The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

63 years, 216 days

Today, Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the Seas Queen, Defender of the Faith, has just moments ago become the longest-reigning monarch in British English history:

At exactly what time Her Majesty out-reigns her great-great grandmother is not precise, due to the uncertainty of the timing of the death of her father, George VI, who died in his sleep. But Buckingham Palace has estimated, to be absolutely safe, she will pass Victoria’s 23,226 days, 16 hours and 23 minutes at around 5.30pm*. That calculation assumes George VI’s death was around 1am, and factors in extra leap days in the reigns of “Elizabeth the Steadfast”, as she has been described, and the Queen Empress.

There will be no bonfires on Wednesday, however. Palace aides have reminded the press of the sensitivity of the occasion given it owes much to the premature death, at the age of 56, of the Queen’s father. “While she acknowledges it as an historic moment, it’s also for her not a moment she would personally celebrate, which is why she has been keen to convey business as usual and no fuss,” said one.

The only living monarch to out-reign the Queen is Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who is two years younger but has reigned for six years longer. However she beats him, and all other contenders, on one matter. According to Guinness World Records, she holds the world record for most currencies featuring the same individual.

* 5:30pm BST is 11:30am CDT, or right about now.

Prince Charles, her heir-apparent, is 66, and also holds the record for being the longest-waiting heir-apparent in English history.

Buffaloed bulls

Long-time readers may remember my shaky association with South Downs livestock, in particular the time I got run off a public footpath by several tons of angry beef. Yesterday, I put to test what my more agriculturally-minded friends have told me often: cows are easily intimidated.

Yesterday's walk through West Sussex included sections of public footpaths on which many enormous animals were grazing. In particular, one section of the walk went about 200 m straight across an open field with absolutely no barriers between me and these guys:

From the moment I entered the field, when the bulls were some distance away, they all noticed me and stared. Now, when predatory animals—dogs, for example—stare, you need to be somewhere else, unless you're armed. I was not armed, nor did I even have a big stick. But more to the point, cattle aren't predators.

It turns out that, under most circumstances, cattle are curious about but wary of humans. So as I'd been advised many times, when they inevitably started approaching me, I simply got loud and kept walking towards the other side. Shouting "Hey!" while pointing directly at them turned out to be a pretty good strategy; even better, for my mental health anyway, was how they got the hell out of my way if I stepped towards them aggressively. Then, once I was safely through the stile at the other end of the field, and my heart was no longer in my throat, I took the photo you see above and patted a few on their noses over the fence.

If you grew up in the country, this seems ridiculous. You know cows are dangerous the same way cars are: if you do something colossally stupid (like running away from them as I did in 1992), you could get seriously hurt. But if you remember that they're herbivores, bred for millennia to be docile, and completely dependent on humans for food, water, and protection from other predators (which they know on some level), cattle are generally harmless.

Plus, in 1992, I encountered young, aggressive bullocks—the one truly dangerous subset of cattle. These guys were steers, which are actually less dangerous than cows with calves.

Again, my rurally-raised friends have to find this hilarious. But I haven't done too many things lately that scared me as much as walking through that field yesterday. I really would have preferred sheep in the field to bulls, too. But at least now I think I'll be much less apprehensive about the next herd of cattle I stumble upon, whenever that happens.

Lots of walking

I logged 24,771 steps yesterday (argh! 229 short!) mostly by walking from Arundel to Amberley in West Sussex. The walk seemed longer than 6 kilometers, but that's what my FitBit counted. I also walked from Victoria Station to my hotel, another 3.9 km, but at a much faster clip than down public footpaths and across fields in the South Downs.

My first stop was The Black Rabbit:

My last stop was The Bridge, where I stopped on similar hikes in 2009 and 1992. And I ended the day at The Blackbird, because of this:

I didn't bring my real camera on this trip, mainly because I didn't want to carry it and I wasn't sure about the weather for today's hike. I'm surprised and satisfied with my phone's camera, though it's not even in the same league as my 7D. It's also not nearly as heavy.

I'll have a couple more photos from the walk later on.

Five hundred million

Long flights give me a chance to catch up on reading. In between disposing of all the back issues of whatever magazines I haven't opened in weeks, and Kindling the novels I've had queued up for months, I also get to read through the emails I've cached for days in anticipation of the downtime.

This morning's cache included the daily Crain's Chicago Business update, whose first article is about how my cost of living is going up. It turns out, the city owes retired municipal employees so much money that the mayor has proposed raising property taxes by $500 million next year. Without getting into too much detail, let me say only that this will cost me about $1,000 if it goes through.

Long-time readers of this blog know I'm not exactly an Ayn-Rand-quoting, anti-tax spewing, adolescent-thinking nut-job. I like democracy and all that. So while I'm not happy about the additional taxes, I accept them, even though I recognize the uncomfortable levels of corruption in the Greatest City in North America. Here's why.

