The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Baby's first Ribfest

If Cassie could (a) speak English and (b) understand the concept of "future" she would be quivering with anticipation about going to Ribfest tonight after school. Since she can't anticipate it, I'll do double-duty and drool on her behalf. It helps that the weather today looks perfect: sunny, not too hot, with a strong chance of delicious pork ribs.

Meanwhile, I have a few things to read on my commute that I didn't get to yesterday:

Finally, as I ride on the UP-N commuter line in an hour or so, I can imagine what it will be like when the train gets a battery-powered locomotive in a few years.

The clusterfuck of Cluster B

Via Andrew Sullivan's Dish this week, I came across a pair of articles by art critic Christia Rees about the horrors of dealing with cluster-B personality disorders:

Cluster Bs are probably somewhere between 1 and 5% of the population. Usually they’re just irritating and high-maintenance. They drum up a lot of drama. We manage them. But the smarter, pressurized ones are like landmines, and the longer you live, the more likely you are to deal with one of them directly and intimately.

I used to think some people (or communities, or entire nations) were completely immune to being manipulated by malign opportunists, but now I know in my bones that anyone can be conned: the chinks in our armor stem from vulnerable parts that are fundamental to human nature: vanity and ego (business cons operate on these points of entry), a desire to be “seen” by someone who “understands”, a desire to have someone guide us, or, in turn, we decide to help out an intriguing person who responds especially to us. We enter these dynamics, these traps, in good faith, with rationalizations and often willed blind spots, that make sense in the moment. Carnage follows.

I’ve been writing another piece about artists’ relationship to their influences, and I watched the new documentary about Evan Rachel Wood’s history with Marilyn Manson, Phoenix Rising, with that in the back of my head, in the sense that I never found Manson convincing as a rock star, and I personally don’t know anyone else who does, either. That’s because when he arrived on the scene, we were already adults. His attention-starved schtick was aimed at gullible, disaffected kids (Wood was in fact still a teenager when she started up with him), because they were the ones who would not have spotted how forced and artificial his reference points were. Cluster B agendas are often undone by moments of sloppiness or incoherence. He didn’t register with us cynical professional critics because his tactics were stale, and the music wasn’t any good.

But being savvy and even smug about being able to spot from a distance one kind of Cluster B, the Marilyn Manson kind, doesn’t confer protection against all of them. These lizards take a lot of shapes, and their methods vary. A person raised by one can still fall into another’s web as an adult. A person who ended a friendship with a Cluster B at school can find themselves seduced by another one at their new job.

 

I remember interviewing the late Prof. Jeff Kraus at my alma mater, which also happened to be former US Senator Norm Coleman's (R-MN). Coleman had led a sit-in that shut down the university for two days to protest the Kent State shootings in 1970, so when I did a documentary in 1990, Coleman's name came up a lot. When I asked Kraus about Coleman, Kraus looked up at the ceiling with a weird smile on his face and said, "Norm Coleman...Norm Coleman. Norm Coleman would be at the head of any organization that would get him laid."

Rees' earlier article explains what a cluster-B personality looks like and how the Norm Colemans of the world need to sit down and grow up:

Here are some traits we associate with very young children: lack of emotional regulation; an inability to understand that someone can say “no” to them and it does not make that someone a monster (in psychology it’s called “splitting” or binary thinking); a need for attention and approval now; testing the limits of tantrums to get adults and other children to fold to their demands. Empathy isn’t quite available to them yet at this age, because empathy does not live in the toddler brain of me, me, me. And most kids grow out of it. 

People who have Cluster B personality disorders — Borderline, Narcissism, Histrionic and Antisocial — actually never grow out of the emotional cesspool that keeps them in this headspace, where no one else exists outside of what they can do for them. For a Cluster B person, other people are merely tools. Despite their age or status in the world, Cluster B people are still toddlers. It leads to behaviors that, in the adult world, would be considered pathological. Their interpersonal relationships are fraught, to say the least.

And the traits associated with Cluster B can start to metastasize to whole sectors of a community, or to a whole society. The seduction of identifying as a victim is huge right now — it’s where the power actually is. There are people playing victim on both the right and the left of the political spectrum. It’s a vicious kind of tail-eating snake, in that each side can yell about being victimized by the other ad nauseam.

There are now three generations of highly educated people out in the world who have taken up positions at all levels in our progressive institutions, who fully believe the oppressor/oppressed narrative… about everything. Bad-faith readings of other people’s intentions are built into this thinking. Victim status is built into it. That is the point. 

What a way to live. What a way to see the world. How nihilistic.

How Cluster B. 

I have experienced cluster-B disorders up close, more than once too close, and they left me feeling pissed off: at them, for wasting so much time and energy, and at myself, for not getting away from them sooner. So like Rees, I find it alarming that so few adults seem to run things right now, leaving the toddlers in charge. Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child.

Mid-afternoon roundup

Before heading into three Zoom meetings that will round out my day, I have a minute to flip through these:

  • US Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) made a bold grab for the Dumbest Person in Congress award yesterday when she warned OAN viewers about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's "gazpacho police." Let the memes begin.
  • The Economist has an update to the Democratic Freedoms Map, and things do not look good—unless you live in Norway.
  • Along similar lines, WBEZ reports on the Urban Institute's findings that Cook County, Illinois, which contains Chicago, has some extraordinary wealth gaps.
  • 99% Invisible explains how the "future" office historically looks a lot like the past.
  • Arthur C Brooks advises singles to look for complementary, rather than similar, characteristics in potential mates.
  • The Pullman House Project here in Chicago will soon offer tours of the Thomas Dunbar House in the Pullman National Historic Site.

Finally, Tesla has some impressive software in its cars, but it still has a few (very frightening) bugs.

The sign of a dying culture

In his final novel, Friday (1986), Robert Heinlein spoke through an atavistic character to warn America of its impending doom:

Sick cultures show a complex of symptoms such as you have named...but a dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot. ... It is a bad sign when the people of a country stop identifying themselves with the country and start identifying with a group. A racial group. Or a religion. Or a language. Anything, as long as it isn't the whole population.

David Brooks spent his column today saying we've gotten to that point:

[S]omething darker and deeper seems to be happening as well — a long-term loss of solidarity, a long-term rise in estrangement and hostility. This is what it feels like to live in a society that is dissolving from the bottom up as much as from the top down.

Some of our poisons must be sociological — the fraying of the social fabric. Last year, Gallup had a report titled, “U.S. Church Membership Falls Below Majority for First Time.” In 2019, the Pew Research Center had a report, “U.S. Has World’s Highest Rate of Children Living in Single Parent Households.”

And some of the poisons must be cultural. In 2018, The Washington Post had a story headlined, “America Is a Nation of Narcissists, According to Two New Studies.”

But there must also be some spiritual or moral problem at the core of this. Over the past several years, and over a wide range of different behaviors, Americans have been acting in fewer pro-social and relational ways and in more antisocial and self-destructive ways.

Right on cue, the National Park Service reported that "Adrian, Ariel, Isaac and Norma" defaced a 3,000-year-old piece of indigenous rock art at Big Bend National Park in Texas just after Christmas. And author Alex McElroy says toxic masculinity has given way to "petulant masculinity," which she does not see as an improvement.

In other news, perhaps not as dire:

And apparently, I have to try some Paper Thin Pizza.

Evening reading

I was pretty busy today, with most of my brain trying to figure out how to re-architect something that I didn't realize needed it until recently. So a few things piled up in my inbox:

And finally, Whisky Advocate has four recipes that balance whisky and Luxardo Maraschino cherries. I plan to try them all, but not in one sitting.

A hot time in the old town tonight

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire, which burned for two days and left 100,000 people homeless. But only for a short time; by 1874, when the city had a second big fire, our population had already grown by about that number.

Flash forward to now:

Finally, last night I attended an actual live theater performance for the first time in 19 months, and it was amazeballs. If you live in Chicago, right now you need to go to the Chicago Shakespeare Theater website and buy tickets to As You Like It, which plays through November 21st.

Sure Happy It's Tuesday

Actually, I'm ecstatic that a cold front blew in off the lake yesterday afternoon, dropping the temperature from 30°C to 20°C in about two hours. We went from teh warmest September 27th in 34 years to...autumn. Finally, some decent sleepin' weather!

Meanwhile:

And though the article could use an editor, Whisky Advocate has a short bit on Aaron Sorkin's love of whisky in his movies.

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.