The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Before I pack up my Surface

Just noting these things to read later, as I have just a few minutes before boarding:

Finally, The Cut's financial-advice columnist Charlotte Cowles describes how she fell for a financial scam.

Reading list for this week

As I'm trying to decide which books to take with me to Germany, my regular news sources have also given me a few things to put in my reading list:

Finally, the North Atlantic has near-record jet streams again this week, approaching 360 km/h, and shaving 45 minutes off the DC–London route. I would love that to happen Wednesday.

Over-zealous PEAs

A few months ago a Chicago Parking Enforcement Agent (PEA) tried to give me a ticket while I was paying for the parking spot online. I kept calm and polite, but I firmly explained that writing a ticket before I'd even finished entering the parking zone in the payment app might not survive the appeal.

Yesterday I got another parking ticket at 9:02pm in a spot that has free parking from 9pm to 9am. The ticket actually said "parking expired and driver not walking back from meter." Note that the parking app won't let you pay for parking beyond 9pm in that spot. Because, again, it's free after 9pm. That didn't stop the PEA, so now I actually will appeal, and I'll win. But it's a real pain.

Again, I thank Mayor Daley for jamming through the worst public financial deal in the history of the United States.

Meanwhile, I didn't have time to read all of these at lunch today:

  • Almost as shocking as the realization that privatizing parking meters games the system in favor of private interests against the general public, it turns out so do traffic impact studies.
  • The Illinois Board of Elections voted unanimously to reject an effort to keep the XPOTUS off the Republican Party primary ballot, citing an Illinois Supreme Court ruling that excludes the Board from constitutional questions.
  • Former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley (R) won't win the Republican nomination for president this year, but she will make the XPOTUS froth at the mouth.
  • Of course, she and others in her party persist in trying to make their own voters froth at the mouth, mostly by lying to them about the state of the economy, cities, and other things that have gone pretty well since 2021.
  • Of course, perhaps the Republican Party lies so much to cover their demonstrable incompetence at governing?
  • Christopher Elmensdorf warns that the clean energy bill winding through the Democratic offices on Capitol Hill will lead to endless NIMBYism—not to mention bad-faith blockage by fossil-fuel companies.
  • For only $120,000 a year, this consultant will get your kid into Harvard.
  • Helmut Jahn's new building at 1000 S. Michigan Ave. looks super cool.

I will now go back to work. Tonight, I will schedule my parking appeal. Updates as conditions warrant.

Statistics: 2023

Last year continued the trend of getting back to normal after 2020, and with one nice exception came a lot closer to long-term bog standard normal than 2022.

  • I posted 500 times on The Daily Parker, 13 more than in 2022 and only 6 below the long-term median. January, May, and August had the most posts (45) and February, as usual, the least (37). The mean of 41.67 was actually slightly higher than the long-term mean (41.23), with a standard deviation of 2.54, which may be the lowest (i.e., most consistent posting schedule) since I started the blog in 1998.
  • Flights went up slightly, to 12 segments and 20,541 flight miles (up from 10 and 16,138), the most of either since 2018:
  • I visited 5 countries (the UK, Czechia, Austria, Slovakia, and Germany) and 5 US states (California, Wisconsin, Arizona, Indiana, and Michigan). Total time traveling: 156 hours (up from 107).
  • Cassie had more fun last year than 2022 as my team went from 2 to 3 days in-office (meaning more time at day camp). She got 372 hours of walks (up from 369) and at least that many hours of couch time.
  • Total steps for 2023: 4,619,407 steps and 3,948 km (average: 12,655 per day), up from 4.54m steps and 3,693 km in 2022. I hit my step goal 341 times (327 in 2022), which wasn't bad at all. I also did my longest walk ever on September 1st, 44.45 km.
  • Driving? I did several trips to Michigan in the summer, but still only drove 5,009 km (down from 5,925) on 87 L of gasoline (down from 144), averaging 1.7 L/100 km (136 MPG). That's the best fuel economy I've ever gotten with any car for a full year. I last filled up July 30th, and could conceivably go through January on what I've got left in the tank, but it's always best to keep your tank full in super-cold weather.
  • Total time at work: 1,905 hours at my real job (up from 1,894) and 73 hours on consulting and side projects, including 640 hours in the office (up from 580), but not including the 91 hours I spent commuting (down from 103). How did I add 60 hours in the office while cutting 12 hours off my commute, I hear you ask? Simple: I live closer to the Metra than I used to, and the 6-10 minutes a day adds up.
  • The Apollo Chorus consumed 247 hours in 2023, with 166 hours rehearsing and performing (cf. 220 hours just on the music in 2022). We had fewer performances and an easier fall season, which made a huge difference.
  • As for media consumption, I'll leave that to its own post tomorrow.

In all, not a bad year. I hope the trends continue for 2024, though I do expect a few more blog posts this autumn...

Cartoon villainy from our "friends" in the Mid-East

Climate scientist Rollie Williams explains the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's not-so-secret plan to get "every molecule" of hydrocarbons out of the ground:

Seriously. You can almost hear them twiddling their mustaches and tying the maiden to the tracks in this one.

