The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

What would $20 gas look like?

The Freakonomics blog interviews author Christopher Steiner about his book $20 Per Gallon:

[At $8 per gallon, predicted in 2019,] our restaurant world won't be terribly different from what we’re used to now. We'll always have Chinese food — or at least the Americanized version of it (batter it, fry it, smother it in sweet and tangy sauce). The tricky part of the question concerns foods like sushi. When gas is $8 per gallon, sushi will still be hanging around. Things get interesting, however, at $18 per gallon.

By the time gas has reached $18 [predicted in 2029-2039], most people will live in places where density dictates that schools be grouped closer together, putting them within an easy walk or a brief bike ride.

Q: What are some things you suggest people enjoy now before they’re gone?

A: Eat sushi. Drive the trans-Canadian highway (in summer). Go to Australia. Go see Tokyo and take notes — life will be more like that and less like, say, Omaha, in the future.

I wish I had time to read this book. Maybe if I get all my Duke reading done before next week. As if.

Cubs win, return to first place

The Cubs' win against Houston yesterday started early. Here's the scoreboard after Kosuke Fukudome's two-run double in the 3rd, right before Ryan Theriot got to first on a throwing error:

The inning started with back-to-back solo home runs by Jake Fox and Milton Bradley, and ended with Derek Lee striking out and Fukodome, in one of the stupidest base-running moves I've seen in a long time, running on the dropped third strike and getting caught sealing home.

Final score, Cubs 12, Astros 3:

Notice the thickening clouds. Since this was the rain-postponed May 15th game, rain would have been ironic. Instead it just rained on my cousin a couple hours later as he walked home.

Other notable moments: plate umpire C.B. Bucknor got hit in the face twice in the second inning, but stayed in the game. And immediately after the game, both teams announced changes affecting the day's starting pitchers: Cubs starter Kevin Hart got traded, and Astros starter Russ Ortiz got released.

Let's raise our glasses one last time

I'm going to be in London two weeks from now, so it saddened me to hear this on NPR's Morning Edition today:

The British Beer and Pub Association says an average of 52 pubs are closing each week. Changing consumer tastes, a two-year-old smoking ban and the deepening economic recession have hit pubs hard. But for thousands, the death blow has been dealt by rising government taxes on beer — up to 20 percent in the past two years. The traditional pint glass of beer now runs about $6, meaning few working-class Brits can afford that other British tradition: buying your friends a round.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has refused to reconsider further increases in the tax on beer. Industry leaders say that means thousands more pubs will close their doors.


"There is no alternative to the pub," [Fuller's Brewery's chairman Michael Turner] says. "It is the center of the community. And all the social interaction that goes with a pub is likely to be lost when the pub goes. I mean, you can go from three pubs to two pubs in a community, but when you lose the last pub — that's it."

Very sad.

Stupid lawyer tricks

When Chicago-based Horizon Realty sued a former tenant for defamation because of a Twitter tweet, did anyone tell them how badly this could go for them? Seriously, that's some atrocious lawyering:

"Who said sleeping in a moldy apartment was bad for you? Horizon realty thinks it's okay," Amanda Bonnen apparently wrote in her Twitter feed May 12 at 9:08 a.m.

Horizon Group Management, which leased Bonnen's Uptown apartment, wasn't pleased.

Last week the company filed suit against Bonnen in Cook County Circuit Court, claiming Bonnen "maliciously and wrongfully published the false and defamatory Tweet."


Regardless of the legal merits of the case, Horizon is "inviting a PR nightmare" and drawing scrutiny well beyond the 17 followers Bonnen's Twitter feed had before it was closed, said Sam Bayard, assistant director of the Citizen Media Law Project.

(Emphasis mine.)

OK, I think we can draw two important lessons from this:

First, Twitter feeds are public, and anything you tweet (or post on Facebook or on a blog get it) is most likely "publishing" for the purposes of libel and defamation law. Further, if you actually libel or defame someone on a public website, you may be exposing yourself to suit not only where you live and where they live, but in any jurisdiction with a long-arm statute where people can access the Internet. (Lawyers: New York State is one, right?)

Worse, not every jurisdiction in the world follows the U.S. rule that it's up to the person claiming libel to prove both malice and dishonesty. In the U.K., for instance, because they have a "loser-pays" system, it puts the burden of showing that the alleged libel was actually true on the defendant. I commend to your attention the destruction of Oscar Wilde, who lost his libel suit and went to jail.

But that's not the main point. Libel in the U.S. is very hard to prove. Incompetence, however, is quite easy to prove, as when a company sues someone because they think the person made them look bad. The lawsuit makes them look positively reprehensible. Any lawyer who advises a client to proceed with this case is not helping her client. Any client who doesn't listen to his lawyer in this case is plain stupid. Look, the woman had 17 followers before last week; how many people are aware of the case now? 17,000? 17 million? What do you suppose Horizon's reputation looks like now?

More reasonably, it looks like they're suing this woman to punish her, knowing they have no hope of winning. I would not be surprised, if that's the case, if she counter-sues and wins on a claim of abusing the judicial process.

The bottom line: get over it.

Forget about who will bell the cat

Put a camera on him instead:

In the beginning there is one big question and a lot curiosity: that is the cat doing all day long ? The solution and answer is the CatCam. The small digital camera is attached to the collar of the cat. It features a user programmable timer function. Based on the interval time it takes automatically pictures or video clips (based on version). The unit is protected against shock, dirt and humidity in order to survive the cats lifestyle.

Still hanging on

The Cubs, against all logic and reason, remain in first place, half a game ahead of St. Louis, thanks to Alfonso Soriano's walk-on grand slam last night in the 13th, and remained as humble and gracious as ever:

"I play nine innings all the time," Soriano said. "I had three strikeouts and was 0-for-5, but in that last at-bat, I changed my day. I got the victory tonight, and I think everybody is happy now."

But it was Soriano who looked like the goat in the 11th when he stood at the plate on a grounder to third. [Plate umpire Mike] Everitt ruled the ball was in play, though Soriano insisted it went off his foot for a foul.

"I told him, if I say the ball hit me in my foot, it hit me in my foot," Soriano said. "I don't have to lie."

Mustn't complain, mustn't complain...they did win the game after all.

Good rundown on the 787

The Economist's Gulliver blog sums up the unfortunate problems with Boeing's biggest project:

The latest delay looks like the most serious yet. In May, routine bending tests in the workshop showed the wing structure to have separated from its skin ("delaminated") at 120%-130% of the load limit. To pass muster with the Federal Aviation Administration and other certification bodies, wings have to sustain at least 150% of the load limit without rupturing.

The problem...has been identified in the past and recognised as a problem. The issue has arisen on other composite airplanes. Indeed, the stress point at the end of the 787 stringers showed up as a 'hot spot' in Boeing’s computer models before the delamination in the wing bend test—but for some reason was never addressed.

It's worth a read, as are the articles Gulliver linked to.