The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Wednesday afternoon potpourri

On this day in 2000, during that more-innocent time, Beverly Hills 90210 came to an end. (And not a day too soon.) As I contemplate the void in American culture its departure left, I will read these articles:

Finally, a new genetic study suggests that "modern humans descended from at least two populations that coexisted in Africa for a million years before merging in several independent events across the continent." Cool.

Twenty Five Years

The Daily Parker began as a joke-of-the-day engine at the newly-established on 13 May 1998. This will be my 8,907th post since 1998 and my 8,710th since 13 November 2005. And according to a quick SQL Server query I just ran, The Daily Parker contains 15,043,497 bytes of text and HTML.

A large portion of posts just curate the news and opinions that I've read during the day. But sometimes I actually employ thought and creativity, as in these favorites from the past 25 years:

Also interesting is how I can chart key events in my life just by looking at how often I posted:

Right now, I'm predicting the 10,000th post on 5 August 2025. Keep reading and find out.

Beautiful morning in Chicago

We finally have a real May-appropriate day in Chicago, with a breezy 26°C under clear skies (but 23°C closer to the Lake, where I live). Over to my right, my work computer—a 2017-era Lenovo laptop I desperately want to fling onto the railroad tracks—has had some struggles with the UI redesign I just completed, giving me a dose of frustration but also time to line up some lunchtime reading:

Finally, today marks the 30th anniversary of Aimee Mann releasing one of my favorite albums, her solo debut Whatever. She perfectly summed up the early-'90s ennui that followed the insanity of the '80s as we Gen-Xers came of age. It still sounds as fresh to me today as it did then.

Chuck's crowning achievement

Tomorrow, King Charles III and Queen Camilla will hold their coronation in London. Matt Ford says it's all fun and games until someone loses a Parliament:

Charles’s ascent is not important because he actually has a divine right to reign over the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and roughly a dozen other countries. Nor is it important because Harry is attending without Meghan in either a brave stand against his abusive family or a rude snub of his well-intentioned father. The British monarchy is important because its leader wields no small amount of power over a nuclear-armed global financial hub with a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. And Charles’s coronation matters because he, more than any other recent king or queen, is more likely to upend the whole thing.

[T]o say that the king has no power or influence is not quite accurate. For one thing, he retains personal control over the Duchy of Lancaster, which began as a feudal estate in medieval times and now resembles an investment portfolio. Its holdings include real estate, farms, historical buildings, and other revenue-producing assets. His son William owns the Duchy of Cornwall, a similar enterprise that provides him with income independent of Parliament. These bodies are different from the Crown Estate, which is owned by the monarchy as an institution and sends its revenues directly to the Treasury. For some Britons, Charles and William aren’t just tabloid figures. They are also landlords.

Charles himself has also played a more direct role in trying to influence legislation. After a ten-year legal battle, the British government released a series of memos in 2015 that detailed how the then-Prince of Wales had secretly lobbied ministers on various pet issues ranging from alternative medicine, to badger culls, to helicopters in the Iraq War. It’s long been reported by British media outlets that Charles, as heir, wanted to more vocally champion issues that were close to his heart. Whether he will do so as monarch will be hard to discern: After the memo’s disclosure, Parliament upgraded the royal family’s exemption to freedom-of-information laws to be absolute.

Keep in mind, they are an awfully long-lived family. Charles could remain King well into the 2050s.

What did I do with all my free time before the Internet?

I think I wrote software and read a lot. You know, just what I do today. Stuff like this:

This afternoon we concluded Sprint 84 with a boring deployment, which makes me happy. We've had only one moderately-exciting deployment this year, and even that one didn't take long to fix, so I'm doing something right.

Two big Chicago birthdays

Fifty years ago this week, steelworkers fastened the final girder to the tallest building in the world:

Placement of the beam — painted white and signed by thousands of Sears employees — ended nearly three years of construction that required Porzuczek and other ironworkers to climb up and down the steadily rising tower, wearing up to 70 pounds of tools around their waists.

The 110-story skyscraper at 233 S. Wacker Drive was topped out May 3, 1973. It ended the Empire State Building’s four-decade reign as the world’s tallest building and transformed the West Loop into a glittering office corridor.

“Along with the Standard Oil Building, it set the tone for the entire market,” said Goldie Wolfe Miller, who spent decades leasing downtown buildings. “All of a sudden, we became a mecca of first-class quality office buildings.”

The 443-meter Willis Tower lost its crown as world’s tallest in 1998, when it was surpassed by Malaysia’s Petronas Twin Towers, and the American title in 2014 when New York City’s One World Trade Center was completed. After decades of construction in Asian countries, it’s now the 23rd tallest in the world.

Superdawg, another Chicago institution turns 75 this month:

Whether it’s been for date nights, parties or just a quick snack, Superdawg has served generations of Chicagoans.

The iconic drive-in celebrates 75 years of business this month. The owners said they are maintaining its legacy by staying true to the original recipes, getting to know regulars and treating employees like a big family.

“Every day is special,” said Lisa Drucker, who co-owns the drive-in with her husband, Don Drucker, and her brother, Scott Berman.

Lisa Drucker and Berman’s parents, high school sweethearts Maurie and Flaurie Berman, created Superdawg in 1948, taking over the lot at 6363 N. Milwaukee Ave. and turning it into a destination for locals and tourists.

Happy birthday to both.

Too much to read

A plethora:

  • Google has updated its satellite photos of Mariupol, clearly showing the destruction from Russia's invasion and subsequent siege.
  • Senators Angus King (I-ME) and Lisa Murkowsky (R-AK) have introduced legislation to force the Supreme Court—read: Justices Thomas (R$) and Gorsuch (R)—to adopt a binding code of ethics. Presumably a Democratic bill that would actually let Congress set the Court's ethical standards will come soon.
  • On Monday, the city will cut down a bur oak they estimate has lived over 250 years.
  • The US Army will rename a Virginia fort after Lt. Gen. Arthur Gregg and Lt. Col. Charity Adams, replacing the name of a disgraced traitor named Robert E. Lee.
  • Carolyn Bryant Donham, whose false accusation that teenager Emmett Till whistled at her resulted in her fellow racists lynching the boy, died on Tuesday at 88.
  • Emma Durand-Wood discovers what many of us already knew: having a fitness tracker, and getting your steps in, makes you very aware of walkable environments.
  • Nicholas Dagen Bloom's new book explains why public transit in the US has done poorly for the last 75 years (hint: racism).
  • Max Holleran suggests a way to make US cities cleaner (and encourage more public transit use): make parking impossible.
  • Bruce Schneier suggests a publicly-funded AI could help save democracy—or at least offset the likely harms from only having privately-owned AIs.
  • Three Colorado teens face murder charges after an evening of throwing rocks from an overpass killed a 20-year-old driver.
  • In a less destructive prank gone wrong, seniors at Northridge Prep, a Catholic high school in north suburban Niles, accidentally let a steer loose in the village this morning.

Finally, as we approach the 50th anniversary of Gary Gygax creating Dungeons & Dragons, Christopher Borrelli suggests putting a statue of him up in downtown Lake Geneva. I concur. Or, since he spent the first seven years of his life just a few blocks away from where I'm sitting right now (on Kenmore near Wrigley Field), why not put one there, too? (One of my favorite memories from childhood is playing 5 minutes of AD&D with Gygax as DM.)

Rails to trails

Freelance writer John Carpenter (a "husky man of 60, with the approximate flexibility of a rusty old tractor") explores some of the abandoned railroads that now have bike paths on them in the Chicago area:

Chicago is teeming with them — rail trails, I mean. Once extolled by the poet Carl Sandburg as the “player with railroads and the nation’s freight handler,” it remains a national railroad hub. That means there are bike paths along existing lines, like the Green Bay Trail beside Metra’s North Line, and trails along the roadbed of long-abandoned lines, like the west suburban Illinois Prairie Path and the city’s Bloomingdale Trail, also known as The 606.

Chicago is also home to a stretch of the Great American Rail Trail, a 6,000-km bike path from coast to coast that passes through northwest Indiana and the south suburbs. Though supported by the national Rails to Trails Conservancy, it is really a network of more than 125 locally backed trails that is still filling out some gaps in the run from Washington, D.C., to the Pacific Ocean west of Seattle. I did a relatively short stretch in Indiana, and it left me wanting to ride more.

The magic of rail trails is rooted in the laws of physics. Massively heavy freight and passenger trains simply cannot handle steep grades up and down. That’s why tracks are built up on bridges and artificial berms in some places, and carved into the land in others, leveling out elevation changes to allow trains to move up and down at a gentle rate.

The result is that riders can easily get into a comfortable cruise. One can maintain a pleasant speed with a steady churn in the higher gears, pushing hard enough to get the heart beating, without the extreme strains of steep uphill slogs. There is also the satisfaction of feeling the miles click away.

He identifies the North Shore trail as "along" a right-of-way, but in fact it covers the old North Shore Line, abandoned in 1964. I used to ride that trail a lot when I was a kid. These days, I sometimes walk a long stretch of it.

My domain name is 25 years old

On this day in 1998, I registered, and just a few weeks later built the first draft of what became this blog. When I registered it, only about a million domain names existed, though 1998 turned out to be the year the Internet exploded worldwide. Just seven years earlier, only 100 .org names existed, so may be one of the oldest .orgs out there. (For comparison, there are just about 350 million registered domain names today.)

