The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Fast and furious?

Josh Marshall lays out the evidence that the Omicron Covid variant hit hard and fast, but as in South Africa, appears to have a short life-span:

New York City was one of the first parts of the United States hit by the Omicron variant. The trajectory of the city’s surge now appears remarkably similar to the pattern we saw earlier in South Africa and other countries.

Data out of South Africa showed a roughly four week interval between the start of the Omicron surge and its peak. “Peak in four weeks and precipitous decline in another two,” said Fareed Abdullah of the South African Medical Research Council. “It was a flash flood more than a wave.”

New York City numbers appear to match this pattern almost exactly.

It looks like we may have much lower Covid numbers by the end of January here in Chicago. That said, not that it surprised anyone, but the way the city and State of Illinois have managed testing here seems a bit...hinky:

As Omicron cases surged, Chicagoans were told repeatedly by city, state and federal officials to get tested for COVID-19 — but few testing options were available.

The city previously shut down many of the free testing sites it ran, and the few government-run sites and health clinics still open were booked up. At-home tests sold out. Thousands of people turned to pop-ups that promised quick results, especially as they tried to keep family and friends safe during the holidays.

Now, many who tested at pop-ups are questioning if they got accurate results — and wondering where they can go to for trusted testing. Some have said they’re frustrated the government hasn’t done more to provide legitimate testing options, stockpile testing supplies and shut down bad actors.

Last week, Block Club highlighted how one locally based chain — the Center for COVID Control, with 300 locations across the United States — is now the subject of federal and state investigations after numerous people filed complaints about not getting results or getting delayed results. Authorities said the chain wasted more than 40,000 PCR tests and didn’t properly process rapid tests in multiple instances, among other concerns.

Officials are also beginning to crack down on the pop-ups. The Illinois Attorney General’s office and other agencies are investigating the Center for COVID Control, and the Attorney General’s Office has warned people to be cautious around pop-ups in general.

So, some opportunists predicted a Covid surge in December, bought up all the rapid tests, then opened pop-up stores to bilk the government and the people out of hundreds for "free" tests they could have gotten without "help" from the pop-ups.

The only people who could have predicted this turn of events were millions of us who grew up in Chicago.

The sign of a dying culture

In his final novel, Friday (1986), Robert Heinlein spoke through an atavistic character to warn America of its impending doom:

Sick cultures show a complex of symptoms such as you have named...but a dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot. ... It is a bad sign when the people of a country stop identifying themselves with the country and start identifying with a group. A racial group. Or a religion. Or a language. Anything, as long as it isn't the whole population.

David Brooks spent his column today saying we've gotten to that point:

[S]omething darker and deeper seems to be happening as well — a long-term loss of solidarity, a long-term rise in estrangement and hostility. This is what it feels like to live in a society that is dissolving from the bottom up as much as from the top down.

Some of our poisons must be sociological — the fraying of the social fabric. Last year, Gallup had a report titled, “U.S. Church Membership Falls Below Majority for First Time.” In 2019, the Pew Research Center had a report, “U.S. Has World’s Highest Rate of Children Living in Single Parent Households.”

And some of the poisons must be cultural. In 2018, The Washington Post had a story headlined, “America Is a Nation of Narcissists, According to Two New Studies.”

But there must also be some spiritual or moral problem at the core of this. Over the past several years, and over a wide range of different behaviors, Americans have been acting in fewer pro-social and relational ways and in more antisocial and self-destructive ways.

Right on cue, the National Park Service reported that "Adrian, Ariel, Isaac and Norma" defaced a 3,000-year-old piece of indigenous rock art at Big Bend National Park in Texas just after Christmas. And author Alex McElroy says toxic masculinity has given way to "petulant masculinity," which she does not see as an improvement.

In other news, perhaps not as dire:

And apparently, I have to try some Paper Thin Pizza.

Winter in Chicago

The temperature bottomed out at -14.4°C around 1:30 am, and has climbed ever so slowly since then to -0.3°:

Will we get above freezing? The forecast says yes, any moment now. But the sun will set in about 5 minutes. Anyway, a guy can dream, right?

