The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

This might be what someone used to attack us in Cuba

In late 2016, someone apparently attacked American diplomats in Cuba and China with a device that caused people to hear loud sounds and experience concussion-like brain damage. Now, doctors working with the attack victims may have figured out what it was:

The medical team that examined 21 affected diplomats from Cuba made no mention of microwaves in its detailed report published in JAMA in March. But Douglas H. Smith, the study’s lead author and director of the Center for Brain Injury and Repair at the University of Pennsylvania, said in a recent interview that microwaves were now considered a main suspect and that the team was increasingly sure the diplomats had suffered brain injury.

“Everybody was relatively skeptical at first,” he said, “and everyone now agrees there’s something there.” Dr. Smith remarked that the diplomats and doctors jokingly refer to the trauma as the immaculate concussion.

Strikes with microwaves, some experts now argue, more plausibly explain reports of painful sounds, ills and traumas than do other possible culprits — sonic attacks, viral infections and contagious anxiety.

In particular, a growing number of analysts cite an eerie phenomenon known as the Frey effect, named after Allan H. Frey, an American scientist. Long ago, he found that microwaves can trick the brain into perceiving what seem to be ordinary sounds.

Military strategists have talked about various nonlethal weapons for a long time. I don't remember reading about microwave weapons until now, since sound on its own seemed to be a pretty good way of disabling troops. But this is interesting, and disturbing.

I feel the Source!

I mentioned earlier today (yesterday BST) that I sought the Source. Here it is:

That monument marks the official head of the River Thames, though in September after a long, dry summer, there isn't a lot else that would convince you. Still, boundaries and origins have always fascinated me, so I just had to see it.

Naturally, the closest pub to the monument capitalizes on its notoriety:

Also just as naturally, my trip to Kemble required a totally unanticipated hour and 20 minutes in Swindon, which...well, let me save a thousand words:

Yeah...I don't even know the American analogy to it, but my money's on Elgin: the train doesn't stop in the best spot, but otherwise it's a decent exurb with a history.

Tomorrow I'm staying entirely in London, and planning on going to pub quiz at my second-favorite pub in the world, now that I know they have pub quiz Monday nights. Right now, I aim to finish Redshirts, which I started in Kemble. And then go to sleep. Because my stay-on-Chicago-time strategy has not worked entirely according to plan.

Finding the source

Today's plan is to hop a train for about an hour and 20 minutes and look for a specific monument in a field. One hopes that today I'll remember to put sunscreen on my face. It is, in fact, possible to get a sunburn in the UK in September.

Details and photos tonight.

Places I've never been before

I had thought about going to see the Chelsea v Bournemouth match at Stamford Bridge today, and even tried to get tickets online for weeks. But getting an English Premier League ticket when you're not a club member is a bit like trying to get a Yankees-Red Sox ticket at Fenway day of game.

I did, however, (a) see Stamford Bridge and (b) buy a shirt, so I feel a bit like I participated.

On the way back, I walked through Brompton Cemetery, which, like Graceland Cemetery back home, is something very close by that I haven't seen before. It was worth the detour:

Note how not very green the place is right now. The UK really hasn't gotten a lot of rain this summer. It's quite grim.

I will now take a brief nap before heading out to Hampstead Heath on my way to Southampton Arms. And if my favorite pub in the UK is also closed, I will...go somewhere else, I suppose.

Bad timing, good timing

My strategy of sleeping until noon (i.e., 6am Chicago time) to avoid shifting my body clock didn't exactly work this trip. That's because, unfortunately, my hotel's air conditioning is being replaced. Fortunately I'm here now, when it's 23°C, not a month ago when it was 34°C. And fortunately, my windows open. That means I had the windows wide open last night, which, unfortunately, meant the sun poured in starting around 6am. Fortunately, I have this view:

And the hotel left a couple of big fans in the room, fortunately.

Then, unfortunately, this terribly disappointing thing is also going on right now:

That's The Blackbird, my second-favorite pub in London, undergoing a gut rehab, apparently. It closed mid-July and won't open again until mid-October, according to my hotel's staff.

But fortunately, the Prince of Teck is just down the road a bit, and they have a pretty good Full English breakfast:

Now, having only gotten four hours of sleep last night, I'm going to have a kip. Because fortunately, I have absolutely nothing scheduled for today.

