Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
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Tuesday 22 April 2014

We've bred wolves for 40,000 years to have social intelligence, which makes them better than chimps and cats at understanding us:

[Duke Canine Center student Evan] MacLean stands near a wall with the dog on a slack leash, while a female graduate student sits on a chair in the center of the room. She sets two opaque red cups upside down on the floor, one on each side of her. Then, as [the dog] Napoleon watches intently, a third graduate student enters the room. She places the dog’s tennis ball under one of the cups and pretends to place it under the other, obscuring her motions with a small black board so the terrier isn’t sure which cup contains the ball. If this were a shell game, the dog would have a fifty-fifty shot of picking the right cup. But the seated graduate student gives him a hand, or, more precisely, a finger. She points to the cup on her right, and when MacLean lets go of the leash, Napoleon runs over to it and retrieves his ball. Over several trials, the dog always goes for the cup that is pointed out. Even when the seated student merely gazes at the correct cup, Napoleon gets the message.

This may seem like a simple test, and, indeed, even one-year-old children pass it. But our closest relatives, chimpanzees, fail miserably. They ignore the human helper, pick cups at random, and rarely score above chance. Brian Hare’s lab has become famous for spotting this difference. Napoleon has performed more than just a neat cognitive trick. He has displayed a more complex skill related to the development of theory of mind in children. He wasn’t just clued into the pointing student’s attention; he had shown behavior consistent with understanding her intention. He showed that he realized that the student wanted to show him something, that she had a desire.

It may not have taken 40,000 years for dogs to develop this skill, by the way. The Russian silver foxes are only a few dozen generations away from wild foxes, and they also have similar cognitive characteristics.

Tuesday 22 April 2014 10:42:10 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Kitchen Sink | Parker#
Saturday 19 April 2014

I don't usually post personal things, but in this case, I have enough psychic pain that I want to vent.

After last Sunday's car-killing problem, I took the car in to get fixed. It turns out, I was right about the problem and about the estimated repair costs. But wait: the car needed routine maintenance as well. All told, it got:

  • a new water pump;
  • an oil change;
  • new brake fluid;
  • a new microfilter for the air conditioner;
  • new wiper blades;
  • a minor recall service; and
  • a partridge in a pear tree.

Total damage: $1,996.74.

I seriously wonder why I have a car at all. Oh, right, because tomorrow I'm going to see family in Outer Suburbistan.

Saturday 19 April 2014 18:39:52 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Kitchen Sink#
Friday 18 April 2014

Crain's reported today (sub.req.) that Lagunitas Brewing will cap their first Chicago-brewed beer today:

Workers at the 300,000-square-foot Douglas Park facility are firing up the bottling line this morning and slapping on Lagunitas India Pale Ale labels. Once they flip the switch, the line will fill 500 bottles a minute.

"It's just the IPA right now," said owner Tony Magee. "It's the beer we know best."

The first 750-barrel batch of beer was mixed a few weeks ago before heading to the brewery's fermenting tanks and filtration system. Other batches of IPA are right behind as production begins to ramp up. The Chicago brewery is set to start making Little Sumpin' Sumpin' beer next month.

Crain's also reports that Lagunitas is now Illinois' largest brewer, with a capacity of 200,000 barrels—23.5 million litres—per year.

Friday 18 April 2014 12:05:16 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Kitchen Sink#
Wednesday 16 April 2014

So, Sunday's car problem is decidedly non-trivial. As I suspected, the water pump failed. I got lucky yesterday because the cold air allowed me to get the car all the way to the nearest dealer (barely 2 km away), but the car is essentially undriveable.

This is a $1400 repair.

I am selling a kidney. Any takers?

Wednesday 16 April 2014 10:20:37 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Kitchen Sink | Travel#
Sunday 13 April 2014

Near Lincoln and Bryn Mawr, 4pm:

The 9 km tow to my house was $150. It appears as if the water pump has failed. The car is driveable for short distances, so I hope that Tuesday morning I can get it to the nearest dealer, 2 km away.

I am not happy about this.

Sunday 13 April 2014 17:21:49 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Kitchen Sink | Travel#
Thursday 10 April 2014

Last week at my remote office, a man came to the bar to order the Duke's most excellent fish and chips for takeout. Then he asked a question: is the fish beer-battered? Well, yes, of course it is; it's a Scottish pub.

Unfortunately for the pub's sales and the customer's stomach pangs, he was an observant Muslim, and believes alcohol is haram. So we got into a conversation about whether beer-battered fish was in this category. (Pubs in London have many more Muslim customers than pubs in Chicago, so they generally don't use beer in their fish batter.)

I'm not religious, not even a tiny bit, but I understand some people keep strict dietary laws like halal. Some people in my own family are strictly Kosher too. But putting aside my feelings that dietary laws in the 21st century make no sense except as a way to keep the observant ethnic group separate from society, the question "is beer-battered fried fish haram" actually interested me.

Again, as a rational person, I would have assumed that the reason alcohol is haram has to do with its intoxicating effects. Since ethanol boils at 78°C, well below the oil's temperature (150-175°C or so), it pretty much evaporates completely when the fish is fried. People get intoxicated on fish-and-chip nights at the Duke (all you can eat Wednesdays and Fridays!), but from the 90 single malts and half-dozen beers on draught, not from the fish.

