Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
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Monday 2 June 2014

My dad just sent me this. His comment: "This was done by somebody who either has Asperger's or way, way too much time on his hands."

Yah, but it's cool, right?

What is not so cool is that the Kings are up 4-3 with 17 left in the 3rd. If none of that makes any sense to you, clearly you don't care about hockey or Chicago sports.

Sunday 1 June 2014 21:14:26 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Kitchen Sink | Cool links#
Tuesday 13 May 2014

Ten days until I get a couple days off...

Tuesday 13 May 2014 15:17:29 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | US | Cool links | Weather#
Wednesday 7 May 2014

Actually, it's a live feed from the ISS:


Live streaming video by Ustream

IFLS explains:

One of the latest missions from the ISS is kind of amazing. The High Definition Earth Viewing (HDEV) experiment consists of four cameras that have been attached outside of the ISS. Though temperature is controlled, the cameras are exposed to the radiation from the sun, which will allow astronauts to understand how radiation affects the instruments.

The cameras point down at Earth at all times, which makes for some breathtaking images. The feed will sometimes go down as the signal switches between the cameras, and it is hard to see when the ISS is on the dark side of the planet. If the cameras are down, the screen will be grey.

As I'm posting this, the ISS was just past the morning terminator, near the Philippines. It should fly almost directly over Chicago in 20 minutes or so. (The ISS orbits once every 92 minutes.)

Wednesday 7 May 2014 14:26:23 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Cool links | Astronomy#
Saturday 3 May 2014

Via WGN's weather blog, here is the coolest climate visualizer I've seen:

The site also has forecast maps and animation, climate information, and (of course) a blog.

Saturday 3 May 2014 08:25:49 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Cool links | Weather#
Thursday 24 April 2014

Busy day, so I'm just flagging these for later:

Back to the mines...

Thursday 24 April 2014 16:20:42 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | London | US | Cool links | Windows Azure#
Sunday 20 April 2014

I just returned from Outer Suburbistan in record time, in under an hour, which was pure dumb luck. As soon as I change I'm going out into the 25°C afternoon. We still haven't hit the 28°C we last saw November 7th, but this is close enough for me.

More later, including possibly some interesting stuff about how I've started (slowly) refactoring the 10-year-old Inner Drive Extensible Architecture to use modern inversion-of-control tools including Castle Windsor and Moq. First, I need to walk the dog. A lot.

Sunday 20 April 2014 16:04:07 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Cool links | Weather#
Wednesday 18 December 2013

The Chicago Transit Authority cleaned out its attic recently and put a bunch of artifacts up for auction. The auction just ended, and I'm sorry to say I did not win anything.

I bid on a couple of 1990s-era station signs, one from Main and one from Davis. I didn't want to risk getting both so I dropped off the Davis auction once it hit $50. Because, rusty 30 x 45 cm sign with the paint chipping? Yeah, $50 sounds right.

But I kept going on the Main St. sign, using the ancient eBay technique of waiting until the last few seconds to make my last bid.

So, the first day of bidding, I put in $25. Auto-bids pushed right past me. Then I waited. Just now, with the bidding at $95, I put in what I thought was a ridiculous (but still acceptable) number: $130. Bam! Bidder #37522 auto-bid right past me!

Now, I'm thinking, as attractive an artifact as the sign might be, is it really worth $150? Oh, the pain, the pain...yes. All right. It's a unique part of history, part of my history in fact, so it's worth $150 to me. Bid.

D'oh! Bidder #37522 thinks it's worth more than $150, and his auto-bid won.

Well, I'm glad the sign is going to a good home. I hope Bidder #37522 finds a nice place on his wall for it.

But I have no idea what Bidder #37961 is going to do with the rail car he bought for $13,150...

(Fun fact: the CTA Gift Store sells signs.)

Update: Looking through the closed lots, I discovered that someone bought two sticks of rail for $50. Let's do the math here. The sticks are each 11.8 m long, and the description says they're 115-lb rail. That means the rail weighs 115 lbs per foot, so the two sticks together contain 4,068 kg of steel. I don't know scrap prices, but it seems to me that 4 tons of steel scrap might be worth more than $50. So assuming the costs of removing the rails aren't too high, someone may have just made a tidy profit on the auction.

Update: It turns out, scrap steel goes for about $350 a ton. So that $50 investment could bring the buyer a tidy $1300 profit. But then one has to ask, why didn't the CTA just sell the surplus rail for scrap in the first place?

Wednesday 18 December 2013 11:13:08 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Cool links | Travel#
Sunday 15 December 2013

This weekend's cover story in New York Times Magazine looks in detail at Google's grand plan to map everything:

Street View cars have already mapped six million miles. Depending on your perspective, that’s either a quite a lot (equivalent to 12 trips to the moon and back) or not much at all (only one-tenth of the world’s estimated 60 million miles of road). Either way, Google’s huge investment in the camera-equipped cars — not to mention trikes, boats, snowmobiles and, yes, rafts — has yielded the most detailed street atlas on earth.

Early last year, Google’s United States market share for where-type queries topped 70 percent, and Google started to get serious about recouping the fortune it has been sinking into making its map, putting a tollbooth in front of its application programming interface. Henceforth, heavy users would be charged for the privilege.

Today, Google’s map includes the streets of every nation on earth, and Street View has so far collected imagery in a quarter of those countries. The total number of regular users: A billion people, or about half of the Internet-connected population worldwide. Google Maps underlies a million different websites, making its map A.P.I. among the most-used such interfaces on the Internet. At this point Google Maps is essentially what Tim O’Reilly predicted the map would become: part of the information infrastructure, a resource more complete and in many respects more accurate than what governments have. It’s better than MapQuest’s map, better than Microsoft’s, better than Apple’s.

The article also looks at Open Street Map, the Wikipedia of GIS, and wonders whether Google's proprietary database will ultimately win.

Sunday 15 December 2013 09:07:59 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Geography | Business | Cool links#
Saturday 2 November 2013

Gulliver harrumphs:

For this observer, it's too long (around 90 seconds longer than Air New Zealand's "Bare essentials", for example) and actually quite annoying. Also, I don't think it does a particularly good job of fulfilling its primary purpose, which is to explain the safety-related features of the plane. With all the pizzazz and robot rappers, passengers will end up watching the dancing and admiring the production values, without actually digesting the message. It tries so hard to entertain the many flyers who are over-familiar with safety videos that it fails to explain clearly and simply to new flyers what they can expect. To top it all, Virgin America will have to change various scenes in the next few months now that the Federal Aviation Administration has decided to allow the operation of electronic devices on planes from departure gate to landing gate.

Well, fine, but you have to admire their spunk.

Saturday 2 November 2013 08:43:25 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Cool links#
Wednesday 30 October 2013

This rocks:

The so-called "Starpath" is a type of solar-enhanced liquid and aggregate made by Pro-Teq Surfacing, a company headquartered southwest of London near the awesomely titled town of Staines-upon-Thames. It's in the prototype phase, with a test path running 460 feet in a Cambridge park called Christ's Pieces. (The British and their delightful names!) The material works by absorbing UV rays during the day and later releasing them as topaz light. In a weird feature, it can somehow adjust its brightness levels similar to the screen of an iPhone; the path gets dimmer on pitch-black nights "almost like it has a mind of its own," says Pro-Teq's owner, Hamish Scott.

Pro-Teq is hoping that governments will embrace its self-aware, supernatural-looking pathway for its energy-saving elements and the ease in which it goes down. The installation is fairly quick (the Cambridge job took about 4 hours), and because it's a resurfacing technique doesn't involve the burdensome disassembly and disposal of existing pathways. "The main bulk of the U.K. path network is tarmac, where perhaps it's coming toward the end of its useful life," says Pro-Teq pitchman Neil Blackmore in the below video. "We can rejuvenate it with our system, creating not only a practical but a decorative finish that's certainly with the Starpath also very, very unique."

From the company's press release:

This product has recently been sprayed onto the existing pathway that runs through Christ’s Pieces open space, Cambridge between the city centre and the Grafton Centre, and is used by pedestrians and cyclists during the day and night.

The Cambridge pathway measures 150 square metres, took only 30 minutes to spray the material on, and the surface was ready for use less than four hours after the job commenced. This short installation time allowed minimal disruption to the public.

Bike hike to Cambridge, anyone?

Wednesday 30 October 2013 11:36:03 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Biking | London | Cool links#
Monday 21 October 2013

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

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

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

Enjoy.

Monday 21 October 2013 17:44:56 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Cool links#
Sunday 20 October 2013

On Thursday afternoon, Amazon delivered a USB cassette player. Yesterday I dug out an aircheck—a recording made in the radio station's master control room of what actually went over the air—from my broadcast on WRHU-FM exactly 23 years earlier.

