowa:

The Sox and Yankees begin a three-game series in the most unusual of locations. Thursday’s game will be played at a temporary 8,000-seat ballpark on the Dyersville farm where the Academy Award-nominated 1989 movie “Field of Dreams” was filmed.

“I was raised to embrace the history of the game,” Sox manager Tony La Russa said Tuesday. “Too often we lose parts of it. We should do a better job and we should do that.

“ ‘Field of Dreams’ is a great movie, embraces all about family and (what) the game is all about. A very special opportunity. Our guys are really excited to be there. I’ve seen some of the comments already. Should be a great day for the White Sox.”

This will be the first major-league game ever played in Iowa.