But it turns out, once it touches alcohol, it's haram:

Fire/cooking does not remove impurity, and the Shafi’i School considers alcohol, like beer, impure. Therefore, even when cooking removes all the alcohol, contamination with the impurity makes eating it problematic.

And Allah knows best.

In fact, most imams seem to agree that food becomes haram as soon as it touches impure oil, even if it is chemically purified by frying:

So long as we know that most of what is fried [with this oil] is impure [for the Muslims to eat] from dead [meat (of the animal which had died prior to slaughter)] or pig [meat], then it is imperative that we ask. However, if we do not know whether most of what is fried [with this oil] is impure [for the Muslims to eat] or other than that, then it is not obligatory to question. And Allaah has the complete knowledge [of all affairs].

But there may be an out:

Hanafi muftis allow the consumption of products containing alcohol from sources other than grapes or dates so long as: 1) it does not intoxicate and 2) it is not used in vain. Also, the amount of alcohol must not exceed 0.5%. Thus, if the amount of beer used is disproportional to the extent of more than 0.5%, then such a product would not be permitted. If the amount of alcohol is 0.5% or less, then they would allow it.

Why Allah decided on 1/200th as the magic amount, what "in vain" means, and how the Hanafi muftis in question learned these specifications, are beyond the scope of this blog post. And it seems to be an open question whether the 0.5% refers to the ethanol itself or to the beer as a whole, but I'm going with the actual alcohol content. I will endeavor to find out from Colin Cameron how much beer exactly gets used in the preparation of fish and chips, and what kind of beer, so that the guy who just wanted a chippie to take away can have it from the Duke without going to hell.

Thursday 10 April 2014 11:25:17 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Kitchen Sink | Religion#

Via Sullivan, science has discovered how to keep your grilled meat from killing you:

Now comes some better news. Scientists have found that marinating pork in beer--yes, beer--can reduce the level of carcinogens. According to this study, black ale has the most beneficial qualities, reducing eight types of PAHs by 53%, compared to meat that hadn't been soaked at all. Nonalcoholic Pilsner beer was also useful, showing a 25% reduction, followed by Pilsner (13%). Each piece of meat was marinated for four hours.

The Economist:

This welcome advice was the result of some serious experiments, as Dr Ferreira explains in a paper in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. The PAHs created by grilling form from molecules called free radicals which, in turn, form from fat and protein in the intense heat of this type of cooking. One way of stopping PAH-formation, then, might be to apply chemicals called antioxidants that mop up free radicals. And beer is rich in these, in the shape of melanoidins, which form when barley is roasted. So Dr Ferreira and her colleagues prepared some beer marinades, bought some steaks and headed for the griddle.

One of their marinades was based on Pilsner, a pale lager. A second was based on a black beer (type unstated). Since black beers have more melanoidins than light beers—as the name suggests, they give it colour—Dr Ferreira’s hypothesis was that steaks steeped in the black-beer marinade would form fewer PAHs than those steeped in the light-beer marinade, which would, in turn, form fewer than control steaks left unmarinated.

And so it proved. When cooked, unmarinated steaks had an average of 21 nanograms (billionths of a gram) of PAHs per gram of grilled meat. Those marinated in Pilsner averaged 18 nanograms. Those marinated in black beer averaged only 10 nanograms. Tasty and healthy too, then. Just what the doctor ordered.

Next time I'm at Morton's, I'll expect to see the porter-marinated Porterhouse on the menu.

Wednesday 9 April 2014 19:06:25 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Kitchen Sink#
Saturday 5 April 2014

It's not a big anniversary, but it still bears mentioning. On 5 April 1614, John Rolfe married Pocahontas in Virginia Colony.

It's difficult to imagine what her life was like, what were the circumstances of her marriage beyond official records, or how she dealt with London. To me, the story has always sounded a bit non-consensual. But the world of 1614 was so alien from our own world, even in England and America, it's likely no one had even an analog to our modern notion of "consent."

Still, it's an interesting anniversary.

Saturday 5 April 2014 10:57:23 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Kitchen Sink#
Monday 31 March 2014

The Cubs will start the season in Philadelphia this afternoon, so at the moment they have a perfect record. That will likely change within the next 36 hours, so we're not to jazzed about it in Chicago.

When they open at Wrigley Field on Friday, it may be cold and drizzly according to the National Weather Service forecast this morning, but at least they'll finally have good beer:

After 25 years, Goose Island finally has a home field advantage at Wrigley Field.

Chicago’s longest-tenured beer maker will be abundant at Clark and Addison this season for the first time, with both 312 Urban Wheat Ale and the newly released 312 Urban Pale Ale to be sold by vendors throughout the stadium, according to the Cubs.

Goose’s Green Line (a pale ale available only in Chicago and on draft), Matilda (a Belgian-style pale ale) and Sofie (a saison) will also be available at Wrigley in 2014.

The reintroduction of Goose Island and departure of Old Style will come about because InBev now owns Goose Island. InBev also owns Budweiser. So Goose Island isn't by any stretch a craft brewer anymore, but they still make better beers than MillerCoors.

