The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Two anniversaries and a passing

Seventy-five years ago today, George Orwell published 1984, a horrifying novel that gets closer to reality every day. Also on 8 June 1949, the FBI released a report naming acting stars and filmmakers "communists," kicking off a horrifying chapter in American history that gets closer to coming back every day.

And yesterday, NASA astronaut Bill Anders died in a plane crash. You may not know who Anders was, but you've seen the photo he took on Christmas Eve 1968:


By NASA/Bill Anders (Link) Public Domain

Oh, and today is also (possibly) the anniversary of Mohammed's death in 632 CE. (Calendars didn't measure time the same way back then that they do today, so we can't really be sure.)

Finally get to breathe

But only for a moment. I've spent most of today trying to fix things, or at least trying to figure out what problems need fixing. One of the problems has generated a comment thread on a vendor website, now at 44 comments, and I think after all that work I found the problem in an interaction between my code and Microsoft Azure Functions. If I'm right, the confirmation will come around 3pm.

Naturally, I haven't had time to read any of these:

I wrote the intro to this post around 2:45 and had to pause for a while. It's now 3:25, and I appear to have solved the problem. I will now document the solution and apologize to the vendor. Fun times, fun times.

Another boring release

Every other Tuesday we release software, so that's what I just did. It was so boring we even pushed the bits yesterday evening. In theory we always have a code-freeze the night before a release, but in fact we sometimes have just one more thing to do before we commit this last bit of code...

And yet, the world outside keeps becoming less boring:

Finally, one of Chicago's oldest and most popular Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms, Angelic Organics, announced this season would be their last. I used to have a subscription, which resulted in a lot more kale than I ever wanted, but also some of the freshest produce I've ever had. They'll be missed.

Lovely Sunday, pretty warm Monday

The last three days—i.e., the first three days of Summer—have shown us most of the weather we can expect this season. It rained most of Saturday, yesterday we had cool, sunny, and eminently walkable weather, and today it's hot and sticky with thunderstorms on the way. At least Cassie and I got to spend most of yesterday outside.

In other news:

Finally, a really fun video from Berlin setting an old German tongue-twister to a beat has garnered more TikTok views than Beyoncé. Apparently Germans, especially those named Barbara, really love their rhubarb pies.

Two historic elections

Over the weekend, Mexico and South Africa made history.

In South Africa, voters turfed out the African National Congress Party, which had held a majority of seats since the end of Apartheid in 1994:

Final results from Wednesday’s seismic South Africa elections have confirmed that the African National Congress (ANC) party has lost its majority for the first time in 30 years of full democracy, firing the starting gun on unprecedented coalition talks.

The ANC, which led the fight to free South Africa from apartheid, won just 159 seats in the 400-member national assembly on a vote share of just over 40%. High unemployment, power cuts, violent crime and crumbling infrastructure have contributed to a haemorrhaging of support for the former liberation movement.

The pro-business Democratic Alliance (DA) won 87 seats, uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) – a new party led by President Cyril Ramaphosa’s bitter rival, the former president Jacob Zuma – took 58, and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), a Marxist-Leninist party led by the ousted ANC youth leader Julius Malema, took 39.

Voters cited corruption and a need for new leadership as reasons for voting against the party of Nelson Mandela.

And yesterday, Mexicans elected their first female president:

Claudia Sheinbaum was elected Mexico’s first female president in a landslide on Sunday, an official quick count of votes showed, cementing the dominance of the left-leaning Morena movement that over the past six years has upended the country’s political establishment.

Her victory stunned an opposition that’s accused Morena of weakening the country’s democratic institutions.

The former Mexico City mayor led with more than 58 percent of the vote, according to the count released by the National Electoral Institute. Her triumph ensures another six years in power for Morena, founded 13 years ago by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a charismatic leader who has emphasized helping the poor.

Women in this traditionally macho country didn’t win the right to vote until 1953, three decades after their American counterparts. But with the adoption of gender quotas and a gender-parity law during Mexico’s transition from a one-party state to democracy, women now hold half of the seats in Congress and nearly one-third of the governorships.

The US eliminated race as a bar to voting in 1868, and elected its first Black president in 2008. At that rate we should elect our first female president in 2060, years after every other OECD country has done so. And somehow we think ourselves more politically sophisticated than our neighbor to the south. Fascinating.

What a lovely day to end Spring

Despite a high, thin broken cloud layer, it's 23°C with a light breeze and comfortable humidity at Inner Drive Technology World HQ. Cassie and I had a half-hour walk at a nice pace (we covered just over 3 km), and I've just finished my turkey sandwich. And yet, there's something else that has me feeling OK, if only for a little while...

Perhaps it's this? Maybe this? How about this? Or maybe it's Alexandra Petri?

In other news:

Finally, another solar storm, another cloudy night in Chicago: the Aurora Borealis may be visible as far south as Chicago overnight, just not in Chicago. As long as I can get Cassie on her daily long walk before the rain hits...