Ordinarily I'd quote Upton Sinclair, but the government of KSA completely understands the thing. Then again, with temperatures on the Arabian peninsula routinely cresting 45°C and sometimes exceeding 50°C, what do they think will happen if their plans to burn all those fossil fuels succeed?

European cities mend car-centric streets

Paris, Barcelona, and Brussels have taken back streets for pedestrians, streets never designed for cars:

Strategies vary, from congestion charges, parking restrictions and limited traffic zones to increased investment in public transport and cycle lanes. Evidence suggests that a combination of carrot and stick – and consultation – works best.

A startling statistic emerged in Paris last month: during the morning and evening rush hours, on representative main thoroughfares crisscrossing the French capital, there are now more bicycles than cars – almost half as many again, in fact.

The data point is the latest to comfort Anne Hidalgo, the Socialist mayor, who since she was first elected in 2014 has pursued some of the toughest anti-car policies of any major city – starting with closing the 1970s Right Bank Seine expressway to traffic.

Hidalgo has since sealed off famous streets such as the Rue de Rivoli to most traffic, created an expanding low-emission zone to exclude older cars, and established 1,000km (620 miles) of bike routes, 350km of them protected lanes.

Due in part to her policies and those of her predecessor, Bertrand Delanoë, driving within Paris city limits has fallen by about 45% since the early 1990s, while public transport use has risen by 30% and cycle use by about 1,000%.

I admit that the US has huge difficulties breaking away from its car-centric development pattern because most existing US infrastructure was built for cars. But the inability of US voters to imagine a better life with alternatives to driving hurts us as well. I've chosen to live in a city that pre-dates mass car ownership (at least in some parts), but even here, we struggle with compact, walkable development.

Still, Paris and other European cities are showing that it's possible to undo some of the damage cars and car-centric development cause. I hope more of the US catches on to this in my lifetime.

It's the gloomiest time of the year

Forget Christmas songs: Chicago does not have the most wonderful time of the year between mid-November and the beginning of January. We haven't seen the sun all month (well, I have, but I was in California), and we had a lovely thing we call "wintry mix" during morning rush hour. It looks like we might get up to 13°C on Friday, at the cost of an obscene amount of rain dumping on the Pacific Northwest as the warm air mass makes it way toward us.

Elsewhere:

And finally, Bruce Schneier believe generative AI will greatly enhance spying capabilities enabling spying on a scale never before imagined. "We could limit this capability. We could prohibit mass spying. We could pass strong data-privacy rules. But we haven’t done anything to limit mass surveillance. Why would spying be any different?"

With that, 5 straight days of overcast skies doesn't seem so bad.

Flying out tomorrow

Tomorrow I have a quick trip to the Bay Area to see family. I expect I will not only continue posting normally, but I will also research at least two Brews & Choos Special Stops while there. Exciting stuff.

And because we live in exciting times:

Finally, if you're in Chicago tonight around 6pm, tune into WFMT 98.7 FM. They're putting the Apollo Chorus performance at Holy Name Cathedral in their holiday preview. Cool! (And tickets are still available.)

Slight warm-up before the next bit of autumn

IDTWHQ almost made it to 22°C this afternoon, with a low dewpoint, sunny skies, and a lake breeze. In other words, perfect. Of course, the sun sets just after 7pm tonight, fully an hour earlier than it did five weeks ago...but that's autumn for you.

Not everything in the world went perfectly today, of course:

  • House Speaker and noted invertebrate Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) continues to survive as third in line to the Presidency even though his unhinged back bench keeps forcing him to do stupid things, like start an impeachment inquiry on literally zero evidence.
  • Alex Shephard actually sees this as a good thing for Democrats, as the "clown show" comes just as the House needs to pass a spending bill or the government will, once again, shut down.
  • Meanwhile, satirist Andy Borowitz jokes that House Republicans "demand Biden tell them why they are impeaching him."
  • Back in Chicago, it turns out only 9.6% of the city's waste got recycled in 2022, compared with 20% in New York and 80% in San Francisco.
  • On Monday, Illinois becomes the first state in the union to eliminate cash bail.

Finally, our moderate drought continues in Illinois, but so far most agriculture seems unaffected. A dry autumn usually means a colorful one, so maybe we'll stay just under normal rainfall long enough to repeat last autumn's amazing display?

Two more senior Navy jobs blocked by Coach Tuberville

Former college football coach Tommy Tuberville, now a United States Senator grâce a the wisdom and good sense of the fine people of Alabama, continues to degrade the United States military by preventing the US Senate from confirming 301 (and counting) general and flag officers from formally taking the jobs they're already doing. Earlier this month, the commanders of the Naval Air Forces and Naval Sea Systems Command retired, passing their responsibilities—but, crucially, not their policy-setting powers—to their putative successors. US Senator Mark Kelly (D-AZ), a retired US Navy Captain and 4-time Space Shuttle astronaut, stopped just short of calling Tuberville an idiot on today's NPR Morning Edition.

In other news:

Finally, John Scalzi's blog turned 25 today, making the Hugo-winning author a relative new arrival to the blogging scene, at least when compared with The Daily Parker.