The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

You think Illinois has problems?

No matter how bad it seems in Illinois right now, at least we have a functioning state government. California, on the other hand...

A state budget deal to close a $41 billion shortfall has been put further into question early this morning after Senate Republicans ousted their leader who had helped negotiate the long-awaited plan with other top lawmakers in California.

...[T]he ousted Minority Leader Dave Cogdill, R-Modesto, ...was one of the four legislative leaders who negotiated the emergency budget deal with the governor. Their compromise budget package, reached after three months of negotiations, contained nearly $16 billion in program cuts, $11 billion in borrowing and $14.4 billion in tax increases. The most contentious debate has been over the proposed tax hikes.

Republicans selected Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth, R-Murrieta (Riverside County) as their new Minority leader. Hollingsworth is part of the conservative wing of the Senate Republican caucus and he has been adamantly against raising any taxes.

The New York Times has more:

The state, nearly out of cash, has laid off scores of workers and put hundreds more on unpaid furloughs. It has stopped paying counties and issuing income tax refunds and halted thousands of infrastructure projects.

Twenty-thousand layoff notices [went] out on Tuesday morning, Matt David, the communications director for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said Monday night. "In the absence of a budget we need to realize this savings and the process takes six months," Mr. David said.

When you're talking about the 7th largest economy in the world, this is somewhat disturbing.

There's no place like home

Especially when you're not at home and you get to read about it:

The National Weather Service had issued a tornado watch earlier today for much of northeasten Illinois, but cancelled it as of 3:10 p.m. The watch is still in effect for Lake and Will counties in Illinois and Jasper, Lake, Newton and Porter counties in Indiana until 7 p.m. tonight. The agency says hail up to 1 inch in diameter, with wind gusts up to 60 m.p.h., could be part of the storm that affects the area. A tornado watch means conditions are favorable for tornadoes and severe thunderstorms.

Oddly, though, it was warmer in Chicago today (15°C) than in San Francisco (12°C). Still, I'm happy to be here and not home while all that is going on.

You know you're a Chicagoan when...

...the temperature goes from -20°C all the way to -16°C and you feel warmer.

I'm going to San Francisco later this week—a place about which Mark Twain said "The coldest winter I ever experienced was a summer [there]"—and I'm looking forward to the weather.

Cubs sweep Atlanta

I wrote this post on my flight to Dallas listening to the Indigo Girls. Fitting, because having an extra day to spend in Atlanta, my cousin and I went out to Decatur to have lunch with one of my oldest surviving friends and her wife. As my cousin said while we were poking around the interesting kitsch in Blue Moon (below), "Ah, here's the Community."

My Decatur friend suggested the most appropriate (and, in fact, tastiest) place to have lunch in these circumstances: Watershed, which the Indigo Girls' Emily Saliers co-owns. In for a dime at this point, I put in my dollar by having shrimp grits and a mint julep. I know what my fellow Northerners may think right now: "grits? Ew." But what are grits? Nothing more than pieces of corn pan-fried in butter. Well-prepared grits—at Watershed, they prepared them well—are quite tasty, and these, paired as they were with possibly the best-made mint julep I've ever enjoyed, completely ended any reservations I had about this Southern staple.

From there, my cousin and I got back on the MARTA (Atlanta's cute little ol' light rail) and headed next to the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., National Historic Site. Wow. Intense. I've studied the Civil Rights Movement from the distance of 20 years and 1000 km, but standing by the Ebenezer Baptist Church and walking past King's tomb truly moved me:

We wrapped up the day at Turner Field, where we got to watch the Cubs sweep the Braves with 29 runs in two days. The park hardly contained any Braves fans at all; it sounded like a home game at Wrigley, complete with "Let's-Go-Cub-bies!" chants and mocking the Braves' tomahawk chop. Milwaukee also lost last night, increasing the Cubs' first-place lead to 4½ games. This year, the post-season is ours to lose.

It was, I kid you not, NASCAR night at the park, with actual stock cars lekking around the warning track during two inning breaks. Occasionally one of the cars would rev at us, causing some in the crowd to cheer. I really don't have anything against NASCAR, but there is something of a cultural gulf between my crowd and theirs.

I did find the two local-beer vendors, and had some Sweetwater 420 Ale. Good pale ale; I recommend it.

From Dallas I'm on to San Francisco, mostly to see family, but also to visit park #15 on the 30-Park Geas, Oakland's Cisco Field. The As are playing the White Sox, which means rooting for the home team (and wearing a Cubs hat) are doubly enjoyable. That's Sunday; tomorrow, it's beer and curry at Kennedy's. I can't wait.

Major sabotage to San Francisco city computers

Via Dad, it seems a network administrator for the City of San Francisco has locked out all the other administrators:

A disgruntled city computer engineer has virtually commandeered San Francisco's new multimillion-dollar computer network, altering it to deny access to top administrators even as he sits in jail on $5 million bail, authorities said Monday.

Terry Childs, a 43-year-old computer network administrator who lives in Pittsburg, has been charged with four counts of computer tampering and is scheduled to be arraigned today.

