Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
Thursday 14 October 2010

Sullivan gets it exactly right:

Preventing a second Great Depression, which was a real possibility (and not just the jobless recovery we're in, but a full-scale collapse), rescuing the banks without nationalizing them, saving the auto-companies with precision and technocratic skill (I didn't think it would work at all, and it did), re-setting relations with the rest of the world, bringing a new sanity and balance to Middle East policy, taking out 400 al Qaeda operatives, using the myth of the surge to get the hell out of Iraq (for the most part), upping the ante to get a deal with the Taliban and enacting a centrist, moderate law that for the first time in history ensures that anyone can get health insurance in this country ... really, in perspective, pretty damn remarkable.

Politically, he had to deal with a GOP gone insane, and a propaganda machine of such virulence and relentlessness that you can see he is where he is. But although he is right that he lost the connection to us, his supporters, I don't think he could have kept up the hope and change inspiration indefinitely. He would rightly have been ridiculed for not being serious at governing.

[W}hen the GOP take back the Congress, their talk radio schtick will have to face the reality of governing's hard choices. And in that battle for the center, I'd bet on Obama's reason and calm over Gingrich's flame wars, Palin's delusions and Boehner's tan.

If I were buying stock right now, I'd say the president is under-priced.

I bought in 2003, and I'm pretty happy with the returns.

Thursday 14 October 2010 10:04:59 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#
Wednesday 13 October 2010

Via Sullivan, the dating site okcupid.com analyzed their 3.2 m users to determine that gay people really don't want to date straight people:

The subtext to a lot of homophobic thinking is the idea that gays will try to get straight people into bed at the first opportunity, or that gays are looking to "convert" straights. Freud called this concept schwanzangst; the U.S. Army calls it Don't Ask Don't Tell.

We combed through over 4 million match searches, and found virtually no evidence of it:

Match Search Returns 
» only 0.6% of gay men have ever searched for straight matches.
» only 0.1% of lesbians have ever searched for straight matches.
» only 0.13% of straight people's profile visitors are gay.

Furthermore
In our dataset, there was not a single gay user, male or female, who primarily searched for straight people.

Of course, actually looking at data is no way to have a political argument.

As a side note, the OKCupid guy who wrote the post, Christian Rudder, found this disturbing bit of data:

I also spent a lot of time looking up match questions to debunk this particular claim. Down in the database I discovered one question with a surprising disparity, not between orientations, but between genders. Like Frodo to the Balrog, I wished I'd never unearthed it.

Come on, people. #facepalm.

I'd like to see a couple of regressions on that dataset.

Wednesday 13 October 2010 10:54:01 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US | Religion#

Aaron Sorkin responded to his critics on comedy writer Ken Levine's blog:

[B]elieve me, I get it. It's not hard to understand how bright women could be appalled by what they saw in the movie but you have to understand that that was the very specific world I was writing about. Women are both prizes and equals.

More generally, I was writing about a very angry and deeply misogynistic group of people. These aren't the cuddly nerds we made movies about in the '80s. They're very angry that the cheerleader still wants to go out with the quarterback instead of the men (boys) who are running the universe right now. The women they surround themselves with aren't women who challenge them (and frankly, no woman who could challenge them would be interested in being anywhere near them).

The whole thing is worth a read, including Levine's introduction, from which I took the headline to this post.

Wednesday 13 October 2010 09:27:46 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Tuesday 12 October 2010

You'd think the parking-meter lease would get more popular over time, wouldn't you? Nope:

Twenty of the 90 kg electronic parking pay machines have been stolen throughout Chicago since Sept. 17, police department spokesman Roderick Drew said in an e-mail. It isn't known how much cash may have been taken from the stolen machines, he said.

"Area 5 Detectives have been working with LAZ Parking to address this issue. Residents who witness vandalism or suspicious behavior should call police immediately," Drew said.

Yes, so if you see someone walking down the street lugging an automated parking machine, you know what to do.

