The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

New evidence of the Mayans' fate

Sediment under Lake Chichancanab on the Yucatan Peninsula has offered scientists a clearer view of what happened to the Mayan civilization:

Scientists have several theories about why the collapse happened, including deforestation, overpopulation and extreme drought. New research, published in Science Thursday, focuses on the drought and suggests, for the first time, how extreme it was.

[S]cientists found a 50 percent decrease in annual precipitation over more than 100 years, from 800 to 1,000 A.D. At times, the study shows, the decrease was as much as 70 percent.

The drought was previously known, but this study is the first to quantify the rainfall, relative humidity and evaporation at that time. It's also the first to combine multiple elemental analyses and modeling to determine the climate record during the Mayan civilization demise.

Many theories about the drought triggers exist, but there is no smoking gun some 1,000 years later. The drought coincides with the beginning of the Medieval Warm Period, thought to have been caused by a decrease in volcanic ash in the atmosphere and an increase in solar activity. Previous studies have shown that the Mayans’ deforestation may have also contributed. Deforestation tends to decrease the amount of moisture and destabilize the soil. Additional theories for the cause of the drought include changes to the atmospheric circulation and decline in tropical cyclone frequency, Evans said.

What this research has to do with the early 21st Century I'll leave as an exercise for the reader.

Late afternoon reading

When I get home tonight, I'll need to read these (and so should you):

And now, I'm off to the Art Institute.

American Land Use

Bloomberg published on Monday a super-cool analysis of U.S. land use patterns:

Using surveys, satellite images and categorizations from various government agencies, the U.S. Department of Agriculture divides the U.S. into six major types of land. The data can’t be pinpointed to a city block—each square on the map represents 250,000 acres of land. But piecing the data together state-by-state can give a general sense of how U.S. land is used.

Gathered together, cropland would take up more than a fifth of the 48 contiguous states. Pasture and rangeland would cover most of the Western U.S., and all of the country’s cities and towns would fit neatly in the Northeast.

This is, of course, total Daily Parker bait.

Lunchtime reading

Happy August! (Wait, where did April go?)

As I munch on my salad at my desk today, I'm reading these stories:

And finally, a bit of good news out of Half Moon Bay, Calif. The corporate owner of the local paper told them they had to shut down, so a group of townspeople formed a California benefit corporation to buy the paper out.

Forgetting the "forgotten men"

Greg Sargent points out how President Trump's latest tweetstorm shows his utter contempt for the voters who elected him:

The campaign story Trump told about self-enriching globalist elites was that they have employed permissive immigration and misguided or corrupt trade policies to subject U.S. workers to debilitating labor competition from border-crossing migrants and slave-wage workers in China. Trump supplemented this economic nationalism with vows to make wealthy investors pay more, secure huge job-creating infrastructure expenditures and protect social insurance — thus promising a broad, dramatic ideological break with the GOP.

All that’s left of this vision, of course, is Trump’s draconian immigration crackdown, which is spreading terror and misery in immigrant communities, and Trump’s trade war, which is threatening to upend complex global supply chains and is badly rattling our international alliances. On everything else, Trump threw in with traditional GOP plutocratic priorities: He has done all he can to gut consumer, financial and environmental regulations; his tax plan lavished huge, regressive benefits on the wealthy; his infrastructure plan vanished; and his vow to replace Obamacare with better coverage “for everybody” morphed into a failed effort to cut health insurance for millions (to facilitate tax cuts for the wealthy).

Now Trump is mulling yet another plan to cut taxes by $100 billion mainly on the rich...

Yep. Trump's plan isn't even economic nationalism, Sargent adds. It's just xenophobic nationalism. The only good news here is that even people who voted for him in 2016 have had enough.

Mann, that was fun

Aimee Mann performed last night at Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago's Millennium Park—for free! So naturally I went.

The weather couldn't have been better, so the picnic area was totally full. Which meant that the pavilion itself had plenty of seats. Which meant I got to see her directly rather than just projected on a big screen.

