For the first time in about 5 years—since 2008, I believe—I have no travel scheduled. It's an odd feeling, but one I'll soon rectify. Just not sure where or when to go yet.
Meanwhile, Chuck Thompson, author of Better Off Without 'Em: A Northern manifesto for Southern secession, bemoans the homogeneity of every small city and its brewpub:
Whenever some self-appointed hometown convention and visitors’ bureau rep (and sometimes it’s an actual CVB rep) takes you to that cool little place in the downtown renaissance district where they actually make their own beer—So cool! Nobody does that, right?—you know you’re in trouble. Or, more precisely, you know you’re in that bastion of municipal mediocrity: the newly anointed “It” City.
Artisanal ice cream, gluten-free pizza, burrito trucks run by real Mexicans, jalapeño-infused margaritas, celebrity graffiti sprayers, and First Thursday art walks in revitalized industrial zones promoted by farsighted civic planners armed with government tax schemes—these are the totems of It City. I’m certain Nashville has plenty of them to brag about. But, then again, so do Asheville, Austin, Baltimore, Boulder, Burlington, Las Vegas, Madison, Portland, Raleigh-Durham, San Diego, Santa Monica, Savannah, Seattle, Taos, Tucson, the Twin Cities, and a klatch of other cities that have ascended the heights of those “most livable,” “coolest,” and “best” lists.
Yes. We had brewpubs in Chicago before it was cool. Now Poughkeepsie is getting into the act. Awesome.
Over the past two days, Microsoft Azure had two outages they're still investigating. The first, from 18:26 CST through 20:00 CST Monday (0026 to 0200 UTC Tuesday), and the second, from 13:50 to 15:27 CST (1950-2127 UTC) yesterday, affected SQL Database and related services in the Azure datacenter outside Washington, D.C.
I noticed the Monday evening outage as it happened, because when a database goes down, a number of applications start sending me emails. A couple of people had minor inconveniences, but as it happened on a holiday evening, the damage wasn't too severe.
I did not notice the Tuesday afternoon outage, which did affect a lot of people and made some of my clients very angry, because I was on an airplane. When I landed and turned on my phone, I had 300 emails from various applications and mercifully only 4 from angry clients. (Welcome home!)
determined reported the cause yet, but given the maintenance they had planned, started, and then backed out on Sunday night, they may have a clue. They have a second round of maintenance planned for tonight at midnight CST (0600 UTC). I'll be watching carefully tomorrow morning.
After only 147 years, the state of Mississippi has finally ratified the 13th Amendment:
On Dec. 6, 1865, the amendment received the three-fourths' vote it needed when Georgia became the 27th state to ratify it. States that rejected the measure included Delaware, Kentucky, New Jersey and Mississippi.
In the months and years that followed, states continued to ratify the amendment, including those that had initially rejected it. New Jersey ratified the amendment in 1866, Delaware in 1901 and Kentucky in 1976.
But there was an asterisk beside Mississippi. A note read: “Mississippi ratified the amendment in 1995, but because the state never officially notified the US Archivist, the ratification is not official.”
On Jan. 30, [Secretary of State Delbert] Hosemann sent the Office of the Federal Register a copy of the 1995 Senate resolution, adopted by both the Mississippi Senate and House.
On Feb. 7, Charles A. Barth, director of the Federal Register, wrote back that he had received the resolution: “With this action, the State of Mississippi has ratified the 13th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.”
Dr. Ranjan Batra, associate professor of neurobiology and anatomical sciences at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, drove the correction. It's nice to see Mississippi finally correct an oversight like this.
Via Sullivan, a catalog of strange things we do with gadgets:
You’re on your cell phone, talking to a friend, pacing in circles, fidgeting with your hands, checking your cuticles–whatever it is you do while you’re on the phone. They’re odd, pointless behaviors, but we do them nonetheless, and a group of designers from the Art Center College of Design has taken it upon themselves to illustrate and document all of them (sort of like that Illustrated Dictionary of Cyborg Anthropology).
There’s the “Security Blanket” (checking your smartphone for no particular reason when faced with the slightest discomfort in a social situation), the “Halfway Courtesy” (taking one earbud out in order to show a person you’re listening to them), the “Haunted Interface” (performing actions an interface can’t react to, like shaking a video game controller), and many others. All of the actions are collected in a free ebook called Curious Rituals. Researcher Nicolas Nova explains in the book’s introduction.
Meanwhile, I'm doing my strange ritual of camping at Peet's Coffee before dawn to make sure I stay reasonably close to Chicago time for the weekend. Otherwise, Wednesday will be hell.
Flying out of O'Hare yesterday we passed this unhappy specimen:
The 787 Dreamliner has been there over a month now, having gotten stuck in Chicago when the difficulties started. (I've actually been through O'Hare five times since it got stranded, but yesterday was the first time my airplane took off from 22L, giving me a close enough look to snap a photo.)
Blogger Rod Hilton believes he has found the best way to watch the Star Wars films: IV, V, II, III, VI. First he lays out the problems watching the saga in episode order and filmed order:
The problem with Episode Order is that it ruins the surprise that Vader is Luke’s father. If you think that this reveal doesn’t matter since it’s common knowledge, I suggest you watch the looks on these kids’ faces. This reveal is one of the most shocking in film history, and if a newcomer to the series has managed to avoid having it spoiled for them, watching the films in Episode Order would be like watching the ending of The Sixth Sense first.
Unfortunately, Release Order is also an instant failure, and the reason is a single shot. If you’re watching the original trilogy first, then after the Empire is destroyed and everyone is celebrating, Luke looks over at his mentors, Ben Kenobi and Yoda, and suddenly they are joined by… some random creepy looking teenager who needs a haircut.
The Machete Order strengthens the storyline and ultimately makes the whole saga coherent—and dramatic:
Effectively, this order keeps the story Luke’s tale. Just when Luke is left with the burning question “how did my father become Darth Vader?” we take an extended flashback to explain exactly how. Once we understand how his father turned to the dark side, we go back to the main storyline and see how Luke is able to rescue him from it and salvage the good in him.
The prequel backstory comes at the perfect time, because Empire Strikes Back ends on a huge cliffhanger. Han is in carbonite, Vader is Luke’s father, and the Empire has hit the rebellion hard. Delaying the resolution of this cliffhanger makes it all the more satisfying when Return of the Jedi is watched.
I don't remember how I stumbled upon this article (Sullivan, probably), but the whole chain of links included children trying to understand A New Hope, a site devoted to military and political analysis of sci-fi and fantasy, and the Battle of Hoth deconstructed by Spencer Ackerman.
If I only get two days of downtime this month, I'm going down the rabbit-hole of Star Wars reification, by god!
Lots to do in the next 19 hours...including a conference call with a data center at 10:30 tonight.
The Cranky Flier gives American and USAirways advice following their Valentines Day announcement of corporate nuptials:
Get Rid of the Old American
Sure, technically everyone who works at American today is part of the old American, but that’s not what I mean. There are key people – and processes – that epitomize the old American and those need to be swept out quickly. If these folks don’t see the writing on the wall, then the new management team needs to act. Number one on that list is, of course, Tom Horton, but they can’t officially sweep him out because he had to stay on as part of the deal as Non-Executive Chairman. But really, he needs to become Non-Existent Chairman. From the looks of this deal, he won’t be around much and it won’t be for very long.
But it’s not just Horton. There are others at the top who will remain nameless that need to go. At the same time, there are some really great VPs that the new management team needs to woo to keep them onboard. The culture of the new American will start at the top, so the people up there need to be in place sooner rather than later and they need to really focus on solidifying the new combined culture.
Protect the Brand Assets
As things churn forward, American needs to be sure to protect its brand assets. None is bigger than AAdvantage, one of the best frequent flier programs out there. The temptation is always there to devalue it, but American as a brand has been devalued for years, and people are going to be tempted to flee during the prospect of another tough merger. So if you’re American, you need to focus on the things that really have strong value, and AAdvantage is one of them. Use the program to bring people back to the airline.
I'll be watching this closely, of course. Over the next five days I have three American flight segments; you can bet I'll be talking to the FAs and pilots.
Also worth a look: Crain's analyzes how the deal affects Chicago.
The boards of American Airlines parent AMR Corp. and US Airways Group late Wednesday separately voted to approve a merger that would create the world's largest airline, The Wall Street Journal reports.
"The merger will be formally announced early Thursday morning. Under the all-stock deal's terms, American's creditors would own 72% of the combined airline, and US Airways shareholders the balance," the Journal writes.
"Under the all-stock deal's terms, American's creditors would own 72% of the combined airline, and US Airways shareholders the balance. US Airways Chief Executive Doug Parker will run the combined company as chief executive. AMR CEO Tom Horton will serve as nonexecutive board chairman, likely until the spring or summer of 2014, the time of the new company's first annual meeting after American emerges from bankruptcy protection . . . The airline will likely have a market capitalization exceeding $10 billion, and the value could approach $11 billion."
Yay! My frequent flier miles are saved! Oh, and so are jobs, and revenue in Chicago.
Paul Krugman has a more considered view of Rubio's blame-game:
Look, this is one of the most thoroughly researched topics out there, and every piece of the government-did-it thesis has been refuted; see Mike Konczal for a summary. No, the CRA wasn’t responsible for the epidemic of bad lending; no, Fannie and Freddie didn’t cause the housing bubble; no, the “high-risk” loans of the GSEs weren’t remotely as risky as subprime.
This strikes me as a bigger deal than whether Rubio slurped his water; he and his party are now committed to the belief that their pre-crisis doctrine was perfect, that there are no lessons from the worst financial crisis in three generations except that we should have even less regulation. And given another shot at power, they’ll test that thesis by giving the bankers a chance to do it all over again.