Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
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Sunday 12 January 2014

Krugman outlines how the state of North Carolina cutting unemployment benefits has completely failed to encourage people back into the workforce:

The idea behind cutting benefits is that we are “paying people to be unemployed”, and that tough love will force them to go out and create jobs. It’s never explained exactly how greater desperation on the part of the unemployed will, in fact, lead to higher overall employment. Still, you could imagine that an individual state might gain some competitive advantage against other states by cutting wages. What you actually see in North Carolina, however, is nothing....

The unemployment rate did fall — but this was due to a large drop in the labor force, as the number of people looking for work fell. Why? Well, a likely explanation is that some of the unemployed continued to search for work, and were therefore counted in the labor force, despite low prospects of finding a job in a depressed economy, because such search is a requirement for those collecting benefits. Take away the benefits, and they drop out.

[I]f there were anything to the theory that cutting unemployment benefits encourages job search and somehow translates into higher employment even in a slump, harsh policies should work better at the state than at the national level. But there is no sign at all that North Carolina’s harshness has done anything except make the lives of the unemployed even more miserable.

I've asked some friends in Raleigh and Charlotte for comment.

Sunday 12 January 2014 10:15:47 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | US | Raleigh#
Thursday 11 July 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think he's right.

Thursday 11 July 2013 12:52:02 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Duke | US | Raleigh#
Monday 10 December 2012

Chicago has had no measurable snowfall since March 4th, 281 days ago, which is the longest such period in Chicago history:

If no measurable snow falls at O'Hare today [it didn't—DB], we could go on to shatter the previous record by at least another 4 days. The forecast is dry after today through the end of the week. The graphics [on WGN's blog post] show the total snowfall accumulation forecast for the next 10 days ending early next Thursday morning. The GFS model (on top) shows a potential of 33 mm during the period while the European model (on bottom) shows a potential for up to 102 mm. Hang in there snow lovers!

A snow-free environment from March 4th to December 14th is more normal for Raleigh, N.C., not for Chicago. Or anyway, it used to be.

Monday 10 December 2012 17:23:08 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Raleigh | Weather#
Wednesday 9 May 2012

Today the right wing won two battles in their long, slow, rear-guard war against the 21st century.

In North Carolina, voters chose by a 60-40 margin to add an anti-marriage amendment to the state constitution, continuing the tradition of tolerance and modernity established by enlightened statesmen such as Jesse Helms and William Blount:

North Carolina has become the 31st state to add an amendment on marriage to its constitution, with voters banning same-sex marriage and barring legal recognition of unmarried couples by state and local governments.

Money from national interest groups poured into North Carolina. The National Organization for Marriage contributed $425,000 to the Vote for Marriage campaign, according to the latest reports, and the Human Rights Campaign and its affiliates contributed nearly $500,000 to the opposition Coalition to Protect All N.C. Families.

Vote for Marriage raised more than $1 million, and the Coalition to Protect All N.C. Families raised more than $2 million.

It's interesting that the latter two groups, who received most of their money from out-of-state, anti-gay concerns, failed so miserably to do what their names suggested were their missions. It's almost as if George Orwell had named them, but of course he's been dead for quite some time.

Meanwhile, Indiana Republicans tossed out the third most senior U.S. Senator because his decade-long rightward drift wasn't radical enough:

Sen. Richard Lugar’s 36-year Senate career is now history.

Lugar was defeated in today’s Republican primary election by Treasurer Richard Mourdock, ending his bid for a seventh term in the U.S. Senate.

It wasn’t even close.

With 70 percent of the vote counted, Mourdock had 60 percent to Lugar’s 40 percent.

It's possible that Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly will defeat Mourdock in November, but not likely. Indiana, some will recall, came close to legislating the value of a mathematical constant not too long ago, shortly before giving vital support to the Ku Klux Klan.

The struggle between fear and future has gone on longer than written history. Future always wins. But fear inflicts an enormous cost in the bargain. I only hope today's victories by the religious right in the U.S. are what they seem: tantrums of the bigots and zealots that history is leaving behind.

Update: Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett has won the Wisconsin Democratic primary to face Governor Scott Walker next month in the latter's recall election. The re-match of the 2010 election is a statistical dead heat, though Barrett has a slight edge. At least Wisconsin's right wing is unambiguously about making rich people even richer, without muddling the message with religion. Still: I'll be glad to see the back of Walker, whenever he leaves office.

Tuesday 8 May 2012 21:31:50 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US | Raleigh | Religion#
Friday 16 September 2011

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

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

The Daily Parker is about:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday 16 September 2011 18:36:32 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Baseball | Biking | Chicago | Cubs | Duke | Geography | Jokes | Kitchen Sink | Parker | Daily | Photography | Politics | US | World | Raleigh | Religion | San Francisco | Software | Blogs | Business | Cool links | Security | Weather | Astronomy | Work#
Monday 26 July 2010

A friend drove through the squall line that hit the East Coast yesterday and got extremely lucky, when you think about it:

She's fine, and so is her car, though she had to have the windshield replaced in the dark because of the widespread power outages out there.

Then there's the heat. Cities all up and down the East Coast hit record high temperatures over the weekend, including 38°C in Raleigh, 41°C in Richmond, and 37°C in Washington.

Monday 26 July 2010 11:29:35 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Raleigh | Weather#
Wednesday 23 June 2010

As I checked email for one last time before going to bed, I found out who won the Republican primary in North Carolina's 13th district, in which I've spent considerable time this year. Meet Bill Randall, who will challenge incumbent Representative Brad Miller (D) on November 2nd:

As Talking Points Memo said last week, "But surprisingly, as oil poured into the gulf and Obama threw resources and rhetoric at the problem, the 'it's all a giant conspiracy' theory didn't catch on."

Perhaps when people talk about "tea parties" they refer to a different kind of tea than they serve at Starbucks? Just a thought.

Finally, a reminder to all my friends in the district: please, don't take it for granted Brad Miller will get re-elected. Sanity still needs your vote in November.

Tuesday 22 June 2010 23:21:58 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US | Raleigh#
Tuesday 27 April 2010

Via reader MB, one of the best beers in the world has been sold to a pair of beer-loving entrepreneurs:

Fritz Maytag, the washing machine heir who launched the microbrewery movement, has sold Anchor Brewing Co. in San Francisco to a pair of Bay Area entrepreneurs who plan to preserve and expand the iconic brand.

No terms were disclosed for the sale of the 70-person Mariposa Street brewery and distillery that traces its roots to the Gold Rush, when local brewers produced a heady elixir known as steam beer.

In 45 years at the helm of Anchor Brewing, Maytag helped spark a revival in the craft of making beer by hand and inspired thousands of entrepreneurs to follow him in creating small, artisanal breweries.

Judging by the reactions of people in my class to a case we read on the Boston Beer Co., it's likely that overseas readers don't appreciate what Maytag did for beer lovers. Within a few hours of Chicago there are dozens of craft breweries, including Tyranena and, of course, Goose Island, two of the best in the world. Only Japan has anything like the American craft-brew culture, but sadly they don't export it. Neither do most of the craft brewers; their batches are too small even to ship farther than the next state over. So, in Chicago, I get to have a Mad Hatter, and in Raleigh I get to have a Angry Angel; but throughout this fine, beer-loving nation, we'll still have Anchor Steam.

Tuesday 27 April 2010 11:17:24 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Geography | Raleigh | San Francisco#
Thursday 8 April 2010

It turns out, all that pollen covering my car happened in part because of the really pleasant winter we had in Raleigh this year. Really:

The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources' Air Quality Division measured a sample of air Wednesday that had 3,524 pollen grains per cubic meter at its Raleigh office.

The count normally falls between 1,000 and 1,500 in the spring. The previous peak was on March 27, 2007, when air quality staff over at DENR measured 2,925 pollen grains per cubic meter.

The jump in pollen has made this a stuffy, sneezy, eye-itching spring for pollen-allergic Triangle residents.

Be grateful, however, you're not in Winston-Salem. The pollen count there was measured at 9,632 grains per cubic meter on Tuesday, according to DENR.

Despite the predicted thunderstorms tonight, predicted pollen levels remain "very high" (only because "OMFG" isn't an official pollen level).

