Every part of the world has now entered the '20s. There is a "UTC-12" time zone for ships at sea traveling between 172°30'W and the International Date Line (180°E/W), which as you might imagine is 12 hours behind UTC. So at noon UTC on January 1st, it's midnight UTC-12, and the whole world has the new year on their calendars.
The last inhabited places to get here were the Hawai'ian Islands two hours ago.
As I've done several years running, I'm taking a look at my statistics for the past year:
- I flew the fewest air miles since 1999 (14,462 against 1999's 11,326), and took only 9 trips out of town (up 1 from 2018). As in 2018, I took 11 flights, but because I took two road trips I wound up visiting 9 states (Wisconsin, Indiana, Missouri, Michigan, Ohio, New York, North Carolina, Texas, and Colorado) and 2 foreign countries (UK and Ontario, Canada) to 2018's 8 and 1, respectively.
- I posted 551 times on The Daily Parker, up 33 from last year and a new all-time annual record! (The previous record was 541 in 2009.)
- Parker got 187 hours of walks, up 54 hours and 40% from last year.
- I got 5,135,518 Fitbit steps and walked 4,630 km, down 2½% from last year. But I went 207 days in a row, from April 15th to November 7th, hitting my 10,000-a-day step goal, which I did 352 times overall. Also during the year I passed 25,000,000 lifetime steps and 20,000 lifetime kilometers.
- Reading jumped a lot. I started 36 books in 2019 and finished 33, up 50% from 2018, and my best showing since 2010 (when I spent several days on airplanes and read 51 books). With at least three trips to Europe planned for 2020, both my flying and my reading should improve.
Let's see what 2020 brings. I'm especially bummed that my Fitbit numbers declined, even though Parker got 40% more walk time. (But he walks 40% more slowly than last year, so...)
Specifically, it's 2020 in the UTC+14 zone occupied by Kiribati and Kiritimati, the latter being somewhat to the east of Hawai'i (UTC-10). So begins the 24-hour period where some part of the world goes from 2019 to 2020 every hour (or, in the case of India, Nepal, Afghanistan, Newfoundland, and a couple of other places, at the half- or quarter-hour).
So welcome to the '20s, Kiribati.
- The Chicago Tribune has a rundown of the 100 best news photos they published in the last 10 years.
- The New York Times has satellite photos of various spots around the country showing human-engineered changes from 2009 to 2019.
Take a few minutes this afternoon to go through them. They're worth it.
Actually, Christmas Island crabs, which migrate around Christmas, and were the subject of an NPR story yesterday:
Palm fronds, turquoise lagoons and a clattering army of crustaceans making their way from the island's forest to the beaches. Christmas Island red crabs - 50 million of them. Jahna Luke works for Christmas Island's tourism association and lives there. She says everyone has a hand in the crabs' journey.
JAHNA LUKE: We have all these measures in place to keep the crabs safe while they make their migration down to the ocean. Even cars on the island - we all have rakes in our cars so that on our way to work or wherever it is we need to go, we - we're out raking the crabs off the road to clear our way.
It's a real thing, and not just because NPR talked about it:
So if you feel crabby this week, imagine being on Christmas Island, which should not be confused with Kiritimati. We'll return to Kiritimati in about a week, as they will be the first place on earth to enter the 2020s. Meanwhile, enjoy the crabs.
(Say it with me: "Under where?")
Australia just hit a record temperature—for the whole country:
The Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) reports preliminary data showing that for Dec. 18, the nationally averaged maximum temperature was 41.9°C. This beat the old record of 40.9°C, which had been set the day before. Before this heat event, the country’s hottest day was Jan. 7, 2013, which had an average high temperature of 40.3°C.
Human-caused global climate change is making heat waves such as this one more likely to occur, more severe and longer-lasting. An early analysis of the ongoing heat event shows that climate change may have made the Australian national heat record at least 20 percent more likely to occur now than in a climate that had not been influenced by human emissions of greenhouse gases. It’s possible that forthcoming research will show that this event could not have occurred without human-caused global warming, as previous analyses of other events have found.
That's insane. Not to mention the extensive brush fires—including the largest ever recorded in Australia—that have rendered Sydney almost uninhabitable.
