The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Warm Thanksgiving and cold front

Yesterday got up to 17°C, making it the warmest Chicago Thanksgiving since 1966. And then this happened, as predicted:

It's now -1°C with 40 km/h wind gusts and a wind chill of -8°C. Even Parker looked annoyed this morning on his first walk, squinting into the wind with his ears flopping behind his head. It's amazing how little time he wastes in this kind of weather, compared with his need to sniff every square centimeter of Lincoln Park when it's nice out. (Or raining, for some reason. Must be nice, having a fur coat.)

Time to stock up on Twinkies

Texas-based Hostess Brands has shut down in preparation for liquidation:

Hostess said a strike by members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union that began last week had crippled its ability to produce and deliver products at several facilities, and it had no choice but to give up its effort to emerge intact from bankruptcy court.

The Irving, Texas-based company said the liquidation would mean that most of its 18,500 employees would lose their jobs.

In the Chicago area, Hostess employs about 300 workers making CupCakes, HoHos and Honey Buns in Schiller Park. Hostess also has a bakery in Hodgkins, where 325 workers make Beefsteak, Butternut, Home Pride, Nature’s Pride and Wonder breads.

Union President Frank Hurt said the company's failure was not the fault of the union but the "result of nearly a decade of financial and operational mismanagement" and that management was trying to make union workers the scapegoats for a plan by Wall Street investors to sell Hostess.

Twinkies, legend has it, were invented right here in Chicago in 1930.

I will now go see if the 7-11 across the street still has any left...

All the stuff I've sent to Instapaper

Starting before 8am with an international conference call usually means I'll have a full day. Fortunately there's Instapaper, which lets me shove all the interesting things I find during the day onto my Android pad for tomorrow's bus ride to work.

So far today:

And...now back to work.

Gotta love Chicago weather

In the past 24 hours, the temperature here dropped from 21°C at 2pm yesterday to -2°C at 8am today. The cold front responsible drove the temperature down 6°C in three hours at one point, making for uncomfortable walks home from dinner.

We had two delightful September days, but now it's November again. The Climate Prediction Center expects normal temperatures in Chicago through the end of January. Winter is coming...

Chicago electricity aggregation passes

Voters in the City of Chicago (including me) passed a referendum giving the city the authority to negotiate electricity prices on behalf of everyone. Implementation will be swift:

The timing of the deal is important because Chicagoans stand to save the most money over Commonwealth Edison's rate between now and June 2013, when ComEd's prices are expected to drop because pricey contracts they entered into years ago will expire. The timeline has Chicagoans moving to the new supplier in February 2013.

Michael Negron, deputy chief of policy and strategic planning for the mayor's office, said electricity suppliers have shown great interest in snagging Chicago's service. Nearly 100 people packed a conference Monday for the city's "request for qualifications" process. The bidders ranged from multi-billion corporations to smaller providers from all over the country, he said. Industry analysts say the deal could be worth hundreds of millions of dollar to the winning supplier or suppliers.

Residents and businesses may opt out of the scheme and negotiate supply prices separately. As readers of this blog know, I'm desperate for lower prices, and eagerly looking forward to my electric bills next year after the new rate deal hits right after I shut down the Inner Drive Technology Worldwide Data Center.

What are the odds for a losing streak?

A couple of days ago at work, we were talking about stupid things sports commentators say. In any sport, but much more so in baseball and U.S. football than others, you hear some commentator say "Well, Bob, with runners on first and third on a night with a 10-knot breeze out of the northeast, when the pitcher's name starts with 'M', there's only a 1-in-65 chance a left-handed batter with six toes on his right foot will fly out to center." Who cares, right?

But being in Chicago, there is a huge question in that category that we should answer: What are the odds that a baseball team can fail to win the World Series for 104 years?

Of course, given the Chicago Cubs' history, the odds are observably certain that one baseball team can do it. But, all things equal, what is the probability this can happen?

Here's how we figured it out. First, in any given year, all but one team does not win the World Series. For example, there are 30 teams right now, but only the San Francisco Giants will win the World Series. (Tonight, in fact, unless Detroit suddenly turns into a different baseball team.) So the basic formula for the probability of losing the world series is:

...where t is the number of teams and y is the number of years with that number of teams.

Since the Cubs last won in 1908, Major League Baseball has expanded six times, from 16 teams (in 1908) to 30 teams today. With 30 teams, the probability of losing the World Series is 0.9667, that is, 29 in 30. In 1908, the probability of losing was much smaller, 0.9375, or 15 in 16.

But here's the problem. The probabilities are multiplied together, like this:

Since 1908, there have been 103 World Series (there wasn't on in 1994, remember), so the data going into the formula are: from 1908 to 1960, 16 teams and 53 Series; in 1961, 18 teams, 1 Series; 1962 to 1968, 20 and 7; 1969 to 1976, 24 and 8; 1977 to 1992, 26 and 16; 1993 to 1997, 28 and 4; since 1998, 30 and 14. Doing the math, we come up with...wow.

The probability that the Cubs would lose all 103 World Series contests since last winning in 1908 is 0.00441, or 1 in 227.

I will now go cry.

And just for giggles, the probability that they would fail to play in the Series (i.e., win the pennant) since their last appearance in 1945 is 0.04798, or 1 in 21. So there's hope.

Chicago's Riverwalk proposal

Via The Atlantic Cities blog, the City of Chicago has unveiled a proposal to beautify the Chicago River:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Monday unveiled plans to expand the riverwalk another six blocks along Chicago's River.

“The Chicago River is our second shoreline," Emanuel said in a statement. "“It is now time to celebrate this incredible waterway with the completion of the entire riverwalk project, from Lake Michigan to the confluence of the three branches.”

The conceptual plans include a theme for each block of the riverwalk with names including The Marina from State to Dearborn, The Cove from Dearborn to Clark, The River Theater from Clark to LaSalle, The Swimming Hole from LaSalle to Wells, The Jetty from Wells to Franklin and The Boardwalk from Franklin to Lake.

The Marina, for example, would be designed for restaurant space and public seating, while the Cove could include kayak rental retail space, and the Swimming Hole would provide recreational space. Floating gardens, fishing piers and an iconic bridge from Upper Wacker the riverwalk also are among design plans.

This means they might even finish the Wacker Drive reconstruction someday...

Quick link roundup

I haven't any time to write today, but I did want to call attention to these:

Back to the mines...