The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Winter in Chicago

The temperature bottomed out at -14.4°C around 1:30 am, and has climbed ever so slowly since then to -0.3°:

Will we get above freezing? The forecast says yes, any moment now. But the sun will set in about 5 minutes. Anyway, a guy can dream, right?

Meanwhile, Chicago's teachers and schools have agreed to let the kids back tomorrow, even as the mayor herself tested positive for Covid. And the Art Institute's workforce has formed a union, which will operate under AFSCME.

And that's not all:

And finally, just as no one could have predicted that more guns leads to more gun violence, the same people could not have predicted that the NFT craze would lead to NFT fraud.

Double Clutch Brewing, Evanston

Welcome to stop #69 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Double Clutch Brewing, 2121 Ashland Ave., Evanston
Train line: UP-N, Central Street
Time from Chicago: 16 minutes (Zone C)
Distance from station: 800 m

This car-themed brewery opened on October 31st, about 18 months after their originally-planed April 2020 opening. (This has become a theme of the Brews & Choos project.) That gave them enough time to figure out their operations, however, and also to get a foothold in local restaurants and liquor stores.

They specialize in German lagers, with one IPA thrown in for the bourgeoisie like me. And going with the automobile theme, flights come in an engine block:

The Märzen (5.9%) has a lovely golden color, with a lot of malty complexity (pear, honey, raisin) I found a little too malty for my palate. The light and crisp Helles Lager (5.1%) also had a lot of malt, but a hoppier balance I think will taste great on their patio in the summer. The Little Juice Coupe Hazy IPA (5.7%) had a good Citra fruitiness and, yes, still just a little too much sweetness for me. I finished with the really malty Schwartzbier (4.7%) and its intricate coffee and chocolate notes I would go back to. The bartender also asked me to taste the Rausch Märzen, which has a similar recipe to the regular one but with smoked malt. The Rausch tasted like sitting by a fire pit in late October, which is exactly where I want to have another one.

They plan to build an outdoor space in the spring, and they've got weekly trivia and other events. Since it's Evanston, however, dogs won't be allowed until the city elects a new city council.

Finally...Star Wars fans, tell me what's missing from this lineup?

Beer garden? Seasonal
Dogs OK? No, it's Evanston
Televisions? Three, avoidable
Serves food? Full pub menu (try the buffalo balls)
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

Winter, CPS, CTU, and THC

Every so often in the winter, a cold front pushes in overnight, giving us the warmest temperature of the day at midnight. Welcome to my morning:

The sun actually came out a few minutes ago—right around the time the temperature started dropping faster.

The forecast says temperatures will continue falling to about -12°C by 3pm, rise ever so slightly overnight and tomorrow, then slide on down to -17° from 3pm tomorrow to 6am Friday. And, because it's Chicago, and because the circumpolar jet stream looks like Charlie Brown's shirt right now, between 6am Friday and 9pm Saturday the temperature will steadily rise more than 20°C (that's 36°F to the luddites out there), peaking at 3°C around 9pm Saturday.

Before the cold front hit last night, the Chicago Teachers Union voted to halt in-person teaching, citing alarming Covid numbers. The Chicago Public Schools promptly locked them out of virtual teaching, giving about 100,000 nothing to do and nowhere to go. (Some CPS staff have at least opened the school buildings so kids can get lunches and stay warm, but the SEIU won't cross what it sees as a picket line, so...)

Since most of the area's colleges and universities have moved back to virtual instruction for the next two weeks, I have trouble understanding the CPS position here, or why CPS locked the teachers out. Sure, the teachers may lose a day's pay, but the kids will suffer more harm than either organization.

Chicago's public health officials say the schools are safe, with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot complaining that "There’s no reason to shut down the entire system, particularly given the catastrophic consequences that will flow." But the CTU didn't call a work stoppage; they called for virtual classes, something CPS has done for almost two years. That leaves me with the impression that Lightfoot and CPS want to stand up to the CTU more than they want to find a solution.

Frankly, both sides look bad here. And again: the kids get the worst of it.

Hard to imagine why Illinois recreational marijuana sales doubled to $1.38 billion in 2021.

