Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
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Thursday 23 April 2015

Wow, I have a lot of things on my Kindle. And I'm adding more:

Back to debugging...

Photo: Chicago at night. Note the yellow-orange sodium vapor lamps.

Thursday 23 April 2015 15:08:54 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Geography | US#
Wednesday 22 April 2015

Now that Chicago's bike share has hundreds of stations, its efficiencies are becoming clearer:

But what about convenience? Recently Divvy held its second annual data visualization challenge, and one of the winners, by Shaun Jacobsen at Transitized, compares the speed of Divvy with the speed of the CTA. And Divvy wins by a nose.

Jacobsen’s “Who’s Faster” project starts with a look at the 1,000 top “station pairs"—i.e. the places that people most often go from point A to point B using Divvy. Then, those are compared to the same route on the CTA at noon on a Monday.

And a couple patterns emerge. One is that the bulk of station-to-station trips are faster, centering on five minutes’ savings. It might not sound like much, but it adds up; Jacobsen calculates 32,023 hours saved over 571,634 trips. The other is that the most heavily-used station pairs tend to save more time than less frequently-used ones, as if people are starting to figure out how it works.

Cool stuff.

Wednesday 22 April 2015 15:29:53 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Biking | Chicago | Geography | US#
Friday 17 April 2015

New Republic's John Paul Rollert explains:

That a flight on Spirit will occasionally cost you less than $40 highlights for its defenders the airline’s essential promise: bargain basement ticket prices. “Offering our low fares requires doing some things that some people complain about,” [Spirit’s CEO, Ben] Baldanza wrote in an email to the Dallas Morning News last April, after the paper ran a story about the egregious number of complaints his company receives. “[H]owever, these reduce costs which gives our customers the lowest fares in the industry.” The contention is not unreasonable, it's merely disingenuous. Baldanza would have us believe that the frustration with Spirit is simply a matter of obtuse passengers confusing the constraints of a low-cost carrier with a wanton unwillingness to afford First Class frills. Most people, however, don’t expect artisanal mustard at McDonald's or concierge service at Save-a-Lot. The discontent is not a consequence of failing to meet ridiculous expectations, but flouting those that are entirely reasonable.

Success breeds admirers. In December, Delta announced that it was introducing five categories of service, including its answer to Spirit’s Bare Fare: Basic Economy. In addition to its precarious grammar, Basic Economy does not allow passengers to pick their seats, change their itineraries, or fly standby. The move is merely the most recent evidence that Spirit has become a trendsetter—arguably, the trendsetter—in the American airlines industry. But what trend is it exactly? Baldanza has repeatedly affirmed that Spirit is refining the art of offering affordable airfare, an effort which he qualifies as nothing less than an essentially democratic endeavor. He has a point, insofar that we live in a world where social mobility and simple mobility increasingly go hand-in-hand. Yet other low-cost carriers have long provided models of budget air travel without engendering nearly the angst of Spirit.

This seems like a familiar story. I mean that literally: didn't someone else run almost the same story a few months back?

Friday 17 April 2015 13:52:14 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | US | Business#
Tuesday 14 April 2015

Chip-and-PIN cards have ruled Europe for almost 10 years, because (a) they reduce fraud that (b) customers are liable for over there. In the U.S., where banks are liable, consumers haven't pushed as hard for the security measure, so it's rare. I've had a chipped card for two years now but even my bank hasn't gone the whole way to requiring PINs for purchases with it.

Chase, however, has had enough, and has decided to issue them to everyone:

Chip cards have significantly cut into fraud globally. For example, in the United Kingdom, card fraud in stores dropped by 75 percent from 2004 — when a large-scale rollout began — to 2012, said Zilvinas Bareisis, a senior analyst for Celent, a consulting firm to the financial services industry.

A December 2014 report by the Payments Security Task Force, whose members include Visa, Bank of America and Riverwoods-based Discover, estimates that 47 percent of U.S. terminals will accept chip cards by the end of 2015.

Chase, which holds almost 25 percent of deposits in the Chicago area, said its rollout here will be followed nationally.

Other banks are slowly introducing chip cards. BMO Harris Bank, which holds 12 percent of deposits in the Chicago area, said it recently began issuing chip debit cards. Any new or replacement debit cards include chips, spokesman Patrick O'Herlihy said.

It's sometimes amusing and sometimes sad that the U.S. lags the rest of the OECD in technology. This one is sad. I'm glad Chase is making this push. We could finally have chip-and-PIN cards in time for Europe to roll out whatever comes next.

Tuesday 14 April 2015 18:14:28 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US | World | Security#
Monday 13 April 2015

The Trib expects noise complaints to take off:

The Federal Aviation Administration is expected within the next four months to release a preliminary report based on thousands of computer-generated flight simulations involving what will become O'Hare's fifth east-west runway and a subsequent runway that the city plans to open in 2020.

All this work, however, might not bring relief after a record year for O'Hare jet noise complaints. The simulations are aimed in part at finding the best way to squeeze in hundreds more daily flights at the airport.

Suburbs expected to hear more jet noise as the result of the 7,500-foot runway opening this fall include Bensenville, Franklin Park, Wood Dale, Bloomingdale and Addison, FAA and city aviation officials say.

So, people in Bensenville—which lies along the southern edge of O'Hare and is notable for its immense rail classification yard—are unhappy with their noisy neighbor. Keep in mind, the runway plans have been around for over 10 years. And jet noise today is far lower than before.

Monday 13 April 2015 15:17:28 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Chicago | Geography | US#
Saturday 11 April 2015

The New York Times has the story:

Mrs. Clinton is expected to begin her campaign with a video message on social media, followed by a visit to important early-primary states next week, said two people briefed on her plans.

But for all the attention paid to how Mrs. Clinton would reveal her 2016 candidacy, little has been said about her reasons for mounting another presidential bid. Her campaign rollout is expected to provide voters, particularly users of Twitter, Facebook and other social media, a succinct rationale that she is best positioned to address an American electorate that has seen virtually stagnant wages for middle-income earners over the last 15 years.

Meanwhile, the remnants of New Republic caution that she has become a single point of failure for the party:

In Hillary Clinton’s case, though, there’s still a good argument that the Democratic Party could use a contested primary this cycle: not to toughen Clinton’s calluses, but to build some redundancy into the presidential campaign. It may even be the case that some of these Democrats with rattled nerves are less anxious about Clinton’s prowess against Republicans than about the fact that all of the party’s hopes now rest on her shoulders. Her campaign has become a single point of failure for Democratic politics. If she wins in 2016, she won’t ride into office with big congressional supermajorities poised to pass progressive legislation. But if she loses, it will be absolutely devastating for liberalism.

If you’re faithful to the odds, then most of this anxiety is misplaced. Clinton may have slipped in the polls by virtue of an email scandal and her return to the partisan trenches more generally. But she's still more popular and better known than all of the Republicans she might face in the general, her name evokes economic prosperity, rather than global financial calamity, the economy is growing right now, and Democrats enjoy structural advantages in presidential elections, generally.

If nobody serious challenges Hillary Clinton, nobody can be her understudy. In the near term that isn’t a problem, but if doubts about her inevitability develop late in the year or early next, the placid silence in the Democratic field will grow eerie.

We're still a long way from the 2016 election. Clinton may be the best we have, or she may just be the best one running. But looking at the other guys, I can't help but think we're still going to win.

Saturday 11 April 2015 10:08:21 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#
Thursday 2 April 2015

It appears that not everyone realized yesterday's post about RFRA was an April Fool, possibly because shortly after I posted it both Mike Pence and Asa Hutchinson backpedaled:

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson told lawmakers on Wednesday to revise a bill that rights activists and U.S. businesses said allowed discrimination against gays, and home-state corporate giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc praised his action.

Indiana's governor a day earlier said lawmakers should fix a similar Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). After it was enacted last week, the state was hit with protests, threatened boycotts and warnings from powerful U.S. firms of pending economic damage for being seen as standing against U.S. ideals of inclusion.

Note that both Hutchinson and Pence were upset with the political response to their states' bills, not to the obvious discriminatory aspect to them following Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. Both the SCOTUS decision and the RFRA bills (as a collective) passed since then are bad law. But read the GOP's backpedaling carefully: to them, that's a feature, not a bug. They're just surprised anyone objected.

Thursday 2 April 2015 16:15:33 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#
Wednesday 1 April 2015

Well, this surprised me this morning:

Surprising critics and supporters alike, Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson (R) announced today he plans to veto the religious freedom bill passed yesterday by the state legislature. The bill in Arkansas is similar to an Indiana law passed last week, with both diverging in certain respects from the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. That act was passed in 1993 and signed into law by President Bill Clinton, Arkansas’s most famous political son.

Both bills allow for larger corporations, if they are substantially owned by members with strong religious convictions, to claim that a ruling or mandate violates their religious faith, something reserved for individuals or family businesses in other versions of the law. Both allow religious parties to go to court to head off a “likely” state action that they fear will impinge on their beliefs, even if it has not yet happened.

Citing concerns that the language of the Arkansas bill could allow companies to discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation, Hutchinson said he realized the bill "wasn't really about religious freedom."

"Clearly this is an effort of a small group of small-minded people to enforce their narrow religious beliefs on society as a whole," Hutchinson said at a press conference at the governor's mansion. "It's exactly the kind of thing that makes people think Republicans are trying to drag the country back to the 19th Century."

"Look, we're the party of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Dwight Eisenhower, men of great vision and talent who worked hard to protect Americans of all stripes. It demeans us to keep passing this kind of divisive, negative legislation that has no purpose other than to express the outrage some religious bigots feel that the world has moved on from their medieval world-view," Hutchinson said.

"I'm a God-fearing Christian, but if I sign this law, I'm no better than those Taliban idiots who really believe the 11th Century was a better time. Giving in to this gay-baiting crap isn't in line with what Jesus taught us, and that it was sent to me during Holy Week just underscores how petty and bigoted some people in the Arkansas legislature really are," Hutchinson said.

"It's time for real leadership in this state so we can get out of 45th place in education, 45th place in poverty, and 48th place in per-capita GDP. It's embarrassing. As governor, I'm not going to stand for this bread-and-circuses nonsense when there's real work to be done," Hutchinson said.

