The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Not a perfect queue, but a great queue

Wired examines the art and science of managing an 8-kilometer, 14-hour queue:

At its peak, the queue has snaked 5 miles across the capital, with an estimated 14-hour wait. When it reached capacity and closed on Friday, people defied government advice and formed a separate queue for the queue. Such scenes are remarkable—but they’re not unprecedented. When George VI—Queen Elizabeth II’s father—died in February 1952, 300,000 people filed past his coffin in St. George’s Chapel over the course of three days.

Up to 750,000 people are expected to see the queen over the course of her lying in state. At any one time, 30,000 to 40,000 people could be standing in line, according to crowd safety consultant Andy Hollinson, who worked on other aspects of the plan to honor the queen after her death, called Operation London Bridge, but who was not involved in the lying-in-state element. Such estimates are conservative and based on an orderly queue in which people are standing three abreast. The queue in London is more of an orderly blob than a line. “Nobody’s ever seen a queue as long as this before,” says Hollinson.

But despite the unprecedented nature of the queue, prep work has been ongoing for years. “I can see a lot of similarities with the plans I developed 10 years ago,” says Keith Still, visiting professor in crowd science at the University of Suffolk, who, in 2011, was among those asked by London’s Royal Parks to develop a queueing and security screening system for events like a royal funeral. “Wherever the bottleneck is, you work back from that,” says Still. That, in this instance, is the security screening area at the entry to Westminster Hall.

I cannot think of a single reason I would voluntarily stand in a 14-hour queue. But hey, I've never lost a beloved monarch.

Bueller? Bueller?

I love this, but I have to ask: why did the Post do this, and not the Tribune or Block Club Chicago?

As an adopted Chicagoan and longtime John Hughes devotee, I’ve always wondered whether it’s possible to do everything Ferris accomplished as he dodges school in the 1986 film. He knocks out a trip to the top of the Sears Tower, the Chicago Board of Trade, a fancy French lunch, a Cubs game, the Art Institute, the Von Steuben Day parade and the beach, then races on foot through his North Shore suburb to get home by 6 p.m. Even with the help of movie magic, it seems like a stretch.

Given real-life time constraints and logistics, we had to make tweaks to fit every activity. First, it’s nearly impossible to find a parade and a home game for the Cubs on a weekday, but on Saturday, Sept. 10, we found both a game and the actual parade from the movie.

Just because Ferris never looks rushed in the movie doesn’t mean this is a leisurely day. If you want to see everything on his list, you’ve got to keep up the pace. At the same time, you should remember to take a minute to appreciate what you’re experiencing. After all, as our hooky-playing hero says: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Too bad they didn't have a Ferrari.

Good thing there's an El

My commute to work Friday might get a little longer, as Metra has announced that 9 out of its 11 lines (including mine) would likely not operate if railroad engineers and conductors go on strike Friday. Amtrak has already started cancelling trains so they won't get stranded mid-route should the strike happen.

In other news:

  • Cook County tax bills won't come out until late autumn, according to the County President, meaning no one knows how much cash they have to escrow when they sell real estate.
  • The Post has an interactive map showing everywhere in the US that hit a record high temperature this summer.
  • US Rep. Marjorie Taylor "Still Smarter than Lauren Boebert" Greene (R-GA) has come up with a climate-change theory so dumb it actually seems smart.
  • US Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC), another intellectual giant of the 117th Congress, proposed a Federal abortion ban, demonstrating a keen command of how most people in the United States view the issue.
  • Robert Wright explores "why we're so clueless about Putin."
  • Block Club Chicago explains why my neighborhood and a few others experienced massive geysers coming out of storm drains during Sunday's flooding rains.

Finally, right-wing lawyer Kenneth Starr died at age 76. No reaction yet from Monica Lewinsky.

Notable Friday afternoon stories

Just a few before I take a brick to my laptop for taking a damned half-hour to reformat a JSON file:

Oh, good. My laptop has finished parsing the file. (In fairness it's 400,000 lines of JSON, but still, that's only 22 megabytes uncompressed.) I will now continue with my coding.

