The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

I miss a lot about home

But not this:

The Chicago area was bracing for a long, hazardous evening rush hour as it continued to be socked by a major snowstorm that has canceled more than 500 flights, closed more than 150 schools and caused numerous spin-out accidents on expressways.

The Illinois State Police is warning of "extreme travel times" for the rush hour.

Tonight also will turn bitterly cold with wind chill values as low as -17°C to -24°C. Today's high temperatures are expected to be [around -5°C].

At the peak of the morning rush hour, travel times on some expressways were well over an hour above the norm. Travel conditions are expected to be worse this evening as winds pick up and snow begins to drift across roadways.

Like I said yesterday, Chicago weather builds character—but I have enough for now, thanks.

Not a bad place to spend the winter

It turns out, Raleigh isn't that cold. All my life I've just accepted that Chicago winters build character. But I'm not sure anymore, especially after three sunny, 5°C days here while temperatures back home have skulked around -12°C. Then, today, this:

A winter storm warning will be in effect across the Chicago area from this evening through Friday morning.

By the end of that warning, anywhere from 15 to 30 cm of a fairly fluffy snow will have come down, according to the National Weather Service. The heaviest snows are expected near the lakefront.

... The heaviest snowfall will occur between noon and 6 p.m. Thursday, with snow falling at about an inch an hour, [said Charles Mott, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service].

Forecasters predict snow in Raleigh tonight, too: about 1 cm or so. Of course, that amount could halt all commerce in North Carolina, so we'll be stocking up on bottled water later.

Seriously, though, Raleigh averages 19 cm of snow annually; Chicago, 98 cm. Then there are the normal temperatures of both cities. I'll say nothing else right now except that the average January daily high temperature in Chicago is the average January daily low temperature in Raleigh.

Let's see how I like Raliegh in July. But today, it's fine.

Burj Dubai opens tomorrow; Chicago helped

The Burj Dubai, the tallest building in the world, opens tomorrow. The Chicago Tribune reports on its historical debt to Chicago:

[T]he Burj Dubai has a broader -- unmistakably global -- significance for Chicago, which invented the skyscraper in the 1880s, pioneered supertall structures in the mid-1960s and had bragging rights to the world's tallest building title from 1974 to 1996, when Sears (now Willis) Tower wore the crown.

These days, the city's cloud-busting architectural achievements aren't simply found in the downtown blocks girdled by the rough-edged steel structure of the "L." They're spread across the world, from Dubai to Shanghai and beyond.

"From the foundation established in Chicago, that legacy is now being exported to other countries," said Joseph Rosa, the Art Institute of Chicago's architecture and design curator.

The article goes on to laud Adrian Smith, the building's chief architect. It's good to remember, though, that Chicago invented the skyscraper, and led the world for decades. But we're content to let the young upstarts have their fun. Look upon their works, ye mighty, and despair.

Stopped moving for now

After five visits to O'Hare in 8 days, I'm going to stay in one spot for at least a week. Yesterday's 9:45 flight took off at noon, getting me home two hours before I'd planned (even the CTA cooperated), and except for having to get up at an obscenely early time this morning, everything went well.

Still, I have space for one more gratuitous photo of Half Moon Bay, which is a wonderful place to visit:

Once more into the air dear friends, once more

I'm leaving this:

For this:


At least I'll get there earlier than planned. I tried to get on the 11:30, but because the 7:30 had left at 9:30, and the 9:45 was delayed, they put me on the 9:45 which actually leaves (we hope) at 11. So instead of 7 hours at home before traveling again tomorrow, I get 9. I hope.

Update: Well, the 9:45 actually now leaves at 1pm, in theory, leaving me almost exactly no better off than the original plan. We'll see.

Killing time at O'Hare

By this time next Sunday, I'll have gone through O'Hare five times in eight days. I actually don't mind—yet—possibly because this is only my second visit of the week. The flight to DC isn't horribly delayed, and I've got a good perch to watch the planes:

Gotta run. Time to wait on the plane instead of in the club...

Raleigh long drive

We got to Raleigh in one piece through a billion liters of rain, it seemed. Then this morning we got right back in the car to rescue one of our hosts after her radiator blew a hose:

We also got out of Chicago just ahead of the bone-chilling cold and snow that has started to make living there a true test of character. I love Chicago, but you know, sometimes, it's not bad to skip out for a little while.

"Braaaaains! Caaaaaaptial!"

One of Chicago's largest real-estate companies has defaulted on $1.72 bn in loans:

The portfolio, which also includes 161 N. Clark St., 30 N. LaSalle St. and 1 N. Franklin St., already illustrates several recent real estate trends, such as rapidly falling property values after prices peaked thanks to large amounts of cheap debt. With credit now virtually gone, defaults on downtown buildings are likely to rise, forcing them into foreclosure or onto the market at big discounts that will put more downward pressure on prices in a spiral similar to the struggles of residential real estate across the country.

"Virtually all the assets bought between '05 and '07 cannot be refinanced today without a significant capital infusion," says Shawn Mobley, executive vice-president at real estate firm Grubb & Ellis Co. "These buildings need to be recapitalized to get back in the business of being active real estate."

Without a financial restructuring, the properties are likely to join a new trend — "zombie buildings," which can't compete for new tenants because they lack the money to cover brokers' commissions and interior office reconstruction.

My friend Gina has some things to say about using economics to figure out one's personal life, with heavy emphasis on seeing decreasing marginal utility as a leading indicator. More on that later. Right now, though, Chicago commercial real estate has some serious problems, but still not nearly as threatening as New York or Orange County, California. Right now.


Chicago woke up to 25 mm or snow of fluffy snow this morning, our first measurable snowfall of the year:

We don't mind this kind of snow. It took about 30 seconds to brush it off my car, the streets got cleared before sunrise—nothing heinous. No, "heinous" describes the forecast starting tomorrow night:

Tuesday Night: Snow before midnight, then rain, snow, and sleet. Low around -1°C. Breezy, with an east wind 30 to 35 km/h becoming southwest. Winds could gust as high as 45 km/h. Chance of precipitation is 100%.

Wednesday: Snow. High near 2°C. Breezy, with a west southwest wind between 25 and 35 km/h, with gusts as high as 65 km/h. Chance of precipitation is 80%.

Wednesday Night: A 20 percent chance of snow before midnight. Mostly cloudy and breezy, with a low around -12°C.

Thursday: Mostly sunny, with a high near -7°C.

Thursday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around -16°C.

The best part about this forecast? I won't be in Chicago. I'll be in North Carolina working on a project, and there it will be 21°C on Wednesday.

Don't get me wrong—Chicago is the greatest city in North America. But you know, just this year, maybe I don't need to build more character?