The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Sunset at the bottom of the world

Researchers at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station have been watching the sun set for weeks. At the poles, the sun traces an excruciatingly slow corkscrew between equinoxes, first spiraling up to a point 23° above the horizon (only about as high as the sun gets in Chicago around 10am on December 21st) on the solstice, then slowly spiraling back down to the horizon over the next three months.

In about an hour from now, the last limb of the sun will slip below the south polar horizon, the twilight gradually fading for another three weeks. The sun won't appear again until September 20th.

Fourteen people will spend the next five months at Amundsen-Scott, with no possibility of leaving until the end of August.

Daylight saving time

I've never felt great about the Daylight Saving Time switch happening in the beginning of March, but here it is. Oddly, I have no trouble changing eleven or twelve time zones, but the one-hour change in the spring (but not the fall) always messes me up.

Anyway, if you live in the U.S. or Canada (excluding Arizona and Saskatchewan), it's probably an hour later than you think it is.

Time zone pet peeves

In general, people using words they don't understand, presumably to sound smart, drives me up a tree. In specific, I wish against reason that more people knew how time zones worked. Microsoft's Raymond Chen agrees:

One way of sounding official is to give the times during which the outage will take place is a very formal manner. "The servers will be unavailable on Saturday, March 17, 2012 from 1:00 AM to 9:00 AM Pacific Standard Time."

Did you notice something funny about that announcement?

On March 17, 2012, most of the United States will not be on Standard Time. They will be on Daylight Time. (The switchover takes place this weekend.)

Now, I'm one of the few people in the world who has implemented a complete time zone package for Windows systems, and regular readers will already know about my vocal defense of the Olson/IANA time zone database. So I don't expect most people to know the ins and outs of time zone abbreviations. But this is the point Chen makes, and I would like to make: if you don't know what you're writing, don't write it. Say "Central time" or "local Chicago time" instead of "Central Standard Time," if for no other reason than you'll be wrong about the latter 8 months out of the year.

Let there be light!

At this time of year, people from the tropics to the poles really become aware of changes in the lengths of the days. Yesterday Chicago had 11 hours of daylight for the first time since October 18th; we get 12 hours of daylight less than three weeks from now. Tuesday the sun set at 5:30pm for the first time since standard time returned on November 5th; it sets at 7pm on March 16th.

From the solstice through February 1st we only get about one additional hour of daylight (though, because of the Earth's orbit, most of it comes in the evening). But the really dramatic changes are now: from February 20th to April 20th, we get 3 more hours of daylight—an average of 3 minutes per day. Plus, the second weekend of March puts us into Daylight Saving Time, so sunsets occur more than two hours later in April than in February.

A direct result of lengthening days is increasing temperatures. It turns out that summer temperatures don't predict winter temperatures at all, but winter temperatures predict summer temperatures quite well. With only 12 days of snow on the ground this year, the warmest winter since the 1920s has felt more like Raleigh, N.C., than Chicago. This means, of course, next summer will feel like Raleigh as well. I can't wait.

Shooting the moon...again...

Sure, I've posted photos of the moon before, but it never gets old to me:

Well, all right, at 4½ billion years it is old to me, but you know what I meant.

On a side note, I just Googled "age of the moon" and discovered that many of the top results are from outside the reality-based community. For example, the second item on my results came from the Institute for Creation Research ("Biblical. Accurate. Certain."), in which one Thomas G. Barnes, D.Sc., begins with the assertion: "It takes but one proof of a young age for the moon or the earth to completely refute the doctrine of evolution." If you're a science teacher, you might want to have a look at this article, because it could be a great way to introduce kids to the meanings of theory, hypothesis, and fallacy.

And could someone please tell me what the credential "D.Sc." purports to be?

Shine a little light on me

The thing I like most about February: at the end of it, Chicago has an hour and a quarter more daylight than at the beginning of it. Today we have 10 hours of daylight, the most since November 10th, and on the 29th we have 11 hours and 14 minutes.

I notice this every year around now, just as I forget every year how grim December can be.

Quick updates

A couple of things have happened on two issues I mentioned earlier this week:

That is all for now. We in Chicago are bracing for 15 cm of snow tomorrow, so there may be Parker videos soon.

Oh, and: Kodak actually did file for bankruptcy protection today.

Just now, over Chicago

This looks a lot like a shot from last February:

It's still cool. And it's only about five minutes old.

It suggests, however, that I might want to rent a really cool lens sometime. I used the same equipment (Canon 7D, 200mm), but shot hand-held at ISO-400, f/5.6 at 1/1000, then developed it differently than the one from 11 months ago. I also shot this one raw instead of as JPEG, which gave me a lot more flexibility in post.

Mostly, though, we have clear skies and a full moon, so what more reason do I need?