In other news, Britain's University of Leicester will be changing its name to King Richard University, according to the Independent. According to the newspaper, "The proposal will be debated by the university’s senate next month. It is expected to agree to the institution formally being rechristened as King Richard University from September 2016."

Wednesday 1 April 2015 09:30:31 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US | World#
Tuesday 31 March 2015

...sort of. But that's not important right now. I'm just spiking some articles to read later:

OK, time for a vendor phone call...

Tuesday 31 March 2015 15:22:56 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | US | Religion | Business | Cool links#
Monday 30 March 2015

My catching-up on the Netflix version of Michael Dobbs' House of Cards has taken a brief hiatus as the friend in question has actual work and family obligations. I'm taking advantage of the pause to go back to the original BBC miniseries with Ian Richardson in the role of F.U.

You know what? It'ts better. It has a faster pace, more sharply-drawn characters, it's funnier, and it isn't sanctimonius—it's an actual satire. Francis Urquhart is evil, and doesn't care that we in the audience know it. Francis Underwood wants us to like him. That may be the difference between the UK and the US in a nutshell.

Still, in three hours of the BBC miniseries, I find myself laughing out loud at Urquhart's deviousness and at the lampooning of British political archetypes (that, granted, require some context about British politics post-Thatcher). The Netflix series just seems so...sanctimonious. Melodramatic. Long.

The British understand satire. Americans, not so much. Comparing the two versions of House of Cards side by side has been an education.

Sunday 29 March 2015 20:42:09 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | London | US | World#
Thursday 26 March 2015

Sigh. I just don't have the slacker skills required to read these things during the work day:

Continuing, now, with a database migration...

Thursday 26 March 2015 15:17:39 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Chicago | US#
Wednesday 25 March 2015

Yah, Utah, for finding yet one more way to take us back to the 19th Century:

In 2011, the European Union banned the export of lethal injection drugs to the United States in an effort to save America from itself. The reasoning behind the embargo was queasily naïve: Without the drugs, European legislators reasoned, American officials would be at a loss to carry out executions, and the practice would perhaps come to an end. Though the ban did slow the rate of American executions, it now seems Europe’s humanitarians underestimated old-fashioned American ingenuity. On Monday, Utah’s governor Gary Herbert signed a bill into law that will allow firing squads to be used in place of lethal injections should the drugs be unavailable.

Comfort does not come any colder. It is the year 2015, and we Americans are idly musing about what particular methods kill people most harmlessly. There probably are, as Stroud and McCoy suggest, only miniscule differences in suffering when most viable methods are carried out precisely, because life is fragile and relatively easy to snuff. The bizarre reality, then, is that we are content to argue about the last two or three minutes of a person’s life, when the entire procedure of a death sentence is an experiment in torture.

The debate over particular death penalty methods obscures the cruelty of the entire scheme.

Capital punishment is, to me, a prima facie violation of the 8th Amendment. Unfortunately it's not unusual in the U.S. We're the only country in our peer group—the most advanced and powerful nations on the planet—who kill prisoners and children. It needs to stop. I'm glad Illinois ended the practice years ago, but it's not enough.

Wednesday 25 March 2015 14:07:53 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#
Tuesday 24 March 2015

With meetings and a new developer on the team occupying almost all my time today, I've put these things aside for the half-hour I have at 6:30 to read them:

Now to jot down some policies on our new Microsoft Surface setups...

Tuesday 24 March 2015 16:32:06 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Geography | US | Cool links | Windows Azure#
Sunday 22 March 2015

Excellent take-down of one of my least favorite historical figures by Bruce Levine:

Only rarely in U.S. history do writers transform us to become a more caring or less caring nation. In the 1850s, Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) was a strong force in making the United States a more humane nation, one that would abolish slavery of African Americans. A century later, Ayn Rand (1905-1982) helped make the United States into one of the most uncaring nations in the industrialized world, a neo-Dickensian society where healthcare is only for those who can afford it, and where young people are coerced into huge student-loan debt that cannot be discharged in bankruptcy.

For Rand, all altruists were manipulators. What could be more seductive to kids who discerned the motives of martyr parents, Christian missionaries and U.S. foreign aiders? Her champions, Nathaniel Branden still among them, feel that Rand’s view of “self-interest” has been horribly misrepresented. For them, self-interest is her hero architect Howard Roark turning down a commission because he couldn’t do it exactly his way. Some of Rand’s novel heroes did have integrity, however, for Rand there is no struggle to discover the distinction between true integrity and childish vanity. Rand’s integrity was her vanity, and it consisted of getting as much money and control as possible, copulating with whomever she wanted regardless of who would get hurt, and her always being right. To equate one’s selfishness, vanity, and egotism with one’s integrity liberates young people from the struggle to distinguish integrity from selfishness, vanity, and egotism.

The whole thing is a good Sunday afternoon read.

Sunday 22 March 2015 12:41:56 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US | Religion#
Friday 20 March 2015

Things I will read or explore more this weekend:

Must run.

Friday 20 March 2015 16:04:20 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Geography | US | World | Cool links#
Thursday 19 March 2015

The National Aeronautical and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported today that the climatalogical winter of December 2014 through February 2015 was the warmest on record, despite what happened in the eastern United States and Canada:

During December–February, the average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.42°F (0.79°C) above the 20th century average. This was the highest for December–February in the 1880–2015 record, surpassing the previous record of 2007 by 0.05°F (0.03°C).

During December–February, the globally-averaged land surface temperature was 2.63°F (1.46°C) above the 20th century average. This tied with 2007 as the highest for December–February in the 1880–2015 record.

Even with record cold from Maine to Alabama, it was the 19th warmest winter in the Lower 48—in part because five states in the west experienced record heat and six more got into the 90th percentile.

Thursday 19 March 2015 09:45:01 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US | World | Weather#
Wednesday 18 March 2015

Just hours after a jury handed down a $26-million verdict against the company, Yellow Cab filed for bankruptcy protection overnight:

The verdict was reached around 7 p.m. Tuesday. At 3:45 a.m. Wednesday, Yellow Cab Affiliation Inc. of Chicago filed for Chapter 11 reorganization with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Chicago, according to the court documents.

In its filing, company officials said Yellow Cab is "experiencing financial difficulty due to, among other things, a judgment entered against the company in the Circuit Court of Cook County."

Robert Clifford, the lead attorney for the couple, said the bankruptcy filing means "they may never see a dime."

Given that the verdict was announced around 7 p.m. and the court hearing ended at 8 p.m., the bankruptcy filing must have been a "long planned strategy to avoid accountability and responsibility," Clifford said.

Not that taxi companies have a history of shady dealings, despite my ongoing efforts to retrieve an insurance deductible from an incident a few months ago. And not that private-ride companies are grinding down taxi profits even more. But still, this is egregious.

Wednesday 18 March 2015 14:51:43 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | US#
Wednesday 11 March 2015

Rebecca Leber at New Republic states the obvious:

The phrase, “believe in climate change” returns almost a quarter-million Google results. As McCarthy said, science is neither a faith nor a religion, yet the term belief pervades media and politics. Why do advocates so consistently play along with the climate-change-denier narrative?

Conservatives have long drawn comparisons between climate change science and a fervent religion. A 2013 National Review column articulated the parallels thus: “Religion has ritual. Global-warming alarmism has recycling and Earth Day celebrations. Some religions persecute heretics. Some global-warming alarmists identify ‘denialists’ and liken them to Holocaust deniers.”

Leber makes good points, but it's not a great article. I'm posting it because I agree with her main point, and also because it's an example of the slide in quality at TNR since they destroyed their editorial board.

Wednesday 11 March 2015 13:35:15 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US | World | Weather | Writing#
Tuesday 10 March 2015

Business lunch, business dinner, 8:30am call, 1:30pm call—and right now, six minutes to click "Send to Kindle:"

Time to get some water, plug in my Fitbit, and prep for my 1:30 call.

Tuesday 10 March 2015 12:58:37 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | US | Business | Weather | Work#
Monday 9 March 2015

People who have read The Daily Parker know I have strong feelings about Le Corbusier, the French architect who nearly destroyed central Paris and who designed the vertical slums that packed in impoverished Americans like cattle. So I found it interesting when I received this email:

I saw that you were interested in Le Corbusier when I stumbled upon your page - www.thedailyparker.com/PermaLink,guid,a36518c4-5f44-4e64-813a-2a9c08ef9c9d.aspx By happenstance, I’ve been working on something that you might find compelling.

For the past two years, Artsy has developed a beautifully designed informational page for Le Corbusier. It includes beautiful images of his work, exclusive articles, and up to date information about his exhibitions. Artsy offers a new way to explore art around the world. I’d like to suggest adding a link to Artsy's Le Corbusier page as I believe it will give your audience a fresh perspective on art.

Oh? Well, I come to bury Corbi, not to praise him. My response:

Thanks for reaching out, and for sending the link. I’d like to post your message (with identifying information removed).

The thing is, though, I really despise Le Corbusier. His architecture was almost anti-human both at a macro and a micro level. He advocated destroying some of the most livable and inviting urban areas in the world—Greenwich Village, the 5th Arrondissement of Paris—in favor of concrete slabs surrounded by dead zones that no sane person would ever want to inhabit. Where he succeeded in this vision, the results have been disastrous. Here in Chicago, for example, the Corbusier-inspired Robert Taylor Homes and Cabrini-Green housing developments became vertical slums within a year of opening, and no amount of evidence that this was happening could convince Le Corbusier to change his approach.

Without Jane Jacobs to shut down his soul-destroying efforts in New York, he and Robert Moses would have destroyed the city. Here in Chicago we’re only now clawing back the damage his ideas did to our environment.

As intellectual exercises his buildings are interesting. As structures that people live and work in, they’re harmful.

So, OK, link posted, with both perspectives as presented. But as I've said before, I look forward to the day when people generally hold Le Corbusier in the same esteem they hold Pachelbel and Kinkade.

Monday 9 March 2015 16:34:32 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Geography | US | World#
Thursday 26 February 2015

CityLab's Eric Jaffe takes a good look:

Let's acknowledge, right from the start, that there's a lot to like about Chicago's long-awaited, much-anticipated Central Loop BRT project, which is scheduled to break ground in March. The basic skeleton is an accomplishment in its own right: nearly two miles of exclusive rapid bus lanes through one of the most traffic-choked cities in the United States. The Central Loop BRT will serve six bus routes, protect new bike lanes, connect to city rail service, and reduce travel times for about half all people moving through the corridor on wheels. Half.

Officially, CTA says the Ashland plans are proceeding at pace. The agency is considering public feedback gathered during community meetings in 2013 and working through the "higher-than-anticipated number of comments," as part of the standard procedure for a federal environmental analysis. Meantime, CTA continues to pursue funding for the project's next design. Spokesman Steele says it's "too soon to tell" what a timeline for the corridor will be.

BRT solves the problem of getting people around quickly without building new rail lines. Chicago's geography makes BRT development a lot easier than it would be in other cities as well. It would be cool if, a year from now, I'm whizzing to the Loop in 20 minutes by bus, instead of my current 40.

Thursday 26 February 2015 12:18:01 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Geography | US | Travel#
Wednesday 25 February 2015

Chicago's municipal election last night failed to elect a mayor:

Chicago's incumbent mayor now is destined for an April 7 runoff election against Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia in an unpredictable battle over the city's future and the right way to get there.

With just 5 percent of precincts yet to report, Emanuel had 199,861 votes, a bit over 45.4 percent. He hovered at that level most of the evening.

It was agonizingly close for him, but still short of the 50 percent-plus-one vote he needed to avoid a runoff.

So, six weeks from now, we have another election. It's not clear at this point which of them will win, because all of Emanuel's challengers appear to be endorsing Garcia now.

Wednesday 25 February 2015 09:12:38 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | US#
Tuesday 24 February 2015

Between rehearsals, work, and life, I haven't had a lot of time during the day to goof off keep abreast of world developments. So here's what got sent to my Kindle just today:

Also, if you live in Chicago, go vote today.

Tuesday 24 February 2015 10:07:53 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | US | World | Weather#
Wednesday 4 February 2015

Since Obamacare took effect, millions of Americans have gotten health insurance:

The percentage of uninsured Americans has fallen from 13.9 percent to 10.2 percent since Obamacare coverage took effect, according to new data from the Urban Institute.

The difference is even more pronounced in states that expanded Medicaid under the law. In those states, the uninsured rate dropped from 12.6 percent to 8.4 percent from the second quarter of 2013 to the third quarter of 2014.

In states that didn't expand Medicaid, the uninsured rate still fell but not quite as significantly: 16.3 percent to 12.5 percent.

In short, Obamacare is doing what it set out to do.

Wednesday 4 February 2015 15:56:57 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | US#
Tuesday 3 February 2015

This happens all the time, so to speak, but every winter there are proposals to scrap daylight saving time in various state legislatures. The latest one that passes the laugh test is Oregon's, especially since it wouldn't take effect until 2021.

It probably won't go anywhere. Once people start thinking about 4:30am sunrises in June with 7:30pm sunsets, daylight saving time makes more sense. But we'll keep watching.

Tuesday 3 February 2015 11:48:03 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | US | Astronomy#
Thursday 29 January 2015

I may have time to read these over the weekend. Possibly.

In other news, J's Lincoln Park will close Sunday night, the owner having sold his lease to Bank of America. So our dog-friendly Euchre nights will have to move uptown a bit. I'm happy for the owner, but kind of sad that one of the last dog-friendly bars in my neighborhood is closing.

Back to creating a separate code repository for contractors...and other things...

Thursday 29 January 2015 11:57:16 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation | Best Bars | Kitchen Sink | US | World | Travel#
Tuesday 27 January 2015

I have Republican friends who think Obamacare is one step along the road to living in a police state where Ayn-Randian fears of 40% taxation and free education squash private enterprise. They have been strangely quiet about events like this, which involve actual police using previously-unthinkable force in peaceful situations:

On a quiet weeknight among the stately manors of Great Falls[, Virginia], ten men sat around a table in the basement of a private home last November playing high stakes poker. Suddenly, masked and heavily armed SWAT team officers from the Fairfax County Police Department burst through the door, pointed their assault rifles at the players and ordered them to put their hands on the table. The players complied. Their cash was seized, including a reported $150,000 from the game’s host, and eight of the ten players were charged with the Class 3 misdemeanor of illegal gambling, punishable by a maximum fine of $500.

Fairfax police said they could not discuss the Great Falls case since it is still under investigation. “In general though,” police spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell said, “detectives have seen that some of the organized card games, even in private homes, may involve hundreds of thousands of dollars. At times, we’ve seen illegal activity involved in these games. Additionally, at times, illegal weapons are present. With these large amounts of cash involved, the risks are high. We’ve worked cases where there have been armed robberies.”

Great Falls is like Winnetka, Illinois or Glen Cove, N.Y.: not exactly wretched hives of scum and villainy. So, why? (For possible answers, read Radley Balko.)

I love this bit, though:

There were no guns at the table, and no resistance, [one] player said. “They could’ve sent a retired detective with a clipboard and gotten the same result,” he added.

Yeah. But they sent in paramilitary troops armed like Marines. To a card game.

Yes, Republicans, there are signs America is becoming a police state, but you might be looking at it wrong.

Tuesday 27 January 2015 15:52:33 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | US#
Monday 26 January 2015

The Northeastern U.S. is bracing for what the National Weather Service calls "a storm of historic proportions:"

Snow accumulations of around 500-750 mm with locally higher amounts [are forecast]. Snowfall rates of 50-100 mm an hour at times.