All good things

A couple of streaks ended today.

First, the good one: after 221 days, I finally got to fly somewhere. That's the longest I've gone without traveling by air since 1980, or possibly earlier.

Second, the bad one: after 82 days, I finally missed 10,000 steps, owing to the above-mentioned flying. That's the longest stretch of 10k-plus days I've had since getting a Fitbit. (I would have made it, too, if it weren't for those meddling time zones.)

Finally, there is a crushing disappointment that I will share tomorrow morning. Well, maybe not crushing, but certainly disappointing. And temporary, it seems, but coinciding exactly with my trip here. So, boo.

The Mindset List, class of 2022

Most people starting college this year were born in 2000. Let that sink in. Then read this:

  1. They are the first class born in the new millennium, escaping the dreaded label of “Millennial,” though their new designation—iGen, GenZ, etc. — has not yet been agreed upon by them.
  2. Outer space has never been without human habitation.
  3. They have always been able to refer to Wikipedia.
  4. They have grown up afraid that a shooting could happen at their school, too.
  5. People loudly conversing with themselves in public are no longer thought to be talking to imaginary friends.

It gets worse from there. (Worse, I suppose, if you realize that these kids are 30 years younger than you are.)

I'm traveling today, so this may be my last post of the Summer of 2018. Posting resumes from the Ancestral Homeland tomorrow.

Another win for the Vogons

Two weeks after a local artist completed a mural commissioned by the local chamber of commerce, Chicago's Streets and Sanitation department destroyed it:

Chicago-based artist JC Rivera’s signature bright yellow “bear champ” went up earlier this month at the CTA Paulina Brown Line stop. But the mural, commissioned by the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce and paid for out of a special taxpayer fund, wasn’t long for this world: In fact, it was on display for a shorter time than it took Rivera to paint the piece.

Late last week, someone notified the city’s 311 nonemergency center and reported the mural as graffiti, triggering a request for its removal, said Marjani Williams, a spokeswoman for the city’s Department of Streets and Sanitation. The city did not detail the 311 request.

It’s the latest instance of Streets and Sanitation workers wiping out something considered public art. In March, the work of French street artist Blek le Rat was blasted away from the side of Cards Against Humanity’s headquarters as the city stepped up graffiti cleanup near proposed sites for Amazon’s second headquarters.

Sigh.

It doesn't seem like Streets & San is doing this on purpose. They just don't care. Fortunately, one of our aldermen has proposed a city-wide mural registry to prevent this sort of thing from happening.

The tragedy of Agile

Uncle Bob riffs on Martin Fowler's speech at Agile Australia this week. He is saddened:

It was programmers who started the Agile movement as a way to say: “Hey look! Teams matter. Code should be clean. We want to collaborate with the customer. And we want to deliver early and often.”

The Agile movement was started by programmers, and software professionals, who held the ideals of Craftsmanship dear. But then the project managers rushed in and said: “Wow! Agile is a cool new variation on how to manage projects.”

There’s an old song, by Alan Sherman, called J. C. Cohen. It’s about a subway conductor who did such a great job at pushing people into the train cars, that he pushed the engineer out. This is what happened to the Agile movement. They pushed so many project managers in, they pushed the programmers out.

The programmers continued to pursue Agile as it was originally conceived. Read the opening line of the Agile Manifesto: “We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it.” It is Software Crafts-men and -women who are continuing that work. It’s not the project managers in the Agile movement. They’re off pursuing something else?

He has hit on the sadness all us old craftsmen feel when we encounter Management.

Missed the rain, barely

Yesterday, the Cubs and Mets played to a 1-1 draw at Wrigley when the game got suspended in the 10th due to torrential rain. (They resume in about 20 minutes.) My department bought us rooftop tickets, so we got to see most of the game between the waves of thunderstorms that preceded and interrupted it:

I got supremely lucky: the first wave of thunderstorms hit just as I was getting on the bus to go to the park, finished its deluge just as I got off the bus, and the second wave hit while I was on the bus going back home. So I caught the tail end of the second wave, but only a few drops between the bus and my house.

I'll update this post with the final score whenever they have one.

Update: The Cubs won, 2-1 in the 11th.