The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Unhappy doggy

Cassie went to the vet this morning for the wellness check required by (and paid for) by the shelter I adopted her from. The vet took a look at the incision site for her spay surgery, which Cassie has been licking frequently. You can see what's coming:

She is not taking it well:

She looks so sad, I can't stand it. But if her spay incision gets infected, she'll need a cone a lot longer than 10 days.

Poor dog. I'll make sure she gets extra cuddle time tonight.

When software bugs kill

The Daily WTF today takes us back to one of the worst software bugs in history, in terms of human lives ruined or lost:

The ETCC incident was not the first, and sadly was not the last malfunction of the Therac-25 system. Between June 1985 and July 1987, there were six accidents involving the Therac-25, manufactured by Atomic Energy Canada Limited (AECL). Each was a severe radiation overdose, which resulted in serious injuries, maimings, and deaths.

As the first incidents started to appear, no one was entirely certain what was happening. Radiation poisoning is hard to diagnose, especially if you don't expect it. As with the ETCC incident, the machine reported an underdose despite overdosing the patient. Hospital physicists even contacted AECL when they suspected an overdose, only to be told such a thing was impossible.

With AECL's continued failure to explain how to test their device, it should be clear that the problem was a systemic one. It doesn't matter how good your software developer is; software quality doesn't appear because you have good developers. It's the end result of a process, and that process informs both your software development practices, but also your testing. Your management. Even your sales and servicing.

While the incidents at the ETCC finally drove changes, they weren't the first incidents. Hospital physicists had already reported problems to AECL. At least one patient had already initiated a lawsuit. But that information didn't propagate through the organization; no one put those pieces together to recognize that the device was faulty.

On this site, we joke a lot at the expense of the Paula Beans and Roys of this world. But no matter how incompetent, no matter how reckless, no matter how ignorant the antagonist of a TDWTF article may be, they're part of a system, and that system put them in that position.

TDWTF's write-up includes a link to a far more thorough report. It's horrifying.

Sunny and (relatively) warm

It's exactly 0°C in Chicago this afternoon, which is a bog-standard temperature for February 3rd. And it's sunny, which isn't typical. So, with the forecast for a week of bitter cold starting Friday evening, I'm about to take a 30-minute walk to take advantage of today's weather. First, though:

Early February is also the time of year when we start imagining spring. Tomorrow's sunrise is at 7am for the first time since December 1st, and we had 10 hours of daylight last week for the first time since mid-November. Yes, Chicago typically has an Arctic blast sometime during February. But Spring begins in 25 days. We can make it.

Bonnie Wilson Coleman (D-NJ) is pissed off

After sheltering-in-place on January 6th with fact-denying, mask-refusing Republican colleagues, Rep. Coleman contracted Covid-19:

Over the past day, a lot of people have asked me how I feel. They are usually referring to my covid-19 diagnosis and my symptoms. I feel like I have a mild cold. But even more than that, I am angry. 

I am angry that after I spent months carefully isolating myself, a single chaotic day likely got me sick. I am angry that several of our nation’s leaders were unwilling to deal with the small annoyance of a mask for a few hours. I am angry that the attack on the Capitol and my subsequent illness have the same cause: my Republican colleagues’ inability to accept facts.

[On January 6th, m]y staff and I then decided that the Capitol building would likely be the safest place to go, since it would be the most secure and least likely to be crowded. I’ve spent a lot of time since in utter disbelief at how wrong those assumptions turned out to be.

Everyone knows what happened next: A mob broke through windows and doors and beat a U.S. Capitol Police officer, then went on a rampage. Members and staff took cover wherever we could, ducking into offices throughout the building, then were told to move to a safer holding location.

I use “safer” because, while we might have been protected from the insurrectionists, we were not safe from the callousness of members of Congress who, having encouraged the sentiments that inspired the riot, now ignored requests to wear masks.

When I say that many Republicans are responsible for what happened to me, to others and to the country last week, I mean their essential failure to accept facts led us here. Much like they should be able to accept the results of an election, elected leaders should be able to accept facts like the efficacy of masks. It’s clearly time for a congressional campuswide mask requirement, enforced by the House and Senate sergeants at arms.

Facts really do matter. I hope to get back to work soon to make sure we respect them.

We've had a strain of aggressive stupidity in the United States going back to the country's founding. Only trouble is, these days they have more political party than they usually have.

Mr Vice President, kick your boss to the curb now

The House of Representatives have started debate on a resolution to ask Vice President Mike Pence to start the process of removing the STBXPOTUS under the 25th Amendment. As you might imagine, this was not the only news story today:

Finally, the always-funny Alexandra Petri imagines what people who have never read Orwell believe his books actually say.

