The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

View From Your Window contest

Welp, I was about 99% correct, but this week they had over 100 correct answers, so no prize:

It’s the John A. Blatnik Bridge connecting Duluth and Superior. It was finished in 1961, when I was about 10, and I remember my first drive over the bridge on the day it officially opened — five kids, mom and dad in the Plymouth, topping out 120 fucking feet(!) above the harbor surface. At that time, it was the highest distance above earth I had ever been. The Blatnik Bridge had replaced a swinging bridge that carried trains as well as cars across the harbor.

As for the exact location and window? 212 Piedmont Avenue [in Duluth, Minn.]

I got right block, but the wrong house. My guess:

I was so sure it was an East Coast bridge that I spent half an hour ranging up and down from Virginia to PEI looking for east-west rivers that a bridge that size could cross. Then I started searching for bridge types, and found https://bridgehunter.com/. Eventually I looked up the Bayonne Bridge to figure out what type it was (steel through arch), and just started looking at all of them, comparing the photos with the VFYW. I’d find one that looked promising, then examine Google Maps to find other features I’d noticed: industry on both sides of the river, the bridge coming to a T intersection on the near side with another highway, a rail yard between the photographer and the bridge, and a Y intersection close aboard to the photo at just the right angle to the bridge.

Once I found the John A. Blatnik Bridge in Duluth, things came together quickly. Here’s the map I drew in my head with my guess about where the photographer must have been (first photo). Then I zoomed in north of the rail yard and started looking for the weird Y intersection that ended in “W **** St” (second photo).

Ah, well. This week's contest looks very French, but I'll find out with everyone else next Friday.

You may refer to me as "super genius."

I feel so proud of myself for getting this week's View From Your Window Contest (read the essay, then scroll down) in under 90 minutes:

Yes, I know exactly what window the photographer took that photo from. I'll post Sullivan's confirmation of my geographic sleuthing ability next Friday. Of course, I may not have won the contest; I not only have answer correctly (or have the closest point to the correct answer), but I have to have the first correct answer.

The last time I had the correct answer, I was late in sending it in and I got the wrong window, which was trebly sad because the location was on California Avenue in Chicago. I just didn't start working on it in time.

Removing highways

About two weeks ago I told a relative newcomer to San Francisco about the Embarcadero Freeway, which used to cover the Embarcadero from Fisherman's Wharf down to the Bay Bridge. From its construction in 1959 to its destruction (with the help of the Loma Prieta earthquake) in 1991, it stood, without question, as the biggest urban planning mistake west of the Rockies. Looking at it photos today makes me angry.

Removing I-480 showed other cities how their lives might improve if they also removed or buried freeways. Boston's Big Dig reconnected the North End with the Common; removing the eastern section of Rochester's Inner Loop has made that city more livable.

The New York Times reports on the other cities that have followed:

As midcentury highways reach the end of their life spans, cities across the country are having to choose whether to rebuild or reconsider them. And a growing number, like Rochester, are choosing to take them down.

In order to accommodate cars and commuters, many cities “basically destroyed themselves,” said Norman Garrick, a professor at the University of Connecticut who studies how transportation projects have reshaped American cities.

“Rochester has shown what can be done in terms of reconnecting the city and restoring a sense of place,” he said. “That’s really the underlying goal of highway removal.”

In recent years, more cities have started to seriously rethink some of their highways. The Congress for the New Urbanism, a group that tracks highway removals, counted 33 proposed projects in 28 American cities. And the idea is being discussed in many others.

Among the proposed removal plans: getting rid of the BQE in New York, the Buffalo Skyway, and New Orleans' Claiborne Expressway—all of them ugly roads that destroyed neighborhoods and made lives demonstrably worse. (See, for example, the Eisenhower Expressway in Chicago.)

Not under consideration? Burying I-90/94 in downtown Chicago. Maybe someday.

Chicago's LSD

We have an odd debate in Chicago about the name of our most iconic road. A group of aldermen want to change the name of Lake Shore Drive to Jean Baptiste Point du Sable Drive, in honor of the first non-native permanent settler, who was also Black. The (Black) mayor and a contingent of other aldermen of varying races disagree:

The proposal’s sponsors faced opposition from some colleagues and the mayor’s office over fears that renaming the iconic road would lead to a nightmare at the post office and for residents with thousands of address changes.

Ald. David Moore, 17th Ward, attempted to quell some of those concerns at a contentious committee meeting in late April, saying his proposal would only change the outer drive — not the inner, residential portion of the road. That meeting saw a shouting match between aldermen when the Chicago Department of Transportation tried to substitute Moore’s ordinance for one they said served the same purpose but cleared up confusing language.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot defended the move to delay the vote Wednesday, saying she has concerns over changing the name of Chicago’s most well-known roadway.

“It’s one of the most iconic assets the city has. When you say Lake Shore Drive, people know you’re talking about Chicago. And I think that that’s very important,” Lightfoot said.

The effort to get DuSable recognized on a grand scale in Chicago is not new. In the 1990s, then-Ald. Toni Preckwinkle introduced her own ordinance to rename Lake Shore to DuSable Drive, the Chicago Tribune reported.

His name is already affixed to several existing institutions, including the DuSable Museum of African American History, a high school and a monument on Michigan Avenue. But proponents have argued the man deemed the city’s “founding father” deserves more.

I find the whole thing odd. I have no idea which side to support, if either. We should have a DuSable drive. But we should also have Lake Shore Drive.

The decision won't come around again until late June. I'll keep my eyes peeled for follow-up stories on the subject.

Weep, O Mine Eyes, and Sea Snot

The Sea of Marmara, which lies between the Black and Mediterranean Seas, is covered in mucus:

[A] thick, viscous substance known colloquially as “sea snot” is floating on the water’s surface, clogging up their nets and raising doubts about whether fish found in the inland sea would actually be safe to eat.

Scientists say that the unpleasant-looking mucus is not a new phenomenon, but rising water temperatures caused by global warming may be making it worse. Pollution — including agricultural and raw sewage runoff — is also to blame.

As the Guardian and numerous Turkish news outlets have reported, high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus in the Sea of Marmara, situated between the Black and Aegean Seas, are leading to an explosion of the phytoplankton populations that discharge “sea snot.” Though the mucus itself is not necessarily harmful, it can become a host to toxic microorganisms and dangerous bacteria such as E. coli. And when it forms a layer that covers the water’s surface, it can set off a harmful chain of events, preventing fish from being able to breathe, causing mass die-offs, which in turn leads to plummeting oxygen levels that choke other forms of marine life.

Ewwww.

And if you're not up to date on your 16th-century madrigals, the headline of this post comes from this rockin' tune by John Bennett he released way back in '99. (1599.)

Doe!

This morning while walking Cassie I saw a deer placidly grazing in St Boniface Cemetery by the Lawrence Ave. fence. Now, in most parts of the world, deer hang out in cemeteries about as often as corpses. And I have reported in these pages that St Boniface has a resident coyote population (which I expect the deer will discover at some point).

Coyotes are smart predators who typically eat rats and pigeons in urban settings. Also, coyotes can slip under low fences easily, as can most any 20-kilo canid. So while I always enjoy coyote sightings in my neighborhood (as long as they give me a wide berth), I am never surprised. But a deer? In St Boniface?

Since almost none of my readers lives in Chicago, let me show you a satellite image for context:

The nearest forest preserve is 6 km to the west. To the north and south, we have nothing but heavily urbanized Chicago, except for Graceland Cemetery four blocks away. And to the east, we have Lincoln Park along the lake—but also the 8-lane Lake Shore Drive.

Also, from dusk to dawn the cemetery is completely locked up. The east edge is a 4-meter concrete wall and the other three edges have a 3-meter fence. Deer can jump, sure, but 3 meters?

So how did the deer get into the cemetery, how did it get to the cemetery, and how are the cemetery staff going to safely exfiltrate the deer from the grounds before the coyote pack has a venison supper?

