The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Correcting the record

Reader AT actually met Tom Shanks, the chief programmer behind the ACS Atlases, and corrects my understanding of how the ACS team put it together:

Contrary to what you assume in your post, Tom Shanks did not hack his atlas into an Apple II. ACS was rather professional in their IT. The worldwide city database with longitude and latitude they had licensed from on of the big atlas (map atlas) publishers, if I remember correctly Rand McNally. The timezone history data they had collected from numerous published sources..., and partly also from field research and grass root contributions by their own astrology service clients.

The reader also gave me the story about an ongoing effort to extend the tzinfo database, and the provenance of Astrolabe's alleged copyrights. (Note that this is the precise, legal meaning of "alleged:" in a civil complaint, just as in a criminal complaint, the parties "allege" each fact in their filings.) If the reader gives me permission, I'll post some of this information.

Analysis of Shanks' atlases against the tzinfo database

To better understand the facts behind Astrolabe’s stupid trolling quixotic lawsuit against the guys who coordinated the worldwide time-zone database (tzinfo), I bought copies of the Shanks Amercian and International atlases that Astrolabe claims to own. (I went through the secondary market, so I didn’t actually give Astrolabe any money.)

First, an update. According to Thomas Eubanks of the IETF, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has taken over Arthur Olson’s legal defense. Mazel tov. I expect to see a response to the complaint against him in a few weeks that includes a motion to dismiss which, I think, may be granted. (I’m thinking about drafting a response myself, just to exercise my legal muscles properly. Watch this space.)

Now to the main post. The Shanks books, rather than containing maps, contain pages and pages of tabular data showing three things:

  1. Names of first- and second-order administrative districts (e.g., states and counties);
  2. Latitudes and longitudes of cities and other named places within countries or states;
  3. Lists of the dates and times of time-zone changes for those named places.

The atlases dump this data to paper using a monospace typeface at 6-point size in what can be nothing other than 1990s-era printouts to some kind of publishing compositing software. This offers a clue to the “original works” claim that Astrolabe makes about the products.

Shanks certainly put a lot of work into these books, especially considering he first published them in 1978 and 1985. He must have spent hundreds of hours looking up and entering data on the thousands of locations in the tables.

For example, the American Atlas contains rows upon rows of data like this:

Chicago 16      1 41N51'00 87W39'00 5:50:36
Chicago Heights 16
                1 41N30'22 87W38'08 5:50:33
Chicago Lawn 16 1 41N47    87W43    5:50:52

I imagine Shanks looked up this data in reference books, then entered it into a home-grown flat-field database through a Vax terminal or on his Apple ][+. I hope he at least let the computer calculate the last column (the location’s offset from GMT), since it’s derived directly from the location’s longitude (the next-to-last column).

I imagine this because, in the early 1990s, I did something similar to study climate data. (Do you know how long it takes to enter 30 years of daily climate data by hand? No? You’re lucky.)

Back to Astrolabe’s complaint. In Count 4, Astrolabe claims ownership of “certain copyright-protected computer software programs and information contained therein…known as the ‘ACS Atlas,’ consisting of both the ‘ACS International Atlas,’ and the ‘ACS American Atlas,’ in the form of computer software program(s) and/or data bases, and in the form of electronic output and future electronic media from said programs....’ ” I infer from the complaint that the software reproduces the books in computer-searchable form, or perhaps contains the raw data that Shanks himself used to produce the books.

I’ll defer my main argument for a moment to speculate further on what parts of the tzinfo database could have copied the Shanks database.

In the tzinfo database, one of the files ( contains latitudes and longitudes of locations in this form:

US	+415100-0873900	America/Chicago	Central Time
US	+375711-0864541	America/Indiana/Tell_City	Central Time - Indiana - Perry County
US	+411745-0863730	America/Indiana/Knox	Central Time - Indiana - Starke County

Nothing else in the tzinfo database comes as close to looking like data in the Shanks atlases. I don’t know where the tzinfo list came from, but I suspect it came from public sources like the Census Bureau.

The other possible copying comes from the lists of dates Shanks put together that look like this:

IL # 1
Before 11/18/1883  LMT
11/18/1883  12:00  CST
 3/31/1918  02:00  CWT
10/27/1918  02:00  CST

Here’s how the tzinfo database shows the same information:

Rule	Chicago	1920	only	-	Jun	13	2:00	1:00	D
Rule	Chicago	1920	1921	-	Oct	lastSun	2:00	0	S
Rule	Chicago	1921	only	-	Mar	lastSun	2:00	1:00	D
Rule	Chicago	1922	1966	-	Apr	lastSun	2:00	1:00	D
Rule	Chicago	1922	1954	-	Sep	lastSun	2:00	0	S
Rule	Chicago	1955	1966	-	Oct	lastSun	2:00	0	S
Zone America/Chicago	-5:50:36 -	LMT	1883 Nov 18 12:09:24
			-6:00	US	C%sT	1920
			-6:00	Chicago	C%sT	1936 Mar  1 2:00
			-5:00	-	EST	1936 Nov 15 2:00
			-6:00	Chicago	C%sT	1942
			-6:00	US	C%sT	1946
			-6:00	Chicago	C%sT	1967
			-6:00	US	C%sT

That hot mess establishes the specific rules Chicago used to change its clocks in the 1920s and 1950s where the rules differed from the general U.S. rules, then it sets out the dates and times that Chicago’s wall-clock rule sets changed from the beginning of standard time in 1883 through the last change in 1967. (The current rule set for Chicago are the “US” rules, defined elsewhere in the database.)

Shanks has a list, and the tzinfo database has the rules to create the list. Shanks also has an error that the tzinfo database corrects: the tzinfo database establishes that Chicago switched from local mean time (LMT) to standard time at 12:09:24, because Chicago is 9 minutes and 24 seconds ahead of the standard meridian for the time zone. Shanks puts the time at 12 noon, because his list shows the target time, not the trigger time, for the rule change.

Did the tzinfo project use Shanks to determine the rules for time changes? Yes, explicitly, though for highly-documented locations like Chicago the project participants cross-referenced Shanks with original sources, often correcting his errors. But "use" does not mean "copy;" I can use all the baseball statistics I want out of the newspaper without ever copying the newspaper. Data is not protected by copyright.

The tzinfo didn’t infringe on anyone’s copyright because Shanks created very little to protect. As I’ve previously explained, facts and data do not enjoy copyright protection in the United States. Only the expression of facts does. So if the tzinfo project had photocopied Shanks’ atlases, or republished the ACS software wholesale, then perhaps there would be an infringement. But I think I’ve shown a bit of why the tzinfo project hasn’t done anything actionable.

The Shanks atlases are like meticulously hand-copied illuminated codices from the 16th century, years after Gutenberg made his Bible and made hand-copying obsolete. I’m glad Shanks did the work; I’m sure he felt like he’d accomplished something huge. I really admire the work that went into it, while at the same time shaking my head at the wasted effort. Because since the late 1990s, all that data—latitudes, longitudes, place names—has been available for free from the Census Bureau and the CIA.[1] Before around 1998, you couldn’t just download the data through FTP for free; you had to write a letter to the appropriate agency and pay for it. But being U.S. government data, it was in the public domain, so once you’d paid for it, you could republish it in an easier-to-use form and recoup royalties.

In an era before the Census Bureau started dumping terabytes of data to the Internet, Shanks’ atlases would have been incredibly convenient sources of geographic and time-zone data. Today, they’re curiosities, monuments to exactly the kind of mental effort obviated by fast, cheap computers and the Internet.

Poor Shanks, all those data, thousands of rows of it, standing nakedly, and often erroneously, on page after page of tables in two massive volumes, apparently not knowing that he could have gotten it from the U.S. government—you have to admire that work ethic.

Astrolabe, for its part, has degenerated into exactly the kind of mental deficiency reviled by those of us who actually create software for a living. I eagerly await their much-deserved legal defeat in the next few months.

[1] Yes, the CIA publishes tons of free data, from their World Factbook to entire databases of geospatial information.

Edited at 20:58 UTC: Clarified the difference between "use" and "copying."

Simplified explanation of tzinfo mess

The AP has picked up the story about the tzinfo database moving to ICANN:

The organization in charge of the Internet's address system is taking over a database widely used by computers and websites to keep track of time zones around the world.

