Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
Sunday 29 April 2012

Washington Post columnist Steven Pearlstein yesterday expanded on how American Airlines' unions bested management by dealing directly with US Airways:

Bankruptcy has changed [the unions' bargaining strengths]. Suddenly, airline executives discovered a way to unilaterally abrogate their labor agreements, fire thousands of employees and impose less generous pay and more flexible work rules. Indeed, the technique proved so effective that several airlines went through the process several times. The unions’ strike threat was effectively neutralized.

All of which makes what is happening at American Airlines deliciously ironic. Late last year, American finally decided to join the rest of the industry and make its first pass through the bankruptcy reorganization process after failing to reach agreement on a new concessionary contract with its pilots’ union.

Essentially, US Airways agreed to pay all of its pilots — the American pilots as well as its own — the higher American Airlines wages, along with small annual raises. In return, the union accepted less lavish medical and retirement benefits along with adoption of US Airways work rules that have been rationalized during two trips through the bankruptcy process. In the end, what probably sealed the deal was the US Airways promise of no layoffs.

He concludes:

For years now, Corporate America has viewed the bankruptcy court as a blunt instrument by which failed executives and directors can shift the burden of their mistakes onto shareholders, employees and suppliers. The auto industry bailout orchestrated by the Obama administration posed the first challenge to that assumption. Now the unions at American airlines have taken another step in curbing this flagrant corporate abuse and restoring the rule of law.

The more I think about the two airlines merging, the more excited I get about the deal. The unions and creditors (not to mention the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp.) are right: a strong airline with competent management is good for everyone, including us customers.

Sunday 29 April 2012 12:02:38 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | US#

The Tribune has a graphic this morning pointing out a number of things about our lack of snow this past winter. It turns out, the snowfall on March 4th was the earliest last snowfall. That is, in the rest of recorded history (back to 1884), we've always gotten snow later than March 4th. Until this year.

Our entire season gave us only 11 days with 25 mm or more of snow on the ground (normal is 43); it was one of only 10 seasons (out of 128) with less than 500 mm of snowfall total (normal is 932 mm); and it's the second-shortest interval from first to last snowfall ever, at 117 days (normal is 174).

Of course, snow has fallen in 40 Mays of the 128 in history...so this could all be completely wrong. We've even gotten snow in June (on 2 June 1910). But it looks for now like we can add one more quantification to our wonderfully mild winter.

Sunday 29 April 2012 09:34:31 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Friday 27 April 2012

New video from the Obama campaign, featuring one of the dumbest things Mitt Romney ever said:

Friday 27 April 2012 12:01:33 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#
Thursday 26 April 2012

He lasted less than four weeks as office dog.

Workplace tip: when you greet the boss first thing in the morning, do not immediately thereafter poop on his carpet.

Thursday 26 April 2012 17:32:44 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Parker#
Wednesday 25 April 2012

Oh yeah.

Wednesday 25 April 2012 12:55:02 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#

Despite the rise of right-leaning economics ideology, reality stubbornly retains its liberal bias, with further evidence today coming from the latest UK economic figures:

The UK economy has returned to recession, after shrinking by 0.2% in the first three months of 2012.

A sharp fall in construction output was behind the surprise contraction, the Office for National Statistics said.

"The huge cuts to public spending - 25% in public sector housing and 24% in public non-housing and with a further 10% cuts to both anticipated for 2013 - have left a hole too big for other sectors to fill," said Judy Lowe, deputy chairman of industry body CITB-ConstructionSkills, said.

Or, as Krugman points out, the Conservative's austerity measures have worked no better in the UK than anywhere else in the world:

Now Britain is officially in double-dip recession, and has achieved the remarkable feat of doing worse this time around than it did in the 1930s.

Now, the defense I hear from Cameron apologists is that the austerity mostly hasn’t even hit yet. But that’s really not much of a defense. Remember, the austerity was supposed to work by inspiring confidence; where’s the confidence? Basically, the expansionary aspect should already have kicked in; it’s all contraction from here.

Needless to say, Cameron and Osborne insist that they will not change course, which means that Britain will continue on a death spiral of self-defeating austerity.

It's amazing, really, how Keynes looked back at the Great Depression and learned something, which the right have forgotten for ideological reasons. It's simple: the way out of a recession is for governments to borrow money to get people back to work. This causes growth. The government can then pay back the money when revenues rise because of that growth. Right now, with real interest rates around –4% (yes, minus four), people will actually pay the US government to lend it money. The UK is in a similar situation.

So: the way for the West to get out of the recession is pretty clear, and today's UK GDP growth numbers confirm it. But politicians in most of the world don't believe the facts before them yet. And the recession drags on.

Wednesday 25 April 2012 10:54:27 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US | World#
Tuesday 24 April 2012

MLB logoThe 30-park geas continues apace.

Tuesday 24 April 2012 15:00:10 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Baseball | Cubs#

At least this year, in Illinois, where the average temperature is actually below March's—and it's still above normal:

The statewide average temperature for April 1-22 is 12.3°C. The statewide average temperature for March was 12.8°C, based on the latest numbers from NOAA. That means that April was almost a degree [Fahrenheit] cooler than March. What makes this even more freaky is that the April temperatures are still 1.9°C above normal!

BTW, the statewide normal monthly temperature is 4.8°C for March and 10.9°C for April, a ten degree [Fahrenheit] rise.

State Climatologist Jim Angel concludes by pointing out that we've only had one April in recorded history that was cooler than March, back in 1907. (Recorded history goes back to 1895.)

Tuesday 24 April 2012 11:21:35 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Monday 23 April 2012

Over the weekend it came out that US Airways had started discussions with pilots, mechanics, and flight attendants at rival American Airlines. The unions are encouraging the companies to merge:

The first thing to know is that this doesn't mean that the two airlines are merging—it's a step towards a merger, but a deal is far from certain. AA, for its part, has said that it wants to emerge from bankruptcy as an independent airline. But industry analysts have long discounted that as an unrealistic goal—as separate airlines, US Airways and American would probably find it increasingly difficult to compete with the combined United-Continental (now United) and Delta-Northwest (now Delta) juggernauts.

The letter from the head of US Airways, Doug Parker, to his employees, which the airline filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday, is a fairly lucid explanation of the situation. US Airways has reached deals with the AA units of the Transport Workers Union (mechanics, maintenance workers, ground crews and so on), the Association of Professional Flight Attendants and the Allied Pilots Association. AA's current plan includes cutting north of 13,000 jobs; US Airways' plan would save "at least 6,200" of those jobs, according to Mr Parker.

If the airlines do merge—which seems likelier by the day—it would probably retain American Airlines' name and Dallas headquarters, but with new management from US Airways. It would also probably retain its Chicago, Miami, Charlotte, and Phoenix hubs, though it's not clear what would happen to secondary hubs like Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Brussels. Regulators would insist that the new airline stay in the oneworld alliance, and customers, like me, would insist that the two frequent-flyer programs merge without loss of value.

The fact remains: American has to merge with someone, and US Airways is an obvious fit. This action by American's union is like the kids saying they like their single parent's new paramour: it has no real persuasive force other than to mean the marriage will go more smoothly.

Update: The Dallas CBS affiliate is suggesting what the new airline would look like.

Monday 23 April 2012 12:17:48 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation#

I had meant to make a note of my 3,000th blog posting, but I completely forgot it was coming. So, after 2,353 days (and 24 minutes), three house moves, a few significant personal events, and Parker's entire life, The Daily Parker is still going strong.

At the historical posting rate for the blog (1.28 per day), I'll hit 6,000 entries in September 2018 and 10,000 entries by April 2027. (For the last two years, though, I've posted about 1.5 per day, so you could see 10,000 as early as April 2025.) Stick around.

And thanks for reading.

Monday 23 April 2012 11:23:50 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Blogs#
Sunday 22 April 2012

I had a visceral, negative reaction to Marlins Ballpark, which I have tried to figure out since Thursday's game. Going to Tropicana Field the next evening, and driving through Florida for six hours or so from Miami to Tampa Bay to Orlando, gave me some perspective.

According to my camera, Marlins Ballpark's playing field had a full stop more light than Tropicana's. That means the playing field in Miami had twice as much light falling on it as the field in St. Petersburg. Yet Miami's stadium seemed darker and more like a night game. Here's the outfield, with the dark roof and the wall of windows to its east:

And here, again, is Tropicana Field:

The darker stands had, I think, a subduing effect on the crowd. The Rays game had 18,700 fans in a 37,000-seat stadium; the Marlins pulled 23,000 into about the same number of seats. Yet Miami seemed emptier, quieter, less engaged. (Maybe Miami fans need cowbells?)

One more difference: Marlins Ballpark seemed to have no roving vendors. No one sold peanuts, beer, or those "We're Number 1" foam hand things. At Tropicana Field, you could hear these guys all over the park, many of them with, shall I say, distinctive ways of getting attention.

Marlins Ballpark, the newest and possibly most expensive ballpark in Major League Baseball, ranks bottom on my list, below even O.Co Coliseum in Oakland and Sox Park here in Chicago. Like Marlins Ballpark, O.Co gets low marks also because of its architecture: from the razor-wire-covered gangways to Mount Davis, it's an ugly, purely-functional park, redeemed only by the A's fans. (Sox Park has the Chicago White Sox; 'nuff said.) Keep in mind, I still have 10 left to visit before I can be certain—but I don't think any of the remaining 10 will feel so unlike Wrigley that I never would want to return. I mean, I had a great time at the Oakland game, so I might go back; but a free World Series ticket to Marlins Park? Not unless the Cubs were playing.

Sunday 22 April 2012 09:21:52 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Baseball#

Home, finally, after a pretty relaxing day of traveling and reading, with some help from American Airlines getting me home four hours earlier than expected. I hadn't planned to post tonight, but then I heard about this:

That's the 21st time in Major League history:

It was baseball's 21st perfect game and first since Philadelphia's Roy Halladay threw one against the Florida Marlins on May 29, 2010. It was the third in White Sox's history, joining Mark Buehrle against Tampa Bay on July 23, 2009, and Charles Robertson against Detroit on April 30, 1922.

Nice work, Mr. Humber. Nice work.

Saturday 21 April 2012 21:24:30 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Baseball#
Saturday 21 April 2012

Poor Tropicana Field. It's the last of the old domed multi-use parks. It opened in 1990, just two years before Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the park that brought back classic baseball architecture.

Despite my complaints about the pretty-but-sterile "Baseball Experience" at Marlins Park, I do understand the need for roofs in places where it gets hot and rainy. I actually like Miller Park quite a bit, and mostly I like Enron Field Minute-Maid Park. They feel like baseball parks.

Tropicana Field tries so hard but has so much to overcome. Its façade, for starters:

Inside, it has some really good concessions (two thumbs up for Everglades BBQ and their pulled pork sandwich), good seating (enhanced by having only 18,900 people show up to the game), some fun fans (more cowbell! more cowbell!), and a baseball team who seem to enjoy being there. The roof is kind of cool, too:

I mean, I wouldn't necessarily want to be on the field during a hurricane, but it does keep the rain and heat out.

It's clear to me, after visiting 21 parks, that the era between the last jewel-box park in the 1940s and Camden Yards in 1992 produced some of the unhappiest places on earth. Let me turn it around: I am very happy that baseball architects have, for 20 years, built enjoyable parks that still evoke the best parts about going to a game. This summer I plan to go to Petco Park and, possibly, Citi Field. Oh, and Wrigley, of course.

Which reminds me: yesterday was the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park's opening. Wrigley's century is two years from now. Possibly one of the teams will make the post-season by then.

Saturday 21 April 2012 09:53:09 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Baseball#

I'm pooped, so I'll just post the Obligatory Field Photo from my (inexpensive and very good front-row upper-deck) seat:

More photos and some stuff about the longest, straightest road I've ever driven, when our program continues...

Friday 20 April 2012 23:24:53 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Baseball#
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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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