The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Beautiful morning in Chicago

We finally have a real May-appropriate day in Chicago, with a breezy 26°C under clear skies (but 23°C closer to the Lake, where I live). Over to my right, my work computer—a 2017-era Lenovo laptop I desperately want to fling onto the railroad tracks—has had some struggles with the UI redesign I just completed, giving me a dose of frustration but also time to line up some lunchtime reading:

Finally, today marks the 30th anniversary of Aimee Mann releasing one of my favorite albums, her solo debut Whatever. She perfectly summed up the early-'90s ennui that followed the insanity of the '80s as we Gen-Xers came of age. It still sounds as fresh to me today as it did then.

Weather Now update

I just released a couple of minor fixes to Weather Now. Build 8126 has slightly tidier top and nav bars, and I can configure the front page "latest weather" list on the fly. Previously the list lived in a static application config file that I could only change by redeploying the app.


Meine Eule heißt Duo

At the end of the month, I'm taking the first real vacation I've had since 2017, to Central Europe. After connecting through Heathrow, I land in Prague, Czechia; then by train on to Vienna, Austria; then Salzburg, Austria; then a flight back to Gatwick and a night in London. And because of Vienna's and Salzburg's proximity to Austria's borders, I will probably also visit Slovakia, Hungary, and Germany—at least for a few minutes.

To prepare for this trip, about a month ago I downloaded Duolingo, and started the Czech program. I also jumped into the German program at unit 5, as I've studied German before.

I've had mixed results.

First, I want to make it clear that I love Duolingo. I have learned some basic Czech and I've gotten my German back to tourist-level fluency. When I get back to the US, I'm planning to load up French and Spanish, with the goal of getting both back to conversational levels. Just practicing languages every day keeps me learning them, so I believe I'll eventually finish the French and Spanish programs with some pretty good skills in both.

As for my upcoming trip, I've decided to change my approach. Thus far, I've spent about 20 minutes a day on Czech and 10 on German. And yet I'm going through the German lessons much faster, for a number of reasons, not least of which is that I first learned German in high school and I first learned Czech 37 days ago.

In the German program, I'm breezing through things like „wie ist das Wetter in Wien?” and „entschuldigung, wo ist der Geldautomat”, both of which which I actually want to know, and I'm acing (almost) all the speech and listening exercises. (Im and in gave me a bit of a bother for a hot minute.) I've gone from my start in section 1, unit 5 to section 2, unit 4, and the app says I've learned about 300 new German words.

In the Czech program, by contrast, 37 days have gotten me to...section 1, unit 5. And that's only because I gave up on the optional grammar drills after unit 4. I can say things like „jsem David” (I'm David) and „jsou to zvláštní zvíΕ™ata” ("those are strange animals"), but not every time, and with no guarantee of grammatical accuracy. You see, Czech is a declined language, where all the grammar lives at the ends of words. I just can't seem to get the correct word endings 6 times out of 10. It's supremely frustrating.

So starting today, I'm going to change my approach.

First, I'm going to flip my priorities and spend 2/3 or more of my time on German. That's closer to my trip plan, anyway: from wheels down at Václav Havel Airport to my train crossing the Austrian border, I'll spend at most 48 hours of the 7-day trip in Czechia.

Second, I'm going to concentrate on Czech vocabulary, not mastery. For example, I'm going to skip the grammar drills at the end of each Czech unit and concentrate on just getting enough sentences right to move on to the next unit.

I'll continue to do the German drills, though. This will be my 5th trip to German-speaking countries, and will not be my last, but I have no idea if I'll ever get back to Czechia after this month. I'm singing Bruckner next year and probably Bach in 2025, but I have never to my knowledge sung in Czech. And I'm far more likely to remember the difference between „wo ist der Bahnhof” and „wo ist die U-Bahnstation” than I am to recall (or even say) „Jsem velký klukvs. „Jsme vel kluci”.

I only hope „jsi hezká” comes in handy at least once...

Reading while the CI build churns

I'm chasing down a bug that caused what we in the biz call "unexpected results" and the end-users call "wrong." I've fixed it in both our API and our UI, but in order to test it, I need the API built in our dev/test environment. That takes about 18 minutes. Plenty of time to read all of this:

Finally, the Times explains how last year's 257 traffic fatalities in New York City undermine the claims that "Vision Zero" is working. But Strong Towns already told you that.

OK, build succeeded, fix is now in Dev/Test...on with the show!

Who could have predicted this?

As professional narcissist Elon Musk threatened, on Thursday Twitter abruptly ended their verified "blue check" program. Suddenly, Twitter users had no way to know for sure whether tens of thousands of government agencies, celebrities, journalists, and other people whose jobs depend to some extent on their credibility, were who their Twitter accounts purported to be.

It only took two days for someone to hoax the City of Chicago:

Impostors posing as Chicago government officials, including Mayor Lori Lightfoot, posted a series of tweets early Friday morning falsely claiming that North Jean Baptiste Point DuSable Lake Shore Drive is being permanently closed.

