The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Brews and Choos: one year later

One year ago today, I started the Brews and Choos project at Macushla Brewing in Glenview, Ill. I chose that brewery because it was easy to get to from my downtown Chicago office; it was farther from the Glenview Metra station than the other brewery in town (Ten Ninety); and I could swing by a third brewery (Old Irving) on my way home.

I visited 25 places by March 7th, which gave me enough runway to keep posting reviews until March 26th. Then the project entirely derailed as the country slammed on the brakes when Covid-19 hit. I got to 11 more places over the summer when the rules relaxed a bit and the weather permitted outdoor beer gardens to open. I made stop #36 (Alter Brewing in Downers Grove) on September 19th.

Things have started to look up, though. Statewide positivity rates and hospitalizations dropped consistently below certain levels, enabling Chicago and the surrounding area to enter "Phase 4" remediation. Restaurants can open within strict guidelines; people can eat and drink inside again. With vaccination rates also going up, infection rates should continue to go down, and breweries will feel more confident about resuming normal operations.

So this evening I spent about 90 minutes reviewing my entire database of Brews and Choos candidates. Most are back but with reduced capacity; 22 have gone to takeout-only models; and a handful (including powerhouses Lagunitas and Revolution) have closed their taprooms for the duration. I've therefore completely updated the map with this new information, including links to each producer's website where I could find them:

The pattern of closures and reductions in service hours, combined with Metra's reduced schedules, mean I still won't be able to fully resume the project quite yet. But I will start adding reviews next Sunday, possibly either by visiting the four spots off the Ashland Green/Pink station in the Fulton Industrial Corridor, or the ones nearest to me that I haven't reviewed yet (Corridor, Green Star, and DryHop, for instance). I've also found out I can return to my downtown office two days a week starting March 1st, which opens up a lot more possibilities for after-work field trips.

We're getting close to the end of Covid-19 dominating our lives. With luck, vaccines, and sensible virus-avoidance discipline, I hope to finish visiting all 68 remaining producers by this time next year.

Accurate predictions

Yesterday I predicted that I would not get 10,000 steps for the first time in 2021. I was right: I got 7,092. Respectable, but not a goal.

Right now I'm at 4,753, so I could get to 10,000 just by going for a 30-minute walk and then doing normal things the rest of the day. Of course, it's -15°C outside, an improvement over this morning's -22°C but still so cold that only obscenities suffice to describe how cold.

OK, I can do this...I just don't want to.

Nope, not getting 10k steps today

At least, I don't think so. I'm about to go to a very small wedding where somehow we'll all stay two meters apart, meaning I'll be in my car or indoors all day. Outdoors, meanwhile, it's -13°C. It got down to -16°C overnight, so this qualifies as an improvement.

I was hoping to make 10k steps every day this year, but living in Chicago and having some ability to balance "would like to" against "have to" goals, I say no to today.

I will get 5,000 though. I haven't missed that number in six years.

Ice fishing, orcas, and budget reconciliation

These are just some of the things I read at lunch today:

  • Ezra Klein looks at how a $1.9 trillion proposal got through the US Senate and concludes the body has become "a Dadaist nightmare."
  • Several groups of ice fishermen, 66 in total, found themselves drifting into Green Bay (the bay, not the city) yesterday, when the ice floe they were fishing on broke away from the shore ice. Given that Lake Michigan has one of the smallest ice covers in years right now, this seems predictable and tragic.
  • Writing in the Washington Post, Bruce Schneier laments that government security agencies have to customize President Biden's Peloton stationary bicycle to make it safe to use in the White House—not because of the effort involved to keep the president safe, but because very few people will have a Peloton with that level of security.
  • The resident Orca population in the Salish Sea between British Columbia and Washington has immigration issues and declining standards of living. (So far, none of them has joined the Proud Whales.)

Finally, McSweeney's translates US Representative Marjorie Green's (R-GA) non-apology for being a racist whacko into simpler terms.

Here it comes...

Chicago's temperature hung out right around freezing from 11am Wednesday until 8pm last night. Then the cold front passed. This morning we woke up to -12°C with "warming" predicted to take that up to -9°C this afternoon. Then...it gets serious:

Below zero [Fahrenheit] wind chills Friday through Sunday drop to -20s Sunday morning.

We're looking at 10 days of overnight lows below -18°C and daily highs around -10°C. But then, this being Chicago, it will warm up like magic the week of the 22nd, and we'll forget once again how we get slammed like this every other February.

Sunny and (relatively) warm

It's exactly 0°C in Chicago this afternoon, which is a bog-standard temperature for February 3rd. And it's sunny, which isn't typical. So, with the forecast for a week of bitter cold starting Friday evening, I'm about to take a 30-minute walk to take advantage of today's weather. First, though:

Early February is also the time of year when we start imagining spring. Tomorrow's sunrise is at 7am for the first time since December 1st, and we had 10 hours of daylight last week for the first time since mid-November. Yes, Chicago typically has an Arctic blast sometime during February. But Spring begins in 25 days. We can make it.

Ten years to the day

On this day in 2011, Chicago got so much snow it shut down the city for almost 48 hours. So it's fitting we're having the biggest snowfall of the winter so far right now:

With 241 mm of snow recorded at the National Weather Service office in Romeoville and 173 mm at O’Hare International Airport as of Sunday morning, the city officially logged its second storm this week with more than 150 mm of snow — something that hasn’t happened since January 2014, officials said.

The heaviest period of snowfall was between 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 a.m. Sunday, according to meteorologists. Visibility during that time was reduced to less than 400 m during much of that time, with snow falling at a rate of an 25 mm an hour or faster, according to the weather service.

The Tribune published that around 9am; as of noon, O'Hare's snowfall reached 330 mm. They also have some photos for those of you who live in climates that have no interesting variations to gawk at. Here's my neighborhood:

And it's still coming down. Which means it's a perfect day to go to a warm (-ish, they still have to keep doors open) brewery and read for a bit. Because, dammit, I will get my 10,000 steps today.

This wobbly earth (and other stories)

I'm having a series of productive days lately, which has taken me away from wasting a bunch of time. So for example, I haven't yet today read these items:

And all of this on the coldest day in two years, in a month in which most days have had no sunlight. But hey, we're still having an abnormally-mild winter, so again, we're not complaining.

Two local stories

As the State of Illinois starts abandoning the Helmut Jahn-designed Thompson Center in Chicago's Loop, the Governor's Office announced the state has purchased PepsiCo's old building at 555 W Monroe St:

The 18-year-old structure has 430,000 square feet of office space and has green certification for energy efficiency.

More than 1,000—and potentially 1,400—of the 3,500 state workers now based in downtown Chicago eventually will relocate to the new facility, starting in April, according to Ayse Kalaycioglu, chief operating officer of the Illinois Department of Central Management Services, which manages the state’s real estate needs.

About 900 of the employees moving to 555 W. Monroe will be coming from the Thompson Center, leaving 1,300 in the structure named after the named the former governor who championed its construction and mourned its declining fortunes. But they won’t be there long, said Kalaycioglu and Deputy Gov. Dan Hynes in an interview late yesterday.

I'm sorry to hear so many people calling the Thompson Center "so old" and "dilapidated" given it opened in 1984 and sits directly across the street from the century-old City Hall. But: "In comparison, the state says the Thompson Center has $325 million in deferred maintenance needs now, a figure projected to grow to $525 million by 2026." (I took the below photo about a year after it opened.)

The other story is that seven new pizza places have recently opened in the city, and I may have to try a few of them. That square of Bill's Original Tavern Pizza at the top of the article made me hungry.