Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
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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#
Monday 1 December 2014

Via Sullivan, John Cleese and Bill Maher discuss fundamentalism and political correctness:

Monday 1 December 2014 10:29:39 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | US | World#
Thursday 27 November 2014

Legal marijuana sales in Colorado and other states has a serious security problem: most banks are afraid to take deposits from legal pot dispensaries because Federal banking law equates that with money laundering for drug dealers. This means that pot dispensaries need to store large amounts of cash, which is a huge security hole. However, a loophole in Colorado law may allow them to have real banking services starting January 1st:

Last week, Colorado's Division of Financial Services chartered the world's first credit union geared specifically for the weed industry. The Fourth Corner Credit Union could open as soon as January 1, the one-year anniversary of recreational legalization.

Why hadn't this already happened? It's because of a hitherto overlooked piece of Colorado law, which allows state-chartered credit union to operate immediately after applying for required federal insurance from the National Credit Union Administration. Normally, the credit union would have to wait until after obtaining that deposit. Fourth Corner will be able to have its doors open while it waits an estimated two years for NCUA to process.

That aside, we need a rational drug policy in the U.S., one that treats marijuana the same way it treats alcohol. An overwhelming majority of Americans support such a policy. Why can't we get it through?

Thursday 27 November 2014 12:02:29 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | US#
Monday 17 November 2014

A pretty Dutch village outside Amsterdam is really a nursing home for dementia patients:

Today, the isolated village of Hogewey lies on the outskirts of Amsterdam in the small town of Wheesp. Dubbed “Dementia Village” by CNN, Hogewey is a cutting-edge elderly-care facility—roughly the size of 10 football fields—where residents are given the chance to live seemingly normal lives. With only 152 inhabitants, it’s run like a more benevolent version of The Truman Show, if The Truman Show were about dementia and Alzheimer’s patients. Like most small villages, it has its own town square, theater, garden, and post office. Unlike typical villages, however, this one has cameras monitoring residents every hour of every day, caretakers posing in street clothes, and only one door in and out of town, all part of a security system designed to keep the community safe. Friends and family are encouraged to visit. Some come every day. Last year, CNN reported that residents at Hogewey require fewer medications, eat better, live longer, and appear more joyful than those in standard elderly-care facilities.

There are no wards, long hallways, or corridors at the facility. Residents live in groups of six or seven to a house, with one or two caretakers. Perhaps the most unique element of the facility—apart from the stealthy “gardener” caretakers—is its approach toward housing. Hogeway features 23 uniquely stylized homes, furnished around the time period when residents’ short-term memories stopped properly functioning. There are homes resembling the 1950s, 1970s, and 2000s, accurate down to the tablecloths, because it helps residents feel as if they’re home. Residents are cared for by 250 full- and part-time geriatric nurses and specialists, who wander the town and hold a myriad of occupations in the village, like cashiers, grocery-store attendees, and post-office clerks. Finances are often one of the trickier life skills for dementia or Alzheimer’s patients to retain, which is why Hogewey takes it out of the equation; everything is included with the family’s payment plan, and there is no currency exchanged within the confines of the village.

What are the odds that something like that could happen in the U.S. health-care system? When they're ringing my curtain down, I want to move to the Netherlands.

Monday 17 November 2014 11:58:37 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | US | World#
Friday 14 November 2014

Damion Searls, writing for Paris Review, finds the link between language and the soon-to-be-extinct penny:

One thing we’ll lose, when the penny eventually goes the inevitable way of the half cent and the Canadian penny (extinct as of 2012), is the last possible link between our language of money and the everyday physical world.

A quarter is a fourth of a dollar, a dime a tenth (Old French dîme, Latin decima), a cent a hundredth or one percent—all math. Anyway, a cent is not a piece of money: a U.S. penny is technically a cent or one-cent coin, but in spoken language, a cent is a value and a penny is a coin. We offer someone our two cents, not two pennies; pennies can clink in your pocket, cents can’t. (When Americans adopted the British term penny in 1793, they took over the distinction, too: in England between pennies and pence.)

As for penny, its etymology is uncertain, though the ending implies a Germanic origin—the word used to be penning, with an -ing, like shilling and farthing, instead of a -y. The root may be Pfand, which turned into the English word pawn meaning “a pledge or token”: in that case, penny basically just means money. Or it may derive from the German Pfanne, “pan,” the round metal thing that you cook in. My head says it’s pawn: the pan pun sounds like classic folk etymology that somebody simply made up. But my heart belongs to Pfanne: surely the original coin goes back to some concrete reality, an object of actual use.

