The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

What's the fastest way to O'Hare?

Four Chicago Tribune reporters had a race from Randolph and Michigan to O'Hare:

We sent four reporters, with carry-on luggage, in a personal car, a ride-share, on CTA and on Metra, starting at 2:15 p.m. Wednesday at the Prudential Building at Michigan Avenue and Randolph Street. The destination was Security Gate 3 in O'Hare's Terminal 1, with the goal of catching an imaginary 5 p.m. United Airlines flight.

The winner was an Uber ride-share that took 69 minutes, followed by the CTA at 80 minutes, a private car (parked at an economy lot) at 90 minutes and Metra at 98 minutes.

It's clear from our test that the fastest way is not the cheapest, while the cheapest way may not work for everybody. We also know the fastest way could have been the slowest if we had tried the race during rush hour. Improvements to the Blue Line and more frequent and/or express Metra North Central Service trains would have made these options even better than they already are.

The more nuanced verdict: If you're coming from most parts of the Loop, the Blue Line is probably your best value, especially during rush hour. From the West Loop (close to Union Station), at certain times of the day, Metra would be.

The article's graphics and animation are kind of cool. It's almost like the Tribune has brought itself into the 21st Century.

It's hot. Damn hot. Real hot.

The forecast for much of the US Friday calls for hot and shitty weather, with continued hot and shitty weather into Saturday:

A heat wave featuring a life-threatening combination of heat and oppressive humidity has begun to spread across the United States, with excessive heat warnings and heat advisories in effect for at least 22 states and the District of Columbia. According to the National Weather Service, 51 percent of the Lower 48 states are likely to see air temperatures reach or exceed 35°C during the next seven days, with 85 percent experiencing temperatures above 32°C during the same period.

Washington could see its first high temperature at or above 38°C since 2016. In Chicago, the air temperature is also forecast to approach the century mark.

The heat index, which is a measure of how hot it feels to the human body when air temperatures are combined with the amount of moisture in the air, are forecast to climb into rare territory in many cities, from Chicago to Kansas City and eastward all the way north into southern New England.

According to the Weather Service forecast office in Chicago, “The heat is forecast to be oppressive and dangerous everywhere, with possibly some of the hottest conditions since 2012."

Yuck.

Stay cool, y'all. Excessive heat is the most dangerous weather. Hydrate, stay inside cool spaces, and limit your activities. Fun times, fun times.

The Center of Chicago

WBEZ's Curious City blog re-posted an bit from 2016 identifying the geographic center of Chicago:

Calculating a center point is straightforward for geographers now, according to Todd Schuble, manager of GIS Research for the University of Chicago’s Division of Social Sciences.

Modern mapping software can find the center of any boundary automatically, even one as oddly shaped as Chicago. The process involves looking for any spot that a boundary bends, noting the coordinates, and then averaging them.

So where does Schuble put Chicago’s exact geographic center?

“It’s approximately 31st and Western,” Schuble says. “The [Sanitary and Ship] canal runs right there. The geographic center point itself runs through the canal.”

Chicago does have a monument that marks the center of the city, it’s just that it’s not at the actual center point (which, again, sits in the canal, south of 31st and Western). This is where the politics come in.

In 1979 outgoing Chicago Mayor Michael Bilandic presided over a ceremony declaring the intersection of W. 37th and S. Honore streets in the McKinley Park neighborhood the city’s geographic center point. There was even a white sign with black letters reading “Welcome to W 37th and S Honore Streets, The Geographic Center of Chicago, Greatest City in America.”

Mayor Bilandic was not the intellectual giant among our historical mayors. He lost the 1979 election by declaring, in the worst winter in recorded history, "snow melts." And so, apparently, he also got the geography of the city wrong, forgetting that we'd annexed the land that is now O'Hare in 1959.

The monument is still there; just check Google Street View.

Base Hit ribs

I had the opportunity yesterday to get some ribs from my favorite vendor at this year's Ribfest. Base Hit BBQ opened their restaurant in March after five years of catering and festival cooking. (They framed their Chicago Defender review.)

Their thermostat showed 33°C inside the small two-table eating area, but that isn't why I was sweating. Their hot sauce lives up to its name, and they use a tasty spicy rub on their bones. Excellent quality meat, good smoke flavor, and all chopped up for easy eating when served.

At Ribfest they had more caramelized sauce than in their brick-and-mortar location, but that's because they leave the sauce off while smoking and grilling the meat. (Ribfest has certain constraints.) They were still so tasty that I managed to eat a full slab and one of the bread slices they added.

My only complaint: they don't have a bathroom and they don't provide wet-wipes. So after stuffing all those ribs into my belly, it took some MacGuyvering with paper napkins and hand sanitizer to get to a point where I felt I could touch any surface of my car.

I'll go back. But I think the next slab I have will be from my second-favorite vendor from this year, Fireside Grill.

In other news, one of Chicago's oldest pizzerias is closing today. Father & Son Pizza in Logan Square will cease operations after 72 years.

Things I don't have time to read right now

But I will take the time as soon as I get it:

Now, I need more tea, and more coding.

Capital flooding

Yesterday, Washington D.C. experienced its heaviest rainfall on record:

In just an hour, about a month’s worth of rain drowned the District, a staggering 83 mm falling at Reagan National Airport.

