The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

It was 20 years ago today

...that I finally passed my private pilot checkride and got my certificate.

I finished all the requirements for the checkride except for two cross-country flights for practice on 18 July 1999. Unfortunately, the weather in New Jersey sucked on almost every weekend for the next six months.

I finally took a day off from work in early December, took my checkride...and failed a landing. (I was too far off centerline to pass, but otherwise it was a perfectly safe landing.) It then took another six weeks to take that one part of my checkride over, on 15 January 2000.

Someday soon, I hope to get back in the air. Probably this spring. But as any private pilot can tell you, life sometimes interferes.

Get them while they're young, Evita, get them while they're young

The New York Times analyzed eight social-studies textbooks published in both California and Texas. Both states have state-wide standards for education, which textbook makers have to honor given the number of students in each state. You can guess some of the results:

The books have the same publisher. They credit the same authors. But they are customized for students in different states, and their contents sometimes diverge in ways that reflect the nation’s deepest partisan divides.

Hundreds of differences — some subtle, others extensive — emerged in a New York Times analysis of eight commonly used American history textbooks in California and Texas, two of the nation’s largest markets.

The differences between state editions can be traced back to several sources: state social studies standards; state laws; and feedback from panels of appointees that huddle, in Sacramento and Austin hotel conference rooms, to review drafts.

Requests from textbook review panels, submitted in painstaking detail to publishers, show the sometimes granular ways that ideology can influence the writing of history.

Context: I have a Bachelor's in history, and a law degree, which means I have read a lot of social studies texts (not just textbooks) in my life. I have Howard Zinn next to Paul Johnson in my bookshelf, for example. So I favor the California method of teaching kids about the warts. I also believe that knowing how we screwed up in the past helps us become a better nation.

I'm glad the Times did this analysis. It helps show one more way in which we live in two Americas, and how politicians try to keep it that way.

But I think George Washington's farewell address might guide us even today: "One of the expedients of party to acquire influence, within particular districts, is to misrepresent the opinions and aims of other districts. You cannot shield yourselves too much against the jealousies and heart-burnings, which spring from these misrepresentations; they tend to render alien to each other those, who ought to be bound together by fraternal affection."

(The title of this post refers to this bit from Evita.)

Lovely Chicago weather

...as long as you aren't in Chicago:

Lake Shore Drive was being hammered with waves Saturday morning causing officials to shut down the bike path in some parts on the North and South sides.

Officer Michelle Tannehill, a spokeswoman for police, said the northbound path remains closed between Ohio Street and Fullerton Avenue as of 11:30 a.m. There also were reports of trouble on South Shore Drive in the northbound lanes from 7100 to 6700 South Shore Drive.

Still under a winter weather advisory until 3 a.m. Sunday, parts of Cook County along the shoreline were expecting winds to reach up to 50 mph as rain showers threaten to create slick conditions.

It gets better:

Those in and around Chicago can expect snow by Saturday night, but before then, a complex and messy storm will possibly bring freezing rain, thunderstorms, sleet and dangerously high lakefront waves into early Sunday, forecasters said.

A winter storm warning was in effect for McHenry and other outlying counties northwest and west of the city from 9 p.m. Friday until 3 a.m. Sunday, with snow as deep as 7 inches predicted in some areas. A winter weather advisory was in effect for Lake and Kane counties starting at 3 a.m. Saturday and for Cook, DuPage, Kendall and LaSalle counties, lasting until 6 a.m. Sunday.

Officials said the storm will start with rain and sleet. There may also be ice pellets, but it might not freeze all surfaces, which may cause patchy slick spots in the area. It is expected to snow after 5 p.m. Saturday and continue snowing till 1 a.m. Sunday, Friedlein said.

Tonight I'm hosting some fellow singers for madrigals and wine. (You read this blog and didn't realize I'm a nerd?) Fortunately I'm close to public transit. I hope I'm not stuck with too much extra cheese and wine; that would be tragic.

Hurry home, little blue book

On Tuesday I mailed my passport to the National Passport Agency in Philadelphia with an extra $60 so they'll expedite its replacement. I feel a little anxious without it. Not because I live in 1950s Czechoslovakia or anything; more that I love travel so much, not having a passport even for two weeks every 10 years feels a little off.

Well, not exactly 10 years, more like 9½. While US passports last 10 years, many countries—for example, the UK, where I go several times a year—won't let you in if your passport will expire within six months. For me, my August 2010 passport would not meet UK entry requirements at the beginning of next month, so off it went. But I held onto it until after the new year so that the new one expires in 2030 instead of 2029.

I'll get the new one probably in two weeks. Meanwhile, the only sign of life I have is the certified mail receipt the Postal Service emailed me yesterday. So my old passport arrived safely in Philadelphia after all. I can hardly wait for the new one.

Slow day

We're having unseasonal warmth in Chicago this weekend—5°C instead of -5°C as we'd usually get—so I spent a good bit of today walking around. And I'll continue to do so later.

Also, I didn't really want to think about Iran.

Come back tomorrow for more scary posts on the imminent end of the world.

Booked the first book of 2020

Yesterday I spent a few hours at the Begyle Brewery Taproom and read about half of Mark Dunn's Ella Minnow Pea. I just finished it. It delighted me, and I think it might delight you.

So one book in two days? Maybe I can read 180 books this year? Not likely. A short novel by a playwright may not take a long time. But I'm only a third the way through Robert Caro's biography of Robert Moses, and I started that in June.

Statistics: 2019

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...)

Same job, new title

For the past seven months I've worked as a contract development lead in Milliman's Cyber Risk Solutions group. Today I officially convert to a new full-time role as Director of Product Development for Cyber Risk Solutions.

We have a lot to do in 2020, and I'll post about it what I can. So far we've started building "a new generation risk platform which uses an ensemble of cutting edge techniques to integrate what is known, knowable and imaginable about complex risks in order help risk managers identify, assess and monitor dynamic, high velocity, complex risk such as cyber," as the partner in charge of my practice says. It's cool shit, I say. And I'm happy to make Milliman my permanent home.

The role now shifts a little bit from building out the minimum-viable product to building out the team. I'll still have to write a lot of software, but I'll also expand our partnerships with teams in London, Sydney, and Lyon, and will probably have to visit at least two of those places more than once in 2020. In fact, at minimum I'll be in the London office four times, probably six. The only one sad about this is Parker.

And as an example of how great the management team is, they're starting me today so that my benefits kick in tomorrow. That was a very cool gesture.

Watch this blog for more updates.

Feeling saucy

Armed with an InstantPot, a Cuisinart, and some basic understanding of cooking, I made this today:

Starting here:

Ingredients used (amounts where known):

Hot Italian sausage, 300 g Salt
Mild Italian sausage, 150 g Pepper
Diced pancetta, 50 g Butter
Tomato puree, 800 mL Juice of 1 lemon
Tomato paste Juice of 1 lime
Olive oil Basil
Mirepoix (onion, carrot, celery) Sage
Shallot Rosemary
Garlic Thyme
Romano Smoked chile powder
Parmesan Chipotle powder
Red pepper flakes Mushrooms
Coriander Bay leaves

I sautéed the meat first, then after a few minutes, added the onion, garlic, and shallot. All of that got browned. In went the carrots and celery, a few more garlic cloves, and everything else a few minutes later with the heat off. Mixed the lot, then cooked at high pressure for 20 minutes with 7 minutes slow release before opening the steam vent for fast release.

So, it came out well, and it's very tasty. But I will do some things differently next time:

  • Put the cheese and tomato paste on top and last to prevent burning.
  • Don't forget the wine!
  • Prep the herbs better, and use more of them, especially basil.
  • In fact, add more salt, olive oil, butter, mushrooms (smaller pieces), and acid (one more lemon).
  • Skip the hot sausage. Use neutral ground meat (bison or beef) and mild sausage at 1:1. 500 grams of meat was about right, though.
  • Skip the pancetta. it got completely obliterated.

Also, it probably doesn't need to cook so long.

But now I've got two litres of deliciousness to eat or freeze.

I love this car

A year ago today, I got this lovely plug-in hybrid:

Because she (her name is Hana, or 初夏) has an on-board computer (well, probably a couple dozen, to be honest), I know exactly how well she did:

Total distance 6,969.4 km
Total fuel consumed 186.7 L
Fuel economy 2.7 L/100 km
Farthest north 43.68°N
Farthest south 41.32°N
Farthest east 79.37°W
Farthest west 87.96°W

Sad to see she never made it all the way to the 88th meridian, given that I live only about 21 minutes east of it. But she did make it to five states and one Canadian province, with trips to Toronto and Cleveland.

In all, I filled up the car six times, five of those on road-trips, and spent only $130.77 on gasoline all year.

As I suspected when I went car shopping a year ago, a plug-in hybrid is the perfect car for me. On average I drove 18.6 km per day overall, which is deceptive because I didn't drive on 228 days of the last 366. On the 138 days I did drive, I averaged 50.5 km per day. Which again doesn't paint the full picture, because I only crested 50 km on 19 occasions, 100 km on 10, and 200 km on 4. Take those 19 days out and I averaged just 21 km per day.

In other words, out of 366 days, I needed to use gasoline about 30 times, and usually only a few centilitres per trip. Hana can go about 40 km on a charge in winter and 50 km in summer (because the heater uses more power than having the windows down).

For an urban dweller who primarily uses public transportation, but who occasionally needs to haul a big old dog somewhere or go out of town, a plug-in hybrid makes a ton of sense. And it's fun to drive, too.