The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

My office is still and here

In a form of enlightened laziness, I often go into my company's downtown Chicago office on Friday and the following Monday, avoiding the inconvenience of taking my laptop home. It helps also that Fridays and Mondays have become the quietest days of the week, with most return-to-office workers heading in Tuesdays through Thursdays.

And after a productive morning, I have a few things to read at lunch:

Finally, National Geographic digs down to find explanations for the disappearances of five ancient cities, and what that might tell us about our own culture.

The news doesn't pause

Speaking of loathsome, misogynist creeps, former Bishop of Rome Joseph Ratzinger died this morning, as groundbreaking journalist Barbara Walters did yesterday.

In other news showing that 2022 refuses to go quietly:

And just a couple of blocks from me, Uncharted Books will reopen next week after the state closed it down for failing to file a required sales-tax form. For months. They might want to fire their accountants for this, as the state requires every business that has taxable sales to file the "quarterly sales tax report" every 3 months. I hope their soon-to-be-former accountants also filed their income taxes...

Outside the vortex

The world continues to turn outside the Chicago icebox:

Finally, dog biologist (?) Alexandra Horowitz explains how dogs tell time with their noses.

Brace yourselves: winter is coming

We get one or two every year. The National Weather Service predicts that by Friday morning, Chicago will have heavy snowfall and gale-force winds, just what everyone wants two days before Christmas. By Saturday afternoon we'll have clear skies—and -15°C temperatures with 400 mm of snow on the ground. Whee!

We get to share our misery with a sizeable portion of the country as the bomb cyclone develops over the next three days. At least, once its gone and we have a clear evening Saturday or Sunday, we can see all five of the naked-eye planets just after sunset.

Meanwhile, I'm about to start my team's Sprint 75 Review, the last one of 2022, which contains a few goodies we put off because we spent most of our time on client requests. We have a strange habit of doing what paying customers know they want before we add the things they don't know they want.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the world:

Finally, director James Cameron ended all debate about whether Jack and Rose could both have survived in Titanic: "Cameron maintains that Jack simply had to die, telling The Sun that 'if I had to make the raft smaller, it would have been smaller.'" Because the story, you see, required it.

Anals (?) of bad URLs

Crain's reported this morning that a company I used to work for has laid off 180 workers, about 10% of its workforce. I hope none of the people I'm still friends with was affected.

Also unfortunate is the URL that Crain's content server generated, which makes the story seem much more complicated than the news would otherwise suggest:

https://www.chicagobusiness.com/technology/west-monroe-lays-180-workers

really hope that (a) none of my friends had that happen to them, and (b) some prankster gamed the system to produce that URL. Because in a way, yes, some employees definitely got screwed.

Craft beer woes

The Tribune has a cheery article today about the decline in craft beer sales and concomitant decline in craft breweries, citing the two closest breweries to where I'm sitting as evidence:

In recent months, Urban Brew Labs went out of business in Chicago’s Ravenswood neighborhood. Just around the corner, so did Empirical Brewery.

Smylie Brothers Brewing shuttered its Lakeview brew pub in September, barely a year after opening. And after years of trying to find its footing, Finch Beer Co. closed its production brewery this summer.

While the bubble isn’t quite bursting when it comes to craft beer — as some onlookers have long been speculating — the industry is facing headwinds long in the offing for small and local breweries that knew mostly growth for more than a decade.

During the last 15 years, the number of breweries nationally has grown from about 1,500 to nearly 10,000; in the Chicago area, that figure surged from about a dozen to more than 250.

Yet years of exuberance have skidded to a halt, and for a number of complex and interlocking reasons: ever-increasing competition, the rising cost of doing business, the broader economy and shifting consumer habits rooted in the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the holidays coming, and a bit of flexibility on working hours during the last two weeks of December, I need to kick the Brews & Choos Project into another gear. At least, before more breweries close.

Finally turning in

We've got a big demo at 8am that we've just put to bed, which means I get to go to bed. While the pipelines ran I came across Cory Doctorow's latest post on how DRM ruins everything:

[In 2002,] we warned that giving manufacturers the power to restrict how you configured your own digital products would lead them to abuse that power – not to prevent copyright infringement, but to shift value from you to them. The temptation would be too great to resist, especially if the companies knew they could use the law to destroy any company that fixed the anti-features in their products.

For brain-wormed market trufans, the digital media dream was our nightmare. It was something I called "the urinary tract infection business model." With non-DRM media, all the value flowed in a healthy gush: you could buy a CD, rip it to your computer, use it as a ringtone or as an alarmtone, play it in any country on any day forever.

Everywhere we find DRM, we find fuckery. Even if your cable box could be redesigned to stop spying on you, you'd still have to root out spyware on your TV. Companies like Vizio have crammed so much spyware into your "smart" TV that they now make more money spying on you than they do selling you the set.

Remember that the next time someone spouts the lazy maxim that "If you're not paying for the product, you're the product." The problem with Vizio's TVs isn't that they're "smart." The problem isn't that you're not paying enough for them.

The problem is that it's illegal to unfuck them, because Vizio includes the mandatory DRM that rightsholders insist on, and then hide surveillance behind its legal minefield.

This all starts with the idea that the problem with "content" is that Congress gave us, the public, too many rights under copyright, and that nickel-and-diming us to buy those rights a la carte would fix this problem. 20 years later, the benefits of this system are thin gruel indeed, and the costs keep mounting.

At least you can still read The Daily Parker for free.

And now, I'm off until the demo.

Making progress at work, slacking on the blog

Clearly, I have to get my priorities in order. I've spent the afternoon in the zone with my real job, so I have neglected to real all of this:

Finally, because only one guy writes about half of the songs on top-40 radio, modulations have all but disappeared from popular songs.

FTX was not a "tech company"

Josh Barro explains the FTX collapse in simple terms:

[T]his is not a technology story, because FTX was not a technology company. Sure, FTX’s business relied on technology, but so do most businesses. FTX has an app; so does Fidelity, and so does Chipotle, and that doesn’t make them tech companies. FTX was a brokerage, and there were two things that set them apart from a regular brokerage. One is that they dealt principally in nonsense financial products with no underlying economic value, and the other is that the owners either lost or stole the customers’ money and then lied about their resulting insolvency.

Because cryptocurrency assets have no fundamental economic value — unlike stocks and bonds, they do not reflect a claim on the cash flows of some business creating real value in the economy — there can be no such thing as fundamentals-based investing in them. When people invest in crypto, they out themselves as marks for scammers who might believe any nonsense about what something is worth. And therefore it’s the least surprising thing in the world that someone would open up a crypto exchange, offer implausible interest rate terms in order to hoover up billions in customer deposits from the gullible masses, and then misappropriate the proceeds.

He also provides some rules of thumb for dealing with cryptocurrencies, the first being, "any crypto-related business is a scam." Quite so.