The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Caribou out, Peet's in

I've always liked Peet's Coffee, and even owned shares back when it was publicly traded. (Made a few beans on them as well.) I've always liked Caribou Coffee, too. So I'm taking it as mixed but generally positive news that Caribou stores in Chicago will switch to Peet's stores over the next two years:

Caribou didn't provide a list of stores affected by the closings or conversions. But most downtown Chicago Caribou locations will remain open and be rebranded Peet's stores by 2015. Employees at the chain's Long Grove, Lake Forest, Northbrook and Winnetka locations said Monday that their stores also would remain open, eventually becoming Peet's. It's unclear if personnel in those stores will retain their jobs.

Peet's, which has about 200 cafes, has a significant presence in larger retail stores, including Jewel, Target and Dominick's. Peet's has two area locations, at North & Clybourn avenues and in Evanston, according to the chain's website.

Robert Passikoff, president of consulting firm Brand Keys, said companies "don't make this kind of decision casually." While Caribou "was doing very well," he said, its new owners likely believe that coffee drinkers in the area "are in fact looking for a different kind of experience, and they have (Peet's) in their arsenal, so why not try it?"

Watch this space this weekend, when I'll no doubt have several posts from Peet's Coffee stores out west.

Cubs home opener

Well, the team has done better.

After graciously allowing the entire Brewers lineup to come to bat in the 1st inning, the Cubs managed to stagger through eight more innings before completely blowing it in the bottom of the 9th:

A wind blowing out at 24 mph turned Martin Maldonado's fly ball into a three-run double in the Brewers' four-run first off Edwin Jackson, but the wind changed directions in the ninth, just in time to foil the Cubs' rally.

Yes, it was well worth the many dollars we spent on season tickets this year, which—to remind folks joining us mid-game—we did because the waiting list is up to 125,000 names.

Here's the beginning of the game, all misplaced optimism and Friendly Confines:

And here's the end of the game, with none of the aforementioned:

Oh, well. Only 80 home games to go.

Cubs opener forecast: squishy field but otherwise OK

Parker and I took our first walk in pouring rain, but things seem to have cleared up. The Tribune expects OK weather for the 1:20 start:

Despite a wet, gloomy and cool start to the day, conditions should improve dramatically this afternoon in time for the Cubs opener. Temperatures around 7°C this morning will rebound into the teens later today with the passage of a warm front.

The Cubs, now 2-4 for the season and having already replaced their benighted reliever Carlos Marmol, would at least not lose a rain-out...but I'm happy to see my first game in seven months at Wrigley.

Screens back in

Chicago has finally gotten up to 21°C for the first time since December 1st. My screens are back in, my dog got some good walks, and my apartment is fresher.

I just hope it's like this on Monday.

All those guns are sure making us safer

It's unclear whether Arizona State Representative Bob Thorpe (R) thinks legislators there are in danger, or he just wants to sell body armor. Either way, he seems to have figured out how to realize dystopia:

State Rep. Bob Thorpe (R) sent an email on Thursday to all Arizona House and Senate members, inviting them to attend an event this coming Wednesday at the capitol, where someone from a company called Arizona Tactical is scheduled to educate lawmakers about the protective vests it sells.

In his email, Thorpe said he has been researching body armor in the wake of the Tucson, Ariz. shooting that injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) and led her to step down from Congress. He suggested the vests could be worn at public events like town halls and parades. “Just like our police and DPS (Department of Public Safety) officers, you typically wear the vest under a shirt or top, which conceals their use,” Thorpe wrote, adding that the company would cut the lawmakers a deal and offer the vests at the same price law enforcement officials pay.

So, arming everyone makes everyone safer—except that for some reason public officials need to wear body armor, because they might get shot. How about arming legislators? Yeah, no problem there:

State Sen. Lori Klein (R), now gone from the legislature, made headlines in July 2011 when she pointed a loaded gun at a journalist during an interview in the Senate lounge. The reporter, The Arizona Republic’s Richard Ruelas, wrote at the time: “She showed off the laser sighting by pointing the red beam at the reporter’s chest. The gun has no safety, she said, but there was no need to worry.”

Maybe we'll get lucky and the presentation really is just a way for Rep. Thorpe to skim something off the top. Petty corruption I can deal with. A heavily-armed society I cannot.

Another one of these


Back to the mines.

Shared space in Manchester suburb

Instead of a bunch of stoplights and crosswalks—and a bunch of accidents involving pedestrians—the village of Poyndon, 20 km north of Manchester, created shared space at its busiest crossroads:

Now, a year after construction wrapped up, a video called "Poynton Regenerated" makes the case that the shared space scheme maintains a smooth flow of traffic while simultaneously making the village center a more attractive and safer place for pedestrians, leading to increased economic activity downtown.

In the "Regenerating Poynton" video, several people who admit to having been skeptical of the plan say that after it was put in place, they came to see it as a dramatic improvement. A local city councilor says that the main street no longer seems like a dying place, as it had for years before the change. Some 88 percent of businesses in the area are reporting an increase in foot traffic, and real estate agents say they're seeing new interest in buying property in the area.

Here's the video:

ComEd lowers rates, still above Integrys

Back in November, Chicagoans voted to buy electricity in the aggregate from Integrys rather than the quasi-public utility Exelon. As predicted, the big savings only lasted a few months:

And Chicago, where residents saw their first electric-bill savings this month under a 5.42-cent-per-kilowatt-hour deal completed in December with Integrys, will see its energy savings shaved to just 2 percent.

ComEd's new price is not yet official. But utility representatives have filed their new energy price of 4.6 cents per kilowatt-hour with the ICC and have told the commission they expect forthcoming transmission charges to be about another 0.95 cents per kilowatt-hour. That will make the ComEd "price to compare" cited by competing suppliers when marketing their offerings about 5.55 cents.

That said, between the new Integrys rate that hit me on my last electricity bill, and moving to the cloud, my March bill was only 54% of my average bill from 2009 to 2012. So ComEd is lowering rates too? Good. It'll still be higher than Integrys.

Aviation here and abroad

First, TPM on why the FAA closed contract towers and how this is in fact the fault of the very people complaining about them:

Sequestration is hitting the Department of Transportation like almost every other cabinet-level department. But unlike other departments, most of its employees work for one agency — the Federal Aviation Administration — and most of that agency’s employees are air traffic controllers.

Because of that, sequestration is forcing FAA to furlough employees, institute a hiring freeze and shutter 149 contractor-operated air-traffic control towers around the country.

It’s that last effect that makes members of Congress, particularly Republicans, so nervous. And since, percentage-wise, contractors are facing larger cuts than other other FAA activities and operations, they’re claiming that the cuts are designed to create a political headache for members of Congress — not to comply with sequestration’s spending cut requirements or safety provisions elsewhere in federal law.

The Chicago area had two important closures, at Waukegan and Gary, the two closest lakefront towers. There are now no air traffic control towers observing Lake Michigan south of Racine, Wisconsin. Republicans are whinging about ATC tower closures because it's a visible effect of the sequester, and people might ask embarrassing questions.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Samoa Air has started charging passengers by weight:

IT’S an issue that has often been proposed in the darker corners of the world’s aviation forums. And now Samoa Air has decided to become the world's first airline to charge passengers according to their weight. No matter if you're a skinny 6'8 (203cm), a muscular 6'0 or a chubby 5'3: if you weigh a lot, you pay a lot. Flyers declare their weight (including luggage) when booking their tickets and pay an amount per kilo. The per-kilo price depends on the length of the flight. Scales at check-in should ensure that passengers have not misrepresented their size.

Since airplanes use fuel based on weight and distance, this makes a lot of sense—particularly when you understand that most Samoans have BMIs over 30.