Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
Monday 31 December 2012

...started in the Pacific about 14 hours ago. I guess we made it, unless everything east of London has vanished and I just haven't heard yet.

Happy new year. Don't forget that auld lang syne.

Monday 31 December 2012 17:58:48 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#

Thinking of making a change? "Slip out the back, Jack" just not literary enough for you? The Atlantic has some examples of break-up letters by literary figures from history. For example, Anaïs Nin:

But in the middle of this fiery and marvellous give and take, going out with you was like going out with a priest. The contrast in temperature was too great. So I waited for my first chance to break—not wanting to leave you alone.

You ought to know my value better than to think I can be jealous of the poor American woman who has lost her man to me continually since I am here

Or Simone de Beauvoir to Nelson Algren:

I want to tell you only two things before leaving, and then I’ll not speak about it any more, I promise. First, I hope so much, I want and need so much to see you again, some day. But, remember, please, I shall never more ask to see you—not from any pride since I have none with you, as you know, but our meeting will mean something only when you wish it. So, I’ll wait. When you’ll wish it, just tell. I shall not assume that you love me anew, not even that you have to sleep with me, and we have not to stay together such a long time—just as you feel, and when you feel.

Right now, I'm thinking of what to say to the 2012 Chicago Bears, who just couldn't give us what we needed this year.

Monday 31 December 2012 08:46:57 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Sunday 30 December 2012

Yesterday Chicago only got up to -1°C. It's the first time since February 25th, 308 days earlier, that we had a high temperature below freezing, and it's the longest time in recorded history (tying the record set in 1878) Chicago has gone between them.

We woke up today at -9°C, the coldest temperature here since February 11th. But tomorrow's forecast calls for a high just above freezing, giving us only 13 days in all of 2012 that failed to get above freezing. I haven't done the analysis but that seems like a very low number.

Even the coming week's predicted cold snap appears it will leave almost as soon as it arrived. Says WGN's Richard Koeneman, "as has been the case with this winter's cold spells, this one is to be short-lived. Following cold readings midweek—and 'cold' only of moderate intensity—a gradual warm-up that takes hold on Thursday will continue into the weekend."

Will Spring 2013 wind up as warm as last spring, now that Winter 2013 is so far warmer than Winter 2012?

Sunday 30 December 2012 11:53:20 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#

Not even 8:15 in the morning, and already NPR has run a story that made me furious. It seems the latest theory right-wing billionaires have concocted to escape scrutiny has somewhat different origins from its present use:

In defending secret money, [former bug exterminator Karl] Rove invokes that Supreme Court case, NAACP v. Alabama. He lines up Crossroads GPS on the same side as Parks and the NAACP, and he says the transparency advocates make the same argument as the segregationists.

"I think it's shameful," Rove said. "I think it's a sign of their fear of democracy. And it's interesting that they have antecedents, and the antecedents are a bunch of segregationist attorney generals trying to shut down the NAACP."

One would think that, after 15 years of seeing it, people would notice that Rove's favorite tactic is to accuse his opponents of what he, himself, is doing. If he were mugging someone, he'd accuse his victim of assault on the grounds that the victim threatened to hit him back. (Wait—I think he's already done that.)

Moving on:

Montgomery law enforcement brought charges against Martin Luther King Jr. and other leaders. Arsonists firebombed their homes and churches. Across the state, rioters blocked an NAACP bid to desegregate the University of Alabama. A mob chased the one African-American student, chanting "Let's kill her."

The university acted. It suspended the black student — and then expelled her.

Meanwhile, state Attorney General John Patterson subpoenaed the NAACP's membership records. "The NAACP is the biggest enemy that the people of this state have," he said.

So, to recap: In 1958, the Supreme Court said that Alabama couldn't get a list of NAACP supporters to assist them in burning crosses on their lawns and throwing rocks through their windows. The state's goal was to shut down the civil rights movement by any means necessary.

Those of us wanting to know who's giving billions of dollars to elect political candidates have no intention of violence. We just want to know who's putting all that money into subverting democracy. Our sanction against the Kochs of the world is to vote against every candidate they support.

Even Antonin Scalia—Antonin Frickin' Scalia—agrees, writing in Doe v Reed two years ago:

There are laws against threats and intimidation; and harsh criticism, short of unlawful action, is a price our people have traditionally been willing to pay for selfgovernance. Requiring people to stand up in public for their political acts fosters civic courage, without which democracy is doomed. For my part, I do not look forward to a society which, thanks to the Supreme Court, campaigns anonymously (McIntyre) and even exercises the direct democracy of initiative and referendum hidden from public scrutiny and protected from the accountability of criticism. This does not resemble the Home of the Brave.

That was the 2010 version of Scalia. It seems likely, however, that he won't reverse himself completely, so this suit will fail. Maybe we'll even have a Federal sunshine law? Wouldn't that be...democratic.

Sunday 30 December 2012 08:36:05 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | US#
Saturday 29 December 2012

You remember how Voyager 2 launched two weeks before Voyager 1? This is similar: I got photos of nephew #2 before nephew #1:

Yes, sir, that's a baby:

Saturday 29 December 2012 11:45:24 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#

Late next year, Earth could get the best show from a comet in decades:

By the end of summer [Comet Ison] will become visible in small telescopes and binoculars. By October it will pass close to Mars and things will begin to stir. The surface will shift as the ice responds to the thermal shock, cracks will appear in the crust, tiny puffs of gas will rise from it as it is warmed. The comet's tail is forming.

Slowly at first but with increasing vigour, as it passes the orbit of Earth, the gas and dust geysers will gather force. The space around the comet becomes brilliant as the ice below the surface turns into gas and erupts, reflecting the light of the Sun. Now Ison is surrounded by a cloud of gas called the coma, hundreds of thousands of miles from side to side. The comet's rotation curves these jets into space as they trail into spirals behind it. As they move out the gas trails are stopped and blown backwards by the Solar Wind.

By late November it will be visible to the unaided eye just after dark in the same direction as the setting Sun.

I expect we'll hear more about this as it gets closer.

Saturday 29 December 2012 10:40:13 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Astronomy#
Thursday 27 December 2012

In a completely shocking, unforeseeable move, the people who stole leased Chicago's parking meters will raise rates next week:

In an annual ritual that has become as predictable if not as joyous as a New Year’s Eve countdown to midnight, Chicago drivers again will have to dig a little deeper to pay to park at meters in 2013.

