Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
Saturday 31 August 2013

As London continues to suffer with perfect weather this weekend, I'm taking a moment to get in from the cool sunny breezes and small cumulus clouds obscuring almost 10% of the sky. Yesterday the temperature soared to an unimaginable 24°C, causing Londoners to seek solace by standing outside pubs in groups drinking lagers. Today things have cooled off to more realistic levels (19°C right now), but the sun continues to make Londoners miserable and wait the restoration of normal weather.

Anyway, I've been meaning to post this map, which shows the U.S. population by race—one dot per person. Here's Chicago:

The yellow area south and west of the Loop are mostly African-Americans; you can see the abrupt change where the Austin neighborhood meets Oak Park on the west side. White people are blue dots, so purple-ish areas are well-integrated, while bluer areas are not.

Other parts of the country have different stories. Play with the map and take a look.

Saturday 31 August 2013 12:21:04 BST (UTC+01:00)  |  | Geography | London | US#
Friday 30 August 2013

Actually, that's not true. I don't even have one bear. *rimshot*

I've arrived at Heathrow, taking advantage of another benefit from using frequent-flyer miles: the arrivals lounge. Shower, breakfast, tea, checking email. Also my second experience in two days of a government adequately staffing their immigration and customs checkpoints to get us through in just a few minutes. Thank you Canada, thank you UK.

All right: now to London.

Friday 30 August 2013 10:44:07 BST (UTC+01:00)  |  | London | Travel#

Fortunately, I'm in an airport with lots of power outlets. Because my laptop just warned me that it was down to its last few milliamps, even though ordinarily the 90 W/h battery I lug around can last about 8 hours. What happened? Windows Search decided that consuming 50% of my CPU (i.e., two entire cores) was a good idea while running on battery.

So since I have an hour before boarding, and since I'm now plugged in (which means I don't have any worries about driving my portable HDD), here is a lovely picture of Montréal from earlier today:

Thursday 29 August 2013 20:34:48 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Software | Travel#

The IRS has (correctly, I believe) ruled that legally-married couples get to file joint returns. All legally-married couples:

All legally married same-sex couples will now be recognized for U.S. federal tax purposes the same way as their heterosexual counterparts, the Obama administration said on Thursday.

As expected after a landmark Supreme Court ruling in June, the U.S. Treasury and Internal Revenue Service said:

“The ruling applies regardless of whether the couple lives in a jurisdiction that recognizes same-sex marriage or a jurisdiction that does not recognize same-sex marriage.”

I believe there was no other possible result under the Internal Revenue Code now that DOMA is dead, but I'm glad that the IRS saw fit to underscore the point.

Thursday 29 August 2013 20:18:04 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | US#
Thursday 29 August 2013

When I booked this trip, American Airlines insisted (probably because I used miles) that I connect through somewhere, preferably Montréal. They also allowed me to book a 10-hour layover in the city, so, alors, je suis dans un café à la rue St-Antoine. (Click the location bug at the bottom of this post.)

A couple of observations:

  • This trundled by just now: a food truck serving what appears to be fish and chips made with fish that was swimming only a few minutes before being cooked. It seems like a great idea.
  • On the plane I read an article in the Economist's Intelligent Life supplement about Berlin's Stolpersteine. I now have another reason to visit Germany.
  • For only C$9 you can ride all of Montréal's public transit for a day, including an express bus from the airport (cleverly given the route designation 747).

That's it for now. I'm going to wander around France-in-America for a few hours.

Thursday 29 August 2013 15:11:43 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Travel#

Have I mentioned how much I love TSA Pre-Check? Oh, yes. Home to O'Hare, 55 minutes. Curb to inner terminal, 7 minutes, on an international itinerary with checked baggage.

Next stop: Montreal, thence the Ancestral Homeland.

Thursday 29 August 2013 08:47:10 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | #
Wednesday 28 August 2013

I'm just about 18 hours from leaving the country. I'm at that stage where I have nothing to do regarding the trip, but it's close enough to make concentrating on software development a little iffy. It didn't help that my day got broken in half by a regular medical checkup that stretched to unusual lengths because my doctor has a new computer system.

Gotta finish this code, though...

Oh, and: ...ation.

Wednesday 28 August 2013 15:40:38 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Travel#

Chicago's answer to the New York Highline is the Bloomingdale Trail (now renamed the 606, a 5 km stretch of abandoned railroad on Chicago's near-west side. After much delay, the city broke ground yesterday:

Complete with shovels and dirt, the ceremony took place 16-feet above the ground, on the section of the trail adjacent to ''Park 567'' at 1805 N. Milwaukee Ave., just north of Milwaukee Avenue and Leavitt Street in Bucktown.

The park is one of five ground-level neighborhood parks that will link up to the 2.7-mile, multi-use path, which is named for Bloomingdale Avenue, the street the path runs along between Ridgeway and Ashland avenues.

The Bloomingdale Trail will serve as the centerpiece to a larger system that organizers have coined ''The 606'' due to the first three numerals of the zip code all Chicago residents share.

The 606 is scheduled to open next fall.

Wednesday 28 August 2013 07:56:59 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago#
Tuesday 27 August 2013

Former law professor Barack Obama makes the case:

“This is probably controversial to say, but what the heck, I’m in my second term so I can say it,” Obama said during a stop at the State University of New York at Binghamton. “I believe, for example, that law schools would probably be wise to think about being two years instead of three years because [….] in the first two years young people are learning in the classroom.”

In the third year, he said, “they’d be better off clerking or practicing in a firm, even if they weren’t getting paid that much. But that step alone would reduce the cost for the student.”

He continued: “Now, the question is, ‘Can law schools maintain quality and keep good professors and sustain themselves without that third year?’ My suspicion is, is that if they thought creatively about it, they probably could.”

The remarks apparently were made off-the-cuff, and no further details were available from the White House. But experts said the notion – although not new itself, as American law schools were two-year endeavors through the 19th century – is gaining traction.

Wow, I wish there had been a two-year plan when I was a law student. For one thing, 1998 would have been a lot more fun for me. I found some of my third-year courses interesting, and in a couple of cases (Wills, Copyright) genuinely useful. But I'd already decided by third year that I had no intention of practicing.

If I'd actually wanted to practice law after earning my JD, then my third year would have been worse than useless. I may have made other choices—clinics instead of content courses, for example—but I'd still have spent a lot of money without gaining a lot of practical experience.

Tuesday 27 August 2013 12:57:05 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#

Microsoft's Scott Hanselman has published one:


Infrastructure as a Service. This means, I want the computers in my closet to go away. All that infrastructure, boxes, network switches, even software licenses are a headache. I want to put them somewhere where I can't see them (we'll call it, The Cloud) and I'll pay pennies an hours. Worst case, it costs me about the same but it's less trouble. Best case, it can scale (get bigger) if some company gets popular and it will cost less than it does now.

IAAS is Virtual Machines, Networking and Storage in the cloud. Software you wrote that runs locally now will run the same up there. If you want to scale it, you'll usually scale up.


Platform as a Service. This means Web Servers in the cloud, SQL Servers in the cloud, and more. If you like Ruby on Rails, for example, you might write software against Engine Yard's platform and run it on Azure. Or you might write iOS apps and have them talk to back end Mobile Services. Those services are your platform and will scale as you grow. Platform as a service usually hides the underlying OS from you. Lower level infrastructure and networking, load balancing and some aspects of security is abstracted away.

If you're interested in Cloud or Azure development, or you want to understand more about what I do for a living, take a look.

Tuesday 27 August 2013 07:49:09 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Cloud | Windows Azure#
Monday 26 August 2013

Google Maps now shows a familiar-looking blue box parked in front of the Earls Court tube stop. And you can go inside...


Monday 26 August 2013 13:36:01 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | London#
Sunday 25 August 2013

After lunch I thought Parker and I could pop around to my second-favorite bar in Chicago, Bucktown Pub, which is about 3 km away. It's a little warm (31°C), so by the time we got there, I was looking forward to cooling off with air conditioning and a gin & tonic.

We left home around 1:15 and got there at 2.

They open at 3.


I will now take a shower, and Parker has installed himself directly below the air conditioner.

Sunday 25 August 2013 15:15:55 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Parker#

I'm pulling the public repository for Orchard again, because I made a mistake with Git that I can't seem to undo. I've set up my environment to have a copy of the public repository, and then a working repository cloned from it. This allows me to try things out on my own machine, in private branches, while still pulling the public bits without the need to merge them into my working copy.

Orchard, which will soon (I hope) replace dasBlog as this blog's platform, recently switched from Mercurial to Git, to which led to this problem.

I may simply not have grasped all the nuances of Git. Git is extremely powerful, in the sense that it will do almost anything you tell it to do, without regard for the consequences. It reflects the ethos of the C++ programming language, which gave everyday programmers ways to screw up previously only available to experts.

My specific screw-up was that I accidentally attempted to push my local changes back to my copy of the Public repository. I had added about six changesets, which I couldn't extract from my copy of public no matter what I tried.

So, while writing this, I just pulled a clean copy of public, checked out the two branches I wanted (1.1 and fw45, for those keeping score at home), and merged with my existing changes.

Now I get to debug that mess...and I may toss it and start over.

Sunday 25 August 2013 10:44:05 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Software | Blogs#
Saturday 24 August 2013

A couple weeks back I moved an Azure Virtual Machine from one subscription to another. Since then, I haven't been able to connect to the FTP sites that were running on it. I finally spent some time today to figure out why.

First, I forgot to change the FTP firewall support in IIS. The IP address of the VM changed, so I needed to update the VM's external IP address here:

Then, I had to change the FTP firewall support for the FTP site itself. (It looks the same, just on the FTP site instead of on the IIS root node.)

Ronald Door has a good walk-through of how to set this up for the first time on a new VM. The problem is, I'd already set it up on the VM, so I thought that I only had to make the configuration changes I've just described.

Flash forward an hour and a lot of swearing later, and I realized one more problem. See, I set up the VM endpoints through the Azure portal when I launched the VM in the new subscription. However, it looks like I configured them incorrectly. And Microsoft updated the portal last week.

I finally decided simply to delete all four FTP endpoints (port 20 and 21 plus my two passive data return ports) and rebuild them. Endpoint setup is on the Endpoints tab of the Virtual Machine cloud service item:

That worked. The FTP spice flows fine now.

I'm troubled that I don't know exactly why it worked, though. The only difference between the current and previous setup is that before, I inadvertently created load-balanced sets for the ports. Since I only have one VM, that may have been my error.

Saturday 24 August 2013 12:56:08 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Windows Azure#
Friday 23 August 2013

The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates is learning French:

[T]there's no getting away from the basic feeling of complete idiocy. You are aware of being spoken to as though you were a three-year old, even though you have all the pride of an adult. Worse, if you are like me--a monolingual American in a class where virtually everyone speaks a second language and is now working on their third or fourth--you will be the slowest person. When it comes to comprehension. the Spanish and the Italians are going to just destroy you. They simply have an easier time learning to hear the language than you. This is a gift and curse. Many of the Spanish-speaking students have a much harder time learning the accent. It's as if the closeness of the two languages makes it harder--"parce que" must be be "par-ser-kay" and they will have it no other way.

The hardest thing about learning a language is that, at its core, it is black magic. No one can tell you when, where or how you will crossover--some people will even tell you that no such crossover exists. The only answer is to put one foot in front of the other, to keep walking, to understand that the way is up. The only answer is a resource which many of us have long ago discarded. C'est à dire, faith.

I've recently had the opportunity—requirement, actually—to hold conversations in Spanish, a language I have (in theory) spoken since childhood. Nothing has frustrated me more in the past two weeks than trying to express college-level concepts using my first-grade vocabulary. I also have the horrible habit shared by most Americans: I care too much about the grammar, which makes me stop and re-work what I'm trying to say. In reality, communication may not require remembering exactly how to conjugate an -ar verb in the past subjunctive (e.g., I would have conjugated it if I'd remembered how).

TNC's entire post is worth a read if you've ever tried to do this.

Friday 23 August 2013 13:44:31 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Thursday 22 August 2013

Last week the Justice Department and several states, including Texas and Florida, sued to stop the American—US Airways merger. Today a couple of them realized their error:

Political and business officials in Florida, Texas and North Carolina are asking the U.S. to reconsider its suit to block the proposed merger of American Airlines and U.S. Airways, saying the combined company would benefit their local economies.

Florida, Texas and North Carolina...are home to large hubs for both airlines.

American Airlines, which sought Chapter 11 protection in late 2011, is one of the largest private employers in Miami-Dade County. The carrier operates around 70 percent of the flights at the Miami airport, making it a dominant hub for flights to and from Latin America. Local officials have long promoted Miami as the “Gateway to the Americas.”

Yeah, I didn't understand that four of the six states who joined the Justice Department suits (these three plus Arizona) contain four of the five largest hubs of the two airlines—including the airlines' headquarters (American in Texas and US Airways in Arizona).

Even though I thought there would be a challenge to the merger, after I thought about how the challenge actually went down, it didn't make any sense. Obviously the people who depend on American and US Airways for their livelihoods agree.

Thursday 22 August 2013 17:29:20 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | US#

Chicago has recently rolled out a several hundred DIVVY bike sharing stations, similar to the Citi Bike scheme in New York. For a small annual fee, or a moderate per-hour charge, you can take a bike from any DIVVY bike station and ride it to any other station within two hours. (The two-hour time limit keeps the bikes in circulation.) The city has a hundred or so stations now, with a couple thousand bikes.

Of course, not everyone is happy about the bikes, which help cut pollution, reduce traffic and noise, and are greenhouse-negative. A three-unit condo association near Wrigley Field sued the city yesterday because they don't want Those People on their block:

David Kolin and his wife, Jeannine Cordero, learned Tuesday that the area in front of their North Side condo building soon would be home to a Divvy bike-sharing station, one of hundreds the Chicago Department of Transportation is installing across the city.

"We don't think it's appropriate in a residential area to have this thing set up," said Kolin, an attorney. "It's not a very attractive thing to have. It's led to crowds already."

"It's hideous," added Cordero, also a lawyer. "It's less than 20 steps from our front door."

"We are aware of the request from a few residents to relocate the Divvy station away from their building on Pine Grove Avenue near Addison Street," CDOT spokesman Pete Scales said in a statement. "This residential street location was determined to be the safest for customers near the busy intersection of Addison and Lake Shore Drive. It is located in the public way, close to the curb on the street, and not on any private property."

It would have to be a pair of attorneys, wouldn't it? You don't like the bike rack on the city street in front of your house...why?

All I can say is, Mr Kolin and Ms Cordero: STFU.

Thursday 22 August 2013 11:32:19 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | US#
This is cross-posted with the 10th Magnitude Tech Blog.
Thursday 22 August 2013 09:11:50 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Business | Work#
Tuesday 20 August 2013

Two more opinions this morning about the Justice Department sued to block the American-US Airways merger. First, from Cranky Flier:

[I]f DOJ really wanted to settle for slots at National, it would have done so before filing such a strongly-worded, broad case. Now it has sort of pinned itself into a corner. If it settles, it sets precedent that can be used against it in the future. If it goes ahead with trial, it risks everything.

See, if it goes to trial, then the judge will review the case on its merits. And the end result will be binary. Either the DOJ’s complaint is validated (which still seems unlikely at this point, though we don’t know if DOJ has something more substantial hidden somewhere) or it’s shot down. And if it’s shot down, then the new American not only gets to merge, but it gets to keep all its slots at National and everywhere else. That’s quite a risk to take.

Clearly DOJ thinks that it can win this thing or it never would have taken a chance like this. But it’s a huge gamble. Now we just have to wait and see what happens.

The Economist's Gulliver Blog also weighs in about whether deregulation is to blame:

The consolidation of air service at central hub cities is bad news for cities that aren't hubs. But it's great news for the cities that are. It's good for airlines that are saving money by shutting down inefficient routes. If it's encouraging businesses and people to move to more densely populated areas, well, there are numerous economic and environmental benefits to having people live and work closer together. And the loss or decline of network carrier service to some small airports has fuelled the rise of ultra-low-cost carriers at some of those same airports. All of which is to say: the decline of small and medium-size airports is less of an unmitigated disaster and more of a mixed bag than Mr Longman and Ms Khan make it out to be. Returning to a more regulated airline industry would be a huge political lift with countless unintended consequences. It's worth thinking about how deregulation has changed the face of the airline industry. But the troubles of America's smaller airports—and the communities they serve—have roots far deeper than the demise of the Civil Aeronautics Board.

The merger will, of course, cause some more consolidation. The alternative is that we have two giant global airlines and two smaller ones that can't possibly survive much longer.

Tuesday 20 August 2013 13:15:16 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation#

A couple I know asked me to take some photos of their 10-month-old daughter recently. Et voilà:

Tuesday 20 August 2013 07:57:48 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Photography#
Monday 19 August 2013

Yesterday the Cardinals spanked the Boys in Blue 6-1, and I got to see the whole thing. Here's Edwin Jackson:

I'll give him one thing, boy: he threw 117 pitches, the 113th at 160 km/h. Impressive.

Also, I got to sit in a different section than usual, because my cousin and I got our signals crossed on which games to sell. Apparently we broke even—including the extra fee for the better (section 430) seats.

Monday 19 August 2013 10:00:14 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Cubs#
Sunday 18 August 2013

After fending off the Brewers for 8 weeks, the Cubs finally slipped into last place last night by losing to the Cardinals 0-4:

I'm going to today's game. I am not optimistic.

Sunday 18 August 2013 09:54:43 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Cubs#
Friday 16 August 2013

It seems that Google is doing away with its 20% R&D policy:

When Google went public in 2004, the founders’ letter from co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin cited 20% time as instrumental to the company’s ability to innovate, leading to “many of our most significant advances,” including AdSense, which now accounts for about 25% of the company’s $50+ billion in annual revenue. Google engineers also used 20% time to incubate Gmail, Google Transit, Google Talk, and Google News, among other projects.

Recently, however, Google’s upper management has clamped down even further, by strongly discouraging managers from approving any 20% projects at all. Managers are judged on the productivity of their teams—Google has a highly developed internal analytics team that constantly measures all employees’ productivity—and the level of productivity that teams are expected to deliver assumes that employees are working on their primary responsibilities 100% of the time.

This is what happens when you get institutional managers. R&D makes or breaks technology companies; officially-sanctioned time to do it really makes a difference. I wonder what this will do to Google recruiting?

Friday 16 August 2013 14:23:12 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Business#
Thursday 15 August 2013

The judge in the American Airlines bankruptcy just expressed doubts the airline will survive:

A judge asked AMR Corp for guidance on whether he should approve its plan to exit bankruptcy, in light of an antitrust challenge to its planned merger with US Airways Group Inc.

The request suggested Judge Sean Lane would hold off on approving AMR's plan at a hearing in U.S. bankruptcy court in New York on Thursday.

Lane said he had "lingering doubts" as to whether it was appropriate to confirm the plan. He told AMR, its creditors and other parties in the bankruptcy to submit briefs on the issue.

Lane said he had strongly considered canceling Thursday's hearing but decided to give parties an open forum to discuss the antitrust challenge.

Absent the antitrust challenge, Thursday's hearing would have been the final step in AMR's exiting bankruptcy and implementing its merger.

This really sucks, not just for American's shareholders, but also for air travelers in the U.S. The Justice Department believes the merger will hurt air travelers, but Cranky has some good analysis why this isn't so. Plus, the Justice Department has had access to the competition data for years; that makes the timing of their case look suspect, in my mind.

And personally, my biggest beef with all this concerns the bank of frequent flier miles I've built up for many, many years now. If American can't merge with US Airways, all my miles might vanish. (US Airways has promised to honor them if the merger succeeds.) The judge and the Justice Department have made that much likelier this week.

My worst fear is that the bankruptcy proceedings could turn so rapidly there won't be time to cash in any of the miles, or even if I can cash them in, there won't be an airline around to honor the award tickets when I try to use them.

What, on earth, was the Justice Department thinking?

Thursday 15 August 2013 16:45:03 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | US#

The friend who posted this roundup said simply, "Nerdgasm:"

Writing Systems of the World

By Maximilian Dörrbecker (Chumwa) (Own work) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC-BY-SA-2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

Take a look.

Thursday 15 August 2013 11:43:18 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Geography | Kitchen Sink | Cool links#

After dropping 12 of their last 15 games, the Cubs are now tied with the Brewers for 4th (last) place. There are 42 games left in the season; the Cubs have to win 10 of them to avoid a 100-loss season. It's not going well.

At least they can't lose today—but they can drop into 5th place if Milwaukee beats the Reds tonight. This, by the way, is unlikely, since the Reds are doing just fine, and are tied for the National League Wild Card with St. Louis.

I'm going to the Cubs-Cards game Sunday to watch the Cubs lose again.

Thursday 15 August 2013 09:39:42 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Baseball | Cubs#
Wednesday 14 August 2013

...but the Department of Justice suing to block the American-US Airways merger was sure stupid. Cranky Flyer gives them a Crazy Jackass award:

It really does appear that DOJ has gone off the rails. The best way to sum up the argument is that airlines should all be punished for trying to be successful enterprises. The complaint is filled with talk about how capacity has shrunk and fares have risen. They think this merger will result in more of the same. But what they’ve failed to recognize is that the airline industry of the past was a sickly mess. You had too many cooks in the kitchen and some of them had the cooking skills of a 12-year-old. So airlines pushed in too much capacity just to gain market share, then they had to discount fares and nobody made money. It was a mess.

Apparently the DOJ likes that plan. It’s sad to think this is how the government looks at private industry. If you want to decide that the airline industry is a public utility, then go all-in and fully regulate it. (Fares will rise, but I would respect the argument.) Otherwise, this nanny-state-style semi-regulation will keep the industry from ever becoming truly healthy.

The Economist takes a more sober view, but still doesn't think the suit makes sense:

The DoJ suit mentions the likely loss of US Airways’ low fares, known as Advantage Fares, which undercut those of American, Delta and United on one-stop trips and which have prompted US Airways’ competitors to reduce their prices. The DoJ has been scrutinising the merger since January, a month before it was announced publicly. Last week the European Commission nodded the deal through after a minor concession on slots at London’s Heathrow. But the DoJ said the merger would take consolidation too far, leaving four airlines controlling over 80% of the American market.

Doug Parker, the chief executive of US Airways, still hopes the deal can be completed before the end of the year. If it is not, American will struggle longer to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, as it would have to assemble and seek court approval for a new rescue plan. The existing one was relatively generous to creditors and shareholders, leaving the latter with a stake in the merged carrier. If the courts uphold the DoJ’s view, some observers think it will have the effect of intensifying the dominant position of United and Delta, leading to more losses and later pressure for more mergers—an unintended consequence of the DoJ’s stance.

The DoJ has come down firmly on the way to solve the consolidation problem that will result in the worst deal for consumers. Having three giant airlines doesn't end competition, but it does make it easier to circumvent existing competition rules. The DoJ should concentrate on the actual effects of the proposed arrangement, not on its hypothetical effects, especially when their hypotheses don't actually have a lot of evidence supporting them.

Wednesday 14 August 2013 13:30:49 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | US#
Tuesday 13 August 2013

As expected, the Justice Department and several states' attorneys general have challenged the American-USAirways merger:

The Justice Department says the deal would result in the creation of the world’s largest airline and that a combination of the two companies would reduce competition for commercial air travel in local markets and would result in passengers paying higher airfares and receiving less service.

On Tuesday, Attorney General Eric Holder said the transaction between US Airways and American would result in “higher airfares, higher fees and fewer choices.”

The attorneys general were from Arizona, Florida, the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

The challenge won't succeed, but the AGs had to make it anyway. (Note that Arizona is headquarters of USAirways and Texas is headquarters of American.) The problem is, if American doesn't merge with USAirways, then it's toast—and USAirways will get a hunk of its assets anyway.

I may not have conducted the same analysis as the AG, but I concluded long ago that for me personally the merger works out pretty well. I admit, that may not be true for people who live in smaller aviation markets.

Tuesday 13 August 2013 10:34:48 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | US#

Paul Krugman points out this simple fiscal truth, along with polling data that makes my head hurt:

A little while back I expressed a desire to see a poll of voters asking whether they knew about the plunging federal budget deficit. Just as a reminder, here’s what the CBO numbers for the recent past and projections for the near future look like:

Well, Hal Varian of Google got in touch with me, and said,”We can do that!” So he put together a Google Consumer Survey; it’s still ongoing — results here — but here’s what it looked like this morning:

Excellent work, Republicans. You've managed to confuse about half the public, and in so doing, you've made people favor policies that keep rich people rich and poor people poor.

Can someone with a newspaper please bring reality back into public discourse?

Tuesday 13 August 2013 10:11:46 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#
Monday 12 August 2013

Bruce Schneier thinks the NSA's plan to fire 90% of its sysadmins and replace them with automation has a flaw:

Does anyone know a sysadmin anywhere who believes it's possible to automate 90% of his job? Or who thinks any such automation will actually improve security?

[NSA Director Kieth Alexander is] stuck. Computerized systems require trusted people to administer them. And any agency with all that computing power is going to need thousands of sysadmins. Some of them are going to be whistleblowers.

Leaking secret information is the civil disobedience of our age. Alexander has to get used to it.

The agency's leaks have also forced the president's hand by opening up our security apparatus to public scrutiny—which he may have wanted to do anyway.

Monday 12 August 2013 18:19:43 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US | Security#

Andrew Sullivan puts it best: "Every now and again, a writer needs to find a new way of expressing the notion that fundamentalism is not actually faith, but a neurosis built on misunderstandings and leading nowhere. And then you just read the AP:"

A northern Arizona family that was lost at sea for weeks in an ill-fated attempt to leave the U.S. over what they consider government interference in religion will fly back home Sunday.

Hannah Gastonguay, 26, said Saturday that she and her husband “decided to take a leap of faith and see where God led us” when they took their two small children and her father-in-law and set sail from San Diego for the tiny island nation of Kiribati in May.

Well, praise be!, Venezuela has a coast guard.

The title comes from this joke, in case you haven't heard it before.

Sunday 11 August 2013 23:37:41 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Religion#
Sunday 11 August 2013

Yes, I know the weather's beautiful in Chicago this weekend, but sometimes you just have to run with things. So that's what I did the last day and a half.

A few things collided in my head yesterday morning, and this afternoon my computing landscape looks completely different.

Sunday 11 August 2013 16:30:24 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Business | Cloud | Security | Windows Azure | Work#
Friday 9 August 2013

Today is the 25th anniversary of the first official night game at Wrigley Field. The night before, on 8/8/88, the Cubs turned on the lights—and got rained out:

Cubs right-hander Rick Sutcliffe threw the first pitch. Phillies left fielder Phil Bradley hit the first home run. Cubs second baseman and future Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg stole the first base.

Officially, of course, none of that happened. Heavy rain interrupted play after 3 1/2 innings and the game was called after a delay of two hours and 10 minutes. Technically, the first night game came the following evening, when the Cubs defeated the first-place Mets, 6-4.

Details, details. Anybody who was there on 8-8-88 will tell you that's the date that counts. And they're probably right. Because that just might have been the most publicized, scrutinized, highly-anticipated, talked-about and written-about regular-season game ever. Especially for a dog-days matchup between a pair of second-division teams.

The theory was, of course, that night games would help the club. How have the Cubs done since? Well...they've played more night games, at least. They've probably helped make the neighborhood a party zone, too. It's hard to remember the Wrigleyville of the 1980s, which looked a little like Detroit does today.

The Cubs' next night game at Wrigley is next Monday. They have, at this writing, a 40% chance of winning.

Friday 9 August 2013 14:51:06 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Cubs#
Thursday 8 August 2013

I've started playing around with Orchard, an open-source content-management system, as a replacement for this blog's infrastructure (and as a replacement for other things, like inner-drive.com. It hasn't been all skittles and beer: Orchard has serious issues running on Microsoft Azure Cloud Services, though it runs fine on Azure Web sites.

It turns out, my employer is moving to Umbraco, a different open-source CMS. So it makes sense to try that out, too, as I'll have to support Umbraco at work anyway—meaning I can learn it during work hours instead of after.

Working in my few free hours after work, of course, makes this decision take longer than I'd like. That, and I don't want to do this again for many years.

So no major changes to report yet, but I'm getting closer.

Thursday 8 August 2013 15:58:31 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Blogs | Cloud | Work#

The National Transportation Safety Board has released its final 2012 statistics:

Part 121 commercial airline operations remained fatality-free, and general aviation accidents were virtually unchanged. In the general aviation segment, the number of total accidents was 1,470 in 2011 and 1,471 in 2012. Fatalities decreased slightly, from 448 to 432, and the accident rate per 100,000 flight hours declined from 6.84 to 6.78. On-demand Part 135 operations showed improvement, with decreases across all measures, the NTSB said.

Part 121 refers to the section of the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) involving scheduled commercial passenger service. What these statistics mean is, in 2012, you had a better chance of dying doing anything else than flying on a commercial airliner.

Thursday 8 August 2013 15:42:19 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation#
Wednesday 7 August 2013

...and the Cubs still haven't won 50. With a 49-63 record going into tonight's game, after having lost 8 of the last 10, the team still has the mathematical possibility of losing 100 games this year.

Here's the chart:


Wednesday 7 August 2013 14:25:51 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Cubs#
Here's a dirty little joke from Andrew Sullivan.
Wednesday 7 August 2013 11:24:23 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Jokes#

Security guru Bruce Schneier warns about the lack of trust resulting from revelations about NSA domestic spying:

Both government agencies and corporations have cloaked themselves in so much secrecy that it's impossible to verify anything they say; revelation after revelation demonstrates that they've been lying to us regularly and tell the truth only when there's no alternative.

There's much more to come. Right now, the press has published only a tiny percentage of the documents Snowden took with him. And Snowden's files are only a tiny percentage of the number of secrets our government is keeping, awaiting the next whistle-blower.

Ronald Reagan once said "trust but verify." That works only if we can verify. In a world where everyone lies to us all the time, we have no choice but to trust blindly, and we have no reason to believe that anyone is worthy of blind trust. It's no wonder that most people are ignoring the story; it's just too much cognitive dissonance to try to cope with it.

Meanwhile, at the Wall Street Journal, Ted Koppel has an op-ed warning about our over-reactions to terrorism:

[O]nly 18 months [after 9/11], with the invasion of Iraq in 2003, ... the U.S. began to inflict upon itself a degree of damage that no external power could have achieved. Even bin Laden must have been astounded. He had, it has been reported, hoped that the U.S. would be drawn into a ground war in Afghanistan, that graveyard to so many foreign armies. But Iraq! In the end, the war left 4,500 American soldiers dead and 32,000 wounded. It cost well in excess of a trillion dollars—every penny of which was borrowed money.

Saddam was killed, it's true, and the world is a better place for it. What prior U.S. administrations understood, however, was Saddam's value as a regional counterweight to Iran. It is hard to look at Iraq today and find that the U.S. gained much for its sacrifices there. Nor, as we seek to untangle ourselves from Afghanistan, can U.S. achievements there be seen as much of a bargain for the price paid in blood and treasure.

At home, the U.S. has constructed an antiterrorism enterprise so immense, so costly and so inexorably interwoven with the defense establishment, police and intelligence agencies, communications systems, and with social media, travel networks and their attendant security apparatus, that the idea of downsizing, let alone disbanding such a construct, is an exercise in futility.

Do you feel safer now?

Wednesday 7 August 2013 11:19:38 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US | World | Security#
Tuesday 6 August 2013

I can scarcely imagine how much a team of Thames Water maintenance workers enjoyed removing this:

Last week, officials at Thames Water removed a 15-tonne lump of lard from a trunk line sewer beneath the London suburb of Kingston. It was the fattest fatberg ever recovered from the London sewers, and by extension, probably the largest subterranean grease clump in U.K. history.

"A fatberg," says Simon Evans, media relations manager at Thames Water, "is a vile, festering, steaming collection of fat and wet wipes." Fatberg creation is a vicious cycle, according to Evans, who coined the term. "Fat clings to wipes, wipes cling to the fat," he explains. "They are the catalysts in this horrible fatberg game."

And—you know you want to watch this—Thames Water released video of the thing:

So remember, folks, don't flush your bacon grease or your wet-wipes. Or condoms, but that's another story entirely.

Also, this is probably the first literal use of the "Kitchen Sink" category in Daily Parker history.

Tuesday 6 August 2013 12:47:42 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | London#

Via Microsoft's Raymond Chen, a real-life example of how a batter can get three strikes on one pitch:

Chen explains:

During his plate appearance, Vinnie Catricala was not pleased with the strike call on the first pitch he received. He exchanged words with the umpire, then stepped out of the batter's box to adjust his equipment. He did this without requesting or receiving a time-out. The umpire repeatedly instructed Catricala to take his position in the batter's box, which he refused to do. The umpire then called a strike on Catricala, pursuant to rule 6.02(c). Catricala, failing to comprehend the seriousness of the situation, still did not take his position in the batter's box, upon which the umpire called a third strike, thereby rendering him out.

But before I could watch that video, YouTube served up this one, which made me laugh out loud:

I'll poll some of my friends to find out if it's as funny to people in the UK as it is to us Americans.

Tuesday 6 August 2013 11:01:45 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Baseball | Jokes#

The journalist and blogger's beagle Daisy died today at the age of 15. I'm getting sniffly just posting this:

This was not like waiting for someone to die; it was a positive act to end a life – out of mercy and kindness, to be sure – but nonetheless a positive act to end a life so intensely dear to me for a decade and a half. That’s still sinking in. The power of it. But as we laid her on the table for the final injection, she appeared as serene as she has ever been. I crouched down to look in her cloudy eyes and talk to her, and suddenly, her little head jolted a little, and it was over.

I couldn’t leave her. But equally the sight of her inert and lifeless – for some reason the tongue hanging far out of her mouth disfigured her for me – was too much to bear. I kissed her and stroked her, buried my face in her shoulders, and Aaron wept over her. And then we walked home, hand in hand. As we reached the front door, we could hear Eddy howling inside.

Her bed is still there; and the bowl; and the diapers – pointless now. I hung her collar up on the wall and looked out at the bay. The room is strange. She has been in it every day for fifteen and a half years, waiting for me.

Now, I wait, emptied, for her.

Read the whole thread. Make sure you have tissue handy.

Monday 5 August 2013 19:22:24 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Parker | Blogs#
Monday 5 August 2013


The Washington Post Co. has agreed to sell its flagship newspaper to Amazon.com founder and chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos, ending the Graham family’s stewardship of one of America’s leading news organizations after four generations.

Bezos, whose entrepreneurship has made him one of the world’s richest men, will pay $250 million in cash for The Post and affiliated publications to the Washington Post Co., which owns the newspaper and other businesses.

Seattle-based Amazon will have no role in the purchase; Bezos himself will buy the news organization and become its sole owner when the sale is completed, probably within 60 days. The Post Co. will change to a new, still-undecided name and continue as a publicly traded company without The Post thereafter.

WaPo's story about itself is lengthy and a must-read.

Update: James Fallows wieghs in: "Newsweek's demise, a long time coming, was a minor temblor by comparison; this is a genuine earthquake."

Monday 5 August 2013 16:14:55 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Business#

About a week ago, Chicago Public Media CEO Torey Malatia got fired. Crain's has more information today:

The Chicago Public Media board, led by Baird & Warner Inc. CEO Stephen Baird, last month requested the resignation of CEO Torey Malatia, 61, who gained national prominence with program hits such as “This American Life” and “Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me” early in his 18-year tenure. Lackluster ratings and fundraising at the nonprofit precipitated his downfall. Mr. Malatia declines to comment.

Meanwhile, WBEZ's ratings declined in the past two years, to a range of 1.4 to 1.8 percent of total listening time for the first half of 2013 from a range of 1.9 to 2.5 in 2010. Its revenue from listeners and grants remained about the same, though Mr. Baird says the outlet is in “good financial shape,” with 65,000 members and income up from five years ago. By comparison, public radio station WBUR-FM in Boston has some 64,000 members in a smaller market.

Chief operating officer Alison Scholly has been promoted to acting CEO.

Monday 5 August 2013 13:12:54 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago#

James Deen tries Google Glass and...well...don't play this at work:

That has to be one of the only porn trailers I've ever laughed through.

Sunday 4 August 2013 22:12:30 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Cool links#
Saturday 3 August 2013

This past week, my company put me in charge of operations. The job includes responsibility for our tools and technologies: bug tracking, client request tracking, code repositories, internal knowledge sharing, and Agile process management. Right now we use a collection of tools that we've used for three years: Beanstalk, Sifter, Zendesk, Yammer, and a home-grown Agile tool called Storyboard.

Well, Storyboard runs on the Azure SDK 1.4, which Microsoft will stop supporting at the end of November. Beanstalk, which just turned on support for Mercurial a year ago, has decided to turn it off six weeks from now. Sifter and Zendesk are all right, except they don't really give us the integration we want with each other or with Beanstalk—which, anyway, is going away.

We haven't picked a new tool set yet. But the search has led me to think about changing my own development tools, starting with this blog.

I mentioned about three weeks ago that I'd started playing with Orchard, an open-source content management system that came out of a Microsoft demonstration project.

I want a blog/CMS that can handle the 3,800 entries I've created here. I also want to continue tagging each entry with its location and local time (like this, whose time stamp would look really bizarre without the local time zone), which means I need an extensible application.

Oh, and it either needs a kickass import engine or a way for me to write one.

I can't say for certain when I'll migrate, given how busy I am with everything else. I hope I'll get this done in the next few weeks.

Saturday 3 August 2013 18:30:41 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Blogs | Work#

Parker and I have walked about 90 minutes today, and we'll probably walk some more half an hour from now. It's 23°C and crystal clear, with a forecast for more of the same all weekend.

I may not get anything done until Monday. Pity.

Saturday 3 August 2013 15:53:50 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Friday 2 August 2013

Via Sullivan, a look at a 45-story abandoned tower in Caracas that now houses 2,500 people:

Welcome to the world’s tallest slum: poverty-ridden Venezuela’s Tower of David. Squatters took over this very unfinished 45-story skyscraper in the early 1990s, and they’ve been there ever since. The tower was originally intended to be a symbol of Caracas’ bright financial future, complete with a rooftop helipad, but construction stopped because of a banking crisis and the sudden death of the tower’s namesake, David Brillembourg.

Today, as the government is grappling with a citywide housing shortage, the tower is a stark monument to what could have been in the country’s crime-plagued capital. The tower is dogged by accusations of being a hotbed of crime, drugs and corruption. But to residents, many of whom have spent their entire lives there, it’s just home.

More from Wikipedia, the New York Times, and the Beeb.

Friday 2 August 2013 14:08:30 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | World#

Ezra Klein points to this graph and raises the question:

The core issue here is that the unemployment rate only counts people actively looking for work. That means there are two ways to leave the ranks of the unemployed. One way — the good way — is to get a job. The other way is to stop looking for work, either because you’ve retired, or become discouraged, or begun working off the books.

The yellow line on the left shows the official unemployment rate since 2008. It’s fallen from over 10 percent to under 8 percent. But the red line on the right shows the actual employment rate — that is, the percentage of working-age adults with jobs. What should scare you is that the red line has barely budged.

The economy is a lot worse than a glance at the unemployment rate suggests. And instead of doing anything to help those people get back to work, Washington canceled the payroll tax cut, permitted sequestration to go into effect, and is now arguing about whether to shut down the federal government — and possibly breach the debt ceiling — in the fall.

This is yet another consequence of the opposition party refusing to participate in governance.

Friday 2 August 2013 09:50:55 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#
Thursday 1 August 2013

...because I didn't have time to read them today:

I will now go home and read these things on the way.

Thursday 1 August 2013 18:16:13 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Kitchen Sink | Windows Azure | Work#
On this page....
Forgot to post this
Back in the land of my forebears
Unbelievably stupid Windows thing
Great news in tax law
Pausing in Montréal
Ground broken on Bloomingdale Trail
Two years for law school
Hanselman's Azure Glossary for the Confused
I swear that box wasn't there last time
Got some exercise, anyway
Git is not Mercurial
Configuring FTP on a moved Azure VM
Learning languages es dificíl
States change their minds about USA/AMR merger
Bike-sharing NIMBYs
Integrating Multiple CRMs with One Azure Cloud Service
Still cranky about the Justice Department
Cute babe
Cubs record 70th loss
Back in the basement
Giving 120% effort
OK, this just got real
Forty great maps
Cubs barely hanging on to 4th
Maybe the lawsuit wasn't universally predicted
Saw that one coming
The deficit is going down—but no one seems to know that
Quis custodiet robote?
"We sent you two boats and a helicopter."
Unexpectedly productive weekend
Twenty five years ago
Quick update on the Daily Parker's future
It's official: flying is so safe, it's hard to measure
Fifty games left
Joke: The Mermaid
The national security state
The most disgusting thing in London
Two sports videos
Andrew Sullivan loses a friend
Bezos buys WaPo
More on Torey Malatia's ouster
Google Glass goes where everything else goes
Updating tools, at home and at work
Just passing through
The world's tallest slum
Recovery? What recovery?
Articles I've sent to my Kindle
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Whiskey Fest 20d 05h 45m
My next birthday 329d 19h 09m
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David Braverman and Parker
David Braverman is the Chief Technology Officer of Holden International 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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The Daily Parker by David Braverman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License, excluding photographs, which may not be republished unless otherwise noted.
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