Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
Saturday 31 May 2014

It's the end of May, and the weather matches. I pushed some software into production this morning, which is already more productivity than necessary on a day like this.

Forget it. I'm going outside. See you in June.

Saturday 31 May 2014 14:44:43 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Friday 30 May 2014

Since the Cubs' 8-4 win over the Giants on Monday, they haven't gotten a run in 20 innings.

That may have something to do with them being the worst team in the MLB today. Yes, at 19-32, they're behind Arizona (23-33), Houston (23-32), and Tampa Bay (23-31), and 26 other teams.

Hully gee. Only 105 games left to play this year...

Friday 30 May 2014 11:56:20 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Baseball | Cubs#
Thursday 29 May 2014

Crain's reported this morning that the Divvy bike-share program lost $150k on $2.2 million in revenue last year:

Though the operating loss is not unexpected, and the amount is relatively small, it comes at a time when Mr. Emanuel is under intense pressure to cut costs and avoid tax increases. The bicycle-sharing program has not yet reached many neighborhoods, reinforcing a view that Divvy is merely a toy for yuppies and tourists.

With the program expected to ramp up this year, achieving profitability is crucial to its long-term success. The administration expects Divvy to at least break even this year.

The program has proved popular with out-of-towners, but it must win over more price-sensitive customers, such as city residents.

So, the program seems on track, and the $12.5-million infusion from Blue Cross certainly hasn't hurt. I'm encouraged.

Thursday 29 May 2014 11:41:09 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Biking | Chicago#
Wednesday 28 May 2014

I appreciate my friends getting 5th-row seats at AT&T park tonight. And yet, the Cubs still lost.

So, voilà:

To clarify: I was legitimately surprised that my friends got such awesome seats. I was not surprised that, having won yesterday, the Cubs lost tonight.

Wednesday 28 May 2014 00:19:34 PDT (UTC-07:00)  |  | Baseball | Cubs | San Francisco#

I enjoy a healthy dose of randomness when traveling, because it means sometimes you get a hotel room with this view:

It's hard to see, but I'm looking directly at AT&T Park, where the Cubs are playing in about two hours. Since they won last night, I fully expect they've used up their allotted runs for the rest of May, but it will still be fun to see a baseball game.

Tuesday 27 May 2014 17:28:56 PDT (UTC-07:00)  |  | Baseball | Cubs | San Francisco#
Monday 26 May 2014

A couple weeks ago I read a Snopes article about how Atari may have buried millions of E.T. game cartridges in New Mexico. After reading it, I found a copy of Zap! The rise and fall of Atari, on which much of the article was based.

The book was fascinating. Author Scott Cohen describes the meteoric rise of the company from Nolan Bushnell's Pong game until the company's self-inflicted and fatal shot to the head on 7 December 1982. Since Cohen wrote it in late 1983, the story ends a few months before the company did. But Atari had already been measured twice by that point, so no one reading the book when it came out would have any doubt about its prospects.

It always astounds me how companies keep making the same mistakes. Societies do too; but one can explain the timescale of human idiocy (usually 75-125 years) because people who would have known better tend to die eventually. Companies can flame out in just a few years.

Take Atari. In short, the company died because management—in particular CEO Ray Kassar—made a series of horrible decisions and ignored the lessons from their consequences. The initial growth and success of the company after Kassar took over was impressive, but it happened despite management, not because of it. The company's future sales required continuous development of new games, but management thought creating software wasn't any different than building cars.

At one point, four of Atari's top engineers, the guys creating the products Atari needed to sell, asked for commissions on the millions of game cartridges that people bought. In other words, they wanted recognition for their successes. Kassar responded, "You are no more important to that game than the guy on the assembly line who puts it together." The engineers quit and formed Activision, which then ate Atari's lunch.

With massive turnover in engineering, a game console that had not been upgraded in six years, over-saturation of the game cartridge market, poorly-reviewed products, and direct competition from technically superior products like personal computers, one would think management would notice the problem. Nope. On 7 December 1982, Atari announced disappointing earnings and precipitated the video game crash that left none of the original players standing.

The book concludes with a description of Silicon Valley as the new Detroit:

Silicon Valley is no longer the place for development and technology that it was. Now it's a meat market. What is happening to the Valley happened to Detroit, except there it was spread out over forty years. There are more companies in the Valley now than before, but it's not the hot spot it was. More companies are thinking about moving to the Midwest, since "cheap" labor down South is no longer cheap. Much of Silicon Valley will probably end up in Detroit, where all those auto workers are standing around with nothing to do.

So, not all of the book is accurate... It was a good read, though.

Monday 26 May 2014 12:54:51 PDT (UTC-07:00)  |  | Business#

Another gratuitous ocean photo:

Monday 26 May 2014 09:14:12 PDT (UTC-07:00)  |  | San Francisco#

One of the best parts about visiting my folks:

Monday 26 May 2014 07:37:24 PDT (UTC-07:00)  |  | San Francisco#
Sunday 25 May 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three more photos from Sunday's publicity shots.

Shaina Summerville and Stephen McClure:

Shaina Summerville and Parker, behaving for about 30 seconds:

Zach Blackwell, Shaina Summerville, and Stephen McClure:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apparently it was Derek Jeter's last game:

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

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

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

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

Good advice:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zach Blackwell:

Shaina Summerville:

Stephen McClure and Shaina Summerville:

More a bit later.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday 16 May 2014 08:18:44 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Thursday 15 May 2014

Last night the temperature here got down to 5°C, which feels more like early March than mid-May. Meanwhile, in San Francisco, yesterday got up to 33°C, which to them feels like the pit of hell. In fact, even in the hottest part of the year (early October), San Francisco rarely gets that warm. The Tribune explains:

The North American jet stream pattern, a key driver of the country’s weather, has taken on the same incredibly “wavy”—or, as meteorologists say —“meridional”—configuration which has so often dominated the winter and spring. This sort of pattern leads to temperature extremes across the content.

Pools of unseasonably warm air are in place on each coast while unseasonably cool air is sandwiched between and dominates Chicago and Midwestern weather.

It’s within this slow-moving pool of chilly, unstable (i.e. cloud and precip-generating) air that Chicago resides—a situation likely to continue into Saturday. This is to keep extensive cloudiness and the potential for sporadic showers going over that period of time.

In other words, the forecast for this weekend is continued March with a possibility of April by Monday.

Thursday 15 May 2014 09:50:24 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | San Francisco | Weather#
Wednesday 14 May 2014

Actually, there are two scandals: first, red light cameras in general, and second, an alleged $2m bribe:

The former City Hall manager who ran Chicago’s red-light camera program was arrested today on federal charges related to the investigation of an alleged $2 million bribery scheme involving the city’s longtime vendor, Redflex Traffic Systems.

A federal complaint filed in U.S. District Court today accused John Bills of taking money and other benefits related to the contract with Redlfex. Mayor Rahm Emanuel fired the company amid the bribery scandal.

The Tribune first revealed questions about a questionable relationship between Bills and Redflex in the fall of 2012, triggering a scandal that has shaken the foundation of the company and its Australian parent, Redflex Holdings Ltd., which acknowledged last year that its Chicago program was built on what federal authorities would likely consider a $2 million bribery scheme involving Bills. Six top Redflex officials were jettisoned, and the company has come under scrutiny for its procurement practices across the country.

Now, it's not hard to believe there was some "where's mine?" in a City of Chicago contract, but $2m seems a bit much. That's nothing to the $300m in fines the city has racked up using the things.

So, did Mayor Daley know about this? Is he going to be charged?

Wednesday 14 May 2014 15:13:29 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | US#
Tuesday 13 May 2014

Ten days until I get a couple days off...

Tuesday 13 May 2014 15:17:29 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | US | Cool links | Weather#

The FAA facility handing arrivals and departures for Chicago's two main airports shut down earlier today:

The FAA started issuing revised flight departure times to airlines Tuesday afternoon after an approximately two-hour “ground stop’’ halted all flights to and from Chicago’s two airports because of smoke in an air traffic radar facility serving northeastern Illinois, airline officials said.

The ground stop was ordered as FAA workers were evacuated from the radar facility and operations transferred to the FAA's Chicago Center in Aurora, which usually handles just high-altitude traffic.

The smoke was traced to a faulty ventilation motor and the workers were allowed back into the facility around 1 p.m.

No planes were imperiled by the outage. The Chicago Center facility has no trouble handling arrivals for an hour or two.

Tuesday 13 May 2014 15:00:47 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Chicago#

Security expert Bruce Schneier is not an alarmist, but he is alarmed:

In addition to turning the Internet into a worldwide surveillance platform, the NSA has surreptitiously weakened the products, protocols, and standards we all use to protect ourselves. By doing so, it has destroyed the trust that underlies the Internet. We need that trust back.

By weakening security, we are weakening it against all attackers. By inserting vulnerabilities, we are making everyone vulnerable. The same vulnerabilities used by intelligence agencies to spy on each other are used by criminals to steal your passwords. It is surveillance versus security, and we all rise and fall together.

Security needs to win. The Internet is too important to the world -- and trust is too important to the Internet -- to squander it like this. We'll never get every power in the world to agree not to subvert the parts of the Internet they control, but we can stop subverting the parts we control. Most of the high-tech companies that make the Internet work are US companies, so our influence is disproportionate. And once we stop subverting, we can credibly devote our resources to detecting and preventing subversion by others.

It really is kind of stunning how much damage our intelligence services have done to the security they claim to be protecting. I don't think everyone gets it right now, but the NSA's crippling the Internet will probably be our generation's Mosaddegh.

Monday 12 May 2014 21:06:16 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US | World | Security#
Monday 12 May 2014

Snopes just republished the legend of the E.T. game cartridges in light of the actual burial site being dug up recently. Forgetting for a moment the legend itself, the background story was a description of how Warner management killed Atari:

In 1982, Warner Communications could honestly claim to own a goose that laid golden eggs. Its money-producing fowl was called Atari, a video game company it purchased for $28 million in 1976 which had since burgeoned into a $2 billion concern. In the early 1980s Atari owned 80% of the video game market, it accounted for 70% of Warner's operating profits, and in the fourth quarter of 1982 the Wall Street "whisper number" concerning Atari's expected Atari symbol earnings predicted a 50% increase over the previous year.

The goose died at 3:04 P.M. EST on 7 December 1982, when Atari reported only a 10% to 15% increase in expected earnings, not the 50% figure so many people had been counting on. By the end of the following day Warner stock had plummeted to two-thirds of its previous value, and Warner closed out the quarter with its profits down a mind-boggling 56%. (Even worse, a minor scandal erupted when it was revealed that Atari's president and CEO had sold 5,000 shares of Warner stock a mere 23 minutes before announcing Atari's disappointing sales figures.) Atari racked up over half a billion dollars ($536 million) in losses in 1983, and by the end of 1984 Warner had sold the company.

What accounted for the sudden death of Warner's prized goose? A number of interrelated factors brought about its fatal illness...

The factors Snopes summarized highlight how acquisitions by incompatible companies can go wrong, among other things.

Monday 12 May 2014 17:30:01 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Business#

I'm uploading a couple of fixes to Inner-Drive.com right now, so I have a few minutes to read things people have sent me. It takes a while to deploy the site fully, because the Inner Drive Extensible Architecture™ documentation (reg.req.) is quite large—about 3,000 HTML pages. I'd like to web-deploy the changes, but the way Azure cloud services work, any changes deployed that way get overwritten as soon as the instance reboots.

All of the changes to Inner-Drive.com are under the hood. In fact, I didn't change anything at all in the website. But I made a bunch of changes to the Azure support classes, including a much better approach to logging inspired by a conversation I had with my colleague Igor Popirov a couple of weeks ago. I'll go into more details later, but suffice it to say, there are some people who can give you more ideas in one sentence than you can get in a year of reading blogs, and he's one of them.

