The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

My glamorous life

In my profession, I get to sit at Peet's Coffee at 6:30am and watch action-packed videos like this:

I know what you're thinking: "slow down, tigerblood. Slow down."

I'm also pushing a new build of customer software up to production, and waiting for my coffee to kick in.

At least I'm not blowing three runs in the 10th with a damned balk, like other people I could name.

The dark side of refinancing

...or, how I took advantage of the Middle Class Housing Subsidy but skipped an important step.

In December 2011, I reduced my home mortgage interest rate from 6.25% to 3.125%, which thanks to the commutative property of multiplication, reduced my home mortgage interest by 50% year-over-year. What I forgot to do, however, was reduce my tax withholding allowances for 2012, which increased the taxes I owe for 2012 by an amount equal to 1/3 of the amount I saved on mortgage interest.

Well, I just filed my 2012 taxes online, and later today I will write a check to the U.S. Treasury for a lot more money than I expected. (I fixed my allowances in January, when I discovered this horrible oversight.)

Go ahead and call me stupid. You're allowed.


I used not having my charger with me as an excuse to leave my laptop off for 36 hours. That didn't prevent me getting email, of course. (Who can live without email?)

Because of some family scheduling, while I'm in the Bay Area this weekend the Giants are at Wrigley, meaning I'm missing games there and at AT&T Park.

I listened to the game yesterday driving down from the city to the peninsula, catching the Cubs 2-run homer in the 7th, followed by the nausea-inducing announcement that they brought Carlos Marmol in as a reliever. Yep: Cubs lost, 3-2.

Tomorrow I have an 8am conference call, and Tuesday I have a 7am call, but until then...I'm on vacation. I might even watch today's game on TV.

That nagging feeling

Only after passing through the TSA checkpoint at O'Hare just now did I realize I've forgotten to bring a laptop charger. Fortunately my folks have a Dell at home. Otherwise I wouldn't be able to do any work for four whole days. How awful would that be?

Of course, there's always my tablet, my phone, their computers and iPad...

How much again is a ticket to Sint Maarten?

Steganography for the masses

Via Sullivan, a new Google Chrome plugin that allows you to embed secret messages in photos you post on Facebook:

That’s the idea behind Secretbook, a browser extension released this week by 21-year-old Oxford University computer science student and former Google intern Owen-Campbell Moore. With the extension, anyone — you, your sister, a terrorist — could share messages hidden in JPEG images uploaded to Facebook without the prying eyes of the company, the government or anyone else noticing or figuring out what the messages say. The only way to unlock them is through a password you create.

The extension is only available for the Google Chrome browser — Campbell-Moore cites its developer tools and popularity — and the messages are restricted to 140 characters. Less certain is what Facebook thinks; a spokesman declined to comment. But it’s still the first time anyone’s managed to figure out how to automate digital steganography — the practice of concealing messages inside computer files — through Facebook, the world’s biggest social media platform. Unlike cryptography, which uses ciphertext to encrypt messages, steganographic messages are simply hidden where no one would think to look.

Calling Bruce Schneier...

At least the drought is over...

We've had a bit of rain this month. In fact, we haven't seen the sun since Monday:

Our abundant April showers have made this the 20th wettest April to date on record. O'Hare has seen rain 6 out of the opening 11 days this month totalling 48.5 mm or 18.3 mm above average. Saturday is the only dry day in our 7 day forecast with the active April pattern continuing next week.

The good news is that recent rain has helped alleviate the dry conditions that existed over northern and northwest Illinois. For the first time in several months none of Illinois is in drought or even "abnormally dry". However, most of Minnesota and Iowa are experiencing drought conditions and nearly half of Wisconsin is in at least a moderate drought.

Of course, the rain is keeping us cool...and the cool is keeping us it's beginning to feel a lot more like London than Chicago.

The GOP's history problem

U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) gave a speech at Howard University yesterday in which he reminded the students that Republicans founded the NAACP. They already knew this, just as they already knew that the GOP before 1960 was a completely different party than the GOP after 1960. Paul seemed to ignore that nuance:

As Rand Paul acknowledged in his speech, he may not be the most obvious choice to spearhead the GOP’s outreach to African Americans. His first foray into national news came in 2010 when he criticized the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for encroaching on property rights and suggested that ending segregation should have been left to the free market. His father, former Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), had an even more tortured history with race that included the publication of a series of inflammatory newsletters under his name, an issue that would follow him throughout his own presidential runs. But the younger Paul backed down soon after making the remarks in 2010 and ended up clarifying that he would have voted for the Civil Rights Act had he been in office at the time, despite his reservations about provisions banning discrimination by business.

What the Howard students knew, and what Paul hoped they didn't, is that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 presented to the Republican Party the opportunity to win southern Democrats to their coalition. President Johnson himself recognized that supporting civil rights would cost the Democrats the next few elections—but it was the right thing to do anyway.

So Paul either has no memory or hopes that other people don't. Republicans capitalized on southern white outrage, if not out-and-out racism, to win elections. Now they're surprised that people are holding them accountable?

Striking a blow for freedom care

Krugman summarizes the GOP's worst, but last remaining, argument against Obamacare:

There is, however, an alternative. From the enthusiastic reception American conservatives gave Friedrich Hayek’s “Road to Serfdom,” to Reagan, to the governors now standing in the way of Medicaid expansion, the U.S. right has sought to portray its position not as a matter of comforting the comfortable while afflicting the afflicted, but as a courageous defense of freedom.

Conservatives love, for example, to quote from a stirring speech Reagan gave in 1961, in which he warned of a grim future unless patriots took a stand. (Liz Cheney used it in a Wall Street Journal op-ed article just a few days ago.) “If you and I don’t do this,” Reagan declared, “then you and I may well spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it once was like in America when men were free.” What you might not guess from the lofty language is that “this” — the heroic act Reagan was calling on his listeners to perform — was a concerted effort to block the enactment of Medicare.

The more things change...