The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Horse Thief Hollow, Chicago

Welcome to stop #57 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Horse Thief Hollow, 10426 S. Western Ave., Chicago
Train line: Rock Island, 103rd–Beverly Hills
Time from Chicago: 26 minutes (Zone C)
Distance from station: 1.3 km

About 180 years ago, the low, swampy area where 111th Street meets Vincennes Avenue today provided excellent cover for a band of horse thieves who plagued the farmers far to the south of Chicago. In 2013, Neil Byers opened a restaurant and brewery nearby.

Eight years in, they are worth the trip to the hind end of Chicago. They not only have many tasty beers, but also they have a smoker and lots of pork to smoke in it. I tried their flight, which comprises six 100-mL pours:

I started with the Little Wing Pilsner (5.2%), a crisp, malty lager with a clean finish. Next, the Annexation West Coast IPA (7.2%), bursting with Citra fruitiness and almost a little tartness, a good example of the expression—but my socks stayed on my feet. The Kitchen Sink "Old School" APA (5.7%) was very good, more flavorful than the Annexation but not obnoxiously so. I had two Spoonful double dry-hopped hazy IPAs (6.5%), and found them nice and hoppy with good juiciness and a clean finish. Finally, I tried the Mannish Boy American Stout (5.0%), which was dryer than I expected, with great flavor, and a long hoppy finish I liked.

The pulled pork sandwich did, it turns out, knock my socks off. So did the beer garden, which (alas) will revert to being a parking lot when the weather turns colder.

As I mentioned yesterday, I got pinned down for an hour by a fast-moving but strong thunderstorm. Fortunately they serve beer inside as well. After the storm passed I had about 25 minutes to walk to the Metra, so I took my time strolling through Beverly. About three blocks in, I encountered this guy:

He didn't seem particularly interested in me, though he kept his distance. Instead he rid the neighborhood of at least one rat and carried on with his evening. Thanks, friend fox.

Beer garden? Yes (summer only)
Dogs OK? No
Televisions? A few, avoidable
Serves food? Full menu
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

I enjoy productive days

Yesterday I squashed six bugs (one of them incidentally to another) and today I've had a couple of good strategy meetings. But things seem to have picked up a bit, now that our customers and potential customers have returned to their offices as well.

So I haven't had time to read all of these (a consistent theme on this blog):

And finally, providing some almost-pure Daily Parker bait, the Post has a helpful breakdown of 8 common styles of hot sauce.

That's why my hotel bill is so low

I forgot how quiet San Francisco's financial district is on weekend mornings. And I forgot to factor in California's lagging re-opening in general. Of the places Yelp said would be open for a quick breakfast takeaway this morning, two had ended weekend hours, one was permanently closed (or at least hibernating through the pandemic), and one was delightful. Il Canto Cafe, on Sacramento between Battery and Sansomme, whipped up a lovely egg sandwich and (too-large) coffee in just five minutes.

But seriously, the financial district on a foggy Sunday morning gives me the creeps.

In other news, my local El station closed today and won't reopen until 2025. Good thing there's another station only two blocks away.

Sure happy it's Thursday

I've spent the last few weeks in my off-hours beavering away at a major software project, which I hope to launch this spring. Meanwhile, I continue to beaver at my paying job, with only one exciting deployment in the last six sprints, so things are good there. I also hope to talk more about that cool software before too long.

Meanwhile, things I need to read keep stacking up:

Finally, check out the World Photography Organisation's 2021 photo contest results.

Two local stories

As the State of Illinois starts abandoning the Helmut Jahn-designed Thompson Center in Chicago's Loop, the Governor's Office announced the state has purchased PepsiCo's old building at 555 W Monroe St:

The 18-year-old structure has 430,000 square feet of office space and has green certification for energy efficiency.

More than 1,000—and potentially 1,400—of the 3,500 state workers now based in downtown Chicago eventually will relocate to the new facility, starting in April, according to Ayse Kalaycioglu, chief operating officer of the Illinois Department of Central Management Services, which manages the state’s real estate needs.

About 900 of the employees moving to 555 W. Monroe will be coming from the Thompson Center, leaving 1,300 in the structure named after the named the former governor who championed its construction and mourned its declining fortunes. But they won’t be there long, said Kalaycioglu and Deputy Gov. Dan Hynes in an interview late yesterday.

I'm sorry to hear so many people calling the Thompson Center "so old" and "dilapidated" given it opened in 1984 and sits directly across the street from the century-old City Hall. But: "In comparison, the state says the Thompson Center has $325 million in deferred maintenance needs now, a figure projected to grow to $525 million by 2026." (I took the below photo about a year after it opened.)

The other story is that seven new pizza places have recently opened in the city, and I may have to try a few of them. That square of Bill's Original Tavern Pizza at the top of the article made me hungry.

The breakfast of aliens

Via Julia Ioffe, the Guardian highlights a kitchen gadget that literally no one needs:

The Egg Master (£29.99, DecentGadget, Amazon) is a vertical grill encased in silicone housing. Ingredients poured into the plastic tube are heated by an embedded, wraparound element. When ready, food spontaneously rises from the device.

This week’s gadget describes itself as “a new way to prepare eggs”, which is accurate in the way that chopping off your legs could be described as a new way to lose weight. Let’s start with that name, its unsettling taint of S&M, an overtone consistent with the design. In hot pink and stippled black rubber, Egg Master’s exterior screams cut-price, mail-order adult toy; its funnelled hole suggests terrible uses. And it has a traffic light on it, for some reason.

