The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

I got this 10 years ago already?

Facebook reminded me this morning that 10 years ago today I got the first digital camera I've ever owned whose photo quality approached that of the film cameras I had growing up. My new Canon 7D replaced my 5-year-old Canon 20D, and between the two I took over 32,700 photos in just over nine years. In May 2015 I upgraded to the Canon 7D mark II, the first digital camera I've owned whose capabilities exceeded my 1980s and 1990s film cameras.

I've updated the chart showing all the photo-capable devices I've owned since I got my first SLR in June 1983, along with other data showing, to some extent, how technology marches on:

Here are four example photos. (To see all the details, right-click the photos and open them in separate windows.) First, one of the earliest photos I took with my AE-1 Program, in Raton Pass, N.M., mid-August 1983:

Keep in mind, this is a Kodachrome 64 photo scanned some 38 years later, with a bit of help from Adobe Lightroom. Printing directly from the slide would make a better-looking photo...maybe. In any event, the resolution of the slide exceeds the resolution of the scan by an order of magnitude at least, so there really is no way without specialized equipment to produce a JPEG image that looks as good as the slide itself.

Jump ahead a few decades. Here's an early photo I took with the 20D on 20 May 2006 in Portsmouth, N.H.:

The original photo and this edit have the same resolution (2544 x 1696) and the same format (JPEG). Other than a few minor burns and dodges, this is what the camera recorded. It almost approaches film quality, but had I shot this image with Kodachrome 64, it would have much more vibrant color and a depth of texture that the 20D just couldn't achieve.

Now from the 7D that I got 10 years ago today, near Saganonomiyacho, in Kyoto, Japan, in November 2011:

With the first 7D, I gave it a 32 GB memory card and switched to the lossless CR2 format. The JPEG above has as much depth and range as a JPEG can have, but the CR2 file it came from finally has as much detail and photographic information as consumer-quality negative film from the 1980s or 1990s. Its 5184 x 3456 resolution comes awfully close to the density of, say, 100-speed Kodacolor VR-G from the mid-1980s, but the 7D's CMOS chip has literally 32 times the sensitivity of the fastest consumer film then available (ISO 12,800 vs. ISO 1600). I shot the photo above with a focal length of 250 mm from a bridge 250 meters from the subject, at ISO 1600, 1/500 second at f/5.6. The same shot on Kodacolor VR-G 1600 would have massive grain, and the same shot on Kodachrome 64 would have required an exposure of 1/15 second—guaranteeing camera shake. (I've re-edited this photo slightly from the quick-and-dirty treatment I gave it in my Tokyo hotel room after getting back from Kyoto.)

Finally, take a look at this photo from my current camera, the 7D Mark II, of the Chiesa de San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice:

I mean...wow. Even cropped slightly from the raw photo's 5472 x 3648 resolution, the detail is just as fine as Kodachrome 64 ever gave me. I shot this at 1/1000 sec., f/5.6, at 105 mm using a borrowed EF24-105 f/4L lens. (I posted a similar shot in June 2015 when I got back from the trip. I think this one has better composition and editing.)

One more thing, which I won't illustrate with a comparison photo but which I do think bears mentioning: these days, I only pull out the 7Dii for serious work. For day-to-day photos and snapshots, my smartphone's camera works better than digital SLRs from 15 years ago. We do live in the future.

The Queen's Consent

The Guardian has apparently just discovered a parliamentary procedure in use for the past, oh, 300 years, and...well, that's about it. In the UK, the House of Commons routinely shares proposed legislation with the Queen or the Prince of Wales when the matter under consideration directly affects the Royal Family. The Queen has no power to change the legislation, and indeed has never withheld her consent as doing so would cause a Constitutional crisis.

Still, it seems, as we say in the US, a bit hinky. And it seems that the Royals occasionally had something to say about the proposals. Naturally, the committed republicans of The Guardian are clutching their pearls indeed:

The Guardian has compiled a database of at least 1,062 parliamentary bills that have been subjected to Queen’s consent, stretching from the beginning of Elizabeth II’s reign through to the present day.

The database illustrates that the opaque procedure of Queen’s consent has been exercised far more extensively than was previously believed.

The investigation uncovered evidence suggesting that she used the procedure to persuade government ministers to change a 1970s transparency law in order to conceal her private wealth from the public.

The documents also show that on other occasions the monarch’s advisers demanded carve-outs on proposed laws relating to road safety and land policy that appeared to affect her estates, and pressed for government policy on historic sites to be altered.

A spokesperson for the Queen said: “Whether Queen’s consent is required is decided by parliament, independently from the royal household, in matters that would affect crown interests, including personal property and personal interests of the monarch.

“If consent is required, draft legislation is, by convention, put to the sovereign to grant solely on advice of ministers and as a matter of public record.”

She added: “Queen’s consent is a parliamentary process, with the role of sovereign purely formal. Consent is always granted by the monarch where requested by government. Any assertion that the sovereign has blocked legislation is simply incorrect.”

I would also consider myself to be a republican in the UK sense, happy to have the Windsors out of the process of governing the UK and taxable just like anyone else. But the UK Constitution, at the moment, has Elizabeth II Regina as Head of State, whose consent is required for all laws passed by her Government.

