The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Yet another infantile billionaire

Billionaire Bill Ackerman lobbied Harvard's board hard to get president Claudine Gay fired last month, harping on her plagiarism as a key reason she wasn't fit for the job. Business Insider then published two stories alleging what looks like even worse plagiarism by Neri Oxman—Ackerman's wife. So Ackerman did what any self-deceiving, childish, hypocritical billionaire would do: he leaned on the paper's publisher. Because of course he did:

At one point, Ackman wrote that a Harvard student who committed “much less” plagiarism than Claudine Gay would be forced out of the university. Gay resigned from the presidency last week.

But when Business Insider raised plagiarism concerns about his wife’s work, Ackman excoriated the publication, accusing it of unethical journalism, promising to review its writers’ work and predicting that it would “go bankrupt and be liquidated.” In one social media post, he implied that Business Insider’s investigations editor (whom he called “a known anti-Zionist”) may have been “willing to lead this attack” because Oxman is Israeli.

Neither Ackman nor Oxman, whose companies didn’t respond to requests for comment, have pointed to any factual errors in the articles.

Still, Ackman’s complaints seemed to get the attention of Axel Springer, the German media giant that owns Business Insider. On Sunday, the company released an unusual statement saying it would “review the processes” that led up to the articles’ publication, while acknowledging that the stories were not factually wrong.

While Ackman hasn’t raised factual issues with the articles, he has claimed that the outlet didn’t give him and his wife enough time to comment on the second story, about Wikipedia plagiarism, with a space of roughly two hours on late Friday afternoon between when his spokesman was asked for comment and when the story was published. But Ackman first went public with the Wikipedia allegations roughly an hour before the story was published by posting on social media about the impending article, which may have affected Business Insider’s publication schedule.

Cryptocurrency researcher (the good kind) and Wikipedia mega-editor Molly White the Tweet in question apart line by line:

What is it with these guys? I have to wonder if kvetching about how unfairly the world treats you is a prerequisite for amassing a huge fortune. They do tend to project a lot, don't they, these billionaires?

Part of me finds this sort of thing hilarious, another part finds it sad, and yet I have to remember that these whiny babies have a lot of money and the power that goes with it. Not being able to take criticism, especially when one is a public figure and one continually inserts oneself into public discourse, seems like weakness to me. Maybe that's why they get so agitated: deep down, they know the truth backing up their critics.

Hopewell Brewing

Welcome to stop #94 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Hopewell Brewing, 2760 N Milwaukee Ave., Chicago
Train line: CTA Blue Line, Logan Square
Time from Chicago: 16 minutes
Distance from station: 400 m

The second stop on the "research expedition" my friend and I took on Saturday didn't excite us as much as BiXi or Revolution. My friend decided that Hopewell is what you get when you tell an AI to design a Logan Square taproom. She's not wrong.

We tried six beers—well, I tried five, because I really don't like göse—and compared notes:

  • Lightbeam hazy IPA (6.3%): nice, light, fruity, good finish; my favorite
  • As If West Coast DIPA (7.5%: Pow! Huge hops, big flavor, a little banana, clean finish
  • Long Shadows winter IPA (7.5%): a little syrupy, a bit heavy, not our favorite
  • Ride or Die pale (5.5%): good balance, nice acidity, very drinkable; my friend's favorite
  • Going Places IPA (6.8%): Lager, malty, syrupy, apricot, very good
  • Table Salt göse (4.5%): A hint of saltiness, and the cardamom gives it a unique flavor

So, it's not bad, but it's not someplace either of us particularly felt like seeing again. At one point I mused that it would be much more welcoming if they lined the ceiling with anechoic tiles, but loud is in vogue these days. On to the next stop.

Beer garden? No
Dogs OK? No
Televisions? None
Serves food? No, BYOF
Would hang out with a book? No
Would hang out with friends? Maybe
Would go back? Maybe

BiXi Beer

Welcome to stop #93 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: BiXi 鼻息 Beer, 2515 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago
Train line: CTA Blue Line, Logan Square
Time from Chicago: 16 minutes
Distance from station: 400 m

Yesterday I brought a friend along to visit three Logan Square breweries, starting with BiXi (pronounced "bee she") and ending with the granddaddy of the region, Revolution. We planned well, because BiXi has really great beer but also very tasty food. Plus, it's got a cozy vibe where I can imagine hanging out for a while.

Because we joined forces, we could try twice as many beers—plus some delicious Szechuan peanuts (very spicy!), pot stickers, and mushroom egg rolls.

From my notes and their menu:

  • Nectar 7G Nectaron IPA (6.5%): "This collaboration with Pipeworks Brewing features a tropical juicy twist brewed with Nectaron Hops from New Zealand." Really good, excellent balance, clean finish, would take home.
  • Unicorns in the Mirror hazy IPA (8%): "Packs 7 different types of hops including cryo citra, citra, mosaic, idaho 7, amarillo, simcoe, and columbus as well as tropical fruits, smooth sweetness, and low bitterness." Banana, apple, long finish, really good.
  • BiXi Bitter Kölsch (4.5%): "A classic style extra lagered brew with a silky smooth brilliantly bitter bite." Light, crisp, malty, hoppier than a regular Kolsch.

My friend adds: "Jeju island Mandarin witbier (4.6%): the Mandarin gave it a punchier flavor than a typical witbier, but the banana aroma that typifies a wit still stood out the most. Well balanced, good representation of the style, wouldn't order it again because it's not my preferred style of beer."

Our favorite was the Unicorns in the Mirror. Since neither of us really likes amber ales, and since we had two other breweries to visit, we skipped the Broken Walk-In Amber Lager (5.3%).

I'm already making plans to go back with some other friends who live in Logan Square.

Beer garden? No
Dogs OK? No
Televisions? Two, avoidable
Serves food? Yes
Would hang out with a book? Maybe
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

Mid-week mid-day

Though my "to-be-read" bookshelf has over 100 volumes on it, at least two of which I've meant to read since the 1980s, the first book I started in 2024 turned out to be Cory Doctorow's The Lost Cause, which I bought because of the author's post on John Scalzi's blog back in November.

That is not what I'm reading today at lunch, though. No, I'm reading a selection of things the mainstream media published in the last day:

Finally, for $1.7 million you can live inside a literal brick oven. The fifth-floor penthouse in the former Uneeda Biscuit building on Chicago's Near West Side includes several rooms with brick ceilings that were, decades ago, the ovens that cooked the biscuits. Cool. (Or, you know, hot.)

Any news? No, not one single new

Wouldn't that be nice? Alas, people keep making them:

Speaking of excoriation, David Mamet has a new memoir about his 40 years in the LA film industry, Everywhere an Oink Oink. (Expect to find that on next year's media roundup.) And I still have to read Linda Obst's Hello, He Lied, which I keep forgetting to liberate from my dad's bookshelf.

Statistics: 2023 (media edition)

Some Daily Parker followers expressed interest in what books I read this year. So instead of just counting them in the annual statistical roundup, I've decided to list most of the media that I consumed last year in a separate post.

Books

In 2023 I started 39 and finished 37 books, not including the 6 reference books that I consulted at various points. It turns out, I read a lot more than in 2022 (27 started, 24 finished), and in fact more than in any year since 2010, when I read 51.

Notable books I finished in 2023 include:

  • Isaac Asimov, Foundation (1951) and Foundation and Empire (1952), neither of which has aged that well. I can forgive Asimov for not knowing how computers would work in the future, but I had a lot of trouble with the rampant sexism.
  • Radley Balko, Rise of the Warrior Cop (2013). I admire Balko's police reporting, and I found his explanation of the militarization of local American police forces compelling. Things haven't gotten better since he wrote the book, alas.
  • Iain Banks, the first 3 novels of The Culture series (1987–1990). I loved them and have books 4 and 5 already lined up.
  • Nicholas Dagen Bloom, The Great American Transit Disaster (2023). Bloomberg's CityLab newsletter recommended this. I recommend it, but as someone who loves urban planning and transit policy, I found it depressing.
  • Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962). I meant to read this book ages ago and finally got to it last winter. Loved it.
  • Christopher Buehlman, The Blacktongue Thief (2021). Buehlman's alter-ego is Christophe the Insultor, whose show I've caught at the Bristol Faire many times before 2020. I zipped through this novel in a few days, and was just now pleased to find he wrote a sequel, due out in June.
  • James S.A. Corey, The Expanse series, books 6-9 (2016–2021) plus Memory's Legion (2022). I started the series in late 2022 and finished it in March. I think The Expanse might be the best hard sci-fi of the decade.
  • James Fell, Shit Went Down: Number 2 (2022). A daily history lesson with lots of swearing and a deep hatred of Nazis. I read it a few pages at a time throughout the year.
  • S.E. Hinton, The Outsiders (1967). A friend's favorite book from childhood and a classic that I just never got around to reading. Stay golden, Ponyboy.
  • Hugh Howey, the Silo series (2011–2013). Fun sci-fi that I wanted to read after watching the Apple TV series. Knocked it off in 3 weeks over the summer.
  • Peter Kramer, Death of the Great Man (2023). Recommended by James Fallows. Absolutely hilarious satire of what might happen were a certain corpulent, quasi-fascist US President to die in mysterious circumstances in his psychiatrist's office.
  • Steven Levitzky and Daniel Ziblatt, Tyranny of the Minority (2023). The follow-up to the authors' 2018 book How Democracies Die. Explains in detail how the Republican Party has manipulated our system of government to stay in power despite having unpopular policies.
  • Alexandra Petri's US History: Important American Documents (2023). Hilarious satire from one of my favorite Washington Post columnists.
  • qntm (Sam Hughes), Valuable Humans in Transit (short stories, 2020–2022) and There Is No Antimimetics Division (2021). Based on Hughes' work in the SCP Foundation Wiki, these weird sci-fi stories will creep you out. I started Antimimetics on the flight from London to Prague and finished it at lunch the next day. Really fun stuff.
  • Richard Reeves, Dream Horders (2017). Lays out how the upper-middle class has tilted things to preserve its own wealth and privilege at the expense of everyone else. I don't agree with all his conclusions, and it's a bit dry, but I'm glad I read it.
  • John Scalzi, Starter Villain (2023). I love Scalzi so much that Villain is my fourth signed first-edition directly from the man. I especially loved that much of the action takes place in Barrington, Ill., in a pub clearly based on one a friend of mine used to co-own.
  • Bruce Schneier, A Hacker's Mind (2023). Excellent book by one of the industry's greatest security thinkers.
  • Daniel Suarez, Daemon (2017) and Freedom™ (2021). A long-time friend recommended these books. Burned through each in two days in June, ordering the second one before I'd finished the first.
  • Kelly & Zach Weinersmith, A City on Mars (2023). I finished this Sunday night so it would make this list. Excellent and funny in-depth analysis of how our species could colonize other planets, and the problems that make doing so unlikely for the next few centuries, if ever. Zack Weinersmith writes the hilarious Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal comic.

Other media

I also saw 30 movies (but only one in a theater) and attended 13 concerts and theater performances, plus watched quite a bit more TV than usual because Cassie draped herself across my lap making it difficult to get up:

  • Films I would recommend: American Sniper (2014), Barbie (2023), Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid* (1983), Dune* (2021), Edge of Tomorrow (2014), Enola Holmes (2019), Free Guy* (2022), Greyhound (2023), Guardians of the Galaxy 3 (2023), John Wick 4 (2023), Jung_E (정이, 2023), M3GAN (2023), No Hard Feelings (2023), Nope (2022), Oppenheimer (2023), and Risky Business* (1983). (* denotes a re-watch from a previous year)
  • Films I would not recommend: After.Life (2009), The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial (2023), Drinking Buddies (2013), The Flash (2023), Someone I Used to Know (2023).
  • Live performances: C21 Women's Ensemble; Bach, Brandenburg Concerti, Lincoln Center Chamber Orchestra; Bach, Mass in b-minor, Music of the Baroque; Brahms, Ein Deutsches Requiem, Grant Park Music Festival; Constellation Men's Ensemble; Dar Williams; Stacy Garrop's Terra Nostra, Northwestern University Orchestra; Hadestown; comedian Liz Miele; Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris Chorus; and NPR's Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!
  • TV shows: Black Mirror series 6; The Book of Boba Fett; Carnival Row; Foundation (2021); Generation V season 1; Good Omens series 2; House MD seasons 6-8; Invasion (2022); The Last of Us; Last Week Tonight with John Oliver; The Mandalorian season 2; The Orville season 1; The Peripheral; Reacher (2022); Severance; Silo; Slow Horses; Star Trek: Lower Decks season 4; Star Trek: Picard season 3; Star Trek: Strange New Worlds season 2; Travelers; The Witcher season 3.

I don't know whether I'll read or watch more in 2024, but I hope it's at least as enjoyable as 2023.

Statistics: 2023

Last year continued the trend of getting back to normal after 2020, and with one nice exception came a lot closer to long-term bog standard normal than 2022.

  • I posted 500 times on The Daily Parker, 13 more than in 2022 and only 6 below the long-term median. January, May, and August had the most posts (45) and February, as usual, the least (37). The mean of 41.67 was actually slightly higher than the long-term mean (41.23), with a standard deviation of 2.54, which may be the lowest (i.e., most consistent posting schedule) since I started the blog in 1998.
  • Flights went up slightly, to 12 segments and 20,541 flight miles (up from 10 and 16,138), the most of either since 2018:
  • I visited 5 countries (the UK, Czechia, Austria, Slovakia, and Germany) and 5 US states (California, Wisconsin, Arizona, Indiana, and Michigan). Total time traveling: 156 hours (up from 107).
  • Cassie had more fun last year than 2022 as my team went from 2 to 3 days in-office (meaning more time at day camp). She got 372 hours of walks (up from 369) and at least that many hours of couch time.
  • Total steps for 2023: 4,619,407 steps and 3,948 km (average: 12,655 per day), up from 4.54m steps and 3,693 km in 2022. I hit my step goal 341 times (327 in 2022), which wasn't bad at all. I also did my longest walk ever on September 1st, 44.45 km.
  • Driving? I did several trips to Michigan in the summer, but still only drove 5,009 km (down from 5,925) on 87 L of gasoline (down from 144), averaging 1.7 L/100 km (136 MPG). That's the best fuel economy I've ever gotten with any car for a full year. I last filled up July 30th, and could conceivably go through January on what I've got left in the tank, but it's always best to keep your tank full in super-cold weather.
  • Total time at work: 1,905 hours at my real job (up from 1,894) and 73 hours on consulting and side projects, including 640 hours in the office (up from 580), but not including the 91 hours I spent commuting (down from 103). How did I add 60 hours in the office while cutting 12 hours off my commute, I hear you ask? Simple: I live closer to the Metra than I used to, and the 6-10 minutes a day adds up.
  • The Apollo Chorus consumed 247 hours in 2023, with 166 hours rehearsing and performing (cf. 220 hours just on the music in 2022). We had fewer performances and an easier fall season, which made a huge difference.
  • As for media consumption, I'll leave that to its own post tomorrow.

In all, not a bad year. I hope the trends continue for 2024, though I do expect a few more blog posts this autumn...

Take Flight Spirits, Skokie

Welcome to stop #92 on the Brews and Choos project.

Distillery: Take Flight Spirits, 8038 Lincoln Ave., Skokie
Train line: CTA Yellow Line, Oakton-Skokie
Time from Chicago: 46 minutes
Distance from station: 700 m

This charming single-pot distillery in the only charming part of Skokie began distilling in March 2020 and opened its tasting room in the summer of 2022. A couple of friends and I were visiting a mutual friend a few blocks away, so we decided to traipse down the bike path that parallels the Yellow Line and visit Take Flight, passing Sketchbook along the way.

We all liked the vibe, and got to meet the distillers, Carrie and Andrew Cole, who gave us a little context. Most importantly, they don't distill grain-neutral spirits (AKA vodka), preferring to make their gin from their rum instead. They also have a really lovely barrel-aged rum, and they make a malt whiskey and a Bourbon. Right now they also have a gin distilled from a batch of Sketchbook Insufficient Clearance that went wrong. (I tasted that batch. It was horrible. The brewery recalled all of it, including the 4-pack I bought from them, and explained they messed up the hop load.)

I got a flight with their basic gin (hits a bit hard; cardamom, lavender, grapefruit, lots of juniper; the rum base gives it a nice depth), the aged rum (nice balance, not too sweet, long finish), and the bourbon (easy nose, almost a lighter taste than expected, very young, might make an OK old fashioned but IMO not ready yet). My friends let me try the malt whiskey (sweet nose, nice smoke, good finish) and their cocktails. The aged rum made a wonderful old fashioned. At $55 a bottle, though, I'd rather sip it than load it up with bitters and syrup.

I'm looking forward to going back, maybe to one of their evening events. As of this post, the Yellow Line still hasn't resumed service after their accident in November, adding maybe 10 minutes to the already-lengthy 46 minute ride from downtown Chicago. But I foresee a day in the spring where a few of us get together for a cocktail at Take Flight followed by a pint at Sketchbook.

Beer garden? No
Dogs OK? No
Televisions? None
Serves food? Snacks only; "BYOF" (bring your own food) policy
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

Saturday morning miscellaneous reads

I don't usually do link round-ups on Saturday mornings, but I got stuff to do today:

  • Josh Marshall is enjoying the "comical rake-stomp opera" of Nikki Haley's (R-SC) primary campaign.
  • The Economist pokes around the "city" of Rosemont, Ill., a family-owned fiefdom less than 10 km from Inner Drive Technology World HQ.
  • The New York Times highlights the most informative charts they published in 2023.
  • The Chicago Tribune lists some of the new Illinois laws taking effect on Monday. My favorite: Illinois will no longer bar marriage licenses for out-of-state same-sex couples whose home jurisdiction prohibits same-sex marriages.
  • The CTA plans to build out 10 blocks (2 km) of "community space" under the new Red/Purple Line trestle under construction in Uptown and Edgewater.

Finally, two restaurants in Chicago—well, one restaurant and one infamous hot-dog stand—have joined forces to create the Chicago Croissant, which "features a char-dog rolled into a pastry lined with mustard, relish and onions. Definitely no ketchup. It’s topped with poppy seeds and celery salt and garnished with a tomato, pepper and pickle." This, they claim, is a breakfast food.

Another cool thing

One of my friends got this little clock for me:

It's an Author Clock. Instead of just the time, it shows a literary quote containing the time. They have well over 1,440 quotes in there (they claim 13,000), and they update frequently, so you may never see the same quote twice.

I had it in my home office for about an hour and got no work done. Because it's that cool.