Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
Monday 23 July 2012

(Another post originally appearing on the 10th Magnitude blog.)

Last week I offered developers a simple way to simultaneously deploy a web application to a Microsoft Azure web site and an Azure Cloud Services web role. Today I'm going to point out a particular pain with this approach that may make you reconsider trying to deploy to both environments.

Monday 23 July 2012 15:41:16 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Business | Cloud#

Via Gulliver, airlines earned $22.6 bn from ancillary fees in 2011 (pdf), up 66% from 2009:

Once largely limited to low fare airlines, ancillary revenue is now a priority for many airlines worldwide, and the Review announced today shows how far the industry’s approach to ancillary revenue has developed in recent years.

Jay Sorensen, President of IdeaWorksCompany, says: “Our first report into ancillary revenue was issued in 2007, when only 23 airlines worldwide disclosed ancillary revenue activity in financial filings, and the result was a modest €1.72 billion ($2.45 billion). Four years later, 50 airlines today disclose ancillary revenue activity of €18.23 billion ($22.6 billion). It’s clear that airlines recognize the importance of ancillary revenue and are developing increasingly innovative ways to generate this.”

"Increasingly innovative." Nice. Anyone remember this ditty from Fascinating Aida, which now applies as much to United as it did to Ryanair?

Monday 23 July 2012 12:12:36 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation#

Two examples of how Europeans handle things differently than we do. First, Norway's refusal to be terrorized by lunatics with guns:

The car-bomb in Oslo designed to kill the leadership of the country, and the shootings on the island of Utoeya designed to destroy the next generation of Labour party politicians, left 77 people dead, the majority of them teenagers.

But even in the first days of shock after the attacks, it was clear the response of the Norwegian people and their government to this act of terrorism would be unique.

"The Norwegian response to violence is more democracy, more openness and greater political participation," [Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg] said.

A year later it seems the prime minister has kept his word.

There have been no changes to the law to increase the powers of the police and security services, terrorism legislation remains the same and there have been no special provisions made for the trial of suspected terrorists.

On the streets of Oslo, CCTV cameras are still a comparatively rare sight and the police can only carry weapons after getting special permission.

Even the gate leading to the parliament building in the heart of Oslo remains open and unguarded.

Meanwhile, just across the Baltic, Germany and the ECB seem frighteningly nonchalant about the possibility of Greece exiting the euro:

I’m not saying that Greece should be kept in the euro; ultimately, it’s hard to see how that can work. But if anyone in Europe is imagining that a Greek exit can be easily contained, they’re dreaming. Once a country, any country, has demonstrated that the euro isn’t necessarily forever, investors — and ordinary bank depositors — in other countries are bound to take note. I’d be shocked if Greek exit isn’t followed by large bank withdrawals all around the European periphery.

To contain this, the ECB would have to provide huge amounts of bank financing — and it would probably have to buy sovereign debt too, especially given the spiking yields on Spanish and Italian debt that are taking place as you read this. Are the Germans ready to see that?

My advice here is to be afraid, be very afraid.

Don't even get me started on anthropogenic climate change theory, which predicted just about everything we're experiencing in North American weather this year.

Monday 23 July 2012 11:14:24 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US | World#
Sunday 22 July 2012

I hung out with some very old friends yesterday, and throughout our barbecue we checked up on the Cubs. By the time we went inside, it was top of the 7th, no score.

Then this happened:

Rafael Furcal's go-ahead single in the seventh turned out to be a mere appetizer as the Cardinals also matched an 86-year-old franchise record for runs in an inning. St. Louis totaled 10 hits with multiple hits by three players including pinch-hitter Allen Craig, who doubled twice with an RBI.

The Cardinals totaled nine doubles for the first time in franchise history since setting a modern major league record with 13 doubles on July 12, 1931, against the Cubs.

Cubs starter Matt Garza was taken out after three scoreless innings with cramping in his right triceps, an injury that wasn't obvious and prompted speculation that he had been traded. The Cubs added a bit of intrigue, waiting until the bottom of the sixth to announce the injury and the fact X-rays -- as a precaution for possible elbow issues -- were negative.

Germano got unlimited warmups in the fourth, an indication he was entering because of an injury or ejection, although the rule book also allows for an unspecified sudden emergency. Germano allowed a run in three-plus innings before the roof caved in on the Cubs, who allowed 12 runs in an inning for the first time since July 30, 2010, at Colorado.

Twelve runs. One half of an inning. Twelve runs. Only the presence of one friend's 11-year-old daughter kept us from expressing our true feelings about what we were watching unfold before us.

After 35 years of watching them do things like that, I'm starting to think of moving on.

Sunday 22 July 2012 10:14:57 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Cubs#
Saturday 21 July 2012

After seven days above 32°C in a row, Thursday gave us a humid, rainy 28°C before yesterday's perfect, dry 27°C. We've had a record 32 days above 32°C since June 1st, six more than we had by this time in the previous-hottest summer I remember, 1988.

The forecast for the next few days looks grim: 32°C today, 34°C Sunday, and 39°C Monday.

Welcome to the new normal: in just a couple of years, Chicago has gone from hard winters and mild summers to mild winters and broiling summers. And the climate is still changing...

Saturday 21 July 2012 08:48:26 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Thursday 19 July 2012

In my last post, I talked about using Azure web sites to save beaucoup bucks over Azure Cloud Services web roles on nonessential, internal, and development web applications. In this post I'll go over a couple of things that bit me in the course of deploying a bunch of applications to Azure web sites in the last two weeks.

Read more for the technical details.

Thursday 19 July 2012 10:35:59 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Cloud#
Thursday 19 July 2012 09:54:01 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Astronomy#

Via Illinois State Climatologist Jim Angel, the Climate Prediction Center has new 1- and 3-month outlooks for the continent. Chicago has a 60% chance of being hotter and a 30% chance of being drier than normal through the end of August:

This is already a hotter summer than 1988, and on its way to become one of the hottest summers in recorded history. Oh, joy.

Thursday 19 July 2012 09:30:18 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Wednesday 18 July 2012

A couple of days ago I discovered a new behavior in Parker. While listening to Martha Berner's song "A Town Called Happiness," which has an extensive harmonica part, Parker started to howl. Not in pain, though: he stayed in the room, and even got closer to the noise, tail wagging.

Apparently this is common dog behavior, and it really does mean he's just singing along.

So I dug out my dad's old harmonica and, yes, he sang along with that, too. In the upper ranges he really put his heart into it, too.

I know the behavior came out of those ancient days when wolves roamed free and men cowered at their howls...but this is Parker, and it's freaking adorable.

Wednesday 18 July 2012 17:10:58 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Parker#

Via Sullivan, artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg is creating 3D portraits from random hairs:

Collecting hairs she finds in random public places – bathrooms, libraries, and subway seats – she uses a battery of newly developing technologies to create physical, life-sized portraits of the owners of these hairs. You can see the portrait she’s made from her own hair in the photo below. While the actual likeness is a point of contention, these images bring about some creepy-yet-amazing comments; on genetic identity (how much of “you” really resides in your DNA?); on the possibilities of surveillance (what if your jealous partner started making portraits from hairs they found around your house?); and on the subjectivity inherent in working with “hard” data and computer systems (how much of a role do human assumptions play in this machine made portrait?).

The artist's site is here.

All right. This came a little sooner than I expected, and from a different source. I've long recognize the necessity of adapting to, rather than raging impotently against, the fundamental changes to the security and privacy mores we've had for several thousand years. (As Bruce Schneier has pointed out, "Fifteen years ago, [CCTV cameras] weren't everywhere. Fifteen years from now, they'll be so small we won't be able to see them.") But this project, if it works as hoped, actually freaks me out a little.

I'm going to whistle past this graveyard for the time being...

Tuesday 17 July 2012 20:31:01 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Cool links | Security#
Tuesday 17 July 2012

Even though the temperature outside tied the record 38°C set 70 years ago, I'm happy to report that Inner Drive Technology World Headquarters has remained tolerably cool:

Those are degrees Celsius vertically and the last 24 hours of time horizontally. The lower temperatures overnight come from me turning the air conditioning to a cooler setting in the evening and back up in the morning.

What you can't see in this snapshot is that during our last hot, hot summer (2008), I had trouble keeping the office below 27.5°C. That's where the server fans spin up, power consumption skyrockets, and the electronics within the servers start crying. So far in the last two months, I've only had about three hours total above that threshold temperature, caused not by inadequate air conditioning but by me not closing the windows and turning the AC on in the first place.

I credit the window replacement completed in December 2010. Since 2011 had neither a particularly harsh summer nor a harsh winter, it was harder to see this data before.

Also, having turned off 40% of my servers probably helped.

Still, I do not want to go outside right now...

Tuesday 17 July 2012 15:41:29 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#

Today marks the 31st time this year Chicago's temperature has exceeded 32°C as another record falls:

The July 17 record high of 38°C for this date has stood 70 years, having been set in 1942 during World War II. Tuesday's heat gives the city a shot at replacing this record. [It was 36°C just before noon.—DB]

New USDA crop report paints bleak picture across much of the Midwest; more than half of Illinois' corn crop is "poor" or "very poor"!

Crops are struggling in many Midwest fields this year. USDA's weekly report on crop conditions released Monday indicates the condition of the corn crop continues to deteriorate. 56 percent of corn in Illinois is rated "poor"or "very poor". That percentage stands at 43 percent in Wisconsin; 27 percent in Iowa; 56 percent in Michigan; and grows to 69 percent in Missouri; and a whopping 71% in Indiana.

The New Yorker's Elizabeth Kolbert points out we made this happen 30 years ago:

One of the most salient—but also, unfortunately, most counterintuitive—aspects of global warming is that it operates on what amounts to a time delay. Behind this summer’s heat are greenhouse gases emitted decades ago. Before many effects of today’s emissions are felt, it will be time for the Summer Olympics of 2048. (Scientists refer to this as the “commitment to warming.”) What’s at stake is where things go from there. It is quite possible that by the end of the century we could, without even really trying, engineer the return of the sort of climate that hasn’t been seen on earth since the Eocene, some fifty million years ago.

Along with the heat and the drought and the super derecho, the country this summer is also enduring a Presidential campaign. So far, the words “climate change” have barely been uttered. This is not an oversight. Both President Obama and Mitt Romney have chosen to remain silent on the issue, presumably because they see it as just too big a bummer.

And so, while farmers wait for rain and this season’s corn crop withers on the stalk, the familiar disconnect continues. There’s no discussion of what could be done to avert the worst effects of climate change, even as the insanity of doing nothing becomes increasingly obvious.

Welcome to the 21st Century.

Tuesday 17 July 2012 12:57:43 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | US | Weather#
Monday 16 July 2012

Some Japanese students have invented a gadget that stops people from talking:

The NoiseJammer works by recording the irritating voices of rude individuals and playing it back to them [a quarter-second] later, overriding their annoying conversations with a flood of their own words. If you want the technical details to build your own jammer, it's all described in this academic paper, which explains the reasoning behind such a device.

Here's a demonstration:

Monday 16 July 2012 12:18:01 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#

As Chicago temperatures today and tomorrow will likely hit 35°C, I find myself looking forward to October. While temperatures will undoubtedly be lower then, we may not actually have a very interesting leaf season:

Deciduous trees (trees that lose their foliage in the winter) are sensitive to the increasing length of night during the autumn. When the hours of darkness reach a threshold value, fall colors begin to appear. The U.S. National Arboretum says, "Because the starting time of the whole process is dependent on night length, fall colors appear at about the same time each year in a given location, regardless whether temperatures are cooler or warmer than normal." However, drought stress during the growing season can cause leaves to fall before they have a chance to develop fall coloration, and that will be the likely effect of our drought: bland fall colors.

The one, single benefit related to all this heat and drought: we're having the third-sunniest July in history.

Monday 16 July 2012 09:58:53 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Sunday 15 July 2012

Via Krugman, Ezra Klein reminds us of the differences between the President's and Romney's tax plans:

Note that the Tax Policy Center could only conduct a partial analysis of Romney’s tax plan. That’s because Romney’s proposal itself is incomplete. He’s said that he wants to scrap various deductions in the tax code, particularly for high earners, in order to broaden the tax base. But he hasn’t offered any details about which deductions he’d scrap or how, so there wasn’t anything for the Tax Policy Center to analyze.

As Krugman says, "[T]he next time someone tut-tuts about 'class warfare,' remember that the class war is already happening, in real policy—with the top .01 percent on offense."

Sunday 15 July 2012 09:30:49 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | 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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