The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

One year later

The first official Covid-19 death in the US happened on 29 February 2020, 508,949 deaths ago. On Weekend Edition Sunday this morning, NPR talked to a few people about when they realized things had changed. (I realized it on March 12th, when our dress rehearsal for Bach's Johannespassion became our only performance of the work when the venue voted to close while we were rehearsing. At least we got a good recording of it. [I can't link to the video because of music union rules.])

Things continue to improve, though. US regulators Friday cleared the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for general use:

The FDA said J&J’s vaccine offers strong protection against what matters most: serious illness, hospitalizations and death. One dose was 85% protective against the most severe COVID-19 illness, in a massive study that spanned three continents — protection that remained strong even in countries such as South Africa, where the variants of most concern are spreading.

J&J initially is providing a few million doses and shipments to states could begin as early as Monday. By the end of March, J&J has said it expects to deliver 20 million doses to the U.S., and 100 million by summer.

J&J also is seeking authorization for emergency use of its vaccine in Europe and from the World Health Organization. The company aims to produce about 1 billion doses globally by the end of the year. On Thursday, the island nation of Bahrain became the first to clear its use.

“This is exciting news for all Americans, and an encouraging development in our efforts to bring an end to the crisis,” President Joe Biden said in a statement. “But I want to be clear: this fight is far from over,” he added, encouraging people to stick with masks and other public health measures.

Meanwhile, Dr Anthony Fauci urges everyone to get whatever vaccine they can, when they can:

In an interview with "Meet the Press," Fauci said that he would take any of the three approved vaccines — from Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson — because all provide strong protection from severe disease related to the coronavirus. As director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Fauci was vaccinated late last year amid an early push to inspire confidence in the vaccine rollout.

“All three of them are really quite good, and people should take the one that's most available to them,” he said.

"If you go to a place and you have J&J, and that's the one that's available now, I would take it. I personally would do the same thing. I think people need to get vaccinated as quickly and as expeditiously as possible.”

We might not have a completely-normal summer, but if we "keep our foot on the accelerator," as Dr Fauci urges, we can have a completely-normal autumn.

Last weekday of the winter

I get to turn off and put away my work laptop in a little bit in preparation for heading back to the office on Monday morning. I can scarcely wait. 

Meanwhile, I've got a few things to read:

OK, one more work task this month, then...I've got some other stuff to do.

Good morning!

Now in our 46th hour above freezing, with the sun singing, the birds coming up, and the crocuses not doing anything noteworthy, it feels like spring. We even halted our march up the league table in most consecutive days of more than 27.5 cm of snow on the ground, tying the record set in 2001 at 25 days. (Only 25 cm remained at 6am, and I would guess a third of that will melt by noon.)

So, what else is going on in the world?

And now, back to work.

500,000

Yesterday, the United States officially passed half a million Covid-19 deaths, more than a week before the first anniversary of the first official death:

If 500,000 passengers traveled by bus …

An average motor coach — the kind of bus you would take from one city to another — holds 50 people. Transporting only the number of people who died last month would require dozens of buses.

In January, the deadliest month of the pandemic, an average of 3,100 people died every day of covid-19. A caravan of buses containing that many passengers would span more than half a mile.

National Geographic also has a set of visualizations. More from the Times and Post, including President Biden's address today.

Sunny and (relatively) warm

It's exactly 0°C in Chicago this afternoon, which is a bog-standard temperature for February 3rd. And it's sunny, which isn't typical. So, with the forecast for a week of bitter cold starting Friday evening, I'm about to take a 30-minute walk to take advantage of today's weather. First, though:

Early February is also the time of year when we start imagining spring. Tomorrow's sunrise is at 7am for the first time since December 1st, and we had 10 hours of daylight last week for the first time since mid-November. Yes, Chicago typically has an Arctic blast sometime during February. But Spring begins in 25 days. We can make it.

We invite you to support this bipartisan bill

Senate Democrats gave the opposition three whole days to stop dicking around with the latest Covid-19 relief package. Then today, with no more than a shrug, they told the Republicans they're tired of the crap:

Senate Democrats took the first step Tuesday toward passing a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill without Republican support, advancing their efforts to avoid a GOP filibuster.

The vote to kickstart the budget reconciliation process, which passed 50-49, is a sign that leadership expects to have the full Democratic caucus on board for the final package.

