The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

How far from the park to downtown?

I love this chart from Twitter user Jay Cuda:

If you don't want to click through to Twitter, here's Jay's chart:

The chart doesn't tell the whole story, does it? For example, both Chicago teams, both New York teams, Boston, DC, Seattle, Philadelphia, and Oakland are all about the same distance from downtown, but easily accessible by train. (Chicago's are both on the same El line, in fact.) Atlanta's and LA's parks, by contrast, are approximately the same distance but completely inaccessible by any form of public transit. (Atlanta's new park even appears deliberately located to prevent those people from getting there.)

I speak from personal experience, as long-time Daily Parker readers know: I've been to every one of them, except the new Atlanta park, which I refuse to visit because of its anti-democratic location.

But soft, what light through yonder window breaks!

I've barely finished my coffee so I'm still processing this amazing news:

Monday
Sunny, with a high near 2. West southwest wind 10 to 15 km/h increasing to 20 to 25 km/h in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 35 km/h.

"Sunny." I hope...I hope...I hope...

Of course, temperatures will fall below normal for the first time all year by Thursday, and the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts believes Chicago has a 31% chance of getting 100 mm of snow by Thursday with most of it falling tomorrow evening...but at least we'll have sun.

Friday night I crashed your party

Just a pre-weekend rundown of stuff you might want to read:

  • The US Supreme Court's investigation into the leak of Justice Samuel Alito's (R) Dobbs opinion failed to identify Ginny Thomas as the source. Since the Marshal of the Court only investigated employees, and not the Justices themselves, one somehow does not feel that the matter is settled.
  • Paul Krugman advises sane people not to give in to threats about the debt ceiling. I would like to see the President just ignore it on the grounds that Article 1, Section 8, Article VI, and the 14th Amendment make the debt ceiling unconstitutional in the first place.
  • In other idiotic Republican economics (redundant, I know), Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA) has proposed a 30% national sales tax to replace all income and capital-gains taxes that I really hope the House passes just so the Senate can laugh at it while campaigning against it.
  • Amazon has decided to terminate its Smile program, the performative-charity program that (as just one example) helped the Apollo Chorus raise almost $100 of its $250,000 budget last year. Whatever will we do to make up the shortfall?
  • How do you know when you're on a stroad? Hint: when you really don't want to be.
  • Emma Collins does not like SSRIs.
  • New York Times science writer Matt Richtel would like people to stop calling every little snowfall a "bomb cyclone." So would I.
  • Slack's former Chief Purple People Eater Officer Nadia Rawlinson ponders the massive tech layoffs this week. (Fun fact: the companies with the most layoffs made hundreds of billions in profits last year even as market capitalization declined! I wonder what all these layoffs mean to the shareholders? Hmm.)
  • Amtrak plans to buy a bunch of new rail cars to replace the 40-year-old rolling stock on their long-distance routes. Lots of "ifs" in there, though. I still hope that, before I die of old age, the US will have a rail travel that rivals anything Europe had in 1999.
  • The guy who went to jail over his fraudulent and incompetent planning of the Fyre Festival a couple of years ago wants to try again, now that he's out.

Finally, Monica Lewinsky ruminates on the 25 years since her name popped up on a news alert outing her relationship with President Clinton. One thing she realized:

The Tonight Show With Jay Leno died in 2014. For me, not a day too soon. At the end of Leno’s run, the Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University analyzed the 44,000 jokes he told over the course of his time at the helm. While President Clinton was his top target, I was the only one in the top 10 who had not specifically chosen to be a public person.

If you don't follow her on social media, you're missing out. She's smart, literate, and consistently funny.

Warm and cloudy January

With 10 days to go to solidify the record, Chicago has tied for cloudiest January in history, with 20% of possible sunshine (normal is 40%), with 11 of the first 19 days of 2023 giving us exactly zero sun. The record, set in 1998, is 20 of 31 days without sun, and three recent Januaries (2017, 2020, and 2021) saw no sun on 16 of 31 days.

The cause, though, is reflected in us seeing the second-warmest January since records began in 1871, with every single day having an above-normal temperature.

The culprit? A persistent La Niña system in the south Pacific combined with global warming, as WGN-TV meteorologist Tom Skilling explains:

You know, this is a La Niña winter and we’ve done some in-house work on these. Since 1950, La Nina winters have been very volatile in this area. You move from arctic air masses one week to unseasonably mild air the next. We had that cold blast that hit around Christmas week. Now, we’re in the 22nd consecutive day of above normal temperatures. This already is the second-warmest January on the books here — at least so far it is. You have to go back to 1850 to find a January 1-17 period that’s warmer than what we’ve seen this year.

January is typically our coldest and one of our snowiest months and home to some of our blockbuster historic snowstorms, not the least of which is the benchmark blizzard of 1967 that shut the city down.

In Chicago, the winters of the 1970s were collectively our coldest and snowiest on record — and we have records that go back to 1871 and the Great Chicago Fire.

The coldest temperatures occurred in the 1980s. We had back-to-back 26 below zero temperatures in January 1982. And then we had the all-time coldest three years later in 1985 (that was minus 27 degrees).

If you don’t believe climate change is at work, just look at what’s happened to the character of our winters around here. While the decade of the 1970s was the coldest and snowiest on record, we have warmed precipitously since then.

Last time I looked, our winters are running more than 3 degrees on average warmer than the winters of the ’70s, which is a big change. I don’t know if you remember the 1970s, but those winters were barbaric. We’d have these incredible snowstorms and then they’d be followed by these sieges of subzero weather. We don’t get that anymore.

We still have 38 days of winter left, however, and Sunday could see more normal temperatures plus 25 mm or more of snow. And someday, we might even see the sun again.

Let's acknowledge this is weird

I just got an alert that the outside temperature at my house went above 10°C:

It's mid-January, and my house in Chicago is only 2°C cooler than San Francisco. (O'Hare is only 1°C cooler.)

Maybe I have the wrong attitude. Chicago will likely have its 2nd or 3rd warmest January in history, followed by a warm and lovely spring, with flowers and sunshine for all. So I should just enjoy it. Cassie sure is.

I keep saying that the decently-governed city whose winters have gotten remarkably better in my lifetime next to the largest source of fresh water in the country will, as I've predicted for years, become a pretty good place to live in a 2°C-warmer environment. After all, a 10°C HVAC delta between inside and outside in July is less costly than a 40°C delta in February. (Seriously, if you like the idea of having unlimited fresh water to drink and only a few days a year with weather that can kill you, move to Chicago.)

And yet, I'm solidly Generation X. We learned from a young age that when things seem way better than we expected, they'll average out with a vengeance soon enough.

Sure, Chicago has a better chance of success than any other city its size over the next 100 years. But tens of millions will die worldwide and hundreds of millions will have to move after the first pulse. Then we'll have another pulse. Then a third. When my nephews' grandchildren explore the world, they'll volunteer on farms in Greenland and surf beaches outside Raleigh, and they might be the last people who taste real maple syrup.

If I found a djinn, my first wish might be that people worldwide understand that, if we continue to deny how much we're affecting the world, we'll only have a few places (like Chicago) that people will want to live in. If only that were enough. 

You can't buy labor at below-market rates

Chicago Transit Authority president Dorval Carter, Jr., blamed "extremely higher-than-normal call-offs" (i.e., a blue flu) for the New Year's Eve failures that left The Daily Parker waiting on a platform 35 minutes for the El:

It’s not unusual for CTA workers to “call off” on holidays, but the CTA has in the past been ready to replace them. But this year, with a shortage of train operators in the ranks, the CTA couldn’t deliver the number of free trains it promised.

The CTA promoted increased service on the Blue and Red lines on New Year’s Eve, advertising free train rides sponsored by Miller Lite. Carter did not say how many workers called off, and CTA officials did not provide a number after Friday’s meeting.

CTA worker unions, represented by Local 308 and Local 241, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. 

Carter said he would work with the unions and employees to come up with better ways to incentivize staff to come to work. Disciplinary measures could only go so far, considering the worker shortage, he said.

“We are operating very close to the margins,” Carter said. “I am trying to both put out a level of service that is within the constraints of the workforce that I have, but recognizing that in order for that to work, my workforce has to show up.”

One factor possibly limiting the available workforce: wages that have not kept up with inflation. If you want more people to work for you, pay more; QED. But even Chicago, with one of the best transport networks in the world, still struggles to see public transit as a public service rather than a profit-making enterprise. So who should pay more for the CTA? All of us in Chicago, perhaps by taking back some of the Federal money we send to Oklahoma for their useless freeway projects.

At least I didn't get too cold on the Brown Line platform on New Year's Eve. I still would have liked to see my friends earlier than I did.

From the gray to the grayer

I can't remember ever taking an umbrella to California, but I'm packing one today. So instead of the sunny and cold weather I've usually experienced in San Francisco, the forecast calls for wet and cold weather every day I'm there, with the sun coming out right after I leave.

Here in Chicago, we've had just 20% of possible sun this month, which WGN points out has completely obscured that we have 15 minutes more daylight than we had at the solstice. On the other hand, so far we've had the 4th-warmest January in history, with significantly above-normal temperatures predicted through the end of the month.

At least I'll see the sun on my flight today...

Waiting for customer service

I'm on hold with my bank trying to sort out a transaction they seem to have deleted. I've also just sorted through a hundred or so stories in our project backlog, so while I'm mulling over the next 6 months of product development, I will read these:

And my bank's customer service finally got back to me with the sad news that the thing I wanted them to fix was, and we are so sorry, it turns out, your fault. Fie.

The beginning of the end of baseball

Fifty years ago today, Major League Baseball adopted a rules change for the American League that led by increments to the 10th-inning-runner rule adopted last season:

On January 11, 1973, the owners of America’s 24 major league baseball teams vote to allow teams in the American League to use a “designated pinch-hitter” who could bat for the pitcher while still allowing the pitcher to stay in the game.

The idea of adding a player to the baseball lineup to bat for the pitcher had been suggested as early as 1906 by revered manager Connie Mack. In 1928, John Heydler, president of the National League, revived the issue, but the rule was rejected by the AL management.

The NL resisted the change, and for the first time in history, the two leagues would play using different rules. Though it initially began as a three-year experiment, it would be permanently adopted by the AL and later by most amateur and minor league teams.

Major League Baseball continues to believe that more runs means more money, even though the appeal of baseball has always been as a pastime. But what do I know? I was a Cubs fan for 40 years.

Unfortunate computer issues this morning

The Federal Aviation Administration halted all takeoffs from US airports for about an hour this morning after the Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) system failed. Planes have resumed flying, but the ripples from this morning's ground stop could take a day or two to resolve. Good thing I'm not flying until Saturday.

Also this morning, Chicago's transit agencies released a new real-time train tracker that finally allows commuters to see where (many) of Metra's trains actually think they are. I tested the site on the Metra line I use most frequently only to find that it appeared stuck—until I discovered that, no, the trains had stopped, because one of them hit a pedestrian in Lakeview, just south of me.

I'm glad Metra finally discovered the Global Positioning System just in time for the service's 45th birthday. If only we funded our transit systems the way we fund highways...if only...