Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
Monday 26 March 2012

The Washington Monthly makes a case for it being a disaster for the medium markets:

St. Louis, for example, has seen “available seat miles”— an industry measure of capacity—fall to a third of their 2000 level, following the American Airlines takeover of TWA and Lambert International Airport’s subsequent downgrading as a mid-continental hub. Two of Lambert’s five concourses are now virtually empty, and another, which housed the TWA hub, is only partially used. A third runway—the building of which required demolishing hundreds of homes and cost local taxpayers a billion dollars to finish in 2006—is now redundant. “This scenario,” notes Alex Marshall, a senior fellow at the Regional Plan Association, “can be likened to states building highways and then having General Motors, Ford, and other auto companies suddenly telling their drivers to use different roads.”

St. Louis’s loss of service comes despite the fact that the population of the St. Louis metropolitan area, the eighteenth largest in the U.S., grew by more than 4 percent between 2000 and 2010. The city is also the home of eight Fortune 500 companies and is a major center for such international players as Anheuser-Busch InBev, Monsanto, Boeing, Emerson Electric, Express Scripts, and Nestlé Purina. The GDP of the metro area, which is also propelled by such large research institutions as Washington University and a fast-growing medical sciences sector, rivals that of oil-rich Qatar. Yet like most other midsize American cities, St. Louis’s economic development is now hostage to the shifting, closed-door deals and mergers of a mere handful of airline executives and their financiers. The prevailing mood was captured by a St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial that quoted “The Serenity Prayer” in advocating philosophical acceptance of the distant forces shaping the region.

The article mentions other similarly-sized markets, like Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, facing the same problems. We take cheap air travel for granted here in Chicago, but as a traveling consultant for much of my career, I've seen the decline of other cities.

On the same theme of private control over what should be public resources, Paul Krugman today warns about the rise of private prisons and the closed-door deals that encourage them:

What is [the American Legislative Exchange Council]? Despite claims that it’s nonpartisan, it’s very much a movement-conservative organization, funded by the usual suspects: the Kochs, Exxon Mobil, and so on. Unlike other such groups, however, it doesn’t just influence laws, it literally writes them, supplying fully drafted bills to state legislators. In Virginia, for example, more than 50 ALEC-written bills have been introduced, many almost word for word. And these bills often become law.

[Y]ou have to think about the interests of the penal-industrial complex — prison operators, bail-bond companies and more. (The American Bail Coalition has publicly described ALEC as its “life preserver.”) This complex has a financial stake in anything that sends more people into the courts and the prisons, whether it’s exaggerated fear of racial minorities or Arizona’s draconian immigration law, a law that followed an ALEC template almost verbatim.

Think about that: we seem to be turning into a country where crony capitalism doesn’t just waste taxpayer money but warps criminal justice, in which growing incarceration reflects not the need to protect law-abiding citizens but the profits corporations can reap from a larger prison population.

We've been turning into a corporate-run country for so long we don't even notice it anymore. What baffles me, and saddens me, is how most people continue to support this trend indirectly, by voting for cynical politicians (I'm looking at you, Mr. Romney) who sound like social conservatives but really want to acquire wealth through political means. But that's a longer conversation.

Monday 26 March 2012 10:57:00 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation | US#
Sunday 25 March 2012

I mentioned getting a list of recommendations for things to see in Marylebone. La Fromagerie was one of them:

Also, I did stop and notice other artwork in the Louvre; here's one of them, by Botticelli:

I really need to go back to both.

Sunday 25 March 2012 15:46:00 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Travel#

Oh, my, where to begin?

Former vice president and war criminal Dick Cheney now has a heart. Here's video from the hospital:

Of course, we have to consider the donor:

And the long-term implications:

Sunday 25 March 2012 09:43:12 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | US#
Saturday 24 March 2012

Via reader DB, a report of a coyote captured in downtown Boston:

At about 3 p.m., the 40-pound animal was finally located by Animal Rescue League workers. It was found cowering next to a downtown building near the corner of Lincoln and Summer streets, surrounded by a crowd of curious onlookers and police. Using teamwork, a large net, and a catchpole, the rescue workers were able to catch it.

[A Boston Animal Rescue League spokesman] suspected that the animal most likely was able to enter the city by following train tracks, but couldn’t find its way back. He said this happens a few times a year and that coyotes are much easier to catch than deer.

We've had coyotes in Chicago news a few times in the past couple of years. I've seen them as well, the last time right by the Whole Foods in Lincoln Park. I love how they've learned to adapt to us—and what they're doing to the rabbit and Canada goose populations. (Sorry, Bugs, you're just a long-eared rat.)

Saturday 24 March 2012 09:01:42 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Kitchen Sink#
Friday 23 March 2012

The New Yorker takes a look at why Mitt Romney seems so out of touch:

in the nineteen-seventies and eighties consultants tended to figure employees as simply part of a firm’s costs. In the whirlwind of creative destruction, employees are subject to the “churn”—the turnover that is an inevitable by-product of the struggle among firms to compete.

[O]f the approximately one hundred deals that Bain Capital made during Romney’s tenure there either lost money or only broke even, the successful deals were astronomically successful. Bain invested about two hundred and sixty million dollars in ten major deals under Romney’s direction, and it made nearly three billion. Annual return to investors was eighty-eight per cent.

And that, of course, is the goal of a private-equity business: maximizing the return on investment. Jobs may be “created” in the process—although sometimes jobs are lost, a company goes broke, and the private-equity firm still makes money. But a firm like Bain is concerned exclusively with buying low and selling high. Any other outcome it might pursue at the expense of that concern cheats its investors. This is why talk of job creation or job destruction in the companies Bain invested in is beside the point. Bain was not about jobs.

This is the guy most likely running against the President this fall. Does Mitt Romney care about you or your concerns? To him, the question itself doesn't even make sense.

Friday 23 March 2012 17:47:46 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | US#
Thursday 22 March 2012

The hits just keep on coming as Chicago hits yet another new heat record (28°C):

In Chicago...prior to this year there had only been 10 days in March with highs in the 80s [Fahrenheit, 26.7°C], which means on average, Chicago only sees an 80 degree high in March once about every 14 years. Already this month, there have been seven [now eight—db] days at or above 80. Including the [eight] days at or above 80 this March, there have now been a total of [18] March days at or above 80 in Chicago. This means about one third of one percent of all March days have been in the 80s in Chicago.

The last time Chicago saw an 80 degree temperature during the month of March (prior to this year) was over 22 years ago back on March 12, 1990, when the high temperature was 81.

Here's the updated table:
Date Old record New record
March 14 25.0°C, 1995 27.2°C
March 15 23.3°C, 1995 27.2°C
March 16 25.6°C, 1945 27.8°C
March 17 23.3°C, 1894, 2009 27.8°C
March 18 23.3°C, 1903, 1918, 1969 27.2°C
March 19 25.6°C, 1921 25.6°C (tie)
March 20 24.3°C, 1921 29.3°C
March 21 25.0°C, 1938 30.6°C
March 22 26.3°C, 1938 27.8°C as of 1:51pm

No, no global warming here, you can go about your business...

Thursday 22 March 2012 14:50:47 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Weather#

Researchers at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station have been watching the sun set for weeks. At the poles, the sun traces an excruciatingly slow corkscrew between equinoxes, first spiraling up to a point 23° above the horizon (only about as high as the sun gets in Chicago around 10am on December 21st) on the solstice, then slowly spiraling back down to the horizon over the next three months.

In about an hour from now, the last limb of the sun will slip below the south polar horizon, the twilight gradually fading for another three weeks. The sun won't appear again until September 20th.

Fourteen people will spend the next five months at Amundsen-Scott, with no possibility of leaving until the end of August.

Thursday 22 March 2012 11:45:34 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Geography | Astronomy#
Wednesday 21 March 2012

First, just a nod to the eighth record temperature in a row that Chicago just set. Tom Skilling's blog entry this morning maps out the carnage, including record pollen levels, the hottest lake temperature readings ever for this time of year, and a forecast for above-average temperatures going into April. Let me tell you how thrilled I am that we've skipped spring and gone straight to July. As my servers start to melt and I lose sleep because the house is too hot, I find myself wishing for autumn the day after the March equinox.