Kansas developer Larry Hall bought a missile silo and turned it into a 15-story apartment complex:
Hall was able to buy the long since decommissioned silo for a fraction of its construction cost. He then spent $20m (£15m) transforming it into a cushy bolthole replete with a library, swimming pool, climbing wall, video arcade, shooting range, bar, cinema, and seven floors of private living space. Half floor units sell for $1.5m, full-floor units for $3m and penthouses for $4.5m, cash only.
Fifty-five ultra-high-net-worth residents have purchased private apartments inside the condo. Residents are understandably cagey about sharing their identities, but include real estate moguls, a financial entrepreneur and two doctors. One resident had the view from her loft in Manhattan filmed in all four seasons, so it could be piped into high-definition screens installed as ‘windows’ inside the bunker. Residents often do not have specific motivations for moving into the bunker, they are acting on a sense of general unease about the future.
Hall says 75 individuals can survive inside the sealed, self-sufficient converted silo for up to five years during social, political or environmental instability – even total collapse. When the crisis passes, silo residents expect to be able to emerge into the post-apocalyptic world to rebuild.
I will not be buying a time-share there...
The Apollo Chorus performed Joby Talbot's Everest a few weeks ago, and to prepare for the opera I read Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air. (The opera is based on the events described in that book.) I concluded that climbing Mt Everest is insane.
That didn't stop about 100 climbers from attempting to summit on May 23rd of this year, contributing to one of the deadliest days in the mountain's history:
[T]wo decades on, the Everest experience often seems to have devolved even further into a circus-like pageant of stunts and self-promotion. In April 2017, DJ Paul Oakenfold outraged mountaineering purists by hosting an EDM concert at the base camp in Nepal; this year three Indian climbers returned home to celebratory crowds after they supposedly summited on May 26, only to be accused of fraud after other mountaineers claimed that they never made it past 23,500 feet.
And then there are the growing crowds. For this year's climbing season, Nepal handed out 381 permits to scale Everest, the most ever. The Chinese government distributed more than 100 permits for the northern side. According to the Himalayan Database, the number of people summiting Everest has just about doubled in the past decade. And in that time the mountain has become accessible even to relative novices, thanks to a proliferation of cut-rate agencies that require little proof of technical skill, experience, or physical fitness. “Some of these companies don't ask any questions,” says Rolfe Oostra, an Australian mountaineer and a founder of France-based 360 Expeditions, which sent four clients to the summit this year. “They are willing to take anybody on, and that compounds the problems for everyone.”
On May 22—the day before Grubhofer reached the top—a long line near the summit had already begun to form. One of those pinned in the throng was a Nepali climber named Nirmal Purja. That morning, Purja snapped a photo of the chaos. The picture showed a near unprecedented traffic jam on the popular southern side: a column of hundreds of climbers snaking along the knifelike summit ridge toward the Hillary Step, the last obstacle before the top, packed jacket-to-jacket as if they were queued up for a ski lift in Vail. The image rocketed around the world and, as the events on the mountain were still developing, raised an urgent question: What the hell is going on atop Mount Everest?
I still think these people are crazy. If I ever see Mt Everest, it will be from the pressurized cabin of a transport-class airplane. I'm fine with that.
I will, however, see the opera again when it comes to the Barbican on June 20th.
The New York Times Canada Letter today lead with a story about how local regulation in Montreal threatens a culinary tradition:
[Irwin Shlafman and Joe Morena] are competitors in the business of Montreal bagels, which have a distinctive flavor from being boiled in honey-infused water before being baked in a wood-burning oven.
These days, however, Mr. Shlafman and Mr. Morena are united against a common threat — environmentalists who want to abolish the pollutant-producing ovens where the bagels are made.
The battle heated up late last year when rumors began to circulate that a City Hall official was planning to ban the ovens, which emit fine particles that can aggravate respiratory ailments like asthma. Angry neighbors had complained to the city and some were boycotting the vaunted bagel shops.
Coming to the defense of the bagels were fans who treasure the carb-heavy snack as an essential part of the city’s Jewish history and social fabric.
Montreal bagels have become a global culinary emblem of the city, alongside smoked meat and poutine, and are doughy unifiers in a majority French-speaking province buffeted by identity politics.
Next time I'm in Montreal I hope to try these wood-fired bagels. If they're still available.
As I try to understand why a 3rd-party API accepts one JSON document but not another, nearly-identical one, who could fault me for taking a short break?
Back to JSON and my miserable cold.