The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Must be all the granola

Burlington, Vt., is America's healthiest city:

Vermont's largest city is tops among U.S. metropolitan areas by having the largest proportion of people — 92 percent — who say they are in good or great health.

It's also among the best in exercise and among the lowest in obesity, diabetes and other measures of ill health, according to a recent report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Contrast with Huntington, W.Va.:

The obese mayor of America's fattest and unhealthiest city says health is not a big local issue.

"It doesn't come up," said David Felinton, 5-foot-9 and 233 pounds, as he walked toward City Hall one recent morning. "We've got a lot of economic challenges here in Huntington. That's usually the focus."

Nearly half the adults in Huntington's five-county metropolitan area are obese—an astounding percentage, far bigger than the national average in a country with a well-known weight problem.

In unrelated news, Obama won Vermont 68%-30%, and McCain won West Virginia 57%-43%.

Flying dogs

My sister got her pilot certificate just to get me to shut up about jumping out of planes ("why jump from a perfectly-landable airplane?"). And if you think I love my dog, well, she outdoes me there, too. The combination means she has two dogs who each have their own airplane ear protectors. I can't imagine Parker in a Cessna, but I think he'd be at least as cute as this:

By the way, she named her dog Codey, after the final approach fix on the runway 15 IFR GPS approach at Lincoln, Calif. Seriously.

Porsche: tight in corners

I just read a fascinating story in The Economist that would have probably gotten more attention in the U.S. but for our recent distractions. It seems Porsche made possibly €12 billion on the Deutsche Bourse by cornering the market in Volkswagen shares:

Porsche’s gambit was as old as finance itself. For about three years it had been steadily increasing its stake in VW, a much larger yet less profitable carmaker with which it shares a little production. Its buying had driven up the price of VW’s shares to above the level at which it would make any economic sense for Porsche to buy VW. Seeing this, hedge funds sold shares in VW that they did not own. One strategy was a bet that VW’s share price would fall. Some also bought shares in Porsche, in a wager that shares of both would converge.

...

[O]n October 26th it executed a handbrake turn, saying that it owned nearly 43% of VW’s shares outright and had derivative contracts on nearly 32% more. That meant it had tied up almost all of the freely available shares (the rest are held by the state government and index funds). Hedge funds quickly did the maths, concluding that they could be caught in an “infinite squeeze” in which they were forced to buy shares at any price.

Huh. Sucks to own a hedge fund right now.

Pumpkins for Change

Via Evanston Now:

Evanston real estate broker Alan May says he's put a new twist on an old family tradition this year.

With help from an online site called YesWeCarve.com, he's turned the annual carving of the family jack-o-lantern into the creation of a Barack O'Lantern -- suitable for display on many a liberal-leaning Evanston front porch this year.

Diaz murder suspect caught; extradition soon

The Chicago Sun-Times reported late yesterday that New Mexico authorities have arrested William Bahena, chief suspect in Tuesday's murder of Elva Diaz, and will extradite him back to Illinois next week:

Almost a year after he was arrested for violating an order of protection involving his girlfriend, a 31-year-old Near West Side man is accused of killing her, authorities said Friday.

On Sept. 10, 2007, Diaz obtained an emergency order of protection against Bahena.

On Christmas Day, he was arrested for allegedly violating the order of protection, but she declined to bring charges against him, court records show.

Elva's funeral is tomorrow; there is a visitation today at St. Gall's on the Southwest Side.

I need to mention another thing about this. A couple of Elva's friends have told me she died intestate, meaning she did not have a will. They specifically asked me to blog about the difficulty this is causing her kids, and I'm happy to do.

As an unmarried person with children (ages 12, 11, and 6), the distribution of her assets is straightforward, but her children have no access to those assets until the court can appoint an administrator. Five days after her death this hasn't yet happened. It could take weeks. Meanwhile, though her children are safe, they still need food and clothes, and it will take some time before the court can determine their permanent custody arrangements.

This isn't an appeal for grocery-store gift certificates (which, nonetheless, would help). Rather, I urge anyone with children to write a will.

As a law student, I drafted several wills for attorneys, and I can tell you they can be very, very simple documents. At the very least a will should dispose of all your property, nominate an executor to manage the dispostions, and recommend who should have custody of your children. Now, I don't know Illinois child-welfare law at all, so it's possible that had Elva died any other way than at the hand of her children's father, he would be the presumptive nominee for custody. (I think the order of protection against him might have overcome that presumption, and certainly murdering his children's mother would; but this is why you need an attorney, because it can get knotty. I also have to remind people that no one has been convicted of any crime relating to Elva's murder yet. I am merely discussing the possible legal ramifications of a scenario of unknown likelihood.)

But still, if the Public Guardian has a document saying "I nominate Aunt Mildred custodian of my children" then he has an idea of who's best for the kids. Further, if the will nominates a qualified executor, then the executor can make this happen as well--by representing the estate against the Public Guardian, if necessary.

Elva's death has affected a lot of people, including me, but most especially her children. Writing a minimal will takes half an hour, and a neighborhood attorney can do it inexpensively and efficiently. It can really help your kids at their worst hour should something happen to you.

Zo zad

MillerCoors has decided to discontinue Zima:

Chief Marketing Officer Andy England says the decision was due to weakness in the "malternative" segment and declining consumer interest.

He says distributors can get remaining Zima inventories most likely through December.

I guess that means it won't ever be sold in the Babylon 5 Zocalo...

419 Poetry

The African email scams have haunted our inboxes for so long now I hardly notice them any more. But this one I received today had such fluidity and verve, such poetry, that I feel impelled to share it:

From the Desk of Dr.Anddy Vaina,
And Counselors at Law,
06 Bp 1704 Akpakpa Cotonou
Benin Republic.

Dear Friend,

How are you together with your Family today? My Dear our latest news to you today is that our Federal Government has approved all the funds owned by foreigners to be converted into ATM SWITCH CREDIT CARDS in which you can easily received through Atm Credit Card Service Department Center here in Benin republic for security reason.

Meanwhile your funds $1.250.000.00USD has been convert into the Atm Switch Cards which has been approve by the Government and the Switch Card code of your funds are stated below (4008b) which you can use to struck your fund like $1,500.00 per day to any ATM Bank nearest you in your Country.

So we have make the arrangement to the Atm Department Service here in Cotonou Benin Republic to Deliver you your Atm Card to your destination house address which take's under 2working days to get to your Address, Meanwhile you have to Contact Atm Office Department immediately and the only money you have to send to received your Atm Card from them is there processing fee which is $107.00 only to receive your Atm Card from Atm Department. Here is their Contact Information Address, so Contact them with below information; Atm Sheping Department Center Cotonou Benin Republic. Director: Rev Dr. Isaac Momoh.
Email:atmcddb_rep@yahoo.fr
Telephone: +229-9340-7932.

Contact them immediately and get back to us as soon as you get intouch with them: below is what they need from you to Re-confirm to avoid Delivery Mistake.

1.Your Full Name......................
2.Country Locate......................
3.Home address........................
4.Telephone...........................
5.A Copy of your picture..............

Immediately you contact them you get back and let us know.

With Best Regards Mr.Anddy Vaina..

I mean, I don't even know what they're hawking here. At least with the traditional 419 scams you could kind of see where it was headed.

Good morning, I think

Take out the trash day? Or just an ordinary Friday during these interesting times? Since lunch yesterday:

  • Despite all the McCain Campaign's efforts to keep it under wraps for just three more weeks, an Alaskan legislative investigation released a report alleging Gov. Palin abused her power by trying to get her brother-in-law fired from a state job.
  • Chrysler and GM are in merger talks.
  • The administration (101 days, 4 hours left) took North Korea off the list of state sponsors of terrorism, leaving only one country in what can't really anymore be called the "axis of evil."
  • Oil dropped to $78, its lowest price since last September, on fears of a global slowdown.

Finally, a wonderful quote whose attribution I can't find: "President Bush isn't so much a lame duck at this point as a wooden decoy."

Alpha and Omega

It just occurred to me: three of the four candidates for President and Vice President live in the 1st, 48th, and 49th states, and the fourth was born in the 50th. One way or another (and you know which way I prefer), a state that didn't exist when half of the candidates were born will send its first citizen (or native) to the White House.

Did anyone else notice this?

End of the summer

Living in a temperate climate means everything changes constantly. But there are rhythms. Things change fastest in late August and early March, for example: the sun set after 8pm from early May until just three weeks ago, but last night, the sun set at 7:30; in two and a half weeks it sets at 7; three weeks after that, at 6:30.

So what prompted this nearly-inane observation? The insects. It's late evening and my windows are all open, so I can hear thousands of cicadas, grasshoppers, crickets—yes, even in the center of Chicago. And the spiders have come out by the hundreds, anywhere they can get two anchors and a cross-beam. While Parker and I sat at Ranalli's on Monday, two of them spun webs side by side in alternating gaps in the patio fence; there are four new webs on our back staircase in the last week.

To everything there is a season, at least above the 30th parallel.