The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Sod this 'winter wonderland' bollocks

Via several sites, a NASA photo of Great Britain from Thursday noontime:

The U.K. doesn't usually get a snow cover at all, let alone one this thorough. The U.K. Met Office has an explanation:

In most winters, and certainly those in the last 20 years or so, our winds normally come from the south-west. This means air travels over the relatively warm Atlantic and we get mild conditions in the UK. However, over the past three weeks the Atlantic air has been ‘blocked’ and cold air has been flowing down from the Arctic or the cold winter landmass of Europe.

American exceptionalism

Once again, a major American newspaper has reported on something as universal fact, but that only makes sense in the U.S.:

The day is a palindromic date: 01-02-2010, meaning the number can be read the same way in either direction.

There will be 12 palindromic days this century, [Aziz Inan, a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Portland in Oregon,] said, and Saturday is the second. The first was 10-02-2001. (To check out his complete list: faculty.up.edu/ainan/palindrome.html)

Well, only here. Almost everywhere else in the world, people use different formats for dates. In Europe, for example, today is 2/1/10; the next "palindrome" date is February 1st (01-02-2010), and the last was 10 February 2001 (10-02-2001).

Except maybe not. Most people don't customarily use leading zeroes when writing dates. That makes today 2/1/10 most places, and means the next "palindrome" really won't be until 1/1/11. Or 11/1/11. Or 11/11/11. (20-11-2011? What manner of numerical silliness will that date cause people?)

Don't even get me started on International System measurements and American exceptionalism[1]. But it's the same idea.

In his defense, Prof. Inan isn't serious (and neither am I): "Despite Inan's excitement, he dismisses the notion that mysticism and magic lie behind such dates. He doesn't, for example, fear Dec. 21, 2012, the date the Mayan "Long Count" calendar marks the end of a 5,126-year era. Some folks think the date portends a revolution or an apocalypse. Jan. 2, 2010, and Dec. 21, 2012, he said, just happen to be really cool dates."

[1] There are 310 million people in the U.S. of 6.5 billion worldwide—we're 1/19th of the world population—and the only country including England who still use the English system of measurements.

'Tis the season to be flying

Once again in Reagan National Airport, our hero pauses to reflect on the great pile of snow that landed on the city three days earlier. I have to say, it really is pretty:

Another view, around back:

We even got delayed for 15 minutes by a motorcade: not the President's, the Vice-President's. Still, I feel like I've had the full D.C. experience.

Forty minutes until boarding...then I get to pass through O'Hare for the third time in five days.

They may want to buy more plows

Washington looks quite pretty from the air with all the snow on the ground:

I'm confused. Yes, I see snow, and on the ground at DCA it seems to be about 30-35 cm deep, but in Chicago we'd find this annoying, not paralyzing. I wonder if Virginia still has the same number of snowplows as Chicago (which was true in 2003, the last time the area got "buried" like this). If so, maybe they want to examine some of the climate-change projections calling for more precipitation? Hmm.

Diane and Parker are a few minutes away. Not that I mind airport lounges, but I'll be happy to see them again after their ordeal.

We're Thru: Vanderbilt

Traffic author Tom Vanderbilt writes this week about the history and future of the American Drive-Thru:

But despite the Stakhanovite quotas being met by the Bluetoothed cadres across the land, all is not well with the drive-through. The facilities saw a 4 percent drop in business in 2008 due to the recession. And—more threatening still—a number of communities have recently passed anti-idling ordinances, some of which implicate even the fastest drive-through windows. ...

Meanwhile, people who would actually contribute no emissions at a drive-through window—pedestrians, cyclists, and the like—haven't exactly been having it their way. Any number of carless individuals have broached the drive-through fortress, only to be rebuffed with vague rejoinders about "company policy" (though there are some exceptions).

But not everyone is taking drive-through restrictions lying down. One Portlander—a cycling mom denied service at Burgerville—went viral, forcing a public change of heart from the company. And cyclists aren't the only ones clamoring for access: A Minnesota woman suffering from degenerative arthritis, driving a Pride Mobility Celebrity X scooter, was refused service at a White Castle, whose policy is to serve only licensed motor vehicles. ...

Sojourning as I am for a fortnight in an area with a walking score about half that of home, I still can't quite bring myself to use drive-thrus. Maybe with more socialization...

The drive

I tried to get out ahead of the weather on Tuesday, but it found me. The trip started out at just past 7am with the car in this condition:

By mid-Indiana Parker had had enough:

And on the arrival end, the residents have still not fully accepted their houseguest:

Parker and the cats have had words. Barks, growls, and hisses, actually. We're still trying to get them to stay in the same room together without either freaking out. This means, in practice, one of us coaxing the cats from behind the sofa while the other explains to the dog, with one hand on the choke collar and another firmly pressing down between his shoulder blades, that he is not to bark or growl at the cats. We'll see. After two days they'll ignore each other for half an hour on end, which is encouraging.

Meta-Nebraska

Via Strange Maps comes a field outside Minden, Neb., shaped like...well, like Nebraska:

Strange Maps writes:

Is Nebraska Field a coincidence, then? When not being centrally irrigated, each of the mile-by-mile blocks is often divided into smaller fields, mostly rectangular but not really symmetrical. That sort of describes the shape of Nebraska – but still, chances of a field mimicking it so perfectly seem very remote indeed.

Nebraska is rectangular in an oblong sort of way, with straight borders everywhere except in the east, where it is bounded by the Missouri River. An immediately recognisable feature on its western border is the square chunk bitten out by Colorado, allowing that state to be completely rectangular.

The field mimics all these shapes: the straight lines north, west and south, the indentation in the southwest, the slightly slanting eastern border, near what looks like a little, elongated lake. And all in the right proportions too.

So: coincidence or design? It has to be one or the other.

Pretty cool, though.