The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Fun weather for travel

We got about 150 mm of snow this morning, thanks to the giant lake a short walk from my house. This made getting Cassie to school a slog (she loved it, though), and made me seriously worry about my flight this evening.

Now it's sunny, and the roads are clear.

If only I knew how many parking spaces O'Hare had right now...

Happy 2nd Covidversary! And 5G...

Yes, today is the second anniversary of the first confirmed Covid-19 case popping up in Washington State. But that's not what this post is about.

No, instead, I want to highlight two articles about why airlines really do not like 5G mobile networks—at least, not the way the US implemented them:

“TO BE BLUNT,” reads a statement from ten U.S. airline executives, “the nation’s commerce will grind to a halt.” That was in a letter sent to the White House, the FAA and the FCC. “Unless our major hubs are cleared to fly,” it continues, “the vast majority of the traveling and shipping public will essentially be grounded.”

There’s perhaps an element of hysteria and hyperbole in play here, as you’d maybe expect. But there’s also a big problem, and unless things are quickly worked out, the potential does exist for massive flight disruptions.

Most of the issue revolves around a cockpit device known as a radar altimeter (sometimes called a “radio altimeter”). Unlike the plane’s primary altimeters, which measure height above a particular barometric pressure level, the radar altimeter measures height above the ground itself. Essentially it bounces a signal off the terrain below and determines its vertical distance, displayed in feet.

What this interference would actually look like, I’m not sure. Would it be some transient flickering? A failure of the instrument? Whatever it might be, the implications of an outside signal messing with this data, when you’re low over the runway in the fog or blowing snow, hardly need explaining.

The FAA has published a list of at-risk runways; there are hundreds of them. Pilots may not land on these runways during low-vis conditions that require a radar altimeter — i.e. Category II or III approaches — without a special authorization. That authorization comes in the form of something called an “alternative means of compliance,” or AMOC. Two types of radar altimeters commonly installed on Boeing and Airbus models have been judged safe for operation into certain runways. For now, however, this AMOC clearance applies only to around 20 percent of the country’s busiest airports.

The entire thing is a mess. And we saw it coming. Airlines, along with pilot unions and other industry groups, have been sounding the alarm on this for the better part of two years.

How did this happen? Well, the previous administration didn't believe that governments should interfere with business, so no one at the FCC (which approved the 5G implementation) discussed it with anyone at the FAA until the FAA blew a gasket. And yet, in other countries, 5G rollouts haven't caused any of these problems. Maybe because the other countries, with their functioning governments, got the implementation right:

The French antennas have permanent safeguards in airport buffer zones that provide more protection than the US ones. Further, the French antennas near airports have to be tilted downward to reduce interference, and the French antennas have far less power. Not mentioned here but also notable is that in Europe, the C-Band spectrum is in the 3.4 to 3.8 GHz range, so it’s further away from the range that radio altimeters use.

The FAA has a handy infographic explaining this in more detail:

It must be nice to live in a country with a functioning government.

Update: The Times columnist Peter Coy has more about the previous administration's political infighting that led us here.

Civis romanus sum

A grand jury convened by the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York has indicted four Belarusian security officials for air piracy:

In response to a purported bomb threat, Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, Belarus’s authoritarian president, sent a fighter jet on May 23 to intercept the Ryanair Boeing 737-800 carrying some 170 passengers from Athens to Vilnius, Lithuania — among them the journalist, Roman Protasevich. The forcing down of the plane and his seizure led to international outrage.

The bomb threat was a fake, orchestrated by senior Belarus officials who were seeking to detain Mr. Protasevich in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, the indictment says.

The move was seen as a marker of how far Mr. Lukashenko, with the support of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, was willing to go to repress dissent in his country.

The criminal complaint acknowledges that the incident occurred "out of the jurisdiction of any particular State or district of the United States," but 49 USC 46502(b)(2)(A) gives the United States jurisdiction over any unlawful seizure of an aircraft when a US national is onboard. This comes by way of the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft, which the US signed in September 1971 and, here's the thing, Belarus signed on December 30th of the same year.

I doubt that any of the defendants will avail themselves of the American justice system voluntarily. But the SDNY has issued arrest warrants for them, and I expect Interpol will get the warrants soon. And guess what? Belarus is a member of Interpol.

This indictment also won't bring down Lukashenko's government, especially not with Russia's dictator Vladimir Putin needing a pliant Belarus to maintain his own internal power. But the four guys who actually carried out his illegal orders might wind up leaving Belarus in someone's diplomatic bag.

Property crime stories that have deeper meanings than I first thought

On this day in 1950, eleven thieves stole $2.7m ($29.8m today) from the Brink's Armored Car depot in Boston. They would have avoided prosecution had they just followed the plan, but the Liddy Rule got them in the end ("three people can keep a secret as long as two of them are dead").

Flash forward 72 years and we find that theft again dominates the news in Los Angeles, as thieves plunder stopped trains outside the intermodal depot in Lincoln Heights. If your package is delayed, it might have helped derail a freight train just down the hill from Dodger Stadium.

Finally, FedEx has asked the Federal Aviation Administration for permission to install anti-missile lasers on its A321-200 cargo jets. I couldn't find statistics about how many airplanes have taken fire from portable missile batteries, but apparently FedEx has enough trepidation about them to want countermeasures on its planes.

I just realized I put those stories in order of increasing chaotic destruction. Hm. More to think about.

Technically a good landing

The pilot of a Cessna 172H that crash-landed near Burbank, Calif., earlier this week survived with non-life-threatening injuries, but he came uncomfortably close to a really bad landing—and they most assuredly cannot use the plane again:

LAPD officers pulled an injured pilot from a crashed Cessna 172 moments before it was struck and destroyed by a commuter train. Mark Jenkins, the 70-year-old pilot, was pulled from the wreckage of the aircraft after he crash landed on railroad tracks near Whiteman Airport, which is located in the north Los Angeles suburbs near Burbank Airport. Police body camera footage revealed that several officers acted quickly to free and remove Jenkins just seconds before the Metrolink train obliterated it.

The police body-cam video shows just how close everyone came to the train. Jeebus.

Winter in Chicago

The temperature bottomed out at -14.4°C around 1:30 am, and has climbed ever so slowly since then to -0.3°:

Will we get above freezing? The forecast says yes, any moment now. But the sun will set in about 5 minutes. Anyway, a guy can dream, right?

Meanwhile, Chicago's teachers and schools have agreed to let the kids back tomorrow, even as the mayor herself tested positive for Covid. And the Art Institute's workforce has formed a union, which will operate under AFSCME.

And that's not all:

And finally, just as no one could have predicted that more guns leads to more gun violence, the same people could not have predicted that the NFT craze would lead to NFT fraud.

Statistics: 2021

After the whipsaw between 2019 and 2020, I'm happy 2021 came out within a standard deviation of the mean on most measures:

  • In 2020, I flew the fewest air miles ever. In 2021, my 11,868 miles and five segments came in 3rd lowest, ahead of only 2020 and 1999.
  • I only visited one other country (the UK) and two other states (Wisconsin and California) during 2021. What a change from 2014.
  • In 2020, I posted a record 609 times on The Daily Parker; 2021's 537 posts came in about average for the modern era.
  • Cassie got almost 422 hours of walks in 2021, a number I don't think I ever achieved with Parker. And given I only had her for 291 days of 2021, that's an average of 1:27 of walks per day. According to my Garmin, she and I covered over 684 km just on walks that I recorded with my watch. A young, high-energy dog plus working from home most of the time will do that, I suppose.
  • Speaking of walks, in 2021 I got 4,926,000 steps and walked 3,900 km—about the straight-line distance from New York to Seattle. Those numbers came within 2% of 2020 and 4% of 2019. I also hit new personal records for distance and steps when I walked over 51 km on September 3rd. And I hit my step goal 355 times (cf. 359 times in 2020), though not all in a row.
  • I drove 4,242 km in 2021, almost exactly the same amount as in 2020 (4,265 km), but I used a bit more fuel (116 L to 79 L).
  • I spent 1365 hours working from home and 521 in the office in 2021, about the same (1327 and 560) as in 2020. I expect about the same in 2022.
  • Personal software development took up another 184 hours, almost all on the really cool thing I'm going to soft-launch tomorrow.
  • The Apollo Chorus took up 222 hours of my time, including 100 in rehearsals and performances and about the same amount on my duties as president. In 2020, that was 57 and 71 hours respectively, mainly because we didn't have any in-person performances.
  • Finally, I started only 28 books in 2021 and finished 23, after dropping a couple that dogged me for a while. That's more than in my worst-ever year, 2017 (18 and 13), but down a bit from the last two years. That said, my average numbers for the past 10 years are 28.2 and 23.3, making 2021...average. I also watched 51 movies and 48 TV shows, which just means I need to get out more.

So, will 2022 return to normal (-ish)? Or will some of the trends that started in March 2020 continue even after the pandemic has long become something we scare children with?

Tragedy and farce

We're all set to perform Handel's Messiah tomorrow and Sunday, which got noticed by both the local news service and local TV station. Otherwise, the week just keeps getting odder:

And to cap all that off, the National Weather Service has announced a Hazardous Weather Outlook for tonight that includes...tornados? I hope the weather gets better before our performance.

Daring rescue attempt in Buffalo

Via reporter Stephen Watson, the US Coast Guard attempted a daring rescue from a car stuck less than 100 meters from the American Falls in the Niagara River—which unfortunately became a daring recovery:

The harrowing effort by a Coast Guard diver to reach an occupied vehicle caught in the churning Niagara River just 50 yards from the brink of the American Falls drew international notice Wednesday.

The rescue attempt ended with the somber news that the woman in the vehicle was already dead before the diver was lowered by helicopter to the vehicle, opened the passenger door, pulled her out and lifted her to shore.

The vehicle drifted downriver until it became lodged in the riverbed, about 10 yards or so from the mainland shore and about 50 yards upstream from the precipice of the American Falls.

The vehicle, a black sedan, faced toward the bridges while its rear end was pointed toward the falls with its trunk open. The river currents washed up over the front windshield, while water rushing by the sides reached halfway up the doors.

The article has video. The USCG doesn't get nearly enough credit in general, but they earned this one.

Cassie is bored

The temperature bottomed out last night just under -10°C, colder than any night since I adopted Cassie. (We last got that cold on February 20th.) Even now the temperature has just gone above -6°C. Though she has two fur coats on all the time, I still think keeping her outside longer than about 20 minutes would cause her some discomfort.

Add that it's Messiah week and I barely have enough free time to give her a full hour of walks today.

Meanwhile, life goes on, even if I can only get the gist of it:

Finally, journalist Allison Robicelli missed a connection at O'Hare this past weekend, and spent the wee hours exploring the empty terminals. The last time I stared down a 12-hour stay at an airport, I hopped into the Tube and spent 8 of those hours exploring the city instead, but I'm not a professional journalist.