Here is the 9pm newscast. Trippy. (And scarily similar to the newscast you might have heard last night.)

Sunday 20 October 2013 11:29:06 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Cool links#
Monday 16 September 2013

Just a brief note, when I should be sound asleep. I caught up on Aaron Sorkin's Newsroom tonight, and realized that the episode ended the story.

I could be wrong. I called my dad immediately, asking for some assurance that I wasn't insane about it ending all three* of the basic conflicts that make up the story, but he hadn't seen it yet, as he's two time zones west of me.

So, all you've got until I get his reflections, dear readers, is an amateur opinion. But as far as I can see, the story has nowhere to go after tonight.

I'll very likely address this later in the week with spoilers. For now, I welcome—I encourage—arguments against my hypothesis.

Tonight's show was the season finale. But for expletive's sake, was it also the series finale? Maybe my confusion was I didn't realize it was a season finale. So all the threads coming together seemed like the end to me—but I could be wrong.

My aforementioned dad reminds me that show business is best expressed thus:

Show

business

Of course. Yet I like stories, and I like good writing, and I like getting carried away. From tonight's Newsroom, I worry that it's another four years until I get to watch Aaron Sorkin's writing again.

I would have hoped the business let the show go on for another season. Except...I think the story ended tonight. And no matter what Sorkin might do for a third season, it will have to be a different story. I'm sure the suits know that. They may not have a fiber of creativity to share amongst them, but they know damn well when the party's over.

All I can conclude from this is that Sorkin needs to write features. Not TV; features. He can't keep doing this to his fans in 20 episodes. (Disclosure: I really liked Studio 60. But he really ended it after one season. Is that what happened tonight?)


Will-Mac; Maggie-Jim; Everyone-Reese.

Sunday 15 September 2013 23:32:42 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Cool links#
Saturday 14 September 2013

Via Sullivan, the Phoneblok:

Saturday 14 September 2013 14:50:20 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Cool links#
Thursday 15 August 2013

The friend who posted this roundup said simply, "Nerdgasm:"

Writing Systems of the World

By Maximilian Dörrbecker (Chumwa) (Own work) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC-BY-SA-2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

Take a look.

Thursday 15 August 2013 11:43:18 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Geography | Kitchen Sink | Cool links#
Monday 5 August 2013

James Deen tries Google Glass and...well...don't play this at work:

That has to be one of the only porn trailers I've ever laughed through.

Sunday 4 August 2013 22:12:30 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Cool links#
Friday 26 July 2013

Via TPM Media, NASA has something to make you smile. Take a ride:

Friday 26 July 2013 18:25:19 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Cool links#
Friday 21 June 2013

Via the Atlantic Cities blog, this is pretty awesome:

World domination is all well and good, but sometimes taking over a city is more than enough for one night. That's the feeling that Luke Costanza and Mackenzie Stutzman had a few years back while playing the board game Risk in Boston. So they sketched out a rough map of the metro area, split neighborhoods into six distinct regions, and laminated the pages. Then they invited over a few more friends to test it out — and discovered it was a rousing success.

"That's when it kind of clicked that we could maybe make these for other cities," says Costanza. "It's just tons of fun to be able to play this classic game in a place that you know."

That initial urge to conquer the Bay has since expanded into Havoc Boards: a series of 15 Risk-style games that Costanza and Stutzman are funding through a Kickstarter campaign. Instead of limiting the action to the global stage, Havoc Boards offer a variety of territories for conquest. To date they've created boards for ten cities —Boston, New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles among them — as well as two countries, a continent, a college campus, and even the solar system.

Check it out:

Friday 21 June 2013 11:49:31 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Geography | Cool links#
Sunday 16 June 2013

Via Sullivan, scholar John Suiter discovered a recording of Allen Ginsberg reading "Howl" at Oregon's Reed College in 1956:

It’s also easy to forget that Allen Ginsberg’s generation-defining poem “Howl” was once almost a casualty of censorship. The most likely successor to Walt Whitman’s vision, Ginsberg’s oracular utterances did not sit well with U.S. Customs, who in 1957 tried to seize every copy of the British second printing. When that failed, police arrested the poem’s publisher, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and he and Ginsberg’s “Howl” were put on trial for obscenity. Apparently, phrases like “cock and endless balls” did not sit well with the authorities. But the court vindicated them all.

The recording [linked above] sat dormant in Reed’s archives for over fifty years until scholar John Suiter rediscovered it in 2008. In it, Ginsberg reads his great prophetic work, not with the cadences of a street preacher or jazzman—both of which he had in his repertoire—but in an almost robotic monotone with an undertone of manic urgency. Ginsberg’s reading, before an intimate group of students in a dormitory lounge, took place only just before the first printing of the poem in the City Lights edition.

That's almost sixty years ago; the poet was 30. For what it's worth, I bought my copy at City Lights many years ago.

Sunday 16 June 2013 11:44:55 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Cool links#
Tuesday 28 May 2013

Yeah, one of those days:

I'll get to these eventually...

Tuesday 28 May 2013 13:02:07 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Geography | Kitchen Sink | US | Cool links#
Thursday 23 May 2013

National Public Radio has created an interactive map that uses Google Maps and new satellite images Google obtained yesterday to show 10-meter images of the Oklahoma tornado's destruction:

This may be the best, most timely use of geographic information in a news presentation I've ever seen.

The images are stunning. I can only imagine what life must be like in Moore right now—and with the NPR app, it's a lot easier to understand.

Thursday 23 May 2013 10:27:58 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Geography | Cool links | Weather#
Thursday 21 March 2013

Odd that I'm finding this out through the Chicago Tribune:

Amazon.com has introduced a way for users to quickly save and send news articles as well as other items to their Kindle devices for later, off-line reading.

The new feature can be added by users in a variety of ways. Amazon has made it possible for users to send items to their Kindles through Web browser extensions for Google Chrome and Firefox, as a feature that can be installed on Macs or PCs, from Google Android mobile devices, or from users' emails.

Cool. Look for the button to appear on The Daily Parker very soon.

Now that I can send directly to Kindle, and after having Instapaper crash frequently on my Android device, I might switch. Though this does underscore the risks start-ups take when they develop relatively simple ideas into software. Other, larger companies can kill you.

Thursday 21 March 2013 07:25:28 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Business | Cool links#
Sunday 24 February 2013

From The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:

There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.

From this week's news:

If calculations of the newly discovered Higgs boson particle are correct, one day, tens of billions of years from now, the universe will disappear at the speed of light, replaced by a strange, alternative dimension, one theoretical physicist calls “boring.”

“It may be that the universe we live in is inherently unstable and at some point billions of years from now it’s all going to get wiped out. This has to do with the Higgs energy field itself,” [theoretical physicist Joseph] Lykken [of Fermilab] added, referring to an invisible field of energy that is believed to exist throughout the universe.

“Essentially, the universe wants to be in different state and so eventually it will realize that. A little bubble of what you might think of an as alternative universe will appear somewhere and then it will expand out and destroy us. So that’ll be very dramatic, but you and I will not be around to witness it,” Lykken told reporters before a presentation at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Boston this week.

And...has this happened already? We can't possibly know...but Douglas Adams might have known all along.

Sunday 24 February 2013 11:39:30 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Cool links#
Monday 18 February 2013

Via Sullivan, a catalog of strange things we do with gadgets:

You’re on your cell phone, talking to a friend, pacing in circles, fidgeting with your hands, checking your cuticles–whatever it is you do while you’re on the phone. They’re odd, pointless behaviors, but we do them nonetheless, and a group of designers from the Art Center College of Design has taken it upon themselves to illustrate and document all of them (sort of like that Illustrated Dictionary of Cyborg Anthropology).

There’s the “Security Blanket” (checking your smartphone for no particular reason when faced with the slightest discomfort in a social situation), the “Halfway Courtesy” (taking one earbud out in order to show a person you’re listening to them), the “Haunted Interface” (performing actions an interface can’t react to, like shaking a video game controller), and many others. All of the actions are collected in a free ebook called Curious Rituals. Researcher Nicolas Nova explains in the book’s introduction.

Meanwhile, I'm doing my strange ritual of camping at Peet's Coffee before dawn to make sure I stay reasonably close to Chicago time for the weekend. Otherwise, Wednesday will be hell.

Monday 18 February 2013 06:40:47 PST (UTC-08:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Cool links#
Sunday 3 February 2013

This is a more-technical follow up to my most recent post. If you're interested in how the next version of Weather Now will use Microsoft Windows Azure technology to provide real-time weather information, keep reading.

Sunday 3 February 2013 11:44:55 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Cloud | Cool links | Weather | Windows Azure#
Wednesday 23 January 2013

This is exceedingly cool:

Inset from the Census Dotmap showing Chicago, Madison, and Milwaukee

What is this

This is a map of every person counted by the 2010 US and 2011 Canadian censuses. The map has 341,817,095 dots - one for each person.

Why?

I wanted an image of human settlement patterns unmediated by proxies like city boundaries, arterial roads, state lines, &c. Also, it was an interesting challenge.

Who is responsible for this?

The US and Canadian censuses, mostly. I made the map. I'm Brandon Martin-Anderson. Kieran Huggins came to the rescue with spare server capacity and technical advice once this took off.

Unfortunately, I can't quite pick myself out of the crowd...

Wednesday 23 January 2013 10:29:40 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Cool links#
Wednesday 21 November 2012

Over the last two days I've spent almost every working minute redesigning the 10th Magnitude framework and reference application. Not new code, really, just upgrading them to the latest Azure bits and putting them into a NuGet package.

That hasn't left much time for blogging. Or for Words With Friends. And I'm using a lot of Instapaper. Without Instapaper, I'd never get to read Wired editor Mat Honan drawing lessons from his epic hack last summer.

Tuesday 20 November 2012 19:14:44 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Business | Cool links#
Sunday 18 November 2012

I found Joe and Ben Albahari's library of LINQ extensions, which enabled me to finish a really complicated piece of code quickly and elegantly.

Programmers keep reading. Everyone else: I'll have more stuff about the weather tomorrow.

Sunday 18 November 2012 12:34:04 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Software | Cool links#
Wednesday 31 October 2012

Air New Zealand has a hobbit of making awesome safety videos; here's the latest:

Wednesday 31 October 2012 13:39:12 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Cool links#
Sunday 9 September 2012

This month's Atlantic explains:

"So you want to make a map," [former NASA engineer Michael] Weiss-Malik tells me as we sit down in front of a massive monitor. "There are a couple of steps. You acquire data through partners. You do a bunch of engineering on that data to get it into the right format and conflate it with other sources of data, and then you do a bunch of operations, which is what this tool is about, to hand massage the data. And out the other end pops something that is higher quality than the sum of its parts."

The sheer amount of human effort that goes into Google's maps is just mind-boggling. Every road that you see slightly askew in the top image has been hand-massaged by a human. The most telling moment for me came when we looked at couple of the several thousand user reports of problems with Google Maps that come in every day. The Geo team tries to address the majority of fixable problems within minutes. One complaint reported that Google did not show a new roundabout that had been built in a rural part of the country. The satellite imagery did not show the change, but a Street View car had recently driven down the street and its tracks showed the new road perfectly.

I've always been a map geek (which drove my Weather Now demo/application). The idea that Google will have a complete digital map of the entire world, and will presumably continue to maintain this map over the next several decades, warms my geeky heart. I wish some of this data had existed 50 years ago—or, alternately, that Google can integrate some of the existing photos and maps from earlier eras.

Sunday 9 September 2012 10:44:54 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Geography | Cool links#
Saturday 8 September 2012

They just launched high-resolution aerial photos of another batch of cities:

Improving the availability of more high quality imagery is one of the many ways we’re continuing to bring you the most comprehensive and accurate maps of the world. In this month’s update, you’ll find another extensive refresh to our high resolution aerial and satellite imagery (viewable in both Google Maps and Google Earth), as well as new 45 degree imagery in Google Maps spanning 30 new cities.

Google Maps and Earth now feature updated aerial imagery for more than 20 locations, and updated satellite imagery for more than 60 regions. Here are a few interesting locations included in our latest release.

Below is imagery of Mecca, Saudi Arabia where each year more than 15 million Muslims visit this important religious site. Here you can see Abraj Al Bait, one of the world largest clock towers, visible even from space!

Pretty soon they'll have photos of every square meter of the planet—at 10-cm resolution. I find it both really cool and really creepy. As long as they don't have near-real-time photos...

Saturday 8 September 2012 13:43:08 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Geography | Cool links#
Wednesday 29 August 2012

The Wind Map is one of the coolest things I've ever seen:

And apparently, Isaac is going to hit Valparaiso (and, um, us):

Tuesday 28 August 2012 20:56:39 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Cool links | Weather#
Wednesday 18 July 2012

Via Sullivan, artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg is creating 3D portraits from random hairs:

Collecting hairs she finds in random public places – bathrooms, libraries, and subway seats – she uses a battery of newly developing technologies to create physical, life-sized portraits of the owners of these hairs. You can see the portrait she’s made from her own hair in the photo below. While the actual likeness is a point of contention, these images bring about some creepy-yet-amazing comments; on genetic identity (how much of “you” really resides in your DNA?); on the possibilities of surveillance (what if your jealous partner started making portraits from hairs they found around your house?); and on the subjectivity inherent in working with “hard” data and computer systems (how much of a role do human assumptions play in this machine made portrait?).

The artist's site is here.

All right. This came a little sooner than I expected, and from a different source. I've long recognize the necessity of adapting to, rather than raging impotently against, the fundamental changes to the security and privacy mores we've had for several thousand years. (As Bruce Schneier has pointed out, "Fifteen years ago, [CCTV cameras] weren't everywhere. Fifteen years from now, they'll be so small we won't be able to see them.") But this project, if it works as hoped, actually freaks me out a little.

I'm going to whistle past this graveyard for the time being...

Tuesday 17 July 2012 20:31:01 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Cool links | Security#
Tuesday 26 June 2012

I don't know how extensive this is, but Google Maps street view now goes inside buildings:

To see this for yourself, go on Google Maps to 1028 W Diversey Pkwy, Chicago, 60614. Click on the balloon over Paddy Long's Pub, and click Street View. Notice the double chevron pointing toward the sidewalk:

Click that. And then explore.

I can only weep that we didn't have this kind of data throughout history to see how people lived in the past. And I can only weep for what this will do to privacy.

Update: It looks like they mostly have bars and pubs, including Tommy Nevin's, where Parker spent much of his puppyhood.

Tuesday 26 June 2012 13:04:39 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Cool links#
Tuesday 12 June 2012

Via Sullivan, artist Jon Rafman has collected Street View oddities:

(Yes, that's in Chicago.)

Tuesday 12 June 2012 09:36:51 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Geography | Cool links#
Sunday 20 May 2012

Jeff Atwood has the definitive explanation:

["Lorem ipsum"] is arbitrarily rearranged and not quite coherent Latin, extracted from a book Cicero wrote in 45 BC. Here's the complete quote, with the bits and pieces that make up Lorem Ipsum ....

Nemo enim ipsam voluptatem, quia voluptas sit, aspernatur aut odit aut fugit, sed quia consequuntur magni dolores eos, qui ratione voluptatem sequi nesciunt, neque porro quisquam est, qui dolorem ipsum, quia dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisci[ng] velit, sed quia non numquam [do] eius modi tempora inci[di]dunt, ut labore et dolore magnam aliquam quaerat voluptatem. Ut enim ad minima veniam, quis nostrum exercitationem ullam corporis suscipit laboriosam, nisi ut aliquid ex ea commodi consequatur? Quis autem vel eum iure reprehenderit, qui in ea voluptate velit esse, quam nihil molestiae consequatur, vel illum, qui dolorem eum fugiat, quo voluptas nulla pariatur?

At vero eos et accusamus et iusto odio dignissimos ducimus, qui blanditiis praesentium voluptatum deleniti atque corrupti, quos dolores et quas molestias excepturi sint, obcaecati cupiditate non provident, similique sunt in culpa, qui officia deserunt mollitia animi, id est laborum et dolorum fuga.

But what does it all mean?

He even included a lengthy list of websites that have tons of the stuff hanging around.

Quod erat demonstrandum.

Saturday 19 May 2012 20:23:55 PDT (UTC-07:00)  |  | Cool links#
Monday 9 April 2012

I like being busy, but it does take time away from lower-priority pursuits like blogging. If I had more time, I'd pontificate on the following:

For now, though, it's back to the mines.

Monday 9 April 2012 11:36:07 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | US | Cool links | Travel#
Sunday 8 April 2012

Some items that have gotten my attention:

More, I'm sure, later.

Sunday 8 April 2012 08:49:31 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | US | Cool links#
Saturday 7 April 2012

I found out, after too many failed download attempts for no reason I could ascertain (come on, Amazon), the 1940 Census data is also available on Ancestry.com. Their servers actually served the data correctly. And so, I found this:

The apartment numbers aren't listed, and the building added an apartment to my entrance sometime in the last 70 years, but I think I can work it out. The first column shows the rent for each apartment. The three higher-rent apartments have to be the larger ones to the west. That means mine is either one of the two $65 apartments on the table or was vacant on 1 April 1940.

So the best I can do is that the three apartments on my side of the stairs that existed in 1940 contained a 35-year-old divorcée from Illinois who worked as an office manager in a brokerage, and a 64-year-old broker/solicitor from Nebraska who lived with his 84-year-old mother. My neighbors included a 51-year-old mother who lived with her 29- and 23-year-old sons, both of whom worked as wholesale salesmen; the 57-year-old treasurer of a wholesale varnish company and his 53-year-old wife; the 46-year-old head of the complaints department at Illinois Bell and his 39-year-old wife; and the building engineer and his wife, both of whom were 49.

All of these people were white, professional, and at least high-school educated. Six of eleven had college educations, a significantly higher proportion than the general public at the time. There were no children in the tier. All but two were U.S.-born. (The varnish-company treasurer came from the Republic of Ireland; his wife was English-Canadian.) All but the divorcée had lived in the same apartment for at least 5 years. Seven of eleven worked at least 40 hours during the previous week, including the poor janitor who worked 70. Salaries ranged from $600 (the 29-year-old son who sold furniture wholesale) to $5000+ (the Irish varnish company treasurer). Mrs. G.R. Walker, the most likely candidate for my predecessor in this apartment, made $2000, somewhat higher than the U.S. average salary in 1940 and approximately eqivalent to $32,000 today.

Today we're entirely professional (including three attorneys and two professional musicians), with a handful of young children, all of us college-educated or better. There is one foreign-born person; our average age, not counting the children, is about 38; and none of us worked 70 hours last week. Two of the seven apartments are rentals, the rest are owned. Adjusting for inflation, they cost almost exactly the same as in 1940.

In other words, the people who lived in my apartment building 70 years ago looked a lot like the people who live here today. And I wish I could meet them.

Saturday 7 April 2012 11:58:22 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Geography | Cool links#

The Census and the National Archives have released the entire 1940 enumeration quasi-digitally. I think the data drop is great. I am going to download a few specific documents based on what I know about my own family, and about some of the places I've lived that were around in April 1940.

But as a software developer who works mainly with Cloud-based, large-data apps, I am puzzled by some of the National Archives' choices.

I say "quasi-digitally" because the National Archives didn't enter all the tabulated data per se; instead they scanned all the documents and put them out as massive JPEG images. I'm now downloading the data for one census tract, and the 29 MB ZIP file is taking forever to finish. The actual data I'm looking would take maybe 1-2 kB. That said, I understand it's a massive undertaking. There are hundreds of thousands of pages; obviously entering all the data would cost too much.

But this goes to the deeper problem: The Archives knew or should have known that they'd get millions of page views and thousands of download requests. So I need to ask, why did they make the following boneheaded technical decisions?

  • They used classic ASP, an obsolete technology I haven't even used since 2001. The current Microsoft offering, ASP.NET MVC 3, is to classic ASP what a Boeing 787 is to a DC-3. It's an illuminated manuscript in the era of steam-driven presses.
  • They organized the data by state and city, which makes sense, until you get to something the size of Chicago. Northfield Township, where I grew up, takes up one map and about 125 individual documents. Chicago has over 100 maps, which you have to navigate from map #1 to the end, and a ridiculous number of individual documents. You can search for the census tract you want by cross streets, but you can't search for the part of the city map you want by any visible means.
  • I'm still waiting for my 32-page document after 22 minutes. Clearly the Archives don't have the bandwidth to handle this problem. Is this a budget issue? Perhaps Microsoft or Google could help here by donating some capacity until the rush is over?

In any event, once I get my documents, I'm going to spend some time going over them. I really want to find out what kind of people lived in my current apartment 70 years ago.

Update: The first download failed at 1.9 MB. The second attempt is at 6.6...and slowing down...

Update: The second and third attempts failed as well. I have, however, discovered that they've at least put the data out on Amazon Web Services. So...why are the downloads pooping out?

Saturday 7 April 2012 10:24:25 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Geography | Cool links#
Tuesday 6 March 2012

Via Sullivan, an awesome TV ad from The Guardian:

Tuesday 6 March 2012 08:48:22 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Cool links#
Thursday 16 February 2012

If you're driving in San Francisco, don't block the MUNI:

By early next year the city's entire fleet of 819 buses will be equipped with forward-facing cameras that take pictures of cars traveling or parked in the bus and transit-only lanes. A city employee then reviews the video to determine whether or not a violation has occurred — there are, of course, legitimate reasons a car might have to occupy a bus lane for a moment — and if so the fines range from $60 for moving vehicles to more than $100 for parked cars.

City officials consider the pilot program a success. "Schedule adherence" has improved, according to that update, as has general safety, since access to proper bus-stop curbs is impeded less often. In addition, the number of citations issued has risen over the past three years — from 1,311 in 2009 to 2,102 in 2010 and 3,052 last year, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

At the root of the problem is a disconnect between the automobile and transit worldviews, transit planner Jarrett Walker explains in his excellent new book, Human Transit. (More on this in the coming days.) While an empty bus lane is actually a functional bus lane, an empty car lane is a wasted car lane, so drivers are quick to capitalize on what they view as a transportation inefficiency.

That's pretty cool. In principle, I approve of automated parking enforcement, such as Chicago's street sweeper cameras, even though I've had to pay fines as a result. Fair enforcement is all right with me. (But don't get me started on how Chicago puts up street-sweeping signs the day before...)

Thursday 16 February 2012 15:06:17 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Politics | San Francisco | Cool links#
Saturday 11 February 2012

Earlier I mentioned how technology makes aviation easier. Now here's how it makes aviation cooler: For the first time in Daily Parker history, I'm writing about a flight in real time.

I am approximately here:

FlightAware adds the third dimension, putting me at FL360.

Of course, I have actual work to do, which is really why I bought Internet access for this flight. I still think this is incredibly cool.

(For the record, my flight didn't leave on time, but it did leave. At takeoff, O'Hare conditions were 1600 m visibility with 400 m indefinite ceiling, blowing snow, and 48 km/h wind gusts. Had my plane not gotten to O'Hare when it did, it might still be holding over Janesville. Also for the record, the picture above shows my location when I started this post; the little globe icon below right will show you where I was when I posted it.)

Friday 10 February 2012 18:22:01 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation | Cool links#
Friday 10 February 2012

Via James Fallows, here is the FlightAware track (and the KML) for yesterday's Boeing 787 test flight:

That. Is. Cool.

Friday 10 February 2012 15:56:31 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation | Cool links#

I remember traveling in the 1970s and 1980s, when no one could reliably answer this question until the plane actually left the runway. But today I'm at O'Hare while snow is falling, and it looks like my flight will in fact take off on time despite the snow and the lengthening list of delayed flights on the arrivals board.

How do I know?

First stop is the American Airlines website. Their flight status tool says my plane departs on time from gate K5. And the page has a link to "arriving flight information," which tells me that the plane I'm on will land in 10 minutes.

Oh, really? Yes, really, as Flight Aware's real-time tracker shows me. At this moment, the airplane taking me to San Francisco is heading straight for the O'Hare VOR about 70 km away. (It's over Joliet—no, wait, now it's over Naperville!)

The airline has done it right. By providing real-time information, they're putting me at ease. Even if the incoming plane were circling over Springfield, that would still help me by letting me plan how long I can sit here working before I have to schlepp to the gate.

Update: In the time it took to write this entry, my plane has arrived, and I can see it taxiing towards me right now. I am not making this up. That's not my plane, by the way. That's a plane being de-iced, to show you why I might be a little on edge about my actual departure time today.

Friday 10 February 2012 15:39:32 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation | Chicago | San Francisco | Cool links#
Saturday 7 January 2012

Via Microsoft guru Raymond Chen, news that tourists continually block traffic outside Abbey Road Studios:

Apparently the studio also has a webcam.

The famous zebra crossing is here.

Saturday 7 January 2012 11:47:07 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Cool links#
Monday 14 November 2011

New time-lapse video from the International Space Station:

Monday 14 November 2011 08:19:13 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Cool links#
Friday 11 November 2011

My weather demo, Weather Now, is 13 years old today. I launched it as an ASP 2.0 application on 11 November 1998.

The Wayback Machine first crawled the site about a year later, on 20 September 2000. Check out the site's evolution; it's trippy.

Friday 11 November 2011 15:42:35 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Software | Cool links | Weather#
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David Braverman and Parker
David Braverman is a software developer in Chicago, and the creator of Weather Now. Parker is the most adorable dog on the planet, 80% of the time.
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