Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
Sunday 7 December 2008

From my dad, yet another New York Times article to make you all warm and fuzzy inside:

Thieves Winning Online War, Maybe in Your PC

Despite the efforts of the computer security industry and a half-decade struggle by Microsoft to protect its Windows operating system, malicious software is spreading faster than ever. The so-called malware surreptitiously takes over a PC and then uses that computer to spread more malware to other machines exponentially. Computer scientists and security researchers acknowledge they cannot get ahead of the onslaught.

As more business and social life has moved onto the Web, criminals thriving on an underground economy of credit card thefts, bank fraud and other scams rob computer users of an estimated $100 billion a year, according to a conservative estimate by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. A Russian company that sells fake antivirus software that actually takes over a computer pays its illicit distributors as much as $5 million a year.

Sigh.

Sunday 7 December 2008 12:31:43 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Security#

Still mulling over intergenerational conflict as I am, at least I have some good news about Chicago's infrastructure:

[T]he CTA today announced that Purple Express trains in the Loop will resume operation traveling clockwise on Monday, December 29. In April 2007, when three-track operation began at both the Belmont and Fullerton stations, the CTA moved Purple Express trains to travel in the same direction as Brown Line trains (counter-clockwise around the Loop) to supplement Brown Line service and help ease congestion in the Loop during three-track operation.

With fewer Brown Line trains in service as a result of three track, Purple Express trains were rerouted in the Loop to mimic Brown Line service and help customers more quickly exit the downtown area.

This won't make the ride any warmer, but it will make it faster.

Forgot to mention, it won't make it any cheaper , either.

Sunday 7 December 2008 09:10:03 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago#

Some of my friends and I have a running conversation about the differences between us in Gen X (born 1964-1978) and the two generations on either side of us (Boomers, 1946-1964; Millennials or Gen Y, 1978-2000). We've concluded that both display a sense of entitlement, in different ways, not present in other generations.

Thomas Friedman sees some of this, as well as how the Boomers are sticking us Xers with their bills, as are the Millennials:

What book will our kids write about us? “The Greediest Generation?” “The Complacent Generation?” Or maybe: “The Subprime Generation: How My Parents Bailed Themselves Out for Their Excesses by Charging It All on My Visa Card.”

Our kids should be so much more radical than they are today. I understand why they aren’t. They’re so worried about just getting a job or paying next semester’s tuition. But we must not take their quietism as license to do whatever we want with this bailout cash. They are going to have to pay this money back. And therefore, we have an incredibly weighty obligation to make sure that we not only spend every stimulus dollar wisely but also with an eye to creating new technologies.

But what Friedman doesn't quite get is that my generation is going to pay for the mistakes of his, and the succeeding generation (the Millennials) will enjoy the benefits of that investment a lot more than we will. We've seen it all their lives: Boomers got rich on computers; Xers did the grunt work to make them as common as light bulbs; Millennials have grown up taking the technology for granted.

I'll develop this further and write more at some point.

Sunday 7 December 2008 08:57:55 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | US#
Friday 5 December 2008

This morning the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced the economy lost 533,000 non-farm jobs last month, giving us a main-line unemployment rate of 6.7%. This is the highest since 1993, which, along with the usual credit-crisis indicators (like the 3-month Treasury now at zero), is quite sobering.

Appropriate, then, that today is the 75th anniversary of the 21st Amendment, repealing Prohibition.

Sláinte!

Friday 5 December 2008 08:24:59 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | US#

I mentioned earlier that having a President living in Chicago will change a few things. I'm hoping that the doomsday scenario outlined by local reporter (and private pilot) Phil Rogers doesn't come to pass:

The Secret Service declined to say how they would handle aviation security in the Chicago area, Rogers reported, but there is a model, which is how security is handled currently at the presidential retreat in Crawford, Texas.

