The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

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.)

My brain is full

Almost always, during the last few days before a performance, a huge chunk of my working memory contains the music I'm about to perform. I have two concerts this weekend, so right now, my brain has a lot of Bruckner in it. I feel completely prepared, in fact.

Unfortunately, I still have a day job, and I need a large chunk of my brain to work on re-architecting a section of our app. Instead of loading data from Microsoft Excel files, which the app needs to read entirely into memory because of the way Excel stores the contents of cells, I need to allow the app to use comma-separated values (CSV) files that it can read and throw away. So instead of reading the entire Excel file into memory and keeping it there while it generates an in-memory model of the file, the app will simply read each row of a CSV file and then throw that row away while building its model. I believe that will allow the app to ingest at least 5x more data for any given memory size.

I'm finding that the "In Te, Domine speravi" fugue from Bruckner's Te Deum keeps getting in the way of thinking about the re-architecture.

And oh, the irony, that I don't have enough working memory to think about how to get more working memory for our app.

Meanwhile...

  • James Fallows shakes his head at a pair of New York Times headlines that tell exactly the opposite stories as the articles under them. Salon's Lucian K Truscott IV elaborates.
  • The Mary Sue does not hold back on dismissing retiring US Senator Kyrsten Sinema (?-AZ), a "useless corporate Senate shill who accomplished nothing." "The only thing Sinema accomplished was outing herself as a toxic narcissist who deceived her supporters to make herself wealthy."
  • Monica Hesse has a similar, but more restrained, take on Sinema: "The interesting thing actually wasn’t her clothes. The interesting thing was that we wanted her clothes to mean something."
  • Nicholas Kristof pounds his desk about how the bullshit anti-Woke school battles coming out of places like Florida distract from the real problem: Johnny can't read.
  • A Santa Fe, N.M., jury convicted Hannah Gutierrez Reed of involuntary manslaughter for putting a live round in a prop firearm on the set of the movie Rust in 2021.
  • Cornell professor Sara Bronin leads the effort to create a National Zoning Atlas, which hopes to show what places in the US have the most onerous housing restrictions.
  • Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry has launched a new exhibit on "the science of James Bond."

Finally, prosecutors agreed to dismiss (without prejudice, I believe, though the Post left out that detail) the criminal case revolving around Don Henley's handwritten notes outlining the Eagles album Hotel California when Henley's lawyers got caught withholding evidence from the defense team. In civil cases, this is bad, but in criminal cases it's much, much worse. Like, reversible error at best and dismissal with prejudice at worst. It appears that Henley himself blew up the case by changing his mind about waiving attorney-client privilege after his attorneys had already testified. Perhaps he thought he could score points against the defense that way, but like most victims of the Dunning-Krueger Effect, he didn't understand that "gotcha" moves are generally not allowed in US courts. We'll see if the prosecutors move for a new trial or just take the loss. (It looks like the latter.)

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.)

Cheap, unserious imitations

The top story this hour, which should surprise no one who can read a poll, is that US Senator Krysten Sinema (?-AZ), who pissed off every Democrat in Congress over her only term in the Senate, has decided not to run again. Since the Democratic Party had already fielded a candidate against her, this makes her completely irrelevant, instead of just mostly irrelevant. The November election will pit Republican Kari Lake against Democrat Ruben Gallego.

Meanwhile:

  • Ellie Quinlan Houghtaling compiled all of the XPOTUS's nonsense utterances from just the past weekend, in case you needed more evidence that he's pretty well into his age-related dementia, or if you believe the Internet, syphilis. (Only one of those things is curable, by the way.)
  • The mayor of Dalton, Ill., has vetoed a resolution of the Board of Trustees to have the FBI and state attorney general investigate her for misusing village funds. The mayor claims the board met illegally, because it didn't meet in the Village Hall—to which she has withheld the keys from them. It turns out, the FBI has already started investigating.
  • Speaking of clowns, soon-to-be-ex Representative Lauren Boebert (R-CO) still thinks she can get back into Congress after moving out of her current district, despite (a) being perceived as a carpetbagger by literally everyone in the new district, and (b) pissing off literally everyone on her staff.
  • Don't by cheap Chinese-made video doorbells from Walmart or Amazon, because they're trivially easy to hack. (Google Nest is not, however.)

Finally, if you'd like a little peace and quiet, a group of six Hebridean islands off the west coast of Scotland have two job openings with pretty good salaries: a general physician spot that pays £150,000 and a teaching position at £69,000 (class size: 6), not including a £10,000 "hello" payment to get you to your new home. The islands have a combined population of 4,000 (people; they have many more sheep than that) and a guarantee you will never get stuck in a motorway tailback.

More Germany photos (and one that isn't Germany)

I went through the photos I took on my trip to Germany last week and put a couple of them through Lightroom.

Getting coffee in Viktualienmarkt:

A very practical car for city life in post-war Germany, the 1955 BMW Isetta:

The Trödelmarktinsel, Nürnberg:

A better edit of my earlier photo of the main gate at Dachau:

And finally, I had a really great view of the New York metro area on the flight home:

The cognitive tax of hybrid work

Author Cal Newport examines "one reason hybrid work makes employees miserable and how to fix it:"

f you ask Americans with a desk job what they want, many say flexibility. Specifically, they want control over where that desk is located and when they work at it. Luckily for them, the American workplace is by some measures more flexible than ever before. About half of U.S. workers have “remote-capable” jobs. And Gallup data suggest that a majority of those jobs are now hybrid, meaning that employees can split time between home and the office. Despite this greater flexibility, however, surveys from last year found that Americans were more stressed and less satisfied with their job than they were during the worst of the pandemic.

What explains this paradox? One possibility is that although hybrid work loosens the rigidity of a desk job, it exacerbates an even bigger problem: what I call the “overhead tax.”

Since well before the pandemic, we’ve lived in a world of low-friction digital communication, where passing an obligation to someone else is extremely easy. I send you an email with a simple question—“Hey, can you handle the Johnson contract?”—and a few moments of my effort have suddenly been alchemized into hours of your own. Faced with a growing number of chores, you push what you can onto other people’s plate, and they respond in kind. The result is an onslaught of ad hoc assignments, whipsawing across inboxes and chat channels, that culminates in a shared state of permanent overload.

The problem with overstuffed to-do lists isn’t just the total time required to execute their contents, but the fact that each new commitment generates its own ongoing administrative demands—emails, chats, check-in calls, “quick” meetings. That’s the overhead tax. Before long, knowledge workers find themselves spending the bulk of their time talking about work instead of actually doing it.

Fortunately I don't feel that in my job, for a number of reasons but mainly that I'm building software, not doing sales. But I'm sure that Newport's essay or the book it excerpts will resonate with many of my friends.

Leapin' lizards

Stories for the last day of winter, this year on the quadrennial day when your Facebook Memories have the fewest entries and, apparently, you can't pay for gas in New Zealand:

Finally, Economist editor Steve Coll got access to hundreds of hours of Saddam Hussein's taped strategy meetings. He concluded that both the CIA and Hussein had no understanding at all about what the other was thinking.

Also, the temperature at IDTWHQ bottomed out at -5.3°C just after 7am and has kept climbing since then. The first day of spring should get it up into the high teens, with 20°C possible on Sunday. Weird, but quite enjoyable.

Getting warmer?

The temperature at Inner Drive Technology World HQ bottomed out this morning, hitting -4.8°C at 10:41 am, and it may even end the day above freezing. So this mercifully-short cold snap won't keep us out of the record books, just as predicted. It's still the warmest winter in Chicago history. (Let's hope we don't set the same record for spring or summer.)

Meanwhile, the record continues to clog up with all kinds of fun stories elsewhere:

  • Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who has led his party in the Senate since the Cretaceous, announced he will step down from leadership in November, handing some other schmuck clean-up duties after the electoral disaster likely to befall the party on the 5th of that month.
  • After the unhinged ruling on embryo "personhood" the Alabama Supreme Court handed down last week, Republicans across the country have fallen over themselves saying they want to protect IVF treatment while they vote against protecting IVF treatment. Jamelle Bouie runs down some of the dumbass things Republicans have said on the ruling, with a cameo from the dumb-as-rocks junior US Senator from Alabama, who sounded more like Nigel Tufnel than usual.
  • Aaron Blake pointedly contradicts the usual "bad for Biden" story line by putting President Biden's Michigan-primary win last night in perspective.
  • Bruce Schneier looks at the difficulties insuring against cyber crime, one of the problems we're also solving at my day job.
  • New York prosecutors said the Art Institute of Chicago exhibited "willful blindness" in 1966 when it acquired art looted by the Nazis, an accusation the museum denies.
  • Harry Windsor, the Duke of Sussex, lost his case against the UK Home Office, in which he sued to keep his publicly-funded security detail the same size as it was when he actually did his job as the Royal Spare. The high court (the rough equivalent of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals in this case) ruled that the relevant agency had made a perfectly rational decision as the Duke now lives in California, doesn't do bugger-all for the UK, and is a whiny prat to boot.

Finally, Chicago Transit Authority president Dorval Carter took a—gasp!—CTA train to a city council hearing, at which he promised the CTA could be the best transit system in the world if only the State of Illinois would give it more funding. The very last thing I did in Munich on Sunday was to take the S-Bahn to the airport at 7am, so I can assure you money isn't the CTA's only impediment to achieving that lofty goal.

(Also, I just realized that This Is Spinal Tap turns 40 on Saturday. Wow.)

Three seasons in one day

It's official: with two days left, this is the warmest winter in Chicago history, with the average temperature since December 1st fully 3.5°C (6.3°F) above normal. We've had only 10 days this winter when the temperature stayed below freezing, 8 of them in one week in February. This should remain the case when spring officially begins on Friday, even though today's near-record 23°C (so far) is forecast to fall to -6°C by 6am. And that's not even to discuss the raging thunderstorms and possible tornadoes we might get as an energetic cold front slices through tonight. By "energetic," I mean that the NWS predicts a drop by as much as 16°C (30°F) in one hour around 10pm.

Not to worry: it'll be 17°C by Sunday. (The normal high temperatures are 4.7°C for February 27th and 5.4°C for March 3rd; the records are 23.9°C and 26.7°C, respectively.)

Meanwhile, I don't have time to read all of these before I pack up my laptop tonight:

And now, back to getting ready for the Sprint 103 release. That's a lot of sprints.