Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
Wednesday 3 June 2009

Governor John Lynch today signed legislation making New Hampshire the sixth state (and the fifth in New England) to allow gay marriage.

If gay marriage—or, the right of a person and another person to marry—can pass New Hampshire and Iowa, I think it's officially "mainstream." New Hampshire ("Live Free or Die") is the most Republican state in New England, and John Lynch is a Republican governor; so this isn't a party issue any more. Rhode Island politics may not permit the state to weigh in for some time (I've got emails out to some GOP friends from East Greenwich for clarification), which I kind of expected.

But now, I would hope that Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, even Maryland, and other states with long progressive histories start getting marriage-equality acts through. Since it's a matter of when, not if, I would like to see my home state on the van.

Wednesday 3 June 2009 18:01:31 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#

This morining Chicago's Inspector General released his official report confirming what everyone already knew: Chicago's parking-meter lease deal was, not to put too fine a point on it, galactically stupid. Apparently, though, Mayor Daley can't fathom why this scandal hasn't quietly disappeared like all the others.

Here's the Trib:

While Inspector General David Hoffman put an official seal on what critics have been saying for months, the scathing report comes amid public outrage. Anger over the parking meter meltdown has yet to subside in a rare case where a blunder is sticking to a mayor who has outrun many controversies during his two decades in office.

Though Hoffman declined to single out Daley for criticism, the report will resonate at City Hall, where the mayor's tight rein is legendary and aldermen almost always are expected to back his agenda with little scrutiny. The report takes the City Council to task for ratifying the deal by a 40-5 vote in December, just a day after Daley aides briefed aldermen on it.

... Hoffman's report calls the lease a "dubious financial deal," arguing the city could have raked in at least $2.13 billion if only it had kept the meters after raising rates -- minus the cost of collecting the money and maintaining the meters.

Top Daley aide Paul Volpe immediately fired back at what he called a "misguided and inaccurate" report.

"Misguided and inaccurate?" Dude, you guys messed with our cars. This is America. If you'd sold the CTA for 25 cents[1] the outrage would have ended in a few hours, but this—this is parking, fer crissakes.

[1] It's hyperbole, Richie. Please, for the love of all that's holy, do not sell the CTA.

Wednesday 3 June 2009 11:22:21 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Politics#
Tuesday 2 June 2009

Australian comedy duo John Clarke and Brian Dawe comment on the 1991 Kikri oil spill:

Tuesday 2 June 2009 08:05:18 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Jokes#
Monday 1 June 2009

As I'm less than three months from starting an MBA program designed to foster international relationships, I don't know what to make of this:

[F]oreign (or, more euphemistically, "international") students are thinking twice about handing over their hard-earned and recession-hit cash for an education at a prestigious Western hall of academe.

... Big private business schools in America, already hit by the much lower valuations of their endowment funds, seem likely to take the biggest hit. The American-based Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC), a regular surveyor of MBA graduates and recruiters, presciently noted in its 2008 Global MBA Graduate Survey that "graduates who attended full-time MBA programmes outside their country of citizenship rated overall value lower compared with graduates who attended similar programmes in their home country".

... Three factors are likely to weigh heavily on international students’ willingness to travel abroad to study: financing their studies, fears about the jobs market and the availability or otherwise of good business schools in their home country.

I'm very interested to see the composition of my CCMBA class. So far, to judge by the 25 or so of us who have submitted biographies to the class portal, about 2/3 of us are from the U.S., 1/3 from the rest of the world.

The article mentions, as a tangent, that the U.K. Border Agency maintains a list of the top 50 MBA programs worldwide. Fuqua is on the list, which means Fuqua graduates can get a working visa from Britain under the Highly Skilled Workers scheme nearly automatically.

Monday 1 June 2009 13:55:38 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Duke#

There are apparently proposals out there to make beer drinkers sad:

In Congress, the Senate Finance Committee has raised the possibility of a 150% increase in the federal tax on beer to help pay for health care reform. And about three dozen states, including Illinois, have called for alcohol tax hikes to offset budget shortfalls.

The federal government hasn't raised the beer tax in nearly 20 years, but legislators are considering increasing it to the same level as spirits. An equalization of alcohol taxes would be a huge problem for brewing giants such as MillerCoors LLC, which will move its headquarters to Chicago this summer. The tax hikes would raise prices and drive many customers to buy cheaper brands or switch to spirits, beer industry insiders say.

But wait! Turns out, MillerCoors is wrong: the tax increase wouldn't lead people to cheaper beers (as if such existed), it might actually lead people to better beers:

Small brewers would be exempt from the taxes, giving the fast-growing microbrew segment another boost against giants like MillerCoors.

The [Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group] estimates most people would pay little extra if taxes were increased on alcohol because 20% of drinkers consume 85% of the alcohol in the U.S.

In marginally-related news, hoppy beer in San Diego is booming:

A dizzying variety of small breweries are lapping away at the dominance that mild, light-colored lagers have enjoyed since Prohibition, and some of the best-regarded are in North County, short on history and long on the bitter herbs known as hops.

... North County breweries have racked up their share of accolades. The Brewers Association named Port Brewing as the nation's best small brewing company for 2007. The association named Alesmith Brewing Co., in San Diego's Miramar neighborhood, as the best small brewery last year. Beer Advocate magazine called Stone the "best brewery on earth" in December and rated five Stone beers among its top 25. Food & Wine Magazine's June issue dubs Highway 78 a "near-mystical" route for visiting breweries.

So, it the beer tax doesn't seem that bad, especially in Southern California.

Monday 1 June 2009 11:46:59 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | US#

Here's the KML from yesterday's flight. And here's more art:

Contrast with a photo from earlier this year...

Monday 1 June 2009 10:20:05 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Chicago#

I took a combination sightseeing/cross-country flight today down to Valparaiso, Ind., 56 nautical miles away. I also stopped at Lansing, Ill., for good measure.

No Google Earth track yet—I expect to have that tomorrow morning, when I get around to it—but I do have art. This is the Bahá'í House of Worship in Wilmette, Ill.:

Sunday 31 May 2009 20:46:56 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Chicago#
Sunday 31 May 2009

After suffering multiple beatings at the hands of Cubs players, the Gatorade machine in the Cubs' dugout will finally be rescued:

The machine, which replaced the decades-old water cooler that dispensed Lake Michigan water to thirsty Cubs players from Joe Pepitone to Mark DeRosa, lasted only two months. It was brought in this season as a way to enhance advertising revenues through a sponsorship with Pepsi, which owns Gatorade.

The Pepsi service technician who came out to fix the dispenser twice last week -- after a wayward punch by Ryan Dempster on Monday and Carlos Zambrano's bat-whacking episode on Wednesday -- will be glad to hear the news. He thought he might be on call the rest of the season.

Poor thing.

Sunday 31 May 2009 08:11:58 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Cubs#
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#
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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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