Chicago sunsets

May 17, 2022 • 8:00 am

Two evenings ago I took a panoramic view of Chicago from my crib (the pano feature makes the downtown, just left of center, look very small), and decided to post it. (I recently discovered the “panoramic” feature on both my iPhone and my point-and-shoot. This is with the iPhone camera, which is surprisingly good (it’s the one on my newish iPhone 13). Note the rainbow on the right!

I must have had precognition, bcause the next morning I got another sunset photo of Chicago, this time taken by reader John Egloff from Indiana. His notes are indented and the photo is below. Click both photos to enlarge them.

I was at the Annual Indiana Dunes Birding Festival in Chesterton, Indiana this weekend.  Chesterton is about 35 miles southeast of Chicago across Lake Michigan as the crow flies.  From my vantage point in Chesterton on the shore of Lake Michigan there was a spectacular sunset over Chicago on Saturday, so I took a few photos with my pocket camera.  Since I know you occasionally post photos of Chicago, I thought you might be interested in the snapshot of the Chicago skyline that I’ve attached.

No filter of any kind was used for this photo, and the coloration has not been digitally enhanced in any way.   Keep in mind, however, this photo was taken through 35 miles of atmospheric distortion.

How to get ketchup on your hot dog in Chicago

September 10, 2021 • 1:45 pm

by Greg Mayer

Kim and Carlo’s Hot Dog Cart, on the plaza northeast of the Field Museum, serves genuine Chicago style dogs, and has a very specific policy about putting ketchup on hot dogs:

Kim and Carlo’s ketchup policy.

The Museum Campus (the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, and Adler Planetarium are all right there) attracts lots of of out-of-towners, and on a recent visit to Kim and Carlo’s I overheard a discussion among a family as they approached the cart that included the line, “I just want one with ketchup.” I did not stay to see how that went!

(One addendum to Jerry’s list of ingredients— green relish, which on a true Chicago dog is a neon shade of green not often seen outside of a Chicago dog.)

JAC: Oy, how could I forget that??? But this sign shows you how seriously Chicagoans take their dogs. Seriously, ketchup on a dog throws the whole thing out of balance!

Ice ducks and other things

February 25, 2021 • 2:15 pm

The weather has warmed up, and the ice is slowly melting on Botany Pond. And so we’ve acquired ducks: up to six during the last three days. It all started with a pair of ducks I didn’t recognize, but they were probably our own since they came toward me and knew exactly what to do with the duck pellets I tossed them.  These photos were taken three days ago when a small “spa” of water opened up around the bubblers. And open water = ducks!

The lovely hen (not Honey):

And her handsome drake:

Of course I fed them, because it was cold. They can’t walk very well on the thin ice, and it’s comical when they slip (they don’t hurt themselves, though, as they have great balance).

Right now there are five (three drakes, two hens), and I have to decide whether to feed them or not. I do want Honey to breed here this year, and that means not luring other hens to the pond:

There was a lovely sunset that night, with the disappearing light burnishing the skyscrapers with gold highlights:


Chicago begins identifying potentially offensive and removable monuments, including those honoring Lincoln, McKinley, Ben Franklin, Washington, and Ulysses S. Grant

February 19, 2021 • 10:00 am

Good god! It’s not enough that San Francisco embarrassed itself by renaming 44 schools, including those bearing the monickers of Dianne Feinstein, Abe Lincoln, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Paul Revere. Now the city of Chicago, under the leadership of the increasingly embarrassing mayor Lori Lightfoot, is undertaking the same venture, singling out 41 monuments to be “investigated” for possible removal or renaming. The bowdlerization of my city is detailed in these two article from the Chicago Sun-Times and the New York Times (click on screenshots below):



You can see photos and descriptions of the scrutinized monuments on this page, and I have to say that there are almost none of them that I find worthy of removal, for they mark history, with all its flaws, and offense of some people is not sufficient to immediately mandate erasing a statue. (There are FIVE monuments to Abe Lincoln to be vetted!) And there are alternatives to removal, as I mention below.

Here are a few photos of statues being scrutinized, along with possible reason why they’re “problematic” (indented). Here are the criteria that the committee is considering:

Reasons for making the list include promoting narratives of white supremacy; presenting an inaccurate or demeaning portrayal of Native Americans; celebrating people with connections to slavery, genocide or racist acts; or “presenting selective, over-simplified, one-sided views of history.”

The project website does not note which criteria might apply to any specific monument or statue.

That’s not exactly true, as I show below.

There’s also an advisory committee vetting the monuments, with its members shown here (I’m not optimistic!), and, unlike San Francisco, Chicago is soliciting public feedback on the monuments. (But it would help to know why they’re on the list!). I will give them feedback.

The first one, “A Signal of Peace” seems to be problematic only because it displays a native American. It was intended by the sculptor (and his patron) to be a sign of respect for Native Americans as well as a lament for their oppression by whites:

Before the fair was even over, arrangements were made by wealthy Chicago lawyer and art patron Lambert Tree to purchase the sculpture for $3,000 cash. Offering it for permanent placement in Lincoln Park, Tree was clear in his intent that the monument was intended as a permanent symbol of respect for native peoples who were: “…..oppressed and robbed by government agents, deprived of their lands… shot down by soldiery in wars fomented for the purpose of plundering and destroying their race, and finally drowned by the ever westward tide of population.”

Are we not, then, to depict any Native Americans, even in this respectful and mournful (for their oppression) manner?

Photo ©: Jyoti Srivastava

Here’s another Native American sculpture, (“Indians; the Bowman and the Spearman”) in Grant Park; I often look at and admire this when I drive downtown. And here’s why it’s to be scrutinized:

Impressive for their heroic scale and bristling energy, the sculptures have been criticized for their romanticized and reductive images of American Indians.

Reductive? Romanticized? It’s an admirable, admiring, and truly lovely piece of art. For crying out loud, most public statues are “romanticized,” not to mention “reductive”. What are we supposed to show: a Native American skinning a buffalo?

Photo ©: Jyoti Srivastava

Here’s “Standing Lincoln,” a well known statue. Why is it bad? The site doesn’t say, but apparently Lincoln’s allowing a few Native Americans to be hanged (and pardoned many more)—as well as his early (but later changed) bigotry towards blacks—outweighs his emancipation of the slaves. It’s by the famous sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, and comes with this note on the site (there’s no “reason” given to scrutinize this):

Many people who personally knew Lincoln and were alive at the time of the monument’s dedication commented on the imagery being a moving and accurate representation. As a guide, Augustus Saint-Gaudens used life casts of Lincoln’s face and hands made by Chicago sculptor Leonard Volk.

Photo ©: Jyoti Srivastava

Benjamin Franklin gets scrutinized, too, for he owned two slaves but later freed them and became an abolitionist. So what’s the problem?

Franklin’s achievements in helping shape United States democracy as well as his role in other disciplines are well-documented historical facts. Historical archives reflect some negative personal views on people and groups not unusual for the time, but historians have noted that he was open-minded and would often shift in his positions. Franklin owned two slaves who served in household responsibilities, but he later freed both and became an outspoken abolitionist.

Photo ©: Jyoti Srivastava

George Washington, by Daniel Chester French (a replica).  No reason given, but of course Washington owned slaves. The site says this:

The monument is one of the finest examples of equestrian sculpture in Chicago, and is considered a major work by Daniel Chester French, whose later work included the marble sculpture of Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.

Photo ©: Jyoti Srivastava

Why Leif Ericson is scrutinized baffles me, and no information is given. Yes, he may have made it to North America, but he didn’t “colonize it”.  In fact, we know little about his exploits.

Photo ©: Jyoti Srivastava

And woe to Ulysses S. Grant, who led the Union Army to victory over the Confederacy. He had one slave but set him free. The caption says this:

Grant pursued a number of unsuccessful ventures, including farming on his father-in-law’s Missouri plantation, where he purchased and quickly manumitted a slave, and working for his father, a fervent abolitionist, at the family’s Galena, Illinois leather goods business. Grant quickly proved himself a brilliant tactician and leader, rising to lead the Union forces by 1865.

