The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

It's in the cards

I'm heading off to a Euchre tournament in a bit. I haven't played cards with actual, live people in quite some time, so I just hope to end up in the middle of the pack. Or one perfect lay-down loner... A guy can dream.

When I get home, I might have the time and attention span to read these:

  • John Grinspan looks at the similarities and crucial differences between the upcoming election and the election of 1892.
  • Andy Borowitz jokes about the latest of Robert F Kennedy's conspiracy theories: that his own brain is being controlled by a complete idiot.
  • Why do so many of the country's most infamous serial killers come from the Midwest? (Perhaps because it's the home of Kellogg's and General Mills?)
  • Michael Sweeney reviews all the errors of navigation and judgment that led to the RMS Titanic sinking 110 years ago tomorrow.
  • Speaking of navigation, researchers have found evidence that a sense of direction comes from experience, not genetics.
  • Meagan McArdle describes the Oedipus Trap that led Dr Walter Freeman to continue lobotomizing patients years after the horrors of the procedure became clear to just about everyone else, and what this means for some contemporary medical thinking.

Finally, the weather forecast this weekend calls for some real Chicago spring weather: 19°C and sunny today, 22°C and sunny tomorrow...and 9°C with a stiff breeze from the northeast tomorrow afternoon. If you head out to enjoy the warmth tomorrow lunchtime, make sure you have a sweater because it'll be 15°C by dinner.

Notorious murderer dies

Former professional football player, actor, and murderer OJ Simpson has died at age 76:

The cause was cancer, his family announced on social media. The announcement did not say where he died.

A jury in the murder trial, which held up a cracked mirror to Black and white America, cleared Mr. Simpson, but the case ruined his world. In 1997, a civil suit by the victims’ families found him liable for the deaths of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald L. Goldman, and ordered him to pay $33.5 million in damages. He paid little of the debt, moved to Florida and struggled to remake his life, raise his children and stay out of trouble.

In 2007, he was arrested after he and other men invaded a Las Vegas hotel room of some sports memorabilia dealers and took a trove of collectibles. He claimed that the items had been stolen from him, but a jury in 2008 found him guilty of 12 charges, including armed robbery and kidnapping, after a trial that drew only a smattering of reporters and spectators. He was sentenced to 9 to 33 years in a Nevada state prison. He served the minimum term and was released in 2017.

Lucifer Morningstar greeted the new arrival to Hell personally, remarking on the comparative ease of setting up Simpson's loop.

Joe Lieberman dead at 82

Former US Senator Joe Lieberman (D, maybe?–CT) and Al Gore's running mate in 2000 has died:

Joseph I. Lieberman, the doggedly independent four-term U.S. senator from Connecticut who was the Democratic nominee for vice president in 2000, becoming the first Jewish candidate on the national ticket of a major party, died March 27 in New York City. He was 82.

The cause was complications from a fall, his family said in a statement.

Mr. Lieberman viewed himself as a centrist Democrat, solidly in his party’s mainstream with his support of abortion rights, environmental protection, gay rights and gun control. But he was also unafraid to stray from Democratic orthodoxy, most notably in his consistently hawkish stands on foreign policy.

His full-throated support of the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the increasingly unpopular war that followed doomed Mr. Lieberman’s bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004 and led to his rejection by Connecticut Democrats when he sought his fourth Senate term in 2006. He kept his seat by running that November as an independent candidate and attracting substantial support from Republican and unaffiliated voters.

His transition from Al Gore’s running mate in 2000 on the Democratic ticket to high-profile cheerleader for Republican presidential candidate John McCain eight years later was a turnaround unmatched in recent American politics.

Meanwhile, in other news:

  • Stanford University sophomore Theo Baker expresses alarm at his classmates' growing anti-rational beliefs.
  • Slate's David Zipper analyzes what the Baltimore bridge collapse will do to the city's traffic.
  • The Economist reviews the lasting influence (or surprising lack thereof) of Steven Levitt's Freakonomics books.
  • The Chicago Dept of Transportation announced major construction on Division Street that will include new protected bike lanes and replacement of two bridges.
  • The National Transportation Safety Board has released its final report on the crash of a one-third scale B-29 in Kokomo, Indiana, last year.

Finally, the Atlantic's Faith Hill wonders, why do we date the same person over and over again?

Chicago's Near North Side will never smell as sweet

The Blommer Chocolate factory, just outside Chicago's Loop, routinely flooded the Near North Side with the delicious odor of chocolate several times per week until environmental laws required them to install scrubbers in their exhaust stacks. Still, every so often, one could smell cocoa cooking when the wind blew just right.

Sadly, that era will end very soon:

The chocolate supplier today announced it will close its manufacturing plant at 600 W. Kinzie St. and relocate its headquarters and local research and development operation to the Merchandise Mart, according to a statement from the company. The production facility, well known for spreading the scent of cocoa throughout parts of the River West neighborhood, debuted as Blommer's original manufacturing plant in 1939.

The move not only marks the end of Blommer's long history on the site, but it also raises the prospect of the 5.5-acre property being sold for redevelopment. The company's plans for the facility are not clear, and a spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.

Blommer is the largest cocoa processor in North America and has more than 900 employees, according to the company.

Who knows, though? Marshall Field's manufactured Frango Mints on the 9th floor of its State Street store from 1929 to 1999, when Marshall Field's moved production to Pennsylvania. But Federated Department Stores, who bought Marshall Field's and Macy's in 2005, brought production back to the city in 2009. So Blommer's may rise again—just not on a small lot worth at least $5.5 million that has local developers drooling all over themselves for the confection.