Successive city governments for the last 20 or 30 years made promises to municipal employees that we, as a city, would pay handsome retirement benefits if they would agree to put out fires and arrest criminals. We (through our sort-of-elected representatives) made these promises when no one really wanted to fight crime or fires in Chicago. But the pension guarantees helped make being a city employee in the 1980s and 1990s one of the best gigs around.

In exchange, we got a great fire department, decent policing (despite unrepentant sociopaths like Jon Burge), and overall a much cleaner, hipper city than anyone living here in 1975 could ever have hoped. And we kept taxes low, so that people would move back to the city from their white-flight suburbs, spend money, and demand clean, safe, not-on-fire streets.

Well, now we have to pay up on those promises. And that's OK. (I'm not naive, though. I really want another Shakman suit to claw back all the corruption, but that's a different blog post.)

All these increased property taxes are, essentially, a loan coming due. Chicago in 1985 borrowed money from Chicago in 2015, in order that Chicago in 2015 would be an enviable place to live. Whatever I think of Mayors Daley fils or Emanuel, I believe both have the city's best interests in mind right after their own. (In Chicago, this is considered a noble philosophy.) And while I resent Daley's transparent zipper-lowering on parking meters and a couple of other privatization deals, I believe he really wanted to make the city a better place to live.

That's not how most people see it, I grant. Most people care only about how much they have to pay right now. Thus has it been throughout history, which explains every right-wing government ever*.

It's hard for people to see how everyone really is "in this together." The ideal—I admit, almost never seen in nature—is that a city comprises a group of people who agree to share some responsibilities (police, fire, roads) in exchange for some pro rata contribution. It's not communism; it's civics. I don't want to spend my time building a road to get to the market and neither do you. So let's band together, pool our resources, set up rules to limit cheating as much as we can (without denying the humanity of people who really can't contribute directly), and muddle through.

And if the most effective way to do that is to promise extravagant retirement packages to the people who kept the city clean and safe during one of its worst eras, well, that's OK.

* The basic electoral argument of the political right is simple: taxes take your money and give it to them. It's no coincidence that the right also want to stop you from getting a liberal education, because then you'd learn that (a) them means you to the people selling this line, and (b) no matter how much better your life is under a right-leaning government, it's a hundred times better for right-leaning politicians and their friends. We're all in this together; let's act like it.


I happened to notice just now that the plane I'm on passed within a few hundred meters of 50°N and 50°W, just over the Grand Banks east of Newfoundland. That I was able to notice this goes in the category of things called "I love living in the future," as it involved a mobile phone with GPS and enough memory to store a kilometer-resolution map of the entire hemisphere in its Google Maps app cache.

Within five years we'll have ubiquitous Internet worldwide, and this will seem as quaint as one of Darwin's diary entires from the Galapagos, of course.

I would also like to shout out to American Airlines, who upgraded me on an international segment without me asking—or even realizing it was a possibility. Now, I understand the business reason: they had oversold coach with empty seats in business class. But the gate agent at O'Hare called me personally, on my mobile phone, after I boarded, to give me the upgrade. Why they chose me isn't as much a mystery as I'd like it to be (fare class, elite status), but still, it's not like my loyalty to American or oneworld is flagging. Maybe this kind of treatment is why?

Voodoo software

I'm still doing some R&D with BlogEngine.NET, and I keep finding strange behaviors. This is, of course, part of the fun of open-source software: with many contributors, you get many coding styles. You also don't get a lot of consistency without a single over-mind at the top.

My latest head scratch was about how labels work. I won't go into too many details, except to say, re-saving a code file with no changes in it shouldn't change the behavior of the code file. I'm still puzzling that out.

In any event, it's possible that I may have a stable-enough build with all of the features I want ready in a couple of weeks.

Of course, there's this little matter of 4,941 posts to migrate... That should be fun.

Since yesterday

"I'm Goin' Alone" did win last night, giving us a 12-2 record and another gift certificate that we are certain to plow right back into the bar next time. (It's quite a scam, really, but we're happy to participate.

Also, as promised, here is my annual Parker Day portrait from last night:

He's getting a little greyer around the muzzle, but he's otherwise a happy, healthy mutt. I'm hoping for another half-dozen Parker Days in the future.

Trivial post

"I'm Goin' Alone," my trivia team, is 11-2 since we banded together in March. Can we go 12-2? Or are we goin' home alone?

Tonight's topics:

  • Picture Round: Game Show Hosts
  • General Trivia
  • Audio Round: Songs From Musicians With 1 Name
  • Current Events
  • Random Trivia
  • Speed Round: Crayola Crayons

The speed round requires us to list up to 30 things in that category for one point each. Last week we lost one point on the speed round and two other points overall that brought us in second place. Tonight, we plan to dominate.

Cerulean, FTW!