What news?

Oh, so many things:

Finally, after it took the Ogilvie Transportation Center Starbucks over 30 minutes to make my iced tea this morning (and I ordered it from 15 minutes away on my inbound train), it turns out the Starbucks staffing algorithm might be to blame. This is why I only get that one drink from Starbucks: it's really hard to screw up and usually takes them half a minute. Fortunately, I got my morning coffee at the cute local bagel shop on my walk to Cassie's day camp (and they gave Cassie a dog treat to boot), so I wasn't feeling homicidal.

When the rain comes

I took Cassie out at 11am instead of her usual 12:30pm because of this:

The storm front passed quickly, but it hit right at 12:30 and continued for half an hour with some intensity. It'll keep raining on and off all day, too.

Other things rained down in the past day or so:

Finally, Super Size Me director Morgan Spurlock has died at age 53 of cancer. No word whether the production of the 2004 documentary contributed to his early demise.

Heading for another boring deployment

Today my real job wraps up Sprint 109, an unexciting milestone that I hope has an unexciting deployment. I think in 109 sprints we've only had 3 or 4 exciting deployments, not counting the first production deployment, which always terrifies the dev team and always reminds them of what they left out of the Runbook.

The staging pipelines have already started churning, and if they uncover anything, the Dev pipelines might also run, so I've lined up a collection of stories from the last 24 hours to keep me calm (ah, ha ha, ha):

  • James Fallows, himself a former speechwriter for President Jimmy Carter, digs into President Biden's commencement address yesterday at Morehouse College, saying: "It showed care in craftsmanship and construction. Its phrasing matched Biden’s own style and diction. It navigated the political difficulties of the moment. And it represented Biden’s attempt to place those difficulties in a larger perspective."
  • Economist Paul Krugman explains the insignificance (to most people's lives) of the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing above 40,000 last week, and how the news nicely illustrates "he gap between what we know about the actual state of our economy and the way [the XPOTUS] and his allies describe it."
  • Speaking of the stock market, Ivan Boesky, one of the greediest people ever to walk the earth, died last week at the age of 87.
  • Speaking of economics, Bill McBride takes us through the history of paying off the national debt, or increasing it as tends to happen under Republican presidents. He lists 8 events from 2000 to 2021 that significantly increased it, only two of which Democratic administrations oversaw.
  • Speaking of debt, Crain's scoops up the Oberweis Dairy bankruptcy case, and how it appears that a failson (actually a failgrandson in this case) killed it, as sometimes happens with inherited wealth.
  • Speaking of things falling abruptly, a Singapore Airlines B777-312ER encountered severe turbulence over the Andaman Sea near Bangkok yesterday, and a 73-year-old British passenger died of what appears to be heart failure. Other passengers and crew suffered head injuries. This is why you need to keep your seatbelt on at all times in an airplane.

Finally, Block Club Chicago readers have sent in cicada photos from the south and west sides of the area. Still none in my neighborhood, though a colleague in Wilmette said she saw a couple yesterday. I want to see the bugs!

Hillbilly insincerity

Washington Post columnist Matt Bai has no patience for the "new breed of Republican charlatan" represented most clearly by US Senator J.D. Vance (R-OH):

My office shelves are full of these “books that miraculously explain our political moment” from over the years —“Don’t Think of an Elephant!,” “God’s Politics,” “The Radical Center” — and I’ve come to understand that their success is never an accident. Show me a book that captures the post-election zeitgeist of a worried intelligentsia, and I’ll show you a shrewd, ambitious author who sensed an opening and steered right into it. If the Pentagon could engineer a fame-seeking missile, it would look a lot like “Hillbilly Elegy.”

So I guess we shouldn’t have been surprised when Vance’s argument turned out to be mostly pretext and his convictions nonexistent. Almost immediately, Vance started entertaining a career in Republican politics. By 2022, when he ran for the open seat left by retiring Sen. Rob Portman, Vance had gone from Never Trump to Long Live the King; his conversion included a spirited embrace of Trump’s stolen-election nonsense.

Look, there’s nothing new about cynical opportunism at the highest level of our politics. Richard M. Nixon shredded reputations to make himself the ultimate Cold Warrior, then repositioned himself as a moderate in the Goldwater years. Bill Clinton used conservative talking points to deflect attention from his antiwar protesting days.

But there were basic lines of duplicity that neither Nixon nor Clinton nor any other American politician of the last century would cross — in part because they had some genuine convictions about the value of public service, and in part because a robust and reasonably trusted news media would never have let them get away with it.

History tells us that repressive movements enabled by cowards and hucksters are just as bad, if not worse, than those perpetrated by the legitimately hateful. You can wreck a country with cosplaying careerists just as easily as you can with bloodthirsty revolutionaries.

We've always had these people, and we always will. But we can stop elevating them to public office.