The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

No short delay, UK: Juncker

Theresa May has fewer and fewer options available to complete the one job she signed up for today after EU President Jean-Claude Juncker flatly rejected May's request for a second short Brexit delay:

Speaking to the European parliament, Juncker instead set an “ultimate deadline” of 12 April for the Commons to approve the withdrawal agreement.

“If it has not done so by then, no further short extension will be possible,” he said. “After 12 April, we risk jeopardising the European parliament elections, and so threaten the functioning of the European Union.”

Juncker said that at that point the UK would face a no-deal Brexit but that the EU would not “kick out” a member state, in a reference to the certain offer of a lengthy extension of article 50.

The EU27 is looking at an extension until at least the end of the year, with the most probable end date being the end of March 2020.

Juncker said: “Yet I believe that a no deal at midnight on 12 April is now a very likely scenario. It is not the outcome I want. But it is an outcome for which I have made sure the European Union is ready.

No word yet from Number 10 on whether the government would seek a longer extension.

Back in the US, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who went to university in the UK, says the country has gone mad:

The entire Brexit choice was presented to the public in 2016 with utterly misleading simplicity. It was sold with a pack of lies about both the size of the benefits and the ease of implementation, and it continues to be pushed by Conservative hard-liners who used to care about business but are now obsessed with restoring Britain’s “sovereignty” over any economic considerations.

They don’t seem to be listening at all to people like Tom Enders, C.E.O. of the aerospace giant Airbus, which employs more than 14,000 people in the U.K., with around 110,000 more local jobs connected to its supply chains. Enders has warned the political leadership here that if the U.K. just crashes out of the E.U. in the coming weeks, Airbus may be forced to make some “potentially very harmful decisions” about its operations in Britain.

“Please don’t listen to the Brexiteers’ madness which asserts that ‘because we have huge plants here we will not move. …’ They are wrong,” he said. “And, make no mistake, there are plenty of countries out there who would love to build the wings for Airbus aircraft.”

Britain is ruled today by a party that wants to disconnect from a connected world. The notion that the U.K. will suddenly get a great free-trade deal from Trump as soon as it quits the E.U. is ludicrous. Trump believes in competitive nationalism, and the very reason he is promoting the breakup of the E.U. is that he believes America can dominate the E.U.’s individual economies much better than when they negotiate together as the single biggest market in the world.

Madness indeed. The two-week reprieve from a no-deal Brexit has only 9 days left to run. This is terrifying. Since her premiership is over no matter what she does, Theresa May should just cancel Article 50 entirely and then take her seat in the House of Lords.

C is for Clef

Blogging A to ZToday in the Blogging A-to-Z challenge we'll take a look at clefs.

Yesterday I introduced the concept of a bass line, but skimmed over how that gets written down. Let's take another look at it:

Take a look at the first symbols on each line. The top one is called the "treble" or G clef:

It's actually a highly-stylized letter G. Notice how it wraps itself around the second line up from the bottom, which is the G line. Thus the name.

The bottom line starts with this symbol, called the "bass" or F clef:

It targets the second line from the top, which is the F line. The top line of that clef is the A below middle C, which is one octave and half the sound frequency of the A on the second space of the treble clef.

Then there's this guy:

This is called the "Alto" clef, which is the most commonly seen of five C clefs. (The others are the "Soprano," "Mezzo-soprano," "Tenor," and "Baritone" clefs.) Unless you play the viola or various wind instruments, you won't see these very often. The C clefs wrap themselves around middle C, which is the imaginary line running between the treble and bass clefs.

The result is that these two A-major scales are exactly identical:

(On Friday the 12th, I'll explain the magic happening right after the clefs that makes these A major and not A minor.)

May and Corbyn to talk Brexit

After a Parliamentary session yesterday demonstrating that no one is able to compromise with anyone else, in which MPs voted down four more proposals for Brexit, PM Theresa May today said she'd seek talks with Opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn to see what kind of a coalition they could cobble together:

In a brief TV statement inside No 10 following a seven-hour cabinet meeting, the prime minister said she would hold talks with Jeremy Corbyn to seek a Brexit plan they could agree on and “both could put to the house”.

If agreement with the Labour leader was impossible, May said, the plan would be to put to a vote in parliament a series of Brexit options, with the government committing to enact whatever idea won support.

This would require another extension to article 50, May said, but added that she aimed for this to not go beyond 22 May, thus ensuring the UK would not need to take part in European elections.

With only 10 days to go before the current Brexit deadline, neither Parliament nor the government can figure out what to do. This is already the stupidest thing the UK has ever done to itself, and I'm including the Intolerable Acts, the Corn Laws, and Oliver Cromwell in the list.

There's an expression pilots use to describe uncontrolled flying: "in physics." Once an aircraft is in physics, you get to read about it in an NTSB report a week later.

The House of Commons is in physics.

B is for Bass

Blogging A to ZYesterday's Blogging A-to-Z challenge post introduced the four principal scales used to create melodies in Western music for the past five or six centuries. Today I want to talk about the opposite of a melody: the bass line.

Take this familiar melody:

It's pleasant enough, but a little thin. It needs...more. So let's add a bass line below the melody, just using the notes C and G:

Hey! It's almost music now!

So what's going on here? Without going too much into how harmony works (the topic for next Tuesday), all I've done is add a few Cs and Gs to the lower line. (We'll get into clefs tomorrow; for now, the bottom line is played lower than the upper line, and they meet at the aptly-named middle C, which is the note floating on its own little shelf above the lower line.)

This works because the 1st and 5th notes of a scale (the tonic and dominant) are the most important. A lot of bass lines, particularly in popular music, just emphasize these notes. Listen to the bass line in Aerosmith's "Sweet Emotion:" it only hits the tonic, and keeps hitting it, through the whole song.

Or take Chicago's "25 or 6 to 4." The bass line just repeats the dominant through the tonic notes of the descending D-minor scale (A, G, F, E, D) over and over again. (This is called an ostinato bass.)

As a bonus, I had a little fun with the "London Bridge" example, which I'll probably come back to later this month. Enjoy:

Good morning, New York

My flight is slightly (20 minutes) delayed, so I have just a bit more time on this gorgeous morning to walk around Bryant Park. Here's the view from my hotel's terrace:

Busy week ahead. There's a reason I wrote the A-to-Z posts ahead of time.

A is for A

Blogging A to ZWelcome to the Daily Parker's first entry in this year's Blogging A-to-Z challenge on the theme "Basic Music Theory." Today: A is for A.

In Western music, A represents the note that all other notes are based upon. The other notes in Western music are B, C, D, E, F, and G. Putting all those notes in sequence is called a scale:

That scale is called "A natural minor," and sounds like this. The first note in the scale is A; in the attached midi file, and generally in music today, it has a frequency of 440 Hz.

The minor scale feels a little sad, or melancholy, to most people. You're probably more familiar with the major scale. We can create a major scale most easily by starting on a different note. If we start on C, we get a completely different feeling:

We're not limited just to the plain notes on the scale, either. We can add accidentals, which tell the musician to increase (sharp) the frequency of the sound or decrease (flat) it. By adding two flats to the C-major scale, we can turn it into the C harmonic minor scale:

The little "b"-like symbols on the third and sixth notes of the scale indicate that the E and the A are flat. The B is still natural (neither sharp nor flat), giving the scale a slightly exotic feeling.

There is one more ordinary scale, called melodic minor. This has one flattened note going up (in this case, E-flat), and uses the natural minor going down. Note that the half-hash symbol before the A in the first bar says that the note is exactly what it says on the tin, without sharp or flat modification. Here's the C melodic minor scale:

Western music has these four scales (major, natural minor, harmonic minor, and melodic minor) for about 500 years. But other scales have become more popular in the late 20th and early 21st century. Popular music has even gone back to "modes," which come from ancient Greek music through the early middle ages. But that's out of the scope of this year's A-to-Z challenge.

Finally, there is the chromatic scale, which includes every note possible (and every note on a piano keyboard):

Notice that going up we sharp the notes and coming down we flat them, showing all of the enharmonic equivalents (D-flat is the enharmonic equivalent of C-sharp because they occupy the same place in the chromatic scale)*.

* If you get technical, they're not actually the same notes, but we'll come back to that towards the end of the month.

Also, as a handy guide for future posts, here are the names of the diatonic notes on the scale:

# Name Major Minor
1 tonic C - I A - i
2 supertonic D - ii B - ii
3 mediant E - iii C - III
4 subdominant F - IV D - iv
5 dominant G - V E - v
6 submediant A - vi F - VI
7 leading tone B - vii G - VII

This is a gross oversimplification, only so you get the gist. Just understand the vocabulary: for example, that E is the mediant of C and the dominant of A. If you start on a different note, it still works the same way: C is the dominant of F; A sharp is the submediant of C sharp and the dominant of D sharp.

We'll get deeper into these concepts as the month goes on.

Park #28 (an improvement on #12)

When I started the 30-Park Geas in 2008, I didn't expect it would take more than 11 years. Yet here we are. And in that time, both of New York's baseball teams got new stadia, making the 30-Park Geas a 32-Park Geas before I got halfway done.

Well, this season, I'm finishing it. And wow, it's off to an inauspicious start.

Today's game between the Orioles and Yankees at *New* Yankee Stadium didn't start for 3 hours and 15 minutes past its scheduled first pitch because it's March. A cold front pushed through this morning with a nice, gentle monsoon. So the few dozen of us who remained in the park around 3:45 this afternoon let out a whoop of joy when this happened:

The joy lasted through the home team giving up 3 in the top of the first, and continued until they stopped beer sales at 5pm—in the 2nd inning. Apparently people had been there drinking since 10am, and Major League Baseball has a limit on day-drinking of 30 beers per person.

The Yankees eventually lost to the Orioles 7-5. The lost to the Orioles the last time I saw them play at home, too, though that was in *Old* Yankee Stadium. Glad the new digs worked out for them.

I did get to try a local Bronx IPA, for $16, which is a price that effectively limited my own beer consumption to two for the game. That, and I couldn't feel my fingers.

But hey, the Yankees did play baseball, and I did visit the park, and it's a pretty good park:

But the thing about a cold front is, sure, it gets rid of the rain and dampness, but it also sometimes drives the temperature from 17°C to 3°C in just a few hours. So with no more $16 beers for sale, the temperature falling to what I call "Chicago in May," and the home team trailing 4-0 in the second, I decided to cut my losses and return to Manhattan. After a really tasty bowl of ramen, I hopped the 4 train to Brooklyn and walked over the bridge:

Back home tomorrow, then resuming the Geas on Friday April 19th in Arlington, Texas, where I expect the beer quality will keep me sober on the merits but at least I won't freeze my fingers off.

And hey! The A-to-Z Challenge starts tomorrow. I've already got the first 6 posts ready to fire at noon UTC (7am Chicago time) each day. I hope you enjoy it.

Three nights, three hotels

I'm traveling this weekend, starting with a night about a block from my office. Tonight is WhiskyFest Chicago, starting in about 90 minutes (though they let us start gorging on cheese and crackers at 5pm). For easily-understood reasons, I'm staying at the same hotel tonight, then heading to my college radio station's 60th anniversary party tomorrow morning. Not my first choice of timing, but I had no control over either event.

Sunday I head into Manhattan, and coincidentally the Yankees are in town...

The view from my room today fails to suck: