The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

I'm back

I have returned from my latest travels, patted Parker, had a good night of sleep, and am offloading several hundred photos from two digital cameras. This, plus restocking my fridge, will take a little bit, so in the meantime: Paul Krguman explains why speculators have nothing to do with oil prices right now:

Imagine that Joe Shmoe and Harriet Who, neither of whom has any direct involvement in the production of oil, make a bet: Joe says oil is going to $150, Harriet says it won't. What direct effect does this have on the spot price of oil — the actual price people pay to have a barrel of black gunk delivered?

The answer, surely, is none.

Good ribs, not great

One more rule I forgot to mention: eat locally. And in KC, that means barbecue.

Tonight I went to the Gates BBQ, in Independence, Mo., as reccomended by the hotel's driver, Martin. Interesting. The pit-fired meat fell right off the bone, with a crunchy outer shell from the intense heat they use. The sauce, though. Hmmm. It wasn't what I expected.

I always associated KC-style ribs with a sweet-tangy, tomato-based sauce. Gates uses a tomato base but their sauce has more heat and less sweet, almost like a Memphis-style barbecue. Plus, the meat seemed awfully salty.

So, not the best ribs I've ever had—those would be the ones my brother and stepmother make as a team—but not too disappointing.

Almost forgot, I drank locally, too, having a Boulevard Pale Ale with dinner. Good clean finish, light flavor, decent beer. This one I'll have again.

Follow-up, 6:15 pm: I just had an enlightening conversation in the hotel gift shop*. It seems that there are two different cultures in Kansas City, and Gates BBQ belongs firmly to one of them. I'm proceeding delicately here because I think I'm a little offended, and I don't want to offend anyone else. Apparently, those in Kansas City who look more like me than Martin does avoid Gates because, well, it's not their style of BBQ on the one hand, and on the other, it's still 1958.

I have to think about this some more.

* Despite planning to have ribs for dinner, I neglected to pack dental floss.

Why KC?

I have a little time before I go off in search of a slab of ribs to explain why I'm in Kansas City.

One of my friends decries people who say "I've always wanted to [insert relatively accessible activity here]..." but who haven't actually done [activity]. For example, on more than one inauspicious first date the guy has said, "You lived in Europe? I've always wanted to go there!" Since she's dating single men who are over 30 and over the poverty line, "always wanted" is obviously not true, becuase they would have gone already.

To honor that, I will say I've not always wanted to see a baseball game in every major-league (and American League ;) park—but I've always mused about it.

Therefore, as a single man over 30 and over the poverty line, I've decided to do it. Since I've already been to five (in order: Wrigley, Dodger Stadium, Shea, Enron Field, and Miller Park), this gives me almost three full seasons to get the last 25 before I turn 40. Here are the rules:

  1. Spend as little as possible on the quest. This means, among other things, bunching games up geographically and looking for the cheapest airfares available.
  2. In any park other than U.S. Cellular Field, if the Cubs are not playing, root for the home team.
  3. In any park where the Cubs are not playing, when a hat must be worn, wear a Cubs hat to American League parks and a Red Sox hat to National League parks, on the theory that the hat would therefore be neutral.
  4. If the Cubs are playing, wear a Cubs hat and root for the Cubs, obviously.

Which brings me back to Kansas City. I'm here because I had a previously-scheduled trip to San Francisco anyway, and this was the least-expensive option.

Photos to follow. Now, I'm going to get some sizzlin' baby backs.

Why Parker won't swim in the Pacific this summer

(I mean, other than because he loathes water.)

No, it's about gasoline.

I'm taking a summer vacation this year for the first time since 1992, and I had planned to load Parker and his smelly blanket into my Volkswagen and drive to San Francisco with him. Only, I just filled up my car this morning, and for the first time ever I crested $50. For gasoline. In my bleeding Volkswagen. Which caused me to whip out a spreadsheet and determine conclusively whether driving with Parker out to California makes any sense at all.

It does not.

In fairness to the car, (a) this is Chicago, home of the highest gasoline prices in the country, and (b) the car, a GTI, has a high-compression engine that requires premium gas. But premium gas is only 20¢ more per gallon than regular, as it's always been, so that is no longer the differential expense it used to be.

To crack this nut, I did two calculations. Here's the estimate for driving. Distance comes from Google Maps; fuel economy comes from actual data with this car; fuel cost is an educated guess:

Now compare flying (airfare from American Airlines—I'm a frequent-flyer so I don't have a bag fee—using flexible dates, best price ORD to SFO in July):

Except, driving is worse than that, because owning a car entails other expenses. Over the life of my car, it has cost me 18.4¢ per mile to operate. Note that this includes those halcyon days of $1.25 gasoline, and does not include car insurance or the cost of actually buying the car, so it actually has cost me more than 18.4¢ per mile. Even with those obvious shortcomings, a more realistic calculation of driving to San Francisco looks like this:

Now the difference is $553, almost half the cost of the trip. And it gets even better if you consider that I have a big wad of unused frequent-flyer miles that can, if I choose, bring the airfare down to $5. Yes, five dollars (plus 25,000 air miles), making the difference between driving and flying $828—enough to do the trip again by air and still save significant cash over driving.

(Someone should calculate the CO2 costs, too. How much CO2 am I putting out by flying instead of driving? I think it may be a wash, but I'm not sure.)

I could take him in an airplane, but this really stresses dogs out, so I don't consider that a realistic option.

In any event, as fun as it might be to watch Parker run along a beach in California, it's just not going to happen.