Photo ©: Jyoti Srivastava

Another statue, “The Alarm”, seems to be a dignified and respectful depiction of Native Americans.  No reason is given why it’s on the list.  Here are a few words:

Sculptor John J. Boyle grew up in Philadelphia and was trained at the Franklin Institute, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris. In preparation for Ryerson’s commission, Boyle spent two months observing Native American subjects and making numerous sketches and studies.

Photo ©: Jyoti Srivastava

Are there any monuments that I think need to go? Given alternatives of explanatory plaques or counter-monuments, I found only one. But it’s already been taken down! I think the one below is invidious and divisive, and doesn’t honor anything except a massacre of settlers by Indians, not noting that most of the killing went the other way. Here’s the “Fort Dearborn Massacre”. A note from the site:

Industrialist George Pullman (1831-1897) commissioned this monumental bronze figural group to be placed near his Prairie Avenue mansion — which was believed to be the site of the attack on the garrison evacuating Fort Dearborn during the War of 1812. The work shows Potawatomie chieftain Black Partridge intervening on behalf of Margaret Helm, wife of the fort’s commander and the step-daughter of fur trader, John Kinzie. Danish sculptor Carl Rohl-Smith (in Chicago to create sculpture for the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893), based his figures on sketches he made of Indian models who were held captive at Fort Sheridan in the aftermath of the massacre at Wounded Knee. Conceived in a sensationalist, luridly violent mode, the sculpture was long criticized by American Indian activists and was removed from public view in 1997.

It’s already gone! None of these should be destroyed; they should be preserved somewhere as examples of public art, no matter how misguided or lurid.


The New York Times details some pushback, but also gives one view of why Lincoln should be erased:

The committee’s list almost immediately drew criticism from some state leaders. “Never thought that statues of Abraham Lincoln or Ulysses S. Grant would be considered ‘controversial’ in the Land of Lincoln,” Representative Darin LaHood, a Republican who represents parts of Peoria and Springfield, wrote on Twitter. “This is detached from reason.”

Daniel Fountain, a professor of history at Meredith College in Raleigh, N.C., said that Lincoln’s legacy has come under scrutiny in the 21st century in part because, as a younger politician, his views reflected the white supremacist attitudes of most 19th-century politicians.

Professor Fountain noted that during his famous debate with Stephen Douglas, his rival in Illinois, Lincoln stated his opposition to letting Black people serve as jurors, marry white people or “attain any semblance of social equality.”

Lincoln’s views evolved during the Civil War, but those early statements remained “abysmal,” he said.

“For many, his flaws undermine his very real, significant achievements,” Professor Fountain said.

Well, Professor Fountain, for more people Lincoln’s achievements outweigh his flaws. How many people have to be offended before a statue is removed? And can’t we just add a plaque that he once held bigoted views but changed them? Why is that not enough? Woe to America if we have to pull down statues of Abe Lincoln!

In general I object to the erasure of history, for if we remove all monuments to people who, when morality changes over time, are found wanting, then almost all history will be gone.

The Atlantic just published what I see as the definitive way to regard monuments, and which of them really deserve to be removed. Click on the screenshot, and I do recommend that you read this thoughtful and reasonable take:

One excerpt:

The issue of what to do with monuments and school names can be more complex than the cartoonish excesses of the woke left might indicate. Art’s impact on the public weal should not be the sole or leading measure of its worth—that way Stalinist “socialist realism” lies—but in certain cases it cannot be ignored.

Few would want a statue of Hitler or Mussolini or Tojo to stand in a town square, even if it was erected in the 1930s and thus could be said to be a historical artifact. Many of the Confederate statues in the South were commissioned in the dark days after the end of Reconstruction, when the Ku Klux Klan ran riot, Black people were terrorized and lynched, and the mythology of the “Lost Cause” was born. To treat such objects as if they were simply neutral cultural artifacts is to willfully misread history. Some public art is arguably so detrimental to social cohesion that a civic conversation about what to do with it is desirable.

