Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
Saturday 3 November 2012

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I've had some difficulty moving the last remaining web application in the Inner Drive Technology Worldwide Data Center, Weather Now, into Microsoft Windows Azure. Actually, I have two principal difficulties: first, I need to re-write almost all of it, to end its dependency on a Database of Unusual Size; and second, I need the time to do this.

Right now, the databases hold about 2 Gb of geographic information and another 20 Gb of archival weather data. Since these databases run on my own hardware right now, I don't have to pay for them outside of the server's electricity costs. In Azure, that amount of database space costs more than $70 per month, well above the $25 or so my database server costs me.

I've finally figured out the architecture changes needed to get the geographic and weather information into cheaper (or free) repositories. Some of the strategy involves not storing the information at all, and some will use the orders-of-magnitude-less-expensive Azure table storage. (In Azure storage, 25 Gb costs $3 per month.)

Unfortunately for me, the data layer is about 80% of the application, including the automated processes that go out and get weather data. So, to solve this problem, I need a ground-up re-write.

The other problem: time. Last month, I worked 224 hours, which doesn't include commuting (24 hours), traveling (34 hours), or even walking Parker (14 hours). About my only downtime was during that 34 hours of traveling and while sitting in pubs in London and Cardiff.

I have to start doing this, though, because I'm spending way too much money running two servers that do very little. And I've been looking forward to it—it's not a chore, it's fun.

Not to mention, it means I get to start working on the oldest item on my to-do list, Case 46 ("Create new Gazetteer database design"), opened 30 August 2006, two days before I adopted Parker.

And so it begins.

Saturday 3 November 2012 14:48:40 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Software | Business | Cloud#

NOAA has put up an interactive map of aerial photos they took Wednesday, Thursday, and yesterday.

Saturday 3 November 2012 10:20:37 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Weather#
Friday 2 November 2012

The Weather Channel has some doozies.

And the Peoria Journal has a round-up of photos as well.

Friday 2 November 2012 15:43:22 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Weather#

From Krugman, on why the GOP hasn't seemed to get much for its billions in ad spending:

[W]hat if we’ve been misunderstanding Rove? We’ve been seeing him as a man dedicated to helping angry right-wing billionaires take over America. But maybe he’s best thought of instead as an entrepreneur in the business of selling his services to angry right-wing billionaires, who believe that he can help them take over America. It’s not the same thing.

Also, the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority has a map of subway outages that suggests just how bad things are for New York commuters.

I used to live in the dead zone of that map. And then I moved to Hoboken.

Friday 2 November 2012 13:00:05 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#
Thursday 1 November 2012

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent now but formerly a Republican, has endorsed the President for re-election, largely on the basis of their shared belief in anthropogenic climate change:

Our climate is changing. And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it might be -- given this week’s devastation -- should compel all elected leaders to take immediate action.

We need leadership from the White House -- and over the past four years, President Barack Obama has taken major steps to reduce our carbon consumption, including setting higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks. His administration also has adopted tighter controls on mercury emissions, which will help to close the dirtiest coal power plants (an effort I have supported through my philanthropy), which are estimated to kill 13,000 Americans a year.

Mitt Romney, too, has a history of tackling climate change. As governor of Massachusetts, he signed on to a regional cap- and-trade plan designed to reduce carbon emissions 10 percent below 1990 levels. ...

He couldn’t have been more right. But since then, he has reversed course, abandoning the very cap-and-trade program he once supported. This issue is too important. We need determined leadership at the national level to move the nation and the world forward.

Meanwhile, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced via Twitter that Lower Manhattan could have its power restored by tomorrow night.

Oh, and Mitt Romney suddenly believes in FEMA. Talk about going where the wind blows...

Thursday 1 November 2012 15:13:14 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#
Wednesday 31 October 2012

Air New Zealand has a hobbit of making awesome safety videos; here's the latest:

Wednesday 31 October 2012 13:39:12 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Cool links#

Josh Marshall checks in from the disaster:

What I found so surreal about this storm is that in Manhattan at least there really was barely a storm at all. For whatever reason, through the period when there was the worst part of the damage the ‘rain’ never got worse than maybe a slight drizzle. Really no more than that. It got windy. But not all that windy either — though there were definitely gusts that were quite unlike anything normal. So through Monday night everything was pretty normal — just a wet and dreary Fall evening. Except for the fact that if you walked into certain parts of the city, you walked into the ocean.

It was a vaguely carnival-like atmosphere. Certainly it was the topography. But the water had stopped right at the eastward edge of 10th Avenue, almost like the cops had told it: this far, no further bub. A scattered crowd of people were out just taking in the sight. Cars who apparently hadn’t heard we were in the midst of a Hurricane kept coming up only to be turned around by two or three NYPD cars there to block off the area. Oh, then there’s that woman riding up the avenue on her bicycle. Over the bullhorn the cops let her know that that probably wasn’t a hot idea since the water can be electrified.

Meanwhile, Paul Krugman wonders why the right wingers hate FEMA:

So let me just take a moment to flag an issue others have been writing about: the weird Republican obsession with killing FEMA. Kevin Drum has the goods: they just keep doing it. George Bush the elder turned the agency into a dumping ground for hacks, with bad results; Clinton revived the agency; Bush the younger ruined it again; Obama revived it again; and Romney — with everyone still remembering Brownie and Katrina! — said that he wants to block-grant and privatize it. (And as far as I can tell, even TV news isn’t letting him Etch-A-Sketch the comment away).

There’s something pathological here. It’s really hard to think of a public service less likely to be suitable for privatization, and given the massive inequality of impacts by state, it really really isn’t block-grantable. Does the right somehow imagine that only Those People need disaster relief? Is the whole idea of helping people as opposed to hurting them just anathema?

The only thing that makes sense is, there's a lot of profit in helping disaster victims, isn't there?

Wednesday 31 October 2012 13:00:54 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US | Weather#
Tuesday 30 October 2012

The storm's destruction in the Northeast is mind-blowing. I lived in Hoboken, N.J., for about a year and a half; the entire city is in the flood zone.

Just a link round-up for now; thoughts later:

More later.

(Water floods the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel in lower Manhattan. Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images.)

Tuesday 30 October 2012 12:49:48 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US | Weather#
Monday 29 October 2012

Their new baby is actually cuter than their Lab, but only just:

Also, the baby is too young to see the camera, while Uma here found it fascinating.

Monday 29 October 2012 10:53:25 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#

Just watch:

Monday 29 October 2012 10:51:42 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#
Sunday 28 October 2012

A couple of days ago at work, we were talking about stupid things sports commentators say. In any sport, but much more so in baseball and U.S. football than others, you hear some commentator say "Well, Bob, with runners on first and third on a night with a 10-knot breeze out of the northeast, when the pitcher's name starts with 'M', there's only a 1-in-65 chance a left-handed batter with six toes on his right foot will fly out to center." Who cares, right?

But being in Chicago, there is a huge question in that category that we should answer: What are the odds that a baseball team can fail to win the World Series for 104 years?

Of course, given the Chicago Cubs' history, the odds are observably certain that one baseball team can do it. But, all things equal, what is the probability this can happen?

Here's how we figured it out. First, in any given year, all but one team does not win the World Series. For example, there are 30 teams right now, but only the San Francisco Giants will win the World Series. (Tonight, in fact, unless Detroit suddenly turns into a different baseball team.) So the basic formula for the probability of losing the world series is:

...where t is the number of teams and y is the number of years with that number of teams.

Since the Cubs last won in 1908, Major League Baseball has expanded six times, from 16 teams (in 1908) to 30 teams today. With 30 teams, the probability of losing the World Series is 0.9667, that is, 29 in 30. In 1908, the probability of losing was much smaller, 0.9375, or 15 in 16.

But here's the problem. The probabilities are multiplied together, like this:

Since 1908, there have been 103 World Series (there wasn't on in 1994, remember), so the data going into the formula are: from 1908 to 1960, 16 teams and 53 Series; in 1961, 18 teams, 1 Series; 1962 to 1968, 20 and 7; 1969 to 1976, 24 and 8; 1977 to 1992, 26 and 16; 1993 to 1997, 28 and 4; since 1998, 30 and 14. Doing the math, we come up with...wow.

The probability that the Cubs would lose all 103 World Series contests since last winning in 1908 is 0.00441, or 1 in 227.

I will now go cry.

And just for giggles, the probability that they would fail to play in the Series (i.e., win the pennant) since their last appearance in 1945 is 0.04798, or 1 in 21. So there's hope.

Sunday 28 October 2012 10:49:31 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Baseball | Chicago#

As if my just-born nephew and soon-to-be-born other nephew weren't making this fall all about babies, two of my friends had to go and spawn as well. This is what they produced a couple weeks ago:

Wait, it gets cuter. Photobomb!

Now that we've met all the characters, let's bring them together:

We now return to your regularly-scheduled blog.

Sunday 28 October 2012 10:00:48 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Saturday 27 October 2012

First, while I knew this existed, it still took me aback:

At the location the BBC used as the Torchwood 3 main entrance, the good people of the world have put up a shrine to fictional character Ianto Jones, which the Mermaid Quay management have sanctioned. As much as I found Torchwood to be an entertaining television show, and even though I went to Cardiff in part to see some of their shooting locations in person, I find this...creepy.

Cooler, significantly, were these props, at the Doctor Who Experience:

From left to right, those are baby Weeping Angels, a wounded Angel (both from the most recent Doctor Who episode, "The Angels Take Manhattan"), and the Oswin Dalek from "Asylum of the Daleks."

All right, you think it's cool too. Admit it.

Saturday 27 October 2012 15:18:35 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Travel#
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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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