The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

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.

Gross weather day

Looking out my 30th-floor office window this afternoon doesn't cheer me. It's gray and snowy, but too warm for accumulation, so it just felt like rain when I sprinted across the street to get my burrito bowl for lunch.

I do have a boring deployment coming up in about an hour, requiring only that I show the business what we've built and then click "Run pipeline" twice. As a reward for getting ahead on development, I have time to read some of these absolutely horrifying news stories:

Finally, Cranky Flier examines American Airlines' European operations and singles out its heavy dependence on Heathrow as a key reason why its fares trans-Atlantic are lower than other US carriers. Since I am using one of those really low fares to visit Germany next month, I'm OK with American keeping their fares low.

Saturday morning miscellaneous reads

I don't usually do link round-ups on Saturday mornings, but I got stuff to do today:

  • Josh Marshall is enjoying the "comical rake-stomp opera" of Nikki Haley's (R-SC) primary campaign.
  • The Economist pokes around the "city" of Rosemont, Ill., a family-owned fiefdom less than 10 km from Inner Drive Technology World HQ.
  • The New York Times highlights the most informative charts they published in 2023.
  • The Chicago Tribune lists some of the new Illinois laws taking effect on Monday. My favorite: Illinois will no longer bar marriage licenses for out-of-state same-sex couples whose home jurisdiction prohibits same-sex marriages.
  • The CTA plans to build out 10 blocks (2 km) of "community space" under the new Red/Purple Line trestle under construction in Uptown and Edgewater.

Finally, two restaurants in Chicago—well, one restaurant and one infamous hot-dog stand—have joined forces to create the Chicago Croissant, which "features a char-dog rolled into a pastry lined with mustard, relish and onions. Definitely no ketchup. It’s topped with poppy seeds and celery salt and garnished with a tomato, pepper and pickle." This, they claim, is a breakfast food.

In other news...

Despite the XPOTUS publicly declaring himself a fascist (again), the world has other things going on:

Finally, Google has built a new computer model that they claim will increase the accuracy of weather forecasts. I predict scattered acceptance of the model with most forecasters remaining cool for the time being.

For once, not all is gloom and doom

Today's roundup includes only one Earth-shattering kaboom, for starters (and I'll save the political stuff for last):

  • Scientists hypothesize that two continent-sized blobs of hot minerals 3,000 km below Africa and the Pacific Ocean came from Theia, the Mars-sized object that slammed into the Earth 4.5 billion years ago, creating the Moon in the aftermath.
  • October was Illinois 31st warmest and 41st wettest in history (going back to 1895).
  • National Geographic looks into whether the freak winter of 1719—that never really ended that year—could happen again.
  • The world's last Beatles song, "Now and Then," came out today, to meh reviews all around.
  • University of London philosophy lecturer Rebecca Roche extols the virtues of swearing.
  • Charles Blow warns that House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), who grew up in the same place, won't register for most people as the bomb-throwing reactionary MAGA Republican he is because "unlike Trump’s, Johnson’s efforts to undermine American democracy are served like a comforting bowl of grits and a glass of sweet tea. ... It’s not just good manners; it’s the Christian way, the proper Southern way. And it is the ultimate deception."
  • At the same time, New York Times editorial board member David Firestone calls Johnson "deeply unserious." And Alex Shepherd shakes his head that Johnson has "already run out of ideas." And Tina Nguyen thinks he hasn't got a clue.

Finally, Asia Mieleszko interviews Jake Berman, whose new book The Lost Subways of North America reveals, among other things, that the Los Angeles electric train network used to have direct lines from downtown LA to Balboa Beach and Covina. ("I think that the original sin of most postwar cities was not in building places for the car necessarily. Rather, it was bulldozing large sections of the old city to reorient them around the car." Amen, brother, and a curse on the souls of 1950s and 1960s urban planners.)

Cooler and cloudier with a chance of hypocrisy

Today's weather feels like we might have real fall weather soon. Today's XKCD kind of nails it, too—not the weather, but the calendar.

In addition to nice weather, we have a nice bit of elected-official hypocrisy, too: the president of the Chicago Teachers Union got caught sending her son to a private school, and giving a really crappy explanation for it.

In other news:

  • A jury took all of four hours to convict right-wing intellectual grifter Peter Navarro of contempt of Congress for ignoring the January 6th Committee's subpoena.
  • Josh Marshall yawns at attempts to have the XPOTUS barred from the ballot on 14th Amendment grounds, even while conceding that's exactly what the section 4 of the Amendment is for.
  • Even though they've attacked abortion rights, sex education, books and movies that feature independent women, and pretty much anything that empowers women and girls, the not-at-all-misogynist Republican Party now wants to end no-fault divorce, allowing as it does women to leave the "covenant" they made with their abusers.
  • Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis told US Representative and contender for "Dumbest Person in Congress" Jim Jordan (R-OH) to go—sorry, she essentially said "bless your heart" in a delightful response to his threats of Congressional oversight.
  • Julia Ioffe looks at the increasing cynicism of Africans and their rekindled affection for violent coups d'état.
  • Veteran writer Tom Fontana ("St Elsewhere", "Oz," "Homicide: Life on the Street") reflects on his 4th writers strike in 40 years, and how pissed off he is.
  • Strong Towns highlights a mapping tool to demonstrate how much of your city comprises parking lots. Unless you live in New York, San Francisco, San Juan, Washington, or Chicago, it's pretty grim.
  • The National Hurricane Center warns that Hurricane Lee will reach category 5 before dissipating, but fortunately looks likely to miss more-populated areas—though Puerto Rico could get tropical storm winds early Sunday morning.
  • National Geographic profiles Ann McKee's extraordinary work researching chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which cripples and kills US footballers more than people admit.

Finally, an old friend traveling back from Burning Man to Montreal plans to crash at my place on Saturday evening. I have two days to read up on the desert full of moop, Cory Doctorow's assertion that this Burn really was different, and the evidence that climate change played an outsized role in the muddy hell at Black Rock City this year.

After 12 long years, we got to use the roof

This morning, for the first time since the inbound Ravenswood platform opened August 1st (and therefore since mid-2011), I actually got to shelter from the weather while waiting for the train:

Rain was falling, but for a few minutes, none of it fell on me. We could stand under a roof and wait for the train to arrive. Of course, since the platform was designed to accommodate a 3rd mainline track some day in the future, we still had to stand in the rain for a brief moment to get on the train, but still. I stood outside on the train platform not cursing Bruce Rauner and seven generations of his descendants.

Oh, and note to self: bring spare socks to the office.

Could our 12+-year wait finally end?

On my way downtown to hear Brahms' Ein Deutsches Requiem with some friends, I saw this notice, hung with a tragicomic level of incompetence, at the Ravenswood Metra station's 12-year-old "temporary" inbound platform:

What? We get our "new" platform that has been almost completed for the past 24 months on August 1st?

There’s only one brief note on the station info page, but otherwise…nothing. No ribbon cutting, no acknowledgement that the platform is opening 6 years late, no recognition that former Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner (R) cut funding to the project for four years, no one taking any responsibility for the 10-month delay between finishing almost everything and getting “the tiles” or whatever they were waiting for since last summer.

If they open the thing, I'll post photos on the 2nd. If they don't, I'll post derision.

In any event, the Grant Park Symphony had a wonderful performance of one of my favorite choral works, in perfect weather:

And walking back to the train, I was reminded how cool our architecture was in the 1920s:

A wish list

I'll elaborate on this later, but I just want to list a couple of things I desperately want for my country and city during my lifetime. For comparison, I'm also listing when other places in the world got them first. For context, I expect (hope?) to live another 50 years or so.

Universal health care, whether through extending Medicare to all residents or through some other mechanism. The UK got it in 1948, Canada in 1984, and Germany in 1883. We're the only holdout in the OECD, and it benefits no one except the owners and shareholders of private insurance companies to continue our broken system.

Universal child care, which would enable single parents to work without going broke on daycare. Much of Continental Europe makes this a no-brainer, with free day care for little kids and extended school hours for older ones. In a report covering 41 rich countries, UNICEF puts Luxembourg first, Germany 5th, Canada 22nd...and the US 40th. Only Slovakia treats its kids worse. (The UK is 35th, which is sad.)

Term limits on appellate judges, including an 18-year term for the Supreme Court and a 13-year term for the Circuit Courts. The UK and Canada require judges to retire at 75; Japan at 70; and Mexico after 15 years. Every US State (except Rhode Island) has some limitation on its supreme court, whether through mandatory retirement, term limits, or elections. This doesn't require anything more than an act of Congress, as former Justices and Appellate Judges would still continue to serve in other Federal courts "during good Behaviour." I would also like to see a Governor-appointed, single-term Illinois supreme court.

A functioning opposition party, both at the Federal level (either through the Republicans coming to their senses or a serious third party replacing them in opposition or governance), and here in Illinois. As much as I like the current Democratic trifecta in my state, I don't think single-party governance is healthy, as it tends to become single-party rule, followed shortly by something worse. All of our peer nations (except possibly the Republic of Korea) have had two or more functioning parties since the end of World War II. Only 11 US states currently have divided governments, and in 4 of the 6 most populous (California, New York, Texas, and Illinois), the party out of power has almost no power at all and no hope of getting elected this decade. Illinois farmers need an effective voice in the General Assembly; right now, they have the modern GOP.

