On Thursday, a court accepted Eddie Lampert's $5.2 bn bid to keep Sears running and himself as its head:
Lampert’s purchase, made through his hedge fund, ESL Investments, is intended to keep 425 Sears and Kmart stores open, preserving some 45,000 jobs. It was the only bid submitted in an auction that would have kept the once-mighty department store giant in business and avoid liquidation.
Lampert’s plan was opposed by a committee of unsecured creditors skeptical that Hoffman Estates-based Sears will be any more successful after exiting bankruptcy. The committee pushed for a liquidation, arguing that shutting down the company and selling its assets could recover more of what Sears owes.
Still unresolved is a dispute between Sears and ESL over which is responsible for paying $166 million for inventory received after Sears filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Oct. 15. Although Drain did not have jurisdiction to decide the issue, he gave an advisory opinion in favor of Sears’ claim that ESL is responsible for those liabilities.
The judge’s decision saves Sears from liquidation, but still unanswered is whether Lampert can reinvigorate a retail chain that many consumers have fond memories of, but no current relationship with. Lampert has said he wants to invest in smaller stores and those that are profitable, with a focus on popular categories like appliances and repair services.
I'm not a bankruptcy attorney, so I don't know whether this is a good ruling. I, personally, would have preferred that Sears stay open and Lampert stay far away from it. But at least it's not dead yet.
I'm under the weather today, which has helped me catch up on all these stories that I haven't gotten to yet:
And now, I will nap.
Just a quick update on the 30-Park Geas. It happens that I'll be in New York on 31st March for an unrelated reason, but as the Yankees will be in town that day, I can knock off my 28th park. Which means I'll have 4 left. So today I booked a trip to Arlington, Texas, and Denver in April (yes, I'll be in Denver on 4/20), and plan to catch the last two parks in June.
The last one, of course, will be the Cubs at St. Louis.
Updates as conditions warrant.
Major League Baseball is contemplating going straight to the Bad Place:
Major League Baseball and its union have had substantive discussions in recent days over a series of proposals, among the most drastic proposed changes in years, that could bring significant rule changes to the sport in 2019 and beyond, according to two sources familiar with those talks. The discussions have included both on-field rule changes, pushed by Commissioner Rob Manfred, and proposals from the union to improve competitive balance.
The specific rule-change proposals, first reported by The Athletic and confirmed by a person familiar with the discussions, include:
- The adoption of the designated hitter in the National League, making the DH universal across both leagues.
- A rule requiring pitchers to face a minimum of three batters, except in the case of injury or when finishing an inning.
- The expansion of rosters from 25 to 26 players, with a maximum of 12 pitchers.
- A reduction in mound visits from six to five.
- A rule, which would be tested in spring training and the All-Star Game, in which each half-inning in extra innings would begin with a runner on second base.
Of all the proposed changes, the universal DH arguably would be the most significant to the game on the field. Since 1973, baseball has operated with different rules for the National and American Leagues — with pitchers hitting in the former, but not the latter — and necessitating shifting rules and roster manipulation for interleague and World Series games.
Just, no. In the immortal words of Crash Davis, "I believe there ought to be a Constitutional amendment outlawing Astroturf and the designated hitter."
At least by one metric, O'Hare has pipped Atlanta and gotten back to the top of the league table for total annual aviation operations:
O’Hare saw 903,747 flights in 2018, up 4.2 percent compared with the previous year, while Atlanta hosted 895,502 flights, up 1.8 percent, the FAA said. Los Angeles, Dallas/Fort Worth and Denver were in third, fourth and fifth place, respectively.
O’Hare also handled more than 83.4 million passengers last year, a 4.5 percent increase over 2017, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation. Both O’Hare and Midway Airport together saw more than 105 million passengers, a new record, the city said.
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is still No. 1 in terms of passenger volume, and has held the crown of world’s busiest airport by that measure for 20 years. But a travel industry analyst said the new numbers are “excellent news” for Chicago, which is embarking on an $8.5 billion O’Hare modernization.
The article implies to big factors in the statistic: first, O'Hare now has six parallel runways instead of six intersecting ones, meaning traffic can flow much more easily. But second, American and United rely more on smaller, sub-50-seat airplanes than Delta does, which means more operations but fewer enplanements. So, it's a mixed bag, good for Chicago in some ways but not great for travelers at O'Hare.
Oh, I love these stories. On today's Daily WTF, editor Remy Porter describes the world I grew up in, where dates were dates and 30 December 1899 ruled them all:
If you wanted to set a landmark, you could pick any date, but a nice round number seems reasonable. Let's say, for example, January 1st, 1900. From there, it's easy to just add and subtract numbers of days to produce new dates. Oh, but you do have to think about leap years. Leap years are more complicated- a year is a leap year if it's divisible by four, but not if it's divisible by 100, unless it's also divisible by 400. That's a lot of math to do if you're trying to fit a thousand rows in a spreadsheet on a computer with less horsepower than your average 2019 thermostat.
So you cheat. Checking if a number is divisible by four doesn't require a modulus operation—you can check that with a bitmask, which is super fast. Unfortunately, it means your code is wrong, because you think 1900 is a leap year. Now all your dates after February 28th are off-by-one. Then again, you're the one counting. Speaking of being the one counting, while arrays might start at zero, normal humans start counting at one, so January 1st should be 1, which makes December 31st, 1899 your "zero" date.
Our macro language is off-by-one for the first few months of 1900, but that discrepancy is acceptable, and no one at Microsoft, including Bill Gates who signed off on it, cares.
The Basic-derived macro language is successful enough inside of Excel that it grows up to be Visual Basic. It is "the" Microsoft language, and when they start extending it with features like COM for handling library linking and cross-process communication, it lays the model. Which means when they're figuring out how to do dates in COM… they use the Visual Basic date model. And COM was the whole banana, as far as Windows was concerned- everything on Windows touched COM or its successors in some fashion. It wasn't until .NET that the rule of December 30th, 1899 was finally broken, but it still crops up in Office products and SQL Server from time to time.
The .NET epoch began 1 January 2000. Except for DateTimeOffset values, whose epoch began on the non-existent date 1 January 0. Or DateTime values (now deprecated) which start at the beginning of the Gregorian calendar in 1753. (Same with SQL Server datetime types.)
The bottom line: dates are hard.
Chicago has 13 people running for Mayor right now, with early voting already open and the first round vote due on the 26th. If no candidate gets an outright majority, the top-two vote-getters will have a runoff election on April 2nd.
Several local news agencies have rounded up the candidates and their responses to stock questions. Here are the ones I'm reading:
There are also contested elections in several wards, including mine. I've got a lot of reading to do in the next 3 weeks.
A week ago at this hour, it was -17°C outside and we had 230 mm of snow on the ground. Then the Polar Vortex hit, followed quickly by the biggest warm-up in Chicago history:
From 17:37 CST Tuesday the 29th until 23:51 Thursday the 31st, the temperature hung out below 0°F. But it had already started rising, from the near-record-low -30.6°C Wednesday morning until yesterday afternoon's near-record-high 10.6°C—a record-smashing total rise of Δ41°C.
This was the view from my office Friday evening, when the temperature hadn't been above freezing for a week and the lake was 44% frozen over:
This is half an hour ago:
The forecast calls for even weirder weather the next few days. Tonight we will get a once-a-decade ice storm, then gradually warming temperatures through Thursday and another winter blast Saturday.
Hey. This all builds character, right?
Writing for Medium, Scott Lucas paints a dismal picture of Tinseltown after 50 more years of climate change:
“With the exception of the highest elevations and a narrow swath very near the coast, where the increases are confined to a few days, land locations see 60–90 additional extremely hot days per year by the end of century,” one study concluded. Downtown Los Angeles could experience up to 54 days measuring 95 degrees or higher by 2100, a ninefold jump. By then, temperatures in Riverside could reach over 95 degrees for half the year.
“By the end of century,” the authors of the study found, “a distinctly new regional climate state emerges.” This climate includes a new, fifth season: a super summer, driving people indoors for weeks at a time, stressing the power grid with heavy demand for air conditioning, and wreaking havoc on agriculture and, by extension, the food supply.
Meanwhile, beaches in Los Angeles will be facing their own threats. Rising sea levels will attack the coast in at least two ways: inundating beaches and eroding cliffs. “Our beaches are compromised. Not just from overall sea level rise, but also coastal storm events,” says Lauren O’Connor Faber, the city’s chief sustainability officer.
In 2017, scientists modeled the effects of sea level rise on 500 kilometers of shoreline in Southern California. A sea level rise of 0.93 to two meters, they predicted, would result in the loss of 31 to 67 percent of beaches in Southern California, including some of its most well-known. A separate USC study concluded, “In Malibu, both low and high sea level rise scenarios suggest that long segments of beach will essentially disappear by 2030.”
So this could be a thing of the past during my lifetime:
Not, I assure you, the Superb Owl:
Every year about this time, internet searches for “Super Bowl” go way up. But so do searches for “Superb Owl,” as fast-typing fans put the space in the wrong place.
It has been noticed. This year, a search for “Super Bowl” on Google gets you the teams, time and location of the game. A search for “Superb Owl” gets you the same, plus a little cartoon of an owl.
Thursday night on “Jeopardy!” there was a Superb Owl category, with owl-related trivia. (Answer: The owl has traditionally been considered wise, as it was the bird of this Greek goddess. Question: Who is Athena?)
So if you mistyped Super Bowl and wound up here, that’s great. We have tons of stuff about the game.
But if you actually did want to know more about outstanding strigiformes (that’s owls), here’s a fascinating New York Times article about owls’ vision. It turns out they see the world much the way we do.
But given that who cares about the Patriots and the Rams shouldn't even be there today,