Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
Wednesday 31 July 2013

It's good reconnecting with stuff that has been lost for years.

Like the Jewish Samurai, for example. And the quiz proving executives do not have much in common with pre-schoolers. And let's not forget the four Jewish sons.

Somewhere in the mists of time I have notes about why I released so many jokes in batches. As I move to a new blog/content platform this fall, I'll post what I find.

Wednesday 31 July 2013 14:03:43 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Jokes | Blogs#

Earlier I surmised that automating the process of extracting my old jokes from the ancient braverman.org site would take less time than hand-copying them. Well, duh. It only took two hours to write the script, lint the very few entries that needed it, and push the lot up to The Daily Parker.

So, for those of you who have missed all the jokes—there are just under 200 of them, all published from May 1998 to November 2004—start here, then skip to here, and then keep clicking the calendar control.

I'll call out my favorites once I re-acquaint myself with them. This one goes at the top of the list.

Now, programming trance ended, I am off to bed.

Wednesday 31 July 2013 00:13:49 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Jokes | Readings | Blogs#
Tuesday 30 July 2013

Observer columnist John Naughton explains how the practices Edward Snowden revealed have hurt us:

[H]ere are some of the things we should be thinking about as a result of what we have learned so far.

The first is that the days of the internet as a truly global network are numbered. It was always a possibility that the system would eventually be Balkanised, ie divided into a number of geographical or jurisdiction-determined subnets as societies such as China, Russia, Iran and other Islamic states decided that they needed to control how their citizens communicated. Now, Balkanisation is a certainty.

Second, the issue of internet governance is about to become very contentious. Given what we now know about how the US and its satraps have been abusing their privileged position in the global infrastructure, the idea that the western powers can be allowed to continue to control it has become untenable.

His conclusion: "The fact is that Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft are all integral components of the US cyber-surveillance system." And no European country wants to deal with that.

So, great. United States paranoia and brute-force problem-solving may have destroyed the Cloud.

Tuesday 30 July 2013 12:02:25 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US | World | Blogs | Business | Cloud#
Monday 29 July 2013

It completely passed me by that last week was the 30th anniversary of one of aviation's biggest moments in "it could have been worse," when an Air Canada 767 ran out of fuel over western Ontario:

On 23 July 1983, flight 143 was cruising at 41,000 ft., over Red Lake, Ontario. The aircraft's cockpit warning system sounded, indicating a fuel pressure problem on the aircraft's left side. Assuming a fuel pump had failed,[3] the pilots turned it off,[3] since gravity should feed fuel to the aircraft's two engines. The aircraft's fuel gauges were inoperative because of an electronic fault which was indicated on the instrument panel and airplane logs (the pilots believed flight to be legal with this malfunction). The flight management computer indicated that there was still sufficient fuel for the flight; but the initial fuel load had been entered as pounds instead of kilograms. A few moments later, a second fuel pressure alarm sounded for the right engine, prompting the pilots to divert to Winnipeg. Within seconds, the left engine failed and they began preparing for a single-engine landing.

As they communicated their intentions to controllers in Winnipeg and tried to restart the left engine, the cockpit warning system sounded again with the "all engines out" sound, a long "bong" that no one in the cockpit could recall having heard before and that was not covered in flight simulator training.[3] Flying with all engines out was something that was never expected to occur and had therefore never been covered in training.[4] Seconds later, with the right-side engine also stopped, the 767 lost all power, and most of the instrument panels in the cockpit went blank.

What happened next...is worth reading about.

Thanks to Jim Fallows for reminding me about this anniversary.

Monday 29 July 2013 10:57:13 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation#
Sunday 28 July 2013

...braverman.org published six proto-blog entries.

This brings the total ancient blog entries restored to 63, leaving around 140 still to be dug out. It takes about 5 minutes per entry to convert right now, so I may automate the process. Since writing some automation will probably take less than 11 hours, I may just do that over the next couple of days.

Sunday 28 July 2013 14:39:35 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Blogs | Writing#

New York Times op-ed columnist Charles Blow lays out the awfulness of "stand your ground" laws better than I:

Something is wrong here. We are not being made more secure, we are being made more barbaric. These laws are an abomination and an affront to morality and common sense. We can’t allow ourselves to be pawns in the gun industry’s profiteering. We are real people, and people have power.

Attorney General Eric Holder told the N.A.A.C.P. last week: “It’s time to question laws that senselessly expand the concept of self-defense and sow dangerous conflict in our neighborhoods. These laws try to fix something that was never broken.”

We must all stress this point, and fight and not get weary. We must stop thinking of politics as sport and spectacle and remember that it bends in response to pressure. These laws must be reviewed and adjusted. On this issue we, as Americans of good conscience, must stand our ground.

Well put.

Sunday 28 July 2013 14:06:36 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#
Saturday 27 July 2013

As forecast yesterday, Chicago's temperatures today haven't even approached normal July levels. Right now O'Hare reports 16°C after a high at noon of just 18°C. That's normal for October 10th; for July 27th, the normal high is 29°C.

As it's unlikely the temperature will rise much due to the cloud cover and stiff wind off the lake, it looks like we've set a new record low maximum, two degrees below the previous record of 21°C.

Great walking and sleeping weather, though.

Remember, last July was the second-hottest on record for us.

Saturday 27 July 2013 14:01:06 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#

According to a new study, it's because of poor impulse control:

It’s not that they are ignorant. Studies show that smokers are at least as informed as nonsmokers about the risks of smoking — and possibly more informed.

You might suspect, then, that smokers tend to be risk takers by nature. And some evidence suggests that smokers do take more risks than nonsmokers: they are more often involved in traffic accidents, less likely to wear seat belts and more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior. Women who smoke even have mammograms less frequently than their nonsmoking counterparts.

So what accounts for smokers’ risky-looking behavior? Our contention is that smokers exhibit poor self-control in the face of immediate temptation — which can look like a willingness to assume risk. (For instance, you might choose to have sex without a condom not because you are comfortable with the risk but because you are too weak-willed to bother with the inconvenience.)

I've thought a lot about the differences between rural and urban residents, including how more people smoke in the sticks. Smoking and carrying guns have something in common: they're nearly as hazardous or noxious to people nearby as they are to the people doing them. It's obvious, isn't it, that smoking stinks up the area, and having a gun makes you more likely to shoot someone else. Living in a dense city forces people, through legislation or social pressure, to behave in ways more appropriate to being around other people.

So, if people smoke because they have poor impulse control, yet we're obligated to issue at least some concealed-carry permits, we really shouldn't give them to smokers, should we?

Saturday 27 July 2013 08:33:22 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#
Friday 26 July 2013

Via TPM Media, NASA has something to make you smile. Take a ride:

Friday 26 July 2013 18:25:19 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Cool links#

I hope this was less of a surprise to the staff at WBEZ, Chicago Public Radio, than to me:

On Friday, longtime CEO and President of Chicago Public Media, the parent of WBEZ resigned to the Board of Directors.

In my years as Chicago Public Media’s CEO, we have shown how digital media married to broadcast technologies can provide a nexus for polycultural discussion and insight, that entertaining experiences crafted with underlying substance can enthrall multi-platform audiences, bringing Chicago Public Media both respect and solid fiscal health.

Malatia, who started at WBEZ in 1993, co-created This American Life with Ira Glass.

Friday 26 July 2013 17:14:46 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago#

After a warm start to the month, Chicago temperatures have fallen a bit:

Saturday temps may not break above 21°C and could flirt with or set a new record low daytime maximum for the date.

Saturday temperatures, which reached the 30s Celsius just a week ago, may struggle this weekend just to reach 20°C. A reading below 20.6°C would set a new record for the lowest maximum on the books for July 27. The previous record this date was set in 1981.

Wednesday I wore a polo and jeans, and shivered on the way home from work. Yesterday I wore a long-sleeve shirt that I rolled up most of the day. Today I'm back in a polo and blowing on my hands to keep warm.

That's the most interesting thing about anthropogenic climate change: even though the planet gets warmer, local weather may be cooler—and more extreme.

Friday 26 July 2013 11:59:03 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#

Urban planner Pete Saunders, a Detroit native and Chicago resident, doesn't see many similarities between the two cities:

Chicago has a much larger and more diverse economy to draw from to address its debt concerns. A report from the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis released in February shows that Chicago metro area GDP in 2011 was $548 billion annually, making it the third largest in the nation after New York and Los Angeles. That makes the Chicago economy nearly three times larger than Detroit's, which checks in at $199 billion. Chicago's economy is also more diverse than Detroit's, with no one industry sector making up more than 13 percent of the metro area workforce. Chicago's economy also enjoys demonstrated strengths in areas where Detroit is weaker — specifically, finance, transportation and warehousing, and education. There is simply a broader and deeper reservoir that Chicago can tap.

Perhaps more important, there are key historical differences that led Detroit to bankruptcy but kept Chicago on a growth path. Circa 1950, Chicago and Detroit were mid-century manufacturing doppelgangers — economic powerhouses teeming with industrial businesses, each with a bevy of skilled and unskilled workers to employ. However, governance differences caused their paths to diverge. Mayor Richard J. Daley is often remembered as the quintessential machine politician, but he cut his political teeth in fiscal policy before occupying the fifth floor at City Hall. He put that expertise to good use while in office. Also, the dozens of municipal corporations and special-purpose districts here, lacking in Detroit, meant the fiscal burden could be spread around. As a result, City Hall ends up having fewer direct responsibilities and a slightly rosier fiscal picture.

When Detroit doubled down on flinging its population into the suburbs in the last half of the 20th century, Chicago cleaned up. I remember the smog, dirt, and crime of the 1980s vividly—and the stunning clean-up in the 1990s. During the same time, Detroit emptied out even more.

Detroit shows just about ever method available for killing a city; Chicago shows the opposite. Urbs in horto is a reality.

Friday 26 July 2013 08:33:50 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | US#
Thursday 25 July 2013

Our company needs a specific Microsoft account, not attached to a specific employee, to be the "Account Holder" for our Azure subscriptions.

Azure only allows one and only one account holder, you see, and more than one person needs access to the billing information for these accounts. Setting up a specific account for that purpose solves that problem.

So, I went ahead and set up an email account for our putative Azure administrator, and then went to the Live ID signup process. It asked me for my "birthdate." Figuring, what the hell?, I entered the birthdate of the company.

That got me here:

Annoying, but fine, I get why they do this.

So I got all the way through the process, including giving them a credit card to prove I'm real, and then I got this:

By the way, those screen-shots are from the third attempt, including one giving them a different credit card.

I have sent a message to Microsoft customer support, but haven't gotten an acknowledgement yet. I think I'm just going to cancel the account and start over.

Update: Yes, killing the account and starting over (by denying the email verification step) worked. So why couldn't the average pre-teen figure this out too? This has to be one of the dumber things companies do.

Thursday 25 July 2013 15:36:22 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Business | Security#

Crain's takes a look at how concealed carry affects private property:

Building owners have the authority to prohibit people from entering their property with a concealed firearm. To exercise this right, building owners “must post a sign . . . indicating that firearms are prohibited on the property.” Signs that say the carrying of firearms is prohibited must be “clearly and conspicuously posted” at the entrance of a building, premises or property where it is prohibited. The Illinois State Police is charged with adopting rules and standards for these signs. Building owners should also consider the implications of posting signs. If they prohibit firearms and then do not enforce the rules, are they opening themselves up to additional liability?

