The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Lazy Sunday

Butters Poochface has gone home, Cassie and I have taken about an hour of walks so far, and the temperature hasn't yet cracked 25°C.

I'm about to upend Cassie's life, though. It's bath time. Even one night boarding can create an awful smell.

Wish me luck. Last time I bathed her, Cassie accepted her fate with grace and humility. The time before that she...didn't.

Gonna be a hot one

I've got a performance this evening that requires being on-site at the venue for most of the day. So in a few minutes I'll take two dogs to boarding (the houseguest is another performer's dog), get packed, an start heading to a hockey rink in another city. Fun! If I'm supremely lucky, I'll get back home before the storm.

Since I also have to travel to the venue, I'll have time to read a few of these:

Finally, the Post examined a Social Security Administration dataset yesterday that shows how baby names have converged on a few patterns in the last decade. If you think there are a lot of names ending in -son lately (Jason, Jackson, Mason, Grayson, Failson...), you're not wrong.

China launches overnight Beijing to Shanghai and Hong Kong service

Imagine an overnight train from New York to Miami that takes 12 hours. China just opened a $165 train that does about the same thing:

From Hong Kong to Beijing, the overnight trip takes 12 hours 30 minutes, and it covers roughly the same distance as a flight from New York to Miami or Los Angeles to Dallas. It complements the 8 hour 15 minute day train that has run for years.

The overnight trip to Shanghai takes 11 hours. The corresponding day train takes just 7 hours 47 minutes.

We can have similar rail lines and options, if we choose to. The Federal Railroad Administration has in fact published plans that call for HSR service between cities of similar (or longer) distances. For example, the Midwest Regional Rail Plan calls for high-speed trains between St. Paul and Nashville, while the Southeast Regional Rail Plan calls for high-speed trains between Nashville and Orlando.

Together, the plans would create a single HSR line of about 1,500 miles. So, a family in St. Paul could board a sleeper train in the evening and be at Orlando’s Disney World by mid-morning the next day—rested and ready to go, instead of stressed out from driving and poorer from a hotel stay.

I will grant two things that make this a difficult problem for the US: the fifth amendment and our psychotic relationship with cars. The first requires that the government provides just compensation for any property it takes, and buying the land to create a grade-separated high-speed rail line would not be cheap. China just kicks people off their land.

The second is that we've spent a century subsidizing cars and building our physical environment around cars, which prevents even reasonable people from understanding the basic economics behind highways. (Or, if you're the Chicago Tribune editorial board, the basic understanding of how traffic works.)

Still, it frustrates me to no end that we're not even discussing it.

In the early autumn I'm going to get on a train in London, change in Paris, and get off the train in Marseille, which will take about 7 hours, depending on how tight I want to make the connection between Gare du Nord and Gare de Lyon. I'll get to St Pancras about half an hour before the train, very likely from a hotel a few blocks away, and when I get off the train in Marseille, I'll have another walk of a block or two to that hotel. Contrast with my flight home from Marseille, which, including half an hour by transit to the Provence airport, customs, emigration in France and immigration into the UK, will take about the same length of time. And then I'll be at Heathrow, an hour from central London.

I once made it from central Richmond, Va., to a friend's apartment in Murray Hill, Manhattan, in just over 5 hours, door to door. So I know the US has the ability to build real high-speed trains. But will I ever see one in my lifetime?

Houseguest for a night

Butters is back at IDTWHQ:

Just for one night, though. Cassie seemed pretty happy when Butters' person dropped her off, but after a 35-minute walk (that should have been about 20% shorter) with Butters pulling against the flow of traffic, I think Cassie got a little irritated:

Between Cassie and me, who together out-mass Butters by almost 10:1, we got Butters moving on more than one occasion when Butters didn't want to.

Butters is now crashed out on the dog bed in my office. It's kind of adorable.

Heat addles your brain

First, let me just say how lovely it was to wake up to this today, especially as we're mere minutes from the earliest solstice since the Washington administration:

My windows are open, and I no longer hate the world. Which, it turns out, is a perfectly normal response to high heat:

It turns out even young, healthy college students are affected by high temperatures. During the hottest days, the students in the un-air-conditioned dorms, where nighttime temperatures averaged [27°C], performed significantly worse on the tests they took every morning than the students with A.C., whose rooms stayed a pleasant [21°C].

R. Jisung Park, an environmental and labor economist at the University of Pennsylvania, looked at high school standardized test scores and found that they fell 0.2 percent for every degree above 72 Fahrenheit. That might not sound like a lot, but it can add up for students taking an exam in an un-air-conditioned room during a [32°C] heat wave.

Researchers don’t know why heat affects our cognition and emotions, but there are a couple of theories.

One is that the brain’s resources are being diverted to keep you cool, leaving less energy for everything else. “If you’re allocating all of the blood and all the glucose to parts of your brain that are focused on thermoregulation, it seems like it’s very plausible that you just wouldn’t have enough left for some of these kind of higher cognitive functions,” Dr. [Kimberly Meidenbauer, an assistant professor of psychology at Washington State University,] said.

Yesterday it was still above 31°C when I took Cassie for her last walk. Air conditioning plus a shower helped immensely.

Adapting to hot days

Inner Drive Technology World HQ has cooled off slightly to 32.6°C (heat index 36.8°C) after maxing out this afternoon at 33.3°C. Not that the 7/10ths of a degree makes that much difference. I have a nearly-constant headache and I don't want to go outside. Plus, I've already drunk about 3½ liters of water today.

To avoid the heat and to make sure Cassie and I both got enough exercise, we took a 6 km walk before 7am. The temperature still got up to 26.5°C before too long, prompting me to fill Cassie's bowl with ice water and get myself to the shower even before having breakfast.

Not much else to report, except that I plan to eat the last of the leftover rice I've got in the fridge tonight, well within the New York Times recommended storage interval. That's if the heat doesn't kill my appetite entirely...

All the (other) things!

As I mentioned after lunch, a lot of other things crossed my desk today than just wasted sushi:

Finally, Taylor Swift fans have roundly rejected Ticketmaster's monopolistic gouging by flying to Europe to catch the Eras Tour, often saving so much money on tickets that it pays for their travel. I personally know one such Swiftie who took her honeymoon in Stockholm, where Swift played earlier this year. It turns out, Europe has stricter rules against the kind of parasitic behavior Ticketmaster perpetrates on Americans.

Sushi, sushi, everywhere, and most goes in the dump

Heat makes me cranky. Even though I have good air conditioning, I also don't want to overdo it, so my home office is 25°C right now. Not too hot, but not what I would call super-comfortable. Still, it's cooler than the 37°C heat index that Cassie and I just spent 12 minutes walking in. Adding to the misery: both Chicago airports hit record high temperatures (36°C) yesterday.

The heat wave should break tomorrow night. Until then I'll continue slamming back water during the day and tonics with lime (minus the gin) in the evening. That's right: it's so damn hot, I don't even want a proper G&T. Maybe when it gets below 30°C.

Two things I read today dovetailed unexpectedly. The first, a speech Bruce Schneier gave to the RSA conference on 25 April 2023 and just posted this morning, suggests new ways of thinking about how democracy and AI can work together. A few minutes into the speech, Schneier sets up this critique of market economies:

[T]he cost of our market economy is enormous. For example, $780 billion is spent world-wide annually on advertising. Many more billions are wasted on ventures that fail. And that’s just a fraction of the total resources lost in a competitive market environment. And there are other collateral damages, which are spread non-uniformly across people.

We have accepted these costs of capitalism—and democracy—because the inefficiency of central planning was considered to be worse. That might not be true anymore. The costs of conflict have increased. And the costs of coordination have decreased. Corporations demonstrate that large centrally planned economic units can compete in today’s society. Think of Walmart or Amazon. If you compare GDP to market cap, Apple would be the eighth largest country on the planet. Microsoft would be the tenth.

Shortly after, I came across a BBC article rolling up just how much sushi gets wasted in Japan every day:

Every year on Setsubun, stores across the country stock a holiday sushi roll called ehomaki. At the end of the night, hundreds of thousands of these rolls wind up in the garbage. "Shops always provide what customers want, which means their shelves have to always be stocked," [Riko Morinaga, a recent high school graduate in Tokyo,] says. "This contributes to the food loss problem."

The exact size of the problem is difficult to quantify, because convenience store companies usually are not transparent about their losses. Representatives from 7-Eleven Japan and Lawson, two major chains, told BBC.com that they do not disclose the amount of food waste generated by their stores. Representatives from FamilyMart, another major chain, did not respond to interview requests, but the company indicates on its website that its stores generate 56,367 tonnes of food waste per day. In 2020, the Japan Fair Trade Commission estimated that Japan's major convenience store chains throw away on average 4.68m yen ($30,000; £24,000) of food per shop per year – equating to an approximate annual loss of more than 260bn yen (1.7bn; £1.3bn) in total.

Those numbers may seem fishy, but they represent a huge problem, not just in Japan, but everywhere that retailers feel they need to over-stock perishable food items.

I have a bunch more things queued up from earlier today that I'll link to in a bit. But first I have to stick my head in a bucked of ice water.

Definitely summer in Chicago

Cassie and I just got back from a short walk around the block. We did a 45-minute walk at 7:15, when we both could still tolerate the temperature, but just now my backyard thermometer shows a temperature of 33.1°C with a dewpoint of 23.3°C, which gives us a heat index of 38.5°C (101.4°F). Honestly, I prefer winter to this.

The National Weather Service predicts the heat wave could extend through the week.

Meanwhile, in the rest of the world:

Finally, author Edward Robert McClelland visited all 77 community areas in Chicago, and lived to write about it.