Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
Saturday 9 February 2013

Looking at Poynter's roundup of storm front pages, I'm struck that the New York Post called the storm "Nemo." Two things:

1. Winter storm names are an invention of The Weather Channel, a move the National Weather Service has explicitly repudiated.

2. Nemo is Latin for "nobody." So the Post's headline yesterday, "Nemo Bites"—i.e., "no one bites"—just reinforces the stupidity..

Anyway, I know my friends out east have unprecedented disastrous a bit of snow to survive endure inconvenience them today. Enjoy the digging.

Saturday 9 February 2013 13:50:32 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Weather#
Friday 8 February 2013

Taking a brief rest from my temporary insanity, I read Sullivan:

Someone in the GOP needs to take Bush-Cheney apart, to show how they created the debt crisis we are in, by throwing away a surplus on unaffordable tax cuts, launching two unfunded wars, and one new unfunded entitlement. They need to take on the war crimes that has deeply undermined the soul of the United States. They need to note the catastrophic negligence that gave us the worst national security lapse since Pearl Harbor (9/11) despite being warned explicitly in advance, accept weak and false intelligence to launch a war they were too incompetent to fight or win, sat back as one of the worst hurricanes all but took out a major city, and was so negligent in bank regulation that we ended up with Lehman and all that subsequently took place.

These were not minor errors. They were catastrophic misjudgments which took an era of peace, surplus and prosperity and replaced it with a dystopia of massive debt, a lawless executive branch, two unwinnable wars, and a record of war crimes that had their source in the very Oval Office.

That seems about right to me.

Friday 8 February 2013 17:50:35 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | US#

Unfortunately, that's not going to happen for a while. I'm going to spend a lot of time in airplanes over the next 11 days, including a long weekend with the folks. Good thing wifi is ubiquitous, even on airplanes, because it also looks like I'm going to burn at over 120% of utilization again this month. (Last month I was 118% billable, but if you add non-billable time I actually worked 134% of full time.)

The madness ends soon. We're hiring, projects are gelling, other projects are winding down, and at some point I'll just get on a plane for four days without taking my laptop.

I did take three hours yesterday to play pub trivia with my droogs, owing to the start of a four-week trivia tournament. We're in second place—by one point. I sincerely hope to make the next three Thursdays.

Friday 8 February 2013 17:07:13 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Business#
Wednesday 6 February 2013

This is alarming:

A new and worrisome benchmark has been reached with the announcement Tuesday by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that Lakes Michigan and Huron have dipped to new record lows. It’s been a 14 year journey. That’s how long water levels have been below historic averages--the most extended run of below normal water levels in the 95 year record of Great Lakes dating back to 1918.

The numbers are as stunning as they are disturbing with serious implications to shipping interests, all manner of creatures which populate the lakes, plus the millions who enjoy these natural treasures recreationally and depend on them as a source of water.

Water levels have fallen 1.9 m from the record highs established in October 1986 and currently sit at levels 735 mm below the long term average. Lake Michigan's water level is 430 mm lower than a year ago

We're getting more precipitation than we have in a while, but it hasn't been enough to end the drought. And because of dredging near Detroit, the lakes are emptying faster than ever right now.

Wednesday 6 February 2013 13:16:38 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Geography | US#

More things I gotta read later:

Now, back to rewriting an authentication provider...

Wednesday 6 February 2013 12:01:46 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Geography | Security#

The UK's Conservative government has passed a marriage equality bill by 400 to 175:

[UK Prime Minister David] Cameron, who described gay marriage as “an important step forward for our country”, smiled broadly as the result was revealed. [Deputy PM] Nick Clegg called the vote “a landmark for equality in Britain”. [Opposition leader] Ed Miliband said it was “a proud day”.

However, the details of the vote quickly showed that Mr Cameron’s decision to push through the legislation has left him in a minority within his own party over the issue.

The result followed a debate in which several gay MPs made impassioned arguments for the change in the law. Mike Freer, the Conservative MP for Finchley and Golders Green, appealed directly to his party colleagues over the vote, declaring: “I am not asking for special treatment. I am simply asking for equal treatment.”

