Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
Friday 21 January 2011

Via Sullivan, what happens in the House of Commons when a MP's tie starts to make unusual noises:

Friday 21 January 2011 10:17:20 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Jokes | Politics#

At least the sun is out:

We had days last year close to -17°C, but it was last this cold on 5 February 2009. Parker is bored, but even he didn't seem to want to stay outside this morning.

As an aside, because of the radiator in my living room the Inner Drive Technology Worldwide Data Center that I can't turn off, I have two windows open right now and it's still 24°C3°C above normal—over by the server rack.

Friday 21 January 2011 09:18:43 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Parker | Weather#

Should they go to year-round Daylight Saving Time? Scotland says no:

Britain currently sets its clocks at Greenwich Mean Time in fall and an hour ahead of that in spring. (New York is generally five hours behind Britain; Western Europe is an hour ahead).

The problem is that while a clock change might bring afternoon joy to London, it would condemn Inverness in the far reaches of Scotland — in relative terms, about 700 miles north of Montreal — to long, dark winter mornings with sunrises as late as 10 a.m.

Even worse, many Scots feel, it would mean giving in to English politicians. Though the devolution of British politics has given Scotland its own legislature and responsibility for many of its own affairs, the clock is still controlled by Parliament in London.

(You can see what sunrises and sunsets would look like up there at Weather Now.)

Daylight Saving Time has generated controversy for almost a century now, with good and bad arguments on both sides. I'm almost indifferent, though I do get annoyed waking up in the dark at the beginning of November.

Friday 21 January 2011 08:13:27 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Astronomy#

My reading stack has passed my own height (175 cm):

(See the stack more clearly and read about how it grew at The Daily Parker.)

Thursday 20 January 2011 19:49:13 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Kitchen Sink#
Thursday 20 January 2011

Forecasters predict Chicago will get down to its coldest temperature so far this winter, -19°C, overnight:

What arrives Thursday night and Friday morning on gusty northwest winds is but a lobe of cold air off that vast wintry reservoir of air. If there's one piece of good news which accompanies the cold blast, it's that the chill is to hit hard for a day and a half then back off, giving way to a more moderate brand of cold air this weekend. But, while its stay here is to be comparatively brief, the near -18°C low temperature predicted at O'Hare is to be accompanied by 24-32 km/h sustained winds likely to generate dangerous wind chills under 20-below---and potentially as low as 30-below in a few of colder locations north and northwest of the city.

But on this day in 1985 we experienced -33°C, the coldest temperature recorded in Chicago. If I recall correctly that was one of only two days in my four years of high school when they closed the school for weather—because they couldn't start the buses.

At least the snowstorm pounding the central U.S. will miss us.

Thursday 20 January 2011 08:03:46 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Weather#
Wednesday 19 January 2011

As promised, I've uploaded a couple of photos from my last trip to Lisbon to contrast with the most recent. Usually in January Lisbon has beautiful weather; my trip last week coincided not only with crappy weather back home but also with crappy (but warmer) weather there.

In January 2001, the view from Castelo de São Jorge looked like this:

And my January 2001 obligatory Parque Eduardo VII photo came out substantially better than my most recent attempt. Here's the older one:

Wednesday 19 January 2011 08:37:33 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Geography#

This time of year Chicago residents can easily forget the planet orbits an actual star that gives off actual heat and light. This month hasn't helped a bit:

If you're susceptible to SAD---Season Affective Disorder---a form of depression brought on by winter's short days and lack of sunlight, the past 9 days (since Tuesday, January 11) have no doubt been especially rough. The period has logged only 10 percent of its possible sunshine, we're told by veteran National Weather Service observer Frank Wachowski---a total of just 7.9 hours.

Under the best circumstances, a typical January is not one of Chicago's sunnier months. But this month's abysmal 10 percent tally falls far short January's average of 43 percent of its possible sun. That means Chicago area residents have seen less than a quarter of January's typical sunshine.

