Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
Tuesday 25 October 2011

Via Atlantic Cities, the recession may help move developers away from the 19 standard building types identified in a report from UC Berkeley in 2005:

[T]he Grocery Anchored Neighborhood Center...is generally about 5 or 6 hectares in size on a plot of land that’s 80 percent covered in asphalt. It’s located on the going-home side of a major four-to-eight lane arterial road, where it catches people when they’re most likely to be thinking about what to buy for dinner.

It has a major, 4,600 to 6,500 square-meter supermarket on one end and a drug store with drive-through on the other, with national and regional chain stores, maybe a Hallmark and a Starbucks in between. The parking lot contains four or five spaces per thousand square-feet of retail. There is, in theory, a sidewalk, although no one is expected to use it. Every shop is designed to be seen by potential customers passing by at 45 mph. And – with the exception of a few last-minute regionally specific touches for art-deco paint schemes or Mediterranean roof tiles – this L-shaped shopping center looks the same whether you’re pulling into it from Denver or Orlando.

Seventeen of the 19 types create what one of my friends has called "Suburbistan," a landscape oriented towards cars and tract homes. But:

In Washington, D.C., one of the few U.S. cities largely immune to the real estate downturn, construction has continued, and Leinberger estimates that a good 90 percent of new development in the area has lately been planned for walkable, high-density living (see the makeover of Tyson’s Corner and the new Navy Yard development around the Nationals’ ballpark). These are the real estate products [Christopher] Leinberger believes we’ll need going forward: ground-floor retail with rental apartments on top, hotel/convention centers with condos above and a subway corridor below. These models may very well become standardized, too.

One can hope. Walkable cities, with good transit, are good for almost everyone.

Tuesday 25 October 2011 13:15:09 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Geography | US#
Monday 24 October 2011

Reader AT actually met Tom Shanks, the chief programmer behind the ACS Atlases, and corrects my understanding of how the ACS team put it together:

Contrary to what you assume in your post, Tom Shanks did not hack his atlas into an Apple II. ACS was rather professional in their IT. The worldwide city database with longitude and latitude they had licensed from on of the big atlas (map atlas) publishers, if I remember correctly Rand McNally. The timezone history data they had collected from numerous published sources..., and partly also from field research and grass root contributions by their own astrology service clients.

The reader also gave me the story about an ongoing effort to extend the tzinfo database, and the provenance of Astrolabe's alleged copyrights. (Note that this is the precise, legal meaning of "alleged:" in a civil complaint, just as in a criminal complaint, the parties "allege" each fact in their filings.) If the reader gives me permission, I'll post some of this information.

Monday 24 October 2011 12:26:00 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Business | Astronomy#
Sunday 23 October 2011

I've now set up the Inner Drive Extensible Architecture™ at Digital River, a software-distribution company. You can now buy developer, commercial per-server, and non-commercial per-site licenses for reasonable prices.

Check out the overview and SDK (reg.req.) pages for tons o' info. You can also check out the no-nonsense license agreement before you buy.

Sunday 23 October 2011 13:28:45 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Business | Cool links#
Saturday 22 October 2011

The Inner Drive Extensible Architecture™ has had support for the tzinfo database for several years now. Weather Now uses it; so do a few of my clients.

Like the lazy software developer I am, however, I never put up a decent demonstration of the code, which might, you know, make someone want to buy it.

Well, the documentation, she is here. Licensing, you will be shocked to learn, is available for a modest fee.

Saturday 22 October 2011 17:54:02 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Business | Cool links#

The U.S. government is an insurance company with an army:

The vast bulk of its spending goes to the big five: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, defense, and interest on the debt.

But what about recent deficits? They’re caused mainly by a fall in revenue and a mostly automatic increase in spending on safety-net programs. Oh, and the federal government has been providing aid to state and local governments, largely to limit layoffs of schoolteachers.

And if you want smaller government, either you’re talking about cuts in the big five, or you have no idea what you’re talking about.

I disagree with Krugman here, a bit, because I see a third possibility. You could be advocating smaller government without cuts to the big five because you're trying to mislead people.

Saturday 22 October 2011 11:34:45 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#

To better understand the facts behind Astrolabe’s stupid trolling quixotic lawsuit against the guys who coordinated the worldwide time-zone database (tzinfo), I bought copies of the Shanks Amercian and International atlases that Astrolabe claims to own. (I went through the secondary market, so I didn’t actually give Astrolabe any money.)

First, an update. According to Thomas Eubanks of the IETF, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has taken over Arthur Olson’s legal defense. Mazel tov. I expect to see a response to the complaint against him in a few weeks that includes a motion to dismiss which, I think, may be granted. (I’m thinking about drafting a response myself, just to exercise my legal muscles properly. Watch this space.)

Now to the main post. The Shanks books, rather than containing maps, contain pages and pages of tabular data showing three things...

Read the whole analysis at The Daily Parker.

Saturday 22 October 2011 11:21:18 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US | Business | Astronomy#
Friday 21 October 2011

Despite tons of research that support the anthropomorphic climate change theory, some people persist in the belief that the data does not support it. And yet, this week, there's more data:

[A] new study of current data and analysis by Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature...estimates that over the past 50 years the land surface warmed by 0.911°C: a mere 2% less than NOAA’s estimate. That is despite its use of a novel methodology—designed, at least in part, to address the concerns of what its head, Richard Muller, terms “legitimate sceptics”. ... At a time of exaggerated doubts about the instrumental temperature record, this should help promulgate its main conclusion: that the existing mean estimates are in the right ballpark. That means the world is warming fast.

My trouble with climate-change skeptics remains the same, a question about economic incentives. I guess I just don't understand why people persist in irrational beliefs when the evidence weighs so clearly towards an incompatible conclusion. In the case of quotidien religion, I live and let live. But in the case of anthropomorphic climate change, I don't get it. If climate scientists are right, and we cut emissions and energy use to slow climate change, we all win. If climate scientists are wrong, and we cut emissions and energy use to no effect, we're out maybe a billion dollars—about 3 cents per person, worldwide. But turn it around: if climate scientists are right, and we do nothing, say goodbye to Hollywood (Florida). And if climate scientists are wrong, and we do nothing, we'll still have the health and cosmetic effects of all those carbon emissions to deal with—and we'll still likely run out of oil in two centuries, after giving all our wealth to people who hate us.

So somebody, please, explain whence the hostility to the theory comes? Because it seems to me like the hostility farmers had to being jabbed with cowpox pus in the 1780s. Of course it's unpleasant, but wow is it better than the alternative.

Thursday 20 October 2011 23:50:37 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US | Weather#
Thursday 20 October 2011

A British plastic surgeon recently announced his findings after a months-long investigation of a particularly British institution:

It sounds almost like parody – a top consultant plastic surgeon spends three months studying models appearing on Page 3 of a bestselling British red-top newspaper. Later this month he reveals his findings: the mathematical proportions of the perfect breast.

This year [Patrick Mallucci, Consultant Plastic Surgeon at University College London and the Royal Free Hospitals,] conducted a three-month study to pinpoint the exact factors that make a woman’s breasts attractive. Titled Concepts In Aesthetic Breast Dimensions: Analysis Of The Ideal Breast, Mallucci’s study analysed the breasts of 100 topless models.

Thank you, Andrew Sullivan, for bringing this to the fore.

Thursday 20 October 2011 17:08:16 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#

Yesterday the Tribune reported on Groupon scaling back their IPO, from which they had hoped to raise the equivalent of Norway's GDP. Today's Economist has more:

Groupon created a new market. This is a boon to consumers, but confers no lasting “first-mover” advantage on Groupon. Its business model is unpatentable and simple to replicate, so there are already more than 20 copycats.

Groupon aspires to be global, but the markets it serves are intensely local. Internet selling is best suited to “experience goods”. These are goods and services the quality of which you cannot judge until you experience them, such as haircuts and Thai meals, so there is no advantage in having a bricks-and-mortar shop for people to browse in. (In North America 83% of Groupon’s deals fall into this category.) The trouble with experience goods is that generally you cannot separate manufacture from delivery: you cannot cook a meal in Guangzhou and eat it in New York.

Groupon was, some may recall, the hottest company in Chicago, so of course I want the company to succeed. I've also had some experience with Internet start-ups, so watching Groupon the past couple of years has felt...familiar. In particular, I've seen what happens to companies that grow by an order of magnitude in only two years.

Another interesting tidbit, possibly related: Groupon CEO Andrew Mason said as recently as June that he wasn't getting married until after the IPO. But the Tribune's business blotter reported Monday that he and Jenny Gillespie have tied the knot.

Thursday 20 October 2011 12:38:14 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Business#
Wednesday 19 October 2011

The Tribune is reporting that Groupon, one of several thousand companies that strikes deals with vendors, has scaled back its IPO:

The size of the sale, expected to be completed in the next two weeks, could be $500 million to $700 million under plans to be disclosed in advance of the company's roadshow beginning in the next few days, the people said. The size is meant to cut the amount of stock being sold at what may be a knock-down valuation, in hopes that more shares can be sold later at higher prices.

Although valuations of $20 billion to $30 billion were bandied about by outsiders at the time the company filed its plans to go public in May, the current goal of less than half that reflects the reality that the IPO window was closed for nearly two months between mid-August and mid-October because of overall stock-market weakness, and missteps by the company itself.

Amazon, Living Social, Google, and others of Groupon's competitors could not be reached for comment.

Wednesday 19 October 2011 17:07:51 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Business#
Tuesday 18 October 2011

I can't think for a moment what those odd folks at #OWS are protesting. It couldn't be crap like this, could it?

Buoyed by one-time gains from accounting changes and the sale of assets, Bank of America reported a $6.23 billion profit for the third-quarter Tuesday, even as weakness on Wall Street hammered underlying results and the firm surrendered its position as the country’s largest bank by assets.

The other major commercial banks that have reported earnings in recent days posted profits of around $4 billion each. Both Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase benefited from a $1.9 billion increase from the accounting change applied to the declining value of their company debt, posting profits of $3.8 billion and $4.3 billion, respectively. Wells Fargo had record earnings of $4.1 billion despite a 6 percent drop in revenue.

I have two thoughts. First, this kind of thing has to change. Second, where's mine? (Hey, I'm from Chicago.)

Tuesday 18 October 2011 16:36:56 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#
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On this page....
Nineteen building types
Correcting the record
Wanna buy some software?
New documentation of an old feature
Brief reminder from Krugman
Analysis of Shanks' atlases against the tzinfo database
Occam's razor shaves climate science
Submitted without comment
More about Groupon's IPO
How much would *you* pay?
Those silly hippies!
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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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