I imagine this article will elicit an enormous shrug from the British people.

Leni Riefenstahl on the Ellipse

Writing for Just Security, Yale philosophy professor Jason Stanley decodes the structural and content similarities between the propaganda film that introduced the XPOTUS on the Ellipse on January 6th and the propaganda films a certain central-European country produced in the first half of the previous century:

Fascism is a patriarchal cult of the leader, who promises national restoration in the face of supposed humiliation by a treacherous and power-hungry global elite, who have encouraged minorities to destabilize the social order as part of their plan to dominate the “true nation,” and fold them into a global world government. The fascist leader is the father of his nation, in a very real sense like the father in a traditional patriarchal family. He mobilizes the masses by reminding them of what they supposedly have lost, and who it is that is responsible for that loss – the figures who control democracy itself, the elite; Nazi ideology is a species of fascism in which this global elite are Jews.

The future promised by the fascist leader is one in which there are plentiful blue collar jobs, reflecting the manly ideals of hard work and strength.

Fascism uses propaganda as a way of mobilizing a population behind the leader. Fascist propaganda creates an awesome sense of loss, and a desire for revenge against those who are responsible. The goal of fascist propaganda is to mobilize a population to violently overthrew multi-party democracy and replace it with the leader.

This history, both European and American, illuminates the dangers we face today, laid bare in the video. In it, Trump is repeatedly represented as the nation’s father figure. It is laced through with images of masculinity, and mournful loss at the hands of traitors, clearly justifying a violent restoration of recent glory.

The message of the video is clear. America’s glory has been betrayed by treachery and division sown by politicians seeking to undermine and destroy the nation. To save the nation, one must restore Trump’s rule.

We didn't dodge a bullet on January 6th; the shooter just missed, and not by much.

Party like it's 1850? 1828? 1964? Who knows

I've often compared this era in American politics with previous eras, most notably the Antebellum period from Jackson on. Yale historian Joanne Freeman zeroes in on 1850—at least as far as our representatives' behavior in Congress

Although couched in calls for unity, [Republican] warnings are remarkably one-sided. There is no talk of reconciliation or compromise. No acceptance of responsibility. Lots of blame casting. And little willingness to calm and inform their base. Even now, some Republicans refuse to admit that Joe Biden won the election, and the Senate vote on an impeachment trial on Jan. 26 suggests that most Republicans want no investigation and will place no blame. They want reconciliation without apologies, concessions without sacrifice, power without accountability.

This is bullying as politics, the modus operandi of our departed chief. Hardly a Trumpian innovation, its heyday was in the decades before the Civil War. During the 1840s and 1850s, America was divided over the fate of slavery. Political parties were splintering under the strain. National institutions were struggling — and failing — to contain it. The press sensationalized the struggle to serve a cause and sell papers.

Southerners had long dominated the national government, and they felt entitled to that power. They were also worried about losing it, a product of the rise of abolitionism and potentially free states forming in the West. Viewing their violence as defensive and justifiable, they fended off attacks on slavery with force when necessary, demanding compliance or silence from their foes, and sometimes getting it.

For some Southerners, this brand of politics wasn’t much of a stretch; their slave regime was grounded in violence, and mastery was their way of life. Between 1830 and 1860, there were at least 70 violent incidents on the House and Senate floors, most of them prompted by Southerners.

With the centuries-long history of Southern white politicians advocating for Southern white minority power, does their behavior today surprise anyone? Freeman concludes:

It needs to assert the power of democratic institutions and the rule of law with a comprehensive investigation into the attack and punishment of its enablers, not in a spirit of revenge, but justly, fairly and consistently. It’s stunning that it needs to be said, but it must be: People who stage, support, or incite violent attacks on the federal government — whether they’re American citizens, members of Congress or the president himself — should be held accountable, not only to restore order in the present, but to fend off similar attacks in the future. Uniting the nation requires no less.

Yes. Lest we find ourselves lurching through the 1850s again. We all know how that ended.

Cities don't actually collapse like that

Annalee Newitz, author of Four Lost Cities, explains that urban collapse doesn't look anything like dystopian fiction would have it:

It’s always lurking just around the corner, seductive and terrifying, but it never quite happens. Lost-city anxieties, like the ones aroused by the pandemic, result from a misunderstanding of what causes cities to decline. Pandemics, invasions, and other major calamities are not the usual culprits in urban abandonment. Instead, what kills cities is a long period in which their leaders fail to reckon honestly with ongoing, everyday problems—how workers are treated, whether infrastructure is repaired. Unsustainable, unresponsive governance in the face of long-term challenges may not look like a world-historical problem, but it’s the real threat that cities face.

This slow-motion catastrophe—a combination of natural disaster and political indifference—was far more important to [Angkor's] transformation than the Ayutthaya invasion [in 1431]. And it stands as a warning to many cities in the U.S. Without a coherent response from local government, cities lashed by climate change will gradually lose their populations. The demise won’t be spectacular, even if the storms are monstrous. Instead, people will leave in dribs and drabs, and the exodus could take generations.

So, I'm going to stay in Chicago, which will likely remain a thriving urban center for hundreds more years.

Ten years to the day

On this day in 2011, Chicago got so much snow it shut down the city for almost 48 hours. So it's fitting we're having the biggest snowfall of the winter so far right now:

With 241 mm of snow recorded at the National Weather Service office in Romeoville and 173 mm at O’Hare International Airport as of Sunday morning, the city officially logged its second storm this week with more than 150 mm of snow — something that hasn’t happened since January 2014, officials said.

The heaviest period of snowfall was between 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 a.m. Sunday, according to meteorologists. Visibility during that time was reduced to less than 400 m during much of that time, with snow falling at a rate of an 25 mm an hour or faster, according to the weather service.

The Tribune published that around 9am; as of noon, O'Hare's snowfall reached 330 mm. They also have some photos for those of you who live in climates that have no interesting variations to gawk at. Here's my neighborhood:

And it's still coming down. Which means it's a perfect day to go to a warm (-ish, they still have to keep doors open) brewery and read for a bit. Because, dammit, I will get my 10,000 steps today.

This wobbly earth (and other stories)

I'm having a series of productive days lately, which has taken me away from wasting a bunch of time. So for example, I haven't yet today read these items:

And all of this on the coldest day in two years, in a month in which most days have had no sunlight. But hey, we're still having an abnormally-mild winter, so again, we're not complaining.

Two local stories

As the State of Illinois starts abandoning the Helmut Jahn-designed Thompson Center in Chicago's Loop, the Governor's Office announced the state has purchased PepsiCo's old building at 555 W Monroe St:

The 18-year-old structure has 430,000 square feet of office space and has green certification for energy efficiency.

More than 1,000—and potentially 1,400—of the 3,500 state workers now based in downtown Chicago eventually will relocate to the new facility, starting in April, according to Ayse Kalaycioglu, chief operating officer of the Illinois Department of Central Management Services, which manages the state’s real estate needs.

About 900 of the employees moving to 555 W. Monroe will be coming from the Thompson Center, leaving 1,300 in the structure named after the named the former governor who championed its construction and mourned its declining fortunes. But they won’t be there long, said Kalaycioglu and Deputy Gov. Dan Hynes in an interview late yesterday.

I'm sorry to hear so many people calling the Thompson Center "so old" and "dilapidated" given it opened in 1984 and sits directly across the street from the century-old City Hall. But: "In comparison, the state says the Thompson Center has $325 million in deferred maintenance needs now, a figure projected to grow to $525 million by 2026." (I took the below photo about a year after it opened.)

The other story is that seven new pizza places have recently opened in the city, and I may have to try a few of them. That square of Bill's Original Tavern Pizza at the top of the article made me hungry.

New art forms in the pandemic

Dear future reader, observe how the combination of physical isolation; near-universal access to the entire world through the Internet; apps that make collaboration simple (like TikTok); and really bored young people has allowed entirely new art forms to flourish. This, as just one example, needs preservation so future generations can see what we got up to in early 2021:

I don't know whether videos like this will continue once people can make live music for live audiences again. I will predict, however, that movies made in the 2040s and 2050s will use a few seconds of a TikTok sea shanty to set the stage in the same way that a few notes of "Mister Sandman" instantly tells today's audiences that the story takes place in the 1950s.

Three-pointer

Today is the last day of Sprint 28 at my day job, and I've just closed my third one-point story of the day. When we estimate the difficulty of a story (i.e., a single unit of code that can be deployed when complete), we estimate by points on a Fibonacci scale: 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21. A 2-point story is about twice as hard as a 1-point story; a 5 point story is about 5 times harder than a 1-point story; etc. If we estimate 8 or more points on my current team, we re-examine the story in order to break it into smaller chunks. Similarly, a 1-point story could turn out to have so little complexity that it takes almost no time, like today's story #304 that required adding one line of code to here and removing 37 lines of code from there. That one took about 15 minutes. The other two took a couple of hours each, as "knowing where to put the bolt" takes longer than actually attaching the bolt.

While all that happened on the west side of my desk, the monitors on the south side lit up a few stories for me to read when I get back from the walk I'm about to take:

  • Jennifer Rubin lists 50 things that have improved in the US in the past 5 days, starting with "you can ignore Twitter."
  • Though Rubin mentioned replacing Andrew Jackson's portrait in the Oval Office, she didn't mention that the Biden Administration has taken steps to complete replacing his racist mug on the $10 note with a portrait of Harriet Tubman. (The outgoing administration, for obvious reasons, mothballed this plan upon taking office.)
  • Charles Blow warns against the Democratic Party should keep advocating and stop "subconsciously modulating responses" in the face of Republican criticism.
  • National Geographic describes the Roman road network that spanned over 320,000 km and still remains largely intact today.
  • Philippa Snow suggests the French series Call My Agent if you're looking for serious entertainment. For my part I'm about to start Series 2 of Peaky Blinders.
  • Loyola University Chicago professor Devon Price has a new book out: Laziness Does Not Exist. I may have to buy a copy. Eventually.

And I will now try to get in a 45-minute fast walk as our first real winter storm bears down on us from Iowa.