The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Remember the American tourism industry?

Travel site Frommer's reports that foreign travel to the U.S. has plummeted since the inauguration, for obvious reasons:

[T]he prestigious Travel Weekly magazine (as close to an “official” travel publication as they come) has set the decline in foreign tourism at 6.8%. And the fall-off is not limited to Muslim travelers, but also extends to all incoming foreign tourists. Apparently, an attack on one group of tourists is regarded as an assault on all.

As far as travel by distinct religious groups, flight passengers from the seven Muslim-majority nations named by Trump were down by 80% in the last week of January and first week of February, according to Forward Keys, a well-known firm of travel statisticians. On the web, flight searches for trips heading to the U.S. out of all international locations was recently down by 17%.

A drop of that magnitude, if continued, would reduce the value of foreign travel within the U.S. by billions of dollars. And the number of jobs supported by foreign tourists and their expenditures in the United States—and thus lost—would easily exceed hundreds of thousands of workers in hotels, restaurants, transportation, stores, tour operations, travel agencies, and the like.

Wow, didn't see that one coming. But hey, with the euro at $1.05 and Sterling at $1.24, maybe it's time to check airfares?

Spring sprang early

The Illinois State Climatologist reports that 257 daily high temperature records have been set statewide this month. He worries that the early warmth could cause damage to agriculture as similar events did in 2007 and 2012:

A batch of crocus on the south side of our office building is a reminder of the impacts of warm weather in February. Both January and February have been mild. But on top of that has been a record-setting streak of 60s and 70s in the past week. As a result, many early season perennials such as crocus are coming out a little early. In the past, such warm weather has made any early vegetation vulnerable to the inevitable freeze later on. In 2007 and 2012, a similar scenario played out with damage to corn, winter wheat, alfalfa, and fruit crops across Illinois. The 2007 event was well documented in this report.

Meanwhile, a cold front pushed through last night with dog-frightening thunder, so it's now just above freezing in Chicago and promises to drop to about -5°C this weekend.

Take a walk

Yesterday, Major League Baseball agreed with its players union to ditch the four-pitch intentional walk:

Major League Baseball and its Players Association agreed to replace it with an automatic walk triggered by a signal from the dugout. The curious part was its cause of death: It was sacrificed in the name of shorter games.

That is curious, to say the least, because the intentional walk had neither the frequency of use nor the potential time-savings to make it an obvious target of league officials, led by Commissioner Rob Manfred, who want to speed up the pace of play. Last year, intentional walks occurred at a rate of one every 2.6 games. Their elimination would save perhaps a minute with each instance — a statistically insignificant improvement for a sport that averaged a record-high 3 hours 6 minutes per game in 2016.

Even something as seemingly innocuous and frivolous as the intentional walk has a long history, full of occasional mishaps (pitchers lobbing the ball to the backstop), sneaky swings (as when a batter reaches across the plate and pokes a wide pitch into the outfield for a hit) and even the famous fake intentional walk in the 1972 World Series, when Oakland A's reliever Rollie Fingers struck out Cincinnati's Johnny Bench with a pitch over the plate after the A's feigned walking him intentionally.

In many of those instances, the intentional walk was the most exciting and memorable thing that happened in that particular game. Sure, those zany plays were infrequent, and in the vast majority of instances, the intentional walk was simply a banal, goofy and sometimes counterintuitive exercise in run-prevention.

But will the no-pitch walk still be scored IBB?

Open tabs at lunchtime

Sigh:

I hope to read these articles sometime this year.

 

Items of note

Things to read later:

Back to work.

Not posting much lately

Since December I've been the technical lead on an 18-person project at work, which has tanked my blogging frequency. I may return to my previous 3-posts-in-two-days velocity at some point. For now, here are some articles to read:

That's all for now.

We may know where the leaks are coming from

Diners at Mar-al-Lago overheard the President talking with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the latest in a string of idiotic security breaches he's made all by himself:

As Mar-a-Lago's wealthy members looked on from their tables, and with a keyboard player crooning in the background, Trump and Abe's evening meal quickly morphed into a strategy session, the decision-making on full view to fellow diners, who described it in detail to CNN.

News of Pyongyang's launch had emerged an hour earlier, as Trump was preparing for dinner in his residence. Officials had concluded the Musudan-level missile flew 310 miles off North Korea's eastern coast before crashing into the Sea of Japan.

Oy.

Meanwhile, the Sears Death Watch continues:

[B]ecause Sears and its sister company Kmartare merely shells of their former selves after they destroyed so much value over the years for employees, customers, and investors, there may be a group of stakeholders secretly hoping the end comes soon: shopping malls.

While a Sears Holdings bankruptcy might lead malls to suddenly face the prospect of being flooded with zombie retail space, they would have the chance to redevelop the stores themselves and attract new tenants who would pay them, and not Seritage, significantly higher rents.

Of course, a Sears Holdings bankruptcy carries risks for them, too. As noted, many retailers are reducing their footprints, not expanding them, so filling up the space may not be so simple, and for malls not in desirable locations, Sears Holdings' demise could be catastrophic. Credit Suisse says some 184 malls can be classified as "least valuable property" -- meaning at risk of shutting down -- and, concernedly, Sears is the anchor store in 110 of them. A Sears Holdings bankruptcy and the wave of store closings that would follow could very well jeopardize their existence.

Again, oy.