But good news! We'll have a couple of sunny days later this week. Yes, once that cold front passes and that pile of cold, dry air pushes on through, we'll have plenty of sun—and -16°C temperatures.

Sigh.

Update, 13:56 CT: Look! Up in the sky! It's...it's...the sun!

Wednesday 19 January 2011 08:27:34 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Weather#

Via Sullivan (of course), a phone conversation between LBJ and his tailor, bringing class and decorum from Texas to the Oval Office. The animator explains:

In 1964, Lyndon Johnson needed pants, so he called the Haggar clothing company and asked for some. The call was recorded (like all White House calls at the time), and has since become the stuff of legend. Johnson’s anatomically specific directions to Mr. Haggar are some of the most intimate words we’ve ever heard from the mouth of a President.

We at Put This On took the historic original audio and gave it to animator Tawd Dorenfeld, who created this majestic fantasia of bungholiana.

Put This On: LBJ Buys Pants from Put This On on Vimeo.

Tuesday 18 January 2011 19:09:17 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | US#
Monday 17 January 2011

I meant to post this yesterday. Sullivan rounds up an entertaining collection of posts about post-punctuation spacing in the era of computerized typesetting:

Every modern typographer agrees on the one-space rule. It's one of the canonical rules of the profession, in the same way that waiters know that the salad fork goes to the left of the dinner fork and fashion designers know to put men's shirt buttons on the right and women's on the left. Every major style guide—including the Modern Language Association Style Manual and the Chicago Manual of Style—prescribes a single space after a period.

The Daily Parker has adhered to the one-space rule since the beginning of time. In fact, even when I used a mechanical typewriter as a kid, I never got into the habit of adding supernumerary spaces after punctuation. I feel for those poor lost souls who do.

Monday 17 January 2011 15:10:53 GMT (UTC+00:00)  | Comments [0] | Kitchen Sink#
Saturday 15 January 2011

According to the Duke University registrar, I am a Master of Business Administration:

Who knew a screenshot of the registrar's computer system could feel so good?

Saturday 15 January 2011 15:15:06 WET (UTC+00:00)  | Comments [0] | Duke#

Parque Eduardo VII, Lisbon's equivalent of Central Park, sits on a slope with a clear view down Avenida da Liberdade to the Tejo. Visitors to Lisbon are required to take at least one photo from the top of the park looking down, like this:

More photos at The Daily Parker.

Saturday 15 January 2011 13:39:44 WET (UTC+00:00)  | Comments [0] | Geography#
Friday 14 January 2011

Yesterday I walked around east of Avenida da Liberdade; today I went west of it, into Bairro Alto. Lisbon has a mix of old and new that I think comes from lack of investment rather than any particular plan (as in the UK). The Bairro Alto neighborhood has an especially rough time of it:

It looks really cool, though.

More photos at The Daily Parker.

Friday 14 January 2011 19:34:15 WET (UTC+00:00)  | Comments [0] | Geography#
Thursday 13 January 2011

Four-hour walk around the city, in 10°C fog:

More photos at The Daily Parker.

Thursday 13 January 2011 17:25:18 WET (UTC+00:00)  | Comments [0] | Geography#

Here's a brain-teaser: take one part Heathrow, one part Iberia Airlines, and a sixty-five minute connection at Madrid Barajas. I'll give you a moment to work your sums.

If you got "no, really, a 2-hour connection," you're correct!

Instead of walking at a normal pace between two gates (that, it turns out, are 600 m apart) inside one terminal to make a fairly routine domestic connection, I walked at a normal pace off my flight from Heathrow right to the nearest Iberia service desk. We all shrugged. "Es Londres, es normal" we had to agree. Up to the lounge[1] I go, to check my email and write a blog entry.

Ah, but, this is no ordinary Western European capital airport. This is Madríd. The lounge has delicious Spanish wines, fresh olives, tasty sausages and cheeses, and no freaking WiFi. The conversation at check-in went something like this:

— ¿Como se puede conectar por el WiFi?

— Ah, desculpe, no tenemos el WiFi; es de pago.

— ¿Verdad? ¿De pago? No free WiFi?

— Sí, ¿es curioso, no?

— Sí, es curioso. Gracias.

So, here I sit, snacking on olives, brie, toast, sausages, a fruity Ribera del Duero number ("Condado de Haza Crianza, 2007: La Recomendación del Sumiller"), and probably in a moment those dates I see over there, composing a blog entry in flipping Notepad.

But let me review, just to keep things in perspective. Yesterday morning I woke up to a healthy snowfall in Chicago and tonight I'm going to bed in Lisbon, having spent the better part of the day in London. The total cost of this trip will come in somewhere around one month of housing (just housing, not groceries or electricity or anything else). And unlike the situation that existed even in my lifetime, getting a visa to anywhere in Western Europe requires presenting my passport to the bored guy at the arrival gate and getting a stamp.

Late update, in Lisbon: It seems the free Internet we take for granted in the U.S. and Northern Europe does not extend to Southern Europe. My hotel has free WiFi—in the bar and lobby. In the room it costs €22 per day.

[1] As a happy consequence of (or sorry consolation prize for) flying all those miles last year, I get access to all oneworld business-class lounges worldwide. I would like to note again, just because it really annoys me at the moment, that a principal benefit of every other business-class lounge that I've ever visited is free bloody WiFi. Dear Spain: ¿WTF?

Thursday 13 January 2011 01:10:05 CET (UTC+01:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation | Geography | Business#
Wednesday 12 January 2011

(Insert witty one-liner here.)

But, really, the Airbus 380...I mean, yikes:

How can you not be impressed?

Wednesday 12 January 2011 14:47:12 GMT (UTC+00:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation#

I got a couple of things right and a couple of things wrong since I left home Tuesday morning, and I finally got a hint of what my friends who've lived in London moan about it.

  • Taking the 9am flight to London did, in fact, prevent jet lag, as I felt fine when I arrived at Heathrow in what my body thought was early evening. Usually I have two hours of fitful sleep and arrive at what my body thinks is the middle of sleep-deprived hell. Yesterday, however, I felt perfectly wide awake when I got to my hotel.
  • On the other hand, the two inches of snow that fell on O'Hare between the time I checked in and the time we finally left the gate caused a 75-minute delay. This in turn led to arriving, not at 22:45 as scheduled, but at midnight. It's important to note at this point that the last tube is at 23:30, and the last Heathrow Express is at 23:45.
  • On the other hand, I got on the N9 night less than 30 minutes after we landed (!) and, for only £1.30 on my Oyster card, whisked me to Hyde Park Gate in less than an hour.
  • On the other hand, I had to get near Paddington, about two miles from Hyde Park Gate, which I considered while standing on a streetcorner at 1:30 in the morning.
  • On the other hand, this is London, a major international capital, so a black cab stopped to pick me up in less than a minute.
  • On the other hand, this is London, so the black cab cost £10 for the ten-minute ride.
  • On the other hand, the hotel took no time at all to check me in and send me to my reasonably-comfortable and inexpensive (£69) room.
  • On the other hand, they put me in the room directly across from the lift next to the security door that people started banging through around 6am—which, you may realize, my body thought was midnight.
  • On the other hand, I managed some sleep, checked out with plenty of time to find coffee, and happily walked around my second-favorite city in the world for two hours.
  • On the other hand, my first attempt at getting coffee failed miserably when the table collapsed, spilling hot latte all over the floor and my jeans.
  • On the other hand, there's plenty of latte in this big, bad city, so I got caffeinated just fine.

Aren't you glad I'm not an economist? What would Harry Truman say...

I'm now back at Heathrow for the second leg of my trip, going to a country I haven't seen in ten years. More later.

Wednesday 12 January 2011 14:17:10 GMT (UTC+00:00)  | Comments [0] | Geography#
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David Braverman and Parker
David Braverman is a software developer in Chicago, and the creator of Weather Now. Parker is the most adorable dog on the planet, 80% of the time.
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