Loop rates will go up 75 cents to $6.50 an hour as part of scheduled fee increases included in Mayor Richard Daley’s much-criticized 2008 lease of the city’s meters to Chicago Parking Meters LLC.

Paid street parking in neighborhoods near the Loop will rise 25 cents and reach $4 an hour. Metered spaces in the rest of Chicago also will increase by a quarter per hour, to $2, according to the company.

So, CPM's costs won't change, because they have a fixed 75-year lease. In fact, since interest rates are the lowest they've ever been in the U.S., and since the Fed has made it clear rates won't rise until the economy gets better, CPM's costs are actually significantly lower than they were in 2008. On what basis, then, are they raising interest rates?

I believe my economics professor Leslie Marx might have some insight. I'll ask her next chance I get.

Thursday 27 December 2012 08:17:13 PST (UTC-08:00)  |  | Chicago | Politics#
Wednesday 26 December 2012

I don't know how Amazon figures out what to recommend, nor do I know who's buying what from them. Sometimes I wonder, though, like when it gives me these helpful suggestions:

But of course it's important to have cookies when the revolution comes...

Wednesday 26 December 2012 13:13:13 PST (UTC-08:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Business#

I still haven't gotten a holiday snap of No. 1 Nephew, so here's Winston Churchill Brendan again:

And here again is Roger, expressing exactly how I felt by 9pm yesterday:

Wednesday 26 December 2012 07:41:17 PST (UTC-08:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#

XKCD tackles the astronomical and geographical challenges of following the Star of Bethlehem:

If the wise men leave Jerusalem and walk toward the star Sirius, day and night, even when it’s below the horizon, this is the path they follow over the surface:

several star-struck sages spiral southward

If we allow a little theological confusion and assume the wise men can walk on water, they’ll eventually wind up going in an endless circle, 30 kilometers in diameter, around the South Pole.

Re-reading Matthew 2:7-10, however, I can't quite tell who the Magi were, what star they thought they were following, or what exactly they used to ascertain when it had showed them the location they sought. Possibly someone sent up a flare from the manger?

Wednesday 26 December 2012 07:14:30 PST (UTC-08:00)  |  | Religion#
Tuesday 25 December 2012

There he is, my sister's kid:

No, no, no. This is my sister's kid:

Sheesh.

Merry Christmas, kid. And dog.

Tuesday 25 December 2012 08:44:12 PST (UTC-08:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Monday 24 December 2012

You'll never guess where I am:

This is Chicago in December (though it looks and feels more like November). I tried flipping that photo between black & white and color a couple times, and I couldn't tell the difference.

Tonight I meet the nephews...

Monday 24 December 2012 09:15:31 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Travel#
Sunday 23 December 2012

Google Analytics have created some videos imagining if supermarkets were designed like websites:

Heh.

Sunday 23 December 2012 10:11:41 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Business#

As I've reported before, Chicago's winter temperatures have more influence over summer temperatures than the reverse. The hypothesis is that if Lake Michigan can't give up its summer heat in the winter, it has less capacity to absorb the next summer's heat. But in the winter, cold air masses have more capacity to absorb the lake's heat than summer's warm air masses have to deposit it.

Well, if the weather so far is any indication, next summer will be brutal. We're not getting cold-enough air so far.

The last time the daytime high temperature was below freezing was February 25th, only the 12th day in 2012 to be as cold. Yesterday the temperature got up to freezing; today's, tomorrow's, and Tuesday's forecasts call for 1°C. The longer-range forecast calls for only three days with high temperatures below 0°C through the end of the year.

Through March, the Climate Prediction Center calls for normal temperatures:

Sunday 23 December 2012 09:45:21 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Friday 21 December 2012

Downtown Chicago got the merest whisper of snowfall last night; O'Hare, our official station, got enough to set two records—in the negative.

Just 200 km away, however, people got a little more than we did:

The Madison, WI area was at the epicenter of this storm’s heaviest snows. Snowfalls as of 10:30PM Thursday included: 300 mm at Lena in western Stephenson Co, IL and up to 300 mm or more across Jo Davies County in far northwest Illinois where 33 km of US 20 were closed from Galena to Elizabeth due to snow and blowing snow.

Those wondering where the big snows occurred must check out these eye-catching snow tallies out of areas farther north and west Thursday including 495 mm at Middleton, WI—just west of Madison. Other totals included: Cross Plains WI 460 mm; Verona WI 400 mm; Hartford WI 380 mm; Madison WI & Dubuque, IA 360 mm; Portage and Taycheedah WI 355 mm; Grimes IA 341 mm; Des Moines 295 mm; Ankeny IA 267 mm, Ames IA 260 mm and Eldora IA 254 mm.

In Lincoln Park, I didn't get a chance to brush the one snowflake off Parker's fur that I saw because it melted right away.

I'm in no hurry for snow, though. No, I am not.

Friday 21 December 2012 14:33:45 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#

Chicago has officially gotten measurable snowfall in the past couple of hours, ending the longest snow-free period in history. In the 291 days since March 4th, we haven't gotten more than a few flakes, less than the threshold 2.5 mm required to count as "measurable." The previous record, 280 days, was set in 1994.

This is also the latest day for our first snowfall; the previous record was set on 16 December 1965. (With only ten hours left until the solstice, you think it could have waited?)

Like so much of Chicago's weather, of course, when it changed today, it really changed:

The heaviest snow was expected to fall from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. with wind gusts of 80 to 95 km/h. Seventy-five to 175 mm is expected in the far northwest suburbs, 50 to 100 mm in Chicago and 25 to 75 mm in the south and southwest suburbs.

The weather service says the winds will be the real problem. "We may not get a whole lot of snow but the potential for snowing, drifting and poor visibility is very high," weather service meteorologist Mark Ratzer said.

In its storm warning, the weather service said the greatest chance of near white-out conditions is near the shoreline in Lake and Porter counties in Indiana. The storm warning is in effect from 3 p.m. until 3 a.m. Friday.

In western Illinois and Wisconsin, a blizzard warning is in effect with as much as a foot of snow forecast. Snow could fall 25 to 50 mm an hour around Rockford late in the afternoon, the weather service said.

But this is Illinois. We can handle it: "IDOT was mobilizing more than 550 snow plows responsible for roads in northern Illinois while the Illinois Tollway was preparing its full fleet of 182 snow plows to try and clear the 286-mile network of toll roads in 12 counties in northern Illinois." I believe that number represents more snow plows than exist in the United Kingdom, but I could be wrong.

Thursday 20 December 2012 18:47:08 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Thursday 20 December 2012

As I've noted before, only one Web application still lives in my living room the Inner Drive Technology Worldwide Data Center: Weather Now. In the last few days, it's showing one more good reason that it needs to get to Windows Azure pronto.

Take a look at my Google Analytics view of incoming visitors:

What is going on? How do I go from 300 daily unique visitors to 1,800 in two days? Take a look at where they're coming from:

Yes, that's right. Close to 40% of Weather Now's traffic came from the Yukon Territory yesterday. And another 40% came from Alaska. And they're all going to this page for some reason. This might be why:

So how does Azure enter into it? Simply, if you have a Web application running on your own server, and you get a 750% increase in traffic, your server may not be able to handle it. Or, worse in a way, you might have been running the server capable of handling the peak load all the time, at great expense in electricity and hardware.

With Azure, you can simply bring another instance online, or increase the size of your running instance, or do any number of things to adapt quickly to the increased load, without having to buy or move the hardware. Then, when the load returns to normal, you can spin down the idle capacity. The trick is, you only pay for the capacity you're actually using.

I'm getting a lot closer to moving Weather Now, but a deadline looming at my paying job tomorrow has my attention at the moment. So more on this stuff later. Meanwhile, if you're in the Yukon or in central Alaska, stay warm, folks!

Thursday 20 December 2012 08:59:17 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Cloud | Weather | Windows Azure#
Wednesday 19 December 2012

Florida's pathological "Stand Your Ground" law is working about as you'd expect:

Florida's controversial "stand your ground" law has been cited in hundreds of cases. People have used it to justify shooting, stabbing, killing and maiming would-be intruders, romantic competitors and rival gang members.

And on Sunday, at a pizza joint in St. Petersburg, a man tried to use it as justification for shooting another customer who was yelling at workers because he wasn't getting his order fast enough.

Police said the incident unfolded about 4 p.m. inside the Little Caesars, 3463 Fourth St. N, after Randall White, 49, got mad about his service.

Another man in line, Michael Jock, 52, of St. Petersburg admonished White. That "prompted them to exchange words and it became a shoving match," said police spokesman Mike Puetz.

White raised a fist. Jock, a concealed-weapons permit holder, pulled out a .38 Taurus Ultralight Special Revolver.

So obviously we need more guns around. And we need to pull them out any time someone gets uppity. That'll make for a safe, modern, civilized country.

At least this story ended reasonably: "Police arrested Jock on charges of aggravated battery with a weapon and shooting within a building. He was released from jail on $20,000 bail."

Wednesday 19 December 2012 13:09:48 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | US#

Coincident with last week's release of Chasing Ice, a documentary about how climate change is affecting the polar regions, this month's Scientific American looks at how sea ice loss causes extreme weather.

In the article—unfortunately behind a tall paywall—Charles Greene demonstrates how the loss of Arctic sea ice allows large loops in the mid-latitude jet stream to form, and to persist. Last winter, a negative Arctic oscillation combined with a positive North Atlantic oscillation (which controls weather in Europe) to keep most of the U.S. warm and most of Europe cold.

(If I can figure out how to connect my print subscription to their digital offer, I'll quote more extensively.)

Wednesday 19 December 2012 12:09:14 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Weather#

Three unrelated stories drew my notice this evening:

PATH service has resumed to Hoboken. Some years ago—never mind how long precisely—I lived in Hoboken, N.J., the birthplace of Frank Sinatra (really) and baseball (not really). I took the Port Authority Trans-Hudson train almost every day when I worked in SoHo, and about every third day when I worked in Midtown. Having experienced other ways of commuting to New York—in fact, the switch up to 53rd and Park finally got me to return to Chicago, after my commute stretched to an hour and 15 minutes and required three transit changes—I have a lot of sympathy for the people living in Hoboken and Jersey City who have had to make their ways across the Hudson without the PATH.

In the first days after 9/11, both the PATH and the MTA worried that the Twin Towers' collapse would breach the "bathtub" (the Towers' foundation) and flood both the PATH and the New York subway. No one knew how bad the damage would be, and were thankful when it didn't happen. Eleven years later, Hurricane Sandy showed everyone.

So reading today that the PATH Hoboken to 33rd St. line reopened after seven weeks made me smile. Not as much, I expect, as the thousands of people whose commutes can now return to tolerable lengths.

I'm visiting New York in a few weeks; I'll make sure to post a few photos in homage of the PATH.

Facebook's change to Instagram's terms of service has rightly outraged everyone paying attention. Instagram, a photo-sharing service that Facebook bought recently for $1 bn, this week published new terms of service that allow them to use posted photos any way they want, any time they want. Their goal, not surprisingly, is to make money. The people who use Instagram just want to share their photos with their friends.

The Times quoted Santa Clara University Law Professor Eric Goldman saying, "The interest of the site is never 100 percent aligned with the users, and the divergence inevitably leads to friction. It’s unavoidable." Well, yes, because Instagram's users are not Instagram's customers, as they are just discovering, because the customer is the one who pays you. If you use a service that is free to you, you are not the customer and therefore have nothing to say to the service's owners. I find the flap about Instagram's TOS so interesting because it seems as if none of their users has realized this key point yet.

Instagram swears up and down that the users continue to own their own photos. Of course they do. And of course you keep ownership. But if you post on Instagram, "you hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, worldwide, limited license to use, modify, delete from, add to, publicly perform, publicly display, reproduce and translate such Content, including without limitation distributing part or all of the Site in any media formats through any media channel...." So they don't own your photos, exactly, but they can act as if they do.

Under U.S. copyright law, the creator of a work owns it, unless he has signed away the creation right explicitly. (Example: I work for a great software company. I write software for them, under a work-for-hire agreement. Therefore, except for some explicit, written exceptions, all the software I produce that has commercial value is owned by my employer. If I write code in one of my employer's client's applications that makes 10th Magnitude a billion dollars, I don't own it, 10th Magnitude does. That's the deal I made when I took this job. I trust, however, that if I made my boss a billion dollars, he'd share.)

So if you take a photo on your phone, you own it. It's your photo. And Instagram's new TOS says, yes, of course you own it, but we can sell it if we want and pay you nothing.

Now, I've experienced a variety of contractual arrangements in my life as a creative person, so I'm not shocked when someone wants a piece of my income as a fee for finding the income-producing gig. As a software contractor, I've routinely signed away 25% or 30% of my earnings off the top, in exchange for someone else doing the legwork to find the income-producing gig on my behalf. (It's really hard to find gigs while you're working full time on one, it turns out.) And, as someone who hires software contractors now, I expect they'll agree, too. We call this a "commission," as have people in other professions for millennia.

Instagram, effectively, demands a 100% commission off your work. Not only that, but if Instagram finds that one of your photos makes Ansel Adams weep, they can market the crap out of it. You'll never see a dime. Why would someone license the rights from you, when Instagram is selling them cheap? And you can't stop Instagram from destroying the market for your work, because you consented to it by posting your photo.

Let me put it another way. Instagram is saying, "You own your car, of course. But if you park it in our garage, we get to use it as a taxi, without paying you a dime."

To sum up: the people railing against Instagram's new TOS are exactly right. It sucks. And I will never, ever post any of my intellectual property there, even if they change the TOS in response to the approbation they've received, because (repeat after me) I am not their customer.

Finally—and I assure you, this is not related to Instagram—I recoiled in horror at the latest religious stupidity, that the Taliban have started killing anti-polio workers in Afghanistan.

Full disclosure: I was a member of Rotary International for a few years, and I wholly support the organization's amazingly-successful efforts to destroy polio the way we destroyed smallpox. Polio is a sufficiently complex organism that it can't evolve as quickly as we can kill it, making it an ideal target for eradication (like smallpox). But you have to get immunized, and sufficient numbers of your neighbors do, too, or it will keep spreading.

So, these idiot religious fundies, who subscribe to any number of irrational fantasies already, have apparently decided that the people trying to keep their babies from dying of an entirely preventable disease are, in fact, American spies. As the Times reports, "the killings were a serious reversal for the multi-billion-dollar global polio immunization effort, which over the past quarter century has reduced the number of endemic countries from 120 to just three: Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria."

Does anyone else see a coincidence between the three last outposts of a crippling, preventable disease and religious nuttery? Part of Rotary's success, by the way, has been in reassuring local populations that eradicating polio is no more and no less than it seems: a humanitarian effort to end a horrible disease forever. Wars have stopped to allow Rotary and the Gates Foundation to conduct immunizations. But the Taliban do not believe in reason. They would rather have hundreds of their children dead or crippled than accept the possibility that some American- (and British- and French- and Japanese- and South-African- and Namibian- and Saudi- and...) funded organization wants to prevent their children dying or becoming crippled.

Three countries still have polio. They also have air travel. Not everyone in the OECD has polio vaccinations today. So, if I can mention the self-interest of everyone able to read this blog post, who must therefore speak English and have an Internet connection, the religious nutters killing health workers who, but for being shot, would have eradicated a disease that has crippled millions, have made your life more perilous.

</ rant>

All right. Time to walk the dog.

PS: You may need to subscribe to the New York Times to read the linked stories. I apologize if this inconveniences you, but I recommend subscribing anyway. For $15 a month you not only get the entire newspaper online (and on any tablets you own), but you get to feel good about yourself. You also get to live Kant's categorical imperative, by behaving in such a way that the behavior could be universal. Isn't $15 an incentive worth aligning?

Tuesday 18 December 2012 22:04:18 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | US | Religion | Business#
Tuesday 18 December 2012

Microsoft veteran Raymond Chen explains:

The 64-bit version of Pinball had a pretty nasty bug where the ball would simply pass through other objects like a ghost. In particular, when you started the game, the ball would be delivered to the launcher, and then it would slowly fall towards the bottom of the screen, through the plunger, and out the bottom of the table.

Games tended to be really short.

Two of us tried to debug the program to figure out what was going on, but given that this was code written several years earlier by an outside company, and that nobody at Microsoft ever understood how the code worked (much less still understood it), and that most of the code was completely uncommented, we simply couldn't figure out why the collision detector was not working.

We had several million lines of code still to port, so we couldn't afford to spend days studying the code trying to figure out what obscure floating point rounding error was causing collision detection to fail. We just made the executive decision right there to drop Pinball from the product.

Chen's blog often goes into technical detail that many people might find off-putting, but he's a good person to read if you want to know more about how Microsoft works.

Tuesday 18 December 2012 15:00:27 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Business#
Monday 17 December 2012

Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams finds a comparison for Congress:

I've never wanted to run for Congress until now. The job looks boring, but I'm attracted to a system that punishes total strangers for my bad performance. I assume this is some sort of "best practice" that our government is borrowing from a successful system elsewhere. So starting today, if you tell me you don't like my blog, I will pay a stranger to kick another stranger in the nads. If Congress is right about the trigger concept, you should see a big improvement in my blogging performance. I'm all about incentives.

There's a Wally-esque genius to this budget trigger concept. It actually solves Congress' biggest problem, namely that doing anything that is balanced and appropriate for the country renders a politician unelectable. Republicans can't vote for tax increases and get reelected while Democrats can't cut social services and keep their jobs. But don't cry for Congress because this isn't the sort of problem that can thwart a building full of lawyers. They put their snouts together and cleverly invented a concept - called a trigger - to take the blame for them. This way, both sides can screw their supporters while still blaming the other side. No one has to take responsibility for anything.

He might have a point.

Monday 17 December 2012 14:34:48 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Jokes | US#

Japan has thrown out its government and restored the conservative Liberal Democratic Party (yes, that's right) to power:

the dominant view of Sunday’s vote was that it was not so much a weakening of Japan’s desire for drastic change, or a swing to an anti-Chinese right, as a rebuke of the incumbent Democrats. They swept aside the Liberal Democrats with bold vows to overhaul Japan’s sclerotic postwar order, only to disappoint voters by failing to deliver on economic improvements. Mr. Abe acknowledged as much, saying that his party had simply ridden a wave of public disgust in the failures of his opponents.

