Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
Thursday 31 July 2014

As a big Jane Jacobs fan, I'm very happy to learn that the FBI's ugly headquarters in Washington may be demolished soon:

This week came the news that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is leaving its home in Washington, D.C. While plans to keep the bureau downtown were always a longshot, a short list of candidates released by the GSA confirms that the FBI will build a new consolidated headquarters in either Maryland or Virginia. Washingtonian spotted the release and wasted no time in celebrating the FBI's departure—despite the fact that the move will send as many as 4,800 jobs to the suburbs.

That's how much D.C. residents hate the J. Edgar Hoover Building. And really, that doesn't come close to painting how passionately people hate this building.

Yeah, because it's a really ugly building.

The Atlantic's Kriston Capps, who wrote the linked article, worries that its replacement will be bland, and therefore maybe we don't want to tear it down? No. Tear it down. And worry about the replacement building during its design phase.

The Brutalist period was so called for a reason.

Thursday 31 July 2014 18:42:09 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Geography | US#

For reasons I do not understand, except possibly that the average IQ is below 100 in some Congressional districts, the House of Representatives has sued the President to make him do...something:

The House adopted the resolution by a vote of 225-201. Five Republicans joined a unanimous Democratic conference to vote against the measure.

The resolution authorizes Boehner to challenge Obama in court for exceeding his authority by unilaterally delaying deadlines under Obamacare. Although he has said he'll target the one-year delay of the health care reform law's employer mandate penalties, the text of the GOP resolution gives the Speaker room to legally challenge implementation tweaks to other provisions of the law.

"This isn't about Republicans and Democrats. It's about defending the Constitution that we swore an oath to uphold," Boehner said.

Right. And the problem with American politics today is that the sets of people that understand the Constitution and that believe the Speaker do not overlap at all.

Let's review. The current House opposes a law passed by the House two sessions ago, but the Senate—last I checked, half the legislative power in the country—and most of the state governors support this law. The courts have upheld it. The President is enforcing it as he deems appropriate.

Kapur's commentary fixates on standing (the requirement that you can't sue unless you, personally, have been injured), but I'm wondering whether this suit would fail on the doctrine of political question. One half of one branch of government is opposed to the actions of another branch. And the representatives opposed to the executive actually represent a minority of voters. I'm not sure the courts are the appropriate venue here. Maybe try the ballot box?

Now, I opposed the majority in 2003 and 2004, when we went to war against a country that hadn't actually attacked us. So I get that minorities can feel oppressed. I had to pretend to be Canadian every time I went overseas for about five years, just so I wouldn't get dirty looks. And I really, really hated the outcome of the 2004 election, because it suggested to me that my countrymen were terrified children who shouldn't be trusted with cap guns, let alone nuclear weapons.

But you know what I did about it? I worked on Barack Obama's U.S. Senate campaign. Then I contributed to his Presidential primary in 2008. Then I volunteered for his 2008 general election campaign. Then he bloody well won the office. Because we were able to convince a clear majority of Americans that ours was the right set of policies, and ours was the right person, to govern the country for the next four years.

This is all of a piece. Republicans don't want to govern; they want to rule. And the reason they want to sue the President is because even though they can't convince the American electorate that they're right, they want their policies enacted anyway.

The legislature suing the executive to change the enforcement procedures of a popular law is just sad. I'd send John Boehner a copy of the Federalist Papers but it would just be a waste of money and postage.

Wednesday 30 July 2014 23:46:11 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#
Wednesday 30 July 2014

A friend and I attended last night's Cubs game at Wrigley, and left before it ended. Good thing, too, because it wound up the longest game in team history:

This game, which took six hours, 27 minutes, was the longest game (by time) in Cubs’ history. It surpassed the previous record of six hours, 10 minutes that it took the Cubs and Dodgers to play 21 innings on Aug. 17-18, 1982.

[S]tarter Edwin Jackson needed 105 pitches just to throw four innings, and seven Cubs relievers combined to throw 11 scoreless innings and closer Hector Rondon wasn’t available.

Yes, that's how catcher John Baker wound up pitching in the 16th inning. At least he got the win.

Let me explain why we left: in the first inning, Colorado got three runs before getting their second out, because the Cubs' outfield couldn't get the ball back to the infield. Then both teams hit so many foul balls and lollygagged around the infield so much that the third inning ended almost 90 minutes after the game started. (Usually, 90 minutes in, we're well into the 4th or even 5th inning.)

