The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Matthew Yglesias trolls the IANA Time Zone list

He thinks we should all use GMT instead:

[W]ithin a given time zone, the point of a common time is not to force everyone to do everything at the same time. It's to allow us to communicate unambiguously with each other about when we are doing things.

If the whole world used a single GMT-based time, schedules would still vary. In general most people would sleep when it's dark out and work when it's light out. So at 23:00, most of London would be at home or in bed and most of Los Angeles would be at the office. But of course London's bartenders would probably be at work while some shift workers in LA would be grabbing a nap. The difference from today is that if you were putting together a London-LA conference call at 21:00 there'd be only one possible interpretation of the proposal. A flight that leaves New York at 14:00 and lands in Paris at 20:00 is a six-hour flight, with no need to keep track of time zones. If your appointment is in El Paso at 11:30 you don't need to remember that it's in a different time zone than the rest of Texas.

Sigh.

It's even easier to get people to use International System measurements than to get them to understand the arbitrariness of the clock, but let's unpack just one thing Yglesias seems to have missed: the date.

Imagine you actually can get people in Los Angeles to use UTC. Working hours are 16:00 to 24:00. School starts at 15:45 (instead of ending then). In the summer, the sun rises at 12:30 and sets at 02:00.

Wait, what? The sun sets at 2am? So...you come home on a different day? That makes no sense to most people.

Yes, in a world where people are unwilling to give up their 128-ounce gallons and 36-inch yards in favor of 1000-milliliter liters and 100-centimeter meters, a world where ice freezing at 32 and boiling at 212 makes more sense than freezing at 0 and boiling at 100, a world where Paul Ryan is thought to be a serious person, we're not moving away from the day changing while most people are asleep.

And don't even get me started on the difference between GMT and UTC.

Unexpected master class

Imagine you're sitting on your front stoop, strumming your guitar, and Eric Clapton comes out of nowhere to give you some pointers.

That's about what happened to me today. Earlier this week, Jon Skeet (described by Scott Hanselman as "the world's greatest living programmer) noticed something I posted on the IANA Time Zone list, and asked me about the Inner Drive Time Zone library.

So I sent him the package.

And this afternoon, he sent me a benchmark that he wrote for it. Just like that.

Of course, the benchmark showed that my stuff was about 10% as fast as the Noda Time library, an open-source project he curates. So, having a couple of hours for "personal development time" available, I optimized it.

The specific details of the optimization are not that interesting, but I managed to more than double the library's performance by changing about ten lines of code. (It's now 20% as fast as Noda.) Along the way I exchanged about 10 emails with Skeet, because he kept making really crack suggestions and giving me valuable feedback about both my design and his.

That was cool.

Chicago sunrises, 2014-2015

Here's the semi-annual Chicago sunrise chart . (You can get one for your own location at http://www.wx-now.com/Sunrise/SunriseChart.aspx .)

In the early part of July, we hardly notice sunrises and sunsets. Days are long, it's still light out at 9pm (in Chicago), and we commute to work in broad sunlight. About a month from now we'll get a twinge when the sun sets at 8pm, and then, faster and faster, we'll notice the days getting shorter and our morning commutes getting darker.

Meh. That's in a month. Let's just enjoy the daylight we have now.

Date Significance Sunrise Sunset Daylight
2014
2 Jul 8:30pm sunset 05:20 20:30 15:10
16 Jul 5:30am sunrise 05:30 20:24 14:54
9 Aug 8pm sunset 05:53 19:59 14:06
16 Aug 6am sunrise 06:00 19:50 13:50
29 Aug 7:30pm sunset 06:13 19:30 13:16
14 Sep 6:30am sunrise 06:30 19:02 12:32
15 Sep 7pm sunset 06:31 19:00 12:22
22 Sep Equinox , 21:29 CDT 06:38 18:48 12:10
25 Sep 12-hour day 06:42 18:43 12:01
3 Oct 6:30pm sunset 06:50 18:29 11:39
12 Oct 7am sunrise 07:00 18:14 11:14
21 Oct 6pm sunset 07:10 18:00 10:50
1 Nov Latest sunrise until 1 Nov 2016
Latest sunset until Mar 5th
07:24 17:45 10:21
2 Nov Standard time returns
Earliest sunrise until Mar 2nd
06:25 16:44 10:19
6 Nov 6:30 sunrise 06:30 16:39 10:09
15 Nov 4:30pm sunset 06:41 16:30 9:49
2 Dec 7am sunrise 07:00 16:21 9:20
8 Dec Earliest sunset of the year 07:06 16:20 9:13
21 Dec Solstice , 17:03 CST 07:15 16:23 9:07
2015
4 Jan Latest sunrise until Oct 29th 07:19 16:33 9:14
28 Jan 5pm sunset 07:08 17:00 9:53
5 Feb 7am sunrise 07:00 17:11 10:11
20 Feb 5:30pm sunset 06:40 17:30 10:50
27 Feb 6:30am sunrise 06:29 17:39 11:09
7 Mar Earliest sunrise until Apr 12th
Earliest sunset until Oct 30th
06:17 17:48 11:31
8 Mar Daylight savings time begins
Latest sunrise until Oct 25th
Earliest sunset until Sep 22nd
07:15 18:49 11:34
17 Mar 7am sunrise, 7pm sunset
12-hour day
06:59 19:00 12:00
20 Mar Equinox 17:45 CDT 06:54 19:03 12:08
4 Apr 6:30am sunrise (again) 06:29 19:20 12:50
13 Apr 7:30pm sunset 06:14 19:30 13:15
22 Apr 6am sunrise 06:00 19:40 13:39
11 May 8pm sunset 05:35 20:00 14:25
16 May 5:30am sunrise 05:30 20:05 14:35
14 Jun Earliest sunrise of the year 05:15 20:28 15:12
20 Jun Solstice 11:38 CDT
8:30pm sunset
05:16 20:30 15:14
27 Jun Latest sunset of the year 05:18 20:31 15:12

You can get sunrise information for your location at wx-now.com.

Early-morning walks

When I go anywhere for only a couple of days, I try not to shift my body clock. It prevents jet lag, mostly.

This weekend I'm at my folks' house outside San Francisco, which has a two-hour time difference from Chicago. That is why I woke up at 5am and walked to the local Peet's Coffee, as I usually do.

This trip I may allow my clock to drift westward, though. I'm going to Tuesday night's Cubs game at AT&T Park at 7:05pm—9:05pm Central time—and would like to see the whole game. The Cubs might even win. I mean, they have a 1-in-3 shot, right?

I do like getting to the Peet's this early, though. First, the just-before-dawn walk is quiet and even a little spooky down the local bike trail, but today I got a tremendous view of the crescent Moon and Venus, which are passing just 2° from each other this morning. I'm never up this early at home unless I'm still up, which hasn't happened in years anyway.

Second, the Peet's is quiet right now. In two hours it'll be packed with families and locals (the fishermen who stay here for hours at a time most mornings are more colorful than any of the characters at the Alibi Room). Time to write for a bit, and wait for the rest of my family to wake up.

This is video of me and President Obama

Actually, it's a live feed from the ISS:


Live streaming video by Ustream

IFLS explains:

One of the latest missions from the ISS is kind of amazing. The High Definition Earth Viewing (HDEV) experiment consists of four cameras that have been attached outside of the ISS. Though temperature is controlled, the cameras are exposed to the radiation from the sun, which will allow astronauts to understand how radiation affects the instruments.

The cameras point down at Earth at all times, which makes for some breathtaking images. The feed will sometimes go down as the signal switches between the cameras, and it is hard to see when the ISS is on the dark side of the planet. If the cameras are down, the screen will be grey.

As I'm posting this, the ISS was just past the morning terminator, near the Philippines. It should fly almost directly over Chicago in 20 minutes or so. (The ISS orbits once every 92 minutes.)

How far off from sun time are you?

Via the IANA Time Zone Database mailing list, through Randy Olson, comes this map showing the difference between local solar time and what wall clocks show throughout the world:

At the time I’m writing, near the winter solstice, Madrid’s sunset is around 17:55, more than an hour later than the sunset in, for example, Naples, which is at a similar latitude. The same difference holds at the summer solstice and around the year. Just because it applies to most places I’ve been, a time like that in Naples feels more natural to me, and probably to most non-Spanish people. But is it?

Looking for other regions of the world having the same peculiarity of Spain, I edited a world map from Wikipedia to show the difference between solar and standard time. It turns out, there are many places where the sun rises and sets late in the day, like in Spain, but not a lot where it is very early (highlighted in red and green in the map, respectively). Most of Russia is heavily red, but mostly in zones with very scarce population; the exception is St. Petersburg, with a discrepancy of two hours, but the effect on time is mitigated by the high latitude. The most extreme example of Spain-like time is western China: the difference reaches three hours against solar time. For example, today the sun rises there at 10:15 and sets at 19:45, and solar noon is at 15:01.

If you live in the green areas of the map, the sun tends to rise and set earlier than in the red zones. Not coincidentally, the places that set time policy tend to be neutral: London, Washington, Sydney, Beijing, Ottawa...they're all nearly dead-center in their respective zones. The notable exception is Moscow, where time policy goes back and forth and may even change once more this year.

Finally, a commenter on the Reddit MapPorn post where this also appeared points out: "Fun fact: The small Afghan-Chinese border is the largest jump in timezone in the world. (3 and a half hour difference on each side) You'd get jet lag crossing that border."

Chicago sunrises, 2014

Here's the semi-annual Chicago sunrise chart . (You can get one for your own location at http://www.wx-now.com/Sunrise/SunriseChart.aspx .)

Sunrises are just starting to get earlier, but today's (7:18 CST) is only a few seconds earlier than the latest sunrise of the year on January 3rd. Even though the sunrise times creep earlier by seconds every day, sunsets start to get noticeably later: 16:39 today, 7 minutes later in a week, 25 minutes later in three weeks. January is cold and dark, but (on average) a few degrees warmer and 48 minutes longer when it ends than when it begins.

Date Significance Sunrise Sunset Daylight
2014
3 Jan Latest sunrise until Oct 29th 07:19 16:33 9:13
27 Jan 5pm sunset 07:08 17:00 9:51
4 Feb 7am sunrise 07:00 17:10 10:10
20 Feb 5:30pm sunset 06:40 17:30 10:50
27 Feb 6:30am sunrise 06:29 17:39 11:10
8 Mar Earliest sunrise until Apr 13th
Earliest sunset until Oct 29th
06:15 17:50 11:35
9 Mar Daylight savings time begins
Latest sunrise until Oct 24th
Earliest sunset until Sep 21st
07:13 18:51 11:38
17 Mar 7am sunrise, 7pm sunset
12-hour day
06:59 19:00 12:00
20 Mar Equinox 11:57 CDT 06:54 19:03 12:09
3 Apr 6:30am sunrise (again) 06:30 19:19 12:48
13 Apr 7:30pm sunset 06:13 19:30 13:16
22 Apr 6am sunrise 06:00 19:39 13:39
11 May 8pm sunset 05:35 20:00 14:25
16 May 5:30am sunrise 05:30 20:06 14:36
14 Jun Earliest sunrise of the year 05:15 20:28 15:12
20 Jun Solstice 18:09 CDT
8:30pm sunset
05:16 20:30 15:14
27 Jun Latest sunset of the year 05:18 20:31 15:12
2 Jul 8:30pm sunset 05:20 20:30 15:10
16 Jul 5:30am sunrise 05:30 20:24 14:54
9 Aug 8pm sunset 05:53 19:59 14:06
16 Aug 6am sunrise 06:00 19:50 13:50
29 Aug 7:30pm sunset 06:13 19:30 13:16
14 Sep 6:30am sunrise 06:30 19:02 12:32
15 Sep 7pm sunset 06:31 19:00 12:22
22 Sep Equinox , 21:29 CDT 06:38 18:48 12:10
25 Sep 12-hour day 06:42 18:43 12:01
3 Oct 6:30pm sunset 06:50 18:29 11:39
12 Oct 7am sunrise 07:00 18:14 11:14
21 Oct 6pm sunset 07:10 18:00 10:50
1 Nov Latest sunrise until 1 Nov 2016
Latest sunset until Mar 5th
07:24 17:45 10:21
2 Nov Standard time returns
Earliest sunrise until Mar 2nd
06:25 16:44 10:19
6 Nov 6:30 sunrise 06:30 16:39 10:09
15 Nov 4:30pm sunset 06:41 16:30 9:49
2 Dec 7am sunrise 07:00 16:21 9:20
8 Dec Earliest sunset of the year 07:06 16:20 9:13
21 Dec Solstice , 17:03 CST 07:15 16:23 9:07

You can get sunrise information for your location at wx-now.com.

Winter is here

It's cold in Chicago right now: -7°C with a wind chill of -13°C and gradual cooling predicted towards a low of -16°C Wednesday night. This is only the second time in 30 years it's been so cold, so early.

Two things: first, though I don't have time to link to anything right now, it turns out this cold in Chicago is caused by abnormally warm temperatures in the North Pacific. So, yeah, aggregate global warming causes localized cold snaps.

Second, thanks to celestial mechanics, tonight's sunset will be later than last night's for every point on earth that has a sunset. (Inside the Arctic and Antarctic circles, there are no sunsets today.) Sunsets continue to get later everywhere until well past the March equinox, even though sunrises in the Northern Hemisphere will also get later until January 6th. (See the Chicago sunrise chart for details.)

So, despite this really unpleasant weather, there are definite signs it will get warmer soon. Relatively soon, anyway.

Favorite morning of the year

Since we moved the end of Daylight Saving Time to the first week of November, sunrises at the end of October are later than those in mid-December. Yesterday's sunrise was the latest sunrise in a year, and will be the latest until 2016. (The sunrise on 6 November 2010 was the latest until 2021, so it really could be worse.)

In Chicago this morning, the sun rose at 6:26, the same time it rose on September 12th. It won't rise this early again until March 3rd—but then a week later we shift the clocks again so we get another 6:26 sunrise on April 6th.

National Geographic had not one but two articles on DST this weekend. Any conclusions? Some people don't like it and others do. The only conclusion I draw from reading both is whether DST benefits you depends on a lot of factors, geography preponderating.

I still don't know why we moved the fall switch from end of October to beginning of November in 2007. We want daylight for Hallowe'en? I really, really hate getting up before dawn, which wouldn't happen before Thanksgiving if we still used the pre-1986 (1st Sunday in October) rules; even the 1986-2006 regime (4th Sunday in October) would minimize it. Europe, including the UK, change their clocks the last Sunday in September and the last Sunday in March. That seems to work best for northern, cool climates—like Chicago. Maybe Illinois should go its own way, then?

Dark mornings

The week between when we used to switch back to Standard Time and when we do so now (since 2007) makes me want to stay in bed.

This morning sunrise happened at 7:18 and will slouch out to 7:25 on Saturday morning. It's the latest sunrise we'll have for three years, and it's 45 minutes after I usually get up in the morning.

I know a lot of people prefer more light in the afternoon. I don't care, really. Sunday the sun sets at 16:42; but it rises at 6:26, and gives me another month before the sun rises after 7 again. Then, of course, there's the slog from December 2nd to February 4th...but what can you do?

Just having a moan. You can ignore this post.