The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Road trips in American literature

Atlas Obscura published a map of 1,500 places mentioned in 12 books about American cross-country travel:

The above map is the result of a painstaking and admittedly quixotic effort to catalog the country as it has been described in the American road-tripping literature. It includes every place-name reference in 12 books about cross-country travel, from Mark Twain’s Roughing It (1872) to Cheryl Strayed’s Wild (2012), and maps the authors’ routes on top of one another. You can track an individual writer’s descriptions of the landscape as they traveled across it, or you can zoom in to see how different authors have written about the same place at different times.

To be included, a book needed to have a narrative arc matching the chronological and geographical arc of the trip it chronicles. It needed to be non-fictional, or, as in the case of On the Road, at least told in the first-person. To anticipate a few objections: Lolita’s road-trip passages are scattered and defiant of cartographical order; The Grapes of Wrath’s are brief compared to the sections about poverty and persecution in California; the length of the trip in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is short in the geographical sense even if it is prodigiously vast in every other; and yes, The Dharma Bums is On the Road’s equal in every respect, and if you want to map the place-name references in all of Kerouac’s books, I salute you.

Now I've got to read all these books...or follow these trails...

On track for Chicago's hottest summer ever

Chicago experienced its hottest summers (June 1st through August 31st) in 1955 (24.7°C), 1995 (24.6°C), and 2012 (24.5°C). As of Thursday, we've had an average temperature of 24.6°C—already tied for 2nd place. If the 10-day forecast holds, we will end the summer a week from Monday with an average temperature of 24.7°C, tying the 1955 record.

WGN-TV's Tom Skilling explains why we have this situation, despite none of the three months of 2020 making it into the top 3. (Hint: all three made it into the top 5.)

How is it possible this summer ranks among the top tier of warmest summers to date here? What about the deadly heat in summer 1995. Or how about the scorcher of a summer in 1988 with its 47 days with above–32°C and seven days of above–38°C?”

1995’s July heat wave was historic and responsible for the greatest loss of life on the books produced by a natural disaster in the Chicago area–but it occupied a week’s time. It was a single hot period and not reflective of the average temp over the full season through August 19 which came in under this years 24.6°C average to date.

It’s true summer 1988 produced the greatest number of above–32°C and above–38°C of any warm season since official records began in 1871. But summer 1988 produced also produced historic drought. Moisture was so limited in the Summer of ’88 that the drier than normal atmosphere allowed nights which cooled more than usual from the broiling daytime highs. So when the comparatively “cool” nights were averaged with the hot daytime highs, the average summer temps through August 19 came in well below this year’s 24.6°C to date.

So, Chicagoans, neither you nor your air conditioning is wrong. This summer has suuuuuuuucked.

Also, starting in January, we will have new climate normals. Every 10 years climatologists crunch the previous 30 years of data and produce a new set. The 1991-2020 set will almost certainly have higher temperatures and precipitation amounts for most US locations than any previous set, just as the 1981-2010 set did. Early in 2020, meteorologist Becky Bolinger ran 29 years of data and discovered that only one county in Iowa had fewer above-average monthly temperatures than below-average from 1991 onward. Every other part of the US experienced rising average temperatures.

In other words: welcome to the new normal, thanks to human-caused climate change.

Light the Lamp Brewery, Grayslake

Welcome to stop #31 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Light the Lamp Brewery, 2 S. Lake St., Grayslake
Train line: Milwaukee District North, Grayslake
Time from Chicago: 76 minutes (Zone I)
Distance from station: 1.0 km

A friend and I planned to have dinner up in Lake County yesterday, so I managed to squeeze in two breweries. We've had sunny and warm weather, perfect for sitting in a quiet beer garden with a book. Light the Lamp Brewery totally fits the bill.

Unfortunately, do to the reduced train schedules because of Covid-19, I only had 40 minutes in Grayslake unless I wanted to take a $15 Lyft to dinner. No worries; I got to try two very tasty beers, and I will definitely come back.

The 1980 Miracle Pale Ale (5.4% ABV) started clean and ended clean, with a nice maltiness for a pale ale, but enough bitterness to balance it out: a classic pale ale indeed. The Bitter End Midwest IPA (6.0%) had notes of orange, caramel, and a hint of citrus, with a long not-too-bitter finish. I'd have either one of them again.

Plus, next time I visit, I'll take a walk around the Village of Grayslake. It's adorable. And there's a lake, though a smaller lake than the one by my own house.

Beer garden? Yes
Dogs OK? Yes, outside only
Televisions? None
Serves food? Full (and interesting) pub menu
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

Our nominee

Former vice president Joe Biden accepted the Democratic Party nomination for president last night:

Speaking before a row of flags in his home state of Delaware, Mr. Biden urged Americans to have faith that they could “overcome this season of darkness,” and pledged that he would seek to bridge the country’s political divisions in ways Mr. Trump had not.

