The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

School's still out

The Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union keep butting heads, resulting in CPS closing the schools for another day tomorrow:

Chicago Public Schools and the teachers union have filed unfair labor charges against one another, with each side asking state officials to end the current dispute over in-person learning in their favor.

The latest escalation in the conflict over adequate COVID-19 safety measures in schools comes as CPS saw a new record number of coronavirus cases Tuesday — the last day of classes before the lack of agreement with the Chicago Teachers Union shut down schools districtwide for two days.

As CPS and the union continued their fight Thursday, Illinois reported another record-shattering day for new COVID-19 infections, with 44,089 new confirmed and probable cases reported statewide, with a record 7,098 people hospitalized with the virus overnight Wednesday.

The Mayor and CTU have been at loggerheads for most of her term. Naturally, the parents wish a pox on both their houses:

It’s not clear how long the impasse could last. The city filed an unfair labor practice complaint against the union, and officials are considering litigation to force teachers back to their classrooms if negotiations continue to stall, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Wednesday.

Parents said they’re desperate for a resolution — and a stable learning environment for their kids.

Numerous parents said they scrambled to find last-minute child care Wednesday. The union did not announce its vote to go remote and CPS didn’t officially inform families there wouldn’t be classes until about 11 p.m. Tuesday.

Jennifer Jones, whose two teenagers attend large Northwest Side high schools, said she fully supports the union’s vote to go remote and she was disappointed CPS canceled classes. Jones said her sons are prepared to learn remotely and feel safer learning from home with cases spiking citywide and inconsistent mask-wearing at school.

“Given the ongoing pandemic, CPS should have been prepared for a switch to remote learning,” Jones said.

Josh Marshall sees similar fights brewing in other cities, and concludes that the people making decisions about schools aren't the ones affected:

There’s a deep conventional wisdom out there which has it that liberal Twitter and the broader Blue State commentariat is a hotbed of demands for school closures. The reality is almost diametrically opposed to this. From mid-2020 the country’s most esteemed and prestigious liberal/cosmopolitan publications, electronic broadcasts and university programs have been dominated by voices of highly educated, affluent and mostly white people demanding schools never close, even for brief periods, and almost always in the name of students from minority and/or marginalized communities.

But there is an upside down character to the image these demands create. In fact, during the pre-vaccine period, when significant sections of the country remained in remote leaning, it was precisely these communities which were most resistant to going back to in-person education. The blunt reality is that the staunchest voices against school closures of any sort for any duration are people with PhDs working from home.

And Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot's re-election chances took another hit today when former CPS CEO and US Education Secretary Arne Duncan made some noises about running against her.

Winter, CPS, CTU, and THC

Every so often in the winter, a cold front pushes in overnight, giving us the warmest temperature of the day at midnight. Welcome to my morning:

The sun actually came out a few minutes ago—right around the time the temperature started dropping faster.

The forecast says temperatures will continue falling to about -12°C by 3pm, rise ever so slightly overnight and tomorrow, then slide on down to -17° from 3pm tomorrow to 6am Friday. And, because it's Chicago, and because the circumpolar jet stream looks like Charlie Brown's shirt right now, between 6am Friday and 9pm Saturday the temperature will steadily rise more than 20°C (that's 36°F to the luddites out there), peaking at 3°C around 9pm Saturday.

Before the cold front hit last night, the Chicago Teachers Union voted to halt in-person teaching, citing alarming Covid numbers. The Chicago Public Schools promptly locked them out of virtual teaching, giving about 100,000 nothing to do and nowhere to go. (Some CPS staff have at least opened the school buildings so kids can get lunches and stay warm, but the SEIU won't cross what it sees as a picket line, so...)

Since most of the area's colleges and universities have moved back to virtual instruction for the next two weeks, I have trouble understanding the CPS position here, or why CPS locked the teachers out. Sure, the teachers may lose a day's pay, but the kids will suffer more harm than either organization.

Chicago's public health officials say the schools are safe, with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot complaining that "There’s no reason to shut down the entire system, particularly given the catastrophic consequences that will flow." But the CTU didn't call a work stoppage; they called for virtual classes, something CPS has done for almost two years. That leaves me with the impression that Lightfoot and CPS want to stand up to the CTU more than they want to find a solution.

Frankly, both sides look bad here. And again: the kids get the worst of it.

Hard to imagine why Illinois recreational marijuana sales doubled to $1.38 billion in 2021.

Pandemic + guns = mayhem

Chicago had almost 800 murders last year, the first time since 1996 that we've seen so many:

But that total count does not include people shot and killed in shootings on Chicago expressways, as they are the jurisdiction of the Illinois State Police. When that number is included the city reached at least 800 homicides, according to Tribune reporting in 2021.

The CPD figure also does not include self-defense shootings or fatal shootings by police officers.

All told, there were at least 4,300 gunshot victims, including those who suffered both fatal and nonfatal injuries, according to CPD data. The number is a significant increase from 2018, when 2,800 people were shot.

The increase in gun violence, mirrored in other major cities, has coincided with the two years of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

Yes, it did coincide with the pandemic, but the conservative Chicago Tribune muddies the waters a bit. In the last two years, Americans bought more guns than in any other two-year period. According to The Guardian, 5.4 million Americans bought guns for the first time in from January 2020 to April 2021, compared with 2.4 million in 2019.

The US Supreme Court's Republican majority seems poised to invalidate the last remaining restrictions on who can carry a firearm in public. What will it take to restore meaningful gun regulations in the US? Or at least in places like Chicago that need them?

A little discomfort now, a lot more comfort later

Despite the forecast of 200+ mm of snow overnight, we got about 50 over here. O'Hare reported 100 mm of snow on the ground at 6am, which again didn't even come close to the dire warnings we got Friday night.

Still, the sidewalks by my house have snow, slush, and salt all over them, which Cassie discovered (mostly to her delight) first thing this morning. Within 10 minutes, she'd gotten ice and salt lodged into one of her pads and had to hop the last 20 meters to the door.

I have a solution for that: dog boots. Parker's old boots just fit Cassie, though she expressed a bit of skepticism mixed with heartbreaking trust as I got them over her paws:

And just like Parker the first time he wore those same boots, Cassie figured out pretty quickly that they had benefits. We just did a 2-kilometer rectangle around the neighborhood with her bouncing through the snow and not getting salt in her pads.

Bonus photo from yesterday morning:

Goldfinger Brewing, Downers Grove

Welcome to stop #68 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Goldfinger Brewing, 513 Rogers St., Downers Grove
Train line: BNSF, Fairview Ave
Time from Chicago: 43 minutes (Zone E)
Distance from station: 500 m

Goldfinger Brewing opened in July 2020, which really sucked for them. But because they focused on making nothing but high-quality, traditional, Central-European lagers, they attracted an immediate following that kept them going.

Fun fact: Lagers take about three times longer to brew than ales, which explains in part why so many breweries specialize in the latter. The longer brewing times also mean that Goldfinger only has a few taps open at once. When I visited Wednesday evening, they had five of their own plus a visiting beer.

Naturally I had to start with the Original Lager (5.2%, 18 IBU). It had a complex, malty flavor that won me over even though I usually find lagers too sweet. (Theirs wasn't.) The Baltic Porter (7.7%, 28 IBU) caught my attention next, and wow, I almost bought some to take home. It had deep chocolate notes among other robust and complex flavors, with a long, lingering finish. I chased that with their Pils (4.9%, 35 IBU), an excellent representative of the style that I found crisp and fresh with a complex malt and hop interplay that they helped along with a five-minute-long multi-step pouring process. Goldfinger really wants you to take your time with their beers, as they have certainly done so. 

I am disappointed that the Village of Downers Grove doesn't allow dogs inside bars. Apparently the Village allowed dogs in the outside tent Goldfinger erected over the summer, but then they changed their mind and also told them to take down the tent. Suburbs, I swear, they just find new ways of failing at basic human-interaction design every year.

Beer garden? Not unless Downers Grove elects a new village board
Dogs OK? No, because again: stupid village board
Televisions? None
Serves food? BYOF, but they have this pretzel you should try
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

Imperial Oak Brewing, Brookfield

Welcome to stop #67 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Imperial Oak Brewing, 9526 Ogden Ave., Brookfield
Train line: BNSF, Congress Park
Time from Chicago: 24 minutes (Zone C)
Distance from station: 200 m

The ugly stepchild of the original Imperial Oak in Willow Springs opened in March after the owners acquired a failing local bar in December 2019. The pandemic didn't hurt them since it took about 15 months to build out the new brewing facility. They have some of the same beers as the original, but almost all of what they sell they brew on-site.

While the original location sits in a hollow along the I&M Canal, the Brookfield location sits along Ogden Avenue between an abandoned strip of small professional offices and a paint store. I went in the early evening, so I missed out on the full glory of the "Village of Brookfield Development Opportunity" next door. At least it's only a parking lot and squishy field from the train station.

They do make decent beers, though. 

I got three 150 mL pours for $8, and enjoyed them. From right to left, I tried (again) the Udderly Black Milk Stout (5.3%, 20 IBU), which had a much better balance and finish than the specimen I tried in Willow Springs last July. The Dave's Pale Ale (5.5%, 40 IBU, and not in any way a trademark concern with Oskar Blues) had a nice, hoppy nose, clean finish with definite Citra notes and more subtle Galaxy flavors. And the Crank It Dank West Coast IPA (7%, 60 IBU) lived up to its branding, with some blammo hops off the first sip, and a grassy flavor that reminded me of grad school for reasons I will not disclose.

The bartender also gave me a taste of Wee Willie's Heavy Scotch Ale (9.4%, 18 IBU), a wonderful, flavorful, caramelful, chocolateful wee heavy that would knock anyone on his ass after two.

I hope the new location succeeds, but it just seems like an ugly building in an ugly location to me. I'd revisit the one in Willow Springs; not the one in Brookfield.

Beer garden? Yes, year-round
Dogs OK? Not since an incident last summer
Televisions? One, avoidable
Serves food? BYOF, but they have snacks
Would hang out with a book? No
Would hang out with friends? No
Would go back? No; but the one in Willow Springs is worth the trip

Snow record for us

We almost made it to December 31st without measurable snowfall, which would have broken the record of 290 days. Alas, at day #288...

I snapped that photo with the wind at my back and quarter-sized flakes melting on my coat. It was 1.7°C then, but by the time I sloshed home with the wind in my face and rain soaking through my coat, it was getting just enough warmer to really make the weather really suck dingo balls.

At least I now have my Covid booster. Hurrah. And I now want to take a nap...

Paved with good intentions

The City of Chicago added bike lanes to a busy section of Clark Street in the Edgewater community area, but so far, it doesn't have a lot of fans:

The lane, on Clark Street between Hollywood Avenue and Devon Street, was created over the summer as a “paint-and-post installation” that uses plastic dividers or parked cars to separate bicyclists from drivers.

But the lane’s protective infrastructure was largely superficial, with riders still facing constant obstructions — like drivers parking in the lane — that force them out of the safe lane and into traffic, some bicyclists said.

By the end of December, more posts will be added, cutting a 40-foot gap between posts in half, Vasquez said. The intent is to make it harder for drivers to enter the bike lane. 

Concrete curbs that separate bicyclists from drivers will also get installed in 2022, and “there is also talk of installing Bus Stop Bulbs at some intersections,” Vasquez said in a statement.

So they're implementing the lane in stages, I guess? We're still a long, long way from Europe.

The kind of weather record we can all enjoy

If, as expected, Chicago gets no measurable snow by 6pm tonight, we will set a new record for the latest measurable snowfall of the cold season (July 1st to June 30th, believe it or not), and the second-longest stretch without snow in recorded history:

On Monday...Chicago tied the record, which dates back to Dec. 20, 2012.

There is no snow in the forecast until possibly well beyond Christmas.

There has been some snow so far this season. But instead of having the first typical snowfall earlier in the fall, there have only been traces.

To be measurable, there must be at least [2.5 mm]. Since November, there have been such amounts in the area, but not at O’Hare International Airport, which is the official weather recording station for Chicago.

We last had measurable snowfall on March 15th, 280 days ago. The longest period—which the 10-day forecast suggests we might tie or break—ran from 4 March to 19 December 2012, comprising 290 days.

That said, through December 21st last year we only had 18 mm of snowfall at O'Hare, before getting over a meter of snow through the end of February.

Personally, though, I'm happy with our mild and snow-free December.

Glorious Solstice to All, too.