Last night, after getting back from San Antonio, I opened the windows for the first time in nearly six weeks. We had, I believe, one of the hottest and stickiest Julys I've ever experienced. But yesterday when I got home the temperature was 23°C and dropping—finally cooler outside my air-conditioned apartment than inside it.
Unfortunately for my colleagues down in Texas, it's no cooler there:
|Sun Aug 7||38°C||30°C|
|Mon Aug 8||38°C||27°C|
|Tue Aug 9||
|Wed Aug 10||39°C||25°C|
|Thu Aug 11*||40°C||24°C|
I understand, however, that they have beautiful winters....
Since I last mentioned an annual study that reports which countries allow visa-free visitors from which other countries, the U.S. has fallen out of second place:
Scandinavians and Finns, by contrast, can travel to 173 countries or territories (out of a possible 223) without the need to fill in forms with curious questions dreamt up by bureaucrats.
The law firm Henley & Partners, which compiles the list, now has the U.S. tied at 5th with Ireland. The other top-5 countries are as follows:
|1||Denmark, Finland, Sweden||173|
|3||Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, UK||171|
|4||Japan, Norway, Portugal, Spain||170|
When I have time, I'll try to chase down the raw data to find out, again, which countries we need visas to visit that our European and Japanese friends don't.
Slate's Farhad Manjoo examines the phenomenon:
The rest of the Web long ago did away with auto-playing music, Flash buttons and menus, and elaborate intro pages, but restaurant sites seem stuck in 1999. The problem is getting worse in the age of the mobile Web—Flash doesn't work on Apple's devices, and while some of these sites do load on non-Apple smartphones, they take forever to do so, and their finicky navigation makes them impossible to use.
When you visit many terrible restaurant websites in succession, it becomes obvious that they're not bad because of neglect or lack of funds—these food purveyors appear to have spent a great deal of money and time to uglify their pages. Indeed, there seems to be an inverse relationship between a restaurant's food and its site. The swankier the place, the worse the page. Chez Panisse, Alice Waters' Berkeley temple of simple, carefully sourced local cuisine, starts with a pointless, grainy five-second clip of what looks like a scene from a Fellini movie. Alinea, the Chicago molecular gastronomy joint, presents you with a series of menu buttons that aren't labeled; you've got to mouse over each one to find out what you're about to click on.
Not all is lost. I spoke to a few restaurateurs who've created great, easy to use, elegant sites, and they all said they were motivated by one thing: They were missing out on traffic from mobile devices. The steakhouse chain Morton's, for instance, has a mobile site that uses your GPS location to get you information on the restaurant closest to you. The site loads up quickly, and lets you make a reservation in a matter of seconds. "We wanted to keep the bells and whistles at a minimum," Roger Drake, the company's head of marketing, told me.
Not only did I agree with Manjoo wholeheartedly, but I also started thinking about steak...
Democrats in Wisconsin picked up two state senate seats in an unprecedented recall election:
Democrats defeated Republican state Sen. Dan Kapanke, who represented the most Dem-leaning seat of any Republican in the chamber, by a 55%-45% margin. They also won a 51%-49% victory over state Sen. Randy Hopper, whose campaign was also damaged by a messy divorce, and allegations by his estranged wife that he "now lives mostly in Madison" after having an affair.
This would get Democrats from their previous 19-14 minority, following the 2010 Republican wave, to a 17-16 margin. In two more safe Republican districts, incumbents Robert Cowles and Sheila Harsdorf won by margins of 60%-40% and 58%-42%, respectively
At the very least, this might signal to the Wisconsin GOP that a good chunk of the electorate believes they lurched too far right since being elected:
All six of these districts were, on paper, serious uphill climbs for Democrats. The incumbents were last elected in 2008, winning their districts even in the middle of the huge Democratic wave that year.
After this near-miss, the next question becomes: How will this result impact the Democrats' declared intentions to recall Gov. Scott Walker some time next year? Will the Dems' grassroots energy flatten out -- or can it keep going, towards the lofty goal of collecting over half a million signatures, plus a buffer, to trigger a recall election?
It also means, for the next 15 months or so, Wisconsin politics might be the most divisive and vicious in the country. Thanks for all your help, Koch brothers!
This is actually a scan of a print, from July 1991:
That's available light on Kodacolor 100, in Balboa Beach, Calif., about here.
Two more photos from yesterday. First, my hat's off to this guy, who has suffered more than most of us will ever know:
And Carlos Zambrano rounds the bases after his solo home run in the 3rd:
This was Zambrano's 23rd career home run making him one of the top-10 homer-hitting pitchers, and a solid argument against the hated designated hitter rule that afflicts some of the minor leagues.
Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano warms up before yesterday's game at Wrigley Field, Chicago:
Canon 7D at ISO-400, 1/800 at f/5.6, 171mm, exactly here.
In this shot, I corrected the color to 7500K (based on a gray card reading), pushed the contrast, and desaturated. Later today I'll have another shot of Zambrano in which I did almost the opposite.
I like afternoons like this one. Yes, it was a little warm, and yes, a little sticky. But I had seats in aisle 10, row 6 at Wrigley, which failed to suck:
Zambrano pitched, with a few walks here and there but mostly nothing for Cincinnati to hit:
And you know? I always like seeing things like this:
More photos later. Right now, I need about five showers, three for the sunscreen and two for the hot weather.