Oh, where to begin? I'll start with the article of most use to actual people:
- Bruce Schneier outlines Zoom's sloppy security, bad privacy, and questionable labor practices that might make these things worse. (And yet, I'm probably going to subscribe today...)
- Jared Kushner, the Milo Minderbinder of 2020, has inserted himself in the White House Covid-19 response, and immediately made those efforts even less effective. (Note that Goldberg's column originally had the headline "Jared Kushner is going to get us all killed.")
- David Corn looks ahead to President Trump "spinning 200,000 coronavirus deaths as a win."
- The acting Navy Secretary, Thomas Modly, personally relieved Captain Brett Crozier of command of the USS Theodore Roosevelt following Crozier's memo to Navy leaders asking for help dealing with hundreds of sick sailors. Ironically, this action by political appointee Modly came with the rebuke that Crozier had acted outside the chain of command.
- Josh Marshall has two posts about how all those masks and gowns we've airlifted from China and other countries are actually going to private distributors who are making profits off them, often by selling them to foreign countries.
- Ed Yong in the Atlantic examines what we know and don't know about wearing face masks to slow coronavirus transmission.
- The Chicago Tribune shares some data about how things have changed since March 16th. For instance, sales of frozen cookie dough are up 570%, while CTA and Metra ridership is down 80%. (I put my own observations in an earlier post.)
Finally, satarist Andy Borowitz this morning jokes that "Fauci urges non-essential worker to go home." Three guesses who that worker is.
I missed an important one yesterday: on 2 April 2000, I moved back to Chicago from New York.
And a less important one, but interesting nonetheless: On this day in 1860, the Pony Express started expressing.
The Daily Parker will return to our ongoing festival of awful later today.
The Atlantic's Megan Garber looks at how the popular floorplan can make people crazy, which is what you get when architecture follows dudes liking TV shows with sledgehammers:
The popular open layout, for example, eschews walls and other spatial divisions in favor of openness, airiness, “flow.” (“Look how everything flows!” Brian Patrick Flynn, the designer of HGTV’s Dream Home 2020, says in a promotional video.) On the plus side, an open floor plan allows for constant togetherness. On the minus side … an open floor plan allows for constant togetherness. The style meant to reject domestic confinement can end up replicating some of the very flaws it was meant to mitigate, precisely in its eagerness to sacrifice privacy for openness.
“In general, it’s wonderful,” [Architect Susan] Susanka said of the open-concept approach to living spaces. “But when it’s done to an extreme, it makes it very difficult to live in the house, because your noise, whatever you’re doing, goes everywhere.” When the home involves kids, that borderlessness becomes even more acute. A child might need to be entertained or fed while her mom is on a conference call. An older sibling might be playing video games or watching a movie while her dad is trying to cook dinner. Another sibling might need a retreat from his co-quarantiners, and have no place to go. In an open space, one person’s activity becomes every person’s activity. Alone together, all the time: For many, that is the current state of things. The “See Also” section of Wikipedia’s “open plan” article cites only one related page: “panopticon.”
Last year, to mark the 25th anniversary of the launch of HGTV, the journalist and design critic Ronda Kaysen gave an interview to NPR. As she talked with the host Lulu Garcia-Navarro about the impact HGTV has had on American home design, Kaysen mentioned one of the design elements most readily associated with the network: the open-concept living space. “I spoke with HGTV executives,” Kaysen said. “And the reason that they are so big on open concept is because it gets the male viewers. Like, guys like to watch sledgehammers and, like, taking out walls.”
“Wait a second,” Garcia-Navarro replied. “Are you telling me that the open-plan concept, which we are all prisoner to, is because dudes like to watch HGTV and sledgehammers?”
Yes, was the answer. “Dudes will only watch HGTV if there’s sledgehammers,” Kaysen said. That assumption makes it way into the architecture. Openness remains the trend.
Me, I like my 1910s-era flat walking distance to just about everything. I've got real rooms!
More than 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment insurance last week (including 178,000 in Illinois), following the 3.3 million who filed the week before. This graphic from The Washington Post puts these numbers in perspective:
Hotel occupancy has crashed as well, down 67% year-over-year, with industry analysts predicting the worst year on record.
In other pandemic news:
Finally, unrelated to the coronavirus but definitely related to our natural environment, the Lake Michigan/Huron system recorded its third straight month of record levels in March. The lake is a full meter above the long-term average and 30 cm above last year's alarming levels.
Chicago Tribune architecture critic offers an alternative to sitting on your couch and bingeing Netflix:
Here’s a suggestion: Go out for a stroll and take in some architecture.
Walks are allowed under Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home order. You just have to be sure to maintain the social distancing that public health officials say is essential to halting the spread of the deadly virus.
If you know where to look, you might come across something fabulous. Not too far from where I live, for example, is Frank Lloyd Wright’s Frank J. Baker House, a Prairie style head-turner in the 500 block of Lake Street in Wilmette.
