The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Heading for another boring deployment

Today my real job wraps up Sprint 109, an unexciting milestone that I hope has an unexciting deployment. I think in 109 sprints we've only had 3 or 4 exciting deployments, not counting the first production deployment, which always terrifies the dev team and always reminds them of what they left out of the Runbook.

The staging pipelines have already started churning, and if they uncover anything, the Dev pipelines might also run, so I've lined up a collection of stories from the last 24 hours to keep me calm (ah, ha ha, ha):

  • James Fallows, himself a former speechwriter for President Jimmy Carter, digs into President Biden's commencement address yesterday at Morehouse College, saying: "It showed care in craftsmanship and construction. Its phrasing matched Biden’s own style and diction. It navigated the political difficulties of the moment. And it represented Biden’s attempt to place those difficulties in a larger perspective."
  • Economist Paul Krugman explains the insignificance (to most people's lives) of the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing above 40,000 last week, and how the news nicely illustrates "he gap between what we know about the actual state of our economy and the way [the XPOTUS] and his allies describe it."
  • Speaking of the stock market, Ivan Boesky, one of the greediest people ever to walk the earth, died last week at the age of 87.
  • Speaking of economics, Bill McBride takes us through the history of paying off the national debt, or increasing it as tends to happen under Republican presidents. He lists 8 events from 2000 to 2021 that significantly increased it, only two of which Democratic administrations oversaw.
  • Speaking of debt, Crain's scoops up the Oberweis Dairy bankruptcy case, and how it appears that a failson (actually a failgrandson in this case) killed it, as sometimes happens with inherited wealth.
  • Speaking of things falling abruptly, a Singapore Airlines B777-312ER encountered severe turbulence over the Andaman Sea near Bangkok yesterday, and a 73-year-old British passenger died of what appears to be heart failure. Other passengers and crew suffered head injuries. This is why you need to keep your seatbelt on at all times in an airplane.

Finally, Block Club Chicago readers have sent in cicada photos from the south and west sides of the area. Still none in my neighborhood, though a colleague in Wilmette said she saw a couple yesterday. I want to see the bugs!

They're almost here!

Cicadas were spotted inside the city limits this week:

Some Block Club readers in Beverly on the Far South Side reported spotting the large insect Friday for the first time since 2007.

Cicadas are crowding the leaves on the old growth trees on Longwood Drive in Beverly — all in different stages of the cicada life cycle. Some are starting to emerge from their winged bodies, while others are in the creepy hollowed-out husk stage clinging as if in still life to the trunks of trees. 

On some streets, you can only take a few steps before spotting what looks like a massacre of a small cicada party on the sidewalks, Block Club readers said. And be careful which lawns you tread. The grass is not swaying gently in the breeze; those are cicadas crawling for higher ground.

Photos and update as conditions warrant.

When is bad butt not bad butt?

Cassie got a bad result from the lab yesterday: a mild giardia infection. It's a good-news, bad-news thing: The bad news, obviously, is that she can't go to day camp (meaning I can't spend a full day in my downtown office) for at least a week. The good news is that she's mostly asymptomatic, unlike the last guy. So we just went to the vet again, got another $110 bill for dewormer.

But at least she wasn't crated for three hours with her own diarrhea. Poor Parker.

In other good news, bad news stories today:

Actually, they're all bad-news stories. Apologies.

Healthy, happy dog once again

Cassie and I just got back from her vet, with a good 2 km walk in each direction and treats at both ends. The semi-annual wellness check was only $88, and pronounced Cassie in perfect health. Even her weight (25 kg) is exactly what it should be, so I can start adding a little kibble to her meals if we walk a lot.

Of course, the heartworm pills were $230 and the fecal test was $107, so not everything about the checkup was great. Le sigh.