Do landlords want to prohibit the concealed carrying of firearms on their property and in their buildings? If they do, then they should consider what policies to adopt and where to post the signage to prohibit it. Landlords should review their standard lease rules and regulations to ensure that they implement the concealed carry policies. Even though Illinois is the last state to permit concealed carry of firearms, the new law may be a good opportunity to review standard lease provisions in other states.

The author also talks about how the new law affects bars and third-party property managers.

But think about this: in one of the most advanced countries in the world, in the 21st century, we have to put up signs to prohibit armed people from entering. You know, I recognize the necessity of having armed police on the streets. I submit that allowing everyone else to carry guns will make us less safe, both from the guns and from the police response to having more guns around.

Welcome back, 19th Century.

Thursday 25 July 2013 13:39:21 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | US#
Tuesday 23 July 2013

Posting might be a bit slow this week as I'm helping a second project meet a deadline while my own project has a deadline only slightly farther into next week.

Oh, and if anyone knows why .NET has trouble consuming Siebel web services, I could really use some suggestions.

Tuesday 23 July 2013 11:43:52 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Work#

Three weeks ago, I visited San Francisco. Two days after I flew out of SFO, there was the first fatal air-transport accident in the U.S. in 12 years.

Sunday, I flew out of LaGuardia, and yesterday a Southwest Airlines plane suffered a nose-gear collapse on landing:

The front landing gear of a Boeing 737 operated by Southwest Airlines collapsed upon landing at La Guardia Airport on Monday evening, thrusting the plane’s nose into the tarmac and sending out a stream of sparks as the plane skidded to a stop, officials and witnesses said.

At least [8] people were injured, according to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the airport; six of those were taken to Elmhurst Hospital Center. The extent of their injuries was not immediately known, though it appeared that none were serious.

The airport was closed for about 80 minutes, and one of its two main runways reopened at 7:06 p.m.

All the injuries were minor.

Good thing I'm not scheduled to fly anywhere for five weeks.

Tuesday 23 July 2013 11:41:42 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation#
Monday 22 July 2013

Not directly, but probably yes:

As late as 2005 or 2006 — that is, until the eve of the Great Recession — you could argue that there wasn’t a whole lot of difference in aggregate performance between greater Pittsburgh and greater Detroit. Obviously, however, Detroit’s central city has collapsed while Pittsburgh has had at least something of a revival. The difference is really clear in the Brookings job sprawl data (pdf), where less than a quarter of Detroit jobs are within 10 miles of the traditional central business district, versus more than half in Pittsburgh.

It’s hard to avoid the sense that greater Pittsburgh, by taking better care of its core, also improved its ability to adapt to changing circumstances. In that sense, Detroit’s disaster isn’t just about industrial decline; it’s about urban decline, which isn’t the same thing. If you like, sprawl killed Detroit, by depriving it of the kind of environment that could incubate new sources of prosperity.

The New Republic weighed in with five startling maps that show exactly what happened along five key metrics. Over 20 years, the city lost 60% of its population (even while its suburbs increased theirs), and only the poorest people seem to have stayed, driving down the city's income at an even faster rate. With fixed infrastructure to support 1.8 million residents, the remaining 700,000 can't generate enough tax receipts to fund the city's commitments. Bankruptcy was inevitable given these circumstances.

Lots of things killed Detroit, but most of these things were policies and decisions that favored wealthy, white suburbanites over poorer, black city dwellers.

Monday 22 July 2013 10:42:09 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Geography | US#
Saturday 20 July 2013

Chicago has experienced its first big heat wave of the year, with temperatures above 32°C every day this week. Yesterday, 46 of the lower 48 states reported temperatures in that range, with only North Dakota and Minnesota spared.

A friend who lives in San Francisco posted this with the caption, "Summer hits the Bay Area:"

It cooled down last night, so it's now just about 26°C...here. Only I'm going to New York in a few hours, where today will not only get to 35°C, but will have violent thunderstorms and buckets of rain. Good weekend to visit.

Saturday 20 July 2013 09:11:55 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | San Francisco | Travel | Weather#

Two weeks ago, I described my experience zipping through SFO's security lines. Because I have elite status on American Airlines and because I'm in the CBP's Global Entry program, I qualified automatically for TSA PreCheck.

Yesterday, TSA administrator John Pistole announced that now, any U.S. citizen traveler can apply:

Until now, travelers could only apply to use PreCheck if they were members of certain airline frequent flier programs or were enrolled in "trusted traveler" programs with the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.

The expansion is part of the TSA's efforts to focus more attention on high-risk travelers and cut back on the screening time spent on frequent travelers.

Travelers who pay the $85 must submit to fingerprinting and a background check. Applicants who are cleared by the TSA are enrolled to use the PreCheck lines for five years.

I'd say it's worth $85 to get through security lines at speeds not seen since the last century.

Saturday 20 July 2013 08:33:45 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | US | Travel#
Friday 19 July 2013

Anyone who's paid attention to this blog knows I've gone to most of the ballparks in the country, Wrigley Field most often. As much as I love the place, Wrigley's age shows. I mean, poles, for crying out loud.

So, OK, the park needs some freshening, but on the inside. It does not need all this crap.

Yesterday, I and all the other fans of the park lost that fight: the pliant Chicago Plan Commission approved Tom Ricketts' renovation plan after a late-hour capitulation from 44th Ward alderman Tom Tunney:

With a unanimous vote at a hearing this afternoon, the Plan Commission moved the Cubs past one of the final hurdles before the entire project heads to the City Council for a vote, which could be on July 24.