In any case, the answer does not have to be to remove the “bad” public artworks. They can be curated, with explanatory material placing them in historical context. (Early Days was curated, but inadequately.) They can be balanced with other works: A German friend told me that in Hamburg, city officials dealt with a Nazi-built memorial glorifying war by commissioning a counter-memorial that criticized it. These works can be moved to a historic monument site, or to a museum—making explicit their status as aesthetic or historical objects, not exemplars of city values.

. . . In the end, self-righteous symbolic crusades like the school-renaming campaign must not be immune from criticism simply because they purport to fight racial injustice—that noble cause is debased by empty gestures that achieve nothing. Indeed, by creating conflict over trivial objectives—just turn on Fox News—they are more likely to harm the cause of societal progress and racial harmony than to advance it.

Yes, I shall be giving my input to the monument-inspection Pecksniffs, and perhaps to the mayor and my alderman.

h/t: Ben

U of C students demonstrate to defund and disarm campus police; University says “no way”

August 31, 2020 • 1:15 pm

UPDATE: From Block Club Chicago (click on screenshot):

An excerpt:

The action continued into Sunday with yoga, breakfast and organizing workshops. Students will remain there “indefinitely until we hear publicly” from Lee, CareNotCops organizers said in a tweet.

In a statement Monday, organizers said they would remain on the block until Lee agrees to meet their demands.

They’re going to be waiting a LONG time. . . . .


For some time now, I’ve been anxious about my University becoming more and more woke. That’s clearly happening to the student population, and there are signs it’s affecting some of the administration as well. This would break my heart, but I think the tide is unstoppable. I only hope that the highest administrators—the President and the Provost—will hold the line.

The latest instantiation of student wokeness, as reported by the Chicago Tribune (click on screenshot below) is a set of two demonstrations last Saturday for defunding and abolishing the campus police, a large and well trained set of men and women who help keep us safe on the South Side. I’ve met quite a few of them, and have found them professional and efficient. But then again, I’m not a person of color, for a lot of the protestors claim that the police are racist.  As far as I know, while there may have been an occasional case of “profiling”, I haven’t seen evidence to buttress that strong claim. The case that’s always cited (see below) holds no water.

And of course it would be madness to abolish, much less disarm, the U of C campus cops. We are firmly ensconced in the South Side, not a particularly safe area, and there are lots of shootings there. If the campus cops were to go, I doubt that many parents would want to send their kids here, and the University knows that.

Nevertheless, the students demonstrated Saturday in front of the Provost’s house (Ka Yee Lee, a female chemist  ofAsian descent), as well as of President Bob Zimmer’s house at the University, blocking traffic in both places. I was a bit upset at the demonstration at Zimmer’s, as he’s not been well: he had a brain tumor removed and is stepping down as President at the end of the upcoming academic year.

But here’s the Tribune report:

Here are the students’ demands and indictments from the Trib piece:

Those rallying demanded school leaders disclose the university’s police budget — and then cut it in half. The student group additionally wants the university to disband its police force by 2022 and to redistribute the remaining funding to support students of color and ethnic studies.

. . . Members of student groups UChicago United and Care Not Cops as well as the activist organizations Black Lives Matter Chicago and Good Kids Mad City were at the protest.

“I’m angry because the University of Chicago, you know, the one that loves buzzwords like diversity and inclusion, that puts Black kids on their postcards, is the same university that owns and operates one of the largest private police forces in the country,” Wright said.

The crowd shouted back, “That ain’t right.”

The students always cite this incident with Charles Thomas as the reason cops should be disarmed/defunded:

Speakers pointed to the 2018 shooting of fourth-year student Charles Thomas as an example of school police failing to protect the community. Thomas was in the midst of a mental health crisis in the 5300 block of South Kimbark Avenue when a university officer fired a shot and wounded his shoulder as Thomas advanced with a stake in his hand, officials have said.

Alicia Hurtado, another student organizer, said university police also racially profiled Black students and neighbors and upheld what she said was the university’s history of gentrifying Hyde Park and surrounding neighborhoods.