Tuesday 12 October 2010 13:16:04 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | US#

I mean, who else could have come up with such a creative way for Chicago to run out of cash right after he leaves office?

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley is scheduled to detail the city's record budget shortfall on Wednesday. He's expected to announce plans to partially fill the $655 million defecit with money from leasing the city's parking meters and Skyway.

Dick Simpson heads the political science department at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He says it makes sense to use some of the money in reserves, but a lot of the cash meant to last the city decades has been used up in a few years.

Ah, the parking meter lease. Good deal, there.

Tuesday 12 October 2010 08:22:28 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | US#

Via Bruce Schneier, it seems the assassins might not have botched anything. And you know all those CCTVs in London? More evidence they're completely useless:

It has been more than eight months since the murder of top Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, whose body was found in a Dubai hotel room Jan. 20. Quick work by Dubai police and a diplomatic furor over the use of dozens of forged passports in the case fed early optimism that at least some of the 30-plus suspects would be found. But a string of apparent dead ends has frustrated international investigators, lengthening the odds that anyone will be caught or that definitive proof of Mossad involvement will emerge.

And despite an initial burst of tough talk from various governments, some international investigators are concerned that politics may be hampering cooperation from some governments that support Israel.

... Police spent about 10,000 hours poring over footage from some 1,500 security cameras around Dubai. Using face-recognition software, electronic-payment records, receipts and interviews with taxi drivers and hotel staff, they put together a list of suspects and publicized it.

As Schneier has said, if the police spend resources on CCTVs and other high-tech options, they don't have those resources to spend on footwork.

Tuesday 12 October 2010 08:11:06 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | World#
Sunday 10 October 2010

I snagged this as the lead runners came past the 15K mark:

Sunday 10 October 2010 10:13:03 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago#

So said the FBI to 20-year-old Yasir Afifi when they came to collect the GPS tracking device Afifi found attached to his car:

Afifi, a business marketing student at Mission College in Santa Clara, discovered the device last Sunday when he took his car to a local garage for an oil change. When a mechanic at Ali’s Auto Care raised his Ford Lincoln LS on hydraulic lifts, Afifi saw a wire sticking out near the right rear wheel and exhaust.

Garage owner Mazher Khan confirmed for Wired.com that he also saw it. A closer inspection showed it connected to a battery pack and transmitter, which were attached to the car with a magnet. Khan asked Afifi if he wanted the device removed and when Afifi said yes, Khan pulled it easily from the car’s chassis.

Afifi considered selling the device on Craigslist before the FBI showed up. ... Afifi’s encounter with the FBI ended with the agents telling him not to worry.

“We have all the information we needed,” they told him. “You don’t need to call your lawyer. Don’t worry, you’re boring. “

I sure hope they had a warrant.

Sunday 10 October 2010 09:37:58 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#

Today is the Chicago Marathon, and the weather is perfect—for watching it. The runners hope the temperature stays below 21°C, but it's creeping up.

No matter: here are the lead runners passing through Lincoln Park about an hour ago:

More on The Daily Parker...

Sunday 10 October 2010 09:23:51 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Saturday 9 October 2010

Via Snopes, a clip from Jamie Oliver as he demonstrates to schoolchildren in Huntington, W.Va., where their chicken nuggets come from:

For the record, I eat tofu nuggets that are probably even more disgusting to some people, being made from all the leftover bits of soybeans.

Saturday 9 October 2010 15:48:59 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | US#
Friday 8 October 2010

From guest blogger Diane W.:

Lately, the news is awash with story after story about youngsters committing suicide as a result of homophobic bullying. The nation's eye is finally turning to organizations like The Trevor Project, with celebrities climbing out of the rainbow-colored woodwork to lend their voices in the collective cry of, "Why is this happening?!" Our nation is stunned by the news, stunned, I tell you, that kids as young as 11 are taking their own lives because dying seems a better option that living as a homosexual in our society.

Really, people? Are you really that stunned, shocked, surprised, or other synonym for being caught in a state willful ignorance?

Where do you think kids get the idea that being gay is bad, and that other kids that "act" gay need to have it beaten or humiliated out of them? They're not pulling bigotry out of a box of Fruity-Os, people. They're being handed it by the headlines, by the off-hand jokes their dad makes watching football with The Guys, and by the pastor at church.

Homosexuals are third class citizens in this country. They can't marry. They can't serve in the military. They are creepy, and we should be afraid of them, because they are all pedophiles who should not be allowed to adopt or raise children. The message is loud and clear. And with these messages broadcast every day for decades on end, are we really going to pretend to be surprised that kids treat their gay peers as third class citizens? Children do as children see. And if anyone is to blame for what is happening, it is US.

For years the GLBT community has talked to their youth, telling them not to believe the hype. That it's okay to be gay. Even now, the message is, "It Gets Better," so don't give up. While I don't disagree that it's an important message, and one that frankly is true for pretty much anyone in middle/high school, gay or not—it's not the most important message to put out there. Maybe a few more despairing gay kids will reach out and find someone to quarterback them through the bullying, but what really awaits them on the other side? If the bullies are still bullies, and turn into bigoted adults...if our country keeps preaching the same message from its legislative pulpit...then what, really, have we gained?

All due respect, it's not the GLBT youth that need a hotline. It's everyone else. It's the adults who teach their kids bigotry that need to learn to respect others. They have to do before they can teach. It's the lawmakers that need to stand up to their bigoted constituents, much as lawmakers stood up for women, African-Americans, and other minority groups, and gave them a voice for equality. It's time this country got off its collective paranoid ass and recognized that homosexuality is not a lifestyle choice and that homosexuals are not fire-breathing monsters. They're people. Good people, at that. And the sooner we adults stop treating them like criminals, the sooner our kids will too.

And that, my friends, is the only way It Will Get Better.

Friday 8 October 2010 15:05:33 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#
Monday 4 October 2010

Via reader AS, Newsweek's Julia Baird on the dearth of female characters in "family" films:

It was startling to discover that a new study has found that there is only one female character to every three male characters in family movies. Even creepier is the fact that many of the female characters are scantily clad, and hot (the Little Mermaid wasn’t always depicted popping out of a tiny bikini top).

This study, undertaken by Stacy Smith and Marc Choueiti at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California, analyzed 122 family films (rated G, PG, and PG-13), including 50 top-grossing ones, between 2006 and 2009 and found that only 29.2 percent of characters were female. And one in four female characters was depicted in “sexy, tight, or alluring attire,” compared with one in 25 male characters. The female characters were also more likely than men to be beautiful, and one in five were “portrayed with some exposed skin between the mid-chest and upper thigh regions.” Because you wouldn’t want to take on the world without baring your midriff—girl power!

I'd also like to see a study of the MPAA ratings board, perhaps to understand why films with strong central female characters seem to earn R ratings more than PG-13. Possibly the MPAA are a bunch of old men? Or teenage boys? Is there any way to tell, really?

Sunday 3 October 2010 21:32:32 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#
Thursday 30 September 2010

Not my MBA, which finishes in 73 days. At least we're done with classes; all that remains are my distance classes and three projects.

No, more interesting than that is how World War I finally ends on Sunday:

The final payment of £59.5 million writes off the crippling debt that was the price for one world war and laid the foundations for another.

Germany was forced to pay the reparations at the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 as compensation to the war-ravaged nations of Belgium and France and to pay the Allies some of the costs of waging what was then the bloodiest conflict in history, leaving nearly ten million soldiers dead.

The initial sum agreed upon for war damages in 1919 was 226 billion Reichsmarks, a sum later reduced to 132 billion, £22 billion at the time.

Most of the money goes to private individuals, pension funds and corporations holding debenture bonds as agreed under the Treaty of Versailles, where Germany was made to sign the 'war guilt' clause, accepting blame for the war.

This, one must admit, is a head-scratcher. Good thing no one held a grudge after 1919, else we'd have had real problems.

Thursday 30 September 2010 16:16:26 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Duke | World#
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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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