It's exactly 0°C in Chicago this afternoon, which is a bog-standard temperature for February 3rd. And it's sunny, which isn't typical. So, with the forecast for a week of bitter cold starting Friday evening, I'm about to take a 30-minute walk to take advantage of today's weather. First, though:
Early February is also the time of year when we start imagining spring. Tomorrow's sunrise is at 7am for the first time since December 1st, and we had 10 hours of daylight last week for the first time since mid-November. Yes, Chicago typically has an Arctic blast sometime during February. But Spring begins in 25 days. We can make it.
Fox News has a habit of hiring the XPOTUS's press secretaries (even when no one else will), for a very simple reason:
The appeal of all four to a network like Fox News is that, more than any cluster of unprofessionals in former president Donald Trump’s orbit, his former press secretaries have the most experience in covering up, promoting and articulating lies. Fox News hired [Sarah] Sanders, for instance, just months after the Mueller report showed she lied about alleged support within the FBI for the May 2017 firing of then-FBI Director James B. Comey. [Kayliegh] McEnany carried forward the tradition of disinformation stemming from the Trump White House, most egregiously in the final two months of her tenure, as she pushed specious report after specious report in service of the lie that the election had been stolen from her boss.
Meanwhile, current White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will appear on tomorrow's Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me! on NPR, after giving almost a dozen mercifully boring and accurate press briefings. It's so delightful I could cry.
As the State of Illinois starts abandoning the Helmut Jahn-designed Thompson Center in Chicago's Loop, the Governor's Office announced the state has purchased PepsiCo's old building at 555 W Monroe St:
The 18-year-old structure has 430,000 square feet of office space and has green certification for energy efficiency.
More than 1,000—and potentially 1,400—of the 3,500 state workers now based in downtown Chicago eventually will relocate to the new facility, starting in April, according to Ayse Kalaycioglu, chief operating officer of the Illinois Department of Central Management Services, which manages the state’s real estate needs.
About 900 of the employees moving to 555 W. Monroe will be coming from the Thompson Center, leaving 1,300 in the structure named after the named the former governor who championed its construction and mourned its declining fortunes. But they won’t be there long, said Kalaycioglu and Deputy Gov. Dan Hynes in an interview late yesterday.
I'm sorry to hear so many people calling the Thompson Center "so old" and "dilapidated" given it opened in 1984 and sits directly across the street from the century-old City Hall. But: "In comparison, the state says the Thompson Center has $325 million in deferred maintenance needs now, a figure projected to grow to $525 million by 2026." (I took the below photo about a year after it opened.)
The other story is that seven new pizza places have recently opened in the city, and I may have to try a few of them. That square of Bill's Original Tavern Pizza at the top of the article made me hungry.
Dear future reader, observe how the combination of physical isolation; near-universal access to the entire world through the Internet; apps that make collaboration simple (like TikTok); and really bored young people has allowed entirely new art forms to flourish. This, as just one example, needs preservation so future generations can see what we got up to in early 2021:
I don't know whether videos like this will continue once people can make live music for live audiences again. I will predict, however, that movies made in the 2040s and 2050s will use a few seconds of a TikTok sea shanty to set the stage in the same way that a few notes of "Mister Sandman" instantly tells today's audiences that the story takes place in the 1950s.
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.
Via Julia Ioffe, the Guardian highlights a kitchen gadget that literally no one needs:
The Egg Master (£29.99, DecentGadget, Amazon) is a vertical grill encased in silicone housing. Ingredients poured into the plastic tube are heated by an embedded, wraparound element. When ready, food spontaneously rises from the device.
This week’s gadget describes itself as “a new way to prepare eggs”, which is accurate in the way that chopping off your legs could be described as a new way to lose weight. Let’s start with that name, its unsettling taint of S&M, an overtone consistent with the design. In hot pink and stippled black rubber, Egg Master’s exterior screams cut-price, mail-order adult toy; its funnelled hole suggests terrible uses. And it has a traffic light on it, for some reason.
