The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

New Orleans, Chicago style

A report released today says the century-old Illinois Sanitary and Ship Canal is crumbling, which could be bad news for Joliet:

"We have 39 feet of water that we are holding off Joliet," [Lockmaster Dave] Nolen said, pointing downstream to downtown Joliet as he stood Thursday on a deck overlooking the watertight gates at one end of the lock. "People in Joliet probably wouldn't be able to sleep at night if they knew how devastating the flooding would be because of a breach," he said, raising his voice to be heard above the roar of 25 million gallons of swirling water being released downstream after a barge traveling up-river passed through the lock.

... "Modernizing the nation's waterways provides an incredible return on the dollar," said Jim Farrell, executive director of the chamber's infrastructure council. "It's a relatively minor cost compared to fixing O'Hare [International Airport] or modernizing the rapid transit system in Chicago." A single barge has the cargo capacity equivalent to 15 jumbo hopper freight cars or 58 large semitrailer trucks, according to transportation experts.

Of course, the Godforsaken Old Party would call fixing the locks an "earmark," so it's unclear where the money will come from.

Eat, bubbe! Eat!

One of my oldest friends—I mean, 5th-grade-old—opened a restaurant this past fall: Mint Julep Bistro, 53 W. Slade St., Palatine, +1 (847) 934-3000. The Chicago Tribune has now reviewed it:

Without reservations on a recent Saturday, we waited in the intimate lounge where, to management's credit, nobody pushed apps or booze on us. But we wanted both, and it fortunately didn't take long to fill our order. There's plenty of bourbon and a lovely wine list by the glass/bottle. We bypassed the bourbon (we’ll be back for that) and ordered a glass of French viognier ($6.25) and a winter white ale ($4.25) to accompany an order of three scrumptious, sizable crab cakes ($10.50). Fall-apart tender and made with the prime meat from the claw, the cakes were further enhanced with the well-balanced remoulade sauce.

But don't fill up too much. The menu is big, with one tempting entree after another starring seafood, beef, poultry and a vegetarian platter. (We heard a grateful remark from a nearby diner, who hadn't expected that.) I opted for seafood, and the menu’s plainly titled Shrimp 'n Grits ($16) belied a far more evocative entree: Six firecracker shrimp elegantly plated with a trio of perfectly fried, crunchy-tender grit cakes in a velvety bourbon cream sauce. Rich and almost over the top. My companion’s butcher’s cut steak ($22), a grilled-to-order cut from meat above the filet, arrived with melt-in-your-mouth acorn squash and potato-andouille hash that offered a fresh departure from plain mashed spuds.

Both chefs made appearances throughout their restaurant, stopping at tables and chatting with the clientele. Nice touch.

It's a long haul from the city, but some of us have plans to go back up there again soon. Rich, the aforementioned friend, has a smoker, and the pulled pork is worth the trip.

Geas continues

My 30-ballpark Geas continues into its second season. Just booked: Houston, April 7th, against the Cubs (of course).

Astute observers will note that I've visited the Houston ballpark before, when I was on a consulting assignment for a well-known energy trading company that no longer has naming rights to the park. But I decided at the beginning of the Geas that parks I visited before the Geas started didn't count. (This makes New Yankee Stadium and Citi Field problematic, so I split the difference: Old Yankee Stadium counts for the Yankees, and Citi Field for the Mets.)

My first Cubs game will be April 19th.

Update: Since I already had a trip to San Francisco planned, I've also booked Oakland for the April 25th.

South Beach and Sint Maarten

As promised, more photos from last weekend. First, South Beach:

As much as I enjoy the beach, I actually think the Art Deco buildings are the coolest aspect of Miami Beach.

Three iconic images of Sint Maarten follow. First, a reminder that Sint Maarten and St.-Martin have two distinct identities:

I took this, for example, in St.-Martin, in Sandy Ground:

And this, on Simpson Bay in Sint Maarten:

More tomorrow.


British and French newspapers reported early this week that two of their submarines collided two weeks ago:

The Ministry of Defence was under intense pressure last night to explain how the [HMS] Vanguard, which can carry 48 nuclear warheads on 16 missiles, had managed to crash into Le Triomphant - payload 16 missiles - in an incident which some experts say could have caused a nuclear catastrophe.

The underwater collision happened earlier this month and was at low speed, and no injuries were reported among the total of 240 sailors on the two boats. However some damage was done to both, though officials stressed that none of their nuclear equipment had been damaged.

Three things occurred to me reading about this incident, which the news organizations I consulted don't appear to have grasped:

  1. Ballistic missile submarines patrol at speeds under 4 knots. They're exponentially more detectable at higher speeds. So it follows that the damage they did to each other was very light, because if they'd been moving fast enough to cause more damage, they'd have heard each other.

  2. You can't detonate a nuclear weapon by hitting it, so any environmental risk comes from the reactors powering the boats. However, I think it's important to weigh those risks against (a) the (very small) risk of a nuclear attack on France and the UK that these boats deter, and (b) the routine punishing damage that the merchant fleets of the world do to the oceans every minute. Remember the Exxon Valdez disater, the Amoco Cadiz disaster, and the ongoing disaster of 1.1 million liters of wastewater a typical cruise ship discharges every day.

  3. Notice how neither France nor the UK will say where or exactly when the collision occurred? If they won't even tell each other where their subs patrol, of course they won't tell anyone else. My question: what are they targeting? Typically you put submarines just a few hundred kilometers from their targets. Right now, for example, I would bet money that there are U.S. subs inside the Sea of Japan and Russian subs closer to Los Angeles than L.A. is to Fresno. Everyone knows who the U.S. and Russia are pointing missiles at. Who's France pointing at? Britain? (Read that either "At Britain?" or "And Britain?", your choice.)

Curious. Very curious.

You think Illinois has problems?

No matter how bad it seems in Illinois right now, at least we have a functioning state government. California, on the other hand...

A state budget deal to close a $41 billion shortfall has been put further into question early this morning after Senate Republicans ousted their leader who had helped negotiate the long-awaited plan with other top lawmakers in California.

...[T]he ousted Minority Leader Dave Cogdill, R-Modesto, ...was one of the four legislative leaders who negotiated the emergency budget deal with the governor. Their compromise budget package, reached after three months of negotiations, contained nearly $16 billion in program cuts, $11 billion in borrowing and $14.4 billion in tax increases. The most contentious debate has been over the proposed tax hikes.

Republicans selected Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth, R-Murrieta (Riverside County) as their new Minority leader. Hollingsworth is part of the conservative wing of the Senate Republican caucus and he has been adamantly against raising any taxes.

The New York Times has more:

The state, nearly out of cash, has laid off scores of workers and put hundreds more on unpaid furloughs. It has stopped paying counties and issuing income tax refunds and halted thousands of infrastructure projects.

Twenty-thousand layoff notices [went] out on Tuesday morning, Matt David, the communications director for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said Monday night. "In the absence of a budget we need to realize this savings and the process takes six months," Mr. David said.

When you're talking about the 7th largest economy in the world, this is somewhat disturbing.

How I spent my Presidents Day weekend

Very little of it involved watching planes land, but this was damn cool to see:

That's what a 757 looks like when it lands on your head. In this case I was standing about 30 m from the edge of runway 10 at Princess Juliana Airport (SXM), Sint Maarten. I'll have more from the trip later this week.

Update: I forgot to mention, Sint Maarten was almost, but not quite, as fun as the Presidents Day Bash used to be. Hard to believe it's been five years...