The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

The last cold snap wasn't as bad as the one before

Three weeks back we had the coldest weather in 19 years. Forecasters predicted this week would be worse, but fortunately, they got it wrong:

We had a very fast chill-down Sunday night, then a good two and a half days of miserably cold weather, but yesterday afternoon the temperature peeked its nose above freezing for a couple of hours. And wow, does "above freezing" feel good right now.

For comparison, here's the week of January 6th:

So it really could be worse.

Buffalo's contribution to humanity

I'm not going complain about how the 33 consecutive days of snow cover makes entering or leaving my house a complete pain in the ass (complete with Parker automatically flopping over when we get back inside so I can wipe off his paws*).

No, I'm going to post today about chicken wings:

[Bill Roenigk, chief economist at the National Chicken Council,] says the magical pairing of humongous athletes and itty-bitty chicken parts got its start with the rise of sports bars a few decades ago. Sports-watching demands cheap munchies, and wings were both convenient and cheap. "Ribs and pizza were the competition," says Roenigk. But ribs cost more money, and pizza — well, pizza tends to lose its charm if it sits on a table for too long.

In an odd twist, the once-cheap wing has become the most desirable and expensive part of the chicken. Per pound, chicken wings are now pricier than bone-in chicken breasts, perhaps inspiring this epic wing heist.

"People say, 'You ought to produce more wings,'" says Roemigk. This year's Wing Report lays out the crucial obstacle: "A chicken has two wings, and chicken companies are not able to produce wings without the rest of the chicken."

This leads to a huge question for me: how long will my remote office continue to have a 50c wing special on Thursdays? (They have the best wings in Chicago, by the way. After some discussion, the staff and I determined that they make them with orphan tears and unicorn sweat.)

As for this coming Sunday, I may in fact be eating wings at the Duke of Perth around game-time. But since they have no televisions there, I might have to wait to see the ads on YouTube later on. Now, if only the Bears, Giants, or 49ers had made it...

* The ritual paw-wiping concludes with a vigorous belly-rubbing, so he seems to enjoy the whole thing.

Another social engineering hack takes another victim

Via my co-worker Matt Stratton, a frustrating example of how companies that should have known better allowed a social-engineering attack against a single-letter Twitter handle:

I had a rare Twitter username, @N. Yep, just one letter. I’ve been offered as much as $50,000 for it. People have tried to steal it. Password reset instructions are a regular sight in my email inbox. As of today, I no longer control @N. I was extorted into giving it up.

It’s hard to decide what’s more shocking, the fact that PayPal gave the attacker the last four digits of my credit card number over the phone, or that GoDaddy accepted it as verification.

My [ownership] claim was refused because I am not the “current registrant.” GoDaddy asked the attacker if it was ok to change account information, while they didn’t bother asking me if it was ok when the attacker did it. I was infuriated that GoDaddy had put the burden on the true owner.

The thing is, GoDaddy allowed [the attacker] to keep trying until he nailed it. Insane. Sounds like I was dealing with a wannabe Kevin Mitnick—it’s as though companies have yet to learn from Mitnick’s exploits circa 1995.

The author has some concrete suggestions. Here are his mixed with some of mine:

  • Use GMail for your login email address. The attack described above worked through suborning the author's email accounts at the DNS level. No one's going to do that to Google.
  • Use a very long TTL for MX record expiration. (If you don't know what that means, that's OK; this is for administrators.)
  • Use two-factor authentication wherever possible. I've got two-factor authentication on just about everything, including GMail, my Microsoft ID, my DNS provider...everything that can use it. If I lose the authenticators, I'm in trouble. But not as much trouble as I'd be in if someone else logged into any of these accounts.
  • Use unique strong passwords and a password safe. In fact, use a different, strong password for every account that matters. Does the website have a credit card on file? Does it host your email, DNS, or something else vital? Strengthen the passwords.

I hope nothing like this ever happens to me or you.

Jim Cantore will not lie down

Yesterday the world watched in horror as Atlanta shut down completely because of a little snow. Atlanta's politicians promptly blamed everyone else, even though they were elected to take responsibility for these kinds of things. Today, professional meteorologists fired back:

"The mayor and the governor got on TV yesterday and said all this wasn't expected, and that's not true," [meteorologist Al] Roker said Wednesday on [NBC's] TODAY [Show].

Roker and other meteorologists pointed out that the weather service issued its warning for metro Atlanta at 3:38 a.m. Tuesday — meaning "they were warned about it, and they should have been prepared for it," Roker said. "It's a shame. It really is."

"It absolutely breaks my heart," said Jim Cantore, a meteorologist for The Weather Channel.

"There are certainly chances that you take with this inexact science of forecasting a winter storm warning," Cantore said Wednesday. But this time, "the National Weather Service was absolutely spot-on with this."

In other words, Georgian politicians tried the Bilandic Defense and failed. (So did Bilandic, if you recall.)

Note to the South: this is one of those occasions when government could have helped, if you'd funded it.

Better weather in Georgia, but worse response

Pity the South. They really can't deal with winter weather:

In Atlanta, however, at 7 a.m. on Wednesday morning (well after the snowfall had stopped), [Mayor Kasim] Reed was talking about people still needing to get home.

Many of these people wound up passing the night at a grocery store or a stranger's home because the alternative was spending it on the highway, stuck in traffic that was barely moving, if at all. And people who didn't leave work soon enough – or schools that may not have sent children home early enough – quickly got stuck where they were. In Atlanta, schools didn't dismiss classes until after the snow started falling.

In the Northeast and Midwest, we regularly drive through this window: the first few hours of flurries. The great advantage of having snow plows (and salt trucks) is not just that they help clean up once a storm has passed, but also that they give us time to head home once it's already begun. If you don't have plenty of this equipment poised to hit streets before the first snowfall, chaos can set in immediately. That means that a region that isn't prepared ahead of time doesn't get much of a grace period to make up for that mistake.

Meanwhile, up here in Siberia, the next few weeks will be grim:

Chicagoans shiver[ed] through a 16th morning of sub-zero [Fahrenheit] temperatures Wednesday. But a measure of relief is on the way—albeit limited in scope and of shorter duration than many would prefer in the midst of a tough winter ranked 10th coldest and 5th snowiest to date.

While peak daytime temperatures are to surge 9°C Wednesday to a high of -7°C—and another 6°C to -3°C Thursday, snow chances are to increase in coming days as well.

A spell of snow is possible Thursday afternoon and evening with a more significant snowy period due Friday night into Saturday.

So what now? Only another 100-150 mm of snow. And then it will cool off again.

At this writing I'm 6 days and 19 hours from skipping town, though. I can cope for a few more days.

The State of the Union

"Mister Speaker, the President of the United States."

21:00 EST: I switched to CNN because Paul Krugman said he'd be on. He is not in evidence. Over to NPR, because the CNN commentators are so annoying.

21:03: I love NPR, and Mara Liasson in particular, but wow. Nobody knows anything.

21:05: The Republicans have had training on how to talk to women. That says everything you need to know about American politics these days. Fortunately, only men who own property can vote, so it doesn't really matter in November.

21:14: Is Boehner already drunk?

21:15: Education! Fuck yeah!

21:16: I can't even watch CNN video, it's too far behind the radio. I mean, what, they've got him on a delay? Seriously, CNN is 8 seconds behind NPR.

21:17: "It is you who make the state of the Union strong." My ruling on drinking games: this is semantically equivalent to "The state of the Union is strong."

21:18: China, already? Must be a mid-term year.

21:20: What un-american person would shut down the government? Commies. That's who.

21:21: "Inequality has deepened. ... Too many Americans are working too hard just to get ahead, and too many aren't working at all. ... Wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation...." I mean, I like this guy, and I'm frustrated by Republican intransigence, as happy as I am about recognizing inequality, I'm not happy about strengthening the executive.

21:25: "The son of a barkeep is the Speaker of the House." Thank you, thank you, don't forget to tip your bartenders.

21:26: "Both Democrats and Republicans have complained that our tax code is riddled with loopholes..." Yes, but we complain about different loopholes. Middle-class wage earners aren't exercised about the mortgage interest deduction; they're pissed about capital gains exclusions. This is non-trivial. And when I say President Obama—who I've supported in two presidential races and two U.S. Senate races—when I say this guy is a Republican, this is what I mean. If only the Republican Party could accept this.

21:31: Energy independence isn't possible in the U.S., not until we cut consumption by 40%. But he has to say this. And the Republicans have to sit on their hands, because they're in thrall to the energy companies. Wow, I wish we had an opposition party instead of a fringe group.

21:32: A friend just texted that her phone kept auto-correcting "Boehner" to "Bieber." Oddly, despite Bieber being a foreign national and citizen, I would be OK with the switch.

21:34: Sigh. Our children's children might say things to us, but we X-ers are getting married and reproducing so late in life, it's odds-against that we'll survive to see our grandchildren.

21:36: Immigration, fuck yeah! If only because, you know, 99.8% 100% of all Americans are descended from immigrants. (Seriously, what kind of hypocrite opposes immigration reform?)

21:38: "This Congress needs to restore the unemployment insurance you just let expire for 1.6 million Americans." YES. How can people actually oppose people having food, shelter, and health care?

21:43: Again, how can anyone oppose these things? Well, if you believe that partisan politics is more important than policy, it's natural. But if you get your head out of your ass, it's really hard to disagree.

21:46: Oh, no, the 77c fallacy. I mean, you read my blog, you know where I stand, but seriously. Our problem is parental leave, not "a Mad Men episode." Do we really have to make the same arguments we've been making for 60 years? I guess so, just in case some women might vote Republican in November. Comments, please: doesn't this sound patronizing already?

21:50: A $10.10 minimum wage may not even be enough. But it's a good step. My state's is $8.25, which isn't enough. Again, how do people oppose this?

21:54: WHY THE FUCK ARE YOU 50 MINUTES INTO THE SPEECH AND ONLY NOW TALKING ABOUT HOW GREAT THE ACA IS? This is simply the biggest accomplishment of his first term. Let me repeat that: THE ACA IS THE BIGGEST ACCOMPLISHMENT OF THE PRESIDENT'S FIRST TERM. "Let's not have another 40-something votes to repeal a law that's already helping millions of people." I mean, shit, talk about burying the lede...

21:58: "Citizenship means everyone's right to vote." It's really sad that the President has to point this out to Congress. "It should be the power of our vote, not the size of our bank accounts, that drives our democracy."

22:02: "America's longest war could be over." America's longest war. Yeah, 13 years already. Except for the war on drugs, the war on poverty, and the war on metaphor, none of which we've ended. (Sorry, too snarky?)

22:05: "America must move off a permanent war footing." Sigh. Such a plain-English statement, with which I agree completely, but will it come to pass? Please, in the next 22 months, please help us not be Rome.

22:06: Closing Guantanamo? Because Constitution? Don't lie to me Barry. Don't lie to me.

22:07: "America's diplomacy, backed by the threat of force, is why Syria's chemical weapons are being eliminated." It's sad he has to mention our threat of force. But we live in the era of MURICA FUCK YEAH so, you know, baby steps.

22:10: "If Congress sends me a bill [that fucks with our diplomatic efforts with Iran], I will veto it." We have the chance to come to rapprochement with Iran. We are this close. Congress is now on notice not to start a war.

22:12: Shout out to Ukrainian democracy.

22:13: Seriously, the President mentions the Olympics, and you start a "U-S-A" chant? How insecure are you children?

21:17: I respect everyone who serves, or who has served, in our armed forces. But my dog, I hate props. Google these terms: argumentum ad populi. Argumentum ad misericordiam. Argumentum ad vericundiam. Circulus in probandum. Petitio principii. Let me suggest, with no irony, that these things named in Latin argue for their universality.

21:20: This is my President. I voted for him six times*. I get the job he has to do tonight. And in today's political climate, I continue to support him. But, wow, my Eisenhower-Republican grandparents would be perfectly happy with tonight's speech.

That's where we are today. President Obama just gave a perfectly competent, perfectly good sixth-year speech. I agree with just about all of it—but (a) how could you not? except (b) he argued for more executive power, in an era of unprecedented executive power.

Even though I've been live-blogging with ample assistance from the most excellent Anti-Hero IPA, I need to think about this speech. I think it's reasonable, living in a democracy, to make compromises; to accept that the leader of your party has to make public pronouncements for politics that you disagree with; to support the person that gets shit done in the general direction you want. And I recognize that my party's challenge in the next 10 months is to hold on to the U.S. Senate, especially since we've blown up the filibuster.

21:33: Oh, dog. The Republican response, from representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers from eastern Washington, is making my stomach churn.