Using that model, that would mean a three-mile no-fly zone around the Obama's home in Hyde Park, whether or not the president was there, and that would expand to a 10-mile no-fly zone when he is home. In a 30-mile ring, specific flight plans would be required, which are currently not required. That would severely restrict operations at a multitude of area airports.

"To make this 10 miles no-fly, and then 30 miles with all kinds of restrictions? It's just too much," said Phil Boyer of the Maryland-based Aircraft Owners and Pilots Associations.

Especially worrisome is flight instruction, as it would be severely curtailed, Rogers reported. Flight instructors only get paid when they fly.

A 10-mile no-fly would include the Loop, most of the South Side, plus Midway and Gary-Chicago airports. That won't happen. My guess, they'll keep the 2-mile no-fly over his house and require discrete transponder codes within 10 miles.

By the way, the "no-fly" around his house right now isn't prohibited airspace. In theory, you can fly right over the building with ATC approval.

Friday 5 December 2008 07:24:13 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation | US#
Thursday 4 December 2008

I can't see any benefit to leasing out all the parking spaces in Chicago to a private company, even if my mayor and alderman can. In fact, it sounds quite appalling: street parking fees to double, profit motive over civic good in parking enforcement, no time for the Council to evaluate the proposal Mayor Daley handed them yesterday. Destroying Meigs was bad; this is much, much worse:

Parking meter rates will increase next month after the Chicago City Council today overwhelmingly approved Mayor Richard Daley's plan to lease the spots to a private firm for 75 years in return for a one-time payment of nearly $1.2 billion.

Some neighborhood parking meter rates will quadruple next month. Neighborhood spots that used to cost a quarter an hour will cost $1 an hour---and jump to $2 an hour in 2013. The top meter rates in the Loop will increase from $3 to $3.50 an hour, rising to $6.50 an hour in 2013. Chicago will have some of the highest parking meter rates in the nation.

Ald. Richard Mell (33rd), who backs the deal, said 72 hours was enough time to review it.

"How many of us read the stuff we do get, OK?," Mell said. "I try to. I try to. I try to. But being realistic, being realistic, it's like getting your insurance policy. It's small print, OK?"

Thanks, Dick, for another intellectually-stimulating rejoinder to an impertinent question.

Does anyone remember the awfulness that resulted in historical times to privatizing tax collection? Does anyone see the parallels?

Thursday 4 December 2008 12:59:47 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | US#

Pilots for Emirates Airlines have complained that the new Airbus A380 is too quiet:

"We're getting a lot of complaints. It's not something we expected," Emirates spokesman Ed Davidson told Flight International. "On our other aircraft, the engines drown out the cabin noise. [On the A380] the pilots sleep with earplugs but the cabin noise goes straight through them." The problem is most noticeable on the Emirates A380s because they chose to put the crew-rest area at the back of the main cabin, while Singapore Airlines and Qantas have placed it right behind the cockpit. Extra insulation is not a solution because it would add extra weight, Davidson said. The airline may experiment with lightweight noise generators that would create ambient sound to mask the cabin noise, according to Flight International.

For passengers, the quiet can also be disconcerting, as they can overhear conversations of others seated nearby. But at least in first class, the Emirates passengers have plenty of distractions -- hot showers, a well-stocked bar, fully reclining sleeper seats, and personal 17-inch video screens with over 1,200 entertainment channels to choose from.

In unrelated news, ThinkGeek is now offering the Annoy-a-tron 2.0 for the holidays.

Thursday 4 December 2008 07:11:59 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation#
Wednesday 3 December 2008

First the good news: Al Franken keeps inching up in his recount for Norm Coleman's (R-MN) U.S. Senate seat. With 7% of the votes left to count, Franken now trails by only 3. Three. As in, "Four shalt thou not count, nor either count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out."

And the bad news. As predicted, Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) looks likely to win re-election in tonight's run-off.

But, you know, 57 isn't bad, nor is 58 if you count Joe Lieberman (RI-CT).

Tuesday 2 December 2008 19:08:27 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | US#
Tuesday 2 December 2008

In the 49 days and 3 hours or so until poor Crawford, Texas, gets its missing idiot back, let's pause to remember one of the first unmitigated disasters of his administration: Today is the 7th anniversary of Enron filing for bankruptcy.

Also (why is this related? Hmmm), today's Wall Street Journal reports that Ford CEO Alan Mullaly, who yesterday, hat in hand, drove himself to Washington, made more than you did last year:

Ford Chairman William Ford Jr. said the company is looking beyond survival to opportunity. "We want to come blasting out as a global, green, high-tech company that's exactly where the country and the Obama administration want us to head," he said. Ford's recovery plan "isn't just about slashing -- we've already done that slashing and burning -- but about building for the future."

Mr. Mulally added that he would work for $1 a year if Ford received any federal loan or other aid, a change from the view he expressed last month. While testifying before Congress, he was asked if he would be willing to cut his annual salary to that amount and responded, "I think I'm OK where I am." He took home $21.67 million in 2007.

There is hope, and not just on January 20th. Canada will probably get kick out its right-wing government next Monday, thanks to Stephen Harper's tin ear, and Georgia has a chance today to give us a 59-seat majority in the Senate.

Interesting times.

Tuesday 2 December 2008 07:22:28 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | US#
Monday 1 December 2008

And, as many already suspected, it started a year ago:

The Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research met by conference call on Friday, November 28. The committee maintains a chronology of the beginning and ending dates (months and quarters) of U.S. recessions. The committee determined that a peak in economic activity occurred in the U.S. economy in December 2007. The peak marks the end of the expansion that began in November 2001 and the beginning of a recession. The expansion lasted 73 months; the previous expansion of the 1990s lasted 120 months.

The Times suggests this wasn't the reason for today's sell-off on Wall Street:

The announcement came as the stock market fell sharply, its first decline in five sessions. The Dow Jones industrial average was off more than 440 points by early afternoon. The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index fell nearly 6 percent.

Analysts said that after last week’s gains — the biggest five-day rally in decades — a sell-off was to be expected.

"You had the biggest weekly gain in 30, 35 years," said Anthony Conroy, head equity trader at BNY ConvergEx Group. "Some profit-taking is warranted."

...

Monday brought its own share of poor economic news. The manufacturing industry suffered its worst month since 1982, according to a closely watched index published by the private Institution for Supply Management. The index fell to 36.2 in November from 38.9 in October, on a scale where readings below 50 indicate contraction.

That was the worst monthly reading since 1982, and a sign that the worldwide credit crisis was taking a serious toll on American businesses. New orders fell sharply, although export orders held steady from October.

A separate report from the Commerce Department showed that spending on construction projects fell 1.2 percent in October, after staying unchanged in September. Private construction dropped 2 percent with a sharp drop in the residential sector, offering few signs of relief from the housing slump.

More good times.

Monday 1 December 2008 12:06:44 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | US#

Via reader KT, the Boston Globe picked up on a map comparison of voting patterns this election and cotton agriculture in the antebellum South:

The bottom map dates from 1860 (i.e. the eve of the Civil War), and indicates where cotton was produced at that time.... The top map dates from 2008, and shows the results of the recent presidential election, on county level. ... The pattern of pro-Obama counties in those southern states corresponds strikingly with the cotton-picking areas of the 1860s, especially along the Louisiana-Mississippi and Mississippi-Alabama borders (the pattern corresponds less strikingly and deviates significantly elsewhere).

The link between these two maps is not causal, but correlational, and the correlation is African-Americans.

In related news, the runoff for the Georgia U.S. Senate seat currently held by Saxby Chambliss (R) will go ahead. We'll see.

Monday 1 December 2008 07:12:39 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Geography | US#
Sunday 30 November 2008

I spent part of this afternoon rooting around in my email correspondance from 1999 and 2000. Forgetting the wherefores and whatnots of the emails themselves, just getting into the Outlook files proved difficult. How many passwords does anyone remember from nine years ago? I actually remember a few, but not, unfortunately, the ones I needed.

Sure, I found them eventually, but heavens. That's half an hour of my life I'll never get back, and it was my own fault.

Sunday 30 November 2008 17:14:57 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Security#

Writer Neal Gabler says it's not about Goldwater, it's about McCarthy:

McCarthy, Wisconsin's junior senator, was the man who first energized conservatism and made it a force to reckon with. When he burst on the national scene in 1950 waving his list of alleged communists who had supposedly infiltrated Harry Truman's State Department, conservatism was as bland, temperate and feckless as its primary congressional proponent, Ohio Sen. Robert Taft....

McCarthy was another thing entirely. What he lacked in ideology—and he was no ideologue at all—he made up for in aggression. Establishment Republicans, even conservatives, were disdainful of his tactics, but when those same conservatives saw the support he elicited from the grass-roots and the press attention he got, many of them were impressed. Taft, no slouch himself when it came to Red-baiting, decided to encourage McCarthy, secretly, sealing a Faustian bargain that would change conservatism and the Republican Party. Henceforth, conservatism would be as much about electoral slash-and-burn as it would be about a policy agenda.

Speaking of the GOP's legacy, we could be looking at spending $8.5 trillion ($8,500,000,000,000) to clean up the post-Shrub mess:

Just last week, new initiatives added $600 billion to lower mortgage rates, $200 billion to stimulate consumer loans and nearly $300 billion to steady Citigroup, the banking conglomerate. That pushed the potential long-term cost of the government's varied economic rescue initiatives, including direct loans and loan guarantees, to an estimated total of $8.5 trillion -- half of the entire economic output of the U.S. this year.

Nor has the cash register stopped ringing. President-elect Barack Obama and congressional Democrats are expected to enact a stimulus package of $500 billion to $700 billion soon after he takes office in January.

The spending already has had a dramatic effect on the federal budget deficit, which soared to a record $455 billion last year and began the 2009 fiscal year with an amazing $237-billion deficit for October alone. Analysts say next year's budget deficit could easily bust the $1-trillion barrier.

Happy times, happy times.

Sunday 30 November 2008 14:29:53 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | US#

Ah, Chicago in December: gray, sleet, snow, wind, rain. Builds character:

The snow has begun falling in Chicago, and more is on the way.

There are flurries downtown, though nothing is sticking. Matt Smith of the city's Department of Streets & Sanitation said in an e-mail that no trucks have been sent out, noting that "We have good air and ground temps and that could continue to be the case for quite some time."

Snow has started to accumulate on the ground and roads in the south suburbs around the intersection of Interstate Highways 57 and 80, according to observers.

The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning for Boone, DeKalb, Kane, Lake, Livingston, and McHenry counties and a winter weather advisory for Cook, DuPage, Grundy, Iroquois, Kankakee, Kendall and Will counties.

Yesterday Parker and I walked about 8 miles altogether. Today he'll be lucky to go twice around the block.

Sunday 30 November 2008 14:17:24 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Parker | Weather#

Via Talking Points Memo, President-Elect Obama will announce Hillary Clinton as his nominee for Secretary of State tomorrow in Chicago:

Obama plans to announce the New York senator as part of his national security team at a press conference in Chicago, [Democratic officials] said Saturday. They requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly for the transition team.

In unrelated news, today is the last day of the Atlantic hurricane season.

Sunday 30 November 2008 09:19:26 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | US | Weather#
Saturday 29 November 2008

Why? Why? Why?

The only thing that makes sense to me: someone wants to start a war. I hope to all humanity India and Pakistan keep their senses over the next few days. So do the Indians and Pakistanis, I expect.

Friday 28 November 2008 19:13:58 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | World#
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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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