Also, it's warm today: 27°C for both walks, which is more like June 14th than May 13th (normal high: 20.9°C). I even had the air on last night. But I can see a cold front approaching from the west, with an expected temperature crash around 6pm and temperatures barely above 10°C (March 24th!) tomorrow. I'm glad we got our walks in already—looks like the first thunderstorm could hit before 3pm.

And check back tomorrow and Wednesday for two more Brews & Choos reviews from this past weekend, including a brand-new brewery that just opened 2 km from my front door.

Solar storm tonight, aurorae possibly visible in Chicago

NOAA has predicted a severe geomagnetic storm watch for tonight:

NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) — a division of the National Weather Service — is monitoring the sun following a series of solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs) that began on May 8. Space weather forecasters have issued a Severe (G4) Geomagnetic Storm Watch for the evening of Friday, May 10. Additional solar eruptions could cause geomagnetic storm conditions to persist through the weekend.

A large sunspot cluster has produced several moderate to strong solar flares since Wednesday at 5:00 am ET. At least five flares were associated with CMEs that appear to be Earth-directed. SWPC forecasters will monitor NOAA and NASA’s space assets for the onset of a geomagnetic storm.

CMEs are explosions of plasma and magnetic fields from the sun’s corona. They cause geomagnetic storms when they are directed at Earth. Geomagnetic storms can impact infrastructure in near-Earth orbit and on Earth’s surface, potentially disrupting communications, the electric power grid, navigation, radio and satellite operations. SWPC has notified the operators of these systems so they can take protective action. Geomagnetic storms can also trigger spectacular displays of aurora on Earth. A severe geomagnetic storm includes the potential for aurora to be seen as far south as Alabama and Northern California. 

The local media picked it up as well, but noted that the sky will probably look like this over Chicago when the storm reaches maximum:

That's the sky this afternoon, anyway. It might even rain tonight. I'll at least be able to read about it tomorrow.

If you love dogs, get a mutt

Cognitive scientist Alexandra Horowitz, author of the excellent book on dog psychology Inside of a Dog, explains how breeding dogs for specific characteristics inflicts pain and suffering on the results due to generations of inbreeding:

Breeders are not typically mating siblings, though it is not prohibited by the American Kennel Club and is not unheard of. Any mating within a closed gene pool of candidates will do, as far as breeders are concerned. But according to research published by a team from the University of California, Davis, and Wisdom Health Genetics in Finland, purebred dogs have, on average, a “coefficient of inbreeding” of 0.25, the same number you get when two siblings have a child. This number indicates the probability that two individuals will share two alleles from a common ancestor, like a parent or grandparent. And this number — 0.25 — is a problem.

The results of pure-breeding, on display starting this Saturday at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York, are profound. The radical morphological diversity of dog breeds today — from four-pound Malteses, white-haired and small-faced, to 170-pound Great Danes, large of body and of presence — is due to selective breeding.

So, too, are the consequences: the occurrence of several hundred health disorders related to genetics or to adherence to the standards set by breed groups that have emerged since dog pure-breeding took off in the 19th century. These include changes to anatomy so drastic that they affect reproduction (the bulldog’s head is so big that the overwhelming majority cannot be birthed naturally), respiration (the pug’s small skull leads to a constellation of abnormalities that make breathing difficult) and recreation (the German shepherd and other large-breed dogs are prone to debilitating hip dysplasia).

Right now, the American Kennel Club has no constraints on inbreeding (even as it encourages breeders to remember that “crippling or fatal” hereditary diseases may result). But I am not counting on the American Kennel Club. Instead, we could make outcrosses — the introduction of different genetic material to breeds — the norm.

Or we could, you know, just stop breeding dogs, and let them make their own offspring however they will. With millions of healthy but unwanted puppies in the world, and millions of purebred dogs suffering with genetic diseases brought on by generations of inbreeding, just adopt a mutt. Everyone wins.

