The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Next, sheep at the zoo

Naturalists in Chicago would like residents to count squirrels:

The Chicago Academy of Sciences, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, and University of Illinois at Chicago are asking for contributions to www.projectsquirrel.org. Urban ecologist Steve Sullivan leads the effort and says the Midwest is a "squirrel hot spot."

Researchers say the data offers insight into to the rodents' behavior and the overall ecology of the region.

I'm waiting for the squirrel activists to protest the census for under-counting urban squirrels. The local coyote population was also said to be interested in the results....

Oy, mein altekaker Kindle!

Via Sullivan, I suddenly feel very old:

We extracted about 75 percent of the responses on age (representing about 700 responses, taking equally from the earliest and most recent postings, which show very similar age distributions). Per John Makinson's quip at an LBF panel, over half of reporting Kindle owners are 50 or older, and 70 percent are 40 or older.

So many users said they like Kindle because they suffer from some form of arthritis that multiple posters indicate that they do or do not have arthritis as a matter of course. A variety of other impairments, from weakening eyes and carpal-tunnel-like syndromes to more exotic disabilities dominate the purchase rationales of these posters.

Wait! I'm not 40 yet! And I see just fine, with a little help.

This, on the day that I took a final exam in a class (Introduction to Microeconomics) in which every other student was younger than half my age. Yes, there were about 50 of us in there, and the day the Berlin Wall fell down I was older than they are now.

Sigh.

Recovery in a coffee cup

For a variety of reasons that are really much less lucky or indicative of good planning than one might think, I managed to avoid having a huge portion of my retirement savings wiped out in this current downturn. For one thing, I rarely invest in single-issue securities, having little appetite for eggs when placed in a single basket.

Just now, though, I'd like to gloat that the only single-issue stock currently in my portfolio just rose above the price I paid for it, commission and all, meaning I have an actual capital gain since buying the security in December 2007.

The stock? Peet's Coffee (NASDAQ: PEET), whose slow-growth strategy combined with extremely high quality standards not only means I drink their coffee and tea every single day, but also that their stock is going up in the middle of a crash. (Their 46% profit growth last quarter didn't hurt their stock price, either.)

I can't wait for Summer House to come back next month...

Math is hard! Panic is fun!

I'm really not sure from where the panic over H1N1 (swine) flu comes, but I have some faith that it's going to kill more people than the virus. Take, for example, the mad rush to buy hand sanitizer:

Stores are quickly being depleted of products used to help stave off or battle the flu, a combination of swine, bird and human virus strains that in some cases has been fatal. The disease is suspected in at least 160 deaths, the majority in Mexico. The only reported U.S. death was that of a toddler in Houston.

There are nine probable cases in Illinois, five of them in Chicago, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported Wednesday. An elementary school on the city’s North Side was shut down Wednesday after a child was diagnosed with what is believed to be swine flu.

I don't have the exact numbers here, but I would imagine that more than one extra person will die and more than nine extra people will be injured because of people driving to the store to buy hand sanitizer than would otherwise be killed or injured without the extra driving. It's like the rise in traffic fatalities after 9/11, attributed to a mix of more driving and stress, both of which came at least partially from blind fear.

Of course, it's possible that this flu could be the end of civilization. History suggests otherwise.

But if it makes people feel better, by all means jump in your cars and buy toxic chemicals to rub on your hands in a futile effort to kill invisible agents of your...um...sneezing. Even better if you drive to the store without wearing a seatbelt.

Quick hits

I'm returning from San Francisco this afternoon, so tomorrow I'll have photos from Saturday's A's game and, if I get my very own YouTube account, a video of my sister's dog. I'll leave that for now.

This morning, just a link: TheExpiredMeter.com, of interest to anyone who deals with the Chicago parking system. I found it because I discovered only yesterday that, sometime today, my car will get a parking ticket. I discovered this when my alderman's office sent a notice of street sweeping yesterday saying they'll be sweeping the block my car is on today. A little more notice might have helped. Welcome to summer in the city.

Very much forgotten

So, on a recommendation, I picked up a copy of Barbara Bleau's Forgotten Calculus, to brush up on the subject in advance of starting business school this fall.

Only, I haven't forgotten calculus. No, my problem is, I never learned it in the first place.[1]

So if anyone knows of a book called "Calculus You Never Learned In The First Place," please let me know.

[1] I guess you could say I'm a bit behind the curve.

Potpourri, without the odor

Quick update:

  • The Titanic dinner at Mint Julep Bistro was wonderful. Rich's wine pairings especially rocked—as did his beef tournedos in port reduction. Mmm. Not so much fun was Metra's return schedule (featuring a 3-hour gap between 21:25 and 0:35), nor my reading of it (I did not remember this three-hour gap). The fine for taking public transit out to the suburbs (because driving to a 10-course, 9-wine-plus-apertif dinner seemed irresponsible) was $80, paid to the All-Star Taxi Service.
  • I did, in fact, buy a Kindle, and I love it. I've now read three books on it and numerous articles (converting a .pdf or text file costs no more than 10c for automatic downloads), and I hardly notice the machine. It only holds 1.5 GB of stuff, but the complete works of Shakespeare ($4) only takes up 4 MB so space is not exactly at a premium.
  • I may have a new release of Weather Now out today; if not, then tomorrow morning. I'll be writing over the next few days more about what's different, and why it took nearly two years to produce something that, to some, will look almost identical.
  • Tangentially about my Kindle and software releases, I'm now reading Almost Perfect (hat tip Coding Horror), Pete Peterson's account of the rise and fall of WordPerfect. It's a fascinating tale of what happens when everyone in the company is just like you, and when entrepreneurs can't let go.

Finally, in a tiny piece of good news, it looks like we'll have tolerable weather Friday for my first Cubs home game this season.

Greetings from Amazon

Talk about good news, bad news. I just got an email from amazon.com:

We now have delivery date(s) for the order you placed on January 27 2009 09:59 PST
(Order# 123-4567890-1234567):
   Matthew Fox, et al "Lost: The Complete Fifth Season [Blu-ray]" [Blu-ray]
   Estimated arrival date: 12/10/2009

Sigh. I guess I can wait until December. But when will I get my Mad Men Season 2?

Pair of ducks

I asked the Nature Nerd why the duck on the right has different coloring than the one on the left:

She said, "Quick research indicates that mallards have, in some cases, hybridized with domestic ducks, producing color variations."

I asked if that meant he was a lucky duck, or if his goose was cooked.

Her reply: "Only evolution will tell, I guess..."