A blizzard warning is issued when sustained winds or frequent gusts over 56 km/h are expected with considerable falling and/or blowing and drifting snow. Visibilities will become poor with whiteout conditions at times. those venturing outdoors may become lost or disoriented...so persons in the warning area are advised to stay indoors.

All unnecessary travel is discouraged beginning Monday afternoon to allow people already on the road to safely reach their destination before the heavy snow begins and to allow snow removal equipment to begin to clear roads.

The worst snowfall on record in the Northeast dumped 683 mm of snow on Central Park over 11-12 February 2006. This one could be bigger.

Hang in there, New York and Boston. And just remember the immortal words of Michael Bilandic: "Snow melts."

Update: The governors of New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey have ordered precautionary measures including closing state offices and ordering all cars off the roads tonight. All flights at Boston Logan are cancelled starting 7pm EST tonight; New York airports are also shut Tuesday. The New England Patriots have skipped town early to get to the Superbowl on time. And residents of Maine are...well, they're not doing anything special, because it's just snow.

Monday 26 January 2015 11:21:24 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | US | Weather#
Friday 23 January 2015

The powerful New York State Assembly Speaker surrendered to the FBI yesterday:

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver used his office to mask millions of dollars in “bribes and kickbacks” as legitimate outside income from two private law firms over more than a decade, according to a bombshell 35-page criminal complaint filed by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara today.

The five-count complaint on charges of wire fraud, mail fraud, conspiracy, and extortion outlines two schemes Mr. Silver used to leverage his official position as the powerful Democratic leader of the Assembly to rake in cash, which he presented as legitimately earned income for representing private clients.

The Times wants him to resign:

In New York’s sleazy political world, where fairly obvious corruption is not just tolerated but encouraged by ethics laws that barely deserve the name, Mr. Silver does not have to relinquish his power even temporarily. That, in fact, is something he should have done two years ago after the disclosure of his role in silencing a sexual harassment complaint against another lawmaker.

Mr. Silver was among those who fought subpoenas from the commission demanding a list of clients and descriptions of services provided for pay, according to the indictment. Within two weeks after Mr. Cuomo shut down the commission, Mr. Bharara took control over its files and unfinished investigations. The case against Mr. Silver could be the first of several against Albany lawmakers. Or as Mr. Bharara hinted on Thursday, “Stay tuned.”

This dramatic turn of events could be the start of a wholesale cleanup of Albany’s appalling political culture, something voters have wished for and deserved for many years. But it’s only a start.

Sullivan has more reactions from around the Web.

Stay tuned indeed.

Friday 23 January 2015 11:00:37 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | US#
Tuesday 20 January 2015

Interesting things to read:

Before reading all of those I need to get a production deployment ready for this weekend. It would help if I were completely certain what's in production right now...

Tuesday 20 January 2015 12:30:14 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation | Chicago | US | Cool links | Weather | Windows Azure#
Friday 16 January 2015

I'm taking a quick trip to New York this weekend so The Daily Parker may be a little quiet. Here's what I'll be reading about on the flights:

One more bug to fix before I can do a test deployment...

Friday 16 January 2015 09:35:54 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Geography | US | World | Business#
Tuesday 13 January 2015

One more quick note: despite the cold and rain (and traffic), three of us had dinner last night at The Oval Room in the District. Fantastic. We all would recommend it.

After dinner we walked two blocks to my friend Barry's house:

We didn't knock on the door, but one of my colleagues swears someone waved to her from the North Portico.

Tuesday 13 January 2015 13:23:47 EST (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | US | Travel | Work#
Tuesday 6 January 2015

Therefore, another link round-up:

There are a couple of other articles on my Kindle too, I just haven't got time to link them.

Tuesday 6 January 2015 13:07:34 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Geography | London | US | World | Weather#
Sunday 4 January 2015

Writing in today's Times, Richard Florida explains the long-term costs of red state/blue state differences:

The idea that the red states can enjoy the benefits provided by the blue states without helping to pay for them (and while poaching their industries with the promise of low taxes and regulations) is as irresponsible and destructive of our national future as it is hypocritical.

But that is exactly the mantra of the growing ranks of red state politicos. Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, a likely 2016 G.O.P. presidential candidate, has taken to bragging that his state’s low-frills development strategy provides a model for the nation as a whole. But fracking and sprawling your way to growth aren’t a sustainable national economic strategy.

The allure of cheap growth has handed the red states a distinct political advantage. ... As long as the highly gerrymandered red states can keep on delivering the economic goods to their voters, concerted federal action on transportation, infrastructure, sustainability, education, a rational immigration policy and a strengthened social safety net will remain out of reach. These are investments that the future prosperity of the nation, in red states and blue states alike, requires.

The article has a chart showing the relationship between affordable housing and the 2012 election. It turns out, San Francisco and New York are the bluest and most expensive cities, while Tulsa, Okla. and Knoxville, Tenn. are the cheap, red cities. Chicago shows up well: more than 2/3 of housing is affordable to the local middle class, and we went pretty strongly for our man Barack.

