The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

The world still spins

As much fun as Cassie and I have had over the last few days, the news around the world didn't stop:

Finally, journalist Jack Lieb filmed D-Day using a 16mm home movie camera, which you can see on the National Archives blog. It's really cool.

Welcome to Summer 2021

The northern hemisphere started meteorological summer at midnight local time today. Chicago's weather today couldn't have turned out better. Unfortunately, I go into the office on the first and last days of each week, so I only know about this from reading weather reports.

At my real job, we have a release tomorrow onto a completely new Azure subscription, so for only the second time in 37 sprints (I hope) I don't expect a boring deployment. Which kind of fits with all the decidedly-not-boring news that cropped up today:

  • The XPOTUS and his wackier supporters have a new conspiracy theory about him retaking office in a coup d'état this August. No, really.
  • In what could only 100% certainly no doubt how could you even imagine a coincidence, former White House counsel Don McGahn will testify before the House Judiciary Committee tomorrow morning.
  • Also uncoincidentally, a group of 100 historians and political scientists who study this sort of thing have put out a statement warning of imminent democratic collapse in the US. “The playbook that the Republican Party is executing at the state and national levels is very much consistent with actions taken by illiberal, anti-democratic, anti-pluralist parties in other democracies that have slipped away from free and fair elections,” according to the Post.
  • Speaking of democratic backsliding, Josh Marshall takes the Israeli cognoscenti to task for still not getting how much the Israeli government aligning with an American political party has hurt them.
  • Here in Illinois, the state legislature adjourned after completing a number of tasks, including passing a $46 billion budget that no one got to read before they voted on it. (I'm doubly incensed about this because my own party did it. We really need to be better than the other guys. Seriously.)
  • For the first time since March 2020, Illinois has no states on its mandatory quarantine list. And we reported the fewest new Covid-19 cases (401) since we started reporting them.
  • The Northalsted Business Alliance wants to change the name of Chicago's Boystown neighborhood to...Northalsted. Residents across the LGBTQ spectrum say "just, no."

Finally, a Texas A&M business professor expects a "wave of resignations" as people go back to their offices.

Masking some fascinating statistics

NBC has a story this afternoon about people who have gotten full vaccinations against Covid-19 yet prefer to stay masked:

As mask mandates ease across the country, many people are finding that their affinity for face coverings extends beyond health reasons. Even with no requirement to wear their masks, some people are continuing to do so — having come to appreciate the reprieve they provide from stifling social expectations while out in public.

These mask-wearers say they see a multitude of benefits to covering up. No one can tell you to smile when you don’t feel like it. It gives you a break from putting on makeup. And it provides a degree of anonymity.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guidelines still recommend masking for those who have not been vaccinated. For those who are vaccinated, masks are required only in specific situations, such as on public transportation.

Those reasons aside, perhaps we should take a moment to goggle at the CDC's statistics on seasonal flu from last winter. In the period 27 September 2020 through 15 May 2021, the CDC counted 250 positive flu specimens out of 486,000 received. You read that right: the US had only 250 confirmed flu cases this past winter. In the parallel period two years ago (30 September 2018 through 18 May 2019), the CDC counted 177,000 positive results out of 1.14 million samples.

Masks significantly help prevent the spread of airborne disease. Everything we did to prevent the spread of Covid-19 also prevented the spread of influenza, likely saving hundreds of lives.

So, yeah, I'll wear a mask inside confined public spaces once the weather turns autumnal this year. You should too.

Douglas Coupland is annoyed with Canada's government

The author (most notably of the generation-defining novel Generation X) wants Canada to follow the science and quit screwing over my generation:

People my age and younger got the leftovers – which is fine. AstraZeneca is a terrific vaccine, people! But people my age are used to leftovers. It’s the curse of being Gen X, and it’s not very often I ever discuss Gen X qua Gen X, but I think it’s called for here. For a generation that has grown up knowing their pensions will magically vanish the moment they retire, vaccine leftovers were yet more evidence that the statistical books never seem to balance in their favour and probably never will. When some provinces began turning off the AZ tap this week, I don’t think there was even one remotely surprised 50-year-old in the country.

The fact that the announcement of AZ’s removal from the medical landscape was driven by politics and ineptitude rather than science bugged me so much that I wrote my first ever comment on The Globe and Mail’s website (which counts as some sort of milestone in my life). It said: What? Vaccines are now suddenly magically à la carte? This whole thing is starting to feel like it’s being run by Grade 11 students doing a science project.

But Andrew Potter sees freedom in our generation getting ignored:

It is commonly argued that a generation is formed by the technological ecosystem in which it grows up, and while there’s obviously something to that, what is important for Gen X is not what our technology allowed us to do, but what it protected us from.

In particular, what we were protected from was surveillance. I don’t know a single person I grew up with who doesn’t thank their lucky stars that there were no cellphones with cameras around when we were growing up, that there was no Twitter or Facebook or YouTube or TikTok. I can’t imagine what it is like to grow up under the glaring distributed panopticon of social media, knowing that all your friends, everyone at your school, and even your parents are watching your every move, judging your every utterance.  

In retrospect, it is obvious that the Gen X obsession with authenticity was anxiety caused by the growing rumblings of a culture in transition. The old technological ecosystem that fuelled the counterculture was gone, but the new web-enabled environment that made authenticity irrelevant hadn’t quite yet arrived. Gen X was the last generation to possess genuine subcultures that were able to remain somewhat unmolested by the digital meat grinder.

That is why when you hear a Gen Xer talk about being the “latchkey” generation, they aren’t really complaining — they’re bragging. There’s another word for the neglect being described here, and that’s freedom.

I've watched that technological transformation from the inside, having had an online presence since 1986. My feeling: they're both right.