Still, it pains me to quote the end of the Tribune article: "U.S. Cellular Field will again be dominated by MillerCoors products (Miller Lite, Coors Light, Blue Moon and Redd’s Apple Ale), but will again feature a solid and varied lineup of craft beers that includes Bell’s Oberon, Revolution Anti-Hero, Rogue Dead Guy Ale, Lagunitas Daytime and Sierra Nevada Pale."

And there's Wrigley Field for you: Loser team, loser beers, sells out every home game. There is no god.

Monday 31 March 2014 09:21:27 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Cubs | Kitchen Sink#
Thursday 27 March 2014

Gail Gygax, widow of Dungeons and Dragons creator Gary Gygax, is trying to get a statue to her late husband in Lake Geneva, Wis.:

Since 2009, Gail has been trying to make a Gary Gygax memorial happen in Lake Geneva.

And it should.

Or, at least, some form of a memorial to Gygax, whose influence on contemporary culture is vast and underrated, should happen. As David Ewalt, an editor at Forbes magazine and author of the 2013 history "Of Dice and Men," said, Dungeons & Dragons took the raw materials of Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" and revitalized the fantasy genre; it influenced the first generation of video game developers, introducing the now-familiar concept of game characters who could grow, improve, "level up"; Gygax's Gen Con, a role-playing game convention founded in 1968, helped popularize geek conventions (and continues to, decades later).

But most important, Ewalt said, "What Gary did was help give birth to a creative class: filmmakers, writers, TV showrunners. A generation now making art — from the 'Game of Thrones' guys to whomever — learned how to tell a story, and the power of narrative, from first being D&D players in the 1970s and '80s.

I hope they build the statue, and I'll leave a d20 in tribute. I actually played a game with Gygax as DM back in, oh, 1980, right in The Dragon in Lake Geneva. I wish I'd been old enough to appreciate the honor without going all fanboy on him. He seemed amused. And he signed my second-edition Players Handbook, which I still have somewhere.

I miss D&D...

Thursday 27 March 2014 10:55:34 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Kitchen Sink#
Tuesday 25 March 2014

I got home with no difficulty and bypassed the dead El train at O'Hare through the simple expedient of taking a taxi.

I'm catching up on work right now, so further comments will issue later. It also turns out, apparently, that a virus had made a beachhead in my nose, so I will have to fight that off before my wit and verve returns.

In totally unrelated news, today is the 30th anniversary of the fictional Breakfast Club.

Tuesday 25 March 2014 15:54:48 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Kitchen Sink | London | Travel#
Friday 14 March 2014

All four are dead:

Quiznos, the Denver-based sandwich chain, said Friday it had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Delaware, the second quick-service restaurant chain in a week to do so.

Quizno's bankruptcy filing comes just days after Sbarro, the New York-based pizza chain, filed for court protection in Manhattan on Monday, the second time in three years. Hot Dog on a Stick, another purveyor of quick-service food, in February also filed for bankruptcy protection.

This is unfortunate especially for Chicago-area coyotes, as they are known to like Quiznos.

Friday 14 March 2014 16:38:29 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Kitchen Sink | Business#
Tuesday 4 March 2014

If I have time, I'll read these articles today:

Now, to work.

Tuesday 4 March 2014 08:31:47 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation | Chicago | Kitchen Sink | Cloud | Weather | Windows Azure#
Saturday 1 March 2014

Parker, 14 weeksI'm David Braverman, this is my blog, and Parker is my 7½-year-old mutt. I last updated this About... page in September 2011, more than 1,300 posts back, so it's time for a refresh.

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.
  • The weather. I've operated a weather website for more than 13 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 sometimes London, San Francisco, and the rest of the world.
  • Photography. I took tens of thousands of photos as a kid, then drifted away from making art until early 2011 when I finally got the first digital camera I've ever had whose photos were as good as film. 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.

I also write a lot of software, and will occasionally post about technology as well. I work for 10th Magnitude, a startup software consultancy in Chicago, I've got more than 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.

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

Saturday 1 March 2014 14:27:44 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation | Baseball | Biking | Cubs | Geography | Kitchen Sink | London | Parker | Daily | Photography | Politics | US | World | Religion | Software | Blogs | Business | Cloud | Travel | Weather | Windows Azure | Work | Writing#
Thursday 6 February 2014

It turned out that I had an actual task today. Two, in fact. Both were pure stupidity on my part. And both completely scotched my goal of doing nothing worthwhile for four days.

First, I had promised something to my team at work before I left, but didn't realize until I checked email this morning that, well, the task was not completed. (Notice the subtle use of passive voice there.) So I had that task, which took half an hour.

Second, mentioned forgetting a few vital items in my luggage, so I had to buy them. And I paid a stupidity tax. The cost of one hat, two pairs of shorts, one pair of sandals (which I didn't already own and therefore had planned to buy here anyway), and one bottle of sunscreen was two hundred bloody dollars. In other words, I paid a 100% tax on bad packing.

So to compensate for having to do things today, after accomplishing both tasks I put on my new shorts, sunscreen, and sandals, then walked the 800 meters from my hotel to the opposite side of Maho Beach and watched planes land for three hours. I need to point out that along the way, I walked through the Caribbean Sea. My new shorts got seawater on them. I think this is exactly what they're for. Especially since the seawater was about the same temperature as the air (27°C), and unlike walking through Lake Michigan on any day except that one day in the beginning of September when everything lines up perfectly, it felt really good. (My feet are, in fact, still wet.)