The accounts posting the false tweets claimed to be Lightfoot, the Chicago Department of Transportation and the Illinois Department of Transportation. Their posts were seen by well over 100,000 people early in the day, according to Twitter data.

The impersonation effort came just a day after Twitter removed verification from accounts that had been previously verified for the purpose of credibility. Twitter CEO Elon Musk’s controversial decision to remove the “legacy” verifications took away the authenticated status of all three of the impersonated accounts.

Before Friday, the usernames of the true mayoral account, CDOT account and IDOT account had all previously appeared alongside a blue check mark signaling that the accounts had been proved to actually represent the authorities they claimed to represent. However, those check marks were taken away Thursday because of Musk’s decision.

New York City's government also had their own problem.

But this highlights a real problem: in a disaster, or an election, how will people know what information is real? I think "by not using Twitter" seems like the right answer but I also don't think Twitter will fully die by next November.

I didn't publish on Twitter very much before. Today, I'm just standing on shore, watching the ship sink. But it's a big ship, and its sinking will foul the environment for a long time.

Stuff I may come back to later

First, because it's April 20th, we have a a couple of stories about marijuana:

(The Daily Parker owns shares in Chicago-based Green Thumb Industries.)

Second, because it's the 21st Century, we have a collection of articles about the end of democracy:

And in me. I've got software to write.

Clear, cool April morning

The clouds have moved off to the east, so it's a bit warmer and a lot sunnier than yesterday. I still have to wait for an automated build to run. For some reason (which I will have to track down after lunch), our CI builds have gone from 22 minutes to 37. Somewhere in the 90 kB of logs I'll find out why.

Meanwhile, happy Fox News On Trial Day:

Finally, I've started reading The Odyssey, so I applaud National Geographic's article this month on the history of the ancient world in which Homer set the poem.

And hey, a bug

Not five minutes after my last post, I discovered a completely borked feature, caused by a change to the way Azure.Data.Tables executes queries.

The Daily Temperatures feature stores data in the same table as the History feature. Each row represents a weather report, where the table partition key is the weather station identifier and the row key is the date and time of the report. So, for example, the first row of data for Chicago-O'Hare in the 2023 table has a partition key of KORD and a row key of 20230101-0051.

Climate records use a row key of "Climate-" and the date. So yesterday's climate data for Chicago-O'Hare has a partition key of KORD and a row key of "Climate-20230415". Easy to remember, and easy to construct queries.

To that end, the original (.NET 6) code looked like this:

var query = 
	from entity in table.CreateQuery<ClimateRecordTableServiceEntity>()
	where entity.PartitionKey == locationId
		&& string.Compare(entity.RowKey, lowerRowKey, StringComparison.InvariantCultureIgnoreCase) >= 0
		&& string.Compare(entity.RowKey, upperRowKey, StringComparison.InvariantCultureIgnoreCase) <= 0
	select entity;

When I upgraded to .NET 7, I naïvely just changed the first line, to this:

var query = 
	from entity in table.Query<ClimateRecordTableServiceEntity>()
	where entity.PartitionKey == locationId
		&& string.Compare(entity.RowKey, lowerRowKey, StringComparison.InvariantCultureIgnoreCase) >= 0
		&& string.Compare(entity.RowKey, upperRowKey, StringComparison.InvariantCultureIgnoreCase) <= 0
	select entity;

When confronted with a 30-day query, though, it spun off into the abyss and crashed the whole app.

The correct code looks like this:

var query = table.QueryAsync<ClimateRecordTableServiceEntity>(entity =>
	entity.PartitionKey == locationId
		&& string.Compare(entity.RowKey, lowerRowKey, StringComparison.InvariantCultureIgnoreCase) >= 0
		&& string.Compare(entity.RowKey, upperRowKey, StringComparison.InvariantCultureIgnoreCase) <= 0);

See, now the filter part of the query goes inside the method call. (There's an extra step in reading the async results back, too.)

So the effect of the naïve fix was to hit the table 30 times getting back the entire partition each time. Remember that all of the weather reports go into the table? So, yeah, the 2023 table already has something like 7.5 million rows, or about 2,500 in each partition. So it tried to read 75,000 rows just to bring back 30. Oopsi.

I'm deploying the fix now.

New Weather Now build

It took a few weeks at odd hours, but I have finally deployed the latest version of Weather Now (5.0.8507). I didn't update anything visual, but all the plumbing got a refresh. It's now running in .NET 7 (until November, when .NET 8 comes out), and I did a top-to-bottom review of its asynchronous code.

The app now runs noticeably faster, and I believe the corrections to the async bits will cure the nagging (but invisible) problem of thread exhaustion that happened from time to time.

Now I can start making some other fixes and adding some long-missing features. Really, I just needed to get back into the swing of it.