Apparently, though, it's worse elsewhere:

Thursday 8 April 2010 10:27:31 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Raleigh | Weather#
Tuesday 6 April 2010

This greeted me on my return to Raleigh today:

Monday 5 April 2010 20:34:24 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Raleigh | Weather#
Saturday 20 March 2010

That's the code for "frontal passage" on aviation meteorological reports. Apparently yesterday while I was on my way to O'Hare I missed a big one:

While temperatures began dropping across the far northern suburbs as early as mid-afternoon, the city was invaded by 30+ mph gusts late in the evening rush hour, initiating a thermal tailspin. In a single hour's time, readings at the Harrison-Dever Crib, three miles off Chicago's shoreline, dove from 62°F to 42°F—a 20°F pullback—between 6 and 7 p.m. The same period saw readings at Northerly Island on the city's lakefront plunge from 64°F to 47°F. A minute-by-minute temperature analysis off a Weather Bug sensor on the South Side at the Dumas Elementary School indicated readings there plunged 15°F in only 12 minutes—from 62°F at 6:39 p.m. to 47°F at 6:51. By late evening, North Shore readings were uniformly up to 25°F off the 60°F levels of only hours before.

Yikes. Here's the art:

Today's forecast is for sunny skies and 26°C.

Oh, sorry. That's my forecast. Back in Chicago they've got snow and freezing temperatures. Sorry.

Saturday 20 March 2010 09:49:44 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Chicago | Raleigh | Weather#
Sunday 14 March 2010

A friend and I toured the Big Boss Brewing Co. in Raleigh yesterday. Possibly owing to the gorgeous weather, or a widespread spirit of scientific inquiry, or—long shot here—the $1 33 cL beer samples, yesterday's tour seemed awfully popular:

Sunday 14 March 2010 12:32:46 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Raleigh#
Thursday 25 February 2010

A winter storm off the coast of North Carolina has brought snow to both Chicago and Raleigh:

25 mm of snow had fallen at O'Hare by 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, with snow still coming down hard. That was enough to push the city's official seasonal snow tally above 127 cm for the third consecutive year. There's been only one other string of three consecutive 50+ inch seasons in 125 years of snow measurements here and it occurred between 1976 to 1979.

In North Carolina the snow is causing the same kinds of disruptions as in Chicago—slow traffic, nervous parents, confused dogs—but...well, it's not quite as much snow:

Thursday 25 February 2010 08:56:22 EST (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Raleigh | Weather#
Tuesday 23 February 2010

I'm splitting my time between Chicago and Raleigh lately, and it looks like I'll continue to do so for quite a while. This causes one minor inconvenience: my car doesn't fit in the overhead compartment on a CRJ. (For that matter, an anorexic gerbil won't fit in the overhead compartment on one of those things, but that's another issue.)

Chicago, however, is a major city with an extensive public transportation system (no snickering from natives, please). Chicago also has Zipcars, a by-the-hour car-rental cooperative, with six cars stationed less than four blocks from my house. Four blocks—800 m—seems to suburbanites like a very long walk to get a car, but actually, I'm lucky if I get to park my own car that close most days. So this is an improvement.

iGo, which costs a little less and works in partnership with the CTA, is another option. Unfortunately they don't have any cars within 1500 m of my house. Walking around the block to get the Zipcar suddenly seems more attractive. Walking eight blocks to get a car is less so.

Zipcars also has the advantage of national reach. Given how often I travel (especially to San Francisco), this has tremendous appeal.

Now if only Chicago had a puppy-rental service for those times when I miss Parker...

Tuesday 23 February 2010 10:12:58 EST (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Raleigh#
Saturday 30 January 2010

After waking up at 4:30 for two mornings in a row, I really would like my body to figure out what time zone it's in. Maybe the problem is the Indian half-hour (it's 11½ hours ahead of Chicago, not 11, not 12), or possibly it was the two overnight flights in a row? Maybe I should just be glad I've had a relatively easy time getting to a point where I go to sleep at night (last night around 9:30pm) and wake up in the morning, instead of the reverse.

Meanwhile, back in Raleigh, it looks like they have some weather this weekend:

Tonight: Snow likely before midnight, then snow and sleet. Low around -4°C. East wind between 13 and 21 km/h, with gusts as high as 40 km/h. Chance of precipitation is 100%. Total nighttime snow and sleet accumulation of 8–12 cm possible.

Saturday: Snow and sleet before 1pm, then freezing rain and sleet. High near -4°C. Northeast wind around 24 km/h, with gusts as high as 47 km/h. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New ice accumulation of less than a 1 mm possible. New snow and sleet accumulation of 8–12 cm possible.

Friends have reported stockpiling mac and cheese and wine. In some respects, I wish I were there. In others...well, it's going to be 20°C and foggy in Delhi today, while we Dukies go out to the Red Fort and Old Delhi.

More, with photos (I hope), tonight.

Saturday 30 January 2010 06:58:11 IST (UTC+05:30)  |  | Duke | Geography | Raleigh | Weather#
Monday 18 January 2010

States can't declare bankruptcy. If they could, Illinois would probably have done already:

While it appears unlikely or even impossible for a state to hide out from creditors in Bankruptcy Court, Illinois appears to meet classic definitions of insolvency: Its liabilities far exceed its assets, and it's not generating enough cash to pay its bills. Private companies in similar circumstances often shut down or file for bankruptcy protection.

...Despite a budget shortfall estimated to be as high as $5.7 billion, state officials haven't shown the political will to either raise taxes or cut spending sufficiently to close the gap.

As a result, fiscal paralysis is spreading through state government. Unpaid bills to suppliers are piling up. State employees, even legislators, are forced to pay their medical bills upfront because some doctors are tired of waiting to be paid by the state. The University of Illinois, owed $400 million, recently instituted furloughs, and there are fears it may not make payroll in March if the shortfall continues.

In unrelated news, the current temperatures are 16°C in Raleigh and -1°C in Chicago...

Monday 18 January 2010 16:11:49 EST (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | US | Raleigh#
Friday 15 January 2010

Randomness:

Really. January.

Friday 15 January 2010 14:44:02 EST (UTC-05:00)  |  | Duke | US | Raleigh | Cool links | Weather#

As "Chicagoans gaze out at a cover of snow for the 21st consecutive day" today, I'm once again in Raleigh, where snow fell once a few weeks ago but decided not to stay the night. It's already 9°C, going up to a predicted 16°C this afternoon. I plan to walk as far as my legs will take me (or Parker's will take him) later on.

That's the problem, of course: in Chicago, we get maybe three days like this between November and March, so I'm a little giddy about it. On the other hand, Chicagoans do get a lot of work done in the winter. Probably because we have no opportunities to play.

Friday 15 January 2010 11:40:15 EST (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Raleigh | Weather#
Wednesday 6 January 2010

It turns out, Raleigh isn't that cold. All my life I've just accepted that Chicago winters build character. But I'm not sure anymore, especially after three sunny, 5°C days here while temperatures back home have skulked around -12°C. Then, today, this:

A winter storm warning will be in effect across the Chicago area from this evening through Friday morning.

By the end of that warning, anywhere from 15 to 30 cm of a fairly fluffy snow will have come down, according to the National Weather Service. The heaviest snows are expected near the lakefront.

... The heaviest snowfall will occur between noon and 6 p.m. Thursday, with snow falling at about an inch an hour, [said Charles Mott, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service].

Forecasters predict snow in Raleigh tonight, too: about 1 cm or so. Of course, that amount could halt all commerce in North Carolina, so we'll be stocking up on bottled water later.

Seriously, though, Raleigh averages 19 cm of snow annually; Chicago, 98 cm. Then there are the normal temperatures of both cities. I'll say nothing else right now except that the average January daily high temperature in Chicago is the average January daily low temperature in Raleigh.

Let's see how I like Raliegh in July. But today, it's fine.

Wednesday 6 January 2010 17:42:51 EST (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Raleigh | Weather#
Saturday 2 January 2010

Since I'm spending so much time here, I thought I should do a Raleigh sunrise chart to complement the one for Chicago. (You can get one for your own location at http://www.wx-now.com/Sunrise/SunriseChart.aspx.)

Saturday 2 January 2010 10:25:58 EST (UTC-05:00)  |  | Raleigh | Astronomy#
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David Braverman is a software developer in Chicago, and the creator of Weather Now. Parker is the most adorable dog on the planet, 80% of the time.
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