The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Margaret Atwood on the Alito draft opinion

Canadian author Margaret Atwood wrote The Handmaid's Tale in the 1980s, when the establishment of a theocracy in 21st-century Massachusetts seemed like science fiction. Today, she worries she might only have gotten the location wrong:

Although I eventually completed this novel and called it The Handmaid’s Tale, I stopped writing it several times, because I considered it too far-fetched. Silly me. Theocratic dictatorships do not lie only in the distant past: There are a number of them on the planet today. What is to prevent the United States from becoming one of them?

For instance: It is now the middle of 2022, and we have just been shown a leaked opinion of the Supreme Court of the United States that would overthrow settled law of 50 years on the grounds that abortion is not mentioned in the Constitution, and is not “deeply rooted” in our “history and tradition.” True enough. The Constitution has nothing to say about women’s reproductive health. But the original document does not mention women at all.

Let’s look at the First Amendment. It reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” The writers of the Constitution, being well aware of the murderous religious wars that had torn Europe apart ever since the rise of Protestantism, wished to avoid that particular death trap.

t ought to be simple: If you believe in “ensoulment” at conception, you should not get an abortion, because to do so is a sin within your religion. If you do not so believe, you should not—under the Constitution—be bound by the religious beliefs of others. But should the Alito opinion become the newly settled law, the United States looks to be well on the way to establishing a state religion. Massachusetts had an official religion in the 17th century. In adherence to it, the Puritans hanged Quakers.

If Justice Alito wants you to be governed by the laws of the 17th century, you should take a close look at that century. Is that when you want to live?

I sure don't. Why do Republicans?

Monty the piping plover dies suddenly

The male of the Montrose Beach endangered piping plover couple, who has spent the last three weeks waiting for his true love to return, died yesterday:

“It is with great sadness that we confirm the passing of Monty, one of the Montrose Beach piping plovers,” said Irene Tostado, of the Chicago Park District.

Tamima Itani, of the Chicago Piping Plovers group, shared more details, saying Monty died Friday afternoon.

“He was observed gasping for air before dropping and passing away,” said Itani.

Great Lakes piping plovers numbered only 26 known individuals as recently as 1990, but conservation—like the protection given Monty and Rose since they arrived in Chicago three years ago—has brought the number up to about 140.

Sad news indeed.

Total Perspective Vortex

NPR did a segment this morning on the 1978 movie Grease, which correspondent Dori Bell had never seen—since, you know, she's a late Millennial. As I listened to the movie, while slowly waking up and patting Cassie, the timeline of the movie and the play just made me feel...old.

The play, which premiered in 1971, takes place in the fall of 1958. The movie came out in 1978.

So try this out, with the dates changed a bit: The play premiered in 2015 and takes place in 2002.

Oh, it gets better, Gen-Xers and Boomers: Grease the movie is to us today what It Happened One Night was to people in 1978. Because 1978 is 44 years ago, as 1934 was 44 years before 1978.

So, sure, Bell had trouble relating to Grease for the same reasons people just after the Vietnam War would have trouble relating to a movie made in the depths of the Great Depression.

Time for my Geritol...

The Elizabeth Line opens this month

The London Underground gets a new line on May 24th. Eventually, you can take the Elizabeth Line from Heathrow to Essex in one go; for now, you have to change twice. But it still adds about 10% more capacity to the Tube:

The Elizabeth line will initially operate as three separate railways, with services from Reading, Heathrow and Shenfield connecting with the central tunnels from autumn this year. When the final stage is complete, customers will be able to travel seamlessly from Abbey Wood to Heathrow and Reading, and from Shenfield to Heathrow.

  • Shenfield and the central section of the route will need to change trains at Liverpool Street, walking to/from the new Elizabeth line Liverpool Street station
  • Reading or Heathrow and the central section will need to change trains at Paddington, walking to/from the new Paddington Elizabeth line station
  • Paddington and Abbey Wood only - no changes needed

The line has all-new trains, all-new signals, and all-new controls, making it "one of the most complex digital railways in the world," according to TfL.

The Heathrow to Paddington route looks like it could give the Heathrow Express some competition, as £6 is less than £25, even if the route takes twice as long.

Vladimir Putin, angry child

Julia Ioffe, a Soviet refugee who knows more about Russia than just about any other American journalist, fills in the gaps on Russian dictator Vladimir Putin's childhood. In sum, he's an angry, insecure street kid from the 'hood:

The West’s obsession with Putin’s K.G.B. past often misses the biographical detail that for most Russians, especially those of his generation, is especially glaring: Putin is the street urchin, all grown up. The way he sits, slouching contemptuously; the way he only trusts childhood friends (and doesn’t fire them despite their incompetence); the way he punishes betrayal because he values loyalty above everything else. The way he enforces social hierarchy, like waiting until oligarch Oleg Deripaska was seated at the other end of a long table to ask for his pen back. The way he talks, using the slang of the dvor that, because of where so many of these street boys ended up, is also the argot of the vast Russian penal system.

[My Russian family] all see, for example, how much [Putin] is still bothered—despite his age, wealth, and absolute power—by the fact that he is short. Being so short and slight would have been a massive handicap in the dvor, and it bred bitterness, resentment, and insecurity in the boys unfortunate enough to be petite late bloomers. You can see it to this day: Putin has a designated photographer who knows which angle will transform the Russian president, making him look no smaller than his interlocutor.

The dvor taught Putin many things, lessons that shape his thinking and actions to this day: that might makes right, that existing hierarchies can only be changed through violence, that force is the only language that matters, that power is always a zero-sum game. There are no win-win outcomes in the dvor.

Putin is a little punk who now controls 3,000 nuclear weapons. So don't worry about whether he's rational; he is. But he rationally evaluates the world as a little kid on the streets of Leningrad in post-WWII rubble, where he learned people get farther with a kind word and a gun than you can with just with a kind word. Just like Al Capone.

In Chicago, spring lasts 6 hours

At 7am Monday, it was 12°C at Inner Drive Technology World Headquarters. By 6pm the temperature had gone up to 26.5°C, then 29.8°C at 2pm Tuesday, then 29.1°C at 3:15pm yesterday, before a cold front finally ploughed through and got us down to lovely sleeping weather right before I turned in:

The slow rise in my indoor temperature from 7am to 5pm was just my normal A/C program, as was the decline when the A/C turned on at 5. Then at 6, I discovered that the cold front had gone through, so I opened the windows.

Overnight, though, this happened:

This did not lead to a restful sleep, but did apparently lead to a backache.

I'm going to leave my windows open out of optimism that the forecast is accurate and today's high will only hit 27°C. But if it's above 25°C at 6pm, I'm giving up and turning on the A/C. I need sleep.

Such is the end of spring in Chicago.

Update, 3:15pm: I tried, man. But after sweating through two meetings and watching Cassie move from the couch to the hardwood flor, I gave up and turned on the AC. Now it's 31.5°C outside and a dry 24.4°C inside:

Mikkeller Bar, San Francisco

Welcome to an extra stop on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Mikkeler Bar, 34 Mason St., San Francisco
Train line: BART, Powell
Time from Chicago: about 4½ hours by air
Distance from station: 200 m

While in San Francisco last weekend, I happened across a brewpub that would fit the Brews & Choos ethos perfectly, were it in Chicago. The Mikkeller Bar in San Francisco serves a variety of craft beer, mostly their own Danish brews, but also some American varieties.

I tried three beers, the Weldwerks Mosaic Extra Extra Juicy Bits (DIPA, 8.6%), Mikkeller's Hop Opera NEDIPA (9%), and Mikkeller's Windy Hill (NEIPA, 7%). Of the three, I liked the Windy Hill enough to have a second.

It's an interesting place with a vibe that I assume came from a collision between Denmark and Northern California. It also has some deeply weird elements, like this, which rumor says came from the building's previous owner, presumably after he no longer needed it:

I'm glad I stopped in. Pity, though, that not a lot of breweries in the Bay Area would fit the Brews & Choos Project. But hey, it was a fun surprise.

Beer garden? No
Dogs OK? No
Televisions? None
Serves food? Full menu
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

California

I popped out to San Francisco this past weekend, then had a ton of things to work on today that precluded posting any of these photos.

So, from south to north order, starting with Moss Beach, including a WWII-era anti-aircraft bunker on the left:

Just a short way from there is what used to be a scary section of the Pacific Coast Highway, now a bike trail:

The Powell end of the Powell & Mason cable car, at Market St:

The Ferry Building:

Looking up California St. from Sansomme:

Transamerica Pyramid:

And the MUNI F line at its terminus in North Beach:

Just one or two stories today

Sheesh:

And finally, when I left for San Francisco on Saturday morning, it was 10°C and sunny. Here we are about 76 hours later and it's 30°C. We really don't have spring or fall here some years.

Monday morning round-up

According to my Garmin, I got almost 18 hours of sleep the past two nights, but also according to my Garmin (and my groggy head), few of those hours made a difference. I take some of the blame for that, but on the other hand, someday I want to stay in a hotel room where I can control when the air conditioner turns on and off.

Anyway, while I slept fitfully, these stories passed through my inbox:

And finally, good news for the Brews & Choos Project: Lagunitas plans to re-open their taproom later this year.