The transition to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, comes a week after the database was abruptly removed from a U.S. government server because of a federal lawsuit claiming copyright infringement.

Without this database and others like it, computers would display Greenwich Mean Time, or the time in London when it isn't on summer time. People would have to manually calculate local time when they schedule meetings or book flights.

Ah, I do love the popular press, trying to explain things. AP writer Anick Jesdanun generally did all right explaining the problem and the move, except the story has no information about the tzinfo community's response to the mess. (I'm just sad they didn't mention The Daily Parker.)

Astrolabe responds

This morning The Daily Parker received a press release from Gary Christen, responding to my analyses of their lawsuit against the guys who maintain the Posix time zone database (here, here, and here).

Unfortunately for Christen, Astrolabe's response fails to rebut my central assertions. I said, essentially, they have failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted by a Federal court (or, as one of my colleagues who actually practices law suggested, their complaint is actionable in itself). Their response doesn't make their original claim any stronger.

Christen seems at pains to make non-technical people feel better about the alarm we technical people raised regarding the likely effects of shutting down the tzinfo project. "Astrolabe has now done a careful reading of ... the various industry publications that broke this story on October 7," Christen claims, but if so it was a reading without comprehension. We technical folks got over our panic in about thirty seconds, in favor of outrage and scorn. And with their detailed, bullet-pointed release, Astrolabe systematically reinforces this writer's outrage and scorn.

Taking each of Christen's points in turn:

1. Astrolabe’s lawsuit is in no way intended to interfere with compilation of current time-zone information maintained by Mssrs. Olson and Eggert, or any other persons.

Read in the light most favoring the plaintiff, this is irrelevant. Read in the light of my office, it's false. Astrolabe's intent is irrelevant in any case; the tzinfo database contains historical and prospective time zone data because computers on occasion need to represent times and dates in the past. For that, and other technical reasons I'll get into in another post, "past" and "future" data can't be separated. Shutting down the tzinfo project shuts down the whole thing.

2. The aim of Astrolabe’s suit is only to enforce copyright protection for materials regarding historical time data prior to 2000. This does not affect current time-setting on computers, and it has little or no effect on the Unix computing world.

Taking the second sentence, time-setting isn't the issue; time display is; and if their suit survives a motion to dismiss (big "if"), it could have a crippling effect on time displays in the U.S. But the first sentence demonstrates nicely the fallacy of petitio principii (begging the question) concerning who owns the material in the first place.

3. The fact is that the historical time zone data compiled by ACS is protected by registered copyrights, first on its publication in book form as the American Atlas and the International Atlas, and later in electronic form as the ACS PC Atlas.

Gary, the data is not protected by copyright. Of course the books and the software are protected, which no one disputes. But the data—Gary, can't you understand the difference?

Let me try to help. Let's say the book has the sentence "In 1985, the U.S. passed a law that moved the first day of Daylight Saving Time from the last Sunday in April to the first Sunday." The tzinfo database distills from that sentence the following entry: "Rule US 1987 2006 - Apr Sun>=1 2:00 1:00 D". Does the database entry look, maybe, a little different? Can you start to see how the fact and its expression have different forms? No? Sigh.

The question of whether the material is “copyrightable”: has already been decided by the U.S. Copyright Office in the affirmative.

NO, NO, NO, you crashing ignoramus. Wow, either you got astoundingly bad legal advice, or ignored the advice you got.

The Copyright Office does not decide whether a work presented for registration is protected; it simply registers the work. All creative works have presumptive copyright protection at the time of creation. Copyright registration provides legal benefits in the event of infringement. But the Copyright Office makes no determinations at all on the validity of the copyright claim.

But "the material" in the tzinfo database is not subject to copyright protection, as Judge O'Toole is going to make clear to you in short order.

4. Why is the material considered copyrightable? Many hold the mistaken belief that all databases are mere compilations of fact, and are therefore not subject to copyright. However, compiling the ACS database went far beyond gathering official government data. In 20th-century America, particularly in the Midwest, time standards were a chaotic patchwork of not only state and local ordinances, but even of different time observances in the same jurisdiction.