I also met a few good people, had a few good drinks, and learned that the best airplane landing of the week occurs tomorrow around lunchtime when KLM flight 785 lands. It's a 747-400, the largest plane that flies here. If I have to stand out in the rain, I'm going to see this thing land.

Of course, this means I now have a plan. Even though I came to this island with the explicit goal of not accomplishing or planning anything, except maybe reading a book or two, I just can't help myself. The Dude is onto something...I just can't get there yet...

My plan is:

  • Tomorrow: sleep late, eat something, walk across Maho Beach, take photos of the 747 landing, walk back to my hotel, change my shoes, walk somewhere else (possibly Marigot or Phillipsburg), have some drinks.
  • Saturday: sleep late, walk somewhere (maybe even take a bus and then walk), read something, walk somewhere else, read some more, have some drinks.
  • Sunday: sleep late, shove things into my suitcase, walk somewhere, retrieve my suitcase, go to New York, have some drinks.

Understand that "have some drinks" is an ongoing activity. And the happy accident is that the room I got for cheap through Bookings.com includes free drinks.

Someday, and that day may never come, I will do nothing for an entire week. Meanwhile, this is the least I can do right now. Baby steps.

Thursday 6 February 2014 17:12:37 AST (UTC-04:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation | Geography | Kitchen Sink | Travel#

I'm sitting in the only spot in my hotel that has free WiFi, with a dozen or so other people doing the same thing. Plus, it's possible this is the slowest WiFi in the world (I'm getting 150 kbps). These things make it easy to get out of the building, into island air that's currently 27°C.

I know, I said to people I wouldn't use the internet, but I actually needed a map and some local info that the giant book of wristwatch advertisements guidebook didn't actually tell me.

Plus, I forgot three somewhat useful things, so I'm waiting for the shops to open. Which I think they are now. So I can get the shorts, sunscreen, and hat I need to go for a hike, as the shorts, sunscreen, and hats I have back in Chicago (current temperature: -17°C) are kind of useless here.

Since I intend to be useless here, but I don't want to overheat or get sunburned, and all 300 emails that came in overnight have finished downloading, off I go.

Thursday 6 February 2014 11:13:06 AST (UTC-04:00)  | Comments [0] | Kitchen Sink | Travel | Weather#
Sunday 2 February 2014

The huge furniture move is almost done. I finished moving the rooms around, so my office is now where my dining room used to be, etc. Here's where the office used to be:

Since the purpose of this exercise is to make my small apartment look a lot bigger, part of the plan requires moving a bunch of things to storage, including several nontrivial pieces of furniture. At that point the project will be complete. So I have to live with this mostly-finished living space for two weeks. That does not make me happy.

Nor does my primary WiFi connection. With the IDTWHQ in a completely different part of the space, it's not possible to have a wired connection to the primary DSL unless I move the laptop back to the other room. Which, I guess, is an appropriate thing to do with a laptop, so it's not such a hardship.

Wait, isn't there some kind of sports game on right now?

Sunday 2 February 2014 17:59:15 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Kitchen Sink#

Now that the Inner Drive Technology International Data Center (IDTIDC) has gone away, my apartment the IDT World Headquarters has a few more options. It's not a huge space, which has become a problem now that I'm trying to sell it.

Essentially, I'm rotating three rooms clockwise. That is, my office is moving to where my dining room is, which is moving into my living room, which is moving into my office.

That this is possible suggests the difficulties of having a server rack in the spot most people would ordinarily put a TV. I needed to put the rack next to an outlet I could isolate on a 30-amp circuit, right next to the main phone jack. That forced the TV, and therefore the living room, into the area most of my neighbors use for their dining rooms. So that forced the dining room into the are most of my neighbors put their desks.

I'll have the full "before" and "after" photos when I've moved all the furniture. (I may actually put some pieces in storage, because no amount of rearranging can reduce the volume of stuff in the place.)

Here's the "after," showing the true victim of all this disruption:

I looked through my old photos just now—yay indexing—and this is the closest analogue I could find:

(That's from March 2009, when I reinstalled windows at the office.)

The project should be complete in time for the game tonight.

Sunday 2 February 2014 09:10:25 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Kitchen Sink#
Friday 31 January 2014

I'm not going complain about how the 33 consecutive days of snow cover makes entering or leaving my house a complete pain in the ass (complete with Parker automatically flopping over when we get back inside so I can wipe off his paws*).

No, I'm going to post today about chicken wings:

[Bill Roenigk, chief economist at the National Chicken Council,] says the magical pairing of humongous athletes and itty-bitty chicken parts got its start with the rise of sports bars a few decades ago. Sports-watching demands cheap munchies, and wings were both convenient and cheap. "Ribs and pizza were the competition," says Roenigk. But ribs cost more money, and pizza — well, pizza tends to lose its charm if it sits on a table for too long.

In an odd twist, the once-cheap wing has become the most desirable and expensive part of the chicken. Per pound, chicken wings are now pricier than bone-in chicken breasts, perhaps inspiring this epic wing heist.

