Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
Thursday 23 April 2009

The Chicago Tribune reports today that the City Council now, five months later, wants to have hearings about the late-night, rush-rush, badly-managed parking meter privitization they pushed through in December:

Less than five months after the Chicago City Council quickly and overwhelmingly approved the deal, aldermen buffeted by public complaints pushed a slew of ordinances Wednesday targeting the $1.2 billion lease of Chicago's parking meters to a private company.

One measure calls for hearings to examine the deal, which ushered in dramatic rate hikes at 36,000 meters across the city. Another would halt rate increases until all meters are uprooted and replaced with "pay and display" equipment allowing motorists to pay with credit cards and place tickets on their dashboards. Yet a third would require a 30-day waiting period before aldermen could approve any plan to privatize city assets.

The proposals appear aimed at giving aldermen political cover amid widespread discontent and technical problems as the parking meter system transitions to private control.

Not that people don't carry around buckets-full of quarters wherever they go. Not that charging the same price for parking all the time and throughout the city fails to take account of the fundamental principles of demand economics. No, now let's have hearings.

I can't tell whether they were stupid or if they all got paid off. That's how badly they handled this. (Usually in Chicago the politicians aren't actually stupid, they just lose IQ points when confronted with fat envelopes.)

Thursday 23 April 2009 10:47:00 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Politics#
Wednesday 22 April 2009

Via TPM, Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) thinks he stumped Nobel laureate Stephen Chu:

Barton: You’re our scientist. I have one simple question for you in the last six seconds. How did all the oil and gas get to Alaska and under the Arctic Ocean?

Chu: (laughs) This is a complicated story, but oil and gas is the result of hundreds of millions of years of geology, and in that time also the plates have moved around, and so, um, it’s the combination of where the sources of the oil and gas are–

Barton: But, but wouldn’t it obvious that at one time it was a lot warmer in Alaska and on the North Pole. It wasn’t a big pipeline that we created in Texas and shipped it up there and then put it under ground so that we can now pump it out and ship it back.

Chu: No. There are–there’s continental plates that have been drifting around throughout the geological ages–

Barton: So it just drifted up there?

Chu: That’s certainly what happened. And so it’s a result of thinks like that.

(Low whistle...)

Wednesday 22 April 2009 16:55:05 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#

That's the word the first commenter used to describe Paul Krugman's conclusion about the march to war:

Let's say this slowly: the Bush administration wanted to use 9/11 as a pretext to invade Iraq, even though Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. So it tortured people to make them confess to the nonexistent link.

There's a word for this: it’s evil.

If that's shrill, we need to re-examine the 2002 State of the Union address, don't we?

Wednesday 22 April 2009 09:58:23 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#

Via Daily Howler, Naomi Klein argues we should throw out Larry Summers:

The criticisms of President Obama's chief economic adviser are well known. He's too close to Wall Street. And he's a frightful bully, of both people and countries. Still, we're told we shouldn't care about such minor infractions. Why? Because Summers is brilliant, and the world needs his big brain.

And this brings us to a central and often overlooked cause of the global financial crisis: Brain Bubbles. This is the process wherein the intelligence of an inarguably intelligent person is inflated and valued beyond all reason, creating a dangerous accumulation of unhedged risk. Larry Summers is the biggest Brain Bubble we've got.

...And that's the problem with Larry. For all his appeals to absolute truths, he has been spectacularly wrong again and again. He was wrong about not regulating derivatives. Wrong when he helped kill Depression-era banking laws, turning banks into too-big-to-fail welfare monsters. And as he helps devise ever more complex tricks and spends ever more taxpayer dollars to keep the financial casino running, he remains wrong today.

She makes a pretty good point.

Wednesday 22 April 2009 08:07:29 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#

So, on a recommendation, I picked up a copy of Barbara Bleau's Forgotten Calculus, to brush up on the subject in advance of starting business school this fall.

Only, I haven't forgotten calculus. No, my problem is, I never learned it in the first place.[1]

So if anyone knows of a book called "Calculus You Never Learned In The First Place," please let me know.

[1] I guess you could say I'm a bit behind the curve.

Tuesday 21 April 2009 21:25:33 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Tuesday 21 April 2009

I announced Friday that I deployed a complete, ground-up rewrite of Weather Now, but it looks a lot like the old version. So what's really different?

(Because of the limited appeal of technical information, the answer is after the jump.)

Tuesday 21 April 2009 12:07:47 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Cool links | Weather#
Sunday 19 April 2009

(Mudville is that $1.5 billion park just over the Harlem River in the Bronx.) The Yankees had a disappointing 2nd inning hosting the Indians yesterday as Cleveland set a new Major League record:

A 37-minute top of the second at Yankee Stadium saw the Tribe put up 14 runs on 13 hits off right-handers Chien-Ming Wang and Anthony Claggett. The big inning, which set the Tribe on course for its eventual 22-4 victory, tied for the most productive inning in Indians history and set a record for the most productive inning by an opponent in Yankees history.

The 14 runs set a Major League record for the most in the second inning. The record was 13, and it was last accomplished, ironically, by the Yankees exactly four years ago against Tampa Bay.

In other news, the Cubs beat the Cardinals yesterday 7-5 at Wrigley after 11 innings.

Sunday 19 April 2009 08:30:31 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Baseball | Cubs#
Saturday 18 April 2009

1:15 pm, Chicago:

Full size:

Saturday 18 April 2009 13:18:57 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Daily#

This, I think, says it all...almost:

Saturday 18 April 2009 13:05:17 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Cubs#
Friday 17 April 2009

Weather Now 3.5 is now the official, public version of my 9½-year-old demo. I first launched the site in September 1999 as a scripted ASP application, and last deployed a major update (version 3.0) on 1 January 2007.

As threatened promised, I'll have a lot more to say about it in the next few days. But I should address the first obvious question, "Why does it look almost identical to the previous version?" Simply: because my primary goal for this release was to duplicate every feature of the existing application, without adding new features unless absolutely required. It also had to run on the existing databases. That's why this version is 3.5, not 4.0 (which I hope to finish in early 2010).

I couldn't avoid some user interface (UI) differences, mainly because I used better design techniques than in the last release. And just as a matter of course, as I re-wrote each UI feature, I corrected or obviated numerous defects along the way. That said, version 3.5 has all of the features that 3.1 had, and any URLs that worked in 3.1 will work in 3.5.

I invite everyone to play with the application, and let me know about any defects or hiccups you discover. I think you'll find that it's an improvement over the last version.

Friday 17 April 2009 12:22:48 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Cool links | Weather#

This passage from Almost Perfect, Pete Peterson's autobiography of his days at WordPerfect Corp., inspired me to get out of bed, walk to my computer, and post a blog entry:

We on the Board had no one to blame for the delays but ourselves. The project directors we had chosen were inexperienced managers, and they made the mistakes inexperienced managers make. They were prone to overly optimistic forecasts and had trouble chewing people out when they missed their deadlines. Another of our mistakes was that we waited too long to add new programmers to the project....

And here is the context of that passage, which Peterson, without irony or self-awareness, set up only two paragraphs earlier:

I was not entirely honest in making the admission [that our release date had slipped]. Rather than go with a realistic date or a vague date or no date at all, I announced a hoped-for second quarter release, which was the most optimistic date from our most optimistic developer.

Yes, the Board had no one to blame...but they blamed the managers and developers. Yes, the managers had trouble chewing people out...for missing deadlines the programmers thought impossible and never agreed to. Yes, the programmers came up with a range of estimates...which turned out to include the actual ship date. And there's more.

Thursday 16 April 2009 22:59:18 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Business#
Thursday 16 April 2009

The new Weather Now demo is feature-complete, meaning it has all of the pieces required for release. I will push it out to production, replacing the current demo, tomorrow morning, after I make some configuration changes to the web server it's going on. But because you read this blog, you've got a sneak preview.

Over the next few days I'll be writing about the demo, why it's completely new even though it looks an awful lot like the old version, and what I'll be doing in the next few months to improve it.

Thursday 16 April 2009 17:54:29 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Cool links | Weather#

I haven't finished all of Almost Perfect yet, but I think I understand now what happened to WordPerfect Corp.: they had accidental success, naïvely thought they authored the success, and never thought strategically.

Now, possibly, I'm imputing Pete Peterson's own failures to the entire company, but I have to assume the other board members condoned his approach or they wouldn't have kept him on for so long. Peterson himself seems hopelessly without self-awareness, stumbling from decision to decision without a thought to the implications of each and without any coherent plan for how they all fit together. He is, in the Myers-Briggs jargon, an off-the-charts Sensor, completely detail-driven with a disdain for abstractions of any kind. For example....

Thursday 16 April 2009 11:29:21 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Business#
Wednesday 15 April 2009

Quick update:

  • The Titanic dinner at Mint Julep Bistro was wonderful. Rich's wine pairings especially rocked—as did his beef tournedos in port reduction. Mmm. Not so much fun was Metra's return schedule (featuring a 3-hour gap between 21:25 and 0:35), nor my reading of it (I did not remember this three-hour gap). The fine for taking public transit out to the suburbs (because driving to a 10-course, 9-wine-plus-apertif dinner seemed irresponsible) was $80, paid to the All-Star Taxi Service.
  • I did, in fact, buy a Kindle, and I love it. I've now read three books on it and numerous articles (converting a .pdf or text file costs no more than 10c for automatic downloads), and I hardly notice the machine. It only holds 1.5 GB of stuff, but the complete works of Shakespeare ($4) only takes up 4 MB so space is not exactly at a premium.
  • I may have a new release of Weather Now out today; if not, then tomorrow morning. I'll be writing over the next few days more about what's different, and why it took nearly two years to produce something that, to some, will look almost identical.
  • Tangentially about my Kindle and software releases, I'm now reading Almost Perfect (hat tip Coding Horror), Pete Peterson's account of the rise and fall of WordPerfect. It's a fascinating tale of what happens when everyone in the company is just like you, and when entrepreneurs can't let go.

Finally, in a tiny piece of good news, it looks like we'll have tolerable weather Friday for my first Cubs home game this season.

Wednesday 15 April 2009 10:12:00 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Baseball | Cubs | Kitchen Sink | Business | Cool links | Weather#
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Geologic intellects in Congress
Spring Cleaning in Washington
Very much forgotten
What's new in Weather Now, part 1
There is no joy in Mudville
Today's Daily Parker
First home game at Wrigley
Weather Now 3.5
Noted with minimal comment
Feature complete
Almost sad
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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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