The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Parker is learning

Each day that we spend getting Parker to exist peacefully with the cats brings us closer to the goal of peace and harmony. This, I think, is what Parker fears (and the cats want):

(Hat tip DK.)

Yesterday, for example, one of the cats (Lily, the boldest) let Parker sniff her. Of course, I had my hand on his collar the whole time, but still, progress. Then, later that day, another cat (Nick, the ball of orange spite that makes Bucky look like a model citizen) tried to hit him for no reason. Oy.

I miss a lot about home

But not this:

The Chicago area was bracing for a long, hazardous evening rush hour as it continued to be socked by a major snowstorm that has canceled more than 500 flights, closed more than 150 schools and caused numerous spin-out accidents on expressways.

The Illinois State Police is warning of "extreme travel times" for the rush hour.

Tonight also will turn bitterly cold with wind chill values as low as -17°C to -24°C. Today's high temperatures are expected to be [around -5°C].

At the peak of the morning rush hour, travel times on some expressways were well over an hour above the norm. Travel conditions are expected to be worse this evening as winds pick up and snow begins to drift across roadways.

Like I said yesterday, Chicago weather builds character—but I have enough for now, thanks.

Economic analysis of Dubai and the UAE

The Duke CCMBA has a five-term course called "Culture, Civilization, and Leadership" that gives us structures to help us understand—wait for it—cultures and civilizations. At the end of each term, each team produces a paper analyzing the place in which we started the term. This term, I drew the short straw volunteered to write the first draft. We just submitted the final paper, after a few days of revisions. If you're interested, here it is.

We didn't put it in the paper, but throughout the process, I kept hearing Ozymandias in my head. Can't think why:

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said:—Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

We'll see.

Not a bad place to spend the winter

It turns out, Raleigh isn't that cold. All my life I've just accepted that Chicago winters build character. But I'm not sure anymore, especially after three sunny, 5°C days here while temperatures back home have skulked around -12°C. Then, today, this:

A winter storm warning will be in effect across the Chicago area from this evening through Friday morning.

By the end of that warning, anywhere from 15 to 30 cm of a fairly fluffy snow will have come down, according to the National Weather Service. The heaviest snows are expected near the lakefront.

... The heaviest snowfall will occur between noon and 6 p.m. Thursday, with snow falling at about an inch an hour, [said Charles Mott, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service].

Forecasters predict snow in Raleigh tonight, too: about 1 cm or so. Of course, that amount could halt all commerce in North Carolina, so we'll be stocking up on bottled water later.

Seriously, though, Raleigh averages 19 cm of snow annually; Chicago, 98 cm. Then there are the normal temperatures of both cities. I'll say nothing else right now except that the average January daily high temperature in Chicago is the average January daily low temperature in Raleigh.

Let's see how I like Raliegh in July. But today, it's fine.

About that Israeli airport security

I mentioned a few days ago that security at Israel's Ben Gurion airport seems to be both stronger and more convenient than U.S. airport security. Bruce Schneier reminds us about the problem:

[N]o matter how safe or how wonderful the flying experience on El Al, it is TINY airline by U.S. standards, with only 38 aircraft, 46 destinations, and fewer than two million passengers in 2008. ... In 2008, Ben Gurion served 11.1 million international passengers and 470,000 domestic passengers, roughly comparable to the 10 million total served at Sacramento.... Amsterdam served 47.4 million total, and Detroit served 35.1 million total in 2008.

By American standards, in terms of passengers served, Ben Gurion is a busy regional airport.

Simply put, the Israeli airport security model does not scale. Period.

The question I have is: why can't we have a rational debate about the costs of security?

The price of free

Would you take more free stuff, or more stuff you pay for? Probably the latter, according to Duke University professor Dan Ariely:

DAN ARIELY: ... [T]here's some interesting exceptions [to cheaper prices being better]. And the most interesting one is the price of free. Imagine that one of your co-workers comes to the office with home-baked cookies, and she's offering you the cookies for a very cheap price. Let's say 5 cents per cookie. And she has 100 cookies on the tray, and there are 20 people in the office. How many cookies will you take?

KAI RYSSDAL: I'd probably take like five. I'd give her a quarter, and take five cookies.

ARIELY: OK, but what would happen if it was free?

RYSSDAL: Well, now see, I'm torn here, because I would either take a lot and be a real piggy, or I would take maybe one or two because I wouldn't want to be a glutton.

The entire conversation was on Marketplace tonight.

Burj Dubai opens tomorrow; Chicago helped

The Burj Dubai, the tallest building in the world, opens tomorrow. The Chicago Tribune reports on its historical debt to Chicago:

[T]he Burj Dubai has a broader -- unmistakably global -- significance for Chicago, which invented the skyscraper in the 1880s, pioneered supertall structures in the mid-1960s and had bragging rights to the world's tallest building title from 1974 to 1996, when Sears (now Willis) Tower wore the crown.

These days, the city's cloud-busting architectural achievements aren't simply found in the downtown blocks girdled by the rough-edged steel structure of the "L." They're spread across the world, from Dubai to Shanghai and beyond.

"From the foundation established in Chicago, that legacy is now being exported to other countries," said Joseph Rosa, the Art Institute of Chicago's architecture and design curator.

The article goes on to laud Adrian Smith, the building's chief architect. It's good to remember, though, that Chicago invented the skyscraper, and led the world for decades. But we're content to let the young upstarts have their fun. Look upon their works, ye mighty, and despair.


Have you ever tried to introduce a dog into a house full of cats? We've had more fun in the past three weeks doing this than seems fair. We're finally at the point where we think Parker will leave the cats alone just long enough for them to flee. The terrier and beagle bits take over on occasion and he has gotten uncomfortably close to the cats more than once—which explains why we've kept him tethered to the desk where I can get to him immediately.

Being untethered has huge benefits, though. For example, Parker can find a sunbeam and relax:

But meet Nick, 10 kg of mean orange spite. He looks so peaceful:

Deceptive cat. Stupid cat. Cat with a death-wish. While the other cats have tentatively and demurely tried to sniff Parker before being scared witless when he's jumped up, Nick actually has pressed his attacks against the dog, not understanding Parker's, 3-to-1 size advantage.

So, as a temporary measure, we got a baby gate, and installed it high enough off the ground that the cats can slip under it if they need to. Parker could probably knock it down with some effort, but as we never leave him unattended around the cats, it would slow him down enough for one of us to intervene. But oh, Parker really wants to get under it:

Or from Parker's perspective:

We spent about half an hour coaxing the cats out of the bedroom and praising Parker's calm and non-threatening behavior. We'll see. Parker will probably have to get smacked a few times before he decides the cats aren't just big squirrels.

As a reward, and to let him burn off some energy before we let him off leash in the house tonight, we took him to Oakwood Park.

Poor dog. Poor cats. (Except Nick.) They really can't help it. All we humans can do is prevent bloodshed.