The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Between a demo and a 5-point feature

I'm running all 538 unit tests in my real job's application right now after updating all the NuGet packages. This is why I like automated testing: if one of the updated packages broke anything, tests will fail, and I can fix the affected code. (So far they've all passed.)

This comes after a major demo this morning, and a new feature that will consume the rest of the sprint, which ends next Monday. Oh, and I have two opera rehearsals this week. Plus I have to vote tomorrow, which could take 15 minutes or two hours.

So it's not likely I'll have time to read all of these:

Regardless, I'm setting an alarm for just past 4am to see the total lunar eclipse tonight. NOAA predicts 17% sky cover, so I should get a good view of it. Unless I go back to sleep.

Count me among the Standard Time "stans"

The Daylight Saving Time arguments that crop up twice a year encapsulate American decision-making so well. People argue for one position or another based on what works best for them; people predict doom and gloom if their view doesn't prevail; Congress makes a change that everyone hates (and, as in 1975, they have to repeal); and not a lot changes. It also has nuances that most people don't understand (or care to) and stems from a social construct completely within our control that people think is a fixed law of the universe (i.e., clock time).

Because I live just east of my time zone's standard meridian, and at a latitude that sees a six-hour daylight difference between solstices, I believe year-round standard time would be best. Katherine Wu agrees:

I gotta say, the science (pushes glasses up nose) largely backs me and my fellow standardians up. Several organizations, including the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, have for years wanted to do away with DST for good. “Standard time is a more natural cycle,” Pelayo told me. “In nature we fall asleep to darkness and we wake up to light.” When people spend most of their year out of sync with these rhythms, “it reduces sleep duration and quality,” says Carleara Weiss, a behavioral-sleep-medicine expert at the University at Buffalo. The onset of DST has been linked to a bump in heart attacks and strokes, and Denise Rodriguez Esquivel, a psychologist at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, told me that our bodies may never fully adjust to DST. We’re just off-kilter for eight months.

For years, some researchers have argued that perma-DST would cut down on other societal woes: crimetraffic accidentsenergy costs, even deer collisions. But research on the matter has produced mixed or contested results, showing that several of those benefits are modest or perhaps even nonexistent. And although sticking with DST might boost late-afternoon commerce, people might hate the shift more than they think. In the 1970s, the U.S. did a trial run of year-round DST … and it flopped.

We could also redraw the time zone boundaries to move more people closer to the center meridians, but that would involve even more nuance and recognition that these things are human constructs we can change.

(Also: I wonder if Michigan is so weird because so much of the state is in the wrong time zone?)

How to light $44 billion on fire

Elon Musk had a lot going for him when he started his first company: rich parents, being white in Apartheid South Africa, malignant narcissism, etc. Like other well-known billionaire charlatans, he has had his share of spectacular successes, and still decided to find his own little corner of the Peter Principle. So let it be with Twitter:

Some might say Elon Musk, who last week became Twitter’s official new owner, has buyer’s remorse. But that implies he had actually wanted the thing before he bought it. Back in April, the mercurial billionaire made an overpriced takeover bid, which he then tried to back out of.

Perhaps understandably: Twitter has been plagued by problems for years, of both the monetary and moral kinds. When Musk made his offer, tech stocks were already tanking, and it was clear he had neither a plan for fixing the company nor the inclination to fritter away a big chunk of his fortune figuring it out. After some legal back-and-forth, he reluctantly agreed to complete the $44 billion acquisition.

He has already begun pursuing a few controversial changes. They include charging users for their “blue check” verification badges, as well as developing a new paid-video feature, which will probably be used for “adult” material. But his most perplexing moves involve simultaneous plans to A) police content less, while B) increasing advertising revenue.

These objectives are somewhat at odds.

Mother Jones's Ali Breland wonders if Musk "made it his job to look dumb:"

[A]s has become increasingly obvious after Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter this week, getting rich does not make you deserving of praise. In fact, Elon Musk’s Twitter timeline is making one of the clearest cases that meritocracy is a myth. The reason Silicon Valley people, to their absolute chagrin, can’t be idolized like the maniacal bankers that came before them, is that they got rich by engineering the precise platforms that make them look awful.

The problem with the new tech sets’ desire to be heralded is that they got rich off tools for their own demise. There was a lengthy period in which Mark Zuckerberg was idolized. He achieved the national dream of going to Harvard, then eschewed it and conventional paths to wealth into a massively successful tech company and balked at a $1 billion offer to sell it years before it became profitable. The more Zuckerberg went out on his own platform though, posting videos of himself “smoking meats” and just generally being awkward and charisma-less, the harder it became to believe that his life is aspirational.

Marc Andreessen, who also invested in Twitter, albeit much earlier than Musk, could have ridden off into the metaphorical sunset looking like a genius for developing Mosaic and then Netscape, pioneering how we would all experience the internet. Instead, he showed us all of his mental shortcomings, by tweeting about the harms of anti-colonialism; liking tweets from people like date-rape apologist and conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich; and being thin-skinned by blocking anyone who said anything slightly less than complimentary about him. Again: He did all of this on a platform he funded.

Elon Musk bought Twitter and Twitter makes people dislike Elon Musk. For once, the story of the stupidity of rich people—and how they got rich—is making sense to the masses. It just had to be written by the overlords themselves, in 280 characters or less.

Regardless of what happens with Twitter, I'm glad that the SNAFU of the US House of Representatives has at least forestalled an even bigger stupidity, year-round daylight saving time...

The 118th Congress

If, as seems likely, the Republicans take over the House next January, they will likely either blow up the United States welfare state or the world economy, depending on how the Democrats react:

In several recent posts I’ve told you that most of the near-term (pre-2024) dangers of a GOP House majority are manageable. I don’t mean no big deal. It’s disaster after disaster. But I mean manageable in the sense of things the country can get through. With one exception, a debt limit hostage taking stand off in 2023 in which House Republicans force the first US debt default in US history.

The demand from House Republicans will likely be some combination of ‘Repeal all the stuff you passed in 2021’ or ‘Cut Social Security and Medicare’ or we force a US debt default. Adam thinks that faced with this cataclysm Democrats, albeit kicking and screaming, will feel compelled to relent because the consequences of default are that bad. For the elected officials, especially on the Senate side, that may well be true. But I have a different read on those elected officials constituents. I think there is less than zero appetite among Democrats for even entertaining the idea of such a negotiation. I think any move in this direction will spur a rebellion among Democrats nationwide. This is why I think the country will go into default. Because House Republicans are entirely ready to shoot the hostage. Indeed, there is a portion of the GOP House caucus that is not only entirely willing to take that step but is eager to do so.

Krugman examines the GOP's targets, and what they mean:

Republican plans to cut Medicare and Social Security would impose widespread hardship, with some of the worst impacts falling on red-state, noncollege whites — that is, the party’s most loyal base.

Why, then, does the party want to do this? We needn’t take claims that it’s about fiscal responsibility seriously; a fiscally responsible party wouldn’t be seeking to make the Trump tax cuts permanent or oppose giving the I.R.S. the resources it needs to crack down on tax cheats. What we’re seeing, instead, is that despite its populist rhetoric, the G.O.P. is still very much a party of and for the rich.

If Republicans win one or both houses of Congress, they’ll try to achieve their goals not though the normal legislative process but through blackmail. They’ll threaten to provoke a global financial crisis by refusing to raise the debt limit. If Democrats defang that threat, Republicans will try to get what they want by making America ungovernable in other ways.

In what other ways will the GOP make the country ungovernable? Georgetown Law professor Jeff Chavetz lays it out:

Most obviously, the pace of legislation is likely slow to a trickle — though perhaps not dry up completely. But a Republican House could do more than simply reduce the amount of legislation passed by Congress; it could also use powers entirely within its own control to assert itself in the political sphere. It would very likely use the chamber’s oversight powers aggressively, which might include keeping a close eye on the administration’s carrying out of laws passed in the current Congress. So, for example, we should expect Republican-controlled committees to keep a sharp watch for any purportedly wasteful spending under the Inflation Reduction Act — and if they find anything amiss, to make as big a stink as possible.

If Republicans capture the Senate as well as the House, their options will expand even more. They could pass at least some messaging legislation that President Biden would be forced to veto, thus setting up advantageous (for the Republicans) policy contrasts in advance of the 2024 elections. And they could refuse to confirm most (or all) of Mr. Biden’s nominees, making it harder for him to process his agenda through executive agencies and to reshape the federal judiciary.

At the most extreme, they could impeach President Biden or members of his administration.

Because, remember, the Republicans don't want to govern; they want to rule. This has been true for half a century. And unfortunately, we might have neglected vast swaths of our citizens for so long that the country might have to experience something worse than Democratic elitism or ordinary Republican country-club governance before we return to our senses.

The American Right, having gotten this close to power, won't give up soon. Even though we can see how much damage they'll cause in the next generation, we might just have to suffer through it.

Threads to read

Here are some short thoughts that add up to longer thoughts today:

Finally, from 2021, the Calgary Real Estate Board (no kidding) extols the virtues of the conversation pit.

Happy November!

I've spent the morning playing matchmaker between disparate time-streams of data, trying to see what relationships (if any) exist between them. They all seem pretty cool to each other at the moment, which is sub-optimal from my perspective. If I can get a couple to get together amicably, then I can get baby time streams to analyze, which I need desperately.

Speaking of sub-optimal:

OK, back to work. Does anyone have an aphrodisiac for data streams?

Foggy Hallowe'en

A week after moving, I'm averaging 30 minutes more sleep and my Body Battery score is back to normal levels after two weeks of waking up like a zombie. I might even have all the boxes unpacked by this time next year.

Meanwhile, me shifting a couple tonnes of matter a few hundred meters did not affect the world's spin by any measurable amount:

Finally, the Tribune reviewed a new New York-style pizzeria in East Lakeview that...doesn't sound like it sells the greasy slices I used to get on Lexington after midnight. But I'll try it.

Putin remains master strategist

Thirty-five weeks into his 3-day war, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin woke up to a new IAEA report that his invasion of Ukraine may cause a permanent decline in Russian fortunes:

The energy crisis sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is likely to speed up rather than slow down the global transition away from fossil fuels and toward cleaner technologies like wind, solar and electric vehicles, the world’s leading energy agency said Thursday.

While some countries have been burning more fossil fuels such as coal this year in response to natural gas shortages caused by the war in Ukraine, that effect is expected to be short-lived, the International Energy Agency said in its annual World Energy Outlook, a 524-page report that forecasts global energy trends to 2050.

Instead, for the first time, the agency now predicts that worldwide demand for every type of fossil fuel will peak in the near future.

Russia, which had been the world’s leading exporter of fossil fuels, is expected to be hit especially hard by the energy disruptions it has largely created. As European nations race to reduce their reliance on Russian oil and gas, Russia is likely to face challenges in finding new markets in Asia, particularly for its natural gas, the report said. As a result, Russian fossil fuel exports are unlikely to return to their prewar levels.

Josh Marshall connects the dots:

What interested me most about the report however is the impact of the Ukraine War on Russia itself. Russia has spent decades building up both the economic engine of its fossil fuel industry as well as its geopolitical power. The report includes a range of scenarios for how the 2022 energy crisis impact plays out over the coming decades. But in each scenario Russia’s role as an energy producer goes into permanent decline. As the report’s executive summary puts it, “Russian fossil fuel exports never return – in any of our scenarios – to the levels seen in 2021, and its share of internationally traded oil and gas falls by half by 2030…”

That's the problem with malignant narcissism: if you think you're the smartest guy in the room, and you discount everyone else's opinion because of it, you won't know you're wrong until reality asserts itself.

Lunch reading

I'm starting to adapt my habits and patterns to the new place. I haven't figured out where to put everything yet, especially in my kitchen, but I'll live with the first draft for a few weeks before moving things around.

I'm also back at work in my new office loft, which is measurably quieter than the previous location—except when the Metra comes by, but that just takes a couple of seconds.

I actually have the mental space to resume my normal diet of reading. If only I had the time. Nevertheless:

Finally, does anyone want to go to New York with me to see a play about Robert Moses starring Ralph Fiennes? Apparently tickets are only $2,000 a pop...