How to talk to the vaccination-wary

I confess to some difficulty talking to people who exhibit willful irrationality. If you don't want to wear a mask or get a vaccine because you somehow equate that with a political party, I don't know what to tell you. But for the people who may just have some irrational fear without making a political statement about it, the New York Times has a helpful interactive training article for you.

In other news, an iceberg slightly larger than Long Island broke away from Antarctica this week. So that's fun.

That's why my hotel bill is so low

I forgot how quiet San Francisco's financial district is on weekend mornings. And I forgot to factor in California's lagging re-opening in general. Of the places Yelp said would be open for a quick breakfast takeaway this morning, two had ended weekend hours, one was permanently closed (or at least hibernating through the pandemic), and one was delightful. Il Canto Cafe, on Sacramento between Battery and Sansomme, whipped up a lovely egg sandwich and (too-large) coffee in just five minutes.

But seriously, the financial district on a foggy Sunday morning gives me the creeps.

In other news, my local El station closed today and won't reopen until 2025. Good thing there's another station only two blocks away.

Unmasked!

The CDC has changed its guidance on Covid-19. People who are fully vaccinated (that's me, 2 weeks as of today!) no longer need to wear masks in most places:

The advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention comes as welcome news to Americans who have tired of restrictions and marks a watershed moment in the pandemic. Masks ignited controversy in communities across the United States, symbolizing a bitter partisan divide over approaches to the pandemic and a badge of political affiliation.

Permission to stop using them now offers an incentive to the many millions who are still holding out on vaccination. As of Wednesday, about 154 million people have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, but only about one-third of the nation, some 117.6 million people, have been fully vaccinated.

In deference to local authorities, the C.D.C. said vaccinated Americans must continue to abide by existing state, local, or tribal laws and regulations, and follow local rules for businesses and workplaces. Individuals are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after the one-dose Johnson & Johnson shot or the second dose of either Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine series.

In related news, The Economist analyzed health records and now believes that between 7.1 and 12.7 million people have died from Covid-19, more than three times the official count. In some places, like Romania and Iran, "excess deaths are more than double the number officially put down to covid-19. In Egypt they are 13 times as big. In America the difference is 7.1%."

The future of working from home

The Atlantic's Amanda Mull believes that workers will benefit most from choosing when to work from home or in the office themselves, rather than through corporate policies:

[R]umors of the office’s death have been greatly exaggerated, as have those of its triumphal return. Most companies are still deciding exactly what their post-pandemic workspaces look like, which means many office-going Americans are about to enter a few months of relative freedom during phased, attendance-capped reopenings. Employers are trying to figure out what they can get away with down the line, and workers are trying to figure out what they can demand.

What would be best for most office workers—and what’s most likely to happen for many of them—is something between the extremes of old-school office work and digital nomadism. What’s right for you might end up being a little further in either direction, depending on how social or siloed your job is, or if you’re a particularly extreme introvert or extrovert. But I’m here to argue for a particular baseline: three days in the office, and two at home.

In a 2020 survey from Gensler, an architecture and design firm, more than half of respondents said that they’d ideally split their time between home and the office. (Only 19 percent said that full-time remote work was their ideal setup.) Many people benefit from working and living in separate places. Commutes can have upsides. Last year, I was somewhat embarrassed to realize that I was among the half of American office workers who missed mine; the time I used to spend walking and riding the train every morning provided a psychological in-between, when all I needed to do was let my brain transition into work mode while I listened to a podcast.

I'm with Mull. As soon as my company allowed it (June 22nd), I went back to the office on Mondays and Fridays, leaving my work laptop at work and my home office desk clear over the weekends. This gave me 5 days a week with Parker and did not seem to cause any loss of productivity. I only stopped after November 2nd in order to spend Parker's last few weeks with him full-time. The office closed again the day before he died, so I stayed home until this past March 1st.

This flexibility, along with not having my work computer on my desk from Thursday night until Tuesday morning, seems like the best balance for me. Cassie only goes to daycare twice a week (it's about $45 a day), I eat most of my lunches at home but still get the occasional 65 Chinese BBQ pork on rice downtown, and miraculously my productivity remains about the same.

In fact, my office's closings and reopenings have provided an ongoing natural experiment in productivity. So far, my productivity cycles  about 28-35 days between peaks and appears to have no connection to where I'm working.

Back to Mull's point, though: giving workers control over when they stay home or go in is really the point. And as we won't be having meetings with 15 people crammed into a conference room for a very long time, it really does seem like the best option for everyone.

Finally recovered?

Hello, CDC? I'd like to report some side-effects of my second dose of the Pfizer vaccine. To wit: All I wanted to do on Friday was sleep. When I finally slept, my left arm was sore enough to wake me up a couple of times. But hey, I planned to sleep in yesterday anyway, so no biggie.

Cassie had other ideas. She poked her nose in my ear at 6:30. I shooed her away. At 6:45, she decided that the squirrel or bird or whateverthefuck outside had to die, and that was the end of my slumber for good.

According to my Garmin watch, the day I adopted Cassie I had averaged 7:48 of sleep a night for the preceding 30 days. My 7-day moving average hung out around the same value. As of today, my 30-day average has fallen to 7:17, and my 7-day moving average is 7:08 this morning. Most of this is Cassie. I have to go to bed at 10 to get a full night's sleep because the sun wakes her up at 6 and she wakes me up a few minutes later.

Now she's conked out on my office floor, and I desperately want a nap.

All vaxxed up

I got my second dose of the Pfizer vaccine today. So pfar, I haven't notices any pside epffects.

Actually, that's not true. I'm four hours in and I'm starting to feel a heaviness to the injection site that has spread up and down my arm. My immune system has decided it's this guy: