The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Getting warmer?

The temperature at Inner Drive Technology World HQ bottomed out this morning, hitting -4.8°C at 10:41 am, and it may even end the day above freezing. So this mercifully-short cold snap won't keep us out of the record books, just as predicted. It's still the warmest winter in Chicago history. (Let's hope we don't set the same record for spring or summer.)

Meanwhile, the record continues to clog up with all kinds of fun stories elsewhere:

  • Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who has led his party in the Senate since the Cretaceous, announced he will step down from leadership in November, handing some other schmuck clean-up duties after the electoral disaster likely to befall the party on the 5th of that month.
  • After the unhinged ruling on embryo "personhood" the Alabama Supreme Court handed down last week, Republicans across the country have fallen over themselves saying they want to protect IVF treatment while they vote against protecting IVF treatment. Jamelle Bouie runs down some of the dumbass things Republicans have said on the ruling, with a cameo from the dumb-as-rocks junior US Senator from Alabama, who sounded more like Nigel Tufnel than usual.
  • Aaron Blake pointedly contradicts the usual "bad for Biden" story line by putting President Biden's Michigan-primary win last night in perspective.
  • Bruce Schneier looks at the difficulties insuring against cyber crime, one of the problems we're also solving at my day job.
  • New York prosecutors said the Art Institute of Chicago exhibited "willful blindness" in 1966 when it acquired art looted by the Nazis, an accusation the museum denies.
  • Harry Windsor, the Duke of Sussex, lost his case against the UK Home Office, in which he sued to keep his publicly-funded security detail the same size as it was when he actually did his job as the Royal Spare. The high court (the rough equivalent of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals in this case) ruled that the relevant agency had made a perfectly rational decision as the Duke now lives in California, doesn't do bugger-all for the UK, and is a whiny prat to boot.

Finally, Chicago Transit Authority president Dorval Carter took a—gasp!—CTA train to a city council hearing, at which he promised the CTA could be the best transit system in the world if only the State of Illinois would give it more funding. The very last thing I did in Munich on Sunday was to take the S-Bahn to the airport at 7am, so I can assure you money isn't the CTA's only impediment to achieving that lofty goal.

(Also, I just realized that This Is Spinal Tap turns 40 on Saturday. Wow.)

Oh, baby, you are so talented...

Fifty years ago today, Mel Brooks inflicted upon the world a comedic masterpiece that no one will ever surpass: Blazing Saddles.

No one will ever surpass it, of course, because most of the funniest jokes in the movie shock and offend people even more today than when it came out. But that was the point: Brooks and co-writer Richard Pryor skewered everyone in the film. Even the jokes that got mangled by the studio (the "it's twoo" scene originally ended with Bart saying, "baby, that's my elbow") still worked.

Still, 50 years. Wow.

I'd watch it right now except I'm in my downtown office. HR would definitely want a word with me.

Slick moves walking the dog

Walking Cassie to day camp took a lot longer than usual this morning because the freezing rain and near-freezing temperatures after a long cold snap laid a layer of ice over nearly every sidewalk and street in Chicago. She seemed very concerned about my ability to walk, and very disappointed that we didn't take our usual detour to the bagel place to get me some coffee and her a fresh dog treat.

The "wintry mix" has stopped and the temperature has risen all the way to 1.5°C at Inner Drive Technology World HQ, so the walk home may not suck as much as the walk there.

Meanwhile, in the rest of the world:

Finally, we might have gotten to Peak Rat Hole. Residents of the 1900 block of West Roscoe have gotten fed up with all the people coming to see the 30-year-old dead squirrel impression on their sidewalk. Perhaps the wedding took things too far?

Mid-week mid-day

Though my "to-be-read" bookshelf has over 100 volumes on it, at least two of which I've meant to read since the 1980s, the first book I started in 2024 turned out to be Cory Doctorow's The Lost Cause, which I bought because of the author's post on John Scalzi's blog back in November.

That is not what I'm reading today at lunch, though. No, I'm reading a selection of things the mainstream media published in the last day:

Finally, for $1.7 million you can live inside a literal brick oven. The fifth-floor penthouse in the former Uneeda Biscuit building on Chicago's Near West Side includes several rooms with brick ceilings that were, decades ago, the ovens that cooked the biscuits. Cool. (Or, you know, hot.)

Any news? No, not one single new

Wouldn't that be nice? Alas, people keep making them:

Speaking of excoriation, David Mamet has a new memoir about his 40 years in the LA film industry, Everywhere an Oink Oink. (Expect to find that on next year's media roundup.) And I still have to read Linda Obst's Hello, He Lied, which I keep forgetting to liberate from my dad's bookshelf.

Statistics: 2023 (media edition)

Some Daily Parker followers expressed interest in what books I read this year. So instead of just counting them in the annual statistical roundup, I've decided to list most of the media that I consumed last year in a separate post.

Books

In 2023 I started 39 and finished 37 books, not including the 6 reference books that I consulted at various points. It turns out, I read a lot more than in 2022 (27 started, 24 finished), and in fact more than in any year since 2010, when I read 51.

Notable books I finished in 2023 include:

  • Isaac Asimov, Foundation (1951) and Foundation and Empire (1952), neither of which has aged that well. I can forgive Asimov for not knowing how computers would work in the future, but I had a lot of trouble with the rampant sexism.
  • Radley Balko, Rise of the Warrior Cop (2013). I admire Balko's police reporting, and I found his explanation of the militarization of local American police forces compelling. Things haven't gotten better since he wrote the book, alas.
  • Iain Banks, the first 3 novels of The Culture series (1987–1990). I loved them and have books 4 and 5 already lined up.
  • Nicholas Dagen Bloom, The Great American Transit Disaster (2023). Bloomberg's CityLab newsletter recommended this. I recommend it, but as someone who loves urban planning and transit policy, I found it depressing.
  • Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962). I meant to read this book ages ago and finally got to it last winter. Loved it.
  • Christopher Buehlman, The Blacktongue Thief (2021). Buehlman's alter-ego is Christophe the Insultor, whose show I've caught at the Bristol Faire many times before 2020. I zipped through this novel in a few days, and was just now pleased to find he wrote a sequel, due out in June.
  • James S.A. Corey, The Expanse series, books 6-9 (2016–2021) plus Memory's Legion (2022). I started the series in late 2022 and finished it in March. I think The Expanse might be the best hard sci-fi of the decade.
  • James Fell, Shit Went Down: Number 2 (2022). A daily history lesson with lots of swearing and a deep hatred of Nazis. I read it a few pages at a time throughout the year.
  • S.E. Hinton, The Outsiders (1967). A friend's favorite book from childhood and a classic that I just never got around to reading. Stay golden, Ponyboy.
  • Hugh Howey, the Silo series (2011–2013). Fun sci-fi that I wanted to read after watching the Apple TV series. Knocked it off in 3 weeks over the summer.
  • Peter Kramer, Death of the Great Man (2023). Recommended by James Fallows. Absolutely hilarious satire of what might happen were a certain corpulent, quasi-fascist US President to die in mysterious circumstances in his psychiatrist's office.
  • Steven Levitzky and Daniel Ziblatt, Tyranny of the Minority (2023). The follow-up to the authors' 2018 book How Democracies Die. Explains in detail how the Republican Party has manipulated our system of government to stay in power despite having unpopular policies.
  • Alexandra Petri's US History: Important American Documents (2023). Hilarious satire from one of my favorite Washington Post columnists.
  • qntm (Sam Hughes), Valuable Humans in Transit (short stories, 2020–2022) and There Is No Antimimetics Division (2021). Based on Hughes' work in the SCP Foundation Wiki, these weird sci-fi stories will creep you out. I started Antimimetics on the flight from London to Prague and finished it at lunch the next day. Really fun stuff.
  • Richard Reeves, Dream Horders (2017). Lays out how the upper-middle class has tilted things to preserve its own wealth and privilege at the expense of everyone else. I don't agree with all his conclusions, and it's a bit dry, but I'm glad I read it.
  • John Scalzi, Starter Villain (2023). I love Scalzi so much that Villain is my fourth signed first-edition directly from the man. I especially loved that much of the action takes place in Barrington, Ill., in a pub clearly based on one a friend of mine used to co-own.
  • Bruce Schneier, A Hacker's Mind (2023). Excellent book by one of the industry's greatest security thinkers.
  • Daniel Suarez, Daemon (2017) and Freedom™ (2021). A long-time friend recommended these books. Burned through each in two days in June, ordering the second one before I'd finished the first.
  • Kelly & Zach Weinersmith, A City on Mars (2023). I finished this Sunday night so it would make this list. Excellent and funny in-depth analysis of how our species could colonize other planets, and the problems that make doing so unlikely for the next few centuries, if ever. Zack Weinersmith writes the hilarious Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal comic.

