The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

So long, RadioShack

I remember, when I was a kid, how much I loved going to Radio Shack. When I was about 7, my dad got me a 50-in-1 kit that had electronic components like resistors and capacitors, and little wires you could use to connect the components. I made things that buzzed and flashed, even a thing that changed an 8-bar LED into different numbers, and somehow remained completely immune to the principles of electronic engineering the kit intended to impart.

I also had a TRS-80 Model I, with the enormous 16K (yes, K) expansion pack and 250 bps cassette interface. So to some extent, I owe my entire career to the start I got from a Radio Shack product.

Sadly, RadioShack filed Chapter 11 last week, and will be closing all of its stores in the next couple of weeks. It never made the transition from being a hobby shop during its heyday in the 1980s.

I can't say that I'll miss what RadioShack became, but I feel a little nostalgic about the RadioShack I knew 35 years ago. Sic transit.

Snow finally melting; Fitbit numbers recovering

After a nearly two days with above-freezing temperatures, our sidewalks have become passable and our faces have stopped falling off from the cold. Consequently I've spent a good deal of time today walking places. Consequently, though it's just 3pm, I've gotten better Fitbit numbers (15,000 steps, 11 km) than on any day since January 3rd (16,800 steps, 12.1 km).

From January 3rd you have to go all the way back to November 30th (23,500 steps, 18 km) to find better results. I'm not going to do that today; but I am going to walk Parker more than he's been walked in a couple of weeks, and try to hit 18,000 steps or so.

I also discovered that Google knows everywhere I've been since I got my Android phone. (If you have an Android phone, go to to see your history.) That's creepy. And so interesting. For a while I've been outlining an app that would aggregate all of this kind of information and form a searchable tick-tock record going back as far as I have data. That might be cool—or it might be scary. Haven't decided yet.

Andrew Sullivan ends The Daily Dish

After 15 years and hundreds of thousands of posts, Sullivan posted the last Dish entry this afternoon:

I hope that this fifteen-year catalog of insights and errors, new truths and old lies, prejudices and loves, jokes and intimacy, prescience and forgetfulness, will not be taken for anything more than it was, or ever could be. I hope we can all simply look back at the journey, and the laughs we had, and the pain we lived through together and the love that sustained us as a team and as a community, as we struggled together to figure out the truth about the world.

And yes, this was a labor above all of love. Love for ideas and debate, love for America, love for my colleagues, and love, in the end, for you.

I sit here not knowing what to write next. And yet, in the end, it is quite simple.

Know hope.

Earlier today he promised to leave the content up permanently.

The Dish has been my favorite blog for probably 10 years. I'm going to miss Sullivan and his team, and their 50-or-so posts a day. I may have more free time, but the Internet won't be the same.

Good luck, Andrew.

Celebrity chef at McDonald's

No, the company isn't hiring a celebrity chef; the Times sent one to review the food:

Mr. Zakarian took one bite of his wrap and then looked inside. It seemed mostly tortilla, with some wan strips of chicken and shreds of iceberg lettuce. It was, in a word, tasteless. “Why would anyone come here for this?” he asked. “You can get a much better wrap at Chipotle. McDonald’s should stick to what it does well.”

“Of course, the food could be better,” he said. “All fast food could be better. McDonald’s has been incredibly successful, and you have to respect that. It only has to be incrementally better.” Some easy options might be leaner beef and a better bun, and maybe a higher-priced option “since all these things come at a cost,” he said.

When I shared these thoughts with McDonald’s, it turned out the company has had some of the same ideas. A McDonald’s spokeswoman, Heidi Barker, said that McDonald’s was renovating several hundred outlets a year to focus on better lighting, design and materials. I checked out two of the new prototypes in Manhattan this week, and they are vast improvements over the Third Avenue branch. There are natural wood slats, softer lighting, better acoustics and a soft neutral color scheme (though there are still touches of bright red and yellow).

Even bolder, McDonald’s is testing what it calls “create your taste” programs in a few locations, and hopes to introduce the concept in 2,000 locations by the end of the year. Customers order from flat-screen computers and can choose a toasted bun or roll, three types of cheeses, various sauces and toppings. Then, they take a number and pick a seat. The order is delivered to their table.

In unrelated news, McDonald's same-store sales have dropped precipitously, which led to the company recently sacking its CEO.

More stuff to read on the plane

With a little more than five days until my next international flight, I'm stocking up my Kindle:

UAT release this afternoon. Back to the galley.

You gotta get in to get out

Getting out of a snowy parking space is tough. Getting into one can be tougher. Boy, do I like my car's all-wheel drive and manual transmission:

I'm actually far enough from the car behind mine that, should he manage to dig himself out fore and aft, he'd have no trouble getting out.

And, wow, has this weather been hell on my Fitbit numbers.

Simple facts

Since Obamacare took effect, millions of Americans have gotten health insurance:

The percentage of uninsured Americans has fallen from 13.9 percent to 10.2 percent since Obamacare coverage took effect, according to new data from the Urban Institute.

The difference is even more pronounced in states that expanded Medicaid under the law. In those states, the uninsured rate dropped from 12.6 percent to 8.4 percent from the second quarter of 2013 to the third quarter of 2014.

In states that didn't expand Medicaid, the uninsured rate still fell but not quite as significantly: 16.3 percent to 12.5 percent.

In short, Obamacare is doing what it set out to do.

Oregon considering year-round standard time...eventually

This happens all the time, so to speak, but every winter there are proposals to scrap daylight saving time in various state legislatures. The latest one that passes the laugh test is Oregon's, especially since it wouldn't take effect until 2021.

It probably won't go anywhere. Once people start thinking about 4:30am sunrises in June with 7:30pm sunsets, daylight saving time makes more sense. But we'll keep watching.

Wow, we are jaded

So, I'm sitting here, generally unperturbed by the blizzard yesterday, and it turns out it was the fifth-worst in history:

After further review and the addition of the storm’s last flakes that fell early Monday morning, the final numbers for the historic Super Bowl Blizzard are in. It is interesting to note that this storm fell exactly four years to the days after the city’s 2011 Groundhog Day Blizzard.

The addition snowfall that fell late Sunday and early Monday morning now makes this storm the city’s 5th heaviest snowstorm.

  1. 584 mm January 26-27, 1967 The Big Snow
  2. 585 mm January 1-3, 1999 The New Year’s Storm
  3. 538 mm January 31-February 2, 2011 Groundhog Day Blizzard
  4. 516 mm January 12-14, 1979 Blizzard of 79
  5. 490 mm January 31-February 2, 2015 The Super Bowl Blizzard

Huh. So maybe it was a big storm after all.

My coverage of the 2011 storm is here and here.

It's Groundhog Day!

Chicago officially got 450 mm of snow yesterday; here's Lincoln Park this morning:

Fortunately, my car is parked on a stretch of street that acts as a wind tunnel during typical Chicago blizzards, so I'll actually be able to move it today:

The car has all-wheel drive and the "winter package," and handles beautifully in snow. Unlike this poor Beetle just a few meters away:

In other news, Punxsatawney Phil saw his shadow, which means mostly that there is a very irritated rodent in central Pennsylvania.