The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Ephemeral GPS failure

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.

Truly horrifying numbers

Revisiting the numbers of people killed in one day by a single disaster, we find that Covid-19 now occupies 10 of the top 15 spots:

If we only look at the last 100 years, it gets even starker:

And the band played on.

Statistics: 2020

What a bizarre year. Just looking at last year's numbers, it almost doesn't make sense to compare, but what the hell:

  • Last year I flew the fewest air-miles in 20 years; this year, I flew the fewest since the first time I got on a commercial airplane, which was during the Nixon Administration. In January I flew to Raleigh-Durham and back, and didn't even go to the airport for the rest of the year. That's 1,292 air miles, fewer than the very first flight I took (Chicago to Los Angeles, 1,745 air miles). I did, however, make an overnight trip to Wisconsin in November, easily breaking the record for my longest travel drought but making it shorter than never. 
  • This is my 609th post on the Daily Parker in 2020—an average of more than 50 per month. This new record blows away the one I set just last year by 10.5%. (Imagine how much I'd have written had anything newsworthy actually happened in 2020.)
  • The pandemic let me spend Parker's last eight months with him nearly every day. Despite his age and discomfort, we managed to go for almost 241 hours of walks (274 annualized), a whopping 29% (46% annualized) more than in 2019.
  • Including today, I got 4,848,171 steps, averaging 13,246 per day. This is 5.7% fewer than last year. I missed 10,000 steps on seven occasions—five this month. Without a daily commute or a dog, not to mention the cold weather, I have struggled since Thanksgiving to get motivated enough to get longer walks in. That said, I hit a new record of 312 consecutive days over 10,000 steps, a record I don't anticipate ever breaking. I also got 56,562 steps on September 4th—another record I don't expect to break soon.
  • I once again read more than the year before, with 39 books started and 37 completed. (I'm still working on The Power Broker, which I started 18 months ago...) On the other hand, I watched 59 movies and 79 TV series, compared with 56 and 38 respectively in 2019. Of course, almost all of that was streaming on my home computer while programming on my work computer, but it's a lot.

I can't even predict what will happen in 2021. I expect fewer steps, more books, and actually to start traveling again. Here's hoping for a speedy vaccination.

Last lunchtime roundup of the year?

We're so close to ending 2020 that I can almost taste it. (I hope to be tasting tacos in a few minutes, however.) True to form, 2020 has apparently decided not to leave quietly:

Finally, the Washington Post's Michael Rosenwald reports that Bloom asked 28 historians to determine whether 2020 was the worst year ever. It wasn't even close.

How we got here

The New Yorker next week has Lawrence Wright's excellent long-form history of "the mistakes and the struggles behind America's coronavirus tragedy:"

There are three moments in the yearlong catastrophe of the covid-19 pandemic when events might have turned out differently. The first occurred on January 3, 2020, when Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, spoke with George Fu Gao, the head of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which was modelled on the American institution. Redfield had just received a report about an unexplained respiratory virus emerging in the city of Wuhan.

Redfield is convinced that, had C.D.C. specialists visited China in early January, they would have learned exactly what the world was facing. The new pathogen was a coronavirus, and as such it was thought to be only modestly contagious, like its cousin the sars virus. This assumption was wrong. The virus in Wuhan turned out to be far more infectious, and it spread largely by asymptomatic transmission. “That whole idea that you were going to diagnose cases based on symptoms, isolate them, and contact-trace around them was not going to work,” Redfield told me recently. “You’re going to be missing fifty per cent of the cases. We didn’t appreciate that until late February.” The first mistake had been made, and the second was soon to happen.

What are the odds that we can avoid a cock-up this bad in future? I will leave that as an exercise for the reader.

7,500

Just a housekeeping note: this is my 7,500th post since re-launching braverman.org as a pure blog in November 2005. On average, I've posted 41.2 times per month, though this year that has gone up somewhat:

For whatever reason, the average (so far) in 2020 is 50.5 times per month. I'll know the exact stats and have more to say about this on Friday.

Chicago sunrises, 2021

Here's the semi-annual Chicago sunrise chart. (You can get one for your own location at http://www.wx-now.com/Sunrise/SunriseChart.aspx.)

An interesting thing happens in 2021: on November 6th at 7:30:11, we'll have one of the latest sunrises possible—indeed, the latest sunrise in 47 years. I found only one occasion from 1975 to 2040 when the sun rises later: at 7:30:35 on 6 November 2032.

The last time the sun rose after 7:30 was at 7:31:26 on 26 February 1974, after Chicago started daylight saving time on 6 January 1974, due to the oil crisis. Chicago also observed year-round daylight saving time during World War II, from 9 February 1942 until 30 September 1945. Chicago's latest-ever sunrise occurred at 8:19:17 on 4 January 1943.

Anyway, here's the chart for the next 12 months:

Date Significance Sunrise Sunset Daylight
2021
3 Jan Latest sunrise until Oct 28th 07:19 16:33 9:13
27 Jan 5pm sunset 07:08 17:01 9:52
4 Feb 7am sunrise 07:00 17:10 10:10
19 Feb 5:30pm sunset 06:41 17:30 10:49
26 Feb 6:30am sunrise 06:30 17:38 11:07
13 Mar Earliest sunrise until Apr 19th
Earliest sunset until Oct 24th
06:05 17:56 11:50
14 Mar Daylight saving time begins
Latest sunrise until Oct 15th
Earliest sunset until Sep 17th
07:04 18:57 11:52
17 Mar 7am sunrise, 7pm sunset
12-hour day
07:00 18:59 11:59
21 Mar Equinox 04:37 CDT 06:52 19:05 12:12
3 Apr 6:30am sunrise (again) 06:30 19:19 12:49
13 Apr 7:30pm sunset 06:13 19:31 13:17
22 Apr 6am sunrise 05:59 19:41 13:41
10 May 8pm sunset 05:36 20:00 14:24
15 May 5:30am sunrise 05:30 20:05 14:34
14 Jun Earliest sunrise of the year 05:15 20:28 15:13
20 Jun Solstice 22:32 CDT
8:30pm sunset
05:15 20:30 15:14
26 Jun Latest sunset of the year 05:17 20:31 15:13
3 Jul 8:30pm sunset 05:21 20:30 15:09
16 Jul 5:30am sunrise 05:30 20:24 14:54
9 Aug 8pm sunset 05:53 19:59 14:06
16 Aug 6am sunrise 06:00 19:50 13:49
29 Aug 7:30pm sunset 06:14 19:29 13:15
14 Sep 6:30am sunrise 06:30 19:02 12:31
15 Sep 7pm sunset 06:31 19:00 12:28
22 Sep Equinox, 14:21 CDT 06:39 18:48 12:09
25 Sep 12-hour day 06:42 18:43 12:00
2 Oct 6:30pm sunset 06:49 18:31 11:41
12 Oct 7am sunrise 07:00 18:13 11:13
21 Oct 6pm sunset 07:11 18:00 10:49
6 Nov Latest sunrise until 6 Nov 2032
Latest sunset until Feb 27th
07:30 17:39 10:08
7 Nov Standard time returns
Earliest sunrise until Feb 26th
Latest sunset until Jan 9th
06:31 16:38 10:06
15 Nov 4:30pm sunset 06:41 16:30 9:48
1 Dec 7am sunrise 07:00 16:20 9:21
8 Dec Earliest sunset of the year 07:06 16:20 9:13
21 Dec Solstice, 9:59 CST 07:16 16:23 9:07
31 Dec 4:30pm sunset 07:19 16:30 9:11

You can get sunrise information for your location at wx-now.com.

Lazy Sunday morning reading

A couple of articles piqued my interest over the last day:

Finally, with only a few days left in December, we have now had 5 days this month with more Americans dead from Covid-19 than died on 9/11, and the STBXPOTUS won't sign even the miserly, half-assed recovery bill that Republicans in the Senate would agree to. January 20th can't come soon enough.

Studying how dogs age

How did I miss this Times article from November?

Lab tests can tell how old a human is just from the pattern of methylation. Thanks to this research, the same can be done for dogs. The results will help researchers studying aging in dogs to translate findings to humans. None of this research was done on dogs kept in a laboratory. All of the dogs in the aging comparison study were pet Labrador retrievers and the owners gave permission for blood samples.

Scientists are unsure about whether the physical decline seen in aging in dogs and humans, in fact in all mammals, is related to the process of development in earlier life, or whether the decline is a different process altogether. The researchers found that the pattern of methylation suggested that the same genes may be involved in both processes.

Good methods of comparing dog and human ages are important. Dogs are increasingly seen as good models for human aging because they suffer from it in many of the same ways humans do. As the Dog Aging Project, which is collecting genetic and other information from a vast number of pet dogs, puts it on its website, the goal of the research is “Longer, healthier lives for all dogs … and their humans.”

I miss my aging dog. And the day this article was published, Parker was old indeed.

Christmastime is here, by golly

Thank you, Tom Lehrer, for encapsulating what this season means to us in the US. In the last 24 hours, we have seen some wonderful Christmas gifts, some of them completely in keeping with Lehrer's sentiment.

Continuing his unprecedented successes making his the most corrupt presidency in the history of the country (and here I include the Andrew Johnson and Warren Harding presidencies), the STBXPOTUS yesterday granted pardons to felons Charles Kushner, Paul Manafort, and Roger Stone. Of the 65 pardons and commutations he has granted since becoming president, 60 have gone to people he knows personally and who have committed crimes on his behalf. Maggie Haberman and Michael S Schmidt say he's at his most unleashed as he tries to avoid leaving office the loser he is.

In other news:

Finally, enjoy this performance of the "Hallelujah" chorus from Händel's Messiah released just a few moments ago by the Apollo Chorus of Chicago: