The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

City approves $8.5 bn airport ordinance

The Chicago City Council on Wednesday approved a massive package to restore O'Hare to its former glory as the busiest airport in the world:

With legal approvals in hand and O'Hare's tenant airlines scheduled to formally sign new lease deals later today, the path appears clear to implementing a plan that, if all goes as scheduled, will add 3 million square feet of terminal space and 30 to 35 additional gates for planes to load passengers, up from 185 now, by 2026.

City aviation officials say doing so will attract an additional 20 million passengers a year to O'Hare (up a quarter from today), many of them arriving on lucrative international flights, an area in which O'Hare has fallen behind competitors such as Los Angeles International and Atlanta's Hartsfield. And if those targets are reached, the plan sets the stage for further terminals in the future.

With American Airlines having dropped its earlier opposition to the deal, the last potential obstacle melted away when African-American and Latino aldermen agreed to set up a working group, or commission, that will regularly monitor activity and report back to aldermen on whether minority businesses and workers are receiving an adequate piece of construction and related legal and financial contracts.

The gate expansion follows a decade in which O'Hare added or lengthened several runways and converted many of them from a diagonal configuration to six east-west parallel runways. Most of that work already has been completed, with more expected soon.

O'Hare's mostly-complete runway project vastly increased the number of operations (takeoffs and landings) the airport could handle, well beyond the capacity of the terminals. The new terminals and gates should alleviate that.

Passengers will also finally have the ability to change from international arrivals to domestic departures without collecting their luggage, which right now makes O'Hare a real pain in the ass for inbound international travelers.

Wednesday afternoon Parker update

We met with the surgeon this morning. She confirmed the initial diagnosis of a right cruciate ligament tear, and said it's likely completely detached from the bone. She also suspects additional damage to the opposing ligament and possibly to his meniscus.

Parker will have surgery next Tuesday, which unfortunately was the earliest he could get in. He'll have a right tibial leveling osteotomy, in which she will carve out a piece of bone and turn it so the damaged ligament no longer supports his weight.

After surgery, Parker will have a few really miserable weeks. For the first two weeks, he'll be confined to a bathroom, forced to wear a Cone of Shame, and only allowed short potty breaks. After his sutures come out, he'll still have restrictions on his activity for up to 6 more weeks. But by the end of May, he should be able to go on long walks again.

When the surgeon goes into his right leg to repair the damage, she'll also evaluate whether he injured the knee through an athletic over-reach or whether it resulted from deterioration of the ligament. In the latter case, there is a 50% chance of his left knee blowing out within a year. So I'm hoping that this was just the result of over-exuberant stair-climbing on his part, and not the result of age.

Updates as conditions warrant.

Parker update

I mentioned yesterday that Parker stopped putting weight on one of his legs after hurting himself running up the stairs Saturday night. Turns out, it's pretty bad.

His primary vet says my aging mutt tore his ACL and meniscus, which will require surgery. He's getting X-rays on Monday to confirm the injury but she has very high confidence in the diagnosis. Surgery is scheduled for Tuesday.

He doesn't seem to be in any pain when he's lying down (which, as an old dog, he does 20 hours a day). Walking up and down stairs is not possible, however. (Did I mention he weighs 30 kg?) And he has some discomfort in his usual sitting posture. I've got him on pain meds and a joint supplement, but he's not going to be a happy dog for the next couple of months. No day care, no long walks, and definitely no running, probably until the end of May.

Poor doggie.

This guy again

Longtime readers know how much I loathe Eddie Lampert, who represents to me everything that is wrong with the adolescent philosophy emitted years ago by Ayn Rand.

Well, in next month's Vanity Fair, William Cohan sits down with the child king of hedge funds and hears him out:

[Lampert's] triumphs are largely obscured by his worst mistake: the 2005 merging of Sears, the iconic retailer whose doorstop mail-order catalogue was once a fixture in nearly every American home, with the downmarket Kmart chain, which he had brought out of bankruptcy in 2003. Twelve years on, this blundering into retail has made him a poster boy for what some people think is wrong with Wall Street and, in particular, hedge funds. Under his management the number of Sears and Kmart stores nationwide has shrunk to 1,207 from 5,670 at its peak, in the 2000s, and at least 200,000 Sears and Kmart employees have been thrown out of work. The pension fund, for retired Sears employees, is underfunded by around $1.6 billion, and both Lampert and Sears are being sued for investing employees’ retirement money in Sears stock, when the top brass allegedly knew it was a terrible investment.

