The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

US lurches to ending seasonal clock changes

As if from nowhere, the US Senate yesterday unanimously voted to pass S.623 (the "Sunshine Protection Act of 2021"), which would end daylight saving time by making that the new standard time, effective 5 November 2023. This blew up the Time Zone Committee mailing list, mostly with the implementation problems around time zone abbreviations. One of the maintainers listed four separate options, in fact, including moving everyone to a new time zone (Chicago on EST? New York on AST?), or possibly just redefining what CST and EST mean. Canada has a law that essentially lets the US set standard time zones for Canada, so it gets even more complicated the farther down the rabbit hole you go.

Fun fact: most time zone software running on most computers requires 3-character time zone abbreviations to work correctly. That rules out changing CST to, simply, CT. One maintainer suggested P for Permanent; another suggested A for Always (CAT, EAT, MAT?).

You might think this is funny, but we TZDB maintainers have the power to make your brain hurt this way.

By the way, if you think year-round DST is a good idea within our current time zone boundaries, you may want to consider when the latest sunrise will happen in 2024 if the law passes, in ascending order of orneriness:

Location Sunrise Sunset
Eastport, Maine 8:06 17:00
Miami 8:10 18:50
Chicago 8:19 17:33
New York 8:20 17:41
Salt Lake City 8:52 17:13
Detroit 9:01 18:12
Menominee, Mich. 9:29 18:21

The easternmost point in the U.S., Eastport, will have darker mornings, but still perhaps tolerable. Menominee, which actually lies a little west of Chicago, would not be a fun place to live in January.

To review: There is a reason we change the clocks twice a year, which everyone forgets until it's dark at 8:30 am.

Moreover, wall-clock time is arbitrary. We can get up earlier or later if we choose to. Cassie, for instance, gets up at sunrise, and expects me to do the same, so I actually liked the change last weekend.

We also had a bunch of messages today about Iran, which has decreed that they will no longer change their clocks twice a year, with immediate effect. Now someone in Iran has to tell the authoritarian, anti-technology mullahs why it might take up to a year for their cell phones to reflect the change.

Did someone call lunch?

Eighty years ago today, the US imposed daylight saving time as a wartime energy-saving measure. It took until April 1966 for Congress to enact a permanent regime of changing the clock twice a year. But that's all ancient history.

More recent history:

Finally, Chicago brewery Hop Butcher to the World will delay opening up its new space in the old Half Acre property in North Center. The Brews & Choos Project will stop by as soon as it opens.

The real daylight saving

A friend on social media posted a graph of how quickly or slowly the amount of daylight changes per week. Unfortunately the graph was for London, and pretty ugly, so I decided to make one for Chicago that was a bit more spare:

Here in Week 6, we get 15 more minutes of daylight than we got last week. For most of March, we'll get 17 minutes more per week before things slow down a bit, then reverse. The weeks of both solstices have zero change.

The friend wondered in her post what it would look like in the southern hemisphere. So, voilà Sydney:

And just for giggles, I graphed Fairbanks, too:

Neat, huh?

(Incidentally, the links point to the Weather Now v5 Beta site. Even after the v5 launch sometime this spring, the Beta URL should stay functional.)

The numbers are better but the feelings aren't

Last night I went to the "Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!" taping at Harris Theater in Chicago, and afterwards my friend and I talked about how gloomy the weather and darkness of winter are. I pointed out to her that tomorrow, February 5th, the sun rises at 7:00 for the first time since November 15th, and we've got 55 minutes more daylight than we had at the solstice six weeks ago. In other words, yes, it still gets dark early and we get up most weekdays before dawn, but things have already improved since the darkest days of December. And we get another hour of daylight only three weeks from now, on February 27th.

Same with the weather. Temperatures in Chicago lag the seasons by about a month, which gives us our hottest days at the end of July and our coldest at the end of January. But despite all the snow on the ground and the likelihood of below-freezing temperatures until Tuesday, the worst part of winter really is behind us. February is, on average, noticeably warmer than January. March warmer still. Spring starts 23 days from now no matter what today's weather looks like.

And, of course, same with Covid-19. While we still have Covid jerks like former half-term Alaska governor Sarah "Rogue" Palin, along with masking recommendations that seem to change more frequently than people can follow (but, really, don't change much at all), the numbers have plummeted recently.

Things get better before you notice them getting better. Happy thought for Friday.

Monday, Monday

The snow has finally stopped for, we think, a couple of days, and the city has cleared most of the streets already. (Thank you, Mike Bilandic.) What else happened today?

Finally, Weber Grills apologized today for its really unfortunate timing last week, when it emailed thousands of customers a recipe for BBQ meat loaf—on the day singer Meat Loaf died.

Fed up with all that

Three items:

  1. James Fallows reminds us that the US Senate filibuster "is a perversion of the Constitution," that "enables the very paralysis the founders were desperate to avoid," among other things. (He also links to an essay by former US Senator Al Franken (D-MN) about how cynical the filibuster has become.)
  2. Jacob Rosenberg brings together workers' own stories about how they got fed up, illustrating how "the big quit" happened.
  3. Canadian political scientist Thomas Homer-Dixon has had enough of the political disunion in the failing democracy to his south, and worries what that will mean to Canada.

On the hopeful side, though, we have the Webb Space Telescope gently nudging its mirrors into place at a rate of about 1 millimeter per day.

Home, home at Lagrange

The James Webb Space Telescope took off from French Guiana this morning at 6:20 CST:

Ground teams began receiving telemetry data from Webb about five minutes after launch. The Arianespace Ariane 5 rocket performed as expected, separating from the observatory 27 minutes into the flight. The observatory was released at an altitude of approximately 75 miles (120 kilometers). Approximately 30 minutes after launch, Webb unfolded its solar array, and mission managers confirmed that the solar array was providing power to the observatory. After solar array deployment, mission operators will establish a communications link with the observatory via the Malindi ground station in Kenya, and ground control at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore will send the first commands to the spacecraft.

The telescope will travel for 30 days to Lagrange 2, the point just outside Earth's orbit where the gravities of Earth, the Moon, and the Sun create a stable solar orbit:

This special orbit allows one side of Webb’s sunshield to always face the Sun, Earth, and Moon, blocking their heat and light from reaching the telescope’s heat-sensitive optics. Webb’s month-long journey takes it to the second Lagrange (L2) point, one of five positions in space where the gravitational pull of the Sun and Earth balances the centripetal force required for a spacecraft to move with them. This makes Lagrange points particularly useful for reducing the fuel required for a spacecraft to remain in position. The location also enables continuous communications with Webb through the Deep Space Network, an international array of giant antennas managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

Shortly after the telescope parks at L2, it will start investigating the far-infrared radiation from the era 10 billion years ago when galaxies first formed. At this writing, Webb is 70,000 km from Earth and has another 1.37 million km to go.

Riches of embarrassment

Just a couple of eye-roll-worthy lunchtime links today:

What fun.

Darkest morning in 47 years

As I pointed out in the last Chicago Sunrise Chart, tomorrow morning the sun will rise in Chicago at 7:30:11, the latest sunrise in most people's lifetimes. I found only one occasion from 1975 to 2040 when the sun rises later: at 7:30:35 on 6 November 2032.

The last time the sun rose after 7:30 was at 7:31:26 on 26 February 1974, after Chicago started daylight saving time on 6 January 1974, due to the oil crisis. Chicago also observed year-round daylight saving time during World War II, from 9 February 1942 until 30 September 1945. Chicago's latest-ever sunrise occurred at 8:19:17 on 4 January 1943.

Think about that when you whine about the time change. We only get 9 hours of daylight on most December days; you really want to go to work entirely in the dark?