Oh, to be a dog. Cassie is sleeping comfortably on her bed in my office after having over an hour of walks (including 20 minutes at the dog park) so far today. Meanwhile, at work we resumed using a bit of code that we put on ice for a while, and I promptly discovered four bugs. I've spent the afternoon listening to Cassie snore and swatting the first one.
Meanwhile, in the outside world, life continues:
- Ukrainian police arrested members of the Cl0p ransomware gang, seizing money and cars along with the cybercriminals.
- Amtrak, the US passenger rail network, plans to expand its service over the next few years, for example by going to places that people want to go. (Sure, Las Cruces, N.M., might be a wonderful tourist destination, but why doesn't the train go to Las Vegas too?)
- Astronomer Seth Shostak, who works on SETI, expects any aliens who visit us to have non-biological forms, while physicist Mark Buchanan tells SETI to stop trying to contact them in the first place because they'll kill us all.
- Scientists have found that a Korean War-era technique of reading weather data could reduce contrails by 50% or more.
- On this day in 1858, Abraham Lincoln addressed the Illinois Republican Convention, saying "a house divided against itself cannot stand."
- Whiskey Advocate explains how to "build your best Old Fashioned."
And right by my house, TimeLine Theater plans to renovate a dilapidated warehouse to create a new theater space and cultural center, while a 98-year-old hardware store by Wrigley Field will soon become apartments.
So far today, Cassie and I have taken 2½ hours of walks, and she's taken about twice that in naps while I read in the sunroom with a nice breeze blowing over me. In other words, nothing to blog about today.
After 448 days, the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago have lifted all capacity limits and most other intrusive Covid-19 mitigation factors. We haven't gone completely back to normal, but it feels a lot more so than it did even a month ago.
The Tribune has a round-up of what rules remain in place and what has lifted. Mainly we still need masks on public transit and in places where owners or managers require them, and some "Covid theater" will continue where people demand it. But restaurants, movie theaters, and grocery stores can now go back to business as usual.
Even before today, some businesses had changed their signs to require masks only for unvaccinated customers. I will continue to mask up in those places, as well as in confined areas where I can't predict whether the people around me have gotten their jabs. If I'm in an airplane or a hospital, I'll even use a KN-95 instead of a decorative cloth mask.
Still, it's really (mostly) over. And we're all incredibly relieved.
Work continues on the Ravenswood Metra station, letting us commuters believe that finally! we might not have to stand in the rain waiting for an inbound train sometime this autumn. Until then, we still have to wait on a rickety wooden platform that now extends four meters from the original rickety wooden platform, meaning we have a worse station experience than our great-grandparents would have when the station opened in the 1890s. Of course, once we board the trains, our overall travel experience on Metra more resembles our grandparents': some of the rail cars (carriages) that Metra operates date back to the 1950s, though the Union Pacific routes mostly seem to have cars built in the 1980s and early 2000s.
So imagine my glee when I read this press release from French manufacturer Alstom:
Alstom has received an initial order from Metra, the commuter rail system in the Chicago metropolitan area serving the city of Chicago and surrounding suburbs, to supply 200 push-pull commuter rail cars. This follows Metra Board of Directors’ approval in January 2021 to award Alstom a vehicle procurement contract for up to 500 rail cars. This initial order of 200 rail cars is worth approximately €650 million.
The multilevel cars incorporate new design features to improve passenger experience, including: a streamlined, modern and welcoming interior, equipped with USB plugs and boasting large windows and a layout to improve passenger flow and traveller comfort; seating and spacing to allow for additional ridership and physical distancing; touchless doors; improved bogie design for improved ride quality; and multiple wide doors on each side of the cars to reduce passenger boarding times and improve access to passenger areas.
They even have a slick video, which I would expect as part of a $800m contract.
The combination of the new Ravenswood inbound platform and the slick new French cars will make parts of Metra's network almost as good as London's was in 1990. All Metra needs to do to get us into the 2000s is to get rid of their mobile soot factories diesel locomotives, but I fear that kind of infrastructure modernization would require the replacement of one of the country's main political parties with an real one.
I spent the morning unsuccessfully trying to get a .NET 5 Blazor WebAssembly app to behave with an Azure App Registration, and part of the afternoon doing a friend's taxes. Yes, I preferred doing the taxes, because I got my friend a pile of good news without having to read sixty contradictory pages of documentation.
I also became aware of the following:
Tomorrow morning, I promise to make my WebAssembly app talk to our Azure Active Directory. Right now, I think someone needs a walk.
As much fun as Cassie and I have had over the last few days, the news around the world didn't stop:
- After 448 days, Illinois will finally reopen fully on Friday.
- Security expert Tarah Wheeler, writing on Schneier.com, warns that our weapons systems have frightening security vulnerabilities.
- Fastly's content-delivery network (CDN) collapsed this morning, taking down The New York Times, The Guardian, Bloomberg News, and other major properties; no word yet on the cause, but we can guess.
- About 12,000 volunteer software developers around the world contributed to the Mars Helicopter project through GitHub.
- Josh Marshall looks at the burn-it-all-down ethos of defeated Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and our own XPOTUS.
- Alexandra Petri wonders why anyone would buy a Swiss Army knife when an AR-15 does the job better?
- ProPublica divided income tax by (unrealized) wealth growth and found that the wealthiest 25 Americans paid almost no income tax from 2014 to 2018; however, they did not apply that methodology to the millions of middle-class families whose 401(k) funds appreciated, which would show that most people paid smaller percentages than they thought.
- Earth's CO2 levels have reached 419 ppm, a level not seen since around the time humans and chimpanzees split from their last common ancestor.
Finally, journalist Jack Lieb filmed D-Day using a 16mm home movie camera, which you can see on the National Archives blog. It's really cool.
Just look at this beauty:
This dog had way too much fun on Sunday. Towards the end of her time at the beach, she chased this dude all over:
I have almost as much fun as she does, watching her open up to full speed. Wow, she is fast.
I didn't have as much time to edit photos yesterday as I expected, so I only have two more for today:
And I want to give a big shout out to this little guy, named Bear, who forded the 5-meter-wide tidal pool all by himself:
I took 540 photos at Montrose Dog Beach today. I expect to post a bunch this afternoon and tomorrow evening. For now, though, here's a quick taste:
Did she have fun? Oh, my yes.
Cassie and I went to the Montrose Dog-Friendly Area (aka Montrose Dog Beach) this afternoon for the first time. I don't recall ever seeing her have more fun, which says a lot. Tomorrow I'll bring my real camera and a long lens to get some action shots.