The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Lunchtime lineup

It's another beautiful September afternoon, upon which I will capitalize when Cassie and I go to a new stop on the Brews & Choos Project after work. At the moment, however, I am refactoring a large collection of classes that for unfortunate reasons don't support automated testing, and looking forward to a day of debugging my refactoring Monday.

Meanwhile:

And now, more refactoring.

I enjoy productive days

Yesterday I squashed six bugs (one of them incidentally to another) and today I've had a couple of good strategy meetings. But things seem to have picked up a bit, now that our customers and potential customers have returned to their offices as well.

So I haven't had time to read all of these (a consistent theme on this blog):

And finally, providing some almost-pure Daily Parker bait, the Post has a helpful breakdown of 8 common styles of hot sauce.

Three-pointer

Today is the last day of Sprint 28 at my day job, and I've just closed my third one-point story of the day. When we estimate the difficulty of a story (i.e., a single unit of code that can be deployed when complete), we estimate by points on a Fibonacci scale: 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21. A 2-point story is about twice as hard as a 1-point story; a 5 point story is about 5 times harder than a 1-point story; etc. If we estimate 8 or more points on my current team, we re-examine the story in order to break it into smaller chunks. Similarly, a 1-point story could turn out to have so little complexity that it takes almost no time, like today's story #304 that required adding one line of code to here and removing 37 lines of code from there. That one took about 15 minutes. The other two took a couple of hours each, as "knowing where to put the bolt" takes longer than actually attaching the bolt.

While all that happened on the west side of my desk, the monitors on the south side lit up a few stories for me to read when I get back from the walk I'm about to take:

  • Jennifer Rubin lists 50 things that have improved in the US in the past 5 days, starting with "you can ignore Twitter."
  • Though Rubin mentioned replacing Andrew Jackson's portrait in the Oval Office, she didn't mention that the Biden Administration has taken steps to complete replacing his racist mug on the $10 note with a portrait of Harriet Tubman. (The outgoing administration, for obvious reasons, mothballed this plan upon taking office.)
  • Charles Blow warns against the Democratic Party should keep advocating and stop "subconsciously modulating responses" in the face of Republican criticism.
  • National Geographic describes the Roman road network that spanned over 320,000 km and still remains largely intact today.
  • Philippa Snow suggests the French series Call My Agent if you're looking for serious entertainment. For my part I'm about to start Series 2 of Peaky Blinders.
  • Loyola University Chicago professor Devon Price has a new book out: Laziness Does Not Exist. I may have to buy a copy. Eventually.

And I will now try to get in a 45-minute fast walk as our first real winter storm bears down on us from Iowa.

Mr Vice President, kick your boss to the curb now

The House of Representatives have started debate on a resolution to ask Vice President Mike Pence to start the process of removing the STBXPOTUS under the 25th Amendment. As you might imagine, this was not the only news story today:

Finally, the always-funny Alexandra Petri imagines what people who have never read Orwell believe his books actually say.

How to talk to irrational people

I'm not good at it, personally. But NBC News has some advice they've titled "How to talk to your friends and family about Covid, vaccines and wearing masks:"

“You always want to offer your empathy first,” said Amy Pisani, executive director of Vaccinate Your Family, the nation’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to vaccine advocacy. “If they have a personal story, start with your shared values.”

Steven Taylor, a clinical psychologist and professor at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, said that confrontation is particularly doomed to failure when talking to people who have fallen down conspiracy rabbit holes.

“Many conspiracy theorists score high in a trait called psychological reactance, which, to put it simply, is like an allergic reaction to being told what to do,” Taylor said. “We have to think of messages that don’t trigger that psychological reactance.”

Rather, it may be more effective to find non-confrontational ways to appeal to people that don’t overtly challenge their sense of self or freedom — a concept that Taylor refers to as introducing “behavioral nudges.” Instead of harping on the scientifically proven benefits of wearing a mask, for instance, people could try to convince friends and family to don face coverings for the good of their community.

Sander van der Linden, a social psychologist at the University of Cambridge in the U.K., said the emergence of conspiracy theories in times of upheaval has been well-documented throughout history.

“What you often see is that in times of uncertainty — whether it’s political uncertainty, economic uncertainty or social uncertainty — there’s a surge in conspiracy theories,” van der Linden said.

And that’s cause for real concern. Van der Linden’s research has shown that people who believe misinformation about the coronavirus are less likely to wear masks or get vaccinated, which makes it critical at this juncture of the pandemic to try to engage, rather than ignore, skeptical loved ones.

In times of extreme stress, we become apes, in other words. Yet somehow, we'll get through this.

Happy Monday!

Today is the last day of meteorological summer, and by my math we really have had the warmest summer ever in Chicago. (More on that tomorrow, when it's official.) So I, for one, am happy to see it go.

And yet, so many things of note happened just in the last 24 hours:

Finally, Josh Marshall reminds everyone that Democrats are nervous about the upcoming election because we're Democrats. It's kind of in our blood.

Bigly missing the point

Philip Bump puts in black-and-white terms why the president should perhaps shut up about his cognitive test results:

“And they were very surprised,” Trump said of the doctors. “They said that’s an unbelievable thing. Rarely does anybody do what you just did.”

No. That did not happen. Or, at least, it didn’t happen without a qualifier like, “rarely does anybody your age not demonstrate any of the impairments this test is meant to measure,” which is possible. But the doctors did not call this “an unbelievable thing.” It would be like my fawning over your alphabet recitation: “Wow, you even nailed the L-M-N-O-P.”

Getting a perfect score [on the cognitive test Trump took] is literally the baseline for being normal, not for being exceptional.

[P]eople were quick to point out the flip side of his boast about the doctors: Having medical professionals be amazed that you performed normally on an evaluation of your cognitive abilities is not exactly the endorsement it might have seemed like as the words were coming out of Trump’s mouth.

I would enjoy seeing the president take an IQ test, though. I would enjoy that very much.

Psycopathic response to state violence

Not content to give psychologists circumstantial evidence of psycopathy, the president became even more unhinged and reactive this weekend. Since he has no capacity for empathy or even, it seems, metacognition of any sort, one could have (and did) predict much of this. To begin, in a conversation with state governors today, he advocated increased state-sanctioned violence to counter peaceful protests against state-sanctioned violence:

As the country reels from nearly a week of intense protests marked by countless acts of police brutality, President Donald Trump on Monday pressured governors to deploy more aggressive and violent tactics against protesters, telling them they would look like “jerks” if they didn’t get tougher. He also threatened to unleash the powers of the Justice Department in order to empower law enforcement officials to “fight back” against demonstrators.

“You have to dominate,” Trump said on a private call with governors, according to reporting by multiple news outlets that obtained a recording of the explosive conversation. “If you don’t dominate, you’re wasting your time. They’re going to run over you. You’re going to look like a bunch of jerks.”

“You’ve got to arrest people,” he continued. “You have to track people, you have to put them in jail for 10 years, and you’ll never see this stuff again.”

Fun fact: he (and bestie Vladimir Putin, almost forgot) wins when the country is divided against itself. And to him, nothing else matters except winning—even if he only wins the moment and loses the war.

While cowering in the White House basement, the president contemplated invoking the Insurrection Act of 1807 to deploy active-duty troops to American cities. The last time this happened, California governor Pete Wilson requested President George HW Bush send troops to Los Angeles in 1992 to help quell the Rodney King protests. But I think most people can see the problem of putting armed regulars on American streets against the express wishes of state governors, if for no other reason than we last did that in 1877. And in that case, the army went in to protect civil rights, not prevent them.

More views:

Unfortunately, all of this means that the president, being scared out of his tiny mind, will show even more psychopathic behavior, because that's all he knows how to do. Even on his best days he couldn't reason himself out of a losing game of Tic-Tac-Toe. These are his worst days, and they're getting worse for him.

On the left, we have to bang the drum from now until November 3rd that the president, not the protesters, is making America less American. Quoting Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer: “The president’s dangerous comments should be gravely concerning to all Americans, because they send a clear signal that this administration is determined to sow the seeds of hatred and division, which I fear will only lead to more violence and destruction. We must reject this way of thinking.”

All-or-nothing doesn't work

Harvard Medical School epidemiologist Julia Marcus argues that "quarantine fatigue is real," and it may be healthier to start relaxing self-isolation (for many people) than to continue it:

Public-health experts have known for decades that an abstinence-only message doesn’t work for sex. It doesn’t work for substance use, either. Likewise, asking Americans to abstain from nearly all in-person social contact will not hold the coronavirus at bay—at least not forever.

I’m not talking about the people who are staging militaristic protests against the supposed coronavirus hoax. I’m talking about those who are experiencing the profound burden of extreme physical and social distancing. In addition to the economic hardship it causes, isolation can severely damage psychological well-being, especially for people who were already depressed or anxious before the crisis started.

[T]he choice between staying home indefinitely and returning to business as usual now is a false one. Risk is not binary. And an all-or-nothing approach to disease prevention can have unintended consequences. Individuals may fixate on unlikely sources of contagion—the package in the mail, the runner or cyclist on the street—while undervaluing precautions, such as cloth masks, that are imperfect but helpful.

[A]s years of research on HIV prevention have shown, shaming doesn’t eliminate risky behavior—it just drives it underground. Even today, many gay men hesitate to disclose their sexual history to health-care providers because of the stigma that they anticipate. Shaming people for their behavior can backfire.

Scientists still have a lot to learn about this new virus, but early epidemiological studies suggest that not all activities or settings confer an equal risk for coronavirus transmission. Enclosed and crowded settings, especially with prolonged and close contact, have the highest risk of transmission, while casual interaction in outdoor settings seems to be much lower risk. A sustainable anti-coronavirus strategy would still advise against house parties. But it could also involve redesigning outdoor and indoor spaces to reduce crowding, increase ventilation, and promote physical distancing, thereby allowing people to live their lives while mitigating—but not eliminating—risk.

Of course, the Trump Administration's abject failure to provide adequate testing and safety guidance will only prolong our anxiety and isolation. But right-wing governments never make the trains run on time, no matter what their propaganda says.

Liberate Minnesota!

No, really, the president Tweeted that earlier today:

I mean, what the actual f? (He also wants to liberate Michigan and Virginia, by the way.) Charlie Pierce warned only Monday that this kind of nonsense was coming:

The acting director of the Office of National Intelligence is encouraging citizens to break local laws, endangering themselves and others, in the middle of a pandemic. Of all the screwy moments that we have experienced since the founding of Camp Runamuck, this is going to rank very close to the top. And it is not going to be a surprise to anyone if another AstroTurf movement similar to the Tea Party rises, especially if the president* “opens up” the country at the beginning of May.

This nonsense is coming, and it’s going to be encouraged by the national government, and I don’t know how we avoid it.

Andrew Sullivan, after point out that the virus doesn't have a social message, breathed a sigh of relief that Trump is so very lazy:

But of course we all know by now, including the Republicans, that it is meaningless. Trump claims the powers of a tyrant, behaves like one, talks like one, struts like one, has broken every norm a liberal democracy requires, and set dangerous precedents that could enable a serious collapse in constitutional norms in the future.

This, in Bill Kristol’s rather brilliant phrase, is “performative authoritarianism.” It has a real cost — it delegitimizes liberal democracy by mocking it and corrodes democratic institutions by undermining them. But it is not the cost of finding ourselves run by an American Victor Orban. Orban saw the coronavirus emergency the way most wannabe strongmen would and the way I feared Trump might: as an opportunity to further neuter any constitutional checks on him and rule by decree. Trump saw it purely as an obstacle to his reelection message about a booming economy, a blot on his self-image, an unfair spoiling of his term. Instead of exploiting it, he whined about it. He is incapable of empathy and so simply cannot channel the nation’s grief into a plan of action. So he rambles and digresses and divides and inflames. He has managed in this crisis to tell us both that he is all-powerful and that he takes no responsibility for anything.

And I suspect that this creepy vaudeville act, in a worried and tense country, is beginning to wear real thin. A man who claims total power but only exercises it to protect his personal interests, a man who vaunts his own authority but tolerates no accountability for it, is impressing no one.

The emergency I feared Trump could leverage to untrammeled power may, in fact, be the single clearest demonstration of his incompetence and irrelevance

Simply put, "Trump can't lie his way out of this one," as several pundits have observed. Also:

Fun times, fun times. Good thing it will actually seem like spring tomorrow in Chicago after another snowfall last night.