The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Two big 20th anniversaries today (and a centennial)

We typically think of January 1st as the day things happen. But December 31st is often the day things end.

On 31 December 1999, two things ended at nearly the same time: the presidency in Russia of Boris Yeltsin, and the American control of the Panama Canal Zone.

Also twenty years ago, my company gave me a $1,200 bonus ($1,893 in 2019 dollars) and a $600 suite for two nights in midtown Manhattan because I volunteered to spend four hours at our data center on Park Avenue, just so that Management could say someone was at the data center on Park Avenue continuously from 6am on New Year's Eve until 6pm on New Year's Day. Since all of the applications I wrote or had responsibility for were less than two years old, literally nothing happened. Does this count as an anniversary? I suppose not.

And one hundred years ago, 31 December 1919 was the last day anyone could legally buy alcohol in the United States for 13 years, as the Volstead Act took effect at midnight on 1 January 1920.

I'm DD tonight, but I will still raise a glass of Champagne to toast these three events.

Photo by Harris & Ewing - Library of Congress, Public Domain, Link

Same job, new title

For the past seven months I've worked as a contract development lead in Milliman's Cyber Risk Solutions group. Today I officially convert to a new full-time role as Director of Product Development for Cyber Risk Solutions.

We have a lot to do in 2020, and I'll post about it what I can. So far we've started building "a new generation risk platform which uses an ensemble of cutting edge techniques to integrate what is known, knowable and imaginable about complex risks in order help risk managers identify, assess and monitor dynamic, high velocity, complex risk such as cyber," as the partner in charge of my practice says. It's cool shit, I say. And I'm happy to make Milliman my permanent home.

The role now shifts a little bit from building out the minimum-viable product to building out the team. I'll still have to write a lot of software, but I'll also expand our partnerships with teams in London, Sydney, and Lyon, and will probably have to visit at least two of those places more than once in 2020. In fact, at minimum I'll be in the London office four times, probably six. The only one sad about this is Parker.

And as an example of how great the management team is, they're starting me today so that my benefits kick in tomorrow. That was a very cool gesture.

Watch this blog for more updates.

Four stories, more related than they seem

Article the first: Stocks have continued going up relentlessly even though producer prices are also up, exports are way down, and wages have stagnated. This means, essentially, our economy is rent-seeking and not producing.

Article the second: President Trump's tariffs have hurt agriculture and commodities, caused job losses, and hit the most vulnerable people in Trump Country. They haven't helped the economy at all. Question: bugs or features?

Article the third: Michiko Katutani draws direct parallels between the "end of normal" of the 2010s and Richard Hofstadter's "paranoid style."

Article the fourth: The 2010s also had good-looking celebrities pushing (almost literal) snake oil on us, and people bought it up wholesale. Actors and other Dunning-Krueger sufferers made billions on imaginary health and wellness products that helped neither health nor wellness.

So as we go into the bottom of the 10s, this is America today. Can't wait to see the '20s on Wednesday when it's all better.

War criminal

New information has come out that retired Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, the convicted (and pardoned) war criminal, did some truly abhorrent shit while fighting in Iraq:

The trove of materials also includes thousands of text messages the SEALs sent one another about the events and the prosecution of Chief Gallagher. Together with the dozens of hours of recorded interviews, they provide revealing insights into the men of the platoon, who have never spoken publicly about the case, and the leader they turned in.

Platoon members said they saw Chief Gallagher shoot civilians and fatally stab a wounded captive with a hunting knife. Chief Gallagher was acquitted by a military jury in July of all but a single relatively minor charge, and was cleared of all punishment in November by Mr. Trump.

In the video interviews with investigators, three SEALs said they saw Chief Gallagher go on to stab the sedated captive for no reason, and then hold an impromptu re-enlistment ceremony over the body, as if it were a trophy.

“I was listening to it, and I was just thinking, like, this is the most disgraceful thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” Special Operator Miller, who has since been promoted to chief, told investigators.

Special Operator Miller said that when the platoon commander, Lt. Jacob Portier, told the SEALs to gather over the corpse for photos, he did not feel he could refuse. The photos, included in the evidence obtained by The Times, show Chief Gallagher, surrounded by other SEALs, clutching the dead captive’s hair; in one photo, he holds a custom-made hunting knife.

From the outside looking in, the culture in the Navy SEALS seems particularly toxic. People like Portier and Gallagher, far from making Americans safer, put other units in danger through their actions. These are the kinds of people President Trump wants to reward, further threatening our troops overseas.

Wild weather continues

Yesterday we broke a heat record; today the temperature feels more or less normal for late December; this weekend it will get warm again. Welcome to Chicago:

The record-breaking warmth comes on the heels of another historic ranking. With a high of 57 Wednesday, this year now ranks No. 2 on the list of warmest Christmas Days in Chicago since the mid-1800s, when records started being kept. The warmest Dec. 25 ever in Chicago was 17°C degrees in 1982.

But after the daytime high pushes the record for warmest Dec. 26 further out of reach, the city should brace for a rollercoaster of cold and warm days, [meteorologist Mark] Ratzer warned.

“Very late afternoon, it looks like probably just after dark, so between 5 and 7, a front will go through, and we’ll cool down markedly,” Ratzer said. “We’ll drop pretty quickly into the single-digits Celsius, which isn’t that bad, but overnight we’ll be back around freezing.”

After a brisk Friday, the temperature again will rebound into the low-teens Celsius in time for a mild and comfortable weekend, although it will be rainy, he said.

“Then we’ll cool off again by Monday,” Ratzer said.

Parker did not like the change at all, moping around on his two walks today like the ancient dog he has become. Maybe this weekend he'll feel more spring in his step again?

Second-warmest Christmas; warmest Boxing Day

Yesterday's 14°C high temperature made it the second-warmest Christmas on record in Chicago, missing by a lot the 17°C record set in 1982. The warmth continued overnight: the temperature at O'Hare hit 14°C just after midnight, surpassing the 13°C record for December 26th set in 1971. Today's forecast calls for 20°C.

These temperatures would be normal in October and April—or Atlanta and Dallas.

Yesterday Parker got an hour and a quarter of walks; today he'll get about the same. And I may even open windows in my apartment.

Temperatures should get more seasonal promptly. A cold front should get us back to normal December temperatures tonight, and we have rain and snow coming in Sunday night. New Year's Eve should give us a close-to-normal 1°C high.

End of the decade? Yes, dammit

Nineteen years ago, I banged the drum pretty hard that 2000 was not the first year of the 21st Century, because the Christian calendar has no year zero. But yesterday, I disagreed entirely with Sandi Duncan, managing editor of the Farmers' Almanac, during her interview on NPR:

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST: I mean, it feels like a big deal, 2019 to 2020. Why is there such a debate about whether or not this is the end of the decade?

SANDI DUNCAN: You know, it's really interesting. But I hate to tell you it's not.

MARTIN: It's not?

DUNCAN: Actually, no. We ran a story several years ago. In fact, you know, remember the big celebration in 1999. People thought that the new millennial was going to start the next year. But really, a decade begins actually with the year ending in the numeral one. There was never a year zero. So when we started counting time way back when, it goes one through 10. So a decade is 10 years. So in actuality, the next decade won't start until January 1, 2021.

That's such a narrow technical point—I should know, I made the same point in 1999—but it isn't what Martin asked.

Duncan concluded, "I mean, what do you call the decades of the '20s? I guess it's the '20s, but is that the 1920s or the 2020s? So it's one of those fun things that you can argue about until next - the new decade, which starts on January 1, 2021."

We'll call it "the '20s" because, you know, the numbers all have 20 in them.

So, let's clarify. 2000 was the first year of the 2000s but the last year of the 20th century. The 21st century began on 1 January 2001. So 2020 will be the first year of the '20s (duh!) but technically, just technically, it will be the last year of the 202nd decade of the Common Era.

Got that?

Happy Christmas all

Every year at this time, it's important to talk about language skills. There is a tribe in the remotest part of the Amazon forest who, every December 25th, dance around a large pile of dirt, singing to it and telling it stories. This is because of a tragic mistranslation by a missionary centuries ago, who told them, "On this day the ton of sod was bored."