Gary, the information expressed in the tzinfo database "is...considered copyrightable" only by Astrolabe, not, in fact, by Title 17, U.S. Code. And as your attorney should have told you, it doesn't matter whether the authors crossed fields of broken glass barefoot and rinsed the blood off with lemon juice in an effort to find the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and time zones. Once the answer is out there, the facts are public domain. I can tell everyone I want that the answer is 42, and neither you nor the restless ghost of Douglas Adams can make a penny off me saying so.

5. Why did the ACS compilers bother to undertake this effort?

Having moved from petitio principii we move now to argumentum ad misericordiam, an argument to pity. No one cares whether you are curing cancer, leading us to eternal salvation, or as you suggested in your press release, you guys "are money-seeking parasites on society," all that matters right now is the nature of the material you claim to own.

6. Why is Astrolabe suing to defend this copyright? ... Astrolabe inherited the obligation to pay royalties on the Atlas to Michelsen’s widow and to the other principal compilers, who are now at retirement-age.

Oh my heavens, save the widows and orphans! It's irrelevant to your lawsuit, but it does fill me with emotion. Unfortunately, the emotion is disgust.

You blocks, you stones, you worse than senseless things, this lawsuit reduces the market for your book. The tzinfo database not only exhorts people to buy the books (thus creating the onerous obligation for you to give a few of your hard-inherited dollars back to the family of the guy who wrote them) but gives expression to the data the books contain such that the entire world can benefit from it. Given that computer software engineers, being logical sorts, generally avoid bunkum, the tzinfo database creates a market for the books that would never have otherwise heard of them.

Contrary to the accusations that it is trolling for dollars, it is not filing this suit in pursuit of vast amounts of cash. In the astrology world, there are no vast amounts of cash. The suit was filed in order to make Astrolabe’s concerns known to Mssrs. Olson and Eggert having not received a satisfactory reply to earlier phone calls and letters. Astrolabe has no wish to cripple the database on which Unix, Linux, Java and other computing depends.

Obviously you're not interested in money, because you would have named the U.S. government and the University of California as defendants if you were. (By the way, you need a new lawyer, or you need to listen to the one you have. Since Olson and Eggert maintained the tzinfo database in their official capacities as employees of those institutions, their employers will be joined in the suit eventually, and now you're up against a lot of really good attorneys. Good luck.)

But wait—you filed a Federal lawsuit to make a point? Because Olson and Eggert ignored your calls as any reasonable person would when some crank claims ownership of historical facts? And didn't you write earlier—right there, in the first bullet point—that you "in no way intended to interfere with compilation of current time-zone information maintained by Mssrs. Olson and Eggert?"

Finally, your conclusion:

In filing this suit, Astrolabe has touched the hot buttons on a number of highly emotional issues. One issue is the long-held right of people to receive money for their labors vs. the newer values of open sourcing, wiki and the other forms of the free information exchange that have made the internet so great.

No, you've touched on a well-settled legal issue. The people who labored on the work you're attacking didn't ask for compensation; they donated their time and efforts to the tzinfo project. Also, you, Gary, didn't provide any labor at all. You bought the rights at a bankruptcy sale. Think on what that says about your concerns for the widows and orphans, not to mention your noble purpose in filing this suit. Will you give all the cash flows from the sale of the ACS books directly to the creator's estate? No? Why not?

Another is the clash of paradigms between a mechanistic one unfriendly to astrology and a newer (and older) one that recognizes that the universe is far more mysterious than we thought.

The only reason people think it at all interesting you lot are astrologers is simply that it suggests you refuse to accept evidence as a way of understanding the world. If you want to live in your demon-haunted world and fleece people with similar beliefs, that's your right as Americans.

But filing a lawsuit in U.S. District Court inserts you into the reality-based community in ways I don't think you understand. Preach ignorance all you want; just not in Federal court.

Finally, I have to call out for special derision this bit:

[I]n answer to those whose outrage is increased by the fact that astrologers are the plaintiffs, we can only say that these detractors are uninformed. Uncritical recipients of the opinions of those who are higher in status than they are, they have obviously never experienced the power of astrology for themselves. Why astrology works is still a mystery, but as the prevailing paradigm morphs from 19th-century mechanism into one that has to embrace all the new things we are finding out about the universe, perhaps we will soon have a plausible explanation. Anyway, to those who know that astrology is bunkum and its practitioners are money-seeking parasites on society, all we can say is try to be a bit humbler and accept that the universe is far more mysterious than you imagine.

We aren't pissed at you because you're astrologers; we're pissed at you because you're stupid. Speaking only for myself, precisely my ability to think critically and my refusal to accept extraordinary claims without extraordinary evidence (from anyone regardless of status) lead me to conclude that this lawsuit is the work of children, who have neither the comprehension, the logic, nor the humility to realize their error in misusing the legal process in their tantrum. I don't wish you harm; I don't care whether your business succeeds or fails; but I do wish upon you and your attorney a Rule 11 dismissal with sanctions so harsh they're recorded in the stars for generations to come.

The hidden truth about astrology software

After the shocking disappearance of the Olson time zone database yesterday (described here and here), some things have become clearer overnight.

o The wonderful land of Oz has stepped up. Robert Elz, an Australian computer scientist who has actively supported the tzinfo project throughout, has revived the time zone mailing list maintained at the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). My, but the list was active overnight, with dozens of people volunteering to host the database, move it to non-U.S. servers, and continue to research and develop it.

o The current database is available from an Australian site at (This is the version running on Weather Now.)

o Astrolabe, Inc., the mom-and-pop Cape Cod outfit responsible for this insanity, has a suddenly-popular Facebook page upon which hundreds of people have expressed themselves. (I wonder if the company will figure out how to disallow wall postings? Oopsi.)

o Software developer Curtis Manwaring, CEO of Zodiasoft Technologies in Las Vegas, claims that he and Astrolabe have had a running fight for years about ownership of various software implementations of time zone data. Says Manwaring:

Gary Christen (CEO of Astrolabe) tried to hire me on three separate occasions and I refused. When Astrolabe obtained the ACS Atlas (when ACS went bankrupt in July 2008), I was concerned that I wouldn't have an atlas for my software anymore. The last time that they tried to hire me, the ACS Atlas became leverage to coerce me into working for them because I had no guarantee that they would give me access to the ACS Atlas. When I refused the last time, I managed to obtain a verbal agreement that I would send my customers to them for a special discount on the ACS Atlas and was relieved for a while. But over the next several months, my customers started complaining about the run around they were getting on the special deal that Gary promised my customers. Eventually one of my customers said that he thought that Astrolabe was trying to make me look bad and disadvantage my business by making it difficult to obtain the stand alone version of the ACS Atlas which is required by my software (but not Solar Fire which has the ACS Atlas bound with it). He was so fed up with the run around Astrolabe gave him that he formatted a database of latitudes and longitudes for me and asked me to add it to my software. That got me back on the issue of researching time zones after which I found the Olson time zone database. I subsequently found from the Olson sources that the ACS data was extremely unreliable, much more than I previously thought.

Note to Curtis, Gary, and everyone else involved in this nonsense: there's a difference between software, which enjoys copyright protection, and data, which does not. This is established, black-letter law in the U.S. (and in most other countries). The fact that both of you produce products that use the same data does not in itself constitute copyright infringement.

What this sounds like—and I'm sorry, Curtis, but you're in it up to your neck—is that you're both amateurs, and your narcissistic dispute has started claiming innocent lives. Arthur Olson and Paul Eggert were trying to help people, as part of the open, collaborative effort we in the software community like to call "open collaboration."

Now, I write software for money, and in fact I have a time zone factory written in .NET, that reads and parses the entire tzinfo database so you can use it in .NET applications. (Send me an email if you want to license it!)

But here's the thing: I know it's a lot less expensive for someone to license my tzinfo parser than to roll their own. Like, two or three orders of magnitude less expensive. And if someone else writes a better parser, they might take my customers away—but that's not copyright infringement (unless they actually use the same C# code or documentation), that's creation.

Speaking of professional software development, I have to start billing now. I'm glad Robert Elz has stepped up, along the dozens of other volunteers, to keep this hidden but vital software project going.

Time zone database shut down

The National Institutes for Health, through a quirk of history, maintainsed the worldwide-standard time zone database until today. A Massachusetts-based company, Astrolabe, Inc., has sued the people who maintain the database for copyright infringement. The company claims to have purchased the rights to The American Atlas, from which the time zone database derived some of its data. From the complaint:

Defendant Olson’s unauthorized reproduction of the Works have been published at, where the references to historic international time zone data is replete with references to the fact thatthe source for this information is, indeed, the ACS Atlas.