God save our gracious King

With the death of Queen Elizabeth II, the British National Anthem has changed back to "God Save the King" for the third time in 185 years. In other news:

By the way, the UK has a vacancy for the post of Prince of Wales, in case anyone would care to apply. I think we can bet on nepotism, though.

Long live King Charles III

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has died aged 96:

Queen Elizabeth II, the longest-reigning monarch in British history, has died.

Prince Charles, heir to the throne since the age of three, is now king, and will be officially proclaimed at St James’s Palace in London as soon as practicably possible.

Flags on landmark buildings in Britain and across the Commonwealth were being lowered to half mast as a period of official mourning was announced.

As Queen of the UK and 15 other realms, and head of the 54-nation Commonwealth, Elizabeth II was easily the world’s most recognisable head of state during an extraordinarily long reign.

What a week in the UK.

Truss elected PM with 0.0012% of UK vote

The UK Conservative Party has elected Liz Truss its new leader, making her the new Prime Minister. Just over 81,000 of the 67.22 million citizens of the UK voted for her, giving her even less of a mandate than the last two PMs had:

The foreign secretary, who won 81,326 votes (57.4%) of Tory members to the former chancellor’s 60,399 (42.6%), takes over from Boris Johnson, who was ousted by his own MPs earlier this summer.

Britain’s fourth Tory prime minister in six years declared “we will deliver, we will deliver and we will deliver” on the many challenges facing her government, including the state of the NHS.

Significantly, Truss appeared to rule out a snap general election, telling the audience in central London that she would “deliver a great victory for the Conservative party in 2024”.

The Economist wonders how long she'll last:

Her free-market instincts are at odds with the need to intervene to navigate an immediate cost-of-living crisis. Household gas and electricity bills will jump by 80% in October; businesses are seeing even bigger spikes. By January 2025 she must contest a general election in which she will face the judgment of a deeply dissatisfied public. She inherits a country in dismal spirits: 69% of Britons, including 60% of Conservative voters, agree that the country is “in decline”, according to polling by Ipsos for The Economist. And the party she now leads has grown insurrectionary: it has deposed her two immediate predecessors and is unenthused by her. She will bash at the walls like a wasp in a bell jar.

Ms Truss’s remedy for Britain’s economic ills is a Reaganite mixture of deficit-financed tax cuts and regulatory reform. She proposes low-tax zones with relaxed planning laws, and wants to keep the headline corporation-tax rate at 19% to pull in foreign investment.

To her critics, Ms Truss offers only a mimicry of Thatcherism: all the aesthetics, little of the insight. She may have the furs and the aphorisms, they say, but she abandoned her support for planning deregulation, the single most-obvious supply-side reform, as soon as it became clear that Tory activists wouldn’t wear it. Her pledge to scrap all unnecessary eu laws by the end of 2023 may sound reassuringly radical, but it is divorced from the fine-grained work of effective regulation.

Ms Truss is the fourth roll of the dice for a party squinting hard, searching for a simulacrum of the woman who turned Britain around before. The country she now leads may well be looking for something else entirely.

It is interesting, though, that Truss is the third woman to have her finger on Britain's nuclear button, while 39 of the 40* people elected President of the US have been white men. How's that working out for us?

* John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Andrew Johnson, Chester Arthur, and Gerald Ford were never elected president.

Lunchtime links

Happy Monday:

I would now like to take a nap, but alas...

Indian independence and partition, 75 years on

Today is India's 75th anniversary as an independent nation after the UK essentially abandoned it after World War II. The Guardian looks at how much—and how little—has changed:

The attack on Salman Rushdie shone a light on where Pakistan and India, both now 75 years old, share common ground. Amid worldwide outrage, both governments were conspicuous by their silence.

The silence came from different roots. Some of the first riots after the publication of Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses were in Pakistan and violent extremism is still very much part of the country’s political life.

In India’s case, it was because Rushdie has been a critic of the prime minister, Narendra Modi, and annoyed his supporters, who the author himself had dubbed the “Modi toadies”.

Intolerance of free speech is an area in which India is coming to be more like Pakistan as both countries celebrate their 75th birthdays. Under Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party (BJP), political opponents are increasingly likely to be arrested and beaten, and the press and judiciary are under increasing political pressure. India’s democracy has been downgraded to “partly free” by the democratic advocacy group Freedom House, a category India now shares with Pakistan.