That said, the American penny isn't going anywhere. It's going to keep coming back like a bad...yeah.

Friday 14 November 2014 09:01:38 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | US#
Thursday 6 November 2014

I like traveling to Europe because it reminds me that technology can combine with public services in ways we will not see in the U.S. for 30 years. Yesterday it was a magic button that made a taxi appear in seconds. Today it was a bit of wasted time that led to two discoveries, one of which was that I wasted time.

My business colleague and I, used to very long lines to get paper train tickets as well as some predictions about our cognitive abilities at 5:15 tomorrow morning, decided to swing by the local train station to get our airport express tickets. It turns out, they don't use them. You simply swipe your credit card at a small kiosk and—bam—you have a ticket good for six months.

In other words, we could have simply walked to the train station tomorrow morning, swiped our cards, and climbed aboard, without waiting in line and without getting a paper ticket.

My colleague, having noticed that coming in from the airport no one challenged us for our tickets, asked, "how does that even work?"

I thought about it and realized that in Norway, very few people steal public services. Also the conductors have handheld computers that can read credit cards and match them with pre-payments.

Imagine if Metra did that. It might be convenient. Or if Metra and the CTA could get their asses moving on making Ventra cards good for both. It might wind up being something like the Clipper Card in San Francisco, a transit card that works on most public transport.

The basic point is, how much lost productivity do we have in the U.S. because we under-fund public services to the point where they can't invest in cost-saving technology? And what will it take to get Americans to stop voting for people like Bruce Rauner, who is guaranteed to try starving Chicago-area public transport for four more years?

Thursday 6 November 2014 15:53:01 CET (UTC+01:00)  |  | Chicago | US | San Francisco | Travel | Work#
Wednesday 5 November 2014

Ouch, what a grim outcome from yesterday. Republicans took back the U.S. Senate by running the most negative campaign in history, promising nothing, which is exactly what they'll deliver. People angry at the slow recovery elected the very people who caused the recovery to go so slowly. Also, yesterday's voters were really, really old and white, much more than predicted (as midterm voters are usually older and whiter than those who vote in presidential elections).

The worst story I heard about this election was the report out of Louisiana last August that a third of Republicans there didn't know whether Bush or Obama botched the Katrina disaster.

Oh well. Two years of total gridlock in American government are coming. I hope Ginsburg stays in her chair until 2017...

Wednesday 5 November 2014 23:11:15 CET (UTC+01:00)  |  | US#
Monday 27 October 2014

John Judis explains:

In 2014, about 46 percent of Hispanics are eligible to vote. The rest are not citizens or are under 18. By contrast, voter eligibility among whites is in the high seventy percent and among African Americans is in the low seventy percent range. The other factor is turnout. In 2012, only about 39 percent of eligible Hispanics voted compared to a little over sixty percent of Anglos and African-Americans. So in the 2012 election, and most likely in the 2014 election, in spite of Battleground’s considerable efforts, Anglo voters, who are likely to favor Republican candidates, will outnumber minority voters.

In 2020, a presidential election year, the numbers should look different. Minorities’ population edge should have increased, and eligibility among Hispanic voters, which has been growing, should be around 50 percent. I have tallied four scenarios for 2020. They show the conditions that would finally lead to a Democratic victory in 2020.

Finally, success in increasing Hispanic support for Democrats will depend on what Republicans in Texas and nationally do. In Texas, Republican governors have steered clear of the harsh rhetoric about “illegal aliens” that proliferates among many other Republicans. Abbott boasts a Latina wife. As a result, Texas Republican candidates for state office have gotten about 40 percent of the Hispanic vote, which has virtually assured their victory. This year, the Hispanic Bush, George P. Bush, is currently running for Land Commissioner, and if he becomes a leader of party, could keep many Hispanics voting for Republicans in state races.

That's not much consolation for Wendy Davis, who will probably not get elected governor next week. But maybe, in a few more years, she might.

Monday 27 October 2014 13:28:22 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#
Friday 24 October 2014

I'm a little busy today, preparing for three different projects even though I can only actually do 1.5 of them. So as is common on days like this, I have a list of things I don't have time to read:

I really would have liked another week in London...

Friday 24 October 2014 12:59:53 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Geography | Kitchen Sink | US#
Friday 10 October 2014

The Chicago Tribune has been plugging away on the scandal of Chicago's red-light camera program. Yesterday the city's Inspector General weighed in:

Inspector General Joseph Ferguson reported that city transportation officials identified likely causes for just three of the dozen most dramatic spikes cited in the Tribune's 10-month investigation, putting the blame on faulty equipment and inaccurate camera settings.

Ferguson said his office was unable to find reasons for any of the other anomalies, citing missing or destroyed records and his office's desire to quickly respond to public concerns raised by the Tribune's July report. The inspector general relied heavily on work conducted by the city Transportation Department and longtime camera operator Redflex Traffic Systems Inc., which was fired amid charges top company executives paid up to $2 million in bribes to win the Chicago contract.

At the same time, Ferguson said City Hall's oversight "was insufficient to identify and resolve the types of issues identified in the Tribune report."

Yes, that's right. The IG couldn't find anything because the relevant records had been destroyed. Well, except for this:

The inspector general did resolve a more recent controversy involving the red light program — disclosing that the Emanuel administration quietly issued a new, shorter yellow light standard this spring that generated 77,000 tickets that would not have been allowed before the rule change.

The administration defended the $100 tickets as valid but agreed to Ferguson's recommendation to end the new practice of issuing citations with yellow light times below 3 seconds.

Yes, Chicago's yellow lights are only 3 seconds long. That may be fine at a small intersection between two-lane roads, but it's completely inadequate for larger intersections, according to proposed standards.

It's also dangerous. And when intersections become less dangerous, red-light cameras cease to be effective. It's a strange phenomenon.

Friday 10 October 2014 16:36:06 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Politics | US#
Wednesday 8 October 2014

On Monday, the Supreme Court denied certiorari to lower-court rulings upholding marriage equality in five states, effectively ending the fight in 14 states. Yesterday, the 9th Circuit, which covers the Pacific Coast and much of the Mountain states, ruled in favor of equality, making it the law in 35 states plus DC:

The Ninth Circuit already was on record for striking down California’s ban, “Proposition 8,” although that decision did not remain on the books because of a procedural flaw when the case went to the Supreme Court last year. Even so, same-sex marriage is legal in California under an earlier ruling by a federal trial judge.

In addition, the Ninth Circuit applies a tougher standard — heightened scrutiny — for laws that are challenged as discriminating against gays, lesbians and transgender people, and no marriage ban has yet survived that test.

In the Idaho case, the new decision upholds a federal trial judge’s decision against that state’s ban. In the Nevada case, the ruling overturns a decision by a federal trial judge in favor of that state’s ban.

It is possible that Idaho officials could try to get the full Ninth Circuit bench to reconsider the ruling, or they could seek to take the case on to the Supreme Court. However, the Ninth Circuit previously refused en banc review in the “Proposition 8″ case. And, the Supreme Court’s refusal on Monday to review the three other federal appeals courts’ decisions that came out the same way might suggest little hope of succeeding with a challenge before the Justices.

Sullivan is, as one would expect, beside himself:

An idea that once seemed preposterous now appears close to banal. The legal strategy that Evan Wolfson crafted from the early 1990s onward – a critical mass of states with marriage equality before a definitive Supreme Court ruling – has been vindicated and then some. The political and cultural strategy we pioneered at the same time – shifting public opinion slowly from the ground up, tapping into the deepest longings of gay people to become fully part of their own families and their own country for the first time, talking to so many heterosexual men and women about ourselves for the first time – also succeeded.

What I also love about this conservative but extraordinary decision from SCOTUS is that it affirms the power of federalism against the alternatives. Marriage equality will not have been prematurely foisted on the country by one single decision; it will have emerged and taken root because it slowly gained democratic legitimacy, from state to state, because the legal and constitutional arguments slowly won in the court of public opinion, and because an experiment in one state, Massachusetts, and then others, helped persuade the sincere skeptics that the consequences were, in fact, the strengthening of families, not their weakening.

I think of all those who never saw this day, the countless people who lived lives of terror and self-loathing for so, so long, crippled by the deep psychic wound of being told that the very source of your happiness – the love for someone else – was somehow evil, or criminal, or unmentionable. I think of the fathomless oceans of pain we swam through, with no sight of dry land, for so long. I think of the courage of so many who, in far, far darker times than these, summoned up the courage to live with integrity, even at the risk of their lives. And I cherish America, a place where this debate properly began, a place where the opposition was relentless and impassioned, a country which allowed a truly democratic debate over decades to change minds and hearts, where the Supreme Court guided, but never pre-empted, the kind of change that is all the more durable for having taken its time.

I'm glad my friends can marry in Indiana now, and I'm glad that, within a year or two, every committed couple will have the option regardless of their sexes.

Wednesday 8 October 2014 11:36:29 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#
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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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