The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Sunsets are getting later

In the Northern hemisphere, yesterday's was the earliest sunset of the year. Kieron Taylor, writing for the Sheffield Astronomical Society in the U.K., has a pretty good explanation of why this is so. Suffice to say, it's because the earth's orbit around the sun is elliptical.

Here, then, is a quick chart of the shortest days of the year, for Evanston, Illinois:

Date Significance Sunrise Sunset Daylight
4 Dec Earliest sunsets start 07:02 16:19 9:16
13 Dec Sunsets get later 07:10 16:20 9:09
21 Dec Solstice, 18:35 UTC 07:16 16:22 9:06
30 Dec Latest sunrises start 07:19 16:28 9:09
8 Jan Sunrises get earlier 07:18 16:37 9:18
28 Jan 5pm sunset 07:07 17:00 9:53
4 Feb 7am sunrise 07:00 17:09 10:09

You can get sunrise information for your location at wx-now.com.

Snow at rush hour

I have never, as far as I can remember, in all my years, seen a traffic report like this. I can't imagine it's accurate, showing as it does five hours from Northbrook to the Loop (a distance of 40 km, 25 mi.):

Welcome home, Danielle

As I mentioned earlier this week, my friend Danielle is returning today from Peace Corps duty in the Republic of Kiribati. For her entire tour she has lived in a place that almost never gets below 30°C (86°F). At this writing she's waiting at LAX for her flight home.

Here is what home looks like as of 15 minutes ago:

The airline claims her flight is on-time. I guess I'll find out later tonight...

Update, 3:56pm CST/21:56 UTC: The airline now reports a two-hour delay, so technically Danielle won't be getting home today.

Late update: The airline cancelled her flight after all. Still waiting...

Coat-check claim number

Yesterday at the gym's coat check, I got claim check 404.

The coat-check guy didn't find this nearly as funny as I did.

Even more funny—to a software nerd, anyway—was that when I gave him check #404 after working out, he found my coat.

One can imagine other possibilities. But 404 is the best, I think.

Hurricane season finally ends

The record-breaking 2005 hurricane season may finally be over. National Hurricane Center forecaster Avila writes this hour:

CONVECTION HAS VANISHED AND EPSILON IS NOW A TIGHT SWIRL OF LOW CLOUDS. THE CYCLONE IS WEAKENING RAPIDLY.... I HOPE THIS IS THE END OF THE LONG LASTING 2005 HURRICANE SEASON.

Good news for North Atlantic shipping, I suppose.

In Chicago, however, we have a good winter storm on its way. I'll keep you posted. Look for art around lunchtime (1:00pm CST/19:00 UTC).

Compiler warnings

Read, understand, and then fix your compiler warnings.

Compiler warnings let you know that you've either done something wrong, or you've done something non-standard. Either way, ignorning compiler warnings shows a lack of discipline and skill; it's something like ignoring big red "warning" signs in real life.

I'm working on a .NET solution that, when last compiled, generated over 60 warning messages. A couple of them I put in to let other developers know about problems I found, but most warned about things that actually needed to get fixed.

For example, the following line of code:

if (comboBox.SelectedItem == "Do stuff")

generated the warning, "Possible unintended reference comparison; to get a value comparison, cast the left hand side to type 'string.'"

In other words, the if statement was evaluating whether the object comboBox.SelectedItem was the same object as the string "Do Stuff," which is an impossibility. So the comparison would always fail, making it look like the feature was failing. Yet the compiler warned the developer about the problem, and even said how to fix it.

If you're wondering, the corrected line looks like this:

if ((string)comboBox.SelectedItem == "Do stuff")

Chicago enacts smoking ban

Chicago today banned smoking in restaurants starting January 16th. We've now joined New York, Los Angeles, and a number of other cities that also ban smoking in some public places. Reports the Tribune:

Smoking is allowed in freestanding bars and taverns, and within 15 feet of any restaurant bar, until July 1, 2008. A tavern is defined as an establishment that earns at least 65 percent of its revenues from liquor sales.

More about religious extremism

My previous entry, about Kansas University Professor Paul Mirecki's beating by religious extremists, may not have hit the correct note of irony and outrage.

I've just read the reports from Mirecki's local paper, the Lawrence Journal-World. The essential sequence of events was this:

  1. Mirecki wrote in an online forum that his upcoming course, "Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design, Creationism, and other religious mythologies," would be a "be a nice slap in [the fundies'] big fat face by teaching it as a religious studies class under the category 'mythology.'"
  2. On November 29th, the Lawrence Journal-World broke the story about how some Kansas legislators called for hearings to look into Mirecki's conduct.
  3. Mirecki, or the University, cancelled the course. The University president went so far as to call Mirecki's comments "repugnant."
  4. Mirecki then apologized publicly, saying it was "an ill-advised e-mail I sent to a small group of students and friends that has unintentionally impugned the integrity and good name of both the university and my faculty colleagues."
  5. Thugs beat the snot out of him.

Let me re-phrase that:

Thugs beat the snot out of him.

The Journal-World bound up some of Mirecki's postings from the Yahoo! discussion group he participates in. A quick read through those postings shows him to believe religous extremists are irrational, intolerant, and a threat to the American way of life.

Good thing those boys knocked some sense into that egghead.

A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good.

James Madison, Federalist No. 10

For in politics, as in religion, it is equally absurd to aim at making proselytes by fire and sword. Heresies in either can rarely be cured by persecution.

Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 1