The commission gave the Cubs the green light on construction of a plaza in its adjacent triangle property, a six-story office building and a boutique hotel across the street. The plan includes a pedestrian bridge over Clark Street and a main hotel lobby entrance facing Patterson Street as the team had planned, but the Cubs have "deferred" a planned patio deck over Patterson and hope to revisit the idea at a later date.

We don't need a frickin' Jumbotron. Really. Nor do we need a hotel at Clark and Addison. (And who's going to stay there on the 270 days when the Cubs aren't playing at home?) Oh, and the rooftop owners aren't exactly going to save the day, but their narrow self-interest will at least slow down the destruction:

With the Alderman on their side, the last remaining roadblock to the Cubs' plan could be the Wrigleyville Rooftop Association, which continues to threaten a lawsuit if their views are blocked by outfield signage that was approved last week.

The park has nothing to do with the team sucking like a Dyson; the bad playing does. I have no idea why Tunney is letting this go through or why Ricketts thinks he needs to build this.

Wrigley's biggest draw is its history. Ricketts and Tunney, who have attention spans only slightly longer than Parker's, can't understand this.

Friday 19 July 2013 08:04:48 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Cubs | Politics#
Thursday 18 July 2013

Detroit has just filed for the biggest municipal bankruptcy in history:

The filing begins a 30- to 90-day period that will determine whether the city is eligible for Chapter 9 protection and define how many claimants might compete for the limited settlement resources that Detroit has to offer. The bankruptcy petition would seek protection from creditors and unions who are renegotiating $18.5 billion in debt and other liabilities.

Detroit’s bankruptcy is by far the largest of its kind in U.S. history, in terms of the city’s population of about 700,000 and the amount of its debts and liabilities, which Orr has said could be as high as $20 billion. Because of the stakes involved, and the impact on residents statewide, as well as 30,000 current and retired city workers and Detroit’s ability to stay in business, the case could be precedent setting in the federal judiciary. It could also set an important trajectory for the way troubled cities nationwide settle their financial difficulties.

It's hard to see how Detroit comes back from this. Decades of mismanagement and white flight, with an indifferent (and sometimes larcenous) state government letting it happen adds up.

Thursday 18 July 2013 16:37:05 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#

Security guru Bruce Schneier suggests Snowden might not have considered all the likely outcomes:

Edward Snowden has set up a dead man's switch. He's distributed encrypted copies of his document trove to various people, and has set up some sort of automatic system to distribute the key, should something happen to him.

Dead man's switches have a long history, both for safety (the machinery automatically stops if the operator's hand goes slack) and security reasons. WikiLeaks did the same thing with the State Department cables.

I'm not sure he's thought this through, though. I would be more worried that someone would kill me in order to get the documents released than I would be that someone would kill me to prevent the documents from being released. Any real-world situation involves multiple adversaries, and it's important to keep all of them in mind when designing a security system.

Possibly spending a few years at the Moscow airport might be his safest option. But then again, his whole strategy seemed flawed from the start.

Thursday 18 July 2013 10:05:24 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US | World | Security#
Wednesday 17 July 2013

The Met issues a heat warning as London experiences its fifth consecutive day of 30°C weather? Nope.

Heathrow will finally get a third runway, with new plans submitted this week? Nope.

The Queen has given her assent to a law making same-sex marriage legal in England and Wales? Yep:

The Queen's approval of the Marriage (same sex couples) Bill was a formality, and now clears the way for the first gay marriages, the first of which are expected to be conducted by Summer 2014.

The bill enables gay couples to get married in both civil and religious ceremonies in England and Wales. It also will allow couples who had previously entered into a civil partnership to convert their relationship to a marriage.

However, religious organisations will have to 'opt in' on performing gay marriages.

Nice map (from Wikipedia). I hope it gets filled in a lot more over the next few years.

Wednesday 17 July 2013 11:00:13 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | World#

At 10th Magnitude, we have used Beanstalk as our central code repository. We transitioned to Mercurial about a year ago, which Beanstalk supported.

Today they sent around an email saying they're ceasing Mercurial support—including existing repositories—on September 30th, and would we care to switch to Git?

No. No, no, no. No Git. I'm not asking people to learn another damn version control system. (Plus Git doesn't quite suit us.)

But fortuitously, this forced re-evaluation of Beanstalk coincides with a general self-reflective re-evaluation we have underway. That doesn't mean we're going to Git, or (angels and ministers of grace, defend us!) back to Subversion, but as long as we have to move off Beanstalk, why not take a look at our issue tracking, external bug reporting, project management, and document sharing?

I'll have more about this as we get closer to the September 30th date, along with some awesome stuff about how we have developed an Azure application that does single sign-on with...just about any identity provider.

Tuesday 16 July 2013 19:58:09 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Business | Cloud | Windows Azure | Work#
Monday 15 July 2013

No, not more modern Pinkertons, repeating bad policy from the 1880s. This time we're repeating ancient Rome's mistakes, a parallel Atlantic writers Glenn Hubbard and Tim Kane draw out:

Before their empire fell, the Romans built walls.

They began by erecting barriers along the border following the death of the Emperor Trajan in 117 A.D., notably Hadrian's Wall, which belted Britain. Later emperors erected internal walls, even around the great city itself, to ward off barbarians. After 300 A.D., the Emperor Diocletian effectively converted the entire Roman populace into feudal serfs, walling them off from internal movement in a vain effort to stabilize the chaotic economy.

Sadly, many Americans are all too eager to repeat history.

Witness the immigration bill slowly making its way through Congress, and the feverish reactions it has inspired. In exchange for granting undocumented workers a path to citizenship, Republicans have demanded a so-called "border surge" that would double the number of patrol agents in the Southwest and build an extra 700 miles of fencing.

