The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Lunchtime reading

Travel in the US just got slightly easier now that the Department of Homeland Security has extended the deadline to get REAL ID cards to May 2023. Illinois just started making them a year ago, but you have to go to a Secretary of State office in person to get one. Due to Covid-19, the lines at those facilities often stretch to the next facility a few kilometers away.

Reading that made me happier than reading most of the following:

And finally, Ravinia has announced its schedule for this summer, starting on June 4th.

Found an old game. Now what?

Over the weekend, I stooped down to give Cassie some pats while she slept on her bed in my office, and realized I had a cache of turn-of-the-century computer games on a lower shelf. Among them I found SimCity 4, from 2003.

It turns out that SimCity 4, like many games from that era, relies on a thing called "SecuROM" which turned out to have sufficient security problems of its own that Microsoft decided not to support it in Windows 10. I didn't know this until I started researching why the game just...didn't work. When you find a support article that says "96 people have reported this problem" you at least know you're not alone.

So, following the advice in the support article, I opened a support case with Electronic Arts. We are now on a 24-hour cycle of them asking me to send back auto-generated codes to prove I'm an actual person with an actual copy of the SimCity 4 CD. This, after it took three rounds with their automated systems to set up a support account. The merry-go-round with their automated systems was irritating, but the 24-hour cycle time between emails just makes me laugh. I haven't actually taken the time 

After all that, I may actually play SimCity for the first time in 17 years at some point this month. I can't wait to see how a game designed for Pentium 4 processors and 256 MB of RAM performs on a Xeon 6C with 40 GB available...

Finally recovered?

Hello, CDC? I'd like to report some side-effects of my second dose of the Pfizer vaccine. To wit: All I wanted to do on Friday was sleep. When I finally slept, my left arm was sore enough to wake me up a couple of times. But hey, I planned to sleep in yesterday anyway, so no biggie.

Cassie had other ideas. She poked her nose in my ear at 6:30. I shooed her away. At 6:45, she decided that the squirrel or bird or whateverthefuck outside had to die, and that was the end of my slumber for good.

According to my Garmin watch, the day I adopted Cassie I had averaged 7:48 of sleep a night for the preceding 30 days. My 7-day moving average hung out around the same value. As of today, my 30-day average has fallen to 7:17, and my 7-day moving average is 7:08 this morning. Most of this is Cassie. I have to go to bed at 10 to get a full night's sleep because the sun wakes her up at 6 and she wakes me up a few minutes later.

Now she's conked out on my office floor, and I desperately want a nap.

All vaxxed up

I got my second dose of the Pfizer vaccine today. So pfar, I haven't notices any pside epffects.

Actually, that's not true. I'm four hours in and I'm starting to feel a heaviness to the injection site that has spread up and down my arm. My immune system has decided it's this guy:

What a difference a small change can make

I've just made a change to the side project I'm working on that will reduce my database costs about 94%. Maybe 96%. This is only in the dev/test environment, so it may make less of a difference in production, but still... Sometimes taking something out of your code can make an enormous difference.

I promise I'll write a lot about what I've been working on once it launches.

Day 400

Illinois issued its pandemic-related closure orders on Friday 20 March 2020, exactly 400 days ago. Yesterday the New York Times reported that the US had its highest-ever-above-normal annual death rate in 2020:

A surge in deaths from the Covid-19 pandemic created the largest gap between the actual and expected death rate in 2020 — what epidemiologists call “excess deaths,” or deaths above normal.

Aside from fatalities directly attributed to Covid-19, some excess deaths last year were most likely undercounts of the virus or misdiagnoses, or indirectly related to the pandemic otherwise. Preliminary federal data show that overdose deaths have also surged during the pandemic.

In the first half of the 20th century, deaths were mainly dominated by infectious diseases. As medical advancements increased life expectancy, death rates also started to smooth out in the 1950s, and the mortality rate in recent decades — driven largely by chronic diseases — had continued to decline.

In 2020, however, the United States saw the largest single-year surge in the death rate since federal statistics became available. The rate increased 16 percent from 2019, even more than the 12 percent jump during the 1918 flu pandemic.

In 2020, a record 3.4 million people died in the United States. Over the last century, the total number of deaths naturally rose as the population grew. Even amid this continual rise, however, the sharp uptick last year stands out.

And lest we forget who made the pandemic far, far worse than it needed to be, yesterday was also the anniversary of the now-XPOTUS making this extraordinary claim:

Just think of how many thousands of people he could have saved by following his own advice.

