The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

The NSA has a sense of humor

After Fox network blowhard Tucker Carlson whined that the National Security Agency, the US intelligence service tasked with spying on communications outside the US, had tapped his phones, the agency clapped back on Twitter:

TPM's Cristina Cabrera reports, "Carlson doubled down on his accusation shortly afterward on his program, saying the NSA’s statement 'an entire paragraph of lies written purely for the benefit of the intel community’s lackeys at CNN and MSNBC.'"

The NSA is just having a bit of sport with Carlson, but one can't know for sure. First, the NSA would never admit to spying on anyone. But second, even if the NSA were spying on him, wouldn't Carlson want to know which overseas friend of his would have attracted the agency's attention, and why?

In related news, the Manhattan District Attorney appears ready to charge the Trump Organization and its CFO with tax crimes tomorrow morning. Stay tuned!

Redundant recovery systems at 100%

The good news: putting my phone number and a close friend's phone number on Cassie's ID tags worked!

The bad news: I gotta trek back to the dog park to pick up Cassie's tags.

Because of the way they lay on her collar, they don't jingle when she walks, only when she shakes or (as happens from time to time) rolls over to let me demand that I rub her belly. So while walking back from the dog park, I had no idea that she didn't have her tags anymore.

Sigh.

Misunderstanding national happiness

After the World Happiness Report comes out each year, everyone wants to live in Scandinavia, which usually dominates the top 10 every time. But people seem not to understand why Norway, Denmark, Finland, and the rest rank so high. Perhaps it's not hygge but lagom. Or maybe it's free health care:

Sort of like how the launch of Sputnik in 1957 led Americans to feel like their country was falling behind technologically, or how the results of international standardized tests in the 2000s led them to feel like their kids were falling behind educationally, the happiness rankings have subtly encouraged an anxiety fit for our era of self-optimization: that somewhere, other people are doing things that make them much happier than we are.

This disturbing thought has contributed to the rise of a genre of lifestyle content that aims to help unhappy Americans emulate the daily practices and philosophies of happier places, whether that means taking a dip in frigid water or making your living room super-cozy. Wanting to copy the happiest people in the world is an understandable impulse, but it distracts from a key message of the happiness rankings—that equitable, balanced societies make for happier residents. In the process, a research-heavy, policy-oriented document gets mistaken, through a terrible global game of telephone, for a trove of self-help advice.

Perhaps deeper insights can be gained from looking beyond the trends of cozy hearths and nature walks. Even the Nordic countries themselves have a lesser-known cultural ideal that probably brings happiness more reliably than hygge. Jukka Savolainen, a Finnish American sociology professor at Wayne State University, in Michigan, argued in Slate that the essence of his happy home region is best captured by lagom, a Swedish and Norwegian word meaning “just the right amount.”

In other words, people report feeling happier when they don't have to worry about bankruptcy after incurring minor medical expenses, when they have adequate public services, and when they just don't want to acquire more stuff. But hey, buy more cardamom if it feels good.

The forecast didn't lie

At the moment, the 10 hottest places in the world are all in the Pacific Coast states and British Columbia. The Dalles, Ore., hit 48°C at 4pm Pacific; Portland hit 46°C, the same as Palm Springs, Calif.; and even Lytton, B.C., reports 46°C right now—the highest temperature ever recorded in Canada. All of those figures exceed yesterday's forecast and broke all-time records set just yesterday.

It's bonkers. And it won't be the last time this happens.

Here in Chicago we have a perfectly reasonable 26°C. I'll keep it.

Record heat in the Pacific Northwest

Portland, Ore., hit an all-time high temperature of 43°C yesterday, with a forecast of 45°C today:

The National Weather Service issued an Excessive Heat Warning for much of Oregon and Washington with historic highs -- and historic lows -- forecast across the region. Starting at 10 a.m. on Saturday, the warning took effect as a massive ridge of high pressure encompasses the Pacific Northwest, leading to triple digits all weekend and through Monday.

By 4 p.m. Saturday, the temperature at the Portland International Airport reached 103 degrees, according to the NWS. This not only broke the previous high-temperature record for this day (which was set at 102 degrees back in 2006), but also broke the record for the month of June.

An hour later, Portland hit 107 degrees, tying the all-time record high that has only been felt three times in recorded history from 1965 to 1981.

But the heat didn't stop there. Notching up one more degree, Portland set a new record for the hottest day.

During this heatwave, the Portland metro area and the Willamette Valley can expect to see anywhere from 105 to 110 degrees, with the hottest day likely being Sunday, where the afternoon high in Portland is 110.

Seattle also had ludicrous heat. And the excessive drought covering 26% of the Western states doesn't help, as it has encouraged a persistent high-pressure area over the region that keeps it hot and dry.

But nope, no climate change! Move along!

Jean Baptiste Point DuSable Lake Shore Drive

Committees, man. The same process that gave us the platypus has now given us a mouthful of a street name in Chicago:

Two years after a South Side alderman introduced an ordinance to rebrand the landmark Chicago Lake Shore Drive to honor DuSable because he was upset he didn’t hear the Black founder of Chicago mentioned during a river boat tour, the City Council on Friday ended months of racially charged debate by adopting a compromise to make it so.

The vote was 33-15, with “no” votes coming from 12 white and three Latino aldermen.

The ordinance calls for the renaming to happen immediately, but a city spokesman did not respond to questions about how long it will take to change the signs.

I can't wait to hear the remake of Aliotta Haynes & Jeremiah's song:

Why did this take so long?

A group of Chicagoans has initiated a class-action lawsuit against the company that has the lease on our parking meters:

Three Chicago drivers are suing Chicago Parking Meters, alleging the private company’s exclusive contract to operate street parking represents a “75-year monopoly” granted by the city.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Chicago federal court, seeks class-action status on behalf of drivers who have fed the ubiquitous ParkChicago machines lining city streets, alleging the 75-year agreement has led to higher parking rates, too many meters and restrictions on alternative transportation such as bicycles and ride-sharing.

“The city of Chicago granted CPM, a private party, monopoly control over the city’s parking meter system for an astonishing 75-year-long period, without regard for the changes in technology and innovations in transportation taking place now and for the rest of the century,” the lawsuit alleges.

By the end of 2019, Chicago Parking Meters had already earned $500 million more than the $1.16 billion it paid the city 10 years earlier through increased parking rates, the lawsuit alleges.

As a member of the class, and a long-time critic of the deal, I would like them to succeed.

How to screw up both time *and* money

Credit-card processing company Worldpay mixed up two fields in a batch on Tuesday (that they mixed up with a batch from April 18th), resulting in hilarious (in retrospect) errors processing charges from the Brighton Palace Pier in southern England. How do we know the error involved April 18th, you ask? Try to guess:

One woman who had visited the attraction in April told of her surprise on the morning of 24 June when a text message from her bank informed her that her account was overdrawn. She discovered that £2,104.18 had been taken on Wednesday by Brighton Palace Pier in what was described as a “deferred payment.”

Ah, haha, ha. I did spend about four minutes pondering how the process failed, as Worldpay claims the error actually occurred Tuesday of this week, but I have my own code to fix before I start debugging someone else's today.

Brexit, five years on

Not everything I predicted about the idiotic Brexit vote on 23 June 2016 has come true, but the UK still remains as divided as then:

Five years after Britons voted to leave the European Union, the aftershocks are still being registered. But few parts of the country have felt its impact more than this corner of England close to its Channel ports and the white cliffs of Dover, where a majority voted for Brexit.

When Britain was inside the E.U., the trucks that flowed ceaselessly to and from France did so with few checks. But Brexit has brought a blizzard of red tape, requiring the government to build the checkpoint nicknamed the “Farage garage,” a reference to the pro-Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage.

“For people living nearby it’s an absolute catastrophe with the night sky completely lit up. Honestly, it’s like Heathrow Airport,” said Geoffrey Fletcher, chairman of the parish council at Mersham (pronounced “Merzam”).

Consultation on the 24-hour truck park had been minimal and suggestions on how to limit problems ignored, he said. Yet, so polarized is the debate over an issue that divided the country, that Mr. Fletcher thinks few minds have changed on Brexit.

“I have not met anybody who has said they would vote differently,” said Mr. Fletcher, a Brexit voter, over coffee in the garden of his former farmhouse, part of which dates from the 15th century.

The Guardian calls it a straight-up calamity:

Few have changed their mind: though polls put remain (or return) ahead by a nose, no one wants to be put through that hell again. Brexit is done for the foreseeable future, though a government thriving on national disunity strives to keep it alive with infantile culture wars and “anti-woke” phoney patriotism.

Yet barely a day goes by without further proofs of Brexit’s damage, some of it now forcing its way into the Tory press. This week, pigeon fanciers are barred from having their birds participate in cross-Channel races by new rules. Less niche is the alarming 17% rise in food prices: Ian Wright, of the Food and Drink Federation, tells me Brexit costs and obstructions have sent commodity prices soaring, and those are now working their way on to the shelves. The unexpected £2bn fall in UK food and drink exports to the EU in just the first quarter of this year is, Wright tells me, “no teething problem, but very real and sustained. Smaller firms have stopped exporting”, overwhelmed by the new obstacles. The government may turn a permanent blind eye to import checks starting next week: “But that soon gets dangerous. When no one checks, who knows if imported food is what it says on the tin, and not, say, horse meat?”

Wherever you look, expect the same story. The assault on the arts, music and broadcasting is lethal for a sector where Britain excels. This week, the music industry has been begging for an end to the deadlock over EU touring, vital for its viability. Another thunderbolt struck this week with a report showing the EU is likely to enforce its rules limiting non-EU content in its broadcasting: nothing new here, the EU is always strict on cultural protection against the US. That strips millions from financing for drama and other programmes, on top of BBC cuts and the possible privatisation of Channel 4.

I suppose Brexit hasn't been as awful as it could have been. But then, neither was First Bull Run.

Full house today

One of my neighbors is having his floors redone today, so I'm dogsitting. Cassie is nonplussed:

Cassie and Sophie know each other pretty well already, so no worries there. But Sophie is a quiet, middle-aged dog, and Cassie is the equivalent of a recent college grad on a bender in Lincoln Park. Sophie just wants to take a nap. Cassie just wants to play. Sophie is now on her third sleeping surface, hoping Cassie stops doing this:

I feel you, Sophe. Cassie's a lot before 9am.

At some point I'm going to have to walk both of them together. That should be...fun?