Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
Wednesday 13 February 2013

Paul Krugman has a more considered view of Rubio's blame-game:

Look, this is one of the most thoroughly researched topics out there, and every piece of the government-did-it thesis has been refuted; see Mike Konczal for a summary. No, the CRA wasn’t responsible for the epidemic of bad lending; no, Fannie and Freddie didn’t cause the housing bubble; no, the “high-risk” loans of the GSEs weren’t remotely as risky as subprime.

This strikes me as a bigger deal than whether Rubio slurped his water; he and his party are now committed to the belief that their pre-crisis doctrine was perfect, that there are no lessons from the worst financial crisis in three generations except that we should have even less regulation. And given another shot at power, they’ll test that thesis by giving the bankers a chance to do it all over again.

Wednesday 13 February 2013 09:29:46 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | US#

For several practical reasons, not least of which that I needed to finish some work I didn't have time to do in Vancouver, I listened to Sen. Marco Rubio's State of the Union response instead of watching it. Missing, I suppose, a good helping of his personal charisma, and going solely on the content of his speech, I have to conclude he and I live in different countries.

Where do I begin?

How about where Senator Rubio began: his first four sentences. I have no objection to "Good evening" or "I'm Marco Rubio" (though I did hear, in my mind's ear, "Polo"). Sentence three: "I'm blessed to represent Florida in the United States Senate." That, to me, is a curious reading of the first and seventeenth amendments. But I'll overlook it for now.

Sentence four: "Let me begin by congratulating President Obama on the start of his second term."

Oh, wait. That sentence is only in the prepared remarks. He didn't actually read it out loud. Why? one wonders.

Look, I'm tired, I woke up today in a foreign country, and I only have one Loonie in my pocket to spend right now against the 277 loonies in Congress. So let me jump ahead to the part of Rubio's speech that made me shout obscenities:

This idea – that our problems were caused by a government that was too small – it’s just not true. In fact, a major cause of our recent downturn was a housing crisis created by reckless government policies.

Which policies in particular? Two unfunded wars? The dissipation of a $500 billion budget surplus in four years? The draconian immigration laws—which he, as the child of Cubans, never had to experience because of our anti-Castro policies—that have dissuaded millions of able bodies and minds from coming to the U.S.? Or maybe, more pointedly, the small-government fantasies of a senile Federal Reserve chairman who admitted, two years after the disaster he created had put tens of millions of people out of work, had caused the organization he chaired to fail completely to meet its mandate for managing unemployment?

The three most-likely possibilities why Rubio's speech had no connection with reality are these: first, he believes he has to win over the dead-end, right-wing faction of his party (who constitute a compelling majority of it) in order to run for president; second, because he truly believes what he said, which bodes ill for his understanding of the reality-based community most people inhabit; or third, because his time machine malfunctioned, and he read his party's 1976 convention speech by mistake.

"[A] housing crisis created by reckless government policies." I'm agog. I'm out of analogies. What analogy could possibly encompass the chutzpah—mendacity?—of that line? "Mom, I crashed the car, so I blame you for not getting me to school on time." "Doctor, I shot myself in the liver, so I'll blame you if I die."

And that's just one line, near the beginning.

I'm done for the day, though. Tomorrow, after I've slept on it, I'll comment on the best State of the Union address a Republican has given in my lifetime.

Tuesday 12 February 2013 23:10:05 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | US#
Tuesday 12 February 2013

As I mentioned this morning, news agencies have picked up the little signs that tell them a 1000-airplane airline will happen this week:

The boards of the two airlines are expected to meet in the next few days to vote on the proposed merger, sources have told Los Angeles Times and other news outlets. A meeting to vote on the merger was scheduled for Monday, according to some reports, but was postponed to give those involved more time to work out final details.

According to sources, a decision has now been reached to name US Airways Group Inc. Chief Executive Doug Parker as CEO of the new carrier, while Tom Horton, CEO of American Airlines' parent, AMR Corp., would serve as nonexecutive chairman of the board until next year.

Analysts have estimated that the two companies could generate as much as $1 billion in savings and added revenue by combining forces.

In perhaps a modest bit of irony, I'm writing this aboard an American Airlines airplane over New Mexico Colorado. I do love technology...

Tuesday 12 February 2013 15:27:13 MST (UTC-07:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation#

The Economist's Gulliver blog thinks so:

THE merger of US Airways and AMR, the parent company of American Airlines, looks set to be concluded this week. The new company, which will be called American Airlines, would be one of the world’s largest airlines by capacity and become the third full-service carrier in America. We wrote about this a month ago, when AMR's board met to examine US Airways’ proposal. (Tom Horton, AMR’s boss, had promised a decision in “a matter of weeks”.)

The airlines are seen as a perfect fit by analysts. There is little overlap between their routes and hubs, which makes it likely that the new alliance will be approved by anti-trust regulators. The benefits for fliers, however, may not be so great...

Oh yes they will. I've said for years that getting American's management out of American would make it a much better airline. And I've said for years, right here on this blog, that US Airways is the right choice. Hell, even American's pilots, flight attendants, and mechanics agree. As an elite American flier, I expect to keep—yes, even to increase—the benefits I have of sticking with the carrier after the merger.

I've got five American flight segments between now and next Tuesday. I hope that I can congratulate the FAs on one of them for seeing this thing through.

Monday 11 February 2013 21:38:44 PST (UTC-08:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation#
Monday 11 February 2013

I always prefer heading west for business trips and east for fun trips because the time shifts work better that way. Sometimes I go to London for a long weekend and stay on Chicago time, meaning I go to sleep at 4am (10pm in Chicago) and sleep until noon (6am). (On any trip longer than 3 days I shift to local time.) Similarly, coming to the West Coast—I'm in Vancouver at the moment—lets me sleep in a bit (5:30 here is 7:30 at home) and get adequate caffeine before starting my business meetings.

Today I've encountered two complications. First, British Columbia and a few other provinces have declared today a provincial holiday, so nothing opened before 7am. Nothing, as in "coffee shops." Second, this early in February and this far west, the sun doesn't rise until 7:28.

Oh, and it's raining. Not a lot. Just enough.

Of course, here in Canada, everything is clean, efficient, and polite. It's not the Canadians' faults that it's cold, dark, and decaffeinated.

Monday 11 February 2013 07:19:46 PST (UTC-08:00)  | Comments [0] | Geography | Travel#

The Pope has announced his resignation:

Pope Benedict XVI announced Monday that he would resign on Feb. 28 because he was simply too infirm to carry on — the first pontiff to do so in nearly 600 years. The decision sets the stage for a conclave to elect a new pope before the end of March.

"After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths due to an advanced age are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry," he told the cardinals. "I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only by words and deeds but no less with prayer and suffering.

Ratzinger is the person most directly responsible for the office accused of covering up priests abusing children for decades. I cannot wait to read Sullivan...

Update: I was not wrong about Sullivan.

Monday 11 February 2013 06:02:39 PST (UTC-08:00)  | Comments [2] | World | Religion#
Sunday 10 February 2013

Did you know that Los Angeles is on the way from Chicago to Vancouver? I didn't either. I forgot that, when you have hubs in Chicago and Los Angeles, and no flights at all into the actual destination airport, layovers happen.

Good view from the Admirals Club though:

As much as I like flying, I'm not wild about the seven flight segments in 10 days—none of them less than 3 hours. (Next week, apparently, Dallas is on the way from Chicago to San Francisco. Same hub-and-spoke problem.) I also don't like having to scrunch my laptop between the seat to my front and my lap just to get some work done. Waah, waah, waah.

Next report from the Land Above.

Sunday 10 February 2013 12:38:19 PST (UTC-08:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation#

Last night I made the mistake of testing a deployment to Azure right before going to bed. Everything had worked beautifully in development, I'd fixed all the bugs, and I had a virgin Windows Azure affinity group complete with a pre-populated test database ready for the Weather Now worker role's first trip up to the Big Time.

People interested in those sorts of things can continue to read some helpful Azure debugging tips. Otherwise, stay tuned for a whinge about trying to do work on an airplane.

Sunday 10 February 2013 10:27:27 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Software | Cloud | Windows Azure#
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)  | Comments [0] | 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)  | Comments [0] | 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)  | Comments [0] | 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)  | Comments [0] | 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)  | Comments [0] | 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)  | Comments [0] | 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)  | Comments [0] | Aviation | Chicago | Geography | US | Blogs#
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US Airways and AMR: tying the knot this week? Yay!
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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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