The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Maine is sorry

After Maine Governor Paul LePage (the Rob Ford of New England) made yet more inappropriate comments into a recording device earlier this week, the Portland Press Herald has apologized to the rest of the U.S. for electing him:

Dear America: Maine here. Please forgive us – we made a terrible mistake. We managed to elect and re-elect a governor who is unfit for high office.

You probably heard about the latest episode. He was asked about the toxic racial environment that he created in the state with insensitive statements about people of color. The questioner, an entrepreneur from New York, wondered how he could ever bring a business here.

The question was an opportunity for the governor to undo some of the damage that he has caused by giving members of minority groups around the country the impression that Maine is a white state where no one else is welcome.

Instead, the governor repeated one of his worst libels: That Maine’s drug crisis is the fault of black and brown transient thugs who come here not only to sell their poison but also to take advantage of “white Maine women.”

At least he's term-limited. Though he probably won't live up to everyone's favorite recent promise, that he'll resign.

Fun commute today

So, this happened on my train line:

A Metra train on the Union Pacific North Line was struck by lightning Tuesday morning in the Rogers Park neighborhood on the North Side.

Outbound train No. 309, scheduled to arrive in Kenosha at 8:18 a.m., was stopped shortly before 7:30 a.m. when it was struck by lightning, causing a mechanical failure near the Rogers Park Station...

Metra spokesman Tom Miller said no injuries were reported.

It actually only added about 15 minutes to my commute. Of course, if I'd known about the problem before seeing two outbound trains copulat--er, coupled together at my station while walking there (in the rain), I'd have taken the El.

At least it wasn't raining hard.

Banning PowerPoint at universities


Overreliance on slides has contributed to the absurd belief that expecting and requiring students to read books, attend classes, take notes and do homework is unreasonable.

Courses designed around slides therefore propagate the myth that students can become skilled and knowledgeable without working through dozens of books, hundreds of articles and thousands of problems.

If slide shows are so bad, why are they so popular?

Universities measure student satisfaction but they do not measure learning. Since organisations focus on what they measure and students like PowerPoint, it stays, regardless of its educational effectiveness.

On the other hand, when I see something pervasive that exists counter to my own values, I wonder (a) are my values out of step and (b) what are the incentives? I think more research is needed.

The slow death of Cairo, Illinois

The UK's Daily Mail has a decent explanation and creepy photos of how the southernmost city in Illinois went from a thriving (and historical) port to a nearly-abandoned shell in 50 years:

The town's luck began to fall in 1889 when the Illinois Central Railroad bridge opened over the Ohio River - although much railroad activity was still routed through the town, so its effects were not severe.

The same can't be said for a second bridge that opened around 23 miles up the Mississippi at Thebes, Illinois in 1905. 

The completion of that bridge drained away much railroad activity, reducing the need for the ferries that once carried railroad stock. 

And with steamboats being phased out in favor of barges, Cairo was no longer the essential hub it had once been. The end had begun.

The town was hit again in 1929 and 1937 when bridges were completed across the Mississippi and Ohio rivers, respectively, allowing a route through for US Routes 51, 60 and 62.

As the bridges were built at the town's southern tip, it was easy for traffic to bypass Cairo completely, draining away more money. 

But there was still a little money coming to the town until 1987, when the Interstate 57 bridge opened across the Mississippi, allowing traffic to bypass the town altogether - killing its hotel and restaurant industries.

I visited Cairo in 2003. It was pretty dead then, but judging by the photos in the Daily Mail article, it's even worse now.

Here's the confluence of the rivers, in December 2003:

Why U.S. airlines suck

The Economist's Gulliver blog explains:

America is a big country, and its airlines have to focus most of their attention on domestic flights. In 2014, Delta flew more passengers than any other in the world, but less than one-fifth of them were on international routes. Despite recent consolidation, there is still much competition at home: on top of the big four, customers can sometimes choose among JetBlue, Spirit, Frontier, Alaska, Hawaiian, Virgin America and others. And flyers have made it clear that they have one priority far above all others: price. The result, as one airline industry veteran told Fast Company, is that flights resemble “a Greyhound [bus] with wings”. When flying halfway across the country for $70, can flyers really expect better amenities than on a long-haul bus making the same trip?

That pressure is not felt by, say, Singapore Airlines, the world’s third-best carrier, according to Skytrax. It has no domestic routes to worry about; the entire country is less than 300 square miles.


If America wants better airlines, in other words, the answer is simple. First it must take the carriers into state control and squash the unions. Then it must persuade the world to forget its sexist ways and encourage those at home to go on a diet. Finally it should reduce in size and move a bit closer to Asia. Easy. 

So history, geography, and culture all play roles? Who'd have thought.

Ah, the poor GOP

I'll have more Schadenfreude after November 8th (assuming things go as the polls suggest), but right now I'll just pass on NBC's analysis of what might happen to the Republican Party over the next four years:

Whether or not Trump prevails in November, the GOP is set for a rebuilding process like none in recent memory. If he wins, he’ll face a Congress whose leaders have largely distanced themselves from his brand and who oppose much of his agenda. If he loses, his one-of-a-kind candidacy offers each faction of the party a credible argument that its approach would have carried the election instead.

How to achieve that ideal was another story. Participants disagreed sharply on the policies that constitute true conservatism, the changes needed to secure its political future, and, above all, what Trump’s emergence meant to them. Was he a malevolent force that needed to be purged? A prophet heralding necessary changes? A freak occurrence with no greater meaning at all? Or some mix of all of the above?

In the course of these conversations, four broad paths emerged, each pointing to different agendas, different messages, different coalitions of voters and a different conception of what it means to be a Republican.

Meanwhile, it turns out that the Minnesota Republican Party failed to get any Republican candidates on the state-wide ballot because they missed the filing deadline. As James Fallows said, "Managerial excellence is of course central to Donald Trump’s promises of what he would do in office. What he’s managing now is his campaign."

Probably not going to help the team

Two years after U.S. Cellular got absorbed by Sprint-NexTel, the Chicago White Sox have finally gotten around to renaming their ballpark. The winner? Guaranteed Rate, a low-cost mortgage lender. The change is effective November 1st.

I wonder what people will call it. "The Cell" is no more, "Comiskey" is long dead, and "Sox Park" isn't really the official name. Maybe people will call it "The G'Rate?" Nah.

The Tribune has some Twitter reactions up. My favorite: "Guaranteed Seats Park."

And hey, the Sox aren't the worst team in baseball right now (Atlanta Braves), nor are they the worst in the league (Minnesota Twins). But they're 60-65 and 12 games out of contention with only a couple dozen left to play, so the team will have plenty of time to change the marquee after the season ends October 1st.