So, while sitting here at my remote office waiting for bits to upload, I encountered these things:

  • The bartender's iPod played "Bette Davis Eyes" which immediately sent me back to this.
  • Andrew Sullivan pointed me (and everyone else who reads his blog) towards the ultimate Boomer fantasy, the live-foreverists. (At some point in the near future I'm going to write about how much X-ers hate picking up after both Boomers and Millennials, and how this fits right in. Just, not right now.)
  • Slate's Jamelle Bouie belives Wisconsin's voter rights decision is a win for our cause. ("Our" in this case includes those who believe retail voter fraud is so rare as to be a laughable excuse for denying a sizable portion of the population their voting rights, especially when the people denied voting rights tend to be the exact people who Republicans would prefer not to vote.)

OK, the software is deployed, and I need to walk Parker now. Maybe I'll read all these things after Game of Thrones.

Sunday 11 May 2014 21:15:29 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | US | Software | Business | Windows Azure#
Sunday 11 May 2014

The Chicago Tribune has an infographic this weekend with the final statistics of the past winter. After defining the "cold season" as the "period from the first freeze of the fall to the last freeze of spring," and asserting we've had our last freeze (I'll let that float for now), then the 2013-14 winter looked like this:

Measurement Value
First freeze Oct 22nd (-2°C)
Last freeze Apr 16th (-4°C)
Days below freezing 76 (Nov through Mar)
Days below -18°C 26 (Dec through Mar)
Total snowfall 2,082 mm

It would have been helpful, I think, had they included some comparison data. It still encapsulates a really crappy winter, which now, finally, seems over.

Sunday 11 May 2014 08:35:15 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Saturday 10 May 2014

Their super-hero mayor had a fun night in March, apparently:

Loaded behind the wheel of his Cadillac Escalade, high on his Jimmy Kimmel interview, Mayor Rob Ford is winding through the streets of his city.

It’s two days after Ford’s celebrated appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live, two months before rehab.

In the course of this March 5 night, Ford will bring together two of his closest felon friends, beating one and accepting drugs from another; go on a racist tirade; and boast that he often has sex with “girls” in front of his wife, according to an account of the evening. He will suggest one man could have sex with her, a source has told the Star, recalling Ford’s words.

And yet, he remains in office, and Toronto has no recall laws. Fun times, fun times...

Saturday 10 May 2014 08:24:00 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | World#
Thursday 8 May 2014

At 1pm, the official temperature at O'Hare was 28°C. It has not been this warm in Chicago since November 7th, six months ago. The last time we had weather warmer than that was September 28th (29°C).

Good thing I'm inside...working...

Update: The official 2pm temperature of 30°C has not occurred in Chicago since September 11th, 239 days ago.

Thursday 8 May 2014 13:48:45 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#

I may come back to these again:

Publishing the Inner Drive Extensible Architecture™ to NuGet is still coming up...just not this weekend.

Thursday 8 May 2014 12:52:22 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Geography | World | Blogs | Business#
Wednesday 7 May 2014

I almost forgot, even though Illinois Climatologist Jim Angel blogged it earlier today. The new NCA is here. Highlights—with a distinctly Illinois-centered view—via Angel:

  • In the next few decades, longer growing seasons and rising carbon dioxide levels will increase yields of some crops, though those benefits will be progressively offset by extreme weather events. Though adaptation options can reduce some of the detrimental effects, in the long term, the combined stresses associated with climate change are expected to decrease agricultural productivity.
  • Increased heat wave intensity and frequency, increased humidity, degraded air quality, and reduced water quality will increase public health risks.
  • Climate change will exacerbate a range of risks to the Great Lakes, including changes in the range and distribution of certain fish species, increased invasive species and harmful blooms of algae, and declining beach health. Ice cover declines will lengthen the commercial navigation season [this winter was the exception to the rule - Jim].

If you don't mind using 170 megabytes of bandwidth, you can download the whole thing (or just the parts you want).

Wednesday 7 May 2014 14:41:46 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Geography | US | World | Weather#

Actually, it's a live feed from the ISS:


Live streaming video by Ustream

IFLS explains:

One of the latest missions from the ISS is kind of amazing. The High Definition Earth Viewing (HDEV) experiment consists of four cameras that have been attached outside of the ISS. Though temperature is controlled, the cameras are exposed to the radiation from the sun, which will allow astronauts to understand how radiation affects the instruments.

The cameras point down at Earth at all times, which makes for some breathtaking images. The feed will sometimes go down as the signal switches between the cameras, and it is hard to see when the ISS is on the dark side of the planet. If the cameras are down, the screen will be grey.

As I'm posting this, the ISS was just past the morning terminator, near the Philippines. It should fly almost directly over Chicago in 20 minutes or so. (The ISS orbits once every 92 minutes.)

Wednesday 7 May 2014 14:26:23 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Cool links | Astronomy#

I want to try this:

In less than an hour [my website] went from a small prototype in a data center in Chicago and then scaled it out to datacenters globally and added SSL.

The step-by-step explanation is worth a read if you do anything in .NET.

Wednesday 7 May 2014 10:56:26 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Cloud | Windows Azure#
Tuesday 6 May 2014

Via Sullivan, a great example of someone ">committing journalism on a politician:

Sullivan comments:

Over the weekend, Washington’s journalistic class was hobnobbing with the people they cover. Bob Woodward has helped pioneer access-journalism in which favored courtiers in The Village act as stenographers for the powerful – their skills deployed merely to figuring out which of their exclusive sources is telling the truth (a wrinkle unknown, it seems, to the access-journo of the day, Jo Becker). The idea that they would wreck their access by asking a politician questions that he really doesn’t want to answer – “Isn’t your wife German?” (see above), “Can you give us evidence for your crazy pregnancy stories?” – is preposterous.

So I give you the above video, by the intrepid BBC political reporter, Nick Robinson. Watch him go for the jugular, and watch him not release his grip until the prey is whimpering, near-lifeless on the ground. A joy to watch, and Hitch, I suspect, would approve.

Brillian. "Was your wife taking someone else's job?"

Tuesday 6 May 2014 15:28:54 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | World#
Monday 5 May 2014

...these:

More later.

Monday 5 May 2014 13:24:16 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Kitchen Sink | US | Religion#
Sunday 4 May 2014

Apparently OCR software sometimes still has trouble interpreting older books:

[A]s Sarah Wendell, editor of the Romance blog  Smart Bitches, Trashy Books noticed recently, something has gone awry. Because, in many old texts the scanner is reading the word ‘arms’ as ‘anus’ and replacing it as such in the digital edition. As you can imagine, you don’t want to be getting those two things mixed up.

The resulting sentences are hilarious, turning tender scenes of passionate embrace into something much darker, and in some cases, nearly physically impossible. The Guardian’s Alison Flood quotes some of the best:

From the title Matisse on the Loose: “When she spotted me, she flung her anus high in the air and kept them up until she reached me. ‘Matisse. Oh boy!’ she said. She grabbed my anus and positioned my body in the direction of the east gallery and we started walking.”

And ‘”Bertie, dear Bertie, will you not say good night to me” pleaded the sweet, voice of Minnie Hamilton, as she wound her anus affectionately around her brother’s neck. “No,” he replied angrily, pushing her away from him.”‘ Well, wouldn’t you?

As Flood notes, a quick search in Google Books reveals that the problem is widespread. Parents should keep their children away from the ebook edition of the 1882 children’s book Sunday Reading From the Young. It all seems perfectly innocent until… “Little Milly wound her anus lovingly around Mrs Green’s neck and begged her to make her home with them. At first Mrs Green hesitated.” And who can really blame her?

Clbuttic.

Sunday 4 May 2014 08:02:11 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Software | Writing#
Saturday 3 May 2014

Via WGN's weather blog, here is the coolest climate visualizer I've seen:

The site also has forecast maps and animation, climate information, and (of course) a blog.

Saturday 3 May 2014 08:25:49 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Cool links | Weather#

The Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UCSD reported this week that atmospheric carbon dioxide averaged more than 400 ppm in April, a new milestone:

Every single daily carbon dioxide measurement in April 2014 was above 400 parts per million. That hasn’t happened in nearly a million years, and perhaps much longer. Climate scientists have proven that the rise in human-produced greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide are “extremely likely” to be the dominant cause of global climate change. The likelihood of dangerous impacts—like sea level rise, hotter heat waves, and certain types of extreme weather—increases with each incremental annual rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Carbon dioxide levels have increased by more than 40 percent since humans first started burning fossil fuels in large quantities about 250 years ago. Once released, the carbon dioxide from coal, oil, and natural gas burning can remain in the atmosphere for centuries. Thus, the crux of the problem: There just hasn’t been enough time yet since those first coal-powered factories in Europe for the atmosphere to return to equilibrium. What’s more, the pace of fossil fuel burning has since dramatically quickened—there’ve been more greenhouse gas emissions in the last 40 years than over the previous 200—so carbon dioxide buildup keeps accelerating.

So what about the hockey stick? If you look at the last 800,000 years, the chart of CO2 concentration looks more like a brick wall:

Scary.

Saturday 3 May 2014 08:11:43 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US | World | Weather#
Friday 2 May 2014

Chicagoist graphically demonstrates why I don't want to live where I do anymore:

The explanation:

Chicago has several major douche vortexes. It’s important to map them out because many innocent people stumble onto them by accident. Recent Chicago transplants and tourists are the most common victims. They’re drawn in by some of the traps in the vortices, which range from hip bars to music venues, and then they find themselves stuck in a zombie-like horde of belligerent drunks.

The douches are many. And they are easy enough to stereotype - they tend to be veterans of the Greek systems in Big Ten schools, and they like to wear popped polo shirts and Cubs hats. But really anyone can be a douche. It just takes this simple formula:

Money + Large Amounts of Alcohol + Total Disrespect For Other People’s Boundaries = Douche Vortex

They've even got an interactive map if you want more details.

Friday 2 May 2014 10:26:17 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Kitchen Sink#

The Inner Drive Extensible Architecture™ is about to get wider distribution.

After 11 years of development, I think it's finally ready for wider distribution. And, who knows, maybe I'll make a couple of bucks.

I've updated the pricing structure and the license agreement, and in the next week or so (after some additional testing), I'm going to release it to NuGet.

That doesn't make it free; that makes it available. (Actually, I am making it free for development and testing, but I'm charging for commercial production use.)

I'll have more to say on this once it's released.

Thursday 1 May 2014 19:16:24 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Software | Business#
Thursday 1 May 2014

Today is May Day, but it feels like mid-March. Instead of the normal 18°C for May 1st, we're going to get, if we're lukcy, 9°C, with some gray skies and drizzle to drive the point home.

The WGN Weather Center has more:

A sprinkly, damp chill hung over Chicago as April 2014 closed overnight. The month finished 0.2°C below normal—a fraction of the deficit that’s been recorded in a number of recent months.

The shortfall, small as it is, means April goes down in the record books here as the 6th consecutive month with an average temperature cooler than normal.

The 12°C high with which the month closed Wednesday was coolest final day of April in 18 years. That reading was, in marked contrast, a full 18°C cooler than the 29°C high recorded on April 30th a year ago.

Chicago’s cloud cover has been extensive over all four days that the area’s weather pattern has been under the influence of the most recent mammoth spring storm. Sunshine during that period has amounted to a paltry 16%–less than a third normal. Historically, Aprils have produced 52% of their possible sun.

One of the coldest winters in history has given way to one of the dreariest springs in recent memory. No wonder so many people want to leave Illinois.

At least it should be warmer next week.

Thursday 1 May 2014 08:08:45 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
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David Braverman is a software developer in Chicago, and the creator of Weather Now. Parker is the most adorable dog on the planet, 80% of the time.
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