The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

News scan

So what news story should I focus on today? The Cubs using the bankruptcy code to speed up their sale to the Ricketts family? General Motors ramping up production by 45% to see if we'll bail them out a second time? Former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling's appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court?

No, I want to point people toward the Night of the Stripping Dead event at the Admiral Theater tomorrow night:

Exotic dancers and zombies, the two grand pillars of American subculture, have finally joined forces -- thus proving our nation's obsession with the walking dead has irrevocably crossed the line of mainstream consciousness, where now strippers are parodying a trend.

Wednesday night, club organizers are throwing an event...where professional makeup artists will transform otherwise pious dancers into undead dancers.


For completeness, the Admiral Theater is on Lawrence just east of Pulaski.

Why are guns in cockpits a bad idea?

Because sometimes they go off all by themselves:

An arbitrator has ruled the US Airways pilot whose government-issue gun accidentally went off in flight can have his job back. Jim Langenhahn was fired after the 2008 incident and his union is welcoming the arbitration decision. ... Langenhahn's pistol shot a hole through the aircraft's fuselage, but the Department of Homeland Security helped his case when it faulted the design of the captain's holster. However, the Transportation Security Adminstration, which oversees the Federal Flight Deck Officer program claims, the same holster design has been used by thousands of pilots without incident.

Airline pilots were given the option of undergoing firearms training to carry guns in the cockpit in 2002. Langenhahn, a former Air Force pilot, claimed the gun discharged in the cockpit when he was putting it away before landing a flight out of Denver for Charlotte. No passengers or crew were hurt, and the aircraft landed without further incident.

Again, only two things have made airplanes safer against terrorism since 9/11: passenger vigilance and reinforced cockpit doors. Guns? Probably a bad idea.

Cool things

A quorum:

  • After 8.3 hours of work, I finished my accounting final. I've no idea how well I did, but I'm already planning to ask the professor for a meeting when I'm next in Durham.
  • We had our first freeze today, about three weeks earlier than usual. We missed the record low (-3°C, set in 1996), but after two weeks of below-normal temperatures, it was a fitting reminder of this year's El Niño.
  • We also had the Chicago Marathon today, with a start temperature of 1°C. The cold start helped; Sammy Wanjiru (below, third from left) set a new course record of 2:05:40. As someone who can't run that fast over 100 meters, to do it over 42 km is amazing.
  • Wanjiru wasn't the fastest participant, however. The Chicago Marathon starts with the wheelchair race. Kurt Fearnley (below) won his third-straight Chicago title in 1:29:09, averaging 28.3 km/h—about as fast as a decent biker.

I'm still not done with the first term—we have two more assignments, plus an exam the day we start in Dubai—but I think for the remainder of today, I'm going to goof off.

Good thing I'm a Cubs fan

This may actually be funny.

My CCMBA class includes students from 30 countries, in every part of the world. Consequently, Duke has created a Flash-based Web portal, through which we take exams, submit assignments, attend classes, and keep in touch. The thing has worked more or less as advertised since we arrived in London two months ago.

By tomorrow at 23:59 EDT, we must hand in our Accounting and Management exams. We have 24 hours from download to complete the former, and 90 minutes to complete the latter.

Can you see where this is going? Of course you can:

See, as a Cubs fan, this doesn't bother me so much. There's always next year.

Update: Tech support just emailed me back. Apparently they had a hardware failure in one of the server rooms, and the infrastructure guys are on it.

Update, 13:30 CDT: The platform is back up. Here we go...let the exams begin.

Update, 13:35 CDT: They did a fu@!ing upgrade! During exams! Unbefu&@ingleivable.

Final update, 13:55 CDT: OK, it looks like they did a rollback to a known-working version of the platform, not a upgrade. That makes a lot more sense. I will just assume that, because it's exam week and I've had a little more caffeine today than usual, I might have some extra nervous energy that caused me to jump to hasty conclusions. I will now walk the dog, take some deep breaths, and start the first exam.

Unplugging for a day

After Parker and I get back from the walk we're about to take, I'll have two final exams and, immediately after, some Scotch. Since one of the exams might take me 24 hours to complete, you can imagine the quantity of Scotch waiting at the end of it.

In the meantime, via Andrew Sullivan, I leave you with this Spanish car advertisement that I can't quite wrap my head around:

They couldn't put us up at Motel 6?

I've had only one difficulty with the Duke CCMBA (aside from the material—talk to me Sunday night after I hand in my accounting final, for example): travel optimization. Our next residency starts October 30th in Dubai. Getting from Chicago to Dubai has inherent difficulties, particular with the (self-imposed) constraint of flying only oneworld carriers.

I initially tried to go through Amman, and take a couple of days after the residency to visit Jordan and Israel. That fell through when Royal Jordanian dropped the only flight from Chicago that made the trip work, forcing me either to connect through Detroit or New York either two or three days early.

Plan B. British Airways has the largest network after my home carrier, American, so the logical routing takes me through London. And to avoid 16 hours in coach, I decided to stay overnight there on my way back.

Only, it turns out I made a slight error in planning the return. As the CCMBA program office mentioned to me when I posted my travel arrangements, my flight plans have me leaving Dubai the day after the residency ends. But this shouldn't be a big deal. I'll just stay in Dubai one extra night, right?

Well, that would mean one extra night at Jumeirah Emirates Towers, not Motel 6. Imagine the shock and horror when I called them and discovered that would cost AED 1,740 (US$474).

Result? After paying a £100 ($144) change fee to the airline, and booking an additional £96 ($138) night at the little hotel in Kensington where I'll be staying, I'm going to have my extra post-residency night in London instead of Dubai, and save $200.

All of this is completely boring, of course, and doesn't really add anything to modern American literature or journalism. But it is my last gasp of work avoidance before diving into 8 hours of financial accounting and 2 hours of management essentials today.

Full of sound and fury signifying...what, exactly?

A number of confusing changes occurred to the world while I slept:

  • President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize. I love the man; I voted for him; I gave lots of money[1] to two of his campaigns. I'm still confused. It might offend some of my fellow progressives to say, but possibly the prize means nothing more than "thank you for not being like the last guy, and keep up the good work." The President is, in fact, the second person who is not George W. Bush to win the Prize in the last four years.
  • For reasons which passeth all understanding[2], we crashed a rocket into the moon. We want to find out if the moon has enough water to make long-term habitation possible. Otherwise, we'll have to build a pipeline from the Great Lakes, which poses certain engineering challenges.
  • Both of these stories came to me during WBEZ-Chicago's pledge week, which started yesterday. Please, I beg all my readers in Chicago, please make a donation so they'll stop begging. The only glimmer of good news in the timing of the Fall pledge drive comes in the form of an exquisite torture perpetrated upon me and my 118 classmates by Fuqua. I won't be able to listen to much NPR this weekend because:
  • I have two final exams due this weekend, both take-home, one 90 minutes long and the other with 24 hours to complete. (The clock starts when we download the exams from the school's web portal.) The professor for exam #1 says it's relatively straightforward, everyone will pass, don't worry. The professor for exam #2, who served six years on the Financial Accounting Standards Board and who drafted important regulations of the accounting profession itself, says "someone who is reasonably prepared and who doesn't need to use notes should be able to complete it in 4 or 5 hours." So, a former FASB member who's taught accounting for 30 years will find it "challenging." One hundred eighteen people started crying. (One dude in our class is an accountant who got 117 out of 120 on the midterm.)
  • The U.S. dollar continues to slide slowly into uncomfortable depths. I got an alert while writing this entry that the Canadian dollar has risen against our currency from a low of 76c in March to 95c today. We're also slipping against the Euro and the Yen, but not, I'm happy to say, against Sterling or the Emirati Dirham, the two currencies I'm concerned about in the next few weeks.[3]
  • Finally, a dear friend from North Carolina sent a delightful finals-weekend care package to Parker and me, including doggie fortune cookies and human chocolate-chip cookies. And now Parker has the whole world in his paws (see below).

[1] Lots for me, anyway; NPR wouldn't have given me a mug for the amount I gave.

[2] Aaron Sorkin's favorite phrase, from Phillippans 4:7. Yes, athiests quote Bible verses sometimes.

[3] I'm concerned because I'm about to go to Dubai, via London, for school. The Dirham hasn't changed because it's pegged to the dollar...for now.

Cubs sale approved

The Twins hadn't even polished off the Tigers yesterday before Major League Baseball unanimously approved Tribune's sale of the Cubs to the Ricketts:

The vote was made during a conference call. Tom Ricketts, who has headed the sale for his family, could take day-to-day control of the Cubs by the end of the month.

Commissioner Bud Selig says the Ricketts family will be "great owners and custodians" of the storied franchise perhaps best known for a World Series championship drought that now stands at 101 years.

... The $845 million deal also includes Tribune's approximately 25 percent share of regional cable TV network Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

Oddly, this item was the top story on Crain's Chicago Business this morning but totally buried on the Chicago Tribune's own site.