The United Kingdom has a state church and a right-leaning government. The U.S. has a constitutional prohibition against a state church and has a left-leaning government. Yet the UK passed marriage equality before most legislatures in the U.S.

I remember fondly when the U.S. was a beacon of freedom and tolerance in the world. Maybe it will be again, someday.

Tuesday 5 February 2013 18:27:01 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | US | World#
Tuesday 5 February 2013

I'll be a lot less busy in March, they tell me. Meanwhile, here are some things I want to read:

I will get to them...soon...

Tuesday 5 February 2013 12:18:08 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation | Chicago | Geography | US | Blogs#
Monday 4 February 2013

Ho did the accounting firm CliftonLarsonAllen LLP miss that Dixon, Ill., comptroller Rita Crundwell embezzled $53 million?

CliftonLarson in 2005 resigned as auditor for Dixon in order to keep other city assignments such as ledger-keeping after an influx of federal funds required the town to hire an independent auditor.

In its lawsuit, however, Dixon contends that CliftonLarson continued to do the annual audit and get paid for it, while hiring a sole-practitioner CPA from nearby Sterling to sign off on the work, thereby preventing competitors from grabbing the business. CliftonLarson says it prepared only a bare-bones “compilation” of financials after 2005 to aid the new auditor, Samuel Card, 56, who also is a defendant.

In depositions in late 2012, Power Rogers attorney Devon Bruce produced CliftonLarson emails after 2005 that referred to the firm's “audit” of Dixon. Also entered into the record were invoices submitted by Ms. Crundwell supposedly from the Illinois Department of Transportation that lacked an IDOT heading or logo and, in one instance, carried a nonexistent date—Nov. 31, 2004.

“Had a two-minute phone call been made by a Clifton employee to the Illinois Department of Transportation regarding any of these false invoices, Rita Crundwell's theft would have been identified at that time,” the lawsuit argues.

Oops.

Monday 4 February 2013 10:18:04 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | US#
Sunday 3 February 2013

This is a more-technical follow up to my most recent post. If you're interested in how the next version of Weather Now will use Microsoft Windows Azure technology to provide real-time weather information, keep reading.

Sunday 3 February 2013 11:44:55 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Cloud | Cool links | Weather | Windows Azure#

Five years ago, on 6 January 2008, I opened a FogBugz case (#528) to "Create NOAA Downloader". The NOAA downloader goes out to the National Weather Service, retrieves raw weather data files, and stores the files and some metadata in Windows Azure storage. Marking this work item "resolved"

Well, I just finished it, and therefore I have finished all of the pieces of the GetWeather application. And with that, I've finished the last significant piece of the Weather Now 4.0 rewrite. Total time to rewrite GetWeather: 42 hours. Total time for the rewrite so far: 66 hours.

Now all I have to do is...let's see...create worker role tasks to run the various pieces of the application (getting the weather, parsing the weather, storing the weather, and cleaning up the database), upgrading the Web site to a full Cloud Services application, deploy it to Azure, and deploy its gazetteer. That should be about 5 hours more work. Then, after a couple of weeks of mostly-passive testing, I can finally turn off the Inner Drive Technology Worldwide Data Center.

Sunday 3 February 2013 11:10:40 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Business | Weather#
Friday 1 February 2013

Via Fallows, a software designer explains how a simple feature isn't:

This isn’t off the shelf, but that’s OK — we’ll just build it, it’s not rocket science. And it’s a feature that’s nice, not one that’s essential. Lot’s of people won’t use these tabs.

So, what do we need to think about when adding a bar of tabs like this?

  • The whole point is to have a view state that summarizes what you’re looking at and how it’s presented. You want to switch between view states. So we need a new object that encapsulates the View State, methods for updating the view state when the view changes or you switch tabs, methods for allocating memory for the view state and cleaning up afterward.
  • You need a bar in which the tabs live. That bar needs to have something drawn on it, which means choosing a suitable gradient or texture.
  • The tab needs a suitable shape. That shape is tricky enough to draw that we define an auxiliary object to frame and draw it.
  • Whoops! It gets drawn upside down! Slap head, fix that.

...and on for another 16 steps. He concludes, among other things:

This is a hell of a lot of design and implementation for $0.99. But that’s increasingly what people expect to pay for software. OK: maybe $19.95 for something really terrific. But can you sell an extra 100 copies of the program because it’s got draggable tabs? If you can’t, don’t you have better things to do with your time?

He's developing for a commercial application that he sells, so he may not be figuring the costs of development the same way I do. Since clients pay us for software development, it's a reflex for me to figure development costs over time. I don't know how much the tab feature cost him to develop, but I do know that to date, migrating Weather Now to Azure (discussed often enough on this blog) would have cost a commercial client about $9,000 so far, with another $3,000 or so to go. And the Inner Drive Extensible Architecture? That's close to $150,000 of development time—if someone else were paying for it.

And all you wanted was a little tab on your word processor...

Friday 1 February 2013 13:16:46 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Business#

Why? Because it's too cold for clouds.

Actually, this is one of those correlation-causation issues: cold days like today (it's -15°C right now) are usually clear and sunny because both conditions result from a high-pressure system floating over the area. Still, it's pretty cold:

A February hasn’t opened this cold here in the 17 years since 1996. The combination of bitterly cold temperatures, hovering at daybreak Friday near or below zero [Fahrenheit] in many corners of the metro area, plus the biting west winds gusting as high as 48 km/h, are producing 15 to 25-below zero wind chills—readings as challenging as any Chicagoans have encountered this season.

The first reported -18°Cor lower wind chill occurred Thursday at 8 a.m. and the expectation is a 40 or more hour string of consecutive sub--18°C wind chills is likely to continue through midnight or a bit later Friday night in the rising temp regime predicted to take hold at that time.

Still, it's February, which means lengthening days, warmer temperatures, and pitchers & catchers. Yay!

Friday 1 February 2013 10:15:23 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#

The Cranky Flier wants to know:

Now the latest “news” of the day is that American CEO Tom Horton may end up being the Chairman of the combined entities. There is some good and some bad to this kind of thing. The good is pretty simple to explain. If Horton is willing to settle for a Tilton-esque agreement where he can just sit in a fancy office and collect a huge paycheck for a couple of years, then that finally removes the last real barrier to a merger – the fight being put up by management.

On the other hand, if he insists on a more active role, then it’s a bad idea. There are very few supporters of Horton outside management ranks. Wall Street has been quite clear that Horton’s plans to date are unacceptable. In particular, the plan to grow the hubs by 20 percent is suicidal. As one analyst, Dan McKenzie, puts it, the growth plan “would be toxic for industry pricing and ruinous for shareholders….” The views throughout the financial community appear to echo that sentiment. If Horton has any kind of influence in the merged entity, then the money folks will not be happy. And that hurts the chances of the deal going through.

I'm really hoping for an announcement soon.

Friday 1 February 2013 10:06:15 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation#
Wednesday 30 January 2013

With former governor George Ryan's release from prison this morning, Illinois has finally returned to the situation of having fewer former governors in prison than out of it. In an especially nice touch, former governor Jim Thompson is Ryan's attorney.

I guess Dan Walker and Jim Edgar are both still alive, too, so the current count is: 1 incumbent, non-convicted governor; 2 former, non-convicted governors; 2 former, convicted governors; and 1 former governor still in jail. There's a nice symmetry there, yes?

Wednesday 30 January 2013 13:50:02 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | US#

I have a new post up at my employer's developers blog.

Hard-core Daily Parker enthusiasts may have seen it already. Still, click through to XM. We like blog visitors!

Wednesday 30 January 2013 12:35:32 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Blogs | Business | Windows Azure#
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Doubly-idiotic storm name
The GOP's real problem, via Sullivan
Thinking about vacation...where to go?
Lake level hits new record
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Marriage equality passes UK House of Commons
Quick link round-up
Good question: where were the auditors?
Under the hood of Weather Now
Resolving the oldest case
How to build software
It was a sunny day
Why haven't AA and US announced a merger?
Back to normal in Illinois
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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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