Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
Saturday 4 August 2012

Remember all those Azure migrations I've done over the past month? Well, I have another one that I wasn't expecting, and for a variety of reasons including a failed web server, it must be completed by Monday morning.

Remember I'm going to San Diego tomorrow? Good thing the airplane has WiFi.

And people wonder why I eat chalk a lot...

Saturday 4 August 2012 08:14:58 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Business | Cloud#
Friday 3 August 2012

Sometimes things just work.

Last weekend, I wrote about moving my last four web applications out of my living room the Inner Drive Technology International Data Center and into the cloud via a Microsoft Azure Virtual Machine.

Well, if you're reading this blog entry, then I've succeeded in moving The Daily Parker. Except for transferring files (the blog comprises 302 megabytes over 13,700 files), which happened in the background while I did other things, it only took me about 45 minutes to configure the new installation and make the necessary changes to DNS.

Despite the enormous volume of data, this was the easiest of the four. DasBlog has no dependencies on outside services or data, which means I could move it all in one huge block. The three remaining applications will take much more configuration, and will also require data and worker services.

I'm still surprised and pleased with the smoothness of the transfer. If the other three migrations go anywhere nearly as easily as this (taking into consideration their complexities), I'll be an Azure Evangelist for years.

Thursday 2 August 2012 23:17:57 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Daily | Business | Cloud#
Thursday 2 August 2012

Lots of interesting articles hit my inbox today, and I don't have time to plagiarize write about them:

That is all. I really need to work now.

Thursday 2 August 2012 13:41:28 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | US#

My latest missive for my employer, "When to use Microsoft Azure’s IaaS instead of PaaS", is now available on the 10th Magnitude blog. It's similar to a post from last weekend, but with better writing and editing.

Thursday 2 August 2012 13:29:43 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Business | Cloud#

As if the 10-year-long wholesale theft of wealth from the middle class to the parasite class financial services sector weren't insult enough, it turns out Mitt Romney's tax plan would injure us even more:

The study was conducted by researchers at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, a joint project of the Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute, who seem to bend over backward to be fair to the Republican presidential candidate.

His rate-cutting plan for individuals would reduce tax collections by about $360 billion in 2015, the study says. To avoid increasing deficits — as Romney has pledged — the plan would have to generate an equivalent amount of revenue by slashing tax breaks for mortgage interest, employer-provided health care, education, medical expenses, state and local taxes, and child care — all breaks that benefit the middle class.

“It is not mathematically possible to design a revenue-neutral plan that preserves current incentives for savings and investment and that does not result in a net tax cut for high-income taxpayers and a net tax increase for lower- and/or middle-income taxpayers,” the study concludes.

Krugman is livid:

And the Romney people respond with deep voodoo, invoking the supposed fabulous growth effects from his tax cuts. And who could argue? Remember how the economy tanked after Clinton raised taxes? Remember how great things were after Bush cut them? Oh, wait.

More seriously, we have lots of empirical work on the effects of tax changes at the top — and none of it supports the Romney camp’s claims. What we’ve just learned is that they were faking it all along. There is no plan to offset the tax cuts; Romney is just intending to blow up the deficit to lavish favors on the wealthy, then use it as an excuse to savage Social Security and Medicare.

The election, which is just 95 days away, really is a referendum on wealth inequality. Voting for Romney is voting for feudalism. Voting for the president at least keeps the middle class fingers in the dam. (And what an image that is...)

Thursday 2 August 2012 11:22:28 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#

According to Jeff Atwood, today's the day:

When you're hired at Google, you only have to do the job you were hired for 80% of the time. The other 20% of the time, you can work on whatever you like – provided it advances Google in some way. At least, that's the theory.

Although the concept predates Google, they've done more to validate it as an actual strategy and popularize it in tech circles than anyone else. Oddly enough, I can't find any mention of the 20% time benefit listed on the current Google jobs page, but it's an integral part of Google's culture. And for good reason: notable 20 percent projects include GMail, Google News, Google Talk, and AdSense. According to ex-employee Marissa Meyer, as many as half of Google's products originated from that 20% time.

He goes on to ask if your company is ready, and offer some suggestions how to implement it. I think it's easier to do when you don't have billable-hour pressure, but still, we at my company do manage to get some goofing-off time in.

Or, put another way, "why is this day different from all other days?"

Thursday 2 August 2012 09:03:32 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Business#

It's not just Chicago; the Illinois State Climatologist has pronounced this year hotter than hell:

This year so far is the warmest and third driest on record. The statewide average temperature for January-July 2012 was 56.9 degrees, 5.5 degrees above normal. The statewide average precipitation for January-July was 357 mm, 249 mm below normal or 59 percent of normal.

Statewide Average Temperature Rankings for January-July

  1. 2012: 13.8°C
  2. 1921: 13.4°C
  3. 1987: 12.3°C
  4. 1998: 12.2°C
  5. 2006: 12.1°C

Statewide Average Precipitation Rankings for January-July

  1. 1936: 310 mm
  2. 1934: 344 mm
  3. 2012: 357 mm
  4. 1988: 371 mm
  5. 1914: 386 mm

That said, I'm sitting outside with my laptop on a lovely, clear 26°C night. The really awful heat returns tomorrow, though...

Wednesday 1 August 2012 19:30:44 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Wednesday 1 August 2012

The month ended with Chicago Midway reporting its warmest July ever, while our official O'Hare station had the second-hottest ever:

Of all the summers on the books over Chicago's official observational record dating back to 1871, only the 1921 season managed a temperature higher than the 25.3°C reading on the books to date this year. That makes this the warmest opening two-thirds of a meteorological summer season here in 91 years.

The bleak rainfall situation continues across the area as this year's drought worsens. At 116 mm, this summer's rain tally ranks 23rd driest of the 142 years to which we can compare it.

And it's not over; the Climate Prediction Center published this map yesterday:

The good news is, we'll probably have a warm autumn, too...

Wednesday 1 August 2012 08:48:49 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Tuesday 31 July 2012

Billionaire Jeff Greene wants to pay more taxes, and wants his neighbors to do the same:

[O]ver the past few months, it’s become clear that rich people are very, very afraid. Sometimes it feels like this was the main accomplishment of Occupy Wall Street: a whole lot of tightened sphincters. It’s not a stretch to say many residents of Park Avenue harbor vivid fears of a populist revolt like the one seen in The Dark Knight Rises, in which they cower miserably under their sideboards while ragged hordes plunder the silver.

“This is my fear, and it’s a real, legitimate fear,” Greene says, revving up the engine. “You have this huge, huge class of people who are impoverished. If we keep doing what we’re doing, we will build a class of poor people that will take over this country, and the country will not look like what it does today. It will be a different economy, rights, all that stuff will be different.

“There are all these people in this country who are just not participating in the American Dream at all,” he says. This makes him uncomfortable, not least because they might try to take a piece of his. “Right now, for some bizarre reason, a lot of these people are supporting Republicans who want to cut taxes on the wealthy,” he says. “At some point, if we keep doing this, their numbers are going to keep swelling, it won’t be an Obama or a Romney. It will be a ­Hollande. A Chávez.

“Nobody gets it,” he grumbles, gunning over the boardwalk that leads from his boathouse to the beach. “I see David Koch a lot of the time. His policies are ridiculous. I don’t think he’s ever been to one of these schools where they have a rolling cart, where one computer has to go to different classrooms, and it can make so much difference, a $700 computer! I don’t think these guys realize, this is what they’re cutting off? To say to those kids, ‘Too bad, every man for himself’?”

I don't think we're that close to 1848, but typically, when inequality gets too broad, civil unrest follows. This isn't new. And while I would prefer Greene and others like him to support paying their share out of moral obligation and a belief that shared sacrifice yields shared riches—that it makes the pie higher, to quote a former president—I'll take consequence-based ethics if it gets the same result.

Tuesday 31 July 2012 13:42:27 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#

Chicago's average temperature this July will probably wind up at 27.2°C, making it the third-warmest in history behind 27.3°C 1921 and 27.4°C 1955. (Normal is 23.3°C.)

Along with the near-record heat we've had more 32°C days so far than ever before. And it's not over:

Never before, over the term of Chicago's 142 year observational record, have so many 90s accumulated at such an early date.

July alone produced 18 days at or above 90---far beyond the seven considered normal, yet just shy of the 19 days of 90s recorded in 1955 and 1987—both record highs for the month.

History tells us we've likely NOT seen the last of the hot air. An estimated 35 percent (more than a third) of Chicago's remaining 90+degree temperatures have typically occurred from this date forward.

At least today and tomorrow should be cooler, 27°C today and 28°C tomorrow, before going back into the red zone on Thursday.

Roll on October...

Tuesday 31 July 2012 08:35:18 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
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#
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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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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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