Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
Saturday 7 January 2012

The Red Rooster, Chicago:

Canon 7D, 37mm, ISO-400, f/5.6 at 1/60, here.

Saturday 7 January 2012 17:09:54 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Photography#

Via Strange Maps, malts.com has a free handy whisky chart everyone should bring to Duke of Perth this week:

Saturday 7 January 2012 14:25:43 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#

Via Microsoft guru Raymond Chen, news that tourists continually block traffic outside Abbey Road Studios:

Apparently the studio also has a webcam.

The famous zebra crossing is here.

Saturday 7 January 2012 11:47:07 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Cool links#

Brilliant:

Saturday 7 January 2012 11:39:45 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Jokes | US | World#
Friday 6 January 2012

The Paris Observatory has announced a leap second between June 30th and July 1st this year:

A positive leap second will be introduced at the end of June 2012. The sequence of dates of the UTC second markers will be:

   2012 June 30, 23h 59m 59s
   2012 June 30, 23h 59m 60s
   2012 July  1, 0h  0m  0s

... Leap seconds can be introduced in UTC at the end of the months of December or June, depending on the [available rotation data].

Leap seconds occur from time to time because the earth's rotation on its axis doesn't stay exactly the same from year to year. Most years it loses about half a second; the last couple of years it hasn't lost as much, so the last leap second came just before 1 January 2009. Eventually, the earth will stop rotating on its axis relative to the sun, in much the same way the moon rotates once on its axis every time it orbits the earth. You've been warned.

This has an interesting side effect, by the way: UTC is now 34 seconds behind the earth, so clocks on things like orbiting satellites—think GPS—have "incorrect" values. Your hand-held GPS receiver will probably be a second slow after June 30th. Your computer, if it syncs up to an authoritative time service, won't.

Thursday 5 January 2012 21:41:13 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Astronomy#
Wednesday 4 January 2012

A couple of us have come to Brown Deer, Wis., to work with a vendor on an upcoming software release. (Brown Deer is about 160 km north of Chicago.) The vendor has been über-cooperative, the trip up (for me, anyway) took less than two hours, and we're getting everything done we weren't able to do from our respective offices in other states.

Two of the guys are from Texas, one is from Delhi, and I'm from the Greatest City in North America. So the only thing we're having any difficulty negotiating is food.

At lunch today we scouted Google Maps rigorously for anything other than Applebee's, and found the only place better within a 20-minute drive: Olive Garden. Between discussing the project and other stuff about work, we decided that Brown Deer is a food desert. So tonight, after scanning Yelp and getting other recommendations, we're heading into downtown Milwaukee for some real food.

Unfortunately, that means tomorrow night we'll have Applebee's. But at least we'll make the effort.

Wednesday 4 January 2012 17:49:10 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Travel#
Tuesday 3 January 2012

Via Sullivan, writer Mike Konczal reviews economist Donald Schoup's book about parking pricing with a clear enunciation of good and bad parking schemes:

We now have two ways to distinguish changes in the provisioning of government services. On one axis, there’s who controls the provisoning and the residual – is it in public hands or private hands? On the second axis there’s how much competition and market reforms are driving the reform versus how much there’s monopolies and single firms dictating the allocation and the real reform comes through private ownership itself. Graphing these for the parking debate:

[P]eople react strongly against privatization without market competition, and there’s three good reasons why they should. There’s the matter of who ultimately controls the residual, so if there are rents captured they go to private agents as opposed to the public. If monopolists provide too little of a good at too high a price, that surplus goes to private agents, instead of recycling to taxpayers. This has huge implications for whether the initial price tag is set right, for whether the government will get too little because of crony practices or because they are liquidity-constrained, and what mechanisms are in place for reevaluating the deal at points in the future. Chances are these will all be problems, as they were in Chicago.

And now the city has to pay Morgan Stanley for street fairs...it only gets better.

Tuesday 3 January 2012 15:58:03 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | US#
Monday 2 January 2012

I caught a mention of this on the Marketplace Open this morning, and now Gulliver has picked it up. Apparently the Department of Transportation now requires more transparency in airline price advertising:

Beginning Jan. 24, the Transportation Department will enforce a rule requiring that any advertised price for air travel include all government taxes and fees. For the last 25 years, the department has allowed airlines and travel agencies to list government-imposed fees separately, resulting in a paragraph of fine print disclaimers about charges that can add 20 percent or more to a ticket’s price.

“Requiring all mandatory charges to be included in a single advertised price will help consumers compare airfares and make it easier for them to determine the full cost of their trip,” Bill Mosley, a department spokesman, said by e-mail in response to questions about the rule.

The government and the airlines are being guarded in discussing the full-fare advertising policy, since Spirit Airlines, Allegiant and Southwest have asked the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to block the proposed change, arguing that it violates their commercial free speech rights.

Yes, I suppose the First Amendment gives people the right to lie, dissemble, exaggerate, and defraud. Oh wait—regulation of commercial speech seems well-established in the U.S. Good luck, guys.

Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see if airlines change their booking software before the 24th. If you book flights between, say, Chicago and London, on aa.com, you can find one-way fares as low as—no kidding—$86 outbound. Of course, the lowest return fare is $466 (connecting through Toronto on February 14th), and taxes add another $204.30 for a total fare of $756.30. (Part of that includes the asinine £60 ($95) tax to leave Heathrow that probably won't die before the Olympics.)

The airlines will claim, of course, that they can't calculate the taxes and fees in some cases, like departing Heathrow, because they don't know from the start whether the customer will be subject to the tax. This is a technical problem that a competent programmer can solve, I think. Let's see after the 24th whether they solve it.

Monday 2 January 2012 16:36:37 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation | US | Travel#

Welcome to the semi-annual update of the Chicago sunrise chart. (You can get one for your own location at http://www.wx-now.com/Sunrise/SunriseChart.aspx.)

Continue on to see the chart...

Monday 2 January 2012 15:00:41 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Astronomy#
Sunday 1 January 2012

In 2011, I:

  • took 8,198 photos, including 4,352 in Chicago, 881 in Japan, 588 in Portugal, and 337 in the U.K. (and only 71 of Parker). This is almost as many as I took in 2009 and 2010 combined (9,140), and more than I took in the first 8 years I owned a camera (1983-1991, 7,671).
  • flew 115,845 km but drove less than 4,500 km
  • visited 5 countries (the UK, Spain, Portugal, Canada, Japan) and 8 states (California, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Indiana, North Carolina, Texas, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin) in 35 trips. Sadly, this meant Parker boarded for more than 100 days
  • spent more than 186 hours walking Parker, which partially made up for all those days being boarded
  • wrote 539 blog entries, with the most consistency in the blog's 6-year history (averaging 1.48 per day with a standard deviation of only 0.11)
  • got 2.3 million hits (object views) on the Daily Parker, and 1.7 million on Weather Now, including 47,956 and 181,285 page views, respectively. According to Google Analytics, the blog had 28,613 unique visitors, and Weather Now had 26,539.
  • read only 34 books, but as these included the first four of the "Song of Ice and Fire" series, it should count as 46
  • started and ended the year in the same place (Duke of Perth, Chicago)
  • went to only 8 movies, 3 plays, 3 concerts, and 3 baseball games, which is terribly sad

Oh, and I also got a master's degree. (Almost forgot.)

Sunday 1 January 2012 11:56:32 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Cubs | Duke | Kitchen Sink | Parker | Photography | Travel#

First photo of the year, in fact:

Sunday 1 January 2012 10:47:26 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Parker | Photography#
Saturday 31 December 2011

It's 2012 everywhere from Cairo to points east, and I've got a lot to do between now and tomorrow, so I will postpone whatever end-of-year summaries, year-in-review posts, photos of Parker, and looks forward to next year until tomorrow. Suffice to say, I didn't accomplish everything I'd hoped to do today, this month, or this year, but I'm satisfied. Mostly. And I think 2012 will improve upon 2011, which improved upon 2010, and so on back to 1999, which, for a variety of reasons, hasn't been topped.

So how to make 2012 better than 1999, without moving back to New York, being 13 years younger, and having the confidence and drive that can only come from unbridled hubris riding on a crashing ignorance of one's profession? I'm sure it won't be that difficult. Perhaps more nuanced, though.

Thanks for reading this year. Expect another few hundred posts next year, with more photos, stuff about Parker, rants about the election, and possibly a note here and there about the weather. And expect 2012 to rock, generally.

Saturday 31 December 2011 16:13:05 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Friday 30 December 2011

Not just here, where we're looking forward to 10°C on New Year's Eve to complete a streak of 21 days above normal temperatures,, but also Northern Europe:

Britons getting ready to ring in 2012 can expect highs of up to 15°C after a year of unusually mild weather.

Forecasters said the past 12 months have been the second warmest for the UK after 2006, in which the average temperature reached 9.73°C. The average for 2011 was just a shade lower at 9.62°C.

It comes after the warmest April and spring on record, the second warmest autumn and the warmest October day.

The U.K. also had its warmest temperature in five years on June 27th, when Gravesend, Kent, hit 33.1°C. Pretty soon Britons will need air conditioners.

But there's no anthropogenic climate change happening. None at all.

Friday 30 December 2011 14:02:06 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | World | Weather#
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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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