The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

New digs

I missed posting two days in a row because I've just been swamped. I'll have more details later. For now, here's my new office view:

One of my smartass friends, who lives in Los Angeles, asked what that white stuff was. It's character, kid. It's character.

The bell tolls

Over the weekend, Sears Holdings Corp. started making preparations for winding down the business, after chairman and company killer Eddie Lampert's bid fell apart:

The iconic retailer started laying the groundwork for a liquidation after meetings Friday in which its advisers weighed the merits of a $4.4 billion bid by Lampert’s hedge fund to buy Sears as a going concern, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private. If the 125-year-old retailer does die in bankruptcy — like Toys “R” Us in 2018, and Borders Group Inc. in 2011 — it would mark the largest fatality yet in the retail apocalypse prompted by a shift to online shopping.

While Lampert’s ESL Investments has failed to convince the bankers of the viability of its bid, it could still make last-minute improvements before a status hearing on Tuesday. Lampert also has outlined a back-up plan in which ESL would pursue the purchase of some of Sears’s parts, including real estate and intellectual property, such as its brand.

Earlier in the bankruptcy, creditors questioned whether transactions involving Lampert had bilked them of $2.6 billion, setting the stage for conflict over deals with the very investor who is offering to salvage the company. Lampert’s ESL said its transactions were made in good faith and on fair terms to other stakeholders.

I think justice demands that Lampert himself suffer bankruptcy and irrelevance. But, as Robert Heinlein said decades ago, TANJ.

Chicago's hidden depths

Slate explains how Chicago's Deep Tunnel project has relieved the city of the worst effects of rainstorms—but just isn't adequate for the new, wetter climate:

The history of Chicago can be told as a series of escapes from wastewater, each more ingenious than the last. Before the Civil War, entire city blocks were lifted on hydraulic jacks to allow for better drainage, and the first tunnel to bring in potable water from the middle of Lake Michigan was completed in 1867. In 1900, engineers reversed the flow of the Chicago River to protect the city’s drinking water, shifting its fetid contents from the Great Lakes to the Mississippi, enraging the city of St. Louis (which sued, and lost) and, years later, making Chicago the single-largest contributor to the “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico. In 1955, the American Society of Civil Engineers declared the river reversal one of the seven engineering wonders of the United States, alongside such better-known undertakings as the Hoover Dam, the Empire State Building, and the Panama Canal.

“The [Metropolitan Water Reclamation District] designed a system of sewers, tunnels, and reservoirs for a city that doesn’t exist anymore,” says Karen Hobbs, a former deputy environmental commissioner in Chicago who oversaw the creation of the city’s climate plan and now works as a policy analyst at the National Resources Defense Council. Metropolitan Chicago is no longer the place it was in 1960. The weather isn’t what it was then either. It’s a cautionary tale for a time when climate change has the nation’s planners, scientists, and engineers contemplating enormous endeavors like storm surge barriers or more radical, long-term geoengineering schemes. It’s also a reminder that any project that spans six decades from commencement to completion will be finished in a different world than the one in which it was conceived.

“It’s a marvel,” Hobbs adds. “But we have this tendency in this country to think we can build our way out of stuff. And we can’t always build our way out.”

Belatedly, the city has started using porous pavement in alleys and encouraging other ways of keeping water out of the sewers.

Restauranteur caught in Spain

Former Embeya owner Attila Gyulai, accused of embezzling over a million dollars from the restaurant he co-owned with chef Thai Dang his wife Komal Patel, was arrested in Spain yesterday:

Gyulai and his wife, Komal Patel, disappeared in summer 2016 after abruptly shutting the restaurant. They abandoned their Ford Flex SUV in front of their River West home, a detail uncovered in an exhaustive investigation by Crain's. Police ticketed the car two​ weeks later and impounded it in mid-August. By then, bank records later would show, their accounts had been used for a series of payments outside the United States.

Though the West Loop restaurant had won praise for its design and Asian cuisine, Cook County Circuit Court records show the couple took $1.5 million out of the restaurant, which was partly owned by chef Thai Dang. Judges had ordered Gyulai and Patel to pay the money back. Gyulai and Patel were last known to be living in Tulum, Mexico.

Dang, who was left to pay creditors after his partner disappeared, now owns Haisous, a restaurant in Pilsen, with his wife, Danielle. "We never thought this day would come this quick," he said via text upon learning of Gyulai's arrest. "We just knew we had to keep moving on with our lives."

Good. If the accusations prove true, he needs to go to jail.