Statistics: 2021

After the whipsaw between 2019 and 2020, I'm happy 2021 came out within a standard deviation of the mean on most measures:

  • In 2020, I flew the fewest air miles ever. In 2021, my 11,868 miles and five segments came in 3rd lowest, ahead of only 2020 and 1999.
  • I only visited one other country (the UK) and two other states (Wisconsin and California) during 2021. What a change from 2014.
  • In 2020, I posted a record 609 times on The Daily Parker; 2021's 537 posts came in about average for the modern era.
  • Cassie got almost 422 hours of walks in 2021, a number I don't think I ever achieved with Parker. And given I only had her for 291 days of 2021, that's an average of 1:27 of walks per day. According to my Garmin, she and I covered over 684 km just on walks that I recorded with my watch. A young, high-energy dog plus working from home most of the time will do that, I suppose.
  • Speaking of walks, in 2021 I got 4,926,000 steps and walked 3,900 km—about the straight-line distance from New York to Seattle. Those numbers came within 2% of 2020 and 4% of 2019. I also hit new personal records for distance and steps when I walked over 51 km on September 3rd. And I hit my step goal 355 times (cf. 359 times in 2020), though not all in a row.
  • I drove 4,242 km in 2021, almost exactly the same amount as in 2020 (4,265 km), but I used a bit more fuel (116 L to 79 L).
  • I spent 1365 hours working from home and 521 in the office in 2021, about the same (1327 and 560) as in 2020. I expect about the same in 2022.
  • Personal software development took up another 184 hours, almost all on the really cool thing I'm going to soft-launch tomorrow.
  • The Apollo Chorus took up 222 hours of my time, including 100 in rehearsals and performances and about the same amount on my duties as president. In 2020, that was 57 and 71 hours respectively, mainly because we didn't have any in-person performances.
  • Finally, I started only 28 books in 2021 and finished 23, after dropping a couple that dogged me for a while. That's more than in my worst-ever year, 2017 (18 and 13), but down a bit from the last two years. That said, my average numbers for the past 10 years are 28.2 and 23.3, making 2021...average. I also watched 51 movies and 48 TV shows, which just means I need to get out more.

So, will 2022 return to normal (-ish)? Or will some of the trends that started in March 2020 continue even after the pandemic has long become something we scare children with?

Goldfinger Brewing, Downers Grove

Welcome to stop #68 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Goldfinger Brewing, 513 Rogers St., Downers Grove
Train line: BNSF, Fairview Ave
Time from Chicago: 43 minutes (Zone E)
Distance from station: 500 m

Goldfinger Brewing opened in July 2020, which really sucked for them. But because they focused on making nothing but high-quality, traditional, Central-European lagers, they attracted an immediate following that kept them going.

Fun fact: Lagers take about three times longer to brew than ales, which explains in part why so many breweries specialize in the latter. The longer brewing times also mean that Goldfinger only has a few taps open at once. When I visited Wednesday evening, they had five of their own plus a visiting beer.

Naturally I had to start with the Original Lager (5.2%, 18 IBU). It had a complex, malty flavor that won me over even though I usually find lagers too sweet. (Theirs wasn't.) The Baltic Porter (7.7%, 28 IBU) caught my attention next, and wow, I almost bought some to take home. It had deep chocolate notes among other robust and complex flavors, with a long, lingering finish. I chased that with their Pils (4.9%, 35 IBU), an excellent representative of the style that I found crisp and fresh with a complex malt and hop interplay that they helped along with a five-minute-long multi-step pouring process. Goldfinger really wants you to take your time with their beers, as they have certainly done so. 

I am disappointed that the Village of Downers Grove doesn't allow dogs inside bars. Apparently the Village allowed dogs in the outside tent Goldfinger erected over the summer, but then they changed their mind and also told them to take down the tent. Suburbs, I swear, they just find new ways of failing at basic human-interaction design every year.

Beer garden? Not unless Downers Grove elects a new village board
Dogs OK? No, because again: stupid village board
Televisions? None
Serves food? BYOF, but they have this pretzel you should try
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

Imperial Oak Brewing, Brookfield

Welcome to stop #67 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Imperial Oak Brewing, 9526 Ogden Ave., Brookfield
Train line: BNSF, Congress Park
Time from Chicago: 24 minutes (Zone C)
Distance from station: 200 m

The ugly stepchild of the original Imperial Oak in Willow Springs opened in March after the owners acquired a failing local bar in December 2019. The pandemic didn't hurt them since it took about 15 months to build out the new brewing facility. They have some of the same beers as the original, but almost all of what they sell they brew on-site.

While the original location sits in a hollow along the I&M Canal, the Brookfield location sits along Ogden Avenue between an abandoned strip of small professional offices and a paint store. I went in the early evening, so I missed out on the full glory of the "Village of Brookfield Development Opportunity" next door. At least it's only a parking lot and squishy field from the train station.

They do make decent beers, though. 

I got three 150 mL pours for $8, and enjoyed them. From right to left, I tried (again) the Udderly Black Milk Stout (5.3%, 20 IBU), which had a much better balance and finish than the specimen I tried in Willow Springs last July. The Dave's Pale Ale (5.5%, 40 IBU, and not in any way a trademark concern with Oskar Blues) had a nice, hoppy nose, clean finish with definite Citra notes and more subtle Galaxy flavors. And the Crank It Dank West Coast IPA (7%, 60 IBU) lived up to its branding, with some blammo hops off the first sip, and a grassy flavor that reminded me of grad school for reasons I will not disclose.

The bartender also gave me a taste of Wee Willie's Heavy Scotch Ale (9.4%, 18 IBU), a wonderful, flavorful, caramelful, chocolateful wee heavy that would knock anyone on his ass after two.

I hope the new location succeeds, but it just seems like an ugly building in an ugly location to me. I'd revisit the one in Willow Springs; not the one in Brookfield.

Beer garden? Yes, year-round
Dogs OK? Not since an incident last summer
Televisions? One, avoidable
Serves food? BYOF, but they have snacks
Would hang out with a book? No
Would hang out with friends? No
Would go back? No; but the one in Willow Springs is worth the trip

The last of the book villages

Redu, Belgium, has more books than people, but people don't buy many books these days:

[I]n the mid-1980s, a band of booksellers moved into the empty barns and transformed the place into a literary lodestone. The village of about 400 became home to more than two dozen bookstores — more shops than cows, its boosters liked to say — and thousands of tourists thronged the winsome streets.

Now, though, more than half the bookstores have closed. Some of the storekeepers died, others left when they could no longer make a living. Many who remain are in their 70s and aren’t sure what’ll happen after they’re gone.

On Easter weekend in 1984, roughly 15,000 people descended on Redu, perusing the used and antiquarian volumes vendors sold out of abandoned stables and sidewalk stalls. The booksellers decided to stay. Others soon followed, along with an illustrator, a bookbinder and a paper maker. It was an eclectic, countercultural crowd. Young families arrived, too, and new students trickled into the faded schoolhouse.

Now there are 12 or fewer bookshops, depending on how one counts — and, perhaps, who is doing the counting. Those who are more optimistic about the future of the bookstores tend to cite a higher number.

In an odd twist, though, Redu is also home of the European Space Agency Security and Education Centre.

Visiting the remote bits of the world

I've just added two places to my shortlist of vacation spots once travel becomes a little easier.

On Tuesday, I saw Japan's entry for this year's Academy Award for best foreign film, Drive My Car (ドライブ・マイ・カー). Most of it takes place in Hiroshima, Japan. Clearly director Ryusuke Hamaguchi loves the city. For obvious reasons most of the central parts of Hiroshima only date back 70 years, but the hills and islands surrounding the postwar downtown look like the Pacific Northwest.

And this morning, the New York Times Canada Letter reported from Newfoundland. I've wanted to see the Maritime Provinces for years. Maybe Cassie and I can spend a couple of weeks some summer driving from Maine to Nova Scotia to PEI and then take a ferry to "The Rock?" (There's a ferry from North Sydney, N.S., to Channel-Port aux Basques, Nfld.)

For what it's worth, I think I'd fly to Western Japan...

And now for something completely indifferent

I will now take a break from my ongoing struggles to make Blazorise play nicely with Open ID authentication so I can read these:

And finally, WGN confirms we hit back-to-back record temperatures Wednesday and Thursday, both tied for 11th warmest December day in Chicago history.

Backlog

I just started Sprint 52 in my day job, after working right up to the last possible minute yesterday to (unsuccessfully) finish one more story before ending Sprint 51. Then I went to a 3-hour movie that you absolutely must see.

Consequently a few things have backed up over at Inner Drive Technology World Headquarters.

Before I get into that, take a look at this:

That 17.1°C reading at IDTWHQ comes in a shade lower than the official reading at O'Hare of 17.8°, which ties the record high maximum set in 1971. The forecast says it'll hang out here for a few hours before gale-force winds drive the temperature down to more seasonal levels overnight. I've even opened a few windows.

So what else is new?

So what really is new?

But Sprint 52 at my office, that's incredibly new, and I must go back to it.