The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Busy day

Tonight the Apollo Chorus of Chicago has its first in-person rehearsal since 12 March 2020, almost exactly 18 months ago. We're in a new rehearsal space with lots of new people and new challenges (like mandatory mask-wearing while singing). Poor Cassie won't see me for several more hours.

Tomorrow I expect a little more breathing room. Today, though...yikes.

What have we learned?

Elections have consequences. The events of 20 years ago transformed the world in ways I can't imagine happening had the Supreme Court not thrown the 2000 election. Of course, had Al Gore won, the terrorists probably would not have attacked; they wanted the rage and violence that followed as part of their plan to drag the world back to the 12th Century.

But because the president was a draft-dodging chickenhawk, and because his vice-president was a power-hungry paranoid, the terrorists won:

The terms of the debate were set by the Islamic extremists on one side, and Western neoconservatives on the other. People like me found ourselves caught in the middle. Through my entire adolescence and young adulthood, I was forced to distinguish myself from the terrorists, to prove I was one of the “good ones.” George W. Bush had called it a “crusade” against an elusive foe who might be your neighbor. He said that you were either with us or with the terrorists, implying that anyone who did not support the United States was supporting Al Qaeda. Those were the parameters of the post-9/11 era.

Only by getting the West drawn into endless wars abroad, and into plots against enemies at home, could [Osama bin Laden] bankrupt the American behemoth. In the decade since his death, the results have been plain to see: conflict and instability across the greater Middle East; more refugee flows into the West, combined with anti-immigrant violence in response; the rise in America of terrorist attacks carried out by white extremists, goaded on by an authoritarian leader who made a name for himself demonizing Muslims. The surveillance state now has extensive access to every facet of our lives. Trust in political institutions is decaying. Democracy itself is in peril.

[S]omething much worse than terror wounded our society over the last two decades. An essential faith in the future was lost. Perhaps this is true for the end of all empires, and despair always precedes the fall. But if younger generations are to emerge from the darkness of the 9/11 era — and it remains my naïve hope that they will — we must first acknowledge the damage we wrought on ourselves. That was the deepest cut of all.

It helped them that we got everything wrong after 9/11:

The nation’s failures began in the first hours of the attacks and continue to the present day. Seeing how and when we went wrong is easy in hindsight. What’s much harder to understand is how—if at all—we can make things right.

The most telling part of September 11, 2001, was the interval between the first plane crash at the World Trade Center, at 8:46 a.m., and the second, at 9:03. In those 17 minutes, the nation’s sheer innocence was on display.

[A]fter that second crash, and then the subsequent ones at the Pentagon and in the fields outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania, our government panicked. There’s really no other way to say it. Fear spread up the chain of command.

Rather than recognizing that an extremist group with an identifiable membership and distinctive ideology had exploited fixable flaws in the American security system to carry out the 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration launched the nation on a vague and ultimately catastrophic quest to rid the world of “terror” and “evil.”

[R]emoving the terror cases from traditional federal courts and sending them to military tribunals has still produced no closure for the families of 9/11 victims. So far, none of the alleged 9/11 plotters sitting in Guantánamo have faced trial. Military-commission proceedings for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, allegedly a mastermind of the attacks, and four co-defendants are still in a pretrial phase.

DHS has the wrong DNA. Unlike the Justice Department, it has no institutional culture rooted in respect for the rule of law. Unsteeped in America’s traditions of freedom and openness, the new department was built to view everything through a lens of “Can it hurt us?” This corrosive mindset became particularly visible on immigration and border-control issues, as a culture of welcoming new citizens and families shifted to one of questioning and suspicion—especially if you happened to have dark skin.

Meanwhile, for all the original talk of banishing evil from the world, the [Global War on Terror's] seemingly exclusive focus on Islamic extremism has led to the neglect of other threats actively killing Americans. In the 20 years since 9/11, thousands of Americans have succumbed to mass killers—just not the ones we went to war against in 2001. The victims have included worshippers in churchessynagogues, and temples; people at shopping mallsmovie theaters, and a Walmart; students and faculty at universities and community colleges; professors at a nursing school; children in elementarymiddle, and high schools; kids at an Amish school and on a Minnesota Native American reservation; nearly 60 concertgoers who were machine-gunned to death from hotel windows in Las Vegas. But none of those massacres were by the Islamic extremists we’d been spending so much time and money to combat.

Looking back after two decades, I can’t escape the conclusion that the enemy we ended up fighting after 9/11 was ourselves.

Other analyses:

And the New York Times has a running blog on the events of today's anniversary.

Bug report: Garmin Venu - Usability - High severity

Summary: When displaying a notification over a paused activity, swiping down will delete the paused activity instead of the notification, without an Undo feature.

