The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Cassie

I seem to have a new addition to my family:

The jumping-into-the-front-seat thing will not happen again, however. We're getting a car harness tomorrow.

Updates as conditions warrant.

What is normal, really?

Well, if you're a climatologist, it's a calculated value based on a 30-year period, updated every 10 years. And the 19991-2020 climate normals for the US will come out this May. Meanwhile, the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) has released some teaser images:

NOAA senior science writer Rebecca Lindsey explains:

These images are a sneak peak at how the new normals for winter temperature (top) and precipitation (bottom) are different from the current normals, which cover 1981-2010. Consistent with the long-term warming trend, winter is warmer across most of the contiguous United States, but the amount of warming ranges from nearly 0.0 (light pink) to 1.5 degrees [Fahrenheit] (darker pink) Fahrenheit depending on the location. There are even a few small areas of the Northern Plains where the normal winter temperature for 1991-2020 is slightly cooler than the 1981-2010 normal (light blue).

There’s a lot more variation in the changes in winter precipitation, which includes both rain and snow. The map shows the percent difference in normal winter precipitation in the new normal versus the old normals. The Northern Plains and Upper Midwest have seen the biggest percent increases in normal winter precipitation, while the biggest percent decreases occurred in the Southwest and Southern Plains, including Colorado’s Eastern Plains. (In absolute terms, these changes are equivalent to only fractions of an inch of liquid water because these locations are normally quite dry during the winter.)

Having seen other preliminary data, I expect that the December temperature normals will be the most surprising. Also, NCEI will prepare a second full set of 15-year normals covering 2006-2020 as well. It wasn't reported whether NCEI will produce 15-year normals on a 5-year schedule, however.

Lunchtime headaches

I'm shaking my head at email service provider Postmark, who four weeks ago announced they would be phasing out support for TLS 1.0 (a network security protocol). I understood this when they announced it in February, 60 days ahead of their cutover to TLS 1.2, but didn't think it applied to anything of mine. This morning they sent a more focused email saying, "you're getting this email because we can see that this applies to you." Panic ensues.

Why panic? Because almost everything I've developed in the last 12 years depends on Postmark for email messaging, and the way they worded their notice, it seemed like all of those apps will fail on April 20th. And the only documentation they supplied relevant to me (and anyone else in the Microsoft universe) was a set of instructions on how to test TLS 1.2 support, not whether this would be a breaking change.

I immediately contacted their support group and said, as nicely as I can, "WTF dudes?" To which they replied, "oh yeah, bummer, dude." So I sent a lengthier reply just now and started digging into their source code. It turns out they're using an out-of-the-box Microsoft component that should transparently switch from TLS 1.0 to TLS 1.2 if asked to do so. I believe, therefore, the affected applications will be fine. In fact, fixing the problem may only require a simple, non-invasive change to Microsoft Azure settings for the affected applications. But I don't know that for sure. And I'm hoping their actual development team will respond with "yeah, no probs, dude, you're cool."

My other headache is literal, from staring at too many screens. So I'll do something else in a moment.

Flesk Brewing, Barrington

Welcome to stop #43 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Flesk Brewing Co., 200 Applebee St., Barrington
Train line: Union Pacific Northwest, Barrington
Time from Chicago: 65 minutes (Zone G)
Distance from station: 700 m

Before talking about the brewery, let me talk for a moment about freight-train interference. This satellite photo shows Flesk Brewing adjacent to the Union Pacific Northwest line:

The yellow line shows the direction from which my train from Crystal Lake approached the Barrington train station, which is just southeast of this photo. The white arrow shows the location and potential direction of travel of the freight train that parked right there Sunday afternoon. Instead of taking 18 minutes to travel between those two stations, it took 40, including a 22-minute stop in the lovely town of Fox River Grove. When I finally got to the brewery the first person I met complained about the same freight train tying up traffic throughout downtown Barrington for half an hour.

So, just keep in mind that traveling by rail on the weekend has no guarantees of getting you anywhere on time.

Now let's talk about the beer, which I enjoyed a great deal more than Metra.

They had only just re-opened the taproom, so I only saw three beers on their menu I wanted to try. From left to right: the Midnight Express vanilla coffee stout (8%) was delicious, with a velvety texture and just the right coffee and vanilla notes. The Thousand-Yard Stare pale ale (6%) had tons of Citra flavors, with a lingering finish. The XYZ double IPA (7%) had so much hop flavors I had to taste it twice to get any other notes. It wasn't bad, but it was maybe a bit too hoppy for me. Your mileage may vary.

Inside, I met two big old dogs, which I always like in a taproom.

Beer garden? Yes
Dogs OK? Yes
Televisions? 2, unavoidable
Serves food? No; BYOF
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

The clocks! The clocks!

Most parts of the US and Canada entered daylight saving time overnight, spurring the annual calls for changing the practice:

The so-called "Sunshine Protection Act of 2021" was reintroduced Tuesday by U.S. Senators Marco Rubio, R-Florida; James Lankford, R-Oklahoma; Roy Blunt, R-Missouri; Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island; Ron Wyden, D-Oregon; Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Mississippi; Rick Scott, R-Florida; and Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts.  

In 2018, Florida passed legislation to keep DST, but a federal statue is require for the state to enact the change, according to a press release from Rubio.

The "Sunshine Protection Act of 2021" would apply to states who participate in DST by negating Standard Time, which only lasts between November to March, when Americans turn their clocks back one hour.

Of course, as one would expect from Marco Rubio and the august institution he serves in, abolishing daylight saving time fixes the problem exactly the wrong way. Permanent DST would lead to dark winter mornings for no real benefit winter evenings. Abolishing it makes a lot more sense. Cartographer Andy Woodruff built an app to demonstrate why. Simply, if you like the idea of 8:20 am sunrises in Chicago—which means 9:15 am sunrises in western Michigan—then make DST permanent. I say no.

Wall clock time doesn't really matter, anyway. The world runs on UTC.

Update: I forgot to include Binyamin Applebaum's op-ed in the Times from Friday, exhorting us to "learn[] to love daylight saving time."

Those were the days...

This photo came up in my Facebook memories this morning:

This struck me for a few reasons. First, as I noted when I posted it on Facebook the morning of 13 March 2017, we hadn't gotten any snow for almost three months that winter. No snow in January; no snow in February; no snow the first 12 days of March; then this crap.

Second, four years later, Metra still hasn't finished constructing the new inbound platform at the Ravenswood station. Construction began in 2014. Then it stopped, partially because they needed to build a new inbound track between the new outbound track and the old inbound track, which meant they had to replace all the inbound bridges from Grace to Winnemac. But all of that construction halted in early 2015 when then-governor Bruce Rauner (R-of course) stopped spending state money. So we've had to endure five winters from the inbound platform's projected completion in fall 2015 until now out of an ideological tantrum by one of the best examples of how business CEOs make terrible politicians. Construction finally resumed, uncoincidentally just after governor JB Pritzker (D) took office, and we should have a new platform this summer.

Finally, look at all those people! A year ago this week, those crowds thinned out to nothing. When I went into the office yesterday, four people got on the train with me. A year ago, plus or minus a few days, Ravenswood had the third-largest passenger numbers of any station on Metra.

Crystal Lake Brewing Co., Crystal Lake

Welcome to stop #42 on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Crystal Lake Brewing Co., 150 N. Main St., Crystal Lake
Train line: Union Pacific Northwest, Crystal Lake
Time from Chicago: 81 minutes (Zone I)
Distance from station: 200 m

A bit more than half of the scheduled Metra UP-NW trains end their runs at Crystal Lake on weekends, so you probably won't miss the stop. The brewery is just one block north of the station. And as you can see, on a gorgeous early-spring day like last Sunday, they have a decent outside seating area for you.

I had a decent flight of four samples, all of which were quite good. First, the Overlord oatmeal stout (5.2%, 45 IBU) had a hoppier flavor than I anticipated, with a long finish, a definite oaty-hoppy flavor. It wasn't my favorite example of the style, nor was it my favorite beer at this stop, but I would recommend it to people who like hoppy oat stouts.

The Reel Hazy New England IPA (5.7%, 20 IBU) had way less hoppiness than expected, but the juicy, grapefruit Citra flavor came through; an excellent example of the style. The Fox Rocker Red Ale (5.5%, 22 IBU) had a very malty, caramel flavor, a bit too sweet for my palate. And the Wake Maker session IPA (4.8%, 53 IBU) tasted great, with the right hop-malt balance for the style, with a long finish. I actually preferred their NEIPA, but I would drink either.

Is it worth the hour-and-20-minute trip out to the edge of the known universe? Eh. I would go back, and I'd meet a friend there, but only if the friend lived in McHenry County.

Beer garden? Yes
Dogs OK? Outside only
Televisions? None
Serves food? No; BYOF, and food trucks Fridays
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

When shit got real

Has this really been a full year? March 11th and 12th seem to be the days when everyone realized this was not a drill. John Scalzi:

I was on the JoCo Cruise at the time and had intentionally avoided news up to that point, but then two things happened. One, people came up to me wanting to tell me about Tom Hanks contracting the COVID virus (people knew that I know him personally), and two, my editor Patrick sent me a cryptic email telling me that I should call him immediately. After reminding him I was on a cruise and the ocean does not have cell phone towers, he told me via email that my book tour was cancelled and that plague was everywhere. I gave in at that point and caught up with the news from the world, all bad.

Josh Marshall:

As evidenced by what I tweeted on March 10, 2020, our last day in the New York team’s Manhattan office, I and a lot of my colleagues didn’t expect this to last a full year and longer. We sipped some whiskey as we locked things down for what we expected to be a month or two away. We were naive to the severity. We didn’t expect the catastrophic loss or the debilitating fear or the deep ineptitude of the previous administration’s handling of the virus.

And me:

What an exciting 24 hours.

President Trump made a statement from the Oval Office last night about the COVID-19 pandemic that completely failed to reassure anyone, in part because it contained numerous errors and misstatements. By announcing a ban on travel from the Schengen area of 26 European countries that applies to non-US residents, he enraged our European allies while doing nothing to stop the spread of the virus for the simple reason that the virus has already spread to the US. Not to mention, having a US passport doesn't magically confer immunity on people.

Meanwhile, historian John Barry, who has written a book about the 1918 influenza pandemic, points out the grave dangers in giving up masks right now:

There is no reason to expect that this virus will suddenly turn into 1918. There are limits as to how far it can mutate. But the more people who abandon masks and social distancing, the more infections can be expected — and the more variants will emerge.

In gambling terms: If you roll the dice once, yes, there is only a 2.77 percent chance you will hit snake eyes. But if you roll the dice 100,000 times, it is virtually certain snake eyes will come up several thousand times.

We know masks decrease transmission. Lifting a masking order not only means more people will get sick and die. It also gives the virus more rolls of the dice. That is a fact.

We're close to the end of this tunnel. But what a long year we've had.