Meanwhile, Chicago's teachers and schools have agreed to let the kids back tomorrow, even as the mayor herself tested positive for Covid. And the Art Institute's workforce has formed a union, which will operate under AFSCME.

And that's not all:

And finally, just as no one could have predicted that more guns leads to more gun violence, the same people could not have predicted that the NFT craze would lead to NFT fraud.

Cold again

Today's temperatures have hovered around -9°C, with a forecast of bottoming out around -18°C tomorrow morning. But hey, at least the sun is out, right?

Meanwhile, in the rest of the world:

Finally, if you're looking to get away from it all, you might have to pass on the Isle of Rum off the coast of Scotland. Its population has almost doubled in the past couple of years, to 40.

Fall down go boom

I managed to acquire a few bruises last night walking Cassie. I'm fine; she's fine; but my left hand and elbow are a bit sore.

Yesterday continued our really strange week as the repeating 96-hour cycle of cold and thaw continued:

Starting around 4pm, the warm front pushed just enough moisture ahead of itself to give Chicago a fine mist that instantly coated everything. Even though the air got above freezing later on, the sidewalks did not. Result: most of them got a perfectly smooth, nearly invisible coating of ice about 2mm thick.

Cassie, of course, failed to understand why I insisted on walking at a small fraction of our usual speed. She has four feet, you see, and while one or two of them might slip a bit, the dog remained standing.

I, however, did not. Several times.

And here we go again:

So, Cassie won't get all the walkies she deserves today, but she did get a ride in the car. And my bruises will heal.

Double Clutch Brewing, Evanston

Welcome to stop #69 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Double Clutch Brewing, 2121 Ashland Ave., Evanston
Train line: UP-N, Central Street
Time from Chicago: 16 minutes (Zone C)
Distance from station: 800 m

This car-themed brewery opened on October 31st, about 18 months after their originally-planed April 2020 opening. (This has become a theme of the Brews & Choos project.) That gave them enough time to figure out their operations, however, and also to get a foothold in local restaurants and liquor stores.

They specialize in German lagers, with one IPA thrown in for the bourgeoisie like me. And going with the automobile theme, flights come in an engine block:

The Märzen (5.9%) has a lovely golden color, with a lot of malty complexity (pear, honey, raisin) I found a little too malty for my palate. The light and crisp Helles Lager (5.1%) also had a lot of malt, but a hoppier balance I think will taste great on their patio in the summer. The Little Juice Coupe Hazy IPA (5.7%) had a good Citra fruitiness and, yes, still just a little too much sweetness for me. I finished with the really malty Schwartzbier (4.7%) and its intricate coffee and chocolate notes I would go back to. The bartender also asked me to taste the Rausch Märzen, which has a similar recipe to the regular one but with smoked malt. The Rausch tasted like sitting by a fire pit in late October, which is exactly where I want to have another one.

They plan to build an outdoor space in the spring, and they've got weekly trivia and other events. Since it's Evanston, however, dogs won't be allowed until the city elects a new city council.

Finally...Star Wars fans, tell me what's missing from this lineup?

Beer garden? Seasonal
Dogs OK? No, it's Evanston
Televisions? Three, avoidable
Serves food? Full pub menu (try the buffalo balls)
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

Quick links

The temperature at Inner Drive Technology World Headquarters bottomed out at -16.5°C around 8am today, colder than any time since February 15th. It's up to -8.6°C now, with a forecast for continued wild gyrations over the next week (2°C tomorrow, -17°C on Monday, 3°C on Wednesday). Pity Cassie, who hasn't gotten nearly enough walks because of the cold, and won't next week as her day care shut down for the weekend due to sick staff.

Speaking of sick staff, New Republic asks a pointed question about the Chicago Public Schools: why should their teachers be responsible for making life normal again?

The Washinigton Post asks, what will people do with the millions of dogs they adopted when they (the people, not the dogs) go back to work?

The lawyers for Cyber Ninjas ask, who's going to pay their fees after the grift-based organization shut down abruptly?

And North Michigan Avenue asks, will any more pieces of the Hancock Center fall off the building?

And I ask, will Cassie ever let me sleep past 7am?

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.