My Garmin Venu 3 continues to impress me. First, its navigation accuracy averages within less than 2 meters, meaning you can see on my activity tracks when I dip into an alley to drop off Cassie's latest offering.
Second, its battery life rocks. I'm charging it right now after it last got to 100% around noon last Friday. When I connected its charger 45 minutes ago it had dwindled to 7%. That equates to just over 15 percentage points per day, or a full discharge in 6½ days. My old Venu 2 could barely manage 48 hours towards the end. This is with full GPS/Glonass/Galileo tracking on walks and pulse O2 measurement overnight. I'll do a long (20 km) walk soon to see how much it burns when tracking activities.
Perhaps that'll be this weekend. Saturday, weather permitting, I plan to take the special Heritage Corridor Brewery Train (not making this up) to visit the two breweries in Lockport. Sunday, weather permitting, I plan to do nothing of value.
Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) forced through a vote on the top three general officer promotions that junior Senator Tommy "Coach" Tuberville (R-AL) has blocked for over six months, meaning we will have a Joint Chiefs Chair, a Commandant of the Marine Corps, and an Army Chief of Staff in the next couple of days. That leaves just over 300 admirals and general officers waiting for confirmation. No biggie.
Finally, Bob Ballard's company recently did a 40-hour underwater survey of three WWII aircraft carriers sunk at the Battle of Midway.
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:
- One of the last sane Republican office holders, US Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT), announced he won't seek re-election in 2024.
- One of the least-sane Republican office holders, US Representative Lauren Boebert (R-CO), got thrown out of a performance of the Beetlejuice musical in Denver for, among other things, being a Karen when told to stop all the other things she was doing to disrupt the show.
- Contra David Ignatius' column in the Post yesterday advocating for President Biden to step aside in 2024, Josh Marshall has a simple message for my party: "Biden’s age is a real challenge. But the whole question is locked up. It’s locked in. So everyone who wants to beat Trump needs to absorb that, stop whining and buck up."
- ProPublica takes us through the chronology of the Navy's failed $100 billion Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program, that tried to support three entirely different mission profiles and, consequently, does none of them well. (This is why we're building a bunch more Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and reintroducing frigates after a 35-year construction hiatus.)
- After a 13-year construction hiatus, the Hudson River tunnel connecting New Jersey Transit to Penn Station will resume in 2025, with a projected opening in 2035. (NB: A British-French consortium dug the 50-kilometer Chunnel in six years for the 2023 equivalent of £14 billion. If it finishes by 2035, the 3-kilometer Gateway Tunnel will have taken 25 years and cost over $16 billion.)
- Transport for London (TfL) announced that most of London inside the M-25 is now an ultra-low-emissions zone (ULEZ) with motorist fees of £12.50 ($15.61) per day for cars that don't meet the current emissions standards. The government has also pledged £163 million ($204 million) to scrap old cars that don't qualify for the ULEZ.
- A NIMBY group in Minneapolis has temporarily halted implementation of the city's environmentally-necessary zoning changes that would allow more housing density by—get this—using Minnesota's 1970s-era environmental laws.
- By the way, cars aren't just giving us asthma and killing more people than any other cause in the United States and Canada, they're also bankrupting us.
- Here's what you need to know about the latest Covid booster. I'm getting mine Tuesday.
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.
I didn't only read about leaf blowers today. In other news:
- For reasons no one can fathom, there seems to be a relationship between how much scrutiny the individual Justices of the United States have gotten over their conflicts of interest with billionaires and their rejection of outside ethical oversight. Oh, and the two most defiant happen to be the two most ideologically Republican. Hard to figure out why.
- Paul Krugman tries to figure out why inflation has dropped to 3%—not that he's complaining!
- Luis Rubiales, Spain's top soccer official who forcibly kissed player Jennifer Hermoso after the Spanish women's team defeated England in August, finally resigned, though he still doesn't understand what he did wrong.
- If your city needs to resurface a road, encourage them to narrow it, which would save money now, save money in the future, and improve safety all around.
- The Times shares what we know about North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un's armored train, and why he doesn't want to fly.
- Allison Davis mourns the loss of her adult friendships caused, it would seem, by the "adorable little detonators" her friends gave birth to. (I’ve learned to hide my real reaction to a new pregnancy — nobody wants their joyous announcement to be met with “Oh my God, not another one.”)
Finally, tire-manufacturer Michelin has started expanding its restaurant guide to new cities, and charging the cities for the privilege. Fortunately they haven't decided to charge the restaurants for inclusion in the Guide.
I mean, look at this rotating boat lift in Falkirk, Scotland:
Archimedes' principle makes this a lot easier than it seems. Both gondolas have exactly the same mass (about 600 tonnes), and they oppose each other perfectly. So rotating the wheel through only takes 22.5 kW, "about the same as boiling eight kettles of water."
The Scots invented the steam engine, so they have some engineering game.
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.
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.
The temperature has crept up towards 34°C all day after staying at a comfortable 28°C yesterday and 25°C Friday. It's officially 33°C at O'Hare but just a scoshe above 31°C at IDTWHQ. Also, I still feel...uncomfortable in certain places closely associated with walking. All of which explains why I'm jotting down a bunch of news stories to read instead of walking Cassie.
- First, if you have tomorrow off for Labor Day, you can thank Chicago workers. (Of course, if you have May 1st off for Labor Day, you can also thank us on the actual day that they intended.)
- A new study suggests 84% of the general population want to experience an orchestral concert, though it didn't get into how much they want to pay for such a thing. (You can hear Händel's complete Messiah on December 9th at Holy Name Cathedral or December 10th at Millar Chapel for just $50!)
