The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Unfortunate computer issues this morning

The Federal Aviation Administration halted all takeoffs from US airports for about an hour this morning after the Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) system failed. Planes have resumed flying, but the ripples from this morning's ground stop could take a day or two to resolve. Good thing I'm not flying until Saturday.

Also this morning, Chicago's transit agencies released a new real-time train tracker that finally allows commuters to see where (many) of Metra's trains actually think they are. I tested the site on the Metra line I use most frequently only to find that it appeared stuck—until I discovered that, no, the trains had stopped, because one of them hit a pedestrian in Lakeview, just south of me.

I'm glad Metra finally discovered the Global Positioning System just in time for the service's 45th birthday. If only we funded our transit systems the way we fund highways...if only...

Don't know why there's no sun up in the sky

For the first week of 2023, Chicago got just 2% of possible sunlight, with no sun at all since last Monday. Normal for January is 40%.

On the other hand, so far it's the 4th-warmest January in history, almost 10°F (6°C) above normal, with the 8-to-14 day forecast predicting much above normal temperatures. Note the top 7 are all in the past 31 years.

Unfortunately those two things correlate strongly. So we probably won't get a lot of sun until it either cools down or warms up. Such is winter in Chicago.

At least we haven't gotten 30 cm of rain, like parts of California...

Droning on again

After DJI decided it didn't want to abide by Google's privacy and security guidelines, and instead wants users to side-load their software (uh...just no), I haven't flown my drone in a while. Today I finally installed Litchi, started my drone, and...*bam*.

You don't want to discover that one of your propeller blades is broken when you start your aircraft. Trust me.

After I repaired the gimbal and replaced 5 of the 8 rotor blades (the crash broke a couple that were fine before I started the thing up), I did a short test flight that scared the bejeezus out of Cassie.

I also did an actual flight, up to about 30 meters vertical and 200 meters horizontal:

The sun might actually come out tomorrow, so watch this space!

My office is still and here

In a form of enlightened laziness, I often go into my company's downtown Chicago office on Friday and the following Monday, avoiding the inconvenience of taking my laptop home. It helps also that Fridays and Mondays have become the quietest days of the week, with most return-to-office workers heading in Tuesdays through Thursdays.

And after a productive morning, I have a few things to read at lunch:

Finally, National Geographic digs down to find explanations for the disappearances of five ancient cities, and what that might tell us about our own culture.

More black smoke

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has lost his seventh bid for Speaker—nope, eighthwhile Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) has amassed more cumulative votes for the office than anyone except Sam Rayburn. Things in the House have become surreal, even without a bad lip reading for levity. As Tom Nichols puts it,

What all of these GOP members do seem to have in common is a shared belief that they should be in Congress in order to make other people miserable. Usually, those “other people” are Democrats and various people on the generic right-wing enemies list, but lately, the targets include the few remaining Republicans who think their job in Washington is to legislate and pass bills and other boring twaddle that has nothing to do with keeping the hometown folks in a lather, getting on television, and getting reelected.

And yet, the XPOTUS remains absent from the proceedings, with both sides of the Republican Party basically ignoring him. His "wishes, feelings, threats, anger and really anything else about him are just completely absent from this entire drama. In a way that is the biggest story here."

Meanwhile, back in the real world:

Finally, the most recent defense authorization bill the outgoing Congress passed last week included a provision promoting Ulysses S Grant to General of the Armies. Only George Washington and John J Pershing have held that rank (O-11).

Statistics: 2022

We've now got two full years between us and 2020, and it does look like 2022 got mostly back to normal.

  • The Daily Parker got 487 posts in 2022, 51 fewer than in 2021 and 25 below median. As usual, I posted the most in January (46) and fewest in November (37), creating a very tight statistical distribution with a standard deviation of 3.45. In other words: posting was pretty consistent month to month, but down overall from previous years.
  • I flew 10 segments and 16,138 flight miles in 2022, low for the 21st century but about average for my lifetime.
  • Once again, I visited only one other country (the UK, of course), but 8 other states: North Carolina, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Wisconsin, California, Texas, and Michigan. In 2023, I plan to visit a bunch of new countries, but we'll see. Altogether I spent 107 hours traveling.
  • I walked Cassie for a little more than 369 hours, somewhat fewer than in 2021 (422) but still an average of over an hour a day. It's about half as much as she wanted.
  • I got 4,537,290 steps for 3,693 km of walking, a little below 2021 but about average overall. I only hit my step goal 327 times, though, due to no longer getting worked up about missing it in bad weather. I still averaged 12,393 a day, which doesn't suck.
  • I drove 5,925 km on 144 L of gasoline, for an average of 2.4 L/100 km (96.4 MPG). The last four months of the year I used only 4 L of gas over 1,179 km, meaning I'm heading into 2023 with a nearly-full tank I last filled on August 21st. I do love living in the city!
  • I worked 1,894 hours for my real job, including 1,260 from home and 580 in the office. The remainder went to conferences and work events. Plus, I spent 103 hours commuting, all of it by public transit (see above re: gasoline use).
  • My commitment to the Apollo Chorus went up by a third this year, with 318 hours overall split between rehearsing and performing (220 hours) and my responsibilities as president (98 hours). Last year I spent 57 hours on rehearsals and performances and 71 hours on board stuff, but the first half of 2021 we were still virtual. In the last full year before the pandemic, 2019, I spent 200 hours overall (27 for the Board, 144 on rehearsals and performances, 29 for the fundraiser), so we really did do more this year than in years past.
  • Finally, reading stayed the same, with 27 books started (cf. 28 in 2021) and 24 finished (cf. 23 in 2021)—both numbers exactly at median for me. But I watched a whopping (for me) 56 movies and 50 TV show seasons or miniseries. Yeek.

