The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

2012 will be even longer

The Paris Observatory has announced a leap second between June 30th and July 1st this year:

A positive leap second will be introduced at the end of June 2012. The sequence of dates of the UTC second markers will be:

   2012 June 30, 23h 59m 59s
   2012 June 30, 23h 59m 60s
   2012 July  1, 0h  0m  0s

... Leap seconds can be introduced in UTC at the end of the months of December or June, depending on the [available rotation data].

Leap seconds occur from time to time because the earth's rotation on its axis doesn't stay exactly the same from year to year. Most years it loses about half a second; the last couple of years it hasn't lost as much, so the last leap second came just before 1 January 2009. Eventually, the earth will stop rotating on its axis relative to the sun, in much the same way the moon rotates once on its axis every time it orbits the earth. You've been warned.

This has an interesting side effect, by the way: UTC is now 34 seconds behind the earth, so clocks on things like orbiting satellites—think GPS—have "incorrect" values. Your hand-held GPS receiver will probably be a second slow after June 30th. Your computer, if it syncs up to an authoritative time service, won't.

Exurban Wisconsin

A couple of us have come to Brown Deer, Wis., to work with a vendor on an upcoming software release. (Brown Deer is about 160 km north of Chicago.) The vendor has been über-cooperative, the trip up (for me, anyway) took less than two hours, and we're getting everything done we weren't able to do from our respective offices in other states.

Two of the guys are from Texas, one is from Delhi, and I'm from the Greatest City in North America. So the only thing we're having any difficulty negotiating is food.

At lunch today we scouted Google Maps rigorously for anything other than Applebee's, and found the only place better within a 20-minute drive: Olive Garden. Between discussing the project and other stuff about work, we decided that Brown Deer is a food desert. So tonight, after scanning Yelp and getting other recommendations, we're heading into downtown Milwaukee for some real food.

Unfortunately, that means tomorrow night we'll have Applebee's. But at least we'll make the effort.

"A 2×2 Grid to Understanding Some of the Ideological Concerns of Privatization, Especially as it Pertains to Parking"

Via Sullivan, writer Mike Konczal reviews economist Donald Schoup's book about parking pricing with a clear enunciation of good and bad parking schemes:

We now have two ways to distinguish changes in the provisioning of government services. On one axis, there’s who controls the provisoning and the residual – is it in public hands or private hands? On the second axis there’s how much competition and market reforms are driving the reform versus how much there’s monopolies and single firms dictating the allocation and the real reform comes through private ownership itself. Graphing these for the parking debate:

[P]eople react strongly against privatization without market competition, and there’s three good reasons why they should. There’s the matter of who ultimately controls the residual, so if there are rents captured they go to private agents as opposed to the public. If monopolists provide too little of a good at too high a price, that surplus goes to private agents, instead of recycling to taxpayers. This has huge implications for whether the initial price tag is set right, for whether the government will get too little because of crony practices or because they are liquidity-constrained, and what mechanisms are in place for reevaluating the deal at points in the future. Chances are these will all be problems, as they were in Chicago.

And now the city has to pay Morgan Stanley for street only gets better.

Truth in advertising gets a little closer

I caught a mention of this on the Marketplace Open this morning, and now Gulliver has picked it up. Apparently the Department of Transportation now requires more transparency in airline price advertising:

Beginning Jan. 24, the Transportation Department will enforce a rule requiring that any advertised price for air travel include all government taxes and fees. For the last 25 years, the department has allowed airlines and travel agencies to list government-imposed fees separately, resulting in a paragraph of fine print disclaimers about charges that can add 20 percent or more to a ticket’s price.

“Requiring all mandatory charges to be included in a single advertised price will help consumers compare airfares and make it easier for them to determine the full cost of their trip,” Bill Mosley, a department spokesman, said by e-mail in response to questions about the rule.

The government and the airlines are being guarded in discussing the full-fare advertising policy, since Spirit Airlines, Allegiant and Southwest have asked the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to block the proposed change, arguing that it violates their commercial free speech rights.

Yes, I suppose the First Amendment gives people the right to lie, dissemble, exaggerate, and defraud. Oh wait—regulation of commercial speech seems well-established in the U.S. Good luck, guys.

Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see if airlines change their booking software before the 24th. If you book flights between, say, Chicago and London, on, you can find one-way fares as low as—no kidding—$86 outbound. Of course, the lowest return fare is $466 (connecting through Toronto on February 14th), and taxes add another $204.30 for a total fare of $756.30. (Part of that includes the asinine £60 ($95) tax to leave Heathrow that probably won't die before the Olympics.)

The airlines will claim, of course, that they can't calculate the taxes and fees in some cases, like departing Heathrow, because they don't know from the start whether the customer will be subject to the tax. This is a technical problem that a competent programmer can solve, I think. Let's see after the 24th whether they solve it.

Chicago sunrise chart, 2012

Welcome to the semi-annual update of the Chicago sunrise chart. (You can get one for your own location at

Date Significance Sunrise Sunset Daylight
4 Jan Latest sunrise until Oct 28th 07:19 16:33 9:14
28 Jan 5pm sunset 07:07 17:00 9:52
5 Feb 7am sunrise 07:00 17:11 10:10
21 Feb 5:30pm sunset 06:39 17:31 10:52
27 Feb 6:30am sunrise 06:30 17:38 11:08
10 Mar Earliest sunrise until Apr. 15th
Earliest sunset until Oct. 27th
06:10 17:52 11:42
11 Mar Daylight savings time begins
Latest sunrise until Oct. 21st
Earliest sunset until Sept. 20th
07:09 18:53 11:45
16 Mar 7am sunrise, 7pm sunset
12-hour day
07:00 18:59 11:59
20 Mar Equinox 00:14 CDT 06:53 19:04 12:10
3 Apr 6:30am sunrise (again) 06:29 19:19 12:50
13 Apr 7:30pm sunset 06:13 19:30 13:17
21 Apr 6am sunrise 06:00 19:39 13:39
10 May 8pm sunset 05:35 20:00 14:24
15 May 5:30am sunrise 05:30 20:05 14:35
14 Jun Earliest sunrise of the year 05:15 20:28 15:13
20 Jun Solstice 18:09 CDT
8:30pm sunset
05:16 20:30 15:14
26 Jun Latest sunset of the year 05:17 20:31 15:13
2 Jul 8:30pm sunset 05:20 20:30 15:09
16 Jul 5:30am sunrise 05:30 20:24 14:53
8 Aug 8pm sunset 05:53 20:00 14:06
16 Aug 6am sunrise 06:00 19:48 13:48
28 Aug 7:30pm sunset 06:13 19:30 13:16
13 Sep 6:30am sunrise 06:30 19:03 12:33
15 Sep 7pm sunset 06:33 19:00 12:28
22 Sep Equinox, 09:49 CDT 06:39 18:48 12:08
25 Sep 12-hour day 06:42 18:42 12:00
2 Oct 6:30pm sunset 06:50 18:30 11:40
13 Oct 7am sunrise 07:01 18:13 11:10
21 Oct 6pm sunset 07:11 18:00 10:48
3 Nov Latest sunrise until 2 Nov 2013
Latest sunset until Mar 2nd
07:27 17:42 10:15
4 Nov Standard time returns
Earliest sunrise until Feb 28th
06:28 16:41 10:13
6 Nov 6:30 sunrise 06:30 16:39 10:08
15 Nov 4:30pm sunset 06:41 16:30 9:49
1 Dec 7am sunrise 07:00 16:21 9:21
7 Dec Earliest sunset of the year 07:06 16:20 9:14
21 Dec Solstice, 05:12 CST 07:16 16:23 9:07

You can get sunrise information for your location at

The year in numbers

In 2011, I:

  • took 8,198 photos, including 4,352 in Chicago, 881 in Japan, 588 in Portugal, and 337 in the U.K. (and only 71 of Parker). This is almost as many as I took in 2009 and 2010 combined (9,140), and more than I took in the first 8 years I owned a camera (1983-1991, 7,671).
  • flew 115,845 km but drove less than 4,500 km
  • visited 5 countries (the UK, Spain, Portugal, Canada, Japan) and 8 states (California, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Indiana, North Carolina, Texas, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin) in 35 trips. Sadly, this meant Parker boarded for more than 100 days
  • spent more than 186 hours walking Parker, which partially made up for all those days being boarded
  • wrote 539 blog entries, with the most consistency in the blog's 6-year history (averaging 1.48 per day with a standard deviation of only 0.11)
  • got 2.3 million hits (object views) on the Daily Parker, and 1.7 million on Weather Now, including 47,956 and 181,285 page views, respectively. According to Google Analytics, the blog had 28,613 unique visitors, and Weather Now had 26,539.
  • read only 34 books, but as these included the first four of the "Song of Ice and Fire" series, it should count as 46
  • started and ended the year in the same place (Duke of Perth, Chicago)
  • went to only 8 movies, 3 plays, 3 concerts, and 3 baseball games, which is terribly sad

Oh, and I also got a master's degree. (Almost forgot.)