The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

No, there is no nude beach in Rogers Park

That's just one of the absurdities that I encountered over the course of the last 24 hours:

  • A prankster put up an official-looking sign declaring Loyola Beach on the north side of Chicago clothing-optional. Unfortunately no one was fooled.
  • For the 15th or 20th time since its founding, critics accuse the US Navy of adapting too slowly to emerging risks in order to preserve tradition and Mississippi jobs. (Really, this comes up about every 20 years.)
  • Of course, it doesn't help that we currently have no Chief of Naval Operations, Army Chief of Staff, or Marine Commandant, thanks to US Senator Tommy "Never Could Beat Alabama" Tuberville (R-AL).
  • A working group that didn't include historians has proposed how sweeping changes to Chicago-area transit can help it become more like 1960s Baltimore more quickly: concentrate on "financial viability" at the expense of fast, frequent service. Because we really have learned nothing in the last 75 years.
  • Illinois has become the third-largest home of data center space in part because we have a lot of office parks no one wants anymore.

Finally, Arizona continues to allow residential development as if the state has as much available water as Illinois. Because we really have learned nothing in the last 75 years.

Last hot weekend of 2023, I hope

The temperature has crept up towards 34°C all day after staying at a comfortable 28°C yesterday and 25°C Friday. It's officially 33°C at O'Hare but just a scoshe above 31°C at IDTWHQ. Also, I still feel...uncomfortable in certain places closely associated with walking. All of which explains why I'm jotting down a bunch of news stories to read instead of walking Cassie.

  • First, if you have tomorrow off for Labor Day, you can thank Chicago workers. (Of course, if you have May 1st off for Labor Day, you can also thank us on the actual day that they intended.)
  • A new study suggests 84% of the general population want to experience an orchestral concert, though it didn't get into how much they want to pay for such a thing. (You can hear Händel's complete Messiah on December 9th at Holy Name Cathedral or December 10th at Millar Chapel for just $50!)
  • An FBI whistleblower claims Russian intelligence co-opted Rudy Giuliani in the run-up to the 2020 election—not as a Russian agent, mind you, just as a "useful idiot."
  • Rapper Eminem has told Republican presidential (*cough*) candidate Vivek Ramaswamy—who Michelle Goldberg calls "very annoying"—to stop using his music in his political campaign.
  • The government of Chile has promised to investigate the 3000 or so disappearances that happened under dictator Agosto Pinochet, though they acknowledge that it might be hard to find the ones thrown out of helicopters into the sea, or dropped down mine shafts. And with most of the murderers already dead of old age, it's about time.
  • Julia Ioffe wonders when the next putsch attempt will get close to Moscow, now that Prigozhin seems to be dead.
  • About 70,000 people continue to squelch through ankle-deep mud at Black Rock City after torrential rains at Burning Man this weekend. (I can't wait to see the moop map...)
  • University of Michigan Law Professor Nicholas Bagley had a cogent explanation of why pharmaceutical companies don't want to negotiate drug prices with Medicare. (Hint: record profits.)
  • Switching Chicago's pre-World War II bungalows from gas to electric heating could cut the city's GHG emissions by 14%.
  • Molly White's weekly newsletter starts off with some truly clueless and entitled behavior from Sam Bankman-Fried and gets weirder.
  • Zoning laws, plus the inability of the Portland, Ore., government to allow variances in any useful fashion, has condemned an entire high school to send its kids an hour away by bus while the building gets repaired, rather than just across the street to the community college many of them attend in the evenings. (Guess what skin color the kids have. Go on, guess.)
  • A group of hackers compromised a Portuguese-language "stalkerware" company and deleted all the data the company's spyware had downloaded, as well as the keys to the compromised phones it came from, then posted the company's customer data online. "Because fuck stalkerware," they said.
  • Traffic engineers, please don't confuse people by turning their small-town streets into stroads. It causes accidents. Which you, not they, have caused.
  • Illinois had a mild and dry summer, ending just before our ferociously hot Labor Day weekend.
  • James Fallows talks about college rankings, "which are marginally more encouraging than the current chaos of College Football."

Finally, I'll just leave this Tweet from former labor secretary Robert Reich as its own little monument to the New Gilded Age we now inhabit:

Last day of summer

Meteorological autumn begins at midnight local time, even though today's autumn-like temperatures will give way to summer heat for a few days starting Saturday. Tomorrow I will once again attempt the 42-kilometer walk from Cassie's daycare to Lake Bluff. Will I go 3-for-4 or .500? Tune in Saturday morning to find out.

Meanwhile:

  1. Quinta Jurecic foresees some problems with the overlapping XPOTUS criminal trials next year, not least of which is looking for a judicial solution to a political problem.
  2. Even though I prefer them to rabbits, even I can see that Chicago has a rat problem.
  3. Pilot Patrick Smith laments the endless noise in most airport terminals, but praises Schiphol for its quiet. (Yet another reason to emigrate?)

Finally, it seems like anyone with a valid credit card number (their own or someone else's) can track the owner of that credit card on the New York City subway. I wonder how the MTA will plug that particular hole?

Should I retire to the Netherlands?

Not Just Bikes celebrates 5 years living in the Netherlands by raving about how the Netherlands' anti-car development patterns make just about every city in the country nicer to live than just about anywhere in North America:

I'm about 3/4 the way through Nicholas Dagen Bloom's The Great American Transit Disaster, having just finished the chapter on how Detroit's combination of racism, suburban/urban hostility, lack of vision, and massive subsidies for car infrastructure while starving public transit gave us the hollowed-out hellscape the city has become. This, after reading the chapter on how Atlanta's combination of racism, suburban/urban hostility, lack of vision, and massive subsidies for car infrastructure while starving public transit gave us the depressing echo of its former glory the city has become. And the chapter on how Chicago's combination of racism, suburban/urban hostility, and massive subsidies for car infrastructure almost—but not quite—overcame the city's history as the country's largest railroad hub with rail-driven suburban development along the Chicago & North Western and Chicago, Burlington & Quincy railroad lines.

Sigh.

I'm nowhere near retiring. And even though I work for an international company,  reporting up to the London office, my team are 100% Chicago-based for the time being. But when I'm old and decrepit 40 years from now, I imagine getting around a country that cares about its public transit might be easier than even one of the most transit-friendly cities in North America.

Incoming weather system

We get blizzards and heat waves in Chicago. Guess which one we get tomorrow? The forecast still calls for 36°C temperatures with heat indices around 42°C. But Inner Drive Technology World Headquarters is only 2.1 km from Lake Michigan. At Chicago's official weather station at O'Hare, which is 23.3 km from the Lake, it looks a bit grimmer: 37°C with a heat index of 43°C.

WGN's Tom Skilling and Bill Snyder admit that some of the models call for 38°C or 39°C, but they manually adjusted the forecast because the models don't all agree:

Temps at or above 100 in Chicago are rare. Since official records began in the city 153 years ago in 1871, there have only been 62 days with highs at or above 100 degrees. And at the Midway Airport site on the city’s South Side where weather observations have been archived since 1928, on only 92 occasions over that 95 year period has a reading of 100 degrees or higher occurred.

There’s a reason for the scarcity of such EXTREME HEAT. The fact is, nature finds ways to derail the development of such intense heat. That’s why as forecasters, we’re careful about predicting such readings and must ALWAYS MAKE IT CLEAR there are forces which have been around over the term of official weather observations which work to keep a 100-degree readings from happening. The best evidence currently available suggests a 99-degree high is a strong possibility Wednesday — a reading just one degree shy of a triple-digit reading and, if it occurs, a record breaker which would exceed the old August 23rd record Chicago high of 97 degrees. Thursday could see a 100-degree high, but the potential for a front to sag into the area and turn winds off the lake at some point in the afternoon isn’t completely off the table. ALSO, though not expected at the moment, the development of thunderstorms — even if close-by — can send a cooling outflow of air into the area aborting a 100-degree temperature.

What’s interesting is even if a cold front comes into the picture Thursday, the convergence of winds along that front can lead to heating which would be capable of sending Chicago-area highs to 100, which would tie the record for August 24 and become a windshift behind the front that would send temps falling.

(Note that WGN, unlike 95.6% of the world's population, still uses the obsolete Fahrenheit scale in its reports.)

In other words, 36°C is the low estimate for the heat we're about to get. If the temperature does get above 38°C, though, it will be the first time since July 2012 that we've experienced anything that hot here.

At least we have trees to shade our walks in my part of the city. Writer Tiffany Owens Reed lives in Waco, Texas, whose urban design she says better suits lizards than people:

Before the advent of air conditioners, hot weather was something that architects and city planners had to respond to with creativity. The weather was something to adapt to, to work with, to manage…not merely to escape. For example, in Bologna, architects responded to hot weather by building a network of covered walkways that allowed pedestrians to wander the city fully shaded except for the brief moments during which they crossed the street from one walkway to another. We can see a similar sentiment at play with the ornate covered passageways of Turin, Italy. In the U.S. when touring old cities like Charleston, South Carolina, we can see evidence of similar accommodations in the deep, wide porches circling old houses.

Seeing the city as a destination for humans to inhabit and explore, and as a conduit for experiencing nature would lead to different design priorities, similar to what we see with public splash pads, rivers cleaned up for public swimming, or railways turned into parks for lounging (as in the case of Manhattan’s Highline)

If the main assumption is that humans won’t be spending time outside, that discourages these kinds of weather-considerate features and what we get instead is what my husband and I have come to call “lizard architecture”: a homogenous style of design imported to cities by developers who lack regionally specific weather consciousness and that would probably be more conducive to designing for reptiles than for humans.

Lizard architecture might not be the most scientifically accurate name for this style of design, but it provides my husband and me much comic relief as we drive around, spotting massive, unshaded parking lots, exposed outdoor dining areas, and unshaded walkways…design features that make it extremely uncomfortable to be a human outside for extended periods of time. It’s the kind of design that indicates to me an overreliance on technology to solve our discomforts and an inability to imagine cities as spaces where folks might want to experience nature, even when it’s hot. More mindful, human-centric city designers would consider the possibility that humans actually want to be outside, not just as environments to move through as quickly and comfortably as possible.

Our heat wave should end Friday morning, with a cool front coming in from the north dropping temperatures as low as 16°C by Saturday night. Then we head into the last week of summer, with autumn officially beginning next Friday, when I plan once again to try walking a full 42.2 km.

Chuckles all afternoon

My home office sits at the top of my house as a loft over the floor below. I think it could not have a more effective design for trapping hot air. (Fortunately I can let a lot of that out through this blog.) This afternoon the temperature outside Inner Drive Technology World Headquarters didn't quite make 25°C, and it's back down to 23°C with a nice breeze coming through the window. Wednesday and Thursday, though, the forecast predicts 36°C with heat indices up to 43°C. Whee. (It gets a lot better Saturday.)

Meanwhile, in the more comfortable parts of the world:

  • Jamie Bouie reminds everyone what I've said repeatedly: Rudy Giuliani has always been an unhinged and reprehensible character. Thanks for finally noticing.
  • Speaking of authoritarians who hate the press, law professor Gregory Magarian digs into the Marion, Kansas, newspaper raid, which the Post says came about because the paper committed journalism on a corrupt police chief.
  • Rolling Stone helpfully catalogues malignant narcissist Elon Musk's biggest lies.
  • One of his lies, or at least one of his latest manifestations of abject incompetence at running a tech company, came earlier this week when he mused about ending the "block" feature on the app formerly known as Twitter, despite that move probably getting it kicked off the iPhone and Android platforms.
  • A judge sentenced an Ohio teenager to concurrent 15-to-life terms for killing her boyfriend and one of his friends by driving her car into a brick wall at 160 km/h.
  • American Airlines has sued Skiplagged, claiming the company tricks people into violating American's terms of service—and worse, doesn't actually save their customers any money.

Finally, a change to zoning laws in Auckland, N.Z., appears to have done what its proponents predicted: increasing housing and slowing rent increases. It's almost like single-family zoning was designed to keep those people out. Next thing, they'll start discover that zoning combined with redlining kept millions of credit-worthy people from ever building wealth for their families and led the US to an unsustainable pattern of urban development that will cost us trillions to fix. Crazy.

Temperature 26, dewpoint 22

I just got back from walking Cassie for about half an hour, and I'm a bit sticky. The dog days of summer in Chicago tend to have high dewpoints hanging out for weeks on end, making today pretty typical.

Our sprint ends Tuesday and I still have 3 points left on the board, so I may not have time to give these more than a cursory read:

Finally, Andrew Sullivan adapts a column he wrote in August 2001 asking, "why can't Americans take a vacation?" One reason, I believe: all the time and money we spend in and on our cars.

Auto-oriented development is a radical monopoly

Strong Towns summarizes an essay by Ivan Illich in which he explains how drivers, and not cars, are the product of the automobile industry. Cars, and car-focused infrastructure, create the problems that car ownership is supposed to solve in the first place:

[Illich] looks at the ratio of time invested to not just miles, but the utility we extract from that investment. If driving around for three hours allows me to travel 15 miles at 30–45 mph and accomplish three errands, Illich would focus less on the mileage and speed and more on the utility: should it really have cost me three hours (not to mention the gas) to accomplish these three errands, or is there a scenario in which I could have accomplished them in one half or one third of that time?

Auto-oriented thinking would focus on the mileage and speed: look at how much faster I can travel! Look at how far I can go! But if that mileage is mostly just a product of land use laws that spread destinations apart, then it’s a deceptive metric and one that traps cities into thinking that adding more car infrastructure is the only solution to any mobility-related challenges. This would be an example of what Illich calls a radical monopoly: a system in which a tool is presented as the solution to a problem that it causes in the first place. In our cities, cars are presented as the solution to sprawl, dangerous roads, and disconnected neighborhoods. But these design patterns exist because they are necessary to mandate the purchase and use of cars.

Real transit innovation would require setting different goals and setting out to solve real problems, not problems created to ensure the purchase of a machine. The goal for local transit systems shouldn't be to cover more speed at a faster distance. That’s suitable for traveling the world, not for running errands. When thinking about local transit systems, the goal should be to give people back their time and empower them to get more done in less of it.

In other words, if you need to own a car because everything you need is too far to walk, and also because your city hasn't got any other transit infrastructure, then car-oriented development patterns become self-reinforcing.

Illich does some other math:

The model American puts in 1600 hours to get 7500 miles: less than five miles per hour. In countries deprived of a transportation industry, people manage to do the same, walking wherever they want to go, and they allocate only 3 to 8 percent of their society's time budget to traffic instead of 28 percent. What distinguishes the traffic in rich countries from the traffic in poor countries is not more mileage per hour of lifetime for the majority, but more hours of compulsory consumption of high doses of energy, packaged and unequally distributed by the transportation industry.

Someday, probably sooner than most Americans think, we're going to have significantly less energy to expend on driving cars. Again, this is why I live in Chicago. And why I have very little sympathy for people who choose to live in Schaumburg.

Lunch links

I love it when something passes all the integration tests locally, then on the CI build, and then I discover that the code works perfectly well but not as I intended it. So while I'm waiting for yet another CI build to run, I'm making note of these:

Finally, WBEZ made me a shopping list of locally-produced hot sauces. First up: Cajun Queen—apparently available about a kilometer away.

A sense of place

Not Just Bikes shows the difference between places and non-places in ten short minutes:

Fortunately the part of Chicago where I live has a sense of place that he'd recognize, but you have to cross a stroad (Ashland to the east, Western to the west, Irving Park to the south, Peterson to the north) to get to another place like this.

I also can't help but think that a new culture will arise in a couple of millennia that will look at "the great American roads" as something to emulate. Maybe the Romans had culture critics arguing against expanding the 8-lane highways running through their cities too?