The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Ah, spring

Winter officially has another week and a half to run, but we got a real taste of spring in all its ridiculousness this week:

Yesterday the temperature got up to 13°C at O'Hare, up from the -10°C we had Monday morning. It's heading down to -11°C overnight, then up to 7°C on Sunday. (Just wait until I post the graph for the entire week.)

Welcome to Chicago in spring.

Elsewhere:

  • Republicans in New York and Illinois have a moan about the redistricting processes in those states that will result in heavily-skewed Democratic legislatures and House delegations, even while acknowledging that we've agreed to put down our gun when they put down theirs.
  • The pillowmonger we all know and love, who rails on about unauthorized, disease-carrying immigrants to our country, got all pissy with Canada when they kicked him out for being an unauthorized, disease-carrying immigrant.
  • The pillowmonger's friend the XPOTUS had a no good, very bad, rotten week that he totally deserved.
  • Voters roundly ejected the president and vice president (plus another divisive member) of the San Francisco School Board that the Editor in Chief of Mother Jones says was for incompetence, not politics.
  • Alaska Airlines has a new subscription deal for California that could become more common with other carriers if it takes off.

Finally, if you're in Chicago and want to hear a free Apollo Chorus concert tonight, leave a note in the comments. We perform at Harris Theater at 8pm.

The numbers are better but the feelings aren't

Last night I went to the "Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!" taping at Harris Theater in Chicago, and afterwards my friend and I talked about how gloomy the weather and darkness of winter are. I pointed out to her that tomorrow, February 5th, the sun rises at 7:00 for the first time since November 15th, and we've got 55 minutes more daylight than we had at the solstice six weeks ago. In other words, yes, it still gets dark early and we get up most weekdays before dawn, but things have already improved since the darkest days of December. And we get another hour of daylight only three weeks from now, on February 27th.

Same with the weather. Temperatures in Chicago lag the seasons by about a month, which gives us our hottest days at the end of July and our coldest at the end of January. But despite all the snow on the ground and the likelihood of below-freezing temperatures until Tuesday, the worst part of winter really is behind us. February is, on average, noticeably warmer than January. March warmer still. Spring starts 23 days from now no matter what today's weather looks like.

And, of course, same with Covid-19. While we still have Covid jerks like former half-term Alaska governor Sarah "Rogue" Palin, along with masking recommendations that seem to change more frequently than people can follow (but, really, don't change much at all), the numbers have plummeted recently.

Things get better before you notice them getting better. Happy thought for Friday.

Brooding about cicadas in suburban New York

Long Island went from idyllic farmland to completely urbanized in 75 years, thanks in part to Robert Moses inability (or unwillingness) to comprehend that any form of transport existed except automobiles. Massive, car-driven development spread inexorably down the Northern and Southern State Parkways, and the Long Island Expressway, covering all those farms and forests with concrete and Walmarts. Even when I spent four years of college there in the early 1990s, one could still find open space east of Ronkonkoma.

Alas, in the past 17 years, all that open space has disappeared, and with it the Brood X cicadas:

Development, pesticide use and the presence of invasive species are destroying historic populations of Brood X cicadas, while climate change spurs bugs from different broods to come up years early, experts say. The disruption of these cycles means some places that were expecting cicadas this year will miss out, while others may be surprised by an unscheduled emergence.

Although these changes are likely happening across the cicadas’ range, they’re particularly visible on Long Island, said Chris Simon, a professor at the University of Connecticut who has been studying cicadas for over 40 years. Long Island was once New York’s last remaining stronghold of Brood X. But the population there has declined in recent decades, and was nearly absent during the last mass emergence in 2004. At the same time, some of the area’s Brood XIV cicadas — scheduled to come up four years from now — may make an early appearance this year instead.

In the past, Long Island has been the easternmost place that can lay claim to this eminent brood. As far back as 1902, New York’s state entomologist recorded Brood X cicadas in both Suffolk and Nassau counties, said Dr. Simon, who has been studying cicadas on Long Island for over 40 years. Their reign continued through 1987....

The brood was absent from more places where it was expected, including in the towns of Shirley and Oakdale, and made only a brief showing in other locations, such as Connetquot State Park, a 3,700-acre reserve south of the Long Island Expressway, said Dr. Simon. Steep declines like this often lead to a complete disappearance, she said — without strength in numbers, the whole population can be devoured.

This year, Dr. Simon and other researchers are encouraging people in and around Long Island to go searching for the insects, and to use an app, Cicada Safari, to report any findings. If they do show up, it will likely be in early June. But she is not optimistic. “I’m afraid that they’re going to be completely gone,” she said.

Chicago's Brood XIII should emerge in three years. I can't wait. At least here, we haven't destroyed their habitat as thoroughly as Nassau and Suffolk Counties have destroyed Brood X's.

Someone call "Lunch!"

We have gloomy, misty weather today, keeping us mostly inside. Cassie has let me know how bored she is, so in the next few minutes we'll brave the spitting fog and see if anyone else has made it to the dog park.

Meanwhile:

All right, off to the damp dog park.

Pneumonia front yesterday

The wind shifted abruptly just before 6pm last night by my house, bringing with it a remarkable drop in temperatures. I live about 1½ km from Lake Michigan, which (with Lake Huron, hydrologically the same body of water) is the second-largest fresh-water lake in the world. In the summer, it keeps Chicago cool. In the winter, it keeps Chicago warm. In the spring, it keeps Chicago paying attention to the weather forecast.

Exhibit 1, temperatures near O'Hare at 6pm yesterday. Note the 13.3°C gap between Chicago and Wheeling, which are just 13 km apart:

Exhibit 2, when the cold front finally reached O'Hare around 8pm:

One tends to notice when the temperature drops 15.6°C (that's 28°F for you philistines out there) in less than an hour.

In other news, after tying a record high temperature yesterday (30.6°C, tied with 1986), today my home office is actually quite comfortable.

Welcome back, kids

Endangered piping plovers Monty and Rose have returned to Chicago's Montrose Beach for the third year running:

The pair of endangered, migratory Great Lakes piping plovers have been spotted at Montrose Beach, the couple’s preferred mating ground for their third straight summer. The female Rose was discovered near the beach and natural dune area Sunday, while Monty’s presence at the North Side lakefront park was confirmed Monday afternoon, local birder Bob Dolgan said.

“It’s very exciting,” Dolgan said. “There are no guarantees when birds are traveling 1,000 miles. Hopefully this is the start of another successful summer for the birds.”

The bird couple has successfully nested along the beach for the last two years. Their first effort to nest at the beach resulted in a conservation effort, which caused beach volleyball games to be relocated and a music festival to be canceled.

Last year, the birds had the beach free of human interaction, as much of Chicago’s lakefront was off-limits during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

But this year’s effort could be aided by the Chicago Park District’s recent decision to expand the plovers’ favored nesting grounds.

Earlier this month, the Park District approved a plan to add just over three acres of Montrose Beach to the adjacent Montrose Dune Natural Area. The beach’s easternmost portion — which Monty and Rose have chosen as their yearly nesting and foraging ground — has been absorbed into the natural area.

Monty and Rose, sittin' in a tree...or on the ground...whatevs. Nice to have them back.

Sunday not-so-funday

Bit of a frustrating day, today. I spent 2½ hours trying to deploy an Azure function using the Az package in PowerShell, before giving up and going back to the AzureCLI. All of this to confirm a massive performance issue that I suspected but needed to see in a setting that eliminated network throughput as a possible factor. Yep: running everything completely within Azure sped it up by 11%, meaning an architecture choice I made a long time ago is definitely the problem. I factored the code well enough that I can replace the offending structure with a faster one in a couple of hours, but it's a springtime Sunday, so I don't really feel totally motivated right now to do so.

Lest you worry I have neglected other responsibilities, Cassie already got over an hour of walks and dog park time today, bringing her up to 10½ hours for the week. I plan to take her on another 45-minute walk in an hour or so. Last week she got almost 14 hours of walks, however. I blame the mid-week rain we got.

I also have a 30-minute task that will involve 15 minutes of setup, 10 minutes of tear-down, and 5 minutes of video recording. I will be so relieved next fall when all of our chorus work happens in person again.

Before I do that, however, I'm going to go hug my dog.

Spring, for real

It's the warmest day of 2021 so far, up to 21°C at Inner Drive Technology World Headquarters, so basically I'm just in between Cassie walks. (She's gotten two hours already today, including half an hour at the dog park.) Tomorrow it may be cooler, but still 16°C by mid-afternoon.

So, posting may be light this weekend.