The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Bye bye Beetle

VW will stop making the original People's Car later this year:

The streets of American cities were once carpeted in Bugs. From 1968 to 1973, more than a million were sold every year. In 1972, when it passed the 15 million mark, the Bug overtook the Ford Model T as the best-selling vehicle on the planet.

Yesterday, the German automaker announced that it would be killing the Beetle brand for the 2019 model year, news that surprised zero industry observers—these plans have been known for years—but still generated an involuntary spasm of nostalgia. Volkswagen, after all, has been making Beetles of one kind or another since the 1930s.

The Bug, like the many other, even tinier city cars that emerged from Europe after World War II, may have been similarly austere, but its heart was light, its face was friendly and round, and it was made for a youthful and urban world. You could stuff a family of five in there, or 18 college kids. You could park it anywhere. If it broke, you could pull the engine out and fix it on your kitchen table. For millions of young people—students, moms, working parents—the cheap, gas-sipping VW was your ticket to selfhood. Ford may have built the automobile age, but the Beetle conquered the city.

For the record, I was once one of 13 high-schoolers in an original VW Beetle.

Realignment

I'm just starting the process of moving, today, by signing a ton of papers in an office somewhere in Chicago. I get to do this two more times before the end of September. But mid-October, Inner Drive Technology World Headquarters will have a new home.

Parker has no idea how disrupted his life is about to become.

51 people

James Fallows will spend the next 54 days (until the next Congressional election in the US) talking about the 51 people who each have the power to stop President Trump:

The 51 senators who now make up the GOP’s governing majority represent about 30 million fewer constituents than do the 49 Democrats and independents. And thanks to gerrymandering and similar factors, a 1-percent GOP edge in House of Representatives voting in 2016—just over 63 million total votes for Republican candidates, versus just under 62 million for Democrats—translated into a 47-seat majority in the House.

I mention these disproportions to introduce a Time Capsule series for the 55 days between now and the 2018 mid-term elections. It will focus on the 51 people who have disproportionate power. Unlike the other 330+ million Americans, could do something directly to hold Donald Trump accountable for what nearly all of them know is his reckless unfitness for office—but who every day choose not to act.

Those 51 are, of course, the Republicans who make up Mitch McConnell’s current Senate majority.

But 55 days before the election, not a one of these 51 people has dared act. Not after the “anonymous” op-ed in The New York Times; not after Bob Woodward’s Fear (and the dozen previous books to similar effect); not after … anything.

Encouraging to me is that polling now suggests at least two of those 51 could lose their seats in November.

Shut. The. Front. DOOR.

Via Raymond Chen, Eric Shlaepfer built a 6502 emulator out of full-size components:

The MOnSter 6502

A dis-integrated circuit project to make a complete, working transistor-scale replica of the classic MOS 6502 microprocessor.

How big is it?

It's a four layer circuit board, 12 × 15 inches, 0.1 inches thick, with surface mount components on both sides.

Can you hook it up inside an Apple ][ and run Oregon Trail?

No, not directly. It's neat to think of plugging the MOnSter 6502's in-circuit emulator (ICE) in-circuit replica (ICR) cable directly into a socket inside an Apple ][, but that wouldn't actually work. The Apple ][ design relies on a number of clever tricks that derive timing for video generation and peripheral control from the main clock signal — all of which will fail if you need to run at a slower speed.

Are you going to make one out of vacuum tubes next?

No.

Make sure you watch the 2-minute video.

Morning reading list

Before diving back into one of the most abominable wrecks of a software application I've seen in years, I've lined up some stuff to read when I need to take a break:

OK. Firing up Visual Studio, reaching for the Valium...

Lunchtime reading list

While trying to debug an ancient application that has been the undoing of just about everyone on my team, I've put these articles aside for later:

Back to the mouldering pile of fetid dingo kidneys that is this application...

Tracking gentrification through Yelp

Researchers at the City University of New York have discovered that Yelp data can show rising incomes with remarkable precision:

First, in testing a popular theory about signs of the gentry’s arrival, they pulled out all the Starbucks listings on Yelp across the United States dating back to 2007. Combining that information with Federal Housing Finance Agency data by zip code, they found that the arrival of every new Starbucks into a given area was associated with a 0.5 percent rise in local housing prices. Coffee shops of all kinds—artisanal and chain—had a similar relationship.

More broadly, they found that housing prices grew in tandem with the entry of new restaurants, bars, hair salons, convenience stores, and supermarkets. Counting reviews, the Yelp data also captured commercial activity at those businesses, which turned out to be a predictor of rising home values, too.

Fascinatingly, different listing types were more correlated with different demographics than others as they increased within Big Apple neighborhoods. Grocery stores were more strongly associated with demographics than any other listing type—the greater the change in grocery stores in a neighborhood, the greater the change in college-educated white people ages 25-34, the researchers found.

Citylab caveats the data, saying, "Still poorly understood, however, is which comes first in gentrifying neighborhoods: the wealthier residents or the 'nice' amenities."

Party like it's 1879

Atlantic editor Adam Serwer draws a straight line between the ways the Redemption court of the 1870s paved the way for the Gilded Age and Jim Crow, and how the Roberts court now (and especially with Brett Kavanaugh on it) is returning to those halcyon days:

The decision in Cruikshank set a pattern that would hold for decades. Despite being dominated by appointees from the party of abolition, the Court gave its constitutional blessing to the destruction of America’s short-lived attempt at racial equality piece by piece. By the end, racial segregation would be the law of the land, black Americans would be almost entirely disenfranchised, and black workers would be relegated to a twisted simulacrum of the slave system that existed before the Civil War.

The justices did not resurrect Dred Scott v. Sandford’s antebellum declaration that a black man had no rights that a white man was bound to respect. Rather, they carefully framed their arguments in terms of limited government and individual liberty, writing opinion after opinion that allowed the white South to create an oppressive society in which black Americans had almost no rights at all. Their commitment to freedom in the abstract, and only in the abstract, allowed a brutal despotism to take root in Southern soil.

The conservative majority on the Supreme Court today is similarly blinded by a commitment to liberty in theory that ignores the reality of how Americans’ lives are actually lived. Like the Supreme Court of that era, the conservatives on the Court today are opposed to discrimination in principle, and indifferent to it in practice. Chief Justice John Roberts’s June 2018 ruling to uphold President Donald Trump’s travel ban targeting a list of majority-Muslim countries, despite the voluminous evidence that it had been conceived in animus, showed that the muddled doctrines of the post-Reconstruction period retain a stubborn appeal.

Roberts wrote that since the declaration itself was “facially neutral toward religion” and did not discriminate against all Muslims, it did not run afoul of the Constitution. In doing so, he embraced the logic of decades of jurisprudence from his predecessors on the high court, whose rulings ensured that the Constitution would not interfere with the emergence of Jim Crow in the American South. The nation’s founding document is no match for a dedicated majority of justices committed to circumventing its guarantees.

He lays out that in the Roberts court at least they're not vociferously white supremacist. But the deference to corporate rights, he points out, almost guarantee another generation of increasing wealth disparities in America.

Unless we win all three branches of government and pass an amendment or two. But it'll have to get a lot worse before we do that, if history is any guide.

Update: Longtime reader MB sent this: "At every crossroads on the path that leads to the future, tradition has placed 10,000 men to guard the past."—Maurice Maeterlinck

I suppose I should be doing something productive

Sometimes, on Saturday afternoon, you just have to binge-watch Netflix while going through old boxes.

I haven't told Parker that there will soon be more boxes. And then more boxes. And then nothing but boxes. He'll find that out on his own in good time.

For now, I'll just let him believe that I'm rearranging things because that's what humans do sometimes.

But he's eyeing the boxes warily. I think he suspects that his life is about to get disrupted. To the extent that he can suspect anything, or comprehend the future tense, I mean.