The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Heat addles your brain

First, let me just say how lovely it was to wake up to this today, especially as we're mere minutes from the earliest solstice since the Washington administration:

My windows are open, and I no longer hate the world. Which, it turns out, is a perfectly normal response to high heat:

It turns out even young, healthy college students are affected by high temperatures. During the hottest days, the students in the un-air-conditioned dorms, where nighttime temperatures averaged [27°C], performed significantly worse on the tests they took every morning than the students with A.C., whose rooms stayed a pleasant [21°C].

R. Jisung Park, an environmental and labor economist at the University of Pennsylvania, looked at high school standardized test scores and found that they fell 0.2 percent for every degree above 72 Fahrenheit. That might not sound like a lot, but it can add up for students taking an exam in an un-air-conditioned room during a [32°C] heat wave.

Researchers don’t know why heat affects our cognition and emotions, but there are a couple of theories.

One is that the brain’s resources are being diverted to keep you cool, leaving less energy for everything else. “If you’re allocating all of the blood and all the glucose to parts of your brain that are focused on thermoregulation, it seems like it’s very plausible that you just wouldn’t have enough left for some of these kind of higher cognitive functions,” Dr. [Kimberly Meidenbauer, an assistant professor of psychology at Washington State University,] said.

Yesterday it was still above 31°C when I took Cassie for her last walk. Air conditioning plus a shower helped immensely.

Authentic frontier gibberish

Tom Nichols says it's past time to quit disregarding the convicted-felon XPOTUS's disordered mental state:

For too long, Trump has gotten away with pretending that his emotional issues are just part of some offbeat New York charm or an expression of his enthusiasm for public performance. But Trump is obviously unfit—and something is profoundly wrong with a political environment in which he can now say almost anything, no matter how weird, and his comments will get a couple of days of coverage and then a shrug, as if to say: Another day, another Trump rant about sharks.

Sure, it seems funny—Haha! Uncle Don is telling that crazy shark story again!—until we remember that this man wants to return to a position where he would hold America’s secrets, be responsible for the execution of our laws, and preside as the commander in chief of the most powerful military in the world. A moment that seems like oddball humor should, in fact, terrify any American voter, because this behavior in anyone else would be an instant disqualification for any political office, let alone the presidency.

Worse, the people who once managed Trump’s cognitive and emotional issues are gone, never to return. A second Trump White House will be staffed with the bottom of the barrel—the opportunists and hangers-on willing to work for a reprehensible man. His Oval Office will be empty of responsible and experienced public servants if the day comes when someone has to explain to him why war might be about to erupt on the Korean peninsula or why the Russian or Chinese nuclear forces have gone on alert, and he starts talking about frying sharks with boat batteries.

The 45th president is deeply unwell. It is long past time for Americans, including those in public life, to recognize his inability to serve as the 47th.

I mean, who said it better, the convicted-felon XPOTUS, or Gabby Johnson?

Networks of contracts waste a lot of money

Via Bruce Schneier's recent essay on complexity, I found a blog post on the work of Ronald Coase, which really resonated:

Ronald Coase observed that an organisation could be considered as a collection of contracts, and asked why, in that case, did organisations even exist. His answer was that contractual relationships have transactions costs. When these transactions costs outweighed the expense of organisation, organisation would predominate. Also, there were limits to transaction; it might be actually impossible to specify what was wanted in a contract, or equivalently, it might cost too much to write it.

As often happens, the first half of this insight was more successful than the second. Since the 1980s, there has been a global trend towards replacing organisations with networks of contracts. The idea that a firm could be considered as a network of contracts was taken up by the management consulting industry, and strengthened from a positive observation to a normative statement that firms should become more so. In as much as anyone bothered with Coase’s corollary, it was simply to say that there was some sort of “core business” in there – presumably it was thought to be the zone in which transactions costs got high enough to demand organisation – and everything else must be contracted out.

In many ways, we’ve lived through a giant experiment in proving Ronald Coase wrong, which has now failed.

Healthcare in the United States is an especially egregious example of this. Americans, notoriously, spend much more than any other nation, have worse results, and leave lots of people uncovered. People blame, variously, insurance companies, doctors, drug companies, intermediary organisations, public policy, and patients themselves for getting ill. But none of this has ever solved anything. Everyone who has tried to nail down exactly what costs so much money has ended up concluding that the whole system is weirdly expensive and wasteful. That is, of course, the point. Its awfulness is an aspect of the system, not any one component or group of components.

I will have to read more about his work, or even (gasp!) read his work.

When is bad butt not bad butt?

Cassie got a bad result from the lab yesterday: a mild giardia infection. It's a good-news, bad-news thing: The bad news, obviously, is that she can't go to day camp (meaning I can't spend a full day in my downtown office) for at least a week. The good news is that she's mostly asymptomatic, unlike the last guy. So we just went to the vet again, got another $110 bill for dewormer.

But at least she wasn't crated for three hours with her own diarrhea. Poor Parker.

In other good news, bad news stories today:

Actually, they're all bad-news stories. Apologies.

Healthy, happy dog once again

Cassie and I just got back from her vet, with a good 2 km walk in each direction and treats at both ends. The semi-annual wellness check was only $88, and pronounced Cassie in perfect health. Even her weight (25 kg) is exactly what it should be, so I can start adding a little kibble to her meals if we walk a lot.

Of course, the heartworm pills were $230 and the fecal test was $107, so not everything about the checkup was great. Le sigh.

Also, it's warm today: 27°C for both walks, which is more like June 14th than May 13th (normal high: 20.9°C). I even had the air on last night. But I can see a cold front approaching from the west, with an expected temperature crash around 6pm and temperatures barely above 10°C (March 24th!) tomorrow. I'm glad we got our walks in already—looks like the first thunderstorm could hit before 3pm.

And check back tomorrow and Wednesday for two more Brews & Choos reviews from this past weekend, including a brand-new brewery that just opened 2 km from my front door.

My home town's village board caught sleeping

After rejecting several proposals for what to do with a 51-hectare golf course that closed in 2018, the Village Trustees in Northbrook, Ill., woke up this week to discover that the DuPage County Water Commission bought it for $80 million. The western suburban county plans to build a water treatment plant on the land, which seems somewhat less pleasant than the housing development and senior living facility that the Village rejected earlier. Oops.

Meanwhile, in other news:

  • President Biden raised about $2 million in downtown Chicago yesterday. I'm a little bummed I missed him, but not bummed that, because I take public transit, his motorcade didn't disrupt my commute at all.
  • Gonzo right-wing spoiler candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., disclosed that doctors years ago found a dead tapeworm in his brain. It's still there, taking up space. (The poor thing must have starved.) Oh, he also mentioned the mercury poisoning for which he's currently undergoing chelation therapy. I have no idea which ailment affects cognition and judgment more, but I do know they both affect cognition and judgment a lot.
  • The usually-sleepy House Rules Committee has become the latest battleground in the Republican Party's civil war. As usually, the country suffers.
  • Soon-to-be former US Senator Kyrsten Sinema (WTF?-AZ) warns that the Senate filibuster will probably disappear when the next Congress convenes in January, conveniently forgetting that a minority of Americans already controls the Senate, and anyway the minority party right now wants to burn it all down. But sure, it's the Democrats, not the vandals on the other side, who wrecked the Senate. You can sit down now, Senator.
  • Police in Washington, D.C., have started going after porch pirates with Apple Airtags and some cooperation from local residents. They've got nothing on this guy, though.

Finally, a church near my house will host its last Mass on the 19th as members of the community have banded together to buy the building from the Archdiocese. The church has an amazing history, including a painstaking move and 90-degree rotation from its original location across Ashland Ave. in 1929.

Also: watch for some new Brews & Choos reviews early next week. This chorus season really did a number on my free time. I'm starting to get moving again.

It's in the cards

I'm heading off to a Euchre tournament in a bit. I haven't played cards with actual, live people in quite some time, so I just hope to end up in the middle of the pack. Or one perfect lay-down loner... A guy can dream.

When I get home, I might have the time and attention span to read these:

  • John Grinspan looks at the similarities and crucial differences between the upcoming election and the election of 1892.
  • Andy Borowitz jokes about the latest of Robert F Kennedy's conspiracy theories: that his own brain is being controlled by a complete idiot.
  • Why do so many of the country's most infamous serial killers come from the Midwest? (Perhaps because it's the home of Kellogg's and General Mills?)
  • Michael Sweeney reviews all the errors of navigation and judgment that led to the RMS Titanic sinking 110 years ago tomorrow.
  • Speaking of navigation, researchers have found evidence that a sense of direction comes from experience, not genetics.
  • Meagan McArdle describes the Oedipus Trap that led Dr Walter Freeman to continue lobotomizing patients years after the horrors of the procedure became clear to just about everyone else, and what this means for some contemporary medical thinking.

Finally, the weather forecast this weekend calls for some real Chicago spring weather: 19°C and sunny today, 22°C and sunny tomorrow...and 9°C with a stiff breeze from the northeast tomorrow afternoon. If you head out to enjoy the warmth tomorrow lunchtime, make sure you have a sweater because it'll be 15°C by dinner.

Easy connection in Charlotte

My flight from Munich landed at Charlotte about 40 minutes early, and I got through customs and back through TSA in 34 minutes. Sweet!

And now I'm watching the plane that will take me to Chicago pull into my gate. Sweet!

Really, I just want to hug my dog and get 10 hours of sleep tonight. I have a feeling one of those things will happen and the other won't.

Reading list for this week

As I'm trying to decide which books to take with me to Germany, my regular news sources have also given me a few things to put in my reading list:

Finally, the North Atlantic has near-record jet streams again this week, approaching 360 km/h, and shaving 45 minutes off the DC–London route. I would love that to happen Wednesday.

Ukrainian engineering

With the news this morning that Ukraine has disabled yet another Russian ship, incapacitating fully one-third of the Russian Black Sea fleet, it has become apparent that Ukraine is better at making Russian submarines than the Murmansk shipyards. Russia could, of course, stop their own massive military losses—so far they've lost 90% of their army as well—simply by pulling back to the pre-2014 border, but we all know they won't do that.

In other news of small-minded people continuing to do wastefully stupid things:

Finally, a reader who knows my perennial frustration at ever-lengthening copyright durations sent me a story from last March about who benefits from composer Maurice Ravel's estate. Ravel died in 1937, so his music will remain under copyright protection until 1 January 2034, providing royalties to his brother’s wife’s masseuse’s husband’s second wife’s daughter. Please think of her the next time you hear "Bolero."