The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

A sense of place

Not Just Bikes shows the difference between places and non-places in ten short minutes:

Fortunately the part of Chicago where I live has a sense of place that he'd recognize, but you have to cross a stroad (Ashland to the east, Western to the west, Irving Park to the south, Peterson to the north) to get to another place like this.

I also can't help but think that a new culture will arise in a couple of millennia that will look at "the great American roads" as something to emulate. Maybe the Romans had culture critics arguing against expanding the 8-lane highways running through their cities too?

Stuff to read later

I'm still working on the feature I described in my last post. So some articles have stacked up for me to read:

And while I read these articles and write this code, outside my window the dewpoint has hit 25°C, making the 28°C air feel like it's 41°C. And poor Cassie only has sweat glands between her toes. We're going to delay her dinnertime walk a bit.

Could our 12+-year wait finally end?

On my way downtown to hear Brahms' Ein Deutsches Requiem with some friends, I saw this notice, hung with a tragicomic level of incompetence, at the Ravenswood Metra station's 12-year-old "temporary" inbound platform:

What? We get our "new" platform that has been almost completed for the past 24 months on August 1st?

There’s only one brief note on the station info page, but otherwise…nothing. No ribbon cutting, no acknowledgement that the platform is opening 6 years late, no recognition that former Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner (R) cut funding to the project for four years, no one taking any responsibility for the 10-month delay between finishing almost everything and getting “the tiles” or whatever they were waiting for since last summer.

If they open the thing, I'll post photos on the 2nd. If they don't, I'll post derision.

In any event, the Grant Park Symphony had a wonderful performance of one of my favorite choral works, in perfect weather:

And walking back to the train, I was reminded how cool our architecture was in the 1920s:

Tuesday's child is a weird one

It's Tuesday afternoon, and I think I'm caught up with everything in the way of me ploughing through some coding at work the remainder of the week. At some point, I might even read all of these through:

Finally, North Korean troops detained a US soldier after he intentionally crossed the demarcation line in the Joint Security Area, apparently after deserting while en route to the US for unspecified disciplinary measures arising from a separate incident. When I visited the JSA in 2013, a tour guide told me that this happens occasionally, and the North Korean army rarely gives the person back. Not sure life in a North Korean prison beats an other-than-honorable discharge from the US Army, but what do I know?

Of note, Monday afternoon

Just a few items for my reading list:

  • The Supreme Court's Republican majority have invented a new doctrine that they claim gives them override any action by a Democratic administration or Congress.
  • John Ganz thinks all Americans are insane, at least when it comes to conspiracy theories.
  • Chicago's Deep Tunnel may have spared us from total disaster with last week's rains, but even it can't cope with more than about 65 mm of rain in an hour.
  • Oregon's Rose Quarter extension of Interstate 5 will cost an absurd amount of money because it's an absurdly wide freeway.

Finally, for those of you just tuning in to the multiple creative labor actions now paralyzing the film industry, the Washington Post has a succinct briefing on residuals, the principal point of disagreement between the suits and the people actually making films.

The future arrived last year

On Friday I posted about Amtrak's $75 billion windfall from the Biden Infrastructure Bill, and I wondered whether the new Siemens Venture rolling stock would make it to Chicago. Well, I took the Wolverine to and from New Buffalo, Mich., over the weekend, and rode in them. My contact at Amtrak said the states of Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Michigan own them.

Photos and more details tomorrow.

Amtrak's $75 billion expansion

The Federal Infrastructure Bill that President Biden signed into law in 2021 allocated $66 billion to Amtrak, which they plan to use to bring US rail service up to European standards (albeit in the mid-2000s):

Amtrak’s expansion plan, dubbed Amtrak Connects US, proposes service improvements to 25 existing routes and the addition of 39 entirely new routes. If the vision were to be fully realized, it would bring passenger rail to almost every major city in the US in 15 years. (Right now, only 27 out of the top 50 metros are directly served.) The agency estimates that this would add 20 million trips annually — about double the number currently served on state-supported routes, or those less than 500 miles.

It’s a long way from the giant network of interurban trains that Americans relied on to get around early in the 20th century, but the plan would still mark a dramatic expansion of passenger rail. And it would bring critical environmental benefits. The transportation sector is the country’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, with most of that pollution coming from cars and trucks. (Rail currently contributes a mere 2%.) Overall, train travel is 34% more energy efficient than flying and 46% more efficient than driving, according to Department of Energy estimates — and on partly electrified routes such as the Northeast Corridor, which carried about 40% of Amtrak ridership in 2022, its environmental advantages stretch even further. A modernized and expanded passenger rail network could be a powerful lever of decarbonization.

For residents of cities like Las Vegas, Phoenix, Nashville and Columbus, Ohio, the Amtrak plan is bringing the prospect of being restored to the rail system. In total, Amtrak hopes to add new service in 160 communities in 16 new states, including outposts like Rockport, Illinois; Madison, Wisconsin; and Salisbury, North Carolina.

Amtrak has also bought a new trainset from Siemens Mobility similar to the train I took from Vienna to Salzburg last month, though (sadly for me) only for the East Coast, not going nearly as fast, and not starting until 2026. We'll keep using the 1970s-era Amfleet I and 1990s-era Bombardier Horizon cars in Chicago. (Though it's possible we could start seeing brand-new Siemens Venture rolling stock soon.)

Why am I inside?

I'm in my downtown office today, with its floor-to-ceiling window that one could only open with a sledgehammer. The weather right now makes that approach pretty tempting. However, as that would be a career-limiting move, I'm trying to get as much done as possible to leave downtown on the 4:32 train instead of the 5:32. I can read these tomorrow in my home office, with the window open and the roofers on the farthest part of my complex from it:

Finally, does day drinking cause more harm than drinking at night? (Asking for a friend.)

Wrapping up the second quarter

Here is the state of things as we go into the second half of 2023:

  • The government-owned but independently-edited newspaper Wiener Zeitung published its last daily paper issue today after being in continuous publication since 8 August 1703. Today's headline: "320 years, 12 presidents, 10 emperors, 2 republics, 1 newspaper."
  • Paula Froelich blames Harry Windsor's and Megan Markle's declining popularity on a simple truth: "Not just because they were revealed as lazy, entitled dilettantes, but because they inadvertently showed themselves for who they really are: snobs. And Americans really, really don’t like snobs."
  • Starting tomorrow, Amtrak can take you from Chicago to St Louis (480 km) in 4:45, at speeds up to (gasp!) 175 km/h. Still not really a high-speed train but at least it's a 30-minute and 50 km/h improvement since 2010. (A source at Amtrak told me the problem is simple: grade crossings. They can't go 225 km/h over a grade crossing because, in a crash, F=ma, and a would be very high.)
  • The Federal Trade Commission will start fining websites up to $10,000 for each fake review it publishes. "No-gos include reviews that misrepresent someone’s experience with a product and that claim to be written by someone who doesn’t exist. Reviews also can’t be written by insiders like company employees without clear disclosures."
  • A humorous thought problem involving how many pews an 80-year-old church can have explains the idiocy behind parking minimums.
  • Chicago bike share Divvy turned 10 on Wednesday. You can now get one in any of Chicago's 50 wards, plus a few suburbs.
  • Actor Alan Arkin, one of my personal favorites for his deadpan hilarity, died yesterday at age 89.

And finally, the Chicago Tribune's food critic Nick Kindelsperger tried 21 Chicago hot dogs so you don't have to to find the best in the city.

The more things change, the more they stay the same

Some stories to read at lunch today:

Finally, our air quality has improved slightly (now showing 168 at IDTWHQ), but the Canadian smoke may linger for another couple of days.