Just a few for my commute home:
- New York Times reporter James Stewart interviewed Jeffrey Epstein on background a year ago, and it was weird.
- The Post analyzes temperature records to find which parts of the US have warmed faster than others.
- Chemist Caitlin Cornell may have discovered an important clue about the origin of life on Earth.
- The site of the city's first Treasure Island store, just two blocks from where I lived in Lakeview from 1994-1996, might become an ugly apartment tower unless residents can block it.
- Seva Safris digs into the differences (for good and ill) between JSON and XML.
- Timothy Kreider delivers a stinging rant against gun-rights advocates: "The dead in El Paso and Dayton, whether they were shopping for back-to-school backpacks or just out having beers and hoping to get laid on a Saturday night, gave their lives so that you might continue to enjoy those freedoms."
I will now return to my crash-course in matrix maths.
This morning, as Parker and I went for our pre-breakfast walk, we encountered this fluffy girl trotting down the street with no humans in sight:
We manage to corral her in a neighbor's yard, while I posted on Facebook and called animal control. She seemed healthy, well-fed, and accustomed to people and other dogs (though really scared and disoriented). Unfortunately she didn't have a name tag or a phone number.
Happy ending, though. After about 45 minutes her owners came by. They'd been canvassing the neighborhood for her. Apparently she jumped out of the car (saw a squirrel, maybe?) and then couldn't figure out where to go.
So, dog and family were reunited:
Her name is Ella, she's 2, and she's home.
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."
First, New York Times film critic A.O. Scott takes a second look at the 1999 film Election:
The movie has been persistently and egregiously misunderstood, and I count myself among the many admirers who got it wrong. Because somehow I didn’t remember — or didn’t see— what has been right there onscreen the whole time.
Which is that Mr. M is a monster — a distillation of human moral squalor with few equals in modern American cinema — and that Tracy Flick is the heroine who bravely, if imperfectly, resists his efforts to destroy her. She’s not Moby-Dick to his Ahab so much as Jean Valjean to his Inspector Javert.
Second, with Lake Michigan at record-high water levels for the second month in a row, several of Chicago's beaches have disappeared:
This year, the buoyant water has swallowed at least two Chicago beaches entirely and periodically closed others. It has swiped fishermen from piers, swimmers from beaches and submerged jetties, creating hazards for boaters. It has flooded heavily trafficked parts of lakefront bicycle and pedestrian pathways, leaving some stretches underwater and others crumbling.
But perhaps the most worrisome aspect of this summer is that these perils have occurred while the lake has remained mostly calm.
“Fall is the time of the year when wave conditions are historically the most severe on the Great Lakes,” said David Bucaro, outreach manager at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Chicago District. “We’re at a calmer period right now. There’s been some summer storms. But that October, November time period is when we really experience historically the most powerful coastal storms. That’s the conditions that we’re monitoring and are most concerned with.”
Should be fun this fall.
Next, writing for the LA Times, Rebecca Wexler points out that data-privacy laws giving law enforcement the power to snoop on electronic devices is deeply unfair to defendants for an unexpected reason:
Social media messages, photo metadata, Amazon Echo recordings, smart water meter data, and Fitbit readings have all been used in criminal cases. The new laws would limit how defendants can access this key evidence, making it difficult or impossible for defendants to show they acted in self-defense, or a witness is lying, or someone else is guilty of the crime.
The California Consumer Privacy Act, which was approved in 2018, allows law enforcement officers to obtain data from technology companies and prohibit those companies from immediately notifying the person they are investigating. Such delayed notice may be necessary to investigate someone who is dangerous or likely to destroy evidence or flee. But the law does not give defense investigators the same right to delay notification to witnesses or others — who might well pose a threat to the defendant — when they subpoena data from tech companies as part of the defense’s case.
I will now rejoin a long-running data analysis project, already in progress.
These movements crop up from time to time, and it's not going to happen in my lifetime. But the Tribune did a lengthy report on the latest effort to separate Chicago and the rest of Illinois into two states:
Over the past two years, the movement to divide the state of Illinois into two states — Cook County in one, the other 101 counties in the other — has been gaining support. In February, as Gov. J.B. Pritzker was pursuing an agenda for Illinois that included new tax and abortion policies, Halbrook refiled a resolution in the state legislature, HR 101, in which he and six co-sponsors asked the U.S. Congress to recognize Chicago as the 51st state. “I hear it a lot from my constituents, that we need to be separate from Chicago,” Halbrook says. “I thought yep, this is what we need to do.”
