Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
Monday 8 October 2012

Aaron Sorkin, writing for Maureen Dowd's column today, imagines the conversation:

BARTLET And that was quite a display of hard-nosed, fiscal conservatism when he slashed one one-hundredth of 1 percent from the federal budget by canceling “Sesame Street” and “Downton Abbey.” I think we’re halfway home. Mr. President, your prep for the next debate need not consist of anything more than learning to pronounce three words: “Governor, you’re lying.” Let’s replay some of Wednesday night’s more jaw-dropping visits to the Land Where Facts Go to Die. “I don’t have a $5 trillion tax cut. I don’t have a tax cut of a scale you’re talking about.”

OBAMA The Tax Policy Center analysis of your proposal for a 20 percent across-the-board tax cut in all federal income tax rates, eliminating the Alternative Minimum Tax, the estate tax and other reductions, says it would be a $5 trillion tax cut.

BARTLET In other words ...

OBAMA You’re lying, Governor.

Yeah, we really could have used Josiah Bartlet up there Wednesday. But there are three more debates...

Monday 8 October 2012 13:00:32 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | US#

Two aviation articles this morning. The first, via the Economist's Gulliver blog, examines how checked baggage tags have cut lost luggage down to nearly zero:

In July alone, 53 million passengers boarded domestic flights. Only about one-third of 1 percent reported a mishandled bag. Given the phenomenal scale of American aviation (measured in seats and miles, the U.S. market is three times larger than any other) and our reliance on luggage-juggling hub airports, that’s an excellent result. Even caged birds are treated pretty well by modern air travel (though remarkably, they do get airsick): In July, U.S. airlines lost just one pet.

This success is largely due to the humdrum baggage tag. That random sticky strip you rip off your suitcase when you get home? It’s actually a masterpiece of design and engineering. Absent its many innovations, you’d still be able to jet from Anchorage to Abu Dhabi. But your suitcase would be much less likely to meet you there. (Disclosure: I am a pilot for an airline that’s not mentioned in this article.)

I also had the latest from the Cranky Flier in my RSS feed this morning, about how American Airlines' management is getting PR horribly wrong:

While people might not want to fly American for its lack of reliability, it’s much more of a crisis if people don’t think the airline is safe to fly regardless of whether flights are on time or not. While I personally don’t have huge concerns about flying the airline, I’m not the general public. If I worked at American in PR, this would have me at DEFCON 1, yet the airline has treated this as if it’s just a minor issue.

The most visible of the safety issues has been the seats coming loose on 757s. This is a major issue in that it could easily be believed by the general public to be sabotage or the sign of an airline failing to do proper maintenance. Neither is remotely acceptable. It sounds like American has found a possible reason for the issue and in yet another stupid move is blaming passengers. While this issue has now apparently been fixed, real damage has been done. And now the media is piling on, making things worse.

He goes on to say that the pilots and mechanics have had a little more intelligence behind their PR efforts. I hope, I really hope, that American's executives don't kill the airline before USAirways has a chance to close the merger.

Monday 8 October 2012 12:29:34 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation#
Sunday 7 October 2012

I just discovered something that should have been obvious: Chicago Public Radio dropped Car Talk too early.

Starting yesterday, WBEZ moved its Saturday schedule around, dropping Car Talk from the 9am slot, bringing Wait Wait! Don't tell me and This American Life forward, and putting new show Snap Judgment in TAL's noon slot. Last week I listened to what I believed at the time to be the last Car Talk episode ever, and found it...oddly routine.

Well, duh. Tom and Ray will continue recording until later this month.

WBEZ: Why, oh why, did you switch the schedule four weeks early? At least there are podcasts.

But wait: it's possible they're not actually going to have a finale. Speculation on the boards is that they're already recycling segments. Say it isn't so, Tom and Ray!

Sunday 7 October 2012 10:11:10 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Kitchen Sink#

Friday's cold front brought the chilliest weather in Chicago since April 12th. Friday night's low of 1°C yielded cool, cloudy day yesterday and today. It's now mostly cloudy and 6°C with a northwest breeze.

This is significant because right now 45,000 people are running their asses off right around my house. For a variety of reasons I will not be chasing the street sweepers again this year, the chief reason being that while this temperature feels great to a runner, it kind of sucks for a biker.

Good luck, runners!

Update: Good luck, indeed. Ethiopian Tsegaye Kedebe set a new course record just now, finishing in 2:04:38, while Ethiopian Atsede Baysa beat Kenyan Rita Jeptoo in 2:22:03. For those of you not inclined to do math at this hour on a Sunday, Kedebe averaged 4:45 per mile; Baysa, 5:25.