“We recognize that this was not a restoration of confidence in the Liberal Democratic Party, but a rejection of three years of incompetent rule by the Democratic Party,” Mr. Abe, 58, told reporters. Now, his party will be left to address deepening public frustration on a host of issues, including a contracting economy and a teetering pension system.

In the powerful lower house, the Liberal Democrats held a commanding lead with 294 of the 480 seats up for grabs. That would be almost a mirror image of the results in 2009, when the [incumbent center-left] Democrats won 308 seats.

And while the President leads a vigil in Connecticut tonight, House Speaker John Boehner appears to have relented to the facts and is conceding that income taxes have to rise on the rich:

Public opinion strongly favors it. President Obama just won re-election campaigning more strongly on the tax issue than on any other. Federal revenue as a share of the economy is near a 60-year low. Washington faces a $1 trillion annual deficit.

Yet even as some party leaders and intellectuals urge them to concede the point, most rank-and-file House Republicans refuse. That is why Speaker John A. Boehner has moved so gingerly, finally offering late last week to raise rates only on incomes of $1 million or more, despite calls from Senate Republicans for a deeper concession.

What Mr. Boehner has proposed is allowing the top rate to revert to 39.6 percent for income of $1 million and above, and to raise his total for new revenue over 10 years to $1 trillion from $800 billion, according to a person familiar with his latest offer. That rate increase would raise far less revenue than Mr. Obama’s plan, which would affect many more taxpayers.

I believe the White House response to that will still be "go fish," but it's a good start.

Sunday 16 December 2012 19:43:41 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | US | World#
Saturday 15 December 2012

Like James Fallows, I'm a member of the Airplane Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), which has a rigid, give-no-ground policy against aviation user fees. Fallows draws a parallel to the NRA, and notes the key difference:

The merits of the user fee debate are not my point right now. (Summary of the AOPA side: non-airline aviation activity already "pays its way" through the quite hefty tax imposed on each gallon of airplane fuel, plus providing all kinds of ancillary benefits to the country. I agree about the benefits and that the American aviation scene is the envy of the world.) Rather it is to introduce a comparison between AOPA and the real NRA. This comes from my friend Garrett Gruener, a successful Bay Area entrepreneur and venture capitalist who is also a longtime pilot. In the 1990s he even took an around-the-world trip, with his wife and daughter, in their turboprop airplane. He writes:

The difference is the overwhelming focus on safety. I feel that AOPA is the FAA's partner in trying to reduce the number of fatalities in aviation, while the NRA never gets beyond "guns don't kill...".

What Gruener says about the AOPA rings true to my experience. The only thing the AOPA talks about more than user fees is safety, and the individual and system-wide changes that can reduce the accident level.

So far, more than 24 hours after the killings in Newtown, Conn., the NRA hasn't said a peep about it.

Saturday 15 December 2012 10:10:13 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation | US#
Friday 14 December 2012

I think it's time for this, so we don't have to watch more children die:

28th Article of Amendment

1. Notwithstanding the second Article of Amendment to this Constitution, the Congress and the several States shall have the power to regulate the keeping and bearing of arms to provide for the common defense and promote the general welfare of the People.

2. Nothing in this Article shall prohibit the manufacture, sale, importation, or possession of arms within prevailing community standards.

3. The right of the States to form and arm well-regulated militias shall not be abridged.

4. The Congress and the several States shall have concurrent power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

This language wouldn't prohibit people from owning guns; in fact, it explicitly requires states to allow people to own whatever guns their community believes is appropriate. Federalism, right?

It would, however, allow states and cities to prevent people from owning .223-caliber assault rifles. And it would allow states to prohibit concealed carrying.

On the same day a demented man killed 18 children with a gun in Connecticut, another demented man slashed 22 children in China. Do you think for one minute if the guy in China had access to guns he would have hesitated to use one?

I'm outraged. Absolutely outraged. And I'm not willing to accept 9,200 gun murders per year as the price of keeping around a 223-year-old law whose author could not possibly have imagined what happened in Newtown today.

Is England (41 gun murders) or Canada (173) really that much less free than the U.S.? Do we need 270 million guns in civilian hands? Or can we end the insanity?

Friday 14 December 2012 14:06:32 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | US#

This caught my eye as I walked to work from the El this morning:

History buffs and Chicagoans may recognize this spot as the place where the Great Flood of 1992 started.

Friday 14 December 2012 10:22:12 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Photography#
Thursday 13 December 2012

Last night I continued reducing local computing costs by turning off my home desktop PC. The old PC has a ton of space and a lot of applications that my laptop doesn't have, plus a nifty dual-DVI video card. But a couple of things have changed since 2008.

First, my current laptop, a Dell Latitude E6420, has a faster processor, the same amount of RAM, and a solid-state drive, making it about twice as fast as the desktop. Second, Dell has a new, upgraded docking station that will drive two big monitors easily. (Sadly, though the docking station can drive two DVIs, my laptop's video chip can only do one DVI and one VGA.) Third, the laptop uses buttloads less power than the desktop. Fourth, portable terabyte drives are a lot less expensive today than in 2008—and a lot smaller. And finally, I take my laptop to and from work, meaning I have a minor hassle keeping it synchronized with my desktop.

Here's my office about three years ago (January 2010):

A few months later I got a second 24-inch monitor (November 2010 photo):

Notice the printer has moved to make room for the second monitor, but otherwise the setup remains the same. The monitors connect to the desktop under the desk to the left, while the laptop has its own cradle to the right.

Now this afternoon:

The printer has landed on the floor directly under where it used to sit (I print about 3 pages per month, so this isn't the inconvenience it seems), the laptop has moved over to the printer's old spot (and has connected to the monitors), and the old desktop machine sits quietly consuming 225 fewer Watts per hour. I also replaced the 10-year-old, no-longer-functioning 2+1 speaker set with a more compact set. The round thing between the keyboard and the laptop near the center of the photo is a speakerphone that I use with Skype.

I think everyone knows the dog under the desk by now, too. He's not happy that I rearranged his favorite sleeping cave, so I might get a couple of weeks without mounds of dog hair under my desk until he decides the printer is harmless.

So far today I have been unusually productive, whether because of the novelty or because I have a fire-under-the-ass deadline at work. So back to it.

