Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
Friday 28 August 2015

Via TPM, Rick Perlstein says that the race-baiting tactics the GOP uses to block voting reform started as Reagan's reaction to Carter's proposals:

Everyone loved to talk about voter apathy, but the real problem, Carter said, was that “millions of Americans are prevented or discouraged from voting in every election by antiquated and overly restricted voter registration laws”—a fact proven, he pointed out, by record rates of participation in 1976 in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Dakota, where voters were allowed to register on election day. So he proposed that election-day registration be adopted universally, tempering concerns that such measures might increase opportunities for fraud by also proposing five years in prison and a $10,000 fine as penalties for electoral fraud.

A more perfect democracy. Who could find this controversial?

You guessed it: movement conservatives, who took their lessons about Democrats and “electoral reform” from Republican allegations that had Kennedy beating Nixon via votes received from the cemeteries of Chicago.

Ronald Reagan had been on this case for years. ... In his newspaper column, Reagan said the increase in voting would come from “the bloc comprised of those who get a whole lot more from the federal government in various kinds of income distribution than they contribute to it.” And if those people prove too dumb to vote themselves a raise, “don’t be surprised if an army of election workers—much of it supplied by labor organizations which have managed to exempt themselves from election law restrictions—sweep through metropolitan areas scooping up otherwise apathetic voters and rushing them to the polls to keep the benefit dispensers in power.”

Ah, Reagan, the man who ran up the deficit more than any other previous president but whose followers credit him with fiscal prudence; the staunch anti-Communist who sold arms to Iran illegally; the man whose folksy charm barely concealed a racist, vile character who believed everything he wanted to and nothing he didn't.

The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interréd with their bones; so let it be with Reagan.

Meanwhile, one of the most thoughtful, patient, and correct leaders our country has ever had continues to suffer unfair attacks by the very people who think Reagan should be canonized, and who are starting to feel very nervous that there is something out there even worse than their fantasy of Carter...

Friday 28 August 2015 10:46:21 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#

Bloomberg analyzes the reasons that British Airways continues to invest in its Boeing 747 fleet when everyone else is retiring the model:

A clue to BA’s lingering love affair with the 747 lies in the model’s ability to eke out capacity from scarce operating slots at its London Heathrow hub at a time when lower fuel prices make retaining older planes an option. The revamped jets, the first of which returns next month from a refit center in Cardiff, Wales, will also get 16 extra business-class seats, aiding deployment on lucrative trans-Atlantic services.

“It makes hard business sense,” JLS Consulting Director John Strickland said. “These aircraft have a lot of life in them and can be used in very effective commercial ways. Given the capacity constraints at Heathrow and the high demand they have on certain routes, it’s still a very good model.”

The four-engine planes suck up a lot of fuel, however. Lower fuel prices have helped, but really the motivation seems to be capacity limitations at Heathrow.

Friday 28 August 2015 09:52:52 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | London#
Wednesday 26 August 2015

Chicago has five of the 20 most-congested roads in the U.S.:

Drivers in the northeastern Illinois-northwest Indiana region suffered the misery of 61 extra hours behind the wheel on average in 2014 — equivalent to a week and a half of work — because of delays caused by gridlock, construction zones and collisions that tied up traffic, according to the Urban Mobility Scorecard released late Tuesday by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute.

The Los Angeles area took the top three spots on the congestion scorecard last year. Locally, different stretches of the Kennedy and Dan Ryan Expressways (Interstate 90/94) gave motorists the biggest headaches, accounting for three spots in the top 20. Two areas on the Eisenhower Expressway (I-290) also were among the 20 most congested.

Coming in at No. 4 nationally was I-90/94 westbound from 35th Street to the Edens junction. The report noted that 4 p.m. on Fridays tended to be the worst time to be driving on the 13-mile section of road where average speeds were as slow as 16 mph. The eastbound stretch from Montrose Avenue to Ruble Street, just south of Roosevelt Road, ranked seventh nationally.

Chicago also ranks #3 in total travel delay (302.6 million hours) and cost of truck congestion ($1.5 bn). But the 1.6 million CTA rides and 300,000 Metra (heavy rail) rides every weekday probably prevent Chicago from becoming a true dystopia, like Dallas.

Wednesday 26 August 2015 15:24:01 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | US | Travel#

Krugman writes, and I agree, that Donald Trump scares the Republican establishment precisely because he's too honest:

Conservative religiosity, conservative faith in markets, were never about living a godly life or letting the invisible hand promote entrepreneurship. Instead, it was all as Corey Robin describes it: Conservatism is

a reactionary movement, a defense of power and privilege against democratic challenges from below, particularly in the private spheres of the family and the workplace.

The point is that Trump isn’t a diversion, he’s a revelation, bringing the real motivations of the movement out into the open.

He's our Putin, but without the subtlety.

Wednesday 26 August 2015 10:31:36 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#
Tuesday 25 August 2015

Since development of DasBlog petered out in 2012, and since I have an entire (size A1) Azure VM dedicated solely to hosting The Daily Parker, I've been looking for a new blog engine for this blog.

The requirements are pretty broad:

  • Written in .NET
  • Open source or source code available for download
  • Can use SQL Server as a data source (instead of the local file system, like DasBlog)
  • Can deploy to an Azure Web App (to get it off the VM)
  • Still in active development
  • Modern appearance and user experience

See? Look-and-feel is in there somewhere. But mainly I want something I can play with.

I'm still evaluating them. This list was really helpful, and pointed me towards the successor to DasBlog, BlogEngine.NET. Mads Kristensen's newest blog engine, MiniBlog, has potential, but it doesn't seem ready for prime time yet.

The changes will come at some point in the next few months, assuming I have time to play with some options and modify the chosen engine to support a few features I want, like time zone support and location tagging. I also want to see about adding completely new features, like Google Timeline integration, or private journals and events, which require encryption and other security measures that blog engines don't usually have. Not to mention the possibility of using DocumentDB as a data source...

Stay tuned. The Daily Parker's 10th birthday is coming in November.

Tuesday 25 August 2015 12:01:35 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Software | Blogs | Cloud | Cool links#
Monday 24 August 2015

Twenty years ago today, Microsoft released Windows 95. It's hard to explain how revolutionary the OS was at the time.

To celebrate the anniversary, Microsoft is offering a free Rolling Stones song. Trust me; it makes sense.

And here, for your listening enjoyment, is the Microsoft sound.A And C-Net's coverage of the day:

Monday 24 August 2015 16:46:28 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Software#
Sunday 23 August 2015

I am not a food writer, so I don't have the vocabulary to describe dinner the other night at 42 Grams. Let me just reproduce a few items from our meticulously-presented, precisely-timed courses:

  • Carabinero: finger lime, phytoplankton, kelp, and lacto-fermented vegetables
  • Sweet pea custard: bacon, whey, brown butter, herbs & lettuce
  • Summer corn: corn silk, roasted corn broth, polenta
  • Organic Irish salmon: tea smoked with fallen pine, muhroom dashi, spent grain toast, nastrurtium
  • Lamb neck: smoked yogurt, tamarind, fennel
  • Veal sweetbread: foie gras, ash-baked eggplant, golden berry

Plus five more courses. And we brought wine that we'd obtained in Como.

I said, "Even if I could afford it, I couldn't eat like this every day."

My dinner companion said, "Why not?"

She has a point.

Oh, look: they have a last-minute reservation available for 6pm tonight...

Sunday 23 August 2015 09:51:59 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Kitchen Sink#
Friday 21 August 2015

Via DNAInfo, this is awesome:

Friday 21 August 2015 13:02:09 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago#

Yesterday I mentioned that the extreme El Niño underway in the Pacific right now is making long-range climate predictions a little easier. Also yesterday, the Climate Prediction Center released their December—February Outlook:

The NWS Climate Prediction Center released their latest seasonal forecasts today. Here are the results for Illinois. The biggest news is that Illinois has an increased chance of above-average temperatures and below-average precipitation for the winter months of December, January, and February. This forecast is based largely on the developing El Niño in the Pacific Ocean.

While the forecast of a milder winter may sound appealing, I would not leave the winter coat in the closet and throw away the snow shovel just yet. Two things to consider are: 1) this is not a 100% guarantee, other factors come into play in determining our winter weather, and 2) even a mild winter can contain short periods of intense cold and abundant snowfall.

In other words, prepare for a warm winter, but don't forget it's still winter.

Friday 21 August 2015 11:09:06 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Weather#
Thursday 20 August 2015

CityLab and Slate are sharing an article today about how the warm Pacific surface temperatures are helping climatologists—because they're so extreme:

Now that the event is in full swing, we have an even better idea of how U.S. weather will be affected over the next nine months. That’s because El Niño acts like a heat engine that bends weather in a predictable pattern worldwide. Typically, the stronger El Niño is, the more predictable its influence. And this year’s event is on pace to be one of the strongest ever recorded. By some measures, it already is.

