The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

An iconic Chicago brand comes home

I'm not sure how I feel about CH Distillery buying the Malort wormwood liqueur brand:

Since the 1970s, Malort has been distilled in Florida, though its primary market has remained Chicago. Many Malort enthusiasts would agree that the liquor’s powerful aftertaste assaults the taste buds, a phenomenon that’s ironically helped grow the brand’s popularity on social media and in Chicago bars.

Why would Tremaine Atkinson, founder of CH Distillery, want to purchase Malort?

“Oh my gosh, why not? … I love everything about it. I hate everything about it. It’s such a great iconic Chicago thing,” Atkinson said Thursday. “It fits at the psychic level, the business level and the cultural level.”

Atkinson, 54, said he first tried Malort when a friend bought him a shot after moving to Chicago some 20 years ago. His reaction was not atypical.

“I drank it and said, ‘Why did you do that to me?’” Atkinson said.

Atkinson compared the flavor to taking a bite out of a grapefruit and then drinking a shot of gasoline, then acknowledged that’s actually a fairly tame description compared to some found on the internet.

That sounds about right. I've had precisely one shot of Malort in my life, which is approximately the correct number. I say "approximately" because the correct number is, in fact, zero.

But like the Cubs choking in October, it's very much a Chicago thing. And now it's coming home.

Bad day for Lagunitas Brewing

The Petaluma*, Calif., based company, which has a major production facility here in Chicago, laid off 12% of its workforce:

The workforce reduction will affect every department in the company, which operates a production plant in Chicago and a taproom in Seattle, CEO Maria Stipp said in a prepared statement. Lagunitas employs about 900 people at its Petaluma headquarters, which will take the brunt of the more than 100 layoffs.

The decision to downsize comes 17 months after Dutch brewing giant Heineken International acquired full ownership of the homegrown brewery company, which has long been a supporter of local nonprofits through beer donations and fundraisers at its Petaluma taproom.

The layoffs were not wholly unexpected given cutbacks at other craft brewers with growth slowing in the estimated $26 billion-a-year U.S. craft sector. The sector had incredible growth in recent years, with production rising as much as 20 percent annually as recently as 2014. But in recent years the increases have been in the low single digits.

Who could have predicted that Heineken would want profits more than protecting its workers?

*Petaluma is a million times better than its sister city, Megaluma.

Taking every opportunity to choke

The Cubs tied with the Brewers this season for the best record in the National League, with 94 wins each. Unfortunately they're in the same division, so they had to play a one-game tiebreaker on Monday to determine who actually won the division.

You will be shocked to learn it was Milwaukee.

Now, normally, the 4th-place team in the league gets the Wild Card, but this year the West Division also had a tie, between the Colorado Rockies and L.A. Dodgers. Which meant that last night, the loser of that game (the Rockies) and the loser of Monday's game (ahem) played to break the Wild Card tie.

You will be shocked to learn that it was Colorado.

Note, if you will, that had the Cubs won exactly one more game at any point in the season, they would have won the Central Division and would play the Dodgers in the NLDS tomorrow night.

Nope. They choked. They couldn't do it, not even in 13 innings, losing 2-1 well after midnight.

This is why I stopped caring years ago.

Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and it rains more than ever

This year, Major League Baseball had more weather-related postponements than ever before recorded:

In the 2018 season, 53 games have been postponed because of weather, tied for the second most since Major League Baseball began keeping track in 1986. It wasn't just rain-outs that disrupted the schedule but a lingering April cold snap in the Midwest and Northeast that resulted in 28 games postponed that month — an all-time high.

Although the baseball season got off to its earliest start ever to give players more off days during the 162-game regular season, rest has been elusive for clubs that have had to make up multiple games, including the Cubs, who have had a league-leading nine games scratched for bad weather (tied with the Yankees), the most in more than a decade.

While MLB’s collective bargaining agreement states teams cannot play more than 20 dates without a scheduled day off, the Cubs endured a punishing 30-day stretch of scheduled games in August and September. The make-up games also forced a rigorous travel schedule that, at one point, flung them to three cities, in three time zones, in six days, including scrambling to the East Coast as Hurricane Florence approached.