Sunday 4 January 2015 11:05:20 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Geography | US | San Francisco#
Tuesday 30 December 2014

Vacation. It always makes me a little crazy. I need stuff to do. And even though the temperature has plummeted to -12°C overnight, that means going outside and not sitting at my computer.

When Parker and I get too cold, I'll start reading these articles:

And because my (irritated) Euchre coach demands it, I'll review (one more time) Harvey Lapp's Ten Commandments of Euchre.

Tuesday 30 December 2014 09:36:08 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Kitchen Sink | US | Weather#
Wednesday 24 December 2014

While we're getting ready to celebrate the birth of Baby X this Xmas, links are once again stacking up in my inbox. Like these:

That might be it for The Daily Parker today.

Wednesday 24 December 2014 10:46:35 PST (UTC-08:00)  |  | Geography | Kitchen Sink | US | Cool links | Security#
Sunday 21 December 2014

Just in time for Christmas travel, I got three links from one Daily Parker reader over the last 24 hours:

And yes, today is cloudy. Again.

Sunday 21 December 2014 09:00:58 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | US | Business | Security | Writing#
Friday 19 December 2014

Major announcement coming this afternoon. While prepping for that, however, I have cued up more things to read and one to watch:

And I found this classic Margo Guryan tune from 1968 that I can't get out of my head:

Friday 19 December 2014 09:44:40 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Kitchen Sink | US#
Thursday 18 December 2014

The trouble with holiday parties on Wednesday is that you have to function on Thursday. So, to spare my brain from having to do anything other than the work-related things its already got to do, here are things I will read later:

All for now.

Thursday 18 December 2014 12:36:35 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation | Chicago | US | World | Business | Travel | Weather#
Wednesday 17 December 2014

Finally, after 50 years of stupidity:

The United States intends to open an official embassy in Cuba in the coming months, the White House announced Wednesday, part of a broader normalizing of diplomatic relations after the countries exchanged prisoners.

The White House said that Obama would order Secretary of State John Kerry to begin discussions with Cuban officials on re-establishing diplomatic relations and high-level discussions and visits between the countries are expected to follow. The opening of the embassy will happen "as soon as possible," an official said, noting that "the decision has been made" to normalize relations. The main issues to be resolved are logistical, the official said.

Other expected changes include increased travel permission for Americans to visit Cuba, an official review of Cuba's current designation as a state sponsor of terrorism and increased coordination between the United States and Cuba on issues like disaster response and drug trafficking.

As for the Cuban embargo, officials said that the White House supports efforts to end it, but knows congressional approval for lifting it is unlikely in the immediate future.

That bit about the embargo, including the Helms-Burton Act, means you won't have a vacation in Havana for a couple of years. But this change signals an end to one of the stupidest policies we've had for half a century.

Wednesday 17 December 2014 11:22:40 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | US | World#
Tuesday 16 December 2014

What happens when you're a talking head and your mom calls into your show?

The Woodhouse brothers are on opposite sides of the political spectrum. Brad is a Democratic operative who helps run the super PAC American Bridge and Dallas, by contrast, is a Republican who helps run the conservative Carolina Rising. The were on C-SPAN to talk about their documentary, Woodhouse Divided, when their mother called in.

Hilarity ensued:

Tuesday 16 December 2014 12:49:33 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | US#

Very busy today; less so the rest of the week. So after I'm done with this deliverable today I'll read these:

Back to the mines...

Tuesday 16 December 2014 11:15:04 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | US | Astronomy#
Monday 15 December 2014

In the legislation passed over the weekend that will keep the U.S. government operating for another few months, the House had its cake and ate it with respect to marijuana. Slate's Josh Voorhees explains:

Among the myriad policy riders buried inside the 1,600-plus-page bill is one aimed at blocking the Washington, D.C., City Council from legalizing recreational marijuana, something voters in the district instructed them to do by a margin of nearly 2-to-1 last month.

That ban was inserted at the behest of a small band of anti-pot conservative hardliners led by Maryland Rep. Andy Harris, and ultimately neither the White House nor Democratic leaders were willing to make fighting it a priority.

But despite that symbolic victory, it’s a different pot-themed provision tucked deep inside the bill that offers a more accurate illustration of Washington’s evolving position on legal weed—the Capitol’s posture is quietly becoming much more supportive than the effort to block D.C.’s legalization effort might suggest.

That less-discussed provision stops the Justice Department from spending a dime to prosecute patients or medical marijuana dispensaries that are acting in accordance with state law but running afoul of federal ones. The policy change might not make for splashy headlines, but it promises to have a major impact on the medical marijuana movement around the nation.

In other words, medical marijuana is still illegal, but not really. Scott Adams scoffs at the inefficiency:

While I appreciate that the government is moving in the direction the citizens prefer, how much does it tell you about the effectiveness of our system that lawmakers couldn't change a law that nearly 100% of well-informed and honest (meaning not taking money from private prison lobbyists for example) folks prefer?

My point is not about weed. That fight is essentially over. We're just waiting for the referee to count to ten, although that might play out over several years. Full legalization for adults (in effect) is inevitable because the data will be so clear after a few states do their test runs.

My point is that if your government can't pass a law that has has nearly universal approval, do you really have a functioning government?

