The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Not fit or proper

Transport for London (TfL) has declined to renew Uber's operating license for that reason:

Uber has lost its licence to operate private hire vehicles in London after authorities found that more than 14,000 trips were taken with more than 40 drivers who had faked their identity on the Uber app.

Transport for London announced the decision not to renew the ride-hailing firm’s licence at the end of a two-month probationary extension granted in September. Uber was told then it needed to address issues with checks on drivers, insurance and safety, but has failed to satisfy the capital’s transport authorities.

TfL said on Monday it had identified a “pattern of failures” by Uber, including several breaches that placed passengers and their safety at risk.

Steve McNamara, the general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, which represents London black-cab drivers, said: “It’s all about public safety and the mayor has taken the right decision.

“As far as we’re concerned Uber’s business model is essentially unregulatable. It is based on everyone doing what they want and flooding London with vehicles. Uber cannot guarantee that the cars are properly insured, or that the person driving the car is the one that is supposed to be driving, as recent incidents show.”

I expect Uber will work something out with TfL, eventually. For now, they'll continue to operate while appealing the ruling.

Had to fill up the car again, twice

Driving to Kirtland, Ohio, and back this weekend used 63.2 liters, at an average efficiency of 5.1 L/100 km. Not bad, but not great, due to a pretty stiff headwind today. But I think I may have filled my car for the last time in 2019.

Also, I didn't have time to blog.

Dog behavior in the news

Two articles came out today about dogs. The first, in the New York Times, explores how dogs became so indiscriminately friendly:

In the early 2000s, when Dr. [Clive] Wynne began research on dogs, one of his experiments was a follow-up on the work of Dr. [Brian] Hare who had concluded that dogs were better than wolves or other animals at following human directions. In particular, dogs followed human pointing better than other animals. Dr. Wynne and Monique Udell, an animal behaviorist at Oregon State University, expected to confirm Dr. Hare’s findings.

The wolves they chose to work with were hand-raised and socialized at Wolf Park, in Lafayette, Ind. Dr. Wynne said he found the wolves were as good at following human pointing as the best pet dogs.

Dr. Hare and his colleagues responded by questioning whether the experiments were really comparable, maintaining that dogs have an innate ability to follow human pointing without the special attention the wolves were given. The debate continues.

The second part of Dr. Wynne’s argument has to do with how social dogs are. There is no question that they bond with people in a way that other canines do not. Dr. Wynne recounted an experiment showing that as long as puppies spend 90 minutes a day, for one week, with a human any time before they are 14 weeks old, they will become socialized and comfortable with humans.

The Washington Post reported on economics research that put the economic value of a dog at about $10,000:

For the study, the authors asked nearly 5,000 dog owners about their willingness to pay for a hypothetical vaccine that would reduce their dog’s risk of death from a particular canine virus from 12 percent to 2 percent in a given year.

Rather than simply ask, “How much would you be willing to pay” for such a vaccine, respondents were given specific price points, ranging from $5 to $3,000, and asked if they whether they would be willing to pay that amount.

The end result: a distribution of nearly 5,000 responses that allowed the researchers to identify an average acceptable price point of somewhere between $500 and $900. That’s the cost, in other words, of a 10 percentage point mortality reduction for a dog.

The study's authors intended the $10,000 figure as an approximation. I can tell you, however, that in the year from April 2018 to March 2019, my dog cost considerably more than $10,000. (I'll have the exact figure this weekend.)

Which weed for me?

In case you had questions about what to do when THC becomes legal for recreational use in Illinois in six weeks, Chicago Public Media has your back:

What type of high are you looking for?

The type of high you get depends on what strain of weed you use.

The three most common categories are indicas, sativas and hybrids. Indica is a strain of weed that’s meant to help you relax or sleep. Sativa is a strain of weed that’s supposed to give you energy. And there are hybrid strains that are a combination of both strains.

Most forms of weed (joints, edibles, concentrates) come in all three strains.

How high do you want to get?

The answer to this question lies in the concentration of CBD and THC in the product you choose. THC is the ingredient that gets you high and CBD is the ingredient that’s believed to relax your mind, Vale said. So the higher the concentration of THC, the higher you’re likely to get.

You’ll also pay more for highly THC-concentrated products, because the state taxes weed at different levels depending on how strong it is.

Here's what the purchasing process looks like

All purchases are cash only, though many dispensaries have ATMs and some have created their own credit cards.

You’ll need to present your I.D. when you walk into the store in order to prove that you’re 21 or older, and then potentially again when you’re purchasing. Illinois lawmakers say this information won’t be stored.

And it’ll be expensive at first: a gram of weed (about enough for a joint or two) currently runs for $20 on the medical market — and $15 on the black market. That’ll automatically be anywhere from $24 to $27 per recreational gram because of steep taxes. Illinois residents could also see a spike in prices due to high demand and anticipated supply shortages as the industry gets off the ground.

All good to know. I'm fortunate that one of the first dispensaries to get a recreational sales license in the state is less than a kilometer from my house. What a relaxing way to start 2020!

Act III, Scene 1

The first debate between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn last night probably didn't sway anyone:

In a testy live debate on ITV, during which the prime minister repeatedly returned to the claim that he would “get Brexit done”, both men lavished praise on the NHS, but Corbyn said Johnson would put it up for sale.

Throughout the debate, Johnson continually tried to bring the focus back to Brexit, on which Corbyn repeatedly declined to say how he would campaign in a second EU referendum, while the Labour leader attacked the prime minister over the NHS and public services.

At one point, the audience openly laughed at Johnson when he agreed that the truth mattered in the election. The Conservatives came under fire during the debate when it rebranded its CCHQ Twitter account as “factcheckUK” and used it to pump out a series of pro-Tory messages.

Barry Gardiner, a shadow cabinet minister, emphasised the audience scorn for Johnson’s truthfulness, saying: “People looked at the prime minister and thought: how can we believe a word he said? How can we believe the manifesto when it comes out? He promised we would come out on 31 October and he would die in a ditch if we didn’t. It’s just lie after lie after lie.”

Polling still shows neither party getting 50% of the vote, but the Conservatives have pulled ahead a bit. The election is three weeks from tomorrow.

News? What news?

As Gordon Sondland throws the president under the bus (probably because (a) he's under oath and (b) the president would do it to him soon enough), there are actually a lot of other things going on in the world:

More work to do now.

The Last Remains of the Dodo

On Sunday, Pitchfork revisited Aimee Mann's third solo album, which she recorded 20 years ago:

The best song on the album, and the one that most thoroughly embodies its wary, bruised point of view, is “Deathly.” Warmed up by whispered backing vocals from [Jon] Brion and Juliana Hatfield, it’s a preemptive rejection from someone who’s been hurt too many times to risk heartbreak again. “Don’t pick on me/When one act of kindness could be deathly,” Mann pleads, her emphatic down-strums and simple rhyme scheme inviting a cathartic sing-along. She repeats the brief but evocative title so many times, it finally morphs into a word that’s even more devastating by virtue of its finality: “definitely.” Because she chooses her maximalist moments carefully on Bachelor No. 2, the song’s stratospheric, almost overblown minute-long instrumental outro lends an epic scale to what amounts to Mann’s refusal to keep experiencing emotions.

It was “Deathly” that inspired Anderson to complete the circle of inspiration, making Mann’s music the centerpiece of his 1999 film Magnolia. It makes up the bulk of the soundtrack, alongside a score from Brion (whose history with Anderson dated back to the director’s 1996 debut Hard Eight, on which he collaborated with Mann’s husband, composer Michael Penn). Unfolding over a night punctuated by violent L.A. rain—and culminating in a biblical cloudburst of bullfrogs—Magnolia follows an intersecting cast of lonely, angry, wounded and regretful characters.

In one scene, an abuse survivor and addict named Claudia (Melora Walters) abruptly ends what looked to be a promising first date with a kind, embattled police officer (John C. Reilly) by speaking the opening salvo of “Deathly”: “Now that I’ve met you, would you object to never seeing each other again?” (“I heard that line and wrote backwards,” Anderson recalled in an introduction to the shooting script. “This ‘original’ screenplay could, for all intents and purposes, be called an adaption of Aimee Mann songs.”)

I think I'll have to put the album on after my conference call.

Looking good for 7,000

National Geographic describes a reconstruction of a woman who lived 7,000 years ago on the Swedish Coast:

The woman was buried upright, seated cross-legged on a bed of antlers. A belt fashioned from more than 100 animal teeth hung from her waist and a large slate pendant from her neck. A short cape of feathers covered her shoulders.

From her bones, archaeologists were able to determine that she stood a bit under five feet tall and was between 30 and 40 years old when she died. DNA extracted from other individuals in the burial ground where she was found confirmed what we know about Mesolithic peoples in Europe—that they were dark skinned and pale eyed.

Ingela Jacobsson, director of the Trelleborg Museum, agrees. “She had some sort of special position in society considering everything that she was buried with, but beyond that we cannot make any sort of determinations.”

The reconstruction doesn't look like a modern Swede for many reasons, not least of which that pale skin didn't sweep through northern Europe until about 3,500 years ago.

Good review from this weekend

Chicago Classical Review attended our performance of Everest and Aleko this weekend:

There are a myriad of reasons why an operatic adaptation of Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air should not work. And yet it does. Composer [Joby] Talbot and librettist Gene Scheer have crafted a compelling 70-minute opera adapted form Krakauer’s nonfiction book about the disastrous 1996 Everest expedition in which eight people died.

Scheer wisely narrows the scope to three mountaineers, alternating their increasingly desperate situation on the South Summit with communications with their concerned loved ones and the base camp. The large vocal ensemble in back acts as a kind of Greek Chorus, questioning the men, offering philosophical observations, and commenting on the climbers’ actions, and the fates of the many who have died attempting to reach the summit.

The Apollo Chorus delivered all the power, mystery and atmosphere of Talbot’s choral passages, directed by Stephen Alltop.

The Stage & Cinema blog also gave us a nice review.

Not to mention, we really enjoyed the works. And the performance. Plus, Scheer and Talbot came to the cast party afterwards.

Catch-up weekend

The audience loved last night's performance of Everest and Aleko. Everest composer Joby Talbot and librettist Gene Scheer attended, and I had the opportunity to meet them backstage at intermission. They both reported being overjoyed by our performance. Nice.

I discovered in researching this post that the BBC Symphony Orchestra will perform Everest at the Barbican on 20 June 2020. Hell yes, I'm going.

If you don't want to wait until June, you can hear us this afternoon at Harris Theater.