The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

If I had a month off

I might follow this map. Explanation:

Community beer and brewery review site RateBeer puts out a list every year of the top 100 breweries in the world, “according to reviews taken last year and weighted by performance within and outside of style, balanced by indicators of depth.” From this year's list, 72 of the breweries are based in the United States.

Randal Olson found a pretty good solution using genetic algorithms and the Google Maps API. He computed an optimal road trip to visit a historical landmark in each state.

Forget that though. I want beer. Tasty beer. I applied Olson's solution to breweries to get the order in which to visit them in the least miles possible.

The trip to see just the 70 breweries on Yau's list takes 197 hours over 19,789 km. He thinks he can do it in 8 days. Or he can stop at any of the 1,414 other breweries in between and extend the trip to a month.

On the other hand, given the same amount of time off, I might rather do a oneworld explorer fare.

Lottery, anyone?

Whoops (10 years, plus a few days)

I missed an important anniversary last Friday, probably because I was traveling and got distracted.

The Daily Parker is now ten years (and six days) old. I launched it officially on 13 November 2005, from Inner Drive Technology World Headquarters in Evanston, Ill.

In the 10 years ending last Thursday night, I posted 4,842 entries, averaging 40 per month, or one every 32 hours or so. Not a bad record.

Any odds the blog will be around another 10 years?

Good, bad, and ugly, episode 314

The good: A new study shows that drinking 3-5 cups of coffee a day has measurable health benefits.

The bad: A black resident of Santa Monica, Calif., got hauled out of her apartment at gunpoint by 19 police officers after a white neighbor reported someone trying to break in.

The ugly: Yale law student Omar Aziz writes about the soul of a Jihadist.

And the neutral, which could be ugly: forecasters predict 15-30 cm of snow in Chicago tomorrow night into Saturday morning.

My junior U.S. senator turns out to be a pandering bigot

Well, maybe Mark Kirk isn't really the narrow-minded tool he seems to be, but a letter his office sent to the President sure makes him look like one. He's yet another Republican calling for us to exclude Syrian refugees on the grounds that a few of their countrymen are extremist criminals.

Here's my response, which I sent to his office just now:


The letter you sent to President Obama about not admitting Syrian refugees "unless the U.S. government can guarantee, with 100 percent assurance, that they are not members [of ISIS]" did not represent my views, nor the views of many of your constituents. In fact, it demonstrated not only an immoral conflation of the plight of refugees with terrorists, and not only a surprising lack of historical understanding (recall the Jewish refugees we turned away in 1938 and 1939), but also a total misunderstanding of the goals of ISIS that played right into their plans for their terror operations.

One of ISIS' strategic goals is to goad the US and its allies into knee-jerk overreaction. Vilifying the tens of thousands of Syrians who are just trying to get to safety from their war-torn country because a handful of criminals committed violent acts against one of our allies horrifies me.

We need to do everything we can to help Syrians get out of the killing zones in their countries. We also want people to immigrate here, as the US was built by people looking for opportunity and to get away from war. You know Steve Jobs was the son of a Syrian immigrant, don't you? Imagine if someone had excluded his father from the US.

I think you need to explain to the people of Illinois why we should in any way change our tradition of accepting those who seek a better life in our state, just because some of their countrymen are deranged, religious nuts. We have plenty of deranged, religious nuts in Illinois already, and we're still safe.

Thank you for your time.

We need to stop doing exactly what these guys want us to do. Every time we overreact, or blame entire religions or nations for the crimes of a few people, or invade Iraq, we're helping the extremists. Why is this so hard to grasp?

American changing frequent-flyer program to be like Delta, sort of

American's A'Advantage program will change in January to accrue miles based on how much a ticket costs. The formula is pretty simple: members will get X dollars per flight mile based on their elite status, though elite status qualification will still be based on segments or miles actually flown (though not on a third "points" option currently in force).

Everyone who watches these things knew this was coming. And it won't make that much difference to most people. For example, my mileage run this weekend netted me 10,490 base miles and 5,245 elite-qualifying miles (EQMs). Under the new formula, it would still net me 5,245 EQMs but only 3,640 base miles, because of the fare. So fie on them. Even the last business trip I took would earn fewer base miles: 7,384 under the current regime, but only 2,208 under the new plan. (Again, though, EQMs would not have changed.)

This new structure clearly benefits the airline, and business travelers. Those times in the past when I took full-fare flights, or even business class, would really have done well under the new plan. Last November I had to go to Oslo for three days. (It wasn't that glamorous.) Current plan: 21,406 base miles, 9,354 EQMs; new plan: a whopping 63,976 base miles, because it was a last-minute business-class fare.

Basically, the airline is trying not to bleed through its frequent-flyer program. And we knew this was coming. And as long as they keep EQMs the same, I'm OK with it.