Christmastime is here, by golly

Thank you, Tom Lehrer, for encapsulating what this season means to us in the US. In the last 24 hours, we have seen some wonderful Christmas gifts, some of them completely in keeping with Lehrer's sentiment.

Continuing his unprecedented successes making his the most corrupt presidency in the history of the country (and here I include the Andrew Johnson and Warren Harding presidencies), the STBXPOTUS yesterday granted pardons to felons Charles Kushner, Paul Manafort, and Roger Stone. Of the 65 pardons and commutations he has granted since becoming president, 60 have gone to people he knows personally and who have committed crimes on his behalf. Maggie Haberman and Michael S Schmidt say he's at his most unleashed as he tries to avoid leaving office the loser he is.

In other news:

Finally, enjoy this performance of the "Hallelujah" chorus from Händel's Messiah released just a few moments ago by the Apollo Chorus of Chicago:

The longest night of 2020

If you live in the northern hemisphere, tonight will last longer than any of the 365 others in 2020. Sunsets have gotten later by a few seconds a day since the 8th, but sunrises have also gotten later and will continue to do so until just before perihelion on January 4th.

We're also only a month from Joe Biden's inauguration. Almost everyone in the Western world and quite a few outside it have felt more relaxed and less stressed in the last six weeks, and will feel even better once the STBXPOTUS loses his public-interest protections on Twitter.

Meanwhile, we've only got a few hours before the Federal Government shuts down, because Republicans in the US Senate didn't really care about Covid-19 relief until the January 5th runoff elections in Georgia got too tight for comfort. Help Doug Perdue, yes; help 30 million Americans, no. That's today's GOP. Even if we manage to get the bill through, the STBXPOTUS has lost all connection to reality and may not sign it.

The bill as it stands calls for about $900 billion in "stimulus," even though we can't actually spend money where we need to spend it to save our restaurants and restaurant workers. As economist Paul Krugman points out, giving people $600 or $1200 checks won't help; we need enhanced unemployment benefits, which puts the money in the most needful hands. He also asks, "why is there a limit on the amount of aid?" He explains:

Republicans appear willing to make a deal because they fear that complete stonewalling will hurt them in the Georgia Senate runoffs. But they are determined to keep the deal under a trillion dollars, hence the reported $900 billion price tag.

That trillion-dollar cap, however, makes no sense. The amount we spend on emergency relief should be determined by how much aid is needed, not by the sense that $1 trillion is a scary number.

For affordability isn’t a real issue right now. The U.S. government borrowed more than $3 trillion in the 2020 fiscal year; investors were happy to lend it that money, at remarkably low interest rates. In fact, the real interest rate on U.S. debt — the rate adjusted for inflation — has lately been consistently negative, which means that the additional debt won’t even create a major future burden.

And even economists who worry about deficits normally agree that it’s appropriate to run big deficits in the face of national emergencies. If a pandemic that is still keeping around 10 million workers unemployed isn’t an emergency, I don’t know what is.

So, yes, the longest night of the year might also see yet another Republican-sponsored government shutdown. But the longest night of the year means tomorrow night will be a few seconds shorter, and 9 nights later, 2020 will end.

Other things to read this evening

Happy Hanukkah! Now read these:

I will now have some very yummy Szechuan leftovers.

Updated statistics on the horror of it all

I posted a table about a week ago showing the number of American deaths per day from various disasters that we've had over our history. I did a bit more research, and we've had a lot more Covid-19 deaths, so I've updated the table:

  1. Average daily deaths from 1918 flu, October 1918: 6,290
  2. Galveston hurricane, 9 Sep 1900: ~6,000
  3. Battle of Antietam, 18 Sep 1862: 3,652
  4. Covid-19, 9 Dec 2020: 3,411
  5. Puerto Rico hurricane, 7 Aug 1899: 3,389
  6. Covid-19, 6 Apr 2020: 3,156
  7. San Francisco Earthquake, 18 Apr 1906: ~3,100
  8. Covid-19, 11 Dec 2020: 3,013
  9. Terrorist attacks, 11 Sep 2001: 2,996
  10. Covid-19, 3 Dec 2020: 2,861

Pearl Harbor, formerly 8th on this list, has dropped to 19th.

I also corrected the durations and total counts for this chart, which I've posted a few times. Note that Covid-19 is even more clearly the most deadly disaster in American history on an annualized basis, and the third worst catastrophe after our annual heart disease and cancer mortality:

And to think, if we'd had (a) leadership and (b) a more mature populace, we might have prevented most of those deaths.