Scientists have pointed to climate change as a contributing factor to the warming of the atmosphere, carrying the chance for more rain in some areas since warmer air can hold more moisture. According to state climatologist Jim Angel, northern and central Illinois are experiencing warmer, wetter springs. But some scientists believe the rapid warming of the Arctic is causing fluctuations in the polar jet stream that can bring unusual bouts of cold like the region saw in April, Angel said.

Just one more unintended consequence of anthropogenic climate change, and possibly the reason the Cubs are playing a second tie-breaker game today for the right to take their league-topping 94 wins to the playoffs.

The death gurgles of Sears

Long-time readers know how much I hate what Eddie Lampert has done to Sears (recent example here). Now, apparently, even he thinks the company is done for:

Edward Lampert's proposed debt reduction plan for Sears Holdings is noteworthy for what it doesn't include: any commitment of new funds from the hedge fund mogul/CEO himself for the floundering retailer he has controlled since 2005.

That may be why the plan landed with such a thud on Wall Street. Sears stock tumbled 7 percent after Sears disclosed Lampert's proposal Monday, retraced some ground to close off 2 percent, and then fell another 5 percent early Tuesday. At $1.17 per share late yesterday, Sears was down about 99 percent over the past decade.

Investors have come to expect Lampert to underwrite continuing losses at Sears, which has lost a total of $6.8 billion since 2013. Lampert and affiliates advanced Sears more than $2 billion in the past few years.

Lately, however, Lampert seems to have lost his appetite for Sears IOUs. Now he's more interested in Sears' assets, floating a $400 million offer for the Kenmore appliance brand in August. Even that proposal was nonbinding and contingent on Lampert finding a third party to finance the buyout. In other words, the billionaire isn't willing to risk his own money on Kenmore.

You know the old story: you broke it, you bought it. In this case those things happen cyclically. I think we're finally reaching the end, though.

Chicago's race for Mayor is unprecedented in modern times

We have not had a mayoral race like this in a century or more:

The contest is as crowded as could be and for a reason: All of the old rules and factions have been weakened. Patronage is a shell of its former self. Departing Mayor Rahm Emanuel depended on money and not bodies to win office. Whites no longer are a majority, but neither are African-Americans; the city is split pretty much in thirds among those two groups and Latinos. Add in the fact that Emanuel groomed absolutely no one as a successor, and you have what on balance is the most wide-open, no-real-favorite contest for mayor since at least the day when Richard J. Daley was Cook County Clerk.

Of all the people [running], only two can make the April runoff election—assuming no one gets 50 percent in February—and in this big of a field, 20 percent or so of the vote could be enough to make it. With that kind of fractionalized electorate, almost anything is possible. It still could change, but this looks like a mayoral election unlike any in memory.

I don't remember a race with more than 3 major candidates...ever. Even when a Daley wasn't running, the choices were binary: Bilandic/Byrne; Washington/Byrne; Emanuel/Chico. This is going to be interesting.

The primary election will be February 26th.

Much needed switch to Autumn

Yesterday we set a record-high temperature: 34°C at O'Hare. Even with the lake-side cooling we had downtown, it still sucked. Today, however, a cold front is slowly marching across the prairie and the temperature is forecast to fall to 13°C overnight.

Good timing. The September equinox is tomorrow night. So even though meteorological autumn began on the 1st, it's nice that astronomical autumn will begin right on time.

Lunchtime reading

Lots of stuff crossed my inbox this morning:

Back to my wonderful, happy software debugging adventure.

Realignment

I'm just starting the process of moving, today, by signing a ton of papers in an office somewhere in Chicago. I get to do this two more times before the end of September. But mid-October, Inner Drive Technology World Headquarters will have a new home.

Parker has no idea how disrupted his life is about to become.

Morning reading list

Before diving back into one of the most abominable wrecks of a software application I've seen in years, I've lined up some stuff to read when I need to take a break:

OK. Firing up Visual Studio, reaching for the Valium...