Here are a couple of examples from the database:

# From Paul Eggert (2006-03-22):
# A good source for time zone historical data in the US is
# Thomas G. Shanks, The American Atlas (5th edition),
# San Diego: ACS Publications, Inc. (1991).
# Make sure you have the errata sheet; the book is somewhat useless without it.
# It is the source for most of the pre-1991 US entries below.

Here's an example from the data itself, in the Newfoundland section:

Rule	StJohns	1917	only	-	Apr	 8	2:00	1:00	D
Rule	StJohns	1917	only	-	Sep	17	2:00	0	S
# Whitman gives 1919 Apr 5 and 1920 Apr 5; go with Shanks & Pottenger.

I don't think anyone will deny that Arthur Olson, Paul Eggert, not to mention the hundreds of other people who have maintained the database for years, have used the book in question as a key reference. So here are the questions which, unfortunately, will take the court a couple of years to work out:

  1. Is data about when time zone rules changed throughout history protected under copyright?
  2. If so, who owns it?
  3. If someone owns it, is the Olson database a derivative work under copyright law?
  4. If the Olson database does, in fact, derive from the work in question, is it a fair use?
  5. Just how stupid are these astrologists, anyway?

Because what you may not know, dear reader, is that almost every Unix-based computer in the world uses this database to set its clock to local time. (All of the applications I've written, starting with Weather Now, use the database as well.) Shutting down the database project will require individual system administrators to update their local copies when rules change. It's not onerous, but it will lead to gaps, particularly in global applications like Weather Now.

What's even stupider about this lawsuit is that comments in the database encourage people to buy the book. So even if Astrolabe owns the copyright to the facts about time zone rules—a troubling proposition—their republication in the Olson database increases the likelihood that they'll make money off it.

Only, facts as such are not protected, so I can't see how Astrolabe can possibly win this suit. I will be contributing to Olson's and Eggert's legal defense fund once they get it set up.

Astrolabe doesn't need to look to the heavens to see how this will turn out.

Update: More here and here.

About this blog (v. 4.1.6)

I'm David Braverman, this is my blog, and Parker is my 5-year-old mutt. I last updated this About... page in February, but some things have changed. In the interest of enlightened laziness I'm starting with the most powerful keystroke combination in the universe: Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V.

Twice. Thus, the "point one" in the title.

The Daily Parker is about:

  • Parker, my dog, whom I adopted on 1 September 2006.
  • Politics. I'm a moderate-lefty by international standards, which makes me a radical left-winger in today's United States.
  • Photography. I took tens of thousands of photos as a kid, then drifted away from making art until a few months ago when I got the first digital camera I've ever had that rivals a film camera. That got me reading more, practicing more, and throwing more photos on the blog. In my initial burst of enthusiasm I posted a photo every day. I've pulled back from that a bit—it takes about 30 minutes to prep and post one of those puppies—but I'm still shooting and still learning.
  • The weather. I've operated a weather website for more than ten years. That site deals with raw data and objective observations. Many weather posts also touch politics, given the political implications of addressing climate change, though happily we no longer have to do so under a president beholden to the oil industry.
  • Chicago, the greatest city in North America, and the other ones I visit whenever I can.

I've deprecated the Software category, but only because I don't post much about it here. That said, I write a lot of software. I work for 10th Magnitude, a startup software consultancy in Chicago, I've got about 20 years experience writing the stuff, and I continue to own a micro-sized software company. (I have an online resume, if you're curious.) I see a lot of code, and since I often get called in to projects in crisis, I see a lot of bad code, some of which may appear here.

I strive to write about these and other things with fluency and concision. "Fast, good, cheap: pick two" applies to writing as much as to any other creative process (cf: software). I hope to find an appropriate balance between the three, as streams of consciousness and literacy have always struggled against each other since the first blog twenty years ago.

If you like what you see here, you'll probably also like Andrew Sullivan, James Fallows, Josh Marshall, and Bruce Schneier. Even if you don't like my politics, you probably agree that everyone ought to read Strunk and White, and you probably have an opinion about the Oxford comma—punctuation de rigeur in my opinion.