They make a succinct argument with a good hypothesis about why, exactly, Republicans want a useless wall on our southern frontier.

Monday 15 July 2013 12:19:52 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#

Today begins baseball's All-Star break, with the All-Star Game tomorrow in New York and 2/3 of the season behind us in purgatory.

Despite yesterday's 10-6 loss to St. Louis, the Cubs have improbably won 14 of their last 21 games, bringing them nearer .500 than at any point since the fifth game of the season back on April 6th, ending the first half of the season at 42-51 (.452):

So after 93 games, with 69 left to play, the Cubs are in 4th place, 4½ games away from a winning season, but unfortunately 10 full games out of 3rd place. With the Cardinals just ahead of the Pirates as the best team in all of baseball right now, and with both of those teams in our division, we have no hope of anything this year.

Last night was typical Cubs play, though. I went to most of the game, bailing after the 7th with the score 5-4 Cardinals. That became 6-4 Cardinals while I waited for the bus, so I guessed I'd made the right decision.

Monday 15 July 2013 12:05:41 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Cubs#
Sunday 14 July 2013

One of Josh Marshall's readers says Florida's self-defense rules are insane:

I’m a criminal defense lawyer in Wisconsin... In Florida, if self-defense is even suggested, it’s the state's obligation to prove its absence beyond a reasonable doubt(!). That’s crazy. But ‘not guilty’ was certainly a reasonable result in this case. As I told in friend in Tampa today though, if you’re ever in a heated argument with anyone, and you’re pretty sure there aren’t any witnesses, it’s always best to kill the other person. They can’t testify, you don’t have to testify, no one else has any idea what happened; how can the state ever prove beyond a doubt is wasn’t self-defense? Holy crap!

By contrast, in the civilized world—I'm including Illinois here, bear with me—"self-defense" is an affirmative defense requiring the defendant to prove it by preponderance of the evidence. (720 ILCS 5/9-2 outlines how Zimmerman would probably be convicted of 2nd degree murder in Illinois given the facts of the case.)

When I learned the result last night, I posted a Facebook status saying: "I wonder if we should have waited until Florida was a mature, civilized democracy before admitting it into the U.S." My friends have added more than 20 comments so far, including a clip of Bugs Bunny cutting Florida loose. (I love my friends.) I wonder if this reading of Florida law changes anyone's opinion?

Sunday 14 July 2013 13:13:49 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#

After adding 25 original braverman.org posts from May 1998 yesterday, this morning I added another 32 posts from June and July, including a review of an Antigone Rising performance I saw at the Bitter End when they were first starting out. It's a little trippy.

Sunday 14 July 2013 12:20:12 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#

The Spectralia theater company gave their fifth performance of Comedy of Errors yesterday at Touhy Park, Chicago. Don Johnson's adaptation clocks in at 90 minutes and zips along through Shakespeare's farce of two sets of identical twins who meet for the first time at the end of the play.

Yesterday's Chicago weather could not have been better for the

Mary-Kate Arnold as the Courtezan:

Don Johnson, the adapter, playing Doctor Pinch:

The cast:

Sunday 14 July 2013 10:38:17 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Kitchen Sink#
Saturday 13 July 2013

After a short experiment yesterday at lunch, in which I put up three original braverman.org posts from 1998, I've added all the content from May 1998.

A couple of things came up during this process:

1. dasBlog, whose open-source project has ceased active development, won't display any of the entries for a particular day if any one of them has any errors in its HTML. That is really annoying.

2. In frustration, I started looking for other blog engines, and came upon Orchard. I'm intrigued. The extension model seems like it would work really well for me, it's in active development, and it's cool. I have a little time this weekend to play with it.

For now, enjoy the jokes from 15 years ago.

Saturday 13 July 2013 10:06:50 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Jokes | Kitchen Sink | Blogs#
Friday 12 July 2013

My first website, braverman.org, debuted in New York on 16 August 1997. We didn't have things called "blogs" back then, but over the course of about four years I posted jokes, stories, and poetry—almost all of it submitted by other people—two or three times per week. It was kind of blog-like, except I had to add actual Classic ASP pages to the site until I figured out a way to automate it in May 1998.

I'm going to start re-posting the archives, with their original time stamps...

Here are the first ones, from May 1998.

Friday 12 July 2013 14:22:48 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Blogs | Writing#

First, a Boeing 787 caught fire at Heathrow this afternoon; fortunately, no one was aboard:

Video footage showed the plane surrounded by foam used to quell the flames. The airport said in a statement that it was an on-board internal fire, but didn’t offer more details. It said the plane was empty, parked in a remote area and there were no reported injuries. All flights in and out were temporarily suspended Friday afternoon -- a standard procedure if fire crews are called out.

Ethiopian Airlines said smoke was detected coming from the aircraft after it had been parked at Heathrow for more than eight hours.

You can bet that Chicago-based Boeing will watch this story very, very carefully. Their shares dropped 7% on the news, for one thing.

In other unfortunate aviation news, the San Francisco Police have confirmed that one of the two victims of the Asiana 214 crash got run over by a fire truck, but they don't know yet whether she was alive when this happened:

Medical examiners will not release autopsy results for “at least two or three weeks,” San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault told NBC Bay Area on Sunday. Coroner’s officials are working to determine how 16-year-old Ye Mengtuan died.

Police officials confirmed that the girl was hit by the truck in the chaos that followed the deadly crash, which also killed her classmate and travel companion, identified by the airline as 16-year-old Wang Linjia.

The girl was blanketed in white foam emergency crews sprayed to douse the flames billowing out of the Boeing 777, police said. She was discovered in the tire track of the fire truck, police spokesman Albie Esparza told NBC News.

Not a good week for aviation.

