Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
Wednesday 21 December 2011

Remember the three-year-old parking meter privatization that will be former mayor Richard Daley's best-remembered legacy? In another example of how not to negotiate a deal, it turns out the city agreed to pay the parking meter company for lost revenues under what should have been eminently predictable circumstances:

Financial statements for the company show that CPM has billed the city an additional $2,191,326 in “True-up Revenue” through the end of 2010.

Under the contract, the city is given an 8% annual allowance for required meter closures in the Central Business District, and a 4% allowance everywhere else. After the annual allowance is exceeded, any metered space(s) closed for more than six hours in a day or for six total hours over three consecutive days, the city must pay the meter company for the lost revenue from that metered space(s) for that entire day.

In other words, if the metered space is closed for six hours, the city is on the hook for the estimated revenue for the total number of hours the meter is in operation. Most meters are in operation no less than 13 hours a day.

Remember that the city council voted on the 500-page contract only a few hours after receiving a copy. The city leased the meters for $1.16 bn, almost $3 bn less than a conservative cash-flow analysis suggested at the time and $7-8 bn less than high-end estimates.

In Chicago, we joke about how much we tolerate small-scale local corruption. The parking meter lease violated even that standard; the council should abrogate the deal, and investigate why it happened in the first place. Of course, I think we already know the answer to that: some people got really rich off it. And taxpayers in Chicago got screwed.

Wednesday 21 December 2011 11:58:07 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Politics#
Tuesday 20 December 2011

I'm still banging away at software today—why is this damn socket exception thrown under small loads?—so I only have a minute to post some stuff I found interesting:

  • Chicago and the State of Illinois are planning the largest urban park in the world in the mostly-abandoned Lake Calumet and South Works areas of the south side.
  • It looks like the far-right has hijacked Hungary's government, in the way that right-wing governments do, which should remind everyone who lives in a democracy how fragile the form of government can be.
  • The Atlantic's Ta-Nahesi Coates has one of the best definitions of bigotry I've encountered: "The bigot is never to blame. Always is he besieged--by gays and their radical agenda, by women and their miniskirts, by fleet-footed blacks. It is an ideology of 'not my fault.' "
  • I have tentatively decided that Facebook's Timeline feature is cool, while at the same time recognizing how it once again makes it harder for average users to control the privacy of their data on the site.

More updates as events warrant.

Tuesday 20 December 2011 12:46:06 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Kitchen Sink | Politics#
Monday 19 December 2011

The T-Mobile acquisition is dead, dead, dead:

AT&T is ending its $39 billion bid to buy T-Mobile USA, citing fierce government objections.

"From the first day that this deal was announced, we have warned regulators, lawmakers, and consumers of the dangerous consequences of this merger," said Parul P. Desai, policy counsel for Consumers Union, according to its website The Consumerist. "Regulators clearly saw through AT&T's claims of better service and saw what we saw - a combined AT&T/T-Mobile would mean higher prices and fewer choices for consumers. It would mean a wireless market dominated by a powerful duopoly with little incentive to compete with other carriers."

In related news, Kim Jong Il is also dead, leading to the joke that god let Havel and Hitchens pick the third. (Hitch would actually be horrified by the suggestion.)

Jon Bon Jovi, however, remains alive.

Monday 19 December 2011 17:29:32 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | US | World | Business#

Swamped with client work, getting ready for Xmas, traveling hither and yon—tomorrow, at least, will be quieter.

Monday 19 December 2011 16:17:53 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Blogs#
Saturday 17 December 2011

In the past day I've seen two movies, both adaptations from really good novels: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Incendiary.

The former, adapted from John le Carré's 1974 novel, brought me right into the Cold War and had me transfixed by Gary Oldman's performance. After next weekend—when I think I'll have a couple of hours of free time—I'm queuing up the 1979 version with Alec Guinness.

The latter, adapted from Chris Cleve's 2005 novel, disappointed me. Except for Michelle Williams' superb acting, it missed the point of Cleve's novel so completely I wonder if director Sharon Maguire read the novel or the Cliff's Notes. Perhaps the novel's dark and disturbed ending didn't test well? It wasn't a happy novel; it wasn't supposed to be. Maguire made an entertaining Bridget Jones' Diary, so why'd she miss so badly here?

Saturday 17 December 2011 17:21:56 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Friday 16 December 2011

I'm juggling a couple of clients today, so I can't write entire entries on any of these:

OK, back to the mines...

Friday 16 December 2011 15:38:30 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Kitchen Sink | US#
Thursday 15 December 2011

Former Chicago mayor Rich Daley got named to Coke's board of directors today. Coca-Cola said:

"Mr. Daley brings significant public policy expertise and experience in creating sustainable growth opportunities for businesses and communities to our Company," said Muhtar Kent, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Coca-Cola Company. "His experience and insights will be invaluable as we continue to work to grow our business and invest in the fabric of the communities we serve."

Daley is also a senior advisor to JPMorgan Chase, where he will chair the new "Global Cities Initiative," a joint project of JPMorgan Chase and the Brookings Institution to help cities identify and leverage their greatest economic development resources. He also serves as a senior fellow at the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago.

I wonder how long this was in the works? And how long has he advised JPMC, the bank that negotiated our catastrophic parking-meter deal?

Thursday 15 December 2011 13:27:17 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Politics#

Even though we still have two weeks to go, 2011 has already experienced the costliest year of weather disasters in decades:

From extreme drought, heat waves and floods to unprecedented tornado outbreaks, hurricanes, wildfires and winter storms, a record 12 weather and climate disasters in 2011 each caused $1 billion or more in damages — and most regrettably, loss of human lives and property.

The Illinois State Climatologist adds:

We also experienced some $50 billion in total losses for the year. And that is with a fairly quiet hurricane season. Some of those billion dollar disasters had direct impacts on Illinois, including the February blizzard, and the spring flooding.

NOAA has art:

For photos from the first weather disaster of 2011, check out our archives.

Thursday 15 December 2011 08:59:54 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Wednesday 14 December 2011

Derp. One year ago yesterday I finished my MBA. It doesn't seem like a full year...except when it doesn't seem like only one year.

Wednesday 14 December 2011 17:58:29 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Duke#

I forgot to post this photo from the Tsukiji fish market earlier:

Wednesday 14 December 2011 17:55:00 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Photography | Travel#
Tuesday 13 December 2011

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, our friend in the Middle East, has beheaded one of its citizens on the charge of witchcraft:

Amina bint Abdel Halim Nassar was executed Monday for having "committed the practice of witchcraft and sorcery," according to an Interior Ministry statement. Nassar was investigated before her arrest and was "convicted of what she was accused of based on the law," the statement said. Her beheading took place in the Qariyat province of the region of Al-Jawf, the ministry said.

The London-based Saudi newspaper Al-Hayat quoted a source in the country's religious police who said authorities searched Nassar's home and found books on sorcery, a number of talismans and glass bottles filled with liquids supposedly used for the purposes of magic. The source told the paper Nassar was selling spells and bottles of the liquid potions for about $400 dollars each.

"So far at least 79 people -- including five women -- have been executed there, compared to at least 27 in 2010," [Amnesty International] said.

It's tempting to wonder whether they weighed her against a duck first, but really, this isn't funny. What is it really worth to us to support this 7th-century regime?

Tuesday 13 December 2011 17:24:11 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | World#

People in the UK travel much more by train than we in the US. Still, I think office centers at train stations would be great here:

Sitting in a proper office space after missing your train would certainly beat propping a laptop on your knees outside WH Smith as the pigeons wander round your feet. Regus has initiated a similar programme in France, where it is opening drop-in business centres in six stations, and it has plans for more developments in the Netherlands.

It sounds like a reasonable deal for business travellers—depending on the price charged for access.

Sadly, we in the US don't use rail services nearly enough to make this profitable. I can't imagine Metra spending any money on these services here in Chicago, for example, and even if they did, where would they put the office centers?

Tuesday 13 December 2011 11:57:26 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | 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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