The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

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.

Why there is no TDP or ParkerCam today

I'm visiting my Ps, nowhere near Parker:

Also, some sad news. Reggie, the Aussie standing just behind my dad in the photo above, has lung cancer. He's over 12 years old, and he isn't in any pain right now, but it's only a matter of time. They're totally spoiling him for his last few months: last night, he got about a quarter of dad's steak, for example.

Nariv Kennedy Lives!

I meant to mention one other great thing about San Francisco: Kennedy's Irish Pub and Curry House, at 1040 Columbus Ave., right where the Powell-Mason cable car line ends. It had everything I could ever dream of in a place to park myself for hours: dozens of microbrews, a great bartender (Max McLean), outdoor seating (the back patio overlooks the cable car terminus; the front, busy Columbus Ave. in North Beach), and tasty dal makhani.

I went there Thursday and Friday afternoons, sat in the sun, drank some beer, ate some curry, and fought off some of the most aggressive pigeons I've ever encountered. (Max told me pigeons are a protected species in San Francisco. This is probably not true, but I still hesitated before swatting one off my book. Imagine the scene below with a pigeon perched on the cover, pecking at my naan: that's what I discovered upon returning from the washroom.)

If they only had WiFi, and if Parker had been with me, I might never have come home.

VSLive: Day 3

I believe I figured out why the conference disappointed me. I last went to VSLive in 2003, when I had just started to get really good at my craft. The sessions at that conference hat a lot of information that I hadn't encountered before, and taught me a lot about where I should look to keep fresh and informed.

Four years of keeping fresh and informed, however, has pushed me well past where I was in 2003. So this year's sessions, despite being just as informative as the 2003 offerings, turned out not to be as useful to me.

There are a couple of other factors, some of which I previously identified:

  • The conference is in San Francisco, one of my favorite cities on earth;
  • Except for Monday, the city has had perfect spring weather;
  • I haven't slept especially well, which colors my perceptions and moods.

The last point bears emphasis. I truly love the Hotel California, and I will stay there again the next time I'm in San Francisco; however, I will endeavor not to stay on the Geary Street side. It's too damn loud. Maybe because it's only a block away from the theater district, every night we had some new musical performance:

  • The symphonic "March of the Garbage Trucks" started each day at 5:30am.
  • Last night around 3am, we got the recitative and aria "O Too-Quiet Street / I am the very model of a modern crazy homeless man," followed by "Officer! Officer!" featuring the SFPD Men's Chorus.
  • And who could forget Saturday night's rousing operetta in three acts, Happy Birthday, Fratboy, that also included a guest appearance from the SFPDMC?

Meanwhile, people on the courtyard—or even on the Jones Street side—swear they heard none of this. So much for Room 404.

I'm now going to the post-conference workshop. At least that's my plan; coming out of a miserable Chicago winter, today's sunny, 20°C weather sounds a lot more appealing than a windowless room and "Windows Workflow: a Gentle Introduction."

VSLive: Day 2

I have to say, the conference has disappointed me a bit. Many of the panels I thought looked interesting turned out to be somewhat less in-depth than I'd hoped. To make matters worse, I'm in one of the greatest cities in the world, the weather is perfect, and I haven't had enough exercise this week.

So, as irresponsible as it seems, I'm going to take the next two hours or so to cogitate on what I've learned this week, by walking up Powell Street until I hit water. That should get me back to the conference (by Muni, most likely) in time for the next panel I'm interested in seeing.

Lest I forget where I am...

...the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 10-1 today to ban plastic bags at grocery stores:

San Francisco's Board of Supervisors voted 10-1 this afternoon to make the city the first in the nation to prohibit petroleum-based plastic checkout bags in large markets and pharmacies.
On the first of two votes needed for final passage, supervisors approved legislation sponsored by Supervisor Ross Mikarimi that would mandate the use of biodegradable plastic bags or recyclable paper bags. The legislation would take effect in about six months for some 50 large markets in San Francisco and would apply in about 12 months to large drugstore chains such as Walgreen's and Rite-Aid.

VSLive: Day 1

I hope to write more when the conference ends, or perhaps if I play hooky from a session or two tomorrow. Today, I would just like to point out that San Francisco offers more food options than a human can count, so I passed up the boxed-sandwich thing and headed into the streets. It's easy to be mostly-vegetarian here, too, especially when you find a good Mediterrenean restaurant four blocks away.

New session starting soon; I'll be back.