Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
Monday 30 July 2012

Via Sullivan, entrepreneur Kyle Wiens won't hire people who use poor grammar (and neither will I):

Good grammar makes good business sense — and not just when it comes to hiring writers. Writing isn't in the official job description of most people in our office. Still, we give our grammar test to everybody, including our salespeople, our operations staff, and our programmers.

Grammar signifies more than just a person's ability to remember high school English. I've found that people who make fewer mistakes on a grammar test also make fewer mistakes when they are doing something completely unrelated to writing — like stocking shelves or labeling parts.

In the same vein, programmers who pay attention to how they construct written language also tend to pay a lot more attention to how they code. You see, at its core, code is prose. Great programmers are more than just code monkeys; according to Stanford programming legend Donald Knuth they are "essayists who work with traditional aesthetic and literary forms." The point: programming should be easily understood by real human beings — not just computers.

Yes. Clear writing shows clear thought, almost always. I might not go so far as to use a grammar test for new employees, but I do pay attention to their emails and CVs.

Monday 30 July 2012 09:19:43 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Business#
Sunday 29 July 2012

Despite having two Atlantic named storms before June 1st, so far the tropical storm season has been eerily quiet with 4 named storms. Then I did a little poking around on the Intertubes and realized that no, we usually don't have that many by the end of July. With all the energy in the Northern Hemisphere atmosphere this summer, September might be more interesting than usual. But so far in July, we seem to be about average.

Sunday 29 July 2012 18:59:00 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Weather#

In every developer's life, there comes a time when he has to take all the software he's written on his laptop and put it into a testing environment. Microsoft Azure Tools make this really, really easy—every time after the first.

Today I did one of those first-time deployments, sending a client's Version 2 up into the cloud for the first time. And I discovered, as predicted, a flurry of minor differences between my development environment (on my own computer) and the testing environment (in an Azure web site). I found five bugs, all of them minor, and almost all of them requiring me to wipe out the test database and start over.

It's kind of like when you go to your strict Aunt Bertha's house—you know, the super-religious aunt who has no sense of humor and who smacks your hands with a ruler every time you say something harsher than "oops."

End of complaint. Back to the Story of D'Oh.

Sunday 29 July 2012 17:35:07 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Software | Cloud#
Saturday 28 July 2012

I hope to finish moving my websites into the cloud by the end of the year, including a ground-up rewrite of Weather Now. Meanwhile, I've decided to try moving that site and three others to an Azure Virtual Machine rather than trying to fit them into Azure Cloud Services.

For those of you just tuning in, Azure Cloud Services lets you run applications in roles that scale easily if the application grows. A virtual machine is like a standalone server, but it's actually running inside some other server. A really powerful computer can host a dozen small virtual machines, allocating space and computing power between them as necessary. You can also take a virtual machine offline, fold it up, and put it in your pocket—literally, as there are thumb drives easily as big as small VMs.

If you're interested in PaaS, IaaS, and the future of my living room the Inner Drive Technology Worldwide Data Center, read on.

Saturday 28 July 2012 14:24:50 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Business | Cloud#
Friday 27 July 2012

Long-time readers will know how I feel about Microsoft certification exams. When it came time for 10th Magnitude to renew its Microsoft Partner designation, and that meant all of us had to take these tests again, I was not happy.

So, against my will, I took exam 70-583 ("Designing and Developing Windows Azure Applications") and passed it. I am once again a Microsoft Certified Professional.

Fwee.

Friday 27 July 2012 15:33:24 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Business | Cloud#
Thursday 26 July 2012

The brokerage house Evercore doesn't believe Groupon. No one else does either:

The brokerage said Groupon Goods, the company's consumer products category, is increasingly becoming the merchant of record - the owner of goods being sold or the first-party seller.

As first-party sales assume inventory risk and drive higher revenue contribution, the composition of Groupon's first-quarter revenue beat in North America has become questionable, analyst Ken Sena wrote in a note.

"Growth in unique visitors in the U.S. to Groupon.com, which can be looked at as a proxy for subscriber growth, exhibited negative year-over-year trends this quarter," Sena said.

Essentially, no one is buying stuff from Groupon, which leaves them holding the bag on lots of it.

In a related story, people are sick of Farmville, which is hurting Zynga:

A slew of analysts cut their ratings and price targets for Zynga after it reported lower-than-expected quarterly results on Wednesday and forecast a much smaller 2012 profit.

Zynga has been hit by user fatigue for some of its long-running games and a shift in the way Facebook Inc's social platform promotes games.

"The biggest factor impacting current performance appears to be the way Facebook is surfacing gaming content on its platform," JP Morgan's Doug Anmuth wrote in a note to clients.

Actually, Facebook users just got bored of FarmVille, and it's hard to blame them. This is what happens when companies stop innovating in favor of milking their cash cows. (Sorry.)

Thursday 26 July 2012 17:25:37 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Business#

...because most of our maize corn is dying too:

The latest U.S. Drought Monitor has expanded D3 “extreme” drought across Illinois. It went from 8 percent of the state last week to 71 percent this week. This major shift was based on a number of short-term drought indicators based on rainfall, streamflow, and temperature, as well as from widespread reports of significant crop and pasture losses.

Earlier this week, the USDA NASS reported that 66 percent of the corn crop, 49 percent of the soybean crop, and 91 percent of pasture was rated poor to very poor. Topsoil was rated at 91 percent poor to very poor and subsoil was rated 97 percent poor to very poor.

The hottest July ever in Chicago averaged 27.4°C; so far this month has averaged 27.8°C, though today and Saturday are forecast to be about normal.

Food prices, electricity expenses, health-care costs: all are higher this month than one would expect for July. Welcome to the 21st Century, where the weather is as if everyone has moved 800 km south.

Thursday 26 July 2012 10:23:27 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Wednesday 25 July 2012

Chicago today looks set to get up to 39°C, part of an emerging pattern of worsening heat waves in the region.

The holy terror this summer, however, is 2,000 km to the northeast. Greenland has experienced unprecedented thawing this month:

The set of images released by NASA on Tuesday show a rapid thaw between 8 July and 12 July. Within that four-day period, measurements from three satellites showed a swift expansion of the area of melting ice, from about 40% of the ice sheet surface to 97%.

About half of Greenland's surface ice sheet melts during a typical summer, but [Jay Zwally, a glaciologist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center] said he and other scientists had been recording an acceleration of that melting process over the last few decades. This year his team had to rebuild their camp, at Swiss Station, when the snow and ice supports melted.

He said he was most surprised to see indications in the images of melting even around the area of Summit Station, which is about two miles above sea level.

It was the second unusual event in Greenland in a matter of days, after an iceberg the size of Manhattan broke off from the Petermann Glacier. But the rapid melt was viewed as more serious.

Greenland's ice sheet accounts for possibly 25% of the world's fresh water. A massive release of that water into the North Atlantic would not only raise sea levels worldwide, but also could distrupt thermohaline circulation, which in turn would make northern Europe's weather more like Canada's.

Of course, we'll all forget this in the winter, and react with surprise and alarm in a year or two when we have another record-breaking summer. Time to adapt.

Wednesday 25 July 2012 09:00:52 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Tuesday 24 July 2012

Krugman yesterday reminded us that people are so desperate for the security that investing in the U.S. brings them, they're paying us to take their money, at alarming rates of negative interest:

That’s right: for every maturity of bonds under 20 years, investors are paying the feds to take their money — and in the case of maturities of 10 years and under, paying a lot.

What’s going on? Investor pessimism about prospects for the real economy, which makes the perceived safe haven of US debt attractive even at very low yields. And pretty obviously investors do consider US debt safe — there is no hint here of worries about the level of debt and deficits.

Now, you might think that there would be a consensus that, even leaving Keynesian things aside, this is a really good time for the government to invest in infrastructure and stuff: money is free, the workers would otherwise be unemployed.

But no: the Very Serious People have decided that the big problem is that Washington is borrowing too much, and that addressing this problem is the key to … something.

Conservatives here and in the UK (another country with unprecedented low government interest rates) have either a delusion or a willfully dishonest belief in the dangers of deficits. Yes, both countries have long-term deficit problems that need resolution, and both countries will need lower defense and entitlement spending to close their gaps. But that's in 20 years.

Right now, we need to take this free money (five-year Treasuries are at -1.18%; ten year notes are at -0.68%) and abundant labor (nationally still around 9% unemployment) and rebuild. We need to repair our roads, upgrade our trains, fix our sewers and electric grids, and restore our countries to the economic strengths they have had in decades past.

Those on the right, however, want to continue bloodletting, draining us of our strength when we're weakest. Or, put another way, if someone is starving, withholding food won't help him. Lending him some food might just get him feeling better again.

Ten years from now we're going to look back on this period of Republican and Tory intransigence, laugh nervously, and change the subject. If we're supremely lucky, we'll be out of the economic traps that their misguided policies have created for us.

Tuesday 24 July 2012 10:21:46 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Politics | US | World#
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#
Search
On this page....
On hiring and grammar
Higher energy mid-continent, but so far not tropical
Deployments are fun!
Taking an Azure shortcut
Certified, again, and just as happy as the last time
Houses of cards + breeze
Good thing the ethanol subsidy died
Oppressive heat here, terrifying heat in Greenland
Bloodletting and leeches
Dual Microsoft Azure deployment: Project synchronization
Why airline fees will only get worse
Complete lacks of terror
Countdowns
The Daily Parker +3179d 16h 53m
My next birthday 37d 18h 38m
Parker's 9th birthday 321d 20h 21m
Categories
Aviation (318) Baseball (104) Best Bars (4) Biking (43) Chicago (861) Cubs (192) Duke (132) Geography (309) Higher Ground (5) Jokes (282) Kitchen Sink (611) London (40) Parker (185) Daily (204) Photography (139) Politics (302) US (1050) World (239) Raleigh (20) Readings (8) Religion (62) San Francisco (83) Software (196) Blogs (71) Business (221) Cloud (88) Cool links (128) Security (98) Travel (163) Weather (670) Astronomy (76) Windows Azure (58) Work (37) Writing (8)
Links
Archive
<July 2012>
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
24252627282930
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
2930311234
Full archive
Blogroll
About
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.
Legal
All content Copyright ©2014 David Braverman.
Creative Commons License
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.
Admin Login
Sign In
Blog Stats
Total Posts: 4400
This Year: 298
This Month: 37
This Week: 3
Comments: 0