The vote comes a day after President Joe Biden met with a group of Senate Republicans, who are offering a $618 billion counterproposal. Although Biden told Senate Democrats Tuesday on a private caucus call that the meeting went well, he also said the Republican proposal is not sufficient, according to sources on the call.

Economist Paul Krugman has already explained the ways the GOP's $618 billion "offer" wasn't serious:

It’s not just that the G.O.P. proposal is grotesquely inadequate for a nation still ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic. Beyond that, by their behavior — not just over the past few months but going back a dozen years — Republicans have forfeited any right to play the bipartisanship card, or even to be afforded any presumption of good faith.

But what about bipartisanship? As Biden might say, “C’mon, man.”

First of all, a party doesn’t get to demand bipartisanship when many of its representatives still won’t acknowledge that Biden won legitimately, and even those who eventually acknowledged the Biden victory spent weeks humoring baseless claims of a stolen election.

Complaints that it would be “divisive” for Democrats to pass a relief bill on a party-line vote, using reconciliation to bypass the filibuster, are also pretty rich coming from a party that did exactly that in 2017, when it enacted a large tax cut — legislation that, unlike pandemic relief, wasn’t a response to any obvious crisis, but was simply part of a conservative wish list.

Yes. It only took, what, 12 years? But our party's leadership have finally figured out not to play this game. We're not giving Lucy the football on this one.

Waiting for one CI build, then another

It's every other Tuesday today, so I'm just waiting for the last continuous-integration (CI) build to finish before deploying the latest software to our production environment. So far, so boring, just the way I like it. Meanwhile, in the real world:

  • In a symbolic but meaningless vote, all but 5 Republican members of the US Senate voted to let the XPOTUS off the hook for inciting an insurrection against, well, them, as this way they believe they get to keep his followers at no cost to themselves. If this past year were a novel, the next sentence might begin with "Little did they know..." Which, you know, describes those 45 Republicans to a T.
  • Dutch police arrested more than 180 people in Amsterdam and Rotterdam for rioting against Covid-19 lockdowns: "A leading Dutch criminologist, Henk Ferwerda, said the riots involved 'virus deniers, political protesters and kids who just saw the chance to go completely wild – all three groups came together.'"
  • Air travelers across the US can rejoice that CNN Airport News will go away on March 31st.
  • Over 1 teratonne of ice melted over each of the past few years, increasing concerns about global sea level rises.
  • Two mathematicians argue that time-travel paradoxes don't exist, because the universe routes around them.

Finally, snow continues to fall in Chicago, so far accumulating to about 100 mm by my house and as of noon about 125 mm at O'Hare. Calling this a "snowstorm" seems a bit over the top as it's coming down at under 10 mm per hour and forecast to stop before too long. Plus it's barely below freezing for now—but forecast to cool down to -11°C by Wednesday night before creeping above freezing Friday and Saturday. So we might have a blanket of snow for a bit. Still, it's the most snow we've gotten all season, with less than 5 weeks to go before meteorological spring starts March 1st. I'm OK with this mild winter, though it might presage a very hot summer.

New art forms in the pandemic

Dear future reader, observe how the combination of physical isolation; near-universal access to the entire world through the Internet; apps that make collaboration simple (like TikTok); and really bored young people has allowed entirely new art forms to flourish. This, as just one example, needs preservation so future generations can see what we got up to in early 2021:

I don't know whether videos like this will continue once people can make live music for live audiences again. I will predict, however, that movies made in the 2040s and 2050s will use a few seconds of a TikTok sea shanty to set the stage in the same way that a few notes of "Mister Sandman" instantly tells today's audiences that the story takes place in the 1950s.

It's Groundhog Day...again...

The City of Chicago has moved into Covid-19 response Tier 1, meaning bars and restaurants can sort-of open:

In a Saturday morning announcement, as expected, the Illinois Department of Public Health said its latest data indicates both the city and suburban Cook—Regions 10 and 11 in the state’s COVID-19 matrix—have reached the metrics needed to allow reopening at 25 percent of  normal capacity, to a maximum of 25 people per room.

Whether restaurants and bars actually open this time no one can predict. But this is just in time for our first (predicted) snowstorm of the year, so perhaps the open-to-the-elements dining will lose its appeal Monday night.

Catching up

Even though things have quieted down in the last few days (gosh, why?), the news are still newing:

Finally, last August's derecho caused "the most damage in the least amount of time" of any weather disaster on record.