Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
Sunday 25 May 2014

One of the most dangerous parts of the Republican Party's strategy over the last thirty years has been its hostility towards institutions of government. The strategy seems to be that by de-funding or otherwise de-ligitimating the government, the government performs badly, causing people to lose faith in government and demand it be de-funded further. With no institutional options, people seek services from private companies instead, enriching the owners of those companies.

Take schools, for example. Urban schools suck in the U.S. But rather than debate the funding formulas that divert resources from the schools needing it most to the schools needing it least—just compare schools in exclusive New Trier Township with the Chicago Public Schools, for example—conservatives attack teachers, saying they're to blame. Never mind this is completely inconsistent from their reasoning on exorbitant CEO salaries, which they say have to be two orders of magnitude higher than in the 1970s because otherwise the companies can't attract talent, but somehow raising teacher salaries encourages laziness. (I mean, just look at the way Ayn Rand fanboy Eddie Lampert turned Sears around, totally justifying his $3.15 bn net worth, right?)

From the Times this weekend comes a depressing reminder about a historical process that will no doubt reduce the public's faith in an entire branch of government. This time it's the Supreme Court, which not only has issued a series of 5-4 decisions containing blatant Republican partisan hackery (which reduces their precedential value and makes the cases likely to be re-litigated in a generation), but it turns out they re-writing their opinions, sometimes five years after the fact:

[M]ost changes are neither prompt nor publicized, and the court’s secretive editing process has led judges and law professors astray, causing them to rely on passages that were later scrubbed from the official record. The widening public access to online versions of the court’s decisions, some of which do not reflect the final wording, has made the longstanding problem more pronounced.

Unannounced changes have not reversed decisions outright, but they have withdrawn conclusions on significant points of law.

In an internal memorandum in 1981, Justice Harry A. Blackmun offered reasons that the court operated “on a strange and ‘reverse’ basis, where the professional editing is done after initial public release.” Once an opinion has garnered the five votes needed to have it speak for the court, he said, the author wants to issue it immediately to guard against defections and “get ‘on the scoreboard.’ ”

There are four generations of opinions, and only the last is said to be final. So-called bench opinions, in booklet form, are available at the court when decisions are announced. Slip opinions are posted on the court’s website soon after. They are followed by preliminary softcover prints and then by the only official versions, which are published in hardcover volumes called United States Reports. The official versions of opinions from 2008 were published in 2013.

Now, as a JD, I understand that common law can be slippery sometimes. It still saddens me to hear about things that make sense in ways more nuanced than most people will understand. Even smart people blow off nuances they don't want to hear, as anyone who's ever given an cost estimate to a sales guy understands ("we have a 10% chance of finishing in 8 days and a 90% chance of finishing in 16" lodges in the sales brain as "they'll be done in a week").

Someday I'll expound on my wish for defined terms of office in the Federal judiciary*. For now, I'll just be sad.

* Nine years for district courts (renewable), 13 for courts of appeal and 17 for justices (non-renewable). This prevents any president from reappointing the same judge, so the judges are still free to defy the person who appointed them, but still keeps a certain amount of churn that keeps them honest. At least we'd be done with Scalia and Thomas already.

Sunday 25 May 2014 06:43:59 PDT (UTC-07:00)  |  | US#

When I go anywhere for only a couple of days, I try not to shift my body clock. It prevents jet lag, mostly.

This weekend I'm at my folks' house outside San Francisco, which has a two-hour time difference from Chicago. That is why I woke up at 5am and walked to the local Peet's Coffee, as I usually do.

This trip I may allow my clock to drift westward, though. I'm going to Tuesday night's Cubs game at AT&T Park at 7:05pm—9:05pm Central time—and would like to see the whole game. The Cubs might even win. I mean, they have a 1-in-3 shot, right?

I do like getting to the Peet's this early, though. First, the just-before-dawn walk is quiet and even a little spooky down the local bike trail, but today I got a tremendous view of the crescent Moon and Venus, which are passing just 2° from each other this morning. I'm never up this early at home unless I'm still up, which hasn't happened in years anyway.

Second, the Peet's is quiet right now. In two hours it'll be packed with families and locals (the fishermen who stay here for hours at a time most mornings are more colorful than any of the characters at the Alibi Room). Time to write for a bit, and wait for the rest of my family to wake up.

Sunday 25 May 2014 05:57:25 PDT (UTC-07:00)  |  | Cubs | San Francisco | Travel | Astronomy#

According to Douglas Adams, every planet in the universe has some variation on the drink gin & tonic. On this planet, the drink may have changed history:

Without quinine, malaria would have felled the conquerors; without gin to alleviate the bitterness of this highly effective anti-malarial, the soldiers would have refused to down their medicine.

The ability to withstand malaria helped Britain to conquer half of Africa and keep India subjugated (more or less). So much misery, engendered by one of the world’s most inspired taste combinations.

Of course, cold gin with a splash of dry vermouth works just fine for those of us in more temperate climates. Put olives in for perfection.

Saturday 24 May 2014 19:04:41 PDT (UTC-07:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Thursday 22 May 2014

Even though the Cubs are officially the second-worst team in baseball right now, Cubs owner and chairman Tom Ricketts is tired of negotiating with the neighborhood:

The Cubs announced early Thursday that they plan to ask the city to approve more signs in the outfield at Wrigley Field, a move that comes after "endless hours" of negotiating with rooftop owners have gone nowhere, Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts said in a video.

In the six-minute video to fans, Ricketts blamed rooftop owners for delaying the renovation of the field, saying "Despite the city's approval and our clear contractual rights, they plan to file lawsuits to stop our renovation and expansion plans."

Well, sort of. The Cubs agreed to a 20-year contract with the rooftop owners in 2004, so the rooftop owners actually have a case.

Of course, a Jumbotron in left field is exactly what the organization needs to win ballgames. I mean, there couldn't be any other reason, right?

Thursday 22 May 2014 13:58:30 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Cubs#
Wednesday 21 May 2014

Three more photos from Sunday's publicity shots.

Shaina Summerville and Stephen McClure:

Shaina Summerville and Parker, behaving for about 30 seconds:

Zach Blackwell, Shaina Summerville, and Stephen McClure:

My direction for that last one was, "Imagine something horrible. It's Sarah Palin. She's got a gun. She's coming toward you. And she's naked." They look truly horrified, don't they?

Wednesday 21 May 2014 16:56:34 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Photography#

I went to yesterday's Cubs-Yankees game at Wrigley and was very happy in the middle of it that our seats are under the awning.

The Cubs won 6-1 while a nearby thunderstorm dumped a centimeter of rain on the park in the top of the 9th:

Maybe rain is Tanaka's Kryptonite. As rain started to fall at Wrigley, the Cubs were able to total as many hits in the third inning as they did against Tanaka last month. Baker singled to lead off the third, moved up on Hammel's sacrifice, and scored on Bonifacio's single.

Luis Valbuena doubled to lead off the fourth, and one out later, scored on Olt's single to make it 2-0. Valbuena went 0-for-3 in New York against Tanaka, and is the first player to get three hits off Tanaka in a single game.

"I had more of an idea," Valbuena said.

Apparently it was Derek Jeter's last game:

Outgoing Yankees captain Derek Jeter, who was presented with a No. 2 tile from the scoreboard in a pregame ceremony, had a pair of singles — the 3,354th and 3,355th of his career.

He grounded out to shortstop Starlin Castro with the bases loaded to end the game.

At that point, weather radar showed the rain ending soon, but not soon enough. Between the park and the #22 bus across the street I got drenched. I think my shoes are still damp.

Wednesday 21 May 2014 08:01:24 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Baseball | Cubs#
Tuesday 20 May 2014

Good advice:

Rule 1: You probably shouldn't approach a stranger's dog. Well, ok, that's not exactly true. But you should never simply approach a stranger's dog without asking - from a distance - if it's ok. Some people don't want their dogs to interact with people they come across on the street. Some dogs look well-behaved but when they get around a human that is not their owner, they freak out. Even the most well-behaved dog is still an animal that acts on instinct and could flip out and attack if scared. Keep that in mind.

Rule 2: If you must approach a stranger's dog and the owner gives you permission, you shouldn't simply start petting it. Some dogs are picky about where they like to be touched.

Fortunately for people, Parker is a pushover and likes pats. Unfortunately for people, Parker does not like it when other dogs approach while he's on-leash. And yet stupid people let their dogs pull them towards us while yelling "Can he say hi?" No, he may not say hi, unless you want to pay both vet bills.

So pat Parker, but be careful of strange dogs you meet on the street.

Tuesday 20 May 2014 12:09:06 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Parker#

I've got approval from Spectralia to post some publicity shots from Sunday.

Zach Blackwell:

Shaina Summerville:

Stephen McClure and Shaina Summerville:

More a bit later.

Tuesday 20 May 2014 11:39:55 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Photography#
Monday 19 May 2014

I've had a few minutes to go through the Spectralia photos from earlier today. We attempted to get Parker in them, to play Crab, the dog, but he is the sourest-natured dog that lives. Observe:

Yet did not this cruel-hearted cur shed one tear.

Eventually we got a couple good shots with him. Eventually.

Sunday 18 May 2014 22:29:49 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Parker | Photography#

The deployment, I mean. Everything works, at least on the browsers I've used to test it. I ran the deployment three times in Test first, starting from a copy of the Production database each time, so I was as confident as I could be when I finally ran it against the Production database itself. And, I made sure I can swap everything back to the old version in about 15 minutes.

Also, I snuck away to shoot publicity photos for Spectralia again, same as last year. I'll have some up by the end of the week, after the director has seen them.

Sunday 18 May 2014 21:36:34 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Photography | Business | Cloud | Windows Azure#
Sunday 18 May 2014

I have a totally-no-boring software deployment today. This is not optimal.

Sunday 18 May 2014 09:57:04 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Software | Business | Cloud | Windows Azure#
Saturday 17 May 2014

Short answer: You can't. So don't try.

If you want to find out how I solved the problem (and what that problem actually was), click through.

Saturday 17 May 2014 14:27:42 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Software | Cloud | Windows Azure#
Friday 16 May 2014

Yesterday my trip to work was cold and wet, while on the West Coast it was so warm people in San Francisco were trying to remember if their apartments had air conditioning. (They don't.)

Well, it's no longer quite as hot in San Francisco, but here in Chicago it's still cold and wet: 4°C and—wait, you'll love this—snow.

That's right, past the mid-point of May and only two weeks from the start of meteorological summer, it snowed in Chicago.

Friday 16 May 2014 08:18:44 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
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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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