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Sunday 21 December 2014

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

And yes, today is cloudy. Again.

Sunday 21 December 2014 09:00:58 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | US | Business | Security | Writing#
Friday 5 December 2014

One of my favorite publications, the century-old New Republic, died today:

There was a telling moment at the New Republic’s centennial celebration last month in the stately Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium. New CEO Guy Vidra, recently appointed by owner (and Facebook co-founder) Chris Hughes, took the podium to discuss the magazine’s challenges and opportunities in a digital age, just as any modern-day media mogul would do. When he referenced the name of The New Republic’s top editor, however, he mispronounced it: “Frank FOY-er,” he said.

[Thursday] afternoon, a shower of memos sprung from New Republic e-mail accounts, announcing a significant shakeup, as first reported by Politico’s Dylan Byers: Foer was out as editor-in-chief, to be replaced by Gabriel Snyder of Bloomberg Media, and formerly editor of Atlantic Wire and Gawker. In his memo, Vidra wrote of his new top editor, “He is committed – as am I – to The New Republic’s mission of impact, influence and persuasion, but understands that fulfilling that mission in today’s media landscape requires new forms,” reads the memo. “He truly reflects the ‘straddle generation’ of journalists and editors who remain deeply rooted in the qualities of traditional journalism – having worked with brands such as the New York Observer and The Atlantic – but also understands what it takes to create content that will travel across all platforms. We believe he is the right person to help us to maintain the core DNA of The New Republic, while propelling us forward to the 21st century.”

This morning, the excrement hit the ventilator as 30 editors and writers resigned:

The resignations were prompted by Thursday's big shakeup. Longtime editor Franklin Foer and literary editor Leon Wieseltier each announced that they were leaving their posts amid some sweeping changes at the century-old magazine.

On Friday morning, ahead of a scheduled 10 a.m. ET staff meeting, 10 contributing editors, including New York Magazine's Jonathan Chait and The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza, submitted their resignations to Hughes.

"Dear Mr. Hughes, We are contributing editors of the New Republic, and our commitment to 
the venerable principles of the magazine requires us now to resign," they wrote. "
Please remove our names from the masthead."

Lizza later tweeted a list of further resignations, which included senior editors such as Jonathan Cohn, Julia Ioffe and Alec MacGillis.

Julia Ioffe, whose reporting on Ukraine was unparalleled, posted on Facebook:

The narrative you're going to see Chris and Guy put out there is that I and the rest of my colleagues who quit today were dinosaurs, who think that the Internet is scary and that Buzzfeed is a slur. Don't believe them. The staff at TNR has always been faithful to the magazine's founding mission to experiment, and nowhere have I been so encouraged to do so. There was no opposition in the editorial ranks to expanding TNR's web presence, to innovating digitally. Many were even board for going monthly. We're not afraid of change. We have always embraced it.

As for the health of long-form journalism, well, the pieces that often did the best online were the deeply reported, carefully edited and fact-checked, and beautifully written. Those were the pieces that got the most clicks.

Also, TNR's digital media editor Hillary Kelly resigned today. From her honeymoon. In Africa. Consider that.

But enough polemics about the cowardly, hostile way Frank and Leon and the rest of us were treated. We've done some incredible work in the last 2.5 years and I'm proud of every day I ever worked there. I loved The New Republic, and, more than that, I love my colleagues. They are exceptional, earth-movingly good people. I will miss working with them every day.

So, since everyone I read at New Republic has quit, there's really no more need for me to subscribe.

This is a sad day in American journalism. Hughes' destruction of the magazine reminds me of Ecclesiastes: "Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child."

Update: Former TNR writer Andrew Sullivan has more.

Friday 5 December 2014 11:33:35 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Business | Writing#
Sunday 4 May 2014

Apparently OCR software sometimes still has trouble interpreting older books:

[A]s Sarah Wendell, editor of the Romance blog  Smart Bitches, Trashy Books noticed recently, something has gone awry. Because, in many old texts the scanner is reading the word ‘arms’ as ‘anus’ and replacing it as such in the digital edition. As you can imagine, you don’t want to be getting those two things mixed up.

The resulting sentences are hilarious, turning tender scenes of passionate embrace into something much darker, and in some cases, nearly physically impossible. The Guardian’s Alison Flood quotes some of the best:

From the title Matisse on the Loose: “When she spotted me, she flung her anus high in the air and kept them up until she reached me. ‘Matisse. Oh boy!’ she said. She grabbed my anus and positioned my body in the direction of the east gallery and we started walking.”

And ‘”Bertie, dear Bertie, will you not say good night to me” pleaded the sweet, voice of Minnie Hamilton, as she wound her anus affectionately around her brother’s neck. “No,” he replied angrily, pushing her away from him.”‘ Well, wouldn’t you?

As Flood notes, a quick search in Google Books reveals that the problem is widespread. Parents should keep their children away from the ebook edition of the 1882 children’s book Sunday Reading From the Young. It all seems perfectly innocent until… “Little Milly wound her anus lovingly around Mrs Green’s neck and begged her to make her home with them. At first Mrs Green hesitated.” And who can really blame her?

Clbuttic.

Sunday 4 May 2014 08:02:11 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Software | Writing#
Saturday 8 March 2014

Someone forwarded me a year-old short story by Neil Gaiman the Guardian published last spring. It begins:

The Thames is a filthy beast: it winds through London like a snake, or a sea serpent. All the rivers flow into it, the Fleet and the Tyburn and the Neckinger, carrying all the filth and scum and waste, the bodies of cats and dogs and the bones of sheep and pigs down into the brown water of the Thames, which carries them east into the estuary and from there into the North Sea and oblivion.

It is raining in London. The rain washes the dirt into the gutters, and it swells streams into rivers, rivers into powerful things. The rain is a noisy thing, splashing and pattering and rattling the rooftops. If it is clean water as it falls from the skies it only needs to touch London to become dirt, to stir dust and make it mud.

Read the rest here.

Saturday 8 March 2014 14:14:14 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | London | Writing#
Saturday 1 March 2014

Parker, 14 weeksI'm David Braverman, this is my blog, and Parker is my 7½-year-old mutt. I last updated this About... page in September 2011, more than 1,300 posts back, so it's time for a refresh.

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.
  • The weather. I've operated a weather website for more than 13 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 sometimes London, San Francisco, and the rest of the world.
  • Photography. I took tens of thousands of photos as a kid, then drifted away from making art until early 2011 when I finally got the first digital camera I've ever had whose photos were as good as film. 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.

I also write a lot of software, and will occasionally post about technology as well. I work for 10th Magnitude, a startup software consultancy in Chicago, I've got more than 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.

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

Saturday 1 March 2014 14:27:44 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation | Baseball | Biking | Cubs | Geography | Kitchen Sink | London | Parker | Daily | Photography | Politics | US | World | Religion | Software | Blogs | Business | Cloud | Travel | Weather | Windows Azure | Work | Writing#
Tuesday 31 December 2013

Well, I mean, it's already 2014 in time zones east of UTC+8 (Singapore, Tokyo, Australia), but here in Chicago it's 10:30 in the morning. Which means, here in Chicago, many creative works created before 1 January 1924 are still protected by copyright. Many, like the last 10 stories about Sherlock Holmes:

A US district court in Illinois found itself wading into the details of the fictional detective's imaginary life this week in a copyright ruling on a forthcoming collection of original short stories featuring Holmes characters.

Ten Holmes short stories, however, were published after 1923, the public domain threshold pinpointed by Melville Nimmer in his authoritative Nimmer on Copyright. Details from the last ten stories could still be subject to copyright claims by Conan Doyle's descendants, Judge Rubén Castillo ruled on Monday, in a decision that went unnoticed until Friday.

In protecting the last ten stories, however, Castillo reinforced access to the rest of the Holmes oeuvre. Castillo rejected an argument by the Conan Doyle estate that some aspects of pre-1923 Holmes were not plainly in the public domain because the stories and characters were "continually developed" through the final ten stories, which will not entirely enter the public domain until 2022.

Yes, 2022, thanks to the Mickey Mouse Protection Act that extended corporate ownership of copyrights to 90 or even 120 years in some circumstances. (The last Holmes story is from 1932.)

This is an interesting ruling to me. The court has drawn a clearer distinction between ideas and expression, which I think is the intent of copyright law in the first place.

It's not an earth-shaking ruling, though, and I don't think it changes much. Still, I'll be watching for an appellate ruling on this.

Tuesday 31 December 2013 10:41:53 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Business | Writing#
Sunday 28 July 2013

...braverman.org published six proto-blog entries.

This brings the total ancient blog entries restored to 63, leaving around 140 still to be dug out. It takes about 5 minutes per entry to convert right now, so I may automate the process. Since writing some automation will probably take less than 11 hours, I may just do that over the next couple of days.

Sunday 28 July 2013 14:39:35 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Blogs | Writing#
Friday 12 July 2013

My first website, braverman.org, debuted in New York on 16 August 1997. We didn't have things called "blogs" back then, but over the course of about four years I posted jokes, stories, and poetry—almost all of it submitted by other people—two or three times per week. It was kind of blog-like, except I had to add actual Classic ASP pages to the site until I figured out a way to automate it in May 1998.

I'm going to start re-posting the archives, with their original time stamps...

Here are the first ones, from May 1998.

Friday 12 July 2013 14:22:48 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Blogs | Writing#
Saturday 15 June 2013

A few weeks ago, Brooklyn writer Noah Shannon wrote a New York Times feature purporting to chronicle his near-death experience on a flight from D.C. that made an emergency a precautionary landing in Philadelphia. No one who knows anything about aviation believed him.

Writer and pilot James Fallows, who knows quite a lot about aviation, checks in:

I was not on that plane, but I can tell you: This. Did. Not. Occur. The dangling cap-in-hand; the sweat stains; the captain coming out of the cockpit and saying he would "yell" his commands; the "not going to sugarcoat it" and "just going to try to land it." No.

Today he got Shannon on the record:

What have you learned about from this experience? Are you intending to make your career in reportorial-based journalism, in academic essays? What do you know now about yourself and your plans based on this last month?

Well, I would love to continue to write nonfiction--to continue to report. I guess the last month has instilled in me a greater need for careful scrutiny of my own work. It was driven home to me that it was wrong to give the impression of certainty, of fact, and the things I was a little uncertain or hazy on, I should have qualified those observations, and I think that would have been the better journalistic thing to do--or done more background research. But I didn't at the time, and I have to apologize to the readers and The New York Times for that, and I take full responsibility. Looking forward, I can only hope to do better work and use this motivation to do better work in the future.

Yeah. You know, I edited a newspaper when I was 21, and I didn't need to be told not to—how does one say? embellish? exaggerate? make up?—something billed as non-fiction. I think Shannon has a lot more to write before anyone will take him seriously again, and for his sake, if he wants actually to be a journalist, it had all better be completely accurate. Completely.

In vaguely-related news, Airbus flew an A350 for the first time today. That's for real.

Friday 14 June 2013 20:44:03 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Writing#
Monday 10 June 2013

The Showtime series The Borgias will end its three-year run next week, mainly due to salaries increasing while ratings decrease. But creator Neil Jordan also understood the story had ended:

[W]hile filming a pivotal scene in the Season 3 finale, Jordan said [Jeremy] Irons turned to him and told him that “this feels like the end of something, that the family has come to an end.” While mulling a potential fourth season, Jordan said he wasn’t sure he had enough material for 10 episodes and wasn’t sure whether Showtime would want to commit to another season either. “As a compromise, I proposed to finish the arc of all the characters with a two-hour movie,” Jordan said, adding that Showtime commissioned the script and he wrote it. “When they looked at what it could cost, it was just too expensive,” he said.

Having just finished the penultimate episode of the series, I might go farther: the final scene of tonight's episode was, in fact, the technical climax[1] of the story. I would have liked more of this story; but tonight, the central conflict—the driving force of the story—resolved.

But what is it about penultimates in modern television fiction, though? Every Game of Thrones season builds up to Episode 9 and then uses Episode 10 to set up the next season. It's becoming a trope.

Ah, show business.

Let me say that again: show business.[2]

I plan to write more about the connection between The Borgias and that last bit there. For now, let me just say: Babylon 5, The Prisoner, and Lost. Three great stories, none of them finished right. (But J. Michael Straczynski at least had a plan.)

[1] The technical climax of a story is the point where the story can only go in one direction from that point. The dramatic climax is the payoff. For example: in The Godfather (one of the best films ever made, as far as I'm concerned), the technical climax happens when Michael visits his father in the hospital, and says, "I'm with you now, Papa." The dramatic climax occurs during the baptism. If you don't know what I mean, you really need to watch this movie.

[2] This is how my dad begins every screenwriting course he teaches. It's shocking to every student in the room. And it's the best description of entertainment I've ever seen.

Sunday 9 June 2013 22:52:00 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Writing#
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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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