The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Days like this might convince me to like summer

Yesterday I rode 80 km (50 miles) in some of the most beautiful weather Chicago can have. It started off cool and got pleasant but not hot, with a light breeze and low humidity. If every day were like this, I thought, we'd be in Santa Barbara.

It rained a little last night (here, anyway; a collossal thunderstorm charged through the Western suburbs), so new we have even better weather than yesterday, if such is possible. If my legs were not still rubbery right now I would go for a bike ride.

Stupid post, I know, but that's what this weather does to me.

Sod this for a game of soldiers

Today was the hottest July day ever in London: 35°C (95°F). At this writing it has cooled somewhat, to 34°C (93°F)—but it's still 36°C (97°F) in Paris where the Health Ministry is blaming the heat on nine deaths (French). The Times of London reports:

Today has been the hottest July day ever with temperatures eclipsing 36 degrees (97°F) in Surrey—surpassing the previous record which has been held since 1911.
At 3pm, Charlwood in Surrey was the hottest place in the country, with Heathrow close behind, recording 35 degrees, and extreme heat also felt in Oxfordshire, Wilkshire and Hampshire.
The full results will not be analysed until tomorrow morning, but it seems unlikely now that temperatures will be higher than the all-time record, 38.5 degrees (101°F) reached in Faversham, Kent, in August 2003.

For comparison, the hottest day in Chicago this year was yesterday (36.1°C, 97°F), and the hottest day of the past four years was last July 25th (38.9°C, 102°F). (Fortunately for me, on that particular day Anne and I traveled from Galway to Killarney, Ireland, where it was 20°C (68°F) and delightful.)

Yesterday's game: Hot times, cold pitching

I had a great time at Wrigley Field yesterday, except for two things. First, the field temperature was 33°C (92°F) at game time. Second, the sixth inning...well...look:

No, I mean, look closely:

Yeah, two grand slams, a two-run homer, and a solo homer in one inning. And it's worse, because, as the Tribune pointed out: "For the first time in the 130-year history of the franchise, the Cubs gave up two grand slams in one inning Sunday in a stupefying 13-7 loss to the New York Mets."

Plus, someone let a whole bunch of Mutts fans into my section. Criminy.

Morning roundup

First, I'd like to gloat that Anne and I had dinner last night at Charlie Trotter's, to celebrate our anniversary. Wow. I mean, wow. We've decided to save up to go again, which we hope we can do before our children graduate college.

Now back to the program.

Frank Rich (sub.req.) today reminds us that, despite the new story making the rounds about how the Administration (919 days, 3 hours) is trying a new foreign policy, the fact remains the Administration does not have now and has never had a foreign policy of any kind:

The only flaw in this narrative—a big one—is that it understates the administration’s failure by assuming that President Bush actually had a grand, if misguided, vision in the first place. Would that this were so. But in truth this presidency never had a vision for the world. It instead had an idée fixe about one country, Iraq, and in pursuit of that obsession recklessly harnessed American power to gut-driven improvisation and P.R. strategies, not doctrine. This has not changed, even now.

And yesterday, Josh Marshall summed up the differences between Republicans and Democrats:

Democrats seem to have a highly evolved (and perhaps misplaced) sense of sportsmanship: magnanimous in victory; chastened in defeat. Whereas Dems will rise to a political fight when they deem circumstances warrant, Republicans consider politics nothing but a fight, with peace the exception, not the rule.

I think this hypothesis has legs. We Democrats want to live in peace and not be bothered, pretty much. The Republicans claim the same things, but to them, the fight is never done. Even if they got everything they wanted, they'd still fight, because that, more than the things they're fighting for, is more important.

Fortunately, I think most people just want to be left alone, which is why the Republican strategy always over-reaches.

Finally, I'd like to complain that Chicago weather has taken a turn for the worse, with temperatures expected today around 37°C (99°F). This will not stop me from going to Wrigley Field this evening.

Climate change talking points

The New York Times on Tuesday ran an excellent summary (sub.req.) of what we know about global climate change. Strange that they put it in the Opinion section.

Also, a thought cheered me this morning: throughout history, political groups have always seemed strongest right before collapsing. I believe there is a correlation between effots to appear strong and a loss of true strength. I'll have to think about this some more.

St. Louis today, Chicago in 2050

At the moment, I'm experiencing the weather of Chicago's future. I'm sitting outside at a St. Louis Bread Co. (aka Panera) in St. Louis while Anne does a 10 km (6 mi) run at Forest Park. The temperature has risen 2.8°C (5°F) in the past hour and promises to rise another 5°C (9°F) in the next two. It should hit 32°C (90°F) today, as it does most days in the summer down here, with the possibility of cooling down to 27°C (80°F) by bedtime.

St. Louis is warmer than Chicago, and will probably always be. But the weather people find normal in St. Louis (mild winters, hot summers) is becoming normal in Chicago. By 2050, St. Louis may have frost-free winters, and Chicago may have double or triple its current number of 32°C (90°F) days every summer.

At least Chicago has the lake, which helps.

Raining on someone's parade

I had planned to go for a quick bike ride this morning, but that doesn't look like a lot of fun at the moment:

But yesterday Anne and I went for a hike through the Ryerson Conservation Area in Riverwoods, Ill., which was a lot of fun:

I am especially glad that I could single-handedly feed thousands of starving mosquitos.

Anyway, we chose Ryerson after reading Ted Villaire's 60 Hikes within 60 Miles, which Anne picked up earlier in the week. We recommend the book to anyone who (a) lives in or near Chicago and (b) likes hiking.

The book lists the hikes in alphabetical order, so Ryerson is #50. While hiking, we resolved to do the other 59 hikes (even the few we've already done) in two years. That should be fun.

But not, I think, today, as it will probably rain throughout the morning.

The plastic bag may not inflate

I love the Straight Dope:

Q: I have asked flight attendants on airplanes all over the world. No one knows. No one even hazards a wild guess. ... Why doesn't the plastic bag inflate? Since it doesn't, what is it for?
First an inside secret: the bag does inflate, but only when you exhale.
Here's the deal. Passenger oxygen masks give you a continuous flow of oxygen (as opposed to oxygen on demand, which only flows when you inhale). The oxygen obviously can't flow into your lungs while you're exhaling, so if there weren't some way to store it temporarily it would have to be vented wastefully. The bag makes this unnecessary. When you start exhaling, your breath plus the incoming O2 flow into the bag.

Cecil Adams rocks.