The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Final packing weekend plus amazing weather and some bad news

I have only two rooms left to pack before my move on Monday: the master bedroom (which will take me about 30 minutes and the movers about the same), and the kitchen (which will take me most of today). I also had to reserve some time later this afternoon to grab a pint with a friend at Empirical Brewery, because (a) the weather could not look better and (b) they close permanently tomorrow night.

Let's move on from the demise of the second brewery three blocks from my new house in the period between me buying the house and moving it, because clearly I angered the Beer Gods and have yet to figure out how to make amends. Instead, what about this weather? And the leaves?

Family portrait takers, tour guides and social media influencers are running out of time to photograph the final days of the best season of fall colors in northern Illinois in years, experts say.

The Chicago area may have the best colors of the entire state, as other parts continue to struggle with dry conditions.

“The weather’s setting up really well and we’ve had some rains recently,” Johnson said. “The best color is going to come when you have bright, sunny days and cool nights and we’re getting a good amount of that now.”

Recently, Illinois has had consecutive years of subpar fall colors tied to a 2012 drought that ravaged the Midwest and continues to wreak havoc on trees.

Unfortunately, the long-range forecast looks a bit gloomier:

Regardless of when the snow starts stacking up, Chicagoans should gear up for a good number of storms this year, according to the annual winter outlook released Thursday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. While there’s no strong indication of what sort of temperatures Chicago will see this winter, the report does predict the city will see a wetter-than-average season.

“That doesn’t necessarily mean more snow, it could be more rain, more of that yucky mixed precipitation and snow,” Borchardt said. “But usually in these kinds of patterns we typically see more storms than normal.”

Even if the city gets a lot of storms this year, it would take a truly hefty amount of snow to break Chicago’s all-time snowiest winter record. The current champion is the winter of 1978-79, when 2,278 mm fell. For comparison, last winter it snowed 833 mm.

But before that happens, we have a reprieve. Here's the St Boniface Cemetery a couple of hours ago:

Monday afternoon links

Busy day today, but I finished a major task at work just now. As I'm waiting for the CI system to finish compiling and pushing out a test build, I'm going to read these:

Finally, we got our first official (trace) snow of the season this morning, even as forecasters predict temperatures over 21°C this weekend. While I'm packing. All day.

Building a grocery oligopoly

Bloomberg reports that Kroger and Albertsons, two of the biggest grocery chains in the US, have started merger talks. This would create an enormous entity about the size of Wal-Mart. In Chicago, it would result in the merger of Jewel (Albertsons) and Mariano's (Kroger), just a few years after the dissolution of Dominick's, leaving us with just three major chains including Trader Joe's and Whole Foods Market.

Crain's elaborates:

An agreement could be reached as soon as this week, [unnamed sources] said, asking not to be identified discussing confidential information. No final decisions have been made and talks could still be delayed or falter, according to the people.

A potential tie-up would give the combined entity increased purchasing power, a sprawling shopper-loyalty program and greater heft in technology investments as online grocery sales increase. The resulting giant would be of comparable size in groceries to Walmart Inc., the US market leader.

But any deal would face tough scrutiny from US antitrust authorities, said Jennifer Bartashus, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. The US Federal Trade Commission is already subjecting mergers to close examination, and a Kroger-Albertsons deal would join two large players that directly compete in much of the country.

“This is the type of transaction that really looks good on paper, but the actual practicality of achieving regulatory approval by the FTC could be difficult,” Bartashus said. “If you think about the store bases of the two respective entities, there is a lot of overlap in very competitive markets.”

I really hope the FTC shuts this thing down. While bigger and fewer grocery stores might make some business sense in less-dense areas, here in Chicago we like having more, smaller stores—and more choice.

Long train running...to nowhere

Equipment problems caused an Amtrak train to break down on a trip from Detroit to Chicago, turning a 6½-hour trip into a 19-hour adventure:

Passengers traveling Amtrak's Wolverine train No. 351 from Michigan to Chicago expected a trip totaling about 6 1/2 hours on Oct. 7. Instead, they endured delays that turned it into a 19-hour ride that left them without power, heat, lights and access to working bathrooms. Some riders, fed up with being stranded, ignored the rules to stay on the disabled train and opened emergency doors to flee and find other ways to reach their destination.

By the time the train made an unscheduled stop in East Chicago, Ind., late Friday night, "you couldn't go to the bathroom, it was overflowing. So this is when everybody really was like, 'I'm escaping,' " said Sheri Laufer, who often takes the Wolverine as she commutes between her home in suburban Detroit and Chicago. Laufer, a business analyst for Crain Communications—the parent of Crain's Chicago Business—said she wanted to know why Amtrak didn't send buses to rescue passengers.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the rail agency tried. "We work with a variety of bus vendors; we contacted them all and they all said they had no buses available,” he said.

Maybe if we started properly funding our trains as the public service they are, instead of starving Amtrak the way we starve most of our government functions (see, e.g., the IRS), we might actually have a country worthy of its history.

Packing day

As far as I know, I'm moving in 2½ weeks, though the exact timing of both real-estate closings remain unknown. Last time I moved it took me about 38 hours to pack and 15 to unpack. This time I expect it to go faster, in part because I'm not spending as much time going "oh, I love this book!"

I'm taking a quick break and catching up on some reading:

Finally, a new survey says Chicagoans swear a lot less than most Americans, with people from Columbus, Ohio, swearing the most. Fuck that shit.

Complete pile-up in my "to be read" stack

I've had a busy day. I finally solved the token-authentication problem I've been working on all week for my day job (only to discover another flavor of it after deploying to Azure), while dealing with a plumber ($1600 repair!), an HVAC inspector ($170 inspection!) and my buyer's mortgage appraiser (not my problem!). That left some reading to do tonight:

Finally, despite the crashing temperatures outside my window right now (down 5.5°C in the past 2 hours), Illinois had a pretty dry and mild start to autumn.

Aviation perfection

This. Is. Amazing:

Chicago Public Media explains how they made it:

The viral video was shot earlier this summer, with the help of a Minneapolis-based production studio. With a “lean crew” of just three people, Sky Candy Studios paid a visit to the Windy City in late July, the company’s founder Michael Welsh said.

Over the course of a Saturday and a Sunday, Welsh piloted an FPV-style drone with a GoPro attached through the nooks and crannies of Wrigleyville. The “high-precision drone,” which weighs under 250 grams, is meant to cruise through tight spaces and wouldn’t do any damage if it were to bump into something — or someone, Welsh said.

“It’s incredibly small and safe and allows you to do these maneuvers that in the past you weren’t able to do with drones,” said Welsh, who initially started flying drones about 12 years ago when he was in the Army.

The final product includes five different videos that are stitched together “with some creative editing magic,” Welsh said. For each of the five videos, Welsh says they probably did about five takes, with a lot of prep and talking with the people who appear in the shots. Inside Murphy’s Bleachers, for example, they let patrons know a drone was coming through and they should ignore it. At first, Welsh said people can’t help but look at the camera flying by them, but by the third take “they’re kind of bored with it.”

And they did this all with a tiny 250-gram drone? Whoa.

Tracy Flick was never cruel

A first-year undergraduate twerp with obvious narcissistic tendencies went through a homeless encampment handing out fake eviction notices earlier this week:

The one-page notices titled “Maria Hadden’s Five Day Notice To Vacate” were stuffed into belongings and posted on signs in and around Touhy Park, 7348 N. Paulina St., residents said. They were dated Sept. 27 and listed the name of Hadden, the 49th Ward alderperson, in bold blue type over a line reading “landlord/agent.”

The notice says Touhy Park residents have five days to leave and clear the area of “all buildings, sheds, closets, out-buildings, garages, barns and other structures used in connection with said premises.”

It also says residents will be relocated for free to the Four Seasons Hotel in Gold Coast. Their stay at the hotel, 120 E. Delaware Place, would be open-ended “for as long as it takes for Maria Hadden to find you appropriate housing,” the notice states.

The notices say they were “served” by Bill Morton, president of the Rogers Park Chamber of Commerce and candidate for 49th Ward alderman. Sarah Lim, a DePaul University freshman who is considering a run for mayor, is listed as the document’s “affiant,” or someone who files an affidavit.

Lim said she was solely responsible for the fake eviction notices. Morton denied having any involvement.

Lim fantasizes that she's a candidate for mayor next year, and also fantasizes that she didn't do anything wrong with this stunt:

Lim, who is planning on running for mayor of Chicago, said she taped up the bogus flyers so that she could “get my name out there.”

By circulating the sheets, she also hoped to get publicity directly to her website. The site assists high school and college students in attaining internships.

“I started the website last summer,” Lim said. “It has really been a struggle to get more traffic to it, which is why I resorted to the publicity stunt.”

Lim, reached by phone late Thursday afternoon, said she didn’t mean to offend anyone and was only seeking publicity.

“I have no hatred against homeless people,” said Lim, who said she came up with the idea last week because she knows the encampment is controversial. “People want something done about it,” Lim said of the homeless people living there.

“Whatever the intention, it was a very cruel act for all of these people who are pretty vulnerable and seeking housing,” Hadden said. Some are on waiting lists to be placed in homes.

When Lim was told that Hadden thought the fake notices were “cruel,” she said: “I think that instead of trying to turn me into a criminal, Hadden should be focusing on the issues right now.”

A bewildered Hadden said she had no idea why someone would do this. “You can’t make this stuff up,” Hadden said.

I make the comparison to the character Tracy Flick in Tom Perrotta's novel Election because Flick frequently gets held up as a sociopathic striver who would do anything to get elected class president. Except anyone who's read the novel can understand that Flick is actually the good guy; she wins on her merits, and never acts as cruelly as the social-studies teacher who has it in for her.

Sarah Lim, however, seems like a true sociopath in a way that most 17-year-old humans have already grown out of. I sincerely hope she matures in college, but it looks like she has a long way to go just to get to the first-year baseline.

Two brewery closings this month

One of my favorites (and Cassie's), Urban Brew Labs, closed on September 10th due to inadequate beer sales. They ran out of my favorite brew a couple of weeks earlier but I still managed to get there on the 9th to wish them luck.

In a bit of Karmic balancing, Smylie Brothers closed their awful Lakeview location (on my birthday of all things!), for no apparent reason. I mean, my hypothesis would have to include the food and beer, but owner Michael Smylie declined to comment when Block Club Chicago asked about it.

That still leaves almost 140 breweries and distilleries on the Brews & Choos Project list, including 63 I've yet to visit. And I plan to, with somewhat more vigor after I move next month.