The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Athletic activity heat maps

Via CityLab's new newsletter "MapLab:"

Vision Zero” supporters are tapping into big data in other ways. This month, Strava, the app that tracks users’ athletic activity, re-released a “Global Heatmap” tracing more than 1 billion jogs, hikes, and bike rides by millions of members around the world. (The running scene in London, in striking orange and black, is shown above.) Already, some public agencies are making use of the data to support and protect all that sweat. CityLab’s Benjamin Schneider recently wrote about how Utah’s DOT is changing road and intersection designs to be safer for cyclists, based on the map. “It’s replacing anecdote with data,” one local planner told him.

Here's the run map for Chicago's north lakefront:

This is total Daily Parker bait. But I actually have work to do today.

If it were clear, and dark, and there were no streetlights

...this app might be fun. CityLab explains:

Floating in space among the stars and planets are more than 2,250 satellites and “space junk” traveling at up to 18,000 miles an hour. Some are large enough to be seen with the naked eye—though you’d have to first figure out which ones are within your line of sight.

Luckily, there’s a map for that now, by Patricio Gonzalez Vivo, a graphics engineer at Mapzen who has a knack for turning pure data into mesmerizing visuals (like this one of New York City). His latest project, Line of Sight, traces the orbital path of more than a thousand of those satellites and predicts their current location using open-source data from tracking sites like CelesTrak andSatNogs. Plug in your address (or choose one of the pre-selected cities) to see if there are any satellites—shown as yellow dots—nearby. Or zoom out to watch all the satellites orbit the Earth at once in a dazzling visualization.

His city visualizer is also really cool.

Alan Tudyk's Cri de Coeur

The Firefly alumnus (and Joss Whedon favorite) and Nathan Fillion have released the first four episodes of a Web series that can't be entirely fictional:

I look forward to watching it.

Changes to TDP on the way...maybe

Since development of DasBlog petered out in 2012, and since I have an entire (size A1) Azure VM dedicated solely to hosting The Daily Parker, I've been looking for a new blog engine for this blog.

The requirements are pretty broad:

  • Written in .NET
  • Open source or source code available for download
  • Can use SQL Server as a data source (instead of the local file system, like DasBlog)
  • Can deploy to an Azure Web App (to get it off the VM)
  • Still in active development
  • Modern appearance and user experience

See? Look-and-feel is in there somewhere. But mainly I want something I can play with.

I'm still evaluating them. This list was really helpful, and pointed me towards the successor to DasBlog, BlogEngine.NET. Mads Kristensen's newest blog engine, MiniBlog, has potential, but it doesn't seem ready for prime time yet.

The changes will come at some point in the next few months, assuming I have time to play with some options and modify the chosen engine to support a few features I want, like time zone support and location tagging. I also want to see about adding completely new features, like Google Timeline integration, or private journals and events, which require encryption and other security measures that blog engines don't usually have. Not to mention the possibility of using DocumentDB as a data source...

Stay tuned. The Daily Parker's 10th birthday is coming in November.

Stolen puppies and incompetent spies

Just some of the news stories I haven't got time to read this morning:

I will now continue doing tasks from two jobs ago while I think about things I'd like to do for my current job.

Today is the longest day of the year

No, really. Today will have 86,401 seconds in it, as opposed to the usual 86,400 seconds that every day for the last 18 years has had.

Because the earth interacts with lots of other gravity sources in the universe—most notably the moon—its rotation sometimes speeds up and sometimes slows down. Over the last 18 years or so, the planet has lost an entire second because of these perturbations, requiring us to update our most accurate clocks to compensate. Of course, when those clocks get updated, there's a trickle-down effect, because so much of what we do in the 21st Century requires really, really accurate timekeeping.

So, this evening in Chicago, the 6pm hour will have 3,601 seconds in it as the master clocks all over the planet add their leap second at 23:59:60 UTC.

Enjoy your extra second.

Bob, you're looking a bit blue

A trio of teenagers in the UK won a science prize for their concept of condoms that change color in the presence of sexually-transmitted disease pathogens:

Their idea - which is still at concept stage - involves a condom covered with antibodies that would react with the proteins in bacteria, or antigens, found in STIs.

Daanyaal [Ali, 14,] explained: "Once the [bodily] fluids come into contact with the latex, if the person does have some sort of STI, it will cause a reaction through antibodies and antigens hanging on to each other, which triggers an antibody reaction causing a colour change."

Dr Mark Lawton, [a consultant in sexual health and HIV at the Royal Liverpool Hospital,] said, "The technology for colour change in the presence of an antigen is certainly something that does happen - the home test for HIV relies on a colour change detecting antibodies for HIV. It does normally require some additional chemicals in that process and [with a condom] you'd obviously need to make sure that those chemicals weren't going to be harmful or toxic or in any way cause irritation."

This is a great concept. I hope they can commercialize it.

More stuff on my Kindle

Fortunately, I have a couple of long flights coming up in two weeks. Unfortunately, not all of this will be relevant then:

Tonight I'm taking a short break to go to the Wait! Wait! Don't tell me taping, which is conveniently located two blocks from my office. And tomorrow I might have some time to think.

Lotus 1-2-3 epoch day weirdness

The ancient spreadsheet package Lotus 1-2-3 set "0 January 1900" as its day zero. Whenever you entered a date into a Lotus spreadsheet, the program actually stored the number of days before or since that mythical date. Microsoft Excel needed to maintain compatability with Lotus early on, so it set 30 December 1899 as its day zero, which worked very well except for dates between 30 December 1899 and 1 January 1900, and it added the other mythical date 29 February 1900 because Lotus had that bug as well.

Flash forward a few decades, and today brings us a little bit of weirdness that only shows up in the American Month-Day-Year format.

Today is 4/21/15 in the U.S., and also day 42115 in Excel.

This bit of nerdiness brought to you by the Daily Water Cooler and one of The Daily Parker's readers.