Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
Monday 9 July 2012

Last week the California senate voted 21-16 vote to approve $8 bn in funding for a high-speed rail link between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Naturally there will be some privateering and incompetence, because this is America:

Until the end of last year, SNCF, the developer of one of the world's most successful high-speed rail systems, proposed that the state use competitive bidding to partner with it or another foreign operator rather than rely on construction engineers to design a sophisticated network for 200-mph trains.

The approach, the French company said, would help the California High-Speed Rail Authority identify a profitable route, hold down building costs, develop realistic ridership forecasts and attract private investors — a requirement of a $9-billion bond measure approved by voters in 2008.

But SNCF couldn't get its ideas — including considering a more direct north-south route along the Central Valley's Interstate 5 corridor — out of the station.

Instead, the rail authority continued to concentrate planning in the hands of Parsons Brinckerhoff, a giant New York City-based engineering and construction management firm. Although they have occasionally consulted with high-speed railways, officials decided that hiring an experienced operator and seeking private investors would have to wait until after the $68-billion system was partially built.

But whenever it gets going, the data seem pretty clear: it will hurt the airlines even while getting more Californians traveling:

Earlier this year a pair of Dutch researchers analyzed the passenger market between London and Paris in recent years and found that high-speed rail has been far and away the dominant travel choice in the corridor. Using these findings, they extrapolated that if California's train can make the full trip between Los Angeles and San Francisco in about 3 hours, it will capture roughly a third of business travelers and about 40 percent of the leisure market.

A more recent study, set for publication in the September issue of the journal Transport Policy, suggests that high-speed rail will not only cut into the air market but actually create its own travel demand. The researchers found that more total travelers — air and rail together — existed in various corridors after high-speed rail service began in the country. That means either people saw the service and decided to take trips they otherwise wouldn't have or they shifted from driving to train-riding. The former would be great for California's economy; the latter, a relief to its congested highways.

The change was particularly pronounced in the Barcelona-Madrid corridor. Here the researchers estimate an additional 394,000 travelers in the post-bullet train era — an 8 percent rise from earlier times. That's a good sign for California. The Barcelona-Madrid trip is relatively equidistant to Los Angeles-San Francisco: 314 miles to 348 miles as the crow flies, respectively. The travel time by rail is also comparable, in the neighborhood of 3 hours in each case.

The study also found that opening the Chunnel has shifted travel patterns between the UK and the Continent, getting more people traveling even as fewer people fly.

So who's really behind the opposition to HSR? Can't guess.

Monday 9 July 2012 11:54:37 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | US | World | Travel#
Sunday 8 July 2012

Before Saturday's game at Citi Field, I wandered around Flushing Meadows Corona Park, site of the 1939 World's Fair (and an alien spaceship crash in 1997):

About two dozen kids played in the fountain and in the spray blown off it:

(The post title comes by way of Aimee Mann.)

Sunday 8 July 2012 18:35:41 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Travel#

By Wednesday afternoon I'd migrated two Web sites from the loud and hot server rack in my home office to Microsoft Azure web sites. Then I popped off to New York for last night's game, and when I got back to my hotel room I encountered yet another reason I like the Cloud: I couldn't get to any of the sites back home.

It turned out that a brief power failure had caused the firewall to reboot—I think a UPS didn't last as long as expected—and in the process it caused the Web server's network adapter to fail.

Keep in mind, all I knew was I didn't have most of my Web sites, including the Daily Parker. I did have email, because I'd already moved that to the Cloud. But I didn't know whether I'd blown a circuit breaker, whether someone had cut my home Internet cable, or whether someone had burgled my house.

So, I'm going to continue migrating sites as quickly as I can. And by autumn, mysterious outages will, I hope, not happen again.

Saturday 7 July 2012 20:06:35 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Cloud#
Saturday 7 July 2012

I visited my 22nd baseball park last night, the quasi-retro Citi Field, to see the bottom-ranked Cubs take on the second-place Mets:

The Cubs got their first run on the Mets' second pitch and by the bottom of 5 they were up by 5 runs. At the point I took this photo, the bottom of the 6th, it was still 7-2 Cubs and the Mets' so-called "fans" were leaving the park like something on the field stank worse than...well, the two teams on the field:

Then, in the bottom of the 9th, still leading by 4, Carlos Marmól took the mound for no reason anyone could discern, and nearly gave away the game:

Entering with a four-run lead, he gave up a solo homer to Valdespin with one out, then walked Ruben Tejada, pinch hitter Daniel Murphy and David Wright to load the bases.

Pinch-hitter Ike Davis followed with a single, bringing up Duda. Marmol's quick reflexes saved the Cubs.

"Marmol's quick reflexes" my ass. With the bases loaded and no one expecting Marmol to do anything helpful, a single-A pitcher from the Carolina League could have caught the droopy thing Duda hit straight at the mound and gotten the game-ending double play. But let's review what happened to get us there: Marmol gave up three runs and three (consecutive!) walks in 10 minutes. And he didn't even need to be there.


I would like to end on a happy note. I found a decent pale ale at the park, brewed right in New York City: Sweet Action from Brooklyn's Sixpoint Brewery. What a nummy session beer—and the only one sold in 470 mL cans (cf. 350 mL cans for everything else). I'll be make sure to get some Sweet Action next time I'm in New York. (And some Redhead maple bacon peanuts, from Grand Central Market. Who invented these?)

Saturday 7 July 2012 15:10:07 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Baseball | Travel#
Friday 6 July 2012

It's pretty warm in New York right now: 33°C. That's cooler than 38°C, the current official temperature in Chicago, making it the third day in a row that Chicago has gotten that hot:

July's opening 5 days the hottest in 101 years

The month is young—just 5 days old. Yet it's 30.2°C average temperature is 7.3°C above normal and makes it the warmest July open since 1911 when the period averaged 31°C.

Apparently relief is coming with temperatures predicted to fall into the mid-20s (mid-70s Fahrenheit) Sunday.

Despite being in New York, I've actually spent the morning and part of the afternoon completing a project for work. I'm done now, giving me just enough time to run an errand before tonight's Cubs game at Citi Field. Look for photos from the game tomorrow afternoon.

Friday 6 July 2012 14:43:42 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Chicago | Travel | Weather#
Thursday 5 July 2012

2:15 pm:

4:10 pm:

And why am I here? That, at 7pm tomorrow:

Thursday 5 July 2012 18:19:10 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Baseball | Travel#

I'm not just complaining; heat accounts for more deaths than any other kind of weather. Yesterday the temperature hit 39°C in Chicago; today and tomorrow the forecast calls for the same.

Good thing it doesn't happen often:

The 39°C peak reading marked only the second time in 142 years an Independence Day has recorded a triple digit [Fahrenheit] temperature here.

The rarity of Chicago temperatures at that level can't be overstated. Of 51,465 daily temperatures which have been archived over the 142 years of official weather observations in Chicago, only 19 of them have reached or exceeded that level.

Yes, the 1 in 2700 chance of hitting that temperature just isn't comforting right now (9:30 am, 31°C).

So I'm leaving. Next dispatch this evening from somewhere else (though I don't expect it to be much cooler).

Thursday 5 July 2012 09:20:57 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Wednesday 4 July 2012

Yes, Azure is hot, but not like this:

Chicago's official (O'Hare) temperature has passed 38°C and may go up a degree or two more this afternoon. My apartment is up to 27.5°C, the point where the server rack starts sending me whiny emails.

And not that I called it or anything, but so far this is the hottest summer in my lifetime.

Wednesday 4 July 2012 14:36:30 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#

I've finished two complete migrations from my living room the Inner Drive Technology Worldwide Data Center to Microsoft Windows Azure web sites. Astute readers may remember that in one case I moved to the Web site offering and then moved it to a full-fledged Web role. Well, today, I moved it back. Even though I'm still on the free trial, it turned out that the Web role would cost $15 per month, which, for a site that gets one or two visitors per day, simply wasn't worth it.

Moving the second site, a silly thing from 2004 created to share photos and commentary about a 10-year series of Presidents Day parties a friend of mine hosted back in the day, went a lot more smoothly. Click through for a rundown of what went well and what didn't.

Wednesday 4 July 2012 10:17:17 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Cloud#
Tuesday 3 July 2012

The temperature at O'Hare just hit 35°C, and it's still rising. This is the 7th day in a row of above-32°C temperatures, and it looks like we're in for another 4 more days of it—including 38°C tomorrow and 39°C Thursday.

But that isn't the main weather story of the day; the drought is:

The latest USDA Illinois Weather and Crops report was released this afternoon. The topsoil conditions were rated at 52 percent “very short” and 37 percent “short” and only 11 percent adequate. Soil moisture conditions were best in northern Illinois, and deteriorated southward. Hardest hit was southeastern Illinois with 100 percent of the topsoil and 100 percent of subsoil rated as “very short”.

Corn and soybeans—Illinois produces 18% of the country's corn and 16% of the county's soybean— make up 73% of the state's gross agricultural product, amounting to $7.2bn per year. This summer is bad, but possibly not as bad as 1988. Yet.

Tuesday 3 July 2012 14:07:54 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Monday 2 July 2012

I have successfully ported my first (existing) application to the Microsoft Windows Azure platform, and have shut down the running instance on my local Web server. I hope the second one takes less than a week.

It's a funny little site called Boxer's Shorts. Dr. Bob Boxer is a local allergist who likes puns. He worked with a local illustrator, Darnell Towns, and self-published the five paperback pun compilations advertised on the site.

Local web designer Lauren Johnson (née Liss) did the look and feel, and I provided the platform. I think we completed the site in two weeks or so. I've hosted it since it went live in September 2006—just a few days after I got Parker, in fact.

And now it's in the cloud, the first Inner Drive site to be ported. From what I learned doing it, I hope to get two more of my older sites deployed to Azure this week.

Sunday 1 July 2012 23:13:45 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Cloud#

I've spent much of the past week trying to get a single, small website up into the cloud on the Windows Azure platform. Much of this effort revolved around the Azure Website product, mainly because it's free. Well, I got the application up as an Azure website...and there's a big problem with it that means I'll have to redeploy it as a Web role after all.

Read on for a chronicle of the gotchas my learning curve today.

Sunday 1 July 2012 20:10:51 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Cloud#
On this page....
California Senate approves high-speed rail; airlines opposed
Seventy years after the fair
More reasons to love and embrace the Cloud
Carlos Marmól stole my joy
So glad I'm not home
Views from my windows
Heat kills
Shorter Daily Parker this week: hot, Azure, hot, Azure
Continuing migrations to Azure
Hot hot hot
It is finished.
Why I haven't finished deploying to Azure
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David Braverman and Parker
David Braverman is the Chief Technology Officer of Holden International in Chicago, and the creator of Weather Now. Parker is the most adorable dog on the planet, 80% of the time.
All content Copyright ©2015 David Braverman.
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The Daily Parker by David Braverman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License, excluding photographs, which may not be republished unless otherwise noted.
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