The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

At some point the record isn't that interesting

Leave it to the WGN Weather Blog to trumpet that we've set a new record for days over 15.6°C before March 15th (12). We've also tied the record for days over 240K (75)! In fact, I'm confident that 2024 will tie the all-time record for days over 240K (366), last set in 2020.

Closer to home (ah, ha ha), I still have two claim forms to fill out in the great National Association of Realtors settlement for anti-competitive commission payments, which has gotten the group to make a modest concession to avoid getting sued again:

The National Association of Realtors, a powerful organization that has set the guidelines for home sales for decades, has agreed to settle a series of lawsuits by paying $418 million in damages and by eliminating its rules on commissions. Legal counsel for N.A.R. approved the agreement early Friday morning, and The New York Times obtained a copy of the signed document.

Americans pay roughly $100 billion in real estate commissions annually, and real estate agents in the United States have some of the highest standard commissions in the world. In many other countries, commission rates hover between 1 and 3 percent. In the United States, most agents specify a commission of 5 or 6 percent, paid by the seller. If the buyer has an agent, the seller’s agent agrees to share a portion of the commission with that agent when listing the home on the market.

The lawsuits argued that N.A.R., and brokerages who required their agents to be members of N.A.R., had violated antitrust laws by mandating that the seller’s agent make an offer of payment to the buyer’s agent, and setting rules that led to an industrywide standard commission. Without that rate essentially guaranteed, agents will now most likely have to lower their commissions as they compete for business

The settlement will pay me a few hundred dollars, even though I could argue that during the settlement period I paid over $10,000 in excess commissions. It gets worse: in three deals, the same agency represented both sides, making it even harder to get a discount or shop around.

I think the best structure for a real-estate commission would start with a flat dollar amount and add bonuses for shortening the time on market. Something like, I'll pay you $10,000 plus 1% of anything above list from the sales proceeds if we sell at or above the listing price. I'll pay another $2,500 if we get a buyer within 7 days and the deal is closed within 42 days. But if we don't get a buyer within 28 days or we close for under 92.5% of the listing price, I'm only paying you $7,500.

The days of paying 6% for a sales agent to do one open house and shoot some photos are over.

Another busy day

Getting ready for a work trip on Monday plus (probably) having to do a demo while on the work trip means I spent most of the day getting ready for the demo. In a bit of geography fun, because the participants in the demo will be in six different time zones from UTC-7 (me) to UTC+10 (the client), I got the short straw, and will (probably) attend the demo at 3:30 am PDT.

I say "probably" because the partners on the call may take mercy on me and let me brief them instead of monitoring the technology in the actual meeting. Probably not, though.

So in this afternoon's roundup of news and features, I'll start with:

  • Teresa Carr's report in Undark explaining how people in "eccentric time localities" (i.e., on the western edges of time zones) experience negative effects that people east of them don't.
  • President Biden's budget proposal includes a $350 million grant to extend the CTA Red Line.
  • Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the country's most-senior Jewish official, gave a scathing speech in the Senate this morning calling on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud) to resign and hold elections. Josh Marshall puts this in context. (tl;dr: it's a big deal, and Schumer is really the only one in Congress with the heft and history with Israel to make this speech.)
  • US Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), who faces 18 felony counts in Federal court, may run for re-election as an independent so that he can use his campaign funds to pay his legal bills. Why anyone would give him money to do this I cannot determine.
  • Chevrolet and other car manufacturers routinely hand over data about how you drive to a company that then hands that data to your auto insurer, because the US does not yet have anything like the GDPR.
  • Julia Ioffe outlines how Ukraine can (sort of) win against Russia if it can hold out until 2025.
  • Hopewell Brewing and other Illinois craft brewers have started selling THC-infused beer, taking advantage of a loophole in both the state's brewing and cannabis laws.

I will now check the weather radar to see how wet I'm going to get on the way home...

Mentally exhausting day, high body battery?

My Garmin watch thinks I've had a relaxing day, with an average stress level of 21 (out of 100). My four-week average is 32, so this counts as a low-stress day in the Garmin universe.

At least, today was nothing like 13 March 2020, when the world ended. Hard to believe that was four years ago. So when I go to the polls on November 5th, and I ask myself, "Am I better off than 4 years ago?", I have a pretty easy answer.

I spent most of today either in meetings or having an interesting (i.e., not boring) production deployment, so I'm going to take the next 45 minutes or so to read everything I haven't had time to read yet:

All righty then. I'll wrap up here in a few minutes and head home, where I plan to pat Cassie a lot and read a book.

Home before sunset!

I do love this aspect of Daylight Saving Time: for the first time since November 2nd—131 days ago—my normal commute and walking Cassie home from day care got me home before sunset.

This happens every March, but it still feels revelatory. Barring a late night at the office I won't walk Cassie home after sunset until around October 21st, 223 days from now.

It's a little thing, but I enjoy it.

It's all Billy Joel to me

A friend posted on Facebook that Billy Joel's album Glass Houses came out 44 years ago today. That means it's as far behind us as the 1936 Olympics was from Billy Joel at the time. A horrifying pun war followed, but that has nothing to do with the horrifying fact that people have known "You May Be Right" for 44 years.

And speaking of things that happened a long time ago, it turns out the President's memory is just fine, thank you, despite what Republican Special Prosecutor Robert K Hur said in his memorandum last month:

A transcript of a special counsel’s hourslong interview of President Biden over his handling of classified files shows that on several occasions the president fumbled with dates and the sequence of events, while otherwise appearing clearheaded.

In a report released last month, Mr. Hur concluded that there was insufficient evidence to charge Mr. Biden with a crime after classified documents ended up in an office he used after his vice presidency and in his home in Delaware. But the report also portrayed Mr. Biden, 81, as an “elderly man with a poor memory,” touching off a political furor amid his re-election campaign.

Mr. Biden’s lawyers, who were present for five hours of questioning over two days, have challenged the damaging portrait by Mr. Hur, a former Trump administration official. But the transcript had not been publicly available to evaluate Mr. Hur’s assessment that Mr. Biden’s memory has “significant limitations.”

But Mr. Hur made a particularly striking assertion in stating that Mr. Biden “did not remember when he was vice president.” As evidence, Mr. Hur quoted him as saying, “If it was 2013 — when did I stop being vice president?” According to the report, Mr. Biden displayed similar confusion on the second day of questioning, asking, “In 2009, am I still vice president?”

The transcript provides context for those lines. In both instances, Mr. Biden said the wrong year but appeared to recognize that he had misspoken and immediately stopped to seek clarity and orient himself.

I wonder how Hur would have done in a similar situation? And can you imagine how the XPOTUS would handle a deposition like that? Oh, wait—we don't have to imagine it, we have ample evidence of his inability to get through one without falling apart completely.

Before I start ranting more about the way the press treats President Biden's occasional (and rare) senior moments versus the way they treat the XPOTUS being unable to string together a coherent though, I'll go back to the original topic and leave you with Weird Al's eloquent response to Glass Houses:

Monday afternoon with no rehearsal

We always take a week off after our Choral Classics concert, which saves everyone's sanity. I in fact do have a chorus obligation today, but it's easy and relatively fun: I'm walking through the space where we'll have our annual Benefit Cabaret, Apollo After Hours, and presumably having dinner with the benefit committee. I'll be home early enough to have couch time with Cassie and get a full night's sleep.

Meanwhile:

  • Former presidential speechwriter James Fallows annotates President Biden's State of the Union Address.
  • Today's TPM Morning Memo blows up US Senator Katie Bush's (R-AL) response to the SOTU, but really I think Scarlett Johansen did it best:
  • Jennifer Rubin throws cold water on the belief that the United States is "polarized," given that one party wants to, you know, govern, while the other party wants to prevent that from happening so they can take power and therefore preserve the status quo ante from the 1850s: "America is divided not by some free-floating condition of “polarization” but by one party going off the deep end. And that’s a threat to all of us."
  • Greg Sargent points out the fundamental and ugly scam right-wingers like the XPOTUS perpetrate when they blather on about "border security:" it has a lot more to do with demographics (see, e.g., "great replacement theory") than crime.
  • Charles Marohn warns that blaming drivers for buying bigger cars shifts the blame from planning departments to individuals, where your state's DOT would prefer people put it.
  • Kensington Palace has apologized for sending out an obviously-edited photo of Princess Catherine with her children, causing the family some embarrassment, and distracting for a moment from any questions about why the people of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland continue to pay for Kensington Palace.
  • Seattle police impounded the oldest newsstand in the city after the landlord complained, repeatedly, over the course of three years.
  • If you have a couple of extra bucks lying around and you want a cool place to live, Block Club Chicago has a list of seven historical buildings you can live in, from a $318,000 condo in Marina City on up to the $3 million Edwin J Mosser House in Buena Park.

Finally, Crain's slices into the six best thin-crust pizzas in Chicago, a list that includes three I've personally tried (Bungalow by Middle Brow, Michael's, and Jimmy's), and three that I now need to try soon. (I have some Michael's in my freezer, in fact, which I'm planning to eat for dinner tomorrow.) I would add Barnaby's in Northbrook and Flapjack Brewery in Berwyn, by the way.

Nice review

Chicago Classical Review reporter Tim Sawyier liked what he heard last night:

The number of American performing ensembles that can date their lineage to the Romantic era is small and dwindling. Yet it is striking to consider that Anton Bruckner was still in his forties when Chicago’s Apollo Chorus was founded in 1872, in the wake of the Great Fire; the group was entering its second decade when the composer completed his Te Deum in 1884.

The Chorus also offered three smaller, a cappella Bruckner selections: Os justi meditabitur (WAB 30), Locus iste (WAB 23), and Ave Maria (WAB 6). These intimate settings made a lovely counterpoint to the more dynamic larger works, coming across as inward, ardent proclamations of faith, with an almost monastic feel to them, befitting the composer’s deep belief. Alltop oversaw fluent, nuanced accounts that drew the best from his devoted volunteers.

We're doing it again this afternoon, at the Elmhurst Christian Reformed Church. Tickets still available!

Bruckner's 200th

We're just a few hours away from our Choral Classics concert celebrating the 200th anniversary of Anton Bruckner's birth. Tickets are still available! But I've got a lot to do before then, not least of which is making sure that Cassie and I get enough walkies today. (Lots of standing and sitting at concerts, if you're performing.)

But before I take a nap continue preparing for the concert, I want to point out that people finally have come around to the idea that English isn't Latin:

Late last month, Merriam-Webster shared the news on Instagram that it’s OK to end a sentence with a preposition. Hats off to them, sincerely. But it is hard to convey how bizarre, to an almost comical degree, such a decree seems in terms of how language actually works. It is rather like announcing that it is now permissible for cats to meow.

The first person on record to declare opposition to ending sentences with a preposition was the poet John Dryden in the 17th century. ... [E]ven grammarians like Lowth stipulated that keeping prepositions away from the end of sentences was most important in formal rather than casual language. But the question is why it is necessary there, since it usually sounds stuffy even in formal contexts.

The answer is: Latin. Scholars of Lowth’s period were in thrall to the idea that Latin and Ancient Greek were the quintessence of language. England was taking its place as a world power starting in the 17th century, and English was being spoken by ever more people and used in a widening range of literary genres. This spawned a crop of grammarians dedicated to sprucing the language up for its new prominence, and the assumption was that a real and important language should be as much like Latin as possible. And in Latin, as it happens, one did not end sentences with a preposition. “To whom are you speaking?” was how one put it in Latin; to phrase it as “Who are you speaking to?” would have sounded like Martian.

A friend recently started quoting from a grammar book they had borrowed from my downstairs library, leading me to ask, "What did you bring that book that I didn't want to be read to out of up for?" (Take that, John Dryden.)

We did not get Uncle Fluffy last night

I didn't expect to watch President Biden's State of the Union Address to Congress last night, so instead of live-blogging here, I live-commented on Facebook. Some highlights, with annotations as needed:

  • MTG didn't even let him get to the podium before snarking at him. She's the Nobby Nobbs of the House
  • Sweden's PM is sitting to Jill Biden's left. Wow. That's a message about NATO
  • Wow, someone ate his Wheaties today. "Many of you were here [on January 6th]. ... But they failed! Democracy prevailed!"
  • "You can't love your country only when you win."
  • Mike Johnson looks like he needs to change his diaper
  • "My predecessor failed the most basic duty, the duty to care." Cue first Republican outburst
  • Despite my best efforts, Cassie appears disappointingly nonpartisan:
  • Somebody get Mike Johnson a Pepto-Bismol
  • "The state of our Union is strong and getting stronger!" (Four more years!)
  • Seriously, did Mike Johnson take a large gummie before the speech? He looks like he's dissociating...
  • "America is safer than 4 years ago... Violent crime fell to the lowest level in 50 years" (And an incoherent protestor is escorted from the gallery?)
  • "The only real solution is a two-state solution. ... There is no other path that guarantees peace between Israel and all of its neighbors."

Of course, many more-qualified people also had reactions. Here are just a few:

  • Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post fact checker: "Biden’s job record in his first three years certainly tops Trump’s performance. ... The U.S. inflation rate is much better than the OECD average of 5.7 percent. But other G-7 members such as Japan, Italy and Germany had lower inflation rates as of January. ... A Rand study published last month, using 2022 data, concluded that across all drugs, U.S. prices were 2.78 times higher than prices in 33 other countries that are part of the OECD."
  • Josh Marshall: "I thought this was a strong speech."
  • Assorted New York Times columnists, starting with Gail Collins: "For Biden, the speech was a real rouser."
  • Lynn Sweet, Chicago Sun-Times: "Biden’s speech set the stage for the reset he needs on the Israel-Hamas war."
  • Michael Tomasky: "[President Biden] threw punches—and he landed almost all of them. But let’s not talk about Biden. Let’s talk instead about that little guy in the chair over the president’s left shoulder. House Speaker Mike Johnson showed, in his histrionic facial expressions, everything that’s wrong and idiotic and dangerous and even treasonous about the Republican Party."

As for the official opposition response that US Senator Katie Britt (R-AL) delivered, I could barely watch. Her entire demeanor and manner made my skin crawl. It was like watching a high-school junior work up fake outrage in a campaign speech for class secretary, except Tracy Flick probably wouldn't have worked in all the comments about rape and murder.

Michael Bender and Kayla Guo summed it up best: "With a sunny, inviting smile, Senator Katie Britt of Alabama welcomed Americans into her kitchen on Thursday night. Many soon backed away nervously." Monica Hesse also got a little skeeved out: "Somehow, despite also being a White 42-year-old mom who watched the State of the Union from my own kitchen, I did not feel I was her target audience."

One of my friends posted "Katie Britt proves it’s hard to find normal people in Alabama not on a football scholarship," at which I reminded him that, looked at one way, she is on a football scholarship.

I enjoyed this SOTU a lot. And I'm very much looking forward to hearing President Biden's Second Inaugural in 10 months.