Just for posterity, here's her set list:

  1. 4th of July
  2. Little Bombs
  3. Patient Zero
  4. The Moth
  5. Labrador
  6. Humpty Dumpty
  7. You Can't Help Me
  8. You Never Loved Me
  9. Goose Snow Cone (which, she explained, really is about her cat)
  10. Save Me
  11. Going Through the Motions
  12. Borrowing Time
  13. Long Shot
  14. Encore: One
  15. Encore: Wise Up
  16. Encore: Voices Carry

I love Aimee Mann's songs. I am conscious, however, that when her songs become my life's soundtrack, things are seriously out of joint. Sample lyric, from "Long Shot," which opened her 1996 album I'm With Stupid: "You fucked it up / You should have quit / Til circumstances / Had changed a bit." Or from "Save Me:" "You look like / A perfect fit / For a girl in need of / A tourniquet."

Seriously good, but seriously unhappy.

But totally worth the ticket price, I must say. And now I need to download Mental Illness, her last album.

Chicago's first opera

On this day in 1850, Chicago had its first (sort-of) professional opera performance. It wasn't exactly up to the Lyric's standards:

In New York, P.T. Barnum was paying Jenny Lind—“The Swedish Nightingale”—$1,000 a night to perform. Chicago’s first opera didn’t have Jenny Lind. But the local promoters were crafty enough to choose one of her biggest hits for their first show, at Rice’s Theatre. The opera was Bellini’s La Sonnambula.

Four singers are not enough for an opera. So the Chicago cast was filled out with local amateurs. A few of them had good voices, most of them didn’t. Rehearsals were—I think “confused” is a good word to describe them.

Just like in one of those bad old Hollywood movies, the show had problems. The audience kept applauding at the wrong time—whenever one of the hometown amateurs showed up on stage, his friends in the audience would stand up and cheer. Meanwhile, one of the extras named J.H. McVicker sang so loudly he drowned out everybody else.

It helps to remember that 18 years after the city's founding, it more resembled a frontier town than the international metropolis it became in the 20th century. Still, it sounds like a fun show.

And then the theater burned down the next day...

Mapping the 2016 election

The New York Times has published an interactive map showing the 2016 presidential election results at the precinct level. Generally, precincts are the smallest unit of reporting electoral data, often with just a few hundred people in them. My precinct, for example, has just over 1,000 residents and occupies less than 6 hectares.

A companion article breaks down how most of the precincts overwhelmingly went to one or the other candidate. Mine, for example, had 613 votes for Hillary Clinton and just 40 for Donald Trump. (And I'm wondering who the 40 could possibly be.)

The map we published also offers two bits of additional context to help you think about the 2016 vote.

First, we give you a measure of how the area around a precinct compares with other areas. That measure is based on the choices of the nearest 100,000 voters, as well as those within a 10-mile radius.

Second, we tell you how long it would take you to drive, without traffic, to the nearest precinct that voted for the other candidate of a major party. By these measures, for example, the area around the Times headquarters in Manhattan had a higher share of Clinton voters than 96 percent of the country, and the nearest Trump precinct, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is a 36-minute drive away.

It's total Daily Parker bait, of course.

It's not an isolated heat wave

As London broils in 34°C heat today, New Republic's Emily Atkin asks, "Why are some major news outlets still covering extreme weather like it's an act of God?"

The science is clear: Heat-trapping greenhouse gases have artificially increased the average temperature across the globe, making extreme heat events more likely. This has also increased the risk of frequent and more devastating wildfires, as prolonged heat dries soil and turns vegetation into tinder.

And yet, despite these facts, there’s no climate connection to be found in much news coverage of extreme weather events across the globe—even in historically climate-conscious outlets like NPR and The New York Times. These omissions, critics say, can affect how Americans view global warming and its impact on their lives.

Meanwhile, the Guardian (who, one hopes, have air conditioning in their offices) are reporting that 87% of the earth's oceans have human-caused damage.

Go, us!