The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Illinois on lock-down, day 3

The governor ordered everyone to stay at home only a few days ago, and yet it seems like much longer. I started working from home three weeks ago, initially because my entire team were traveling, and then for safety. My company turned off all our badges yesterday so I couldn't go back even if I wanted to. And I find myself planning meals a week out because I find it nearly impossible to cook small amounts of food. (Sample entries: Monday dinner, shrimp in garlic, butter, and wine sauce with wild rice; Tuesday lunch, leftover grilled chicken with wild rice. The shrimp were delicious, by the way.)

It doesn't help that the President and Senate Republicans are trying to turn this whole thing into a corporate giveaway. Some other lowlights:

But in one bit of good news, China announced an end to the two-month lockdown of Hubei province a few hours from now. Could we also start getting back to normal mid-May?

And finally, enjoy some scampi:

Traffic jam at the top of the world

The Apollo Chorus performed Joby Talbot's Everest a few weeks ago, and to prepare for the opera I read Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air. (The opera is based on the events described in that book.) I concluded that climbing Mt Everest is insane.

That didn't stop about 100 climbers from attempting to summit on May 23rd of this year, contributing to one of the deadliest days in the mountain's history:

[T]wo decades on, the Everest experience often seems to have devolved even further into a circus-like pageant of stunts and self-promotion. In April 2017, DJ Paul Oakenfold outraged mountaineering purists by hosting an EDM concert at the base camp in Nepal; this year three Indian climbers returned home to celebratory crowds after they supposedly summited on May 26, only to be accused of fraud after other mountaineers claimed that they never made it past 23,500 feet.

And then there are the growing crowds. For this year's climbing season, Nepal handed out 381 permits to scale Everest, the most ever. The Chinese government distributed more than 100 permits for the northern side. According to the Himalayan Database, the number of people summiting Everest has just about doubled in the past decade. And in that time the mountain has become accessible even to relative novices, thanks to a proliferation of cut-rate agencies that require little proof of technical skill, experience, or physical fitness. “Some of these companies don't ask any questions,” says Rolfe Oostra, an Australian mountaineer and a founder of France-based 360 Expeditions, which sent four clients to the summit this year. “They are willing to take anybody on, and that compounds the problems for everyone.”

On May 22—the day before Grubhofer reached the top—a long line near the summit had already begun to form. One of those pinned in the throng was a Nepali climber named Nirmal Purja. That morning, Purja snapped a photo of the chaos. The picture showed a near unprecedented traffic jam on the popular southern side: a column of hundreds of climbers snaking along the knifelike summit ridge toward the Hillary Step, the last obstacle before the top, packed jacket-to-jacket as if they were queued up for a ski lift in Vail. The image rocketed around the world and, as the events on the mountain were still developing, raised an urgent question: What the hell is going on atop Mount Everest?

I still think these people are crazy. If I ever see Mt Everest, it will be from the pressurized cabin of a transport-class airplane. I'm fine with that.

I will, however, see the opera again when it comes to the Barbican on June 20th.

Bear down

Yesterday, I attended my first professional NFL game* at Chicago's Soldier Field. I can't complain about the view:

The Bears did not play their best, but I had a great time at the game. And after, I got to walk in sticky August weather with a stadium's worth of people to the Red Line, which everyone loves after 11pm.

I'm being unfair. The tickets came from last April's Apollo After Hours, via a generous donation from one of our members and a lucky bid on my part. And now, I've been to a professional NFL game. And don't have to go to another one. (More on that, later.)

* "Professional football game" means something different in every country on earth; so I used the construct "professional NFL game" to distinguish between the US National Football League and what 7 billion other people call "football."

"Welcome to capitalism"

Chicago Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz vented his frustration about outgoing mayor Rahm Emanuel in a letter to incoming mayor Lori Lightfoot earlier this week. Today, Emanuel responded:

When you own something, you pay the costs and you reap the benefits. Welcome to capitalism and the private sector, Rocky.

Look, I get it. For those who have become accustomed to the rules of the road of crony capitalism, and have had sweetheart deals and special arrangements no one else receives, it is tough when you are forced to play by the same rules as everyone else. While I am certainly not against using public investments in infrastructure as a catalyst for economic growth, I believe we must draw the line at outright corporate welfare.   

It is because we have invested in our economic fundamentals, not because of crony capitalism, that Chicago has led the country in corporate relocations and foreign direct investment every year for the last six years, a first for the City of Chicago.

It's also why we're happy to have failed to win the 2024 Olympics and Amazon's HQ2—because winning those things would have cost more than they were worth.

Who gives a hoot about the game?

Not, I assure you, the Superb Owl:

Every year about this time, internet searches for “Super Bowl” go way up. But so do searches for “Superb Owl,” as fast-typing fans put the space in the wrong place.

It has been noticed. This year, a search for “Super Bowl” on Google gets you the teams, time and location of the game. A search for “Superb Owl” gets you the same, plus a little cartoon of an owl.

Thursday night on “Jeopardy!” there was a Superb Owl category, with owl-related trivia. (Answer: The owl has traditionally been considered wise, as it was the bird of this Greek goddess. Question: Who is Athena?)

So if you mistyped Super Bowl and wound up here, that’s great. We have tons of stuff about the game.

But if you actually did want to know more about outstanding strigiformes (that’s owls), here’s a fascinating New York Times article about owls’ vision. It turns out they see the world much the way we do.

But given that who cares about the Patriots and the Rams shouldn't even be there today, 

Places I've never been before

I had thought about going to see the Chelsea v Bournemouth match at Stamford Bridge today, and even tried to get tickets online for weeks. But getting an English Premier League ticket when you're not a club member is a bit like trying to get a Yankees-Red Sox ticket at Fenway day of game.

I did, however, (a) see Stamford Bridge and (b) buy a shirt, so I feel a bit like I participated.

On the way back, I walked through Brompton Cemetery, which, like Graceland Cemetery back home, is something very close by that I haven't seen before. It was worth the detour:

Note how not very green the place is right now. The UK really hasn't gotten a lot of rain this summer. It's quite grim.

I will now take a brief nap before heading out to Hampstead Heath on my way to Southampton Arms. And if my favorite pub in the UK is also closed, I will...go somewhere else, I suppose.

Gooooool!

As I write this, my Ancestral Homeland's football team are up 1-0 over Croatia in the World Cup semifinals. This wasn't supposed to happen:

Since 2006, England’s performance on the world stage has been lamentable, a comedy of errors marked by group-stage evictions, racism scandals, and grifters. In 2016, after the abrupt departures of two successive managers, the former England player and manager of its feeder under-21 team Gareth Southgate was given temporary charge of the national team, a decision that seemed safe, if uninspired. Expectations for Russia 2018 were muted, to say the least. “Before the tournament started, I could not make a case for us winning it,” the former England captain Alan Shearer wrote, Eeyore-ishly, in a column for the BBC. “I just wanted to see some signs of improvement.”

What happened instead has been a surprisingly smooth path to Wednesday night’s semifinal against Croatia, as a youthful and undaunted England side swept away a nation’s pessimism. Southgate’s great accomplishment—aside from the manager’s natty collection of waistcoats—has been getting the squad to envision itself as a team, as opposed to a collection of surly prima donnas who’d rather be spending their summers on Roman Abramovich’s yacht. England has one of the youngest and most inexperienced squads of all the teams competing in Russia, with an average age of 26.

As England heads toward its Wednesday-night match with Croatia, the anticipation of a potential victory (and a spot in the finals for the first time in 52 years) offers some welcome relief from the turbulence surrounding Theresa May’s government and the ongoing gloom of Brexit. (Almost as perturbing as the England team’s current run of success is the fact that Sunday marked England’s 50th straight day of sunshine.) Waistcoat sales are cresting. Motorways and shopping malls are being abandoned. Even Southgate is daring to dream. “How far can we go?” he told The Guardian.Let’s push the boundaries, let’s create our own history.”

We've got the match on in the office. Updates as conditions warrant.

Morning links

I didn't have a chance to read these yesterday:

Now I'm off to work. The heat wave of the last few days has finally broken!

Quick update

Whiskyfest was Friday evening, so I spent yesterday doing quiet things around the house, including starting some projects for an upcoming staycation.

Today will be a little more running around, including possibly a vet visit since Parker has been staying off his right hind leg completely since yesterday evening. He had trouble getting up the stairs after his evening walk, but he doesn't seem to be in any active pain and the leg has full range of motion. I gave him an NSAID; we'll see if that helps.

In other news, Loyola advanced to the NCAA Final Four yesterday, and Duke plays Kansas tonight for the possibility.

As time permits today I'll have updates on Whiksyfest (i.e., which whiskies I'll be looking for), Duke, and Parker.

Elite Eight for Loyola

My #2 alma mater Loyola University Chicago's men's basketball team has done something for the first time in my life:

This marks the first time since 1963’s NCAA championship team that Loyola has remained alive this deep into the season. Wearing their championship rings, Jerry Harkness and several of his teammates sat in the front row at Philips Arena to cheer for the 2018 team.

The program hadn’t been to the NCAA tournament since 1985’s Sweet 16 squad. Now, the Ramblers will face Kansas State, a 61-58 victor over Kentucky, on Saturday in the NCAA South regional final.

Meanwhile, my #3 alma mater, Duke, plays Syracuse tonight.