The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Three quick reads

Happy Sunday. Tonight the sun sets in Chicago at 4:30pm, and won't set after 4:30 again until New Year's Eve. So in the few hours of daylight I have left, I'll read a few things:

  • A low pressure area northeast of Chicago has brought 100 km/h winds to the area, but at least it won't snow today.
  • Entomologists in Washington State eradicated a "small" nest containing several hundred murder hornets. They worry a couple of queens might have escaped.
  • The BBC fact-checked rumors that 10,000 dead people voted in Michigan, and spoke with several of them without consulting psychics.

I'm going to return to doing nothing of value today, which is the point of Sundays.

Long but productive Wednesday

I cracked the code on an application rewrite I last attempted in 2010, so I've spent a lot of my copious free time the past week working on it. I hope to have more to say soon, but software takes time. And when I'm in the zone, I like to stay there. All of which is why it's 9:30 and I have just gotten around to reading all this:

I'm now going to turn off all my screens, walk Parker, and go to bed. (Though I just got the good news that my 8:30 am demo got moved to a later time.)

Slow news day? In 2020? Ha!

Just a few of the things that crossed my desktop this morning:

And last night, Cubs pitcher Alec Mills threw the club's 16th no-hitter against the Milwaukee Brewers. In the history of Major League Baseball, there have only been 315 no-hitters. The last time the Cubs won a no-hitter was 51 years ago.

Astronomical math

My birthday is Saturday, but owing to leap years and that I was born early in the morning, I'm actually turning [redacted]—[REDACTED]!—at 9:09 am Chicago time tomorrow. See, Earth revolves around the Sun every 365.24217 days, you see, so if you take the time and date I was born ([redacted]-09-05T[redacted]) and add [redacted]*365.24217 days to it, you get 2020-09-04T14:09, give or take a few seconds.

So today is my last day in my [redacted - 10]s. And yet I don't feel a day over [fraction of redacted].

The only good news is, given my family genetics and my overall health right now, it's very likely I'll live another [redacted plus a few] years.

I had hoped for a big party, or barring that, a weekend in Europe...but hey, I haven't caught the plague yet.

Better late than never?

Every six months or so, I update the sunrise chart for Chicago. Because of a bug in the tool I wrote to generate the raw data I use, and because fixing that bug fell nearly to the bottom of my priority list, I didn't fix it until Monday.

So, finally, I've updated the chart. Enjoy. The next one should be on time at the end of the year.

The sun! Was out! For an hour!

Since January 2019, Chicago has had only two months with above-average sunshine, and in both cases we only got 10% more than average. This year we're ticking along about 9% below, with no month since July 2019 getting above 50% of possible sunshine.

In other news:

Finally, having "walktails" with friends may be a thing, but because drinking alcohol on public streets in Chicago is prohibited by city ordinance, I cannot admit to ever doing this.

We may be flattening a bit

Illinois' doubling time for Covid-19 cases has increased from 2.1 days to 7.9 days, as of yesterday.

In other news:

And finally, I'll leave you with this touching performance of Tears for Fears' "Mad World" by its composer, Curt Smith, and his daughter Diva:

Life on Mars

At some point, we will probably settle on the red planet. In a fascinating article from 2018, The Atlantic wondered how we'll police it:

Consider the basic science of crime-scene analysis. In the dry, freezer-like air and extreme solar exposure of Mars, DNA will age differently than it does on Earth. Blood from blunt-trauma and stab wounds will produce dramatically new spatter patterns in the planet’s low gravity. Electrostatic charge will give a new kind of evidentiary value to dust found clinging to the exteriors of space suits and nearby surfaces. Even radiocarbon dating will be different on Mars, [UC-Davis archaeologist Christyann] Darwent reminded me, due to the planet’s atmospheric chemistry, making it difficult to date older crime scenes.

The Martian environment itself is also already so lethal that even a violent murder could be disguised as a natural act. Darwent suggested that a would-be murderer on the Red Planet could use the environment’s ambient lethality to her advantage. A fatal poisoning could be staged to seem as if the victim simply died of exposure to abrasive chemicals, known as perchlorates, in the Martian rocks. A weak seal on a space suit, or an oxygen meter that appears to have failed but was actually tampered with, could really be a clever homicide hiding in plain sight.

Imagine a criminal armed with a knife has been cornered on a Martian research base, near a critical airlock leading outside. If police fire a gun or even a Taser, they risk damaging key components of the base itself, endangering potentially thousands of innocent bystanders. Other forms of hand-to-hand combat learned on Earth might have adverse effects; even a simple punch could send both the criminal and the cop flying apart as they collide in the reduced Martian gravity. How can police overpower the fugitive without making things worse for everyone?

And then there's the surveillance....

Odd day in the news

Some highlights:

Finally, looking at dating like a marketplace doesn't make a lot of sense in practice.