The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Collateral damage from urban interstates

I've written before about urban highways, never favorably. Ploughing massive roads through dense urban areas has done incalculable damage to North American cities that tearing them down or burying them has only just started to fix—but usually with an order of magnitude more cost than their initial construction.

Today I got an innocent little email listing houses for sale around Chicago, both because I'm interested to see what's out there, and also because I've been too lazy to turn it off since I last moved. But one house stood out today: a beautiful, 4-bedroom Victorian built in 1898 with a lovely wraparound porch, tons of light and air, steps from everything.

I would love to live in a house just like this. In fact, there are similar houses near me, with price tags around $2-$3 million.

This stately lady in Old Irving Park can be yours for only $750,000. And that jaw-dropping difference in value is entirely due to its location.

You see, even though this house is steps from everything—only four blocks to the Metra, three blocks to the El, close to the shops in the historic commercial corridor along Elston—it's also just 200 meters from the 10-lane I-90/94 expressway:

I mean, holy hell. Getting to the El or to the Metra stations at Mayfair or Irving Park requires crossing all those lanes of traffic. I've done it; the Montrose and Irving Park bridges are soul-crushing for pedestrians. Worse, the Keeler underpass (which you'd take to the Irving Park station) requires you to cross two entrance and exit ramps on either side of a half-block-long underpass.

I'm not even going to talk about how loud the 10 lanes of traffic must be.

In short, this beautiful house, "the second built in the area," can't get anywhere near the price it would had the city not destroyed the neighborhood in the 1950s.

Sad.

Molly White is exactly who we need right now

Accused fraudster Sam Bankman Fried did what every prosecutor hopes a defendant will do: start a blog. Researcher Molly White annotated his first post:

Sam Bankman-Fried has apparently decided to fill his time spent confined to his parents' Palo Alto home with blogging, perhaps in the hopes that he can just blog his way out of the massive criminal and civil penalties he's facing.

Although many of his statements here repeat things he's said elsewhere, I think it is useful to be able to analyze some of the story he's trying to spin all in one place, rather than cobbling his narrative together from multiple sources.

It's remarkable the extent to which SBF outright lies, or at the very least twists his version of events to distort reality in his favor. I don't intend to annotate further posts from him—which I suspect will be many—but instead hope that this will be sufficient to give some idea of just how thoroughly misleading his statements are.

Sample annotation:

If I was going to try to pick out a crypto firm that suffered large losses in an attempt to say "look, it was happening to everyone!", I might not pick the one whose founders have allegedly been in hiding for the last six months.34

And this:

It's clear that SBF's definition of "accurate" differs from most people's. SBF seems to think that if you tell someone that you have $1,000, and then later you say "...in monopoly money", it was still an accurate and defensible statement.

You know, I'm beginning to think 2023 will be the year people lose patience with lying fraudsters.

Friday night I crashed your party

Just a pre-weekend rundown of stuff you might want to read:

  • The US Supreme Court's investigation into the leak of Justice Samuel Alito's (R) Dobbs opinion failed to identify Ginny Thomas as the source. Since the Marshal of the Court only investigated employees, and not the Justices themselves, one somehow does not feel that the matter is settled.
  • Paul Krugman advises sane people not to give in to threats about the debt ceiling. I would like to see the President just ignore it on the grounds that Article 1, Section 8, Article VI, and the 14th Amendment make the debt ceiling unconstitutional in the first place.
  • In other idiotic Republican economics (redundant, I know), Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA) has proposed a 30% national sales tax to replace all income and capital-gains taxes that I really hope the House passes just so the Senate can laugh at it while campaigning against it.
  • Amazon has decided to terminate its Smile program, the performative-charity program that (as just one example) helped the Apollo Chorus raise almost $100 of its $250,000 budget last year. Whatever will we do to make up the shortfall?
  • How do you know when you're on a stroad? Hint: when you really don't want to be.
  • Emma Collins does not like SSRIs.
  • New York Times science writer Matt Richtel would like people to stop calling every little snowfall a "bomb cyclone." So would I.
  • Slack's former Chief Purple People Eater Officer Nadia Rawlinson ponders the massive tech layoffs this week. (Fun fact: the companies with the most layoffs made hundreds of billions in profits last year even as market capitalization declined! I wonder what all these layoffs mean to the shareholders? Hmm.)
  • Amtrak plans to buy a bunch of new rail cars to replace the 40-year-old rolling stock on their long-distance routes. Lots of "ifs" in there, though. I still hope that, before I die of old age, the US will have a rail travel that rivals anything Europe had in 1999.
  • The guy who went to jail over his fraudulent and incompetent planning of the Fyre Festival a couple of years ago wants to try again, now that he's out.

Finally, Monica Lewinsky ruminates on the 25 years since her name popped up on a news alert outing her relationship with President Clinton. One thing she realized:

The Tonight Show With Jay Leno died in 2014. For me, not a day too soon. At the end of Leno’s run, the Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University analyzed the 44,000 jokes he told over the course of his time at the helm. While President Clinton was his top target, I was the only one in the top 10 who had not specifically chosen to be a public person.

If you don't follow her on social media, you're missing out. She's smart, literate, and consistently funny.

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.

Statistics: 2022

We've now got two full years between us and 2020, and it does look like 2022 got mostly back to normal.

  • The Daily Parker got 487 posts in 2022, 51 fewer than in 2021 and 25 below median. As usual, I posted the most in January (46) and fewest in November (37), creating a very tight statistical distribution with a standard deviation of 3.45. In other words: posting was pretty consistent month to month, but down overall from previous years.
  • I flew 10 segments and 16,138 flight miles in 2022, low for the 21st century but about average for my lifetime.
  • Once again, I visited only one other country (the UK, of course), but 8 other states: North Carolina, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Wisconsin, California, Texas, and Michigan. In 2023, I plan to visit a bunch of new countries, but we'll see. Altogether I spent 107 hours traveling.
  • I walked Cassie for a little more than 369 hours, somewhat fewer than in 2021 (422) but still an average of over an hour a day. It's about half as much as she wanted.
  • I got 4,537,290 steps for 3,693 km of walking, a little below 2021 but about average overall. I only hit my step goal 327 times, though, due to no longer getting worked up about missing it in bad weather. I still averaged 12,393 a day, which doesn't suck.
  • I drove 5,925 km on 144 L of gasoline, for an average of 2.4 L/100 km (96.4 MPG). The last four months of the year I used only 4 L of gas over 1,179 km, meaning I'm heading into 2023 with a nearly-full tank I last filled on August 21st. I do love living in the city!
  • I worked 1,894 hours for my real job, including 1,260 from home and 580 in the office. The remainder went to conferences and work events. Plus, I spent 103 hours commuting, all of it by public transit (see above re: gasoline use).
  • My commitment to the Apollo Chorus went up by a third this year, with 318 hours overall split between rehearsing and performing (220 hours) and my responsibilities as president (98 hours). Last year I spent 57 hours on rehearsals and performances and 71 hours on board stuff, but the first half of 2021 we were still virtual. In the last full year before the pandemic, 2019, I spent 200 hours overall (27 for the Board, 144 on rehearsals and performances, 29 for the fundraiser), so we really did do more this year than in years past.
  • Finally, reading stayed the same, with 27 books started (cf. 28 in 2021) and 24 finished (cf. 23 in 2021)—both numbers exactly at median for me. But I watched a whopping (for me) 56 movies and 50 TV show seasons or miniseries. Yeek.

So, yeah, except for the permanent, post-pandemic shift to working from home 2/3 of the time, 2022 really did get back to normal in most ways. I'll take it. Here's to continued normal in 2023!

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...

Second day of sun, fading fast

What a delight to wake up for the second day in a row and see the sun. After 13 consecutive days of blah, even the -11°C cold that encouraged Cassie and me to get her to day care at a trot didn't bother me too much.

