The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Ten days to After Hours

The Apollo Chorus annual fundraiser/cabaret is on April 1st, and tickets are still available. If you can't make it, you can still donate.

Meanwhile, in the rest of the world:

And finally, screenings of Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey, the new slasher pic featuring Winnie and Piglet as serial killers, will not be shown in Hong Kong and Macau, because Chinese dictator Xi Jinping thinks it's a jab at him. Seriously.

The cure for high ticket fees

I refuse to purchase tickets from the Live Nation/Ticketmaster monopoly, no matter how much I love the act or believe that going to a show would bring about world peace. The Cure's Robert Smith makes it clear the artists themselves hate the monopoly as well:

Hours after Ticketmaster began the “verified fan” process on March 15 to distribute tickets for the band’s first American tour in years — an additional layer of security that Smith insisted upon to prevent scalpers and astronomical prices — the front man wrote an angry screed against the company for the mandatory fees they snuck in for buyers. “I am as sickened as you all are by today’s Ticketmaster ‘fees’ debacle,” he wrote in an all-caps Twitter thread. “To be very clear, the artist has no way to limit them. I have been asking how they are justified. If I get anything coherent by way of an answer I will let you all know … There are tickets available, it is just a very slow process. I will be back if I get anything serious on the TM fees.”

One particular tweet gained virality for showcasing the extent of the company’s malpractice: A fan’s reasonable ticket price of $20 was more than doubled due to processing fees and charges.

At least The Cure have enough clout to get some changes made. Ticketmaster backed down ever so slightly from the 110% surcharges after Smith's complaints:

“After further conversation, Ticketmaster have agreed with us that many of the fees being charged are unduly high, and as a gesture of goodwill have offered a $10 per ticket refund to all verified fan accounts for the lowest ticket price transaction,” [Smith Tweeted]. “And a $5 per ticket refund to all verified fan accounts for other ticket price transactions for all Cure shows at all venues.”

Unregulated capitalism produces monopolies in short order; that's why we have regulation. But having a history degree means watching everything in the present rhyme with everything in the past. So while the monopolies of today have their moment or rapacious greed, I fully expect that we'll see some serious trust-busting soon, and then, 60 years from now, our grandchildren will have forgotten why.

Layout frustrations

I'm arguing with the Blazorise framework right now because their documentation on how to make a layout work doesn't actually work. Because this requires repeated build/test cycles, I have almost no time to read all of this:

Finally, a group of Chicago aldermen have proposed that the city clear sidewalks of snow and ice when property owners don't. Apparently the $500 fines, which don't happen often, don't work often either.

First sunny day since I returned

We had four completely-overcast days in a row, including one with some blowing snow, so I'm happy today has been completely clear. Tomorrow might even get above 10°C—which would at least get into normal March temperatures. This whole winter has been weird, as the next few will likely be until temperature increases start leveling out.

In other news:

Finally, Bruce Schneier and Nathan Sanders explain how AI could write our laws in the future.

Converting office buildings to apartments

The New York Times today has an interactive feature explaining how converting pre-war offices to apartments is a lot easier than converting modern office buildings. Simply put, before the 1940s, no one had air conditioning, so the buildings had more light and air:

These kinds of buildings, often dating to the early 20th century, make for simpler conversions because the same logic that shaped how they were designed as offices a century ago determines how apartments are planned today. Both share a rule of thumb that no interior space be more than 8 or 9 meters from a window that opens.

Iconic prewar skyscrapers like the Empire State Building were designed to this standard, and with this smallest unit in mind: a single rentable office 3 to 6 meters wide and about 8 meters from the windows to the common corridor. That was just the right amount of space for a receptionist’s anteroom and a windowed office.

Dan Kaplan, a senior partner with the architecture firm FXCollaborative in New York, identifies the private-eye suite in any film noir as a classic example: frosted glass doors, a secretary framed by interior transom windows, and then the detective in his private office flooded with natural light.

But the conversion puzzle gets more complex with offices built after World War II. That’s because the modern office has strayed far — increasingly far — from the window rule.

Two inventions liberated office space from the window: air-conditioning and the fluorescent light bulb. Just as the elevator and steel-cage construction enabled buildings to grow taller in the late 19th century, the architectural historian Carol Willis has written, fluorescent lighting and air-conditioning enabled their floor plates to become much deeper.

Then local rules add still more complexity: Maybe the building has to meet stricter seismic requirements as an apartment than as an office (much of the West Coast), or the whole facade must be replaced to meet current wind-load standards (hurricane-prone places). Or you can only convert 18 of the 32 existing office floors into residential use (in Manhattan, such use caps depend on a building’s age and location). Or units must average at least 500 square feet in size per building (downtown Chicago). Or every legal bedroom must have its own working window (New York requires this but Philadelphia and San Francisco don’t).

Still, the commercial real-estate collapse of the last three years has made conversions imperative in big-city downtowns like the Chicago Loop.

The result, probably in only a few years, will be to transform former dense commercial districts like the Loop into dense mixed-use districts that people want to live in. 

Why we still need humanities degrees, Tech Forum edition

I'm in Phoenix for my company's Tech Forum, where all the technology professionals come together for a few days of panel discussions and heavy drinking networking events. This morning's lineup, including the keynote speaker, emphasized to me the dangers in the United States' declining ability to teach kids English and history.

I will have more details later, but for now I'll mention these three things. First, if you show the ubiquitous graph of the growing gap between productivity and wages that the US and UK have experienced since the mid-1970s and blame technology for this gap, I'm going to point you to Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and the history of capitalism as possibly contributing factors. I mean, there was a similar wage-productivity gap in the southern US from about 1800 to 1865, which technology certainly made possible, but ultimately public policy had a lot more to do with it.

Second, if you present your company's most exciting new AI technology, and someone in the audience asks you if you can show some non-scripted input, saying "no" calls your entire presentation into question. But that's OK; it was already the most boring presentation on an exciting topic I'd seen in years, so I the guy may have challenged them to go off-script with less-than-honorable intentions.

Finally, to the junior developer presenting for the first time to other professionals: if your slide has content on it obviously copied and pasted from the previous slide, your colleagues will forgive you with a little razzing. If you then cannot for the life of you figure out what the content should be, your colleagues—particularly the more senior ones—will think you've blown off your homework and as a consequence your presentation has wasted their time. Because what am I learning from you anyway, if you have not learned it yourself?

What does this have to do with humanities education? I guarantee all of these presenters were engineers without much history or English study, and their lack of breadth showed.

Next up: the "Sonora Desert Hike" experience, with 45 of my best friends. It's cool and cloudy right now so I anticipate I will enjoy it immensely.

Sprint 80

At my day job, we just ended our 80th sprint on the project, with a lot of small but useful features that will make our side of the app easier to maintain. I like productive days like this. I even voted! And now I will rest on my laurels for a bit and read these stories:

Finally, the European Space Agency wants to establish a standard time zone for the moon. Since one day on the moon is 29.4 days here, I don't quite know what that will look like.

Dreary Monday afternoon

The rain has stopped, and might even abate long enough for me to collect Cassie from day camp without getting soaked on my way home. I've completed a couple of cool sub-features for our sprint review tomorrow, so I have a few minutes to read the day's stories:

Finally, Friends of the Chicago Harbor Lighthouse hope to tap into National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act funds to turn their organization's namesake into a museum. That would be cool.

When, in the corset of human events...

Let's start with combat-actor Jill Bearup explaining how the Netflix-ITV-BBC ban on corsets solves entirely the wrong problems:

Meanwhile, in the modern world:

Finally, I missed an anniversary yesterday. On 22 February 2003, Saturday Night Live aired this bit of Tina Fey's genius:

Three articles about urban issues

I see a connection between all of these.

First, the city has accepted six proposals to convert office buildings on LaSalle Street to apartments. I used to work in one of them, so that should be interesting. These will go through community review, and will cost over $1 billion, but could bring almost 2,000 apartments to the Loop.

Second, Zurich Re and Motorola have separately sued the Chicago suburb Schaumburg, Ill., one of the most dismal suburban hellscapes I've ever seen, to get the $100 million in tax breaks the village promised before the pandemic. The village offered these incentives to get the two corporations to build sleek new office buildings surrounded by parking lots that they hoped would bring in $300 million a year in secondary benefits to the village. Then came the pandemic. Since no one really wants to go to Schaumburg voluntarily, everyone is SOL here.

Finally, a man recently won a $91 million settlement after a car crashed through a 7-11 in Chicago and injured him. It turns out, a car crashes through a 7-11 on average 20 times a day in the U.S., in part because the company doesn't want to spend the $2,000 per store to put up bollards, and in part because cars and people should not occupy the same infrastructure at the same time.

What do these things have in common? They're all points in evidence that pedestrian-focused urban development makes a lot more sense than the horrific car-focused alternatives.