A larger House of Representatives. We last expanded our lower house in 1913, when the US population was less than 1/3 what it is today. As of 2020, each congressional district has an average population of 762,000, with Delaware having its entire population of nearly 1 million represented by one person. The average Canadian riding has 108,000, the average UK constituency is between 56,000 (Wales) and 72,000 (England), and the Bundestag elects 598 members on a proportional basis by party and Land population. One plan I like would take the largest state that currently has 1 representative (Delaware), give it and the three smaller states 2, then use that as the size of the other districts. At roughly 500,000 per district, we'd have around 650 representatives, giving us a House the size of the UK House of Commons.

End Gerrymandering. Require that all electoral districts for any office have compact, contiguous outlines drawn by non-partisan commissions at each level of government. I would also allow multi-representative districts chosen by proportional vote (for example, a 2-person district where the first and second vote-getters win). Canada passed legislation making malapportionment much harder in the 1990s, as did the UK in 2015, while Germany has proportional representation which nearly (but not totally) obviates it. This has to be done nationally, because as the Democratic legislatures in California and Illinois would like to remind the Republican legislatures in Texas and Florida, we'll put down our guns when you put down yours.

Realistic gun regulation, including mandatory licensure and registration, limits and painful taxes on ammunition purchases, and allowing local jurisdictions to set their own regulations—up or down, for the sake of rural residents—on who can own what kinds of firearms. The UK and Australia famously enacted tough laws after mass shootings in 1996; Canada in 1977; Germany in 1973. I should also point out that Switzerland—where every adult male must own a gun—has more liberal gun laws than the US in some ways, but still restricted entire classes of weapons in 2019, and has severe penalties for misusing them.

De-militarize local police forces. There's a reason George Washington feared a standing army, and why many Americans fear they live with one today. Everyone who cares about police policy should read Radley Balko's The Rise of the Warrior Cop. All of our peer nations have strict rules against police agencies using military weapons and tactics, and most UK cops still walk around unarmed and unmolested to this day. I've used Germany as a Continental example for many of these points, so let me just say that Germany has a great deal of experience with heavily-armed local paramilitary forces, and they don't ever want to see them again. Why are we building them here? We frogs need to hop out of the pot—and soon.

Fully-electric commuter rail in Chicago. London skipped from coal to electric in the 1950s, and Munich in the 1920s. Toronto, sadly, still uses diesel trains, but they're fixing that. Sure, this would cost about $5 billion, but it would bring more than that in benefits to the whole Chicago area. For example, a side-effect of London electrifying was to drastically increase the value of workingmen's houses along rights-of-way (seriously, £1.2 m for a tiny house!), as they're awfully convenient to Central London without getting flaming cinders dropped on them anymore.

High-speed rail between most US cities less than 500 km apart, like Chicago-Detroit, San Francisco-L.A.-San Diego, and Dallas-Houston-San Antonio. (Not to mention, real high-speed rail throughout the Northeast Corridor, none of this anemic 110 km/h crap.) Most of Europe has had true HSR since the 1990s, starting with the French TGV in the 1980s. The London-Paris Eurostar came in 1994, moving people between the two cities in just over two hours—quicker than you can get from central London to your airplane seat at Heathrow. It's criminal that it takes 4½ hours to travel the 450 km between Chicago and Detroit, while you can get from Paris to Lyon (also about 450 km) in just over 2. And if they can spend £25 billion (in 2023 pounds) to build a 50-kilometer tunnel under the English Channel, we can spend half that to build a 20-kilometer tunnel under Long Island Sound, FFS.

This list isn't exhaustive, by any means. I believe the US has the resources to accomplish all of them in the next 10 years, let alone the next 50. We just lack the political will, especially in the modern Republican Party, which lacks the understanding that American greatness has always depended on collective effort.

The United States is no longer the greatest country in the world...but it could be again.

The *other* Metra station

While we in Ravenswood continue to wait for tile deliveries or whatever so Metra and the UPRR can finish replacing the platform they tore down in 2011, the a priori Peterson/Ridge station that broke ground 18 months ago is almost done:

Work on the station is slated to wrap up this fall, when the long-awaited station will open to the public, project managers said at the community meeting.

Announced in 2012, the Peterson-Ridge station has been the victim of the state’s years-long budget impasse and then permitting issues with the city.

After finally securing funding in 2019, the project’s groundbreaking was pushed back to spring 2021. The project was stalled once again when the Department of Water Management rejected Metra’s plans for environmentally friendly permeable pavers, saying such plans could jeopardize water main pipes below the site.

The groundwater plan was altered and the station project broke ground in November 2021.

So, which station will open first? Given the railroad's track record (ah, ha ha, ha), it's even odds as far as I can see.