The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Busy day

Inner Drive Technology's new computer arrived two days early, so there was a flurry of activity around lunchtime that postponed Cassie's mid-day walk. We just got back from that...but now I've got to do my real job while the new computer installs tons of software.

As someone who paid $200 for four 1-megabyte SIMMs back in the day, I'm absolutely astounded at the tiny 4-terabyte SSD that I snapped into the new machine, and which cost $260.

OK, back to work. Friday I'll have a retrospective on Inner Drive Technology office layouts. Tonight I'm setting up IDTWHQ 6.1.

Finally replacing an elderly desktop machine

The computer I'm using to write this post turns 8 years old on April 6th. It has served me well, living through thousands of Daily Parker posts, two house moves, terabytes of photographs, and only one blown hard drive.

So I have finally broken down and ordered a new one: a Dell Precision 3460 that will sit on my desk instead of under it, and will run Windows 11 with TPM 2.0 instead of warning me that it doesn't have the right hardware to get the latest OS.

The new computer will have an 13th Gen Intel Core i5-13600 processor with burst speeds up to 5 GHz, an nVidia T1000 graphics card with 3 DP outputs right on the chassis, a 512 GB SSD as a boot drive, and a pair of 32 GB 4800 MHz DIMMS that I ordered separately. Plus, instead of decrypting and re-encrypting my 4 TB, 7200-RPM data drive, I'm just going to get a 4 TB M.2 2280 SSD, because they're actually less expensive and use less power than the one in my 2016 box.

Unfortunately I'll need to completely replace my 14-year-old Dell monitor, and get an HDMI-to-DP conversion cable for my newer (2018-vintage) monitor, but neither of those things is terribly expensive these days.

I've also updated the math on the March 2016 post announcing my previous computer, to show the progression of computing technology over the past 8 years:

Bought Config, Processor, Ram, HDD $ then $ 2024
Jan 2024 Desktop, Core i5 5.0 GHz, 64 GB, 512 GB SSD + 4TB SSD Data $2009 $2009
Mar 2016 Desktop, Xeon 6C 2.4 GHz, 40 GB, 512 GB SSD + 2TB Data $3406 $4406
Dec 2013 Laptop, Core i7 2.4, 12 GB, 512 GB SSD $1706 $2247
Nov 2011 Laptop, Core i5 2.2 GHz, 8 GB, 256 GB SSD $795 $1078
Nov 2009 Laptop, Core 2 Duo 2.66 GHz, 4 GB, 250 GB $923 $1309
Oct 2008 Desktop, Xeon 4C 2.0 GHz, 8 GB, 146 GB $1926 $2728
Feb 2007 Laptop, Centrino 2.0 GHz, 2 GB, 160 GB $2098 $3163
Jun 2005 Laptop, Pentium M 2.8 GHz, 2 GB, 60 GB $1680 $2650
Oct 2003 Laptop, Pentium M 1.4 GHz, 1 GB, 60 GB $1828 $3031
Oct 2002 Laptop, Pentium 4 1.7 GHz, 512 MB, 40 GB $2041 $3453
Mar 1999 Desktop, Pentium 3 500 MHz, 256 MB, 20 GB $2397 $4457
May 1995 Desktop, Nx 586 90 MHz, 32 MB, 850 MB $2206 $4446
Oct 1991 Desktop, 80386 33 MHz, 4 MB, 240 MB $2689 $6003

I mean, wow. I fully expect to be amazed at the speed—and the video.

I will say that my hope that the computer I bought in March 2016 would last at least 4 years came true twice over. In fact, from 1991 to 2016, I upgraded my main computer about every 2.7 years on average. Only two made it past 5 years, but only by 4 and 6 months.

It's been a really great machine. And I'm sure I'll discover that it can do one or two things that my new box can't, just like this one lost a couple of features I still sometimes miss. (My 2008 desktop could make mix CDs. I've never set this one up to do that.)

Just a few transport-policy articles

Anyone who has read The Daily Parker knows I desperately hope the US and Canada get over their suburban growth pattern psychopathy sometime before I die. Any actuarial table you consult will suggest the declining likelihood of that happening. Still, a guy can dream. (Or move to Continental Europe, I suppose.)

Thus my interest in these two stories today. First, from the New York Times, a report about the repeated failures of self-driving cars to operate safely in urban environments:

In San Francisco, more than 600 self-driving vehicle incidents were documented from June 2022 to June 2023, according to the city’s Municipal Transportation Agency. After one episode where a driverless car from Cruise, a subsidiary of General Motors, ran over and dragged a pedestrian, California regulators ordered the company to suspend its service last month. Kyle Vogt, Cruise’s chief executive, resigned on Sunday.

To handle the fallout, San Francisco has designated at least one city employee to work on autonomous car policies and asked two transportation agencies to compile and manage a database of incidents based on 911 calls, social media posts and employee reports.

Last year, the number of 911 calls from San Francisco residents about robotaxis began rising, city officials said. In one three-month period, 28 incidents were reported, according to a letter that city officials sent to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Waymo said it had rolled out a software update to its cars in October that would let firefighters and other authorities take control of the vehicles within seconds.

My surmise from 30 years of writing software professionally and dealing with non-technical executives is simple: they rushed technology to market before it was ready (which is nearly universal), but this particular technology can kill people (which is very rare).

Another thing: self-driving cars don't add much at all in places that have adequate public transit. (By "adequate" I mean Chicago and New York, not Amsterdam, which has really amazing public transit.)

Speaking of non-technical executives rolling something out over the objections of engineers, Wired reports that the City of New Orleans tried to dole out licenses for short-term rentals like Airbnb through a lottery:

The plan was simple: Carve up the city into blocks and use a hand-cranked lottery machine to draw numbers, allowing one rental property per residential block. For the winners, the prize was a license to keep listing their property on sites like Airbnb and Vrbo. For the losers, despair.

But the controversial rules, enacted in March 2023, led to just one lottery before being temporarily halted by a federal judge in August. As the city awaits a final decision, short-term rentals in New Orleans have been left in limbo. The city has said it is no longer accepting applications for the short-term rental licenses it requires hosts to have, nor is it renewing existing ones. And, until the court makes a final ruling, the lottery balls have stopped spinning and the city has halted enforcement of its latest licensing rules.

I'm now living in the third consecutive housing development that bans short-term leases, and in fact as president of my last HOA I proposed the bylaws change to extend the minimum lease period to 6 months from 3.

I don't think Airbnb is bad, necessarily. In Chicago, with our 6% vacancy rate and pretty reasonable house prices for a city our size, we can absorb a few thousand Airbnb units. But in many cities, where zoning has created a housing crisis, Airbnb makes things worse by taking units off the market.

Went to the doctor, and guess what he told me?

Sadly, my doctor did not tell me to try to have fun no matter what I do, though we did have a brief conversation about which Bourbons we both like. Nope, he just said I'm perfectly healthy: I exercise enough, I eat right, I don't drink too much, my vital signs are perfect, and I get enough sleep. Doctor visits should be like software releases: boring.

If only that were true elsewhere:

Finally, for those of you just tuning in, Chicago-based Motorola invented cell phones. And today marks (only!) the 40th anniversary of David Meilahn making the world's first commercial cellular telephone call from Chicago's Soldier Field. Meilahn won a race to get his phone turned on and dialed in order to get that bit of recognition.

On a more serious note, I haven't commented on the war in Gaza yet because I haven't sifted through all the propaganda and disinformation enough. Julia Ioffe said a lot of what I'm thinking on Monday, but right now, no one can hear us moderates. I plan to address it soon. Maybe my lone center-left voice will end 3,000 years of conflict peacefully, who knows?

The GOP Clown Caucus lights the tent on fire

House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) lost the first procedural vote to prevent a second vote aimed at kicking him out of the Speaker's chair, which will probably result in him getting re-elected in a few days. The Republicans in Congress simply have no one else who can get 218 votes for Speaker. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) would get 214, but no Republican would ever vote for him. And my party's caucus have absolutely no interest in helping the Romper Room side of the aisle get its own house in order.

Fun times, fun times.

In other news:

  • Former US Representative Bob Inglis (R-SC) wants his party to grow up. Of course, he's (a) writing in (b) the New York Times, so there's little danger of the children currently running his party to read it.
  • The US Supreme Court has the opportunity this term to undo a century of regulation, thrusting us back into the early Industrial Age and making life miserable for everyone in the country who doesn't have billionaire friends.
  • Live attendance at performing arts events in Chicago has dropped 59% from pre-pandemic levels, which we in the Apollo Chorus have noted and do not like one bit.
  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency will test the national alert system starting at 2:20 pm EDT tomorrow, most likely scaring the bejezus out of a sizeable portion of the Boomer generation.
  • Chivas Bros. announced a plan to build a new distillery on Islay, which would be the 12th operating on the small island in the Western Hebrides. Seriously: the island is almost exactly the same size as the city of Chicago (620 km²) but with almost exactly 1,000th the population (3,000), and it will have twelve distilleries by 2026.
  • A bar three blocks from my house bet everyone's drinks bill that the Chicago Bears would win their game against Kansas City on Sunday. They lost. In fact, the Bears are now the only major-league sports team in the United States that hasn't won since Elon Musk took over Twitter.

Finally, next week the western hemisphere will see an annular solar eclipse, so named because the moon won't completely cover it, leaving a ring (or annulus) of fire around it. Chicago will get to about 45% coverage, with maximum darkness around noon. Next April, however, we get a total solar eclipse, with the path of totality passing just a couple hundred kilometers south of us.

Friday lunchtime reading

It never stops, does it? And yet 100 years from now no one will remember 99% of this:

  • A group of psychiatrists warned a Yale audience that the XPOTUS has a "dangerous mental illness" and should never get near political office again. Faced with this obvious truth, 59% of Republicans said they'd vote for him in 2024.
  • Timothy Noah looks at the average age of the likely nominees for president next year (79) and the average age of the US Senate (60-something) and concludes our country needs a laxative. (Literally so in millions of cases.) Good thing US Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said she'll run again next year, after she turns 84. Unfortunately, while I agree in principle with Andrew Sullivan's desire to see President Biden "leave the stage," all the alternatives seem worse to me.
  • Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL, age 78) has gotten some pushback from an even bigger dick, Justice Samuel Alito (R-$), because the Senator said it would look unethical if the Justice participated in a case involving a reporter who interviewed the Justice about his unethical behavior. But Samuel says he was ethical; and, sure, he is an honourable man.
  • Adolescent narcissist Elon Musk cut Internet coverage to the Ukrainian armed forces just as it started a surprise attack against Russia's Black Sea fleet, apparently at the behest of a Russian official. Josh Marshall calls this clear and convincing evidence that "[y]ou simply can’t have critical national security infrastructure in the hands of a Twitter troll who’s a soft touch for whichever foreign autocrat blows some smoke up his behind. But that's what we have here."
  • The Federal Transit Administration has finally committed $2 bn to expanding Chicago's Red Line subway to 130th St., a project first proposed in (checks notes) 1969. And who says the United States has the worst public transit funding in the developed world, other than all the urbanists who have ever studied the problem?
  • What do you get when you cross ChatGPT with Google Assistant (or Alexa or Siri)? Don't worry, Bruce Schneier says we'll find out soon enough.
  • "Boundaries" has a specific, limited meaning in psychology, not even close to the way most people use the word: "while the proliferation of therapeutic terms has given people access to necessary mental health tools, people may overgeneralize concepts such as boundaries and triggers, and use them to rationalize certain behaviors."

Finally, Guinness set the opening date for its new brewery in Chicago's Fulton Market district: Thursday September 28th. The Brews and Choos Project will visit soon thereafter.

Birthday present

My 3+-year-old Garmin Venu 2 Plus has about 40 hours of battery life and doesn't have a host of features that Garmin has developed since I got it. So, voilà, a Garmin Venu 3 appeared yesterday:

I'm still testing it out, but so far it's demonstrably better than the 2 Plus. For one thing, it came out of the box last night at 80% battery, and 20 hours later it's at...70%. And overnight, it analyzed a lot more about my sleep than the older watch ever could.

Possibly next I will get a Fenix. I understand there's a new navigation chipset coming out next spring...

No, there is no nude beach in Rogers Park

That's just one of the absurdities that I encountered over the course of the last 24 hours:

  • A prankster put up an official-looking sign declaring Loyola Beach on the north side of Chicago clothing-optional. Unfortunately no one was fooled.
  • For the 15th or 20th time since its founding, critics accuse the US Navy of adapting too slowly to emerging risks in order to preserve tradition and Mississippi jobs. (Really, this comes up about every 20 years.)
  • Of course, it doesn't help that we currently have no Chief of Naval Operations, Army Chief of Staff, or Marine Commandant, thanks to US Senator Tommy "Never Could Beat Alabama" Tuberville (R-AL).
  • A working group that didn't include historians has proposed how sweeping changes to Chicago-area transit can help it become more like 1960s Baltimore more quickly: concentrate on "financial viability" at the expense of fast, frequent service. Because we really have learned nothing in the last 75 years.
  • Illinois has become the third-largest home of data center space in part because we have a lot of office parks no one wants anymore.

Finally, Arizona continues to allow residential development as if the state has as much available water as Illinois. Because we really have learned nothing in the last 75 years.

Chuckles all afternoon

My home office sits at the top of my house as a loft over the floor below. I think it could not have a more effective design for trapping hot air. (Fortunately I can let a lot of that out through this blog.) This afternoon the temperature outside Inner Drive Technology World Headquarters didn't quite make 25°C, and it's back down to 23°C with a nice breeze coming through the window. Wednesday and Thursday, though, the forecast predicts 36°C with heat indices up to 43°C. Whee. (It gets a lot better Saturday.)

Meanwhile, in the more comfortable parts of the world:

  • Jamie Bouie reminds everyone what I've said repeatedly: Rudy Giuliani has always been an unhinged and reprehensible character. Thanks for finally noticing.
  • Speaking of authoritarians who hate the press, law professor Gregory Magarian digs into the Marion, Kansas, newspaper raid, which the Post says came about because the paper committed journalism on a corrupt police chief.
  • Rolling Stone helpfully catalogues malignant narcissist Elon Musk's biggest lies.
  • One of his lies, or at least one of his latest manifestations of abject incompetence at running a tech company, came earlier this week when he mused about ending the "block" feature on the app formerly known as Twitter, despite that move probably getting it kicked off the iPhone and Android platforms.
  • A judge sentenced an Ohio teenager to concurrent 15-to-life terms for killing her boyfriend and one of his friends by driving her car into a brick wall at 160 km/h.
  • American Airlines has sued Skiplagged, claiming the company tricks people into violating American's terms of service—and worse, doesn't actually save their customers any money.

Finally, a change to zoning laws in Auckland, N.Z., appears to have done what its proponents predicted: increasing housing and slowing rent increases. It's almost like single-family zoning was designed to keep those people out. Next thing, they'll start discover that zoning combined with redlining kept millions of credit-worthy people from ever building wealth for their families and led the US to an unsustainable pattern of urban development that will cost us trillions to fix. Crazy.

Those who can't create, execute

Writing for The New Yorker, Inkoo Kang summarizes why the film industry seems in precipitous decline lately:

To survey the film and television industry today is to witness multiple existential crises. Many of them point to a larger trend: of Hollywood divesting from its own future, making dodgy decisions in the short term that whittle down its chances of long-term survival. Corporations are no strangers to fiscal myopia, but the ways in which the studios are currently squeezing out profits—nickel-and-diming much of their labor force to the edge of financial precarity while branding their output with the hallmarks of creative bankruptcy—indicate a shocking new carelessness. Signs of this slow suicide are all around: the narrowing pipelines for rising talent, the overreliance on nostalgia projects, and a general negligence in cultivating enthusiasm for its products. Writers and actors have walked out to demand fairer wages and a more equitable system, but they’ve also argued, quite persuasively, that they’re the ones trying to insure the industry’s sustainability. Meanwhile, studio executives—themselves subject to C-suite musical chairs—seem disinterested in steering Hollywood away from the iceberg. This is perhaps because the landscape is shifting (and facets of it are shrinking) so rapidly that they themselves have little idea of what the future of Hollywood might look like.

Some of the first Cassandras to draw the public’s attention to this slo-mo self-sabotage were the striking writers. W.G.A. members have expressed alarm not only that their profession has become devalued and unstable through low pay but also that the paths that allowed newcomers to eventually become showrunners, which have existed for the past half century, have been eroded by the studios.

The movies may be in grimmer shape. The industry’s pursuit of I.P. at the expense of originality has all but trained younger audiences not to expect novelty or surprise at the multiplex, assuming that they’re going to the theatre at all. Hollywood has never been known for overestimating the audience’s intelligence, but it’s hard not to wonder how it is supposed to be inculcating a love of cinema in children—that is, future moviegoers—when the splashiest films on offer are explicitly buckets of regurgitation.

Barbie,” meanwhile, saw the director Greta Gerwig infuse the half-century-old blond blank slate with her own idiosyncratic anxieties to produce a Zeitgeist-capturing film with an unmistakable authorial imprimatur. But Hollywood’s ignoring the obvious takeaway, which is that viewers appreciate novelty. Instead, Mattel has announced that it will follow up “Barbie” by raiding its toy closet for more I.P., and has put dozens of projects based on its products into development.

Last week I finished, at some personal cost, a slog through a streaming show I had hoped to like: the third season of Star Trek: Picard. I loved Star Trek as a kid, and I thought most of TNG worked. (TNG may look clunky today, but the original series looked clunky in 1988, just as today's ultra-low-gamma, poorly-mixed film will look horrible in 2050.)

I note this because it disappointed me for all the reasons that the film industry disappoints everyone today: poor writing, poor storytelling, yet one more whack at the empty Star Trek piñata, and poor writing. I imagine ST:P came out of the dreaded mini-rooms from writers who got paid little and probably threw out their AA pins when they saw the final product.

Every so often, an industry blows up. Film won't disappear in my lifetime: people have watched visual stories since they first sat around campfires a hundred millennia ago. But we may have reached the end of the amazing and original movies and films that started with Life Goes On and Babylon 5 in the 1990s through Battlestar Galactica and Deadwood in the 2000s. Go watch a 1970s sitcom and weep.