My home town's village board caught sleeping

After rejecting several proposals for what to do with a 51-hectare golf course that closed in 2018, the Village Trustees in Northbrook, Ill., woke up this week to discover that the DuPage County Water Commission bought it for $80 million. The western suburban county plans to build a water treatment plant on the land, which seems somewhat less pleasant than the housing development and senior living facility that the Village rejected earlier. Oops.

Meanwhile, in other news:

  • President Biden raised about $2 million in downtown Chicago yesterday. I'm a little bummed I missed him, but not bummed that, because I take public transit, his motorcade didn't disrupt my commute at all.
  • Gonzo right-wing spoiler candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., disclosed that doctors years ago found a dead tapeworm in his brain. It's still there, taking up space. (The poor thing must have starved.) Oh, he also mentioned the mercury poisoning for which he's currently undergoing chelation therapy. I have no idea which ailment affects cognition and judgment more, but I do know they both affect cognition and judgment a lot.
  • The usually-sleepy House Rules Committee has become the latest battleground in the Republican Party's civil war. As usually, the country suffers.
  • Soon-to-be former US Senator Kyrsten Sinema (WTF?-AZ) warns that the Senate filibuster will probably disappear when the next Congress convenes in January, conveniently forgetting that a minority of Americans already controls the Senate, and anyway the minority party right now wants to burn it all down. But sure, it's the Democrats, not the vandals on the other side, who wrecked the Senate. You can sit down now, Senator.
  • Police in Washington, D.C., have started going after porch pirates with Apple Airtags and some cooperation from local residents. They've got nothing on this guy, though.

Finally, a church near my house will host its last Mass on the 19th as members of the community have banded together to buy the building from the Archdiocese. The church has an amazing history, including a painstaking move and 90-degree rotation from its original location across Ashland Ave. in 1929.

Also: watch for some new Brews & Choos reviews early next week. This chorus season really did a number on my free time. I'm starting to get moving again.

Watching for Air Force One

The President arrived in Chicago a little while ago, but sadly I haven't seen either his airplane or his helicopter. Apparently he's just a couple of blocks from me. I'll wave if I see him.

Meanwhile:

Finally, London houseboats, which one could pick up for under £40,000 just a few years ago, now go for £500,000 plus thousands in costs, pricing out the lower-income folks who used to live on them. They seem pretty cool, but good luck finding a mooring.

Sure, but what have you done since then?

On this day 200 years ago, Ludwig van Beethoven conducted the premier of his 9th Symphony at the Theater am Kärntnertor in Vienna. The Apollo Chorus performed it almost exactly a year ago, inspiring one of our members to express in meme form one of the more fun passages of the piece:

And how did one of the 19th century's greatest composers follow this up? He decomposed.

The chorus season is mostly over

After a week of rehearsals capped by two performances of some really challenging works by French and Swiss composers, I finally got a full 8½ hours of sleep last night. What a difference. Not just the needed rest, but also having a much smaller inbox (just one task for the chorus left until next week) and less to worry about.

Until I open a newspaper, of course:

  • The head of the political arm of Hamas, the terrorist group and de jure governing party in Gaza which has called for the annihilation of all Jews, claims to have accepted cease-fire terms that would avoid an Israeli invasion of Rafah, but Israel disputes this.
  • Six months out from the election, Walter Shapiro looks at President Biden's approval ratings and concludes they probably don't matter.
  • UMass Amherst professor Ethan Zuckerman has sued Facebook over a provision of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (47 USC 230) that could allow people to use third-party tools to block their social media. Zuckerman explains the suit in layman's terms in the Times.

Finally, a new bar claiming to be Chicago's first with an indoor dog park got a special-use permit, enabling them to open sometime this fall. B-A-R (as in, "who wants to go to the B-A-R?") still needs a liquor license, and will charge $25 per day or $50 per month per dog. I just passed by the site on Saturday, so I will note that it's directly across the street from some of Chicago's best thin-crust pizza. But $25 just to visit? Hm. The do know they're only a kilometer from a dog park, right?