The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Fed up with all that

Three items:

  1. James Fallows reminds us that the US Senate filibuster "is a perversion of the Constitution," that "enables the very paralysis the founders were desperate to avoid," among other things. (He also links to an essay by former US Senator Al Franken (D-MN) about how cynical the filibuster has become.)
  2. Jacob Rosenberg brings together workers' own stories about how they got fed up, illustrating how "the big quit" happened.
  3. Canadian political scientist Thomas Homer-Dixon has had enough of the political disunion in the failing democracy to his south, and worries what that will mean to Canada.

On the hopeful side, though, we have the Webb Space Telescope gently nudging its mirrors into place at a rate of about 1 millimeter per day.

Cold again

Today's temperatures have hovered around -9°C, with a forecast of bottoming out around -18°C tomorrow morning. But hey, at least the sun is out, right?

Meanwhile, in the rest of the world:

Finally, if you're looking to get away from it all, you might have to pass on the Isle of Rum off the coast of Scotland. Its population has almost doubled in the past couple of years, to 40.

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?

A full year later

I've timed this post to hit just after midnight January 1st in the Pacific island nation of Niue, the westernmost inhabited place on earth—as far as time zones go. When Niue ticked past midnight way out there at UTC-11, it meant everyone on earth had gotten a full year past 2020.

So, roll on 2022. I hope that as 2020 recedes even further into the past, so do its horrors.

The last of the book villages

Redu, Belgium, has more books than people, but people don't buy many books these days:

[I]n the mid-1980s, a band of booksellers moved into the empty barns and transformed the place into a literary lodestone. The village of about 400 became home to more than two dozen bookstores — more shops than cows, its boosters liked to say — and thousands of tourists thronged the winsome streets.

Now, though, more than half the bookstores have closed. Some of the storekeepers died, others left when they could no longer make a living. Many who remain are in their 70s and aren’t sure what’ll happen after they’re gone.

On Easter weekend in 1984, roughly 15,000 people descended on Redu, perusing the used and antiquarian volumes vendors sold out of abandoned stables and sidewalk stalls. The booksellers decided to stay. Others soon followed, along with an illustrator, a bookbinder and a paper maker. It was an eclectic, countercultural crowd. Young families arrived, too, and new students trickled into the faded schoolhouse.

Now there are 12 or fewer bookshops, depending on how one counts — and, perhaps, who is doing the counting. Those who are more optimistic about the future of the bookstores tend to cite a higher number.

In an odd twist, though, Redu is also home of the European Space Agency Security and Education Centre.

Another big, red map that should make you uncomfortable

Via The Washington Post, Climate Central reports that winters have gotten significantly warmer in the US, especially in the Great Lakes and Northeast regions:

[W]inter in the United States is warming faster than any other season. Since 1970, average winter temperatures have increased [0.6°C] or more in every state, while 70 percent have seen increases of at least [1.7°C].

Other studies have shown the length of winter season shrinking globally as well. From 1952 to 2011, winter shrank by at least 2.1 days per decade on average. By 2100, winter could be less than two months and could start a half-month later.

Changes in the blooms of fruits and plants can affect other links in the food chain. For instance, many migratory birds travel north according to the movement of the sun. If plants bloom earlier or insects move because higher temperatures occur earlier, the birds may arrive when most of their food is no longer abundant.

Across the eastern United States, Climate Central found that cold weather still will occur in the coming decades, although cold snaps have become shorter and less frequent recently.

In Chicago, we've seen a full 2°C rise in temperatures in my lifetime:

In case the raw statistics don't get you to notice climate change, Climate Central also has an interactive map where you can raise sea level a bit and watch your favorite cities disappear. At 1.5 meters, for example, my old place in Hoboken, N.J., pokes out of a shallow lagoon. At 5 meters, we no longer care about Florida.

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...

Backlog

I just started Sprint 52 in my day job, after working right up to the last possible minute yesterday to (unsuccessfully) finish one more story before ending Sprint 51. Then I went to a 3-hour movie that you absolutely must see.

Consequently a few things have backed up over at Inner Drive Technology World Headquarters.

Before I get into that, take a look at this:

That 17.1°C reading at IDTWHQ comes in a shade lower than the official reading at O'Hare of 17.8°, which ties the record high maximum set in 1971. The forecast says it'll hang out here for a few hours before gale-force winds drive the temperature down to more seasonal levels overnight. I've even opened a few windows.

So what else is new?

So what really is new?

But Sprint 52 at my office, that's incredibly new, and I must go back to it.

Tragedy and farce

We're all set to perform Handel's Messiah tomorrow and Sunday, which got noticed by both the local news service and local TV station. Otherwise, the week just keeps getting odder:

And to cap all that off, the National Weather Service has announced a Hazardous Weather Outlook for tonight that includes...tornados? I hope the weather gets better before our performance.