The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Put that in your pipe and smoke it

The US Drug Enforcement Agency has signaled its impending approval for reclassifying THC as a Schedule III drug, which would allow companies to use the US banking system and others to conduct real research on the drug:

Even though the move, which if approved would kick off a lengthy rule-making process, does not end the criminalization of the drug, it would be a significant shift in how the government views the safety and use of marijuana for medical purposes.

It could also lead to the softening of other laws and regulations that account for the use or possession of cannabis, including sentencing guidelines, banking and access to public housing.

For more than half a century, marijuana has been considered a so-called Schedule I drug, classified on the same level as highly addictive substances like heroin that the Drug Enforcement Administration describes as having no currently accepted medical use.

Last year, the Health and Human Services Department recommended to the D.E.A. that marijuana should be a Schedule III drug, which would put it alongside less addictive substances like Tylenol with codeine, ketamine and testosterone, meaning that it would be subject to fewer restrictions on production and research, and that it could be taken with a prescription.

The news made my holdings in Green Thumb Industries jump 20% in the last hour (to, ahem, 3.5% above what I bought them for), and I'm not alone:

Moving marijuana from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule III drug doesn't make it federally legal, but it would be a significant change for cannabis businesses and their employees: it would mean instant cash flow with access to banking opportunities, as well as loan opportunities which could lead to much faster expansion of the industry in states where marijuana is legal. It would also open the door to research grant opportunities and, most importantly, end a rigid tax regime that until now has stifled growth in the highly regulated industry.

Shares for Chicago's cannabis companies jumped on the news. Green Thumb Industries shares shot up 21% to $15.22, Verano rose 18% to $5.97 and Cresco Labs went up 16% to $2.54.

Besides instant liquidity, the rescheduling could open up loans, which could lead to much faster expansion of industry in states where marijuana is legal.

Marijuana needs regulation, same as alcohol and codeine; but the fiction that pot was just as dangerous as crack cocaine has always been laughable. I'm glad the US will finally join several of its peer nations in recognizing that.

The rise of Global Tetrahedron

The satirical newspaper The Onion just got bought by a newly-formed LLC called, yes, Global Tetrahedron. Longtime Onion readers will probably recognize the name; I had to remind myself.

Other events in the past day or so:

Time to fetch Cassie from school.

Scattered thunderstorms?

The forecast today called for a lot more rain than we've had, so Cassie might get more walkies than planned. Before that happens, I'm waiting for a build to run in our dev pipeline, and one or two stories piqued my interest to occupy me before it finishes:

Finally, after a couple of months of incoherent babbling, Voyager 1—now 24.3 million kilometers from Earth, 22.5 light-hours away, after 46 years and 7 months of travel—has started making sense again. Well, hello there!

Hoping not to get rained on this afternoon

A whole knot of miserable weather is sneaking across the Mississippi River right now, on its way to Chicago. It looks like, maybe, just maybe, it'll get here after 6pm. So if I take the 4:32 instead of the 5:32, maybe I'll beat it home and not have a wet dog next to me on the couch later.

To that end I'm punting most of these stories until this evening:

Finally, if you have an extra $500 lying around and want to buy a nice steak with it, Crain's has options ranging from 170 grams of Chateau Uenae rib-eye steak (and a glass of water) at RPM on down to a happy hour of rib-eye steak frites for eight at El Che. The txuleton at Asador Bastian for $83 seems like a good deal to me, even without three other people or a bottle of wine to bring the bill up to $500. But the Wagyu? Maybe if I get a bonus next year. A guy can dream.

Windy spring day

A cold front passed this morning right after I got to the office, sparing me the 60 km/h winds and pouring rain that made the 9am arrivals miserable. The rain has passed, but the temperature has slowly descended to 17°C after hanging out around 19°C all night. I might have to close my windows tonight.

I also completed a mini-project for work a few minutes ago, so I now have time to read a couple of stories:

And now, back to the next phase of the mini-project...

Walks like a duck, poops like a duck...

Attorney Liz Dye teams up with Legal Eagle to explain that the smell emanating from the Truth Social merger and meme stock listing is exactly what you think it is:

So if the XPOTUS gets re-elected, the shares become an intravenous emoluments delivery mechanism; if not, he can cash out and pay his legal bills.

I wonder if I can short it...

The cognitive tax of hybrid work

Author Cal Newport examines "one reason hybrid work makes employees miserable and how to fix it:"

f you ask Americans with a desk job what they want, many say flexibility. Specifically, they want control over where that desk is located and when they work at it. Luckily for them, the American workplace is by some measures more flexible than ever before. About half of U.S. workers have “remote-capable” jobs. And Gallup data suggest that a majority of those jobs are now hybrid, meaning that employees can split time between home and the office. Despite this greater flexibility, however, surveys from last year found that Americans were more stressed and less satisfied with their job than they were during the worst of the pandemic.

