The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Horse? Gone. Ship? Sailed. Car? Ticketed.

The Chicago Tribune reports today that the City Council now, five months later, wants to have hearings about the late-night, rush-rush, badly-managed parking meter privitization they pushed through in December:

Less than five months after the Chicago City Council quickly and overwhelmingly approved the deal, aldermen buffeted by public complaints pushed a slew of ordinances Wednesday targeting the $1.2 billion lease of Chicago's parking meters to a private company.

One measure calls for hearings to examine the deal, which ushered in dramatic rate hikes at 36,000 meters across the city. Another would halt rate increases until all meters are uprooted and replaced with "pay and display" equipment allowing motorists to pay with credit cards and place tickets on their dashboards. Yet a third would require a 30-day waiting period before aldermen could approve any plan to privatize city assets.

The proposals appear aimed at giving aldermen political cover amid widespread discontent and technical problems as the parking meter system transitions to private control.

Not that people don't carry around buckets-full of quarters wherever they go. Not that charging the same price for parking all the time and throughout the city fails to take account of the fundamental principles of demand economics. No, now let's have hearings.

I can't tell whether they were stupid or if they all got paid off. That's how badly they handled this. (Usually in Chicago the politicians aren't actually stupid, they just lose IQ points when confronted with fat envelopes.)

Geologic intellects in Congress

Via TPM, Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) thinks he stumped Nobel laureate Stephen Chu:

Barton: You’re our scientist. I have one simple question for you in the last six seconds. How did all the oil and gas get to Alaska and under the Arctic Ocean?

Chu: (laughs) This is a complicated story, but oil and gas is the result of hundreds of millions of years of geology, and in that time also the plates have moved around, and so, um, it’s the combination of where the sources of the oil and gas are–

Barton: But, but wouldn’t it obvious that at one time it was a lot warmer in Alaska and on the North Pole. It wasn’t a big pipeline that we created in Texas and shipped it up there and then put it under ground so that we can now pump it out and ship it back.

Chu: No. There are–there’s continental plates that have been drifting around throughout the geological ages–

Barton: So it just drifted up there?

Chu: That’s certainly what happened. And so it’s a result of thinks like that.

(Low whistle...)


That's the word the first commenter used to describe Paul Krugman's conclusion about the march to war:

Let's say this slowly: the Bush administration wanted to use 9/11 as a pretext to invade Iraq, even though Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. So it tortured people to make them confess to the nonexistent link.

There's a word for this: it’s evil.

If that's shrill, we need to re-examine the 2002 State of the Union address, don't we?

Spring Cleaning in Washington

Via Daily Howler, Naomi Klein argues we should throw out Larry Summers:

The criticisms of President Obama's chief economic adviser are well known. He's too close to Wall Street. And he's a frightful bully, of both people and countries. Still, we're told we shouldn't care about such minor infractions. Why? Because Summers is brilliant, and the world needs his big brain.

And this brings us to a central and often overlooked cause of the global financial crisis: Brain Bubbles. This is the process wherein the intelligence of an inarguably intelligent person is inflated and valued beyond all reason, creating a dangerous accumulation of unhedged risk. Larry Summers is the biggest Brain Bubble we've got.

...And that's the problem with Larry. For all his appeals to absolute truths, he has been spectacularly wrong again and again. He was wrong about not regulating derivatives. Wrong when he helped kill Depression-era banking laws, turning banks into too-big-to-fail welfare monsters. And as he helps devise ever more complex tricks and spends ever more taxpayer dollars to keep the financial casino running, he remains wrong today.

She makes a pretty good point.

Very much forgotten

So, on a recommendation, I picked up a copy of Barbara Bleau's Forgotten Calculus, to brush up on the subject in advance of starting business school this fall.

Only, I haven't forgotten calculus. No, my problem is, I never learned it in the first place.[1]

So if anyone knows of a book called "Calculus You Never Learned In The First Place," please let me know.

[1] I guess you could say I'm a bit behind the curve.

What's new in Weather Now, part 1

I announced Friday that I deployed a complete, ground-up rewrite of Weather Now, but it looks a lot like the old version. So what's really different?

The differences between the versions go all the way down to the operating system. Version 3.1, which I launched in July 2007, ran on ASP.NET 2.0, SQL Server 2005, and a motley collection of sub-components I wrote from 1999 to 2004. The current version runs on ASP.NET 3.5, SQL Server 2008, and completely new components I re-wrote from first principles starting in September 2007.

I've got a lot of technical information about the foundation code, called the Inner Drive Extensible Architecture, over at my professional website. The IDEA handles all the nuts and bolts of the Weather Now application: messaging, database access, measurement conversions, time zones, and on and on.

The next layer up from that is the Gazetteer, version 0.5, which I wrote as an interim product to bridge between the geographical database that ran Weather Now 2.0 through 3.1, and the completely-new geographical database I'm planning for 2010.

Right under the user interface (UI) layer is another set of components dealing specifically with weather. Like the Gazetteer 0.5, the Weather 3.5 components bridge between the existing (2.0/3.0/3.1) weather data and the new design I'm working on. The combination of Gazetteer 0.5 and Weather 3.5 means that I could rewrite the application without worrying about the database.

Finally, at the top, a completely-rewritten user interface, written just in the last few weeks. (I had to write all the invisible stuff first.)

You can see an obvious problem with this, at least from a P.R. perspective: it's really hard to see any differences between old and new, unless you know what to look for.

Over the next few weeks, I'll describe in more detail what changed. I'll start with an issue that bugged the heck out of everyone, including me, for years.

Here's the top of the old home page:

There's the truly annoying measurement drop-down, showing "Aviation" as the current measurement system, and the temperature and wind readings from Chicago, showing degrees Celsius and knots, respectively. Every time you go to a new page, the application resets to Aviation, even if you tell it repeatedly you want to use English or Metric measures.

Here's the new version:

No dropdown. And, for people using U.S. English as their default language (your browser automatically communicates this information), the application defaults to degrees Fahrenheit and miles per hour.

A user from France, however, would see this:

So how do you change what you see? The new Preferences page, which not only lets you choose any available language or measurement system, but also remembers what you've chosen for your whole session—or permanently, if you have cookies enabled.

All the new code I developed for the application made fixing this long-standing annoyance almost trivially easy. Still, it's not complete yet. Version 3.7, which I hope to release this autumn, will allow users to create their own profiles, permanently storing not only their language and measurement choices, but also things like what they want shown on the home page.

There's another thing the screen shots show that you may have noticed. I'll talk about that next time.

There is no joy in Mudville

(Mudville is that $1.5 billion park just over the Harlem River in the Bronx.) The Yankees had a disappointing 2nd inning hosting the Indians yesterday as Cleveland set a new Major League record:

A 37-minute top of the second at Yankee Stadium saw the Tribe put up 14 runs on 13 hits off right-handers Chien-Ming Wang and Anthony Claggett. The big inning, which set the Tribe on course for its eventual 22-4 victory, tied for the most productive inning in Indians history and set a record for the most productive inning by an opponent in Yankees history.

The 14 runs set a Major League record for the most in the second inning. The record was 13, and it was last accomplished, ironically, by the Yankees exactly four years ago against Tampa Bay.

In other news, the Cubs beat the Cardinals yesterday 7-5 at Wrigley after 11 innings.