Of course, the 25th anniversary of hasn't yet become a global holiday, so a few other things happened in the last 24 hours:

  • The Democratic Party really wants US Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) to retire, as it has become painfully clear she can no longer perform her duties in the Senate, preventing us from confirming new judges. Seriously, ma'am, go.
  • We also want Justice Clarence Thomas (R) to go, especially after a new revelation that he sold property to the billionaire "friend" who has taken him on half-million-dollar vacations. Seriously, sir, go.
  • At least his colleagues on the Supreme Court all seem unimpressed with the "independent state legislature" bullshit espoused by some right-wing Republican state legislators.
  • New Republic's Timothy Noah thinks "remote work sucks," but (our hero writes from his open and airy home office just steps from his dog and refrigerator) not all of us do.
  • Paul Krugman explains how immigrants are saving America's economy.
  • The New York Times has a lot of good things to say about Chicago hosting next year's Democratic National Convention.
  • Your local, urban apiary might actually be hurting your neighborhood.

Finally, we have another gorgeous day in Chicago, a bit cooler than yesterday where I live thanks to delightful lake breeze, but still more like July than April. 

We knew who he was in 1991

Justice Clarence Thomas (R) began his lifetime tenure to the United States Supreme Court with the help of some old men who knew their behavior towards their subordinates would get them in trouble if they held Thomas accountable for his deplorable behavior towards Anita Hill. Since confirmation, Thomas has become more like himself, as the saying goes. In 1991 he was an arrogant, contemptuous middle-aged man who assumed anyone criticizing him or his behavior had a mental deficiency. Ah, but how much he's grown in those 32 years, right?

Ah, ha ha, ha. Between his extremist views on just about everything, to his intellectually dishonest theory of jurisprudence, to his flatly lying about his wife's corruption, we can add new charges of eye-popping sleaze more befitting a Chicago alderman than a Justice of the United States:

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas said Friday he had been advised “by colleagues and others in the judiciary” that luxury trips financed by a close billionaire friend and conservative activist should be considered personal hospitality that did not have to be disclosed.

Thomas’s statement came more than 24 hours after a ProPublica report revealed that he had accepted luxury trips around the globe for more than two decades, including travel on a superyacht and private jet, from Harlan Crow, a Dallas business executive and influential donor to causes related to the law and judiciary.

“As friends do, we have joined them on a number of family trips during the more than quarter century we have known them,” Thomas said in the statement. “Early in my tenure at the Court, I sought guidance from my colleagues and others in the judiciary, and was advised that this sort of personal hospitality from close personal friends, who did not have business before the Court, was not reportable.”

The arrogance and disdain for even minimal application for the rules that everyone else has to follow boggles the mind.

Alexandra Petri wasted no time laughing right in his face, particularly at his ridiculous assertion that "I prefer the RV parks. I prefer the Walmart parking lots to the beaches and things like that:"

Well, that describes me. I am not above anyone, except in the slight technical sense that I do control what rights you get to have. But you need not worry: I understand you and I am not contemptuously pandering to you: I genuinely think that you drive to Walmart for the delight of it! The simple joy of moving the carts around and putting them back, stopping at the little stop sign, and yelling indistinctly at your children not to run in front of other people’s cars! A classic American vacation!

I prefer to be where the rest of you — the rest of us! — love to be, which I assume from how much time you seem to spend there must be the parking lot of Walmart. Or an RV park! Yes, that is all I wish. The simple life.

So, you see, I could not possibly disclose any of these things, for they were not blessings but curses. These are the weights I must bear in my position. If someone with the power I wield were not meant to accept these heavy burdens, surely we as a court would have adopted a formal ethics code. But there is no need: It is understood that I take no pleasure in any of this. The American people need not worry. The yachts were suffering enough.

Uh huh. Vanity Fair's Eric Lutz isn't laughing:

Lest we forget, Thomas has already shown, time and again, exactly what he thinks of those ethical obligations. After all, this is the justice who refused to recuse himself from cases related to the 2020 election, despite his wife supporting—and encouraging—Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn that year’s election results. But the lifestyle that Thomas' friendship with Crow has afforded him shine an even more glaring light on his indifference to the principles of judicial integrity and independence—and underscore the need for real accountability on the nation’s high court, a lack of which has called the court's legitimacy into question.

The Supreme Court's conservatives have steadfastly resisted such calls, lamenting the public's deteriorating trust while refusing to do anything to earn it. “All of our opinions are open to criticism,” Chief Justice John Roberts said last year, amid public outcry over its disastrous Dobbs decision—an activist ruling if there ever was one. “But simply because people disagree with an opinion is not a basis for criticizing the legitimacy of the court.”

Roberts, of course, was arguing with a straw man. Public trust hasn’t cratered because people “disagree” with one opinion. It has plummeted because its right-wing majority—strong-armed into existence by Mitch McConnell and the Republicans—has abandoned the pretense that it is much more than the enforcement arm of the GOP. The conservatives have run roughshod over precedentreverse-engineered their legal rationales for seemingly ideological decisions; and, in the case of Dobbs’ author Samuel Alito, openly mocked critics.

I remind everyone that Congress has the power to set term limits on the Supreme Court. (The Constitution provides lifetime appointments to the Federal courts, but not to any specific court.) We need 67 votes in the Senate to toss Thomas on his ear, as the Senate failed to do when they had the chance in October 1991. But we only need 50 votes in the Senate and 217 in the House to retire his ass tomorrow.