The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

One down

I got my first Pfizer Biontech jab this morning, and will get the second one in three weeks. So far, no side-effects. And Cassie seemed to enjoy being with me for the portions of the morning involving the car, though she didn't seem all that pleased with the car itself.

In related news, I've booked a flight for mid-May.

I feel better already.

Improved national rail service?

Amtrak has big plans—especially for Chicago—if it gets a piece of President Biden's $2-trillon infrastructure bill:

Chicago passenger-rail riders ought to thrilled. A proposed map released by Amtrak shows rail service out of the Windy City absolutely exploding, with enhanced service to Detroit, Milwaukee, Indianapolis, St. Louis, and other locales, plus new service to cities including Minneapolis/St. Paul, Green Bay, Iowa City, Rockford, Cleveland and Louisville.

According to spokesman Marc Magliari, the “vision statement” fact sheet is an idea of what the long financially challenged passenger rail agency could do if Washington fully climbs aboard.

“It’s our vision of what can be ahead, given that the president has set the table,” Magliari said. “We hope to have more details soon.”

Key details about Amtrak's expansion proposal are not yet available. Such as timing – Magliari says the “vision plan” runs 15 years into the future – or whether states would have to at all match capital or operating subsidies.

Amtrak has already made some improvements. After upgrading rights of way in Illinois, the carrier has begun testing 175 km/h service between Chicago and St Louis—a big improvement over today's 145 km/h speeds.

One year and two weeks

We've spent 54 weeks in the looking-glass world of Covid-19. And while we may have so much more brain space than we had during the time a certain malignant personality invaded it every day, life has not entirely stopped. Things continue to improve, though:

Finally, today is the 40th anniversary of the day President Reagan got shot. I'm struggling a bit with the "40 years" bit.

It's Monday again

In case you needed proof that the world didn't suddenly become an Enlightenment paradise on January 20th, I give you:

You will be happy to know, however, that Egypt has passed its 400-meter kidney stone.

Still stuck, with no laxative in sight

The Ever Given continues to plug up the Suez Canal, halting some $10 billion a day in global trade:

Canal authorities said on Saturday that dredgers had managed to dig out the rear of the ship on Friday night, freeing its rudder, and that by Saturday afternoon they had dredged 18 meters down into the canal’s eastern bank, where the ship’s bow was stuck solid. But after a salvage team failed once more to dislodge the four-football-field-long leviathan from the sand bank where it ran aground on Tuesday, blocking all shipping traffic through the canal, global supply chains churned closer to a full-blown crisis.

Easing the bottleneck depends on the salvagers’ ability to clear away the sand, mud and rock where the Ever Given is stuck and to lighten the ship’s load enough to help it float again, all while tugboats try to push and pull it free. Their best chance may arrive on Monday, when a spring tide will raise the canal’s water level by up to about 18 inches, analysts and shipping agents said.

All the while, they must hope the Ever Given remains intact. With the ship sagging in the middle, its bow and stern both caught in positions for which it was not designed, the hull is vulnerable to stress and cracks...experts said.

I found this sentence particularly amusing: "[T]he Ever Given had succumbed to Murphy’s Law: Everything that could go wrong did, starting with the ship’s size, among the world’s largest."

The ship's size had nothing to do with Murphy's Law. Evergreen made a business decision to float a 400-meter container ship and send it down Suez. And the Suez authorities let it through. Maybe it's not so much Murphy's Law as the Omnibus Explanation: "When you cannot explain a human decision through logic, the actual reason for the decision is stupidity."

Feeling a little blocked, here

Since Wednesday, a 400-meter container ship has blocked the Suez Canal in Egypt, disrupting international trade and costing the world economy millions per day:

International efforts to dislodge the skyscraper-size cargo ship blocking Egypt's Suez Canal intensified but made little progress Thursday as the maritime traffic jam wreaked havoc on global trade.

Egyptian authorities said navigation was still "temporarily suspended" after the container got stuck sideways across the canal because of a severe dust storm and poor visibility.

That meant traffic remained at a standstill on a route that accounts for about 12 percent of global trade as the shipping saga passed the 48-hour mark.

The Suez Canal usually allows 50 cargo ships pass daily between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, providing a vital trade corridor between Europe and Asia.

Photos released by Suez authorities showed a digger removing earth and rock from the canal's bank and around the ship's bow.

More on that in a sec. The BBC explains how the canal authorities have tried unsuccessfully to get the ship out of the way:

The focus however has now turned to digging out sand and mud from around the vessel's hull.

The Netherlands-based dredging company Boskalis is managing this operation.

The ship's management company BSM says an additional specialist "suction dredger" is now in place able to shift 2,000 cubic meters of material every hour.

"It might take weeks depending on the situation" to free the ship using a combination of dredging, tugging and the removal of weight from the vessel.

These efforts have led to the meme of the pandemic:

The world keeps turning

Even though my life for the past week has revolved around a happy, energetic ball of fur, the rest of the world has continued as if Cassie doesn't matter:

And if you still haven't seen our spring concert, you still can. Don't miss it!

Lovely weather, lovely walk

Cassie and I walked to Horner Park in search of a dog-friendly area. She has a lot of energy, even after this:

Unfortunately, even though the Chicago Park District claims Horner Park has a dog-friendly area in its northwest corner, no such area exists. The city has begun constructing a new dog park on the southeast corner, but it hasn't opened yet.

Now that we're home, and I've opened all the windows (a process Cassie found intensely interesting), she began a solo vocal composition in rondo form: we have neighbors, the neighbors talk to each other, we have neighbors, we have birds, we have neighbors, we have squirrels, and finally, we have neighbors.

She has now passed out under my desk. And stopped commenting on the neighbors.

Emmett's Brewing Co., Palatine

Welcome to stop #44 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Emmett's Brewing Co., 110 N. Broadway St.
Train line: Union Pacific Northwest, Palatine
Time from Chicago: 56 minutes (Zone F)
Distance from station: 100 m

Another note about Metra, this one more positive than my rant about freight-train interference in Barrington. Metra formed out of the decaying husks of the region's passenger railroads over the course of two decades. In the past few months, as they've taken possession of new locomotives, they've painted one each in the historic livery of the old railroads. When I went from Tinley Park to Blue Island last weekend, the locomotive pushing my train had the old Rock Island Line colors. The next day, the train that took me from my stop to Clybourn, and the one from Barrington to Palatine, had this guy powering them:

I find that immensely cool.

Which, in a literal sense, brings me to Emmett's in Palatine.

Remember More Brewing in Villa Park, almost exactly a year ago, which I called a "bustling, family-friendly brewpub 'concept'?" Or Smylie Bros. in Evanston, about which I said "This is what some corporate dude thinks a taproom should be like"? Yeah. Welcome to Emmett's, which has four locations that I will review with just my experience in Palatine.

I met a friend, and we had adequate pub food, with service that lagged so much (despite the restaurant having only two occupied tables) that my friend's hamburger and my Caesar salad arrived at around the same temperature.

But I'm not a food reviewer, or a restaurant reviewer. I review beer. I had three:

On the left we have the Auto Pilot session IPA (5.2%, 65 IBU), a very hoppy but otherwise meh example of the style. Continuing to the right, we see the Shadow Boxer English brown ale (5.0%, 20 IBU), an undistinguished and very sweet ale that I would probably not find anywhere in England. Finally we come to the World's End "new world" IPA (6.8%, 80 IBU), an inoffensive beer that I would drink if the alternatives were from Inbev or MolsonCoors.

At least I can cross two other Emmett's restaurants off my list now.

Beer garden? Yes
Dogs OK? No
Televisions? Unavoidable in bar area, none in restaurant area
Serves food? Full menu
Would hang out with a book? No
Would hang out with friends? No
Would go back? No

Flesk Brewing, Barrington

Welcome to stop #43 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Flesk Brewing Co., 200 Applebee St., Barrington
Train line: Union Pacific Northwest, Barrington
Time from Chicago: 65 minutes (Zone G)
Distance from station: 700 m

Before talking about the brewery, let me talk for a moment about freight-train interference. This satellite photo shows Flesk Brewing adjacent to the Union Pacific Northwest line:

The yellow line shows the direction from which my train from Crystal Lake approached the Barrington train station, which is just southeast of this photo. The white arrow shows the location and potential direction of travel of the freight train that parked right there Sunday afternoon. Instead of taking 18 minutes to travel between those two stations, it took 40, including a 22-minute stop in the lovely town of Fox River Grove. When I finally got to the brewery the first person I met complained about the same freight train tying up traffic throughout downtown Barrington for half an hour.

So, just keep in mind that traveling by rail on the weekend has no guarantees of getting you anywhere on time.

Now let's talk about the beer, which I enjoyed a great deal more than Metra.

They had only just re-opened the taproom, so I only saw three beers on their menu I wanted to try. From left to right: the Midnight Express vanilla coffee stout (8%) was delicious, with a velvety texture and just the right coffee and vanilla notes. The Thousand-Yard Stare pale ale (6%) had tons of Citra flavors, with a lingering finish. The XYZ double IPA (7%) had so much hop flavors I had to taste it twice to get any other notes. It wasn't bad, but it was maybe a bit too hoppy for me. Your mileage may vary.

Inside, I met two big old dogs, which I always like in a taproom.

Beer garden? Yes
Dogs OK? Yes
Televisions? 2, unavoidable
Serves food? No; BYOF
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes