The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Lazy Sunday morning reading

A couple of articles piqued my interest over the last day:

Finally, with only a few days left in December, we have now had 5 days this month with more Americans dead from Covid-19 than died on 9/11, and the STBXPOTUS won't sign even the miserly, half-assed recovery bill that Republicans in the Senate would agree to. January 20th can't come soon enough.

Not my dogs

I just wanted to shout out to two dogs I've been able to hang out with this week. 

On Wednesday I watched my neighbors' dog Sophie for the day. She really didn't care that I don't allow dogs on the couch:

And yesterday, I hung out with this pretty girl:

I'm not ready to adopt another dog yet. But I'm glad my friends occasionally need dogsitting services.

Studying how dogs age

How did I miss this Times article from November?

Lab tests can tell how old a human is just from the pattern of methylation. Thanks to this research, the same can be done for dogs. The results will help researchers studying aging in dogs to translate findings to humans. None of this research was done on dogs kept in a laboratory. All of the dogs in the aging comparison study were pet Labrador retrievers and the owners gave permission for blood samples.

Scientists are unsure about whether the physical decline seen in aging in dogs and humans, in fact in all mammals, is related to the process of development in earlier life, or whether the decline is a different process altogether. The researchers found that the pattern of methylation suggested that the same genes may be involved in both processes.

Good methods of comparing dog and human ages are important. Dogs are increasingly seen as good models for human aging because they suffer from it in many of the same ways humans do. As the Dog Aging Project, which is collecting genetic and other information from a vast number of pet dogs, puts it on its website, the goal of the research is “Longer, healthier lives for all dogs … and their humans.”

I miss my aging dog. And the day this article was published, Parker was old indeed.

It's really not that cold

Sure, the temperature got down to -13°C this morning, but we haven't had any real cold yet this winter, despite the 25°C temperature drop yesterday. Yesterday's high of -3°C was the first below-freezing high temperature of the winter. We've only had that occur this late in the year on five other occasions—two of them this century. Chicago gets its first below-freezing high temperature by November 24th on average. Yesterday's event ties 2001 and is only a few days before the latest occurrence of January 1st (2013 and 1924).

The Climate Prediction Center forecasts above-average temperatures all winter:

Also in early 2021 we should get the revised climate normals as the 1991-2020 data supersedes the 1981-2010 data we've used for 10 years. We expect normal temperatures to rise in most parts of the United States, with dramatic jumps expected in Alaska. Even with the revised numbers, we expect above-normal temperatures to outnumber below-normal temperatures for the next decade.

Christmastime is here, by golly

Thank you, Tom Lehrer, for encapsulating what this season means to us in the US. In the last 24 hours, we have seen some wonderful Christmas gifts, some of them completely in keeping with Lehrer's sentiment.

Continuing his unprecedented successes making his the most corrupt presidency in the history of the country (and here I include the Andrew Johnson and Warren Harding presidencies), the STBXPOTUS yesterday granted pardons to felons Charles Kushner, Paul Manafort, and Roger Stone. Of the 65 pardons and commutations he has granted since becoming president, 60 have gone to people he knows personally and who have committed crimes on his behalf. Maggie Haberman and Michael S Schmidt say he's at his most unleashed as he tries to avoid leaving office the loser he is.

In other news:

Finally, enjoy this performance of the "Hallelujah" chorus from Händel's Messiah released just a few moments ago by the Apollo Chorus of Chicago:

Destructo-Beast of the West Wing

The STBXPOTUS has, in the words of Greg Sargent, "detonated a truth bomb in the Georgia US Senate runoffs:"

By abruptly calling for $2,000 stimulus checks on Tuesday night, Trump inadvertently exposed core truths about the consequences of continued GOP control of the Senate — ones that Republicans are working to conceal — and about the post-Trump Republican Party in general.

In the video that Trump tweeted, he threatened to wreck the carefully negotiated settlement that led Congress to pass a $900 billion economic rescue package. He insisted that its $600 stimulus checks are insufficient and called on lawmakers to increase the payment to $2,000.

Trump’s threat not to sign the deal makes a government shutdown more likely, and it puts congressional Republicans who supported it in a terrible spot. As one GOP observer noted, Trump “just pulled down the pants of every Republican who voted for it.”

As much as I must now go scrub my brain with wire wool to remove the image of any US Senators from either party with their pants down, the guy gave the Democrats a popcorn moment like no other. When I first heard the story this morning I wondered which failed human being in the White House wound him up. Someone had to write the speech for him.

As Sargent pointed out,

It will be perversely amusing if Loeffler and Perdue are willing to stick with Trump’s efforts to subvert the will of the American people — they continue to refuse to say he lost — but not willing to support his call for more economic aid to them.

The bottom line is that the story of the past nine months confirms that orthodox conservative opposition to big spending — even to help Americans suffering amid two of the biggest crises of the modern era — has been the main obstacle to assistance for them. Trump has laid this bare.

I have no earthly idea what the White House hopes to accomplish. The STBXPOTUS doesn't usually play a long game, given his normal attention span of four to six seconds. It occurs to me, though, that with Democrats in control of both houses of Congress and the White House, he will have a much easier time of running against us in 2024.

Still, the whole thing confuses me—and probably the Loeffler and Perdue campaigns as well.

Erev Xmas Eve

It's 11°C outside and I have a fuzzy houseguest for the day, so there will be walks! At least until the 20°C temperature drop starts around 6pm... So while I'm enjoying the last above-freezing day of the year with a very sweet and very strong office companion, I've got a few things to occupy my time.

At the top of my list today, we find that the STBXPOTUS has pardoned 15 truly awful murderers and grifters, including the four assholes who slaughtered unarmed Iraqi civilians in 2007. It's possible these are the worst pardons ever granted by a US president. (I wonder if Bill Moyers would agree.)

Next we have Bruce Schneier explaining just how bad the SolarWinds penetration really is.

And finally, US Surgeon General Dr Jerome Adams said Chicago's coronavirus vaccine rollout was the best in the nation. Go us!

I will now finish my lunch, guarded vigilantly by my neighbor's dog who hopes against all evidence that some of my ham sandwich will find its way to her snout.

All hail the mediocre white guy!

US Senator-elect Tom "Tubs" Tuberville (R-AL), who rose to mediocrity as a college football coach, continues to show those characteristics of white male entitlement that everyone else in the world envies. Namely: abject stupidity. Dana Milibank fills in some of the details:

Tubs, if he were a Democrat, is what Trump might call a “low-IQ individual.” In their wisdom, the voters of Alabama chose to replace Democrat Doug Jones, who prosecuted the Birmingham church bombing, with a man who recently announced his discovery that there are “three branches of government,” namely, “the House, the Senate and the executive.”

In an interview with the Alabama Daily News, he also offered the insight that World War II was not, as many suppose, a conflict against Nazism. “My dad fought 76 years ago in Europe to free Europe of socialism,” he said.

He further informed the newspaper that “in 2000 Al Gore was president, United States, president-elect, for 30 days.” (Actual number of days Gore spent as president-elect: zero.)

Tubs' latest plan is to object to the counting of Electoral College votes in the Joint Session of Congress on January 6th. Assuming a member of the House joins in the objection, this will have the crippling effect of delaying the count for two hours while the Senate and House debate the objection. Then Vice President Mike Pence will certify Biden's win, and Tubs will become another footnote in history, spending the next six years aggressively protecting his place in the world as a mediocre white guy who got rewarded for it.

Putin finally gives us the punchline

You have to admire Vladimir Putin's sense of humor. For five years, he's manipulated our STBXPOTUS into doing just about everything Russia could have wanted. Now that our STBXPOTUS has become STBX, Putin doesn't need him anymore. So why not come clean?

He did just that at his year-end press conference last Thursday:

Steve Rosenberg, BBC: Don't you think over the last years you also have borne part of the responsibility for making these relations [with Europe and the West] seem like a cold war...?

Putin: Who withdrew from the missile defense treaties? The INT treaty: who withdrew? It wasn't us but it was the US. ... You do realize that we are smart people, we are not idiots.

Here's the whole clip. The part in question starts at 44:17.

It really warms the heart that our STBXPOTUS never got to the level of artistry and malice Putin can exhibit so casually. He calls our president an idiot, with good evidence to support the insult, while lying on a scale the target of the insult can scarcely fathom.

Also, I love that the French spell his name "Poutine." But that's just an accident of the French language.

Portable Document Format: still crappy after all these years

Earlier this year, the Nielsen Norman Group repeated a study they first did in 1996 on the usability of PDF documents. As they've now found three times, making PDFs instead of actual web pages yields a horrible experience for users:

Jakob Nielsen first wrote about how PDF files should never be read online in 1996 — only three years after PDFs were invented. Over 20 years later, our research continues to prove that PDFs are just as problematic for users. Despite the evidence, they’re still used far too often to present content online.

PDFs are typically large masses of text and images. The format is intended and optimized for print. It’s inherently inaccessible, unpleasant to read, and cumbersome to navigate online. Neither time nor changes in user behavior have softened our evidence-based stance on this subject. Even 20 years later, PDFs are still unfit for human consumption in the digital space. Do not use PDFs to present digital content that could and should otherwise be a web page.

PDF files are typically converted from documents that were planned for print or created in print-focused software platforms. When creating PDFs in these tools, it’s unlikely that authors will follow proper guidelines for web writing or accessibility. If they knew these, they’d probably just create a web page in the first-place, not a PDF. As a result, users get stuck with a long, noninclusive mass of text and images that takes up many screens, is unusable for finding a quick answer, and boring to read. There’s more work involved in creating a well-written, accessible PDF than simply exporting it straight from a word processing or presentation platform. Factors such as the use of color, contrast, document structure, tags, and much more must be intentionally addressed.

Yah, so, don't use them.