Mentally exhausting day, high body battery?

My Garmin watch thinks I've had a relaxing day, with an average stress level of 21 (out of 100). My four-week average is 32, so this counts as a low-stress day in the Garmin universe.

At least, today was nothing like 13 March 2020, when the world ended. Hard to believe that was four years ago. So when I go to the polls on November 5th, and I ask myself, "Am I better off than 4 years ago?", I have a pretty easy answer.

I spent most of today either in meetings or having an interesting (i.e., not boring) production deployment, so I'm going to take the next 45 minutes or so to read everything I haven't had time to read yet:

All righty then. I'll wrap up here in a few minutes and head home, where I plan to pat Cassie a lot and read a book.

It's all Billy Joel to me

A friend posted on Facebook that Billy Joel's album Glass Houses came out 44 years ago today. That means it's as far behind us as the 1936 Olympics was from Billy Joel at the time. A horrifying pun war followed, but that has nothing to do with the horrifying fact that people have known "You May Be Right" for 44 years.

And speaking of things that happened a long time ago, it turns out the President's memory is just fine, thank you, despite what Republican Special Prosecutor Robert K Hur said in his memorandum last month:

A transcript of a special counsel’s hourslong interview of President Biden over his handling of classified files shows that on several occasions the president fumbled with dates and the sequence of events, while otherwise appearing clearheaded.

In a report released last month, Mr. Hur concluded that there was insufficient evidence to charge Mr. Biden with a crime after classified documents ended up in an office he used after his vice presidency and in his home in Delaware. But the report also portrayed Mr. Biden, 81, as an “elderly man with a poor memory,” touching off a political furor amid his re-election campaign.

Mr. Biden’s lawyers, who were present for five hours of questioning over two days, have challenged the damaging portrait by Mr. Hur, a former Trump administration official. But the transcript had not been publicly available to evaluate Mr. Hur’s assessment that Mr. Biden’s memory has “significant limitations.”

But Mr. Hur made a particularly striking assertion in stating that Mr. Biden “did not remember when he was vice president.” As evidence, Mr. Hur quoted him as saying, “If it was 2013 — when did I stop being vice president?” According to the report, Mr. Biden displayed similar confusion on the second day of questioning, asking, “In 2009, am I still vice president?”

The transcript provides context for those lines. In both instances, Mr. Biden said the wrong year but appeared to recognize that he had misspoken and immediately stopped to seek clarity and orient himself.

I wonder how Hur would have done in a similar situation? And can you imagine how the XPOTUS would handle a deposition like that? Oh, wait—we don't have to imagine it, we have ample evidence of his inability to get through one without falling apart completely.

Before I start ranting more about the way the press treats President Biden's occasional (and rare) senior moments versus the way they treat the XPOTUS being unable to string together a coherent though, I'll go back to the original topic and leave you with Weird Al's eloquent response to Glass Houses:

Bruckner's 200th

We're just a few hours away from our Choral Classics concert celebrating the 200th anniversary of Anton Bruckner's birth. Tickets are still available! But I've got a lot to do before then, not least of which is making sure that Cassie and I get enough walkies today. (Lots of standing and sitting at concerts, if you're performing.)

But before I take a nap continue preparing for the concert, I want to point out that people finally have come around to the idea that English isn't Latin:

Late last month, Merriam-Webster shared the news on Instagram that it’s OK to end a sentence with a preposition. Hats off to them, sincerely. But it is hard to convey how bizarre, to an almost comical degree, such a decree seems in terms of how language actually works. It is rather like announcing that it is now permissible for cats to meow.

The first person on record to declare opposition to ending sentences with a preposition was the poet John Dryden in the 17th century. ... [E]ven grammarians like Lowth stipulated that keeping prepositions away from the end of sentences was most important in formal rather than casual language. But the question is why it is necessary there, since it usually sounds stuffy even in formal contexts.

The answer is: Latin. Scholars of Lowth’s period were in thrall to the idea that Latin and Ancient Greek were the quintessence of language. England was taking its place as a world power starting in the 17th century, and English was being spoken by ever more people and used in a widening range of literary genres. This spawned a crop of grammarians dedicated to sprucing the language up for its new prominence, and the assumption was that a real and important language should be as much like Latin as possible. And in Latin, as it happens, one did not end sentences with a preposition. “To whom are you speaking?” was how one put it in Latin; to phrase it as “Who are you speaking to?” would have sounded like Martian.

A friend recently started quoting from a grammar book they had borrowed from my downstairs library, leading me to ask, "What did you bring that book that I didn't want to be read to out of up for?" (Take that, John Dryden.)

Long day and long week

For Reasons, we have the dress rehearsal for our Saturday performance on Saturday. That means poor Cassie will likely go ten hours crossing her paws between the time I have to leave and when I'm likely to get back. Fortunately, she should be exhausted by then. Tonight's dress rehearsal for our Sunday performance won't put her out as much, thanks to Dog Delivery from my doggy day care. Still, I'd rather have a quiet evening at home than a 3-hour rehearsal and an hour-long car trip home...

Meanwhile, in the world of things that appear to matter more but actually will matter less in a year...

Finally, perhaps the reason the Chicago Transit Authority has so many problems is that its governing board has only one member who actually understands public transit? (Welcome to Chicago: where the head of the CTA has a chauffeured car, and the head of the Chicago Teacher's Union sends her kids to private school.)