The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

That's the spirit

The Spirit of Stupidity:

The next obsession, at least for passengers of Spirit Airlines, may be cramming items under airplane seats. The Florida discount carrier said Tuesday that it would charge customers as much as $45 each way to place bulky items in overhead bins, in an effort to get people on and off its planes faster. Other airlines will watch Spirit's experiment.

Carry-on bags didn't become the primary source of luggage for passengers until carriers introduced fees for infrequent fliers and then raised them to $25 to check a first bag and $35 for a second item. United, among the first to adopt the fees, has seen the volume of checked bags fall for 25 consecutive months, said Cindy Szadokierski, United's vice president of airport operations planning and United Express.

Every major U.S. airline except for Southwest Airlines has introduced such fees since 2008, and no wonder. The 10 largest U.S. carriers collected $739.8 million in baggage charges during the third quarter of 2009, double prior-year totals, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

Being a oneworld loyalist, I doubt I'd ever fly Spirit Airlines. But if I had to fly a route they served that American didn't, I'd rather pay a competitor $50 more than pay them $25 to carry on a bag. I suspect many people will make a similar calculation.

Then there's the possible fraudulent element. If Spirit airfares show up on aggregators $10 less than competing fares, but really you have to spend $25 extra just to board the plane, doesn't that seem, well, wrong?

As a-pollen as a cheap pun

This greeted me on my return to Raleigh today:

This is from pine pollen, which forecasters predict will be miserable for a couple of weeks. It covers everything, all over, everywhere down here. Another view of my formerly-silver car:

I wish those trees would stop having sex on my car.

Best airports in the world

I didn't expect to see O'Hare on this list. (Oh, it wasn't. Don't worry.)

Gulliver has the summary:

HAVING assessed 9.8m passenger surveys for its annual awards, Skytrax, a research company, has just named Singapore’s Changi airport the best in the world.

Incheon airport, near Seoul, which was last year’s winner, came second and Hong Kong airport third. These three would appear to be well clear of the opposition, according to Skytrax’s methodology, as they have held the top three slots (in different orders) for the past three years. ...

Top ten airports 2010: 1 Singapore, 2 Seoul Incheon, 3 Hong Kong, 4 Munich, 5 Kuala Lumpur, 6 Zurich, 7 Amsterdam, 8 Beijing, 9 Auckland, 10 Bangkok

If anyone wants to donate $460 to the Daily Parker, I'll order a copy of the report and find out where O'Hare wound up. Sight unseen, I'll bet the whole amount that it did better than LaGuardia, and I'll give even odds we beat Heathrow.

FROPA

That's the code for "frontal passage" on aviation meteorological reports. Apparently yesterday while I was on my way to O'Hare I missed a big one:

While temperatures began dropping across the far northern suburbs as early as mid-afternoon, the city was invaded by 30+ mph gusts late in the evening rush hour, initiating a thermal tailspin. In a single hour's time, readings at the Harrison-Dever Crib, three miles off Chicago's shoreline, dove from 62°F to 42°F—a 20°F pullback—between 6 and 7 p.m. The same period saw readings at Northerly Island on the city's lakefront plunge from 64°F to 47°F. A minute-by-minute temperature analysis off a Weather Bug sensor on the South Side at the Dumas Elementary School indicated readings there plunged 15°F in only 12 minutes—from 62°F at 6:39 p.m. to 47°F at 6:51. By late evening, North Shore readings were uniformly up to 25°F off the 60°F levels of only hours before.

Yikes. Here's the art:

Today's forecast is for sunny skies and 26°C.

Oh, sorry. That's my forecast. Back in Chicago they've got snow and freezing temperatures. Sorry.

Brewery tour

A friend and I toured the Big Boss Brewing Co. in Raleigh yesterday. Possibly owing to the gorgeous weather, or a widespread spirit of scientific inquiry, or—long shot here—the $1 33 cL beer samples, yesterday's tour seemed awfully popular:

Brewmaster Brad Wynn dragged all 642 of us around the tiny brewery, entertainingly explaining their brewing process quickly enough for us to get more of the aforementioned $1 beers:

Great fun. They're having a party on Wednesday which I'll have to miss, but their tap room is open Monday through Saturday. I'm looking forward to more Angry Angel, their crisp and hoppy Kölsch-style ale. It really is better right from the tap.

Next up: The Daily Parker hits a major milestone. Stay tuned.

Yet another rental check-out

After months of beautiful weather I finally arranged a flight check-out at a local flight school. I had to get an hour of additional training to learn how to use the Garmin G1000 flight instrument panel yesterday, but today's flight went just like any other check-out. (Google Earth track.)

My passport, unfortunately, is at the Chinese Consulate in Chicago getting a visa stuck in. So I'll have to wait until I get it back to rent planes. This is because the TSA believes, as would anyone, that only U.S. citizens (or aliens we really, really like) are to be trusted with small airplanes. This will prevent any non-citizens from doing bad things with them, of course.

El Niño hace la nieva

A winter storm off the coast of North Carolina has brought snow to both Chicago and Raleigh:

25 mm of snow had fallen at O'Hare by 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, with snow still coming down hard. That was enough to push the city's official seasonal snow tally above 127 cm for the third consecutive year. There's been only one other string of three consecutive 50+ inch seasons in 125 years of snow measurements here and it occurred between 1976 to 1979.

Lake effect snows occur in especially cold environments which, because of the efficiency of ice crystal formation at low temperatures, frequently produce larger than typical accumulations from the limited amount of water vapor available. This leads to snowflakes which exhibit maximum "fluff". Estimates of Wednesday's snow puts snow/water ratios at 30 to 1---indicating the system's snowflakes had almost three times the volume of those which come down in more typical 10 to 1 ratio snow events. One witness, in describing the rate of snowfall in Evanston, compared the scene to a "snow globe." Another described "pure whiteout conditions with snow coming in horizontally" and still another characterized the snowfall intensity at its height Wednesday evening as "this season's heaviest."

In North Carolina the snow is causing the same kinds of disruptions as in Chicago—slow traffic, nervous parents, confused dogs—but...well, it's not quite as much snow:

But I have to agree with my friend Jamie, who, when I mentioned the comparison, said "you picked a good winter to stay in North Carolina." I'm thinking she's right.

Commuting home to work

I'm splitting my time between Chicago and Raleigh lately, and it looks like I'll continue to do so for quite a while. This causes one minor inconvenience: my car doesn't fit in the overhead compartment on a CRJ. (For that matter, an anorexic gerbil won't fit in the overhead compartment on one of those things, but that's another issue.)

Chicago, however, is a major city with an extensive public transportation system (no snickering from natives, please). Chicago also has Zipcars, a by-the-hour car-rental cooperative, with six cars stationed less than four blocks from my house. Four blocks—800 m—seems to suburbanites like a very long walk to get a car, but actually, I'm lucky if I get to park my own car that close most days. So this is an improvement.

iGo, which costs a little less and works in partnership with the CTA, is another option. Unfortunately they don't have any cars within 1500 m of my house. Walking around the block to get the Zipcar suddenly seems more attractive. Walking eight blocks to get a car is less so.

Zipcars also has the advantage of national reach. Given how often I travel (especially to San Francisco), this has tremendous appeal.

Now if only Chicago had a puppy-rental service for those times when I miss Parker...

World's strangest airports

These are kind of cool:

Winston Churchill Avenue, Gibraltar's busiest road, cuts directly across the runway. Railroad-style crossing gates hold cars back every time a plane lands or departs. "There's essentially a mountain on one side of the island and a town on the other," Schreckengast says. "The runway goes from side to side on the island because it's the only flat space there, so it's the best they can do. It's a fairly safe operation as far as keeping people away," he says, "It just happens to be the best place to land, so sometimes it's a road and sometimes it's a runway."

Number 8, St. Maarten's Princess Juliana, is one of my favorites.