The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog


Diane and I completely unplugged this weekend so I'm spending the evening catching up. I'll have photos probably Tuesday, depending how crazy tomorrow goes for me. Meanwhile, a joke from one of my clients:

A noob used the following password: "MickeyMinniePlutoHueyLouieDeweyDonaldGoofySacramento" When asked why he had such a long password, he said he was told that it had to be at least 8 characters long and include at least one capital.

Core inflation defined

Paul Krugman has a review posting explaining the concept:

Core inflation isn’t supposed to measure the cost of living, it’s supposed to measure something else: inflation inertia.

Think about it this way. Some prices in the economy fluctuate all the time in the face of supply and demand; food and fuel are the obvious examples. Many prices, however, don’t fluctuate this way — they’re set by oligopolistic firms, or negotiated in long-term contracts, so they’re only revised at intervals ranging from months to years. Many wages are set the same way.

Why the review? Because we're becoming like more Japan in the 1990s:

[I]nflation tends to be self-perpetuating, unless there’s a big excess of either supply or demand. In particular, once expectations of, say, persistent 10 percent inflation have become “embedded” in the economy, it will take a major period of slack — years of high unemployment — to get that rate down. Case in point: the extremely expensive disinflation of the early 1980s.

...And what these measures show is an ongoing process of disinflation that could, in not too long, turn into outright deflation.

It's not quite end-of-the-world stuff, but it does make one nervous.

Where can I get some?

Chicago Public Radio's David Hammond investigated raw-milk cheese, which is illegal to sell in Illinois:

HAMMOND: ...[W]e got together with a group of chefs and other food enthusiasts in Itasca at a wine bar called Wine with Me to sample both raw and pasteurized milk versions of camembert. No money changes hands, and we’re all consenting adults, so technically there’s no illegal activity taking place. Sitting around a big wooden table, we’re confronted by two very different looking cheeses. As part of this taste test, neither cheese was labeled, but the differences were very apparent. One cheese was rigid and uniform; the other was collapsing in on itself. We started by putting our noses into the stuff. Gary Wiviott is a Chicago food writer and author.

WIVIOTT: Of the two cheeses, one has a distinct ammonia smell and the other smells funky, earthy, almost a little mushroom-y, like a damp forest on a fall day, when the leaves are just starting to break down, very appealing, a very appealing aroma. And the other has a less appealing aroma…I just want to dive into the softer, slightly gooey looking one. I just want to take a big bite out of the darn thing.

Is there a black market for raw-milk cheese in Illinois? Or do I have to go to France to get some?

Sad to see it go

The epitome of overcompensating excess and planetary rape will soon fade away into memory:

The sale of the [Hummer] SUV brand with military roots to a Chinese heavy equipment maker has collapsed. GM said it would still hear offers for the company, but potential investors would have to move fast.

GM said Wednesday that its bid to sell Hummer to Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machines Co. fell through. The Chinese manufacturer said it failed to get clearance from regulators in Beijing within the proposed timeframe for the sale.

GM will continue to honor warranties for current Hummer owners.

One wonders what short, angry men will drive instead? I guess there's always the Escalade, or possibly the good ol' John Deere 9030.

There's one other consequence of this: once again, a hummer will be a good thing.

El Niño hace la nieva

A winter storm off the coast of North Carolina has brought snow to both Chicago and Raleigh:

25 mm of snow had fallen at O'Hare by 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, with snow still coming down hard. That was enough to push the city's official seasonal snow tally above 127 cm for the third consecutive year. There's been only one other string of three consecutive 50+ inch seasons in 125 years of snow measurements here and it occurred between 1976 to 1979.

Lake effect snows occur in especially cold environments which, because of the efficiency of ice crystal formation at low temperatures, frequently produce larger than typical accumulations from the limited amount of water vapor available. This leads to snowflakes which exhibit maximum "fluff". Estimates of Wednesday's snow puts snow/water ratios at 30 to 1---indicating the system's snowflakes had almost three times the volume of those which come down in more typical 10 to 1 ratio snow events. One witness, in describing the rate of snowfall in Evanston, compared the scene to a "snow globe." Another described "pure whiteout conditions with snow coming in horizontally" and still another characterized the snowfall intensity at its height Wednesday evening as "this season's heaviest."

In North Carolina the snow is causing the same kinds of disruptions as in Chicago—slow traffic, nervous parents, confused dogs—but...well, it's not quite as much snow:

But I have to agree with my friend Jamie, who, when I mentioned the comparison, said "you picked a good winter to stay in North Carolina." I'm thinking she's right.


If this story is true, someone needs time in jail to think about civic responsibility:

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court, [a Pennsylvania] family said the school's assistant principal had confronted their son, told him he had "engaged in improper behavior in [his] home, and cited as evidence a photograph from the webcam embedded in [his] personal laptop issued by the school district."

The suit contends the Lower Merion School District, one of the most prosperous and highest-achieving in the state, had the ability to turn on students' webcams and illegally invade their privacy.

The suit says that in November, assistant principal Lynn Matsko called in sophomore Blake Robbins and told him that he had "engaged in improper behavior in his home," and cited as evidence a photograph from the webcam in his school-issued laptop.

Matsko later told Robbins' father, Michael, that the district "could remotely activate the webcam contained in a student's personal laptop . . . at any time it chose and to view and capture whatever images were in front of the webcam" without the knowledge or approval of the laptop's users, the suit says.

A security professional in New York has investigated the technical claims and found them convincing. He also expanded on the original news story with some circumstantial evidence:

The truly amazing part of this story is what's coming out from comments from the students themselves. Some of the interesting points:

  • Possession of a monitored Macbook was required for classes
  • Possession of an unmonitored personal computer was forbidden and would be confiscated
  • Disabling the camera was impossible
  • Jailbreaking a school laptop in order to secure it or monitor it against intrusion was an offense which merited expulsion

When I spoke at MIT about the wealth of electronic evidence I came across regarding Chinese gymnasts, I used the phrase "compulsory transparency". I never thought I would be using the phrase to describe America, especially so soon, but that appears to be exactly the case.

I can't wait to see how this turns out.

Paper or plastic?

Via Going Green @ Your Library, an elucidation of everything you need to know about grocery bags. But:

Ultimately, neither paper nor plastic bags are the best choice; we think choosing reusable canvas bags instead is the way to go. From an energy standpoint, according to this Australian study, canvas bags are 14 times better than plastic bags and 39 times better than paper bags, assuming that canvas bags get a good workout and are used 500 times during their life cycle. Happy shopping!


Top Palin aide Meghan Stapleton quit today, with this statement:

"While I had hoped to work together on so many more projects, time with my precious 2-year-old has been further minimized with the whirlwind commitments of all things Palin,” she told the SarahPAC staff. “I have done my best to scale back, but [my two-year-old daughter] Isabella is now resorting to hiding my BlackBerry, and she shouldn't grow up begging for a mother to start acting like a mother.”

With friends like these...who needs to carry her kid around like a prop?