The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

It's 5pm somewhere

Actually, it's 5pm here. And I have a few stories queued up:

Finally, author John Scalzi puts Rogue One in third place on his ranked list of Star Wars films, with some good reasons.

Spring, at least in some places

Canada has put the Prairie Provinces on a winter storm warning as "the worst blizzard in decades" descends upon Saskatchewan and Manitoba:

A winter storm watch is in effect for southern Manitoba and southeastern Saskatchewan, with snowfall accumulations of 30 to 50 centimetres expected mid-week, along with northerly wind gusts of up to 90 kilometres per hour, said Environment Canada on Monday.

“Do not plan to travel — this storm has the potential to be the worst blizzard in decades,” the agency warns.

The storm is expected to start Tuesday night, as a Colorado low pressure system moving toward Minnesota will bring a “heavy swath of snow” from southeastern Saskatchewan through most of southern Manitoba.

Snow will start to fall early in the evening near the U.S. border and move north overnight. Blowing snow and high winds will cause zero visibility and whiteout conditions, making driving treacherous.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

And finally, prosecutors in Texas have declined to pursue charges against a 26-year-old woman arrested last week for infanticide after self-inducing an abortion. Welcome to the new 19th Century, at least in the religious South.

All the rows in the world

When I launched the final weather archive import on Tuesday, I predicted it would finish around 1pm today. See my accuracy for yourself:

2022-04-08 12:54:05.0975|INFO|Moved 118,773,651 weather archives from v3 to v5
2022-04-08 12:54:05.0975|INFO|Finished importing; duration 3.03:41:19.2445019
2022-04-08 12:54:05.0975|INFO|Import finished

Not a bad prediction.

So Weather Now 5 now has about 260 million historical records going back to 2006, including Chicago's weather from 15 years ago this hour. And where the weather station reported climate records, we've got those too.

Microsoft Azure recalculates storage use daily around 11 am Central time, so I don't have the complete picture yet, but it looks like I transferred about 245 GB of data. I'll find out for sure tomorrow, and in 3-4 days I'll get an accurate view of the storage cost.

Whew. I'm glad that's over.

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:

Strange data patterns

The data transfer from Weather Now v3 to v5 continues in the background. Before running it, I did a simple SQL query to find out how many readings each station reported between September 2009 and March 2013. The results surprised me a bit:

The v3 database recorded 162.4 million readings from 4,071 stations. Fully 75 of them only have one report, and digging in I can see that a lot of those don't have any data. Another 185 have fewer than 100, and a total of 573 have fewer than 10,000.

At the other end, Anderson AFB on Guam has 123,394 reports, Spangdahlem AB in Germany has 123,297, and Leeuwarden, Netherlands, has 119,533. In fact, seven Dutch weather stations account for 761,000 reports of the 162 million in the archive. I don't know why, but I'll find out at some point. (It looks like some of them have multiple weather recording devices with color designations. I'll do some more digging.)

How many should they have? Well, the archive contains 1,285 days of records. That's about 31,000 hourly reports or 93,000 20-minute updates—exactly where the chart plateaus. Chicago O'Hare, which reports hourly plus when the weather shifts significantly had 37,069 reports. Half Moon Bay, Calif., which just ticks along on autopilot without a human weather observer to trigger special reports, had 90,958. So the numbers check out pretty well. (The most prolific US-based station, whose 91,083 reports made the 10th most prolific in the world, was Union County Airport in Marysville, Ohio.)

Finally, I know that what the App has a lot of data sloppiness right now. After I transfer over these archives, I'll work on importing the FAA Airports database, which will fix the names and locations of most of the US stations.

Chugging along with data consolidation

Sunday night I finished moving all the Weather Now v4 data to v5. The v4 archives went back to March 2013, but the UI made that difficult to discover. I've also started moving v3 data, which would bring the archives back to September 2009. I think once I get that done then moving the v2 data (back to early 2003) will be as simple as connecting the 2009 import to the 2003 database. Then, someday, I'll import data from other sources, like NCEI (formerly NCDC) and the Met*, to really flesh out the archives.

One of the coolest parts of this is that you can get to every single archival report through a simple URL. For example, to see the weather in Chicago five years ago, simply go to https://wx-now.com/History/KORD/2017/03/30. From there, you can drill into each individual report (like the one from 6pm) or use the navigation buttons at the bottom to browse the data.

Meanwhile, work continues apace on importing geographic data. And I have discovered a couple of UI bugs, including a memory leak that caused the app to crash twice since launch. Oops.

* The Met has really cool archives, some of which go back to the 1850s.

Two more from Kentucky, and one from Chicago

I took Cassie for a 40-minute walk around Lexington's historic district on the way back from Berea:

The light really wasn't great, so I didn't take a lot of photos. Plus Cassie has a way of adding motion blur to every photo I shoot.

Two weeks ago I attended a conference by the Chicago River, which had dye left over from St Patrick's Day. Add a passing fire boat and it's Christmas in March:

Last post on clock changes (until November, probably)

Josh Barro and Saray Fay get to the heart of the time-change issue:

The first thing I want to note is something I’m amazed many participants in this debate don’t seem to know: We have tried this policy before. In January 1974, the US entered what was supposed to be a two-year “experiment” with permanent daylight saving time. Unfortunately, daylight saving time does not add daylight to the day, it only shifts the daylight into the afternoon from the morning. And once people realized that — that daylight saving time in January means doing everything in the dark in the morning — they hated it.

There are a number of large and mid-size metropolitan areas where the sun would not rise until around 9am for weeks on end in the winter.

On average, a person who tells a pollster they want permanent daylight saving time is really just saying they would like the sun to shine more. Well, so would I. But the government only controls the clocks, not the axial tilt of the earth. If you actually enact permanent daylight saving time, it will exit the realm of daydreaming about how the sun is nice and turn into actually forcing Americans to drag themselves and their children out of bed in the dark for much more of the winter. Once you have inflicted this upon them, they will think deeply about the issue. They’ll hate it (and possibly hate you) and they’ll demand a reversal, as I will remind you they sought and promptly received the last time we tried this.

Perhaps the best solution would be to harmonize clock changes with Europe, switching to Daylight Saving Time on the last Sunday in March, and returning to Standard Time on the last Sunday in October. But then it'll get dark earlier on Hallowe'en, so...think of the children!

Update: The House has decided to proceed with all deliberate speed on this issue, ensuring the bill a quiet death sometime this summer.

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.