- An FBI whistleblower claims Russian intelligence co-opted Rudy Giuliani in the run-up to the 2020 election—not as a Russian agent, mind you, just as a "useful idiot."
- Rapper Eminem has told Republican presidential (*cough*) candidate Vivek Ramaswamy—who Michelle Goldberg calls "very annoying"—to stop using his music in his political campaign.
- The government of Chile has promised to investigate the 3000 or so disappearances that happened under dictator Agosto Pinochet, though they acknowledge that it might be hard to find the ones thrown out of helicopters into the sea, or dropped down mine shafts. And with most of the murderers already dead of old age, it's about time.
- Julia Ioffe wonders when the next putsch attempt will get close to Moscow, now that Prigozhin seems to be dead.
- About 70,000 people continue to squelch through ankle-deep mud at Black Rock City after torrential rains at Burning Man this weekend. (I can't wait to see the moop map...)
- University of Michigan Law Professor Nicholas Bagley had a cogent explanation of why pharmaceutical companies don't want to negotiate drug prices with Medicare. (Hint: record profits.)
- Switching Chicago's pre-World War II bungalows from gas to electric heating could cut the city's GHG emissions by 14%.
- Molly White's weekly newsletter starts off with some truly clueless and entitled behavior from Sam Bankman-Fried and gets weirder.
- Zoning laws, plus the inability of the Portland, Ore., government to allow variances in any useful fashion, has condemned an entire high school to send its kids an hour away by bus while the building gets repaired, rather than just across the street to the community college many of them attend in the evenings. (Guess what skin color the kids have. Go on, guess.)
- A group of hackers compromised a Portuguese-language "stalkerware" company and deleted all the data the company's spyware had downloaded, as well as the keys to the compromised phones it came from, then posted the company's customer data online. "Because fuck stalkerware," they said.
- Traffic engineers, please don't confuse people by turning their small-town streets into stroads. It causes accidents. Which you, not they, have caused.
- Illinois had a mild and dry summer, ending just before our ferociously hot Labor Day weekend.
- James Fallows talks about college rankings, "which are marginally more encouraging than the current chaos of College Football."
Finally, I'll just leave this Tweet from former labor secretary Robert Reich as its own little monument to the New Gilded Age we now inhabit:
Meteorological autumn begins at midnight local time, even though today's autumn-like temperatures will give way to summer heat for a few days starting Saturday. Tomorrow I will once again attempt the 42-kilometer walk from Cassie's daycare to Lake Bluff. Will I go 3-for-4 or .500? Tune in Saturday morning to find out.
- Quinta Jurecic foresees some problems with the overlapping XPOTUS criminal trials next year, not least of which is looking for a judicial solution to a political problem.
- Even though I prefer them to rabbits, even I can see that Chicago has a rat problem.
- Pilot Patrick Smith laments the endless noise in most airport terminals, but praises Schiphol for its quiet. (Yet another reason to emigrate?)
Finally, it seems like anyone with a valid credit card number (their own or someone else's) can track the owner of that credit card on the New York City subway. I wonder how the MTA will plug that particular hole?
Private railroad operator Brightline has started modestly-high-speed service in South Florida, and has agreements in place to start Los Angeles to Las Vegas service by the end of the decade:
Launching with no federal help, the modern debut of private passenger rail connecting two major metropolitan areas will come to fruition when Brightline riders arrive in Orlando from downtown Miami. The Federal Railroad Administration expects to sign off within days, triggering a three-week testing period before Brightline carries passengers. The company will then set its sights on a $12 billion high-speed railway from Las Vegas to Southern California, a massive undertaking that could put trains traveling at 300 km/h on America’s tracks by 2028.
After operating much like a commuter service through South Florida, the Orlando station will be the nation’s first non-Amtrak passenger train connection between two metro areas in four decades — a project with nearly $6 billion in private investment. Although not a true high-speed operation, the Brightline Florida service will surpass speeds of 200 km/h in some areas — the nation’s fastest train outside the D.C.-Boston region.
Five years after Brightline opened its 67-mile service between Miami and West Palm Beach, passengers fill the five-car trains for sporting events and festivals while commuters use it to get to jobs. Students receive discounted passes for educational excursions.
Brightline uses business tycoon Henry Flagler’s original Miami train station and his Florida East Coast Railway, built in the late 1880s. The station had fallen into disrepair and was surrounded by parking lots. The raised platform is now the hub of 1.5 million square feet of development, with office, commercial and residential spaces built by Brightline’s owner.
The 425 km electrified rail line from Las Vegas to Rancho Cucamonga, where it would connect to downtown Los Angeles via commuter train, is estimated to cost $12 billion — three times the price tag envisioned in the mid-2000s. Brightline submitted a 4,000-page application in April for a $3.75 billion federal grant from the infrastructure law.
If you can get from LA to Vegas in 2 hours, you can charge more than the airlines charge, but you can also charge less. That's about the same distance as Paris to Lyon, which the TGV currently makes in about that time, for about €50 in second class. And an electric train over that distance produces a fraction of greenhouse gasses per passenger than a car or airplane.
Notice that this can only happen with massive Federal subsidies. But that's exactly how all major transportation projects work in the US. Remember the Interstate Highway System, that provided some $500 billion (2023 dollars) in subsidies over 35 years for cars? Not to mention all the other road projects that gave us the ugliest infrastructure in the history of the world.
I hope people use these trains. And I'm really waiting for my 40-minute Chicago-to-Milwaukee train.