The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Supposes Moses was an Asshat

Not Moishe, the mythological figure; Moses, the all-too-real figure in New York City history. I'm about halfway through Robert Caro's biography of Robert Moses, The Power Broker, and I want to dig Moses up and punch him in the face.

The thing about really intelligent narcissists is they can, in fact, get their way, even when—especially when—they encounter real criticism. The crowning achievement of Moses' narcissism might be the West Side Improvement, comprising the West Side Highway and Henry Hudson Parkway, which run along the Hudson River from the top of Manhattan Island to the bottom. The story of how and why Moses built it where he built it takes up about 40 pages of the book, but Caro sums it up starting at the bottom of page 565:

Robert Moses had spent $109,000,000 [in 1938, worth $2.05 billion in 2021] of the public's money on the West Side Improvement. Counting the money expended on his advice by other city agencies on the portion of the Improvement south of Seventy-second Street, the Improvement had cost the public more than $200,000,000 [$3.8 billion in 2021].

But the total cost of the Improvement cannot be reckoned merely in dollars. The West Side Improvement also cost the people of New York City their most majestic waterfront, their most majestic forest, a unique residential community, and their last fresh-water marsh.

When the Improvement was finished, all these things were gone forever.

Adding them to the cost of the West Side Improvement, one might wonder if the Improvement had not cost New York City more than it was worth. Adding them into the cost, one might wonder if the West Side Improvement was really, on its total balance sheet, an "improvement" at all. One might wonder if it was not, on balance, a tragic and irremediable loss.

In the pages leading up to that conclusion, Caro spends some time discussing how the park Moses built along highway stopped at 125th Street. From there up to 155th Street, instead of a park, the African-American residents of Harlem got an elevated highway, with one little playground whose finishes included little monkey carvings on the stonework. You will not be surprised to learn that no other park in the project had a monkey motif.

Another thing, of which I can almost excuse him, was Moses' complete rejection of evidence of "induced demand," how increasing road capacity also increases congestion at a faster rate. That is, if you double road capacity, you will more than double the number of cars on the road. I can almost excuse him because traffic planners still ignore this phenomenon much of the time.

So halfway through the book I'm only at the end of 1938. We still have 25 years or so before Moses meets Jane Jacobs—and according to the index, Caro doesn't even cover that.

Thursday evening post

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.

What I'm reading today

A few articles caught my attention this week:

Also, I'm just making a note to myself of Yuriy Ivon's rundown on Microsoft Azure Cosmos DB, because I'm using it a lot more than I have in the past.

One year and two weeks

We've spent 54 weeks in the looking-glass world of Covid-19. And while we may have so much more brain space than we had during the time a certain malignant personality invaded it every day, life has not entirely stopped. Things continue to improve, though:

Finally, today is the 40th anniversary of the day President Reagan got shot. I'm struggling a bit with the "40 years" bit.

Feeling a little blocked, here

Since Wednesday, a 400-meter container ship has blocked the Suez Canal in Egypt, disrupting international trade and costing the world economy millions per day:

International efforts to dislodge the skyscraper-size cargo ship blocking Egypt's Suez Canal intensified but made little progress Thursday as the maritime traffic jam wreaked havoc on global trade.

Egyptian authorities said navigation was still "temporarily suspended" after the container got stuck sideways across the canal because of a severe dust storm and poor visibility.

That meant traffic remained at a standstill on a route that accounts for about 12 percent of global trade as the shipping saga passed the 48-hour mark.

The Suez Canal usually allows 50 cargo ships pass daily between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, providing a vital trade corridor between Europe and Asia.

Photos released by Suez authorities showed a digger removing earth and rock from the canal's bank and around the ship's bow.

More on that in a sec. The BBC explains how the canal authorities have tried unsuccessfully to get the ship out of the way:

The focus however has now turned to digging out sand and mud from around the vessel's hull.

The Netherlands-based dredging company Boskalis is managing this operation.

The ship's management company BSM says an additional specialist "suction dredger" is now in place able to shift 2,000 cubic meters of material every hour.

"It might take weeks depending on the situation" to free the ship using a combination of dredging, tugging and the removal of weight from the vessel.

These efforts have led to the meme of the pandemic:

What is normal, really?

Well, if you're a climatologist, it's a calculated value based on a 30-year period, updated every 10 years. And the 19991-2020 climate normals for the US will come out this May. Meanwhile, the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) has released some teaser images:

NOAA senior science writer Rebecca Lindsey explains:

These images are a sneak peak at how the new normals for winter temperature (top) and precipitation (bottom) are different from the current normals, which cover 1981-2010. Consistent with the long-term warming trend, winter is warmer across most of the contiguous United States, but the amount of warming ranges from nearly 0.0 (light pink) to 1.5 degrees [Fahrenheit] (darker pink) Fahrenheit depending on the location. There are even a few small areas of the Northern Plains where the normal winter temperature for 1991-2020 is slightly cooler than the 1981-2010 normal (light blue).

There’s a lot more variation in the changes in winter precipitation, which includes both rain and snow. The map shows the percent difference in normal winter precipitation in the new normal versus the old normals. The Northern Plains and Upper Midwest have seen the biggest percent increases in normal winter precipitation, while the biggest percent decreases occurred in the Southwest and Southern Plains, including Colorado’s Eastern Plains. (In absolute terms, these changes are equivalent to only fractions of an inch of liquid water because these locations are normally quite dry during the winter.)

Having seen other preliminary data, I expect that the December temperature normals will be the most surprising. Also, NCEI will prepare a second full set of 15-year normals covering 2006-2020 as well. It wasn't reported whether NCEI will produce 15-year normals on a 5-year schedule, however.

The clocks! The clocks!

Most parts of the US and Canada entered daylight saving time overnight, spurring the annual calls for changing the practice:

The so-called "Sunshine Protection Act of 2021" was reintroduced Tuesday by U.S. Senators Marco Rubio, R-Florida; James Lankford, R-Oklahoma; Roy Blunt, R-Missouri; Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island; Ron Wyden, D-Oregon; Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Mississippi; Rick Scott, R-Florida; and Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts.  

In 2018, Florida passed legislation to keep DST, but a federal statue is require for the state to enact the change, according to a press release from Rubio.

The "Sunshine Protection Act of 2021" would apply to states who participate in DST by negating Standard Time, which only lasts between November to March, when Americans turn their clocks back one hour.

Of course, as one would expect from Marco Rubio and the august institution he serves in, abolishing daylight saving time fixes the problem exactly the wrong way. Permanent DST would lead to dark winter mornings for no real benefit winter evenings. Abolishing it makes a lot more sense. Cartographer Andy Woodruff built an app to demonstrate why. Simply, if you like the idea of 8:20 am sunrises in Chicago—which means 9:15 am sunrises in western Michigan—then make DST permanent. I say no.

Wall clock time doesn't really matter, anyway. The world runs on UTC.

Update: I forgot to include Binyamin Applebaum's op-ed in the Times from Friday, exhorting us to "learn[] to love daylight saving time."

Why I hate the suburbs

As I mentioned in my post about Hailstorm Brewing that went out earlier today, you can have an excellent brewery with a TV-free taproom within 1500 meters of a Metra station and still qualify for the Brews and Choos project only on special dispensation. Because wow, getting from the Metra station to Hailstorm (and by extension, when I go later this spring, to Soundgrowler) might kill you.

Here's the path from the Hickory Creek Metra stop to Brothership Brewing:

It's short (just under a kilometer), along nearly-deserted exurban streets, and the streets have sidewalks for most of the way. Sure, you pass this:

But that's a typical landscape in northern Will County.

Now look at how you get to Hailstorm:

Why did I go through an ugly subdivision, several parking lots, and behind large industrial buildings instead of just walking down 80th Avenue? Because 80th Avenue is a six-lane arterial with no sidewalks and not a lot of stoplights. Cars drive down it at 90 km/h with nothing to slow them down except the stoplight at 183rd and the railroad tracks to the north.

And when I say "ugly subdivision," I mean a complete horror show of exurban McMansion architecture:

I really wanted to run over to some people I saw sitting in their garage and ask what series of life choices brought them to the decision to buy such an ugly house?

So, yes, I liked Hailstorm, and I hear good things about the tacos at Soundgrowler. But the entire point of the Brews and Choos Project is to drink beer safely. That means without driving to the breweries. But it also means not getting run over walking there. And the suburban/exurban landscape along the Cook-Will border (183rd St, on the map above) will kill your body if you walk along 80th Avenue or kill your soul if you walk through this development.

</rant>

Not a surprising coincidence

A local Vietnamese restaurant—only a few blocks from me, in fact—had to pay $700,000 in back wages to its workers after a Department of Labor investigation that ended in October:

Tank Noodle has been forced to pay nearly $700,000 in back wages after making some of its employees work only for tips, according to the U.S. Deptartment of Labor.

The popular Vietnamese restaurant at 4953 N. Broadway withheld wages and used illegal employment practices for 60 of its employees, a labor department investigation found. Some employees were owed more than $10,000 by the restaurant.

The investigation found some servers at the restaurant worked only for tips, a violation of federal work laws. Tank Noddle also shorted servers when the business pooled tips and divided the money among all staff, including management, another federal work violation.

Tank Noodle violated overtime laws and sometimes paid staff flat fees for a day’s work regardless of the number of hours worked, according to the labor department.

There's the setup. Now the punchline:

[Tank Noodle's] owners attended a Jan. 6 rally in support of former President Donald Trump that ended in the storming of the U.S. Capitol.

The Ly family, which owns Tank Noodle, posted photos from the rally, which were widely circulated on social media.

Too bad for the Ly family that the neighborhood has about two dozen other places with better phở.

Evening news

Just a few stories:

Finally, it only took 375 years and satellite imagery, but geologists have demonstrated that New Zealand is on its own continent.