What explains this paradox? One possibility is that although hybrid work loosens the rigidity of a desk job, it exacerbates an even bigger problem: what I call the “overhead tax.”

Since well before the pandemic, we’ve lived in a world of low-friction digital communication, where passing an obligation to someone else is extremely easy. I send you an email with a simple question—“Hey, can you handle the Johnson contract?”—and a few moments of my effort have suddenly been alchemized into hours of your own. Faced with a growing number of chores, you push what you can onto other people’s plate, and they respond in kind. The result is an onslaught of ad hoc assignments, whipsawing across inboxes and chat channels, that culminates in a shared state of permanent overload.

The problem with overstuffed to-do lists isn’t just the total time required to execute their contents, but the fact that each new commitment generates its own ongoing administrative demands—emails, chats, check-in calls, “quick” meetings. That’s the overhead tax. Before long, knowledge workers find themselves spending the bulk of their time talking about work instead of actually doing it.

Fortunately I don't feel that in my job, for a number of reasons but mainly that I'm building software, not doing sales. But I'm sure that Newport's essay or the book it excerpts will resonate with many of my friends.

$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.

The tipping point

Frustrated with point-of-sale systems suggesting you tip the self-checkout machine 25%? You're not alone:

[T]raditional tipping patterns are being disrupted in unpredictable ways, raising workers’ expectations and making consumers grumpy. The feeling even has a name: “tipping fatigue.” A June survey by the financial services company Bankrate found that 66 percent of adults held a negative view of tipping. Forty-one percent said businesses should just pay workers better, and 32 percent said they don’t like being presented with those Goldilocks-like tablet screens suggesting three possible tips. Thirty percent said tipping culture was out of control, but only half as many (16 percent) said they’d be willing to pay higher prices to make tipping go away.

[N]either Amy Vanderbilt (1908–1974) nor Letitia Baldridge (1926–2012) ever knew today’s world, where you’re invited to tip at a retail checkout counter where the only service is to ring up a charge and perhaps bag a few items, or at a self-checkout machine where no service is provided at all. Tipping is in effect a new form of “junk fee,” with the only difference that paying or not paying is left to the customer’s tortured conscience. Even when you’re promised the proceeds will go to employees, the boss is clearly shifting some labor costs onto the customer, which is infuriating.

In D.C., many restaurants are introducing a 20 percent service charge, the equivalent of the French “servis compris”; European restaurateurs figured out long before their American counterparts that tipping culture is retrograde. But it’s still advisable to check with your waiter to make sure the money goes to staff and isn’t offsetting previous wages or benefits; D.C. law requires that restaurants disclose how such fees are spent, but there have been abuses.If the financial arrangement isn’t clear, then my own etiquette guide says you’re still stuck paying a 20 percent tip.

You still don't have to tip the self-checkout machine, though. It gets paid enough.

Arts patronage at all-time low

Crain's Chicago Business reported this morning on the precipitous decline in performing-arts audiences (sub.req.) since March 2020:

Chicago arts and cultural organizations emerged from COVID-19 lockdowns, virtual performances and fully masked audiences to slow-to-return patrons, reduced ticket sales and scaled-backed productions. A decline in subscription rates, shockingly higher costs, and donations that haven't kept pace with inflation have thrown some arts organizations off balance and spiraled others into crisis.

Museums, music and dance venues have bounced back faster. Theaters struggled, perhaps, due to the expense and complexity of producing and staging plays.

One widespread explanation: People are still holed up at home in their pandemic pajamas binge-watching "The Bear" and "Ted Lasso." Or they're amusing themselves with YouTube videos. On the other hand, music fans will pay thousands to see a Taylor Swift extravaganza.

Even when audiences show up, they're buying tickets at the last minute. That makes for a white-knuckled ride for theater planners. And with theater-goers forgoing subscriptions, there's less money upfront as a cushion. In the long run, that could make planners less inclined to take a risk on a controversial or innovative work.

Between 2019 and 2022, average in-person attendance at performing arts events plunged 59% to 13,104, with theaters being the hardest hit, according to the DCASE study. "We were the first to close and the last to reopen," says PJ Powers, artistic director at TimeLine Theatre. "You can't just flip on the lights and you're back."

I've served as president of the Apollo Chorus of Chicago since September 2020. Let me tell you, it's bad. We're all suffering. I have meetings with venues that want the same amount we paid them (or more) in 2018, but we just don't have the audience. We're working on how to increase our funding, but until we get corporate sponsorship or major donations from people who love us, we have to go to smaller venues and perform works with smaller instrumentation. (Last spring, for example, we performed Rossini's Petite Messe Solennelle, whose orchestration includes two pianos and a harmonium.)

So. Anyone want to donate $50,000 to a nice non-profit chorus? We'll put your name top of the program.