There are minor gems out there, too, like the Chicago Transit Authority "L" station in the 1000 block of Central Street in Evanston.
To get you going in the right direction on your walks, it helps to have a good guide. The one I highly recommend is the American Institute of Architects’ “AIA Guide to Chicago,” which, despite its 550-page bulk, is easy to tuck into your coat pocket.
I have this book, and I may go for a walk later today. Because my office, as entertaining as it is, has begun to feel cramped.
I had plans to do the Blogging A-to-Z challenge this year as I've done the last two, but reality intervened. In theory I have more time to write than last year. In fact I didn't have the energy required to plan and start drafting entries mid-March, for obvious reasons.
Things have stabilized since my office closed on the 17th, and I've gotten back into the swing of working from home every day. But I feel like a full 26-post series this month would not rise to my own standards of quality for permanent, information-based writing.
Check out my 2018 A-to-Z posts on C# programming and my 2019 posts on music theory. I'll do it again in 2021—or, possibly, in May.
Illinois Governor JB Pritzker extended the state's stay-at-home order through April 30th, which came as absolutely no surprise, as the state nears 6,000 total COVID-19 cases. Rush Hospitals predict 19,000 total cases in Illinois a week from now—far less than the 147,000 they predict would have shown up without the stay-at-home order.
In other news:
- During the Obama administration, the Health and Human Services Department paid $14 million to a Pennsylvania firm to manufacture low-cost ventilators that we could stockpile for emergencies. They took the money and never manufactured the inexpensive devices, preferring to make expensive ones instead.
- Kellyanne Conway previewed the lies the Trump Campaign will spread this fall, in particular that "no one could have predicted" the pandemic that literally everyone paying attention predicted.
- Speaking of moronic right-wing authoritarians, the dictator of Belarus believes that virus-control efforts are psychotic, and refuses to do anything to halt its spread there.
- Two economists at UC-Berkeley argue that the American relief effort, which focused on paying people directly, could have prevented lasting damage to the economy by paying employers to keep them employed instead, as most other democracies have done.
- Consumer Reports recommends using actual disinfectants to disinfect, not homemade sanitizer, vodka, vinegar, or tea tree oil.
- Stores have made changes to keep people separated and reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
- Looking to the near future, Libby Watson argues in The New Republic that COVID-19 will make our ongoing health insurance crisis unimaginably worse.
- Siddhartha Mukherjee, writing in the New Yorker, examines how the virus behaves within a human body.
- Finally, our very own moronic right-wing would-be authoritarian has used the distraction of the virus to roll back all of Obama's climate policy, today by loosening environmental standards for cars.
Oh, and the stock market suffered its worst first quarter. Ever.
Goldman Sachs released an economic outlook this morning predicting GDP growth of -9% in Q1 and -34% in Q2, along with 15% unemployment by June 30th. Both Calculated Risk and Talking Points Memo believe the recovery will take longer than the slowdown. In other words, we won't have a V or an L but probably something more like a U with a wide bottom.
I looked at some figures of my own. Looking at 4-week moving averages, as of Sunday my spending on groceries is up 37% from the period between January 27th and February 23rd, which includes a massive grocery bill for a party I threw on February 15th. But my spending on eating out is down 46%, and on lunch (I buy lunch nearly every day when I work downtown) is down 36%. And I have not taken public transit since March 16th, saving $45 a week right there.
I haven't stopped buying food from local restaurants entirely because I want them to be around in three months. Just, I get a lot less take-out food (every 5th lunch and every 5th dinner, staggered), and I don't buy take-out alcohol. (Of course, a local bar has a special deal of a fried chicken sandwich and old fashioned cocktail for $20.) I also have my dog walker coming in twice a week because I want him to be around in two months. His other job is that he plays jazz sax, so without the few walks I and other customers of the walking service send him, he'd have no income at all.
Obviously the uptick in groceries means I'm cooking more. Like last night, when I made my mom's tuna fish casserole recipe, and it came out like I remember it from childhood:
Just a few articles of note today:
- The City of Chicago urges residents to call 311 to report non-essential business remaining open.
- President Trump admitted on "Fox & Friends" this morning that adopting common-sense election reforms would mean "you'd never have a Republican elected in this country again." (Unless, I suppose, they changed their policies to match the mainstream, right?)
- The Times reports on General Motors' efforts to produce 2,000 ventilators a month (an order-of-magnitude change from now) even as the president slagged the company on Twitter.
- Jennifer Rubin points out that "Trump's narcissism has never been more dangerous."
- Richard Florida examines how society will need to change after the current stay-at-home phase of the pandemic passes.
And finally, London took advantage of reduced traffic on March 24th to give the Abbey Road zebra crossing a much-overdue paint job.
And now, Adult Storytime brings you Brenda's Beaver Needs a Barber: