The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Stopped moving for now

After five visits to O'Hare in 8 days, I'm going to stay in one spot for at least a week. Yesterday's 9:45 flight took off at noon, getting me home two hours before I'd planned (even the CTA cooperated), and except for having to get up at an obscenely early time this morning, everything went well.

Still, I have space for one more gratuitous photo of Half Moon Bay, which is a wonderful place to visit:

Once more into the air dear friends, once more

I'm leaving this:

For this:

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN CHICAGO HAS ISSUED A WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY FOR SNOW...WHICH IS IN EFFECT UNTIL 9 PM CST THIS EVENING.

At least I'll get there earlier than planned. I tried to get on the 11:30, but because the 7:30 had left at 9:30, and the 9:45 was delayed, they put me on the 9:45 which actually leaves (we hope) at 11. So instead of 7 hours at home before traveling again tomorrow, I get 9. I hope.

Update: Well, the 9:45 actually now leaves at 1pm, in theory, leaving me almost exactly no better off than the original plan. We'll see.

Spotted in North Beach

Someone had time to have the sign made up, then had the inclination to stick it on the construction site. That's kind of sad:

There's a building in Chicago, at the corner of Wacker and Clark, that could use similar treatment. Someday, there will be funding again. Someday.

As long as we're in San Francisco, how about an iconic shot of a successful construction project? Here you go:

Cool!

Usually, my July visits to my family in San Francisco allow me to get away from Chicago's oppressive heat. This year, both cities are about the same, San Francisco just a little warmer than usual, and Chicago...well, it's the coolest July of my life:

July has slipped to the coolest to date here in 42 years—its 68.7°F degree average temperature running nearly 5 degrees behind the long-term (138-year) average. Friday's 70°F high was the first time in 53 years a July 17 temperature failed to rise above 70—you'd have to travel back to a 64°F high 85 years ago to find a July 17 that was cooler.

The average high for July's first 17 days has been 77.5°F—the second coolest in the 50 years of O'Hare Airport weather records dating back to 1959. Only 1967's 76.2°F tally has been cooler.

Maybe Chicago will have a super-hot August this year. Like, when I'm in London....

Morning round-up

A few things of note happened while I was en route to San Francisco yesterday:

  • The Cubs continued winning, taking their second in a row after the All-Star break and moving up to second place, though only because they've beaten up the hapless (25-63) Nationals to do it.
  • Wisconsin officials announced a deal to buy new 320 km/h train sets for the Chicago to Milwaukee route. Initially plans call for allowing the trains to run at 176 km/h (40% faster than today) while a new, dedicated high-speed line is studied.
  • In San Francisco, BART, the light-rail agency, averted a strike that could cripple the area's transportation system. The agency's employees unanimously rejected management's last contract offer and walked away from negotiations, but the two sides have since resumed talks.
  • Finally, Walter Cronkite died last night at 92.

And that's the way it is.

Update: One more from my dad: a big weenie drove into a house in Wisconsin yesterday, no doubt because the driver was in mourning.

Tampa Bay at Athletics

While in San Francisco for the weekend, I decided to continue the 30-Park Geas by seeing what the Oakland A's were up to. Last place, it turned out; but then, so were their opponents, the Tampa Bay Rays.

From the moment you get off the BART, you know you're not going to the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field. Wrigley, for example, has less concrete and barbed wire:

Of course, Wrigley has fewer "World Champions" banners, too, but we'll skip that for now.

Not a bad game, on balance. The home team won, it turned out my Cubs hat was acceptable to the crowd (my brother had warned me that wearing the wrong hat in Oakland could result in ejection from the park...by the fans...over the railing), and my seat completely failed to suck:

The only bad parts, other than the park resembling in architecture and style (and, some might say, purpose) a medium-security prison: I forgot my camera, so I had to use my mobile phone to snap photos; and I couldn't find a score card. Oh well; still a fun game.

Fifteen down, 17 to go.

Metra: Party like it's 1979

Metra, which runs Chicago's heavy-rail commuter lines, hasn't changed much at all since the 1970s, as today's Chicago Tribune describes in sad detail:

Metra runs on paper, as in paper tickets. Although the majority of riders use monthly passes, passengers in January still bought more than 666,000 one-way tickets or used 10-ride tickets, which conductors have to punch individually.

... Other open rail systems have done away with punching and checking individual tickets. For example, conductors on Boston's Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority check tickets with hand-held electronic devices. ... On Caltrain, a commuter rail line operating between San Francisco and San Jose, passengers buy tickets from vending machines and conductors make random checks. Anyone without a ticket faces a $250 fine.

[And] it's cash or checks only on Metra. The line doesn't take plastic because of the processing fees that credit-card companies impose, Metra spokeswoman Judy Pardonnet said.

The article also mentions a lack of information about train whereabouts that even our CTA buses provide.

I think the article makes Metra sound better than it really is, simply by comparing it only to its American analogues. The authors ignore, presumably out of pity for Metra, the Shanghai Maglev at one extreme, or even more typical European rail systems like Berlin's S-Bahn and the UK's Oyster Card scheme as examples of how to modernize at the very least how people pay for transit.

All right, maybe Transport for London isn't the best example. Still, when Boston has free Wi-Fi and we can't even pay with credit cards, something is wrong. At least TfL has a dedicated express train running from Heathrow to central London (on which you can use your Oyster Card), and we have...the Blue Line. Sad, really.

Fresh air at the Justice Department

Two (probably related) items via Talking Points Memo: a reversal in a San Francisco death-penalty case, and a release of nine Bush Administration memoranda.

In the first case, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey had overruled the U.S. Attorney in San Francisco and pressed for the death penalty in a murder case. New AG Eric Holder has reversed the DOJ's position:

The Down Below prosecution has been a searing episode for the local U.S. attorney's office. The original prosecutor on the case, Richard Cutler, opposed seeking the death penalty against [defendant Emile] Fort and co-defendant Edgar Diaz. After the Justice Department took the opposite stance, the administration sent an investigator to San Francisco to question Cutler about the case. Cutler left the office soon thereafter.

... Fort's new deal will be much the same as the one Mukasey rejected....

The DOJ's document release sheds some light on the last eight years. Not much light, but it's an improvement over total darkness. Titles include:

  • Memorandum Regarding Constitutionality of Amending Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to Change the "Purpose" Standard for Searches (09-25-2001)
  • Memorandum Regarding Determination of Enemy Belligerency and Military Detention (06-08-2002)
  • Memorandum Regarding Authority for Use of Military Force to Combat Terrorist Activities within the United States (10-23-2001)

That last one, by John Yoo, should scare anyone who's ever read Orwell or Huxley.

Who else is glad we have a new President?

You think Illinois has problems?

No matter how bad it seems in Illinois right now, at least we have a functioning state government. California, on the other hand...

A state budget deal to close a $41 billion shortfall has been put further into question early this morning after Senate Republicans ousted their leader who had helped negotiate the long-awaited plan with other top lawmakers in California.

...[T]he ousted Minority Leader Dave Cogdill, R-Modesto, ...was one of the four legislative leaders who negotiated the emergency budget deal with the governor. Their compromise budget package, reached after three months of negotiations, contained nearly $16 billion in program cuts, $11 billion in borrowing and $14.4 billion in tax increases. The most contentious debate has been over the proposed tax hikes.

Republicans selected Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth, R-Murrieta (Riverside County) as their new Minority leader. Hollingsworth is part of the conservative wing of the Senate Republican caucus and he has been adamantly against raising any taxes.

The New York Times has more:

The state, nearly out of cash, has laid off scores of workers and put hundreds more on unpaid furloughs. It has stopped paying counties and issuing income tax refunds and halted thousands of infrastructure projects.

Twenty-thousand layoff notices [went] out on Tuesday morning, Matt David, the communications director for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said Monday night. "In the absence of a budget we need to realize this savings and the process takes six months," Mr. David said.

When you're talking about the 7th largest economy in the world, this is somewhat disturbing.