I rode the El yesterday for the first time since March 15th, because I had to take my car in for service. (It's 100% fine.) This divided up my day so I had to scramble in the afternoon to finish a work task, while all these news stories piled up:
Finally, author and Ohio resident John Scalzi sums up why he won't rush back to restaurants when they reopen in his state next week:
My plan is to stay home for most of June and let other people run around and see how that works out for them. The best-case scenario is that I’m being overly paranoid for an extra month, in which case we can all laugh about it afterward. The worst case scenario, of course, is death and pain and a lot of people with confused about why ventilator tubes are stuck down their throats, or the throats of their loved ones, when they were assured this was all a liberal hoax, and then all of us back in our houses until September. Once again, I would be delighted to be proved overly paranoid.
I have sympathy for the people who are all, the hell with this, I’ll risk getting sick, just let me out of my fucking apartment. I get where you’re coming from. You probably don’t actually know what you’re asking for. I hope that you never have to learn.
Note to Mr Scalzi: I hope to start The Last Emperox this week. I really do.
Since January 2019, Chicago has had only two months with above-average sunshine, and in both cases we only got 10% more than average. This year we're ticking along about 9% below, with no month since July 2019 getting above 50% of possible sunshine.
In other news:
- Former White House Butler Roosevelt Jerman, who served from 1957 to 2012, died of Covid-19 at age 91.
- One wonders, if the current White House had acted more propitiously, would Jerman have lived longer? Researchers suggest yes, if we'd locked down a week earlier, we would have 36,000 fewer Covid-19 deaths.
- The US saw 2.4 million more unemployment claims last week, bringing the national total to 39 million and Illinois' to 1 million.
- Ichan School of Medicine virologist Benjamen tenOever lays out how SARS-CoV-2 hijacks cellular machinery to suppress interferon production while boosting chemokines, which may explain why the virus is so damaging and hard to kill.
- President Trump "said the corrupt part out loud" in his threats to Michigan and Nevada yesterday, says Greg Sargent.
- Because it's 2020, and we haven't gotten through all the plagues yet, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts an above-average Atlantic hurricane season starting June 1st.
- What happens to cities that depend on giant cruise ships if the ships won't go there? (NB: Perfect time to visit Venice or Alaska right now, except for the virus.)
- Block Club Chicago lays out what could open if the state moves to Phase 3 of the "Restore Illinois" plan a week from tomorrow.
- Around the corner from where I lived until 2015, a condo association is suing the private school next door for fraud, alleging the Francis Parker School illegally attempted to take over the condominium board through straw-man condo purchases.
- The European Southern Observatory revealed evidence of planets forming around a nearby star.
Finally, having "walktails" with friends may be a thing, but because drinking alcohol on public streets in Chicago is prohibited by city ordinance, I cannot admit to ever doing this.
I think today is Tuesday, the first day of my 10th week working from home. That would make today...March 80th? April 49th? Who knows.
It is, however, just past lunchtime, and today I had shawarma and mixed news:
Earlier, I mentioned that the state's unemployment office accidentally revealed thousands of records in an own goal. Turns out, Deloitte Consulting did the work, so I am no longer surprised. Note to anyone who needs software written: don't hire a big consulting firm. They don't attract the best developers because they use manager-driven development patterns that irritate the hell out of anyone with talent.
Long day, with meetings until 8:45pm and the current sprint ending tomorrow at work, so I'll read most of these after the spring review:
Finally, Sheffield, U.K., wildlife photographer Simon Dell built a Hobbiton for the local field mice. It's as adorable as it sounds.
Today I'll try to avoid the most depressing stories:
- The North Shore Channel Trail bridge just north of Lincoln Avenue opened this week, completing an 11 km continuous path from Lincoln Square to Evanston.
- Experts warn that herd immunity (a) is an economic concept, not a health concept and (b) shouldn't apply to humans because we're not herd animals.
- Wisconsin remains in total chaos today after the state supreme court terminated Governor Tony Evans' stay-at-home order, approximately two weeks before a predictable, massive uptick in Covid-19 cases.
- Delta Airlines has decided to retire its fleet of 18 B777 airplanes years ahead of schedule due to an unexpected drop in demand for air travel.
- The pro-contagion, rabid right-wingers flashing placards saying "Be Like Sweden" clearly have no comprehension of Sweden's efforts to slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2.
- US retail sales declined 16.4% in April, pushing the total decline since February to nearly 25%, the worst decline in history.
- Wired has a portrait of Marcus Hutchins, the hacker who stopped the WannaCry virus from killing us all and then went to jail for his previous activities designing and spreading malware.
- Andrew Sullivan tells the story of Samuel Pepys, "the very first pandemic blogger."
Finally, Vanity Fair has reprinted its 1931 cover article on Al Capone, which seems somehow timely.
So believes NYU media professor Jay Rosen about how President Trump will try to win this fall:
The plan is to have no plan, to let daily deaths between one and three thousand become a normal thing, and then to create massive confusion about who is responsible— by telling the governors they’re in charge without doing what only the federal government can do, by fighting with the press when it shows up to be briefed, by fixing blame for the virus on China or some other foreign element, and by “flooding the zone with shit,” Steve Bannon’s phrase for overwhelming the system with disinformation, distraction, and denial, which boosts what economists call “search costs” for reliable intelligence.
Stated another way, the plan is to default on public problem solving, and then prevent the public from understanding the consequences of that default. ... The manufacture of confusion is just the ruins of Trump’s personality meeting the powers of the presidency. There is no genius there, only a damaged human being playing havoc with our lives.
In other fun stories:
Oh, and 151 years ago today, the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads completed the Transcontinental Railroad.
The US unemployment rate exploded to 14.7% in April as 20.5 million people officially left the workforce, with millions more people leaving full-time work and others not even trying to find new jobs. April's job losses were more than 10 times the 1.9 million reported in September 1945 as the US demobilized from World War II.
Once you've absorbed that, there's more:
Finally, today is the 75th anniversary of V-E Day, when the Nazi army finally surrendered to the Allies, ending the war in Europe. Germans celebrated the event today as a day of liberation from the Nazis.
Remember slow news days? Me neither.
And finally, a cute diner in Toronto where I had breakfast last June has moved to delivery service during the lockdown. Too bad they can't deliver to Chicago.
Yes, yes, the world has most of the Biblical plagues going on right now, including apparently 40 mm–long hornets, but I can see some bright spots, despite (or because of) all this:
Alas, the rest of the news isn't as benign:
- White House economist Kevin Hassett, who has not made an accurate prediction in his entire career as far as anyone can see, projects zero Covid-19 deaths by next week. The CDC, which has a bit more reputation and a bit more experience in health care, projects 3,000 deaths per day—an entire 9/11 every day—by mid-June.
- Norwegian Cruise Line's latest SEC filing says it will probably sink into bankruptcy in the next few weeks. So if you want to buy a cruise ship at rock-bottom prices, now's your chance.
- The Lincoln Project, a never-Trump Republican organization whose members include George Conway, put out an attack ad so devastating it reduced the president to incoherent Tweeting. Of course, that's less a reduction than a normal Sunday morning, but still.
And finally, I mentioned a shooting in my neighborhood last week that hadn't yet made the papers. It took a couple of days, but CWB Chicago now has the story.
Poor Commander Borodin, the executive officer on the Red October, who never got to live his dream:
Only it turns out, during a pandemic, it's not such a dream:
“Most R.V.s are not set up to be disconnected from utilities for extended periods of time, so as a result, when a shelter-in-place order is issued, it creates a nationwide game of musical chairs for people trying to find a spot to hunker down in,” said Shawn Loring, chief executive of the Escapees RV Club, one of the country’s oldest and largest groups for R.V.ers.
While people can set up on “dispersed” public land — open grounds without utilities — most are still in need of R.V. parks that offer connections for power, water, septic tanks and Wi-Fi, among other services. Leigh Wetzel, co-founder of Campendium, an online resource with 27,600 campsites in its database, said that as of March 20, 9 percent of those sites were closed. A month later it was 46 percent.
Some R.V. advocates have been lobbying to get these parks recognized as essential services. “Local governments don’t understand, only a very small percentage of R.V.s are equipped for off-the-grid living,” said Curtis Coleman, chief executive of RVillage, an online community with about 216,000 members. “They think campgrounds are gathering places and are not thinking they provide an essential service for the full-time R.V.ers who are now displaced.”
Imagine being in a 18 m² room with someone for weeks, and nowhere to go, because you can't get (or unload) water. One shudders.