Unfortunately, the weather forecast says a blizzard will (probably) hit us next weekend, so I guess I'll have time to read all of these stories sitting on the couch with my dog:

Finally, one of my college music professors died this month. Herbert Deutsch co-created the Moog synthesizer and taught at Hofstra University for 40-plus years.

Full of sound and fury, and Lionel Messi's retirement

Argentina just won the 2022 World Cup by lining up and taking free kicks at a French goalie in a fitting end to one of the most corrupt and deadly sporting events in history. At least the 2026 World Cup will take place in countries with (reasonably) strong institutions and existing infrastructure.

All the expense, the hype, the scandal, the drama...and in the end, it came down to penalty kicks. It's like having track meet decided by guys jumping one hurdle at a time, or by putting a guy on 2nd base at the top of the 10th inning in a desperate attempt to make baseball more exciting. (Oh, wait...)

France didn't win, but Argentina didn't either, really. Nor did the 6,500 dead construction workers, the athletes, the gay fans, or the 90% of the people living in Qatar who will never have citizenship because, like most petro-states, the Qataris have a form of Apartheid that FW de Klerk could only dream of.

So who really won this evening? FIFA officials, of course. The Qatari elite (for now; in 10 years they will look upon their works, and despair). The bribed European officials who didn't get caught. And probably Lionel Messi, who gets a better send-off this evening than Zidane did, I suppose.

The only appropriate response to FIFA is not to watch. Even John Oliver conceded as much, before admitting he'd watch. Everyone's individual choices make corruption on this scale work. I just wish people would internalize that.

But in Qatar, the lone and level sands stretch far away.

Is it post-empire time yet?

I can't quite draw a line between all of these stories, but it feels like I should:

Finally, a million-liter aquarium in a central Berlin hotel collapsed spectacularly today, causing millions of euros of damage. No people were hurt but 1,500 tropical fish drowned or froze to death in the aftermath.

Where did SBF come from?

Theodore Schleifer examines the intellectual and ethical upbringing of Sam Bankman-Fried, the 30-year-old indicted yesterday for perpetrating one of the biggest frauds in history:

Of all the potentially unanswerable riddles underpinning the Sam Bankman-Fried saga—why did Sequoia invest in a mop-topped kid who played video games during a diligence call; were Alameda and FTX ever really separate?—perhaps the most vexing is how the mastermind of this whole legal and ethical imbroglio was the offspring of two beloved legal scholars who were obsessed with ethics, in an effective-altruist Petri dish focused on analytical rigor, civic-mindedness and, crucially, consequences. How could a family so committed to doing the greatest good for the greatest number end up depriving so many people of so much happiness—and then see their son get arrested?

The optics are complicated for Joe Bankman and Barbara Fried, who flew to The Bahamas amid the collapse of FTX and have remained there to counsel their son, almost as if he were a therapy patient or a legal client. Meanwhile, people on The Farm have been gossiping about how neither parent has any courses at Stanford next year: Joe canceled the one class he was slated to teach over the winter semester, and Barbara is listed as an emerita professor. (She has written that she “hopes” to make a return to teaching in the future.)

Sam has gone out of way to absolve his parents of any culpability in his financial misdeeds, telling Andrew Ross Sorkin at last month’s Dealbook conference that they “bore no responsibility” for the collapse of FTX. “Anyone close to me, including my parents and employees and co-workers who fought with the company to push forward, they were hurt by this,” he said. “I feel really grateful for the support my parents are still giving me throughout all of this.”

And yet the truth is that both parents, whether they bear responsibility or not, are deep in the barrel with Sam. As Reuters has reported, official property records show that Joe Bankman and Barbara Fried were the named owners of a $16.4 million beachside “vacation home” in Old Fort Bay, part of a broader real estate portfolio owned by FTX and senior executives totalling hundreds of millions of dollars. “They may have stayed there while working with the company sometime over the last year,” Sam told Sorkin, though he denied knowing any details about the $300 million worth of real estate that FTX and his parents bought in the Bahamas. (Joe and Barbara have said they’ve been working to return the property to the company for some time.)

I mean, all the ethical rigor in the world won't help if your son is a sociopath.