The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Deferred infrastructure maintenance + climate change = ...?

A 25-meter section of the Pacific Coast Highway slid into the Pacific about 30 km south of Big Sur this week:

Caltrans spokesperson Jim Shivers said the damage to the highway is called a slip out. "It's where we lose a part of the highway and now we're facing a project to clean and repair that stretch," Shivers said. "This is the only location we're aware of where this happened in the storm. Our maintenance team is patrolling the highway now to look for other damage."

The closure is in Rat Creek between MPM 40 and the San Luis Obispo county line, the California Highway Patrol said.

A common phenomenon called an "atmospheric river" delivered half a meter of rainfall to the region last week. CA-1 has a history of sliding into the ocean; for example, the area just south of Pacifica, Calif., known as "Devil's Slide" collapsed so frequently that that Caltrans bored two 1200-meter tunnels through solid rock from 2005 to 2013 to keep the road open.

Waiting for one CI build, then another

It's every other Tuesday today, so I'm just waiting for the last continuous-integration (CI) build to finish before deploying the latest software to our production environment. So far, so boring, just the way I like it. Meanwhile, in the real world:

  • In a symbolic but meaningless vote, all but 5 Republican members of the US Senate voted to let the XPOTUS off the hook for inciting an insurrection against, well, them, as this way they believe they get to keep his followers at no cost to themselves. If this past year were a novel, the next sentence might begin with "Little did they know..." Which, you know, describes those 45 Republicans to a T.
  • Dutch police arrested more than 180 people in Amsterdam and Rotterdam for rioting against Covid-19 lockdowns: "A leading Dutch criminologist, Henk Ferwerda, said the riots involved 'virus deniers, political protesters and kids who just saw the chance to go completely wild – all three groups came together.'"
  • Air travelers across the US can rejoice that CNN Airport News will go away on March 31st.
  • Over 1 teratonne of ice melted over each of the past few years, increasing concerns about global sea level rises.
  • Two mathematicians argue that time-travel paradoxes don't exist, because the universe routes around them.

Finally, snow continues to fall in Chicago, so far accumulating to about 100 mm by my house and as of noon about 125 mm at O'Hare. Calling this a "snowstorm" seems a bit over the top as it's coming down at under 10 mm per hour and forecast to stop before too long. Plus it's barely below freezing for now—but forecast to cool down to -11°C by Wednesday night before creeping above freezing Friday and Saturday. So we might have a blanket of snow for a bit. Still, it's the most snow we've gotten all season, with less than 5 weeks to go before meteorological spring starts March 1st. I'm OK with this mild winter, though it might presage a very hot summer.

Three-pointer

Today is the last day of Sprint 28 at my day job, and I've just closed my third one-point story of the day. When we estimate the difficulty of a story (i.e., a single unit of code that can be deployed when complete), we estimate by points on a Fibonacci scale: 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21. A 2-point story is about twice as hard as a 1-point story; a 5 point story is about 5 times harder than a 1-point story; etc. If we estimate 8 or more points on my current team, we re-examine the story in order to break it into smaller chunks. Similarly, a 1-point story could turn out to have so little complexity that it takes almost no time, like today's story #304 that required adding one line of code to here and removing 37 lines of code from there. That one took about 15 minutes. The other two took a couple of hours each, as "knowing where to put the bolt" takes longer than actually attaching the bolt.

While all that happened on the west side of my desk, the monitors on the south side lit up a few stories for me to read when I get back from the walk I'm about to take:

  • Jennifer Rubin lists 50 things that have improved in the US in the past 5 days, starting with "you can ignore Twitter."
  • Though Rubin mentioned replacing Andrew Jackson's portrait in the Oval Office, she didn't mention that the Biden Administration has taken steps to complete replacing his racist mug on the $10 note with a portrait of Harriet Tubman. (The outgoing administration, for obvious reasons, mothballed this plan upon taking office.)
  • Charles Blow warns against the Democratic Party should keep advocating and stop "subconsciously modulating responses" in the face of Republican criticism.
  • National Geographic describes the Roman road network that spanned over 320,000 km and still remains largely intact today.
  • Philippa Snow suggests the French series Call My Agent if you're looking for serious entertainment. For my part I'm about to start Series 2 of Peaky Blinders.
  • Loyola University Chicago professor Devon Price has a new book out: Laziness Does Not Exist. I may have to buy a copy. Eventually.

And I will now try to get in a 45-minute fast walk as our first real winter storm bears down on us from Iowa.

Catching up

Even though things have quieted down in the last few days (gosh, why?), the news are still newing:

Finally, last August's derecho caused "the most damage in the least amount of time" of any weather disaster on record.

Not a typical January

We've only had six days where the temperature stayed below freezing since November 1st, and the third year in a row where we've not had a temperature below -18°C by this point. This shouldn't surprise anyone who knows that 2020 either tied or set the record for warmest year in history:

[An] analysis of global temperatures, by the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and released Thursday, found that 2020 was slightly warmer than 2016. But the difference was insignificant, the institute’s director, Gavin Schmidt, said in an interview.

“Effectively it’s a statistical tie,” he said.

Other analyses issued Thursday, one by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and another by Berkeley Earth, an independent research group in California, found that 2020 was slightly cooler than 2016, as did one published last week by the Copernicus Climate Change Service in Europe. But the difference was small enough to not be statistically significant.

With the 2020 results, the last seven years have been the warmest since the beginning of modern record-keeping nearly a century and a half ago, Dr. Schmidt said.

But the numbers are only a small part of the story. As climate scientists have predicted, the world is seeing an increase in heat waves, storms and other extreme weather as the planet warms, and in disasters like droughts, floods and wildfires that result. Last year offered no respite, with record fires in Australia and California, and severe drought in central South America and the American Southwest.

Some climate forecasters had thought that the arrival of cooler sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean — part of the recurring global climate phenomenon called La Niña — would tamp down temperatures this year. It is difficult to quantify the influence of La Niña, but it is clear that any effect was eclipsed by the emissions-related rise in temperatures.

As I've said for a very long time, global warming will make Chicago a much more comfortable place to live for a century or two at least, though changing precipitation patterns could seriously alter the Great Lakes' shorelines in ways that make us much less comfortable later on.

Big news from Springfield

Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago/Clearing) will lose his job later today after serving in the role since 1983. Rep. Emanuel "Chris" Welch (D-Hillside) received 69 votes (of a required 60) in the Democratic Caucus this morning, making his accession to the Speaker's chair all but guaranteed when the whole House votes in a few minutes to elect the Speaker. Welch will become the first Black Speaker in Illinois history.

In other news:

  • The Illinois legislature ended its previous legislative session earlier today by passing a 700-page criminal justice overhaul bill that ends cash bail and requires every law-enforcement officer in the state to wear a body camera, among other reforms. Governor Pritzker is expected to sign the bill this week.
  • Ross Douthat holds out hope that the "divide between reality and fantasy" in the Republican Party may lead to the party's disintegration.
  • Earth's rotation has picked up a tiny bit of extra speed that may require negative leap second soon.

Too bad those shorter days haven't added up to a quicker end to the current presidential administration. At least we have less than a week to go before the STBXPOTUS is just some guy in a cheap suit.

Calmer today as the Derpnazis return home

We had a relatively quiet day yesterday, but only in comparison to the day before:

Meanwhile, here in Chicago:

Finally, Bruce Schneier advises the incoming administration on how to deal with the SolarWinds intrusion.

See? Yesterday was quiet.

Statistics: 2020

What a bizarre year. Just looking at last year's numbers, it almost doesn't make sense to compare, but what the hell:

  • Last year I flew the fewest air-miles in 20 years; this year, I flew the fewest since the first time I got on a commercial airplane, which was during the Nixon Administration. In January I flew to Raleigh-Durham and back, and didn't even go to the airport for the rest of the year. That's 1,292 air miles, fewer than the very first flight I took (Chicago to Los Angeles, 1,745 air miles). I did, however, make an overnight trip to Wisconsin in November, easily breaking the record for my longest travel drought but making it shorter than never. 
  • This is my 609th post on the Daily Parker in 2020—an average of more than 50 per month. This new record blows away the one I set just last year by 10.5%. (Imagine how much I'd have written had anything newsworthy actually happened in 2020.)
  • The pandemic let me spend Parker's last eight months with him nearly every day. Despite his age and discomfort, we managed to go for almost 241 hours of walks (274 annualized), a whopping 29% (46% annualized) more than in 2019.
  • Including today, I got 4,848,171 steps, averaging 13,246 per day. This is 5.7% fewer than last year. I missed 10,000 steps on seven occasions—five this month. Without a daily commute or a dog, not to mention the cold weather, I have struggled since Thanksgiving to get motivated enough to get longer walks in. That said, I hit a new record of 312 consecutive days over 10,000 steps, a record I don't anticipate ever breaking. I also got 56,562 steps on September 4th—another record I don't expect to break soon.
  • I once again read more than the year before, with 39 books started and 37 completed. (I'm still working on The Power Broker, which I started 18 months ago...) On the other hand, I watched 59 movies and 79 TV series, compared with 56 and 38 respectively in 2019. Of course, almost all of that was streaming on my home computer while programming on my work computer, but it's a lot.

I can't even predict what will happen in 2021. I expect fewer steps, more books, and actually to start traveling again. Here's hoping for a speedy vaccination.

Yay! 2020 has ended!

Well, it hasn't ended here in Chicago, where it's 4am on December 31st. And it won't end for ships at sea in Time Zone Yankee, 12 hours behind UTC, until 6am tomorrow Chicago time.

But on Kiritimati, it's now just past midnight on January 1st, meaning the tiny atoll in the South Pacific has become the first place on Earth to enter 2021.

Only 20 hours to go for us...and 26 hours to go until the whole planet puts 2020 safely behind us.

Today is slightly longer than yesterday

The December solstice happened about 8 hours ago, which means we'll have slightly more daylight today than we had yesterday. Today is also the 50th anniversary of Elvis Presley's meeting with Richard Nixon in the White House.

More odd things of note:

Finally, it's very likely you've made out with a drowning victim from the 19th century.