Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
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Tuesday 8 July 2014

The heirs of actor John Wayne, who manage his likeness and other trademarks associated with him, have sued Duke University to resolve a long-running dispute over the name:

Duke University has been fighting with the late actor's heirs over "Duke" trademarks (restaurant services, gaming machines, celebrity licensing services, etc.) for nearly a decade, and last year, the school stepped forward after John Wayne's family attempted to register "Duke" for all alcoholic beverages except beer.

The school told the Trademark Office, "Consistent with its policies and in order to prevent tarnishment of its brand, [Duke University] does not permit use of confusingly similar marks associated with unapproved goods or services, of uncertain quality and/or unregulated by [Duke University]." Duke University, established in 1838, added that what the actor's heirs wanted to grab threatened its own hold on a variety of food products and beverages.

John Wayne Enterprises is now going to federal court over the objection, asserting jurisdiction in the Central District of California because the school actively recruits students there, raises money there, maintains alumni associations there and sells university-related products there.

One thing that the private research university doesn't do? "Duke University is not and never has been in the business of producing, marketing, distributing, or selling alcohol," states the complaint. "On information and belief, the actual and potential customer base of Duke University is vastly different from the customer base of JWE."

The actor's family now is seeking a declaratory judgment that there is no likelihood of confusion and that its attempts to register and use "Duke" alcohol will not dilute Duke University's own rights.

Later, I'll be going to the Duke of Perth to duke this out with my friend Earl.

Tuesday 8 July 2014 15:25:42 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Duke | US#
Thursday 11 July 2013

The New York Times on Tuesday lamented the state's decline:

In January, after the election of Pat McCrory as governor, Republicans took control of both the executive and legislative branches for the first time since Reconstruction. Since then, state government has become a demolition derby, tearing down years of progress in public education, tax policy, racial equality in the courtroom and access to the ballot.

The cruelest decision by lawmakers went into effect last week: ending federal unemployment benefits for 70,000 residents. Another 100,000 will lose their checks in a few months. Those still receiving benefits will find that they have been cut by a third, to a maximum of $350 weekly from $535, and the length of time they can receive benefits has been slashed from 26 weeks to as few as 12 weeks.

At the same time, the state is also making it harder for future generations of workers to get jobs, cutting back sharply on spending for public schools. Though North Carolina has been growing rapidly, it is spending less on schools now than it did in 2007, ranking 46th in the nation in per-capita education dollars. Teacher pay is falling, 10,000 prekindergarten slots are scheduled to be removed, and even services to disabled children are being chopped.

I lived in Raleigh for a few months and went to Duke, so it pains me to see the South's most-progressive state become its most-repressive. As the Times concludes: "North Carolina was once considered a beacon of farsightedness in the South, an exception in a region of poor education, intolerance and tightfistedness. In a few short months, Republicans have begun to dismantle a reputation that took years to build."

Update: Reader TB, writing from New York, says: "I can attribute this to one thing, and that is NC becoming more of a purple state in the last few elections. They are trying to be more punitive towards those who vote Democratic. Not to mention the abortion restrictions they are trying to pass, which McCrory promised during the campaign he would not sign."

I think he's right.

Thursday 11 July 2013 12:52:02 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Duke | US | Raleigh#
Tuesday 11 June 2013

In the last couple of days:

If I have time in the next couple of days, I'll return to the student loan problem, because I think it will become the fight of the ages in a few years. Shortly, I would guess, after I've paid off my MBA.

I also have some thoughts noodling around my head about how right-wing politics works. The ongoing student-loan crisis fits right in, as does the book I just finished.

Tuesday 11 June 2013 15:11:22 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Duke | Geography | US#
Sunday 1 January 2012

In 2011, I:

  • took 8,198 photos, including 4,352 in Chicago, 881 in Japan, 588 in Portugal, and 337 in the U.K. (and only 71 of Parker). This is almost as many as I took in 2009 and 2010 combined (9,140), and more than I took in the first 8 years I owned a camera (1983-1991, 7,671).
  • flew 115,845 km but drove less than 4,500 km
  • visited 5 countries (the UK, Spain, Portugal, Canada, Japan) and 8 states (California, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Indiana, North Carolina, Texas, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin) in 35 trips. Sadly, this meant Parker boarded for more than 100 days
  • spent more than 186 hours walking Parker, which partially made up for all those days being boarded
  • wrote 539 blog entries, with the most consistency in the blog's 6-year history (averaging 1.48 per day with a standard deviation of only 0.11)
  • got 2.3 million hits (object views) on the Daily Parker, and 1.7 million on Weather Now, including 47,956 and 181,285 page views, respectively. According to Google Analytics, the blog had 28,613 unique visitors, and Weather Now had 26,539.
  • read only 34 books, but as these included the first four of the "Song of Ice and Fire" series, it should count as 46
  • started and ended the year in the same place (Duke of Perth, Chicago)
  • went to only 8 movies, 3 plays, 3 concerts, and 3 baseball games, which is terribly sad

Oh, and I also got a master's degree. (Almost forgot.)

Sunday 1 January 2012 11:56:32 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Cubs | Duke | Kitchen Sink | Parker | Photography | Travel#
Wednesday 14 December 2011

Derp. One year ago yesterday I finished my MBA. It doesn't seem like a full year...except when it doesn't seem like only one year.

Wednesday 14 December 2011 17:58:29 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Duke#
Friday 16 September 2011

ParkerI'm David Braverman, this is my blog, and Parker is my 5-year-old mutt. I last updated this About... page in February, but some things have changed. In the interest of enlightened laziness I'm starting with the most powerful keystroke combination in the universe: Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V.

