The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Ignore this post

I'm continuing to test the new blog engine. This evening's tests, which I'm setting up with this post, will involve some of the trickier tasks in the migration:

  • Relative links to posts within the blog itself
  • Links to arbitrary files using absolute paths
  • Links to files with relative paths
  • Links to images (like the one below) with relative paths

If you're reading this on the new blog engine, and all the links above work and the image below shows up, then the migration tool is complete. Deploying the new blog engine to production could then happen within a couple of days. Stay tuned.

Lies, damned lies, and airline fares

Cranky Flier this morning has a note about Southwest Airlines' latest ad campaign. I'll let him explain:

[W]hat Southwest is trying to do is distract you from paying attention to the actual total cost of your ticket and instead trying to make you focus just on the fees. It gives examples on the website showing how Spirit can charge you up to $294 in fees while Southwest has none. But the reality is that you probably aren’t paying that much in fees, and you’re starting off a much lower base fare. Even if the fees are higher than Southwest’s (as they nearly always are), the total cost often won’t be.

What Southwest is trying to show here is that its fares remain below the industry fare level in 2000, but that’s not what I see. What I see is that in 2000, Southwest’s average fare was 43 percent less than industry average. Fast forward to today, and the fare gap has shrunk dramatically. Now its average fare is only 13 percent less.

The point here? Southwest’s fares have just gone up a lot more than those of everyone else.

I shared this with my friend over at Deeply Trivial—she's a Ph.D. researcher and statistician—and she responded with this:

That about sums it up.

Sneak peek

I've got a development instance of the new blog engine running on Azure: Go ahead, take a peek.

It's important to note that I'm testing the import engine right now, so the collection of entries on the development site will probably change during debugging. Also, since it's a development site, it may disappear altogether from time to time.

Plus, the master source code (from which I'm merging into my custom code base from time to time) keeps changing. And merges don't always go well. And the DasBlog instance is still in production. And so on.

At this writing, the Daily Parker has 4,992 entries going back to 1998, so it'll take a while to import them all. One of the challenges has been making sure that deep links continue to work, and images show up, so each entry has to be parsed and its internal links fixed before it can be published. And I'm doing all this outside my usual work day.

So when is go-live? No idea, but I'm shooting for November 13th.* Stay tuned.

As for the image below, it serves no purpose other than to confirm that the import tool correctly alters image tags:

* Almost nothing in that entry is still true, but it's still the anchor post of this blog.

Cobbler's children

Two things this weekend kept me from blogging. First, the amazing weather. It was warm and sunny both days, so I spent time picking apples and sitting outside with a book.

The other thing is that the time I did spend at my computer involved working on the replacement for this blog engine.

Regular blogging will continue this week.

Massive El Niño confirmed

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge, Calif., confirmed the phenomenon yesterday:

“The ocean has warmed up a little bit more. ... It’s certainly still a strong event,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director of the Climate Prediction Center. Halpert said this El Niño still isn’t quite as strong as the current record holder, the El Niño that developed in 1997, but it’s “still respectable. Probably the second strongest we’ve seen at this time of year.”

“We certainly favor a wetter-than-average winter,” Halpert said. Though he cautioned that “when you’re dealing with climate predictions, you can never get a guarantee,” he added, “this could be one of the types of winters like in 1997-98.”

That winter was dramatic for California. Heavy rains came to Orange County in December 1997, dropping an astonishing 7 inches of rain in some parts of the region, flooding mobile home parks in Huntington Beach and forcing crews to use inflatable boats to make rescues, while mudslides destroyed hillside homes.

El Niño rains started in Los Angeles County in January 1998, and were the worst across the region in February. Downtown L.A. got about a year’s worth of rain in February alone.

California needs rain, sure; but they need rain over a long period of time so that they can capture it in reservoirs without it blowing away infrastructure.

Despite the likelihood of massive rainfalls this winter, California is still experiencing record drought. The "record," unfortunately, only goes back a few centuries, so we really don't know what "normal" is over several millennia. Regardless, this winter will not be normal by any measure, if the world's climatologists are correct.

Will this year's El Niño really affect Chicago?

WGN meteorologist Tom Skilling isn't sure:

This winter could for a number of reasons follow the lead of the past several winters and end up near or below normal. It would have to work at doing so. Bucking a strong El Nino isn’t impossible–but it’s not an easy thing for nature to do either.

Air over the warm ocean waters also warms, and this appears at least one factor in the build-up of a ridge over western North America which has contributed to the diversion of needed precipitation away from the western U.S. while contributing to the ridging (i.e. northward “buckling”) of the jet stream which has kept us cold in recent winters with huge Great Lakes ice buildup. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine some version of this happening again this winter–and that would profoundly change the current “warmer than normal” winter season forecast.

So while one of the strongest El Niños on record will exert some powerful effects on North American weather, the climate change we've already experienced may exert even stronger effects. The El Niño could simply reinforce the persistent ridge over the western US that has caused the last few Chicago winters to suck.

Can't wait to find out...

Figuring out the Safe Harbor fallout

As I mentioned yesterday, the European Court of Justice ruled yesterday that the US-EU Safe Harbor pact is illegal under European law:

The ruling, by the European Court of Justice, said the so-called safe harbor agreement was flawed because it allowed American government authorities to gain routine access to Europeans’ online information. The court said leaks from Edward J. Snowden, the former contractor for the National Security Agency, made it clear that American intelligence agencies had almost unfettered access to the data, infringing on Europeans’ rights to privacy.

The court said data protection regulators in each of the European Union’s 28 countries should have oversight over how companies collect and use online information of their countries’ citizens. European countries have widely varying stances toward privacy.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation examines the implications:

[I]f those reviews [of individual companies' transfers] continue to run against the fundamental incompatibility of U.S. mass surveillance with European data protection principles, the end result may well be a growing restriction of the commercial processing of European users' data to within the bounds of the European Union.

That would certainly force the companies to re-think and re-engineer how they manage the vast amount of data they collect. It will not, however, protect their customers from mass surveillance. The geographic siloing of data is of little practical help against mass surveillance if each and every country feels that ordinary customer data is a legitimate target for signals intelligence. If governments continue to permit intelligence agencies to indiscriminately scoop up data, then they will find a way to do that, wherever that data may be kept. Keep your data in Ireland, and GCHQ may well target it, and pass it onto the Americans. Keep your data in your own country, and you'll find the NSA—or other European states, or even your own government— breaking into those systems to extract it.

Harvard law student Alex Loomis highlighted the uncertainties for US-based companies:

But ultimately it is still hard to predict how national and EU authorities will try to enforce the ECJ decision in the short-run because, as one tech lobbyist put it, “[c]ompanies will be working in a legal vacuum.”  Industry insiders are already calling for more guidance on how to act lawfully. That’s hard, because the EU Commission’s decision is no longer controlling and each individual country thus can now enforce EU law on its own. Industry experts suggest that the turmoil will hurt smaller tech companies the most, as the latter lack separate data centers and accordingly are more likely to rely on transferring data back to the United States. As I pointed out last week, that might have some anticompetitive effects.

In short, data transfers between the EU and US are now a problem. A big one. Fortunately at my company, we don't keep any personal information—but we still may have a heck of a time convincing our European partners of that, especially if Germany and France go off the deep end on privacy.

Josh Marshall is angry

And so am I, about the immorality of the right's evolution on their pro-gun message:

As I wrote on Friday, the craze to refuse to name the names of mass shooters is a grand form of evasion. Unable to address the actual causes of mass gun violence we stumble around for some feel-good nonsense that allows us to pretend we're taking action. But you can see the same drive expanding in other directions as well: even to the level of blaming the victims themselves.

It's amazing that we're actually getting to the point of blaming the victims of these massacres. That's really what it is. There's no hyperbole about identifying this. Carson is saying that these 9 people and the others who were injured but didn't die just didn't get their shit together quick enough to do something.

On the same topic, Ed Kilgore takes another whack at the Cult of the Second Amendment:

the default position of conservatives has less and less to do with arguments about the efficacy of gun regulation or the need for guns to deter or respond to crime. Instead, it’s based on the idea that the main purpose of the Second Amendment is to keep open the possibility of revolutionary violence against the U.S. government.

This was once an exotic, minority view even among gun enthusiasts who tended to view the Second Amendment as protecting an individual right to gun ownership not to overthrow the government but to supplement the government’s use of lethal force against criminals. Treating the Second Amendment as an integral legacy of the American Revolution appealed to gun rights advocates who sought firm ground against regulations with no possibility of compromise.

But more importantly, it gave a dangerous edge to the claims of conservative extremists—who recently began calling themselves “constitutional conservatives”—that their ideology of absolute property rights, religious rights and even fetal rights had been permanently established by the Founders who added in the Second Amendment to ensure any trespassing on their “design” by “tyrants” or popular majorities could and should be resisted.

White, male, right wingers are afraid of something they can't stop: demographics. They're unable to adapt to the world as it is and they're becoming irrelevant. That fear is fueling this insane drive to arm up in defense against a revolution that they, themselves, are most likely to start.

Meanwhile, the guns these people are collecting have become a menace to society unlike anything we've experienced, to the point where we collectively shake our heads when a fifth-grader shoots a second-grader over a puppy. And still these nut jobs think the problem is the government.

Framing the gun debate

Last note for now. Josh Marshall makes an excellent point:

What would make a real difference would be a society where there were radically fewer guns, where buying a gun meant getting a license, needing to follow specific safety guidelines, where you couldn't build your own armory, where you had to carry insurance to own a weapon (like you do with a car and most everything else), etc.

Those of us who see the current situation as not just non-ideal but actually a sort of societal sickness need to start thinking way beyond things like closing the gun hole loophole.

Yes. How come you have to get 20 hours of training to drive a car but not to carry a firearm in public?

On the reading stack

These crossed my various news feeds today:

I've now got to really understand the implications of the EU ruling. More when I do.