The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Coding continues apace

I'm almost done with the new feature I mentioned yesterday (day job, unfortunately, so I can't describe it further), so while the build is running, I'm queuing these up:

All right! The build pipelines have completed successfully, so I will now log off my work laptop and order a pizza.

SBF gets 25

Today is the 45th anniversary of Three Mile Island's partial meltdown, and the day after Sam Bankman-Fried's total meltdown:

Sam Bankman-Fried, the former cryptocurrency mogul who was convicted of fraud, was sentenced to 25 years in prison on Thursday, capping an extraordinary saga that upended the multi-trillion-dollar crypto industry and became a cautionary tale of greed and hubris.

Mr. Bankman-Fried’s sentence was shorter than the 40 to 50 years that federal prosecutors had recommended, but above the six-and-a-half-year sentence requested by the defense lawyers. A federal probation officer had recommended 100 years, just under the maximum possible penalty of 110 years behind bars.

His sentence ranks as one of the longest imposed on a white-collar defendant in recent years. Bernie Madoff, who orchestrated a notorious Ponzi scheme that unraveled during the 2008 financial crisis, received a 150-year sentence in 2009. He was in his 70s at the time and died 12 years later. Elizabeth Holmes, who was convicted of defrauding investors in her blood-testing startup, Theranos, was sentenced to 11 years and three months in 2022.

Molly White had some thoughts on this earlier in the week:

Bankman-Fried [tried] to argue that no money has been lost thanks to his fraud, mostly based on the argument that the bankruptcy team has estimated that creditors will receive a "100% recovery". In a later letter, he even submits that he tried to help the bankruptcy team recover assets. Incredibly, he includes in his evidence to support this claim the screenshots of his January 2023 message to Ryne Miller — despite the fact that Judge Kaplan already determined that his arguments that the message was just an attempt at being helpful "d[id] not appear, on a preliminary basis, to be a persuasive reading". Kaplan later decided that the same message was one of two instances in which Bankman-Fried had tried to tamper with a witness, and rescinded his pre-trial release.

Bankman-Fried's arguments regarding losses were rebutted by the prosecutors in several different ways and, somewhat awkwardly, also rebutted by the very same bankruptcy team he quoted to support his claims that customers would be reimbursed at 100%.

[Prosecutors did] not seem optimistic about Bankman-Fried's future prospects, writing that "A sentence that resulted in the release of the defendant while he is at a working age would leave open the very real possibility that he perpetrates again."

If he serves the minimum time possible, he'll get out in his mid-50s.

Mentally exhausting day, high body battery?

My Garmin watch thinks I've had a relaxing day, with an average stress level of 21 (out of 100). My four-week average is 32, so this counts as a low-stress day in the Garmin universe.

At least, today was nothing like 13 March 2020, when the world ended. Hard to believe that was four years ago. So when I go to the polls on November 5th, and I ask myself, "Am I better off than 4 years ago?", I have a pretty easy answer.

I spent most of today either in meetings or having an interesting (i.e., not boring) production deployment, so I'm going to take the next 45 minutes or so to read everything I haven't had time to read yet:

All righty then. I'll wrap up here in a few minutes and head home, where I plan to pat Cassie a lot and read a book.

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.)

Getting warmer?

The temperature at Inner Drive Technology World HQ bottomed out this morning, hitting -4.8°C at 10:41 am, and it may even end the day above freezing. So this mercifully-short cold snap won't keep us out of the record books, just as predicted. It's still the warmest winter in Chicago history. (Let's hope we don't set the same record for spring or summer.)

Meanwhile, the record continues to clog up with all kinds of fun stories elsewhere:

  • Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who has led his party in the Senate since the Cretaceous, announced he will step down from leadership in November, handing some other schmuck clean-up duties after the electoral disaster likely to befall the party on the 5th of that month.
  • After the unhinged ruling on embryo "personhood" the Alabama Supreme Court handed down last week, Republicans across the country have fallen over themselves saying they want to protect IVF treatment while they vote against protecting IVF treatment. Jamelle Bouie runs down some of the dumbass things Republicans have said on the ruling, with a cameo from the dumb-as-rocks junior US Senator from Alabama, who sounded more like Nigel Tufnel than usual.
  • Aaron Blake pointedly contradicts the usual "bad for Biden" story line by putting President Biden's Michigan-primary win last night in perspective.
  • Bruce Schneier looks at the difficulties insuring against cyber crime, one of the problems we're also solving at my day job.
  • New York prosecutors said the Art Institute of Chicago exhibited "willful blindness" in 1966 when it acquired art looted by the Nazis, an accusation the museum denies.
  • Harry Windsor, the Duke of Sussex, lost his case against the UK Home Office, in which he sued to keep his publicly-funded security detail the same size as it was when he actually did his job as the Royal Spare. The high court (the rough equivalent of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals in this case) ruled that the relevant agency had made a perfectly rational decision as the Duke now lives in California, doesn't do bugger-all for the UK, and is a whiny prat to boot.

Finally, Chicago Transit Authority president Dorval Carter took a—gasp!—CTA train to a city council hearing, at which he promised the CTA could be the best transit system in the world if only the State of Illinois would give it more funding. The very last thing I did in Munich on Sunday was to take the S-Bahn to the airport at 7am, so I can assure you money isn't the CTA's only impediment to achieving that lofty goal.

(Also, I just realized that This Is Spinal Tap turns 40 on Saturday. Wow.)

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.

Waiting for the build before walking two dogs

Another sprint has ended. My hope for a boring release has hit two snags: first, it looks like one of the test artifacts in the production environment that our build pipeline depends on has disappeared (easily fixed); and second, my doctor's treatment for this icky bronchitis I've had the past two weeks works great at the (temporary) expense of normal cognition. (Probably the cough syrup.)

Plus, Cassie and I have a houseguest:

But like my head, the rest of the world keeps spinning:

And now, my production test pipeline has concluded successfully, so I will indeed have a boring release.

Maybe I should visit a cemetery?

The current work sprint ends tomorrow. Throughout, I've had several moments of "wow, I actually did that right three years ago" as I've extended or improved existing features for the next release. I've even added a couple of extra stories that didn't take me long to do.

Meanwhile, I'm starting to get the sense of what it might be like when I'm 80, coughing so much that for the first time in years I'll actually miss rehearsal tonight. Which explains this post's headline: the cemetery is usually where the coffin stops.

Ah, ha ha.

I'm also reminded that, five years ago, we had some weird weather. We have some weird weather today, too, but in the opposite direction.

Anyway, if I can get this coughing under control, and get some sleep tonight, I should have more creative things to say tomorrow.

Facebook and surveillance

Consumer Reports released a paper last month detailing how many companies track the average Facebook user:

Using a panel of 709 volunteers who shared archives of their Facebook data, Consumer Reports found that a total of 186,892 companies sent data about them to the social network. On average, each participant in the study had their data sent to Facebook by 2,230 companies. That number varied significantly, with some panelists’ data listing over 7,000 companies providing their data.  The Markup helped Consumer Reports recruit participants for the study. Participants downloaded an archive of the previous three years of their data from their Facebook settings, then provided it to Consumer Reports.

One company appeared in 96 percent of participants’ data: LiveRamp, a data broker based in San Francisco. But the companies sharing your online activity to Facebook aren’t just little-known data brokers. Retailers like Home Depot, Macy’s, and Walmart, all were in the top 100 most frequently seen companies in the study. Credit reporting and consumer data companies such as Experian and TransUnion’s Neustar also made the list, as did Amazon, Etsy, and PayPal.

The data examined by Consumer Reports in this study comes from two types of collection: events and custom audiences. Both categories include information about what people do outside of Meta’s platforms.

In the report, Consumer Reports calls for a number of policy proposals covering data collection practices, some of which could be part of a national digital privacy law, something that the organization has long advocated for.

We need a European Union-style regulatory regime to protect our privacy. The companies won't do it without regulation.

Who could have predicted this?

Metra's new fare structure took effect this morning, along with the planned closure of every ticket window that still existed. It was therefore crucially important that the Ventra app (now the only way to pay for tickets) updated properly overnight. Alas:

Commuters faced an extra headache Thursday as the Ventra app crashed on the first day of new Metra procedures and prices, including the closure of ticket windows.

An alert on the Metra website informs riders that the app is down and technical crews are working to solve the issue.

“It’s not the way we would have liked it to go,” Metra spokesperson Meg Reile said.

Metra is working with Cubic, the company that runs the app, to get it up and running as soon as possible, Reile said.

On my train this morning, the conductor announced that he knew the app was down, so we should enjoy the ride. I expect they lost tens of thousands in revenue today.

As of this writing, the app appears to be working! And I have just purchased my monthly ticket for February.

I'll update the Brews & Choos page later today.