The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

While the data uploads...

The final deployment of Weather Now encountered a hitch after loading exactly 3 million (of 7.2 million) place names. I've now kludged a response for the remaining 4.2 million rows, and a contingency plan should that upload fail.

Meanwhile, I have a saturated Internet connection. So rather than sit here and watch paint dry, so to speak, I'm bringing back some of the bugs that I decided to postpone fixing. The end result, I hope, will be a better-quality application than I'd planned to release—and a rainy Saturday made useful.

The Inner Drive Technology International Data Center's last day

Tomorrow morning, shortly after I have my coffee, I will finally turn off the last two production servers in my apartment the IDTIDC. The two servers in question, Cook and Kendall, have run more or less continuously since November 2006*, gobbling up power and making noise the whole time.

As I write this, I'm uploading the production Weather Now deployment along with the complete Inner Drive Gazetteer, a 7.2-million row catalog of place names that the site uses for finding people's local weather. It takes a while to upload 7.2 million of anything, of course; and it's only 35% done after two hours. Trying to deploy the Cloud package at the same time may not have made the most sense, but I need the weather downloader to start running now so that when I cut over to the new site, it has actual weather to show people.

I started this project on November 3rd, logging almost exactly 100 hours on it until today. I'm through the tunnel and almost done climbing up the embankment. One more night of whirring fans and then...quiet.

Update: Crap. The Gazetteer upload crashed after 3 million rows. Now Plan B...

* Yes, I did just link to the Wayback Machine there. The original Inner Drive blog is offline for the time being. I have a task to restore it, as I haven't updated it since 2008, it's not a priority.

Another update: the original link at (*) pointed to Wayback Machine, but after reconstituting the old blog I corrected the link. That's why the footnote above no longer makes a lot of sense.

Illinois GOP maintains its election-losing ideological purity

The Illinois Republican Party will vote tomorrow on whether to kick out chairman Pat Brady after he took public positions contrary to the party platform:

Brady, of St. Charles, could be ousted over his statements supporting same-sex marriage Saturday, with committeemen meeting in Tinley Park to decide his fate.

State Sen. Jim Oberweis of Sugar Grove, 14th District Republican committeeman and a leader in the effort to remove Brady, said Brady's situation is different from committeemen who stray from the party platform.

What position on marriage equality? Well, Brady's for it—as are most of the party's senior leaders—and Oberweis isn't. Funny thing, in the last election Republicans in Illinois took a huge beating, in part because of their policies on marriage equality and other social issues. The party chairman wants to win elections. Oberweis wants ideological purity.

You have to love the Republicans these days. I've never seen a party work so hard to lose. And I'm a Democrat.

This just in: the President can't assassinate you on U.S. soil

Glad we cleared that up:

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney announced during Thursday’s briefing that Attorney General Eric Holder sent a letter to Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) this morning regarding the administration’s policy on drone strikes targeting Americans on U.S. soil. Holder’s letter stated definitively that the U.S. would not use “weaponized” drones to targets American citizens on domestic soil.

Reading directly from Holder’s letter to Paul, Carney said, “Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil? The answer is no.”

Well, that's a relief. I was worried we'd repealed the constitution.

I may have more about Rand Paul's filibuster and John McCain's complete failure to understand its significance later.

Exhaling mentally

That's the problem. People inhale and exhale mentally, and right now, I'm exhaling. This means I get a lot of work done, but not a lot of reading. This, in turn, means more lists like this:


The efficiency of working from home

Principally, it means not having to commute in 15 cm of snow. It also means several uninterrupted hours of working on stuff. And, unfortunately, not reading all this yet:

Now to walk Parker in the snow, and keep working...

Dawn Clark Netsch, 1926-2013

Netsch was Illinois' first female nominee for governor and the Illinois controller in the 1990s. She died this morning at age 86 from complications from ALS:

She was one of the first female law professors in the United States. A liberal Democrat, she defeated the Machine-backed incumbent state Sen. Danny O’Brien to win a seat in the Illinois Senate in 1972 that she held for 18 years. Elected comptroller in 1990, she was the first woman elected to statewide office in Illinois and, four years later, the first to run with the backing of a major political party for governor, losing to incumbent Gov. Jim Edgar.

Netsch said she “never ran as a woman” but always argued, “More women are needed to make a difference in public policy.”

“She paved the way for others,” President Barack Obama wrote in a letter read at the event by former senior presidential adviser David Axelrod. “The unwavering grace and integrity [Netsch] has shown throughout decades of public service are an inspiration to us all. Dawn’s legacy will live forever in our hearts and the history books.”

I volunteered for her 1994 gubernatorial campaign against Jim Edgar. I remember the campaign, especially how excited we were to work for her. We didn't even come close in the general election—Edgar got re-elected with 34% of the vote—but we thought we made a difference. We might have; Edgar and his successor, George Ryan, were moderate Republicans who resisted the creeping Christianism of their parties.

She will be missed. If Illinois native Hillary Clinton gets nominated for president in 2016, she can, in part, thank Netsch for the example.

Weather Now 4.0 released to Beta

I don't know what to do with myself the rest of the day. I've just deployed the completely-redesigned Weather Now application. I feel 10 kilos lighter.

Check out the preview on Windows Azure.

The application started in mid-1997 as a feature of the now-defunct, my proto-blog. The last major changes happened in 2006, when I gave it a face-lift. I've occasionally pushed some bug fixes, but really, until today it has looked and acted essentially the same way for 6 years. (The GetWeather application, which downloads and parses data from outside sources, hasn't changed significantly since 2002.)

So what's new? In sum:

  • The application now runs on Microsoft Windows Azure, up in the cloud. (Check out the preview!)
  • This means it also runs on Azure SQL Database instead of on-site SQL Server.
  • Since I had to port the database anyway, I completely re-architected it.
  • The database rearchitecture included moving its archives to Azure Storage, which will pay benefits once I update the UI to take advantage of it.
  • The ancient (1997, with revisions in 1999, 2002, and 2005) GetWeather application, which downloads weather data from outside sources, got rebuilt from byte 0 as well.
  • Finally, I fixed 35 bugs that the old architecture either caused or made fixing overly difficult.

There are a few bugs in the preview, of course. This morning I found and fixed 6 of them, all related to architectural changes under the hood that the creaky user interface didn't understand. And just now, I discovered that it thinks the sun never shines anywhere—again, almost certainly a problem related to changing from using the broken System.DateTime object to its replacement, System.DateTimeOffset. Always another bug to fix...

Still: I'm done with the port to Azure. I'll bang away on it for the next week, and if all works out, on Saturday I'll finally, finally, finally turn off my servers.

Ten years later

James Fallows has a thoughtful piece looking back at the start of the Iraq War, ten years ago this month:

Anyone now age 30 or above should probably reflect on what he or she got right and wrong ten years ago.

I feel I was right in arguing, six months before the war in "The Fifty-First State," that invading Iraq would bring on a slew of complications and ramifications that would take at least a decade to unwind.

I feel not "wrong" but regretful for having resigned myself even by that point to the certainty that war was coming. We know, now, that within a few days of the 9/11 attacks many members of the Bush Administration had resolved to "go to the source," in Iraq. Here at the magazine, it was because of our resigned certainty about the war that Cullen Murphy, then serving as editor, encouraged me in early 2002 to do an examination of what invading and occupying Iraq would mean. The resulting article was in our November, 2002 issue; we put it on line in late August in hopes of influencing the debate.

My article didn't come out and say as bluntly as it could have: we are about to make a terrible mistake we will regret and should avoid. Instead I couched the argument as cautionary advice. We know this is coming, and when it does, the results are going to be costly, damaging, and self-defeating. So we should prepare and try to diminish the worst effects (for Iraq and for us). This form of argument reflected my conclusion that the wheels were turning and that there was no way to stop them. Analytically, that was correct: Tony Blair or Colin Powell might conceivably have slowed the momentum, if either of them had turned anti-war in time, but few other people could have. Still, I'd feel better now if I had pushed the argument harder at the time.

Almost done publishing the first beta of the new Weather Now. If it's successful, I'll post the link tomorrow.