So, yeah, except for the permanent, post-pandemic shift to working from home 2/3 of the time, 2022 really did get back to normal in most ways. I'll take it. Here's to continued normal in 2023!

It's 2023...in Chicago

For once, instead of using clever blog tricks to wish Niue all the best in the new year ten hours after our own, I thought to use the same clever blog trick to mark 2023 right here in Chicago.

So, let's pause for 12 months before the 2024 election cycle kicks off and we all get crazy again. Here's to a boring new year!

The news doesn't pause

Speaking of loathsome, misogynist creeps, former Bishop of Rome Joseph Ratzinger died this morning, as groundbreaking journalist Barbara Walters did yesterday.

In other news showing that 2022 refuses to go quietly:

And just a couple of blocks from me, Uncharted Books will reopen next week after the state closed it down for failing to file a required sales-tax form. For months. They might want to fire their accountants for this, as the state requires every business that has taxable sales to file the "quarterly sales tax report" every 3 months. I hope their soon-to-be-former accountants also filed their income taxes...

A glimmer of hope on a muddy Thursday

I broke away from my last day of work in 2022 around 2:15 to take Cassie on a 3½-kilometer walk. It's 14°C (!!!) right now so almost every snowflake has melted into a thin layer of mud over the entire city. No problems, so far; I keep old towels by the front door and Cassie expects me to wipe her paws when we come in.

Today I learned that I need to close the gate at the top of my stairs whenever we go outside on a day like this. I learned this while chasing Cassie up the stairs and through the living room while shouting "NO!", which, of course, made her run faster to her happy place; i.e., the living room sofa. Fortunately I keep the sofa covered in a $7 Target blanket because of her. Unfortunately, I had just washed it.

Cassie and I have forgiven each other but not before I carried her downstairs and put her in the bathtub. The floors only took about 15 minutes to clean up and the blanket went back into the washing machine whence it came this morning.

Dogs.

I did catch this in Mother Jones, though, and it took the edge off wiping muddy pawprints from several floors and a staircase. It seems that finally, finally!, more cities understand that parking minimums waste land, gas, and money:

California will become the first state to enact a ban on parking minimums [in January], halting their use in areas with public transport in a move that Gov. Gavin Newsom called a “win-win” for reducing planet-heating emissions from cars, as well as helping alleviate the lack of affordable housing in a state that has lagged in building new dwellings.

Several cities across the country are now rushing doing the same, with Anchorage, Alaska, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Nashville, Tennessee, all recently loosening or scrapping requirements for developers to build new parking lots. “These parking minimums have helped kill cities,” said Gernot Wagner, a climate economist at Columbia Business School who accused political leaders of making downtowns “look like bombs hit them” by filling them with parking lots.

Climate campaigners and public transport advocates have seized upon the previously esoteric issue of parking minimums, posting aerial pictures on social media demonstrating the vast swathes of prime urban land given over to parking lots and pushing city councils to foster denser communities with more opportunities to walk, cycle or catch buses and trains rather than simply drive.

Cities such as Buffalo, New York, and Fayetteville, Arkansas, scaled back parking minimums a few years ago and have reported a surge in activity to transform previously derelict buildings into shops, apartments and restaurant. Developers previously saw as such work as unviable due to the requirement to build plots of car parking, in many cases several times larger than the building itself.

Just look at this aerial view of downtown Kansas City, Mo., after MODOT destroyed it with one road. Or these photos of empty mall parking lots on Black Friday, the day traffic engineers use to set parking minimums.

I hope that I live long enough to see North America correct the planning mistakes of the 1960s and 1970s, and get at least to the point Europe achieved ten years ago.

The worst of it is over

The temperature here at Inner Drive Technology World Headquarters peaked at -5°C, the warmest we've had since 2:30pm on Thursday. Next Thursday it'll hit 10°C, which is 32°C (57°F) warmer than Saturday's overnight low. Welcome to Chicago in the era of rapid climate change.

I hope we don't get any more really horrific cold snaps this winter, but I expect we will. For now, though, I'm going to take Cassie on the longest walk she's had in almost a week.