Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
Saturday 30 May 2009

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced an investigation of the parking-meter lease:

Illinois attorney general Lisa Madigan has opened an investigation into the "transaction and implementation" of Chicago's parking meter privatization deal, according to a Madigan spokesperson. On May 19 the attorney general's office sent subpoenas to Morgan Stanley Infrastructure Partners, LAZ Parking, and Chicago Parking Meters LLC--the three entities that now control the meters--said Robyn Ziegler, who represents Madigan. She wouldn't say what specific information was requested.

Also, the New York Times has picked up the story of our awful parking-meter disaster.

Saturday 30 May 2009 10:54:44 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Politics#

Via my college friend D.M., the New York Mets and Yankees have discovered the Intro to Microeconomics lesson of the effect of higher prices on quantity demanded, a.k.a. "overcharging:"

OK, so neither the new Yankee Stadium nor its counterpart in Flushing can handle the capacity of their predecessors. Fine. But where are the 53,070 people who came nightly to the old Yankee Stadium in 2008, and where are the 49,902 who showed up every night in the final season of Shea Stadium?

So far, the Yankees are averaging 44,636 in their new crib, the Mets 38,806. If baseball is so popular in this town and Yankees and Mets games truly are must-see events, as both clubs insisted throughout the offseason, why aren't there 10,000 people milling around outside their ballparks every game night, trying to buy up every last ticket in the house, and the rest going home empty-handed and disappointed?

One of the reasons, of course, is simple and self-evident. It's the economy, stupid. But in a metropolitan area that certainly has more than 83,442 people - the combined average attendance at both parks - wealthy enough to buy their way into these exclusive clubs dressed as ballparks, there has to be something more to it.

So how high are the prices at Citi and Yankee? High. But hard to break down easily. For today's game against the Marlins, fans have 29—yes, twenty nine—price levels, from the $19 "Promenade Reserved" section near LaGuardia, up to the $375 "Delta Club Gold" section sitting on a diamond-encrusted golden throne in the Mets' dugout. The seats I would look for, upper deck box seats in the infield (Citi sections 406-428, the "Promenade Box") are $35.

Wrigley, today, has three price levels left (because the park is nearly sold out), $56 for upper deck box infield up to $90 club box infield. (Good seats, though--the $56 seat is right above home plate.)

I should point out, both the Mets and Yankees are in first place today, and the Cubs...well, they're not, but they are at least one game above .500.

So is it just the price of going to the park that is keeping people away from New York baseball parks? Or is it something else?

Saturday 30 May 2009 10:35:36 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Baseball | Cubs#
Friday 29 May 2009

Via Andrew Sullivan, "Total Eclipse of the Heart"—the literal version:

Friday 29 May 2009 13:19:23 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Jokes#

Of the street and baseball variety, with this photo from Wrigley Field explained further:

Friday 29 May 2009 09:59:29 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Cubs#
Thursday 28 May 2009

The Chicago Bar Project. Now how come I didn't see this earlier?

Thursday 28 May 2009 14:21:29 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago#

I love finding cool articles after four random clicks (here to here to here to...here). Apparently, cities aren't so lonely—something I and my friends already knew but possibly wasn't common knowledge on the other side of Howard St. (or the Hudson, or the Charles, etc.):

Of all 3,141 counties in the United States, New York County is the unrivaled leader in single-individual households, at 50.6 percent. More than three-quarters of the people in them are below the age of 65. Fifty-seven percent are female. In Brooklyn, the overall number is considerably lower, at 29.5 percent, and Queens is 26.1. But on the whole, in New York City, one in three homes contains a single dweller, just one lone man or woman who flips on the coffeemaker in the morning and switches off the lights at night.

These numbers should tell an unambiguous story. They should confirm the common belief about our city, which is that New York is an isolating, coldhearted sort of place. ... In American lore, the small town is the archetypal community, a state of grace from which city dwellers have fallen (thus capitulating to all sorts of political ills like, say, socialism). Even among die-hard New Yorkers, those who could hardly imagine a life anywhere else, you'll find people who secretly harbor nostalgia for the small village they've never known.

Yet the picture of cities—and New York in particular—that has been emerging from the work of social scientists is that the people living in them are actually less lonely. Rather than driving people apart, large population centers pull them together, and as a rule tend to possess greater community virtues than smaller ones. This, even though cities are consistently, overwhelmingly, places where people are more likely to live on their own.

In Chicago the proportion of single-individual households is smaller, but in my ZIP Code, the average household size is 1.7 (cf. New York, 2.0, or, say, New York Mills, Minn., at 2.18.)

Thursday 28 May 2009 13:06:46 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Geography#

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was in Canada yesterday, just a few days ahead of new border crossing requirements between the U.S. and its closest friend in the world:

Ms Napolitano said she wanted to "change the culture" along the 8,900 km line to make it clear that "this is a real border."

... American officials say the millions of new identity documents they have issued should ensure that there will be no big delays at the border after June 1st. But if their confidence is misplaced, heaping more trouble on Canadian exporters already struggling to cope with the recession, the bilateral relationship is likely to sour.

