The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Getting the band back together

In a few minutes I'm hosting only the second in-person thing my chorus has done in the past 18 months: our last board meeting of the summer. We're all set to start in-person rehearsals on the 13th, though we will probably have to wear masks until our performances. That'll be weird—but at least we'll be in the same room.

Other choruses in Chicago have the same challenges:

“COVID shut us down completely because singing is a superspreader event,” said Jimmy Morehead, artistic director for the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus. Immediately, they canceled all shows and in-person rehearsals.

But they set virtual rehearsals for the same time, hoping to provide connection.

“The twofold reason why people join the chorus is to either just sing, or make friends, and so we wanted to make sure that people didn’t feel alienated and didn’t feel isolated,” Morehead said. Everyone shared what they did that week, what they watched on Netflix or what they cooked.

In person, Morehead was used to being able to give quick feedback. On Zoom, “I have to trust and hope and pray that they’re learning and doing everything correctly.” The Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus pulled off live online shows, where people performed from their home.

Some of our singers also perform with CGMC, and I've talked to Jimmy a couple of times during the pandemic. We are all overjoyed to get back to rehearsals, even if it means proof of vaccination and big ugly masks.

Perfect morning in Chicago

Between 5pm Thursday and 6pm Friday, the dewpoint at O'Hare fell from 21°C to 9°C, to the relief of millions. At the moment O'Hare reports 24°C with a dewpoint of 13°C and only some high scattered clouds, which is about as close to perfect as Chicago can do. The light and gentle breeze coming through the windows underscores the (overdue) wisdom of moving my office into the sunroom a couple days ago:

Cassie especially likes being able to see, hear, and smell the small prey animals outside while I sit just a couple meters away:

Since I don't actually have to do any work for anyone else today, I plan to take full advantage of this weather with many kilometers of walking her and a spell at Half Acre Brewing with an old friend. But at the same time, with this new office arrangement, I don't feel like I'm wasting the weather by reading or writing at my desk. Which was exactly the point.

Happy birthday, 5150

Today is the 40th birthday of the IBM 5150—better known as the IBM PC:

It wasn't that long before the August 1981 debut of the IBM PC that an IBM computer often cost as much as $9 million and required an air-conditioned quarter-acre of space and 60 people to run and keep it loaded with instructions.

The IBM PC changed all that. It was a very small machine that could not only process information faster than those ponderous mainframes of the 1960s but also hook up to the home TV set, process text and store more words than a huge cookbook -- all for a price tag of less than $1,600.

Well, sure, $1600 for a 16k model with no peripherals. The one my dad bought in 1981 and handed down to me in 1986 had a whopping 64k of RAM and two 360k 5¼" floppy drives. That specimen, with software and a printer, cost about $9,000, or about $27,000 today.

IBM has more:

Don Estridge, acting lab director at the time, volunteered to head the project. Joe Bauman, plant manager for the Boca Raton site, offered manufacturing help. Mel Hallerman, who was working on the IBM Series/1, stepped forward with his software knowledge and was brought in as chief programmer. And so it went. As word spread about what was going on, talent and expertise were drawn in.

Estridge decided early that to be successful and to meet deadlines, the group had to stick to the plan: using tested vendor technology; a standardized, one-model product; open architecture; and outside sales channels for quick consumer market saturation.

About a dozen people made up the first development team, recalls Dave Bradley, who wrote the interface code for the new product. "For a month, we met every morning to hash out what it was this machine had to do and then in the afternoons worked on the morning's decisions. We started to build a prototype to take — by the end of the year — to a then little-known company called Microsoft." The team beat that deadline. The engineers were virtually finished with the machine by April 1981, when the manufacturing team took over.

The $1,565 price bought a system unit, a keyboard and a color/graphics capability. Options included a display, a printer, two diskette drives, extra memory, communications, game adapter and application packages — including one for text processing. The development team referred to their creation as a mini-compact, at a mini-price, with IBM engineering under the hood.

Sure, the Apple ][ gave families an inexpensive computer to play with, but the IBM 5150 gave businesses an inexpensive computer to play with, and that made all the difference. I'm writing this on a Microsoft- and Intel-based computer whose architecture goes straight back to the 5150 I have in my museum.

Light, air, dog

The environmental change I alluded to yesterday went much more smoothly than anticipated.

When I moved to my current place, I put Inner Drive Technology World Headquarters (IDTWHQ) in the room that most clearly said "office," the one off the kitchen with all the built-in bookshelves and the A/V stack the previous owners left behind. It faces south, but it has bay windows covered in ivy, providing subdued indirect light in the summer and lots of direct sunlight in the afternoon from October to March. While the bay windows provide some ventilation, the room gets a bit stuffy when they're closed, and doesn't really get much airflow when they're open. Also, the geometry of the room never quite worked with my desk. I had to squeeze around it to get into my chair, making the whole thing feel a bit constraining.

Add in 3-5 days of working from home every week, with my work laptop and secondary monitor occupying a hunk of real estate on the desk while dropping wires and power cables on the floor between the door and Cassie's bed, and the whole thing has felt really cramped for the last 18 months:

That, my friends, is bad feng shui.

Meanwhile, my easternmost room, overlooking the leafy side-street I live on, naturally became a sunroom:

I mean, light, air, and about half the time a dog on the couch? What's not to love? In fact, now in the second summer of working from home 60% or more, most days I wanted to sit on that couch with Cassie and read—especially when the weather permitted me to open all nine of those windows.

So, with a little help from Comcast to fix the cable running into my living room, yesterday I moved my office into the sunroom. Even with my work crap still occupying the same hunk of real estate, it just looks and feels so much better:

And the office? It became a sitting room:

I don't know how much I'll actually sit there, but its proximity to the kitchen means that when I entertain, people will use it for kitchen-adjacent overflow.

Cassie, naturally, freaked out a bit, and it took some coaxing for her to get back on the couch (probably because it was in the wrong place!). But as I write this, she's in the room with me, psychically commanding me to take her outside.

I don't understand why I didn't do this last year. It would have made the pandemic lockdown a ton more enjoyable. I mean, it only took me six years to configure my place in Lincoln Park correctly, but that had to do with the physical constraints imposed by having an entire server rack in one corner of the living room in an era before gigabit wi-fi. (The server rack had to go next to the POTS line jack because I used a DSL, and running a network cable through the walls to the other side of the living room was the only real option.)

This room really does feel better. And tomorrow, after Chicago's fever breaks, I'll open the windows.

Tweaking the environment

If all goes as planned, in about half an hour a Comcast technician will make a change to my service here at Inner Drive Technology World Headquarters that will, in turn, result in Cassie experiencing some anxiety. I don't want to cause doggy angina, but if Comcast moves my primary cable connection from the room it's in now to the room I want it in, then I'm going to spend the subsequent two or three hours moving furniture.

Updates and art as conditions warrant.

Sacrifices for our loved ones

Cassie last got a bath (I think) sometime in April. So, wow, did she need one today. And she was a trooper. Before:

After:

She actually likes water, so she just let me spray her down, shampoo her up, and spray her down again. Once inside and toweled off, she got the zoomies but good.

After two hours she's dry and doesn't smell like a wet dog. And she's so soft again, without the sheen of whatever she rolled in at day camp for the past few weeks.

Journalism error on NPR

Yesterday, Boston University clinical journalism instructor and WGBH-Boston reporter Jenifer McKim presented a story on NPR's Morning Edition about Grindr, the gay dating app. NPR's Steve Inskeep introduced the story by saying "the dating app Grindr is a popular site for men seeking other men. It's also used by underage boys, which can put them at risk of sexual exploitation and trafficking."

Between that introduction and the body of the story, I got pretty steamed. This morning I sent the following comment to NPR:

I have serious problems with the way Jenifer McKim presented this story. Principally, despite the quote from Jack Turban that "gay people aren't more likely to be sexual predators than straight people," the story heavily implies the opposite. McKim's bookending the story with quotes from assault victim German Chavez sets it up as a story about abused children, strongly implying that gay dating app Grindr is to blame (and also implying that gay men are to blame). Yet Chavez admitted that he lied about his age to circumvent Grindr's age policy, and Kathryn Macpagal even says "there aren't a lot of spaces for LGBT teens online to make friends." It seems that the problem is a lack of safe spaces for gay teens, not an app explicitly marketed to adults with strictly enforced age policies.

Further, in the graf immediately following that quote from Macpagal, McKim blows all the homophobic dog whistles, saying "over 100 men...includ[ing] police officers, priests and teachers" have "faced charges...related to sexually assaulting or attempting to meet minors for sex on Grindr." This is exactly the language that conservative groups use to vilify gays and dating apps in general.

Of course I am not downplaying the harms of sexual assault and predation on minors. But I think McKim had an obligation to put the incidence of those harms in proper context. Start with the proportion of one hundred men out of millions of Grindr users. Of the 100, how many were "police officers, priests and teachers?" How many were journalists or BU professors? How many were convicted? In how many cases was it determined that the minors in question lied about their ages? Did Grindr cooperate with the investigations? What proportion of the cases were assaults, and what proportion were "attempt[s] to meet minors?" And what proportion of Tinder users, or OKCupid users, or FarmersD users for that matter, were police, priests, or teachers (assuming McKim meant "or" and meant to include the Oxford comma) accused of crimes against children directly related to their use of the app?

I applaud McKim's ongoing efforts to protect children. But the structure, presentation, and tone of her story yesterday did not live up to the standards for accuracy and against sensationalism that I expect from NPR or WGBH-Boston.

I'll post any reply from NPR, WGBH, or McKim that I receive.

On this day...

Fifty years ago today, George Harrison and Ravi Shankar put on the Concert for Bangladesh at Madison Square Garden:

It was the first major charity concert of its kind — the Concert for Bangladesh. In that corner of South Asia, civil war, cyclone and floods had created a humanitarian disaster.

"There are six million displaced Bengalis, most of them suffering from malnutrition, cholera and also other diseases that are the result of living under the most dehumanizing conditions," former All Things Considered host Mike Waters reported in July of 1971.

The situation was deeply personal for Indian musician Ravi Shankar, a sitar virtuoso, whose family came from the region. So, Shankar reached out to a close friend, former Beatle George Harrison.

He marveled at the astonishing roster Harrison was able to attract. "You have a Beatle — two Beatles in fact — that you have Ringo Starr as well. You have Bob Dylan," Thomson says. "None of these people had played live particularly much in the preceding years. So, that was an event in itself. You have a stellar backing band, people like Eric Clapton." Including, of course, Shankar on the sitar.

What they did end up making went to UNICEF. That weekend alone raised around $240,000. Millions more came later, as a result of the subsequent album and movie, all with the goal of helping refugees.

And exactly ten years later, MTV was born. (And I still have a crush on Martha Quinn.)

In theaters near you

Yesterday, I went to a movie theater for the first time since 26 January 2020—a gap of 545 days. The movie? Black Widow. You have to watch MCU films on a big screen before watching them at home, really.

I'm also glad the last film I saw in theaters was The Gentlemen, a fun Guy Ritchie romp through London.

Other than the woman a couple rows back who kept coughing (!!!), I thoroughly enjoyed returning to a theater. After, I stopped for a crepe at the local Crêperie, where I last ate almost a year ago.

We're so close to getting back to normal. Come on, red states.