Chicago experienced its warmest October 1st through 4th ever, clocking in at 24.4°C, before a cold front pushed through this morning. Many of my friends, plus another 25,000 runners, look forward to Sunday's Chicago Marathon and its predicted 7°C start temperature going up to a high of 14°C.
So, with real autumn temperatures finally upon us, let us chill out:
Finally, something other than the dumpster fire in Congress: Gideon Lewis-Kraus looks into allegations that Duke Professor Dan Ariely and Harvard Professor Francesca Gino fabricated evidence about dishonesty.
One of my colleagues at another office sent an email this morning to basically everyone in the company with a screen shot and a brief cry for help. One of her customers had an app with our company's name on it that had stopped working, and could anyone identify the app or where it came from? Also, it seems to run on something called "ANSIC" which no one in the customer's office knows.
I should at this point mention that the dialog box was from a Windows NT 4 or 2000 computer, and was version 2.0.415—so it probably started life on an even older version of Windows. And "ANSIC" means ANSI C, a language almost as old as COBOL. So even before we get to asking whether my company can still support it, I have to ask: how is the computer it's running on still working?
To me as a software developer this is like meeting a 30-year-old dog on the street.
Update: the author of the email got back to me, after hearing from someone who recognized the app. Its author died years ago, and the only other person who might have worked on it retired in the 2010s. The only thing to do, then, is to reverse-engineer the business process and start fresh.
You know, I still have code I wrote in Applesoft in 1981, but it's on printouts. The oldest runnable code I have is from 1986, and I need to spin up a DOS 3.3 virtual machine to get it to run. I hope that my craft has matured enough since then that the code I write today will still work in 15 years, but 30? No way. I've recently had to give an old client some bad news about their 16-year-old app: we either need to re-write most of it, or I can only keep it alive for 4 or 5 more years, because Microsoft will stop supporting the language (.NET 4.7) someday soon.
Other things actually happened recently:
- Slate's Sarah Lipton-Lubet explains how the US 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and the US Supreme Court keep allowing straw plaintiffs to raise bullshit cases so they can overturn laws they don't like.
- Julia Ioffe, who has a new podcast explaining how Russian dictator Vladimir Putin's upbringing as a street thug informs his foreign policy today, doesn't think the West or Ukraine really need to worry about Robert Fico's election win in Slovakia.
- Chicago Transit Authority president Dorval Carter Jr. has a $376,000 salary and apparently no accountability, which may explain why we have some transit, uh, challenges in the city.
- The Bluewalker 3 satellite is the now 10th brightest thing in the sky, frustrating astronomers every time it passes overhead.
- An Arkansas couple plan to open an "indoor dog park with a bar" that has a daily or monthly fee and requires the dogs to be leashed, which makes very little sense to me. The location they've chosen is 900 meters from a dog park and about that distance from a dog-friendly brewery.
- Conde Nast Traveler has declared Chicago the Best Big City in the US.
Finally, as I write this, the temperature outside is 28°C, making today the fourth day in a row of July-like temperatures in October. Some parts of the area hit 32°C yesterday, though a cold front marching through the western part of the state promises to get us to more autumnal weather tomorrow. And this is before El Niño gets into full swing. Should be a weird winter...
House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) lost the first procedural vote to prevent a second vote aimed at kicking him out of the Speaker's chair, which will probably result in him getting re-elected in a few days. The Republicans in Congress simply have no one else who can get 218 votes for Speaker. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) would get 214, but no Republican would ever vote for him. And my party's caucus have absolutely no interest in helping the Romper Room side of the aisle get its own house in order.
Fun times, fun times.
In other news:
- Former US Representative Bob Inglis (R-SC) wants his party to grow up. Of course, he's (a) writing in (b) the New York Times, so there's little danger of the children currently running his party to read it.
- The US Supreme Court has the opportunity this term to undo a century of regulation, thrusting us back into the early Industrial Age and making life miserable for everyone in the country who doesn't have billionaire friends.
- Live attendance at performing arts events in Chicago has dropped 59% from pre-pandemic levels, which we in the Apollo Chorus have noted and do not like one bit.
- The Federal Emergency Management Agency will test the national alert system starting at 2:20 pm EDT tomorrow, most likely scaring the bejezus out of a sizeable portion of the Boomer generation.
- Chivas Bros. announced a plan to build a new distillery on Islay, which would be the 12th operating on the small island in the Western Hebrides. Seriously: the island is almost exactly the same size as the city of Chicago (620 km²) but with almost exactly 1,000th the population (3,000), and it will have twelve distilleries by 2026.
- A bar three blocks from my house bet everyone's drinks bill that the Chicago Bears would win their game against Kansas City on Sunday. They lost. In fact, the Bears are now the only major-league sports team in the United States that hasn't won since Elon Musk took over Twitter.
Finally, next week the western hemisphere will see an annular solar eclipse, so named because the moon won't completely cover it, leaving a ring (or annulus) of fire around it. Chicago will get to about 45% coverage, with maximum darkness around noon. Next April, however, we get a total solar eclipse, with the path of totality passing just a couple hundred kilometers south of us.
The former CEO of FTX Trading goes on trial today for making $8 billion disappear in just under three years. Molly White has a precis:
About eleven months ago, the then second-largest cryptocurrency exchange in the world imploded over the course of only a few days as trust in the company crumbled and it failed to meet a surge of customer withdrawals. It rapidly became apparent that customer money was missing. A lot of it.
Since then, it’s come out that FTX allowed its sister trading firm, Alameda Research, to dip into FTX’s customer funds with effectively no limit to backstop their own trading losses. Much of FTX’s balance sheet was also revealed to be denominated in flimsy crypto tokens worth far less in reality than on paper, and a substantial portion of them had been created out of thin air by FTX itself. And the FTX group of companies had spent money they didn’t have, splashing out for extravagant celebrity endorsements and advertisements, buying real estate, and donating massive sums to curry favor among seated politicians and bankroll the industry boosters running for office.
Altogether, somewhere around $8 billion was gone.
Besides Sam Bankman-Fried, four other high-level executives at the FTX group of companies have been charged, and all four have reached plea deals. Three of them agreed to cooperate with the investigation as a part of their plea, and will almost certainly appear as witnesses at the trial. They were not just Bankman-Fried’s employees and co-workers, but also his friends, roommates, confidants, and, in one case, a former romantic partner.
There’s no question that billions of dollars of customer funds went missing from FTX. Instead, prosecutors are tasked with convincing a jury that they’re missing thanks to intentional fraud by Sam Bankman-Fried. The “intentional” part is the sticky bit, with prosecutors needing to convince all twelve jurors beyond a reasonable doubt that Bankman-Fried intended to defraud people. If even one juror holds out, Bankman-Fried could dodge a guilty verdict thanks to a hung jury — and trying to appeal to just one sympathetic juror may be his only hope in what looks like a pretty overwhelming case against him.
Since his resignation from FTX, Bankman-Fried has tried to portray himself as a colossally stupid man, who was simply too dumb to commit fraud. Unfortunately, stupidity doesn't actually exonerate criminal behavior. He only needs to have intended the actions, not the harm. And from the outside, it looks like he wasn't so much stupid as greedy, immature, narcissistic, and venal.
Get out the popcorn.
I haven't had the most productive morning ever, but I should get back into coding after I take Cassie on her lunchtime walk. Meanwhile:
Finally, just look at this wonderful creature who got a bath yesterday. She actually climbed into the tub on her own, and seems to have figured out that getting a vigorous whole-body massage with warm water, followed by an equally-vigorous toweling off, actually feels pretty good.
Somehow, it's already the end of September. I realize this happens with some predictability right around this time of year, but it still seems odd to me.
Of course, most of the world seems odd these days:
Finally, just look at this happy dog and all his new human friends playing a fun game of keep-away...during a professional football game in Mexico. I've watched it about five times now. The goodest boi was having such a great time. I hope one of the players or refs adopted him.
The senior US Senator from California, a Democratic stalwart, died overnight, according to her family:
In recent years, Ms. Feinstein, 90, had suffered from frail health and memory issues that made it difficult for her to function alone and prompted calls for her to step down, which she consistently rejected.
Her staff was being informed at 9 a.m.
A spokesman for Ms. Feinstein’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
CNN had her obituary ready to go:
Feinstein broke a series of glass ceilings throughout her life, and left her fingerprints on some of Capitol Hill’s most consequential works in recent history – including the since-lapsed federal assault weapons ban in 1994 and the 2014 CIA torture report.
In her later years, the California Democrat’s health was the subject of increasing scrutiny and speculation. A hospitalization for shingles in February led to an extended absence from the Senate – stirring complaints from Democrats, as Feinstein’s time away slowed the confirmation of Democratic-appointed judicial nominees – and when she returned to Capitol Hill three months later, it was revealed that she had suffered multiple complications during her recovery, including Ramsay Hunt syndrome and encephalitis. A fall in August briefly sent her to the hospital.
Feinstein, who was the Senate’s oldest member at the time of her death, also faced questions about her mental acuity and ability to lead. She dismissed the concerns, saying, “The real question is whether I’m still an effective representative for 40 million Californians, and the record shows that I am.”
She will be missed.
The English actor does not make widgets or suffer fools:
At some point a few years back, an unholy union of like-minded tech bros, studio suits, media water-carriers and social media personalities settled on their own “widget,” a catchall phrase that would both encompass and minimize the various forms of entertainment they touch: “content.” And when news broke on Sunday night that the monthslong Writers Guild of America strike was coming to an end, Variety, the industry bible, gave this term its most skin-crawling deployment to date, noting that the W.G.A. strike had taken “a heavy toll across the content industry.”
Variety itself had run, just a few days earlier, a pointed rebuke to the term from no less an authority than the Oscar-winning actor and screenwriter Emma Thompson. “To hear people talk about ‘content’ makes me feel like the stuffing inside a sofa cushion,” she said at the Royal Television Society conference in Britain last week.
“It’s just a rude word for creative people,” she added. “I know there are students in the audience: You don’t want to hear your stories described as ‘content’ or your acting or your producing described as ‘content.’ That’s just like coffee grounds in the sink or something.”
Way back in business school, the very first thing our finance professor said was, "An asset is a series of cash flows." When I asked him if assets had intrinsic value, he said "that is not a relevant consideration in corporate finance." These are the people running the studios and streamers.
Thank you for reading my content. I hope you feel content.
It's only Wednesday? Sheesh...
- The Writers Guild of America got nearly everything they wanted from the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (i.e., the Astroturf organization set up by the big studios and streamers to negotiate with the Guilds), especially for young writers and for hit shows, but consumers should expect more bundling and higher monthly fees for shows in the future.
- Josh Marshall suspects that the two competing storylines about the XPOTUS (that he's about to return to power, but he's also losing every legal battle he fights) are actually just one: his "current posture of bravado and menace – while real enough as a threat – is simply his latest con, concealing a weaker and more terrified reality."
- Jamie Bouie marvels that Justice Clarence Thomas (R$) wins the trifecta: "We have had partisan justices; we have had ideological justices; we have had justices who favored, for venal reasons, one interest over another. But it is difficult to think of another justice, in the history of the Supreme Court, who has been as partisan and as ideological and as venal as Thomas...."
- Melissa Gira Grant profiles US District Court Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk (R-NDTX), a Christian nationalist who rose through the Federalist Society pipeline to a lifetime appointment where he will push his Victorian-era views on the people of Texas for the next 30 years or so.
- North Korea vomited up US Army Private 2nd Class Travis King, having used him for the little he was worth after the soon-to-be-dishonorably-discharged soldier illegally entered the kingdom in July.
- Kelli María Korducki worries that "in the age of AI, computer science is no longer the safe major," not realizing, perhaps, that the most effective programmers are and have always been liberal arts majors.
Finally, yet another fact that will make everyone I know feel old: today is Google's 25th birthday. And yes, the Daily Parker has been around longer trillion-dollar search company. We just haven't had our IPO yet.