Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
Wednesday 23 January 2013

While in New York this past weekend, I visited my old hangout in Hoboken, N.J., The Nag's Head:

Nag's Head, Hoboken, exterior view

It looked subtly different than I remembered it, about which I asked the manager. She explained that they had to nearly gut the place after Sandy. Take a look at this:

Nag's Head, Hoboken, view of bar

You can just make out a change in the bar's finish about halfway up from the floor. That's where the floodwaters sat for about four days. This blogger posted a flood map of Hoboken after the storm that gives you an idea just how bad things were. I used to live near Monroe and Observer Highway, in the area marked Ward 4. That turns out to be the lowest point in the city, about one meter above sea level. I didn't talk to anyone in my old building, but given the damage to the Nag's Head, I imagine it was heavily damaged.

Two months after Sandy, and everything is cleaned up. Amazing. That's New York for you.

Wednesday 23 January 2013 16:47:45 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Kitchen Sink | Travel#

This is exceedingly cool:

Inset from the Census Dotmap showing Chicago, Madison, and Milwaukee

What is this

This is a map of every person counted by the 2010 US and 2011 Canadian censuses. The map has 341,817,095 dots - one for each person.

Why?

I wanted an image of human settlement patterns unmediated by proxies like city boundaries, arterial roads, state lines, &c. Also, it was an interesting challenge.

Who is responsible for this?

The US and Canadian censuses, mostly. I made the map. I'm Brandon Martin-Anderson. Kieran Huggins came to the rescue with spare server capacity and technical advice once this took off.

Unfortunately, I can't quite pick myself out of the crowd...

Wednesday 23 January 2013 10:29:40 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Cool links#

Earlier I brought up yesterday's (tonight's in the U.S.) elections in Israel, which surprised me because (a) they're not taking the country into a right-wing dystopia and (b) it started to look like Binyamin Netanyahu might lose his job. (b) is important because the farther away Netanyahu gets from the button, the less likely the U.S. will get drawn into an unwinnable war against Iran.

Well, some hours later, the reports from Tel Aviv are encouraging, but not definitive:

Hours after polls closed on Tuesday, and after some 95 percent of the votes were tallied, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed a mandate to third term as premier, but the battle between the country's right- and left-wing blocs remained virtually in a dead heat.

As voting ended Tuesday night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu party garnered only 31 seats − compared to the 42 the two parties won in the last election in 2009 − prompting him to announce that he was already working toward forming “as broad a government as possible."

The final election results will only be submitted next Wednesday, which places some restraints on President Shimon Peres consulting party leaders about whom he should ask to form the next coalition. However, sources in the President’s Residence say he prefers not to wait that long and is likely to ask Netanyahu to form the next government by the end of this week.

However, Labor Party leader Shelly Yacimovich said she had already initiated contacts aimed at forming a center-left bloc to prevent Netanyahu remaining prime minister.

As much as I hope for Netanyahu's defenestration, he will most likely scrape together the votes to congeal a right-wing government. Even though a centrist coalition would have a nearly-unprecedented mandate, and also get the extremes on both sides to shut the hell up, the individual incentives are just too strong for Likud politicians. And sadly for just about everyone, Netanyahu is actually a true right-winger, believing the only way to deal with Arabs is through arms.

I'm not naive about the sincerity of Arab leaders who give speeches about wiping Israel into the sea. I just don't think they're likely to try. Along the same line, I think Israel's biggest mistake under Netanyahu mirrors the United States' biggest mistake under George Bush fils: fighting fire with napalm.

You can't fight terrorists with armies. Armies turn allies into enemies. Rome never learned that, but given two thousand years of experience, one would hope the United States would—if for no other reason than we study Rome in school. When you turn the forces of the empire on small threats, the threats become real.

We in the U.S. have alternated between showing the world a brilliant example of democracy and kicking the crap out of it. We declared independence with the power of liberal Enlightenment thinking behind us and promptly enacted the Alien and Sedition Acts. We spent 600,000 lives declaring all men free and promptly declared them unequal. We're the laboratory testing reason against unreason. But reason wins most of the time.

So observe Israel: a country born of the worst atrocities ever visited upon humans by other humans, a country of the smartest, best-educated, toughest people ever to constitute a free democracy, electing an open bigot as their head of government. It staggers the mind. But tonight, at least, it appears half of Israelis have rejected him. One can hope that's enough.

Netanyahu is typical of the right, warning how "those people" will destroy everything you believe in (though the specifics never seem to be described). Only, "those people" don't exist. To define "those people" requires a suspension of intellect, a cessation of rational thought. Defining an entire group of people as something less than another group requires a willful ignorance that becomes terrifying when backed by nuclear weapons.

Except, Iran doesn't seem likely to attack Israel. In fact, if "those people" were a unified block, we might expect a different sort of invasion, as one of Israel's neighbors is wracked by a civil war at the moment without a flood of refugees into Israel.

No, really: are a hundred thousand unarmed Syrians about to invade Israel? Even though the Syrian civil war would seem to give a hundred thousand Syrians a good reason to emigrate hastily to Israel, if only not to get killed by their own countrymen. So...where are they?

Netanyahu's other bugaboo is Iran. So let's ask: Is the Iranian government nuts? Yes. Are they an existential threat to Israel? No. They're kind of like al-Queda and the U.S.: crazy, destructive, criminal, worth every legal and moral effort to stop, but not an existential threat unless we make them so.

I've said this before: the right thrives on fear. People vote for right-wing politicians because they're afraid, and right-wing politicians win when fear trumps reason. Keep in mind, the greatest wartime president the U.S. ever had was a progressive Democrat in a wheelchair. A team of enlightenment liberals won our independence from Britain. We ended slavery under the leadership of a scrappy, shrewd liberal Republican.

So after all this: I hope Binyamin Netanyahu gets sacked this week, because I think he's a nearsighted, fear-mongering charlatan, and Israel deserves better. It troubles me that half of Israeli voters support him and his coalition. But as an American, I can't do anything. I just hope he doesn't pull us into another war.

Tuesday 22 January 2013 23:47:48 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | US | World#
Tuesday 22 January 2013

Via some Facebook friends in Tel Aviv, I'm getting news that the Israeli election may result in a center-left coalition and sacks Netanyahu:

Israel's three major television networks published exit polls on Tuesday night, after polls closed across the country at 10 P.M.

According to Channel 2's exit polls, the battle was tight between the left and right, with 59 percent of votes going to the left-wing block, and 61 percent to the right.

Yes, that's right, 59-61 is a possibility the way Israeli voting works. I have no idea how.

The BBC thinks Netanyahu might stay:

According to final opinion polls, the joint electoral list of Mr Netanyahu's Likud party and the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party of his former foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman will win about 32 seats.

That would be 10 fewer than the two parties' combined total from 2009 but still enough to form a coalition with other right-wing and religious groups that would have a majority of about 63.

Israel had elections today because the ruling right-wing coalition fell apart last fall. Because of Israeli election rules, which make those of Cricket seem elementary, no one will know for days who actually runs the country. Weeks perhaps.

It's interesting, though, that it's this close.

Update: Josh Marshall's take.

Tuesday 22 January 2013 14:57:24 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | World#

For the first time in almost two years, Chicago woke up to below--18°C temperatures. We last had a day this cold on 11 February 2011, when it got down to -19°C. And we still haven't got any snow:

Lake snowfall across Michigan, despite the relatively low westerly wind-fetch (the "fetch" is the distance over which winds travel across Lake Michigan's comparatively "warm" waters) which is generating it had produced as much as 100-150 mm accumulation late Monday—and more snow is to fall there Tuesday.

Despite snowfall there, all but a comparatively small swath of downstate Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, is reporting sub-par snowfall this season. Chicago, with just 33 mm of snow to its credit, leads the pack of snow-deprived Midwest sites with just 8% of its typical seasonal snow to date--an amount 394 mm below normal.

