The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Long weekend; just catching up

Saturday and Sunday, the Apollo Chorus sang Verdi's "Requiem" three times in its entirety (one dress rehearsal, two performances), not including going back over specific passages before Sunday's performance to clean up some bits. So I'm a little tired.

Here are some of the things I haven't had time to read yet:

Other stuff is going on, which I'll report when I have confirmation.

Zoning out

All the news yesterday and today has talked about Mike Wolff's new book, and how it puts into black-and-white terms what we already knew about the President. I'm reading a lot of it, and I've even pre-ordered David Frum's new book, coming out a week from Tuesday.

Fortunately, Chicago magazine published an article today about the origin of time zones in the United States, which is political but only in the nuts-and-bolts sense and not really in a partisan way. And Chicago has the story because, basically, Chicago invented time zones:

America was divided into its (mostly accepted) time zones in Chicago. Which makes sense. Chicago was and still is the biggest railroad town in the country, and the railroads were, in both the United States and Europe, the catalyst for the creation of time zones. In fact, there’s a historical argument that the challenges of scheduling trains inspired Albert Einstein’s development of the general theory of relativity...

Take this time and distance indicator from 1862: when it was noon in Philadelphia, it was 12:04 in New York, 12:06 in Albany, 12:16 in Boston, and 11:54 in Baltimore. Meanwhile, it was 11:10 in Chicago, 10:59 in St. Louis, and 11:18 in Indianapolis. Synchronizing relative time across cities might have inspired Einstein’s thought experiments, but it was a poor way to run a railroad.

In 1880 Britain officially adopted Greenwich Mean Time. The Canadian railway engineer Sandford Fleming and the astronomer and meteorologist Cleveland Abbe, chief scientist of the U.S. Army Signal Corps, began correspondence about a worldwide system of time zones, proving themselves persistent advocates of what Fleming called terrestrial time. Their work was presented at the Third International Geographical Congress in Venice in 1881, the General Conference of the European Geodetic Association in 1883, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1881 and 1882.

Such a system was politically messy, requiring the coordination of governments for which time zones had political symbolism. But the railroads had only the bottom line to consider.

And so, the standard time zone was born. And at this writing, according to the Time Zone Database (of which I am a contributor), there are only 494 of them.

Split of a Century

Just a minute or two ago, Kiritimati (Christmas) Island became the first place in the world to enter 2018. This happens every year—or, at least, every year since Kiritmati moved from UTC-10 (the same clock time as Hawai'i) to UTC+14 (the same clock time as Hawai'i but a day ahead) so they could be the first place on earth to enter the 2000s.

So, just a few minutes ago, that choice caused a fascinating consequence.

As of right now, and until the next person is born on the island (which could be days or weeks because of its small population of 6,500), every single adult on the island will have been born in the 1900s, and every single child will have been born in the 2000s.

As each successive time zone moves into 2018 today, this will continue to be true until the first baby is born before 1am in a particular zone. My guess would be that New Zealand will probably have a baby born before 1am, and eastern Australia certainly will, which means the 1900s/2000s split will only last 3 or 4 hours.

It's just an interesting consequence of a public-relations decision a tiny Pacific atoll made 18 years ago.

 

My bête noir strikes again

The only real benefits of ending daylight saving time are getting an extra hour of sleep the first Sunday in November and having the sun already up when you awaken for the first time in weeks.

This morning, Parker, not knowing anything about clocks or sleeping in, nudged me awake at 6:45. Sure, my Fitbit says I got almost 8 full hours of sleep, but dammit, dog.

Plus, it's a gray, damp, cool morning in November. Sleeping just a little longer would have been nice.

The darkest morning

Because of a quirk in the calendar, today's sunrise in parts of the United States that observe daylight saving time was the latest it's been in many years. In Chicago, that was 7:27 this morning. The sunrise won't be that late again until 6 November 2021.

Plus, it was pissing with rain when the sun finally did come up today, making it especially gloomy.

I'm not really sure why we switched from the end of October to the beginning of November in 2007, but I really hate it.

Happy 1.5 Gigaseconds!

Tonight at 02:40 UTC, all Unix-based computers (including Apples running OS-X) will pass a milestone: 1.5 Gs since the beginning of time (at least as far as Unix is concerned).

Unix keeps track of time by counting the number of seconds since 1 January 1970 at midnight UTC, which (at this writing) was 1,499,962,035 seconds ago. Tonight at 21:40:00 Chicago time will be 1.5 billion seconds since that point.

If you miss this anniversary, don't worry; it'll be 2.0 Gs into the Unix time epoch on 18 May 2033 at 03:33:20 UTC. Mark your calendars now!

Open tabs at lunchtime

Sigh:

I hope to read these articles sometime this year.

 

Fascist time zones

It turns out, Spain may be changing time zones soon, away from the one established by Franco:

After months of speculation, Employment Minister Fátima Báñez announced this week that the government is working on a plan to get more workers out of the office at 6 p.m., rather than being stuck at work until 8 or so, as many currently are. Báñez said that one important part of that policy under consideration is a switch from Central European Time (CET) to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), under which the clocks would be put back permanently by one hour.

[W]hen the country first standardized its time in 1900 after using solar time for centuries, it used GMT. It was only during World War II, in 1940, that Spain’s fascist leader, Francisco Franco, changed the time zone to CET so that the country could be line with Nazi Germany and its occupied lands. After the war, Franco stayed in power until the 1970s. The clocks were never changed back.

See? And you thought this was going to be about Trump.

Break-Fix, or why it's nice to know the developer

The IANA time zone database published an update a couple days ago, and yesterday I uploaded the changes to a few of my web applications. Then one of the applications blew up. This is because I hadn't accounted for the possibility that a time zone abbreviation could include non-alpha-numeric characters.

Within an hour I'd updated the affected code and published an updated NuGet package. So now it's fixed. I just have to update a couple of applications that have all their time zone data in caches, so that when they reload the data, they continue functioning. (This blog is one of the apps.)

Meanwhile, you can see the problem if you go to the Inner Drive time zone demo, select Europe/Astrakhan, you'll see the "+03" or "+04" that my stuff couldn't parse properly.

So one of my customers, not quite understanding how NuGet works, asked about what they should do if they need something in an Inner Drive package changed. Let this be an example of why they might not need even to ask. And also, contrast this quick response with, say, Microsoft, who created most of the packages that people use in ASP.NET applications.