The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

God to GOP: "That was just a warning."

The Republican National Committee has cancelled the first night of their quadrennial convention because of Tropical Storm Isaac:

That move essentially postpones the activities of the first of four scheduled days of the convention. But [RNC Chair Reince] Priebus said in a conference call with reporters that the details of the revised schedule were not yet settled, and could be announced as soon as Sunday.

"The Republican National Convention is going to take place. We know that we will officially nominate Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan," he said.

The impending hurricane aside, Republicans already did some last-minute reshuffling for their convention order, moving Ann Romney's speech to Tuesday from Monday because major television networks hadn't planned to broadcast the first night of the convention.

(Emphasis mine, impressed that the GOP can spin lemonade out of a hurricane.) Still, even though Isaac looks to brush Tampa on the cheek instead of hitting it on the nose as it appeared Friday, as an atheist I'm enjoying the theological implications of the right-wing religious party having their biggest event in four years disrupted by a weather event.

Will they moderate their views about human-caused climate change? Will they whistle past this graveyard? Will monkeys fly out of my butt while I'm typing this? I think we know the answer to all three questions.

Moving FogBugz to Azure

I should really learn to estimate networking and migration tasks better. The last time I upgraded my FogBugz instance on my local web server, it took about 20 minutes. This led me to estimate the time to migrate it to a Microsoft Azure Virtual Machine at 2 hours.

Well, 2½ hours later, I'm a little frustrated, but possibly closer to getting this accomplished.

The point of a virtual machine, of course, is that it should appear the same as any other machine anywhere. But using an Azure VM means either using an Azure SQL Database or installing SQL Server right on the VM. Obviously you'd want to do the former, unless you really like pain. Unfortunately, FogBugz doesn't make it easy to do this, and in fact puts up roadblocks you'll need to get around.

Here, then, are the steps I went through trying to get FogBugz moved to an Azure VM:

0. First, before anything else, I copied my FogBugz database in its entirety up to a new Azure SQL Database using the incredibly useful SQL Azure Migration Wizard tool.

1. Ran the FogBugz installer on the VM. It didn't accept my database connection because SQL in Azure doesn't have the xp_msver extended stored procedure that lets FogBugz know what version of SQL it uses.

2. Checked Fog Creek Software's support forum. They don't support FogBugz on Azure SQL Databases.

3. Attempted to create the xp_msver stored procedure on the SQL Azure master database; permission denied.

4. Installed SQL Server 2008 Express on the VM.

5. Re-ran the FogBugz installer. It can't connect to the IIS configuration file, and therefore thinks I don't have IIS on the machine.

6. Re-ran the FogBugz installer, this time just extracting the files to a folder under the VM's Web root.

7. Set up a new application in IIS pointing to the FogBugz folder.

That put me in the weeds, because the application has no configuration settings available. Opening the app in a browser gives me the error message: "The FogBugz database is down or could not be found." It further suggests that I need to change the registry entry HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Fog Creek Software\FogBugz\{application folder}\sConnectionString. So I did, and I got the same error.

The reason is that on 64-bit servers, the FogBugz configuration keys aren't in HKLM\Software; they're really in HKLM\Wow6432Node. I figured this out because, remember, I have a running FogBugz installation, and I was able to search the server's registry directly.

All right, moving on:

8. Copied my existing server's FogBugz registry keys (from the right registry folder) to the VM.

Nope. FogBugz still gave me the same error. I also copied the connection string to the registry key FogBugz claimed it was looking in, with the same result.

OK, I'm going to now uninstall everything and reboot the VM, then try again to install FogBugz pointing to SQL Express. Back in a flash...

(20 minutes later...)

OK, FogBugz installed cleanly, but at the moment it's pointing to the local SQL Express database. So: change the connection string to SQL Azure...and bam! It works.

Excellent. Only two applications left to move...

The goose is loose!

Goose Island beer will start distributing to all 50 states by November:

The move will continue remarkable growth for what began as a small brewpub in its current Clybourn Avenue location in 1988, and has arguably become the beer most synonymous with Chicago. But a national reach also seemed inevitable once brewery founder John Hall sold the company to AB at a time when craft beer sales were soaring and macro breweries were struggling to enter the marketplace.

Production of Goose Island's biggest-selling and highest-produced beers — 312 Urban Wheat Ale, Honker's Ale, India Pale Ale and seasonal brews like Mild Winter — will expand to AB's Ft. Collins, Colo. brewery. The beers will also continue to be made at an AB plant in Baldwinsville, N.Y., as well as in smaller amounts at the Red Hook brewery in Portsmouth, N.H. and Chicago.

Colorado water? I don't think Colorado has the right amount of lead, arsenic, or radon to give it the proper flavor.

Fortunately, the high-end beers like Sofie will stay in Chicago, and presumably the brewpubs on Clybourn and in Wrigleyville will continue to make beer with proper Chicago water. We'll see.

Link round-up

Three projects and a head cold have robbed me of time and energy this week. I've only got a few minutes this afternoon to list some of the more interesting things I've read in the past day:

OK, back to the mines...

This is "serious" and "deep thinking" in the GOP

Chicago music critic Jim DiRogatis questions Paul Ryan's reasoning skills in light of his views about Rage Against the Machine:

Beyond the hypocrisy of the representative from Wisconsin’s love for Rage Against the Machine is evidence of an even more troubling problem, however. Portrayed as the new driving force of the Republican party, intellectually and philosophically (and here, The New Yorker’s recent pre-announcement profile was amazingly prescient and full of insight), you have to question the actual analytical acumen of an alleged deep thinker who can so blithely ignore the very core of Rage Against the Machine. If he can’t get that right, why should we trust him about the budget?

And as Krugman says, Ryan is a Very Serious Person, with the same problem as other Very Serious People: he's flat wrong most of the time.

Party like it's 1699!

Krugman this morning dug a little into Paul Ryan's infatuation with Ayn Rand, specifically around Ryan's admission that he likes her monetary policy. Through a character in Atlas Shrugged, Rand yearned for the days before "fiat" money replaced good, hard specie. In other words, before the 18th Century:

Aside from revealing just how much of a Rand fanboy Ryan is — urban legend, my foot — this is interesting because that 23 paragraph speech isn’t just a call for the gold standard; it’s a call for eliminating paper money and going back to gold coins.

This had me wondering: when was the last time the economy actually ran on specie, rather than notes? of 1813 there was only $7 million worth of coins in the hands of the U.S. public, versus $52 million in bank notes. So even two centuries ago, we were already a paper-money economy.

And this means that Ryan wants to turn the clock back two centuries, not one.

Most people I've known over the years who believed in Ayn Rand's philosophies as teenagers eventually grew out of it. Paul Ryan apparently hasn't spent enough time interacting with reality that he's moved on. There is a reason that Objectivism appeals to adolescent, affluent white boys: it's very close to the way adolescent, affluent white boys already see the world. In some: "mine!" It's sad when affluent, adolescent white boys stay adolescent well into their Congressional careers.

TS Isaac creates a theological conundrum

The National Hurricane Center predicts that Tropical Storm Isaac, currently smashing through the windward islands, may strike Tampa during the GOP convention:

Of course, five days out the forecast has tremendous uncertainty. The storm could change course or dissipate before hitting Florida, for example. But Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, speaking about next week's GOP convention, is absolutely willing to call it off if they need to evacuate Tampa:

So, my question is, now that the religious right has all but taken over the Republican Party, what would it mean if an "act of God" shut down their convention in a Presidential election year?

Groupon's daily snooze

Groupon, now trading somewhere around 25% of its IPO value, continues to unimpress people:

The disclosure that I found most revealing in last week's financial report was the relationship between Groupon's marketing spending and its growth rate. Traditional daily-deal revenue declined 6.9 percent from the first quarter to the second, as Groupon dialed back marketing outlays by 24 percent.

Hawking Groupon shares in the IPO roadshow, Mr. Mason said the company eventually would be able to cut back on marketing without sacrificing growth. This was meant to assure prospective investors that money-losing Groupon would become “wildly profitable,” as Executive Chairman and co-founder Eric Lefkofsky put it in an illicit media interview during the IPO registration process.

My guess is that another quarter or two like the last one will be enough to ease Mr. Mason into a position better suited to his eclectic interests. The challenge will be finding a replacement with certifiable executive skills and strategic vision.

Which prompts the question of what a better strategy for Groupon might be. Mr. Mason talks about becoming the “operating system for local commerce,” jargon that could mean anything—or nothing. Corporate mumbo-jumbo won't help Groupon now. It needs a new business.

I've noted before, Groupon's IPO benefited only one group of people: Groupon investors. The company has an easily-copied idea, and appears to lose money on every coupon it sells. Good on them for having $1 bn in cash; they'll need it.