“The current president has cloaked America in darkness for much too long — too much anger, too much fear, too much division,” Mr. Biden said. “Here and now, I give you my word: If you entrust me with the presidency, I will draw on the best of us, not the worst. I will be an ally of the light, not the darkness.”

The task that faced Mr. Biden on Thursday night, and that looms over him for the next 10 weeks, was assuring Americans that he had both the grit and the vision first to topple Mr. Trump and then to deliver on a governing agenda that would materially improve their lives. Mr. Biden has laid out an ambitious suite of plans for next year, should Democrats win power, but in the daily din of public health emergencies and presidential outbursts, it is not clear how many voters are familiar with them.

Joe Scarborough called Biden's speech "Reaganesque." Dana Milbank says "Biden speaks from a place Trump doesn't know—the heart:"

[T]he power of Biden’s acceptance speech — and the power of his candidacy — was in its basic, honest simplicity. The rhetoric wasn’t soaring. The delivery was workmanlike (he botched an Ella Baker quote in his opening line). But it was warm and decent, a soothing, fireside chat for this pandemic era, as we battle twin crises of disease and economic collapse and we only see each other disembodied in boxes on a screen. Biden spoke not to his political base but to those who have lost loved ones to the virus.

Even the National Review admitted the speech did its job:

Biden’s discussion of policy issues tonight was purposely vague, a far cry from detailing his agenda, and he offered very few criticisms of Republican policies or proposals. For a guy who has spent years in the trenches of the judicial-confirmation wars, he was strikingly quiet on the courts and the issues they control — he did not mention the courts once.

This may be enough: Biden is banking that Trump is such a liability, and so detatched from any policy agenda, that you don’t actually need to talk people out of Republican ideas or into Democratic ones. This convention as a whole put more effort than the Democrats did in 2016 to pitching themes sympathetic to swing voters, the 2016 election having shocked Democrats at least temporarily out of their 2012-era smug certainties that running hard to the base would be all they would ever need again to win. Still, it gives Republicans an opportunity (if they are up to the challenge, a big if) to talk at their convention about what a Biden-Harris election really means.

Just a little more than 10 weeks—74 days—until we find out.

How hot was it really?

Geographer Randy Cerveny heads up an ad hoc committee of the World Meteorological Organisation tasked with validating weather records:

Since 2007, Cerveny has been in charge of organizing ad hoc committees to independently verify superlative weather measurements — such as the highest ocean wave or the strongest wind gust.

Now, when a new contender for a record appears, he gathers the top experts in any given subject.

"If we're looking at temperature, I'm going to get some of the best scientists that have looked at temperature across the world. If we're looking at hurricanes, I'll get hurricane experts. If I'm looking at tornadoes, I'll get tornado experts," he says.

Already, the new 54.4°C measurement in Death Valley has started to be scrutinized, by meteorologists from the local weather office to the National Climate Extremes Committee, all the way up to the World Meteorological Organization.

"We're in the process right now of getting ahold of the actual raw information, the raw data itself," says Cerveny. "My committee will then go over it with a fine-tooth comb and look for any problems or any concerns that they might have."

"I'm hoping that we would have a decision by sometime this winter," he adds.

We'll stay tuned, then.

Equidistant

It's been 153 days since the State of Illinois instituted an emergency shutdown of the economy. Friday March 20th was the last "normal" day in the state; since then, we've lived with lockdowns, social distancing, and all the other fun bits of our pandemic response.

I mention this because January 20th is 153 days away.

We'll get there.

Quick edit of old favorite

This photo popped up in my Facebook "Memories" feed this morning, so I spent five minutes correcting it. (You can see the original crop and color correction in my post from 14 August 2009.)

Man, that was a great hike. I miss the UK, I miss traveling, and I kind of miss these cows. I hope to see the first two next spring; the cows, I expect, mooed their last years ago.

Happy birthday, Bill

Today is former president Bill Clinton's 74th birthday. Last night, he spoke at the Democratic National Convention, where the party formally nominated former vice president Joe Biden to be president.

In other news:

And finally, in about half an hour, Parker will get a much-needed bath. He has no idea this will happen. I'll let him sleep another 10 minutes before the horror begins...

The A/C seems broken

It got a little warm in Death Valley, Calif., yesterday:

In the midst of a historic heat wave in the West, the mercury in Death Valley, Calif., surged to a searing 54.4°C on Sunday afternoon, possibly setting a world record for the highest temperature ever observed during the month of August.

If the temperature is valid, it would also rank among the top-three highest temperatures ever measured on the planet at any time and may, in fact, be the highest.

Death Valley famously holds the record for the hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth, which is 56.7°C. This record was set on July 10, 1913. However, that measurement is very much in question; an extensive analysis of that record conducted in 2016 by Christopher Burt, an expert on extreme weather data, concluded it was “essentially not possible from a meteorological perspective.”

The National Weather Service has since started a Twitter thread about the record.