Thomas, a fourth-year student with mental problems, may have had a psychotic break: he went berserk and began smashing car windows with an iron bar (not a wooden “stake”). When the cops confronted him (you can see the video at my post on the incident), he brandished the bar and started running at the cops, whereupon they shot him in the shoulder, which I think was a deliberate disabling but not life-threatening shot. From the student newspaper:

Bodycam and dashboard footage released by the University shows officers confronting Thomas.  As he walks toward them, an officer can be heard shouting, “Put down the weapon!” while Thomas shouts “What the fuck do you want?” and “Fuck you.” About a minute after the officers arrived on the scene, Thomas begins running rapidly toward the individual wearing the body camera, who commanded Thomas again to drop the weapon, and then fired a single shot into his shoulder.”

The cops had every right to disable Thomas, who would have bashed their brains in. Yet this is taken as an example of police “failing to protect the community” and of the University “not addressing mental health adequately”—as if one could prevent all students from having breakdowns. In fact, since the incident Thomas has had other episodes and is now in Cook County jail awaiting trial on felony charges. One can debate whether or not he belongs in jail, but that’s the call of the City of Chicago Police, not the University. What is the case is that without armed cops, Thomas might well have killed a policeman or two. Yet even now the students think the cops didn’t handle the situation appropriately. I disagree.

After Ka Lee (or someone) left the picketed house she lives in but drove off without talking to the protestors, they maturely made her a parking spot in both English and Chinese, labeling her a racist. This is shameful. I’ve never seen a scintilla of evidence that either Zimmer or Lee are racists (to me they seem quite antiracist), and the bandying about of “racist” in a situation like this is absolutely unconscionable. In fact, one could consider the Chinese writing racist since Lee speaks perfect English, and I have no idea if she speaks any dialects of Chinese.

But the good news: the University, which knows what would happen if the campus police force were to be cut in half or disappear, simply said “nope” to the demonstrators:

When asked for comment, a university spokesman referred to an Aug. 12 message from President Robert Zimmer and Provost Ka Yee Lee, who said they believe it’s necessary to examine public safety and how policing can be improved.

The message also said, “The University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD) provides a vital service in helping to keep safe and support our campus and surrounding communities — a mission that the University has undertaken with the encouragement of community leaders and in accordance with Chicago City Ordinance. That role will continue.”

And so the students can keep griping, but it’s futile, as nobody running this University who’s in their right mind would bow to the protestors’ demands.

h/t: Luana

Chicago: clearing storm

August 3, 2020 • 7:15 am

It’s been extraordinarily cool in Chicago for the last few days (today’s high will be about 71°F or 22°C), and is expected to remain so until Saturday. It’s good weather for ducks, especially yesterday when it rained on and off. The storm cleared for a while in the evening and then began again. Here’s a photo, showing downtown, during yesterday’s brief period of clearing.  Click to enlarge:

It’s a bird, it’s a plane. . . . it’s Chicago!

April 16, 2020 • 9:30 am

I’m having severe trouble concentrating on writing today, and I’m 100% sure this is malaise from lockdown and all the bad news. I am also getting grumpy.

Here, have two pictures of Chicago that I took yesterday evening from my crib. One has a bird in it, the other a plane. I have to say that the view of downtown is much clearer than usual; perhaps this is due to a lack of air pollution. After all, there’s hardly any traffic.

Spot the bird (extra points if you identify it):

Final approach to O’Hare (spot the plane):

A mirage of Chicago

April 13, 2020 • 12:45 pm

Reader Edward sent this breathtaking photo of a mirage of the Chicago Skyline, just featured as the Earth Science Photo of the Day.  It was taken in 2008 from the Indiana Dunes, a state park 37 miles from the city, and a place from which the city isn’t visible.  It is in fact an inferior mirage, formed only under special atmospheric conditions (see also here). Those distant “puddles of water” that you see far away on a hot highway, for instance, are inferior mirages of the sky. Read more at the first link, including details about the equipment and how the photo was taken.