The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Setting up lunchtime reading

Over the weekend I made a couple of minor updates to Weather Now, and today I'm going to spend some time taking it off its Azure Web Role and moving it to an Azure Website. That will (a) save me money and (b) make deployments a lot easier.

Meanwhile, a number of articles bubbled up overnight that I'll try to read at lunchtime:

Back to Azure deployment strategies.

Amazon as Tom Sawyer (with billions in cash)

Amazon's bidding process for its second headquarters (HQ2) has given the company a bonanza of information about what 238 cities are willing to give up in order to get a piece of the action, and thus what levers Amazon can pull to get public money for its private gain. Not to mention, the applications gave the company millions of dollars worth of marketing data:

Amazon asked every city and state applying for its second headquarters for details about local resources, like available talent and transit options. Local officials were also prodded for tips on local education programs and tax incentives.

The answers — most of which have not been released publicly — essentially do Amazon’s homework for it, providing valuable information that the company otherwise would have needed to dig up on its own or obtain through one-on-one negotiations.

“This is not just about HQ2,” said Richard Florida, an authority on urban development and a professor at the University of Toronto. “It’s about a broader locational strategy. HQ2 is the carrot. That’s the only thing that makes sense.”

Meanwhile, CityLab has put together a guide to the "HQ2 Hunger Games" with detailed breakdowns of the 20 finalists. And they second the Times' assessment on Amazon's ulterior motives: "As CityLab has previously reported, the economic incentives being offered to lure Amazon’s 50,000 jobs and $5 billion in investment were historic in proportion even before the company announced the finalists."

No, that is not Scotch

Diageo, the international beverage behemoth that owns about a quarter of Scotland's distilleries (including Caol Ila and Talisker) is investigating how to produce horrible shite that isn't at all Scotch under its existing brands:

First, Diageo is considering creating “scotch whisky infusions,” low-alcohol and/or flavored alcoholic beverages sold under the same name as existing single malt or blended whisky brands. Secondly, Diageo has sought permission from the [Scotch Whisky Association trade group] to finish some of its single malts in Don Julio tequila barrels, a move that the association did not approve.

“Scotch infusions” as described in the article would fail to meet two criteria for Scotch whisky. First, scotch must be bottled at a minimum of 40% ABV—so anything lower than that would disqualify it as whisky. Secondly, nothing can be added to scotch other than water and caramel coloring.

But there’s another issue at stake here: the use of existing Scotch whisky brand names on non-scotch products. An infusion made with scotch as a base and then bottled under a new name likely would not be an issue, but using the name of an existing single malt or blended scotch brand could lead to confusion among drinkers who think that what they’re buying legally qualifies as whisky. In the U.S., bourbon, straight rye, and other straight whiskeys can’t have anything added either. Yet brands like Jim Beam offer flavored whiskeys under the same brand name as their straight products, using language like “Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Infused With Natural Flavors” (Jim Beam Red Stag).

That move doesn’t fly in Scotland, where the regulations seem to prohibit producers from using their existing brands on drinks that don’t legally qualify as scotch. Section 6 (2) reads: “A person must not label, package, sell, advertise or promote any drink in any other way that creates a likelihood of confusion on the part of the public as to whether the drink is Scotch Whisky.”

The second issue at stake with Diageo’s plans—whether or not scotch can be finished in Don Julio tequila barrels—is a less clear-cut example of violating the rules.

One clue is that Diageo requested to use Don Julio tequila barrels specifically. Diageo owns Don Julio, and if the company wanted to use the Don Julio brand name on its whisky labels, then it’s no surprise the request was turned down. The SWA is notably more wary of listing a distillery than a wine region on a label....

Diageo is a big company, and it wants to make a lot of money for its owners. But it's also a cautionary tale about how scaling up craft products doesn't work for consumers. Sure, people will probably buy "Johnnie Walker Don Julio-finished Honey Chipotle Scotch Infusion" and claim to like it (especially if they put a lot of sugar in it), but that won't be Scotch.

I just hope they continue leaving Talisker alone. That's from the island of my forebears, Skye. In fact it's about the only thing produced on Skye that anyone's heard of (other than loads of wool).

Friday afternoon link round-up

Where to start?

And now, a stand-up meeting.

