Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
Thursday 29 July 2010

Every nine and a half years, I'm unable to leave the country for a few weeks because I've sent my passport off to be renewed. I just did that today. Not that I'm planning to flee into exile this month or anything, but still I hate not having the document. Right now the Department of State estimates 4 to 6 weeks to renew it. I guess I'll hang out here until September.

Still, it boggles my mind that only 28% of U.S. citizens have passports. That's far fewer than any other OECD country, though other rich countries have higher rates because they're surrounded by other countries.

I'm also getting extra pages right from the start. I hope to fill them before 2020.

Thursday 29 July 2010 11:16:37 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Geography#
Wednesday 28 July 2010

My friend DC's puppy Rex:

Full size at The Daily Parker.

Wednesday 28 July 2010 10:15:38 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Parker#
Monday 26 July 2010

Via Sullivan, an unfortunate product from Scotland:

AdFreak writes:

If the Old Spice guy really wants to prove his manliness, he should switch allegiances and endorse BrewDog, a Scottish craft brewery that has just released perhaps the most masculine product ever invented: a beer that contains 55 percent alcohol and comes packaged inside a taxidermied rodent. It costs £500 (about $760) per bottle and is called The End of History. PETA has yet to weigh in, but an Advocates for Animals rep calls the brew "a perverse idea" and adds: "People should learn to respect [animals] rather than using them for some stupid marketing gimmick." UPDATE: Despite the steep price tag, all 12 bottles of the beer sold out on Day 1.

Today's XKCD is unrelated to this, but still worthy of linking.

Monday 26 July 2010 15:12:23 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#

A friend drove through the squall line that hit the East Coast yesterday and got extremely lucky, when you think about it:

She's fine, and so is her car, though she had to have the windshield replaced in the dark because of the widespread power outages out there.

Then there's the heat. Cities all up and down the East Coast hit record high temperatures over the weekend, including 38°C in Raleigh, 41°C in Richmond, and 37°C in Washington.

Monday 26 July 2010 11:29:35 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Raleigh | Weather#
Saturday 24 July 2010

Via Sullivan, Timothy Lee describes how freeway construction destroyed the center of St. Louis:

Planners in St. Louis, as in most American cities, decided that the new expressways would run directly through the cities’ downtowns. One of them (I-44/I-70) now runs North to South between the park and downtown. Not surprisingly, if you visit the park today you’ll find a light sprinkling of tourists, but nothing like the throngs of locals you’ll find in successful urban parks like New York’s Union Square, Philadelphia’s Rittenhouse Square, or DC’s Dupont Circle. Whatever “revitalizing” effects the park might have had on the rest of the city were undermined by the fact that the park isn’t really accessible to pedestrians in the rest of the city.

Planners pursued the same basic scheme in other American cities. And in almost every case, they encountered fierce resistance from people already living where the freeways were supposed to go. [Author Jane] Jacobs herself was a key player in the famous, and ultimately successful, effort to stop a proposed freeway through lower Manhattan. After decades of bitter conflict, similar plans were defeated in Washington, DC. Urbanists were partially successful in Philadelphia. They killed the Crosstown expressway, which would have cut through South Philly, but they failed to stop the Vine Street Expressway, which ran north of downtown and contributed to the destruction of Philly’s Chinatown.

In Chicago, the Eisenhower and U of I combined to destroy Little Italy; and the Dan Ryan sliced right through the principal middle-class black community, scattering black professionals to the winds.

Saturday 24 July 2010 15:29:05 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Geography | US#

Chicago got a bit of rain yesterday, after what seemed like a few weeks of drought:

Emergency personnel from Chicago and several suburbs headed to Westchester this morning after flooding caused by heavy overnight rainstorms forced the evacuation of a nursing home in the west suburb.

Overnight weather left many people and vehicles stranded on roadways as thunderstorms hit north central and northeast Illinois with intense lightning and winds up to 80 km/h. A flash flood warning [was] in effect until 7 p.m.

And it's not over:

Thunderstorms were on the decline by mid-morning, but as the day heats up and the front pushes into the state, thunderstorms should develop again by early afternoon. The National Storm Prediction Center has northeast and central Illinois and much of Indiana in the outlook area for potential severe storms.

With the front approaching from the west mid-afternoon, from that point on, it appears the biggest threat of severe storms in the Chicago area is south, then northwest Indiana late afternoon and evening.

Overnight it got down all the way to 21°C, briefly. Someday soon it'll get all the way up to 21°C, and I'll be happier.

Saturday 24 July 2010 10:33:01 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Tuesday 20 July 2010

Chicago is having a one-day respite from the longest streak of 32°C weather in four years:

Powerful thunderstorms bypassed Chicago Monday -- and so did 90-degree heat. It marked the first time in six days the mercury failed to reach 90 degrees here and ended the area's longest string of consecutive 90-degree days in four years. Not since July 28 through Aug. 2, 2006 had the Chicago area logged more 90-degree temperatures than in the five days leading up to Monday.

Incredibly, July 2010, with an average temperature of 25.6°C degrees on the books to date, is running 5.6°C warmer than the same period a year ago and nearly 2.8°C above the long-term average. Using temperature data as a guide, it appears air conditioner use for the month may be outpacing last year's usage by a whopping three and a half times!

The twelve 90-degree temperatures on the books this year is four times as many as had occurred by this time a year ago.

The more seasonable brand of warmth is to continue its dominance in the area Tuesday and Wednesday. Both days are likely to see highs in the mid 80s over the vast majority of the Chicago area. But a new round of 90-degree heat -- including the possibility of 2010's hottest temperature to date -- is in sight.

My air conditioners struggle to keep the temperature below 27°C. I am not happy. Parker has decided that sleeping on the hardwood floor directly under one of them is preferable to sleeping on his comfy bed. I'm beginning to agree.

Tuesday 20 July 2010 16:02:06 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Monday 19 July 2010

A good friend woke up this morning to find her email and Facebook accounts hacked, with a message sent out to everyone in her address book that she'd been robbed at gunpoint while visiting London and desperately needed a credit card to get on the plane back home.

Other than the story's baseline implausibility (a gun robbery in London being about as likely as getting trampled by a moose in Atlanta), there were other clues it was a phisher. For one thing, my friend is an American lawyer, not a Nigerian criminal, so she has a direct, concise, and moreover punctuated writing style not immediately in evidence in the phishing message.

The take-away, to all the would-be phishers reading this: you'll get farther with your frauds if you learn better English. Next time, instead of asking for credit-card numbers, write this: "Help! I am being held captive unless I can draft a 500-word essay on epistemology, and they'll only allow me one reference book! Please, I'm desperate, send me Strunk and White before I use unnecessary words!"

Oh, and also try hacking your victim's spouse's account, which will make it harder for people to verify the dodge.

Monday 19 July 2010 08:21:09 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Security#
Sunday 18 July 2010

In the past seven calendar days[1], I have worked 40.3 hours[2], traveled 39.8 hours through four countries and six states, and, so far as I can tell, slept for about 40 hours. I am not sure what happened in the remaining few minutes, though part of it included walking Parker and part of it included staring into space dazedly. Fortunately traveling wasn't entirely wasted time, including as it did four episodes of This American Life and two complete novels.

This is all a long way of saying I apologize for the reduced velocity of The Daily Parker, and I expect to resume my usual average of 1½ posts per day in short order.

N.B.: Don't ask how I know all this. I will say only that sitting in a car, train, bus, or airplane for more than 40 hours in one week gives one a lot of time to think about irrelevant crap.

[1] Since 17:30 CDT last Sunday.

[2] Plus another 4.4 hours commuting to and from my client site.

Sunday 18 July 2010 17:39:05 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Geography | Kitchen Sink | Parker#
Wednesday 14 July 2010

The first day or so back is always hectic and exhausting. I still marvel that the 11½-hour time change from India was easier than the 9-hour change from St. Petersburg (or, come to think of it, the 8-hour change from Dubai.)

I'm still getting back into my life, so I'll end here, but for this non-sequitur: I have t oget these cookies.

Wednesday 14 July 2010 08:12:12 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Duke | Kitchen Sink#
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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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