And we're still pushing out three snow records: the longest period ever without a 25 mm snowfall (333 days, still going); the longest period ever with less than 25 mm of snow on the ground (331 days, still going); and the latest-ever 25 mm-or-greater snowfall (last broken on 17 January 1899—so we're now 5 days past the record).

Weirdest winter in memory, I tell you.

Tuesday 22 January 2013 08:32:37 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Weather#
Monday 21 January 2013

After a quick weekend in New York, I'm back debugging and fixing and going to lots of meetings. So this was much appreciated:

Monday 21 January 2013 11:05:31 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Jokes#
Saturday 19 January 2013

On Wednesday's Daily Show, Jon Stewart interviewed actor Jessica Chastain, star of the film Zero Dark Thirty. There was a moment, at the end of the interview, in which she absolutely horrified me—and, it seems, him (at around 20:30):

Chastain: The cover of ... was about the CIA agent going to prison for talking to a journalist about waterboarding.
Stewart: You can waterboard, but the first rule of waterboard club—
Chastain: Don't talk about it.
Stewart: You should see it, in theaters now, Zero Dark Thirty.

She seems to believe, as far as I can tell, that torture is a fine way to run a government. Watch her, and watch him, during this exchange. She shows no hint of irony, or even awareness of the point of Stewart's joke.

Earlier in the same show, Stewart had this to say about the NRA's propaganda that "armed Jews could have stopped Hitler:"

I wish armed Jews in the ghetto could stop Hitler. My feeling was, France couldn't. And I'm pretty sure they had guns. Russia had kind of a lot of guns, and they couldn't stop Hitler, until you factored in the wind chill. It's an awful lot to put on an oppressed minority when it took the free world five to six years of all-out total war to stop that motherfucker. So let's stop arguing these "what-ifs."

I think he's had enough of the crazies lately.

Saturday 19 January 2013 10:39:33 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [1] | US#
Friday 18 January 2013

...and it's pretty hideous:

Reactions have been a mixed bag of negative and scathing. Here's Patrick Smith:

Simply put, I cannot believe how awful a makeover this is. It’s so disappointing that it pains me even to write about it, and how anybody signed off on this I’ll never understand.

The body and tail manage to be boring and garish at the same time, with a cheap, downmarket lilt to the whole thing. The typeface is the strongest aspect of the whole mess, and that’s not saying much.

Those are (almost) forgivable aspects. Doing away with the AA symbol, however, was a tragic and unspeakably bad call.

And in its place… What exactly is that new, Amtrak-y logo? It looks like an eagle’s beak poking through a shower curtain. No other word will do: it’s horrible. If it’s not the worst corporate trademark I have ever seen, I don’t know what is.

Cranky Flier said only:

Personally, I hate that the eagle has been marginalized to the point that it’s unrecognizable. And the tail, well, yeah, the tail. I think I heard it put best in this excellent quote:

"Colgan had sex with CSA and Cubana on a Greyhound bus in the same weekend and got pregnant. We know Colgan is the mother but we can’t tell who the father is. Nor do we care because the baby is still ugly either way."

Maybe it will grow on me. Or maybe it won’t last very long anyway…

Why did they do this right now? They're weeks away from either merging or dying. Did US Airways want them to do this? No, according to CEO Tom Horton:

First, Horton said the two issues — merger and rebranding — were separate. Second, he said American needed to go ahead with the new look because in two weeks it is introducing a new flagship aircraft, the Boeing 777-300ER, that needs painting.

Horton also said US Airways had no input into the rebranding and didn’t get an advance look at it.

“We are competitors today, so we didn’t think it appropriate to discuss it with them,” Horton said. “I will tell you that on my drive home last night [Wednesday], I called my good friend Doug Parker and informed him of what we were doing as a courtesy. So I did do that, and we had a very nice chat.”

Well, there you have it. I'm sure Parker was thrilled. US Airways already said they want to keep the American Airlines brand, but I think they rather had in mind the brand from 1968, not this new stuff. Further, I think it's this kind of management thinking that got American into the position it's in today.

Friday 18 January 2013 13:21:21 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation#
Thursday 17 January 2013

Yes, this is exactly right:

A big part of gun versus non-gun tribalism or mentality is tied to the difference between city and rural. And a big reason ‘gun control’ in the 70s, 80s and 90s foundered was that in the political arena, the rural areas rebelled against the city culture trying to impose its own ideas about guns on the rural areas. And there’s a reality behind this because on many fronts the logic of pervasive gun ownership makes a lot more sense in sparsely populated rural areas than it does in highly concentrated city areas.

But a huge amount of the current gun debate, the argument for the gun-owning tribe, amounts to the gun culture invading my area, my culture, my part of the country. So we’re upset about massacres so the answer is more guns. Arming everybody.

[There is] a mentality that does seem pervasive among many more determined gun rights advocates — basically that us non-gun people need to be held down as it were and made to learn that it’s okay being around people carrying loaded weapons.

Well, I don’t want to learn. That doesn't work where I live — geographically or literally.

Read the whole post.

Thursday 17 January 2013 15:05:59 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | US#

The fun part about UAT is that 38 known issues can become 100 known issues in just a few hours. So, once again, I have a lot of stuff to read and no time to read it:

Yay, Instapaper!

Now off to lunch, followed by more debugging.

Thursday 17 January 2013 12:45:32 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation | Chicago | Kitchen Sink | US#
Wednesday 16 January 2013

We're just 45 minutes from releasing a software project to our client for user acceptance testing (UAT), and we're ready. (Of course, there are those 38 "known issues..." But that's what the UAT period is for!)

When I get back from the launch meeting, I'll want to check these out:

Off to the client. Then...bug fixes!

Wednesday 16 January 2013 12:28:36 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Kitchen Sink | US | World | Software | Work#

So, at the last possible moment, after much debate, my cousin and I bought our season tickets to Wrigley Field. Great view, beautiful park, possibility of a World Series this year—two out of three ain't bad.

Once again, here are the seats:

And here is the view:

I'm sure I'll post more photos from that spot over the course of the 2013 season. And I may yet finish the geas this year, despite possibly blowing my entire baseball budget this afternoon.

Probably lighter posting the rest of the week. We've got a major delivery tomorrow afternoon, and it's still not done. Ah, software development...

Tuesday 15 January 2013 21:21:05 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Cubs#
Monday 14 January 2013

We've had a more-or-less normal 24 hours in January, with temperatures between -1°C and -11°Cbog standard.

That said, we've also had the latest sub-freezing high temperature ever (January 1st), which ended the longest-ever stretch without sub-freezing high temperatures (310 days); the second-most days in a calendar year without a sub-freezing high temperature (354); and the fourth-longest stretch without 25 mm of cumulative snow (through January 5th). More records: the longest period ever without a 25 mm snowfall (325 days, still going); the longest period ever with less than 25 mm of snow on the ground (323 days, still going); and by Thursday, given the forecast, the latest-ever 25 mm-or-greater snowfall (last broken on 17 January 1899).

Meanwhile, it snowed in Jerusalem last week, an event as common as...well, snow in Los Angeles.

Now, with more extreme weather in more places, the *New!* *Improved!* Anthropogenic Climate Change! Yay!

Monday 14 January 2013 16:02:20 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Weather#

Cartoonist Scott Adams did not like Les Misérables:

In a pivotal scene in Les Misérables, one of the main characters finds himself in a sewer, up to his nostrils in human waste, with a bullet in his torso, while being pursued by the authorities who have just killed all of his friends. This was my favorite scene in Les Misérables because I could relate to it. Watching that f[...]g movie feels exactly like being up to your nostrils in human waste, with a bullet in your torso, after the government has killed all of your friends. The main difference is that the movie is longer. Much, much longer.

Anne Hathaway played the part of a whining, mud-caked, Halloween skeleton who blamed the system for her problems. Typical liberal. Hugh Jackman played Wolverine, I think. I didn't catch a lot of the details because it's the sort of movie that makes your mind try to crawl out of your ear hole in search of anything that isn't the movie.

Oh, to have a peek at his in-box today...

Monday 14 January 2013 12:24:39 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Kitchen Sink#
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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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