The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Unbelievable cold in Alaska

The weather has cooled off a bit in the interior of Alaska:

Friday marked day six of the worst cold snap to hit Fairbanks in several years and there is no relief in sight for residents who live in Alaska’s second-largest city — or the business owners they call to bail them out when their cars, pipes and septic tanks freeze.

The temperature in North Pole dipped to 55 degrees below zero on Wednesday night, the lowest temperature recorded in the greater Fairbanks area during what has been six days of severe cold. It was “only” 46 below at 4 p.m. Friday in North Pole, but the temperature was “dropping by the hour,” meteorologist Austin Cross at the National Weather Service in Fairbanks said.

Friday marked the fifth day in the last six the temperature at Fairbanks International Airport hit 40 below or colder; it was only 38 below at the airport on New Year’s Day.

Forecasters expect temperatures in Fairbanks this weekend will likely touch 50 below and there is no indication the cold wave will dissipate anytime soon.

Since I don't read Alaskan newspapers often, and I'm used to seeing cold Alaskan temperatures on the Weather Now extremes page, I actually first heard this when ten people emailed me to complain about a bug in Weather Now. It turns out, the news story above linked to Weather Now and drove 2,400 unique visitors to the site in six hours.

I should know better. Fortunately my servers easily handle 10,000 page views per hour, but still, seeing a traffic spike like that caught me a little off-guard.

Two game wardens, seven hunters, and a cow

In another bit of Illinois stupidity, three hunters yesterday killed a trupeter swan by mistake:

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials say hunters thought they were shooting at a snow goose but actually killed a rare trumpeter swan at a conservation area in far southern Illinois.

One of the comments on the above-linked page gets it right: "[S]houldn't a hunter be able to identify what [he is] shooting?" Yes. Let's compare: Snow goose:

Trupeter swan:

Hey, I'm not an orinthologist or anything, but those birds look different to me.

The race continues

Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan and Roland Burris are racing each other to some resolution as the only governor we have—the commander in chief of the state militia—loses his security clearance:

Officials Friday said the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has revoked Gov. Rod Blagojevich's access to classified federal security information.

Blagojevich spokesman Lucio Guerrero called the move "pretty standard procedure" Friday. He says there are still a number of other state officials with access.

Also Friday, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan said he is calling lawmakers back to Springfield next week for a possible vote on impeaching Blagojevich.

Crain's has more:

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich could be impeached as early as next week.

The Illinois House has changed its schedule and will meet several days next week.

A spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan says the chamber may vote on a recommendation from the special committee studying whether Blagojevich should be impeached.

What will change everything?

My dad tipped me off to Sam Harris' response to this year's World Question:

When evaluating the social cost of deception, one must consider all of the misdeeds—marital infidelities, Ponzi schemes, premeditated murders, terrorist atrocities, genocides, etc.—that are nurtured and shored-up, at every turn, by lies. Viewed in this wider context, deception commends itself, perhaps even above violence, as the principal enemy of human cooperation. Imagine how our world would change if, when the truth really mattered, it became impossible to lie.

I've never heard of this org before, but it seems to be worth a troll.

Morford: Sympathy for the W

The San Francisco Chronicle's columnist is particularly funny—and scathing—today:

To my mind, even the softest portrait of W merely raises the larger question, perhaps not to be fully answered for many years: How could such a mediocre and unimaginative human cause so much damage? How could this frat house daddy's-boy dullard so perfectly undermine America's fundamental identity and disfigure every major department of government and bring the nation to its knees? Indeed, unpacking that one may take awhile.

Other questions, though, are not so difficult. Questions like: Has it really been all that bad? Have we been too hard on the poor schlub? Does Bush really deserve such white-hot derision and international contempt? Or is he just lost and misunderstood, like a sad clown with a big shotgun and an unfortunate muscle spasm? I think we can all answer those without the slightest hesitation.

17 days, 21 hours, 50 minutes left...

Global warming: Blame Canada

Apparently their forests aren't working:

The country's 1.2 million square miles of trees have been dubbed the "lungs of the planet" by ecologists because they account for more than 7 percent of Earth's total forest lands. They could always be depended upon to suck in vast quantities of carbon dioxide, naturally cleansing the world of much of the harmful heat-trapping gas.

But not anymore.

In an alarming yet little-noticed series of recent studies, scientists have concluded that Canada's precious forests, stressed from damage caused by global warming, insect infestations and persistent fires, have crossed an ominous line and are now pumping out more climate-changing carbon dioxide than they are sequestering.

In other good news, Chicago had its wettest year on record in 2008, 1292 mm, beating the old record by more than 25 mm. The rain rain rain came down...

Happy new year!

We start 2009 continuing the ridiculous story of the governor's strenuous efforts to ensure a Republican majority in 2010. Today's Tribune outlines what might happen next week in Washington:

If Burris shows up Tuesday to claim the seat given to him by disgraced Gov. Rod Blagojevich, the outcomes range from a denial of entry to a limbo where he can hire staff but not vote.

Should Burris appear in Washington without that certification, armed police officers stand ready to bar him from the Senate floor, said a Democratic official briefed on Senate leaders' plans. Leadership also is considering the possibility of Blagojevich appearing in person to escort Burris. Ironically, the scandal-plagued governor would be allowed onto the Senate floor, because sitting governors are allowed floor privileges, while Burris would not without certification.

Can anyone extrapolate from the Three Stooges'[1] press conference what we'd be in for should armed police bar a black Senator-designate from the all-white Senate, never mind the legitimacy of the action? Whoo boy.

Tribune columnist Steve Chapman is also worth a read today, especially for those unfamiliar with Burris and his, um, eccentricities:

Burris is the prototypical time-serving career politician who owes his success to being simultaneously ambitious and bland. He has never been one to challenge the status quo, but no one underestimates his self-esteem. The two Burris children, after all, are named Roland and Rolanda.

The result of his immodesty has been a persistent hunger for offices that most people thought beyond his abilities. He has lost races for mayor of Chicago, U.S. senator, and governor (three times).

Burris' chief claim to fame until this week was his 12-year term as state comptroller, a job whose significance can be measured by the fact that few Illinoisans could identify the current occupant (Dan Hynes). Even among accountants, Burris left few strong impressions, but he also never gave any prosecutor grounds to indict him, which is not something Illinois voters take for granted.

[1] With the governor as Shemp.