The vultures are circling, waiting for Lampert to throw in the towel so they can try to make money by buying Sears’s discounted debt. But Lampert continues to claim that’s not going to happen if he can help it.

Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin “has been a shareholder and a member of the board of directors of Sears Holdings from the day that the combined company was formed [until becoming Treasury secretary], so he spent 11 years at Eddie’s side. . . . [With] all of Trump’s focus on jobs, job preservation, job creation, somebody ought to ask his secretary of the Treasury what his involvement has been for 11 years in the destruction of well over 100,000 jobs at Sears.” (A spokesman for Mnuchin declined to comment.)

Cohan treats Lampert fairly, I think. I didn't learn a lot, though. And Lampert still runs Sears, and still will find some way to make back most of the money he, personally, has invested in it. Too bad not enough of the right people think what he did to Sears and its employees is criminal.

Whisyfest 2018 summary

I mentioned physical items on my desk that needed sorting. My tasting notes from Whiskyfest comprise some of them.

I'm not going to go into details about the whiskies I tasted; here, instead, is a summary table:

Distillery Expression Verdict
Ardbeg 10 year Drink
Ardbeg An Oa Buy
Ardbeg Dark Cove Committee Release Buy
Ardbeg Kelpie Committee Release Drink
Ardbeg Grooves Committee Release Drink
Balvenie 21 year portwood Buy
Balvenie Peat Week Drink
BenRiach 10 year Buy
BenRiach 10 year Curiositas Drink
BenRiach 21 year Drink
BenRiach 21 year Temporis Buy
BenRiach 12 year Triple-Distilled Horizons Drink
BenRiach Cask Strength Batch 2 Drink
BenRiach 2005 Peated Port Single Cask #2683 Buy
Bowmore 18 year Manzanilla Buy
Bowmore 25 year Buy
Four Roses 2017 Limited Edition Small Batch Skip
Glenmorangie Spios Rye Cask (2018 private edition) Buy
Lagavulin Distiller's Edition 2001 Buy
Laphroaig 25 year Buy
Laphroaig 27 year Buy
Linkwood 19 year cask strength Skip
Maker's Mark Cask Strength Skip
Maker's Mark Private Select Skip
Oban Distiller's Edition Buy
Old Rip Van Winkle Pappy 20 year Skip
Old Rip Van Winkle Pappy 23 year Skip
The Tyrconnell 15 year Madeira cask Buy
The Tyrconnell 7 year Drink
The Tyrconnell Madeira cask (no age) Drink
The Tyrconnell Sherry cask Skip
The Tyrconnell Port cask Skip

It's important to note that while I tasted all of these whiskies, but I did not drink all of these whiskies. I went with a friend, and we shared tastes; the pours were generally very small; and we went to seminars for three distilleries, spreading those tastings out over 45 minutes each. The whole event lasted four hours.

Also, Whiskyfest provides a metric shit ton (a shite tonne) of food. Good food. Heavy, fatty food.

But now you have more context for why I did nothing of commercial or professional value over the weekend.

And yeah, as much as I want to buy some of these, I'm not likely to shell out the $1,000 for the Laphroaig 27 next time I'm at Binny's.

Staycation: Day 1

Man, I've needed this for a while.

It's 11:15 on a Monday, after doing nothing of commercial or professional value for an entire weekend, and I'm finally at Inbox Zero for the first time in months.

My to-do list currently has 30 items (plus 6 already finished) ranging in complexity or duration from "set up coffee with so-and-so" to "45,000 steps." Inbox Zero was not on the main list, but my inbox is itself a to-do list, so that counts too. In a few minutes I'll have finished with the physical items on my desk that need sorting, and then...breathe in.

Meanwhile, Parker is still not putting weight on one of his legs. We'll be stopping by the vet this afternoon. His giardia has cleared up (I think; I haven't looked that closely), and despite whatever is wrong with his leg, he's happy to walk on the three that still work properly.

Also, just a little blog housekeeping: the A-to-Z Challenge starts Sunday, so over the next week I might have fewer general posts so I can get a head start on the longer posts for April.

Quick update

Whiskyfest was Friday evening, so I spent yesterday doing quiet things around the house, including starting some projects for an upcoming staycation.

Today will be a little more running around, including possibly a vet visit since Parker has been staying off his right hind leg completely since yesterday evening. He had trouble getting up the stairs after his evening walk, but he doesn't seem to be in any active pain and the leg has full range of motion. I gave him an NSAID; we'll see if that helps.

In other news, Loyola advanced to the NCAA Final Four yesterday, and Duke plays Kansas tonight for the possibility.

As time permits today I'll have updates on Whiksyfest (i.e., which whiskies I'll be looking for), Duke, and Parker.

Elite Eight for Loyola

My #2 alma mater Loyola University Chicago's men's basketball team has done something for the first time in my life:

This marks the first time since 1963’s NCAA championship team that Loyola has remained alive this deep into the season. Wearing their championship rings, Jerry Harkness and several of his teammates sat in the front row at Philips Arena to cheer for the 2018 team.

The program hadn’t been to the NCAA tournament since 1985’s Sweet 16 squad. Now, the Ramblers will face Kansas State, a 61-58 victor over Kentucky, on Saturday in the NCAA South regional final.

Meanwhile, my #3 alma mater, Duke, plays Syracuse tonight.

Not that this is news

In addition to crapping on the norms of office that have kept our Republic functioning for centuries, the Trump Administration has lowered the bar for standard written English in politics:

Amid all the chaos in the White House — including West Wing personnel drama, the Stormy Daniels scandal and Mueller’s Russia investigation — some wayward spellings and inaccurate honorifics might seem minor. But the constant small mistakes — which have dogged the Trump White House since the president’s official Inauguration Day poster boasted that “no challenge is to great” — have become, critics say, symbolic of the larger problems with Trump’s management style, in particular his lack of attention to detail and the carelessness with which he makes policy decisions.

On Monday, for example, the White House rolled out an executive order from Trump aimed at cutting off U.S. investment in Venezuela’s digital currency as a way to pinch strongman Nicolás Maduro’s regime. But in the headline on the public news release, the White House wrote that Trump was taking action to “address the situation in America.”

“Freudian slip????” wondered Rosiland Jordan, a reporter for Al Jazeera.

Liz Allen, who served as White House deputy communications director under President Barack Obama, said in an interview that the press office under the 44th president sought to be as rigorous as possible. Releases typically were proofread for accuracy and content by at least four or five people. Announcements that dealt with domestic policy issues and foreign affairs were vetted by experts at federal agencies and the National Security Council, she said.

“We felt a burden and responsibility to get it right,” Allen said. “We were acutely aware of the integrity of our platform. We took it seriously. No one should meet a higher bar than the White House. They are the ultimate voice.”

Read through to the punchline.

But Allen makes the main point, I think. The Administration's written communications reflect a deeper antipathy to "getting it right." They just don't care. And our allies and adversaries alike have noticed.

What really was the Cuban sonic weapon?

About a year ago, a number of American diplomats and their families in Cuba were injured by what our military speculated might be a sonic weapon. A sonic weapon directs sonic energy at a target to disable, but not necessarily permanently damage, the person. Over a few months, people reported "blaring, grinding noise," hearing loss, speech problems, nausea, disequilibrium...exactly what a sonic weapon could cause.

Via Bruce Schneier, a team at the University of Michigan working in association with the IEEE has published a paper speculating on the variety of weapon how it might have worked:

On the face of it, it seems impossible. For one thing, ultrasonic frequencies—20 kilohertz or higher—are inaudible to humans, and yet the sounds heard by the diplomats were obviously audible. What’s more, those frequencies don’t propagate well through air and aren’t known to cause direct harm to people except under rarefied conditions. Acoustic experts dismissed the idea that ultrasound could be at fault.

Then, about six months ago, an editor from The Conversation sent us a link to a video from the Associated Press, reportedly recorded in Cuba during one of the attacks.

To make the problem tractable, we began by assuming that the source of the audible sounds in Cuba was indeed ultrasonic. Reviewing the OSHA guidance, Fu theorized that the sound came from the audible subharmonics of inaudible ultrasound. In contrast to harmonics, which are produced at integer multiples of a sound’s fundamental frequency, subharmonics are produced at integer divisors (or submultiples) of the fundamental frequency, such as 1/2 or 1/3. For instance, the second subharmonic of an ultrasonic 20-kHz tone is a clearly audible 10 kHz. Subharmonics didn’t quite explain the AP video, though: In the video, the spectral plot indicates tones evenly spaced every 180 Hz, whereas subharmonics would have appeared at progressively smaller fractions of the original frequency. Such a plot would not have the constant 180-Hz spacing.

Of course, to this day, no one knows exactly why the attacks occurred, and even to say "attacks" makes a reasonable but not certain assumption.