This is akin to the criminal adultery statutes that littered the states until 1991, when the state finally repealed it. This, after four half-hearted prosecutions in 1990 embarrassed the state.

Monday 15 December 2014 13:13:17 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | US#
Sunday 14 December 2014

I was a bit overloaded yesterday, so I didn't have time to absorb these articles thoroughly:

Even though I thought the 10 km walk Parker and I took two weeks ago was going to be our last really long one of the year, I didn't predict today's 9°C temperature forecast, so off we go on another one.

Sunday 14 December 2014 08:40:57 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Parker | US#
Friday 12 December 2014

...if we weren't arming drug dealers?"—Aaron Sorkin

Alas, Americans increasingly want everyone to have guns:

For the first time since Pew began asking the question two decades ago, a majority of Americans now say that gun rights are more important than gun control — a striking shift in public opinion over both the last generation and just the last few years. As recently as December 2012, in the immediate aftermath of the Newtown, Conn., shooting, 51 percent of people surveyed by Pew said it was more important to control gun ownership than protect the rights of gun owners.

What's most striking in Pew's new data is that views have shifted more in favor of gun rights since then among nearly every demographic group, including women, blacks, city-dwellers, parents, college graduates, millennials and independents. The two groups that haven't budged? Hispanics and liberal Democrats.

These numbers may capture the short memory of many Americans. But the long-term trend is undeniably grim for gun-control advocates, who seem to be losing ground even among their strongest traditional sympathizers.

The "short memory of many Americans?" Yup.

Friday 12 December 2014 10:26:58 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | US#
Monday 8 December 2014

Chris Hughes responds to accusations that he killed The New Republic:

At the heart of the conflict of the past few days is a divergent view on how the New Republic — and journalism more broadly — will survive. In one view, it is a “public trust” and not a business. It is something greater than a commercial enterprise, ineffable, an ideal that cannot be touched. Financially, it would be a charity. There is much experimentation in nonprofit journalism – ProPublica and the Texas Tribune are proving the model — and that may be the right path for certain institutions. At the New Republic, I believe we owe it to ourselves and to this institution to aim to become a sustainable business and not position ourselves to rely on the largesse of an unpredictable few. Our success is not guaranteed, but I think it’s critical to try.

For anyone who loves what makes the New Republic special — the valuable journalism that pours forth on its digital and print pages — and believes there ought to be more outlets committed to quality journalism rather than fewer, the current choice is clear: Either walk away mourning a certain death or set to work building its future. That means we have to embrace some change.

So, if that's what he sees as the heart of the conflict, and if he really believes the journalistic heavyweights who fled his bracing changes, then it's hard to see how this gets resolved. Writing in the same Washington Post as Hughes, journalist Dana Milbank corrects Hughes' mistakes:

Hughes is no idiot (he reads Balzac in French), but as a businessman he turned out to be a lost boy. When he took over in 2012, he fired the magazine’s business staff, hiring instead a Harvard friend with no media experience. He had no interest in the work needed to woo advertisers. He redesigned the website himself; it looked good but didn’t work well. He tried to eliminate landline phones, seeing no reason why reporters might need them. And his spending spree caused annual losses to swell from $1 million when he bought the struggling magazine (he was its fifth owner in a decade) to $5 million.

While his mistakes are excusable, his childish impatience is not. After David Bradley bought the Atlantic in 1999 he made plenty of mistakes – but he kept the long view and ultimately made that grand old institution a leader in digital innovation. By contrast, Hughes became bored with journalism, occupying himself with the latest phones and the prospect of creating new apps; his visits to Washington headquarters became infrequent. He announced a “New Republic Fund” to invest in “early-stage technology companies.”

The final blow: bringing in former Yahoo News general manager Guy Vidra (who once worked on the business staff of the Post) to be CEO, a man dedicated to “re-imagining TNR as a vertically integrated digital media company.”

Megan McArdle and Lucia Moses also have thoughts about Hughes, none particularly flattering.

I'm much more interested in where the former TNR editors wind up than continuing with TNR. But I'll keep reading it for the next few weeks, just to see. It may not be entirely dead yet; it may just be pining for the fjords.

Monday 8 December 2014 21:40:06 CET (UTC+01:00)  |  | US | Business#
Thursday 4 December 2014

Well, little time today. Since I'll be on an airplane for 8 hours on Sunday, I will probably have time to catch up on these:

Thursday 4 December 2014 10:32:49 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation | US | World | Software | Travel | Windows Azure | Work#
Tuesday 2 December 2014

Pomplamoose front-man and Patreon CEO Jack Conte published a blog post last week discussing the economics of touring musicians. I commented here, both as a fan of Conte's and as a supporter of Pomplamoose (including through Patreon).

Within a few days, music critic Bob Lefsetz accused Conte of fabricating his figures, and also of concealing his role with Patreon. Master click-bater Mark Teo piled on, Conte responded, and it's now a standard Internet catfight.

I don't see the ethical problem here. I do see that musicians and other artists who make it, unless they vault over the middle, hard-working part of their career right into multi-millions, often get accused of selling out.

More later, when I'm not about to board a flight...

Tuesday 2 December 2014 09:35:51 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | US | Blogs | Business#
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David Braverman and Parker
David Braverman is the Chief Technology Officer of Holden International 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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