The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Busy week, quiet blog

I've got outside meetings every day this week, and those tend to compress my days. So there might be more link lists like this one coming up:

Back to the mines.

That's gotta hurt

The Chicago Forestry Department removed a tree near my house back in October but left the stump. No one could figure out why—until they tried to remove it a few days ago:

I'm not an arbologist, but it seems to me that the tree had bionic parts. Actually, it looks like it grew through a steel grating in the parkway and then absorbed the grating. In any event, I hope no one got hurt when they tried sawing through the stump.

On Allergies

I recently had a routine checkup, and my doctor suggested revisiting the allergy tests I had way back in 1988. Only now, they have a blood test for most allergies, obviating the uncomfortable patch test I had to go through way back when.

Nothing has really changed except my sensitivity to cats, which has gone down. When I was a kid they made me sneeze; now, they just make my eyes water if I forget myself and forget to wash my hands after patting a cat.

That's all a long setup for this bit of doggerel that I came up with when I got the test results. They really tested for nearly all of these things.


I'm not one bit allergic to peanuts,
Nor scallops, nor soybeans, nor clams,
Nor hickory trees, nor cedars, nor bees,
Nor elms, ashes, mushrooms, or yams.
Not cats, not dogs, not milk, not snogs,
Not pigweed, not elder, not thistles,
Not mold fumigatus (of gens aspergillus),
Not elder, not pecan, not whistles.
It's only the poop that's too tiny to scoop
From vermin we know of as dust mites
Making me sneeze and spray lots of Febreeze.
Yes, I'm allergic to gross little mite shites.

Yes, The Daily Parker ever strives to raise literary standards on the Internets.

Continuous deployment for Azure web sites through Git

A co-worker sent around this post from Iris Classon explaining how to set up continuous deployment in Azure. She used Visual Studio Online and Team Foundation Server. I spent about two hours this morning doing it with Visual Studio 2013 and Bitbucket. There are a couple of gotchas the way I did it:

  • First, I made a mistake, and started with the Visual Studio 2012 MVC template. There's actually a VS2013 MVC template that has better authentication features, but, well, sometimes you miss things, right?
  • Because of this, I had to add the ASP.NET Universal Providers 2.0 package from NuGet.
  • Jumping to the end, it also means I had to copy WebMatrix.Data.dll directly into the deployed Web site by FTP. It didn't get deployed through Git.
  • When I created a new Web database using the Azure portal quick-create, no amount of convincing could persuade the portal to create the database in the North Central U.S. data center just outside Chicago. Instead, it created the thing in Southeast Asia. Since the Web site was in Chicago, this was inconvenient. I wound up just adding a new database to an existing Azure server.
  • The ASP.NET universal providers required create table permissions when the application started, to create the app's membership tables. Since I had created the database on an existing server, this required me to add the application user account to the database owners role for a moment, which I don't like doing. Oh, and because it was a new database, I had to grant select, insert, update, and delete permissions to the application user account manually.

The app is pretty simple, and may not last long in its current incarnation. If you're really curious you can see it here.

The app, however, isn't the point; continuous deployment is. And I found, once I got it running, that pushing changes to the site's repository in Bitbucket updated the site transparently.

I'll play with this a little more when I have time.

Too-busy-to-write link roundup

In two and a half weeks, I'll be on a beach doing nothing of value to anyone but myself. Meanwhile, here are all the things I won't have time to read until someday in the future:

Now my long day continues...

The IDTIDC has left the building

Just getting a server rack out of one's apartment is only half the battle. Disposal takes a little effort, too.

Fortunately there's Craigslist. Unfortunately, people are flaky. So on the second attempt, the former Inner Drive Technology International Data Center found a new home in a small Loop family law firm.

I actually felt a little twinge. The rack, the servers, the peripherals...they're actually gone. But: Inner Drive Technology is now 100% Cloud.

Windows Azure is now fully PCI-compliant

This is a big deal for shops like 10th Magnitude, my employer, especially given that we developed the API for Arrow Payments. PCI compliance means banks—who have skin in the game—have certified Azure is secure enough for credit-card processing:

The PCI DSS is the global standard that any organization of any size must adhere to in order to accept payment cards, and to store, process, and/or transmit cardholder data. By providing PCI DSS validated infrastructure and platform services, Windows Azure delivers a compliant platform for you to run your own secure and compliant applications. You can now achieve PCI DSS certification for those applications using Windows Azure.

To assist customers in achieving PCI DSS certification, Microsoft is making the Windows Azure PCI Attestation of Compliance and Windows Azure Customer PCI Guide available for immediate download.

The latest Azure release also has a bunch of other great features for developers, including monitoring tools and Web site improvements, but PCI is the big one.

Renewing the Dish

Andrew Sullivan tops my reading list every day. He and his staff post sometimes 100 items a day on The Daily Dish, and even if I only read a tenth or them, my day is better. He's infuriating, fascinating, informative, conservative, Catholic, gay, mercurial, level. I don't agree with him about a third of the time, but one of his best characteristics is his willingness to listen to arguments and change his mind.

So last February, when he jettisoned a paid gig with The Atlantic to become a professional blogger, I supported him. By "supported" I mean "gave him money." And now I'm up for renewal, about which he says:

What have we created together? Every now and again over the years, I've tried to figure it out. A blog? A magazine? A blogazine? A website? But every year, it changes again, as the new media shift, and as the world turns and as small experiments - like the Window Views or the Reader Threads - become ramparts of the whole thing. Do we, the staffers, write this blog? Sure, we do. But so do you, every day, with emails and testimonies and anecdotes that bring dry news stories to vivid personal life. Do we curate the web? Sure. Every day, we scour the vast Internet for the smart or the funny, the deep and the shallow, the insightful and the abhorrent. But you send us so many links and ideas every day that the creators of the Dish are better understood as a collective of all of us, you and us, correcting, enlightening, harshing and moving each other.

It's journalism, in its original meaning. It's a conversation. It's how I start to get information—but only how I start, because he always posts multiple viewpoints even while making it clear what he believes. And I'm proud to give him money to keep writing.

(By the way, if you want to give me money, just let me know.)

Meetings, meetings, meetings

Tomorrow will be quieter than today, I hope, or I might not get time to think until next week. I didn't miss these meanwhile:

Next meeting...

Closing off the lake again

A century ago, engineers cut the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, connecting the Great Lakes with the Mississippi Basin. It might be time to close the canal:

Over the last decade or so, a huge range of interests — from environmental groups to fishermen to shipping experts to politicians — have raised the alarm over just how much this artificial connection has created an opening for invasive species such as the Asian carp to make their way through North America’s waterways. And the costs associated with the damage caused by these species have been high enough to prompt serious consideration of closing off the link between the Mississippi and the Great Lakes.

How high? First, consider the figure $18 billion. That’s the estimate the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released last week to re-insert a physical separation between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi system.

The proposal would dam the Chicago and Calumet Rivers' connections to the Canal, requiring changes to the Deep Tunnel reservoir system and the flood-control systems in the Western suburbs. Meanwhile, Asian carp have gotten within a few kilometers of Lake Michigan. Twenty of those fish in the lake is all it would take to create a permanent population all the way to the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Reversing the Chicago River made a lot of sense in 1900, and probably saved thousands of lives from cholera and other diseases. Times change, though. We have new threats today.