The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Too many things to read this afternoon

Fortunately, I'm debugging a build process that takes 6 minutes each time, so I may be able to squeeze some of these in:

Back to debugging Azure DevOps pipelines...

Happy Y2K20!

Remember Y2K? Oh, boy, I do, especially as I had to spend part of New Year's Eve in a data center on 1 January 2000.

Apparently, some of the fixes people made to their software back then solved the problem...for a time:

Register reader, having sold a vehicle, filled out the requisite paperwork and sent it off to the agency, which is responsible for maintaining a database of drivers and vehicles in Blighty. An acknowledgement was received, which helpfully noted that it been printed in 1920.

Sadly, we doubt Doc Brown was involved in this one. A spokesperson for the agency told us that "it looked like a blip when printing the date on the letter", although we're mindful of the quick and dirty solution to the Y2K problem a large number of engineers opted for back in the day.

Rather than rewriting code to handle a four-digit year, many opted for a windowing approach, where systems would treat the 20 years from 00 to 19 as being from the 2000s.

New York parking meters stopped accepting card payments as the year turned, and some Electronic Logging Devices (ELD) sold by Trimble (formerly PeopleNet) threw a wobbly as 2020 arrived and a disconnect between GPS and server clocks left gear in a continuous reboot cycle.

In the case of the latter, it meant some US truck drivers were forced to switch to paper-based methods for logging until borked units could be dealt with.

A windowing approach also caused problems for a hardware manufacturer back in 2016...and will again in 2032, apparently...which will give them plenty to do before the 2038 problem ends civilization.

Busy day links

I had a lot going on at work today, so all I have left is a lame-ass "read these later" post:

I'd say "back to the mines," but I believe I have a date with Kristen Bell presently.

Spot the theme

A few articles to read at lunchtime today:

  • Will Peischel, writing for Mother Jones, warns that the wildfires in Australia aren't the new normal. They're something worse. (Hint: fires create their own weather, causing feedback loops no one predicted.)
  • A new analysis finds that ocean temperatures not only hit record highs in 2019, but also that the rate of increase is accelerating.
  • First Nations communities living on Manitoulin Island in Lake Huron—the largest freshwater island in the world—warn that human activity is disrupting millennia-old ecosystems in the Great Lakes.

Fortunately, those aren't the only depressing stories in the news today:

Now that I'm thoroughly depressed, I'll continue working on this API over here...

Two big 20th anniversaries today (and a centennial)

We typically think of January 1st as the day things happen. But December 31st is often the day things end.

On 31 December 1999, two things ended at nearly the same time: the presidency in Russia of Boris Yeltsin, and the American control of the Panama Canal Zone.

Also twenty years ago, my company gave me a $1,200 bonus ($1,893 in 2019 dollars) and a $600 suite for two nights in midtown Manhattan because I volunteered to spend four hours at our data center on Park Avenue, just so that Management could say someone was at the data center on Park Avenue continuously from 6am on New Year's Eve until 6pm on New Year's Day. Since all of the applications I wrote or had responsibility for were less than two years old, literally nothing happened. Does this count as an anniversary? I suppose not.

And one hundred years ago, 31 December 1919 was the last day anyone could legally buy alcohol in the United States for 13 years, as the Volstead Act took effect at midnight on 1 January 1920.

I'm DD tonight, but I will still raise a glass of Champagne to toast these three events.

Photo by Harris & Ewing - Library of Congress, Public Domain, Link

Same job, new title

For the past seven months I've worked as a contract development lead in Milliman's Cyber Risk Solutions group. Today I officially convert to a new full-time role as Director of Product Development for Cyber Risk Solutions.

We have a lot to do in 2020, and I'll post about it what I can. So far we've started building "a new generation risk platform which uses an ensemble of cutting edge techniques to integrate what is known, knowable and imaginable about complex risks in order help risk managers identify, assess and monitor dynamic, high velocity, complex risk such as cyber," as the partner in charge of my practice says. It's cool shit, I say. And I'm happy to make Milliman my permanent home.

The role now shifts a little bit from building out the minimum-viable product to building out the team. I'll still have to write a lot of software, but I'll also expand our partnerships with teams in London, Sydney, and Lyon, and will probably have to visit at least two of those places more than once in 2020. In fact, at minimum I'll be in the London office four times, probably six. The only one sad about this is Parker.

And as an example of how great the management team is, they're starting me today so that my benefits kick in tomorrow. That was a very cool gesture.

Watch this blog for more updates.

Moments in great timing

First event: Last night around 7pm, my main data drive seized up after storing my stuff for a bit less than 4 years. Let me tell you how much fun Micro Center is at 9pm two days before Christmas. After 12 hours it looks like it's about 75% restored from backup, and I didn't suffer any data loss.

Second event: Just look at this lovely, peaceful scene:

That's the cemetery in my neighborhood a few minutes ago. And that's what we call "dense fog," with about 200 m visibility and what they call "indeterminate" ceilings at 100 m.

Which is exactly what you want in Chicago on Christmas Eve, the second-biggest travel day of the year:

Amid dense fog reducing visibility in Chicago, the Federal Aviation Administration early Tuesday grounded incoming flights at Chicago’s O’Hare International and Midway airports until at least 8 a.m.

For a short time Tuesday morning all flights were grounded, according to the FAA, but as of 7:30 a.m. the agency’s website noted the “ground stoppage,” or halting of flights, was indicated only for airplanes arriving at the city’s two airports. Flights were departing regularly at Midway, according to travelers at the airport.

Still, the ground stoppage for incoming flights means not all departing flights will leave on time and travelers could miss connecting flights, leading to a chain-reaction of air travel delays during a traditionally peak period for travel.

Have a safe and fun travel day, and if you're going to or through Chicago, enjoy your airport time.

I'll take an antacid with my lunch now

With only two weeks left in the decade, it looks like the 2010s will end...bizarrely.

More people have taken a look at the President's unhinged temper tantrum yesterday. I already mentioned that Aaron Blake annotated it. The Times fact-checked it. And Jennifer Rubin says "It is difficult to capture how bizarre and frightening the letter is simply by counting the utter falsehoods...or by quoting from the invective dripping from his pen."

As for the impeachment itself, Josh Marshall keeps things simple:

Here are three points that, for me, function as a sort of north star through this addled and chaotic process.

One: The President is accused of using extortion to coerce a foreign power to intervene in a US presidential election on his behalf.

Two: There is no one in US politics who would ever find that behavior remotely acceptable in a President of the opposite party.

Three: The evidence that the President did what he is accused of doing is simply overwhelming.

In the UK, Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry (Labour—Islington South and Finsbury) has announced a run for Labour Party leader: “Listening to Labour colleagues on the media over the last week, I have repeatedly heard the refrain that the problem we faced last Thursday was that ‘this became the Brexit election’. To which I can only say I look forward to their tweets of shock when next Wednesday’s lunch features turkey and Brussels sprouts … I wrote to the leader’s office warning it would be ‘an act of catastrophic political folly’ to vote for the election, and set out a lengthy draft narrative explaining why we should not go along with it."

The Times review of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker left me feeling resigned to seeing the movie, rather than excited. A.O. Scott said:

The director is J.J. Abrams, perhaps the most consistent B student in modern popular culture. He has shepherded George Lucas’s mythomaniacal creations in the Disney era, making the old galaxy a more diverse and also a less idiosyncratic place.

Abrams is too slick and shallow a filmmaker to endow the dramas of repression and insurgency, of family fate and individual destiny, of solidarity and the will to power, with their full moral and metaphysical weight. At the same time, his pseudo-visionary self-importance won’t allow him to surrender to whimsy or mischief. The struggle of good against evil feels less like a cosmic battle than a longstanding sports rivalry between teams whose glory days are receding. The head coaches come and go, the uniforms are redesigned, certain key players are the subjects of trade rumors, and the fans keep showing up.

Which is not entirely terrible. “The Rise of Skywalker” isn’t a great “Star Wars” movie, but that may be because there is no such thing. That seems to be the way we like it.

Well, that's a ringing endorsement. I mean, I'm sure I'll come out of it feeling like it was worth $15, but I'm not sure I'll see it over 200 times like I have with A New Hope. (It helps that ANH came out when I was about to turn 7.)

