The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Why Parker won't swim in the Pacific this summer

(I mean, other than because he loathes water.)

No, it's about gasoline.

I'm taking a summer vacation this year for the first time since 1992, and I had planned to load Parker and his smelly blanket into my Volkswagen and drive to San Francisco with him. Only, I just filled up my car this morning, and for the first time ever I crested $50. For gasoline. In my bleeding Volkswagen. Which caused me to whip out a spreadsheet and determine conclusively whether driving with Parker out to California makes any sense at all.

It does not.

In fairness to the car, (a) this is Chicago, home of the highest gasoline prices in the country, and (b) the car, a GTI, has a high-compression engine that requires premium gas. But premium gas is only 20¢ more per gallon than regular, as it's always been, so that is no longer the differential expense it used to be.

To crack this nut, I did two calculations. Here's the estimate for driving. Distance comes from Google Maps; fuel economy comes from actual data with this car; fuel cost is an educated guess:

Now compare flying (airfare from American Airlines—I'm a frequent-flyer so I don't have a bag fee—using flexible dates, best price ORD to SFO in July):

Except, driving is worse than that, because owning a car entails other expenses. Over the life of my car, it has cost me 18.4¢ per mile to operate. Note that this includes those halcyon days of $1.25 gasoline, and does not include car insurance or the cost of actually buying the car, so it actually has cost me more than 18.4¢ per mile. Even with those obvious shortcomings, a more realistic calculation of driving to San Francisco looks like this:

Now the difference is $553, almost half the cost of the trip. And it gets even better if you consider that I have a big wad of unused frequent-flyer miles that can, if I choose, bring the airfare down to $5. Yes, five dollars (plus 25,000 air miles), making the difference between driving and flying $828—enough to do the trip again by air and still save significant cash over driving.

(Someone should calculate the CO2 costs, too. How much CO2 am I putting out by flying instead of driving? I think it may be a wash, but I'm not sure.)

I could take him in an airplane, but this really stresses dogs out, so I don't consider that a realistic option.

In any event, as fun as it might be to watch Parker run along a beach in California, it's just not going to happen.

Txt a2m1

It seems text-message shorthand sorely vexes the French. Well, some of them, anyway:

"Look at what text-messaging is doing to the French language," lamented President Nicolas Sarkozy in February. "If we let things go, in a few years we will have trouble understanding each other." Most secondary-school pupils have their own mobile telephones, and they use an abbreviated phonetic language to communicate. A2M1, for instance, means à demain, or "see you tomorrow." JTM is je t'aime (I love you). Or try: Ta HT 1 KDO? (T'as acheté un cadeau?, or have you bought a present?).

Stranded in Suburbia

Princeton economist Paul Krugman on how "old Europe" shows the U.S. how it can deal with high gas prices:

If Europe’s example is any guide, here are the two secrets of coping with expensive oil: own fuel-efficient cars, and don’t drive them too much. Notice that I said that cars should be fuel-efficient — not that people should do without cars altogether. In Germany, as in the United States, the vast majority of families own cars (although German households are less likely than their U.S. counterparts to be multiple-car owners).

Krugman, perhaps not having spent time owning a car in Lincoln Park or the Upper West Side, neglects another way to keep people from driving: make the cost of moving one's car prohibitive. I drive about once a week, for the simple reason that if I don't time it right (i.e., getting back home between 5:30 and 7pm, as the parking regulations are changing), I get a really good walk from whatever part of the city I wind up parking in.

Quick update: The Chicago Tribune reports this morning that Chicago has the highest gas prices in the U.S. No kidding: how does $4.07 a gallon sound to you? That's for regular; my little GTI takes premium.

My guy endorses my other guy

I'm glad the guy I was going to vote for (he dropped out hours before I voted) has decided to endorse the guy I did:

Former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards will endorse Barack Obama tonight at a campaign event in Grand Rapids. The endorsement comes more than three months after Edwards dropped out of the race for the Democratic nomination, asking the two remaining candidates to make poverty a central issue of the general election.

And then, in about 250 days and 18 hours, Obama will become the 45th President of the United States.

In other good news, the Chicago Transit Authority has accelerated a major construction project that affects the El stations nearest where I live:

Service on two southbound tracks will resume in late December at the Fullerton and Belmont stations serving the Red, Brown and Purple/Evanston Express lines. ... Work was originally set to wrap up by June 30, 2009, but the CTA decided to spend $1.6 million to expedite the construction schedule, CTA President Ron Huberman said.

Krugman on Obama

The Princeton economist thinks Obama is a one-note—and it's the wrong note:

...maybe his transformational campaign isn’t winning over working-class voters because transformation isn't what they’re looking for. From the beginning, I wondered what Mr. Obama’s soaring rhetoric, his talk of a new politics and declarations that “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for” (waiting for to do what, exactly?) would mean to families troubled by lagging wages, insecure jobs and fear of losing health coverage. The answer, from Ohio and Pennsylvania, seems pretty clear: not much. Mrs. Clinton has been able to stay in the race, against heavy odds, largely because her no-nonsense style, her obvious interest in the wonkish details of policy, resonate with many voters in a way that Mr. Obama’s eloquence does not.

Well, there's just no arguing with that

Not sure what to make of this in the 21st century:

Penis theft panic hits city

KINSHASA (Reuters) - Police in Congo have arrested 13 suspected sorcerers accused of using black magic to steal or shrink men's penises after a wave of panic and attempted lynchings triggered by the alleged witchcraft.

Wow. From Kinshasa's police chief, Jean-Dieudonne Oleko:

"[W]hen you try to tell the victims that their penises are still there, they tell you that it's become tiny or that they've become impotent. To that I tell them, 'How do you know if you haven't gone home and tried it?'"