Some stories in the news this week:
Finally, the House Oversight and Reform Committee advanced DC statehood legislation. The full house may even pass the DC Admission Act next week.
Amtrak has big plans—especially for Chicago—if it gets a piece of President Biden's $2-trillon infrastructure bill:
Chicago passenger-rail riders ought to thrilled. A proposed map released by Amtrak shows rail service out of the Windy City absolutely exploding, with enhanced service to Detroit, Milwaukee, Indianapolis, St. Louis, and other locales, plus new service to cities including Minneapolis/St. Paul, Green Bay, Iowa City, Rockford, Cleveland and Louisville.
According to spokesman Marc Magliari, the “vision statement” fact sheet is an idea of what the long financially challenged passenger rail agency could do if Washington fully climbs aboard.
“It’s our vision of what can be ahead, given that the president has set the table,” Magliari said. “We hope to have more details soon.”
Key details about Amtrak's expansion proposal are not yet available. Such as timing – Magliari says the “vision plan” runs 15 years into the future – or whether states would have to at all match capital or operating subsidies.
Amtrak has already made some improvements. After upgrading rights of way in Illinois, the carrier has begun testing 175 km/h service between Chicago and St Louis—a big improvement over today's 145 km/h speeds.
In case you needed proof that the world didn't suddenly become an Enlightenment paradise on January 20th, I give you:
You will be happy to know, however, that Egypt has passed its 400-meter kidney stone.
A 25-meter section of the Pacific Coast Highway slid into the Pacific about 30 km south of Big Sur this week:
Caltrans spokesperson Jim Shivers said the damage to the highway is called a slip out. "It's where we lose a part of the highway and now we're facing a project to clean and repair that stretch," Shivers said. "This is the only location we're aware of where this happened in the storm. Our maintenance team is patrolling the highway now to look for other damage."
The closure is in Rat Creek between MPM 40 and the San Luis Obispo county line, the California Highway Patrol said.
A common phenomenon called an "atmospheric river" delivered half a meter of rainfall to the region last week. CA-1 has a history of sliding into the ocean; for example, the area just south of Pacifica, Calif., known as "Devil's Slide" collapsed so frequently that that Caltrans bored two 1200-meter tunnels through solid rock from 2005 to 2013 to keep the road open.
I'm having a series of productive days lately, which has taken me away from wasting a bunch of time. So for example, I haven't yet today read these items:
And all of this on the coldest day in two years, in a month in which most days have had no sunlight. But hey, we're still having an abnormally-mild winter, so again, we're not complaining.
Today is the last day of Sprint 28 at my day job, and I've just closed my third one-point story of the day. When we estimate the difficulty of a story (i.e., a single unit of code that can be deployed when complete), we estimate by points on a Fibonacci scale: 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21. A 2-point story is about twice as hard as a 1-point story; a 5 point story is about 5 times harder than a 1-point story; etc. If we estimate 8 or more points on my current team, we re-examine the story in order to break it into smaller chunks. Similarly, a 1-point story could turn out to have so little complexity that it takes almost no time, like today's story #304 that required adding one line of code to here and removing 37 lines of code from there. That one took about 15 minutes. The other two took a couple of hours each, as "knowing where to put the bolt" takes longer than actually attaching the bolt.
While all that happened on the west side of my desk, the monitors on the south side lit up a few stories for me to read when I get back from the walk I'm about to take:
- Jennifer Rubin lists 50 things that have improved in the US in the past 5 days, starting with "you can ignore Twitter."
- Though Rubin mentioned replacing Andrew Jackson's portrait in the Oval Office, she didn't mention that the Biden Administration has taken steps to complete replacing his racist mug on the $10 note with a portrait of Harriet Tubman. (The outgoing administration, for obvious reasons, mothballed this plan upon taking office.)
- Charles Blow warns against the Democratic Party should keep advocating and stop "subconsciously modulating responses" in the face of Republican criticism.
- National Geographic describes the Roman road network that spanned over 320,000 km and still remains largely intact today.
- Philippa Snow suggests the French series Call My Agent if you're looking for serious entertainment. For my part I'm about to start Series 2 of Peaky Blinders.
- Loyola University Chicago professor Devon Price has a new book out: Laziness Does Not Exist. I may have to buy a copy. Eventually.
And I will now try to get in a 45-minute fast walk as our first real winter storm bears down on us from Iowa.
- Author John Scalzi gives the STBXPOTUS a colossal take-down on his blog today: "We don’t have to wait on history, but as it happens, this is how history will remember Donald Trump: Not as a forceful, charismatic authoritarian, but as a corrupt and pathetic wretch, who spent the final days of his presidency shouting at the walls about how the world is against him."
- Alexandra Petri: "Now is not the time to point fingers, Julius Caesar. Now is the time for healing." ("I am frankly appalled when I think of all the things that have been said on both sides, like, 'Death to Caesar!' and 'Ouch!'")
- National security experts, including the former chief research psychologist for the US Secret Service, advise treating the STBXPOTUS "like he's a terrorist leader."
- It appears that Ivanka and Jared wouldn't let the people protecting them into the house to pee, forcing the US Secret Service to spend nearly $100,000 over the past few years renting an apartment close by.
- Republicans in Congress supported intrusive security for everyone else in the past, but now that it affects them personally, they don't like it. How surprising.
- Since the Senate has recessed, presumably so Mitch McConnell can avoid an impeachment trial, President-Elect Biden still has no confirmed cabinet officials, forcing the incoming administration into an alternative plan after taking power next Wednesday.
- Chicago teachers locked out of the Chicago Public Schools online learning platform because they refused to return to unsafe classrooms found a poetic way of expressing their displeasure: they taught from the Board of Education President's front lawn.
- Chicago's regional heavy-rail system approved a $1.8 bn purchase of 500 slick new rail cars, which should start to arrive in 2024.
Finally, the authors of The Impostor's Guide, a free ebook aimed at self-taught programmers, has a new series of videos about general computer-science topics that people like me didn't learn programming for fun while getting our history degrees.
The Economist's Bartleby column examines how Covid-19 lockdowns have "caused both good and bad changes of routine."
We had a relatively quiet day yesterday, but only in comparison to the day before:
Meanwhile, here in Chicago:
Finally, Bruce Schneier advises the incoming administration on how to deal with the SolarWinds intrusion.
See? Yesterday was quiet.
I dropped off my completed ballot this afternoon, so if Joe Biden turns out to be the devil made flesh, I can't change my vote.
Tonight, the president and Joe Biden will have competing, concurrent town halls instead of debating each other, mainly because the president is an infant. The Daily Parker will not live-blog either one. Instead, I'll whip up a stir-fry and read something.
In other news:
Finally, a pie-wedge-shaped house in Deerfield, Ill., is now on Airbnb for $113 a night. Enjoy.
Today's lunchtime round-up only had one article about current politics:
Finally, I came across an interview actor Michael Shannon gave Playboy in 2018 that's worth the read.