Yesterday, Chicago Midway Airport recorded a high temperature of 1.1°C, the first time it has seen a temperature above freezing in 15 days.
Unfortunately for our weather records, O'Hare is our official station, and it only got to 0°C yesterday. So officially we still have not had a day above freezing since January 30th, with a forecast for continued below-freezing weather through Monday at least.
Plus, we've had measurable snow on the ground for 47 days now, and we're all frankly sick of it. That's why we're looking forward to next Thursday, when the predicted high of 10°C will quickly change our thick blanket of snow into a cold lake of slush. At least it will be warmer.
Today seemed like the right moment to recollect this short poem from Luis d'Antin van Rooten's Mots D'Heures: Gousses, Rames:
Raseuse arrête, valet de Tsar bat loups,
Joues gare et suite, et sot voyou.
As van Rooten's commentary makes clear, the wolves were really at fault.
So how do people at Maho Beach know when planes are landing? They check the surfboard:
And now my final Maho Beach photo for this trip, a US Airways A330 coming in from Charlotte:
We now return to your regularly-scheduled winter, already in progress...
First, to give you a better sense of what it actually looks like, here's a Delta 737 approaching SXM normally:
And here's a (gorgeous) Air France A340 landing normally:
And here's an American 757 landing two meters above people's heads:
Sorry about the image quality—I had a long lens on the camera, and it was set for a different kind of photo than this. We didn't realize how low he was until just a few seconds before this happened. The entire beach yelled "Whooooooaaaaa!" and then broke into applause.
I love a place where people appreciate a good landing.
My dad highlighted a Washington Post article from the weekend outlining why Accenture may have been a bad choice (as I pointed out at the time) to manage the healthcare.gov project:
At the University of Michigan, students and faculty members are protesting the school’s use of Accenture to help cut costs, citing a report by a committee of alumni and graduate students that said the firm has “a disturbing pattern of problematic past performance.” In North Carolina, glitches in an Accenture-configured computer system contributed to massive backlogs for food-stamp recipients, leading the Obama administration last month to threaten to withdraw the state’s food-stamp funding.
Federal officials have also on occasion criticized the company’s integrity. The U.S. Postal Service Inspector General’s Office wrote in June that Accenture had “demonstrated an absence of business ethics” and said that the agency should consider terminating the firm’s more than $200 million in contracts. The office cited in part a 2011 settlement with the Justice Department in which Accenture paid $63 million to resolve allegations of what the government called “kickbacks” and “bid-
rigging” in numerous federal contracts. The company denied wrongdoing in the case.
Accenture officials defended their past performance and commitment to ethics, pointing out that the firm has received strong ratings from industry analysts. In the United States alone, they said, the company has successfully worked on more than 1,000 federal, state and local projects in the past year.
Yes, "industry analysts" say they're a great company. What this has to do with their ethics, business practices, or general loathsomeness is left to the reader's inference.
Wow. Getting off the plane in New York last night, then taking the bus into Manhattan during a gentle snowfall (during rush hour, on the Van Wyck and Grand Central Parkway), reminded me why I went to St. Maarten for the weekend. Getting home to this made me ask why I didn't stay longer:
Today was the 20th day this winter that temperatures have dipped below -18°C at O’Hare. Tomorrow should be the 21st. That is triple the average of 7 days per winter. The record number of sub-zero days for a winter was 25 set back in 1884-1885. The way this winter has been going that record is certainly within reach. 50 out of 72 days or 69% of days this winter have been below average.
The medium-range forecast calls for a change, however. By Thursday it might approach freezing; next week it may even get warmer than that.
Meanwhile, the current temperature at Princess Juliana Airport is 28°C.
I've figured out the hotel's WiFi. It's not the slowest Internet connection in the world; it's the slowest SSL in the world. In other words, they're not really throttling the Internet per se. But somewhere between here and the U.S., someone is only letting through a very few secure packets.
The genius of this is that things like restaurant reviews (think: TripAdvisor.com) come up normally. But just try to get your email, check your airline reservations, or heaven forbid, get to your bank's website. It's excruciating.
Normal port-80 traffic is running about 500 kbps. That's not especially fast, but it's not painful. But SSL traffic is getting to my laptop at 100 kbps peak speeds and 30 kbps average speeds. Let's party like it's 1999! W00t!
Further, I can't tell where the bottleneck is. Anyone from here to Miami could be throttling SSL: the local Sint Maarten ISP, the hotel, the government of Sint Maarten, the government of the U.S....there's no way to tell. It's just like the Chinese firewall, maddening, inefficient, almost certainly deliberate, but too difficult to diagnose to ever find the right face to punch.
I have a very simple problem to solve that my hotel's WiFi is preventing me from solving. That makes me very annoyed. This will, I assure you, go on my Trip Advisor review.
When I last visited St. Martin five years ago, I struggled a bit to get through the heavily-defended border between the French and Dutch sides. I am happy to report that the two countries have made significant improvements to the border since then. For starters, they've put up a brand-new sign:
Unfortunately, it appears that an aggressor nation has taken over part of the French side:
All right, I'm wasting time writing a blog post when I could do it with something else. If only this Internet connection were faster, I could be offline a lot faster.
This is why I love Sint Maarten:
I'm about to close my laptop for the remainder of the day, so I'm just noting these two for later reading:
And now, allons-y! The beach awaits.