Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
Tuesday 27 November 2012

Via Bruce Schneier, apparently some of the confetti thrown at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade last weekend came from the Nassau County Police:

A closer look shows that the documents are from the Nassau County Police Department. The papers were shredded, but clearly not well enough.

They even contain information about Mitt Romney's motorcade, apparently from the final presidential debate, which took place at Hofstra University in Nassau County last month.

Most significant, the confetti strips identified Nassau County detectives by name. Some of them are apparently undercover. Their social security numbers, dates of birth and other highly sensitive personal information was also printed on the confetti strips.

I expect the follow-up story to describe how a document destruction company now faces a massive lawsuit...

Tuesday 27 November 2012 12:54:16 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Security#

10th Magnitude's CTO, Steve Harshbarger, explains how the cloud makes economics better by giving us more options:

We know we could build every feature of a custom application from the ground up. We get ultimate control of the result, but often the cost or timeframe to do so is prohibitive. So as developers, we look to incorporate pre-built components to speed things along. Not only that, we strive for better functionality by incorporating specialized components that others have already invested far more resources in than we ever could for a single application. As a simple example, who would ever write a graphing engine from scratch with so many great ones out there? So, build is rarely the whole story.

What about buy? I think of “buy” not in a strict monetary sense, but as a moniker for code or components that get pulled into the physical boundary of your application. This includes both open source components and commercial products, in the form of source code you pull into your project, or binaries you install and run with your applications’ infrastructure. We all do this all the time.

But the cloud brings a third option to the table: rent. I define this as a service you integrate with via some API, which runs outside your application’s physical boundary. This is where smart developers see an opportunity to shave more time and cost off of projects while maintaining—or even increasing—the quality of functionality.

He also lists our top-10 third-party "rental" services, including Postmark, Pingdom, and Arrow Payments. (I'm using a couple of them as well.)

Tuesday 27 November 2012 09:52:37 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Business | Windows Azure#
Monday 26 November 2012

Just now:

The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from the Cook County state's attorney to allow enforcement of a law prohibiting people from recording police officers on the job.

The justices on Monday left in place a lower court ruling that found that the state's anti-eavesdropping law violates free speech rights when used against people who tape law enforcement officers.

The law set out a maximum prison term of 15 years.

Last May, a federal appeals court in Chicago ruled that the law “likely violates” the First Amendment and ordered that authorities be banned from enforcing it.

Good. Since it only takes four justices to grant certiorari, this means that at least six of them agreed with the 7th Circuit. It was a bad law, and shame on Anita Alvarez for attempting prosecutions based on it.

Monday 26 November 2012 11:49:30 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | US#
Sunday 25 November 2012

Via Sullivan, a new variety of bear has appeared in Canada because of climate change:

One such sign [of environmental pressure on bears] is the emergence of a new creature in the polar bear’s range, first spotted in the wild in 2006 near Sachs Harbour, Northwest Territories. It’s got a long neck like a polar bear, but it’s smaller. It lies and behaves like a polar bear, but it has shoulder humps. The new creature has hairy paw soles like a polar bear, but its hair is mostly solid, with only patches of hollow hair.

As caribou migration routes have moved North, grizzlies have followed and started mating with polar bears. Not only have they produced hybrid young, but those young are fertile. Polar bears and grizzlies only diverged about 150,000 years ago and haven’t developed many genetic differences, despite quite dramatic visual dissimilarities. Second-generation hybrids have now been confirmed in the wild.

This kind of thing isn't new, but we don't often see it with large predators. On the other hand, about 30,000 years ago, another large predator moved into a cousin species' territory as the earth warmed up, and interbred, and went on to invent blogs.

Sunday 25 November 2012 12:55:10 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | World | Weather#

The long-time aviation blogger thinks the movie was a disservice:

I’ll be told, perhaps, that I need to relax, and that the movie ought be judged beyond its technical shortcomings. Normally I would agree, and for the average lay viewer it will hardly matter at all. I’m happy to allow a little artistic license. We should expect it, and some light fudging of the facts can be necessary, to a degree, for a film like this to work. Honestly, I’m not that much of a fussbudget. The trouble with Flight is that the filmmakers seem to have hardly tried.

I’m not sure who gets the bigger screw job here: viewers, who are being lied to, but who may or may not care; airline pilots, whose profession is unrealistically portrayed; or nervous flyers, whose fears this movie will only compound.

The entire piece gets into specifics.

Sunday 25 November 2012 09:59:22 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation#

Via Krugman, economist Adam Davidson explains why businesses can't find the right people:

And yet, even as classes like Goldenberg’s are filled to capacity all over America, hundreds of thousands of U.S. factories are starving for skilled workers. Throughout the campaign, President Obama lamented the so-called skills gap and referenced a study claiming that nearly 80 percent of manufacturers have jobs they can’t fill. Mitt Romney made similar claims. The National Association of Manufacturers estimates that there are roughly 600,000 jobs available for whoever has the right set of advanced skills.

Eric Isbister, the C.E.O. of GenMet, a metal-fabricating manufacturer outside Milwaukee, told me that he would hire as many skilled workers as show up at his door. Last year, he received 1,051 applications and found only 25 people who were qualified. He hired all of them, but soon had to fire 15. Part of Isbister’s pickiness, he says, comes from an avoidance of workers with experience in a “union-type job.” Isbister, after all, doesn’t abide by strict work rules and $30-an-hour salaries. At GenMet, the starting pay is $10 an hour. Those with an associate degree can make $15, which can rise to $18 an hour after several years of good performance. From what I understand, a new shift manager at a nearby McDonald’s can earn around $14 an hour.

The secret behind this skills gap is that it’s not a skills gap at all. I spoke to several other factory managers who also confessed that they had a hard time recruiting in-demand workers for $10-an-hour jobs.

Krugman summarizes:

Almost always, it turns out that what said business person really wants is highly (and expensively) educated workers at a manual-labor wage. No wonder they come up short.

[T]his dovetails perfectly with one of the key arguments against the claim that much of our unemployment is “structural”, due to a mismatch between skills and labor demand. If that were true, you should see soaring wages for those workers who do have the right skills; in fact, with rare exceptions you don’t.

Or as my dad has always said, "You get what you pay for."

Sunday 25 November 2012 08:46:28 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | US#
Friday 23 November 2012

Yesterday got up to 17°C, making it the warmest Chicago Thanksgiving since 1966. And then this happened, as predicted:

It's now -1°C with 40 km/h wind gusts and a wind chill of -8°C. Even Parker looked annoyed this morning on his first walk, squinting into the wind with his ears flopping behind his head. It's amazing how little time he wastes in this kind of weather, compared with his need to sniff every square centimeter of Lincoln Park when it's nice out. (Or raining, for some reason. Must be nice, having a fur coat.)

Friday 23 November 2012 09:47:29 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Thursday 22 November 2012

We probably won't hit the record November 22 temperature (21°C, set in 1913), but we'll get awfully close. It's already 15°C at O'Hare, with a forecast of 18°C—followed by a cold front and 0°C by morning.

Parker and I will therefore now go for a long walk.

Thursday 22 November 2012 11:11:49 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Parker | Weather#

Last night, my other sibling had a baby:

That's Brendan Michael, aged one hour.

Update, from the exhausted but happy dad: Brendan emerged at 2:53 PST weighing 3540 g and stretching out to 508 mm.

Thursday 22 November 2012 10:35:09 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Wednesday 21 November 2012

Well, that was fun. I've just spent the last three days organizing, upgrading, and repackaging 9,400 lines of code in umpteen objects into two separate assemblies. Plus I upgraded the assemblies to all the latest cool stuff, like Azure Storage Client 2.0 and...well, stuff.

It's getting dark on the afternoon before the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, and I'm a little fried. Goodbye, 10th Magnitude Office, until Monday.

Wednesday 21 November 2012 15:50:56 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Cloud | Windows Azure#

Stuff sent to Instapaper:

Time to dash out for lunch...then more coding. Gotta finish today.

Wednesday 21 November 2012 12:13:40 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Business#

Over the last two days I've spent almost every working minute redesigning the 10th Magnitude framework and reference application. Not new code, really, just upgrading them to the latest Azure bits and putting them into a NuGet package.

That hasn't left much time for blogging. Or for Words With Friends. And I'm using a lot of Instapaper. Without Instapaper, I'd never get to read Wired editor Mat Honan drawing lessons from his epic hack last summer.

Tuesday 20 November 2012 19:14:44 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Business | Cool links#
Monday 19 November 2012

Chicago is enjoying its 14th consecutive month of above-average sunshine, along with some unseasonable warmth leading into Thanksgiving (13°C right now, 17°C on Thursday).

Earlier today the NWS Climate Prediction Center released a new 90-day forecast predicting normal temperatures and precipitation in Chicago through February:

This is all fine by us. Though we do hope for a mild winter...

Monday 19 November 2012 13:49:31 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Sunday 18 November 2012

I found Joe and Ben Albahari's library of LINQ extensions, which enabled me to finish a really complicated piece of code quickly and elegantly.

Programmers keep reading. Everyone else: I'll have more stuff about the weather tomorrow.

Sunday 18 November 2012 12:34:04 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Software | Cool links#
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On this page....
Document disposal mishap in New York
Build, buy, or rent?
Illinois ban on taping police is unconstitutional
New variety of northern bear?
Pilot Patrick Smith does not like "Flight"
It's not a skills gap; it's a wage gap
Warm Thanksgiving and cold front
Warm Thanksgiving
Brendan Michael
All done with the code reorg
Still jamming; pre-Thanksgiving link roundup
Jamming on the Codez
Sunny weather..
Chaining LINQ predicates
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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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