The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Last days of spring

I just popped out for lunch. It's 17°C in the Loop with lots of sun, the kind of day when I wonder why I went back to the office. Summer begins Saturday. Ah, to be French and take an entire month off...

This time of year has other features, many of which popped up in my various RSS feeds this morning:

And finally, Block Club Chicago sent a reporter to the Duke of Perth yesterday to surveille the packing. Other than giving GM Mike Miller a completely new last name, he generally got the story right, and even included some photos guaranteed to make anyone who loved the place hold back a tear.

Things we probably could have predicted

The older I get, the less human beings surprise me. Oh, individual people surprise me all the time, mainly because I have smart and creative friends. But groups of people? They're going to be unsurprising and kind of dumb almost always.

Cases in point:

  • The Arizona Supreme Court's decision allowing enforcement of a pre-statehood, Civil War-era abortion law looks even worse when you learn what else is in the 1864 Howell Code.
  • Chicago's Loop neighborhood has 6,000 unsold luxury condos, with no more new projects underway, in part because developers failed to predict that 3% interest rates wouldn't last forever. This, to me, looks like failing to predict it will rain in Seattle eventually, because it hasn't rained in a week.
  • Forget Detroit and Houston; even ultra-wealthy municipalities like Santa Clara, Calif., have obstinately failed to predict that they would ever have to pay ruinous costs to maintain all the infrastructure they built last century.
  • Young women embracing the role of "tradwife" (i.e., becoming a 1950s-style woman of leisure or "stay-at-home-girlfriend") seem destined to unhappy long-term consequences of becoming someone's accessory.
  • Author John Scalzi provides advice which even he thinks aspiring authors should already know: don't fabricate quotes by living authors to sell your new manuscript because you will get caught.

Finally, author Gary Shteyngart floats off on the maiden voyage of Royal Caribbean's Icon of the Seas, the largest cruise ship ever built, and finds what can only be described as a very specific slice of humanity that would make the Golgafrinchans proud.

Dropping a book I really expected to like

I tried for a little more than 6 months to read a book of humorous essays by an author I really like, and just couldn't finish. It pains me. But I feel a tiny bit of relief at not seeing the book on my nightstand anymore. Since I started reading it, I read—no exaggeration—24 other books, which suggests I really didn't find it all that interesting.

Sometimes you have to just move on, no matter how much you like someone's other work.

Meanwhile, tonight is our annual fundraiser/cabaret, for which I need to start getting ready. Posting might be thin until Monday.

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 dread of a colorful radar picture

Ah, just look at it:

Rain, snow, wind, and general gloominess will trundle through Chicago over the next 36 hours or so, severely impacting Cassie's ability to get a full hour of walkies tomorrow. Poor doggie.

If only that were the worst thing I saw this morning:

  • The XPOTUS called for an end to the war in Gaza, but without regard to the hostages Hamas still holds, irritating just about everyone on the right and on the left.
  • Knight Specialty Insurance Company of California has provided the XPOTUS with the bond he needed to prevent the Manhattan District Attorney from seizing $175 million of his assets, which makes you wonder, what's in it for the insurer?
  • Related to that, Michelle Cottle analyzes the Republican Party's finances and concludes that the XPOTUS is destroying them.
  • These are the same Republicans, remember, who are threatening to block money needed to re-open the Port of Baltimore and replace the Key Bridge.
  • Massachusetts US District Judge Allison Burroughs has ruled that a case against the private air carrier who flew migrants to Martha's Vineyard may proceed, and the case against the politicians who paid for the flight could come back with an amended complaint.
  • Charles Marohn argues that cities using cash accounting, rather than accrual accounting, end up completely overwhelming future generations with debt they would never have taken on with an accurate view of their finances.
  • But of course, the prevalence of the city-killing suburban development pattern in the US has an upside of sorts: everywhere you go in the US feels like home.

And after all this, does it surprise me that Mother Jones took a moment to review a book called End Times?

Heading home soon

American Airlines says my flight home has a 45-minute delay at the moment (though of course that could get worse). So I just spent 35 minutes walking in a big circle around the southwest corner of downtown San Diego. I don't think I'd ever live here, but I do enjoy the weather.

Meanwhile, as if I don't have too many things on my to-be-read shelf already, the New York Times book editor has released a list of the 22 funniest novels since Catch-22. Maybe someday I'll get to a few of them?