"People say, 'You ought to produce more wings,'" says Roemigk. This year's Wing Report lays out the crucial obstacle: "A chicken has two wings, and chicken companies are not able to produce wings without the rest of the chicken."

This leads to a huge question for me: how long will my remote office continue to have a 50c wing special on Thursdays? (They have the best wings in Chicago, by the way. After some discussion, the staff and I determined that they make them with orphan tears and unicorn sweat.)

As for this coming Sunday, I may in fact be eating wings at the Duke of Perth around game-time. But since they have no televisions there, I might have to wait to see the ads on YouTube later on. Now, if only the Bears, Giants, or 49ers had made it...

* The ritual paw-wiping concludes with a vigorous belly-rubbing, so he seems to enjoy the whole thing.

Friday 31 January 2014 13:19:28 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Kitchen Sink#
Monday 20 January 2014

I've got outside meetings every day this week, and those tend to compress my days. So there might be more link lists like this one coming up:

Back to the mines.

Monday 20 January 2014 13:51:07 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Kitchen Sink | US | World#
Sunday 19 January 2014

The Chicago Forestry Department removed a tree near my house back in October but left the stump. No one could figure out why—until they tried to remove it a few days ago:

I'm not an arbologist, but it seems to me that the tree had bionic parts. Actually, it looks like it grew through a steel grating in the parkway and then absorbed the grating. In any event, I hope no one got hurt when they tried sawing through the stump.

Sunday 19 January 2014 17:55:16 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Kitchen Sink#
Saturday 18 January 2014

I recently had a routine checkup, and my doctor suggested revisiting the allergy tests I had way back in 1988. Only now, they have a blood test for most allergies, obviating the uncomfortable patch test I had to go through way back when.

Nothing has really changed except my sensitivity to cats, which has gone down. When I was a kid they made me sneeze; now, they just make my eyes water if I forget myself and forget to wash my hands after patting a cat.

That's all a long setup for this bit of doggerel that I came up with when I got the test results. They really tested for nearly all of these things.

Ahem.

I'm not one bit allergic to peanuts,
Nor scallops, nor soybeans, nor clams,
Nor hickory trees, nor cedars, nor bees,
Nor elms, ashes, mushrooms, or yams.
Not cats, not dogs, not milk, not snogs,
Not pigweed, not elder, not thistles,
Not mold fumigatus (of gens aspergillus),
Not elder, not pecan, not whistles.
It's only the poop that's too tiny to scoop
From vermin we know of as dust mites
Making me sneeze and spray lots of Febreeze.
Yes, I'm allergic to gross little mite shites.

Yes, The Daily Parker ever strives to raise literary standards on the Internets.

Saturday 18 January 2014 17:00:05 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Kitchen Sink#
Thursday 16 January 2014

Andrew Sullivan tops my reading list every day. He and his staff post sometimes 100 items a day on The Daily Dish, and even if I only read a tenth or them, my day is better. He's infuriating, fascinating, informative, conservative, Catholic, gay, mercurial, level. I don't agree with him about a third of the time, but one of his best characteristics is his willingness to listen to arguments and change his mind.

So last February, when he jettisoned a paid gig with The Atlantic to become a professional blogger, I supported him. By "supported" I mean "gave him money." And now I'm up for renewal, about which he says:

What have we created together? Every now and again over the years, I've tried to figure it out. A blog? A magazine? A blogazine? A website? But every year, it changes again, as the new media shift, and as the world turns and as small experiments - like the Window Views or the Reader Threads - become ramparts of the whole thing. Do we, the staffers, write this blog? Sure, we do. But so do you, every day, with emails and testimonies and anecdotes that bring dry news stories to vivid personal life. Do we curate the web? Sure. Every day, we scour the vast Internet for the smart or the funny, the deep and the shallow, the insightful and the abhorrent. But you send us so many links and ideas every day that the creators of the Dish are better understood as a collective of all of us, you and us, correcting, enlightening, harshing and moving each other.

It's journalism, in its original meaning. It's a conversation. It's how I start to get information—but only how I start, because he always posts multiple viewpoints even while making it clear what he believes. And I'm proud to give him money to keep writing.

(By the way, if you want to give me money, just let me know.)

Wednesday 15 January 2014 21:22:19 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Kitchen Sink | Business#
Sunday 5 January 2014

I've gone to my remote office to do some work. Unfortunately, they wouldn't let me sit in the beer garden:

Fortunately, I found an acceptable seat inside:

My real office is closed tomorrow because no one wants to commute on the coldest day since 1995. I hope something is open. Or at least, I hope someone delivers.

Sunday 5 January 2014 16:07:15 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Best Bars | Chicago | Kitchen Sink | Weather#
Wednesday 1 January 2014

Welcome to your new year.