Twice. Thus, the "point one" in the title.

The Daily Parker is about:

  • Parker, my dog, whom I adopted on 1 September 2006.
  • Politics. I'm a moderate-lefty by international standards, which makes me a radical left-winger in today's United States.
  • Photography. I took tens of thousands of photos as a kid, then drifted away from making art until a few months ago when I got the first digital camera I've ever had that rivals a film camera. That got me reading more, practicing more, and throwing more photos on the blog. In my initial burst of enthusiasm I posted a photo every day. I've pulled back from that a bit—it takes about 30 minutes to prep and post one of those puppies—but I'm still shooting and still learning.
  • The weather. I've operated a weather website for more than ten years. That site deals with raw data and objective observations. Many weather posts also touch politics, given the political implications of addressing climate change, though happily we no longer have to do so under a president beholden to the oil industry.
  • Chicago, the greatest city in North America, and the other ones I visit whenever I can.

I've deprecated the Software category, but only because I don't post much about it here. That said, I write a lot of software. I work for 10th Magnitude, a startup software consultancy in Chicago, I've got about 20 years experience writing the stuff, and I continue to own a micro-sized software company. (I have an online resume, if you're curious.) I see a lot of code, and since I often get called in to projects in crisis, I see a lot of bad code, some of which may appear here.

I strive to write about these and other things with fluency and concision. "Fast, good, cheap: pick two" applies to writing as much as to any other creative process (cf: software). I hope to find an appropriate balance between the three, as streams of consciousness and literacy have always struggled against each other since the first blog twenty years ago.

If you like what you see here, you'll probably also like Andrew Sullivan, James Fallows, Josh Marshall, and Bruce Schneier. Even if you don't like my politics, you probably agree that everyone ought to read Strunk and White, and you probably have an opinion about the Oxford comma—punctuation de rigeur in my opinion.

Another, non-trivial point. Facebook reads the blog's RSS feed, so many people reading this may think I'm just posting notes on Facebook. Facebook's lawyers would like you to believe this, too. Now, I've reconnected with tons of old friends and classmates through Facebook, I play Scrabble on Facebook, and I eagerly read every advertisement that appears next to its relevant content. But Facebook's terms of use assert ownership of everything that appears on their site, regardless of prior claims, which contravenes four centuries of law.

Everything that shows up on my Facebook profile gets published on The Daily Paker first, and I own the copyrights to all of it (unless otherwise disclosed). I publish the blog's text under a Creative Commons attribution-nonderivative-noncommercial license; republication is usually OK for non-commercial purposes, as long as you don't change what I write and you attribute it to me. My photos, however, are published under strict copyright, with no republication license, even if I upload them to other public websites. If you want to republish one of my photos, just let me know and we'll work something out.

Anyway, thanks for reading, and I hope you continue to enjoy The Daily Parker.

Friday 16 September 2011 18:36:32 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Baseball | Biking | Chicago | Cubs | Duke | Geography | Jokes | Kitchen Sink | Parker | Daily | Photography | Politics | US | World | Raleigh | Religion | San Francisco | Software | Blogs | Business | Cool links | Security | Weather | Astronomy | Work#
Monday 16 May 2011

Officially and virtually, I've had this since December 30th. I do like having the hard copy though:

Monday 16 May 2011 09:10:48 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Duke#
Friday 13 May 2011

Girlyman played Evanston SPACE last night:

Coyote Grace is touring with Girlyman this year; I'll be looking for them again. Also, surprise musical guest The Shadowboxers, who graduated from college Wednesday, led the show with a 4-song set. Again, another band I need to follow.

I'll have more photos next week. Tomorrow I'm off to Duke for our graduation ceremony. The school awarded our degrees in January (retroactive to December 30th), but I still want to walk—and see my classmates. Only, with work, a 7am flight to RDU, and everything going on this weekend, I don't expect to have time to organize last night's photos for a few days.

I will say this: even with the 7D's amazing low-light abilities, shooting a concert is hard. I experimented with a dozen or so combinations of ISO, aperture, and shutter, and I quickly put away my 18-55mm zoom in favor of a 50mm f/1.8 prime lens. The shot above was ISO-3200, 1/125 at f/1.8. I tried slower shutters with tighter apertures but the band were so energetic that led to lots of subject movement. Lower ISOs gave me less grainy photos, but again, required slower shutter speeds, so they weren't quite up to my standards. And black & white, which ordinarily covers many sins in variable-light environments, didn't look right, because the lighting makes up part of a live performance's appeal.

I also shot about 18 minutes of video (which looks OK, actually), making my total haul for the evening a whopping 12 GB. I don't think I can post any video, though. (Pesky copyright laws.) If I find out from the band it's all right to do so, I'll put some up.

Friday 13 May 2011 08:47:34 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Duke | Kitchen Sink#
Sunday 13 March 2011

Sanjay Saigal, writing on James Fallow's blog today, discusses the dearth of qualified managers in India, and the failure of MBA programs to keep up with demand:

Consider, for instance, the following data from a report published last year by an Indian employment company, MeritTrac:

  • Recognized MBA programs produce around 70,000 graduates each year.
  • Approximately 20,000 of them may be considered "employable".
  • The annual demand for MBAs is estimated to be 128,000.

To echo Woody Allen in Annie Hall, the food is terrible, and such small portions!

The deficit in 2009, the baseline year of MertTrac's study, was over 100,000 MBAs. Over the least 10 years, the Indian economy has growing at an average annual rate of 7.6%. The number of recognized MBA programs has been increasing, but the number of employable MBA graduates has not, bottlenecked by a shortage of trained faculty. Every year, the Indian industry finds itself in a deeper hole.

<plug style="shameless" format="parenthetical" >

Duke's Executive MBA programs—especially the CCMBA—address all of his concerns except for one: cost.

</plug>

Saigal points to a tremendous opportunity for good schools to provide deep management education to some of the billion Indians who'll make up the workforce there in 10 years.

Sunday 13 March 2011 14:56:54 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Duke | World#
Saturday 15 January 2011

According to the Duke University registrar, I am a Master of Business Administration:

Who knew a screenshot of the registrar's computer system could feel so good?

Saturday 15 January 2011 15:15:06 WET (UTC+00:00)  |  | Duke#
Wednesday 5 January 2011

I've just gotten a reply from the Duke University registrar's office in response to my question:

During the CCMBA, our advisers told us that our degrees would be conferred on 30 December 2010. ACES[1], however, still lists us as "active in program." How will we get official notification that we’ve earned our MBAs?

The registrar's reply:

Thank you for your email. We do not add the degree to your record until the University Trustees meet to officially confer the degrees. They generally meet in mid-January and the degrees are posted to the record usually in late January with a confer date of December 30th. Please keep a check on your academic history in ACES and you will be able to see when your degree has been posted.

So, we're not yet officially masters of business administration, but it's probably all right to put the degree on our résumés.

[1] ACES is the registrar's computer system.

Wednesday 5 January 2011 09:49:41 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Duke#
Monday 13 December 2010

About five hours ago I finished everything required to earn my MBA. I still have one (option) follow-up lecture for one class, so I can't mark the whole thing "resolved and closed" in FogBugz yet. Thus the precise language: I'm done with all the requirements.

No more Saturday-morning CENTRA sessions. No more papers and exams lurking under the bed. No more residency calendar on my fridge (first attached there 18 months ago).

I feel like Robert Redford's character at the end of The Candidate: "What do we do now?" It's a little freaky.

Total damage, not counting the lecture Thursday and untimed activities like mulling over my assignments while doing something else: 1,437 hours. That's 9 months of full-time work, spread over 18. In other words, between July 2009 and today I spent about 20 hours per week doing something connected with my MBA.

Read more (complete with a bonus chart!) at The Daily Parker.

Monday 13 December 2010 15:29:29 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Duke#
Saturday 11 December 2010

After 16 months, 16 classes, six countries (including North Carolina, which still seems a bit foreign), and 1435 hours of work, I'm down to my last assignment. It's a group paper, for which I've already done the bulk of my part, though the team has nominated me to assemble the final draft. It's due at 11 am Monday; expect to see something around then.

This will all make sense to me in a few weeks. Right now a part of my poor brain insists I have something to do that I'm not doing right now...while the rest of it, for the first time since July 2009, knows I really don't have anything hanging over me.

What a weird feeling.

Saturday 11 December 2010 17:33:50 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Duke#
Thursday 9 December 2010

I can't quite grasp that I'll finish my MBA sometime before next Tuesday. My Duke to-do list (I actually use FogBugz for school and for work) has had, over the past two years, 573 items on it. Today I've got just 7 active items, including "Confirm CCMBA degree is conferred" which is due on the 30th.

One paper left. One PowerPoint dreck. Er, deck. One case to read. Two classes.

I have no idea what I'm going to do without all that stress and bother, or with all the time I'll suddenly have. Oh, right: I'll moonlight to pay off my student loans. Forgot that...

Thursday 9 December 2010 13:36:21 EST (UTC-05:00)  |  | Duke#
Monday 22 November 2010

With fewer than 21 days until the end of school forever (or at least until I get the loans paid off), I've spent all my non-work time thinking about entrepreneurship management, emerging market strategy, technology strategy, and environmental economics. Between them I have three papers and one pricing project to complete.

The first paper is almost done, pending comments from one of my sources. I'd go celebrate but I have the other three assignments, you see.

Someday, I'll look back upon this time, laugh nervously, and change the subject.

Monday 22 November 2010 15:13:44 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Duke#
Thursday 30 September 2010

Not my MBA, which finishes in 73 days. At least we're done with classes; all that remains are my distance classes and three projects.

No, more interesting than that is how World War I finally ends on Sunday:

The final payment of £59.5 million writes off the crippling debt that was the price for one world war and laid the foundations for another.

Germany was forced to pay the reparations at the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 as compensation to the war-ravaged nations of Belgium and France and to pay the Allies some of the costs of waging what was then the bloodiest conflict in history, leaving nearly ten million soldiers dead.

The initial sum agreed upon for war damages in 1919 was 226 billion Reichsmarks, a sum later reduced to 132 billion, £22 billion at the time.

Most of the money goes to private individuals, pension funds and corporations holding debenture bonds as agreed under the Treaty of Versailles, where Germany was made to sign the 'war guilt' clause, accepting blame for the war.

This, one must admit, is a head-scratcher. Good thing no one held a grudge after 1919, else we'd have had real problems.

Thursday 30 September 2010 16:16:26 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Duke | World#
Tuesday 21 September 2010

Yeah, it's just not as exciting as previous residencies, but it's seriously more work.

Fortunately, I still have time to read gems like this:

Terry Jones and the Dove World Outreach Center may be charged $200,000 by the city of Gainesville, Florida, for security costs incurred by the canceled Koran-burning originally planned for September 11.

Jones' announcement of "International Burn-A-Koran" day resulted in some violent protests in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and threats against Americans. In response, Gainesville upped its security. According to The Associated Press: "Police Maj. Rick Hanna said more than 200 officers were on duty last weekend patrolling the church, the University of Florida football game and "soft targets" like the mall. Another 160 sheriff's deputies were also working because of the planned protest at Dove World Outreach Center."

Though Jones didn't go through with the protest, city officials say they want Jones to foot the bill for the security anyway.

To the tune of "Personality," everyone sing: "'Cause he makes...externalities...de de do do..."

Speaking of economics, here's a brief lesson for people who want the millionaire tax cut to continue:

Monday 20 September 2010 20:51:12 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Duke | US#
Wednesday 1 September 2010

Dilbert creator Scott Adams raises an interesting point in his blog today:

I'm fascinated by the degree to which brains have evolved to become more powerful than guns. Society's founding geniuses engineered a social system that encourages the young people who have guns to shoot at each other instead of robbing old people. Forgive me for calling that awesome.

In other news, my total working hours for August was 275.5, so I'm actually looking forward to the Term 6 residency for a respite. We've only got four full classes this term, so, you know, it's easier.

Only 102 days left...

Wednesday 1 September 2010 12:29:10 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Duke | Politics#
Tuesday 24 August 2010

For the first time I can recall—going back more than two years, at least, and probably longer—I don't have a flight booked to anywhere. I started realizing this as I got closer to flying to Boston last weekend. Combine that with the brand-spanking-new passport I just got, and I feel oddly confined.

So, possessed of a ton of frequent-flyer miles but with no possibility of making the next level of elite status this year, and also facing a dramatic shift in my work-life balance in just over 110 days, I have started plotting my escape.

Where to go, though?

First criterion: Get out of the U.S. A passport without stamps (or creases, scuff marks, bent edges, etc.) just looks sad. Unused. Unloved. Wherever I go in December, then, must get me a passport stamp.

Second: Use frequent-flyer miles. Even though it's August, the number of available seats for miles in mid-December looks pretty grim to a lot of places. Forget most warm spots; forget popular Christmas destinations. At least, not for less than 100,000 miles, and a four-day trip just isn't worth that amount.

Third: Eight hours or less from O'Hare. I'm not relishing the thought of a longer flight for a four-day trip. That rules out Asia, most of South America, and parts of Europe. I can live with that.

So: Candidates. Initially I thought of going someplace warm and sitting on a beach. There are non-stops on American from Chicago to Cancún, Cabo San Lucas, México, and Acapulco. But I'm not really a resort kind of person, and getting anywhere more interesting in Mexico carries risks right now I'm not completely comfortable taking. A connection in Miami opens up the Carribean and Central America; but the number of available seats makes that expensive.

Of course, I'd go to London for almost any reason anyway. It's my second-favorite city in the world, it's only 7 hours away, and in December business-class miles tickets are only 35,000 miles in some cases. But think: London in December? I don't expect to sit along the Thames and sip beer in the six hours of daylight I get before the sun sets just before 4pm.

I think I've settled on Quito, Ecuador. With a connection in Miami it's 7 hours from Chicago (and no overnight flights!). It's reasonably warm. It has living history, being a UNESCO World Heritage site. And very few people speak English, which will force me to practice my Spanish.

More information as events warrant.

Tuesday 24 August 2010 09:01:55 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Duke | Geography#
Saturday 14 August 2010

I can scarcely believe I've spent (only!) a year in the CCMBA already. We started last August 14th in London, and we're already almost done with our fifth term. I'd write more, but I've already spent most of today working.

About that workload: for a variety of reasons, not least of which is that I'm a nerd, and not most of which is that I've been a consultant for most of my professional life, I've tracked the time spent on this program. So far, including getting to and from the residencies, time in class, pre-reading, homework, team meetings, etc., I've spent 1,157 hours on it. For those keeping score at home, that's almost 7 months of full-time work. This is in addition to the actual full-time work I've had to do during the same period.

I honestly have no idea what I'll do with all that time when I'm finally done with the program.

I am, however, done for the day. Done. Except for that Operations paper I need to finish. But it's not due until tonight, so I'm off with Parker to go watch the Blue Angels, which have just buzzed me 200 meters directly above my house.

Saturday 14 August 2010 16:19:10 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Duke#
Wednesday 14 July 2010

The first day or so back is always hectic and exhausting. I still marvel that the 11½-hour time change from India was easier than the 9-hour change from St. Petersburg (or, come to think of it, the 8-hour change from Dubai.)

I'm still getting back into my life, so I'll end here, but for this non-sequitur: I have t oget these cookies.

Wednesday 14 July 2010 08:12:12 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Duke | Kitchen Sink#
Sunday 11 July 2010

The monument to the heroes of the seige of Leningrad:

More photos at The Daily Parker.

Sunday 11 July 2010 15:02:33 MSD (UTC+04:00)  |  | Duke#

Ah, the quandry. Quandries, in fact: there are two.

The biggest is that it's 4:30am in St. Petersburg but only 7:30pm in Chicago. I need to be back on Chicago time by Tuesday morning. Thus, I'm staying up very late in order to remain conscious at work in three days. I hope it works.

The other is that I took some photos of my classmates at the end-of-term party tonight, but I haven't secured permission for general publication yet. On Facebook, only Dukies and my family can see the Duke photos (if I've set up the permissions right). Here, on The Daily Parker, anyone on the Intertubes can see them. So I tend to publish photos of Parker instead of my classmates, because he has no privacy rights and they do.

So there are a ton of photos I'd like to publish to show off my photo skillz, but this is the only one for which I have permission to publish so far:

Yeah, they're that cute together. Before prospective CCMBA students get all excited after Googling the program, I should point out that they've been engaged for quite some time, and only one of them is in my class. Still, this is the kind of shot that makes the photographer blow on his fingernails, so I just had to publish it.