Another, non-trivial point. Facebook reads the blog's RSS feed, so many people reading this may think I'm just posting notes on Facebook. Facebook's lawyers would like you to believe this, too. Now, I've reconnected with tons of old friends and classmates through Facebook, I play Scrabble on Facebook, and I eagerly read every advertisement that appears next to its relevant content. But Facebook's terms of use assert ownership of everything that appears on their site, regardless of prior claims, which contravenes four centuries of law.

Everything that shows up on my Facebook profile gets published on The Daily Paker first, and I own the copyrights to all of it (unless otherwise disclosed). I publish the blog's text under a Creative Commons attribution-nonderivative-noncommercial license; republication is usually OK for non-commercial purposes, as long as you don't change what I write and you attribute it to me. My photos, however, are published under strict copyright, with no republication license, even if I upload them to other public websites. If you want to republish one of my photos, just let me know and we'll work something out.

Anyway, thanks for reading, and I hope you continue to enjoy The Daily Parker.

Noticing later sunrises

It happens every year, and every year it surprises me: from mid-August to mid-October, the days get shorter quickly. Three weeks ago I was waking up to daylight; this morning, I realized I was waking up to twilight. In three weeks it'll be dark at that hour. Right now, every day, the sun rises a minute later an sets a minute earlier.

Nothing profound or particularly surprising here. Just an observation.

Chicago Sunrise Chart, 2011-12

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
3 Jul 8:30pm sunset 05:20 20:30 15:09
17 Jul 5:30am sunrise 05:30 20:24 14:53
9 Aug 8pm sunset 05:53 20:00 14:06
17 Aug 6am sunrise 06:00 19:48 13:48
29 Aug 7:30pm sunset 06:13 19:30 13:16
15 Sep 6:30am sunrise 06:30 19:01 12:30
16 Sep 7pm sunset 06:32 18:59 12:27
23 Sep Equinox, 03:05 CDT 06:39 18:49 12:10
26 Sep 12-hour day 06:42 18:42 12:00
3 Oct 6:30pm sunset 06:50 18:30 11:39
13 Oct 7am sunrise 07:01 18:13 11:12
22 Oct 6pm sunset 07:11 17:59 10:48
5 Nov Latest sunrise until 5 Nov 2016
Latest sunset until Feb 29th
07:28 17:40 10:12
6 Nov Standard time returns
6:30am sunrise
Earliest sunrise until Feb 28th
06:29 16:39 10:10
16 Nov 4:30pm sunset 06:41 16:30 9:47
2 Dec 7am sunrise 07:00 16:21 9:20
8 Dec Earliest sunset of the year 07:06 16:20 9:14
21 Dec Solstice, 23:30 CST 07:15 16:23 9:08
3 Jan Latest sunrise until Nov. 14th 07:19 16:32 9:13
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

You can get sunrise information for your location at

It's groundhog day...again...

First, a report out of Punxsutawney, Penn., that Punxsutawney Phil (the groundhog) did not see his shadow:

Punxsutawney Phil emerged from a tree stump at dawn and, unusually, did not see his shadow, signaling that spring is just around the corner, according to tradition.

"He found that there was no shadow," said Bill Deeley, president of a club that organizes Groundhog Day in the western Pennsylvania town of Punxsutawney. "So an early spring it will be."

Ah, but there's a catch:

"There is no question that Phil is capable of feeling empathy," Johnston said in an interview. "But he is absolutely incapable of error."

The rodent's predictions are "not burdened by being site-specific" and so can be sure to predict an early spring in some part of the world, Johnston added.

Who knew Phil was a lawyer? Also—wasn't there, you know, a blizzard last night?

While western Pennsylvania was spared the worst of the storm, many central and northern areas of the U.S. were hit by snow and ice that closed roads, shut down businesses, and grounded flights.

But the Punxsutawney crowd, which started arriving on Gobbler's Knob at 3 a.m., braved some of the worst weather in the last 20 years of Groundhog Day, said [Mike Johnston, vice president of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club's Inner Circle, or board of directors].

Looking outside at the weather in Chicago, I hope Phil was thinking of the north-central U.S....

Update: The Tribune has video, and allows sharing, so: