Crain's Chicago Business reported this morning on the precipitous decline in performing-arts audiences (sub.req.) since March 2020:
Chicago arts and cultural organizations emerged from COVID-19 lockdowns, virtual performances and fully masked audiences to slow-to-return patrons, reduced ticket sales and scaled-backed productions. A decline in subscription rates, shockingly higher costs, and donations that haven't kept pace with inflation have thrown some arts organizations off balance and spiraled others into crisis.
Museums, music and dance venues have bounced back faster. Theaters struggled, perhaps, due to the expense and complexity of producing and staging plays.
One widespread explanation: People are still holed up at home in their pandemic pajamas binge-watching "The Bear" and "Ted Lasso." Or they're amusing themselves with YouTube videos. On the other hand, music fans will pay thousands to see a Taylor Swift extravaganza.
I mentioned that my office recently went back to a Tuesday through Thursday schedule downtown. Since our final return to office (RTO), I'd gone in twice a week, usually Wednesday and Thursday. I actually prefer a Friday and Monday schedule, but since the rest of my team comes in mid-week, I have to go in then.
The additional day actually costs additional money. The Sun-Times reported yesterday that RTO costs employees about $51 per day on average. Perhaps; but it costs me about $80 per day, broken down as follows: Cassie's day care, $51; train fare, $8.30; coffee, $4; breakfast, $5; lunch, $10. At least the train fare is pre-tax money. But really, that means, if you add income tax, RTO costs me $100 per day.
But now that she goes to school three days a week instead of just two, at least someone gets a huge benefit from the extra expense:
Fridays, for Cassie, are nap days. For me, they're definitely not. And that $51 per day for day care really stings.
I got my Covid and flu boosters yesterday afternoon, which my body noticed around midnight. I spent a couple of hours overnight with a mild (<2°C) fever and feeling generally unpleasant. Last year's jabs worked, as far as I know. I hope this year's do as well.
Right now, though, I could use a nap. And both my arms are sore.
Former college football coach Tommy Tuberville, now a United States Senator grâce a the wisdom and good sense of the fine people of Alabama, continues to degrade the United States military by preventing the US Senate from confirming 301 (and counting) general and flag officers from formally taking the jobs they're already doing. Earlier this month, the commanders of the Naval Air Forces and Naval Sea Systems Command retired, passing their responsibilities—but, crucially, not their policy-setting powers—to their putative successors. US Senator Mark Kelly (D-AZ), a retired US Navy Captain and 4-time Space Shuttle astronaut, stopped just short of calling Tuberville an idiot on today's NPR Morning Edition.
In other news:
- One of the last sane Republican office holders, US Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT), announced he won't seek re-election in 2024.
- One of the least-sane Republican office holders, US Representative Lauren Boebert (R-CO), got thrown out of a performance of the Beetlejuice musical in Denver for, among other things, being a Karen when told to stop all the other things she was doing to disrupt the show.
- Contra David Ignatius' column in the Post yesterday advocating for President Biden to step aside in 2024, Josh Marshall has a simple message for my party: "Biden’s age is a real challenge. But the whole question is locked up. It’s locked in. So everyone who wants to beat Trump needs to absorb that, stop whining and buck up."
- ProPublica takes us through the chronology of the Navy's failed $100 billion Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program, that tried to support three entirely different mission profiles and, consequently, does none of them well. (This is why we're building a bunch more Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and reintroducing frigates after a 35-year construction hiatus.)
- After a 13-year construction hiatus, the Hudson River tunnel connecting New Jersey Transit to Penn Station will resume in 2025, with a projected opening in 2035. (NB: A British-French consortium dug the 50-kilometer Chunnel in six years for the 2023 equivalent of £14 billion. If it finishes by 2035, the 3-kilometer Gateway Tunnel will have taken 25 years and cost over $16 billion.)
- Transport for London (TfL) announced that most of London inside the M-25 is now an ultra-low-emissions zone (ULEZ) with motorist fees of £12.50 ($15.61) per day for cars that don't meet the current emissions standards. The government has also pledged £163 million ($204 million) to scrap old cars that don't qualify for the ULEZ.
- A NIMBY group in Minneapolis has temporarily halted implementation of the city's environmentally-necessary zoning changes that would allow more housing density by—get this—using Minnesota's 1970s-era environmental laws.
- By the way, cars aren't just giving us asthma and killing more people than any other cause in the United States and Canada, they're also bankrupting us.
- Here's what you need to know about the latest Covid booster. I'm getting mine Tuesday.
Finally, John Scalzi's blog turned 25 today, making the Hugo-winning author a relative new arrival to the blogging scene, at least when compared with The Daily Parker.
The first day of a sprint is the best day to consolidate three interfaces with three others, touching every part of the application that uses data. So right now, I am watching most of my unit tests pass and hoping I will figure out why the ones that failed did so before I leave today.
While the unit tests run, I have some stuff to keep me from getting too bored:
Finally, the 2023 Emmy nominations came out this morning. I need to watch The White Lotus and Succession before HBO hides them.
Update: 2 out of 430 tests have failed (so far) because of authentication timeouts with Microsoft Key Vault. That happens on my slow-as-molasses laptop more often than I like.
The New York Times today has an interactive feature explaining how converting pre-war offices to apartments is a lot easier than converting modern office buildings. Simply put, before the 1940s, no one had air conditioning, so the buildings had more light and air:
These kinds of buildings, often dating to the early 20th century, make for simpler conversions because the same logic that shaped how they were designed as offices a century ago determines how apartments are planned today. Both share a rule of thumb that no interior space be more than 8 or 9 meters from a window that opens.
Iconic prewar skyscrapers like the Empire State Building were designed to this standard, and with this smallest unit in mind: a single rentable office 3 to 6 meters wide and about 8 meters from the windows to the common corridor. That was just the right amount of space for a receptionist’s anteroom and a windowed office.
Dan Kaplan, a senior partner with the architecture firm FXCollaborative in New York, identifies the private-eye suite in any film noir as a classic example: frosted glass doors, a secretary framed by interior transom windows, and then the detective in his private office flooded with natural light.
But the conversion puzzle gets more complex with offices built after World War II. That’s because the modern office has strayed far — increasingly far — from the window rule.
Two inventions liberated office space from the window: air-conditioning and the fluorescent light bulb. Just as the elevator and steel-cage construction enabled buildings to grow taller in the late 19th century, the architectural historian Carol Willis has written, fluorescent lighting and air-conditioning enabled their floor plates to become much deeper.
Then local rules add still more complexity: Maybe the building has to meet stricter seismic requirements as an apartment than as an office (much of the West Coast), or the whole facade must be replaced to meet current wind-load standards (hurricane-prone places). Or you can only convert 18 of the 32 existing office floors into residential use (in Manhattan, such use caps depend on a building’s age and location). Or units must average at least 500 square feet in size per building (downtown Chicago). Or every legal bedroom must have its own working window (New York requires this but Philadelphia and San Francisco don’t).
Still, the commercial real-estate collapse of the last three years has made conversions imperative in big-city downtowns like the Chicago Loop.
The result, probably in only a few years, will be to transform former dense commercial districts like the Loop into dense mixed-use districts that people want to live in.
To paraphrase Hemingway, the pandemic began gradually, then suddenly. Three years ago today, we started March 12th with some trepidation and ended it by closing the world.
What a strange three years we've had.
I see a connection between all of these.
First, the city has accepted six proposals to convert office buildings on LaSalle Street to apartments. I used to work in one of them, so that should be interesting. These will go through community review, and will cost over $1 billion, but could bring almost 2,000 apartments to the Loop.
Second, Zurich Re and Motorola have separately sued the Chicago suburb Schaumburg, Ill., one of the most dismal suburban hellscapes I've ever seen, to get the $100 million in tax breaks the village promised before the pandemic. The village offered these incentives to get the two corporations to build sleek new office buildings surrounded by parking lots that they hoped would bring in $300 million a year in secondary benefits to the village. Then came the pandemic. Since no one really wants to go to Schaumburg voluntarily, everyone is SOL here.
Finally, a man recently won a $91 million settlement after a car crashed through a 7-11 in Chicago and injured him. It turns out, a car crashes through a 7-11 on average 20 times a day in the U.S., in part because the company doesn't want to spend the $2,000 per store to put up bollards, and in part because cars and people should not occupy the same infrastructure at the same time.
What do these things have in common? They're all points in evidence that pedestrian-focused urban development makes a lot more sense than the horrific car-focused alternatives.
Both of our Messiah performances went well. We had too few rehearsals and too many new members this year to sing the 11 movements from memory that we have done in the past, which meant that all us veterans sang stuff we'd memorized with our scores open. So like many people in the chorus, I felt better about this year than I have since I started. We got a decent review, too.
Also, we passed a milestone yesterday: 1,000 days since my company closed our Chicago office because of the pandemic, on 16 March 2020. Four days later, the state issued the first stay-at-home order. I didn't go back into the office until June 22nd.
A week after moving, I'm averaging 30 minutes more sleep and my Body Battery score is back to normal levels after two weeks of waking up like a zombie. I might even have all the boxes unpacked by this time next year.
Meanwhile, me shifting a couple tonnes of matter a few hundred meters did not affect the world's spin by any measurable amount:
Finally, the Tribune reviewed a new New York-style pizzeria in East Lakeview that...doesn't sound like it sells the greasy slices I used to get on Lexington after midnight. But I'll try it.