Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
Friday 30 January 2015

There have been interesting developments in two stories I've mentioned recently:

Otherwise, it's just work work work. But fun work.

Friday 30 January 2015 10:50:03 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation | Kitchen Sink | Blogs | Cool links#
Thursday 29 January 2015

I may have time to read these over the weekend. Possibly.

In other news, J's Lincoln Park will close Sunday night, the owner having sold his lease to Bank of America. So our dog-friendly Euchre nights will have to move uptown a bit. I'm happy for the owner, but kind of sad that one of the last dog-friendly bars in my neighborhood is closing.

Back to creating a separate code repository for contractors...and other things...

Thursday 29 January 2015 11:57:16 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation | Best Bars | Kitchen Sink | US | World | Travel#
Wednesday 28 January 2015

The Kickstarter campaign I mentioned Friday (and that I've backed) has become the most-backed campaign ever with 112,250 backers raising $4.4 million. Their original goal, mind you, was $10,000.

I think "Exploding Kittens" might succeed, y'know?

Wednesday 28 January 2015 16:08:59 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Cool links#

Andrew Sullivan, one of my favorite bloggers, announced this afternoon he's moving on from blogging:

Why? Two reasons. The first is one I hope anyone can understand: although it has been the most rewarding experience in my writing career, I’ve now been blogging daily for fifteen years straight (well kinda straight). That’s long enough to do any single job. In some ways, it’s as simple as that. There comes a time when you have to move on to new things, shake your world up, or recognize before you crash that burn-out does happen.

The second is that I am saturated in digital life and I want to return to the actual world again. I’m a human being before I am a writer; and a writer before I am a blogger, and although it’s been a joy and a privilege to have helped pioneer a genuinely new form of writing, I yearn for other, older forms. I want to read again, slowly, carefully. I want to absorb a difficult book and walk around in my own thoughts with it for a while. I want to have an idea and let it slowly take shape, rather than be instantly blogged. I want to write long essays that can answer more deeply and subtly the many questions that the Dish years have presented to me. I want to write a book.

It's not clear yet what will happen to the Daily Dish, or to his staffers. I hope that he'll keep the enterprise running.

Daily Parker readers have no such luck: I'm sticking with it for now.

Wednesday 28 January 2015 13:07:32 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Blogs#
Tuesday 27 January 2015

I have Republican friends who think Obamacare is one step along the road to living in a police state where Ayn-Randian fears of 40% taxation and free education squash private enterprise. They have been strangely quiet about events like this, which involve actual police using previously-unthinkable force in peaceful situations:

On a quiet weeknight among the stately manors of Great Falls[, Virginia], ten men sat around a table in the basement of a private home last November playing high stakes poker. Suddenly, masked and heavily armed SWAT team officers from the Fairfax County Police Department burst through the door, pointed their assault rifles at the players and ordered them to put their hands on the table. The players complied. Their cash was seized, including a reported $150,000 from the game’s host, and eight of the ten players were charged with the Class 3 misdemeanor of illegal gambling, punishable by a maximum fine of $500.

Fairfax police said they could not discuss the Great Falls case since it is still under investigation. “In general though,” police spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell said, “detectives have seen that some of the organized card games, even in private homes, may involve hundreds of thousands of dollars. At times, we’ve seen illegal activity involved in these games. Additionally, at times, illegal weapons are present. With these large amounts of cash involved, the risks are high. We’ve worked cases where there have been armed robberies.”

Great Falls is like Winnetka, Illinois or Glen Cove, N.Y.: not exactly wretched hives of scum and villainy. So, why? (For possible answers, read Radley Balko.)

I love this bit, though:

There were no guns at the table, and no resistance, [one] player said. “They could’ve sent a retired detective with a clipboard and gotten the same result,” he added.

Yeah. But they sent in paramilitary troops armed like Marines. To a card game.

Yes, Republicans, there are signs America is becoming a police state, but you might be looking at it wrong.

Tuesday 27 January 2015 15:52:33 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | US#

January is long, cold, and dark in Chicago. We've got no more holidays, we've got much more snow, and we hardly see the sun.

So January 28th always makes me a little happy, because it's (usually) the first day in almost four months that the sun sets after 5pm. (The last time was November 1st.) It marks the log-jam of dark and cold nights breaking up. Sunset will slide to 5:30 in only three weeks and, thanks to Daylight Saving Time, blast almost to 7pm two weeks after that.