“Spray non-stick agent into container”, the box advises, which definitely gets the tummy rumbling. As instructed, I crack two whole eggs into the hot tunnel, trying to ignore the gurgling sound from within. It’s impossible to see what’s going on – but it smells bad. I squint into the dark opening. A bulging yellow sac peers back at me. Minutes pass; the smell does not. Then, without warning, a flaccid, spongy log half jumps from the machine, writhing like an alien parasite in search of a host body. It’s horrifying, like a scene from The Lair of the White Worm.

I can’t look at it, let alone eat it. To stall, I consult the badly photocopied handbook, which suggests other delicious treats this baby is good for. Egg Master Egg Crackers, which is mixed-up crackers, egg and cheese; Egg Master Egg Dog; PB&J (peanut butter and jelly) Egg Master, and the tantalising Cuban Egg Master. It’s a dossier of culinary hate crimes (barbecue Pork Egg Master has two ingredients, “biscuit dough and three teaspoons of precooked pork”). Nervously, I try the sulphuric, sweating egg mess before me. The taste is … not the best. As I dry heave into the sink, I try to remember if I read about this machine in the Book of Revelation. Why is it in the world? Who created it? Maybe no one. Perhaps soon, sooner than you think, we will all bow to the Egg Master.

The video will put you off omelets, and possibly all other food, for a week.

Fridge update

The fridge that the previous residents of my house paid $4,000 for has sat quiet and warm since noon. Around 6pm I checked under the freezer drawer to see if anything had thawed out and discovered a centimeter-thick layer of ice on the bottom of the freezer. Actually, by 6pm it was more like a 5 mm layer of ice floating on 5 mm of water. Fifteen minutes and two towels later I managed to get most of the ice into the sink and most of the water out of the freezer. But wow, scraping a half-liter of rime ice from your freezer is not fun.

I can't even guess how long condensation has been pooling there. Obviously there's something else wrong with the freezer. And I have a working hypothesis.

According to the repair guys, if the freezer thermostat gets too frosty, it won't trigger the defrosting heaters that remove condensation from the freezer. The heaters being off would also allow the condensation drain to freeze shut, so even if they did turn on, the water might not have anywhere to go. And the reason this happens with the windows open could be simply that the warmer outside air contains more moisture, which causes more condensation, freezing the thermostat, and starting the downward spiral of events culminating in me fantasizing about dropping the whole unit onto the KitchenAid design offices from a helicopter.

Modern "conveniences" (personal and annoyed)

For the third time in a year, my refrigerator—a KitchenAid KRMF706ESS01, which came with my house and which cost the previous owners north of $3,500—iced up and stopped working. By "stopped working" I mean that the refrigerator section leveled off at 6°C and the freezer part at -4°C and wouldn't get cooler. By "iced up" I mean that the thermostats controlling the fridge and freezer sections ice over, preventing them from accurately sensing temperatures. Apparently this model has a problem with this issue.

The damage isn't so bad. I'll be throwing away some bread, some unopened lox which spent more than 12 hours at an unsafe temperature, and perhaps a frozen dinner or two. I make sure that my home-cooked leftovers go into sealed Ball jars at 70°C or hotter, so they're fine for weeks at refrigerator temperatures. And it's 2°C outside today, though that may go up to 10°C tomorrow. I may lose a bottle of cream and possibly some lunch meat, but the cheese will survive.

The repair guys who stopped by a while ago said they see this all the time with computer-controlled refrigerators. In fact, one of them came by in April and replaced the freezer thermostat, so he didn't seem surprised at all to see me again. His partner, an older guy who has seen everything, told me flat out that newer refrigerators break a lot sooner than older ones, because of their computer controls.

It's also not the last time the thing started behaving badly. In June, and again in September, when I spent days in a row with the windows open, the freezer would go up to maybe -10°C for a day before going back down to its normal -18°C. Or the ice maker would stop working. Or the water line would freeze up. But it almost always self-corrected, until this weekend.

Consumer Reports gives this model 5/5 for temperature control and 3/5 for predicted reliability. (Only LG gets 4/5 for predicted reliability, so maybe the old guy was right.) In fact, the reviews for this model don't inspire confidence. "Best use: to meet a repairman." "The dealer from whom I purchased it said he is getting an ever increasing number of service calls on it." "We have had a repair man in our house at least 5 times to fix it. If it wasn't the ice maker broken, it was the compressor, then the thermostat." I'd have to agree. If I have any more problems with this fridge after today's 24-hour defrost cycle, then I'm going to take it out back and shoot it. A new LG side-by-side fridge that has a lower chance of breaking and costs significantly less might be the answer I'm looking for. I just don't want to spend the money.

I recognize this as a problem that most people throughout history would have welcomed, given that refrigeration only goes back about 150 years. It's still frustrating as fuck. But I'm happy not to eat mammoth jerky for six months straight.

Mixed news on Tuesday morning

Today's news stories comprise a mixed bag:

Finally, a little sweetness for a cold December day: Whisky Advocate has a recipe for bourbon balls that I hope someone will try and share with me. I'll even supply the bourbon.

Dark and grey in Chicago

December 7th is usually the day when the sun sets earliest in the Northern Hemisphere. In Chicago this evening, that meant 16:20, a few minutes ago. We get back to 16:30 on New Year's Eve and 17:00 not until January 27th. We didn't see the sun today at all, though.

So in the dark gloaming, I will (a) try to get my 10,000 steps for the day, and (b) try to find some fresh-ish basil for dinner.