Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
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Sunday 8 February 2015

After a nearly two days with above-freezing temperatures, our sidewalks have become passable and our faces have stopped falling off from the cold. Consequently I've spent a good deal of time today walking places. Consequently, though it's just 3pm, I've gotten better Fitbit numbers (15,000 steps, 11 km) than on any day since January 3rd (16,800 steps, 12.1 km).

From January 3rd you have to go all the way back to November 30th (23,500 steps, 18 km) to find better results. I'm not going to do that today; but I am going to walk Parker more than he's been walked in a couple of weeks, and try to hit 18,000 steps or so.

I also discovered that Google knows everywhere I've been since I got my Android phone. (If you have an Android phone, go to https://maps.google.com/locationhistory/b/0 to see your history.) That's creepy. And so interesting. For a while I've been outlining an app that would aggregate all of this kind of information and form a searchable tick-tock record going back as far as I have data. That might be cool—or it might be scary. Haven't decided yet.

Sunday 8 February 2015 15:07:24 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Geography | Cool links#
Friday 30 January 2015

There have been interesting developments in two stories I've mentioned recently:

Otherwise, it's just work work work. But fun work.

Friday 30 January 2015 10:50:03 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation | Kitchen Sink | Blogs | Cool links#
Wednesday 28 January 2015

The Kickstarter campaign I mentioned Friday (and that I've backed) has become the most-backed campaign ever with 112,250 backers raising $4.4 million. Their original goal, mind you, was $10,000.

I think "Exploding Kittens" might succeed, y'know?

Wednesday 28 January 2015 16:08:59 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Cool links#
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#
Wednesday 7 January 2015

Via Tech Cocktail, Jason Scott has added 2,388 MS-DOS video games to the Wayback Machine. Says Scott:

The Archive introduced v2, or “the Beta Interface” late last year. It was slow, stocky, and freaked people out. But folks got the idea, mostly – it was taking a site that had only incremental changes for 13 years, shaking the whole story up, and re-imagining the whole thing as a visual and browsing collection, as well as a way to dig deep into the materials.

Since last year, it’s gotten faster, slimmer, has added a bunch of features, and continues to become better to use. But it needs feedback, which is why I’m pushing you at it.

Enjoy the games, and check out all those beautiful screenshots! Play a few programs, note how you get around to things, and talk about what works and what doesn’t work for you. There’s a feedback button – use it. The goal is that you will be able to do everything you can do with the old interface with the new, but that you’ll have so much more happening on the new one. And remember, v2 works across all of the Archive… all the collections are out there, be they movies, books or audio, and the new interface has cool ways to interact with them as well.

Good thing I'm not working from home today where I'll be distracted by, say, Castle Wolfenstein...oh.

Wednesday 7 January 2015 08:12:24 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Cool links#
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#
Wednesday 26 November 2014

In a revealing post, Pomplamoose's Jack Conte says not much:

Being in an indie band is running a never-ending, rewarding, scary, low-margin small business. In order to plan and execute our Fall tour, we had to prepare for months, slowly gathering risk and debt before selling a single ticket. We had to rent lights. And book hotel rooms. And rent a van. And assemble a crew. And buy road cases for our instruments. And rent a trailer. And….

We built the tour budget ourselves and modeled projected revenue against expenses. Neither of us had experience with financial modeling, so we just did the best we could. With six figures of projected expenses, “the best we could” wasn’t super comforting.

Add it up, and that’s $135,983 in total income for our tour. And we had $147,802 in expenses.

We lost $11,819.

They currently earn $6,371 per song or video through Patreon, the artist-patronage site Conte himself created. So he's not starving. But he and Nataly Dawn work around the clock making music.

I'm glad Conte is so transparent about it. I'm also glad to support him and Nataly on Patreon.

Wednesday 26 November 2014 10:00:12 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Cool links#
Wednesday 12 November 2014

The Redmond giant stunned the software development world this week by opening up several core technologies, including the entire .NET platform, to the public:

We are building a .NET Core CLR for Windows, Mac and Linux and it will be both open source and it will be supported by Microsoft. It'll all happen at https://github.com/dotnet.

Much of the .NET Core Framework 4.6 and its Reference Source source is going on GitHub. It's being relicensed under the MIT license, so Mono (and you!) can use that source code in their .NET implementations.

Dr. Dobbs is impressed (as am I):

Of these platforms, Linux is clearly the most important. Today, Microsoft earns much of its (record) profits from enterprise software packages (SQL Server, SharePoint, Exchange, etc.). By running .NET on Linux, it now has the ability to run those apps on a significant majority of server platforms. Except for Solaris sites, all enterprises will be able to run the applications without having to add in the cost of Microsoft Server licenses.

But perhaps more important than the pure server benefit is the cloud aspect. VMs on the cloud, especially the public cloud, are principally Linux-based. Windows VMs are available, too, but at consistently higher pricing. With this move, .NET apps can now run anywhere on the cloud — or said another way, between servers and the cloud, the apps can run anywhere IT is operating.

The big winners of all this goodness are C# developers. In theory, .NET portability favors all .NET languages equally, but it's no secret that C# is the first among equals. (It is, in fact, the only language that Xamarin supports currently.) Microsoft has been an excellent steward of the language, evolving it intelligently and remarkably cleanly. Among developers who use it regularly, it is uniformly well liked, which distinguishes it from most of the other major development languages today, where an appreciation that borders on ambivalence is the more common experience.

The big loser is certainly Java. Java's stock in trade has been its longstanding ability to run without modification or recompilation on all major platforms. In this valuable trait, it has had no major competition. If Microsoft's port of .NET provides a multi-platform experience that is as smooth and seamless as Java, then the JVM will have some very serious competition.

Once I'm done with the deliverable that's due tomorrow, I may download the .NET Framework and take a look. I'll also spin up an Azure VM and play around with Visual Studio 2015 before the end of the week.

Wednesday 12 November 2014 17:27:27 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Software | Business | Cloud | Cool links | Work#
Tuesday 14 October 2014

Microsoft's Scott Hanselman provides a list:

"Knowing computers" today is more than just knowing Office, or knowing how to attach a file. Today's connected world is way more complex than any of us realize. If you're a techie, you're very likely forgetting how far you've come!

The #1 thing you can do when working with a non-techie is to be empathetic. Put yourself in their shoes. Give them the tools and the base of knowledge they need.

  • Backup everything. Is your entire company on your 10 year old computer’s desktop? Look for Backup options like CrashPlan, DropBox, OneDrive, etc. Literally ANYTHING is better than leaving documents on your computer’s desktop.
  • Learn to use search to find your files. Press the Windows key and just start typing on Windows, or use Spotlight (Command-Spacebar) on Mac.
  • Don’t CC more than 10 of your friends or neighbors. At that point, consider another way to talk to them. Some of your friends may not want their email given to the world. Perhaps this is a time to use BCC (Blind Carbon Copy) so you don't expose everyone's email address to each other?

Techies should read this post to understand what their non-techie friends don't understand. Everyone else should just read it.

Tuesday 14 October 2014 07:57:28 MDT (UTC-06:00)  |  | Blogs | Cool links#
Tuesday 2 September 2014

My new Android phone has a built in-GPS and a fairly large Google Maps cache. I'm sure this is true of other phones, but not of my old Windows phone, so until this past trip I couldn't do this:

And then, a few seconds later, I could do this:

I love this phone.

Tuesday 2 September 2014 15:48:34 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Geography | Cool links#
Tuesday 19 August 2014

I had planned to write today about aviation weather radar, being an accidental landlord in Chicago, or the latest plan to replace a burned-down grocery in my old neighborhood. Instead, I'm going to gush a little about my new phone.

I've used a Windows HTC-8 for almost two years now, and I've been frustrated with it nearly the whole time. Today, while waiting out a thunderstorm at the local T-Mobile store, I decided to pick up a Samsung S5.

Instead of complaining about the HTC-8, I'll link to a comparison, and then list these things that made me giddy earlier today:

  • I have all the applications I've been missing again.
  • Android has a new, combined inbox for email they didn't have before, so I still get all my mail in one place. (This was the best feature of the Windows 8 phone.)
  • Wi-Fi calling.
  • Combined SMS and Google Hangouts.
  • An app to archive SMS. I've lost all my SMS messages for the past two years because Windows 8 doesn't have any way of extracting them.
  • Google Maps.

I could go on, and no doubt I will, but it's late in the day and I have to play with my phone some more.

Tuesday 19 August 2014 17:00:08 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Business | Cool links#
Thursday 14 August 2014

I mentioned over a month ago that, given some free time, I would fix the search feature on Weather Now. Well, I just deployed the fix, and it's kind of cool.

I used Lucene.NET as the search engine, incorporating it into the Inner Drive Gazetteer that underlies the geographic information for Weather Now. I won't go into too many details about it right now, except that I was surprised at how much the index writer was able to crunch and store (in Azure blobs). The entire index takes up 815 MB of blob space. That's so small a fraction of a cent per month I can't even calculate it right now.

The indexing process took about 6 minutes per 500,000 rows. (The entire database has 7.25 million rows.) It helped that I ran the indexing process on an Azure virtual machine, because at one point during index optimization I clocked the data throughput at 200 Mbps. Yes, two hundred megabits per second. The entire index ran in a little less than two hours on a VM while I was doing other things. And once the index initializes in the Weather Now app, searches only take a second or so.

Go ahead. Try a search. Put in your ZIP code or the name of a prominent building near you.

I still have a lot I want to do with the application, including updating it to a responsive theme and MVC, but this is a pretty big leap.

Thursday 14 August 2014 16:23:11 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Cloud | Cool links | Weather | Windows Azure#
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#
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David Braverman and Parker
David Braverman is the Chief Technology Officer of Holden International in Chicago, and the creator of Weather Now. Parker is the most adorable dog on the planet, 80% of the time.
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