Last year I totted up a bunch of numbers from 2012; here's the update. In 2013:

  • I took only 9 trips, visiting 4½ countries (Canada, England, Scotland, South Korea, and North Korea—the last one for only 4 minutes) and 4 states (New York, California, Washington, and Texas). I probably visited Indiana and Wisconsin in there too, but only incidentally.
  • I flew 77,610 km and drove only about 3,000 km. This is why I love living in a city.
  • As I mentioned yesterday, I wrote 537 Daily Parker posts, only 2 more than in 2012, keeping up the average of 1.48 per day for the second straight year.
  • I changed timekeeping systems in August, moving from Fogbugz to JIRA, so it's too much of a bother to calculate how much time I spent doing what. I can say, however, that I had 2,197 chargeable* hours at work, but I can't say (in public) how many were billable.
  • I took more photos than last year: 4,197. This was still fewer than 2011, 2010, or 2009.
  • For some reason, I only started 28 books in 2013, but I finished 30.
  • The really sad number, though, is that I only went to movie theaters 3 times, once to see a TV show (Doctor Who's 50th anniversary special) and once to see a movie I'd already seen (High Fidelity). So, really, I only saw one movie in a theater. On the other hand, I went to 13 baseball games and 5 concerts, and I did manage to watch 50 movies at home. Still, I need to go to more theater, clearly.

A mixed review, then. In 2014, travel will probably go up; so will seeing movies in theaters; so will reading books and taking photos. I'm looking forward to finding out.

* All time doing anything for my employer, not including vacation, PTO, or holidays.

Wednesday 1 January 2014 12:00:11 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Kitchen Sink#
Tuesday 31 December 2013

My evening is kicking off soon. It will be relatively low-key: GMT New Year at O'Shaughnessey's (mostly because I'm curious about the neighborhood), back home for a quick bite, thence my remote office where all us regulars will talk quietly until about 12:30 when Eddie calls last orders. We might even notice when it's midnight. (We missed it in 2011 and 2013, and awkwardly made festive noises when someone called out, "Hey, it's 12:05 already!")

This is the 537th Daily Parker post of 2013, the 3,907th since its launch in November 2005, and the 4,104th since the proto-blog braverman.org kicked off in May 1998. Sometime in 2014 I'll post for the 4,000th time in this iteration; move to a different part of Chicago; watch my nephews turn 2 and my dad turn redacted; visit five or six states and three or four countries (including Canada); and maybe rewrite the UI for Weather Now and finish the 30-Park Geas.

For the next 16 hours, though, I'll be offline.

Happy new year, З Новим Роком, bonne année, cheers, 謹賀新年, and नया साल मुबारक हो, y'all.

Tuesday 31 December 2013 16:16:15 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Kitchen Sink#

WFM Lincoln Park Store Team Leader Rich Howley responded to my complaint right away:

We are really sorry for the inconvenience in our garage this afternoon, we realized immediately that we were over-whelmed and brought in additional security, they unfortunately had not yet arrived.

They are doing exactly what you had suggested.

I walked the entire area around the store, and what exacerbated the situation was traffic on North Ave was bumper to bumper in both directions, and this gridlocked traffic trying to get from Kingsbury/Sheffield Sts onto North, which in turn backed up the traffic directly in front of the store, in clogged up people trying to get out of the lot.

We are terribly sorry that you got hung up in our garage.

My response after the jump.

Tuesday 31 December 2013 15:47:39 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Geography | Kitchen Sink#

I go to Whole Foods Market twice a week or more, almost always the Lincoln Park, Chicago store. Even when they have lots of customers, they have plenty of space and plenty of parking, so I didn't worry about ducking out of my house this afternoon to pick up lunch and dog food.

Here's the result. Don't let the international units confuse you; that's an hour and 13 minutes to go about 4 miles:

Here's the situation when I arrived, which looked remarkably like the situation when I left:

Click through for a view of the store from above and for my note to Customer Service explaining how their incompetence wasted my afternoon.

Tuesday 31 December 2013 15:11:40 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Geography | Kitchen Sink#
Sunday 29 December 2013

Two popular Evanston restaurants, Pine Yard and Taco Diablo, burned to the ground this morning:

Fire crews from several neighboring communities -- including Morton Grove, Wilmette and Skokie -- were called to the scene to assist Evanston firefighters in battling the blaze.

The fire apparently broke out sometime before 3 a.m. and fire crews were still fully engaged in battling the blaze nearly three hours later.

The bike shop next door suffered water and smoke damage. Twelve pets at the Bramer Animal Hospital (where Parker went to the vet for his first year and a half) got evacuated.

Pine Yard was Evanston's go-to Chinese restaurant. Taco Diablo also had a large following.

Sunday 29 December 2013 13:48:12 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Kitchen Sink#
Friday 27 December 2013

Nephew #1 arrived yesterday evening while I sat a mile away talking with the manager of San Benito House and, apparently, challenging people to a Scrabble game later today. Nephew #1 is a much lighter sleeper than the rest of us, which causes him frustration, and when he gets frustrated he sets out to determine how much noise is required to make everyone exactly as light a sleeper as he.

Fortunately, I'm on Chicago time, so getting up at 5am PST (7am CST) does not bother me. And it gives me some time to read the articles that crossed my inbox overnight:

It's still an hour before dawn here, so I'm rocking out the nearly-empty Peet's, about to resume some client work. I promise another photo of the ocean before I return home tomorrow.

Friday 27 December 2013 06:15:59 PST (UTC-08:00)  | Comments [0] | Geography | Kitchen Sink | US | World#
Thursday 26 December 2013

Check these out:

More later, including, I expect, more photos of the ocean. Why? Because ocean.