More stuff to read

What a day. I thought I'd have more time to catch up on reading up to this point, but life intervened. So an hour from now, when I'm cut off from all telecommunications for 9 hours, I plan to sleep. And if I wake, I'll read these articles that I'm leaving open in Chrome:

And now, I head to my airplane.

Why I hate the suburbs

I spent over 3 hours in my car today in principal because there were no public transit options to my remote, suburban destination. That, plus all-day meetings, means that instead of outlining what I'm planning for the weekend—I'll do that tomorrow—I'm just going to line up some articles I want to read:

I now have to pack. Parker will be unhappy with this.

Why do we need to sleep?

The Atlantic reports on some new research in why animals all do this thing that could get them eaten:

There are a handful of substances clearly demonstrated to cause sleep—including a molecule called adenosine, which appears to build up in certain parts of the brains of waking rats, then drain away during slumber. Adenosine is particularly interesting because it is adenosine receptors that caffeine seems to work on. When caffeine binds to them, adenosine can’t, which contributes to coffee’s anti-drowsiness powers. But work on hypnotoxins has not fully explained how the body keeps track of sleep pressure.

For instance, if adenosine puts us under at the moment of transition from wakefulness to sleep, where does it come from? “Nobody knows,” remarks Michael Lazarus, a researcher at the institute who studies adenosine. Some people say it’s coming from neurons, some say it’s another class of brain cells. But there isn’t a consensus. At any rate, “this isn’t about storage,” says [Japanese researcher Masashi] Yanagisawa. In other words, these substances themselves don’t seem to store information about sleep pressure. They are just a response to it.

Unfortunately...they still haven't figured it out. But there is a cute video at the bottom of the article.

First normal commute in weeks

Between my company's work-from-home week between Christmas and New Year's Eve, and the excruciatingly cold weather the week after, this morning was the first time since December 21st.

It turned out that commuting by public transit took exactly the same amount of time as driving to work, but gained me 2,500 additional steps. That's helpful, because in the last 20 days I've missed my step goal 10 times.

Here's to warmer weather and better exercise habits.

Crap beer sales are going to pot

People watching the big-beer industry (think: Miller Lite and Coors Light) expect a 7.1% decline in mass-market beer sales—$2.1 billion annually—as more states legalize cannabis:

"There's a ton of overlap in marijuana and domestic beer consumption among younger college males," says Rick Maturo, co-founder of Cannabiz Consumer Group, an Inverness-based research company. "This is the group that drinks beer at a heavier volume and is most likely to cut back if cannabis is legally available."

He says 27 percent of beer drinkers say they've already substituted marijuana for beer or would do so if the drug were legalized in their state. Other research predicts an even worse dip: Alcoholic beverage sales fell 15 percent after the passage of medical marijuana laws in a number of states, according to researchers at the University of Connecticut and Georgia State University.

Sales of Coors Light and Miller Lite were down 3.6 percent and 1.6 percent, respectively, through the third quarter ​ from a year earlier, according to Nielsen data from Beer Marketer's Insights. In October, Molson Coors, MillerCoors' Denver-based parent, said its U.S. beer sales dropped nearly 3 percent in the previous quarter. And between 2010 and 2016, the light category as a whole saw volumes decline by 14 percent.

What's worse: The decline of Miller Lite and Coors Light is nearly impossible to offset through other sales—even as the brewer's Leinenkugel's and Blue Moon brands post robust results—because the two light beers represent more than half of MillerCoors' overall sales volume. They're "a major driver of our profitability," CEO Gavin Hattersley acknowledged on MillerCoors' third-quarter earnings call recently.

Two things: first, pot was criminalized in the wake of the 21st Amendment exactly for this reason. Second, I'm not sorry to see declines in the sales of horrible products.

Cold weather and steps

My step count over the last week and a half has really suffered. Between Arctic temperatures and working from home (and a dog who hates boots), my average over the last 7 days of 2017 was just 8,441 steps per day. Throughout 2017, I only missed 10k steps 26 times—6 of them between Christmas and New Year's Eve.

This weekend should be warmer, and I'm back in the office this week, so I expect better results going forward. Both yesterday and Monday I hit my 10k goal, and today I'm likely to.

But wow, I hate missing it. I really do.