So the two worst teams in the league played uninspired, boring baseball for six hours, and hit a record that I (mercifully) didn't wait to see. I'm not enjoying Wrigley as much as I used to.

Wednesday 30 July 2014 08:25:06 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Cubs#
Tuesday 29 July 2014

Climate outlooks for the U.S. are coalescing around a pleasantly cool summer in Chicago:

Illinois climatologist Jim Angel explains:

As we approach the end of July the statewide average temperature in Illinois is 21.4°C degrees, which currently puts it in second place for the coldest July on record.

Here is how the previous top 10 coldest July temperatures for Illinois looked and what happened in the following August.... In 8 out of the 10 cases, the following August was colder than average. However, two of those “colder” August’s were marginally so (1924 and 1996). The one spectacular reversal was in 1947, where August was 4.0°C degrees above average after the 3rd coldest July. Therefore there is a historical tendency for cooler weather to prevail into August.

After the brutal winter we had six months ago (three months ago?), most people in Chicago welcome July and August afternoons like this. I'm even wearing a jacket to the game tonight, while I'm saving a bundle on air conditioning.

Tuesday 29 July 2014 12:22:26 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#

Client deliverables and tonight's Cubs game have compressed my day a little. Here's what I haven't had time to read:

Now back to the deliverable...

Tuesday 29 July 2014 12:00:52 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Geography | Kitchen Sink | US | Weather#
Monday 28 July 2014

Keep your pants on. I'm referring to the London Underground, which last week got "journalists" to copy and paste a story they ran five years ago. It turns out, the Tube is too hot:

It’s not fair to compare London’s cramped commuters to cattle; right now, livestock actually get the better deal. As temperatures in the U.K.’s capital push towards 32°C for the second week running, heat levels in London’s Tube and bus system have now risen above the EU limit at which it is legal to transport cows, sheep, and pigs. The highest recorded temperature on the network so far this year is 35°C, 5°C above the permissible 30°C for livestock.

I thought that sounded familiar. For comparison, here's the story from August 2009:

A map which reveals the hottest spots on London's underground system has been revealed to commuters.

The map of zones 1 and 2 shows temperatures over above 35°C have been recorded in some areas - making the trains officially unfit for transporting cattle.

The Central line had some of the worst spots, while the Bakerloo line also felt the heat when the map was compiled.

It turns out, I was in London in August 2009, and I remember really hating the temperature as the Circle Line got round to Tower Hill. Glad to see the city have kept some traditions going.

Monday 28 July 2014 17:48:35 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | London | Travel | Weather#
Sunday 27 July 2014

I love these guys. The indie duo Pomplamoose are back on tour after this coming Tuesday's album release.

Jack Conte, one half of the group—he and band-mate Nataly Dawn are also partners in real life—founded Patreon last year. The site brings patrons together with artists. I'm not the only one supporting Pomplamoose. My $5 is one of 1,600 pledges totaling more than $5,600 per video, enabling them to (a) eat and (b) produce really slick videos. Here's their latest, showing that you really don't need autotune if you have a great voice:

Sunday 27 July 2014 11:11:23 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#

Via Sullivan yesterday evening—and for no other reason—I'm passing on an old Baffler article about the morning after:

There’s certainly nothing pious or heroic in a hangover. But, trapped in its clutches, you can begin to see it as a wonderful counterbalance, an essential link in the rhythm of life, a stern ebb to an indecorous flow. The hangover is what prompts you to vow, as you fester with your cellmates in that island sanitarium of the demetabolized, “I will never drink again.” Without its vengeful wrath, only guilt would be left to direct us to moderation. For Jack Kerouac, Dylan Thomas, and countless others whose lives met premature and tragic closures, the end may have come even sooner had they never had to cruise the ghastly straits of detoxification. And what of the proud, local folklore of the hangover remedy, or the pathetic morning embrace of the “hair of the dog?” Would the word that has been used so aptly to describe the aftereffects of sprees like Laffer’s 1980s slowly lose its resonance and vanish?

[Kingsley] Amis, the poet laureate of the hangover, was one of the few to fathom its intricacies and divine its transcendent qualities—to find, if you will, the spiritual in the spirits. The hangover, he wrote once, is no mere physical affliction, but a “unique route to self-knowledge and self-realization.” This is usually lost on sufferers of the “physical hangover,” obsessed as they are with feeling fresh again. But as they spend the morning shuffling through the Sunday supplements, unable to finish the simplest articles, drinking tomato juice as the sunlight stalks the living room floor, on come those colossal feelings of guilt, inadequacy, and shame—the metaphysical hangover. The best, and really the only, cure for this condition is to simply acknowledge your physical hangover for what it is, rather than attributing these unsettling thoughts to your job or to your relationship. As Amis puts it, “He who truly believes he has a hangover has no hangover.”

More seriously, it's interesting that medicine still doesn't understand the physiology of hangovers. The best guess is that alcohol (ethanol) metabolizes into acetaldehyde, which affects the way the body uses glucose and water. Drinks also contain varying amounts of methanol, which breaks down into formaldehyde, something you really don't want in your bloodstream.

Preventing hangovers is simple: limit drinking. Water, NSAIDs, and caffeine can reduce hangover symptoms, and there seems to be some truth in the notion that fatty foods can prevent ethanlo absorption in the first place. Otherwise, as ever, moderation works.

Sunday 27 July 2014 09:45:11 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Saturday 26 July 2014

In the wake of Arizona torturing a prisoner to death this week, Josh Marshall thinks this signals the end:

Why is this craziness happening now?

The simplest, best, and almost certainly accurate explanation is that as the noose has tightened around the death penalty, both internationally and within the United States, fewer and fewer credentialed experts have been willing to involve themselves with state mandated executions. Pharmaceutical companies have become more aggressive in making sure their drugs are not used to kill people. (Here's a good run-down of the way in which Europe has sequentially banned exports of a series of drugs used in US executions - forcing states with the death penalty to keep switching from one drug to the next to evade the export bans, thus inevitably going further and further into unknown territory in terms of how these drugs work in an execution setting with relatively untrained staff.) Medical experts or really anyone with serious life sciences expertise just won't participate anymore. I'm not saying never. But it's become much more difficult. And in order to access and use the relevant medications without the knowledge of pharmaceutical companies, the people charged with finding ways to carry out executions now mostly have to operate in secret. Secrecy leads to a lack of transparency and review of methods which in turn produces more badly conceived plans and botched executions.

At the very least, I hope those states still stuck in the middle ages will be forced into transparency and away from the torture they're inflicting on prisoners. This is a clear 8th Amendment issue. It's time the courts weighed in.

Saturday 26 July 2014 10:10:34 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#
Friday 25 July 2014

I'm back in Chicago today, but catching up on all the things I couldn't do from Cleveland. Regular posting should resume tomorrow.

Also, at 6 hours and 15 minutes to get from the client site to my house door-to-door, plus renting a car in Cleveland and having to schlepp bags hither and yon, I'm wondering if I should just drive next time.

Friday 25 July 2014 12:37:01 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Travel | Work#
Thursday 24 July 2014

Capital punishment is apparently not barbaric enough in itself in Arizona, where another botched execution has made national—but, strangely, not local—news:

A condemned Arizona inmate gasped and snorted for more than an hour and a half during his execution Wednesday before he died in an episode sure to add to the scrutiny surrounding the death penalty in the U.S.

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne's office said Joseph Rudolph Wood was pronounced dead at 3:49 p.m., one hour and 57 minutes after the execution started.

The case has highlighted scrutiny surrounding lethal injections after two controversial ones. An Ohio inmate executed in January snorted and gasped during the 26 minutes it took him to die. In Oklahoma, an inmate died of a heart attack in April, minutes after prison officials halted his execution because the drugs weren't being administered properly.

Arizona uses the same drugs — the sedative midazolam and painkiller hydromorphone — that were used in the Ohio execution. A different drug combination was used in the Oklahoma case.

Josh Marshall commented, "As much as it's treated as sick or a joke, firing squad really would be a vastly more humane form of execution than the one we now have."

Or, you know, not killing people, the way they don't do it anywhere else in the West.

Wednesday 23 July 2014 21:41:12 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | US#
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David Braverman and Parker
David Braverman is a software developer in Chicago, and the creator of Weather Now. Parker is the most adorable dog on the planet, 80% of the time.
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