Writers Pankaj Mishra and Ali Sethi have had enough of religious fighting between the two countries:

In many ways, the binary constructs of “Indian” and “Pakistani” embody the desolate logic of the event that 75 years ago split British-ruled India in two: the partition, attended by massacres, rapes and large-scale dispossession. Botched products of Britain’s imperialist skulduggery – and fierce struggles for personal power between leaders of the anti-imperialist movement – the new nations were locked right from their birth into military conflict; their pitiless “identity politics” ranges today from intellectual forgeries in history textbooks to the lynching of religious minorities.

The political history of their 75 years – marked by several wars, arms races, anti-minority pogroms, authoritarian rule, and minimal protections for the poor and weak – provokes mostly despair and foreboding. While Pakistan nears economic collapse, Indian fantasies of becoming a superpower lie shattered amid shrivelled growth and ecological calamity. Demagogues in both nuclear-armed countries treacherously exploit the resulting anger and disaffection. While claiming to fulfil the broken promises of modernity, they mobilise the thwarted energies of individual and collective aggrandisement into a mass politics of fear and loathing.

As we commemorate the 75th anniversary of partition, it is abundantly clear to us that politics in India and Pakistan are doomed to keep forging a history of irresolvable enmity between Hindus and Muslims. It is also clear that any reasonable hope for peace between these two nuclear powers cannot rest on a political and economic breakthrough alone. We can avoid an apocalyptic scenario only if we acknowledge and consolidate, or at least not squander, the linked cultural and spiritual inheritance of the two countries. The great truth it underscores repeatedly – of the plural and interdependent nature of human identity – is the best remedy for our rancorously polarised worlds.

Imagine what the world would look like today had the British not drawn arbitrary lines through great chunks of it.

Why we only do this every other year

After Tuesday's half-day of rehearsals (which would have been a full day except for a scheduling conflict I couldn't move), and yesterday's all-day rehearsals, my intellectual capabilities and creativity seem a bit diminished this week. We open tonight with Don Giovanni and close Sunday afternoon with La Clemenza di Tito. I'm meant to work on our product roadmap for the next 5-10 sprints (i.e., through years' end) while also delivering at least one more feature for the current sprint that ends Tuesday. But I really need a nap.

Meanwhile, Ravinia and Maestro Conlon have sent us a couple of blog posts and column about the operas. On Don Giovanni:

[O]f the many implications of this extremely complex narrative, there is an overwhelming presence that, at the beginning and the end, orients the listener. And it is accomplished without a word of text, nor preamble, nor explanation. The terrifying power of the key of D minor, in the hands of the transcendent genius of Mozart, tells us that this is a cautionary tale, illustrating the fate of those who transgress without repentance. The composer, so generous in his own clemency, pardons almost every character in his operas, but here has made a stunning and powerful exception. In an era when portrayal of death on the stage was relatively rare and unfashionable, Mozart presents us the protagonist’s damnation in full view.

On La Clemenza di Tito:

In 1789, the French populace rose up against their king and queen and brought about a revolution, eventually executing their monarchs. Thirteen years before that, the American colonies had rebelled against the British Crown and established their own sovereign nation.

None of this was lost on royals across the entire continent of Europe, who reacted with alarm and concern. The subject of “good governance,” even by monarchs who claimed to rule by Divine Right, acquired a new urgency. The French Revolution struck especially close to Holy Roman Emperor Leopold II, for Marie Antoinette, the last French queen, was his sister.

So in 1791, when Leopold was to be crowned in Prague, a celebratory opera was to be commissioned. And because one of the contemporary models of Age of Enlightenment authority was that of the “Enlightened Despot,” the new opera could both flatter the new leader and subtly suggest to him an exemplary model of authority. The chosen opera would portray a Roman emperor—and by extension the newly crowned monarch—as not only a man of justice but also of mercy.

Finally, writer John Schauer makes the argument that seeing these operas in Ravinia's Martin Theater, which holds 850, will give you a better experience than seeing one at Dodger Stadium.