Sunday 11 July 2010 04:37:33 MSD (UTC+04:00)  |  | Duke#
Friday 9 July 2010

The Culture Dash took me back to Kazan Cathedral today, only this time, I went inside:

Friday 9 July 2010 17:51:47 MSD (UTC+04:00)  |  | Duke | Religion#
Thursday 8 July 2010

Back in February, some of us got the opportunity to tour Indira Gandhi Airport Terminal 3, then under construction. It opened this week:

The new terminal—Terminal 3—was "inaugurated" on July 3rd (Saturday) with India's great and good in attendance, and flights will start from July 14th. Mumbai’s airport is also getting a new terminal, but I don’t think it’s nearly as far along as Delhi’s, which needed completing before the Commonwealth Games this October. There is much excitement in the Indian media about the scale of the thing. Nobody seems able to decide whether it will be the world’s third-, fifth-, or eighth-biggest airport terminal. But it seems pretty certain that it will be a vast improvement over what came before (that’s a low bar, I suppose). Perhaps readers can help resolve this issue: in terms of floor area, which are the world's biggest airport terminals, and how big are they? (The most reliable stuff I've seen puts Delhi T3 in roughly the same ballpark as Madrid's T4, the Mexico City airport, Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi, and a couple of others—around 500,000 square meters—and about half the size of Beijing's new terminal, and a third that of Dubai's).

Of course, however spiffy the building, there is always scope for Heathrow T5-style shenanigans with baggage and so on to mess things up. I’m curious, therefore, to hear from any readers travelling through Delhi after July 15th. Do let us know how you found the new terminal. I myself won’t be passing through until mid-October. I am timing my annual visit home until after the Commonwealth-Games madness, such as it is, is over. By then, teething troubles will hopefully have been sorted out.

Thursday 8 July 2010 21:43:26 MSD (UTC+04:00)  |  | Aviation | Duke | Geography#

Only a couple blocks from the hotel:

Thursday 8 July 2010 21:13:33 MSD (UTC+04:00)  |  | Duke | Geography#

Unavoidable, I suppose. And looking increasingly like an real option after nearly a week of British-inspired Russian cooking:

Thursday 8 July 2010 15:21:58 MSD (UTC+04:00)  |  | Duke#

The good: Spain beating Germany last night. The bad: The sound of "¡Olé olé olé olé!" ricocheting around my aching head this morning. The ugly: Receving a (hopefully-mail-merged) message from the program reminding me of the importance of attending class after I missed for the second time in my MBA program.

Thursday 8 July 2010 11:01:13 MSD (UTC+04:00)  |  | Duke#
Wednesday 7 July 2010

I've got KML files of the boat tour and walk from which I took some of the photos posted already in the blog. Of course, as GPS receivers are illegal in Russia, I spent a lot of time meticulously figuring out the coordinate pairs in these files, including the zig-zag lines that perfectly simulate the distorted readings someone would get walking in a heavily-urbanized area.

Wednesday 7 July 2010 18:26:36 MSD (UTC+04:00)  |  | Duke | Geography#

I took a walk yesterday around 9pm, down Nevsky Prospekt to the Hermitage (about 8 km round-trip). Like today, yesterday it was about 30°C outside. And like today, the sun never quite set. This is from half past midnight:

More photos at The Daily Parker.

Wednesday 7 July 2010 17:32:38 MSD (UTC+04:00)  |  | Duke#
Tuesday 6 July 2010

I didn't come to Russia for the food.

This is fortunate. The lunch buffet yesterday had pork filets, penne with cream sauce, white rice, salmon roulades, roasted carrots with butter. Then the dinner buffet had pork roulades, spaghetti with cream sauce, black and white rice, salmon filets, roasted carrots with butter. Same Sunday, same Saturday, though there was a minor stir when we found out the Halal meal was lamb chops, which the Muslim students eagerly devoured leaving none for the rest of us.

A Ukrainian friend asked, "This does not sound like traditional Russian food to me. What hotel are you based in?" Ah, here's where the story takes a particularly grim turn: we're in the British-owned Corinthia Nevskij Palace. British-owned. Which is odd, because our food in London was actually pretty good, especially breakfast.

Russia does, however, have tasty things to drink. But we'll leave that aside for now.

And another thing, which is keeping me in the building for the time being: It's bloody 30°C outside. Yecch. I'm hoping it cools off a bit before I head out for more photography and meeting up with my team to watch the Dutch beat Uruguay.

Tuesday 6 July 2010 16:25:42 MSD (UTC+04:00)  |  | Duke | Kitchen Sink | Weather#
Sunday 4 July 2010

They started us off beautifully this term, with one class yesterday followed by four hours of free time and a tour of the city. Then they gave us the morning off today. I wish all the residencies had started so easily.

This gave me a chance to get some photos processed, starting with the train ride from Helsinki. This is near Vyborg:

More at The Daily Parker.

Sunday 4 July 2010 09:59:11 MSD (UTC+04:00)  |  | Duke#
Thursday 1 July 2010

I love that for €54 and an hour and a half (round-trip, both numbers), you can take a boat from Finaland across the Baltic Sea and be in Estonia. The abandoned immigration and customs counters look a little forlorn to me, but have got to look completely eerie to anyone who made the trip before 2008, when Estonia entered the Schengen area.

The ferry terminal on the Estonian side is a ghastly pile of Soviet concrete to horrible for me even to photograph. To give you an example, this is directly across from the terminal, and is one of the first things you see entering Tallinn:

More at The Daily Parker.

Thursday 1 July 2010 17:50:56 EEST (UTC+03:00)  |  | Duke#
Wednesday 30 June 2010

Helsinki Cathedral:

More at The Daily Parker.

Wednesday 30 June 2010 19:22:15 EEST (UTC+03:00)  |  | Duke#

I just got in to Helsinki. I wrote the following on the flight:

29 June 2010, 18:33 EDT, 10,500 m over the Maine-New Hampshire border

Finnair’s A330 business class is the most comfortable experience I’ve ever had on an airplane[1]. First off, the plane is brand-new. It’s quiet, clean, and (not surprisingly) very European-looking. But this isn’t your grandfather’s Airbus. Dig it:

  • Finnair has introduced new seats in business class. The left side alternate 2-1-2, the middle are all paired, and the right side—where I sat—is a staggered single column. The staggering allows them to put more seats in the cabin while also allowing the seats to fold completely flat, which is the whole point of upgrading on an overnight flight. But the arrangement also means every seat but four are aisle seats. (Seats 1A, 3A, 5A, and 7A are trapped window seats.)
  • The business class seats also have universal power outlets (fits North American, British, European, and I think Russian plugs), a 5v USB connector for recharging electronics, and an RJ-45 network connection. I didn’t have an RJ-45 cable with me so I have no idea what network it connects to.
  • The airplane has a freaking nose camera that the pilots turned on for the takeoff and landing rolls. It also has a belly camera that allows you to look straight down. Both are accessible in flight through the entertainment center. When the nose camera came on as we taxied into position on the departure runway, I just boggled. This was the coolest thing I had ever seen on a commercial airplane. The belly camera, while also a seriously cool feature, has less practical benefit because the field of view almost exactly the wrong scale. At 10.5 km up it shows an area probably no larger than 1km across—too big to see anything in detail but too small to see a more complete picture.
  • Finnair’s in-flight navigation software is the best I’ve seen, except for one of the screens where the animators got clever. Oddly, at one of the scales it shows, it depicts shipwrecks. As we passed over New England it highlighted the wrecks of the Andrea Doria and the Thresher, which I suppose is an advertisement for the safety of air travel over sea travel, but still.
  • Outboard washrooms have windows. It seems silly when you read it, but it’s actually kind of cool.
  • What a yummy wine list—in 9 languages[2]. Joseph Perrier Cuvée Royale Brut 2003 to start, a white Burgundy from Rully, a lovely Douro, and a 1995 Niepoort Colheita for dessert. And, of course, Finlandia.

I’m almost disappointed I’ll be asleep for a several hours.

There is no reason I can see that American Airlines can’t do this as well. Or British Airways for that matter. Maybe the two largest carriers in the oneworld alliance are just too big. Maybe Finland just has higher standards of comfort than the U.S. and U.K. Or maybe my experience flying back to the U.S.—in coach—will change my mind.

I will ponder these things over dinner...

[2] Finnish, Swedish, English, Russian, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Hindi, and (I think) Urdu. (I’ll confirm the last one with a classmate when I get to St. Petersburg.)

Update, 00:46 UTC, about 1,700 km southwest of Iceland:

The dinner service done, the cabin crew dimmed the lights, but so gently one might worry he was going blind. Also, because we’re so far north, the left side of the plane looks to be in a permanent sunset. The flight map shows us skimming the dark side of the terminator without ever quite diving in all the way. Plus, the local time in Helsinki is 3:50: just 30 minutes or so before sunrise. I might not get much sleep after all.

Later update, 00:51 UTC

I wrote too soon. They just killed the lights with a switch. It’s suddenly dark in the cabin. I shall therefore dim my laptop, which, because it has an ambient light sensor, is fighting me on this...

Still later update, 00:57 UTC

The almost-full moon just popped above the horizon. It’s still not completely dark out there though.

Wednesday 30 June 2010 10:52:28 EEST (UTC+03:00)  |  | Aviation | Duke#
Tuesday 22 June 2010

This morning I finally opened up the pre-reading packets for Term 5, and discovered that going to Boston on August 21st may have been the better choice academically. Final exams are due August 30th, not September 6th as I'd originally thought, so taking 36 hours out of the weekend of August 28th would have been colossally stupid.

The flipside of that, however, is I actually get a long weekend for Labor Day. So it works out.

Tuesday 22 June 2010 08:31:09 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Duke#
Saturday 19 June 2010

Three things encourage me to resume the 30-Park Geas this season. First, I haven't seen a baseball game in almost a year; second, three weeks from now I'll be done with all the CCMBA travel; and third, American Airlines is running a triple-miles promotion this summer from Chicago to New York and Boston.

So: my options are Boston on August 21st or New York on August 28th.

Boston would cost $40 more for the airfare; New York would cost about that much more for a hotel room. (And no, I wouldn't stay in Queens.) So it's a wash. Adding to the dilemma is the question, do I want to see the oldest park in the country, or the newest? And then there's the issue of having many more friends in New York than in Boston.

If this is the hardest decision I have to make this month, I'm doing all right.

Saturday 19 June 2010 12:17:35 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Baseball | Duke#
Wednesday 2 June 2010

From Matthew Yglesias, information about coffee consumption worldwide, which apparently peaks in Finland:

The Swedes are actually a bit less coffee-mad than the Finns, Norwegians, Danes, or Icelanders but as you can see here all the Nordic peoples drink a ton of coffee, in the Swedish case a bit less than twice as much per capita as Americans do. The Södermalm area of Stockholm where Mikael Blonkvist and Lisbeth Salander live and Millenium and Milton Security are headquartered is just littered with coffee houses like nothing I’ve ever seen in America (incidentally, this is where I stayed when I was in Stockholm on the recommendation of a blog reader—it’s a hugely fun neighborhood, definitely stay there if you visit). Personally, I drink way more coffee than the average American and find this aspect of Swedish life congenial. Even I, however, had to balk at the extreme quantity of coffee I was served in Finland where consumption is absolutely off the charts.

