The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Bye, bye, Andy Jay

The Treasury has dropped its plan to change the $10 note, and instead, has decided to put Harriet Tubman on the $20:

The move [Treasury Secretary Jack] Lew is announcing Wednesday is intended as a way to thread the needle between women's groups who have been advocating for gender diversity on U.S. currency and fans of Hamilton, including Lin-Manuel Miranda, the playwright and star of the hit Broadway musical about the nation's first Treasury secretary. Miranda lobbied Lew to keep Hamilton on the $10 when he visited Washington last month.

To appease those who have been looking forward to a woman on the $10, Treasury will will change the back of the $10 -- which now has an image of the Treasury Department -- to include women suffragists, according to a person familiar with the plans.

The new bill was set to be unveiled in 2020, coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment extending voting rights to women.

This is a good outcome.

Coming soon to a World Headquarters near you

For a big reason that I'll announce tomorrow afternoon, I've just ordered what may turn out to be the last desktop computer I'll ever buy. I think this may be true because (a) I've ordered a box that kicks proportionately more ass than any computer I've bought before; (b) each of my last three computers was in use for more than two years (though the one I bought in 2009 would probably have lived longer had I not dumped a bowl of chicken soup on it); and (c) each of the previous 2-year-old computers was replaced by an incrementally-better one, not a hugely-better one.

The new computer will have a 6-core Xeon E5-2620 2.4 GHz processor, 40 GB (!!!) of 2133 MHz ECC RAM, a 512-GB SSD boot drive and a 2-TB data drive, and an nVidia Quadro K620 video card. It replaces a laptop running a Core i7 2.4 GHz processor with 12 GB of RAM and a single 512-GB SSD augmented by a portable 2-TB data drive that runs through a USB 3.0 port. And whatever onboard video Dell stuck in there.

I'm going to disclose the total cost of this machine because I've just calculated the costs of several other boxes I've bought over the years against the consumer price index. It's a crude measurement, and probably overstates inflation when applied to technology, but it does give you an idea of how things changed over time. Here, then, are a few of my older computers—just the ones I used as my principal, daily machines, not servers:

Bought Config, Processor, Ram, HDD $ then $ now
Mar 2016 Desktop, Xeon 6C 2.4 GHz, 40 GB, 512 GB SSD + 2TB Data $3406 $3406
Dec 2013 Laptop, Core i7 2.4, 12 GB, 512 GB SSD $1706 $1737
Nov 2011 Laptop, Core i5 2.2 GHz, 8 GB, 256 GB SSD $795 $833
Nov 2009 Laptop, Core 2 Duo 2.66 GHz, 4 GB, 250 GB $923 $1012
Oct 2008 Desktop, Xeon 4C 2.0 GHz, 8 GB, 146 GB $1926 $2109
Feb 2007 Laptop, Centrino 2.0 GHz, 2 GB, 160 GB $2098 $2445
Jun 2005 Laptop, Pentium M 2.8 GHz, 2 GB, 60 GB $1680 $2048
Oct 2003 Laptop, Pentium M 1.4 GHz, 1 GB, 60 GB $1828 $2343
Oct 2002 Laptop, Pentium 4 1.7 GHz, 512 MB, 40 GB $2041 $2669
Mar 1999 Desktop, Pentium 3 500 MHz, 256 MB, 20 GB $2397 $3445
May 1995 Desktop, Nx 586 90 MHz, 32 MB, 850 MB $2206 $3437
Oct 1991 Desktop, 80386 33 MHz, 4 MB, 240 MB $2689 $4640

Obviously cost alone doesn't line up with value. Even in the last 5 years the computers have gotten better, despite the flattening-out of Moore's Law. I mean, the software development environment I work in would barely function in 4 gigabytes of RAM, and yet that's what I was using as recently as October 2011. Going farther down the list to the first computer I ever bought, in October 1991, yes it really did have 4 megabytes of RAM (1,024 times less), but that was just fine for Windows 3.1 back then.

Is the new computer going to change my life? Not a lot, though it will significantly cut compile-and-run times while I'm coding (and slightly increase my electric bill). And yet in 10 years I probably won't even have a desktop computer anymore, because I'll be doing my job on some other kind of device. I mean, when I got the Pentium 4 laptop in 2002 for $2,700 in today's dollars, I could hardly have predicted that 10 years later l would get about the same power and storage space in a mobile phone for 20% of the cost.

There are two other computers on the list whose prices I don't really know, because they were gifts, but they're worth mentioning. In 1986 I got a hand-me-down IBM PC with a 1 MHz 8088 processor, 640 kB of RAM, and two 5.25-inch floppy drives. I believe that computer originally cost about $9,000, which would be about $22,000 today. Then, in 1988, I got a hand-me-down Toshiba T3100 "laptop" that weighed about 7 kg and came with a 12 MHz 80286 processor, still 640 kB of RAM, and had a huge 20 MB hard drive. That one cost (I believe) about $2,500 new, or $5,100 today. And that 20 MB drive? That's 1/2,048th the storage space of the working RAM that my new box will have.

Still, every time I've bought a computer, I've outgrown it in less than three years. This time I hope I'm getting enough computer to make it four.

During a four-hour WebEx session...

Stuff to read later:

OK, conference call is ending. Time to perambulate the pooch.

In the Navy

At trivia (pub quiz) on Tuesday, we had this question: Name 4 of the 6 U.S. presidents who have served in the Navy or Naval Reserves. We got it wrong, unfortunately, and the answer surprised me.

All six of the men in the list served in WWII, and all six served in the White House successively: Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, and George H.W. Bush. (Bush was Reagan's vice president, remember.)

So...was there a secret conspiracy of Naval officers in the 1960s to take over the U.S. government?

Nah. But it's an interesting pattern.

