The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

My brain is full

Almost always, during the last few days before a performance, a huge chunk of my working memory contains the music I'm about to perform. I have two concerts this weekend, so right now, my brain has a lot of Bruckner in it. I feel completely prepared, in fact.

Unfortunately, I still have a day job, and I need a large chunk of my brain to work on re-architecting a section of our app. Instead of loading data from Microsoft Excel files, which the app needs to read entirely into memory because of the way Excel stores the contents of cells, I need to allow the app to use comma-separated values (CSV) files that it can read and throw away. So instead of reading the entire Excel file into memory and keeping it there while it generates an in-memory model of the file, the app will simply read each row of a CSV file and then throw that row away while building its model. I believe that will allow the app to ingest at least 5x more data for any given memory size.

I'm finding that the "In Te, Domine speravi" fugue from Bruckner's Te Deum keeps getting in the way of thinking about the re-architecture.

And oh, the irony, that I don't have enough working memory to think about how to get more working memory for our app.

Meanwhile...

  • James Fallows shakes his head at a pair of New York Times headlines that tell exactly the opposite stories as the articles under them. Salon's Lucian K Truscott IV elaborates.
  • The Mary Sue does not hold back on dismissing retiring US Senator Kyrsten Sinema (?-AZ), a "useless corporate Senate shill who accomplished nothing." "The only thing Sinema accomplished was outing herself as a toxic narcissist who deceived her supporters to make herself wealthy."
  • Monica Hesse has a similar, but more restrained, take on Sinema: "The interesting thing actually wasn’t her clothes. The interesting thing was that we wanted her clothes to mean something."
  • Nicholas Kristof pounds his desk about how the bullshit anti-Woke school battles coming out of places like Florida distract from the real problem: Johnny can't read.
  • A Santa Fe, N.M., jury convicted Hannah Gutierrez Reed of involuntary manslaughter for putting a live round in a prop firearm on the set of the movie Rust in 2021.
  • Cornell professor Sara Bronin leads the effort to create a National Zoning Atlas, which hopes to show what places in the US have the most onerous housing restrictions.
  • Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry has launched a new exhibit on "the science of James Bond."

Finally, prosecutors agreed to dismiss (without prejudice, I believe, though the Post left out that detail) the criminal case revolving around Don Henley's handwritten notes outlining the Eagles album Hotel California when Henley's lawyers got caught withholding evidence from the defense team. In civil cases, this is bad, but in criminal cases it's much, much worse. Like, reversible error at best and dismissal with prejudice at worst. It appears that Henley himself blew up the case by changing his mind about waiving attorney-client privilege after his attorneys had already testified. Perhaps he thought he could score points against the defense that way, but like most victims of the Dunning-Krueger Effect, he didn't understand that "gotcha" moves are generally not allowed in US courts. We'll see if the prosecutors move for a new trial or just take the loss. (It looks like the latter.)

Long day and long week

For Reasons, we have the dress rehearsal for our Saturday performance on Saturday. That means poor Cassie will likely go ten hours crossing her paws between the time I have to leave and when I'm likely to get back. Fortunately, she should be exhausted by then. Tonight's dress rehearsal for our Sunday performance won't put her out as much, thanks to Dog Delivery from my doggy day care. Still, I'd rather have a quiet evening at home than a 3-hour rehearsal and an hour-long car trip home...

Meanwhile, in the world of things that appear to matter more but actually will matter less in a year...

Finally, perhaps the reason the Chicago Transit Authority has so many problems is that its governing board has only one member who actually understands public transit? (Welcome to Chicago: where the head of the CTA has a chauffeured car, and the head of the Chicago Teacher's Union sends her kids to private school.)

You want to hear this next Saturday

The Apollo Chorus of Chicago and the Elmhurst Symphony Orchestra will celebrate Anton Bruckner's 200th birth anniversary next weekend. We perform Saturday at the Glenview Community Church and Sunday at the Elmhurst Christian Reformed Church. Here's a sample, from our rehearsal last Monday:

Note that we're only doing this and two other a cappella motets on Saturday. Our Sunday performance will have Mozart's "Linz" symphony instead. Both performances will feature Bruckner's Te Deum and Psalm 150, two works you absolutely need to hear.

(I'm not in the video because I was filming the close-ups and pans.)

Nürnberg

As planned, I took a day trip to Nürnberg, which required a 70-minute high-speed train that cost more than I'd planned. In fact, if I'd planned which trains to take, and bought the tickets last week, I could have saved about $50. Of course I had no way to predict today's amazing weather.

First, about that train. In Europe, a 244 km/h train is bog-standard:

From Munich to Ingolstadt it tools along at a leisurely 160 km/h, but after Ingolstadt, they put the hammer down, as you can see in the GPS readout in the upper-left corner.

And I am glad I took the trip, because Nürnberg is gorgeous:

It's also where Johannes Pachelbel committed his musical atrocities just over 400 years ago:

True story: at my wedding many eons ago, I hired a string quartet, and told them they would not get paid if they played anything by that guy. They stuck with Mozart, Haydn, and some Satie at one point, if memory serves.

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."

Ravinia Brewing vs Ravinia Festival

I first visited Ravinia Brewing early in the Brews & Choos Project, and liked it. In fact I have gone back several times, most recently a week ago Friday. I haven't yet visited their Logan Square taproom though, and because of the way trademarks and contracts work in the US, I may never:

In October, Ravinia Festival, the Highland Park outdoor concert venue known for its summer music series, sued the craft brewery for trademark infringement, court records show.

The brewery was born out of the Ravinia District of Highland Park in 2017 and opened its original location there in 2018.

In 2018, the brewery signed an agreement that allowed both parties to use the name, as long as the brewery complied with guidelines to ensure consumers understood there was no relationship between the two organizations.

The lawsuit alleges the brewery violated that agreement.

Brewery co-owners Jeff Hoobler and Kris Walker have called the lawsuit unjust and said the business is rapidly losing money because of legal expenses. They warned the business could close if the company keeps bleeding financially.

I've just read RBC's answer to RF's complaint, which includes the allegations in the complaint as per local rules. As with any lawsuit, we don't know the full story, and as this will probably never go to trial, we probably never will. It looks like the brewery and the Festival have some bad blood between them, for sure. But if the brewery's answer is accurate, this has all the feeling of trying to crack a walnut with a sledgehammer.

I hope the Festival and the brewery can come to a compromise here. I like them both.

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.

Statistics: 2023

Last year continued the trend of getting back to normal after 2020, and with one nice exception came a lot closer to long-term bog standard normal than 2022.

  • I posted 500 times on The Daily Parker, 13 more than in 2022 and only 6 below the long-term median. January, May, and August had the most posts (45) and February, as usual, the least (37). The mean of 41.67 was actually slightly higher than the long-term mean (41.23), with a standard deviation of 2.54, which may be the lowest (i.e., most consistent posting schedule) since I started the blog in 1998.
  • Flights went up slightly, to 12 segments and 20,541 flight miles (up from 10 and 16,138), the most of either since 2018:
  • I visited 5 countries (the UK, Czechia, Austria, Slovakia, and Germany) and 5 US states (California, Wisconsin, Arizona, Indiana, and Michigan). Total time traveling: 156 hours (up from 107).
  • Cassie had more fun last year than 2022 as my team went from 2 to 3 days in-office (meaning more time at day camp). She got 372 hours of walks (up from 369) and at least that many hours of couch time.
  • Total steps for 2023: 4,619,407 steps and 3,948 km (average: 12,655 per day), up from 4.54m steps and 3,693 km in 2022. I hit my step goal 341 times (327 in 2022), which wasn't bad at all. I also did my longest walk ever on September 1st, 44.45 km.
  • Driving? I did several trips to Michigan in the summer, but still only drove 5,009 km (down from 5,925) on 87 L of gasoline (down from 144), averaging 1.7 L/100 km (136 MPG). That's the best fuel economy I've ever gotten with any car for a full year. I last filled up July 30th, and could conceivably go through January on what I've got left in the tank, but it's always best to keep your tank full in super-cold weather.
  • Total time at work: 1,905 hours at my real job (up from 1,894) and 73 hours on consulting and side projects, including 640 hours in the office (up from 580), but not including the 91 hours I spent commuting (down from 103). How did I add 60 hours in the office while cutting 12 hours off my commute, I hear you ask? Simple: I live closer to the Metra than I used to, and the 6-10 minutes a day adds up.
  • The Apollo Chorus consumed 247 hours in 2023, with 166 hours rehearsing and performing (cf. 220 hours just on the music in 2022). We had fewer performances and an easier fall season, which made a huge difference.
  • As for media consumption, I'll leave that to its own post tomorrow.

In all, not a bad year. I hope the trends continue for 2024, though I do expect a few more blog posts this autumn...

Post-concert fun and enjoyment

Our performances at Holy Name Cathedral and Alice Millar Chapel went really well (despite the grumblings of one critic). But part of the fun of serving as president of the chorus meant I got to go back to Holy Name this morning to sign off on 128 chairs and 4 dollies getting into a truck:

They say Mass at noon every day. The window the rental company gave me was "ESTIMATED to arrive one hour before or after 10:53 AM." They actually showed up at 11:37. Fortunately, I had 4 of the 13 stacks you see above positioned by the door before he arrived, and I got the other 9 trundled across the chancel just in time (11:59). (Only four dollies, only four stacks pre-positioned.)

That said, it really is a beautiful building:

Tomorrow I hope will be a more normal workday. Tonight I hope to get 9 hours of sleep.