Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
Saturday 26 November 2011

Someday, I may got on a total vacation, a trip during which I completely disconnect from all that matters in the world. This may be saudade[1], or possibly outright delusion. In any event, this week, I'm still reading the news before breakfast.

Here's Krugman this morning (last night? It's dinner time Saturday in Princeton):

[T}he notion that denying health care to the near-poor is a serious deficit-reduction policy, but raising taxes on the very rich is not, is not something you can justify at all on the basis of the actual numbers. Anyone who says different is practicing, well, class warfare.

More wealth in the middle classes means more wealth for everyone. This is what next November will be about.

Speaking of elections, the front page of today's Japan Times ("All the News Without Fear or Favor") mentions New Zealand Prime Minister John Key's re-election this weekend. New Zealand matters in Japan. Who knew? (No offense to New Zealand, which I very much hope to visit one day and I will certainly love with all my heart, but that brings to three the number of countries who do. The others, of course, are New Zealand and Kiribati.) Interestingly, the story does not appear on the paper's website.

Enough paying attention to the world. I'm off to explore.

[1] "The feeling of longing for someone that you love and is lost," according to Pamela Haag in a cute list of phrases describing love that don't translate directly into English.

Sunday 27 November 2011 08:42:29 JST (UTC+09:00)  | Comments [0] | US | World#

I failed at both tasks last night. I didn't find sushi (at least, not for less than ¥1,000 per piece), so I had—wait for it—Lebanese. After dinner I came back to the hotel room and managed to read until about 8:30, before I could no longer remember the last sentence I read.

It's just 7am now, and I feel like I've had the best sleep in weeks. Good morning Japan:

After I get showered and caffeinated, I plan to wander around Tokyo randomly, and find sub-$12 sushi. Then I will read the instruction manual for the washroom, because this:

...is just too intimidating right now.

Sunday 27 November 2011 07:05:33 JST (UTC+09:00)  | Comments [0] | Geography#

I've arrived in Tokyo, not sure if it's Friday night or Saturday night. This is a known hazard of flying across the International Date Line, one I get to experience in reverse in a few days.

For now, I'm just looking for sushi. Must...stay...awake...until...9...

Saturday 26 November 2011 17:49:15 JST (UTC+09:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation | Geography#
Friday 25 November 2011

I'm 10,500 m over the Yukon on a Japan Air Lines 777-300.[1] In the last couple of hours, I have started to understand, rather than just "know," that Japan is the most technologically advanced country in the world. I'm also wondering why my main carrier, American, can't learn how to do some of these things.

First, the plane is spotless inside and out. I mean, immaculate. I mean, if you wanted to give visitors a good feeling about your country, you would start by making your airplanes really attractive, right?

Next, unlike in American's fleet, the washrooms on this plane have a device to select how hot or cold to make the tap water, and another device that magically senses when you've put your hands under the spigot. Previously I'd only seen those two technologies—continuously-varying water temperatures and motion sensors—almost everywhere else. American Airlines planes, by contrast, have two buttons or levers, and you push the buttons or levers either alone or in combination to get about 10 seconds of water. In other words, the water shuts itself off regardless of how much soap you still have on your hands, and you only get three temperatures. I believe it's the same technology they've used since, I think, 1930.

Then we have the incredible service in business class.[2] For lunch, I eschewed the steak in wine sauce for a 9-item array of Japanese morsels including duck meatball, yuzu pepper chicken rolls, a soba (noodle) sushi roll, deep-simmered pork in shoyu, grilled Greenland halibut in miso sauce, steamed fluke with apple vinegar, two pieces of "Philadelphia" roll (smoked salmon around cream cheese), and steamed sea-bream with lotus root mousse. Throw in a small bottle of dry sake, some green tea, a bowl of rice, and an amuse bouche of shrimp in avocado sauce and marinated mushrooms, and a cup of English tea with milk for dessert, and I don't want to leave. (Except, you know, I'm in an aluminum tube high above the Canada-Alaska border, and there's another reason to stay.)

The service continues until 90 minutes before landing, or about 6 hours from now (we land in 7:40, according to the moving map). They have two pages of food and drink options passengers can order any time, plus a two-page wine list and a reasonably stocked open bar just past the bulkhead.

I can only imagine what's going on in first class. I believe I saw Charlie Trotter opening an entire restaurant up there, plus a sushi bar and, for the Americans, a charcoal grill.[3]

Finally, a little thing American and other carriers should consider: mirrors in the overhead bins (which have enough room for small elephants, I should mention). You can actually see, using the extremely high-technology reflective plastic at the back of the bin, what you can't see standing on the floor. How much does this cost, I wonder? Maybe $100 per airplane?

We are now passing the northern-most point on our trip. All the windows are closed so I don't know if the terminator is visible off the right. Off the left, we have snow-covered snow, on top of mountains.

I'm going to try napping now, though the tea I mentioned earlier—not to mention the coffee necessary to get me awake enough to find O'Hare—might make that impossible. We land just past 23:30 Chicago time, or 14:30 in Tokyo. I sense a horrible exhausted crash coming right around dinner...


[1] I'm going to sync this entry with the flight's track from FlightAware so you can use the location feature to see exactly where I posted this. Unfortunately, I'll have to copy the post to the live blog after I get to my hotel.

[2] Yes, business class: I paid with frequent-flyer miles! My entire round-trip to Tokyo cost me $53 in cash, and I'm not even using up all the miles I've earned so far this year. I also paid for the hotel room with points, except for the last day, for which they gave me a deal. Total cash for five nights in Tokyo: $200.

[3] I'm making that up, of course. The airline's website has the business- and first-class menus, if you want to drool more.

Friday 25 November 2011 12:44:54 AKST (UTC-09:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation | Geography#

I've long advocated doing things when no one else seems to be doing them. In furtherance of this philosophy, I'm starting a vacation today. The two days following Thanksgiving are truly a delight at O'Hare (despite a bit of amateur hour at the security checkpoint when the woman in front of me emptied her entire purse into an x-ray bin), and on the highways around Chicago. Yesterday it took me an hour to get from my house to the intersection of the Kennedy and I-294, which is about 3 km from the O'Hare terminal I'm sitting in right now. This morning, from dropping Parker off at boarding to O'Hare took 28 minutes. I was through security ten minutes after that.

My next trip out of O'Hare will be two days before Christmas, however. So allow me to enjoy the relaxed, unhurried atmosphere today.

Friday 25 November 2011 09:20:41 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation | Chicago#
Thursday 24 November 2011

The new feature I mentioned this morning is done. Now, in addition to the "where was this posted" button on the footer, you will notice the entry's time zone. Each entry can have its own time zone—in addition to the site-wide default.

I still have to fix a couple of things related to this change, like the fact that the date headers ("Thursday 24 November 2011," just above this entry) are on UTC rather than local time. But going forward (and going backward if I ever get supremely bored), you can now see the local time wherever I was when I posted.

Incidentally, if you want to bring the tzinfo database to your .NET application, I have licensing terms.

Thursday 24 November 2011 14:22:50 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Software | Blogs#

I'm rushing to get a major change to the resurrected dasBlog code done before I leave tomorrow (because I don't want to push code from anywhere I can't recover). Meanwhile, here's a timely NSFW comic for your holiday.

Thursday 24 November 2011 09:22:47 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Jokes | Blogs#
Wednesday 23 November 2011

Via the Chicago Tribune, NASA launched a new weather satellite in October that provides incredible high-resolution images of the planet:

VIIRS will collect radiometric imagery in visible and infrared wavelengths of the Earth's land, atmosphere, and oceans. By far the largest instrument onboard NPP, VIIRS weighs about 556 pounds (252 kilograms). Its data, collected from 22 channels across the electromagnetic spectrum, will be used to observe the Earth's surface including fires, ice, ocean color, vegetation, clouds, and land and sea surface temperatures.

During NPP's five-year life, the mission will extend more than 30 key long-term datasets that include measurements of the atmosphere, land and oceans. NASA has been tracking many of these properties for decades. NPP will continue measurements of land surface vegetation, sea surface temperature, and atmospheric ozone that began more than 25 years ago.

NASA has more information about the satellite mission and a gorgeous photo (8MB jpeg) of the East Coast.

Wednesday 23 November 2011 08:19:43 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Weather#
Tuesday 22 November 2011

A cop in Tuscaloosa, Ala., arrested a suspicious foreigner under the state's xenophobia laws, with predictable results:

A German manager with Mercedes-Benz is free after being arrested for not having a driver's license with him under Alabama's new law targeting illegal immigrants, authorities said Friday, in an otherwise routine case that drew the attention of Gov. Robert Bentley.

Tuscaloosa Police Chief Steven Anderson told The Associated Press an officer stopped a rental vehicle for not having a tag Wednesday night and asked the driver for his license. The man only had a German identification card, so he was arrested and taken to police headquarters, Anderson said.

Mercedes-Benz spokeswoman Felyicia Jerald said the man is from Germany and was visiting Alabama on business. The company's first U.S. assembly plant is located just east of Tuscaloosa.

As someone in my industry might say to a customer who has inadvertently deleted all of his mother's photos because of a major usability flaw in the software, "the application is working as designed." Harassing all foreigners, even the ones who bring you millions of dollars in revenue, is a feature of Alabama's law, not a defect. Alabama wants to ensure that any foreigners in the state have a legal right to be there. They have made tremendous progress towards this goal since the law took effect for the simple reason that most foreigners, legal or not, now avoid Alabama.

Because when your economy is in the toilet, the best thing you can do is make people want to spend money somewhere else. Go Bama. Roll Tide.

Tuesday 22 November 2011 10:42:29 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | US#

A week ago Sunday I mentioned that I'd forked this blog engine so I could add features. I've added the first one, and everything seems to be working just fine.

The Daily Parker has used GeoRSS for a long time. All of the entries since March 2010 are geo-coded, which you would only know by looking at the RSS feed. Well, now you can see the geographic information on the blog entries themselves.

See the little globe icon next to the time and date at the bottom of the entry? Go ahead, click on it.

For more fun, check out some other entries, too.

Monday 21 November 2011 21:06:03 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Blogs#
Monday 21 November 2011

After Saturday's PR disaster at UC Davis, the university suspended its police chief and two officers:

UC Davis said early Monday in a news release that it was necessary to place police Chief Annette Spicuzza on administrative leave to restore trust and calm tensions. The school refused to identify the two officers who were place on administrative leave but one was a veteran of many years on the force and the other "fairly new" to the department, Spicuzza earlier told The Associated Press. She would not elaborate further because of the pending probe.

It still baffles me how a cop could so brazenly assault a bunch of kids lie that when he was surrounded by cameras. Forget how wrong his actions were absent the media; I get that some cops have authority problems. But how stupid could this guy be?

On the same thread, notice the university suspended the cops "to restore trust and calm tensions," not because they allege the police used inappropriate force.

Monday 21 November 2011 10:18:55 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | US#
Sunday 20 November 2011

Via Sullivan, the L.A. Times reports that atheists are moving toward official recognition in the U.S. military:

Religion — specifically Christianity — is embedded in military culture. The Chaplain Corps traces its origins to the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. Until the 1970s, the service academies required cadets to attend chapel services. Nightly prayers still are broadcast throughout Navy ships at sea. ... [N]onbelievers describe themselves as a minority that is often isolated and sometimes closeted.

In practical terms, [Army Capt. Ryan] Jean says, lay-leader status would make it easier for atheists at Ft. Meade to get access to facilities and services on the base. But he says recognition would carry a larger message.

Since a majority of Americans practice religion, it follows that a majority of the military do as well. But the proportion of people who don't, and of military personnel who don't, may be larger than the proportion of people who practice any single religion. They deserve the same mental-health services that military chaplains provide to religionists.

Let's not forget: Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. I daresay if Congress can't, neither can the armed services.

Sunday 20 November 2011 17:36:00 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | US | Religion#

The Atlantic has a few good Friday's police overreaction at UC Davis.

First, the university has launched an inquiry into the incident. I sincerely hope the guy wielding the pepper spray, John Pike, loses his job, as does the guy who ordered him to use it.

Alexis Madrigal feels bad for him: "[W]hile it's [Pike's] finger pulling the trigger, the police system is what put him in the position to be standing in front of those students. I am sure that he is a man like me, and he didn't become a cop to shoot history majors with pepper spray. But the current policing paradigm requires that students get shot in the eyes with a chemical weapon if they resist, however peaceably."

James Fallows raises a good question: "[W]when did we accept the idea that local police forces would always dress up in riot gear that used to be associated with storm troopers and dystopian sci-fi movies?"

Reacting to police claims the protesters were a threat, Ta Nahesi Coates writes: "Those of who've followed police brutality cases over the years will see the pattern at work. When accused of police brutality cops often claim to be endangered, regardless of the facts of the situation. An abusive [cop] could be driving a tank and facing off with a baby stroller, and yet somehow he/she would be the one outgunned."

Finally, Garance Franke-Ruta has a round-up of police violence against the Occupy movements.

Quis custodiet custodiens? Fortunately, in 2011, everyone with a cell phone. Let's start taking the video evidence to court.

Sunday 20 November 2011 10:56:11 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | US#
Saturday 19 November 2011

Video from yesterday in Syria California:

Fallows says:

Let's stipulate that there are legitimate questions of how to balance the rights of peaceful protest against other people's rights to go about their normal lives, and the rights of institutions to have some control over their property and public spaces. Without knowing the whole background, I'll even assume for purposes of argument that the UC Davis authorities had legitimate reason to clear protestors from an area of campus -- and that if protestors wanted to stage a civil-disobedience resistance to that effort, they should have been prepared for the consequence of civil disobedience, which is arrest.

I can't see any legitimate basis for police action like what is shown here. Watch that first minute and think how we'd react if we saw it coming from some riot-control unit in China, or in Syria. The calm of the officer who walks up and in a leisurely way pepper-sprays unarmed and passive people right in the face? We'd think: this is what happens when authority is unaccountable and has lost any sense of human connection to a subject population.

It makes me proud to be an American.

Saturday 19 November 2011 13:29:47 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | US#
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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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