The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Fun international work meeting

I learned this morning that I have a meeting at 6am Wednesday, because the participants will be in four time zones across four continents. Since I'm traveling to Munich later that day, I'll just comfort myself by remembering it's 1pm Central Europe time.

I'm already queuing up some things to read on the flights. I'll probably finish all of these later today, though:

  • Jennifer Rubin highlights four ways in which the XPOTUS has demonstrated his electoral weakness in the past few weeks.
  • Republican pollster Frank Luntz agrees, warning the MAGA Republican extremists to stop screwing around lest the party suffer an historic ass-kicking in November. (For my part, I don't think they will stop, and the ass-kicking is long overdue.)
  • Sean Wilentz warns that the Supreme Court abdicating its responsibility to evaluate the XPOTUS in light of the 14th Amendment's insurrection clause will lead to worse problems later on.
  • James Fallows chastises the Times in particular for creating the controversy about President Biden's age they claimed simply to report on.
  • Ian Bogost moans about the ever-deepening problems of carrying baggage onto planes. (I will be checking my bag through to Munich, for what it's worth, but I may carry it on for the return flight to avoid customs delays changing planes at Charlotte.)

Finally, John Scalzi erupts at the 2023 Hugo Awards administrators for outright fraud and unforgivable cowardice following a report on Chinese political interference in the awards selection process last summer.

You don't need sunscreen in Chicago in January

A weather pattern has set up shop near Chicago that threatens to occlude the sun for the next week, in exchange for temperatures approaching 15°C the first weekend of February. We've already had 43 days with above-normal temperatures this winter, and just 12 below normal during the cold snap from January 13th through the 22nd. By February 2nd, 84% of our days will have had above-normal temperatures since December 1st.

Thank you, El Niño. Though I'm not sure the gloominess is a fair exchange for it.

Elsewhere:

Finally, Minnesota-based wildlife photographer Benjamin Olson discovered that a mouse had moved into his car. So naturally, he set up a photo trap. And naturally, it's totes adorbs.

It's 2024 in Christmas

Yeah, I know I've posted this nonsense before. Kiritimati atoll (pronounced "Christmas" because the missionary who named the place had a broken typewriter) and Kiribati changed their time zone to UTC+14 in 1994 so that they could be the first place in the world to enter the 21st Century. So while the wall-clock time on Kiritimati is the same as the wall-clock time in Hawai'i, Kiritimati and Kiribati are a full day ahead.

Anyway, it's now 2024 in the Pacific/Kiritimati time zone. Happy new year!

Lebanon's incompetent government

Lebanon has one of the most chaotic political systems in the world. The previous government presided over a massive ammonium nitrate explosion they could have prevented had any one person in government taken responsibility for removing a derelict Russian freighter.

Once again, the Lebanese government has displayed head-shaking incompetence, this time on what seems like a minor matter but could lead to more religious unrest as hot weather combines with people not eating or drinking water during the day. Always a good combination.

So what did the good burghers of Beirut do this time? They decided on Thursday not to change to daylight saving time this weekend, most likely so that people can make Iftar "an hour earlier." Of course, changing the clock time of sunset doesn't actually change the duration of daylight; Earth spins on its axis all the same, indifferent to how we measure it. So observant Muslims in Lebanon will still fast for a little over 12 hours today, just as they did yesterday.

I found out about this idiocy right away from the Time Zone Committee email list, but some Lebanese just found out about it this morning. It hasn't gone well:

Daylight Saving will be introduced from midnight on April 20 rather than from midnight on March 25.

No official explanation has been given for the move although local media suggested it was introduced to coincide with Ramadan.

But the decision is facing widespread revolt, with two TV channels going ahead with the clock changes in protest.

MTV Lebanon and LBCI Lebanon say they will refuse to cooperate with the adjustment, announcing they will go ahead with switching to Daylight Saving Time on Saturday.

CNN also reports, "Adding to the confusion, the government is yet to say whether it has informed officials responsible for synchronizing times on mobile phones, laptops and other electronic devices of the change." This is true; the Government of Lebanon has not officially informed IANA of the change. Fortunately—or unfortunately—for them, someone sent us a link to a reliable Tweet, so we went ahead with a patch, and some guidance on how to use the new rule by changing your phone to the Libyan time zone until April 20th.

The problem with authoritarian governments, of course, is that they believe they control everything within their domains, without having the first clue how things actually get done. Add some religion and it gets even stupider.

Democracy is messy; democracy is frustrating; but democracy doesn't usually get such basic technical decisions so maddeningly wrong.

First sunny day since I returned

We had four completely-overcast days in a row, including one with some blowing snow, so I'm happy today has been completely clear. Tomorrow might even get above 10°C—which would at least get into normal March temperatures. This whole winter has been weird, as the next few will likely be until temperature increases start leveling out.

In other news:

Finally, Bruce Schneier and Nathan Sanders explain how AI could write our laws in the future.

It's 2023...in Chicago

For once, instead of using clever blog tricks to wish Niue all the best in the new year ten hours after our own, I thought to use the same clever blog trick to mark 2023 right here in Chicago.

So, let's pause for 12 months before the 2024 election cycle kicks off and we all get crazy again. Here's to a boring new year!

Stupid time zone tricks

This moment in the January 6th committee proceedings was total Daily Parker bait (h/t George Conway). It came as the committee interviewed Max Miller, former senior adviser to the XPOTUS and as of next Tuesday the US Representative for Ohio's 7th district. He wanted to establish that no one called his White House office for hours after the insurrection began, pointing to the phone logs as evidence.

I'll let the J6 lawyer explain it:

MILLER (p 120 line 15): I want you to pull up the time from when I left the White House, there's a period of time, there was about 4 or 5 hours, of no phone calls.

J6 LAWYER: And I think what you're referring to is, if we look here...you have a call from Mr. Caporale at 10:40 am.

A: Uh huh.

Q: And the next call that's reflected on your records is 6:40 p.m. on January 6th, so, as you said.

A: So I wanted you to to bring that up is to show you, look, no one called me, right, when things were going wrong....

Q (p 121 line 8): No, I appreciate your perspective, and actually my colleague just corrected me. I need to point something out about how the phone records is—

A: —it's 5 minutes, isn't it?

Q: No, no, no, no. So what that is, is a sign of Greenwich Mean Time. I don't know if in the military you know what that is. So each line reflects whether the time is either Greenwich Mean Time or off of Greenwich Mean Time by some amount. And, at that time of year, the East Coast is 5 hours off Greenwich Mean Time. So, when you see the 6:40 calls on January 6th, the one after Mr. Caporale, you have to take 5 hours off. So that would be...1:40 pm.

A: ...Time is not important...

Congratulations to the anonymous committee lawyer understanding that "18:40Z" is actually 13:40 -0500. Although, now that you mention it, maybe the phone log actually said "18:40 -0500" which would be the time Miller said it was? Too bad we can't see the exhibit.

Tick tick tick

I always find it interesting when a literary magazine takes on technology. In that spirit, the New Yorker does its best to explain the Network Time Protocol:

Today, we take global time synchronization for granted. It is critical to the Internet, and therefore to civilization. Vital systems—power grids, financial markets, telecommunications networks—rely on it to keep records and sort cause from effect. N.T.P. works in partnership with satellite systems, such as the Global Positioning System (G.P.S.), and other technologies to synchronize time on our many online devices. The time kept by precise and closely aligned atomic clocks, for instance, can be broadcast via G.P.S. to numerous receivers, including those in cell towers; those receivers can be attached to N.T.P. servers that then distribute the time across devices linked together by the Internet, almost all of which run N.T.P. (Atomic clocks can also directly feed the time to N.T.P. servers.) The protocol operates on billions of devices, coördinating the time on every continent. Society has never been more synchronized.

In N.T.P., [David] Mills built a system that allowed for endless tinkering, and he found joy in optimization. “The actual use of the time information was not of central interest,” he recalled. The fledgling Internet had few clocks to synchronize. But during the nineteen-eighties the network grew quickly, and by the nineties the widespread adoption of personal computers required the Internet to incorporate millions more devices than its first designers had envisioned. Coders created versions of N.T.P. that worked on Unix and Windows machines. Others wrote “reference implementations” of N.T.P.—open-source codebases that exemplified how the protocol should be run, and which were freely available for users to adapt. Government agencies, including the National Institute of Standards and Technology (nist) and the U.S. Naval Observatory, started distributing the time kept by their master clocks using N.T.P.

A loose community of people across the world set up their own servers to provide time through the protocol. In 2000, N.T.P. servers fielded eighteen billion time-synchronization requests from several million computers—and in the following few years, as broadband proliferated, requests to the busiest N.T.P. servers increased tenfold. The time servers had once been “well lit in the US and Europe but dark elsewhere in South America, Africa and the Pacific Rim,” Mills wrote, in a 2003 paper. “Today, the Sun never sets or even gets close to the horizon on NTP.” Programmers began to treat the protocol like an assumption—it seemed natural to them that synchronized time was dependably and easily available. Mills’s little fief was everywhere.

This being the New Yorker, one could describe the article as the author explaining how he met this programmer Mills and the politics around Mills' retirement from computing. It's better-written than the Wikipedia article, anyway.

Somebody call lunch!

I've gotten two solid nights of sleep in a row, and I've got a clean desk for the first time in weeks. I hope that this becomes the norm, at least until November, when I'll have a packed musical schedule for six weeks as the Apollo Chorus rehearses or performs about 30 times. But that's seven months off.

That gives me plenty of time to listen to or read these:

And finally, in compiling geographic source data for Weather Now, I discovered that the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) assigned an official designator the location where the Ingenuity helicopter landed on Mars: JZRO, for Jezero Crater.

Early afternoon roundup

Now that I've got a few weeks without travel, performances*, or work conferences, I can go back to not having enough time to read all the news that interests me. Like these stories:

Finally, Michelin has handed out its 2022 stars for Chicago. Nothing surprising on the list, but I now have four more restaurants to try.

* Except that I volunteered to help a church choir do five Messiah choruses on Easter Sunday, so I've got two extra rehearsals and a service in the next 12 days.

Bonus update: the fog this morning made St Boniface Cemetery especially spooky-looking when Cassie and I went out for her morning walk: