The Bureau of Geographic Names has a multi-year plan to rid the US of racist place names:
Usually, the public eye is far from the BGN, a member of the class of government bodies whose work you could go a lifetime without thinking about, even though it’s all around you. But the board now finds itself in the middle of the fiery national debate over racism and language. In recent years, the BGN has spent more of its time reconsidering offensive names than doing anything else, but the process typically takes months and is reactive by design, with names considered case by case upon request.
A different, faster process is possible. In November, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Native American to hold that post, issued an order designed to wipe any mentions of “Squaw,” probably the most frequently used slur in place names, off the map. She issued a second order that will establish an advisory committee to identify other offensive names that might be proactively changed under a similar mechanism. In 2020, when Haaland was a member of Congress, she introduced a bill that would also create such a committee, and although Green and Senator Elizabeth Warren reintroduced it this year, the bill is stuck in limbo.
But even the expedited process will take time. Removing all uses of “Squaw” is expected to take about a year, and that’s the simpler of the two orders. One challenge is that determining what’s offensive isn’t always straightforward. Names including a slur are easy, but others—such as Jew Valley, Oregon, named after a group of Jewish homesteaders—are less clear-cut. Another is that any feature whose name is removed needs a new one, ideally one that is locally meaningful and that will age better than whatever it’s replacing. The BGN is designed with process in mind, not justice or equity.
Weather Now, my demo application, makes heavy use of BGN data. Most of the US places in its gazetteer have BGN identifiers so I can update them automatically.
The deployment I concluded yesterday that involved recreating production assets in an entirely new Azure subscription turned out much more boring (read: successful) than anticipated. That still didn't stop me from working until 6pm, but by that point everything except some older demo data worked just fine.
That left a bit of a backup of stuff to read, which I may try to get through at lunch today:
Finally, summer apparently arrives in full force tomorrow. We're looking forward to temperatures 5-10°C above normal through mid-June, which will continue northern Illinois' drought for at least a few more weeks.
Just a few stories:
Finally, it only took 375 years and satellite imagery, but geologists have demonstrated that New Zealand is on its own continent.
Sony-made GPS chipsets failed all over the world this weekend when a GPS cheat-sheet of sorts expired:
In general, the pattern of your route is correct, but it may be displaced to one side or the other. However, in many cases by the completion of the workout, it sorts itself out. In other words, it’s mostly a one-time issue.
The issue has to do with the ephemeris data file, also called the EPO file (Extended Prediction Orbit) or Connected Predictive Ephemeris (CPE). Or simply the satellite pre-cache file. That’s the file that’s delivered to your device on a frequent basis (usually every few days). This file is what makes your watch near-instantly find GPS satellites when you go outside. It’s basically a cheat-sheet of where the satellites are for the next few days, or up to a week or so.
I experienced this failure as well. I recorded two walks on my Garmin Venu, one Friday and one yesterday. In both cases, the recorded GPS tracks appeared about 400 m to the west of where I actually walked.
Because the issue started between 22:30 UTC on December 31st and 15:00 UTC on January 1st, I (and others) suspect this may have been bad date handling. Last year not only had 366 days, but also 53 weeks, depending on how the engineers configured the calendar. So what probably happened is that an automatic CPE update failed or appeared to expire because the calendar handling was off.
Dates are hard.
A 10-hectare section of Alta, Norway, slipped into the sea on Wednesday, destroying 8 vacation homes and temporarily inconveniencing a dog:
The landslide, which ran 2,133 feet along the shore and went nearly 500 feet inland, was the largest the area has ever seen, according to Anders Bjordal, a Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate senior engineer who was involved in the rescue operation.
“In this municipality, a landslide has not happened in 50 or 60 years, and there has never been one this size,” Mr. Bjordal said on Friday.
Jan Egil Bakkeby, who owned one of the cabins, scrambled out of the building when he heard the landslide begin. “I had just made two slices of bread when I heard it crack in the cabin,” he told the Norwegian newspaper Altaposten. “At first I thought there was someone in the loft, but then I saw out of the window that the power cord was smoking.”
As he moved to higher ground, he filmed the scene as a swath of land under his and others’ properties inched into the water and was soon submerged.
Only one rescue took place: A dog was swept away when the land began to slip, and the animal was carried out to sea, officials said. The dog was able to swim ashore and was rescued by a helicopter that was checking the area for missing people.
The video is surreal:
But I will take the time as soon as I get it:
Now, I need more tea, and more coding.
To almost everyone's frustration, the Supreme Court rendered two unanimous decisions today in which they declined to rule on the constitutionality of two gerrymandering cases. This means both Wisconsin and Maryland will keep their district maps through the November election:
In the Wisconsin case, the court said that the challenges must be brought district by district, with voters in each proving that their rights had been violated. The challengers asked the court to consider the state map as a whole.
The Maryland case was still at a preliminary stage, and the court in an unsigned opinion said the lower court had not been wrong when it decided not to make the state redraw the maps in time for the 2018 election.
The justices sent the [Wisconsin] case back to a panel of three federal judges to see if the challengers could modify their suit to show they have plaintiffs in the individual districts.
Justice Elena Kagan wrote that the plaintiffs should be able to do so.
“Courts—and in particular this court—will again be called on to redress extreme partisan gerrymanders,” she wrote. “I am hopeful we will then step up to our responsibility to vindicate the Constitution against a contrary law.”
I totally understand why SCOTUS punted, because they really do not want to weigh in on such a politicized issue. But wow, given that a majority of Wisconsin voters are Democrats, it's obvious that the current Wisconsin map is a power-grab by Republicans who fear they're losing power against urban Democrats.
We're not going to be done with this in my lifetime.
Scientists have found a correlation (but, crucially, not a causation) between the earth's rotation slowing slightly and an increase in seismic activity:
Although such fluctuations in rotation are small – changing the length of the day by a millisecond – they could still be implicated in the release of vast amounts of underground energy, it is argued.
The link between Earth’s rotation and seismic activity was highlighted last month in a paper by Roger Bilham of the University of Colorado in Boulder and Rebecca Bendick of the University of Montana in Missoula presented at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America.
“The correlation between Earth’s rotation and earthquake activity is strong and suggests there is going to be an increase in numbers of intense earthquakes next year,” Bilham told the Observer last week.
Exactly why decreases in day length should be linked to earthquakes is unclear although scientists suspect that slight changes in the behaviour of Earth’s core could be causing both effects.
Energy has to go somewhere. And systems as large as the earth move a lot of energy around. Could get rumbly this year.
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.
Via a longtime reader, geologists have new evidence clarifying how Britain split off from the European mainland 450,000 YBP:
Researchers have found geological proof of one theory, that a catastrophic flood sparked massive waterfalls that cut through the rock ridge running through what's now the Dover Strait.
Analysis of [sonar] imagery, alongside existing supporting data, has led Collier and Gupta to report that Britain left Europe via a much more catastrophic route than erosion simply nibbling away at our connection to the continent. Instead, a glacial lake — perhaps sparked by an earthquake — over spilled its bounds in giant torrents of water.
"The waterfalls were so huge they left behind the plunge pools, some several kilometres in diameter and 100 metres deep in solid rock, running in a line from Calais to Dover," Collier said.
The chalky escarpment - similar to the cliffs at Dover - fell apart and released an epic flood, partially washing away the British land bridge to Europe.
That event wasn't enough to entirely separate the UK from Europe, with the final breach caused by a second megaflood that followed the first by as much as a hundred thousand years.
They conclude, "Had the initial flood not happened, the researchers added that Britain could still be connected to Europe, jutting out the same way Denmark does today."