Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
Wednesday 1 September 2010

I adopted Parker four years ago today. I'll snap his annual portrait this weekend (I'm a little overloaded today).

Wednesday 1 September 2010 18:11:51 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Parker#

Dilbert creator Scott Adams raises an interesting point in his blog today:

I'm fascinated by the degree to which brains have evolved to become more powerful than guns. Society's founding geniuses engineered a social system that encourages the young people who have guns to shoot at each other instead of robbing old people. Forgive me for calling that awesome.

In other news, my total working hours for August was 275.5, so I'm actually looking forward to the Term 6 residency for a respite. We've only got four full classes this term, so, you know, it's easier.

Only 102 days left...

Wednesday 1 September 2010 12:29:10 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Duke | Politics#
Sunday 29 August 2010

So, in the past week I've worked 63 hours, commuted for 6, done schoolwork for 6, and walked the dog for 3. Only, the week isn't over, because I still have my Operations final due tomorrow night. And we've got a long week at work as we slog towards our production release Saturday.

The Daily Parker might be sparse.

Sunday 29 August 2010 17:36:48 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Friday 27 August 2010

The 30-park Geas added only one notch this year: Fenway Park, last Saturday. I figure, if I only go to one baseball game this year, I might as well go somewhere I really want to go. Until Saturday I hadn't gone to a baseball game in a while—I've missed it.

The game. Sigh. Both teams, Toronto and Boston, played like Cubs, for 11 innings. The Sox finally won 5-4, which is always good when they get out of the second inning up 4-1.

Great B&B, too. (Continued on The Daily Parker...)

Thursday 26 August 2010 19:04:04 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Baseball | Geography#
Wednesday 25 August 2010

I'm always so pleased at the way Americans want everything for free, and how bad we are at doing the basic math of transport costs, especially when a British newspaper reports on the total collapse of New York railroads today:

The fire at [the Long Island Railroad] Jamaica [station] was out, but the LIRR was still running well below capacity when an electrical problem in Maryland shut down power to trains up and down the Northeast corridor. Commuters in Washington, Baltimore, Wilmington (Delaware), and throughout New Jersey were affected by the outage, which hit at the height of rush hour.

As the New York Times and the Infrastructurist both note, this is yet another example of how America's outdated and fragile infrastructure continues to cause problems—especially in the Northeast corridor. The solution is simple: if Americans want better infrastructure, they have to invest the money to pay for it.

Oy. Trains are worth more than we pay for them, people. Get your heads out of your asses and your asses out of your cars.

Tuesday 24 August 2010 23:20:29 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#
Tuesday 24 August 2010

For the first time I can recall—going back more than two years, at least, and probably longer—I don't have a flight booked to anywhere. I started realizing this as I got closer to flying to Boston last weekend. Combine that with the brand-spanking-new passport I just got, and I feel oddly confined.

So, possessed of a ton of frequent-flyer miles but with no possibility of making the next level of elite status this year, and also facing a dramatic shift in my work-life balance in just over 110 days, I have started plotting my escape.

Where to go, though?

First criterion: Get out of the U.S. A passport without stamps (or creases, scuff marks, bent edges, etc.) just looks sad. Unused. Unloved. Wherever I go in December, then, must get me a passport stamp.

Second: Use frequent-flyer miles. Even though it's August, the number of available seats for miles in mid-December looks pretty grim to a lot of places. Forget most warm spots; forget popular Christmas destinations. At least, not for less than 100,000 miles, and a four-day trip just isn't worth that amount.

Third: Eight hours or less from O'Hare. I'm not relishing the thought of a longer flight for a four-day trip. That rules out Asia, most of South America, and parts of Europe. I can live with that.

So: Candidates. Initially I thought of going someplace warm and sitting on a beach. There are non-stops on American from Chicago to Cancún, Cabo San Lucas, México, and Acapulco. But I'm not really a resort kind of person, and getting anywhere more interesting in Mexico carries risks right now I'm not completely comfortable taking. A connection in Miami opens up the Carribean and Central America; but the number of available seats makes that expensive.

Of course, I'd go to London for almost any reason anyway. It's my second-favorite city in the world, it's only 7 hours away, and in December business-class miles tickets are only 35,000 miles in some cases. But think: London in December? I don't expect to sit along the Thames and sip beer in the six hours of daylight I get before the sun sets just before 4pm.

I think I've settled on Quito, Ecuador. With a connection in Miami it's 7 hours from Chicago (and no overnight flights!). It's reasonably warm. It has living history, being a UNESCO World Heritage site. And very few people speak English, which will force me to practice my Spanish.

More information as events warrant.

Tuesday 24 August 2010 09:01:55 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Duke | Geography#
Sunday 22 August 2010

I mentioned yesterday that I've had the most difficult time imaginable figuring out what makes people born after 1980 tick. Via reader JM, who teaches junior high school, Beloit College has released their annual Mindset List putting the Class of 2014 in context:

Most students entering college for the first time this fall—the Class of 2014—were born in 1992. For these students, Benny Hill, Sam Kinison, Sam Walton, Bert Parks and Tony Perkins have always been dead.

1. Few in the class know how to write in cursive.

...

4. Al Gore has always been animated.

...

19. They never twisted the coiled handset wire aimlessly around their wrists while chatting on the phone.

Sigh.

In other news, Boston beat Toronto 5-4 in the 11th after 9 straight innings of playing like Cubs. Both teams, actually. Fortunately when both teams are playing that way the home team gets to go last and fix it. Or, as a friend of mine says, "The thing about mud-wrasslin' with a pig is you both get dirty, but the pig likes it." (That may not have anything to do with baseball but it's funny.)

Anyway, game photos later today when I'm back home.

Sunday 22 August 2010 09:42:59 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Baseball | Kitchen Sink#
Saturday 21 August 2010

More data for my analysis:

We're in the thick of what one sociologist calls "the changing timetable for adulthood." Sociologists traditionally define the "transition to adulthood" as marked by five milestones: completing school, leaving home, becoming financially independent, marrying and having a child. In 1960, 77 percent of women and 65 percent of men had, by the time they reached 30, passed all five milestones. Among 30-year-olds in 2000, according to data from the United States Census Bureau, fewer than half of the women and one-third of the men had done so. A Canadian study reported that a typical 30-year-old in 2001 had completed the same number of milestones as a 25-year-old in the early '70s.

The whole idea of milestones, of course, is something of an anachronism; it implies a lockstep march toward adulthood that is rare these days. Kids don’t shuffle along in unison on the road to maturity. They slouch toward adulthood at an uneven, highly individual pace. ...

Even if some traditional milestones are never reached, one thing is clear: Getting to what we would generally call adulthood is happening later than ever. But why? ... To some, what we're seeing is a transient epiphenomenon, the byproduct of cultural and economic forces. To others, the longer road to adulthood signifies something deep, durable and maybe better-suited to our neurological hard-wiring. What we’re seeing, they insist, is the dawning of a new life stage — a stage that all of us need to adjust to.

I'm trying to work up a theory about people born after 1980, which seems to be the cut-off for a host of behaviors and attitudes that are alien to me and my contemporaries. I'm not sure how on-point this article is, but I'm thinking about it.

Saturday 21 August 2010 10:07:49 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#

Via, of all the improbable sources, Microsoft's Raymond Chen: photos of and commentaries about the Miss Universe National Costumes entries (part 1 and part 2) that made my eyes water from laughing so hard. Sample commentary: "If [Miss Britain] really wanted to be provocative, she should have shown more skin and had her sash say 'BEEFEATER.'"

In fairness, I have to believe that the women involved felt they had no choice but to comply with the demented and sad whims of the costume designers assigned to them. I mean, it's simply not plausible that all of them could be the Carrie Prejeans of couture.

Saturday 21 August 2010 00:15:49 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Thursday 19 August 2010

In fact, I'm turning...um, some number of years old in 17 days and a few minutes.

Then, I might be dead. Right now I'm just working 13-hour days. At least you have the ParkerCam.

Wednesday 18 August 2010 21:48:43 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
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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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