My first prediction of 2018 came true

On January 1st, confronted with the coldest New Year's Day in Chicago history, I predicted that every other day in 2018 would be warmer.

I was right.* Even though the overnight low on January 2nd was just as cold (-23°C) as the night before, the day warmed up all the way to -13°C from January 1st's -17°C. Ten days later it hit 15°C, and kept bouncing around like that all winter.

Last I saw, the NCDC predicted the coming winter would be normally wet and slightly warmer than most. I'd link to the page, but thanks to President Trump's infantile temper, I got this instead:

Thanks, Obama Trump!

* Yes, through some supernatural intervention we could have weather 22°C below predictions tonight or tomorrow, but I'm pretty confident the current forecast of -1°C is likelier.

My density has brought me to you...

The Chicago Tribune's architecture critic does not like the current proposal for the new Lincoln Yards development and its nine 120 m–plus buildings:

It would be dramatically out of scale with its surroundings, piercing the delicate urban fabric of the city’s North Side with a swath of downtown height and bulk. It also would be out of character with its environs, more Anytown than Our Town.

And that’s what the debate over Lincoln Yards is really about — not just the zoning change the developers seek, which would reclassify their land from a manufacturing district to a mixed-use waterfront zone, but urban character.

What kind of city are we building? Who is it for? Does it have room for the small and the granular as well as the muscular and the monumental?

The 180 m towers that line South Wacker Drive barely make an impression because they exist in the shadow of the 442 m Willis Tower. Alongside Armitage and the rest of west Lincoln Park, a tower of that size is a monster.

Cities need to grow and change, but this is the sort of incongruous Dodge City growth you expect in Houston, a city infamous for its lack of zoning.

And it could have lasting consequences, likely worsening the traffic congestion that already plagues streets like Clybourn and North avenues.

I just read The Battle for Lincoln Park while in London this week. That book talked about the period from around 1930 to around 1970, when affluent white rehabbers east of Larrabee battled the less-affluent, mixed-ethnicity residents west of Larrabee for control over the character of the neighborhood. Both lost; large commercial developers won. Note to Blair Kamin: History does not repeat, but it does rhyme. 

Stuff to read on the plane

Just a quick post of articles I want to load up on my Surface at O'Hare:

Off to take Parker to boarding. Thence the Land of UK.

Grisly Chicago history

Forty years ago, Des Plaines, Ill., police arrested John Wayne Gacy on suspicion of murder. Then they found more than 20 bodies in his crawlspace. The Tribune has a retrospective:

John Wayne Gacy’s confession to the rape and murder of more than 30 people didn’t just awaken America to a nightmare hidden in its own backyard. The discovery 40 years ago of the dank, muddy mass grave underneath Gacy's yellow brick ranch house at 8213 W. Summerdale Ave. forever shattered the image of the safe suburban community.

A police search for missing Maine West sophomore Robert Piest led investigators to 36-year-old Gacy, a “stocky, bull necked contractor,” described by neighbors and business associates as a pillar of the community: a likable, boastful divorced businessman and Democratic precinct captain who hosted themed neighborhood parties and entertained children as a clown named Pogo.

“(The public) would feel much more comfortable if Gacy was this type of creepy, sequestered ghoul that was unkempt and heinous,” Detective Sgt. Jason Moran of the Cook County sheriff’s office, who is a point man on the Gacy case, said recently. “But instead, he dressed as a clown and bounced kids on his knee. He would knock at your door and say vote for my candidate.”

Gacy’s nice-guy persona masked something far more sinister. Once they were safely restrained — usually in a pair of handcuffs as he demonstrated a “trick” he learned as a clown — Gacy’s easy smile melted away, revealing a cold, growling predator who sexually assaulted his victims before strangling many of them with a knotted rope. He buried 29 of his 33 victims in trenches underneath and around his home and dumped four others from bridges once his property could hold no more bodies.

Yes: this is the guy that made us Gen-X kids fear clowns.

Concerts this weekend

It's been a busy week with lots of Händel.

Last Saturday the Apollo Chorus performed Messiah with the Peoria Symphony Orchestra, which involved a 3-hour bus ride each way and enough downtime for a long game of Cards Against Humanity.

Monday we had a regular rehearsal. Tuesday some of us sang in a local retirement community's Messiah sing-along. Wednesday, caroling at Cloud Gate in Millennium Park. Thursday, dress rehearsal with orchestra. Today at 7pm and tomorrow at 2pm, full performances at Harris Theater. Wednesday, another rehearsal. Friday, finally, another Messiah performance, with some of us joining the choir at St Michael's Church in Old Town.

If you're in Chicago, should hear one of our performances.