The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

McConnell threatens to abide by the Constitution

Where to begin with the latest from the GOP:

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Tuesday starkly warned Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) not to eliminate the filibuster on presidential nominations, warning that he’ll end the 60-vote threshold for everything, including bills, if becomes the majority leader.

The minority leader sketched out what a Republican-led Senate would do with 51 votes. Job No. 1, he said, would be to repeal Obamacare. He also mentioned lifting the ban on oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, approving the Keystone XL pipeline and repealing the estate tax (which he called the “death tax”).

“These are the kinds of priorities that our members feel strongly about, and I think I would be hard pressed,” McConnell said, “to argue that we should restrain ourselves from taking full advantage of this new Senate.”

A couple of things immediately spring to mind here:

  • The odds of the Republicans taking over the Senate in 2014 are vanishingly small. They only have 46 members right now, in a country getting less white, less male, and less old, and yet they keep nominating really, really unpopular candidates.
  • Even if they controlled the Senate, the Democratic Party still controls the White House. Should the GOP-led Senate and GOP-led House both pass things like a repeal of the ACA, the Senate wouldn't override the President's guaranteed veto.
  • Where in the Constitution does it say the Senate needs a three-fifths vote to conduct its business? I would like filibusters to go away entirely—except for the Mr. Smith-style talking filibusters that require members to take a stand and hold the floor. In other words: Go ahead, McConnell. Make my day.

The sooner Harry Reid gets rid of the minority's ability to stymie the legislative process merely by threatening to filibuster, the sooner the vast majority of Americans will have a legislature again.

That rug really tied the room together, did it not?

My poor sick dog didn't completely destroy my rugs, but Eli Peer has a job on his hands. Even without the, uh, contributions from Parker last week, the six years of accumulated dog hair mitigated in favor of a good deep cleaning as well. Eli recommends cleaning rugs every couple of years, so mine were long overdue anyway. Judging by the portion covered by the bookshelves in the photo below—a portion without dog hair, dirt, and innumerable other insults—they looked pretty dire. Here's the room in 2008:

Here it is on Saturday:

And in case you don't recognize the line, here's one of its funnier instances.


Via Sullivan, scholar John Suiter discovered a recording of Allen Ginsberg reading "Howl" at Oregon's Reed College in 1956:

It’s also easy to forget that Allen Ginsberg’s generation-defining poem “Howl” was once almost a casualty of censorship. The most likely successor to Walt Whitman’s vision, Ginsberg’s oracular utterances did not sit well with U.S. Customs, who in 1957 tried to seize every copy of the British second printing. When that failed, police arrested the poem’s publisher, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and he and Ginsberg’s “Howl” were put on trial for obscenity. Apparently, phrases like “cock and endless balls” did not sit well with the authorities. But the court vindicated them all.

The recording [linked above] sat dormant in Reed’s archives for over fifty years until scholar John Suiter rediscovered it in 2008. In it, Ginsberg reads his great prophetic work, not with the cadences of a street preacher or jazzman—both of which he had in his repertoire—but in an almost robotic monotone with an undertone of manic urgency. Ginsberg’s reading, before an intimate group of students in a dormitory lounge, took place only just before the first printing of the poem in the City Lights edition.

That's almost sixty years ago; the poet was 30. For what it's worth, I bought my copy at City Lights many years ago.

Inner Drive Azure benefits

As I promised four weeks ago, I have the final data on moving all my stuff to Windows Azure. I delayed posting this data because Azure pricing recently changed, as a number of services went from Preview to Production and stopped offering 25% discounts.

The concrete results are mixed at the moment, though increasing within the next couple of months. The intangible results are much, much improved.

First, electricity use. Looking at comparable quarters (March through May), my electricity consumption is down two thirds—even before air-conditioning season:

Consumption from March-May 2013 was 1028 kW/h, compared with 3098 kW/h over 2012. But this explains why the concrete benefits will improve: during June-August 2011, when all of the servers were running and so was the air conditioner, use was 4115 kW/h. I'm expecting to use less than 1800 kW/h this summer, just a little more than the one-month consumption in June 2011.

Costs, alas, have not fallen as much as hoped, unless you add the replacement costs of the servers. I'm currently running 3 SQL Database servers (consuming 2 GB), 3 extra-small cloud service instances, 1 small virtual machine, and 55 GB of storage. Total cost: $150.

Electricity in June 2013 was $55, compared with $165 in June 2012.

Don't forget the Office 365 subscription to replace my Exchange server at $26.

Finally, DSL and phone service went down from $115 to $60, because I dropped the phone service. Temporarily I'm supplementing the DSL with a FiOS service for $30. In a few months, when AT&T bumps the FiOS from 1.5 Mbps to 30 Mbps (they promise!), FiOS will go up to $50 and the DSL will go away.

So, cash flow for June 2012 was $279, and for June 2013 was $289. Factoring in the variability of electricity costs means Azure costs exactly the same as running my own rack.

What about the intangible costs? Well, let's see...I no longer have 8U of rack-mounted servers spinning their cooling fans 24/7 in my Chicago apartment. When I shut them off, the place got so much quieter I could hardly believe it. And I no longer worry about the power going out and losing email while I'm out of town.

In other words, I'm literally sleeping better.

Also, moving to Azure forced me to refactor my demo site Weather Now so extensively that I can now add a ton of really cool features that the old design couldn't support. (Once I have free time again. Someday.)

When you consider as well the cost of replacing the three end-of-life servers ($6000 worth of hardware), the dollars change considerably. Using 60-month depreciation, that's $100 per month savings on the Azure side of the ledger. I'm not counting that, though, because I may have limped along for a couple more years without replacing them, so it's hard to tell.

So: dollars, same; sleeping, better. A clear win for Azure.

Oh my god, my story is crashing!

A few weeks ago, Brooklyn writer Noah Shannon wrote a New York Times feature purporting to chronicle his near-death experience on a flight from D.C. that made an emergency a precautionary landing in Philadelphia. No one who knows anything about aviation believed him.

Writer and pilot James Fallows, who knows quite a lot about aviation, checks in:

I was not on that plane, but I can tell you: This. Did. Not. Occur. The dangling cap-in-hand; the sweat stains; the captain coming out of the cockpit and saying he would "yell" his commands; the "not going to sugarcoat it" and "just going to try to land it." No.

Today he got Shannon on the record:

What have you learned about from this experience? Are you intending to make your career in reportorial-based journalism, in academic essays? What do you know now about yourself and your plans based on this last month?

Well, I would love to continue to write nonfiction--to continue to report. I guess the last month has instilled in me a greater need for careful scrutiny of my own work. It was driven home to me that it was wrong to give the impression of certainty, of fact, and the things I was a little uncertain or hazy on, I should have qualified those observations, and I think that would have been the better journalistic thing to do--or done more background research. But I didn't at the time, and I have to apologize to the readers and The New York Times for that, and I take full responsibility. Looking forward, I can only hope to do better work and use this motivation to do better work in the future.

Yeah. You know, I edited a newspaper when I was 21, and I didn't need to be told not to—how does one say? embellish? exaggerate? make up?—something billed as non-fiction. I think Shannon has a lot more to write before anyone will take him seriously again, and for his sake, if he wants actually to be a journalist, it had all better be completely accurate. Completely.

In vaguely-related news, Airbus flew an A350 for the first time today. That's for real.

Was it Ribfest? Rabbit poop? Daycare?

The vet visit went well. Parker has no fever, no giardia or crypto, and probably no really bad diseases. He just has gastroenteritis. Good; I'm glad it's not serious.

But let's examine the damage:

  • Vet bill: $275
  • Rug cleaning estimate: $225
  • Hotel reservation cancelled: $75
  • Billable hours lost: 3

At least I'll have all that extra time to do billable work this weekend, right? Silver linings.

Parker is asleep under my desk now. Tonight he gets boiled chicken. (But how long do I boil it?)

Sick puppy

Poor parker.

I came home yesterday evening to a pile of something on one of my mom's antique rugs. Overnight three more piles appeared, two on that rug and one on a different antique rug. Plus there was another pile from the other end of the dog on a patch of hardwood floor this morning.

He didn't eat dinner last night, and he didn't eat the rice I gave him for breakfast. And on his walk this morning, he created a neon-green patch on the sidewalk that prompted a call to the vet when we got home.

I'm not alarmed—yet—because he's alert and happy to go for walks. I've rolled up the carpets, which apparently will cost $225 to clean professionally, so they're out of danger.

My guess is that he ate something yesterday or Wednesday, so I expect the vet will poke him and take X-rays that show nothing of consequence. This happens to dogs sometimes.

Unfortunately, I had planned to take him on a road trip this weekend to see where he came from. I've traced his origins to three possible places in downstate Illinois, about six hours away. Well, that's off now; no way he'll want to go for a six-hour car ride to a strange place and then sleep on a hotel floor.

I hope he feels better. Poor fuzzy dude.

Today's agenda

Work, walking lunch, work, work, trivia, sleep. Meanwhile: