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.)
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?
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.
IDTWHQ got all the way up to 16.9°C this afternoon under clear skies, a nearly perfect early-autumn day ahead to start a week-long string of them. Fortunately the landscaping company comes to my complex on Fridays, so I didn't have to rearrange my meeting schedule to work around their leaf blowers. This coming Friday, though, I expect they'll be back. As they will next spring, unless I can finally convince my HOA to ban them, just in time for the 50th anniversary of the technology:
Fifty years ago, in yards and parks across the United States, the sound of this season would have been the whoosh and scrape of people with their rakes, gathering leaves into piles. Followed by the sounds of children jumping into the piles, which I’m sure is what happened soon after the Denver Post photographer took the picture above, in 1974.
Then, thanks in part to a man named Aldo Vandermolen, over these past fifty years the autumn soundscape dramatically changed. By many accounts Vandermolen, who died six years ago at age 79, invented (or was one of the pioneers in creating) the device whose sound now characterizes this season and so much of the rest of the year.
Why is this worth thinking about, even for a minute? As a summary of the many previous posts on this theme, and of the evidence and testimony that persuaded the Washington DC City Council five years ago to vote unanimously in favor of a ban on gas-powered blowers:
Public health and environmental justice. The primitive two-stroke gas engines in these machines, already outlawed for most uses except lawn care, are direct health threats to the people who use them. In big cities this typically means hired crews, whose members are typically low-wage, in many cases recent immigrants, and rarely with long-term health coverage. They are exposed all day to PM 2.5 particulate pollution and carcinogenic emissions. By the time they are in their 30s or 40s, many will have significant, permanent hearing loss and other health problems. (See expert discussion here.)
So many other reasons, too. In fact, leaf blowers may have caused the rapid decline in lightning bugs I and my neighbors have noticed over the past few years.
Inner Drive Technology WHQ cooled down to 14°C overnight and has started to climb up into the low-20s this morning, with a low dewpoint and mostly-clear skies. Perfect sleeping weather, and almost-perfect walking weather! In a few minutes I'm going to take Cassie out for a good, long walk, but first I want to queue up some stuff to read when it's pissing with rain tomorrow:
- A Wall Street Journal poll (which the XPOTUS funded in part) appears to have bad news for the Biden re-election campaign, not least because 52% of voters surveyed believe the laziest person to hold that office since Harding and the dumbest since...well, Harding..."has a strong record of accomplishments."
- The Wisconsin Republican Party has given up any pretense of respect for the voters by threatening to impeach the newly-elected Democratic state supreme court justice Janet Protasiewicz before she has even heard a single case. Says Jamie Bouille, "In the absence of national regulation — and against the backdrop of a federal Supreme Court that is, at best, apathetic on issues of voting rights — states are as liable to become laboratories of autocracy as they are to serve as laboratories of democracy."
- Molly White may not shed any tears for Sam Bankman-Fried's difficulties getting comfortable in prison, but our prison system really does create dangerous conditions for people who don't have armies of lawyers fighting for them.
- Elizabeth Spiers has had enough of men who double down on reprehensible behavior, and the other men who let them.
- The Chicago Tribune looks at Underground Railroad sites around the city.
- Charlie Warzel laments that "streaming has reached its sad, predictable fate." Vulture reached that conclusion back in June, when it reported on studio executives having reached that conclusion in March. And then the strike happened...
- The Economist's Bartleby column provides a how-to guide on "networking for introverts."
- James Fallows reviews former Naval Intelligence officer Michael McLaughlin's book on the cyber-war that you and I are already fighting.
- The UK set a new record this afternoon with its 7th consecutive day of 30°C temperatures, an unprecedented (at least since the 1880s) occurrence. "Before that, according to Met Office data, the UK has only had three consecutive days of 30°C weather in September on four previous occasions: 1898, 1906, 1911 and 2016," the Guardian reports. "Saturday was named the hottest day of 2023 in the UK with 32.7C recorded at Heathrow." (This is not normal.)
Finally, my indoor Netatmo base station has picked up a funny mid-September thing: cicadas. The annual dog-day cicadas have only a few more days to get the next generation planted in the ground, so the remaining singletons have come out this morning instead of waiting for dusk. As you can see, the ones in the tree right outside the window closest to the Netatmo have been going at it since dawn:
The predominant species in my yard right now are neotibicen pruinosus, or "scissor-grinder" cicadas. But we also have our share of other species in Northern Illinois. And, of course, next May: Brood XIII comes out. That'll be fun (especially for Cassie)!
That's just one of the absurdities that I encountered over the course of the last 24 hours:
- A prankster put up an official-looking sign declaring Loyola Beach on the north side of Chicago clothing-optional. Unfortunately no one was fooled.
- For the 15th or 20th time since its founding, critics accuse the US Navy of adapting too slowly to emerging risks in order to preserve tradition and Mississippi jobs. (Really, this comes up about every 20 years.)
- Of course, it doesn't help that we currently have no Chief of Naval Operations, Army Chief of Staff, or Marine Commandant, thanks to US Senator Tommy "Never Could Beat Alabama" Tuberville (R-AL).
- A working group that didn't include historians has proposed how sweeping changes to Chicago-area transit can help it become more like 1960s Baltimore more quickly: concentrate on "financial viability" at the expense of fast, frequent service. Because we really have learned nothing in the last 75 years.
- Illinois has become the third-largest home of data center space in part because we have a lot of office parks no one wants anymore.
Finally, Arizona continues to allow residential development as if the state has as much available water as Illinois. Because we really have learned nothing in the last 75 years.
This surprised me. One or more mountain lions in Washington state has decided that wolves taste good:
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) staff have documented cougars killing six collared wolves since 2013—almost 30 percent of the 21 documented natural wolf mortalities in the state. "That's huge if that trend holds and is representative of the entire population [in the state]," says Trent Roussin, a WDFW biologist. The kills involve multiple wolf packs in different areas of Washington.
Such kills are rare elsewhere in the U.S. West, where more wolves are on the landscape since their reintroduction to Yellowstone National Park, which is mostly in Wyoming, and central Idaho in 1995. Today Montana and Idaho have over five times more wolves than Washington.
While a wolf pack tends to have an advantage over a single cougar—sometimes running it up into a tree or kicking it off a carcass to scavenge for themselves—a cougar excels in a one-on-one ambush. All but one of Washington's wolf kills involved lone wolves.
"Everyone always assumes wolves have the upper hand," says ecologist Mark Elbroch, the leader of Panthera's Puma Program. "But that's not always the case."
I don't expect my own wolf would do well in a fight against a cougar—or a Dachshund, for that matter—but I had no idea cougars hunted actual wolves. You know I'll always root for the dogs over the cats, though.
I'm in my downtown office today, with its floor-to-ceiling window that one could only open with a sledgehammer. The weather right now makes that approach pretty tempting. However, as that would be a career-limiting move, I'm trying to get as much done as possible to leave downtown on the 4:32 train instead of the 5:32. I can read these tomorrow in my home office, with the window open and the roofers on the farthest part of my complex from it:
Finally, does day drinking cause more harm than drinking at night? (Asking for a friend.)
Some stories to read at lunch today:
Finally, our air quality has improved slightly (now showing 168 at IDTWHQ), but the Canadian smoke may linger for another couple of days.
The AQI at Inner Drive Technology World Headquarters has prompted me to put my air conditioning on:
Nice that the ozone has also popped out of the healthy range, too. And this is what it looks like from 25 meters up:
I'm really hoping this 1970s-style air blows away overnight. It's really unpleasant, even if the sunset was pretty.