Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
Friday 13 July 2012

(Cross-posted to my company's blog.)

If you’ve looked at Microsoft’s Azure pricing model, you’ve no doubt had some difficulty figuring out what makes the most economic sense. What size instances do I need? How many roles? How much storage? What will my monthly bill actually be?

Since June 7th, Microsoft has had one price for an entry-level offering that is completely comprehensible: free. You can now run up to 10 web sites on a shared instance for free. (Well, you have to pay for data output over 165 MB per month at 12c per gigabyte, and if the site needs a SQL Database, that’s at least $5 a month, etc.)

At 10th Magnitude, we’ve switched to free Azure websites for our dev and staging instances of some internal applications and for our brochure site. And it’s saving us real money.

The full post explains why.

Friday 13 July 2012 10:52:42 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Business | Cloud#
Wednesday 11 July 2012

Despite the obviousness of USAirways acquiring it as American Airlines' only hope for survival, apparently some AMR executives are having a Walter Mitty moment:

A source familiar with the situation said AMR sees itself as an acquirer in potential mergers and at least five airlines -- US Airways Group Inc., JetBlue Airways Corp, Alaska Air Group, Republic Airways' Frontier Airlines, and Virgin America -- will be considered.

American has faced mounting pressure from vocal members of its creditors committee, led by its largest labor unions, who have argued that a merger with US Airways would give the combined carrier a strong network to compete with rivals beefed up by their own mergers. US Airways has expressed interest in a merger and has been courting AMR's creditors.

The problem, one will see immediately, is that AMR doesn't have the resources to take over another airline. And the ones they listed are regional, medium-sized, or discount airlines, not at all likely to help American get out of bankruptcy. Virgin just has to be a joke, of course. Not that there haven't been mergers between Americans and Virgins in the past—I just don't think Richard Branson will put out for Tom Horton in the near future.

Possibly this is just posturing by AMR executives. I hope so. Because if not, USAirways won't buy American, and American will die, and I'll have to fly United. And that would really suck.

Wednesday 11 July 2012 17:41:32 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation#

Even though Chicago has had completely tolerable weather the last three days, June and the first few days of July took their toll. Since the beginning of meterological summer on June 1st, Chicago has had the hottest summer ever, with only 26% of normal rainfall:

Its 24.7°C average temperatures is running 3.8°C above the long term (142-year) average and 2.9°C above the same period a year ago. Wednesday is to bring the metro area's 14th consecutive day of above normal temperatures.

July's abundant sunshine has month on track to end up one of the area's three or four sunniest.

It's not surprising at all to learn that not only is the summer season is the warmest on the books, it also ranks among the three or four sunniest Julys on record here with 86 percent of the area's possible sun--well above the 68 percent considered normal.

It's just over 30°C now, and forecast to hit 32°C at the lakefront by Saturday (and today, inland).

Brief respite over, I suppose. I even had the windows open the last couple of mornings.

Wednesday 11 July 2012 13:27:21 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Tuesday 10 July 2012

I've just completed my fourth Windows Azure deployment this month, and this time, it's a non-trivial site. The Inner Drive Technology corporate website now lives up in the Cloud. Actually, it lives in two places: as an Azure Website for testing, and in Azure Cloud Services for production. All I have to do to complete the task is publish the "production" instance (I've successfully published the "staging" instance) and configure DNS.

This deployment gave me the most trouble, mainly because it has a lot of stuff in it: all my code demos, especially time zones. I also discovered a couple of things about deployments to Azure Cloud Services, in particular that the default staging deployment hits a different port than the production deployment.

It took me about 7 hours to convert the existing Inner Drive code into an ASP.NET Web application and get it working in an Azure website. I had a major hiccup trying to get the time zone data to load, because on an Azure website (but not in Cloud Services), the IANA tzinfo database files live in the file system.

Moving it to Cloud Services only took me about 90 minutes, though. As I've discovered, there are differences between the two, and it's a pain in the ass to alter the project and solution files every time you want to deploy it to a different environment. So, I copied the project and solution files, and voilà! Easy deployment to either environment.

I'll write more about this later. At the moment, I'm waiting for the enormous Inner Drive Extensible Architecture SDK to upload to the Cloud. This could take a while...time to walk the dog.

Update, 21:15 CDT: Inner Drive is live on Azure, including the entire SDK. It took 25 minutes to deploy, which, believe it or not, isn't much more than it usually takes. But the total time to add a Cloud Services role and deploy the site—not counting when I walked away to do something else—was just under two hours.

Tuesday 10 July 2012 17:21:43 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Cloud#

The south-side Chicago politician has been on "medical leave" and unavailable for a month:

[U.S. Rep. Jesse] Jackson, 47, took a medical leave for "exhaustion" June 10, but his spokesman waited until June 25 to announce it. A new statement Thursday said Jackson long had grappled with "physical and emotional ailments" and needed extended in-patient treatment. But his office declined to specify his illness, where he is being treated or when he is expected to return. Jackson is running for re-election Nov. 6.

[Illinois U.S. Senator Richard] Durbin praised Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., for releasing a video showing him in rehabilitation after a January stroke, saying Kirk told Illinoisans "what his hopes are about recovering." Kirk has not made a public appearance since his stroke, nor has he said when he may return to Washington.

Jackson's father, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Jr., was on local TV today to discuss the 41st Annual Rainbow Coalition Conference. He said only that his son "is under medical supervision and is taking time to recover."

Whatever is going on with Jackson, I hope he recovers quickly. He has a duty, however, to reveal whether or not he's fit to hold his office, and if not, to resign. NBC reports that if he does,

Since the Nov. 6 election is less than 180 days away, it’s too late to hold a special election, said Ken Menzel, deputy general counsel of the Illinois Board of Elections. However, if Jackson resigns as a candidate as late as 15 days before the election, he can be replaced on the ballot.

A new candidate would be chosen at a meeting of the 2nd District’s Democratic Party county chairmen. Each chairman would have a number of votes equal to the votes cast by his county in the primary. Since Cook County cast 88.6 percent of the votes in the 2nd District primary, Cook County Democratic Party Chairman Joe Berrios would have complete control of the process.

Tuesday 10 July 2012 13:07:46 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | US#
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#
On this page....
Azure web sites and web roles
AMR executives fantasize about buying something
Hottest summer ever
Fourth time's a charm
Where's Congressman Jackson?
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
The Daily Parker +3611d 11h 31m
Whiskey Fest 26d 22h 12m
My next birthday 336d 11h 36m
Parker's 10th birthday 256d 01h 42m
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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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