The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Home for a day

Parker got to come home from boarding today even though he's going right back there tonight, a canine prisoner furlough for good behavior. Immediately upon returning home he sat in the kitchen and whined as I parceled out his food for his next prison sentence. Poor dude.

The Duke Dividend, a result of not having 20 hours of schoolwork every week, has started to pay off in books. I'm halfway through Ender's Game, after blasting through The Hunger Games trilogy in three days and re-reading Howl again—a new copy I picked up Saturday at City Lights, which I thought appropriate.

Bike trail paved with good intentions

When I visit Half Moon Bay, Calif. (which I do about three times a year), I get up several hours before the family because (a) I stay on Chicago time and (b) they sleep later than I do anyway. I usually then walk down California Route 1 for about 1.5 km from the house to the Peet's Coffee so I can work without disturbing anyone.

Since my last visit the city has built a bike trail along the highway, making the trip immeasurably safer and less muddy:

Excellent. They even spent several hundred thousand dollars building this bridge over a drainage ditch:

Astute readers will notice something about this photo: either I took it standing in the drainage ditch or on some other bridge over the same ditch. Three guesses which one is true. In fact, the bike trail parallels the frontage road for about 400 m until it gets to this very expensive bridge, prompting even the most-boosterish citizens to ask why the trail doesn't just dump onto the frontage road before getting to the bridge.

Now the punchline: the trail ends 50 m farther up:

It's a pretty bridge, though. And I suppose it allowed the city to use up the state and Federal grants more completely, and it employed a few dozen Californians for part of the summer. So it's not completely stupid, right?

"I thought YOU were taking watch!"

A trio of crab fishermen had a very bad day earlier this week about a mile from my dad's house:

A crab fishing boat flipped on its side in the surf at Francis State Beach early Tuesday morning, sending three crew members scrambling to the beach. All three men were reportedly uninjured.

The incident occurred about 1 a.m. Tuesday. The U.S. Coast Guard dispatched a helicopter and rescue boat from their San Francisco stations and, upon arrival, rescuers found the three crew members clinging to the hull of the listing “Phyllis J.”

Coast Guard Lt. j.g. Laura Williams said the three unidentified crewmen apparently were able to make it to shore on their own and that none of the men required medical attention.

Other reports in the town's printed newspaper suggest owner Larry Fortado and two crew members each thought another man was taking watch as the boat headed to its home dock a few miles away. Right now, local, state, and Federal authorities have to deal with the accident's environmental fallout:

In the past two days, a joint response team of public agencies and private companies were able to avoid a potential oil spill by draining 2,000 gallons of diesel fuel and 500 gallons of residual contaminants from the boat, despite being challenged by blustery winds and tide at its grounded location in the surf zone.

"The plan is to cut the vessel in half, and move the boat up on the beach right next to the bluff," Parker said. "Then a crane at the edge of the bluff will pull it up and get it on a transport to the owner's yard, where he'll weld it back together."

When Dad and I checked out the wreck yesterday afternoon, the salvage crew had started trying to tow the boat farther onto the beach, but the machines couldn't get enough traction.

I imagine Fortado will be crabby for some time.

How to run a parking system

Via one of my classmates, and the NPR Planet Money blog, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority has started testing demand pricing for parking spaces:

The system will use electronic sensors to measure real-time demand for parking spaces, and adjust prices accordingly. When there are lots of empty spaces, it will be cheap to park. When spaces are hard to find, rates will be higher.

The range in prices will be huge: from 25 cents an hour to a maximum of $6 an hour, according to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority.

Eventually, drivers will be able to find open parking spaces by going online, checking their mobile phones or reading for new electronic signs that will be posted throughout the city.

That's how to run a parking system. Not, as some might suspect, by leasing all the meters to a for-profit company which immediately raises prices to the point where people don't park on some streets at all any more.

Coffee and maths

From Matthew Yglesias, information about coffee consumption worldwide, which apparently peaks in Finland:

The Swedes are actually a bit less coffee-mad than the Finns, Norwegians, Danes, or Icelanders but as you can see here all the Nordic peoples drink a ton of coffee, in the Swedish case a bit less than twice as much per capita as Americans do. The Södermalm area of Stockholm where Mikael Blonkvist and Lisbeth Salander live and Millenium and Milton Security are headquartered is just littered with coffee houses like nothing I’ve ever seen in America (incidentally, this is where I stayed when I was in Stockholm on the recommendation of a blog reader—it’s a hugely fun neighborhood, definitely stay there if you visit). Personally, I drink way more coffee than the average American and find this aspect of Swedish life congenial. Even I, however, had to balk at the extreme quantity of coffee I was served in Finland where consumption is absolutely off the charts.

And another from math teacher Dan Meyer:

It is exceptionally easy for me to treat the skills and structures of mathematics as holy writ. My default state is to assume that every student shares my reverence for the stone tablets onto which the math gods originally etched the quadratic formula. It is a matter of daily discipline to ask myself, instead:

  • what problem was the quadratic formula originally intended to solve?
  • why is the quadratic formula the best way to solve that problem?
  • how can I put my students in a position to discover the answers to (a) and (b) on their own?

This last is particularly intriguing because not only would I like those answers about the quadratic formula, I'd also like those answers about the Capital Asset Pricing Model and Black-Scholes.

Off to San Francisco this afternoon, to put off dealing with my head-exploding workload for three days. If the guy sitting in the row ahead of me leans back so I can't use my laptop, I will cry.

Anchor Brewing sold

Via reader MB, one of the best beers in the world has been sold to a pair of beer-loving entrepreneurs:

Fritz Maytag, the washing machine heir who launched the microbrewery movement, has sold Anchor Brewing Co. in San Francisco to a pair of Bay Area entrepreneurs who plan to preserve and expand the iconic brand.

No terms were disclosed for the sale of the 70-person Mariposa Street brewery and distillery that traces its roots to the Gold Rush, when local brewers produced a heady elixir known as steam beer.

In 45 years at the helm of Anchor Brewing, Maytag helped spark a revival in the craft of making beer by hand and inspired thousands of entrepreneurs to follow him in creating small, artisanal breweries.

Judging by the reactions of people in my class to a case we read on the Boston Beer Co., it's likely that overseas readers don't appreciate what Maytag did for beer lovers. Within a few hours of Chicago there are dozens of craft breweries, including Tyranena and, of course, Goose Island, two of the best in the world. Only Japan has anything like the American craft-brew culture, but sadly they don't export it. Neither do most of the craft brewers; their batches are too small even to ship farther than the next state over. So, in Chicago, I get to have a Mad Hatter, and in Raleigh I get to have a Angry Angel; but throughout this fine, beer-loving nation, we'll still have Anchor Steam.