“Spray non-stick agent into container”, the box advises, which definitely gets the tummy rumbling. As instructed, I crack two whole eggs into the hot tunnel, trying to ignore the gurgling sound from within. It’s impossible to see what’s going on – but it smells bad. I squint into the dark opening. A bulging yellow sac peers back at me. Minutes pass; the smell does not. Then, without warning, a flaccid, spongy log half jumps from the machine, writhing like an alien parasite in search of a host body. It’s horrifying, like a scene from The Lair of the White Worm.
I can’t look at it, let alone eat it. To stall, I consult the badly photocopied handbook, which suggests other delicious treats this baby is good for. Egg Master Egg Crackers, which is mixed-up crackers, egg and cheese; Egg Master Egg Dog; PB&J (peanut butter and jelly) Egg Master, and the tantalising Cuban Egg Master. It’s a dossier of culinary hate crimes (barbecue Pork Egg Master has two ingredients, “biscuit dough and three teaspoons of precooked pork”). Nervously, I try the sulphuric, sweating egg mess before me. The taste is … not the best. As I dry heave into the sink, I try to remember if I read about this machine in the Book of Revelation. Why is it in the world? Who created it? Maybe no one. Perhaps soon, sooner than you think, we will all bow to the Egg Master.
The video will put you off omelets, and possibly all other food, for a week.
The City of Chicago has moved into Covid-19 response Tier 1, meaning bars and restaurants can sort-of open:
In a Saturday morning announcement, as expected, the Illinois Department of Public Health said its latest data indicates both the city and suburban Cook—Regions 10 and 11 in the state’s COVID-19 matrix—have reached the metrics needed to allow reopening at 25 percent of normal capacity, to a maximum of 25 people per room.
Whether restaurants and bars actually open this time no one can predict. But this is just in time for our first (predicted) snowstorm of the year, so perhaps the open-to-the-elements dining will lose its appeal Monday night.
With only 18 hours to go in the worst presidency in American history—no, really this time—I have a few articles to read, only two of which (directly) concern the STBXPOTUS.
- Author John Scalzi looks forward to "President Boring:" "Biden is boring, in point of fact, and never has boring felt so good. We’re not settling for boring. Boring is what we’re hoping for."
- CNN publishes a shocking poll showing that most Americans do not think the STBXPOTUS will be remembered well.
- One reason: "Operation Warp Speed" helped fund a Covid-19 vaccine in record time, sure, but the incompetents in the outgoing administration neglected to plan for distributing it. This means Biden's plan "is maddeningly obvious," and will probably succeed.
- Yes, the National Guard occupation of Washington today and tomorrow is a national disgrace.
- Bret Stephens thinks Lincoln's "Lyceum Address" in January, 1838, predicted the world of 2021.
- Despite all the help I'm able to give them, Illinois craft brewers are struggling.
- Farther afield, the Moynihan Train Hall has opened at Penn Station in New York to mixed reviews.
Finally, after seven weeks of back-and-forth with Microsoft engineers, I've helped them clarify some code and documentation that will enable me to release a .NET 5.0 version of the Inner Drive Extensible Architecture™—the IDEA™—by this time tomorrow.
The Consumer Electronics Show went virtual this year, but it still had some interesting toys, like these:
Air Safety Virus Monitors
It's well-known that things like ventilation and humidity affect how well coronavirus spreads indoors. But how do you know how much ventilation is enough? Airthings sensors pair with a smartphone to monitor indoor air quality for temperature, humidity and number of people in the room (it makes a guess based on the amount of carbon dioxide present). If quality dips and virus risk rises, Airthings will suggest opening windows or making other changes. This could be helpful for businesses, such as restaurants, to know if their capacity is too high. Airthings also monitors for more traditional air quality risks like radon and mold.
Or how about:
Balcony Bee-Keeping Box
The pandemic has driven an upswing in gardening and home-canning: why not beekeeping? Italian company Beeing’s B-Box is a small hive that works with a sensor to monitor the bees’ health and environment. It also has a special design that separates the extra honeycomb from the bees, so you can harvest the honey without suiting up like an astronaut. Plus, it’s small enough to keep on even a modest urban balcony.
I don't know how my neighbors would feel about that one, but it seems perfect for the building.
We had a relatively quiet day yesterday, but only in comparison to the day before:
Meanwhile, here in Chicago:
Finally, Bruce Schneier advises the incoming administration on how to deal with the SolarWinds intrusion.
See? Yesterday was quiet.