Other media

I also saw 30 movies (but only one in a theater) and attended 13 concerts and theater performances, plus watched quite a bit more TV than usual because Cassie draped herself across my lap making it difficult to get up:

  • Films I would recommend: American Sniper (2014), Barbie (2023), Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid* (1983), Dune* (2021), Edge of Tomorrow (2014), Enola Holmes (2019), Free Guy* (2022), Greyhound (2023), Guardians of the Galaxy 3 (2023), John Wick 4 (2023), Jung_E (정이, 2023), M3GAN (2023), No Hard Feelings (2023), Nope (2022), Oppenheimer (2023), and Risky Business* (1983). (* denotes a re-watch from a previous year)
  • Films I would not recommend: After.Life (2009), The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial (2023), Drinking Buddies (2013), The Flash (2023), Someone I Used to Know (2023).
  • Live performances: C21 Women's Ensemble; Bach, Brandenburg Concerti, Lincoln Center Chamber Orchestra; Bach, Mass in b-minor, Music of the Baroque; Brahms, Ein Deutsches Requiem, Grant Park Music Festival; Constellation Men's Ensemble; Dar Williams; Stacy Garrop's Terra Nostra, Northwestern University Orchestra; Hadestown; comedian Liz Miele; Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris Chorus; and NPR's Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!
  • TV shows: Black Mirror series 6; The Book of Boba Fett; Carnival Row; Foundation (2021); Generation V season 1; Good Omens series 2; House MD seasons 6-8; Invasion (2022); The Last of Us; Last Week Tonight with John Oliver; The Mandalorian season 2; The Orville season 1; The Peripheral; Reacher (2022); Severance; Silo; Slow Horses; Star Trek: Lower Decks season 4; Star Trek: Picard season 3; Star Trek: Strange New Worlds season 2; Travelers; The Witcher season 3.

I don't know whether I'll read or watch more in 2024, but I hope it's at least as enjoyable as 2023.

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.

Finally saw the sun

I complained yesterday that Chicago hadn't seen sunlight in almost a week. Ever the fount of helpful weather statistics, WGN pointed out that it made it the cloudiest start to a December since 1952. This streak had nothing on my winter break in 1991-92, when Chicago went 12 days without sunlight, or spring 2022, which had only 1 day of sunshine from March 21st through May 2nd. So the sun on my face this morning was delightful.

In other gloominess:

Finally, Block Club Chicago today posted almost exactly the same thing I have posted more than once: that Friday will be Chicago's earliest sunset of the year. I'm just sad they didn't cite Weather Now.

Seasonal, sunny, and breezy

We have unusual wind and sunshine for mid-November today, with a bog-standard 10C temperature. It doesn't feel cold, though. Good weather for flying kites, if you have strong arms.

Elsewhere in the world:

  • The right wing of the US Supreme Court has finally found a firearms restriction that they can't wave away with their nonsense "originalism" doctrine.
  • Speaking of the loony right-wing asses on the bench, the Post has a handy guide to all of the people and organizations Justice Clarence Thomas (R) and his wife claim have no influence on them, despite millions in gifts and perks.
  • NBC summarizes the dumpster fire that was the XPOTUS and his family lying testifying in the former's fraud sentencing hearings.
  • Alexandra Petri jokes that "having rights is still bewilderingly popular:" "Tuesday’s election results suggest that the Republican legislative strategy of 'taking people’s rights away for no clear reason' was not an overwhelming success at the ballot box."
  • Earth had the warmest October on record, setting us up for the warmest year in about 120,000 years.
  • Could the waste heat from parking garages actually heat homes?
  • John Scalzi has a new film review column for Uncanny Magazine, with his first entry praising the storytelling of the Wachowski's 2008 Speed Racer adaptation.

Finally, Citylab lays out the history of San Francisco's Ferry Terminal Building, which opened 125 years ago. I always try to stop there when I visit the city, as I plan to do early next month.