(One of our team explained how Reagan didn't really break the pattern; "He was in McHale's Navy.")

Roméo, Roméo

I really, really like the Original Pronunciation movement started by David and Ben Crystal. Through analysis and performance, they're trying to understand Shakespeare's plays as audiences 400 years ago would have understood them.

The Crystals are back in the news with the upcoming publication of the Oxford Dictionary of Original Shakespearean Pronunciation this June. The Atlantic has the story:

It’s a book, a guide to Shakespeare’s first folio, that Crystal has been working on for 12 years (on and off, because, as he notes, “it’s deadly boring” to put a dictionary together). That work involved, essentially, linguistic sleuthing: Crystal started by looking at the words that might have originally rhymed, based on rhyme schemes and the words’ current pronunciations, and then cross-referenced them against other appearances of those same words in Shakespeare’s corpus.

The resulting dictionary is meant, he explains, as a resource for anyone who wants to understand Shakespeare’s plays and poems not as amber-frozen relics of literary history, but as works that have evolved along with English itself. “I’m not suggesting for a moment that Original Pronunciation replaces other approaches to Shakespeare,” Crystal says. “It simply is an extra tool in the kit that you use when you’re putting on a play.”

And OP doesn’t simply add dimensions to Shakespeare’s work (or, for that matter, to Marlowe’s, and Jonson’s, and Webster’s). It can also help modern audiences simply to parse the plays, to tease out basic meanings that have been eroded in time. In Henry IV Part I, for example, Falstaff tells Hal, “Give you a reason on compulsion? If reasons were as plentiful as blackberries, I would give no man a reason upon compulsion.” The line would seem, Crystal points out, to make very little sense—unless you understand that “reason” was pronounced, in Shakespeare’s English, as “raisin,” and that “raisin” was a synonym for “blackberry.”

I have, of course, pre-ordered the book.

Here are the Crystals giving a demonstration:

What Amazon looked like when I was a kid

I have a couple hours to kill in the Loop after having lunch with a friend. I don't really want caffeine or alcohol right now, which rules out the two classes of places to where I would most likely go. Then I remembered: there's a great big library here.

And yep, it looks like a library on the inside: shelves full of books, people reading, literary quotes on the walls, free WiFi. OK, that last bit isn't something I remember from the 1980s, but everything else is. They even have a shelf full of phone books.

OK, I've been here before, but still, I'm laughing at myself for not considering hanging out here before.

The GOP reaps what it sowed

New Republic's Jeet Heer points out how the Republican Party's "Sourthern Strategy," going all the way back to the 1950s, led more or less directly to Donald Trump's campaign:

Far from being a “cancer” on Republicanism, or some jihadi-style radicalizer, he’s the natural evolutionary product of Republican platforms and strategies that stretch back to the very origins of modern conservatism in the 1950s and 1960s.

The racist voters swarming around Trump didn’t just pop out of nowhere. The Republicans have been courting them for decades now, in a dramatic break from the party’s origins. From its creation in 1854 in opposition to the expansion of slavery until the 1940s, the Republicans were the party of the North, and more anti-racist (albeit sometimes only marginally so) than the Democrats, whose most reliable base of support was the “solid” white South. 

The Southern Strategy was the original sin that made Donald Trump possible. If Republican voters were anywhere near as diverse as the Democrats’, a candidate like Trump would have been marginalized quickly. Conservative elites can denounce Trump all they want as a “cancer” or an impostor. In truth, he is their true heir, the beneficiary of the policies the party has pursued for more than half a century.

It's a long-ish article, worth the time.

Wacker and Wabash, then and now

I've meant to post this for a while. Here's a photo looking south-west from a point just southwest of the intersection of Wacker and Michigan, here in Chicago, in April 1986:

And here's a similar view today. Note that you can no longer see the Thompson Center, City Hall, or anything else beyond the row of skyscrapers erected on Wacker between Wabash and Clark since then:

The photos aren't from the same vantage point, because this afternoon I only had my phone and not my SLR. I will try to get a photo from approximately the same location and using the same focal length (probably 210mm) soon.

A 102-year lawsuit changed a Chicago neighborhood

On this day 180 years ago (28 January 1836), John L. Wilson purchased 33 hectares of land about 16 km from the city, by what is now 83rd and Cottage Grove. At the time it was a swath of prairie two hours outside Chicago. But through a series of missteps, slow City workers, and a very long-lived lawsuit, no one developed the land until 1940, by which time the city had grown to surround the lot on all sides:

The property was so remote—and the value so depressed—that nobody paid much attention to it for nearly 40 years. Then, in 1875, Isaac Palmer discovered that the original land patent had been issued in his name by mistake. He decided to cash in on it.

So now the matter went to the Superior Court of Cook County. By the time the Illinois Supreme Court got the case, the City of Chicago was involved, as well as the successors to Wilson and Palmer. In 1887 the Supreme Court ruled that the Wilson successors had legal title to the property. The City of Chicago also had a valid mortgage of $1,500 against it, with 10% annual interest dating back to the unpaid October 1836 mortgage.

Except there was  yet another complication—most land records had been lost in the 1871 Chicago Fire. The further details of the dispute don’t need to be elaborated here, except to say that many lawyers were kept busy over the next fifty years, with the 80-acre plot remaining vacant while the rest of the area was built up.

On August 4, 1939 the drama ended. Compound interest over 102 years had ballooned the defaulted $1,500 mortgage to $34,755,000. Because of all the mistakes various governments had made over the years, Janet Fairbank—the last holder in the chain of title from original patentee John L. Wilson—was allowed to settle the debt and have clear title to the property on payment of $30,000.

For what it's worth, $1,500 in 1837 is about $38,000 today, and $34.8m in 1939 is around $590m today.