The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

What I'll be watching for tomorrow

I plan to live-blog off and on tomorrow evening, understanding the likelihood that we won't know the results of many of the races until later in the week. I'm watching these races most closely (all times CST, UTC-6):

6pm

Polls close in Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, and Virginia. Of these, I mainly want to know the results in Georgia's two US Senate races, plus the US Senate race in South Carolina and the Georgia presidential totals. In Kentucky, Amy McGrath has less than a 1 in 20 chance of winning, but if you've ever played D&D you know that doesn't mean she's dead. Kentucky expects 90% of votes to be counted Tuesday night. The other three may have all their results as well, but Virginia might not have close races resolved until next week.

6:30pm

North Carolina and Ohio are must-wins for the president; North Carolina is a likely US Senate pick-up for the Democratic Party. In Ohio, the president is favored by about 62%; in North Carolina, Biden is favored around 66%. While most ballots will be counted Tuesday night in Ohio, final results may take until November 18th. We should know North Carolina by Wednesday morning.

7pm

Polls close here, in Maine, most of Texas, and a number of states unlikely to sway the election. However, by this point, polls representing 272 electoral votes will have closed. Illinois results for everything except the Fair Tax amendment will come out Tuesday night, though final results could take until the counting deadline on November 17th. We'll know whether Maine's Susan Colins goes on the dole before midnight in Chicago. But Texas, boy, I don't know. They may have some results Tuesday night but absentee ballots can come in through 5pm Wednesday.

8pm

Polls close in Arizona, Colorado, Michigan, New York, the western nub of Texas, and Wisconsin. Arizona should start releasing their results by 9pm, and with Mark Kelly and Joe Biden both expected to win the state, this may be the first one I actually celebrate. Colorado should start reporting results overnight, and Wisconsin should report everything by Wednesday morning. Michigan and New York will take several days to report results. (New York, in fact, has until the 28th to report its results, according to state law.)

9pm

Of the races whose polls close at this time, I care most about Iowa's US Senate race. It's dead-even between incumbent Republican Joni Ernst and Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield. Because Iowa counts ballots that arrive up until the 9th, we will have to wait a week to know for sure.

10pm

All three West Coast states plus Idaho close at this time, though I don't expect any surprises. All three should go for Biden by wide margins, and only Oregon has a US Senate race that incumbent Democrat Jeff Merkley should win easily. The only exciting event at 10pm will be the AP officially calling all 74 of those Electoral College votes for Biden.

11pm

The networks can call Hawai'i, with its 4 electoral votes and no US Senate race, at this time.

Midnight

Alaska finally closes its polls, sending its 3 electoral votes to the president. But the US Senate Race is still in play, with Democrat Al Gross nipping at incumbent Republican Dan Sullivan's heels. Unless the revolt from the left exceeds even my optimistic expectations, Sullivan will probably sit in the 117th Congress. However, since Alaska won't even start counting votes received after October 29th until next Tuesday, we won't know until the 18th.

In the background, I want to know state legislature races in a few states, like North Carolina. 

Sources:

Hazy shade of wildfires

Smoke from the wildfires out west reached Chicago yesterday:

It’s not unusual for smoke from various regions to reach northern Illinois, especially from larger fires, according to Mark Ratzer, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Chicago-area office.

Smoke from fires hundreds of miles away can billow high into the atmosphere and get carried to other regions by jet streams and winds aloft, causing cloudier skies and slightly cooler temperatures. Mid- and upper-level winds were carrying smoke this week from the West and Northwest into the Chicago area, creating the same effect.

“It’s not that it’s affecting our air quality (at the) surface,” Ratzer said. “You’re not able to smell it or anything like that, but it has created kind of a smoke layer aloft which is keeping the sun rather dim.”

It shows up pretty clearly from space, as do hurricanes Sally (over Louisiana) and Paulette (near Bermuda):

The president, meanwhile, suggests that the states go on to federal land and rake up some of the undergrowth to prevent fires. Because of course, it couldn't be climate change.

Afternoon news break

Here we go:

Finally, for only $875,000, you can own this contemporary, 2-story house...on top of an 8-story building.

Weather, just more of it

This is the view from Half Moon Bay, Calif., not far from the CZU Lightning Complex Fire, at 9am this morning:

Update: The same reader sent this photo from noon PDT:

Fires continue to burn all over the state despite some modest cooling from this weekend's record temperatures. The California Air Resources Board notes that the increased frequency and severity of these fires, like the increased frequency and severity of other weather-related incidents, comes directly from climate change.

The image seems eerily familiar to us sci-fi fans:

Meanwhile, the Rocky Mountains have a completely different set of weather problems today:

Across parts of the northern and the central Rockies, including Denver, some 6 million people were under winter alerts Tuesday. Across this region, 100 to 200 mm of snow could fall, with locally higher amounts of 300 to 450 mm at the highest elevations through Wednesday. As the day broke, snow was already falling across parts of Idaho, Utah and Wyoming and moving into northern Colorado. By midmorning Tuesday, the snow was expected to spread across Colorado and last through Wednesday morning.

Winter hadn't just arrived through precipitation: Temperatures 17–22°C below average were forecast to lead to numerous records Tuesday and Wednesday.

Lows were forecast to dip below -10°C with wind chills [well below that], with highs that will struggle to get [above freezing] for several locations from the Rockies to parts of the Plains.

On Saturday, [Denver] hit 39°C. Not only was that a daily record high, But it also set an all-time hottest temperature record for the month of September in the city, and it was the furthest into September the city had ever hit 38°C. The previous record was 36.5°C, set last September.

On Monday, Denver hit a high of 34°C, making it the 73rd day in 2020 to exceed 32°C. That tied the all-time record of 73 days set in 2012.

Just 12 hours later, Denver was nearly 34°C colder Tuesday morning, with light snow beginning to fall around the area.

So, in three days, Denver went from a record-shattering 39°C to one of its earliest snowfalls on record.

This year just continues to get weirder.

Wow, that's hot

Yesterday, Woodland Hills, Calf., a neighborhood in Los Angeles, recorded its hottest temperature ever:

As a historic heat wave left Southern California broiling, Woodland Hills on Sunday recorded an all-time high of 49.4°C, which the National Weather Service said was the hottest temperature recorded at an official weather station in Los Angeles County.

It broke the old record of 48.3°C set in July of 2006 and was one of several records to fall on Sunday. The NWS said Riverside hit its highest temperature ever for September at 47.2°C; Santa Ana hit a record high for the day at 41.1°C.

Meanwhile, up the coast in the Bay Area, San Francisco (!) topped out at 38.9°C—a little warmer than the 14°C they recorded Saturday morning—and even Half Moon Bay, right on the coast, hit 32°C, which almost never happens. (It's back down to 20°C there right now.)

In case you're wondering, Death Valley hit a cool 50°C around noon yesterday before dropping off to 36°C overnight.

The A/C seems broken

It got a little warm in Death Valley, Calif., yesterday:

In the midst of a historic heat wave in the West, the mercury in Death Valley, Calif., surged to a searing 54.4°C on Sunday afternoon, possibly setting a world record for the highest temperature ever observed during the month of August.

If the temperature is valid, it would also rank among the top-three highest temperatures ever measured on the planet at any time and may, in fact, be the highest.

Death Valley famously holds the record for the hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth, which is 56.7°C. This record was set on July 10, 1913. However, that measurement is very much in question; an extensive analysis of that record conducted in 2016 by Christopher Burt, an expert on extreme weather data, concluded it was “essentially not possible from a meteorological perspective.”

The National Weather Service has since started a Twitter thread about the record.

Tribune feature on the Southwest Chief

Freelance writer Alexandra Marvar took the Southwest Chief from Chicago to Los Angeles:

I boarded the 2:50 p.m. Southwest Chief out of Chicago’s Union Station on a Friday. By mid-morning Sunday, we’ll arrive at another Union Station: Los Angeles. I could have flown between the two cities in roughly four hours. But as a frequent flyer all too familiar with the rush and stress of air travel, I was drawn to the idea of a long, slow journey across America by rail. Now, 15 hours into my inaugural long-haul train trip — a $146-dollar (coach class), 44-hour, 2,265-mile excursion through eight states — the experience hasn’t stopped surprising me.

Our reasons for being here are just three of a thousand. A young costume designer headed to a funeral in Topeka, Kansas, couldn’t afford last-minute airfare. Amish families are traveling to a hospital in Mexico for more affordable health care; four couples claim the last two booths in the observation car for a two-day marathon card game of Rook. A married couple who met in high school 50-plus years ago are on their way to La Junta, Colorado, to visit a recently discovered ancestor’s grave. They’ve ridden Amtrak together for decades. We talked about trains throughout last night’s white-tablecloth dinner of steaks cooked to order. We all shared our desserts.

It's a long way to go for a brew.

I've actually taken the Southwest Chief, and its predecessor the Southwest Limited, twice. I'd love to do it again. But like Marvar, I think I'd prefer a roomette to a coach seat.

Fuel dumped on a schoolyard? Really, Delta?

A Delta 777 en route from LAX to Shanghai declared an emergency and had to dump thousands of kilograms of fuel to land under the safe landing weight. Planes, particularly heavy transport-class aircraft, do this so they don't destroy their landing gear and the runway itself when landing in an emergency situation.

Now, if you know LAX, you know that generally planes take off over the ocean. In those rare cases when they have emergencies and need to circle back, they dump fuel over the ocean.

Not this guy:

A Delta flight injured more than 50 people after dumping fuel on a Los Angeles schoolyard and school buildings when it declared an emergency shortly after departing for China from the Los Angeles International Airport on Tuesday.

At least 20 children were were treated for minor injuries after being exposed to the jet fuel, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department. The department said it had a total of 44 patients from four schools: Park Avenue Elementary, Tweedy Elementary, Graham Elementary and San Gabriel Avenue Elementary.

Another 16 people were treated from two schools, Jordan High School and 93rd Elementary, which were also exposed to jet fuel, the Los Angeles City Fire Department said.

Here's the plane's track:

Going by the track log, the plane had a relatively normal climb out for about two minutes to 5,000 feet, then started a turn to the north and leveled off at just below 8,000 feet. The diversion occurred nine minutes into the flight over Simi Valley. I suppose they needed to get him back into the approach path over land because there weren't any good alternatives once he got over land again.

The fuel dumping occurred about halfway between the final turn southwest and landing. At that point the plane was level at 2,400 feet and in no position to do much else but land. But Jet-A (aka kerosene) doesn't evaporate completely from that altitude. So kids got covered in it. Yuck.

The L.A. Times has more:

Ross Aimer, chief executive officer of Aero Consulting Experts, said fuel dumping is very rare and is used only in case of emergencies or if pilots have to lessen the load of the plane to land.

“Most pilots choose not to dump fuel unless the emergency really dictates it,” Aimer said.

Among the emergencies would be landing gear that is not functioning and would make it hard to control the plane.

Aimer said that without knowing what Flight 89’s emergency was, the pilot may have been in the final stage of dumping fuel as it was heading toward LAX, resulting in today’s controversial fuel dumping incident.

The L.A. Times also believes the world is flat, as both articles about the incident by staff writer Matt Stiles insist that the plane diverted over Santa Monica Bay, rather than over Hidden Hills, as the track shows. The great-circle departure vector from LAX to PVG is 312°, or northwest. And the flight plan as filed called for the plane to fly 336° (nearly north) and intercept today's westbound route over the Pacific, which it would probably have picked up some distance due north over California or Oregon.

I can't wait to read the NTSB incident report. And I do wish reporters knew aviation better.

Ride-sharing platforms have no inherent right to exist

I mentioned earlier today Aaron Gordon's evisceration of Uber's and Lyft's business model. It's worth a deeper look:

The Uber and Lyft pretzel logic is as follows: Drivers are their customers and also independent contractors but cannot negotiate prices or any terms of their contract. Uber and Lyft are platforms, not transportation companies. Drivers unionizing would be price-fixing, but Uber and Lyft can price-fix all they want. Riders pay the driver for their transportation, not the platforms, even though the platforms are the ones that set the prices and collect the money and allocate it however they want, often such that the driver does not in fact receive much of the rider’s fare.

There is a version of Uber and Lyft that might be profitable even if drivers are employees, but it is a much humbler one. It is one that uses the genuine efficiencies of app-based taxi hailing—the very ones Uber and Lyft claim is their actual secret sauce other than widespread worker exploitation—to get a smaller number of drivers more customers for each of them. 

Exactly. If Yellow Cab in Chicago had created an app to find and direct taxis, it would be just as good as Uber or Lyft, but it would cost consumers more to use because taxi fares are regulated. That would be OK by me.

I can't wait to see the effects of California Assembly Bill 5 on the two companies.

Shooting at Gilroy Garlic Festival

I want Wayne LaPierre to apologize, in person, to Alberto Romero:

The shooting left three people dead — including a 6-year-old boy — and 12 injured, local officials said. Authorities initially reported that 15 people had been hurt but amended the count early Monday morning. One gunman was killed by officers at the scene, Gilroy Police Chief Scot Smithee said.

In an interview with NBC Bay Area, Alberto Romero confirmed that his 6-year-old son, Stephen, had died. The boy’s mother and grandmother were also shot and injured, the news station reported.

“I lost my son,” Alberto Romero told the news station. “There’s nothing I really can do besides try to be with him until I can put him in his resting spot.”

Romero later added: “My son had his whole life to live and he was only 6.”

Decades of the National Rifle Association trying to sell as many guns as possible have led to this. And to every other mass shooting in the last 30 years. There have been 196 mass shootings in 2019 so far, or about one every day. And the fact that the United States is the only OECD country where this happens means that we can stop them from happening simply by adopting gun controls similar to every other country in the world.

Wayne LaPierre and his entire septic organization should be held liable for each and every one of these murders until he and the NRA are insolvent. And then they should be held liable some more.