G.H. Merritt, a Lake County woman who founded New Illinois, the group hosting the Mount Vernon event, starts her presentation after the prayer and Pledge of Allegiance. She points out to the crowd — now using New Illinois brochures to fan themselves as the overwhelmed air conditioning loses its grip — that the idea of a state split isn’t new. In fact, groups from either downstate or Chicago have tried to secede from Illinois several times since 1840, when a group of northern counties asked to be given to Wisconsin. (The state line was set above the tip of Lake Michigan in 1818.) In the 1970s, a group of western counties dubbed themselves the Republic of Forgottonia. And in 1981, a Chicago legislator pushed a secession bill through the state Senate, as a public poke at downstate counties for complaining about CTA funding. The bill was tabled by then Speaker of the House George Ryan. Most recently, downstate legislators proposed a split in 2011, after election data showed that in 2010 Gov. Pat Quinn won only three downstate counties — and gained the governorship by carrying Cook County.
I mean, honestly. Why would anyone in Chicago want a "Southern Illinois" on our border with two Republican senators? Our current polarization is exactly the reason some sensible rejiggering of borders in the US won't happen. You want South Illinois? Great; admit Puerto Rico and DC at the same time.
Queued up a few articles to read after work today:
Now, off to find food, then back to the mines.
For seven of the last 11 days Chicago has had highs above 32°C, maxing out yesterday afternoon at 35°C. Then around 4pm yesterday, a cold front dropped temperatures 10°C in an hour—along with 20 mm of rain.
It wasn't the worst summer weather Chicago has had in its history, but we're pretty sure it'll be more common in years to come.
Four Chicago Tribune reporters had a race from Randolph and Michigan to O'Hare:
We sent four reporters, with carry-on luggage, in a personal car, a ride-share, on CTA and on Metra, starting at 2:15 p.m. Wednesday at the Prudential Building at Michigan Avenue and Randolph Street. The destination was Security Gate 3 in O'Hare's Terminal 1, with the goal of catching an imaginary 5 p.m. United Airlines flight.
The winner was an Uber ride-share that took 69 minutes, followed by the CTA at 80 minutes, a private car (parked at an economy lot) at 90 minutes and Metra at 98 minutes.
It's clear from our test that the fastest way is not the cheapest, while the cheapest way may not work for everybody. We also know the fastest way could have been the slowest if we had tried the race during rush hour. Improvements to the Blue Line and more frequent and/or express Metra North Central Service trains would have made these options even better than they already are.
The more nuanced verdict: If you're coming from most parts of the Loop, the Blue Line is probably your best value, especially during rush hour. From the West Loop (close to Union Station), at certain times of the day, Metra would be.
The article's graphics and animation are kind of cool. It's almost like the Tribune has brought itself into the 21st Century.
The forecast for much of the US Friday calls for hot and shitty weather, with continued hot and shitty weather into Saturday:
A heat wave featuring a life-threatening combination of heat and oppressive humidity has begun to spread across the United States, with excessive heat warnings and heat advisories in effect for at least 22 states and the District of Columbia. According to the National Weather Service, 51 percent of the Lower 48 states are likely to see air temperatures reach or exceed 35°C during the next seven days, with 85 percent experiencing temperatures above 32°C during the same period.
Washington could see its first high temperature at or above 38°C since 2016. In Chicago, the air temperature is also forecast to approach the century mark.
The heat index, which is a measure of how hot it feels to the human body when air temperatures are combined with the amount of moisture in the air, are forecast to climb into rare territory in many cities, from Chicago to Kansas City and eastward all the way north into southern New England.
According to the Weather Service forecast office in Chicago, “The heat is forecast to be oppressive and dangerous everywhere, with possibly some of the hottest conditions since 2012."
Stay cool, y'all. Excessive heat is the most dangerous weather. Hydrate, stay inside cool spaces, and limit your activities. Fun times, fun times.