The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Welcome to Summer 2021

The northern hemisphere started meteorological summer at midnight local time today. Chicago's weather today couldn't have turned out better. Unfortunately, I go into the office on the first and last days of each week, so I only know about this from reading weather reports.

At my real job, we have a release tomorrow onto a completely new Azure subscription, so for only the second time in 37 sprints (I hope) I don't expect a boring deployment. Which kind of fits with all the decidedly-not-boring news that cropped up today:

  • The XPOTUS and his wackier supporters have a new conspiracy theory about him retaking office in a coup d'état this August. No, really.
  • In what could only 100% certainly no doubt how could you even imagine a coincidence, former White House counsel Don McGahn will testify before the House Judiciary Committee tomorrow morning.
  • Also uncoincidentally, a group of 100 historians and political scientists who study this sort of thing have put out a statement warning of imminent democratic collapse in the US. “The playbook that the Republican Party is executing at the state and national levels is very much consistent with actions taken by illiberal, anti-democratic, anti-pluralist parties in other democracies that have slipped away from free and fair elections,” according to the Post.
  • Speaking of democratic backsliding, Josh Marshall takes the Israeli cognoscenti to task for still not getting how much the Israeli government aligning with an American political party has hurt them.
  • Here in Illinois, the state legislature adjourned after completing a number of tasks, including passing a $46 billion budget that no one got to read before they voted on it. (I'm doubly incensed about this because my own party did it. We really need to be better than the other guys. Seriously.)
  • For the first time since March 2020, Illinois has no states on its mandatory quarantine list. And we reported the fewest new Covid-19 cases (401) since we started reporting them.
  • The Northalsted Business Alliance wants to change the name of Chicago's Boystown neighborhood to...Northalsted. Residents across the LGBTQ spectrum say "just, no."

Finally, a Texas A&M business professor expects a "wave of resignations" as people go back to their offices.

Spooky Boi

Remember the deer in the cemetery? He's getting bolder:

He (I think it's a male fawn) let me get pretty close, and held still when I took photos through the fence:

A local artist named him "Spooky Boi," which fits, I think. It's pretty spooky when megafauna stares at you through a cemetery fence at 7am as you pass by with a dog.

Beautiful baserunning

In Pittsburgh yesterday, Cubs player Javier Báez drew the first baseman into a rundown between home and first, allowing another player to score, and then capitalized on the catcher's error to advance to second:

The Tribune:

With Willson Contreras on second, Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Erik González fielded Báez’s grounder and threw to first, but Will Craig caught the ball off the bag. Craig, instead of just trotting back and touching the base, advanced to try to tag Báez — and then Báez’s baserunning savvy kicked in.

As Contreras raced around third, Báez darted back toward the plate in spurts as if playing tag. Craig still hadn’t tagged Báez as Contreras dived toward home, and Craig’s toss to catcher Michael Perez was too late. After signaling Contreras should be safe, Báez then raced back to first. When Perez’s throw to first was off the mark and bounced into short right field, Báez made it to second.

The scoring determination: fielder’s choice, RBI, E2.

Báez said he simply was trying to help Contreras score by keeping Craig close to him so he would chase him. After Báez signaled Contreras safe — a moment that made Ross chuckle when watching the replay — he realized he should get back to first.

Note that all Will Craig had to do was step on first base to end the inning. Apparently he got confused, but only catcher Perez got charged with an error for his wild throw back to first.

The Cubs have won 9 of their last 11 games.

Removing highways

About two weeks ago I told a relative newcomer to San Francisco about the Embarcadero Freeway, which used to cover the Embarcadero from Fisherman's Wharf down to the Bay Bridge. From its construction in 1959 to its destruction (with the help of the Loma Prieta earthquake) in 1991, it stood, without question, as the biggest urban planning mistake west of the Rockies. Looking at it photos today makes me angry.

Removing I-480 showed other cities how their lives might improve if they also removed or buried freeways. Boston's Big Dig reconnected the North End with the Common; removing the eastern section of Rochester's Inner Loop has made that city more livable.

The New York Times reports on the other cities that have followed:

As midcentury highways reach the end of their life spans, cities across the country are having to choose whether to rebuild or reconsider them. And a growing number, like Rochester, are choosing to take them down.

In order to accommodate cars and commuters, many cities “basically destroyed themselves,” said Norman Garrick, a professor at the University of Connecticut who studies how transportation projects have reshaped American cities.

“Rochester has shown what can be done in terms of reconnecting the city and restoring a sense of place,” he said. “That’s really the underlying goal of highway removal.”

In recent years, more cities have started to seriously rethink some of their highways. The Congress for the New Urbanism, a group that tracks highway removals, counted 33 proposed projects in 28 American cities. And the idea is being discussed in many others.

Among the proposed removal plans: getting rid of the BQE in New York, the Buffalo Skyway, and New Orleans' Claiborne Expressway—all of them ugly roads that destroyed neighborhoods and made lives demonstrably worse. (See, for example, the Eisenhower Expressway in Chicago.)

Not under consideration? Burying I-90/94 in downtown Chicago. Maybe someday.

Chicago's LSD

We have an odd debate in Chicago about the name of our most iconic road. A group of aldermen want to change the name of Lake Shore Drive to Jean Baptiste Point du Sable Drive, in honor of the first non-native permanent settler, who was also Black. The (Black) mayor and a contingent of other aldermen of varying races disagree:

The proposal’s sponsors faced opposition from some colleagues and the mayor’s office over fears that renaming the iconic road would lead to a nightmare at the post office and for residents with thousands of address changes.

Ald. David Moore, 17th Ward, attempted to quell some of those concerns at a contentious committee meeting in late April, saying his proposal would only change the outer drive — not the inner, residential portion of the road. That meeting saw a shouting match between aldermen when the Chicago Department of Transportation tried to substitute Moore’s ordinance for one they said served the same purpose but cleared up confusing language.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot defended the move to delay the vote Wednesday, saying she has concerns over changing the name of Chicago’s most well-known roadway.

“It’s one of the most iconic assets the city has. When you say Lake Shore Drive, people know you’re talking about Chicago. And I think that that’s very important,” Lightfoot said.

The effort to get DuSable recognized on a grand scale in Chicago is not new. In the 1990s, then-Ald. Toni Preckwinkle introduced her own ordinance to rename Lake Shore to DuSable Drive, the Chicago Tribune reported.

His name is already affixed to several existing institutions, including the DuSable Museum of African American History, a high school and a monument on Michigan Avenue. But proponents have argued the man deemed the city’s “founding father” deserves more.

I find the whole thing odd. I have no idea which side to support, if either. We should have a DuSable drive. But we should also have Lake Shore Drive.

The decision won't come around again until late June. I'll keep my eyes peeled for follow-up stories on the subject.

Doe!

This morning while walking Cassie I saw a deer placidly grazing in St Boniface Cemetery by the Lawrence Ave. fence. Now, in most parts of the world, deer hang out in cemeteries about as often as corpses. And I have reported in these pages that St Boniface has a resident coyote population (which I expect the deer will discover at some point).

Coyotes are smart predators who typically eat rats and pigeons in urban settings. Also, coyotes can slip under low fences easily, as can most any 20-kilo canid. So while I always enjoy coyote sightings in my neighborhood (as long as they give me a wide berth), I am never surprised. But a deer? In St Boniface?

Since almost none of my readers lives in Chicago, let me show you a satellite image for context:

The nearest forest preserve is 6 km to the west. To the north and south, we have nothing but heavily urbanized Chicago, except for Graceland Cemetery four blocks away. And to the east, we have Lincoln Park along the lake—but also the 8-lane Lake Shore Drive.

Also, from dusk to dawn the cemetery is completely locked up. The east edge is a 4-meter concrete wall and the other three edges have a 3-meter fence. Deer can jump, sure, but 3 meters?

So how did the deer get into the cemetery, how did it get to the cemetery, and how are the cemetery staff going to safely exfiltrate the deer from the grounds before the coyote pack has a venison supper?

Draining the lake

Lake Michigan and Lake Huron water levels have dropped every month for the last 10, to about 60 cm below last July's record levels. The lake system is still about 60 cm above its mean level, but at least we can see our beaches again:

The receding water has been welcomed by some beach towns and lakefront parks that weathered destruction in recent years. A group of Great Lakes officials estimated at least $500 million of damage in cities last year.

The shift doesn’t mean shoreline communities are in the clear. Many are still working to preserve what’s left of disappearing bluffs, repair crumbling paths or get ahead of the next rise.

Changes in water level are driven by precipitation, runoff and evaporation. Lake Michigan topped the long-term average in 2014 and last year set a string of monthly records, hovering near the 1986 record high. Highs and lows have come and gone throughout the historical record, and climate change may bring increasing variability between the swings. But it’s still too early to say if the lower trend will continue.

The Park District has also, finally, repaired the fences at Montrose Beach, to the delight of lake-loving dogs all over the city.

Wednesday evening roundup

Happy Wednesday! Here's what I'm reading before my 8pm meeting, now that my 6:30pm meeting just ended:

And finally, the New Yorker's Tom Papa introduces you to "asshole cat behaviors."

No fuzzy-logic snooze button today

Not having an adolescent dog who wants her breakfast at 6am to contend with this morning meant I actually got to sleep in. (Yes, 7:15 is "sleeping in" when I'm in California, because that's 9:15 back home.)

The friends looking after Cassie reported last night: "Cassie's a bit confused...she said something about not signing up for the overnight package." This morning: "Very barky at noises. But she settled down. We're heading to the dog park after Meet the Press!" (Cassie will not be on the news program, but if I've taught her anything, she'll have a critical view of any politician who lies about the election.)

Off to coffee. Then a 3-kilometer walk to the train to start my social tour of the entire South Bay today.

Lovely to see you again

Almost 16 months since I last flew anywhere, I have returned to O'Hare:

Despite traveling on Saturday afternoon, which historically has meant few delays and a quiet airport, the traffic coming up here was so bad my car's adaptive cruise control gave up. But she got a treat once we got to economy parking:

I don't think I have ever parked that close to the elevators in 48 years of flying. Good thing, too, because the closest non-LEV space was in the next county.

Once I got into the terminal, it took less than 3 minutes to get through security. So the Saturday afternoon airport has at least met half of my expectations.

By my back-of-the-envelope calculations, I will spend 16 of the next 52 hours inside vehicles, moving or otherwise. I had planned to rent a car in San Francisco to see family tomorrow, but at $110 for a Yugo (plus gas, parking, etc) I just made a deal with my family to meet somewhere accessible by public transit. Since that describes almost the entire South Bay, they agreed. So, naturally, I've also brought three books.

Man, I missed air travel.

(NB: Cassie is at a friend's house "settling in well.")