Thursday 13 December 2012 13:58:53 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Parker | Business#

Cranky Flier analyzes the surprise Delta-Virgin merger in terms of JFK–LHR:

Of course, British Airways and American have the strongest position in London by far. Delta would have been hard-pressed to grow a position itself considering the slot restrictions at the airport along with the already ample capacity on these routes. With this deal, Delta becomes more relevant in London, but more importantly, it becomes more relevant in places like New York, from where London is one of the most important business destinations. This simple chart showing daily flights each way from all New York airports should make it very clear.

Routes AA/BA Delta Delta
+ Virgin

New York-Heathrow 15 2 8

I told you it was a simple one. Today, Delta is an afterthought. If its schedule fits a loyal traveler’s needs, then people will take it. But more often than not, that probably won’t happen. Combined with Virgin Atlantic, however, there is a very respectable schedule that now also covers the other side of the Hudson in Newark. Delta becomes relevant.

Whatever happens, I just hope there are at least three airlines left standing. That's enough for real competition on popular routes, and none is more popular for trans-Atlantic travel than New York to London.

Thursday 13 December 2012 09:00:42 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation#
Wednesday 12 December 2012

All right, all right. It's 12-12-12 everyone! Happy?

Save time; call it 12³.

Wednesday 12 December 2012 08:18:42 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Tuesday 11 December 2012

Possibly in mourning, as the last Hostess Twinkies hit the shelves in Chicago today:

Jewel-Osco said Monday that the final shipment of Hostess Brands baked goods, including Twinkies, will be delivered and sold at Chicago area Jewel stores Tuesday morning.

About 20,000 boxes of Twinkies, Ding Dongs and other Hostess products will be placed on store shelves at different times of day at different stores. Jewel lists the store locations and estimated times of delivery on Facebook, facebook.com/JewelOsco.

All is not lost, of course. The Sun-Times notes, "Hundreds of potential buyers, including at least five major retailers, have expressed interest in Hostess’ brands, recipes and some of its factories." But if you wanted to get one, last Twinkie, hurry to da Jools right now.

Tuesday 11 December 2012 12:10:09 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Monday 10 December 2012

Chicago has had no measurable snowfall since March 4th, 281 days ago, which is the longest such period in Chicago history:

If no measurable snow falls at O'Hare today [it didn't—DB], we could go on to shatter the previous record by at least another 4 days. The forecast is dry after today through the end of the week. The graphics [on WGN's blog post] show the total snowfall accumulation forecast for the next 10 days ending early next Thursday morning. The GFS model (on top) shows a potential of 33 mm during the period while the European model (on bottom) shows a potential for up to 102 mm. Hang in there snow lovers!

A snow-free environment from March 4th to December 14th is more normal for Raleigh, N.C., not for Chicago. Or anyway, it used to be.

Monday 10 December 2012 17:23:08 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Raleigh | Weather#

The Cranky Flier has some inside dish on the possible airline merger that I mentioned Friday:

US Airways is still trying to convince American that its plan is better. Maybe American management will get a big enough payout to go along. Or maybe AA’s management will see the writing on the wall depending upon how this offer unfolds and just decide it can’t win. Or maybe it can actually come up with something that will keep American independent, but I’d say that the chances of that are slim.

As we head toward the holidays, everything starts to slow down. We might not hear anything about a merger until the new year, but I wouldn’t expect that we’d be waiting much longer than that. The time to decide which way this airline is going is here. Now we just have to sit and wait to see what happens. I’m still expecting that a merger will happen, but I’m really curious to see how it all unfolds.

This comes on the heels of American's pilots reaching agreement with management on a labor contract, which helps fix the value of the combined airline.

Monday 10 December 2012 16:40:59 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation#
Sunday 9 December 2012

This morning, Transport for London opened a new branch of the London Overground, creating a circular line connecting many of London's less-affluent neighborhoods in a giant circle:

Until recently, substantial parts of London (notably the South and East) had limited subway access, relying instead on poorly integrated, less reliable commuter rail lines run by national train companies. Some of these worked okay and some were terrible – the notoriously unreliable one near where I grew up used to be called the Cinderella Line, presumably because while you were waiting eternally for some grand carriage to arrive, all you saw on the line were mice.

The Overground has taken these old lines and knitted them together with newly constructed underground trackways and new stations (mainly in the under-served South and East). A number of these stations also have subway connections, so this once separate network is now a fully integrated extension to the subway rather than a shoddy, second-tier alternative.

The Overground’s rolling stock is also a huge improvement. While London’s subway trains are constrained by narrow tunnels, the Overground’s single carriage trains are wider and higher, with space for bikes outside rush hour and air conditioning.

(The new London Overground, as of today.)

Sunday 9 December 2012 09:21:52 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | London | Travel#
Saturday 8 December 2012

Well, my cousin and I did it. We put down our deposit for two season tickets to Wrigley Field. Even though we both prefer the first-base side, we found better seats right by the press box on the third-base side:

Specifically, these seats:

With this view:

Now we just have to pay for them and go to a lot of games. Otherwise, it's back to the end of the line, which now has nearly 120,000 people in it.

Saturday 8 December 2012 13:26:24 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Cubs#
Friday 7 December 2012

Finally! Reuters reported about 90 minutes ago that US Airways has made an offere to buy bankrupt American Airlines, which would create an $8.5 bn airline:

Under the all-stock proposal US Airways made in mid-November at a meeting with AMR's unsecured creditors committee, the bankrupt airline's creditors would own 70 percent of the merged company and US Airways shareholders 30 percent, the person said.

US Airways and AMR are negotiating toward a potential merger agreement that could come as soon as January, the person added, asking not to be named because the matter is not public.

When the public-quiet period began back at the end of August, I thought it would take close to a year for the airlines to reach a deal. To me, an elite frequent flier on American, the merger is the best possible outcome, because it's the one in which I'm most likely to keep my banked miles and elite status. To American's pilots, mechanics, and flight attendants, it's the best possible outcome because they get to keep their jobs (mostly). And with American's unions supporting the deal, it will likely go smoothly.

January, huh? That would be fantastic.

Friday 7 December 2012 16:35:02 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation#

That's what LinkedIn's career expert says:

Back when I started working with LinkedIn, we released our very first ranking of the most overused profile buzzwords. I remember thinking how important it was to steer clear of “extensive experience” (the number one overused term in 2010) if you wanted to shine among the 85 million professionals who were touting their years in the trenches as their defining characteristic.

Well, it’s three years later and with over 100 million MORE professionals on LinkedIn, the stakes to stand out from this year’s very “creative” (this year’s most oft used adjective) crowd are even higher. Here are a few tips for saying what you mean with words that will get you noticed.

LinkedIn lists these as the most buzzy:

  • Analytical
  • Creative
  • Effective
  • Experimental
  • Motivated
  • Multinational
  • Responsible
  • Specialized

Just try writing a résumé without them...go on...

Friday 7 December 2012 15:55:00 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Business#
Thursday 6 December 2012

Via AVWeb: Boeing has put up a 787 Dreamliner simulator that allows you to (virtually) sit in the cockpit. You can check out any of the instruments, look out the windows, and listen to the cockpit crew.

Someday you might even fly in a real one.

Thursday 6 December 2012 08:48:32 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation#
Wednesday 5 December 2012

It's finally happened.

After 13 years, my cousin has gotten to the top of the Cubs season ticket waiting list. Only a year ago, he was 10,000 away from the top, but for some reason the list got radically shorter this season.

He and I long ago made a pact to go in together. And today, we found out what that means. We have an appointment at Wrigley Field at 9am Saturday to pick seats. And to pay for them.

We can skip the appointment, of course, but that means going to the back of the line—which now has 115,000 names on it. In 12 years my cousin moved up 4,000 places; that makes the list something like 300 years long.

What to do, what to do. I'm not sure the Cubs will have a better season next year than they did this year, and I'm not sure I want to part with all that money. Oh, we'll probably have to put most of them on StubHub, of course, but that doesn't mean we'll sell them. Moreover, we're not doing this to sell the tickets, we're doing this to go to Wrigley Field a lot.

We thought we'd get there in 2015, 2020, even 2025. A couple of older guys, hanging out at Wrigley, watching baseball, you know?

Time to create a decision model...

(Here are the FAQs about Wrigley season tickets. And fortunately I don't have to cough up the money all at once: "Your first payment, due at the time of your seat selection to secure your seats, is based on 10% of the post-tax total for the seats that you select. The first payment is non-refundable.")

Wednesday 5 December 2012 15:35:01 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Cubs#
Tuesday 4 December 2012

Chicago's official weather station lived at Midway Airport from 1928 until 1958, when it moved up to O'Hare. As I mentioned yesterday, Chicago's record high temperature for December 3rd is 22°C. Yesterday's official temperature only got up to 21°C, so we didn't break the official record.

A funny thing happened, however. Yesterday's temperature broke Midway's record, tying the official record set at O'Hare in 1970:

The level of warmth observed across the Chicago area Monday ranked among the rarest of the rare in December. Temperatures at 21°C and higher are exceedingly rare in December---it's happened only twice before on Dec. 3, 1970 (21.6°C) and Dec. 2, 1982 (same).

Further underscoring the rarity of such unseasonable warmth is the fact that of the possible 4,405 December days that are part of the city’s 142 year observational record, there have now been just 3 days on the books with temperatures at or above 21°C!

Chicago’s temperature reached the 21°C mark at 2:14 pm at Midway Airport and at 2:44 pm at O’Hare.

Midway’s peak reading was to end up reaching 22°C, blowing past all of the South Side site’s previous highest December temperatures to become the month’s warmest on record since observations began there in 1928.

Put another way, that temperature is normal for September 22nd and May 23rd in Chicago, or December 3rd in Tampa, Fla.

Today the weather has felt more like the beginning of November or the first week of April: closer to normal, I suppose, but still remarkably warm for December.

Tuesday 4 December 2012 12:56:14 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#

Last month, United Airlines and the Star Alliance held a multi-day outing for some frequent fliers that included a couple legs on a 787:

They were bankers, lawyers, programmers, film distributors, entrepreneurs and all-around aviation buffs or, as they lovingly call themselves, geeks. Most were men. All of them had signed up for a MegaDo, a retreat organized by and for travel fanatics who scour Web sites like Milepoint, particularly frequent fliers for whom it is a hobby to accrue miles and learn every last detail about their preferred airline.

The first MegaDo was in 2009. This one, Star Alliance MegaDo 4, had a European leg that wasn’t on a Dreamliner and a domestic leg, and sold out in two minutes. Tickets for the United States portion were $999 to $1,999 and included meals and behind-the-scenes talks and tours with airline and hotel executives. All the proceeds go to charity. Those who did manage to score a Star Alliance MegaDo 4 ticket would ultimately fly on a Dreamliner, party in an airplane hangar, learn how to de-ice a plane, visit United’s headquarters, barely sleep and consume copious amounts of alcohol.

The average traveler has probably never heard of MegaDos, but they have become so significant within the travel industry that, as one of the founders, Tommy Danielsen, put it: “United gives us this plane a week and a half after they introduce it.”

But even occasional fliers will find themselves on Dreamliners in the coming years as more airlines integrate them into their fleets. United, the first domestic carrier to receive the Dreamliner, has two so far and at least another 48 on the way. International carriers including Japan Airlines and Air India have been flying the planes for months.

Unfortunately, American Airlines won't receive any 787s for at least another 18 months or so, and I'm unlikely to fly on United before then. So I'll be patient and wait. Unless USAirways hurries up and buys American already...

Tuesday 4 December 2012 12:26:02 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation#
Monday 3 December 2012

Children and authoritarians tend to react to clear evidence against them by doubling down. The current Israeli government has continued the tradition:

The Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu's decision to approve the construction of 3,000 new homes is widely seen as a response to the United Nations vote earlier this week that recognised a Palestinian bid to be a "non-member observer state".

The US, with Israel, strongly opposed that move, while Britain abstained in the vote. But now both countries have criticised the Israeli settlement decision, saying it hurts the chances of a two-state solution and the search for peace in the troubled region.

"Let me reiterate that this administration, like previous administrations, has been very clear with Israel that these activities set back the cause of a negotiated peace," [US Secretary of State Hillary] Clinton said, in remarks delivered at the Saban Center think tank in Washington on Friday.

[British Foreign Secretary William] Hague said he was "extremely concerned" at the plans, which have been reported in the Israeli press as including a four-square-mile area just east of Jerusalem that is seen as vital to keeping open a viable land corridor between the city and any future Palestinian state.

The meta-message to Netanyahu is, "You cannot achieve your goals pursuing your current course of action." But just as it's difficult for 4-year-olds to understand this presented like that, so is it for Bibi and the right. In fact, I think the defining characteristic of any extremist is an inability to accept the basic fact that other points of view exist, let alone that policies predicated on their point of view will fail spectacularly, given enough time.

Full disclosure: I'm Jewish, as any but the most extreme Rabbis will agree. (By "most extreme" I mean any Rabbi who believes no one's mother can convert to Judaism.) I'm also atheist, as anyone who's read this blog knows. I also have an allergic reaction against anyone who claims that their ethnic/political/knitting group is the only ethnic/political/knitting group qualified to discuss matters that affect people beyond their group's boundaries.

Monday 3 December 2012 13:44:25 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | World#

Yesterday it was 17°C; today, so far, it's 19°C. (The record temperature for December 3rd is 22°C, set in 1970.)

But no, there's no global warming.

Monday 3 December 2012 13:32:53 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#

Geologist James Powell points out that the peer-review process keeps finding in favor of climate change:

The most obvious criticsism—that this is an argumentum ad populum—only works if you misunderstand how science works. Every scientist has an implicit incentive to prove some other scientist wrong. You can make your career in science by showing that the received wisdom doesn't fit all the evidence. So the numbers in that pie chart have to raise eyebrows, even if the eyes under them have blinders on.

Since the planet has been hotter in the past, I don't worry that global climate change will kill everyone. In fact, Chicago will probably do fine, as will the Canadian plains and much of central Asia.

The problem with the American right wing, not to mention other governments worldwide, is that by refusing to believe the climate is changing—regardless of the cause—they're refusing to take simple actions against the predictable consequences of it. Ostriches don't stick their heads in the sand in real life, because if they were to do that, they'd be killed by the things they were hiding from. Of all earth's species, only humans can look at impending doom and ignore it. Or, to put it another way:

Sunday 2 December 2012 19:58:41 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Sunday 2 December 2012

No, I don't mean "will we have to endure another six weeks of an election." I mean that Chicago today hit 17°C, not a record (22°C in 1982), but also more normal for mid-October than for the second day of meteorological winter.

Tomorrow may be warmer. The Climate Prediction Center forecasts a warm December followed by more normal temperatures through March, so we might get a good Chicago winter anyway.

Remember, though, that warm winters lead to warm summers (though not necessarily the reverse), so I sincerely hope it cools off a bit before April. I'll take a couple of frigidly-cold months in exchange for a cool summer.

Sunday 2 December 2012 14:02:39 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Saturday 1 December 2012

I've just spent three hours debugging something caused by a single missing line in a configuration file.

At 10th Magnitude, we've recently upgraded our framework and reference applications to the latest Windows Azure SDK. Since I'd already done it once, it didn't take too desperately long to create the new versions of our stuff.

However, the fact that something works in an emulator does not mean it will actually work in production. So, last night, our CTO attempted to deploy the first application we built with the new stuff out to Azure. It failed.

First, all we got was a HttpException, which is what ASP.NET MVC throws when something fails on a Razor view. The offending line was this:

@{ 
   ViewBag.Title = Html.Resource("PageTitle");
}

This extension method indirectly calls our custom resource provider, cleverly obfuscated as SqlResourceProvider, which then looks up the string resource in a SQL database.

My first problem was to get to the actual exception being thrown. That required me to RDP into the running Web role, open a view (I chose About.cshtml because it was essentially empty), and replace the code above with this:

@using System.Globalization
@{
  try
  {
    var provider = new SqlResourceProvider("/Views/Home/About.cshtml");
    var title = provider.GetObject("PageTitle", CultureInfo.CurrentUICulture);
    ViewBag.Title = title;
  }
  catch (Exception ex)
  {
    ViewBag.Error = ex + Environment.NewLine + "Base:" + Environment.NewLine + ex.GetBaseException();
  }
}
<pre>@ViewBag.Error</pre>

That got me the real error stack, whose relevant lines were right at the top:

System.IO.FileNotFoundException: Could not load file or assembly 'Microsoft.WindowsAzure.ServiceRuntime, Version=1.7.0.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=31bf3856ad364e35' or one of its dependencies. The system cannot find the file specified.
File name: 'Microsoft.WindowsAzure.ServiceRuntime, Version=1.7.0.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=31bf3856ad364e35'
at XM.UI.ResourceProviders.ResourceCache.LogDebug(String message)

Flash forward an hour of reading and testing things. I'll spare you. The solution is to add a second binding redirect in web.config:

<dependentAssembly>
  <assemblyIdentity name="Microsoft.WindowsAzure.ServiceRuntime" 
    publicKeyToken="31bf3856ad364e35" culture="neutral" />
  <bindingRedirect oldVersion="0.0.0.0-1.0.0.0" newVersion="1.0.0.0" />
  <bindingRedirect oldVersion="1.1.0.0-1.8.0.0" newVersion="1.8.0.0" />
</dependentAssembly>

Notice the second line? That tells .NET to refer all requests for the service runtime to the 1.8 version.

Also, in the Web application, you have to set the assembly references for Microsoft.WindowsAzure.Configuration and Microsoft.WindowsAzure.Storage to avoid using specific versions. In Solution Explorer, under the References folder for the web app, find the assemblies in question, view Properties, and set Specific Version to false.

I hope I have saved you three hours of your life. I will now go back to my deployment, already in progress...

Update, an hour and a half later: It turns out, there's a difference in behavior between <compilation debug="true"> and <compilation> on Azure Guest OS 3 (Windows Server 2012) that did not exist in previous guest OS versions. When an application is in debug mode on Azure Guest OS 3, it ignores some errors. Specifically, it ignores the FileNotFoundException thrown when Bundle.JavaScript().Add() has the wrong version number for the script it's trying to add. In Release mode, it just barfs up a 500 response. That is maddening—especially when you're trying to debug something else. At least it let our app log the error, eventually.

Saturday 1 December 2012 15:36:31 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Cloud | Windows Azure | Work#
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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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