Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
Saturday 14 August 2010

I can scarcely believe I've spent (only!) a year in the CCMBA already. We started last August 14th in London, and we're already almost done with our fifth term. I'd write more, but I've already spent most of today working.

About that workload: for a variety of reasons, not least of which is that I'm a nerd, and not most of which is that I've been a consultant for most of my professional life, I've tracked the time spent on this program. So far, including getting to and from the residencies, time in class, pre-reading, homework, team meetings, etc., I've spent 1,157 hours on it. For those keeping score at home, that's almost 7 months of full-time work. This is in addition to the actual full-time work I've had to do during the same period.

I honestly have no idea what I'll do with all that time when I'm finally done with the program.

I am, however, done for the day. Done. Except for that Operations paper I need to finish. But it's not due until tonight, so I'm off with Parker to go watch the Blue Angels, which have just buzzed me 200 meters directly above my house.

Saturday 14 August 2010 16:19:10 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Duke#
Friday 13 August 2010

The Chicago Tribune's Tim Skilling asks, "Sick of the Heat"? YES, dammit:

A heat advisory continues for most of the Chicagoland area today along with an excessive heat warning for Cook County. This is the second straight day with highs in the 90s and tomorrow should extend that steamy streak to three days. The combination of heat and humidity will make it feel like 98 to 105 degrees today.

This level of heat can be dangerous, so when can you tell if the heat is making you sick?

He goes on to discuss heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke. But even absent those problems, the heat is definitely making me sick. Chicago has had 18 days in a row over 32°C; I haven't had my windows open all month; and today we set a new weather record, 43 consecutive days over 27°C.

It's much worse in Europe:

Russia’s record heat wave may already have taken 15,000 lives and cost the economy $15 billion as fires and drought ravage the country.

At least 7,000 people have probably died in Moscow as a result of the heat, and the nationwide death toll is likely to be at least twice that figure, according to Jeff Masters, co- founder of Weather Underground, a 15-year-old Internet weather service that gathers information from around the world.

Good thing this is just a fluke, and has nothing to do with anthropogenic climate change, which is a myth concocted by a conspiracy of liberal kabals.

Friday 13 August 2010 13:45:41 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Geography | Weather#
Thursday 12 August 2010
Thursday 12 August 2010 09:53:53 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Jokes | Kitchen Sink#
Wednesday 11 August 2010

I got an odd bit of mail today, in an official USPS envelope with a handwritten address. It was a check. A check I wrote. To the State Department.

Apparently, my passport renewal check got swept up in a pile of bills and other envelopes I dropped into the local mailbox. I didn't even realize I'd mailed the check without an envelope. And I remember thinking, as I reprinted the check a couple days later, "crap, another one fell behind my desk. I'll get it later."

Thank you, anonymous Chicago postal worker, for sending my check back.

Even better, I got an email from the State Department today saying they've completed my passport renewal already. I mailed it in on the 29th, without requesting expedited service. They sent me an email when they received it on the 3rd, and now, only one week later, they're done. Huh.

Let's review. (This is especially important to you ignorant starve-the-beast neo-Hobbsians out there.) Two public-service agencies, one quasi-public and the other a de facto (and, actually, de jure) part of the U.S. Government, apparently have conscientious, hard-working employees who do their jobs better than expected.

That they do this in the face of deliberate, malicious actions by elected officials only underscores how wrong the myth of "government bureaucracy" really is. In fact, government (and postal!) workers, like any others, come in many varieties, but mostly they just want to do their jobs well.

So here's a challenge to the right-wingers who read The Daily Parker—especially the one running for public office: can you tell me how your life would, on balance, be better without government?

...

Keep thinking. I've got time. And I've got my check back, and I'll have my passport Tuesday.

Tuesday 10 August 2010 20:39:09 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | US#
Monday 9 August 2010

Via one of my classmates, and the NPR Planet Money blog, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority has started testing demand pricing for parking spaces:

The system will use electronic sensors to measure real-time demand for parking spaces, and adjust prices accordingly. When there are lots of empty spaces, it will be cheap to park. When spaces are hard to find, rates will be higher.

The range in prices will be huge: from 25 cents an hour to a maximum of $6 an hour, according to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority.

Eventually, drivers will be able to find open parking spaces by going online, checking their mobile phones or reading for new electronic signs that will be posted throughout the city.

That's how to run a parking system. Not, as some might suspect, by leasing all the meters to a for-profit company which immediately raises prices to the point where people don't park on some streets at all any more.

Monday 9 August 2010 12:42:07 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | US | San Francisco | Business#
Sunday 8 August 2010

Via Sullivan and the New Yorker, a scary-cool animation of the 2,051 nuclear weapons tests (plus the two the U.S. dropped on Japan) between 1945 and 1998:

Sunday 8 August 2010 16:29:03 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | US | World#
Saturday 7 August 2010

I play online Scrabble™ every day, so I've seen my fill of bad Scrabble racks. When you have four Es in your rack towards the end of the game, it almost doesn't matter what else you have.

Sometimes, though, you have four Es, a blank, a Z, and an N...and this happens, for 54 points:

Of course, there was the game where my racks looked like this for most of the game:


I'm actually batting .500 with this opponent after close to 100 games. So we're pretty evenly matched, which I think is best, as it's obvious that since we started playing we've brought each other's games up substantially.

It just goes to show: there's a lot more to life than a nice rack.

Saturday 7 August 2010 15:43:40 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Kitchen Sink#

Usually G#, but today C# or possibly even Db.[1,2]

I've had a raspy voice and a strange ability to hit bass notes the last few days, and the weather is why:

The heat and plentiful rain of recent weeks has led to a bumper crop of mold spores--and never more so than on Friday. Loyola Gottlieb Hospital's mold count, produced by Dr. Joseph Leija and his staff, surged to a five-year high--and nearly to "alert" levels Friday. The count was 49,789 spores per cubic meter--alerts are issued when the mold counts reach 50,000.

A mammoth plume of wildfire smoke, extending thousands of miles from Canada's arctic circle south into the Midwest and east to Pennsylvania, remained draped across the Chicago area, lending skies here a hazy appearance and producing yet another evening of eye-catching sunsets Friday night.

Somke, mold, heat, humidity: fun times in Chicago. (Have I mentioned how much I'm looking forward to October?)

[1] Apologies to Prof. Peter Schickele at the University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople.

[2] Historically, in most musical temperaments, the note C# is actually sharp of Db. The proof is very long and I'm lazy.

Saturday 7 August 2010 15:01:36 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Weather#
Wednesday 4 August 2010

Krugman makes a succinct point about why the current recession isn't like 1981:

The 1981-2 recession was a very different kind of event from the 2007-9 recession: basically, it was a recession deliberately created by the Fed to bring down inflation. The Fed raised interest rates sky-high, causing a plunge in home construction, which was the main driver of the slump. When Paul Volcker believed that we had suffered enough, he cut rates, housing sprang back — and it was housing that mainly drove the recovery. Reaganomics was basically irrelevant.

The 2007-9 recession was driven by the collapse of a huge housing bubble, and the resulting financial fallout. The Fed couldn’t cut rates sharply, because they weren’t all that high to begin with; there couldn’t be a housing boom, because housing was already overbuilt.

The problem, as Krugman has patiently explained for months, is that anti-inflationary measures right now will bring about deflation, which is worse. If you have any debt at all, inflation is your friend. If you're a lender, deflation rocks. Three guesses why the Republicans are so eager to curb the non-existent inflation we have right now.

Wednesday 4 August 2010 13:21:11 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | US#

Microsoft programmer Raymond Chen's blog often sails right over my head, but I read it anyway. He's fairly senior at Microsoft, and he's written a good bit of the Windows operating systems. Plural. So I learn from him.

This story, however, should have wider publication than just us industry geeks:

During the development of the product he was working on, the programmers needed an image for a comparatively rarely-used piece of the user interface. Since programmers aren't graphic designers, they inserted a placeholder bitmap which would be used until a real image arrived. And since programmers are nerds, they used a picture of a television character who was popular at the time.

The testers naturally ran the program through its paces, and when that piece of the user interface appeared with the placeholder bitmap, the testers smiled a little.

Time passed, and people became quite accustomed to seeing that television character's face appear when they exercised that little corner of the program. An oddly appropriate face to alert you of an unusual condition.

And then the project reached its completion, and the master CD was sent off to the factory for mass duplication.

You can see where this is going. Think: lawyers. And read the rest.

Tuesday 3 August 2010 22:22:00 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Business#
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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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