Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
Thursday 27 November 2014

Legal marijuana sales in Colorado and other states has a serious security problem: most banks are afraid to take deposits from legal pot dispensaries because Federal banking law equates that with money laundering for drug dealers. This means that pot dispensaries need to store large amounts of cash, which is a huge security hole. However, a loophole in Colorado law may allow them to have real banking services starting January 1st:

Last week, Colorado's Division of Financial Services chartered the world's first credit union geared specifically for the weed industry. The Fourth Corner Credit Union could open as soon as January 1, the one-year anniversary of recreational legalization.

Why hadn't this already happened? It's because of a hitherto overlooked piece of Colorado law, which allows state-chartered credit union to operate immediately after applying for required federal insurance from the National Credit Union Administration. Normally, the credit union would have to wait until after obtaining that deposit. Fourth Corner will be able to have its doors open while it waits an estimated two years for NCUA to process.

That aside, we need a rational drug policy in the U.S., one that treats marijuana the same way it treats alcohol. An overwhelming majority of Americans support such a policy. Why can't we get it through?

Thursday 27 November 2014 12:02:29 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | US#
Wednesday 26 November 2014

In a revealing post, Pomplamoose's Jack Conte says not much:

Being in an indie band is running a never-ending, rewarding, scary, low-margin small business. In order to plan and execute our Fall tour, we had to prepare for months, slowly gathering risk and debt before selling a single ticket. We had to rent lights. And book hotel rooms. And rent a van. And assemble a crew. And buy road cases for our instruments. And rent a trailer. And….

We built the tour budget ourselves and modeled projected revenue against expenses. Neither of us had experience with financial modeling, so we just did the best we could. With six figures of projected expenses, “the best we could” wasn’t super comforting.

Add it up, and that’s $135,983 in total income for our tour. And we had $147,802 in expenses.

We lost $11,819.

They currently earn $6,371 per song or video through Patreon, the artist-patronage site Conte himself created. So he's not starving. But he and Nataly Dawn work around the clock making music.

I'm glad Conte is so transparent about it. I'm also glad to support him and Nataly on Patreon.

Wednesday 26 November 2014 10:00:12 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Cool links#

I recently had a conversation about mandatory fun at work, and my interlocutor pointed me to this classic article:

Like a diseased appendix bursting and spreading infectious bacteria throughout the abdomen, fun is insinuating itself everywhere, into even the un-hippest workplaces. Witness the August issue of Inc. magazine, the self-declared "Handbook of the American Entrepreneur." Emblazoned on its cover was "Fun! It's the New Core Value." Beneath that was a photo of Jonathan Bush, the CEO of athenahealth, which helps medical practices interact with insurers. Bush was tearing his shirt apart to reveal a Batman costume underneath, the same costume in which he gave a full presentation to a prospective client after making a deal with one of his employees that if the latter lost 70 pounds, the management team would dress as superheroes for a day.

But that's just the beginning. There are 18 pages of similar stories to instruct and inspire employers to keep their employees happy at all costs, because happy employees make for happy customers. There are rubber chickens, Frisbee tosses, mustache-growing contests, pet psychics, interoffice memos alligator-clipped to toy cars, and ceremonies that honor employees for such accomplishments as having "the most animated hand gestures." Perks include on-campus wallyball courts, indoor soccer fields, air hockey, ping pong, billiards, yoga and aerobics classes, company pools and hot tubs, and Native-American themed nap rooms so that employees can sleep (sleep!) at work. And that's all at just one company--Aquascape, a supplier to pond-builders based in St. Charles, Illinois.

Here's an abbreviated list of the jollity that will ensue at your place of business if you follow [funsultants'] advice: "joy lists," koosh balls, office-chair relay races, marshmallow fights, funny caption contests, job interviews conducted in Groucho glasses or pajamas, wacky Olympics, memos by Frisbee, voicemails in cartoon-character voices, rap songs to convey what's learned at leadership institutes, "breakathons," bunny teeth, and asking job prospects to bring show and tell items such as "a stuffed Tigger doll symbolizing the interviewee's energetic and upbeat attitude" or perhaps a "neon-pink mask and snorkel worn to demonstrate a sense of humor, self-deprecating nature, and sense of adventure."

As I was reading the article, I got an email about my company's ongoing mustache-growing contest.

Here's my fun from last week. Feel the joy:

Wednesday 26 November 2014 09:32:02 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Jokes | Work#
Tuesday 25 November 2014

I'm dealing with two instances of developer laziness (or stupidity).

The proximate cause of my annoyance this morning comes from les espèces d'idiots at Eurostar who included local references to images in a confirmation email template. In non-technical terms, they put the images they want displayed on an email behind their own firewall, so they only show up when you look at the email behind their own firewall. So, some idiot developer, tasked with creating a confirmation email, put images on it that worked for him (because he was inside the firewall) but didn't have the mental faculties to predict that no one else would see them. Somehow this got past Eurostar's QA as well—presumably because they, too, are behind the firewall.

This set up a flaw in Microsoft Outlook that will render the program mostly unusable until I get rid of the email using my phone. Because Outlook is too stupid to realize that, if it can't download an image from a particular local path because the path is not mappable, then it should still try all the other images on that path one at a time, blocking the UI thread as it goes. This means, for each image on the Eurostar email, I see something like this:

See how the URL doesn't begin with "http://" but instead begins with a double backslash ("\\")? Yeah, that's a local path to some server at the company who designed the email. Great work, guys. And great work, Outlook, for forcing users to wait for all the images to download before returning control of the UI. Because why wouldn't we want to stop everything in order to see the Eurostar corporate logo?

Tuesday 25 November 2014 09:37:17 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Software | Travel | Work#
Monday 24 November 2014

This morning I commuted to work in drizzle, wind, and 9°C temperatures. In the five hours since then, the rain has turned to snow, the wind has turned to gale, and the temperature has dropped 10°C.

Welcome to Chicago in November.

The biggest casualty of this in my life may be my FitBit. I've hit my goal of 10,000 steps every day for the last nine, and gotten close (>= 9,000 steps) every day this month except one. Today, I may hit 10,000 steps, but only if I really push myself. In the cold. And snow. And win.

Could happen, though. I'm already past 5,000, and my car is parked more than 2 km from my office. So if the wind isn't blasting ice pellets into my face this evening, I'll walk to rehearsal and possibly hit 10,000 steps on the way.

Monday 24 November 2014 13:30:28 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Kitchen Sink | Weather | Work#
Sunday 23 November 2014

A couple days ago I reviewed three logical fallacies that had come up with unusual frequency in my life over the preceding weeks. I wanted to add a few to the list.

An argument from authority (argumentum ad verecundiam) relies on the source's reputation rather than on evidence relevant to the argument:

  • "Mike Ditka recommends this product, so I should buy it too." (Mike Ditka knows a lot about how to coach a football team, but there is no evidence that he has any particular expertise around the product he's endorsing.)
  • "This class is valuable because business leaders believe it's valuable." (Even if the business leaders in question have specific knowledge about the class and may even have evidence that, in general, it's useful, they may not have information about you that obviates the class or renders it less valuable.)
  • "The President eats pork rinds, so they must be good for you.” (The speaker presents evidence only of the President's snack choices, not that pork rinds have any value in themselves.)

Also common is the (correct definition of) begging the question (petitio principii), in which an argument relies on itself instead of evidence:

Moe: "I always vote wisely."
Joe: "Why?"
Moe: "Because I always vote Republican."
Joe: "Why is voting Republican the wiser choice?"
Moe: "Because it just is."

Finally, the classic material fallacy of after this, therefore because of this (post hoc ergo propter hoc, also known as "correlation is not causation"):

  • "I know that breaking a mirror brings bad luck, because my cousin broke a mirror one day and had a car accident the next." (There is no clear causal chain between the events; they are essentially random.)
  • Superstitions are often manifestations of this fallacy.

The teaching materials I put together back in the day got a little more advanced, but I'm proud to report that the juniors and seniors who went through the lessons understood it and were able to apply it to the rest of the history class I assisted with. I may post more of them in the next few days.

Sunday 23 November 2014 10:57:49 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#

Only a little, it turns out. I'm in the second of three weeks without travel, but I'm back on the road for the first two weeks in December. I even have to miss a concert, which is a bad thing, but it's because I'll be doing a technical diligence in freakin' Paris, which est pas mal. I'm also going to see about taking a quick side-trip to London, which, given the agenda for the diligence and flight schedules back to the U.S., might not make a difference as far as my work schedule goes.

I've also noticed that I keep missing posts on Saturdays. Not sure why; possibly because I've had a lot going on during the week, and Saturdays have been a little more vegetative than expected.

Sunday 23 November 2014 10:33:51 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Blogs | Travel | Work#
Friday 21 November 2014

Chicago's temperature dropped below freezing last Wednesday morning and has stayed there since. It's -13°C now, the coldest it's been during this period.

Fortunately some warmer, wetter air is pushing in from the south, and should arrive after midnight. The forecast calls for sustained 9°C temperatures (and non-stop rain) from Saturday morning through Monday afternoon, when another cool air mass will slide into the region and freeze us out again.

Welcome to winter in Chicago. Warm rain and frigid dryness, for three months.

Friday 21 November 2014 07:09:47 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#

Via the Illinois State Climatologist, the NOAA Climate Prediction Center has released the latest outlook for December through February:

First, there are two important notes about the winter forecast. One is that El Niño has not arrived yet, and if it does, it is expected to be mild.

The other point is that the current conditions are not always a reliable predictor of future conditions. In other words, just because we are having a cold November (9 degrees below average), that does not doom us to another cold winter. To give a recent example, November of 2012 was 1.3 degrees below average, while the following winter of 2012-13 was 3.0 degrees above average.

The first panel shows the temperature odds for December-February, our core winter months. Southern Illinois has a slightly elevated chance of colder-than-average temperatures as does most of the southern states. There is a stronger chance that temperatures will be above-average on the West Coast and Alaska.

The El Niño was earlier forecast to be slightly stronger than the current forecast has it, which is disappointing. We're still experiencing frigid temperatures here, and it's not even December yet. El Niño can mitigate the cold in Chicago if it's strong enough. Now it looks like we're going to have the usual amount of chill. Fie.

Thursday 20 November 2014 18:55:58 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Thursday 20 November 2014

Yes, I'm actually in training this week that is required of everyone at my level. This morning we did an exercise on meeting planning. Our table came up with the following responses to the "Meeting Expectations/First Five Minutes" part:

  • Show appreciation for the meeting: "Mr. Wirtz, thank you for taking some time to meet with me today."
  • Confirm available time for meeting: "You mentioned you had about 15 minutes this morning. Is that still the case?"
  • Offer a look back...how did we get here? "As you will recall, yesterday we discussed releasing my godson from the personal service contract he has with you, in exchange for $10,000 in cash."
  • Briefly state the goals / objectives for the meeting: "I was hoping that we could revisit that conversation today, and that you would reconsider your position."
  • Agenda: "To help us meet these goals, I thought the following agenda might help us. First, I will make you an offer you can't refuse, and second, you will sign the release my attorney has prepared."
  • What other areas to be covered? "I assure you, if you do not consider my offer, you will cover the release in a personal and compelling way."
  • Brief introductions of...
    • Your firm's capabilities: "I am not sure you know about my organization, but perhaps I could provide a brief overview."
    • Your team/colleagues in the meeting: "Let me introduce you to my colleague, Luca Brasi."
  • Have a few "Killer Questions" that initiate dialogue: "Now that you understand Luca's role in this meeting, would you please sign this release now?"
  • Listen, be present, and probe; be "sincerely curious" in your follow-up questions: "I insist that this is the best offer you will ever receive from me, and I am eager to learn your position on it immediately."
  • Begin to wrap up with a few minutes remaining: "Thank you for your time. I am pleased that we were able to come to an agreement so quickly."
  • Summarize what you have heard: "I understand that you are also pleased with the outcome, and that $2,000 is a sufficient release fee, as we have just agreed."
  • Define specific next steps and, if appropriate, schedule follow-up meeting: "You will very likely not see me again, but I assure you, if a subsequent meeting is needed, perhaps because you have discussed this meeting with your colleagues or the Attorney General, Mr. Brasi will follow up with you in a timely and decisive fashion."

The other scenarios we batted around the table were more, ah, risqué, to say the least.

Thursday 20 November 2014 10:35:07 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Jokes | Kitchen Sink | Work#

Mayor William Ogden inaugurated the Galena & Chicago Union R.R. on this date in 1848:

In the fall of 1848, the Galena & Chicago Union Railroad began laying track. On November 20, a group of distinguished citizens boarded Chicago’s first train. They sat on wooden benches in a pair of crude baggage cars, pulled by a wood-burning steam engine. Ogden gave the signal, and they chugged off at a breath-taking fifteen miles-per-hour. In a half-hour they reached the end of track, eight miles out on the prairie, in what is now Oak Park.

Ogden had provided the rides for free, as a publicity stunt. And it worked–the riders were enthusiastic. On the way back to the city, two of the passengers spotted a farmer driving a load of wheat and hides behind a pair of oxen. The passengers were merchants. They had the train stopped, bought the wheat and hides, and hauled in the railroad’s first load of freight.

The railroad evolved into the Chicago & North Western, and then got absorbed into Union Pacific in the 1990s. But it still runs down the same track along Lake Street—the right-of-way first laid out 166 years ago.

Thursday 20 November 2014 10:00:32 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Geography | Kitchen Sink#
Wednesday 19 November 2014

Since we can't really see it in the middle of November in Chicago, here's what we're missing, sped up 58 times:

Wednesday 19 November 2014 06:56:34 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Astronomy#
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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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