Update: Speaking of the ocean, via George Takei's Facebook feed comes this gem. Just read the product reviews.

Thursday 26 December 2013 07:59:32 PST (UTC-08:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Kitchen Sink | US | San Francisco#
Wednesday 25 December 2013

Not when they're 13 months old. And not when the weather looks like this.

And not when someone needs a nap:

Yes, these are the privations and suffering that my 13-month-old nephew must endure:

A little earlier, he was chasing what my sister calls "California snow:"

For those who care, it's a very un-Christmaslike 21°C here. I can see the appeal.

Wednesday 25 December 2013 14:57:58 PST (UTC-08:00)  | Comments [0] | Kitchen Sink | San Francisco#
Sunday 22 December 2013

One of my favorite groups played at Evanston SPACE last night. They don't tour very often anymore, so I was glad to catch them live.

From left to right, Robbie Schaefer, Julie Murphy-Wells, and Michael Clem:

(Drummer Eddie Hartness—he's not really from Ohio—was hard to photograph from where I was sitting.)

Another shot of Murphy-Wells and Clem:

It was a fun concert. Their opener, Jake Armerding, played with the group during their entire set, and added something to what was already a pretty tight quartet. It's unusual that adding someone to a band after 22 years makes things better, but in this case, he really works.

The band had CDs of the evening's performance ready for sale 15 minutes after they finished.

Sunday 22 December 2013 10:05:50 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Kitchen Sink#
Tuesday 17 December 2013

From The Atlantic Cities blog:

Over the past decade, 1,300 London pubs have emptied their cellars and wiped down their tables for the last time. It's not just obscure, unloved bars that are dying. This winter, two well-known historic pubs, both open for over a century apiece, will likely be turned into private housing. One is the Old White Bear, a red-brick building hidden away in village-like Hampstead, a former spa town swallowed up by Victorian London. The other, just down the hill, is The Star, an inn dating back to the 1820s with a wood-lined interior (featured in this 1980s pop video) that makes drinking there feel rather like sitting inside a whiskey-soaked violin.

Under the British system, the pub "landlord" (in British pub terminology, this actually means a manager that rents a premises, rather than an owner) must buy their booze from the company they rent the pub from. With no competition, the prices they pay are generally inflated, meaning that even if landlords trim their profit margins, beer still comes out pricier than it otherwise needs to be. While pub companies turn a profit, individual landlords are pushed to the wall. The pub companies then sell off under-performing premises, even though pubs wouldn't actually be unsustainable if landlords got a better deal.

There's a silver lining, and not just from pubs like Southampton Arms: The City of London has taken steps to preserve some landmark pubs.

Tuesday 17 December 2013 13:47:17 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Kitchen Sink | London#
Tuesday 10 December 2013

Yesterday's forecast really didn't go far enough. We weren't expecting -16°C until tomorrow night, but we got -21°C early this morning:

The temperature dipped below zero overnight at O'Hare International Airport, the earliest that has happened here since 1995. The cold will hold through the week, bringing a burst of snow in time for the morning rush Wednesday.

The temperature fell to one degree below zero around 12:55 a.m., according to the National Weather Service. That's the earliest subzero readings here since a low of minus 4 on Dec. 9, 1995.

It could warm up Thursday or Friday, but not before we get another 50-100 mm of snow tomorrow morning, smack in the middle of rush hour.

Parker and I are working from home today so I haven't had to spend much time outside. That, and my body has finally decided it's had enough of me, which led to an uncomfortable early morning. (I'll spare the details.)

Tuesday 10 December 2013 12:13:01 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Kitchen Sink | Weather#
Sunday 8 December 2013

Yes, that's why you should buy this book:

This is right up there with the (in)famous marketing of the same play in 1968, when movie posters proclaimed it "Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet."

Sunday 8 December 2013 10:37:17 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Kitchen Sink#
Wednesday 4 December 2013

I'm back in Chicago, trying to determine what day it is (Wednesday, I think). Tuesday was very long—39 hours for me, if you go by the book—but the only way it makes sense to me is to think of it as two separate days. For instance, I think I started trying to get some sleep somewhere just east of Japan somewhere around 9pm local time, which would be 30 hours ago. Then I woke up somewhere just east of Sacramento about 24 hours ago. The evening and the morning of the first day, sort of.

All right, so I had two Tuesdays. On the first Tuesday of this week, I walked around Neodaemun Market, then back up to Cheonggyecheon, where, a propos of nothing, this happened:

There might have been some reason for it but no one I asked could tell me. OK, then.

Also a propos of nothing, this was my $6.80 lunch on Monday:

I tried all of it, except the pink liquid that smelled evil, and I've decided I'm not a big fan of kimchi.

I should get gradually more coherent as the week goes on.

Wednesday 4 December 2013 11:57:02 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Kitchen Sink | Travel#
Friday 29 November 2013

Photos from this afternoon. First, a traditional house (Hanok) in the Bukchon district:

And a traditional set of steamed dumplings not far away:

And, finally, a traditional faux-Irish bar in Itaewon, the expatriate district:

Tonight, I am in search of galbi, and then I hope to stay awake until 10pm. Tomorrow, Panmunjom.

