Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
Friday 16 September 2011

ParkerI'm David Braverman, this is my blog, and Parker is my 5-year-old mutt. I last updated this About... page in February, but some things have changed. In the interest of enlightened laziness I'm starting with the most powerful keystroke combination in the universe: Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V.

Twice. Thus, the "point one" in the title.

The Daily Parker is about:

  • Parker, my dog, whom I adopted on 1 September 2006.
  • Politics. I'm a moderate-lefty by international standards, which makes me a radical left-winger in today's United States.
  • Photography. I took tens of thousands of photos as a kid, then drifted away from making art until a few months ago when I got the first digital camera I've ever had that rivals a film camera. That got me reading more, practicing more, and throwing more photos on the blog. In my initial burst of enthusiasm I posted a photo every day. I've pulled back from that a bit—it takes about 30 minutes to prep and post one of those puppies—but I'm still shooting and still learning.
  • The weather. I've operated a weather website for more than ten years. That site deals with raw data and objective observations. Many weather posts also touch politics, given the political implications of addressing climate change, though happily we no longer have to do so under a president beholden to the oil industry.
  • Chicago, the greatest city in North America, and the other ones I visit whenever I can.

I've deprecated the Software category, but only because I don't post much about it here. That said, I write a lot of software. I work for 10th Magnitude, a startup software consultancy in Chicago, I've got about 20 years experience writing the stuff, and I continue to own a micro-sized software company. (I have an online resume, if you're curious.) I see a lot of code, and since I often get called in to projects in crisis, I see a lot of bad code, some of which may appear here.

I strive to write about these and other things with fluency and concision. "Fast, good, cheap: pick two" applies to writing as much as to any other creative process (cf: software). I hope to find an appropriate balance between the three, as streams of consciousness and literacy have always struggled against each other since the first blog twenty years ago.

If you like what you see here, you'll probably also like Andrew Sullivan, James Fallows, Josh Marshall, and Bruce Schneier. Even if you don't like my politics, you probably agree that everyone ought to read Strunk and White, and you probably have an opinion about the Oxford comma—punctuation de rigeur in my opinion.

Another, non-trivial point. Facebook reads the blog's RSS feed, so many people reading this may think I'm just posting notes on Facebook. Facebook's lawyers would like you to believe this, too. Now, I've reconnected with tons of old friends and classmates through Facebook, I play Scrabble on Facebook, and I eagerly read every advertisement that appears next to its relevant content. But Facebook's terms of use assert ownership of everything that appears on their site, regardless of prior claims, which contravenes four centuries of law.

Everything that shows up on my Facebook profile gets published on The Daily Paker first, and I own the copyrights to all of it (unless otherwise disclosed). I publish the blog's text under a Creative Commons attribution-nonderivative-noncommercial license; republication is usually OK for non-commercial purposes, as long as you don't change what I write and you attribute it to me. My photos, however, are published under strict copyright, with no republication license, even if I upload them to other public websites. If you want to republish one of my photos, just let me know and we'll work something out.

Anyway, thanks for reading, and I hope you continue to enjoy The Daily Parker.

Friday 16 September 2011 18:36:32 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Baseball | Biking | Chicago | Cubs | Duke | Geography | Jokes | Kitchen Sink | Parker | Daily | Photography | Politics | US | World | Raleigh | Religion | San Francisco | Software | Blogs | Business | Cool links | Security | Weather | Astronomy | Work#

Via Sullivan, a report that members of an Amish sect in Kentucky have gone to jail over orange triangles on their buggies:

The orange triangles are required on all slow-moving vehicles, according to Kentucky state law.

Nine me

n in the western part of the state have refused to use them. They belong to the Old Order Swartzentruber Amish.

According to court documents, this sect follows a strict code of conduct, called Ordnung, which "regulates everything from hairstyle and dress to education and transportation." They believe that displays of "loud" colors should be avoided, along with the use of "worldly symbols." Swartzentruber Amish believe such symbols indicate the user no longer trusts fully in God.

The Swartzentruber Amish use reflective tape, but refuse to use the orange triangle.

[A friend of the men] says there is another problem with the orange triangle for the Swartzentruber Amish. The triangle is a symbol of the Holy Trinity - God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost. Swartzentruber Amish believe in the unity of God, says Via, which motivates their refusal to use the symbol, in addition to the other reasons.

But...jail? Well, yes:

After the appeal of their 2008 conviction was denied, Menno Zook, Danny Byler, Mose Yoder, Levi Hotetler, David Zook and Eli Zook refused to pay the small fines associated with their conviction. All six are currently serving sentences ranging from three to 10 days in the Graves County Jail, according to the jail's website.

So, Pinky, are you pondering what I'm pondering? Exactly. Does the first amendment extend to preventing the government fining people for not putting orange triangles on their horse-drawn buggies? As an academic question, I find this fascinating. As a practical matter, I think the state pursuing this is ridiculous. But as a philosophical matter, I say render unto Caesar: if you want to use roads provided by the state, accept the rules that come with it.

Thoughts?

Friday 16 September 2011 18:24:56 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Religion#

NPR reported this morning that Brazilian police arrested a man carrying packages of cocaine in his intestines adding up to a full kilo:

The Irish guy was reportedly taken to the Santa Misericordia Hospital where the capsules were removed from his body. How exactly? That isn't clear from the press coverage....

Surgical removal of the packages is one option. But as doctors reported in the Canadian Journal of Surgery two years ago, surgical removal is far less likely than it used to be. Cocaine-filled packages can rupture during surgery, endangering patients, and there are other complications.

The NPR posting includes the guy's CT scan, which is either a lovely bit of representational art or deeply disgusting. Or both.

Friday 16 September 2011 11:11:22 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | World#
Thursday 15 September 2011

Right-wing Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin is tired of willfully ignorant Republicans:

[Perry] was trying to be self-deprecating, but it’s disturbing to see that he thinks being a rotten student and a know-nothing gives one street cred in the GOP. Is it so important to defy the MSM by flaunting affection for anti-intellectualism? Just imagine if Sarah Palin had said all that — the conservative cheerleaders who gave up on her (but are still rooting for Perry) would roll their eyes in disgust.

Moreover, what Perry is doing here is telling moderate Republicans and those voters genuinely concerned about his electability to buzz off. He doesn’t need them, and he doesn’t intend to make it easy for them to vote for him. He’s telling them he is happily impervious to mainstream sensibilities. It’s the sort of thing that a Texas pol, not a presidential candidate, would do.

I'm not only tired of GOP anti-intellectualism, I'm terrified by it, because someday we'll have another Republican president. I hope that he or she has more respect for brains than most of the current batch of GOP candidates.

Thursday 15 September 2011 12:03:59 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#

One of my friends, Nature Nerd Naomi, reported that she saw frost on her roof this morning. She lives about 40 km away. And Chicago Tribune meteorologist Tom Skilling says yesterday was the coldest September 14th in 37 years:

Temperatures failed to reach 16°C at the city's official O'Hare observation site Thursday, topping out at 14.4°C instead. It's the coolest reading which has occurred there since late May and a temperature which equals the normal high on Oct. 28. But even more significantly, a review of weather records here indicates the reading was the chilliest to occur so early in the "meteorological" fall season in the 37 years since 1974.

Thursday isn't likely to be much warmer. Though readings are likely to creep into [around] 17°C at the area's warmer observation sites, the predicted O'Hare high of 14°C is close to the record low Sept. 15 maximum of 13°C set in 1993.

So just a few days ago, as I turned my air conditioner on to cool down from 30°C heat, I hoped for an early fall. But wow, I didn't expect temperatures to plunge so quickly.

Of course, on Tuesday when I'm back in San Antonio and it's 36°C, I'll be missing the cooler weather again.

Thursday 15 September 2011 08:04:45 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Wednesday 14 September 2011

Apparently my creativity isn't alone in its suffering this time of year. I'm also finding it a lot harder to learn Japanese than I expected.

Anyone else feeling a little leaden the past couple of weeks?

Wednesday 14 September 2011 16:08:43 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Tuesday 13 September 2011

For the last three years running—including, it seems this one—my ability to find passably-interesting topics to write about plummets in September and picks up again mid-October. Any hypotheses about why? I haven't got any, except maybe that the shortening days do something.

Which is all just a longer way of saying, chirp...chirp...chirp...

Tuesday 13 September 2011 17:30:50 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Blogs#
Monday 12 September 2011

It happens every year, and every year it surprises me: from mid-August to mid-October, the days get shorter quickly. Three weeks ago I was waking up to daylight; this morning, I realized I was waking up to twilight. In three weeks it'll be dark at that hour. Right now, every day, the sun rises a minute later an sets a minute earlier.

Nothing profound or particularly surprising here. Just an observation.

Monday 12 September 2011 17:07:14 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Astronomy#

On this day in 1986, I got my first PC: an original, 1982-vintage IBM PC, with a 1 MHz 8088 processor, 256 kB of RAM, twin 360 kB drives, a 30 cm 80 x 25 character green monochrome monitor, and a steel clickety-clackety keyboard.

The laptop I'm writing this on, 25 years later, has a 3 GHz Intel Core 2 processor, 4 GB of RAM, an internal solid-state 250 GB drive, a 36 cm 1280 x 800 pixel monitor with 16 million colors, and a silent keyboard. And this laptop cost less than half what the PC cost in nominal terms, which makes it about one-sixth the cost in real terms.

Twenty five years of computing, and I still don't have a fast-enough computer.

Monday 12 September 2011 14:13:42 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Software#
Sunday 11 September 2011

From the Hoboken Ferry:

27 June 1998, Canon EOS Rebel with Kodachrome 64, 35mm, about here.

The view on 20 October 2001:

Sunday 11 September 2011 08:42:45 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Photography | World#
Friday 9 September 2011

I don't have all the details, but it looks like an employee at one of the hospital's vendors did something really stupid:

A medical privacy breach led to the public posting on a commercial Web site of data for 20,000 emergency room patients at Stanford Hospital in Palo Alto, Calif., including names and diagnosis codes, the hospital has confirmed. The information stayed online for nearly a year.

Since discovering the breach last month, the hospital has been investigating how a detailed spreadsheet made its way from one of its vendors, a billing contractor identified as Multi-Specialty Collection Services, to a Web site called Student of Fortune, which allows students to solicit paid assistance with their schoolwork.

Gary Migdol, a spokesman for Stanford Hospital and Clinics, said the spreadsheet first appeared on the site on Sept. 9, 2010, as an attachment to a question about how to convert the data into a bar graph.

One can easily see how this happened: someone on the billing contractor's staff was taking a class of some kind and decided to use real, live, HIPAA-protected data for a project. My law-school Wills instructor, Jerry Leitner, would explain this by the "omnibus explanation," the thing that explains nearly every human endeavor that ends badly: stupidity.

The article mentions Stanford got fined $250,000 from the breach. I wonder if they'll be able to get a contribution award from the contractor?

Friday 9 September 2011 13:05:21 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US | Security#

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported yesterday that 2011 was hot, damn hot, real hot:

The average U.S. temperature in August was 24.3°C, which is 1.7°C above the long-term (1901-2000) average, while the summertime temperature was 23.6°C, which is 1.3°C above average. The warmest August on record for the contiguous United States was 24.3°C in 1983, while its warmest summer on record at 23.7°C occurred in 1936. Precipitation across the nation during August averaged 58.7 mm, 7.4 mm inches below the long-term average. The nationwide summer precipitation was 25.4 mm below average.

Climate highlights include:

  • Excessive heat in six states – Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana – resulted in their warmest August on record. This year ranked in the top ten warmest August for five other states: Florida (3rd), Georgia (4th), Utah (5th), Wyoming (8th), and South Carolina (9th).The Southwest and South also had their warmest August on record.
  • Several major U.S. cities broke all-time monthly rainfall amounts during August. New York City (Central Park) measured 481.3 mm of rain, exceeding the previous record of 428 mm in 1882. In Philadelphia, 490.5 mm of rain was observed, besting the previous monthly record of 332 mm in September 1999.

So, weather extremes, a hot summer, record rainfall, and massive property damage from storms. Can't wait to see what happens this winter.

Friday 9 September 2011 09:42:30 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Weather#
Thursday 8 September 2011

David Frum is calling Rick Perry's statement last night about Social Security "the mother of all unforced errors:"

Perhaps not since George McGovern’s annihilation at the hands of Richard Nixon in 1972 has a candidate’s Primary base been so alienated from the center of American political thought as the Tea Party is today. Make no mistake: no candidate who doesn’t convincingly throw the red meat to the Tea Party audiences will have a sliver of a chance of getting nominated.

I’m not going to go so far as to predict the result of a Presidential Election that is 14 months away, but I will posit that while “Change we can Believe in” might be a somewhat tired slogan by that point, it sure as hell beats “Social Security is a Ponzi Scheme”

That, and his complete misunderstanding of Galileo's trial kind of made the evening.

Thursday 8 September 2011 16:43:18 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#
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About this blog (v. 4.1.6)
First amendment or road safety?
Cocaine smuggler arrested in São Paolo has uncomfortable hospital stay
Too dumb for the right?
Yes, it's that chilly
Late-summer cognitive deficits
Where does my creativity go in September?
Noticing later sunrises
Great moments in personal computing
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Significant data disclosure at Stanford Hospital
Second-warmest on record
Perry steps on the third rail
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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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