Sunday 7 October 2012 09:41:09 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Weather#
Friday 5 October 2012

The temperature in Chicago dropped 13°C in six hours yesterday, taking us from summer to autumn between lunch and dinner:

One minute it was summer, with the Chicago area basking in the warmest temperatures of the past 22 days---the next, howling northwest winds were delivering an autumn-level chill.

Readings surged to 27°C at Midway and the Lakefront by mid afternoon but were soon on the run with the arrival of gusty showers—a few with lightning and thunder. These initiated the impressive temperature plunge.

It could have been worse, though, as northern Minnesota discovered:

Warmth was definitely NOT the issue in far northwest Minnesota or eastern North Dakota Thursday. There, 80 km/h-plus wind gusts combined with -2°C temperatures to produce a fairly narrow corridor of blinding snowfall. The area 15 km NW of Badger, Minn., topped that area's snowfall list.

The epicenter of the storm passed well north of Chicago Thursday and its heaviest snow had shifted snowfall well north into Canada's Ontario province by nightfall.

And next week, it'll be warm again. And cold. Welcome to autumn in Chicago.

Friday 5 October 2012 12:32:31 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Weather#
Thursday 4 October 2012

Behold, the Like-a-Hug:

Designed by MIT researchers, the Like-A-Hug coat senses when a Facebook friend "likes" your picture of a sweater-wearing cat or wistful update about finding true love. Then, via some complicated electronic mechanism that's not quite clear, it rewards the wearer by filling with air to mimic a "hugging" sensation.

So basically this is an article of clothing that broadcasts the owner's craven need for approval, as well as suggesting his or her crushing failure to attract hugs from flesh-and-blood beings.

The project team has produced a video, too:

And hey, after last night, who doesn't need a hug?

Thursday 4 October 2012 11:43:31 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Kitchen Sink#
Wednesday 3 October 2012

The Chicago Transit Authority replaced two viaducts over Evanston, Ill., streets in June, the fifth and sixth of 17 century-old structures. The Daily Parker watched them replace one back in 2006; in 2012, the CTA took video. Here's Greenleaf Street, replaced on June 11th:

And here's Dempster Street, replaced two weeks later:

It's all part of a plan to rehabilitate the Red and Purple lines that may get finished in my lifetime. (The RPM project, one aspect of the plan, is going forward, soonish.) If only there were a massive source of interest-free money available to fund the project, and millions of unemployed people to hire for it. Oh, wait...

Wednesday 3 October 2012 16:01:30 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | US | Travel#

I made a mistake Monday: the Astos and Cubs will probably end the season with a combined 208 losses, not 207. It's a bit damp at Wrigley today, so they may not play; but if they do, either the Cubs will wind up 60-102 or 61-101 (to the Astros' 56-106 or 55-107, respectively). That's impressive.

Meanwhile, the new wild-card arrangement has gelled for the National League (Washington, Cincinnati, San Francisco clinch their divisions; Atlanta and St. Louis are wild cards), but the American League might not get everything sorted until tomorrow. The A's and Rangers are tied in the AL West, but since they play each other this afternoon, that will get settled. Detroit eliminated the White Sox already this week. That leaves Baltimore one game behind the Yankees in the AL East, so if Boston beats the Yankees and Baltimore beats Tampa tonight, they'll be tied, forcing a one-game playoff at Camden Yards on Thursday. And the loser will still be in the post-season as a wildcard.

What a weird end to the baseball season. Except for us in Chicago, it's pretty exciting.

More: MLB has an exhaustive guide to the wild card rules for anyone who has trouble sleeping tonight.

Wednesday 3 October 2012 11:17:51 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Baseball#
Tuesday 2 October 2012

The Tribune just foisted two news alerts on me that I already knew. First, the Cubs lost their 100th game, which, it turns out, has only happened three times in the last 140 freaking years. The Trib's lede is beautiful:

Fifty years ago this week, only 595 fans showed up at Wrigley Field for the opener of the Cubs-Mets series, the last time two teams with 100-plus losses faced each other.

The '62 Cubs — with future Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Lou Brock, Billy Williams and Ron Santo on the roster — wound up taking two of three from the expansion team, finishing with a franchise-worst 103 losses, to the Mets' major league record 120.

Wow. I mean, wow. It takes a special kind of baseball team to lose 103 games in a season, so the talent and vision that went into the Mets' 120 losses in 1962 defies rational belief. I am cowed. And I am also thankful no team has gotten to that record in my lifetime, if only because the Mets occupy the rung on my baseball ladder just above the American League and just below the one I try to scrape off before walking in the house. (The Astros occupy that rung, it turns out, only because they were the first team I ever saw play the Cubs).