Of course, it's still another week and a half until the sun rises before 7am...

Tuesday 27 January 2015 15:28:24 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Astronomy#
Monday 26 January 2015

Via Fallows, video of a small plane ditching in the South Pacific with no injuries:

Fallows explains:

On yesterday's flight, the pilot discovered that a valve from the extra fuel tanks was jammed or broken. So he was fated to run out of gas before reaching Hawaii. After several hours of debugging and discussion with his flight-managers by radio, as the fuel level dwindled he decided to fly as close as possible to a cruise ship (which was alerted) and then pull the Cirrus's unique whole-airplane parachute and come down to the sea for rescue by the ship.

This incredible video, shot from a Coast Guard C-130 that was monitoring the whole process, shows what happened next.

The plane, I expect, did not survive. But the pilot did, which would not have happened even 20 years ago in similar circumstances.

Monday 26 January 2015 16:24:56 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation#

The Northeastern U.S. is bracing for what the National Weather Service calls "a storm of historic proportions:"

Snow accumulations of around 500-750 mm with locally higher amounts [are forecast]. Snowfall rates of 50-100 mm an hour at times.

A blizzard warning is issued when sustained winds or frequent gusts over 56 km/h are expected with considerable falling and/or blowing and drifting snow. Visibilities will become poor with whiteout conditions at times. those venturing outdoors may become lost or disoriented...so persons in the warning area are advised to stay indoors.

All unnecessary travel is discouraged beginning Monday afternoon to allow people already on the road to safely reach their destination before the heavy snow begins and to allow snow removal equipment to begin to clear roads.

The worst snowfall on record in the Northeast dumped 683 mm of snow on Central Park over 11-12 February 2006. This one could be bigger.

Hang in there, New York and Boston. And just remember the immortal words of Michael Bilandic: "Snow melts."

Update: The governors of New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey have ordered precautionary measures including closing state offices and ordering all cars off the roads tonight. All flights at Boston Logan are cancelled starting 7pm EST tonight; New York airports are also shut Tuesday. The New England Patriots have skipped town early to get to the Superbowl on time. And residents of Maine are...well, they're not doing anything special, because it's just snow.

Monday 26 January 2015 11:21:24 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | US | Weather#

Duke Basketball coach Mike "Coach K" Krzyzweski won his 1,000th Division 1 game yesterday:

Mike Krzyzewski earned his 1,000th career win Sunday, making him the first NCAA Division I men's coach to reach the milestone, when No. 5 Duke surged past St. John's in the second half for a 77-68 victory at Madison Square Garden.

When the final horn sounded, Blue Devils players engulfed Krzyzewski and he received a bear hug from assistant Jeff Capel. Photographers swarmed the coach on the court, and players were given T-shirts that read "1,000 Wins And Kounting."

Today is also the 29th anniversary of the only time the Chicago Bears won the Superbowl.

Monday 26 January 2015 10:27:46 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Duke#
Friday 23 January 2015

In other news, American Airlines took delivery of its first Boeing 787-8 yesterday:

The airplane, N800AN, is scheduled to leave Paine Field at 10 a.m. and arrive at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport at 4:21 p.m.. It’ll be parked at an American hangar there.

“Once the plane arrives, the Tech Ops team at our DWH maintenance base at DFW will begin the acceptance process and prepare the airplane for flight training and other readiness activities, including putting the final touches on the interior and getting it ready for prime time,” American told employees in its weekly “Arrivals” newsletter.

American has 42 Boeing 787s on firm order, with options for another 58. The original October 2008 order called for all 42 to be the larger Boeing 787-9 version. However, the order was later modified to covert some into the smaller 787-8 version, and Friday’s arrival is a 787-8.

I am very much looking forward to flying in one. I flew in a British Airways 787-8 back in March; I hope that American packs in slightly fewer people in Coach, or that I get upgraded.

Friday 23 January 2015 11:03:52 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation | Travel#

The powerful New York State Assembly Speaker surrendered to the FBI yesterday:

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver used his office to mask millions of dollars in “bribes and kickbacks” as legitimate outside income from two private law firms over more than a decade, according to a bombshell 35-page criminal complaint filed by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara today.

The five-count complaint on charges of wire fraud, mail fraud, conspiracy, and extortion outlines two schemes Mr. Silver used to leverage his official position as the powerful Democratic leader of the Assembly to rake in cash, which he presented as legitimately earned income for representing private clients.

The Times wants him to resign:

In New York’s sleazy political world, where fairly obvious corruption is not just tolerated but encouraged by ethics laws that barely deserve the name, Mr. Silver does not have to relinquish his power even temporarily. That, in fact, is something he should have done two years ago after the disclosure of his role in silencing a sexual harassment complaint against another lawmaker.

Mr. Silver was among those who fought subpoenas from the commission demanding a list of clients and descriptions of services provided for pay, according to the indictment. Within two weeks after Mr. Cuomo shut down the commission, Mr. Bharara took control over its files and unfinished investigations. The case against Mr. Silver could be the first of several against Albany lawmakers. Or as Mr. Bharara hinted on Thursday, “Stay tuned.”

This dramatic turn of events could be the start of a wholesale cleanup of Albany’s appalling political culture, something voters have wished for and deserved for many years. But it’s only a start.

Sullivan has more reactions from around the Web.

Stay tuned indeed.

Friday 23 January 2015 11:00:37 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | US#

On Tuesday of this week, Elan Lee, Matthew Inman ("The Oatmeal"), and Shane Small launched a Kickstarter for their new game "Exploding Kittens." As of last night, it's the 22nd-most funded campaign ever with over $3.3m in pledges from over 84,000 backers (including me).

Well done, guys. I'm looking forward to getting my set (with the NSFW pack) sometime this summer.

Inman previously used Kickstarter to fund the Tesla Museum on Long Island. Eat it, Charles Schultz.

Friday 23 January 2015 08:45:33 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Thursday 22 January 2015

The Economist has a new Big Mac Index out today, reflecting the gyrations in currency exchange rates that will (I hope) make my trip to Berlin next month a lot less expensive:

The Economist whipped up the Big Mac index in 1986 as a bun-loving way of explaining currencies’ relative values. It is based on the theory of purchasing-power parity, which posits that over the long run, currencies should adjust so that a basket of identical goods costs the same everywhere. We fill our basket with just one item: the Big Mac, which is made to the same recipe in almost all countries (India’s Maharaja Mac, a chicken sandwich, is an exception). Buying a Big Mac in Denmark, for example, costs $5.38 at market exchange rates compared with $4.79 in America, so our index suggests the Danish krone is 12% overvalued (see chart). No wonder Denmark’s central bank cut rates this week.

On average, Americans abroad get more burger for their buck than they did last summer. Relatively beefy growth in America has helped to fatten the greenback. Elsewhere, however, central bankers are still trying to add sauce to their economies, in part by encouraging their currencies to fall. In Japan, for instance, a belt-busting bond-buying scheme has caused the yen to waste away. The expectation that the European Central Bank would serve up a hearty dose of QE seems to have prompted Switzerland’s stomach-turning scrapping of the franc’s peg to the euro. Last week a Swiss Big Mac cost $6.38, but now it gobbles up $7.54.

Yes, they really super-sized the food and burger puns this year...

Thursday 22 January 2015 12:38:11 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Business | Travel#
Wednesday 21 January 2015

Today is the last day the CTA will run 1970s-era trains from the 2400 Series:

With their traverse-style seating, return to sliding doors and bicentennial trim, Chicago Transit Authority’s 2400-series rail cars proved popular with riders when they first debuted in 1976. CTA also got more than their money’s worth from the 200 cars they ordered from Boeing-Vertol, as they were only phased out of use once CTA began adding the Bombardier 5000-series rail cars to its fleet.

Over the next four decades the 2400-series cars provided thousands upon thousands of rides and arguably as many “hobo corner surprises” while the last of the cars were eventually pulled from the Orange and Brown lines. To commemorate their service, CTA is saying C-YA to the 2400 series cars with a fanfare-studded “final ride” Wednesday, Jan. 21. A train of eight 2400-series cars will roll along the tracks in the Loop, on the Brown Line, the North Side Red Line and South Side Green Line, to and from the Ashland/63rd Street station. The cars will be decorated in their original bicentennial detail, follow their original routes and contain interior map and advertising cards from the period when they first launched. CTA also plans on having shuttle bus service to pick up riders to board the trains in the Loop at Washington and Wells.

This doesn't mean a lot outside the city, but for we who take the El often, it's a good thing. The 40-year-old cars will not be missed by the average commuter.

Wednesday 21 January 2015 12:12:36 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Travel#
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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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