Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
Tuesday 21 August 2012

Groupon, now trading somewhere around 25% of its IPO value, continues to unimpress people:

The disclosure that I found most revealing in last week's financial report was the relationship between Groupon's marketing spending and its growth rate. Traditional daily-deal revenue declined 6.9 percent from the first quarter to the second, as Groupon dialed back marketing outlays by 24 percent.

Hawking Groupon shares in the IPO roadshow, Mr. Mason said the company eventually would be able to cut back on marketing without sacrificing growth. This was meant to assure prospective investors that money-losing Groupon would become “wildly profitable,” as Executive Chairman and co-founder Eric Lefkofsky put it in an illicit media interview during the IPO registration process.

My guess is that another quarter or two like the last one will be enough to ease Mr. Mason into a position better suited to his eclectic interests. The challenge will be finding a replacement with certifiable executive skills and strategic vision.

Which prompts the question of what a better strategy for Groupon might be. Mr. Mason talks about becoming the “operating system for local commerce,” jargon that could mean anything—or nothing. Corporate mumbo-jumbo won't help Groupon now. It needs a new business.

I've noted before, Groupon's IPO benefited only one group of people: Groupon investors. The company has an easily-copied idea, and appears to lose money on every coupon it sells. Good on them for having $1 bn in cash; they'll need it.

Tuesday 21 August 2012 15:13:30 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Business#
Monday 20 August 2012

This is impressive:

Monday 20 August 2012 17:14:18 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Sunday 19 August 2012

Stephen Wizenburg, writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education, bemoans his students' lack of boundaries:

Posting and tweeting intimate life details are now so normal for them that they think nothing of cavalierly giving too much information to surprised professors.

Allison walked into my classroom apologizing for missing two weeks of classes by saying she had been in rehab for alcoholism. Stan's excuse, stated in front of the class, was that drugs he was taking for a psychological disorder had caused him to oversleep. Greg said he didn't have his assignment done because he had to go to court after being arrested for punching a guy in a bar fight. Carly texted me that she couldn't make it to class that day because she was in the hospital after having a miscarriage.

A new advisee, Amy, was in tears as she asked if she could shut my office door. It was her first semester, and she had always had a bright smile on her face in the classroom. But in my office, she told me her grades were suffering because she was having an affair with a local married TV reporter.

Such intimate details used to be considered too embarrassing to share. But with Facebook and Twitter, young people think nothing of confiding in strangers. Often the less the students know the person they are communicating with the more willing they are to spill. And they do it bluntly, now that they are used to summarizing life in 140 characters.

To some extent it sounds like the usual narcissism of children. I wonder, though: what will happen to expectations of privacy 20 or 30 years from now, when these kids grow up?

Sunday 19 August 2012 09:15:15 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | US#
Saturday 18 August 2012

The title says it all. I've moved Hired Wrist, my dad's brochure site, up to my Azure VM, leaving only Weather Now, plus my bug tracking and source control applications, in my living room the Inner Drive Technology Worldwide Data Center.

I'll move the two third-party apps next weekend. My experience moving Hired Wrist this morning suggests that moving Weather Now will be, as we say, "non-trivial" (i.e., bloody hard).

Saturday 18 August 2012 13:15:49 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Cloud#
Friday 17 August 2012

This weekend's weather forecast in Chicago predicts the coolest weekend since May 12, 14 weeks ago. Through Sunday temperatures should be 3°C below normal (days in the low 20s, lows in the low teens), with sunny skies and cool northeast breezes. September, in other words.

The Tribune points out:

Only 6 of past 142 years have produced Aug. 18 overnight lows cooler than those expected by Saturday morning.

Not only will daytime readings be cooler than typical for mid August, nighttime lows will be cooler than normal as well, particularly in areas farthest from the city and Lake Michigan---both of which temper early season cool spells by adding heat.

Friday night/Saturday morning's predicted 12°C low would become Chicago's chilliest minimum temperature in over two months and would qualify as one of the six coolest early season readings for the date since 1871.

It will warm up mid-week, though not to the temperatures we suffered through in the warmest July in history last month. I've got the windows open, and I'll probably be able to keep them open until Wednesday.

Parker likes having the windows open as well, but he's not used to hearing the neighbors—in particular, the neighbors' dogs. I hope he figures it out, because the random, single woofs at 2am are really aggravating.

Friday 17 August 2012 10:13:28 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Parker | Weather#
Thursday 16 August 2012

From the Atlantic, an explanation of how dogs dry themselves:

A dog can shake roughly 70 percent of the water from its fur in four seconds. Nearly three quarters of the moisture in the time it took you to read that last paragraph. Pretty amazing stuff.

But that champion efficacy raises more questions than it answers.

First, why does it work so well? How long does it take your socks to dry a comparable amount if you get them wet? How are they generating all that force? Second, many mammals are capable of the shake. Is how your dog does the same way that a mouse or a lion does? Third, why do animals do the shake at all? What's the evolutionary advantage that it confers?

It tickles me that part of the research involved dumping water on mammals of different sizes. If you're going to use animal subjects, annoying them is probably not the worst thing you could do.

Thursday 16 August 2012 14:10:00 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Tuesday 14 August 2012

A friend of mine, who lives in a sea of Tea Partiers, sent me this question today:

How would you refute/debate/argue against the following opinion:

"I think it's [Paul Ryan as Romney's VP choice] a good choice because I sincerely hope the collective national attention and focus will be on the fact that we are on the verge of becoming the next Greece. And that the only hope of prosperity for our children is massive cuts in government spending and entitlement reform. I'd even be in favor of raising taxes if we could slash government spending by > 25%. Otherwise, we should be teaching our kids Mandarin and Hindi because that's where the opportunities will be. Just like most young Greek grads have left Greece for opportunity, so I fear our kids will have to do the same."

Of course I'd be happy to help. Let me see if I can distill down how Paul Ryan is either a dangerous, right-wing radical, or a dangerous, right-wing fraud...

Tuesday 14 August 2012 17:41:39 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#

From the annals of "why didn't I think of that?", an app that keeps track of where you've been so you can go somewhere else instead:

[Art student Tom] Loois’s final project ended up being a smartphone app called BlankWays, which charts your progress through the city, noting which paths you’ve come down before and suggesting itineraries to cover new ground. The app indicates and measures which parts of the city you’ve traveled, and which you haven't.

Loois isn’t the first person to meticulously chart his travel through the city. There’s a guy in New York who has made it his goal to walk every single block in the five boroughs. (It’s supposed to take him two years.) And technology corporations like Google and Apple regularly keep track of their clients’ movements. But Loois’ app will make it easy for everyone to do so, on a street by street scale, just for fun. He claims that he's not consistently late as a result of the detours, but we're not so sure - filling in those white spaces looks like it could become an obsession.

This also explains why people with Asperger's will take over the world soon...

Tuesday 14 August 2012 15:20:29 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Travel#
Monday 13 August 2012

Via Sullivan, Gotye has assembled a "YouTube orchestra" of people covering his song "Somebody That I Used To Know:"

Says Mashable's Neha Prakash:

Looks like even Gotye knows his song, “Somebody That I Used to Know,” is an overplayed, viral sensation that has spawned an entire genre of YouTube covers. So the singer decided to acknowledge the hundreds of piano-playing, harp-plucking, and guitar-strumming fans who paid tribute to the catchy tune.

Gotye explained: "All audio and video in Somebodies is from the YouTube user videos featured, each of them a cover or parody of Somebody That I Used To Know. No extra sounds were added to the mix, but I used some EQ, filtering, pitch-shifting and time-stretching to make the music.

"

Very cool.

Update: Gotye listed all the covers he used on his blog.

Monday 13 August 2012 16:28:30 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#

The WGN Weather Blog reported this weekend that the El Niño-Southern Oscillation has turned warm in the past couple of months, and is getting warmer. The Climate Prediction Center started noticing in July:

Nearly all of the dynamical models favor the onset of El Niño beginning in July - September 2012 (Fig. 6). As in previous months, several statistical models predict ENSO-neutral conditions through the remainder of the year, but the average statistical forecast of Niño-3.4 increased compared to last month. Supported by model forecasts and the continued warmth across the Pacific Ocean, there is increased confidence for a weak-to-moderate El Niño during the Northern Hemisphere fall and winter 2012-13. El Niño conditions are likely to develop during August or September 2012 (see CPC/IRI consensus forecast).

Normally, warm winters lead to warm summers in Chicago, with the pattern resetting in late Autumn. That is, even this record-breaking summer could be followed by a bone-chilling winter. But El Niño years tend to give Chicago warm, dry winters. I'm all for mild winters—except that mild winters tend to cause warm summers, which I am not in favor of.

At least autumn should be lovely here.

Monday 13 August 2012 10:54:04 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
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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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