The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Walks like a duck, poops like a duck...

Attorney Liz Dye teams up with Legal Eagle to explain that the smell emanating from the Truth Social merger and meme stock listing is exactly what you think it is:

So if the XPOTUS gets re-elected, the shares become an intravenous emoluments delivery mechanism; if not, he can cash out and pay his legal bills.

I wonder if I can short it...

Notorious murderer dies

Former professional football player, actor, and murderer OJ Simpson has died at age 76:

The cause was cancer, his family announced on social media. The announcement did not say where he died.

A jury in the murder trial, which held up a cracked mirror to Black and white America, cleared Mr. Simpson, but the case ruined his world. In 1997, a civil suit by the victims’ families found him liable for the deaths of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald L. Goldman, and ordered him to pay $33.5 million in damages. He paid little of the debt, moved to Florida and struggled to remake his life, raise his children and stay out of trouble.

In 2007, he was arrested after he and other men invaded a Las Vegas hotel room of some sports memorabilia dealers and took a trove of collectibles. He claimed that the items had been stolen from him, but a jury in 2008 found him guilty of 12 charges, including armed robbery and kidnapping, after a trial that drew only a smattering of reporters and spectators. He was sentenced to 9 to 33 years in a Nevada state prison. He served the minimum term and was released in 2017.

Lucifer Morningstar greeted the new arrival to Hell personally, remarking on the comparative ease of setting up Simpson's loop.

Things we probably could have predicted

The older I get, the less human beings surprise me. Oh, individual people surprise me all the time, mainly because I have smart and creative friends. But groups of people? They're going to be unsurprising and kind of dumb almost always.

Cases in point:

  • The Arizona Supreme Court's decision allowing enforcement of a pre-statehood, Civil War-era abortion law looks even worse when you learn what else is in the 1864 Howell Code.
  • Chicago's Loop neighborhood has 6,000 unsold luxury condos, with no more new projects underway, in part because developers failed to predict that 3% interest rates wouldn't last forever. This, to me, looks like failing to predict it will rain in Seattle eventually, because it hasn't rained in a week.
  • Forget Detroit and Houston; even ultra-wealthy municipalities like Santa Clara, Calif., have obstinately failed to predict that they would ever have to pay ruinous costs to maintain all the infrastructure they built last century.
  • Young women embracing the role of "tradwife" (i.e., becoming a 1950s-style woman of leisure or "stay-at-home-girlfriend") seem destined to unhappy long-term consequences of becoming someone's accessory.
  • Author John Scalzi provides advice which even he thinks aspiring authors should already know: don't fabricate quotes by living authors to sell your new manuscript because you will get caught.

Finally, author Gary Shteyngart floats off on the maiden voyage of Royal Caribbean's Icon of the Seas, the largest cruise ship ever built, and finds what can only be described as a very specific slice of humanity that would make the Golgafrinchans proud.

One news story eclipsed all the others

Ah, ha ha. Ha.

Anyway, here are a couple other stories from the last couple of days:

Finally, Ohio State wildlife and ecology professor Stanley Gehrt has written a book I will have to stop myself (for now) from adding to my ever-expanding shelf of books I need to read. Gehrt spent decades studying Chicago's coyote population and how well they co-exist with us, tagging more than 1,400 coyotes and collaring another 700.

My only complaint about the animals is they don't eat enough rabbits. I live near several suspected dens, the closest only about 400 meters from my front door. I can't wait to read the book.

As for the risks coyotes pose to humans, he lets us know who the real enemy is: “If you were to ask me, ‘What’s the most dangerous animal out there [for urban dwellers]?’, it’s white-tailed deer,” Gehrt said.

What I learned about Google Maps yesterday

Getting down to Whitestown, Ind., yesterday took about 4 hours and 45 minutes, including a stop to empty Cassie, which isn't great but isn't nearly as bad as I'd feared. Getting home, however, taught me about the limitations of Google Maps in a way I'm not likely to forget.

Here's the first leg of our return trip, from Whitestown to just south of Wolcott, Ind., a distance of 109 km:

That took us 3 hours and 41 minutes, an average of 29.6 km/h. People ride bikes faster than that.

You can see spots where we got off Interstate 65 and followed Google's instructions to take alternate roads, because I-65 had an average speed of a portly beagle. (I'm not making up the comparison. I'm talking about a specific beagle.)

As it turned out, though, Google had no data at all about the alternate roads until people started driving on them. So when Google said "take County Road 50 N to County Road 500 W" because it thought no one was on those roads, that was true until Google told 300 people to take them.

That made getting back on I-65 a new kind of hell as stoplights set up to admit the 2 or 3 cars usually going through an intersection completely failed to clear the 5-km line of cars trying to turn.

We finally learned our lesson, too late, after we gave up on Google Maps and lit out on US-231 towards Wolcott. From that point until we got onto the Dan Ryan expressway in Chicago we averaged about 90 km/h. We ignored Google and paralleled I-65 until it looked like the Interstate had finally cleared up.

The other thing we learned was, if there's a 40-minute line for the bathroom, leave. We found a couple of gas stations with no lines just 5 minutes from "Hub Plaza" on the map above.

And as a bonus, we got to see a magnificent sunset over the fields of central Indiana that we would not have seen from the Interstate.

The total return time from Whitesville to Chicago was 6 hours and 48 minutes.

Next time I travel through rural parts of the US, I'm going to go back to the navigation skills I learned before we had satnav in every car.

One more thing: if the US had the same level of technology and similar transport policies as our peer nations (not to mention China), I would simply have gotten on a high-speed train in downtown Chicago and gotten out in Indianapolis 90 minutes later. Alas, American transportation is still stuck in the mid-1900s, with no likelihood of advancing—especially in a reactionary state like Indiana.

But just to be clear: it was totally worth it. There is nothing like seeing a total solar eclipse. I'm already thinking about going to Spain in 2026.

Rumblings in New Jersey

A 4.8-magnitude earthquake rattled Hundterdon County, N.J., about 45 minutes ago:

The U.S.G.S. reported that the earthquake’s epicenter was in Lebanon, N.J., about 50 miles west of Manhattan. The shaking was reportedly felt in cities from Philadelphia to Boston.

Several East Coast airports issued ground stops halting air traffic in the immediate aftermath.

The New York Police Department said it had no immediate reports of damage, but sirens could be heard all over the city.

Having experienced a couple of magnitude 4+ earthquakes in California, I know how alarming they are, but also how minor. So it's funny to me watching New York and Philadelphia freak out over this little thing in the same way that it amused me when Raleigh, N.C., got 10 mm of snow while I was there. Even moreso because, according to the USGS, the earthquake hit Manhattan with something like a 3.0 magnitude or less—about the shaking you get from a trip on the #7 Subway.

I especially like the Times reporting that "sirens could be heard all over the city," which, if you've ever spent half an hour in New York, seems akin to "trees could be seen all over the forest."

I hope everyone in the affected region safely rights their lawn chairs and stops their hanging plants from swinging before too long.

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.

Lovely March weather we're having

We have a truly delightful mix of light rain and snow flurries right now that convinced me to shorten Cassie's lunchtime walk from 30 minutes to 15 minutes to just 9 minutes each time I came to a street corner. I don't even think I'll make 10,000 steps today, because neither of us really wants to go outside in this crap.

I'm also working on a feature improvement that requires fixing some code I've never liked, which I haven't ever fixed because it's very tricky. I know why I made those choices, but they were always the lesser of two evils.

Anyway, elsewhere in the world:

Finally, the cancellation of the UK's HS-2 project north of Birmingham has left more than 50 homes empty for two years. Can't think why the affected constituencies have flipped from Tory to Labour, can you?

The Internet runs on Doug's code, and Doug just got pwned by the SVR

Remember this XKCD from 2020? With a little help from what researchers think may be the Russian government, that little brick wobbled a bit in the past few days:

The cybersecurity world got really lucky last week. An intentionally placed backdoor in xz Utils, an open-source compression utility, was pretty much accidentally discovered by a Microsoft engineer—weeks before it would have been incorporated into both Debian and Red Hat Linux.

It was an incredibly complex backdoor. Installing it was a multi-year process that seems to have involved social engineering the lone unpaid engineer in charge of the utility.

I simply don’t believe this was the only attempt to slip a backdoor into a critical piece of Internet software, either closed source or open source. Given how lucky we were to detect this one, I believe this kind of operation has been successful in the past. We simply have to stop building our critical national infrastructure on top of random software libraries managed by lone unpaid distracted—or worse—individuals.

The Economist has it in the King's English:

xz Utils is open-source software, which means that its code is public and can be inspected or modified by anyone. In 2022 Lasse Collin, the developer who maintained it, found that his “unpaid hobby project” was becoming more onerous amid long-term mental-health issues. A developer going by the name Jia Tan, who had created an account the previous year, offered to help. For more than two years they contributed helpful code on hundreds of occasions, building up trust. In February they smuggled in the malware.

Jia Tan’s patient approach, supported by several other accounts who urged Mr Collin to pass the baton, hints at a sophisticated human-intelligence operation by a state agency, suggests The Grugq.

Analysis by Rhea Karty and Simon Henniger suggests that the mysterious Jia Tan made an effort to falsify their time zone but that they were probably two to three hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time—suggesting they may have been in eastern Europe or western Russia—and avoided working on eastern European holidays. For now, however, the evidence is too weak to nail down a culprit.

Sleep well...