It does seem a bit unfriendly, locking up our border with Canada, and it's a little alarming to me. My own passport is out for servicing (getting new pages put in), so unless I get it back in time I can't even walk over the Ambassador Bridge when I visit Detroit next month. I'm also not sure what the new restrictions accomplish, other than to increase border delays and poke Dudley Doright in the eye.

Does it make any sense that one may legally walk from Krakow to Lisbon without having to show an identity document of any sort, let alone a passport, while crossing the street in Derby Line, Vt. practically requires an exit visa?

Thursday 28 May 2009 12:46:20 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#
Wednesday 27 May 2009

Odd as it seems[1], the parking meter fiasco may turn out to be the turning point of the Daley administration. The city of Chicago today had to declare a moratorium on parking tickets because too many meters and kiosks are broken:

The private company that earlier this year assumed operations of the city's 36,000 paid street parking spots recently promised to speed up installation of pay-and-display boxes after suffering widespread problems with coin parking meters. The new boxes, roughly one per block, take credit cards in addition to cash, eliminating the need to lug around a bagful of quarters.

But many of the new pay boxes---including those near City Hall---were not working today.

... Police officers told drivers they had received orders not to issue any parking tickets today due to "issues" with the parking meters.

[1] I say "odd" because Daley has been accused of far worse things than this over the years. But this one affects people's cars, so it got everyone's attention.

Wednesday 27 May 2009 15:30:48 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Politics#

The Cubs finally pulled one out last night, winning 6-1 in 5½ innings before the game got called for rain. This afternoon, of course, they can resume losing, but at least they stopped their losing streak for a night.

Wednesday 27 May 2009 08:37:25 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Cubs#
Tuesday 26 May 2009

That's how many the Cubs have lost as of last night. Somehow, even with Mr. T (yes, that Mr. T) revving up the crowd in the 7th inning, even with 8 runs, even with a sell-out Wrigley, they lost. Again. The game's highlight, from where I sat (on the third-base side where I couldn't see the Cubs' dugout), was Freddy Sanchez going 6-for-6. Unfortunately, Sanchez got those six hits for the Pirates.

Not much more to say, but for those of you who haven't been to Wrigley and wondered what Waveland Avenue looks like, voilà:

Tuesday 26 May 2009 09:31:03 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Cubs#
Monday 25 May 2009

Probably nothing like this:

*MANN, JOE E.

Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Army.... On 18 September 1944...Pfc. Mann boldly crept to within rocket-launcher range of an enemy artillery position and, in the face of heavy enemy fire, destroyed an 88mm gun and an ammunition dump. Completely disregarding the great danger involved, he remained in his exposed position, and, with his M-1 rifle, killed the enemy one by one until he was wounded 4 times. Taken to a covered position, he insisted on returning to a forward position to stand guard during the night. On the following morning the enemy launched a concerted attack and advanced to within a few yards of the position, throwing hand grenades as they approached. One of these landed within a few feet of Pfc. Mann. Unable to raise his arms, which were bandaged to his body, he yelled "grenade" and threw his body over the grenade, and as it exploded, died. His outstanding gallantry above and beyond the call of duty and his magnificent conduct were an everlasting inspiration to his comrades for whom he gave his life.

Pfc. Mann's story, and those of all the other Medal of Honor winners, are worth reading on Memorial Day.

Monday 25 May 2009 17:35:29 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#

As we wake up today to news that North Korea has reportedly detonated a 20-kiloton atom bomb (first reported, actually, by the United States Geological Survey), it's worth remembering two other major news events from previous May 25ths.

In 1977, Star Wars came out. (I saw it about a week later, in Torrance, Calif. My dad had to read the opening crawl to me.)

In 1979, American 191 crashed on takeoff from O'Hare, at the time the worst air disaster in U.S. history.

And now we add to that a truly scary development in Asia. And it's not yet 8:30 in Chicago...

Monday 25 May 2009 08:30:51 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Chicago | Kitchen Sink | World#
Sunday 24 May 2009

Via the Economist, a Japan Air Lines 747 sucked a misplaced baggage container into its #1 engine at LAX:

To the shock of onlookers – and no doubt the dismay of airline officials and crew on board – the empty baggage cart was sucked into one of the Boeing 747’s four engines, forcing the plane to become grounded and passengers returned back to the terminal.

The Times of London has video.

Sunday 24 May 2009 11:24:48 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation#
Saturday 23 May 2009

From the New York Observer, some very evil humor:

4. You’re Americans! Who do you think you are? Us?

...

9. Please! For the love of God, I can't take any more of this harsh treatment which does not rise to the level of torture!

I couldn't stop laughing and cringing at the same time.

Saturday 23 May 2009 10:21:49 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#

Via Talking Poinst Memo, Mancow lasts six seconds before deciding waterboarding is torture:

"If I'd known it was going to be this bad, I never would have done it."

As TPM noted, "remember: this was in a controlled setting where the victim knew he wasn't going to be harmed."

Friday 22 May 2009 22:49:05 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#
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David Braverman is a software developer in Chicago, and the creator of Weather Now. Parker is the most adorable dog on the planet, 80% of the time.
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