Strongest El Niño in history

The L.A. Times reports today that temperatures in the Eastern Pacific are far higher than previous El Niño events:

Temperatures in this key area of the Pacific Ocean rose to 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit above average for the week of Nov. 11. That exceeds the highest comparable reading for the most powerful El Niño on record, when temperatures rose 5 degrees Fahrenheit above the average the week of Thanksgiving in 1997.

The 5.4 degree Fahrenheit recording above the average temperature is the highest such number since 1990 in this area of the Pacific Ocean, according to the National Weather Service.

But the center’s deputy director, Mike Halpert, cautioned against reading too much into the record-breaking weekly temperature data.

El Niño has so far been underperforming in other respects involving changes in the atmosphere important to the winter climate forecast for California, he said.

One example: tropical rainfall has not extended from the International Date Line and eastward, approaching South America, as it did by this time in 1997.

In Illinois, our temperatures in the first two weeks of November are also much higher as well. But:

In the last two big events, the above-average temperatures did not appear until December, January, and February. So what does it mean if this November is unlike 1982 and 1997? It just means that no two El Niño events behave in exactly the same way.

We don't know how winter will go; but so far, it feels a lot more like early October than mid-November.


Back to the 7th Century

I haven't commented on Friday night's attacks in Paris for a number of reasons, none of which is relevant right now. I would like to call attention to some of the better responses I've read in the last couple of days:

  • Paul Krugman reminds us that if we fear ISIS, they're succeedingnot the other way around.
  • Professor Olivier Roy of the European University Institute in Florence says the Paris attacks reveal ISIS' strategic limitations, not their strength.
  • President Obama sharply criticized Republican governors (including our own asshat Bruce Rauner) for saying their states won't accept Syrian refugees anymore. (Because of course they were flocking to Alabama, right?) The governors presumably know that this is a foreign-policy issue entirely within Article III and states have no authority here.
  • French president François Hollande has declared "terrorism will not destroy the Republic." Of course not; the National Front, which could destroy the Republic, is widely recognized as being a racist, reactionary organization, unlike the U.S. Republican Party.

French reactions are instructive. The French people are pissed as hell, not scared. They understand that the attacks Friday were the work of assholes, not "Islam," and they're responding rationally. Flipping out and transforming France into an armed camp would support the thugs' agenda.

Also instructive is this article from last March explaining that ISIS really are religious nutters first and strategists second, and they really are trying to bring about the end of the world so that the last remaining few dozen of them can go to heaven with Jesus. I am not making this up, though I admit I might not fully understand it, in the same way that I don't always understand the ramblings of four-year-old children either.

Did you know Microsoft invented Google Earth?

No, really. In 1998 Microsoft wanted to demonstrate its SQL Server database engine with a terabyte-sized database, so it built a map called Terraserver. Motherboard's Jason Koebler has the story:

Terraserver could have, should have been a product that ensured Microsoft would remain the world’s most important internet company well into the 21st century. It was the first-ever publicly available interactive satellite map of the world. The world’s first-ever terabyte-sized database. In fact, it was the world’s largest database for several years, and that Compaq was—physically speaking—the world's largest computer. Terraserver was a functional and popular Google Earth predecessor that launched and worked well before Google even thought of the concept. It let you see your house, from space.

So why aren’t we all using Terraserver on our smartphones right now?

Probably for the same reason Microsoft barely put up a fight as Google outpaced it with search, email, browser, and just about every other consumer service. Microsoft, the corporation, didn't seem to care very much about the people who actually used Terraserver, and it didn’t care about the vast amount of data about consumers it was gleaning from how they used the service.

In sum, Microsoft saw itself as a software company, not an information company. It's similar to how Borders got destroyed: it thought of itself as a bookstore, while Amazon thought of itself as a delivery service.

I remember how cool Terraserver was, and how sad I felt when it disappeared for a couple of years before it morphed into Google Earth.


Another reason for this trip

As I mentioned Thursday, I'm on a mileage run. But because I'm an aviation geek, not only am I trying to hold onto elite status for 2016, but also I'm trying out American Airlines' newest airplanes. Yesterday's flight from JFK to LAX got me on the A321 Transcontinental (along with, no kidding, both Laura Linney and Natalie Dormer). Today's gets me from LAX to DFW on this gorgeous thing:

They're seamless, you know. If you look at the fuselage of any other passenger airplane, you see rivets, welds, all kinds of imperfections in the surface. Dreamliners have flawless composite skins whose only perturbations are the windows.

I've flown on one other 787, on British Airways from London to Toronto in March 2014. And this is not the first 787 American put into service; that one is N800AN; mine today is N809AA, put into service on 28 August 2015. It's a mere puppy. And I'm really excited to fly on it in about an hour.