Friday 29 November 2013 17:51:07 KST (UTC+09:00)  | Comments [0] | Kitchen Sink | Travel#
Monday 25 November 2013

Wow, this weekend was busier than I anticipated.

You know what's coming. Links!

Only a few more hours before I leave for the weekend. Time to jam on the billables...

Monday 25 November 2013 12:13:48 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Kitchen Sink | Parker | US#
Friday 22 November 2013

Tomorrow afternoon is the Day of the Doctor already, and then in a little more than four days I'm off to faraway lands. Meanwhile, I'm watching a performance test that we'll repeat on Monday after we release a software upgrade.

So while riveted to this Live Meeting session, I am pointedly not reading these articles:

Perhaps more to the point, I'm not finishing up the release that will obviate the very performance test I'm watching right now. That is another story.

Friday 22 November 2013 09:46:04 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Kitchen Sink | US | Software#
Tuesday 19 November 2013

I had enough time during today's 8-hour meeting to queue up some articles to read later. Here they are:

As for today's meeting, this.

Tuesday 19 November 2013 17:36:50 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Kitchen Sink | US | World | Religion#
Monday 11 November 2013

Parker got about 3 hours of walks this weekend because of weather and apartment showings. And I had about 6 hours of work to do for my real job. And I had lunch with people way the hell across town for Día de la Papusa. So I completely forgot to post anything.

I've also added Evanston back into the mix for my apartment search. Essentially, it suits my personality pretty well (aging Gen-X quasi-intellectual progressive), and you can get more apartment for less money than in any comparable neighborhood in Chicago. On the other hand, association dues and property taxes in Evanston are much higher than in the city, so you wind up spending the same amount of money overall. On the third hand, it's simultaneously farther from downtown Chicago and a quicker commute, thanks to Metra. Plus, as long-time readers know, I've lived there off and on for my entire life. So it's not what one might call a radical move.

At some point I'll be less busy than I've been the past week.

Monday 11 November 2013 09:49:38 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Kitchen Sink#
Monday 4 November 2013

Completely swamped today by a production error on an application I hardly ever work on. The problem was around something I'd written, but not caused by anything I wrote; still, it fell to me to fix the problem, which caused me to fall behind in everything else.

I have a bunch of Chrome tabs open with things I probably can't get to today:

That is all for now.

Monday 4 November 2013 17:13:16 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Geography | Kitchen Sink | US#
Friday 25 October 2013

Once again, here's a list of things I'm sending straight to Kindle (on my Android tablet) to read after work:

Back to work. All of you.

Friday 25 October 2013 12:29:22 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation | Chicago | Kitchen Sink | US | Business | Cloud | Windows Azure#
Tuesday 22 October 2013

Through the magic of Facebook I learned who created one of yesterday's WRHU spots: Jim Vazeos wrote and produced "Uh-Uh Contraceptives" and voiced the last third of it. Christin Goff voiced the bulk of it, including the "I said NO" at the end.

He didn't confirm the date (1984), but that's consistent with other information he provided. Thanks for your input, Jim, and thanks to the other WRHU alumni who chimed in.

Tuesday 22 October 2013 17:57:32 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Kitchen Sink#
Monday 21 October 2013

I found another batch of tapes including a mix tape I made in the WRHU two-track studio in May 1990. Yes, two-track: we recorded two audio tracks onto 1/4-inch tape at 7.5 inches per second (or 15 ips if we needed to do some music editing). We then cut the tapes with razor blades and spliced them together with splicing tape.

Eventually I graduated to the misnamed 4-track studio, which by then not only had a 4-track quarter inch deck but also a 1-inch, 16-track system that only the General Manager was allowed to play with.

Now that you know the technical limitations, listen to this teaser promo from May 1990. As a bonus, here is the Uh-Uh Oral Contraceptives spot that my predecessors created in 1984 or 1985.

Enjoy.

Monday 21 October 2013 17:44:56 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Kitchen Sink | Cool links#
Thursday 17 October 2013

The Chicago technology scene is tight. I just had a meeting with a guy I worked with from 2003-2004. Back then, we were both consultants on a project with a local financial services company. Today he's CTO of the company that bought it—so, really, the same company. Apparently, they're still using software I wrote back then, too.

I love when these things happen.

This guy was also witness to my biggest-ever screw-up. (By "biggest" I mean "costliest.") I won't go into details, except to say that whenever I write a SQL delete statement today, I do this first:

-- DELETE
SELECT *
FROM MissionCriticalDataWorthMillionsOfDollars
WHERE ID = 12345

That way, I get to see exactly what rows will be deleted before committing to the delete. Also, even if I accidentally hit <F5> before verifying the WHERE clause, all it will do is select more rows than I expect.

You can fill in the rest of the story on your own.

Thursday 17 October 2013 11:19:27 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Kitchen Sink | Software | Business | Security | Work#
Wednesday 16 October 2013

The American Idol 2010 runner-up Crystal Bowersox played City Winery Chicago last night:

Another:

Anna Rose opened for her; I was impressed:

Tough shooting conditions. I forgot my seats were right against the stage. I wound up shooting everything with a 50/1.8, trying to get around the enormous monitor just to my right. It sounded great, though.

Wednesday 16 October 2013 08:51:11 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Kitchen Sink#
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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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