Yes, folks. Here's the distinction. You can have policy, or you can have pabulum. "A vision...that champions the people, not the government...."

Bible...200th woman in Congress...Work hard, help others, and always, always dream for more...married a Navy guy...Down's from God...we are not bound by what we come from...the gap between where you are, and where you want to be...securing our borders...her premiums were going up $700 a month** can find coverage, and a doctor who will treat you...we advance these plans every day...the true state of the union lies*** in your heart...with the guidance of God, we may prove ourselves worthy...may God guide you and our President...

tl;dr: our policies are hurting you, because you're an infidel, but the President is in a different party, so blame him, not us.

All right. Here's my wish. I want a strong, progressive party in the majority, and a strong, rational opposition. I see neither of those things right now. And I am frustrated.

* 2004 U.S. Senate primary, 2004 U.S. Senate general, 2008 presidential primary, 2008 general, 2012 presidential primary, 2012 presidential general.

** This result is actually not possible under the ACA unless she radically expanded her coverage.

*** Her word, not mine. I sincerely hope the state of the union never lies to you. I hope you listen carefully, and listen with reason.

The pain in Ukraine falls mainly on the plain

Via Sullivan, Washington Post staffer Max Fisher explains how Ukraine's divisions are about more than one politician:

Ukrainian is the majority and official language of Ukraine. But, as a legacy of of the country's subjugation by Russia, many Ukrainians speak Russian, which is the native language for about one-third of the population. The Russian speakers are clustered in the south and east. A significant chunk of them are ethnic Russian, as well. In some regions, more than three-quarters of the population speaks Russian as their primary language.

Heavily Russian-speaking regions can tend to be more sympathetic (or at least less hostile) to policies that bring their country closer to Russia, as Yanukovych has been doing. But the Ukrainian-speaking regions have historically sought a Ukrainian national identity that is less Russia-facing and more European. So this is about politics, yes, but it's also about identity, about the question of what it means to be Ukrainian.

I visited Kyiv (Kiev) in 2009, a few months before Yanukovich's return to power. My host and I didn't talk about politics much, but she did show me where the protests that unseated him in 2004 had happened.

Kyiv has roughly equal populations of Ukrainian and Russian speakers, being the capital and all, though it's pretty firmly within the Ukrainian-speaking part of the country. I got the sense, from the few people I talked to, that Russia made everyone a little nervous. But it was spring, the weather was perfect, and I was really only there to see things like this:

My Ukrainian friends here and in Europe are scared for their country. Remember, it's only been independent for 23 years, after centuries of subjugation by others. (Sound familiar?) We'll see. There are a lot of angry people there right now.

Thoughts about the necessity of getting groceries in the Arctic Vortex

My day became a non-stop parade of context shifts and meetings, so now that the temperature has dropped to -20°C (with a wind chill of -31°C), I'm wondering just how important having cream in my coffee will be tomorrow morning.

Two other thoughts:

First, I lived through the winters of 1983-84 and 1984-85, the first notable for giving us 100 hours of sub--18°C temperatures ending Christmas morning, the second for giving us the all-time-lowest temperature in Chicago (-33°C). I didn't go to school on that day (20 January 1985), only because that day was a Sunday. We went to school the next day, though. We all survived.

Second, despite having had that experience as a child, I don't want to have it again. No. Forget it. We're having the coldest winter in a generation, and I'm tired of it.

You know, before this winter, I don't think I ever complained about winter weather on this blog. Sure, I posted about getting my car buried, and walking along a surreal Lake Shore Drive, but until the past few days I don't think I ever went negative.

Fuck that. This sucks. Five days in the Caribbean isn't long enough.

And so it begins...

The temperature tumble that began yesterday evening seems to have leveled off. From 6pm yesterday to 6am today we had the steepest decline (17°C) with an abrupt plateau at sunrise this morning, now holding at -19°C.

I might have to leave the house this afternoon to pick up a couple of necessities, like cream. (Yes, it's worth braving the Arctic to get cream for my coffee tomorrow.) Otherwise, my office is closed for two days, and Parker's at day camp, so until his 9pm walk tonight I really have no reason to leave.

This is how I came to explain the phrase "stir-crazy" to a native Russian speaker over Skype this morning. I think we'll have some excellent examples of when our office re-opens Wednesday.