Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
Friday 25 September 2009

People who live outside Chicago might find it shocking and dismaying to read a newspaper report that their city's Olympics bid will, if successful, make the mayor's friends rich. For us, it's actually comforting. I mean, we all knew someone would get rich; now we have a better idea who:

Chicago 2016 committee member Michael Scott also served as a consultant to the developer on a condominium project near the proposed athletes village, a development that would increase in value if the city wins the Olympics.

Scott, who negotiated key components of the $1.2 billion Olympic Village plan, said his business relationship with the developer, Gerald Fogelson, does not interfere with his role with the bid team. Chicago 2016 officials declined to say whether Scott's relationship with Fogelson was a problem, with Daley's Olympic team poised to spend billions of dollars in coming years.

What? You think civic pride alone would motivate the mayor to put us on the hook for $4 bn to get a sporting event?

In other news, the White Sox are officially out of the post-season, but the Cubs are still hanging on.

Friday 25 September 2009 07:11:29 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Cubs | Politics#
Thursday 24 September 2009

With 10 games left in the season, the Cubs' elimination number is still a number: 1. (The rest of the NL Central has already been eliminated.)

They're also within spitting distance of the Rockies for the wild card.

Hey, it could happen.

Thursday 24 September 2009 06:12:33 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Cubs#

Between my clients and school, I have run out of free time. I hope to have some in 2011; I hope to.

But I have seen a bunch of interesting things in the past few days:

I hope to resume my normal posting frequency soon.

Wednesday 23 September 2009 20:59:21 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Wednesday 23 September 2009

Perhaps we should look at Atlanta's example:

Thirteen years later, the financial legacy of the Olympics in Atlanta is harder to detect. Like many major cities, Atlanta has fallen victim to the recession, forced to lay off teachers and city workers while slashing services. The City Council recently voted to raise property taxes to cover a $56 million budget deficit.

Winning the Olympic bid catapulted Atlanta into the big leagues, giving it name recognition around the globe. Atlanta's $1.7 billion private-funded investment in hosting the games helped revitalize its sluggish downtown and poured $5 billion into the metropolitan area's economy during the next decade, according to the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce.

Atlanta's cost was less than half of the $4.8 billion Chicago has estimated it will need to raise if the city is awarded the 2016 Olympic Games.

In sum, no one knows. The Tribune doesn't analyze with much rigor what parts of Atlanta's economic problems come from unrelated factors. Nor do they tease out the direct economic benefits or costs of hosting the games. In short, it's one more frustratingly unhelpful piece of journalism about local politics.

I think our problems and our strengths look nothing like Atlanta's. Possibly Los Angeles might have been a better model; it's hard to say. I honestly don't know whether Chicago will benefit or lose from 2016. No one does. But I think we'll find out, whether we want to or not.

Tuesday 22 September 2009 20:46:21 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | US#
Monday 21 September 2009

Continuing from Saturday, here are the actual values of the items in the post. How did you do? Did you get 9 of 10, indicating you have a good handle on your ability to estimate?

(Answers after the jump.)

Monday 21 September 2009 17:54:19 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Duke#
Saturday 19 September 2009

We had an interesting lecture this morning on overconfidence and decision making. Here's a quiz: guess the range that you can say, with 90% confidence, contains the correct value. So for example, if the question were "Parker's weight in kilograms," you could guess a range of 10 to 40, which means you are 90% confident that Parker weighs between 10 and 40 kilos. (You'd be right; he weighs 25 kilos.)

Here are the questions our prof hit us with today:

Fact Units Low end? High end?
GE total revenues (2003) $ bn
Michael Eisner's salary (2003) $
Microsoft employees worldwide (2004) thousands
Starbuck's stores worldwide (2004) stores
McKinsey Group annual revenue per consultant (2001) $
United Auto Workers total membership, non retired (2004) thousands
Blockbuster share of U.S. video rentals (2003) %
Canadian citizens per donut shop (2001) people
Ameritrade total daily trades by members (2004) thousands
Berkshire-Hathaway cumulative returns (1999-2004) %

Also guess how many of these you got right.

Answers tomorrow.

Saturday 19 September 2009 10:46:14 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Friday 18 September 2009

The Ferris Bueller house in Highland Park may be torn down:

Built from 1952 until 1954 and designed by architect A. James Speyer, the Highland Park home and pavilion that appeared in the 1986 movie "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" is for sale for $2.3 million. It is at risk of being torn down, Landmarks Illinois officials say, because several inquiries have been made regarding the demolition of the house and a possible lot split.

Thursday 17 September 2009 20:56:03 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago#
Thursday 17 September 2009

Tom Friedman on why the U.S. is falling behind in alternate-energy research:

The reason that all these other countries are building solar-panel industries today is because most of their governments have put in place the three prerequisites for growing a renewable energy industry: 1) any business or homeowner can generate solar energy; 2) if they decide to do so, the power utility has to connect them to the grid; and 3) the utility hasto buy the power for a predictable period at a price that is a no-brainer good deal for the family or business putting the solar panels on their rooftop.

Regulatory, price and connectivity certainty, that is what Germany put in place, and that explains why Germany now generates almost half the solar power in the world today and, as a byproduct, is making itself the world-center for solar research, engineering, manufacturing and installation. With more than 50,000 new jobs, the renewable energy industry in Germany is now second only to its auto industry. One thing that has never existed in America — with our fragmented, stop-start solar subsidies — is certainty of price, connectivity and regulation on a national basis.

But hey, even though we're slipping behind just about every other rich country in the world, at least we have the Free Market. (I am reminded of the old Kit-Kat commercials from the 1970s: "We ain't got class, but we got taste!")

Wednesday 16 September 2009 22:11:06 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#
Wednesday 16 September 2009

Via Calculated Risk, tomorrow the Irish Finance Minister will explain, somehow, what Ireland's government will do with the €90 bn in real estate loans now crippling the country's economy:

In what may be the biggest financial gamble in 87 years as a sovereign state, the government will become the owner of loans for property developments that have plunged in value.

Ireland is suffering the worst economic slump of any developed nation since the Great Depression, according to the Economic & Social Research Institute in Dublin.

The National Asset Management Agency, known as NAMA, will buy 18,000 loans at a discount from lenders led by Allied Irish Banks Plc and Bank of Ireland Plc. The agency will manage the loans, which amount to about half of Ireland’s gross domestic product. Should any of the 1,500 borrowers default, the agency can seize the land or other security put up.

(Emphasis mine.)

To put that in perspective, imagine if the U.S. government took over $8.5 trillion in loans. That's the equivalent.

Tuesday 15 September 2009 19:56:30 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | World#
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David Braverman and Parker
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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