The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Reading list for this week

As I'm trying to decide which books to take with me to Germany, my regular news sources have also given me a few things to put in my reading list:

Finally, the North Atlantic has near-record jet streams again this week, approaching 360 km/h, and shaving 45 minutes off the DC–London route. I would love that to happen Wednesday.

Waiting for the build before walking two dogs

Another sprint has ended. My hope for a boring release has hit two snags: first, it looks like one of the test artifacts in the production environment that our build pipeline depends on has disappeared (easily fixed); and second, my doctor's treatment for this icky bronchitis I've had the past two weeks works great at the (temporary) expense of normal cognition. (Probably the cough syrup.)

Plus, Cassie and I have a houseguest:

But like my head, the rest of the world keeps spinning:

And now, my production test pipeline has concluded successfully, so I will indeed have a boring release.

Maybe I should visit a cemetery?

The current work sprint ends tomorrow. Throughout, I've had several moments of "wow, I actually did that right three years ago" as I've extended or improved existing features for the next release. I've even added a couple of extra stories that didn't take me long to do.

Meanwhile, I'm starting to get the sense of what it might be like when I'm 80, coughing so much that for the first time in years I'll actually miss rehearsal tonight. Which explains this post's headline: the cemetery is usually where the coffin stops.

Ah, ha ha.

I'm also reminded that, five years ago, we had some weird weather. We have some weird weather today, too, but in the opposite direction.

Anyway, if I can get this coughing under control, and get some sleep tonight, I should have more creative things to say tomorrow.

Facebook and surveillance

Consumer Reports released a paper last month detailing how many companies track the average Facebook user:

Using a panel of 709 volunteers who shared archives of their Facebook data, Consumer Reports found that a total of 186,892 companies sent data about them to the social network. On average, each participant in the study had their data sent to Facebook by 2,230 companies. That number varied significantly, with some panelists’ data listing over 7,000 companies providing their data.  The Markup helped Consumer Reports recruit participants for the study. Participants downloaded an archive of the previous three years of their data from their Facebook settings, then provided it to Consumer Reports.

One company appeared in 96 percent of participants’ data: LiveRamp, a data broker based in San Francisco. But the companies sharing your online activity to Facebook aren’t just little-known data brokers. Retailers like Home Depot, Macy’s, and Walmart, all were in the top 100 most frequently seen companies in the study. Credit reporting and consumer data companies such as Experian and TransUnion’s Neustar also made the list, as did Amazon, Etsy, and PayPal.

The data examined by Consumer Reports in this study comes from two types of collection: events and custom audiences. Both categories include information about what people do outside of Meta’s platforms.

In the report, Consumer Reports calls for a number of policy proposals covering data collection practices, some of which could be part of a national digital privacy law, something that the organization has long advocated for.

We need a European Union-style regulatory regime to protect our privacy. The companies won't do it without regulation.

Who could have predicted this?

Metra's new fare structure took effect this morning, along with the planned closure of every ticket window that still existed. It was therefore crucially important that the Ventra app (now the only way to pay for tickets) updated properly overnight. Alas:

Commuters faced an extra headache Thursday as the Ventra app crashed on the first day of new Metra procedures and prices, including the closure of ticket windows.

An alert on the Metra website informs riders that the app is down and technical crews are working to solve the issue.

“It’s not the way we would have liked it to go,” Metra spokesperson Meg Reile said.

Metra is working with Cubic, the company that runs the app, to get it up and running as soon as possible, Reile said.

On my train this morning, the conductor announced that he knew the app was down, so we should enjoy the ride. I expect they lost tens of thousands in revenue today.

As of this writing, the app appears to be working! And I have just purchased my monthly ticket for February.

I'll update the Brews & Choos page later today.

Visual meteorological conditions

The gray ugliness we've had for over a week finally dissipated just after noon. For the first time since 11am on the 21st we have clear skies.

It's amazing what a few hours of sun does for one's mood.

On the other hand, I'm trying to figure out why Reddit's API doesn't return anything when I use the /search command, but works just fine otherwise. Since I'm building Reddit search into an app right now that turns out to be kind of a problem.

Gross weather day

Looking out my 30th-floor office window this afternoon doesn't cheer me. It's gray and snowy, but too warm for accumulation, so it just felt like rain when I sprinted across the street to get my burrito bowl for lunch.

I do have a boring deployment coming up in about an hour, requiring only that I show the business what we've built and then click "Run pipeline" twice. As a reward for getting ahead on development, I have time to read some of these absolutely horrifying news stories:

Finally, Cranky Flier examines American Airlines' European operations and singles out its heavy dependence on Heathrow as a key reason why its fares trans-Atlantic are lower than other US carriers. Since I am using one of those really low fares to visit Germany next month, I'm OK with American keeping their fares low.

Erev Christmas Eve evening roundup

As I wait for my rice to cook and my adobo to finish cooking, I'm plunging through an unusually large number of very small changes to a codebase recommended by one of my tools. And while waiting for the CI to run just now, I lined these up for tomorrow morning:

Finally, the CBC has an extended 3-episode miniseries version of the movie BlackBerry available online. I may have to watch that this week.

It's the gloomiest time of the year

Forget Christmas songs: Chicago does not have the most wonderful time of the year between mid-November and the beginning of January. We haven't seen the sun all month (well, I have, but I was in California), and we had a lovely thing we call "wintry mix" during morning rush hour. It looks like we might get up to 13°C on Friday, at the cost of an obscene amount of rain dumping on the Pacific Northwest as the warm air mass makes it way toward us.

Elsewhere:

And finally, Bruce Schneier believe generative AI will greatly enhance spying capabilities enabling spying on a scale never before imagined. "We could limit this capability. We could prohibit mass spying. We could pass strong data-privacy rules. But we haven’t done anything to limit mass surveillance. Why would spying be any different?"

With that, 5 straight days of overcast skies doesn't seem so bad.

New Weather Now release

Nothing major in Wx-Now 5.0.8730: annual .NET version update (to .NET 8), minor bug fixes, and some internal changes to how the app logs information from the AspNetCore subsystem.

It seems to be a little faster now, probably because it's ignoring 99% of the log messages that it used to write to .NET tables.