All righty then. One must look forward, to the horizon of a National League win. And again, I say: Go Giants.

Almost forgot: The other news alert, announcing that the Tigers have eliminated the White Sox, did not distress me much, as it only concerns the minor leagues.

Monday 1 October 2012 22:50:40 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Baseball | Chicago#

It is a mathematical certainty that the combined losses of the Astros and Cubs will get to 207 when the season ends Wendesday. They're playing each other right now, with the Cubs heading for their 100th loss of the year. One cannot but marvel at the prowess of both teams, both fighting quixotically for their respective honors. The Cubs can't possibly be the worst team in baseball this year, because the Astros have so totally dominated them in that respect. And yet, the Astros will move to the American League next year, meaning that both they and the Cubs will begin 2013 being the worst teams in their respective leagues as the new season begins.

New rule: Once your home team loses 100 games in a season, you get to pick another team to root for. And so I say, from now until the next opening day: Go Giants!

Monday 1 October 2012 21:50:02 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Baseball | Chicago#
Monday 1 October 2012

Chicago hit a new record for most consecutive months with above-average temperatures, which ended August 31st (only we didn't know for sure until yesterday):

For the first time in a year, Chicago has logged a month with below-normal temperatures. Averaging 17.8°C, September finished 0.3°C below normal, ending the city's record run of 11 above-normal months that began in October 2011.

Despite the lower-than-normal temperatures, sunshine was plentiful, averaging 75 percent of possible, the highest here since 2007 when 76 percent was recorded.

Climate-change deniers will no doubt take this as evidence that global warming has ceased. I mean, if there were global warming, shouldn't it always be above average?

Monday 1 October 2012 16:42:50 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Weather#

Last night, in the West Loop:

After tomorrow's performance in Madison, Wis., Girlyman will be taking a break from performing. I'm glad I got a chance to see them.

Doris and Ty:

And the opening act, Chastity Brown, whose CD I bought on the way out. Great stuff:

Monday 1 October 2012 16:13:16 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Kitchen Sink#
Sunday 30 September 2012

Just two more photos from last weekend in Cincinnati, though to be precise, I took both from Kentucky. I love repurposed obsolete infrastructure, like the New York Highline and the coming Bloomingdale Trail. In Cincinnati, they have the Purple People Bridge, which one imagines used to rain soot and cinders down on what has become, since the bridge was built in 1999, a beautiful riverfront.

Here's the bridge from the Newport, Ky., side:

Closer to Ohio—Kentucky owns the entire river, almost up to the bank—you get this view:

I'll have to go back there, as long as I can explore the city and not the depressing exurbs to the north.

Sunday 30 September 2012 09:25:38 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Baseball | Travel#

Nate Silver finds no consistent bias in the history of presidential polling:

In the 10 presidential elections since 1972, there have been five years (1976, 1980, 1992, 1996 and 2004) in which the national presidential polls overestimated the standing of the Democratic candidate. However, there were also four years (1972, 1984, 1988 and 2000) in which they overestimated the standing of the Republican. Finally, there was 2008, when the average of likely voter polls showed Mr. Obama winning by 7.3 percentage points, his exact margin of victory over John McCain, to the decimal place.

In all but three years, the partisan bias in the polls was small, with the polling average coming within 1.5 percentage points of the actual result. (I use the term “bias” in a statistical sense, meaning simply that the results tended to miss toward one direction.)

On the whole, it is reasonably impressive how unbiased the polls have been. In both presidential and Senate races, the bias has been less than a full percentage point over the long run, and it has run in opposite directions.

That does not mean the pollsters will necessarily get this particular election right. Years like 1980 suggest that there are sometimes errors in the polls that are much larger than can be explained through sampling error alone. The probability estimates you see attached to the FiveThirtyEight forecasts are based on how the polls have performed historically in practice, and not how well they claim to do in theory.

So in 2012, as Krugman puts it, "the facts have a well-known liberal bias."

Sunday 30 September 2012 08:38:40 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | US#
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On this page....
Two presidents, smoking
On the origins of bag tags...and American's stupidity
WBEZ's premature schedule change makes Click and Clack cry
Good running weather
Cold front passes to start wild ride this month
Submitted without comment
How to replace a century-old viaduct without affecting commuters
Swansong of the Astros
News alerts to make the baby cheeses cry
Truly impressive series to end the season
New record, but it's over
Girlyman and Chastity Brown at City Winery
Final Cincinnati photos
Historic bias of poll results? Not so much
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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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