The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

The Roscoe Squirrel Memorial is gone

The Chicago Dept of Transportation this morning removed and (they claim) preserved the "Chicago Rat Hole" on the 1900 West block of Roscoe St. in the North Center neighborhood. I admit, I never saw the Rat Hole in the flesh (so to speak), but I feel its absence all the same.

Moving on:

  • Three Republican Arizona state representatives voted with all 29 Democrats to repeal the state's 1864 abortion ban; the repeal now goes to the Arizona Senate.
  • Monica Hesse reminds people who say it's sexist to advocate for US Justice Sonia Sotomayor to retire before the end of President Biden's current term that advocates for former Justice Stephen Breyer to resign made much more noise.
  • Columbia University linguistics professor John McWhorter cautions student protestors that blaming Jews for the actions of the Israeli government is crossing a line. Bret Stephens concurs, describing attacks on Jewish students that belie the "peaceful" label of the pro-Palestinian protests.
  • NPR stops by historical markers at the side of the road, in all their raucous inaccuracy and frivolity. Like the 600 or so planted by the Daughters of the Confederacy, which offer even less accuracy and frivolity than most.
  • Meanwhile, the New York Times tunes into the "crisis" at NPR, which has lost nearly a third of its audience since 2020.
  • Four people and a horse needed medical treatment and several vehicles needed repairs in London this morning after five of the King's Household Cavalry mounts panicked and ran from a training exercise, making it from near Buckingham Palace all the way to St Paul's before the Met could corral them.

Finally, are you an extrovert, and introvert, and ambivert, an omnivert, or some other kind of green French thing? National Geographic explains the first four.

Another lovely day

Except for the sun blinding me around 5:30 pm every day due to a quirk in my house's architecture (I will eventually fix it with window treatments), I love sunny spring days. Cassie and I have already spent almost an hour outside and we'll spend another 45 minutes or so when I get back from an odd music gig that I'll describe tomorrow or Monday.

I wanted to highlight just one story from earlier this week, by New Republic's Kate Aronoff, with the accurate and delightful headline "Anything Elon Musk can do a bus can do better:"

Whether on electrification or autonomous vehicles, Tesla has long been hailed as a company uniquely capable of revolutionizing transportation, with Elon Musk portrayed as the big brain in charge. A series of high-profile blunders, though—like Cybertrucks with stick accelerators and a wrongful death settlement—have cast doubt on Tesla’s capacity to speed the world toward an electrified future. Policymakers might want to start asking themselves: When it comes to creating a transportation system fit for our climate-changed twenty-first century, what can Elon Musk do that the humble city bus cannot?

Public buses are an unbeatable value. Here in New York City, $2.90 will get you between and within boroughs, usually just a few blocks from your door. A pilot program initiated last fall included one fare-free route in each borough, in the hopes of eventually making buses free throughout. Boston made a number of bus lines fare-free this year, as well. Olympia and many other Washington municipalities have embraced free buses throughout their entire transit system, following the example set in 2019 by Kansas City, Missouri, and Raleigh, North Carolina. Luxembourg offers free public transit nationwide, and several other countries offer free buses, trams, and trains to people under 18, students, and senior citizens.

The cheapest Tesla, by contrast, costs nearly $40,000, which isn’t counting the cost of insurance, financing, and all the other headaches involved in purchasing and owning a car. Elon Musk has allegedly scrapped plans to make what would have been Tesla’s most affordable offering yet, a smaller car slated to be priced at around $25,000. That announcement had already been delayed for several years, reportedly because Musk demanded that his engineers produce a vehicle without pedals or a steering wheel.

Finally, public buses offer something to the challenge of decarbonizing transportation that Elon Musk never can: scale. If the goal of decarbonized transit is to get as many people moving using as little carbon as possible, then it’s wildly more efficient to invest more public resources into electrifying and expanding mass transit options than in helping a billionaire sell more luxury items.

Aronoff doesn't even need to point out that Musk himself has never invented a single goddamned thing. He leveraged a family fortune made in Apartheid South Africa into controlling shares of several companies that eventually all failed, whether completely or just simply never lived up to the hype.

But Aronoff is right. I've visited London 20 times in the last 10 years and only twice have I had to resort to taking a hired car—once when the Southern Rail went on strike the day I flew into Gatwick last summer, and once when I was well pissed and didn't want to wait for a bus in the rain. Trains and buses cover the entire Southeast region, run all night in most cases, and don't cost all that much. Chicago has them too. Who needs a Tesla truck that will cut your fingers off if you try closing the trunk?

Busy news day

It's a gorgeous Friday afternoon in Chicago. So why am I inside? Right. Work. I'll eventually take Cassie out again today, and I may even have a chance to read all of these:

Finally, a milestone of sorts. The retail vacancy rate in downtown Chicago continues to climb as a longtime institution on North Wells finally closed. That's right, Wells Books, the last adult-entertainment store in the Loop, has closed.

Hoping not to get rained on this afternoon

A whole knot of miserable weather is sneaking across the Mississippi River right now, on its way to Chicago. It looks like, maybe, just maybe, it'll get here after 6pm. So if I take the 4:32 instead of the 5:32, maybe I'll beat it home and not have a wet dog next to me on the couch later.

To that end I'm punting most of these stories until this evening:

Finally, if you have an extra $500 lying around and want to buy a nice steak with it, Crain's has options ranging from 170 grams of Chateau Uenae rib-eye steak (and a glass of water) at RPM on down to a happy hour of rib-eye steak frites for eight at El Che. The txuleton at Asador Bastian for $83 seems like a good deal to me, even without three other people or a bottle of wine to bring the bill up to $500. But the Wagyu? Maybe if I get a bonus next year. A guy can dream.

Windy spring day

A cold front passed this morning right after I got to the office, sparing me the 60 km/h winds and pouring rain that made the 9am arrivals miserable. The rain has passed, but the temperature has slowly descended to 17°C after hanging out around 19°C all night. I might have to close my windows tonight.

I also completed a mini-project for work a few minutes ago, so I now have time to read a couple of stories:

And now, back to the next phase of the mini-project...

One more day of perfect weather

We're once again basking in 21°C sun, prompting me to take Cassie on a 47-minute walk at lunchtime. Unfortunately, with a board meeting and rehearsal this evening, that leaves less time for doing my actual work, so I have to go back to that now.

Like I said yesterday, the next couple of weeks will be a bit busy.

Average is good sometimes

I did not win theEuchre tournament yesterday, nor did I exactly lose. I did screw up once, losing 3 points unnecessarily, but my overall score of 52 was slightly above average. The 3rd, 2nd, and winning totals were 61, 62, and 75, so overall the bell curve had very high kurtosis.

Today, Cassie and I took a 10½-kilometer walk in an hour and 47 minutes, about 3x faster than a specific portly beagle but not the fastest she's ever walked. We had a lovely late-May morning and early afternoon that is gradually becoming mid-April again:

Not exactly a pneumonia front, is it? Plus it feels quite nice right now, and will continue down to some really good sleeping weather (around 12°C).

I've got a lot going on the next three weeks, including four performances, plus another performance mid-May. The posting slow-down might continue for a bit.

It's in the cards

I'm heading off to a Euchre tournament in a bit. I haven't played cards with actual, live people in quite some time, so I just hope to end up in the middle of the pack. Or one perfect lay-down loner... A guy can dream.

When I get home, I might have the time and attention span to read these:

  • John Grinspan looks at the similarities and crucial differences between the upcoming election and the election of 1892.
  • Andy Borowitz jokes about the latest of Robert F Kennedy's conspiracy theories: that his own brain is being controlled by a complete idiot.
  • Why do so many of the country's most infamous serial killers come from the Midwest? (Perhaps because it's the home of Kellogg's and General Mills?)
  • Michael Sweeney reviews all the errors of navigation and judgment that led to the RMS Titanic sinking 110 years ago tomorrow.
  • Speaking of navigation, researchers have found evidence that a sense of direction comes from experience, not genetics.
  • Meagan McArdle describes the Oedipus Trap that led Dr Walter Freeman to continue lobotomizing patients years after the horrors of the procedure became clear to just about everyone else, and what this means for some contemporary medical thinking.

Finally, the weather forecast this weekend calls for some real Chicago spring weather: 19°C and sunny today, 22°C and sunny tomorrow...and 9°C with a stiff breeze from the northeast tomorrow afternoon. If you head out to enjoy the warmth tomorrow lunchtime, make sure you have a sweater because it'll be 15°C by dinner.

Things we probably could have predicted

The older I get, the less human beings surprise me. Oh, individual people surprise me all the time, mainly because I have smart and creative friends. But groups of people? They're going to be unsurprising and kind of dumb almost always.

Cases in point:

  • The Arizona Supreme Court's decision allowing enforcement of a pre-statehood, Civil War-era abortion law looks even worse when you learn what else is in the 1864 Howell Code.
  • Chicago's Loop neighborhood has 6,000 unsold luxury condos, with no more new projects underway, in part because developers failed to predict that 3% interest rates wouldn't last forever. This, to me, looks like failing to predict it will rain in Seattle eventually, because it hasn't rained in a week.
  • Forget Detroit and Houston; even ultra-wealthy municipalities like Santa Clara, Calif., have obstinately failed to predict that they would ever have to pay ruinous costs to maintain all the infrastructure they built last century.
  • Young women embracing the role of "tradwife" (i.e., becoming a 1950s-style woman of leisure or "stay-at-home-girlfriend") seem destined to unhappy long-term consequences of becoming someone's accessory.
  • Author John Scalzi provides advice which even he thinks aspiring authors should already know: don't fabricate quotes by living authors to sell your new manuscript because you will get caught.

Finally, author Gary Shteyngart floats off on the maiden voyage of Royal Caribbean's Icon of the Seas, the largest cruise ship ever built, and finds what can only be described as a very specific slice of humanity that would make the Golgafrinchans proud.

One news story eclipsed all the others

Ah, ha ha. Ha.

Anyway, here are a couple other stories from the last couple of days:

Finally, Ohio State wildlife and ecology professor Stanley Gehrt has written a book I will have to stop myself (for now) from adding to my ever-expanding shelf of books I need to read. Gehrt spent decades studying Chicago's coyote population and how well they co-exist with us, tagging more than 1,400 coyotes and collaring another 700.

My only complaint about the animals is they don't eat enough rabbits. I live near several suspected dens, the closest only about 400 meters from my front door. I can't wait to read the book.

As for the risks coyotes pose to humans, he lets us know who the real enemy is: “If you were to ask me, ‘What’s the most dangerous animal out there [for urban dwellers]?’, it’s white-tailed deer,” Gehrt said.