Friday 12 July 2013 14:08:34 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Chicago | London | San Francisco#
Thursday 11 July 2013

The New York Times on Tuesday lamented the state's decline:

In January, after the election of Pat McCrory as governor, Republicans took control of both the executive and legislative branches for the first time since Reconstruction. Since then, state government has become a demolition derby, tearing down years of progress in public education, tax policy, racial equality in the courtroom and access to the ballot.

The cruelest decision by lawmakers went into effect last week: ending federal unemployment benefits for 70,000 residents. Another 100,000 will lose their checks in a few months. Those still receiving benefits will find that they have been cut by a third, to a maximum of $350 weekly from $535, and the length of time they can receive benefits has been slashed from 26 weeks to as few as 12 weeks.

At the same time, the state is also making it harder for future generations of workers to get jobs, cutting back sharply on spending for public schools. Though North Carolina has been growing rapidly, it is spending less on schools now than it did in 2007, ranking 46th in the nation in per-capita education dollars. Teacher pay is falling, 10,000 prekindergarten slots are scheduled to be removed, and even services to disabled children are being chopped.

I lived in Raleigh for a few months and went to Duke, so it pains me to see the South's most-progressive state become its most-repressive. As the Times concludes: "North Carolina was once considered a beacon of farsightedness in the South, an exception in a region of poor education, intolerance and tightfistedness. In a few short months, Republicans have begun to dismantle a reputation that took years to build."

Update: Reader TB, writing from New York, says: "I can attribute this to one thing, and that is NC becoming more of a purple state in the last few elections. They are trying to be more punitive towards those who vote Democratic. Not to mention the abortion restrictions they are trying to pass, which McCrory promised during the campaign he would not sign."

I think he's right.

Thursday 11 July 2013 12:52:02 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Duke | US | Raleigh#

Because the world will end if 99-year-old Wrigley Field retains any of its historic character, at least according to its current owner, the Ricketts family have pushed the Landmarks Commission to approve an ugly Jumbotron in left field. It may get approved today:

At the strong urging of Mayor Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the Chicago Commission on Landmarks is expected to approve the team's plans for a 6,000-square-foot electronic sign in left field and a smaller non-electronic sign in right.

[M]ultiple sources say that despite [the local Alderman's] opposition, and barring a last-minute surprise, the commission, whose members are appointed by the mayor, will give its assent. That will leave only approval by the Chicago Plan Commission, another body appointed by the mayor, and the City Council, which already has approved the Cubs' request for more night and late-start games.

Wonderful. I can't wait for a huge electronic monstrosity to erupt from the left-field bleachers next year.

Thursday 11 July 2013 11:42:05 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Cubs | Politics#
Wednesday 10 July 2013

Via Sullivan:

Wednesday 10 July 2013 17:10:34 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#

Yesterday I noted with some concern that a latter-day Pinkertons-like army had appeared outside a mine in Wisconsin. Josh Marshall follows up:

When a fishy paramilitary firm run out of a Real Estate Agency in Scottsdale, Arizona shows up in the North Woods of Wisconsin to protect some mining equipment with a slew guards sporting Death Squad chic, that’s, I have to say, a story I want to know more about. But there’s more to it than just the gonzo freakishness of the story.

It’s stories like this, I believe, where we see at the ground level some of the most interesting, terrifying and important trends in our society. This one reminds me of an amazing story from a few years back about a beleaguered town in Montana that got bamboozled by some Wall Street hucksters into floating a big loan to build their own prison. Only they couldn’t find any prisoners to fill it and ended up falling prey to a California based con-man who got them to sign a contract to make the prison profitable but also basically take over the town with his rent-a-goon police force.

Private security services are nothing new. But the trend to more paramilitary types of protection in an era of demonstrably diminished risk is something new. In addition, as our society becomes economically stratified, with a tiny segment living in a wildly different world than everyone else, you have some rational need for security but also the desire for security chic as another accoutrement of wealth or conspicuous consumption.

This dovetails with a story I read this morning from the American Bar Association Journal entitled, "How did America's police become a military force on the streets?" It discusses how heavily-armed SWAT teams busting down doors to make petty pot busts might have alarmed the Founders.

Oh, and the Illinois Legislature yesterday overrode Governor Quinn's veto, making Illinois the very last state to allow people to carry concealed guns. Because despite 11,000 gun deaths a year in the U.S.—an order of magnitude or two more than any other OECD country—having more armed people around will surely make us safer.

We're not Rome yet, but with stories like these, I give us a century or two at the outside. Unless, of course, people in the U.S. decide they don't want to live in a military dictatorship. It could happen.

Wednesday 10 July 2013 10:32:57 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#
Tuesday 9 July 2013

Remember the Pinkertons? Well, to add to the trend of turning back the clock to the 1880s, we can now add Pinkertons with automatic rifles guarding a Wisconsin mine from environmentalists:

There’s been a battle royal up in Wisconsin over an effort to establish a big iron mining operation near Lake Superior, to be owned and operated by a company called Gogebic Taconite. The Republican legislature approved the mine in March over environmentalists’ objections. Some protests have been staged since the operation got started. But people started to get freaked out over the weekend when the company brought in what the Wisconsin State Journal calls “masked security guards who are toting semi-automatic rifles and wearing camouflaged uniforms.”

Now masked guards in camouflage carrying assault rifles do seem a bit more mid-80s Latin American death squad than protecting some mining equipment in Wisconsin. So I started looking into the security company behind the paramilitaries, an outfit called Bulletproof Securities out of Scottsdale, Arizona that Gogebic brought in for the job.

Yes, let's bring private armies back to the United States, because they worked so well before. It's all part of the fun you get when the Gini coefficient gets higher than Venezuela's.

Tuesday 9 July 2013 12:16:15 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#
Monday 8 July 2013

It seems that some insurance companies have decided armed schools are too risky to cover:

But already, EMC Insurance Companies, the liability insurance provider for about 90 percent of Kansas school districts, has sent a letter to its agents saying that schools permitting employees to carry concealed handguns would be declined coverage.

“We are making this underwriting decision simply to protect the financial security of our company,” the letter said.

Jenny Emery, head of the Association of Governmental Risk Pools, said none of her members plan to withhold coverage like EMC. But many are strongly recommending other security alternatives, she said, noting that cooperatives provide some form of risk financing to about 80 percent of public entities across the country.

“I haven’t seen evidence yet that suggests people are determining that arming teachers is a recommended way to manage risk,” she said. “Far from it.”

It's rather like property insurance companies raising rates or adding riders in areas most likely to be affected by global warming: believe all the crazy shit you want, they're saying, but don't ask us to pay for it.

Wouldn't it be poetic, and so American, if insurance companies give us just the nudge away from bad public policy that we need?

Monday 8 July 2013 11:28:16 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#
Sunday 7 July 2013

Here's the semi-annual Chicago sunrise chart. (You can get one for your own location at http://www.wx-now.com/Sunrise/SunriseChart.aspx.)

Sunday 7 July 2013 09:57:54 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Astronomy#

Yesterday, an Asiana 777 crashed on approach to San Francisco airport:

Two people were killed and 49 seriously hurt when Flight 214 crashed at 11:27 a.m. But the rest of the 307 passengers and crew members escaped either unscathed or with lesser injuries, Doug Yakel, an SFO spokesman, said at an evening news conference.

The plane came to rest on the side of Runway 28L, one of four runways at SFO, said Lynn Lunsford, a spokeswoman with the Federal Aviation Administration. The jetliner appeared to hit short of the runway and then slowly turn as it careened across the ground - losing its tail and leaving a trail of debris.

(Photo: AP/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Initial reports suggest the plane had a higher-than-normal angle of attack on an otherwise normal approach, and its tail struck the seawall at the end of 28L—the runway my Alaska 737 landed on last Saturday. It also seems from the reports that the pilots attempted a go-around immediately before the tail strike, which would explain the higher angle of attack and the reports of the plane "bouncing up" and "putting on the gas" from passengers.

I'll be following this story closely. This is the first-ever fatal accident for the Boeing 777, and the first fatal heavy airplane accident since 12 November 2001.

Sunday 7 July 2013 09:35:13 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | San Francisco#
Friday 5 July 2013

Another writer has taken a look at Chuck Thompson's latest and generally agreed with him:

The [South], home to nine of the nation’s 10 poorest states, is rabidly against government spending, yet all of its states get far more in government subsidies than they give back in taxes, as pointed out by Sara Robinson in a 2012 piece for AlterNet, "Blue States Are the Providers, Red States Are the Parasites."

I live in a blue state, New Jersey, where we get about 70 cents back for every dollar in taxes we send to Washington. I work several days out of my year to support Southern states as well as Western red states like New Mexico and Arizona, which can’t support themselves. Is Kentucky a Southern state? Well, it’s red, and it receives $1.57 from the feds for every buck it pays. How does its senator, Rand Paul, justify this?

Thompson is right that we are two separate countries with irreconcilable differences on health care, gun control, abortion laws, gay marriage, voter registration, subsidies for education, the role of religion in society, the definition of patriotism and the importance of unions. It could be an amicable divorce where everyone gets what they want: Southerners want the federal government to stop spending so much money and get out of their lives, and we in the Northeast would pay lower taxes because we would no longer have to support the poorest states in the country. All the crackpots and phonies who vied for the Republican nomination for president last year—Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Ron Paul and for good measure I’ll toss in Sarah Palin—were taken seriously only because the potential nominee would have all the Southern states on their side of the ledger.

I thought Thompson was hilarious, and more than a little correct. Splitting the U.S. into two (or four) countries sounds like a good idea in some ways. Especially when I read crap like this and this.

Friday 5 July 2013 16:26:01 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#
Thursday 4 July 2013

I like keeping in touch with friends on Facebook. I also enjoy playing Scrabble. Soon-to-be-Internet-flameout Zynga has a Scrabble-like game called Words With Friends that many of my friends play. Right now I've got about 10 games going.

For the past week or so, Zynga has been shoving entire 30-second commercials between my turns. That is, I play a word, and I either spend the next 35 seconds or so with my computer muted and the Facebook window hidden, or I leave Words With Friends entirely. Since the advertisements all seem to be for cleaning products and—I kid you not—something to make my yeast infection go away, I'm leaving the game a lot more often.

Today I was finally annoyed enough to complain to Zynga on their player support page. It turns out, many, many people are complaining. Everyone seems to agree: we all understand that Zynga has to make some money, so we all understand we're going to see ads. But 30-second TV spots? After every move? No. That has to stop.

So here I was, about to post my own complaint, and I got this:

No, Zynga, you may not have access to my friends just so I can post a complaint. Anyway, you already have access to my friends through Facebook, because I had to consent to that to play the game—so why remind me?

Thursday 4 July 2013 13:03:36 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Security#

A Dalek:

Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall were on a visit to the set at BBC Wales' Roath Lock studios on day three of their summer tour of Wales.

The couple also met Matt Smith, who currently plays the Doctor but is stepping down, and Jenna Coleman, who plays his companion, as well as series head writer Mr Moffat.

The tour included the set of the Tardis, the Doctor's time travelling ship, as well as a display of some of the show's monsters, including a weeping angel and a cyberman.

I'm pretty sure he won't be the 13th Doctor...

Thursday 4 July 2013 10:37:19 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Wednesday 3 July 2013

From getting out of my cab at San Francisco Airport this morning until I finally got through the security line took seven whole minutes, including checking a bag.

Yes. Seven minutes.

I don't understand why more people aren't signing up for the TSA PreCheck program. If you're in the program, you can zip through airport security without removing your shoes, emptying your bag, or waiting behind people who have never seen a magnetometer before.

Eligible travelers

...include U.S. citizens of frequent flier programs who have been invited by a participating airline. Additionally, U.S. citizens who are members of a CBP Trusted Traveler program, including Global Entry, SENTRI, and NEXUS and Canadian citizens who are members of NEXUS that are issued a Known Traveler Number qualify to participate. Passengers 12 and younger are allowed through TSA Pre✓™ lanes with eligible passengers.

TSA Pre✓™ is currently available for eligible passengers traveling on Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, US Airways and Virgin America.

Seriously. Seven minutes from the curb to the gate area.

Of course, with the BART strike (possibly ending later today), it took me over an hour to get here, but that's beside the point.

Wednesday 3 July 2013 10:48:32 PDT (UTC-07:00)  |  | Aviation | San Francisco | Travel#

Since I planned to visit San Francisco anyway, I got a ticket to tonight's CubsA's game at O.Co Stadium. O.Co is just across the Bay, and it only takes about 30 minutes by BART, so...um...oh, crap:

Almost 2,400 striking BART workers from the Amalgamated Transit Union and Service Employees International Union went on strike at midnight Sunday after negotiations collapsed hours earlier.

Union officials say the major sticking points continue to be pay raises, health care and pension contributions.

BART representatives said the agency had doubled its salary offer - to an 8 percent raise over four years - but that the unions had reduced their proposal for a 23.2 percent raise by one-half percent. They said it was the unions' turn to make a proposal and criticized them for leaving the last-gasp bargaining.

Union negotiators say that BARTs increased salary offer is a ruse rather than a generous offer. Three percent of that increase is contingent on the transit agency achieving ambitious goals including ridership, revenue, sales taxes and reductions in the number of employees taking time off under the federal Family Medical Leave Act.

Driving up from Half Moon Bay didn't take any time at all until I got to 6th St. The next hour of my life seemed longer than usual.

So, no game, and tomorrow I'll have to figure out how to get to SFO. I think Caltrain will get me close...

Tuesday 2 July 2013 17:14:26 PDT (UTC-07:00)  |  | US | San Francisco | Travel#
Tuesday 2 July 2013

This kid has personality:

Tuesday 2 July 2013 14:02:27 PDT (UTC-07:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#

Josh Marshall summarizes the surprising and imminent collapse of Egypt's government and why the U.S. is in a strange position:

The big movement over the last day or so has been the slow motion - or perhaps not so slow motion - collapse of the Morsi civilian administration. Not ‘the state’ in the broader sense, but Morsi’s government. The scale of the demonstrations over the last two days seemed to catch everyone by surprise, leading to the pivotal ultimatum issued by the head of the Egyptian Armed Forces, giving the political players 48 hours to come to some sort of consensus and respond to the ‘will of the people’ expressed through the protests or have the military step in. At least 10 ministers from Morsi’s government have resigned, including the overnight resignation of the Foreign Minister.

Overnight (US time) the Brotherhood started trying to organize counter-demonstrations with what seemed to be the pretty explicit aim of physically confronting the anti-Morsi protesters - not an idle threat since the Brotherhood spent decades as an underground group with a significant paramilitary component, though pictures like this don’t inspire a lot of confidence in their current ability to engage sustained action. And just moments ago, one leaders of the Brotherhood called for ‘martyrdom’ to stop the protests. So here we have the perhaps novel instance of Islamist calling for martyrdom on behalf of electoral legitimacy. Or something like that.

So here you have Morsi, clearly no friend of the US or the administration, in the perilous position of counting on the US to keep them in power. It’s no less curious a position for the White House. They’re no fans of Morsi because they do perceive a significant stake for electoral legitimacy.

The next two days will be critical. And they may add evidence to support the strong hypothesis that religious parties simply can't govern. (Take note, GOP.)

Tuesday 2 July 2013 09:51:59 PDT (UTC-07:00)  |  | World#

I love my dogsitters, but sometimes they send the oddest messages. I received this email yesterday morning:

ALL DOGS must wear a collar around their neck with a name tag and contact information on that tag. Harnesses are not what we need, we need to have collars. It's a City Ordinance, like most laws, the City is starting to enforce them and any customer found not with a collar risks a $500 fine for both the customer and facility. We'll be happy to sell Dogs without collars and name tags one and charge your account accordingly. We have several dogs that look alike, 12 black labs in a room gets confusing and we need to make sure we are aware of each dog and correctly identify each of them.

Re-read that penultimate sentence: "We'll be happy to sell Dogs without collars and name tags one and charge your account accordingly."

Seriously, I had to read that three times before I saw the word "one." Good thing Parker has a collar, though; I'd hate him to be sold. (Wait...that's not right either.)

As the joke goes: "I'm a linguist, so I like ambiguity more than most people."

Tuesday 2 July 2013 09:18:17 PDT (UTC-07:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Parker#
Monday 1 July 2013

Via TMP, the ANC leader's first television interview:

Monday 1 July 2013 12:59:12 PDT (UTC-07:00)  |  | World#

It turns out, I'm working a lot more than I anticipated this week, in addition to being on, you know, vacation, so not much blogging for the next day or two.

Meanwhile, this is what I got to see on our descent to SFO two days ago:

The quality could be better, but that's because I snapped it with my tablet about 15 seconds before the flight attendants told me to turn it off. But it shows pretty well why I always sit in the window seat.

Monday 1 July 2013 10:33:57 PDT (UTC-07:00)  |  | Aviation | San Francisco | Travel#
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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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