SeverityHigh (accidental but irrevocable data loss)

Steps to reproduce:

  1. Take a PTO day to enjoy a 7-hour outdoor exercise.
  2. Start the exercise on the Garmin Venu device.
  3. Spend 82 minutes in the exercise.
  4. Press Button A on the Venu to pause the activity. The activity will show as Paused, with a Discard (X) indication on the top of the display and a Save (check) indication on the bottom.
  5. Have a friend innocently text you about a nonessential matter. A notification shows up on the Venu display.
  6. As you have done thousands of times before, swipe down to dismiss the notification. The activity is deleted, but the notification just stays there, mocking you.
  7. Stare at the device for a moment in stunned silence.
  8. Frantically swipe up on the device to try to undo the deletion. Nothing happens because there is no Undo feature for this action.
  9. (Omitted)
  10. (Omitted again, but this time with reference to the usability engineers at Garmin who apparently forgot the rule that inadvertent data loss must never happen.)
  11. (Omitted once more, but this time with reference to said engineers' standardized test scores, parentage, and general usefulness to humanity.)
  12. Begin drafting a strongly-worded bug report to share with the above-mentioned Garmin usability engineers.
  13. Spend the next five and a half hours trying to calculate split times without knowing for sure that the first activity was 82 minutes, not 75 or 90.

Device details: Garmin Venu, SW version 6.30, API version 3.2.6

Those PRs only lasted 364 days

I once again walked from Uptown to Lake Bluff, as planned. And I broke all kinds of personal records.

Unfortunately, I discovered a usability bug in Garmin's Venu software that led to me accidentally deleting the first 9.47 km of the walk. I re-started the trace after covering another 530 meters, so the official record starts at 10.0 km:

Add 10 km and 1:27:02 to that data and you get 43.55 km in 6:30:08. My marathon time (42.2 km) was 6:16:55, a 2½-minute improvement over last year. But my marathon course time (including all rests) was 6:50:43, a 20-minute improvement. I completed my second marathon walk on the McCrory Trail in Lake Bluff:

Unlike last year, though, I had to get Cassie to and from day camp. That added about 4,000 steps to the day, leading to a blowout total step count and total distance:

Speaking of Cassie, she decided to reward me for the walk in her own, adorable way:

I should point out that I kind of hurt right now.

Another birthday, another long walk

Just as I did a year ago, I'm planning to walk up to Lake Bluff today, and once again the weather has cooperated. I'll take cloudy skies and 25°C for a 43-kilometer hike. (I would prefer 20°C and cloudy, but I'll take 25°C anyway.)

As I enjoy my breakfast in my sunny, airy office right now, mentally preparing for a (literal) marathon hike, life feels good. Well, until I read these things:

And hey, all you other Chicago athletes, good news! The City now has a website where you can find out the likelihood of the Chicago River giving you explosive diarrhea!

Welcome to autumn

The first day of autumn has brought us lovely cool weather with even lovelier cool dewpoints. We expect similar weather through the weekend. I hope so; Friday I plan another marathon walk, and Saturday I'm throwing a small party.

Meanwhile, we have a major deliverable tomorrow at my real job, and Cassie has a routine vet check-up this afternoon. But with this weather, I'm extra happy that I moved my office to the sunroom.

End-of-summer reading

Only about 7 more hours of meteorological summer remain in Chicago. I opened my windows this afternoon for the first time in more than two weeks, which made debugging a pile of questionable code* more enjoyable.

Said debugging required me to put these aside for future reading:

Finally, one tiny bit of good news: more Americans believe in evolution than ever before, perhaps due to the success of the SARS-COV-2 virus at evolving.

Goodbye, Summer 2021. It's been a hoot.

* Three guesses who wrote the questionable code. Ahem.

Thank you, T-Mobile

I've just spent the last 45 minutes transferring all my auto-pay accounts to a new credit card after my bank notified me that someone in Berlin tried to use my old card to buy something on a French website. Since this happened just a couple of days after T-Mobile once again lost control of millions of customer records, I assume that's how my card number wound up with a European criminal.

Or maybe it came from one of the companies whose accounts I just had to update? According to C-Net, "T-Mobile says there's no indication any consumer financial data, such as credit card or other payment information, was compromised." Uh huh.

Until companies have to endure real consequences for their own crappy security, this will continue to happen.

Getting the band back together

In a few minutes I'm hosting only the second in-person thing my chorus has done in the past 18 months: our last board meeting of the summer. We're all set to start in-person rehearsals on the 13th, though we will probably have to wear masks until our performances. That'll be weird—but at least we'll be in the same room.

Other choruses in Chicago have the same challenges:

“COVID shut us down completely because singing is a superspreader event,” said Jimmy Morehead, artistic director for the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus. Immediately, they canceled all shows and in-person rehearsals.

But they set virtual rehearsals for the same time, hoping to provide connection.

“The twofold reason why people join the chorus is to either just sing, or make friends, and so we wanted to make sure that people didn’t feel alienated and didn’t feel isolated,” Morehead said. Everyone shared what they did that week, what they watched on Netflix or what they cooked.

In person, Morehead was used to being able to give quick feedback. On Zoom, “I have to trust and hope and pray that they’re learning and doing everything correctly.” The Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus pulled off live online shows, where people performed from their home.

Some of our singers also perform with CGMC, and I've talked to Jimmy a couple of times during the pandemic. We are all overjoyed to get back to rehearsals, even if it means proof of vaccination and big ugly masks.