Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
Sunday 27 July 2014

I love these guys. The indie duo Pomplamoose are back on tour after this coming Tuesday's album release.

Jack Conte, one half of the group—he and band-mate Nataly Dawn are also partners in real life—founded Patreon last year. The site brings patrons together with artists. I'm not the only one supporting Pomplamoose. My $5 is one of 1,600 pledges totaling more than $5,600 per video, enabling them to (a) eat and (b) produce really slick videos. Here's their latest, showing that you really don't need autotune if you have a great voice:

Sunday 27 July 2014 11:11:23 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#

Via Sullivan yesterday evening—and for no other reason—I'm passing on an old Baffler article about the morning after:

There’s certainly nothing pious or heroic in a hangover. But, trapped in its clutches, you can begin to see it as a wonderful counterbalance, an essential link in the rhythm of life, a stern ebb to an indecorous flow. The hangover is what prompts you to vow, as you fester with your cellmates in that island sanitarium of the demetabolized, “I will never drink again.” Without its vengeful wrath, only guilt would be left to direct us to moderation. For Jack Kerouac, Dylan Thomas, and countless others whose lives met premature and tragic closures, the end may have come even sooner had they never had to cruise the ghastly straits of detoxification. And what of the proud, local folklore of the hangover remedy, or the pathetic morning embrace of the “hair of the dog?” Would the word that has been used so aptly to describe the aftereffects of sprees like Laffer’s 1980s slowly lose its resonance and vanish?

[Kingsley] Amis, the poet laureate of the hangover, was one of the few to fathom its intricacies and divine its transcendent qualities—to find, if you will, the spiritual in the spirits. The hangover, he wrote once, is no mere physical affliction, but a “unique route to self-knowledge and self-realization.” This is usually lost on sufferers of the “physical hangover,” obsessed as they are with feeling fresh again. But as they spend the morning shuffling through the Sunday supplements, unable to finish the simplest articles, drinking tomato juice as the sunlight stalks the living room floor, on come those colossal feelings of guilt, inadequacy, and shame—the metaphysical hangover. The best, and really the only, cure for this condition is to simply acknowledge your physical hangover for what it is, rather than attributing these unsettling thoughts to your job or to your relationship. As Amis puts it, “He who truly believes he has a hangover has no hangover.”

More seriously, it's interesting that medicine still doesn't understand the physiology of hangovers. The best guess is that alcohol (ethanol) metabolizes into acetaldehyde, which affects the way the body uses glucose and water. Drinks also contain varying amounts of methanol, which breaks down into formaldehyde, something you really don't want in your bloodstream.

Preventing hangovers is simple: limit drinking. Water, NSAIDs, and caffeine can reduce hangover symptoms, and there seems to be some truth in the notion that fatty foods can prevent ethanlo absorption in the first place. Otherwise, as ever, moderation works.

Sunday 27 July 2014 09:45:11 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Saturday 26 July 2014

In the wake of Arizona torturing a prisoner to death this week, Josh Marshall thinks this signals the end:

Why is this craziness happening now?

The simplest, best, and almost certainly accurate explanation is that as the noose has tightened around the death penalty, both internationally and within the United States, fewer and fewer credentialed experts have been willing to involve themselves with state mandated executions. Pharmaceutical companies have become more aggressive in making sure their drugs are not used to kill people. (Here's a good run-down of the way in which Europe has sequentially banned exports of a series of drugs used in US executions - forcing states with the death penalty to keep switching from one drug to the next to evade the export bans, thus inevitably going further and further into unknown territory in terms of how these drugs work in an execution setting with relatively untrained staff.) Medical experts or really anyone with serious life sciences expertise just won't participate anymore. I'm not saying never. But it's become much more difficult. And in order to access and use the relevant medications without the knowledge of pharmaceutical companies, the people charged with finding ways to carry out executions now mostly have to operate in secret. Secrecy leads to a lack of transparency and review of methods which in turn produces more badly conceived plans and botched executions.

At the very least, I hope those states still stuck in the middle ages will be forced into transparency and away from the torture they're inflicting on prisoners. This is a clear 8th Amendment issue. It's time the courts weighed in.

Saturday 26 July 2014 10:10:34 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#
Friday 25 July 2014

I'm back in Chicago today, but catching up on all the things I couldn't do from Cleveland. Regular posting should resume tomorrow.

Also, at 6 hours and 15 minutes to get from the client site to my house door-to-door, plus renting a car in Cleveland and having to schlepp bags hither and yon, I'm wondering if I should just drive next time.

Friday 25 July 2014 12:37:01 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Travel | Work#
Thursday 24 July 2014

Capital punishment is apparently not barbaric enough in itself in Arizona, where another botched execution has made national—but, strangely, not local—news:

A condemned Arizona inmate gasped and snorted for more than an hour and a half during his execution Wednesday before he died in an episode sure to add to the scrutiny surrounding the death penalty in the U.S.

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne's office said Joseph Rudolph Wood was pronounced dead at 3:49 p.m., one hour and 57 minutes after the execution started.

The case has highlighted scrutiny surrounding lethal injections after two controversial ones. An Ohio inmate executed in January snorted and gasped during the 26 minutes it took him to die. In Oklahoma, an inmate died of a heart attack in April, minutes after prison officials halted his execution because the drugs weren't being administered properly.

Arizona uses the same drugs — the sedative midazolam and painkiller hydromorphone — that were used in the Ohio execution. A different drug combination was used in the Oklahoma case.

Josh Marshall commented, "As much as it's treated as sick or a joke, firing squad really would be a vastly more humane form of execution than the one we now have."

Or, you know, not killing people, the way they don't do it anywhere else in the West.

Wednesday 23 July 2014 21:41:12 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | US#
Tuesday 22 July 2014

Downloading to my Kindle right now:

...and a few articles I found last week that just made it onto my Kindle tonight.

Oh, and I almost forgot: today is the 80th anniversary of John Dillinger's death just six blocks from where I now live.

Tuesday 22 July 2014 18:22:54 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Geography | Kitchen Sink | Parker | US#

Business travel has certain built-in costs. All we business travelers really want in a hotel is a decent night's sleep. Alas, alas. Here's the review I just submitted to TripAdvisor about how one engineering decision can make someone want to leave and never come back:

I'm now in my second stay at the Aloft Beachwood in as many weeks. As a traveling professional, I often spend time in places without cute bistros or even sidewalks to put them on, where four nights out of seven I'm surrounded by decor I can't even describe to my gay friends without making them cry, where—just a second, I have to wave my arms in front of the thermostat.

Welcome to the Aloft, where the thermostats are programmed to destroy your sleep. I imagine this saves the hotel money. You may imagine that this choice stands proxy to innumerable others that will make you wish for the luxury of a Hyatt Place or Marriott Courtyard.

(Hold on, I have to throw something at the thermostat again.)

On my first night here, last Monday, I discovered that the hotel put motion sensors in the thermostats to save money. I discovered this because, last Monday, the A/C would turn off just as I was almost, but not quite, asleep. Like tonight, the room was too warm to turn the A/C off completely; but last Monday, I didn't discover this until Midnight, so I didn't jam the A/C down to 65 and stack pillows next to the desk.

But the staff here are great, every one of them. They're the only reason I'm giving this sleep-deprivation-chamber 3 stars. Everyone who works here has been helpful, good-natured, and truly concerned that between the A/C and the master light switch controlling all of the lights in the room (including the reading lamps), Aloft has some changes they need to make. And if I ever meet the person who made the decision to put 3-minute timers on the thermostats, I'm going to—

Dang. A/C stopped again.

I wish I were exaggerating. The hotel opened eight months ago, so they've had time to fix this. That means this is a deliberate engineering choice, like Clippy or the Ctrl-F fail in Outlook.

Also, I'm a big believer in second chances, and in travel loyalty programs. But if I can't get this solved to my satisfaction in the next hour (meaning, if I can't get my room cool enough that I can turn the A/C off so it doesn't keep waking me up), I'm out of here in the morning. There's a perfectly serviceable Marriott walking distance away.

Monday 21 July 2014 22:43:27 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Travel | Work#
Monday 21 July 2014

Since Cabrini-Green came down a couple of years ago, developers have salivated over the possibilities for the Near North area. This morning's Crain's has the latest:

Construction crews recently were busy drilling holes for the foundation of an 18-story, 240-unit apartment building at Division and Howe streets, one of several private developments sprouting just steps from the former Cabrini-Green towers.

“The skyline's going to change really quickly over there,” says Matt Edlen, director of Midwest and East Coast acquisitions at Portland, Oregon-based Gerding Edlen Development Inc., which is building the apartment tower. “There's so many possibilities for that neighborhood and how it comes together.”

It's coming together already. A Target store opened north of Gerding's site last fall, and a developer is negotiating to buy a parcel just northeast of the store and may build apartments there, says Chicago-based Baum Realty Group LLC Vice President Greg Dietz, who's selling the property. He declines to identify the developer. Chicago-based Structured Development LLC and John Bucksbaum are building 199 apartments and 360,000 square feet of retail space on the former site of the New City YMCA at Clybourn Avenue and Halsted Street. And a 190,000-square-foot retail-and-office development and new store for boating retailer West Marine are in the works at Division and Halsted streets.

Crain's, concerned exclusively with business, doesn't ask: what happened to all the previous residents? I guess, once you've gotten rid of all the poor people, they're someone else's problem.

Monday 21 July 2014 07:37:38 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | US#
Sunday 20 July 2014

Once the Tribune published a story about strange, unexplained spikes in red-light traffic camera tickets, even Ted Baxter could foresee the lawsuit. But even before that scandal, there was this one, which has also spawned a lawsuit:

Matthew Falkner, who received a red-light ticket for $100 in January 2013, alleges in the suit that Redflex was only able to generate more than $100 million in revenue over the last 11 years because it had bribed a city official to get the contract.

The lawsuit alleges a former employee of Redflex blew the whistle on an improper relationship between the company and a Chicago Department of Transportation official in charge of the red-light camera program and that bribes given to that city official helped secure the city's contract for Redflex.

Ah, Mayor Daley, why again did you decide to retire at the end of your last term?

Sunday 20 July 2014 13:09:24 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago#
Saturday 19 July 2014

Pilot and journalist James Fallows has an op-ed in today's New York Times explaining how MH17 was following the rules:

Before Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 took off on Thursday, its crew and dispatchers would have known that a few hours earlier Ukrainian authorities had prohibited flights at 32,000 feet and below across eastern parts of their country, “due to combat actions ... near the state border” with Russia, as the official notice put it, including the downing of a Ukrainian military transport plane earlier in the week.

Therefore when they crossed this zone at 33,000 feet, they were neither cutting it razor-close nor bending the rules, but doing what many other airlines had done, in a way they assumed was both legal and safe. Legal in much the way that driving 63 in a 65-mile-per-hour zone would be.

And safe, not just for regulatory reasons, but because aircraft at cruising altitude are beyond the reach of anything except strictly military antiaircraft equipment. During takeoff and landing, airliners are highly vulnerable: They are big, they are moving slowly and in a straight line, they are close to the ground. But while cruising, they are beyond most earthbound criminal or terrorist threats.

This is why, even during wartime, airliners have frequently flown across Iraq and Afghanistan. The restricted zone over Ukraine was meant to protect against accidental fire or collateral damage. It didn’t envision a military attack.

The rebels are reportedly blocking access to the crash site, while the Ukrainian government says it has proof Russia supplied the missile that killed 298 civilians.

And with two 777 hull losses in three months, Malaysia Airlines' future is in doubt.

The drumbeat continues.

Saturday 19 July 2014 14:00:45 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | World#
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David Braverman and Parker
David Braverman is a software developer 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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