The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Good morning, New York

My flight is slightly (20 minutes) delayed, so I have just a bit more time on this gorgeous morning to walk around Bryant Park. Here's the view from my hotel's terrace:

Busy week ahead. There's a reason I wrote the A-to-Z posts ahead of time.

A is for A

Blogging A to ZWelcome to the Daily Parker's first entry in this year's Blogging A-to-Z challenge on the theme "Basic Music Theory." Today: A is for A.

In Western music, A represents the note that all other notes are based upon. The other notes in Western music are B, C, D, E, F, and G. Putting all those notes in sequence is called a scale:

That scale is called "A natural minor," and sounds like this. The first note in the scale is A; in the attached midi file, and generally in music today, it has a frequency of 440 Hz.

The minor scale feels a little sad, or melancholy, to most people. You're probably more familiar with the major scale. We can create a major scale most easily by starting on a different note. If we start on C, we get a completely different feeling:

We're not limited just to the plain notes on the scale, either. We can add accidentals, which tell the musician to increase (sharp) the frequency of the sound or decrease (flat) it. By adding two flats to the C-major scale, we can turn it into the C harmonic minor scale:

The little "b"-like symbols on the third and sixth notes of the scale indicate that the E and the A are flat. The B is still natural (neither sharp nor flat), giving the scale a slightly exotic feeling.

There is one more ordinary scale, called melodic minor. This has one flattened note going up (in this case, E-flat), and uses the natural minor going down. Note that the half-hash symbol before the A in the first bar says that the note is exactly what it says on the tin, without sharp or flat modification. Here's the C melodic minor scale:

Western music has these four scales (major, natural minor, harmonic minor, and melodic minor) for about 500 years. But other scales have become more popular in the late 20th and early 21st century. Popular music has even gone back to "modes," which come from ancient Greek music through the early middle ages. But that's out of the scope of this year's A-to-Z challenge.

Finally, there is the chromatic scale, which includes every note possible (and every note on a piano keyboard):

Notice that going up we sharp the notes and coming down we flat them, showing all of the enharmonic equivalents (D-flat is the enharmonic equivalent of C-sharp because they occupy the same place in the chromatic scale)*.

* If you get technical, they're not actually the same notes, but we'll come back to that towards the end of the month.

Also, as a handy guide for future posts, here are the names of the diatonic notes on the scale:

# Name Major Minor
1 tonic C - I A - i
2 supertonic D - ii B - ii
3 mediant E - iii C - III
4 subdominant F - IV D - iv
5 dominant G - V E - v
6 submediant A - vi F - VI
7 leading tone B - vii G - VII

This is a gross oversimplification, only so you get the gist. Just understand the vocabulary: for example, that E is the mediant of C and the dominant of A. If you start on a different note, it still works the same way: C is the dominant of F; A sharp is the submediant of C sharp and the dominant of D sharp.

We'll get deeper into these concepts as the month goes on.

Park #28 (an improvement on #12)

When I started the 30-Park Geas in 2008, I didn't expect it would take more than 11 years. Yet here we are. And in that time, both of New York's baseball teams got new stadia, making the 30-Park Geas a 32-Park Geas before I got halfway done.

Well, this season, I'm finishing it. And wow, it's off to an inauspicious start.

Today's game between the Orioles and Yankees at *New* Yankee Stadium didn't start for 3 hours and 15 minutes past its scheduled first pitch because it's March. A cold front pushed through this morning with a nice, gentle monsoon. So the few dozen of us who remained in the park around 3:45 this afternoon let out a whoop of joy when this happened:

The joy lasted through the home team giving up 3 in the top of the first, and continued until they stopped beer sales at 5pm—in the 2nd inning. Apparently people had been there drinking since 10am, and Major League Baseball has a limit on day-drinking of 30 beers per person.

The Yankees eventually lost to the Orioles 7-5. The lost to the Orioles the last time I saw them play at home, too, though that was in *Old* Yankee Stadium. Glad the new digs worked out for them.

I did get to try a local Bronx IPA, for $16, which is a price that effectively limited my own beer consumption to two for the game. That, and I couldn't feel my fingers.

But hey, the Yankees did play baseball, and I did visit the park, and it's a pretty good park:

But the thing about a cold front is, sure, it gets rid of the rain and dampness, but it also sometimes drives the temperature from 17°C to 3°C in just a few hours. So with no more $16 beers for sale, the temperature falling to what I call "Chicago in May," and the home team trailing 4-0 in the second, I decided to cut my losses and return to Manhattan. After a really tasty bowl of ramen, I hopped the 4 train to Brooklyn and walked over the bridge:

Back home tomorrow, then resuming the Geas on Friday April 19th in Arlington, Texas, where I expect the beer quality will keep me sober on the merits but at least I won't freeze my fingers off.

And hey! The A-to-Z Challenge starts tomorrow. I've already got the first 6 posts ready to fire at noon UTC (7am Chicago time) each day. I hope you enjoy it.

Three nights, three hotels

I'm traveling this weekend, starting with a night about a block from my office. Tonight is WhiskyFest Chicago, starting in about 90 minutes (though they let us start gorging on cheese and crackers at 5pm). For easily-understood reasons, I'm staying at the same hotel tonight, then heading to my college radio station's 60th anniversary party tomorrow morning. Not my first choice of timing, but I had no control over either event.

Sunday I head into Manhattan, and coincidentally the Yankees are in town...

The view from my room today fails to suck:

Third time's a darn

Prime Minister Theresa May failed, for a third time, to get the agreed-to deal with the EU through the House of Commons:

The Guardian explains the consequences:

A string of Brexit-backing Conservative backbenchers who had rejected the deal in the first two meaningful votes, including the former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab, switched sides during the debate to support the agreement.

But with Labour unwilling to change its position, and the Democratic Unionist party’s 10 MPs determined not to support it, it was not enough to secure a majority for the prime minister.

Afterwards, May told MPs: “The implications of the house’s decision are grave,” and added: “I fear we are reaching the limits of this process in this house.”

Under the deal agreed by EU leaders in Brussels last week, Brexit was to be delayed until 22 May if the prime minister could win parliament’s backing for the withdrawal agreement this week.

Instead, she will have to return to Brussels before 12 April to ask for a longer delay – requiring Britain to hold European elections in May – or accept a no-deal Brexit.

Welp. We're getting close to Britain crashing out of the EU without a deal two weeks from today. How many own goals can one team score?

Readings between meetings

On my list today:

Back to meetings...

May to resign this summer (probably)

The House of Commons right now are voting on 8 proposals relating to Brexit; I'll have more in a bit. But over the weekend, and confirmed today, the Conservatives let slip that Prime Minister Theresa May has offered to resign as the price of getting hardline Brexiteer votes on her deal:

The prime minister indicated she would resign only if her Brexit deal passes in order to allow a new leader to shape the UK’s future relationship with the EU.

The dramatic announcement to a meeting of Tory backbenchers prompted dozens of Eurosceptics including Boris Johnson to switch sides in favour of backing her deal. Conservative sources said she could formally announce a leadership contest on 22 May, with a new prime minister in place by July.

The frontrunners will be Johnson, Jeremy Hunt, Dominic Raab and Michael Gove, but there is likely to be a wide range of candidates bidding to enter No 10.

May told MPs: “I have heard very clearly the mood of the parliamentary party. I know there is a desire for a new approach – and new leadership – in the second phase of the Brexit negotiations, and I won’t stand in the way of that.

“I know some people are worried that if you vote for the withdrawal agreement, I will take that as a mandate to rush on into phase two without the debate we need to have. I won’t; I hear what you are saying. But we need to get the deal through and deliver Brexit.

“I am prepared to leave this job earlier than I intended in order to do what is right for our country and our party.”

I am now tuning into Parliament TV to catch up on the voting tonight.

Congestion pricing may finally come to New York

And not a day too soon:

Leaders in the New York state Senate and Assembly are expected to approve charging fees on vehicles entering the most trafficked parts of Manhattan, the New York Times reported on Monday. If the measure in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s budget gets the green light by the April 1 deadline, New York City would be the first place in the United States to adopt the policy known as congestion pricing.

It’s been a long time coming. Thanks to low gas prices, a growing populous, and the meteoric rise of ride-hailing converging with a decaying subway, traffic is noticeably worse in midtown Manhattan than even a few years ago. As of last year, average car speeds fell to 4.7 mph, not much faster than walking. It’s been estimated that such slow-downs cost the metro-area economy some $20 billion a year, and they result in rising vehicle emissions.

Meanwhile, the subway’s on-time performance is still 13 percent worse than it was in 2012, thanks to a host of maintenance delays and sorely needed upgrades that will take billions of dollars and years to resolve.

Enter congestion pricing, the policy prescription beloved by every transportation wonk. Early adopters such as London, Stockholm, and Singapore have proven that pricing packed roads is a viable way to cut down driver demand—perhaps the only way, since widening roads usually induces more of it. Traffic in London’s city center fell 39 percent between 2002 and 2014 after it cordoned off a fee zone. It has since seen a rise in congestion, pushing leaders to adopt an "ultra low emissions zone" that charges all combustion-engine vehicles an additional £12.50 to enter.

It works well in London, as far as I can tell; though the Tube has more passengers, it's also running better than it used to, and there are fewer cars on the road. I hope New York gets this soon.