This hourly output was Washington’s highest since at least 1936 (National Airport is the city’s official weather observing site), the Maxar Weather Desk, a consulting group based in Gaithersburg, Md. discovered.

“According to data from the Iowa Mesonet ... the 83 mm recorded between 8:52-9:52 AM yesterday was Washington DC’s highest hourly precip report in records dating back to 1936," Maxar tweeted.

As Monday’s torrent raged, the first-ever flash flood emergency was declared for the city as well as nearby Arlington and Alexandria, which suffered damaging downpours.

In total, it rained 11.4 billion litres on the city.

Meanwhile, closer to home, the Great Lakes remain at or near record levels.

A Chicago factory is making 3-flats

This is kind of cool, and could really help the city:

Skender, an established, family-owned builder in Chicago, is making a serious play in a sector associated with young startups: modular construction. The company is building steel-structured three-flats, a quintessential Chicago housing type that consists of three apartments stacked on top of each other in the footprint of a large house. It believes it can deliver them faster and at lower cost at its new factory than by using standard methods of construction.

Even with humans and not robots doing the work, the company is confident that continual refinement will yield efficiency. A three-flat apartment building can now go up in 90 days, Skender claims, instead of nine months. Swanson estimates that the three-flats will cost $335,000 per unit to build, not including land. In time, company leaders hope that economies of scale and increased efficiency will bring down that price.

As well as economies of scale, proponents of modular architecture tout its freedom from weather-related delays, unpredictable site conditions, and fragmented supply chains. Those all stand to benefit Skender. No subcontractors will work in the factory, which will avoiding squabbles between HVAC or plumbing specialists who might blame each other when something goes wrong. But that also means Skender assumes all the risk. That has undone some past experiments in prefab and modular building.

At the factory’s opening, 25 people worked there, and Skender plans on hiring five more per week till it’s fully staffed at 150, all union labor.

I might not want to live in a pre-fab building (I'm partial to 100+-year-old historic buildings), but lots of other people would. At $335k to build, a 3-bedroom apartment could sell for $500k and make some money for the builder. $500k implies rents around $3,200 per month, but that or more is what many landlords already get in affluent parts of the city.

I'll keep my eyes open for the first Skender apartments that open near me.

Did they find the Ark of the Covenant?

History buffs Daniel Pogorzelski and Jacob Kaplan got permission to enter a space previously occupied by former Chicago alderman. They discovered that no one had ever cleaned the space out after the alderman died:

Longtime city clerk and former 35th Ward Ald. John Marcin, one of former Mayor Richard J. Daley’s closest political allies, had worked out of the building for years. There were rumors all of his stuff was still in there, virtually untouched since his death in 1984.

Pogorzelski and Kaplan, writers and editors for local history website Forgotten Chicago, tried for years to get ahold of the property owner, but they struck out each time.

It took awhile, but finally in 2014, with the help of Avondale Neighborhood Association President Liz Muscare, they got in.

And, much to their surprise, the rumors were true: Marcin’s office at 3534 W. Diversey Ave. had been left untouched. Old photos, campaign literature (some dating back to the 1930s when Marcin ran for congress), meticulously compiled scrapbooks, oil paintings and even neon signs were all sitting there, collecting dust.

Last week, Pogorzelski and Kaplan packed it all up in a U-Haul and delivered it to the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Richard J. Daley Library. The two donated the collection in hopes of deepening Chicago’s understanding of local politics.

“There’s all of the appointment books during his time as city clerk, the people he met with. You can kinda see how the city operated at that time,” Kaplan said.

“It’s not just ephemera. It’s stuff he used as city clerk and alderman that people will find really informative.”

For years, I thought I was going to be an historian, even going so far as to take the GRE and meet with a few East Coast history departments during my last two years in college. This kind of documentary bonanza can make someone's career. I'm glad it's going to an organization that can use it.

Just one thing, though: who paid the rent on the building for 30 years?

New taxes in Illinois

Starting today, my state has some new laws:

  • The gasoline tax doubled to the still-too-low 10¢ per litre. Oh my stars. How could they. Ruination. (You will detect more ironic tone if you read my post from yesterday about how much gasoline I use.) For comparison with other OECD countries, the UK adds 57.95p (73.3¢) per litre, Australia gets 41.2¢ (28.6¢ US), and even Canada levies 45¢ (34¢ US). But hey, we doubled the tax, so now we can pay for our state pension deficit fixing our infrastructure.
  • Cigarette taxes went up to $2.98 a pack, and e-cigarettes now have a 15% excise. Also, we raised the legal age to buy tobacco to 21, though you can still have sex and get a drivers license at 17 and sign a contract at 18, so kids still have lots of ways to ruin their lives. (Former governor Bruce Rauner vetoed these measures last year.)
  • Schools now have to provide 5 clock-hours of instruction to count as a "school day." Having gone to Illinois schools as a kid that provided 6 to 7, it's hard for me to grasp that until today, schools only had to provide 4.
  • Finally, our $40 billion budget took effect today, the first time in 5 years that a state budget has taken effect on the first day of the fiscal year.

This is what happens when the party that wants to govern takes power from the party that wants to shower gifts on their rich friends. More on that in my next post.

Lunchtime reading

Articles that piqued my interest this morning:

Back to writing software.