The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

The men who wouldn't shut up

Two stories, related only in the self-perception of their protagonists. First, this morning Fox "News" announced that Tucker Carlson uttered his last bigotry for them on Friday:

A reason was not immediately provided.

“Mr. Carlson’s last program was Friday April 21st,” a statement read. “Fox News Tonight will air live at 8 PM/ET starting this evening as an interim show helmed by rotating FOX News personalities until a new host is named.”

The shock announcement ends Carlson’s meteoric rise at Fox News, where his brand of xenophobia, white grievance, and hate transformed Carlson into a singular force at the conservative news network—and its top presenter. Tucker Carlson Tonight has also been labeled the most racist show in the history of cable news.

Meanwhile, a quarter of the world away, the Chinese ambassador to France said out loud what China and Russia have said privately for years, with unfortunate results:

Lu Shaye, China’s ambassador to France, said the countries in eastern Europe that gained independence following the USSR’s fall in 1991 did not have “effective” sovereign status in international law.

Officials in Europe reacted furiously, especially in the Baltic states of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, which are in constant fear of meddling and even attack from neighboring Russia.

Lu has "pulled the rug out from under China’s intention of being any sort of mediator between Russia and Ukraine,” tweeted Sari Arho Havrén, an adjunct professor at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, a research organization run by the American and German militaries. “Not recognizing Ukraine as a sovereign state, exactly as Russia claims, makes China 100% on Russia’s side.”

Actually, I suspect China doesn't really care what happens to Ukraine, or the Baltic states, being focused as they are on an island 100 kilometers off the coast of Quanzhou. (You could even say they have worried about the island formosa the time since they parted ways, but that's cheap even for me.)

I've got the popcorn out to watch the fallout from both events.

Area man finally finishes unpacking

I moved to my house exactly six months ago today, but only this past Saturday did I unpack the last box. I had asked two different carpenters about building in bookshelves in what I designated a library even before I moved in. Both carpenters ghosted me after taking measurements. (Great business practices, guys.)

So in January I went back to 57th Street Bookcase in Evanston, from which my mom and I had gotten bookshelves at various times going back to the mid-1990s. The bookcases arrived Friday, allowing me to transform this:

Into this:

(The coffee table came from 57th St as well.)

I spent a couple hours enjoying the finished room over the weekend. Even Cassie appears to like it better.

The new bookcases are cherry, so they'll darken over time. They should match the older ones in a couple of years.

Regular posts resume tomorrow

This weekend involved about 5 hours of dog walks, including 2 with another dog, a disruption to Cassie's environments (new bookshelves, details later), an art fair, and my friend's two toddlers (ages 2 and 4). We're both pooped.

Cassie literally. I know what she ate yesterday, and I'm so glad I got to see it again today.

Who could have predicted this?

As professional narcissist Elon Musk threatened, on Thursday Twitter abruptly ended their verified "blue check" program. Suddenly, Twitter users had no way to know for sure whether tens of thousands of government agencies, celebrities, journalists, and other people whose jobs depend to some extent on their credibility, were who their Twitter accounts purported to be.

It only took two days for someone to hoax the City of Chicago:

Impostors posing as Chicago government officials, including Mayor Lori Lightfoot, posted a series of tweets early Friday morning falsely claiming that North Jean Baptiste Point DuSable Lake Shore Drive is being permanently closed.

The accounts posting the false tweets claimed to be Lightfoot, the Chicago Department of Transportation and the Illinois Department of Transportation. Their posts were seen by well over 100,000 people early in the day, according to Twitter data.

The impersonation effort came just a day after Twitter removed verification from accounts that had been previously verified for the purpose of credibility. Twitter CEO Elon Musk’s controversial decision to remove the “legacy” verifications took away the authenticated status of all three of the impersonated accounts.

Before Friday, the usernames of the true mayoral account, CDOT account and IDOT account had all previously appeared alongside a blue check mark signaling that the accounts had been proved to actually represent the authorities they claimed to represent. However, those check marks were taken away Thursday because of Musk’s decision.

New York City's government also had their own problem.

But this highlights a real problem: in a disaster, or an election, how will people know what information is real? I think "by not using Twitter" seems like the right answer but I also don't think Twitter will fully die by next November.

I didn't publish on Twitter very much before. Today, I'm just standing on shore, watching the ship sink. But it's a big ship, and its sinking will foul the environment for a long time.

Ambivalent about self-identity

Emma Camp, an assistant editor at Reason, initially found an autism diagnosis comforting, but now has second thoughts:

In many online circles — particularly those frequented by young, white, middle-class women like me — certain diagnoses are treated like a zodiac sign or Myers-Briggs type. Once they were primarily serious medical conditions, perhaps ones of which to be ashamed. Now, absent social stigma, mental health status functions as yet another category in our ever-expanding identity politics, transforming what it means to have a psychological or neurological disorder for a generation of young people, though not entirely for the better.

I was first diagnosed with autism at age 20, shortly after my sophomore year of college. After my costly evaluation, I was relieved. Knowing I had autism gave me the permission I needed to accept my quirks and insecurities.

The condition quickly became a core part of my identity.

Under the kind of identity politics most frequently found on left-wing internet circles, immutable identity characteristics like race, gender and sexual orientation are a person’s most important features, giving those in certain historically disfavored groups special authority to comment on issues affecting their community. There’s a constant throat-clearing among many left-leaning young people — “as a queer person,” “as a woman of color”— phrases used to assert epistemic authority or dodge accusations of wrongthink. I myself have started many a sentence with “as an autistic person” to pre-empt criticism.

But mental health diagnoses, along with most other categories up for examination under our identity politics, are accidents of birth. To make them central features of our identities is to focus on the things we can’t control ourselves — an approach that is ultimately disempowering.

Her whole essay is worth a read.

Stuff I may come back to later

First, because it's April 20th, we have a a couple of stories about marijuana:

(The Daily Parker owns shares in Chicago-based Green Thumb Industries.)

Second, because it's the 21st Century, we have a collection of articles about the end of democracy:

And in me. I've got software to write.

Rails to trails

Freelance writer John Carpenter (a "husky man of 60, with the approximate flexibility of a rusty old tractor") explores some of the abandoned railroads that now have bike paths on them in the Chicago area:

Chicago is teeming with them — rail trails, I mean. Once extolled by the poet Carl Sandburg as the “player with railroads and the nation’s freight handler,” it remains a national railroad hub. That means there are bike paths along existing lines, like the Green Bay Trail beside Metra’s North Line, and trails along the roadbed of long-abandoned lines, like the west suburban Illinois Prairie Path and the city’s Bloomingdale Trail, also known as The 606.

Chicago is also home to a stretch of the Great American Rail Trail, a 6,000-km bike path from coast to coast that passes through northwest Indiana and the south suburbs. Though supported by the national Rails to Trails Conservancy, it is really a network of more than 125 locally backed trails that is still filling out some gaps in the run from Washington, D.C., to the Pacific Ocean west of Seattle. I did a relatively short stretch in Indiana, and it left me wanting to ride more.

The magic of rail trails is rooted in the laws of physics. Massively heavy freight and passenger trains simply cannot handle steep grades up and down. That’s why tracks are built up on bridges and artificial berms in some places, and carved into the land in others, leveling out elevation changes to allow trains to move up and down at a gentle rate.

The result is that riders can easily get into a comfortable cruise. One can maintain a pleasant speed with a steady churn in the higher gears, pushing hard enough to get the heart beating, without the extreme strains of steep uphill slogs. There is also the satisfaction of feeling the miles click away.

He identifies the North Shore trail as "along" a right-of-way, but in fact it covers the old North Shore Line, abandoned in 1964. I used to ride that trail a lot when I was a kid. These days, I sometimes walk a long stretch of it.

Time for a transit tech update?

WBEZ reporter Michael Gerstein went out to the IKEA in Schaumburg, Ill., to test our transit system and its navigation apps. It went fine, but Gerstein had an unusual experience:

Major construction projects have snarled the Kennedy Expressway and the Blue Line’s weekend service, so my editor sent me on a 29-mile odyssey to Schaumburg. The idea was to test how Chicago’s regional transit agencies (CTA, PACE, Metra) work with each other and how many apps, trackers and planning devices I’d need to use to get there.

We were trying to see firsthand how accurate the region’s tracking technology is and why apps often promise buses and trains that don’t show up when they’re supposed to. All this comes at a time when public officials are encouraging more drivers to take public transit to and from downtown.

My two-hour sojourn to IKEA was unremarkable and pretty much on time (barring some initial inaccurate estimates from every app I tried except the city’s Ventra app). Still, other riders have experienced inaccuracies with trackers, and it’s hard to get to the bottom of why. In a recent WBEZ survey of nearly 2,000 CTA riders, about 9 in 10 survey takers said they’d experienced a delay taking a bus or train in the past 30 days.

Chicago, which used to be a leader in transit technology, now has some catching up to do with the broader tech world. “Our train and bus tracker were among the first tools of its time among any U.S. transit agency,” Brian Steele, CTA’s chief spokesman, said in an interview. But predictive algorithms have evolved, Steele acknowledged, and Chicago needs an upgrade that would give it the ability to automatically update the position of a bus that goes off a route or a train that falls behind.

Real-time information is only available after a train or bus leaves the terminal – and only if that bus or train is on its scheduled route, Steele said.

I also learned that I really don’t like being in IKEA. Some people prefer navigating a maze-like furniture store where you can’t find anything, that’s about 5 degrees too warm, and where every aisle and bathroom stall is packed.

I do like living 400 meters from the Metra station that takes me to downtown Chicago in 14 minutes, though. From dropping Cassie at doggy day care to sitting at my desk, my commute usually takes about 30-35 minutes. I would not take any job that had me drive out to the suburbs again, unless they paid me for travel time.

Clear, cool April morning

The clouds have moved off to the east, so it's a bit warmer and a lot sunnier than yesterday. I still have to wait for an automated build to run. For some reason (which I will have to track down after lunch), our CI builds have gone from 22 minutes to 37. Somewhere in the 90 kB of logs I'll find out why.

Meanwhile, happy Fox News On Trial Day:

Finally, I've started reading The Odyssey, so I applaud National Geographic's article this month on the history of the ancient world in which Homer set the poem.