It's not that warm in Paris. Here's another view of the Pont Neuf, which I like a little better than the one I posted Sunday:

And thank you, Eurostar, for making this all possible:

Wednesday 21 March 2012 13:18:09 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Travel | Weather#
Tuesday 20 March 2012

I don't want to lose these things:

That is all. More UK and France photos later today.

Tuesday 20 March 2012 12:05:45 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation | Chicago | Kitchen Sink | US | Security#

Happy Spring. The equinox happened less than 11 hours ago, which usually means Chicago has another six weeks of cold and damp weather. Not this time. Trees have buds and flowers, insects have started buzzing around, and as of about an hour ago, we've broken (or tied) our seventh consecutive heat record. This, by the way, is also a record (greatest number of temperature records broken consecutively), breaking the record set...yesterday.

Here are the temperature records we've set so far this month:

Date Old record New record
March 14 25.0°C, 1995 27.2°C
March 15 23.3°C, 1995 27.2°C
March 16 25.6°C, 1945 27.8°C
March 17 23.3°C, 1894, 2009 27.8°C
March 18 23.3°C, 1903, 1918, 1969 27.2°C
March 19 25.6°C, 1921 25.6°C (tie)
March 20 24.3°C, 1921 25.0°C as of 10:53am

Today's forecast high would make it feel more like mid-June than mid-March.

Meanwhile, it's snowing in Arizona...

Update: O'Hare temperature is 28.9°C at 13:51.

Tuesday 20 March 2012 11:49:30 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Weather#
Monday 19 March 2012

Mostly, I walked, from Gare du Nord to the Pont Neuf and thence Châtelet. I also stopped at the Musée du Louvre, unfortunately only about an hour and a quarter before closing time. Fortunately, it wasn't that crowded. Apparently on a busy day I'd never have gotten to see this:

Oh, wait, that's the wrong angle. I mean, this:

Don't get me wrong, I think it's a great painting. But if you look at the top photo, you'll notice it's not the only painting in the museum. I think this is a fascinating phenomenon: going to see something because it's something to be seen. Well, I've now seen the actual Joconde—from two meters away, with a few score of my best friends—but I really feel I should spend some time seeing the rest of the museum.

On the other hand, I'd never been in the building before, so I just had to see the thing. I think it's a good start from a promising young painter. I can't wait to see what else he does.

Monday 19 March 2012 17:55:07 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Travel#

I'll have more weekend photos later today (but probably not another post on our record heat wave. Before that, I just found out some great news about Chicago's next major park:

[Chicago mayor Rahm] Emanuel said [at a press conference last week that] initial funding had come together for the $100 million project, which is expected to begin construction later this year and be completed by 2014. Designed by Arup, Ross Barney Architects and Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, the new park will have benches and foliage on either side of a two-way path.

It looks in renderings much like New York City's High Line, but will be nearly twice as long and with gentle curves and dips. It will also allow bike traffic and include several green space access points at ground level.

Besides offering expansive views across several Chicago neighborhoods, the new park will improve local transport links. The multi-use trail will connect the west side to areas near the lake and the Loop, and the anchor parks will link the trail to L train stations and major bus stops.

The Chicago & Pacific Railroad originally built this 4300 m stretch of rail line at ground level in 1872. After a series of accidents involving pedestrians, the tracks were elevated about a century ago, but have been out of use since the mid-1990s. Within a couple years, the determined and the curious will no longer be forced to slip through fences to use the space and enjoy the view.

I've been looking forward to the project getting off the ground moving forward for years. I haven't taken Parker up there yet, because it's (a) trespassing and (b) covered in broken glass, but possibly in the next week or two I'll go up there with my camera.

For more background, the Chicago Reader had a long article about the trail a couple years ago.

Monday 19 March 2012 14:14:43 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago#
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On this page....
The legacy of airline deregulation
Two more from last weekend
Dick Cheney's heart
More coyotes in cities
Romney the Robot
Yet another post on our record-smashing weather
Sunset at the bottom of the world
Two more from France
Other things of note
Record number of records keeps growing
How I spent my afternoon in Paris
Movement on the Bloomingdale Trail
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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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