One video done for today...

...and I still have another one to do, though I'm not sure if today's the day for it.

This year, the Apollo Chorus of Chicago annual benefit cabaret/fundraiser Apollo After Hours will once again go virtual, necessitating a lot more individual work and a lot less fun than doing it in person. I've just completed the easier of the two songs I need to record by yesterday. With rehearsing it, learning it, recording the audio, setting up the video, and uploading the audio and video files to Google Drive for our editor, it only took me...about two hours. The song runs 2:15; I sang only 21 bars out of 81, for about 40 seconds of singing; so the ratio of work to performance is about 50:1—including the 3 minutes where I videoed myself lip-synching to the accompaniment track and smiling benificently.

For comparison, we rehearse Händel's 2½-hour oratorio Messiah for about 12 hours total, for a 5:1 ratio.

And we have one more recording to do after After Hours, which I'll describe as we get closer to the "performance" date. Once that is in the can, I don't care if we have another pandemic, I'm never doing one of these again.

But hey, After Hours will be fun!

Ten years ago

Just a quick note: I'm halfway to the "20 years from now" I mentioned in this post from 13 April 2011. And as I'm engaged in two software projects right now—one for work, one for me—that have me re-thinking all of the application design skills I learned in the 10 years leading up to that 2011 post, I can only hope that I'm not walking down a technological cul-de-sac the way Data General did in 1978.

Local history

Today is the 29th anniversary of the Great Chicago Flood, in which no one got hurt despite nearly a billion liters of water surging through Loop basements:

On April 13th, 1992, Chicago was struck by a man-made natural disaster. The Great Chicago Flood of 1992 occurred completely underground and, fortunately, nobody was hurt. There were no dramatic rescues from office buildings and there were no canoes paddling Michigan Avenue. Still, the flood was a big deal. It made national news and shut down the Mercantile Exchange, The Sears Tower, and the Art Institute. It damaged records in City Hall, closed businesses in the Loop (some for weeks), and ultimately caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to Chicago buildings.

In September of 1991, Great Lakes Dredging, an independent contractor, replaced pilings in the Chicago river. Pilings protect the bridges from runaway barges. One of their new pilings near the Kinzie Street bridge damaged the roof of a freight tunnel, allowing water to slowly leak in.

In January of 1992 a television cable company discovered a leak in the tunnels. They tried to notify James McTigue — who they knew was familiar with the tunnels — but the city had recently re-organized and they couldn’t locate him until February. McTigue tracked down the leak, took photos, and showed them to his supervisors in March, explaining a leaking tunnel under the river could lead to a massive flood. Despite that warning, the city did not expedite repairs.

The city rejected an initial repair bid of $10,000 because it considered the cost too high, and new contractors were scheduled to inspect the tunnels on April 14th. In the early morning of April 13th, that small leak finally gave into the enormous water pressure of the Chicago River above. The tunnel’s ceiling collapsed and water began filling in. As they were in the system’s early days, many of the tunnels were still connected to the basements of many buildings in the Loop.

What followed (and, frankly, what led to the disaster) made this "the most Chicago story ever."

In other news of historic disasters, one of Chicago's oldest shopping malls, Northbrook Court, may soon become a neighborhood instead of a massive car park. As it represents just about everything wrong with the suburbs, good riddance. Maybe they'll even put in some shops people can walk to?

Sunday not-so-funday

Bit of a frustrating day, today. I spent 2½ hours trying to deploy an Azure function using the Az package in PowerShell, before giving up and going back to the AzureCLI. All of this to confirm a massive performance issue that I suspected but needed to see in a setting that eliminated network throughput as a possible factor. Yep: running everything completely within Azure sped it up by 11%, meaning an architecture choice I made a long time ago is definitely the problem. I factored the code well enough that I can replace the offending structure with a faster one in a couple of hours, but it's a springtime Sunday, so I don't really feel totally motivated right now to do so.

Lest you worry I have neglected other responsibilities, Cassie already got over an hour of walks and dog park time today, bringing her up to 10½ hours for the week. I plan to take her on another 45-minute walk in an hour or so. Last week she got almost 14 hours of walks, however. I blame the mid-week rain we got.

I also have a 30-minute task that will involve 15 minutes of setup, 10 minutes of tear-down, and 5 minutes of video recording. I will be so relieved next fall when all of our chorus work happens in person again.

Before I do that, however, I'm going to go hug my dog.