The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

In the spring, a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of

...baseball!

The Cubs and the other team are both in first place, causing the Tribune to froth about a—wait for it—Subway Series in Chicago this year:

It has been 102 years since both teams were in the playoffs at the same time, with the White Sox winning the only all-Chicago World Series in 1906.
If the Cubs hold off St. Louis for another few days, this could be the first time in 31 seasons the Cubs and White Sox have both been in first place at the end of May. This, however, might not be the greatest harbinger of good times. The "South Side Hit Men" Sox slid to a third-place finish, 12 games behind division winner Kansas City that 1977 season, while the Cubs finished 81-81 and in fourth place.

Funny that mention of Kansas City: I'm going to Kauffman Stadium tonight on my way to California. The Royals, sadly, are tied for last place, having dropped their last nine in a row. I anticipate a riveting evening of baseball.

Cold front's here

I just brought Parker in from his evening walk. The temperature has just dropped, no kidding, 10°C in the past ten minutes. It's such a sudden shift none of the weather sites has caught up, though there was a hint: at 10pm, the temperature in Waukegan (60 km north) was 11°C, but 25°C at Midway (18 km south).

My first clue was the wind going from dead calm to 36 km/h in an instant.

I love squalls.

Today's Daily Parker

I'm kicking myself for not riding Bike the Drive this morning. That's the annual, Memorial Day weekend closing of Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, all 30 km of it, for any bicyclist who ponies up the fee. I'm kicking myself because it's 19°C and sunny with a good breeze out of the South. Good biking weather.

Along the way we both took a look at the skyline from Fullerton Ave., one of the best vantage points on the North Side:

Even Parker wanted a look:

And we wrapped up our short walk with some get-out-the-schpilkes time in the park:

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.

Stranded in Suburbia

Princeton economist Paul Krugman on how "old Europe" shows the U.S. how it can deal with high gas prices:

If Europe’s example is any guide, here are the two secrets of coping with expensive oil: own fuel-efficient cars, and don’t drive them too much. Notice that I said that cars should be fuel-efficient — not that people should do without cars altogether. In Germany, as in the United States, the vast majority of families own cars (although German households are less likely than their U.S. counterparts to be multiple-car owners).

Krugman, perhaps not having spent time owning a car in Lincoln Park or the Upper West Side, neglects another way to keep people from driving: make the cost of moving one's car prohibitive. I drive about once a week, for the simple reason that if I don't time it right (i.e., getting back home between 5:30 and 7pm, as the parking regulations are changing), I get a really good walk from whatever part of the city I wind up parking in.

Quick update: The Chicago Tribune reports this morning that Chicago has the highest gas prices in the U.S. No kidding: how does $4.07 a gallon sound to you? That's for regular; my little GTI takes premium.

My guy endorses my other guy

I'm glad the guy I was going to vote for (he dropped out hours before I voted) has decided to endorse the guy I did:

Former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards will endorse Barack Obama tonight at a campaign event in Grand Rapids. The endorsement comes more than three months after Edwards dropped out of the race for the Democratic nomination, asking the two remaining candidates to make poverty a central issue of the general election.

And then, in about 250 days and 18 hours, Obama will become the 45th President of the United States.

In other good news, the Chicago Transit Authority has accelerated a major construction project that affects the El stations nearest where I live:

Service on two southbound tracks will resume in late December at the Fullerton and Belmont stations serving the Red, Brown and Purple/Evanston Express lines. ... Work was originally set to wrap up by June 30, 2009, but the CTA decided to spend $1.6 million to expedite the construction schedule, CTA President Ron Huberman said.

Best. BBQ. Ever.

Hat tip to reader TC for the story about last night's unexpected barbeque of 22.6 tonnes of beef ribs on I-80 outside Chicago:

The semi-trailer truck was headed east on I-80 about 12:30 a.m. Wednesday and was exiting onto southbound Interstate Highway 294 when a fire started in the braking system, igniting a blaze that consumed the entire trailer, said Master Sgt. David Bird of the Illinois State Police. The driver escaped without injury. The trailer was loaded with about 50,000 pounds of beef ribs, Bird said. He could not say what cut of ribs they were, but added, "There was no sauce."

Now, make them baby-back pork ribs and throw on some KC Masterpiece, and I'd still be eating.

On the bus

I think this is a cool idea:

[Chicago Transit Authority B]uses will make fewer stops—four to five blocks apart. Kiosks will be installed at the bus stops to enable passengers to pre-pay their fares and board quickly once the bus arrives. Technology will be added to some traffic signals to extend green lights for buses running behind schedule, much like the signal-priority equipment that gives the green to ambulances and fire trucks, officials said.