The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Goo goo g'joob

A Dutch prankster has started a Facebook group that has so far attracted 13,000 people who want to throw rotten eggs at Jeff Bezos' new superyacht:

"Calling all Rotterdammers, take a box of rotten eggs with you and let's throw them en masse at Jeff's superyacht when it sails through the Hef in Rotterdam," wrote organizer Pablo Strörmann.

It all started last week when Dutch broadcaster Rijnmond reported that the city appeared willing to grant a request to dismantle the centuries-old steel bridge so that Bezos' yacht could pass through.

De Hef was built in 1927 as a railway bridge, with a midsection that can be lifted to allow ship traffic to pass underneath, according to The Washington Post. It was replaced by a tunnel and decommissioned in 1994, but was saved from demolition by public protests and later declared a national monument.

The ship's three masts are apparently too high for the bridge's roughly [40-meter] clearance.

Bezos' boat will be the largest superyacht ever built in the Netherlands. At 126 meters, it will be about as long as the Perry-class frigate that appeared in The Hunt for Red October.

As for the feasibility of hitting Bezos' boat with rotten eggs, Curbed looked into it. Yes, they said, it's totally possible. I hope someone posts video.

The measure of a dictator

Johns Hopkins University professor Eliot Cohen believes Russian President Vladimir Putin played a bad hand well, but that doesn't make him a genius:

Ukraine is a problem for Putin’s Russia not because it may join NATO, but because it is democratizing—slowly, awkwardly, imperfectly—and after 30 years of independence is constructing a new national identity. So, too, have the other former Soviet republics, a number of which (Azerbaijan, for example) have quietly sided with Kyiv. The aim of reconstructing if not the Russian empire, then a 21st-century version of it, is slipping out of Putin’s grip, and he knows it. In many ways, what we’re seeing now from Moscow is a spasm of atavistic postimperial assertion, which, rather like British and French intervention in Egypt in 1956, may begin well but will probably end poorly.

Western strategic clichés usually portray the Russians as incomparably deft chess masters, wily manipulators of the use of force to support policy, who consistently outplay their Western opponents. But that characterization is less true than one might think. Indeed, American and British intelligence were shrewd in warning of Russian false-flag operations and provocations and in naming a range of Ukrainian quislings who were being vetted to take power. These revelations are an antidote to the poisoned needles being prepared by the Russian secret services.

Armed forces reflect their societies, and although Russia is a lot better off than it was in the ’90s, it remains a society with poor public health; a crude, resource-based economy; and a deeply corrupt and self-seeking elite. Russia is also vulnerable to sanctions and cyberattacks. And at the top, the country is led by an aging dictator who does not hear many uncomfortable truths from advisers who know better.

The comparison he makes between Putin and Robert E Lee is instructive. At some point, Putin will make a mistake. Let's all hope NATO can use it wisely.

The last of the book villages

Redu, Belgium, has more books than people, but people don't buy many books these days:

[I]n the mid-1980s, a band of booksellers moved into the empty barns and transformed the place into a literary lodestone. The village of about 400 became home to more than two dozen bookstores — more shops than cows, its boosters liked to say — and thousands of tourists thronged the winsome streets.

Now, though, more than half the bookstores have closed. Some of the storekeepers died, others left when they could no longer make a living. Many who remain are in their 70s and aren’t sure what’ll happen after they’re gone.

On Easter weekend in 1984, roughly 15,000 people descended on Redu, perusing the used and antiquarian volumes vendors sold out of abandoned stables and sidewalk stalls. The booksellers decided to stay. Others soon followed, along with an illustrator, a bookbinder and a paper maker. It was an eclectic, countercultural crowd. Young families arrived, too, and new students trickled into the faded schoolhouse.

Now there are 12 or fewer bookshops, depending on how one counts — and, perhaps, who is doing the counting. Those who are more optimistic about the future of the bookstores tend to cite a higher number.

In an odd twist, though, Redu is also home of the European Space Agency Security and Education Centre.

While I pondered, weak and weary...

Today's litany of disappointments, with a couple of bright spots:

Finally, northwest suburban officials continue to track escaped bison "Billy" as she continues her walkabout through McHenry County. She will not be buffaloed back to her ranch!

Your evening reading

Just a few:

And finally, atheist sci-fi author John Scalzi...bought a church?

Busy day, time to read the news

Oh boy:

Cassie has bugged me for the last hour, even though we went out two hours ago. I assume she wants dinner. I will take care of that presently.

End of day links

While I wait for a continuous-integration pipeline to finish (with success, I hasten to add), working a bit later into the evening than usual, I have these articles to read later:

  • Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Lib-Papineau) called a snap election to boost his party, but pissed off enough people that almost nothing at all changed.
  • Margaret Talbot calls out the State of Mississippi on the "errors of fact and judgment" in its brief to the Supreme Court about its draconian abortion law.
  • Julia Ioffe expresses no surprise that the press and the progressives have come to grief with each other over President Biden.
  • Josh Marshal examines the "crumbling firmament" signified by France's indignation at our deal to supply nuclear submarines to the Australian Navy.
  • New regulations allowing hunters to kill wolves in the northern Rocky Mountain states may have the unintended result of putting the animals back on the endangered-species list.

And I am sad to report, Cassie will not get to the dog beach tomorrow, what with the 4-meter waves and all.

Guinness to open Chicago brewery

Yes, that Guinness. They've found a derelict railway building in the Fulton Market area and plan to open a new stop on the Brews & Choos Project:

Chicago developer Fred Latsko has struck a deal with Irish beer brand Guinness to open a brewery and beer hall in a long-vacant Fulton Market District building while he lines up plans to build what could be one of the former meatpacking neighborhood's tallest office buildings next door.

Guinness is poised to open the venue as part of a revival of the graffiti-clad former Pennsylvania Railroad Terminal building on the eastern edge of Latsko's property at 375 N. Morgan St., according to sources familiar with the plans. Separately, a Latsko venture aims to develop a 33-story office building on the vacant western edge of the property near the corner of Morgan and Kinzie streets, according to a document submitted to City Council this month by 27th Ward Ald. Walter Burnett.

Details of each project remain unclear, and Latsko and Burnett couldn't be reached for comment. A Guinness spokeswoman declined to comment.

A lot can happen before this becomes real. But Guinness opened a brewery in Baltimore three years ago, though they don't brew their iconic Stout there. Instead, the taproom sells experimental beers brewed on site and Stout brewed in Dublin. I expect the Chicago iteration will have the same strategy.

Lunchtime roundup

Stories from the usual suspects:

Finally, Whisky Advocate calls out a few lesser-known distilleries in Scotland worth visiting—or at least sampling.

Floods in Northwest Europe

Hundreds of people are missing and dozens confirmed dead in some of the worst flooding in European history:

Following a day of frantic rescue efforts and orders to evacuate towns rapidly filling with water unloosed by violent storms, the German authorities said late Thursday that after confirming scores of deaths, they were unable to account for at least 1,300 people.

That staggering figure was announced after swift-moving water from swollen rivers surged through cities and villages in two western German states, where the death toll passed 90 on Friday in the hardest-hit regions and other fatalities were expected.

The devastation caused by the severe weather came just days after the European Union announced an ambitious blueprint to pivot away from fossil fuels over the next nine years, as part of plans to make the 27-country bloc carbon-neutral by 2050. Environmental activists and politicians were quick to draw parallels between the flooding and the effects of climate change.

“The water is still flowing knee-high through the streets, parked cars are thrown sideways, and trash and debris are piling up on the sides,” Alexander Bange, the district spokesman in the Märkische region of North Rhine-Westphalia, told the German news agency D.P.A.

I hope the rains abate long enough, and the rivers empty quickly enough, to limit the damage and deaths that continue today.