The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

It's in the cards

I'm heading off to a Euchre tournament in a bit. I haven't played cards with actual, live people in quite some time, so I just hope to end up in the middle of the pack. Or one perfect lay-down loner... A guy can dream.

When I get home, I might have the time and attention span to read these:

  • John Grinspan looks at the similarities and crucial differences between the upcoming election and the election of 1892.
  • Andy Borowitz jokes about the latest of Robert F Kennedy's conspiracy theories: that his own brain is being controlled by a complete idiot.
  • Why do so many of the country's most infamous serial killers come from the Midwest? (Perhaps because it's the home of Kellogg's and General Mills?)
  • Michael Sweeney reviews all the errors of navigation and judgment that led to the RMS Titanic sinking 110 years ago tomorrow.
  • Speaking of navigation, researchers have found evidence that a sense of direction comes from experience, not genetics.
  • Meagan McArdle describes the Oedipus Trap that led Dr Walter Freeman to continue lobotomizing patients years after the horrors of the procedure became clear to just about everyone else, and what this means for some contemporary medical thinking.

Finally, the weather forecast this weekend calls for some real Chicago spring weather: 19°C and sunny today, 22°C and sunny tomorrow...and 9°C with a stiff breeze from the northeast tomorrow afternoon. If you head out to enjoy the warmth tomorrow lunchtime, make sure you have a sweater because it'll be 15°C by dinner.

What I learned about Google Maps yesterday

Getting down to Whitestown, Ind., yesterday took about 4 hours and 45 minutes, including a stop to empty Cassie, which isn't great but isn't nearly as bad as I'd feared. Getting home, however, taught me about the limitations of Google Maps in a way I'm not likely to forget.

Here's the first leg of our return trip, from Whitestown to just south of Wolcott, Ind., a distance of 109 km:

That took us 3 hours and 41 minutes, an average of 29.6 km/h. People ride bikes faster than that.

You can see spots where we got off Interstate 65 and followed Google's instructions to take alternate roads, because I-65 had an average speed of a portly beagle. (I'm not making up the comparison. I'm talking about a specific beagle.)

As it turned out, though, Google had no data at all about the alternate roads until people started driving on them. So when Google said "take County Road 50 N to County Road 500 W" because it thought no one was on those roads, that was true until Google told 300 people to take them.

That made getting back on I-65 a new kind of hell as stoplights set up to admit the 2 or 3 cars usually going through an intersection completely failed to clear the 5-km line of cars trying to turn.

We finally learned our lesson, too late, after we gave up on Google Maps and lit out on US-231 towards Wolcott. From that point until we got onto the Dan Ryan expressway in Chicago we averaged about 90 km/h. We ignored Google and paralleled I-65 until it looked like the Interstate had finally cleared up.

The other thing we learned was, if there's a 40-minute line for the bathroom, leave. We found a couple of gas stations with no lines just 5 minutes from "Hub Plaza" on the map above.

And as a bonus, we got to see a magnificent sunset over the fields of central Indiana that we would not have seen from the Interstate.

The total return time from Whitesville to Chicago was 6 hours and 48 minutes.

Next time I travel through rural parts of the US, I'm going to go back to the navigation skills I learned before we had satnav in every car.

One more thing: if the US had the same level of technology and similar transport policies as our peer nations (not to mention China), I would simply have gotten on a high-speed train in downtown Chicago and gotten out in Indianapolis 90 minutes later. Alas, American transportation is still stuck in the mid-1900s, with no likelihood of advancing—especially in a reactionary state like Indiana.

But just to be clear: it was totally worth it. There is nothing like seeing a total solar eclipse. I'm already thinking about going to Spain in 2026.

Dropping a book I really expected to like

I tried for a little more than 6 months to read a book of humorous essays by an author I really like, and just couldn't finish. It pains me. But I feel a tiny bit of relief at not seeing the book on my nightstand anymore. Since I started reading it, I read—no exaggeration—24 other books, which suggests I really didn't find it all that interesting.

Sometimes you have to just move on, no matter how much you like someone's other work.

Meanwhile, tonight is our annual fundraiser/cabaret, for which I need to start getting ready. Posting might be thin until Monday.

Really busy couple of weeks

Through next weekend I'm going to have a lot to do, so much that I've scheduled "nothing" for the back half of next week going into our annual fundraiser on April 6th. I might even get enough sleep.

I hope I have time to read some of these, too:

Finally, submitted without comment: Grazie Sophia Christie, writing in New York Magazine, advises young women to marry older men.

How many steps do you need?

I've spent the morning getting a demo ready so that I don't have to be on the call at 3:30 am PDT. And now, I'm heading off to do a hike with a few of my co-workers. While I'm hiking, I'll be building up to my daily goal of 10,000 steps, which I make about 97% of the time.

But maybe I don't need that many? National Geographic takes a look:

Getting in 9,000 to 10,000 daily steps cuts risk of death by more than a third and reduced cardiovascular disease risk by at least 20 percent, but even smaller increases showed benefits, researchers found in a study of more than 72,000 people.

“Any activity is good activity. We found the more steps you did per day, the lower your risk of mortality and cardiovascular disease was,” says Matthew Ahmadi, an epidemiologist at the University of Sydney in Australia and one of the study’s authors. “The 10,000 mark is a great target to hit, but even if you aren’t able to hit that, still doing any amount of activity to increase your daily steps can go a long way to improving your health and lowering your risk of disease.”

In fact, highly sedentary people in the study began experiencing a heart benefit starting as low as 4,300 steps per day, when their risk of heart disease fell by 10 percent. Doubling that step count to 9,700 steps a day doubled the benefit.

Let's see how I do today.

O'Hare again

Just quickly passing through O'Hare on my way to a work conference for a couple days. I saw a couple of snow flurries on my way here this morning, which happens mid-March in Chicago. Despite the two minutes of discomfort, though, I left my winter coat in my car. Won't need it where I'm going.

Another busy day

Getting ready for a work trip on Monday plus (probably) having to do a demo while on the work trip means I spent most of the day getting ready for the demo. In a bit of geography fun, because the participants in the demo will be in six different time zones from UTC-7 (me) to UTC+10 (the client), I got the short straw, and will (probably) attend the demo at 3:30 am PDT.

I say "probably" because the partners on the call may take mercy on me and let me brief them instead of monitoring the technology in the actual meeting. Probably not, though.

So in this afternoon's roundup of news and features, I'll start with:

  • Teresa Carr's report in Undark explaining how people in "eccentric time localities" (i.e., on the western edges of time zones) experience negative effects that people east of them don't.
  • President Biden's budget proposal includes a $350 million grant to extend the CTA Red Line.
  • Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the country's most-senior Jewish official, gave a scathing speech in the Senate this morning calling on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud) to resign and hold elections. Josh Marshall puts this in context. (tl;dr: it's a big deal, and Schumer is really the only one in Congress with the heft and history with Israel to make this speech.)
  • US Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), who faces 18 felony counts in Federal court, may run for re-election as an independent so that he can use his campaign funds to pay his legal bills. Why anyone would give him money to do this I cannot determine.
  • Chevrolet and other car manufacturers routinely hand over data about how you drive to a company that then hands that data to your auto insurer, because the US does not yet have anything like the GDPR.
  • Julia Ioffe outlines how Ukraine can (sort of) win against Russia if it can hold out until 2025.
  • Hopewell Brewing and other Illinois craft brewers have started selling THC-infused beer, taking advantage of a loophole in both the state's brewing and cannabis laws.

I will now check the weather radar to see how wet I'm going to get on the way home...

Mentally exhausting day, high body battery?

My Garmin watch thinks I've had a relaxing day, with an average stress level of 21 (out of 100). My four-week average is 32, so this counts as a low-stress day in the Garmin universe.

At least, today was nothing like 13 March 2020, when the world ended. Hard to believe that was four years ago. So when I go to the polls on November 5th, and I ask myself, "Am I better off than 4 years ago?", I have a pretty easy answer.

I spent most of today either in meetings or having an interesting (i.e., not boring) production deployment, so I'm going to take the next 45 minutes or so to read everything I haven't had time to read yet:

All righty then. I'll wrap up here in a few minutes and head home, where I plan to pat Cassie a lot and read a book.