And another from math teacher Dan Meyer:

It is exceptionally easy for me to treat the skills and structures of mathematics as holy writ. My default state is to assume that every student shares my reverence for the stone tablets onto which the math gods originally etched the quadratic formula. It is a matter of daily discipline to ask myself, instead:

  • what problem was the quadratic formula originally intended to solve?
  • why is the quadratic formula the best way to solve that problem?
  • how can I put my students in a position to discover the answers to (a) and (b) on their own?

This last is particularly intriguing because not only would I like those answers about the quadratic formula, I'd also like those answers about the Capital Asset Pricing Model and Black-Scholes.

Off to San Francisco this afternoon, to put off dealing with my head-exploding workload for three days. If the guy sitting in the row ahead of me leans back so I can't use my laptop, I will cry.

Wednesday 2 June 2010 09:54:54 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Duke | Kitchen Sink | San Francisco#
Friday 28 May 2010

I mentioned a few days ago that I'm swamped. I didn't realize at the time how swamped, sadly. It turns out I'm more swamped than Florida. I'm so swamped, the Rs.O.U.S.[1] are drowning.

So, though it's redundant, I'll reiterate I'm not dead. I am, however, slowing to the worst ratio of blog entries per month since October 2007.

Part of this comes from how much work and school are challenging me right now. This is good, actually. I have only a finite amount of creativity, but I'm using it all. And Decmeber 12th—the end of my MBA—really isn't that far away.

[1] Since "rodent" is the subject, it gets pluralized. "ROUSs" may be what Westley called them on first reference, but on second reference he said "rodents of unusual size." Q.E.D.

Thursday 27 May 2010 21:48:30 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Duke#
Sunday 23 May 2010

I've got about three hours left on the 8-hour clock for my finance midterm, which is good because I think it will take me only about four hours to finish the last bits. I'm pleased we're learning all the skills required to perform detailed financial analysis at someone else's direction, rather than the skills to direct someone else to do it and to figure out what it means, because it provides a nice break from all that stuff in all our other courses.

After today, we have hardly any work left this term:

  • Strategy case, due Saturday May 29th before class
  • Finance assignment #5, due Monday May 31st
  • Finance assignment #6, due Monday June 7th
  • Finance and Strategy final exams, both due Monday June 14th
  • A 20-page Strategy paper, also due Monday June 14th
  • CCL culture dash video, due Wednesday June 16th
  • CCL business analysis paper, due Thursday June 17th

Our Term 5 books should arrive right around then, along with Term 6 registration, as the rock slides down the mountain again.

At least we're more than halfway done. And I've got the Lost finale tonight. I expect it'll make more sense than finance.

Sunday 23 May 2010 10:05:42 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Duke#
Friday 14 May 2010

So, with a project running somewhere around 105%, an old and patient client that predates my current employment waiting for some updates, Global Financial Management requiring that I figure out the combined beta of two companies about to merge, Foundations of Strategy expecting a transaction cost analysis Saturday morning, and an overwhelming anticipation of seeing Diane and Parker tomorrow after almost two weeks, I find myself completely out of creativity. Heaven bless my winter office (probably, now that the pizzeria around the corner has left, simply "my remote office").

Fortunately, other people on the Intertubes have plenty of it. Creativity, I mean. Here is a quorum, mostly pinched from Sullivan:

  • The Washington Post has a list of twelve things to toss out this spring, as written by Elizabeth Warren, Karl Rove, and Onion editor Joe Randazzo. (The last is an indictment of Internet memes.) There's also a bit on virginity.
  • Writer Andrea Donderi posits a dichotomy between Asker and Guesser cultures. In Cultures, Civilization, and Leadership (one of the CCMBA's core classes) we'd look at this in terms of ICE profiles, which I would explain if I could find the link. (See above re: being overloaded.) This comes via The Guardian, who have the distinction this week of having endorsed for prime minister the guy who became deputy PM. By the way, this kind of embarassment (two guys running against each other only to have to work together as #1 and #2) hasn't happened in the US since 1800. But that's not important right now.
  • While on the subject, it's a little daunting that we haven't had our midterms yet and I've made no progress on the video, but there are only 50 days until our next residency starts. (See above re: being really overloaded.)
  • Finally, Sam Harris has a new demolition of the Catholic Church Good line near the top: "This scandal was one of the most spectacular 'own goals' in the history of religion, and there seems to be no need to deride faith at its most vulnerable and self-abased." (I would explain that my views are probably more moderate than Harris's, and yet I enjoy his writing, but see above re: being really monster raving loony overloaded.)

Shannon has brought my last drink and my check, my teammate KW is busy compiling all of our notes for Strategy, and Parker, I expect, is getting a relaxing belly-scratch from Diane 1,000 km away. I think we're all OK with this, but Parker has the best deal.

Also, for those of you watching in real time, yes: I posted this blasted entry five times in quick succession, because I kept finding typos. This should come as great news to the people currently engaged in Scrabble games with me on Facebook.

Thursday 13 May 2010 21:13:26 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Duke | Parker | US | World | Religion#
Saturday 8 May 2010

Before going to Shanghai, I picked up James Fallows's Postcards from Tomorrow Square, a collection of his essays from living there 2006-2009. (Yes, he lived in the building that houses the hotel where our CCMBA cohort stayed.)

First, I'd like to call attention to page 76:

The easier America makes it for talented foreigners to work and study there, the richer, more powerful, and more respected America will be. America's ability to absorb the world's talent is the crucial advantage no other culture can match—as long as America doesn't forfeit this advantage with visa rules written mainly out of fear.

Second, the book should be required of CCMBA students visiting Shanghai to complement Travels of a T-Shirt in a Global Economy, which we had to read for our Global Markets and Institutions (GMI) class. In the essay "China Makes, the World Takes" (available at The Atlantic.com in shorter form), Fallows looks at the Chinese side of Livoli's traveling t-shirt. Computer accessories, for instance:

The other facility that intrigued me, one of Liam Casey’s in Shenzhen, handled online orders for a different well-known American company. I was there around dawn, which was crunch time. Because of the 12-hour time difference from the U.S. East Coast, orders Americans place in the late afternoon arrive in China in the dead of night. As I watched, a customer in Palatine, Illinois, perhaps shopping from his office, clicked on the American company’s Web site to order two $25 accessories. A few seconds later, the order appeared on the screen 12,500 km away in Shenzhen. It automatically generated a packing and address slip and several bar-code labels. One young woman put the address label on a brown cardboard shipping box and the packing slip inside. The box moved down a conveyer belt to another woman working a “pick to light” system: She stood in front of a kind of cupboard with a separate open-fronted bin for each item customers might order from the Web site; a light turned on over each bin holding a part specified in the latest order. She picked the item out of that bin, ran it past a scanner that checked its number (and signaled the light to go off), and put it in the box. More check-weighing and rescanning followed, and when the box was sealed, young men added it to a shipping pallet.

By the time the night shift was ready to leave—8 a.m. China time, 7 p.m. in Palatine, 8 p.m. on the U.S. East Coast—the volume of orders from America was tapering off. More important, the FedEx pickup time was drawing near. At 9 a.m. couriers would arrive and rush the pallets to the Hong Kong airport. The FedEx flight to Anchorage would leave by 6 p.m., and when it got there, the goods on this company’s pallets would be combined with other Chinese exports and re-sorted for destinations in America. Forty-eight hours after the man in Palatine clicked “Buy it now!” on his computer, the item showed up at his door. Its return address was a company warehouse in the United States; a small Made in China label was on the bottom of the box.

Finally, a bleg: what book or books do you think, dear reader, should be required reading for visitors to your city? For example, I'd say Nelson Algren's prose-poem City on the Make and Mike Royko's Boss for Chicago. Thoughts?

Saturday 8 May 2010 13:56:10 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Duke | Geography | US#
Tuesday 4 May 2010

Via one of my classmates, an graphic depiction of the differences between Germany and China by graphic designer Yang Liu. For example, the evolution of transport over the last 40 years:

Tuesday 4 May 2010 10:20:57 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Duke | World#
Monday 3 May 2010

For some reason, the Cultural Disconnect I just wrote for the Shanghai residency was the hardest. I don't know if that's good or bad.

Full text on The Daily Parker.

Monday 3 May 2010 17:56:35 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Duke | Geography#
Thursday 29 April 2010

I haven't had a lot of time to go through all the Shanghai photos. These two caught my eye, though. First, the Urban Planning Museum in People's Square:

And, just because I thought it looked cool, Terminal 2 at Pudong International Airport:

Thursday 29 April 2010 09:27:49 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Duke | Geography#

The video doesn't do the experience justice. I have to say, moving on land at 430 km/h on a public conveyance was a lot of fun. That's better than twice the cruising speed of the Cessna airplanes I fly (195 km/h).

More photos later today.

Thursday 29 April 2010 08:26:30 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Duke | Geography#
Sunday 25 April 2010

The Internet experience at Pudong International Airport differs markedly from the experience at our hotel. I've noticed a pattern, whereby unencrypted data, like The Daily Parker, seems to move about an order of magnitude faster than encrypted data, like the HTTPS connection I've got going with my mail server. The interesting part is that both sites are going through the same router back in Chicago. So, either the Web terminal I'm using has a particularly hard time with secure websites, or something is slowing down the mail packets. Hmmm...can't think what that might be...

Compounding my Internet woes, my laptop's hard drive corrupted its boot sector Saturday afternoon. I have no idea how this happened. The Bitlocker recovery key no longer works. I expect tomorrow I'm going to have to install a new hard drive and then install all my software again. This does not make me happy. On the other hand, I have two episodes of Lost to catch up on before Tuesday.

This, anyway, explains why I didn't post anything yesterday, and why the video clip of the world's fastest land vehicle will have to wait until later today. (Because of the International Date Line, even though I have a 13-hour overnight flight, I arrive at O'Hare 30 minutes after I leave Shanghai.)

Two hours until my flight home. Maybe my email will finish downloading by then?

Sunday 25 April 2010 14:37:44 CST (UTC+08:00)  |  | Duke | Security#
Friday 23 April 2010

One of my teammates has Extra Special Super-Duper status with Marriott Hotels, giving him access to the ESSD Lounge atop the building. Two flights up from that the hotel has an observation deck. I have a camera. The result:

I should mention the reason we're on the 59th floor: we've got a paper due tomorrow afternoon. So, the last night of the residency, we're surrounding ourselves with top-floor views, free booze, and Foundations of Strategy binders. Yes, we're that exciting.

Friday 23 April 2010 21:22:50 CST (UTC+08:00)  |  | Duke#
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David Braverman and Parker
David Braverman is a software developer in Chicago, and the creator of Weather Now. Parker is the most adorable dog on the planet, 80% of the time.
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