Globally, it’s now virtually certain that 2015 will be the hottest year in history. That’s a pretty remarkable thing to be able to say with more than four months of the year remaining. Last week data from NASA and the Japan Meteorological Agency confirmed that last month was the hottest July on record, joining every month so far this year except February and April as the warmest ever measured, according to calculations from Japan. As of mid-August, the Pacific Ocean had configured itself into an unprecedented temperature pattern, with record-setting warm water stretching from the equator all the way northward to Alaska. Thanks to the pattern’s expected persistence, we can already piece together a pretty good guess of the implications—months ahead of time.

So look forward to a mild winter here in the Midwest, tons of rain (but not enough overall) in the drought-stricken Southwest, and tons of snow in the Northeast. Maybe.

Thursday 20 August 2015 11:34:48 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Weather#

Crain's reported this morning that the MacArthur Foundation has started making grants to help curb climate change:

Initial grants will help continue and accelerate U.S. greenhouse gas reductions, increase and sustain U.S. political consensus for climate action, and provide incentives for a low-carbon economy. The climate initiative is the second big bet MacArthur has announced in pursuit of transformative change in areas of profound concern; the first was a $75 million initiative to reduce over-incarceration by changing the way America thinks about and uses its jails.

MacArthur’s initial $50 million investment in 2015 includes both unrestricted general operating support and specific project grants.

So far the money is going to the usual suspects (Sierra Club, Nature Conservancy), and it can only help. I would like to see other large organizations start making these kinds of grants; in particular, insurance companies, who have a financial stake in fighting anthropogenic climate change.

Thursday 20 August 2015 11:14:10 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US | Weather#
Wednesday 19 August 2015

W00t!

[M]any of the 4m Britons who travel to the United States each year will no doubt be delighted to hear of a plan to station American immigration officers at two British airports, London Heathrow and Manchester. These will process travellers before they leave the country, and with luck considerably speed up entrance at the other end. And, as the Telegraph goes on, processing people before they board the plane would be popular on both sides of the pond....

Pre-arrival clearance has been available for those flying from, or refuelling at, Shannon airport in Ireland for some time. This was one of the bonuses benefits of IAG, the parent of British Airways, acquiring Aer Lingus, an Irish carrier. Eight other European airports may also be included in the scheme, reports the Telegraph, including Schiphol in Amsterdam, Madrid-Barajas and Arlanda Airport in Stockholm. Still, it will probably take two years for officials on both sides of the Atlantic to agree upon and then implement the scheme in Britain. And, of course, there is always the danger that the immigration officers that are sent over here will be just as surly and incompetent as those they employ at home. But let’s stay optimistic.

The other benefit to pre-clearance is that travelers will be able to connect directly to domestic flights in the U.S. Right now, people going from London to, say, Des Moines, have to land at O'Hare, go through customs and immigration in Terminal 5, and then re-check their bags and go through security in whatever domestic terminal they're leaving from. This makes the minimum sane connection time about two hours. With pre-clearance, passengers can get off their plane and walk a few gates over to their connecting flight.

For me, though, it'll probably only save about fifteen minutes, thanks to Global Entry. (If you travel outside the U.S. more than once a year, definitely apply for this program.)

It's not clear when this will actually happen. There are challenges. The Department of Homeland Security has not yet announced a date for implementation.

Wednesday 19 August 2015 13:44:09 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | London | US | Travel#

With Apollo Chorus auditions set for September 10th and 13th, it's great that Slate just ran an essay explaining the benefits of singing:

Music is awash with neurochemical rewards for working up the courage to sing. That rush, or “singer's high,” comes in part through a surge of endorphins, which at the same time alleviate pain. When the voices of the singers surrounding me hit my ear, I'm bathed in dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain that is associated with feelings of pleasure and alertness. Music lowers cortisol, a chemical that signals levels of stress. Studies have found that people who listened to music before surgery were more relaxed and needed less anesthesia, and afterward they got by with smaller amounts of pain medication. Music also releases serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of euphoria and contentment. “Every week when I go to rehearsal,” a choral friend told me, “I'm dead tired and don't think I'll make it until 9:30. But then something magic happens and I revive ... it happens almost every time.”

Yep, every Monday in the fall and spring I drag myself in at 7pm, and by the time we go for beers at 9:30 I feel better. And, of course, concerts are a lot of fun, especially when we nail them.

Which reminds me, you should subscribe to Apollo. Our first (free!) concert is 3pm on November 8th at Second Presbyterian in Chicago.

Wednesday 19 August 2015 13:29:02 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
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David Braverman and Parker
David Braverman is the Chief Technology Officer of Holden International in Chicago, and the creator of Weather Now. Parker is the most adorable dog on the planet, 80% of the time.
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