And in other news:

Will the world be better in 2020? We'll see.

Voting underway...

Voting in the UK general election started at 1am Chicago time (7am GMT) last night and goes until 4pm Chicago time (10pm GMT) this afternoon. Because we have regular readers in the UK, the Daily Parker will observe UK law and precedent against reporting or commenting on the election while the polls are open.

Instead, I'd like to call attention to an article in yesterday's Times outlining the problems with the FBI's wiretap on Carter Page. While the inspector general found that the investigation started from genuine criminal suspicion rather than politics, he also unearthed many abuses of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) rules in the investigation's early stages:

The Justice Department’s independent inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, and his team uncovered a staggeringly dysfunctional and error-ridden process in how the F.B.I. went about obtaining and renewing court permission under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, to wiretap Carter Page, a former Trump campaign adviser.

To give just three examples:

First, when agents initially sought permission for the wiretap, F.B.I. officials scoured information from confidential informants and selectively presented portions that supported their suspicions that Mr. Page might be a conduit between Russia and the Trump campaign’s onetime chairman, Paul Manafort.

But officials did not disclose information that undercut that allegation — such as the fact that Mr. Page had told an informant in August 2016 that he “never met” or “said one word” to Mr. Manafort, who had never returned Mr. Page’s emails. Even if the investigators did not necessarily believe Mr. Page, the court should have been told what he had said.

Second, as the initial court order was nearing its expiration and law-enforcement officials prepared to ask the surveillance court to renew it, the F.B.I. had uncovered information that cast doubt on some of its original assertions. But law enforcement officials never reported that new information to the court.

Finally, the report stressed Mr. Page’s long history of meeting with Russian intelligence officials. But he had also said that he had a relationship with the C.I.A., and it turns out that he had for years told the agency about those meetings — including one that was cited in the wiretap application as a reason to be suspicious of him.

On the other hand, the FBI had credible suspicions that a hostile foreign power had begun to intervene in our election.

On the third hand, civil libertarians (and The Daily Parker) have criticized FISA for years, both in law and application, because it makes abuses like these far too easy.

We'll be back after 4pm with the latest news from Britain.

Feeling insecure? Blame these guys

The Post reported today that a simple review of phone logs shows how the president and his stooges left themselves open to Russian espionage by using insecure cell phones:

The disclosures provide fresh evidence suggesting that the president continues to defy the security guidance urged by his aides and followed by previous incumbents — a stance that is particularly remarkable given Trump’s attacks on Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential campaign for her use of a private email account while serving as secretary of state.

The connection to the Ukraine campaign is also troubling because of how Moscow could exploit knowledge that Trump was secretly engaged in efforts to extract political favors from the government in Kyiv.

Trump and Giuliani have effectively “given the Russians ammunition they can use in an overt fashion, a covert fashion or in the twisting of information,” said John Sipher, former deputy chief of Russia operations at the CIA. Sipher and others said that it is so likely that Russia tracked the calls of Giuliani and others that the Kremlin probably knows more now

“Congress and investigators have call records that suggest certain things but have no means whatsoever of getting the actual text” of what was said, Sipher said. “I guarantee the Russians have the actual information.”

Ordinarily I'd chalk this up to stupidity. But GOP strategist Rick Wilson sees something far darker:

The traitors deliberately ignore the reporting, counsel, and warnings of the intelligence community when it comes to Russia’s attacks and Vladimir Putin’s vast, continuing intelligence and propaganda warfare against the United States.

The traitors — be they United States senators like John Kennedy and Lindsey Graham or columnists from the Federalist, Breitbart, and a slurry of other formally conservative media outlets — repeat the Kremlin-approved propaganda messages and tropes of that warfare, word for word.

It’s not simply treason by making common cause with a murderous autocrat in Russia, or merrily wrecking the alliances around the world that kept America relatively secure for seven decades.

Their betrayal is also to our system of government, which as imperfect — and often downright fucked up — as it is, has been remarkably capable of surviving.

And if you can’t spot the treason yet, you will soon enough. That’s the thing about spies, traitors, and those who betray their country — they rarely stay hidden forever.

We need to get this administration out of office in 2021, and help the American people understand the danger their sympathizers represent. If only we still taught civics in schools.