Draining the lake

Lake Michigan and Lake Huron water levels have dropped every month for the last 10, to about 60 cm below last July's record levels. The lake system is still about 60 cm above its mean level, but at least we can see our beaches again:

The receding water has been welcomed by some beach towns and lakefront parks that weathered destruction in recent years. A group of Great Lakes officials estimated at least $500 million of damage in cities last year.

The shift doesn’t mean shoreline communities are in the clear. Many are still working to preserve what’s left of disappearing bluffs, repair crumbling paths or get ahead of the next rise.

Changes in water level are driven by precipitation, runoff and evaporation. Lake Michigan topped the long-term average in 2014 and last year set a string of monthly records, hovering near the 1986 record high. Highs and lows have come and gone throughout the historical record, and climate change may bring increasing variability between the swings. But it’s still too early to say if the lower trend will continue.

The Park District has also, finally, repaired the fences at Montrose Beach, to the delight of lake-loving dogs all over the city.

How to talk to the vaccination-wary

I confess to some difficulty talking to people who exhibit willful irrationality. If you don't want to wear a mask or get a vaccine because you somehow equate that with a political party, I don't know what to tell you. But for the people who may just have some irrational fear without making a political statement about it, the New York Times has a helpful interactive training article for you.

In other news, an iceberg slightly larger than Long Island broke away from Antarctica this week. So that's fun.

Brooding about cicadas in suburban New York

Long Island went from idyllic farmland to completely urbanized in 75 years, thanks in part to Robert Moses inability (or unwillingness) to comprehend that any form of transport existed except automobiles. Massive, car-driven development spread inexorably down the Northern and Southern State Parkways, and the Long Island Expressway, covering all those farms and forests with concrete and Walmarts. Even when I spent four years of college there in the early 1990s, one could still find open space east of Ronkonkoma.

Alas, in the past 17 years, all that open space has disappeared, and with it the Brood X cicadas:

Development, pesticide use and the presence of invasive species are destroying historic populations of Brood X cicadas, while climate change spurs bugs from different broods to come up years early, experts say. The disruption of these cycles means some places that were expecting cicadas this year will miss out, while others may be surprised by an unscheduled emergence.

Although these changes are likely happening across the cicadas’ range, they’re particularly visible on Long Island, said Chris Simon, a professor at the University of Connecticut who has been studying cicadas for over 40 years. Long Island was once New York’s last remaining stronghold of Brood X. But the population there has declined in recent decades, and was nearly absent during the last mass emergence in 2004. At the same time, some of the area’s Brood XIV cicadas — scheduled to come up four years from now — may make an early appearance this year instead.

In the past, Long Island has been the easternmost place that can lay claim to this eminent brood. As far back as 1902, New York’s state entomologist recorded Brood X cicadas in both Suffolk and Nassau counties, said Dr. Simon, who has been studying cicadas on Long Island for over 40 years. Their reign continued through 1987....

The brood was absent from more places where it was expected, including in the towns of Shirley and Oakdale, and made only a brief showing in other locations, such as Connetquot State Park, a 3,700-acre reserve south of the Long Island Expressway, said Dr. Simon. Steep declines like this often lead to a complete disappearance, she said — without strength in numbers, the whole population can be devoured.

This year, Dr. Simon and other researchers are encouraging people in and around Long Island to go searching for the insects, and to use an app, Cicada Safari, to report any findings. If they do show up, it will likely be in early June. But she is not optimistic. “I’m afraid that they’re going to be completely gone,” she said.

Chicago's Brood XIII should emerge in three years. I can't wait. At least here, we haven't destroyed their habitat as thoroughly as Nassau and Suffolk Counties have destroyed Brood X's.

Leaving on a jet plane

Now that I'm more than two weeks past my second Pfizer jab, I'm heading to O'Hare tomorrow for the first time since January 2020. I remember back in September 2018 when I finally broke my longest-ever drought from flying of 221 days. Tomorrow will mark 481 days grounded.

But that's tomorrow. Today, I'm interested in the following:

And finally, Chicago's endangered piping plovers Monty and Rose have laid three eggs. We should see baby piping plovers in about four weeks.