The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

De-Mosesing New York

New York Times developer Jeff Sisson has put together a mapping application that can remove highways from New York:

Imagine there’s no highway, it’s easy if you try—even easier, since now there’s a map for that. With this latest cartographic venture, you can make the concrete superslabs and soul-sucking underpasses that are the scourge of urbanists everywhere disappear with a mere click.

This is the vision of Jeff Sisson, a developer at The New York Times who dabbles in the kinds of stuff we consider CityLab catnip. You might remember him from such projects as mapping New York’s bodegas. His latest effort is called “NYC (& The World) Without Highways.”

Highway removal in real life is expensive, time consuming, and politically challenging, as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo will inevitably discover as he plots a pricey demolition of the Bronx’s Sheridan Expressway.

Maybe there's one for Chicago in the works?

The smoke is the story

Josh Marshall takes a moment to reflect on the fact that President Trump gets a lot of money from Russia. Even if the explanation is completely innocent, it's still a pretty big deal:

Many people look at this arc of growing dependency on money from the former Soviet Union and look for that moment when Trump becomes so dependent on money from Russia that he's forced to cut a deal with Vladimir Putin; or perhaps his business partners catch him in a compromising situation and then he's owned by nefarious forces in Russia. I do not rule out the possibility that some less lurid version of one of these scenarios did happen. But what many of us see as the smoke, which must somewhere lead to fire, is actually the story itself. The smoke is the story! Or to put it differently, the deep business ties provide a compelling explanation and I think likely sufficient explanation of Trump's persistent coziness and affection with top figures in Russia and Russian geopolitical interests.

We can also see the impact of the Crimea crisis of 2014 - which is the fulcrum of so much of the Trump/Russia story. If Trump had been getting a substantial amount of his buyers and investors from Russia, the imposition of sanctions in 2014 created a major obstacle to his way of doing business. (The big dip in the global oil market likely had a similar impact.) Remember, what's bad for Trump is wrong. That's the rule of thumb. Not just bad for Trump but wrong, stupid, terrible. And it wasn't just bad for Trump, it was clearly a very bad development for many people in his business orbit. Bad for Trump, Bad! Bad for Trump's friends, Bad! Bad for Trump's friends who keep the money flowing, Especially Bad!

I don't deny that we may eventually find a needle in this haystack. There are parts of the story which remain difficult to piece together based on what I've called this "innocent explanation." There are so many sleazy characters, so many connections to figures in the Russian criminal underworld that I'm sure there are at least a few sub-needles there. But haystack itself is a very, very big story.

He's seriously the most corrupt person ever elected to that office, and I'm including the guys from the 1880s and Warren Harding.

Evidence of things unseen

Some stories from today:

And, hey! It's Friday afternoon already.

Not posting much lately

Since December I've been the technical lead on an 18-person project at work, which has tanked my blogging frequency. I may return to my previous 3-posts-in-two-days velocity at some point. For now, here are some articles to read:

That's all for now.

Quite a layout

Growing up, one of my favorite things in the whole world was the O-gauge model railroad at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry. Atlas Obscura describes the $3.5m refurbishment that opened in 2002:

The exhibit focuses on the intersection of transportation infrastructure and economic activity—the intercity elevated train, suburban commuter rail, and cross country freight lines, all buzzing with a vibrant post-WWII industrial economy of decades past.

The trip begins in Chicago, which is the most recognizable area to a contemporary visitor. Iconic buildings like the Sears Tower and downtown neighborhoods like the Loop are shown in a spellbinding level of detail, replete with miniature cars, pedestrians and vegetation. Tiny electric trains scoot around through the skyscraper valleys and every half hour the museum lights dim as the exhibit enters “nighttime mode.”

As the exhibit moves westward five foot tall Rocky Mountain peaks rise into the air. The tracks cut through mountain tunnels and lumber towns before finally catching sight of the Pacific Ocean and the Port of Seattle. A hulking container ship is docked on the coast, ready to receive the raw materials and manufactured products collected along the 2,000 mile route from Chicago.

It's even cooler than the layout they had back in the day. And it's still one of my favorite things in the world.

Thanks, Obama!

The outgoing president has authorized $1.1 billion in Federal transportation funds to modernize the northern half of the CTA's Red Line:

City Hall has received the parting gift it wanted from the Obama administration: just under $1.1 billion in federal grants to rebuild a key stretch of the Chicago Transit Authority's Red Line north.

The city and U.S. Department of Transportation officials are scheduled to sign a contract tomorrow, known as a full-funding grant agreement, committing the DOT's Federal Transit Agency to provide $957 million in "core capacity" funds and another $125 million in anti-congestion money for the CTA's Phase One Red/Purple Modernization project.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, in a phone interview, called the Red Line "the central nerve" of the CTA system.

The federal money "means 6,000 (construction) jobs, and it means decades of neighborhood improvements," he said, crediting U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and state officials for taking the necessary preliminary steps to make it happen.

"Forty percent of the people who take the CTA take that line," he added.

Some of the track, embankments, and stations in the affected zone are 117 years old.

Not entirely surprising real estate news

The first brick-and-mortar Sears store, which closed this past fall, will become apartments and a giant liquor store by next year:

Chicago developer Springbank Capital Advisors has purchased the old Sears store in Ravenswood and plans to turn it into a $30 million apartment and retail complex, said David Trandel, chairman and chief executive of Springbank.

The building at 1900 W. Lawrence Avenue was closed last summer by Hoffman Estates-based Sears Holdings as the retail firm shuttered dozens of Sears and Kmart stores. The 40,434-square-foot store had been operated as a Sears store since November 1928.

The full development of apartments and retail will be 105,000 square feet. The $30 million in financing is provided by UC Funds of Boston, Trandel said. The developer plans to start removing asbestos this month, and begin construction in May with a summer 2018 completion.

Still, Eddie Lampert's murder of the Sears brand is criminal.

Darkest morning of the year

January 3rd is one of my favorite days of the year in astronomy, because it's the day that the northern hemisphere has its latest sunrise of the winter. This morning in Chicago, the sun rose at 7:19 (though it rose behind a thick rainy overcast), just a few seconds later than it rose yesterday. But tomorrow it will rise just a few seconds earlier, then a few more, until by the end of January it'll rise more than a minute earlier each day.

Meanwhile, thanks to the eccentricity of our orbit around the sun, sunsets have gotten later since the first week of December. It's noticeable now; today's sunset at 16:33 is 14 minutes later than the earliest sunset on December 7th. A week from now sunset is at 16:40; a week later, at 16:48.

By January 31st we will see more clearly that the dark days of northern hemisphere winter are ending. Sunrise at 7:04 and sunset at 17:04 gives us 10 full hours of sunlight, 47 minutes more than we'll get today.

So even though the 115th Congress opened today in Washington, with the House Republicans proposing to geld their own ethics watchdog (and why would they want to do that, hmmm?), at least things will literally get more sunny throughout the country every day for the next six months.

2016 in numbers

Welcome to another of my annual traditions: the stats dump.

In 2016:

  • Traveling was way, way down over previous years. I only visited one foreign country (the UK) and took only 15 flights all year. That amounted to only 42,588 km, not enough to re-qualify for Platinum status for the first time since 2008.
  • The Daily Parker had only 459 posts, down from 2015's 493, and the lowest since 2010. I was really, really busy this year. Posting suffered.
  • Parker got 211 hours of walks, up 62 from 2015. So he did not suffer as much as the blog.
  • Speaking of walks, I got 4,693,427 steps in 2016, beating 2015 by 29,266 steps—or 0.062%. That puts my 2016 daily average at 12,823.5, compared with 2015's 12,786.7. So, really, 37 steps a day. I think I can do better in 2017; we'll see. I still have yet to crack 50,000 steps in a day. Roll on spring.
  • I'm still not reading as much as I used to. I started 23 books in 2016 (up from 2015's 21) but finished 15. If you're keeping count, yes, I dropped some books I started, and still have a book from 2015 to finish. Again, I hope to do better in 2017.

So here we go. Another year. This one could kill us all. Certainly we're all going to be a lot poorer. But maybe I'll read more books, take more steps, and walk Parker more hours.

(See 2015 and 2014 for comparison.)