The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Impressive lightning

While we wait for the snow to start falling, the World Meteorological Organisation announced today that a lightning flash on 29 April 2020 extended for 768 km across three states and lasted for 10 seconds:

The new record for the longest detected megaflash distance is 60 kilometres more than the previous record, with a distance of 709 ± 8 km (440.6 ± 5 mi) across parts of southern Brazil on 31 October 2018. Both the previous and new record used the same maximum great circle distance methodology to measure flash extent.

The new record strikes occurred in hotspots for Mesoscale Convective System (MCS) thunderstorms, whose dynamics permit extraordinary megaflashes to occur – namely, the Great Plains in North America, and the La Plata basin in South America.

The Post has more.

Meanwhile, the temperature at Inner Drive Technology World Headquarters seems to have peaked at 7.6°C, and it has started to rain. Cassie and I got in from our walk before it got really gross out.

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...

Lunchtime roundup, falling temperatures edition

We have one of those lovely January days when a tongue of cold air pushes south from Canada and gives us the warmest temperature of the day at midnight. Yesterday the Inner Drive Techology World Headquarters got up to 6°C around 3:30pm, stayed around 5°C from 6:30 pm until 1am, and since then has cooled down to -5°C. The forecast calls for continued cooling until reaching -13°C around 6am tomorrow.

Yesterday's weather conditions encouraged the formation of "pancake ice" on Lake Michigan. Block Club Chicago has tons of photos and videos of the phenomenon if you're curious.

Block Club Chicago's story on pop-up Covid testing facilities bilking consumers and governments alike got the attention of Bruce Schneier, who assures his readers that no, these guys aren't going to sell your data. They're just ordinary multi-level marketing scammers.

In other Chicago journalism news, Chicago Public Media's board voted unanimously yesterday to acquire the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper. The deal will create the biggest non-profit journalism organization in Chicago, and has the backing of billionaire Michael Sacks. (Note: I am a Leadership Circle contributor to Chicago Public Media, and once worked for Sacks at GCM.)

Now, Cassie and I will brave the cold for a few minutes so she can take care of her important business.

Fall down go boom

I managed to acquire a few bruises last night walking Cassie. I'm fine; she's fine; but my left hand and elbow are a bit sore.

Yesterday continued our really strange week as the repeating 96-hour cycle of cold and thaw continued:

Starting around 4pm, the warm front pushed just enough moisture ahead of itself to give Chicago a fine mist that instantly coated everything. Even though the air got above freezing later on, the sidewalks did not. Result: most of them got a perfectly smooth, nearly invisible coating of ice about 2mm thick.

Cassie, of course, failed to understand why I insisted on walking at a small fraction of our usual speed. She has four feet, you see, and while one or two of them might slip a bit, the dog remained standing.

I, however, did not. Several times.

And here we go again:

So, Cassie won't get all the walkies she deserves today, but she did get a ride in the car. And my bruises will heal.

Quick links

The temperature at Inner Drive Technology World Headquarters bottomed out at -16.5°C around 8am today, colder than any time since February 15th. It's up to -8.6°C now, with a forecast for continued wild gyrations over the next week (2°C tomorrow, -17°C on Monday, 3°C on Wednesday). Pity Cassie, who hasn't gotten nearly enough walks because of the cold, and won't next week as her day care shut down for the weekend due to sick staff.

Speaking of sick staff, New Republic asks a pointed question about the Chicago Public Schools: why should their teachers be responsible for making life normal again?

The Washinigton Post asks, what will people do with the millions of dogs they adopted when they (the people, not the dogs) go back to work?

The lawyers for Cyber Ninjas ask, who's going to pay their fees after the grift-based organization shut down abruptly?

And North Michigan Avenue asks, will any more pieces of the Hancock Center fall off the building?

And I ask, will Cassie ever let me sleep past 7am?

Learning new things about my dog

After a lot of struggle trying to get Cassie to stop pulling on her leash, I finally gave up today and got her a prong collar. Dogs don't much like them, and neither do I, but no amount of treats or yanks on her harness worked with her.

As soon as I switched the lead from her harness to her prong collar, Cassie suddenly knew exactly where to walk on a heel, and only pulled enough to make the prong contract before falling right back to my side. We walked about 4 blocks total, and she never pulled enough that I needed to correct her. Amazing.

I realized after about a minute that she's worn a prong collar before. I worried that she would hate it, that we would have to spend a couple of weeks working with it for her to make the connection between pulling and neck irritation, but no. All that pulling for the last 10 months? The harness just doesn't provide enough correction.

In other words, she has always known how to heel, she just hasn't wanted to. Smart dog.

A little discomfort now, a lot more comfort later

Despite the forecast of 200+ mm of snow overnight, we got about 50 over here. O'Hare reported 100 mm of snow on the ground at 6am, which again didn't even come close to the dire warnings we got Friday night.

Still, the sidewalks by my house have snow, slush, and salt all over them, which Cassie discovered (mostly to her delight) first thing this morning. Within 10 minutes, she'd gotten ice and salt lodged into one of her pads and had to hop the last 20 meters to the door.

I have a solution for that: dog boots. Parker's old boots just fit Cassie, though she expressed a bit of skepticism mixed with heartbreaking trust as I got them over her paws:

And just like Parker the first time he wore those same boots, Cassie figured out pretty quickly that they had benefits. We just did a 2-kilometer rectangle around the neighborhood with her bouncing through the snow and not getting salt in her pads.

Bonus photo from yesterday morning:

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?

Productive Sunday

Even though Cassie really wants to go outside right now, I'm going to make her wait another 10 minutes while I push some code and wait for the continuous integration build to run. She doesn't understand that I need to run with productivity when I have it. The closest she gets to understanding that is running with balls when she has them.

OK, pushing 10 commits. Run, you clever CI, and remember...

Visiting the remote bits of the world

I've just added two places to my shortlist of vacation spots once travel becomes a little easier.

On Tuesday, I saw Japan's entry for this year's Academy Award for best foreign film, Drive My Car (ドライブ・マイ・カー). Most of it takes place in Hiroshima, Japan. Clearly director Ryusuke Hamaguchi loves the city. For obvious reasons most of the central parts of Hiroshima only date back 70 years, but the hills and islands surrounding the postwar downtown look like the Pacific Northwest.

And this morning, the New York Times Canada Letter reported from Newfoundland. I've wanted to see the Maritime Provinces for years. Maybe Cassie and I can spend a couple of weeks some summer driving from Maine to Nova Scotia to PEI and then take a ferry to "The Rock?" (There's a ferry from North Sydney, N.S., to Channel-Port aux Basques, Nfld.)

For what it's worth, I think I'd fly to Western Japan...