...

Childs created a password that granted him exclusive access to the system, authorities said. He initially gave pass codes to police, but they didn't work. When pressed, Childs refused to divulge the real code even when threatened with arrest, they said.

He was taken into custody Sunday. City officials said late Monday that they had made some headway into cracking his pass codes and regaining access to the system.

He's about to find out that you can sit in jail on a contempt of court charge for, well, ever.

Park #7

Since my dad lives outside San Francisco, I took him to the second park on my 30-baseball-park geas[1]. He hasn't been to a professional baseball game in years, despite working walking distance from AT&T Park. Something about preferring football. I have no idea why.

So, yesterday, I dragged him kicking and screaming to see the Padres play the Giants.

San Diego won 5-1, which is the sort of thing that happens when the visiting team goes through the entire lineup in the first inning. Pat Misch pitched the whole game, mainly because after his horrible first inning he actually held the Padres off until the 9th:

I liked the park. And I had local food: one of the concessions serves Chinese, so I had some orange chicken on rice. First time I ever ate anything with chopsticks at a baseball game. AT&T Park also had some very good local (or at least California) beers, including Lagunitas IPA and Mendocino Brewing Co. Red Tail ale.

Next up, U.S. Cellular Field back home. I had thought of visiting all 29 other parks and calling the quest complete, as living my entire life without ever seeing the White Sox in person sounded like a good idea. However, a business associate invited me to his company party at the Cell next Friday, so at least I can live my entire life without paying for a White Sox ticket. (If you don't live in Chicago, you may not understand that I'm only half-kidding.)

[1] I visited five parks before making plans to see all of them.

Could have been worse

I started my 30-baseball-park geas with Kansas City, which definitely fits the model of saving the best for last.

First, there's beautiful (ahem) Kauffman Stadium, on the outskirts of the city, surrounded by picturesque fields of asphalt and dandelions. My sense of foreboding, stoked by checking the previous day's standings, increased when I saw the lines outside the box-office windows:

Actually, the game was kind of fun. As they went into the 9th inning, the Royals were up by 5, everyone in the park (except the Twins fans) was happy, the weather was just fine, and I looked forward to going to sleep before 11pm. Then the Twins rolled through almost their entire lineup, sending five guys home in the process to tie it up. Not fatal, but surprising. Then the Royals went through every pitcher they had and only six of their batters while the Twins added another run in the 10th. Final score? Oy:

Inauspicious beginning? I'm not bothered. It takes a certain kind of ball club to drop 10 games in a row. Since Wednesday's loss the Royals have dropped yet two more games, making them a very certain kind of ball club. Plus, what did I expect for my—wait for it—first American League game ever. Yes, that's right, I've never seen a designated hitter before, in person. Odd sort of creature, I must say.

I'm in San Francisco now, and yes, my dad and I are going to a Giants game. They're in 3rd place, playing the 4th-place Padres, so it may be a closely-fought match. I'm looking forward to it.

Meanwhile, once again I have to suffer through this sort of thing:

Why Parker won't swim in the Pacific this summer

(I mean, other than because he loathes water.)

No, it's about gasoline.

I'm taking a summer vacation this year for the first time since 1992, and I had planned to load Parker and his smelly blanket into my Volkswagen and drive to San Francisco with him. Only, I just filled up my car this morning, and for the first time ever I crested $50. For gasoline. In my bleeding Volkswagen. Which caused me to whip out a spreadsheet and determine conclusively whether driving with Parker out to California makes any sense at all.

It does not.

In fairness to the car, (a) this is Chicago, home of the highest gasoline prices in the country, and (b) the car, a GTI, has a high-compression engine that requires premium gas. But premium gas is only 20¢ more per gallon than regular, as it's always been, so that is no longer the differential expense it used to be.

To crack this nut, I did two calculations. Here's the estimate for driving. Distance comes from Google Maps; fuel economy comes from actual data with this car; fuel cost is an educated guess:

Now compare flying (airfare from American Airlines—I'm a frequent-flyer so I don't have a bag fee—using flexible dates, best price ORD to SFO in July):

Except, driving is worse than that, because owning a car entails other expenses. Over the life of my car, it has cost me 18.4¢ per mile to operate. Note that this includes those halcyon days of $1.25 gasoline, and does not include car insurance or the cost of actually buying the car, so it actually has cost me more than 18.4¢ per mile. Even with those obvious shortcomings, a more realistic calculation of driving to San Francisco looks like this:

Now the difference is $553, almost half the cost of the trip. And it gets even better if you consider that I have a big wad of unused frequent-flyer miles that can, if I choose, bring the airfare down to $5. Yes, five dollars (plus 25,000 air miles), making the difference between driving and flying $828—enough to do the trip again by air and still save significant cash over driving.

(Someone should calculate the CO2 costs, too. How much CO2 am I putting out by flying instead of driving? I think it may be a wash, but I'm not sure.)

I could take him in an airplane, but this really stresses dogs out, so I don't consider that a realistic option.

In any event, as fun as it might be to watch Parker run along a beach in California, it's just not going to happen.