Anyway, I should be home with Cassie in about 11 hours. If she understood English and had any concept of "future," she'd be excited too.

Fun international work meeting

I learned this morning that I have a meeting at 6am Wednesday, because the participants will be in four time zones across four continents. Since I'm traveling to Munich later that day, I'll just comfort myself by remembering it's 1pm Central Europe time.

I'm already queuing up some things to read on the flights. I'll probably finish all of these later today, though:

  • Jennifer Rubin highlights four ways in which the XPOTUS has demonstrated his electoral weakness in the past few weeks.
  • Republican pollster Frank Luntz agrees, warning the MAGA Republican extremists to stop screwing around lest the party suffer an historic ass-kicking in November. (For my part, I don't think they will stop, and the ass-kicking is long overdue.)
  • Sean Wilentz warns that the Supreme Court abdicating its responsibility to evaluate the XPOTUS in light of the 14th Amendment's insurrection clause will lead to worse problems later on.
  • James Fallows chastises the Times in particular for creating the controversy about President Biden's age they claimed simply to report on.
  • Ian Bogost moans about the ever-deepening problems of carrying baggage onto planes. (I will be checking my bag through to Munich, for what it's worth, but I may carry it on for the return flight to avoid customs delays changing planes at Charlotte.)

Finally, John Scalzi erupts at the 2023 Hugo Awards administrators for outright fraud and unforgivable cowardice following a report on Chinese political interference in the awards selection process last summer.

Mid-week mid-day

Though my "to-be-read" bookshelf has over 100 volumes on it, at least two of which I've meant to read since the 1980s, the first book I started in 2024 turned out to be Cory Doctorow's The Lost Cause, which I bought because of the author's post on John Scalzi's blog back in November.

That is not what I'm reading today at lunch, though. No, I'm reading a selection of things the mainstream media published in the last day:

Finally, for $1.7 million you can live inside a literal brick oven. The fifth-floor penthouse in the former Uneeda Biscuit building on Chicago's Near West Side includes several rooms with brick ceilings that were, decades ago, the ovens that cooked the biscuits. Cool. (Or, you know, hot.)

Any news? No, not one single new

Wouldn't that be nice? Alas, people keep making them:

Speaking of excoriation, David Mamet has a new memoir about his 40 years in the LA film industry, Everywhere an Oink Oink. (Expect to find that on next year's media roundup.) And I still have to read Linda Obst's Hello, He Lied, which I keep forgetting to liberate from my dad's bookshelf.

Statistics: 2023 (media edition)

Some Daily Parker followers expressed interest in what books I read this year. So instead of just counting them in the annual statistical roundup, I've decided to list most of the media that I consumed last year in a separate post.

Books

In 2023 I started 39 and finished 37 books, not including the 6 reference books that I consulted at various points. It turns out, I read a lot more than in 2022 (27 started, 24 finished), and in fact more than in any year since 2010, when I read 51.

Notable books I finished in 2023 include:

  • Isaac Asimov, Foundation (1951) and Foundation and Empire (1952), neither of which has aged that well. I can forgive Asimov for not knowing how computers would work in the future, but I had a lot of trouble with the rampant sexism.
  • Radley Balko, Rise of the Warrior Cop (2013). I admire Balko's police reporting, and I found his explanation of the militarization of local American police forces compelling. Things haven't gotten better since he wrote the book, alas.
  • Iain Banks, the first 3 novels of The Culture series (1987–1990). I loved them and have books 4 and 5 already lined up.
  • Nicholas Dagen Bloom, The Great American Transit Disaster (2023). Bloomberg's CityLab newsletter recommended this. I recommend it, but as someone who loves urban planning and transit policy, I found it depressing.
  • Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962). I meant to read this book ages ago and finally got to it last winter. Loved it.
  • Christopher Buehlman, The Blacktongue Thief (2021). Buehlman's alter-ego is Christophe the Insultor, whose show I've caught at the Bristol Faire many times before 2020. I zipped through this novel in a few days, and was just now pleased to find he wrote a sequel, due out in June.
  • James S.A. Corey, The Expanse series, books 6-9 (2016–2021) plus Memory's Legion (2022). I started the series in late 2022 and finished it in March. I think The Expanse might be the best hard sci-fi of the decade.
  • James Fell, Shit Went Down: Number 2 (2022). A daily history lesson with lots of swearing and a deep hatred of Nazis. I read it a few pages at a time throughout the year.
  • S.E. Hinton, The Outsiders (1967). A friend's favorite book from childhood and a classic that I just never got around to reading. Stay golden, Ponyboy.
  • Hugh Howey, the Silo series (2011–2013). Fun sci-fi that I wanted to read after watching the Apple TV series. Knocked it off in 3 weeks over the summer.
  • Peter Kramer, Death of the Great Man (2023). Recommended by James Fallows. Absolutely hilarious satire of what might happen were a certain corpulent, quasi-fascist US President to die in mysterious circumstances in his psychiatrist's office.
  • Steven Levitzky and Daniel Ziblatt, Tyranny of the Minority (2023). The follow-up to the authors' 2018 book How Democracies Die. Explains in detail how the Republican Party has manipulated our system of government to stay in power despite having unpopular policies.
  • Alexandra Petri's US History: Important American Documents (2023). Hilarious satire from one of my favorite Washington Post columnists.
  • qntm (Sam Hughes), Valuable Humans in Transit (short stories, 2020–2022) and There Is No Antimimetics Division (2021). Based on Hughes' work in the SCP Foundation Wiki, these weird sci-fi stories will creep you out. I started Antimimetics on the flight from London to Prague and finished it at lunch the next day. Really fun stuff.
  • Richard Reeves, Dream Horders (2017). Lays out how the upper-middle class has tilted things to preserve its own wealth and privilege at the expense of everyone else. I don't agree with all his conclusions, and it's a bit dry, but I'm glad I read it.
  • John Scalzi, Starter Villain (2023). I love Scalzi so much that Villain is my fourth signed first-edition directly from the man. I especially loved that much of the action takes place in Barrington, Ill., in a pub clearly based on one a friend of mine used to co-own.
  • Bruce Schneier, A Hacker's Mind (2023). Excellent book by one of the industry's greatest security thinkers.
  • Daniel Suarez, Daemon (2017) and Freedom™ (2021). A long-time friend recommended these books. Burned through each in two days in June, ordering the second one before I'd finished the first.
  • Kelly & Zach Weinersmith, A City on Mars (2023). I finished this Sunday night so it would make this list. Excellent and funny in-depth analysis of how our species could colonize other planets, and the problems that make doing so unlikely for the next few centuries, if ever. Zack Weinersmith writes the hilarious Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal comic.

Other media

I also saw 30 movies (but only one in a theater) and attended 13 concerts and theater performances, plus watched quite a bit more TV than usual because Cassie draped herself across my lap making it difficult to get up:

  • Films I would recommend: American Sniper (2014), Barbie (2023), Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid* (1983), Dune* (2021), Edge of Tomorrow (2014), Enola Holmes (2019), Free Guy* (2022), Greyhound (2023), Guardians of the Galaxy 3 (2023), John Wick 4 (2023), Jung_E (정이, 2023), M3GAN (2023), No Hard Feelings (2023), Nope (2022), Oppenheimer (2023), and Risky Business* (1983). (* denotes a re-watch from a previous year)
  • Films I would not recommend: After.Life (2009), The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial (2023), Drinking Buddies (2013), The Flash (2023), Someone I Used to Know (2023).
  • Live performances: C21 Women's Ensemble; Bach, Brandenburg Concerti, Lincoln Center Chamber Orchestra; Bach, Mass in b-minor, Music of the Baroque; Brahms, Ein Deutsches Requiem, Grant Park Music Festival; Constellation Men's Ensemble; Dar Williams; Stacy Garrop's Terra Nostra, Northwestern University Orchestra; Hadestown; comedian Liz Miele; Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris Chorus; and NPR's Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!
  • TV shows: Black Mirror series 6; The Book of Boba Fett; Carnival Row; Foundation (2021); Generation V season 1; Good Omens series 2; House MD seasons 6-8; Invasion (2022); The Last of Us; Last Week Tonight with John Oliver; The Mandalorian season 2; The Orville season 1; The Peripheral; Reacher (2022); Severance; Silo; Slow Horses; Star Trek: Lower Decks season 4; Star Trek: Picard season 3; Star Trek: Strange New Worlds season 2; Travelers; The Witcher season 3.

I don't know whether I'll read or watch more in 2024, but I hope it's at least as enjoyable as 2023.