The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Back in the Loop office

Now that Cassie's poop no longer has Giardia cysts in it, she went back to day camp today, so that I could go to my downtown office for the first time in nearly two weeks. To celebrate, it looks like I'll get to walk home from her day care in a thunderstorm.

Before that happens, though:

Finally, the MLB's least-popular umpire, Ángel Hernández, has announced his retirement, to much rejoicing. The Post has a retrospective on his worst calls over the years.

Watching for Air Force One

The President arrived in Chicago a little while ago, but sadly I haven't seen either his airplane or his helicopter. Apparently he's just a couple of blocks from me. I'll wave if I see him.

Meanwhile:

Finally, London houseboats, which one could pick up for under £40,000 just a few years ago, now go for £500,000 plus thousands in costs, pricing out the lower-income folks who used to live on them. They seem pretty cool, but good luck finding a mooring.

Lovely March weather we're having

We have a truly delightful mix of light rain and snow flurries right now that convinced me to shorten Cassie's lunchtime walk from 30 minutes to 15 minutes to just 9 minutes each time I came to a street corner. I don't even think I'll make 10,000 steps today, because neither of us really wants to go outside in this crap.

I'm also working on a feature improvement that requires fixing some code I've never liked, which I haven't ever fixed because it's very tricky. I know why I made those choices, but they were always the lesser of two evils.

Anyway, elsewhere in the world:

Finally, the cancellation of the UK's HS-2 project north of Birmingham has left more than 50 homes empty for two years. Can't think why the affected constituencies have flipped from Tory to Labour, can you?

The Internet runs on Doug's code, and Doug just got pwned by the SVR

Remember this XKCD from 2020? With a little help from what researchers think may be the Russian government, that little brick wobbled a bit in the past few days:

The cybersecurity world got really lucky last week. An intentionally placed backdoor in xz Utils, an open-source compression utility, was pretty much accidentally discovered by a Microsoft engineer—weeks before it would have been incorporated into both Debian and Red Hat Linux.

It was an incredibly complex backdoor. Installing it was a multi-year process that seems to have involved social engineering the lone unpaid engineer in charge of the utility.

I simply don’t believe this was the only attempt to slip a backdoor into a critical piece of Internet software, either closed source or open source. Given how lucky we were to detect this one, I believe this kind of operation has been successful in the past. We simply have to stop building our critical national infrastructure on top of random software libraries managed by lone unpaid distracted—or worse—individuals.

The Economist has it in the King's English:

xz Utils is open-source software, which means that its code is public and can be inspected or modified by anyone. In 2022 Lasse Collin, the developer who maintained it, found that his “unpaid hobby project” was becoming more onerous amid long-term mental-health issues. A developer going by the name Jia Tan, who had created an account the previous year, offered to help. For more than two years they contributed helpful code on hundreds of occasions, building up trust. In February they smuggled in the malware.

Jia Tan’s patient approach, supported by several other accounts who urged Mr Collin to pass the baton, hints at a sophisticated human-intelligence operation by a state agency, suggests The Grugq.

Analysis by Rhea Karty and Simon Henniger suggests that the mysterious Jia Tan made an effort to falsify their time zone but that they were probably two to three hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time—suggesting they may have been in eastern Europe or western Russia—and avoided working on eastern European holidays. For now, however, the evidence is too weak to nail down a culprit.

Sleep well...

Another busy day

Getting ready for a work trip on Monday plus (probably) having to do a demo while on the work trip means I spent most of the day getting ready for the demo. In a bit of geography fun, because the participants in the demo will be in six different time zones from UTC-7 (me) to UTC+10 (the client), I got the short straw, and will (probably) attend the demo at 3:30 am PDT.

I say "probably" because the partners on the call may take mercy on me and let me brief them instead of monitoring the technology in the actual meeting. Probably not, though.

So in this afternoon's roundup of news and features, I'll start with:

  • Teresa Carr's report in Undark explaining how people in "eccentric time localities" (i.e., on the western edges of time zones) experience negative effects that people east of them don't.
  • President Biden's budget proposal includes a $350 million grant to extend the CTA Red Line.
  • Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the country's most-senior Jewish official, gave a scathing speech in the Senate this morning calling on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud) to resign and hold elections. Josh Marshall puts this in context. (tl;dr: it's a big deal, and Schumer is really the only one in Congress with the heft and history with Israel to make this speech.)
  • US Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), who faces 18 felony counts in Federal court, may run for re-election as an independent so that he can use his campaign funds to pay his legal bills. Why anyone would give him money to do this I cannot determine.
  • Chevrolet and other car manufacturers routinely hand over data about how you drive to a company that then hands that data to your auto insurer, because the US does not yet have anything like the GDPR.
  • Julia Ioffe outlines how Ukraine can (sort of) win against Russia if it can hold out until 2025.
  • Hopewell Brewing and other Illinois craft brewers have started selling THC-infused beer, taking advantage of a loophole in both the state's brewing and cannabis laws.

I will now check the weather radar to see how wet I'm going to get on the way home...

Mentally exhausting day, high body battery?

My Garmin watch thinks I've had a relaxing day, with an average stress level of 21 (out of 100). My four-week average is 32, so this counts as a low-stress day in the Garmin universe.

At least, today was nothing like 13 March 2020, when the world ended. Hard to believe that was four years ago. So when I go to the polls on November 5th, and I ask myself, "Am I better off than 4 years ago?", I have a pretty easy answer.

I spent most of today either in meetings or having an interesting (i.e., not boring) production deployment, so I'm going to take the next 45 minutes or so to read everything I haven't had time to read yet:

All righty then. I'll wrap up here in a few minutes and head home, where I plan to pat Cassie a lot and read a book.

Long day and long week

For Reasons, we have the dress rehearsal for our Saturday performance on Saturday. That means poor Cassie will likely go ten hours crossing her paws between the time I have to leave and when I'm likely to get back. Fortunately, she should be exhausted by then. Tonight's dress rehearsal for our Sunday performance won't put her out as much, thanks to Dog Delivery from my doggy day care. Still, I'd rather have a quiet evening at home than a 3-hour rehearsal and an hour-long car trip home...

Meanwhile, in the world of things that appear to matter more but actually will matter less in a year...

Finally, perhaps the reason the Chicago Transit Authority has so many problems is that its governing board has only one member who actually understands public transit? (Welcome to Chicago: where the head of the CTA has a chauffeured car, and the head of the Chicago Teacher's Union sends her kids to private school.)

$350 million in fines

New York Justice Arthur Engoron just handed the XPOTUS a $350 million fine and barred him and his two failsons from running a business in New York for years:

The decision by Justice Arthur F. Engoron caps a chaotic, yearslong case in which New York’s attorney general put Mr. Trump’s fantastical claims of wealth on trial. With no jury, the power was in Justice Engoron’s hands alone, and he came down hard: The judge delivered a sweeping array of punishments that threatens the former president’s business empire as he simultaneously contends with four criminal prosecutions and seeks to regain the White House.

Mr. Trump will appeal the financial penalty — which could climb to $400 million or more once interest is added — but will have to either come up with the money or secure a bond within 30 days. The ruling will not render him bankrupt, because most of his wealth is tied up in real estate.

Of course he'll appeal, but New York doesn't give him many grounds to do so. And given the scale of the fraud he perpetrated on the State, even this eye-watering sum will probably survive scrutiny from the appellate court.

In other news this afternoon:

Finally, the Tribune has a long retrospective on WGN-TV weather reporter Tom Skilling, who will retire after the 10pm newscast on the 28th.

Ukrainian engineering

With the news this morning that Ukraine has disabled yet another Russian ship, incapacitating fully one-third of the Russian Black Sea fleet, it has become apparent that Ukraine is better at making Russian submarines than the Murmansk shipyards. Russia could, of course, stop their own massive military losses—so far they've lost 90% of their army as well—simply by pulling back to the pre-2014 border, but we all know they won't do that.

In other news of small-minded people continuing to do wastefully stupid things:

Finally, a reader who knows my perennial frustration at ever-lengthening copyright durations sent me a story from last March about who benefits from composer Maurice Ravel's estate. Ravel died in 1937, so his music will remain under copyright protection until 1 January 2034, providing royalties to his brother’s wife’s masseuse’s husband’s second wife’s daughter. Please think of her the next time you hear "Bolero."

Winter in the air

We officially had our first freeze last night as the temperature at O'Hare dipped to -1°C. At Inner Drive Technology World HQ it only got down to 0.1°C, barely above freezing, but still cold enough to put on ear muffs and gloves taking Cassie to day camp this morning. It'll warm up a bit this weekend, though.

Meanwhile, I'm writing a longer post about propaganda, which I may post today or tomorrow. And that's not the only fun thing happening in the world, either:

  • Ukraine has had a lot of success blowing up $2 million Russian tanks with $400 drones. Good.
  • The XPOTUS keeps making fun of the President's age, which, like everything else he does and says, turns out to have a pretty large element of projection. (Remember: to figure out what the XPOTUS wants to do, listen to what he says our lot are doing.) Bad.
  • Chicago house prices have risen faster than in any other major US city lately, but only because they still lag almost every other US city. Mixed.
  • BlueTriton, the parent company of Poland Springs-brand bottled water, not only sells one of the worst products for degrading our natural environment, but also has engaged in ballsy corruption to "persuade" the Maine legislature to let it continue doing so. Bad.
  • HackRead reports a 587% increase in "quishing" attacks, where bad guys get you to scan bogus QR codes to steal your credentials. Very bad.
  • Paleontologists have published evidence that the dust layer kicked up by the Chicxulub impact 66 million years ago may have persisted for 15 years, shutting down photosynthesis entirely for up to 24 months. Bad for the dinosaurs, good for the paleontologists.

Finally, as you sniffle and snort this winter, it might not comfort you to know that you have two noses that can get congested and runny. Bad.