The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Sunset tonight

After a little more than six months, the sun will finally set at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station at 23:42 UTC today. It rises again at 07:52 UTC on September 21st.

The station has decent weather today: it's a brisk -60°C with a gentle breeze causing a wind chill of -84°C. To understand what that means, just keep in mind dry ice forms at -77.5°C.

Actually, the place is really cool fascinating; I recommend starting with the Wikipedia entry and exploring from there. I can't fathom over-wintering there, but I'd take any opportunity to visit in December or January.

What is a tsunami?

James MacWhyte has posted a video on Facebook that clarifies the issue for all of us who live hundreds of meters above sea level.

I never really understood what a "tidal wave" was until watching this video. You may have thought, as I did, that a tsunami was just a great big breaking wave on the beach that smashed everything in its path. Clearly this is what the visual-effects guys on Deep Impact imagined.

Only, it's not, and MacWhyte's on-scene video makes the terror of a tsunami clear.

The United States Geological Survey has logged hundreds—hundreds—of earthquakes of 5+ magnitude off Japan since last Wednesday, but only one (or possibly two) disrupted the sea floor sufficiently to displace a humanly-incomprehensible volume of seawater. Water, unlike air, can't expand. You can detonate a massive nuclear bomb and it's likely no one upwind of the blast will feel a puff of air. But when a few hundred hectares of seabed changes location, the entire world feels it.

I thought I understood the physics of tsunamis, how a massive displacement of water causes surges all along the nearby coastline, but seeing what MacWhyte experienced really brought it home.

Watch that video: the ocean just keeps coming. Even a dam break, or a seiche on Lake Michigan, or a molasses tank rupture, has a single discrete glob of fluid that causes all the destruction. But just watch the ocean here: not only does it keep coming for five minutes, but there's another tsunami right behind it.

When you think about what Japan has had to deal with in the last three days, just try to imagine which was more terrifying: the ground liquefying, or the ocean arriving, unstoppably, on your front door.

Japanese earthquake

The most powerful earthquake in Japanese history hit today causing widespread damage and a 7.3 m (29 ft) tsunami:

Fragmentary early reports of the toll indicate that hundreds of people have been killed. Japanese police officials told the Associated Press that 200 to 300 bodies were found in Sendai, a port city in the northeastern part of the country and the closest main city to the epicenter.

Walls of water whisked away houses and cars in northern Japan, where terrified residents fled the coast. Train service was shut down across central and northern Japan, including Tokyo, and air travel was severely disrupted. A ship carrying more than 100 people was swept away by the tsunami, Kyodo News reported.

The government evacuated thousands of residents near a nuclear plant about 170 miles northeast of Tokyo after a backup generator failed, compromising the cooling system, the Associated Press reported.

The tsunami mainly hit Sendai, an industrial city about 300 km north of Tokyo:

If you understand Japanese:

(From Earthquake Video)

How many of us have passports?

More than 10%, it turns out; but of course it depends where you live:

One of the things I’ve often heard while living in the European Union is the meme that only 10% of Americans own a passport. (This assertion is usually followed by the quazi-urban legend that George W. Bush never had a passport before becoming president. This I’ve never been able to prove or disprove any satisfaction.)

I wondered aloud about this in my previous post, Work in Progress: The United States Explained' and a commentor, Alison, was nice enough to bring this data set about passports from the ever-awesome to my attention.

So, two thirds (68%) of New Jersey residents have passports, just over half (52%) of us in Illinois, and less than one-fifth (18%) in Mississippi. So...why is this?

Still a good view

This morning the view from my hotel room looked good. This evening it looks even better:

And this is using my little backup camera. Next week I'll bring the big guy. (Of course, next week I'll have a different hotel room, but I'm sure I'll find something to shoot in Boston.)

Upper West Side

I can't decide, if I were to move back to New York (and if I had unlimited funds), whether I'd live in the Village or on the Upper West. I have a hunch the latter would win:

Right now, however, I'm in Stamford, Conn., in a hotel room overlooking I-95, because our client wants us to start work tomorrow at 8am. I used to spend a lot of time in Stamford, so I walked around a bit after checking in. It hasn't changed much. And my favorite Stamford bar is still there—which is where I believe I'll have dinner tonight:

And, super bonus time, Tigín has trivia on Tuesdays, so even though I can't be with my team in Chicago, I can fly the Brown Chicken Brown Cow flag in Connecticut.

New York at dusk

The low-light performance of my new camera astounds me. I took an hour-long hike around Midtown Manhattan right around sunset. Cranking the camera up to ISO-6400 allowed me to do this:

That's f/3.5 at 1/30, using available light. Sorry about the nerd moment but: day-um.

Another one, in Washington Square:

ISO-3200, f/5.6 at 1/30. Again: day-um.

To celebrate, I had a greasy slice of New York pizza from a corner pizzeria for dinner.

Lisbon in sunlight

As promised, I've uploaded a couple of photos from my last trip to Lisbon to contrast with the most recent. Usually in January Lisbon has beautiful weather; my trip last week coincided not only with crappy weather back home but also with crappy (but warmer) weather there.

In January 2001, the view from Castelo de São Jorge looked like this:

And my January 2001 obligatory Parque Eduardo VII photo came out substantially better than my most recent attempt. Here's the older one: