The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Lies, Damned Lies, and the President's Polysyllabic Exhalations

The Washington Post's Fact Checker found that the President made 1,950 false or misleading claims in his first 347 days of office:

As regular readers know, the president has a tendency to repeat himself — often. There are now more than 60 claims that he has repeated three or more times. The president’s impromptu 30-minute interview with the New York Times over the holidays, in which he made at least 24 false or misleading claims, included many statements that we have previously fact-checked.

We currently have a tie for Trump’s most repeated claims, both made 61 times. Both of these claims date from the start of Trump’s presidency and to a large extent have faded as talking points.

One of these claims was some variation of the statement that the Affordable Care Act is dying and “essentially dead.” The Congressional Budget Office has said that the Obamacare exchanges, despite well-documented issues, are not imploding and are expected to remain stable for the foreseeable future. Indeed, healthy enrollment for the coming year has surprised health-care experts. Trump used to say this a lot, but he’s quieted down since his efforts to repeal the law flopped.

An astonishing 85 times, Trump has celebrated a rise in the stock market — even though in the campaign he repeatedly said it was a “bubble” that was ready to crash as soon as the Federal Reserve started raising interest rates. Well, the Fed has raised rates three times since the election — and yet the stock market has not plunged as Trump predicted. It has continued a rise in stock prices that began under President Barack Obama in 2009. Again, Trump has never explained his shift in position on the stock market.

At this rate, he'll utter his 2,000th lie as President sometime on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Jennifer Rubin, James Fallows, Josh Marshall, Chris Cillizza, the Telegraph U.K., the Twitterverse, and Wile E. Coyote have weighed in on the President asserting that he's a "very stable genius."

We might have this guy for another 1,109 days...

Tropical heat in Chicago

I exaggerate.

But officially, at 8:51am this morning O'Hare reported a temperature above -7°C, finally ending our 12 days of frigid temperatures.

Parker got a real walk this morning, and he's about to get another one. And no boots! Most of the salt has been brushed away from the sidewalks.

Of course, it's supposed to snow later today. But it's also forecast to hit -1°C today and (gasp!) 8°C on Wednesday.

Anyway, I'm happy, and Parker appears to be, that walking outside does not immediately result in bits of our faces freezing off.

Good news and bad news about the weather

The good news: our cold snap is almost over. Temperatures will rise all day tomorrow and actually get above freezing tomorrow evening.

The bad news: We're about to tie a record for the longest period where the temperature stayed under -7°C in Chicago history:

Charles Mott, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Chicago, said it’s unlikely the temperature Saturday would get above -7°C, which would tie a record of 12 days of temperatures that haven’t gotten out of the teens. Many days the thermometer has registered only single digits and even below zero.The high Saturday at O’Hare was expected to be no more than -7°C degrees.

Christmas Day was the last time the mercury rose above 20 degrees, according to the weather service.

By staying so cold, Chicago will have tied the record of 12 days in a row of temperatures below -10°C degrees, which has happened only twice before since records have been kept, in 1936 and 1895.

Today it was at least warm enough to walk Parker for 15 minutes. But it's still not warm by any reasonable definition.

Zoning out

All the news yesterday and today has talked about Mike Wolff's new book, and how it puts into black-and-white terms what we already knew about the President. I'm reading a lot of it, and I've even pre-ordered David Frum's new book, coming out a week from Tuesday.

Fortunately, Chicago magazine published an article today about the origin of time zones in the United States, which is political but only in the nuts-and-bolts sense and not really in a partisan way. And Chicago has the story because, basically, Chicago invented time zones:

America was divided into its (mostly accepted) time zones in Chicago. Which makes sense. Chicago was and still is the biggest railroad town in the country, and the railroads were, in both the United States and Europe, the catalyst for the creation of time zones. In fact, there’s a historical argument that the challenges of scheduling trains inspired Albert Einstein’s development of the general theory of relativity...

Take this time and distance indicator from 1862: when it was noon in Philadelphia, it was 12:04 in New York, 12:06 in Albany, 12:16 in Boston, and 11:54 in Baltimore. Meanwhile, it was 11:10 in Chicago, 10:59 in St. Louis, and 11:18 in Indianapolis. Synchronizing relative time across cities might have inspired Einstein’s thought experiments, but it was a poor way to run a railroad.

In 1880 Britain officially adopted Greenwich Mean Time. The Canadian railway engineer Sandford Fleming and the astronomer and meteorologist Cleveland Abbe, chief scientist of the U.S. Army Signal Corps, began correspondence about a worldwide system of time zones, proving themselves persistent advocates of what Fleming called terrestrial time. Their work was presented at the Third International Geographical Congress in Venice in 1881, the General Conference of the European Geodetic Association in 1883, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1881 and 1882.

Such a system was politically messy, requiring the coordination of governments for which time zones had political symbolism. But the railroads had only the bottom line to consider.

And so, the standard time zone was born. And at this writing, according to the Time Zone Database (of which I am a contributor), there are only 494 of them.

How to Take a Picture of a Stealth Bomber Over the Rose Bowl

Photographer Mark Holtzman flew a Cessna 206 over the Rose Bowl on Monday—and captured one of the coolest aerial photos I've ever seen. He explains the shot in The Atlantic:

I’m always talking with them. It’s run under the Pasadena Police, so I get a clearance. They don’t want anybody just flying around during a big event like that, even though you theoretically can. So I was on a discreet frequency, the same frequency as the B-2, talking to them. They know me now.

Unlike film, the way you shoot digital is you shoot wider and crop it in. It’s hard. Things are happening really quick. It’s very fluid. I’m flying at 100 miles per hour. They are flying 200 miles an hour in the other [direction]. So, that’s 300 miles per hour. Things happen really quickly.

For me, my goal was to put the B-2 inside the stadium, preferably in the grass. And I don’t want to block any of the names or other stuff. For this picture, if you block the flag, it takes away from it.

So, first you’re trying to find the B-2 as it is flying toward you. Everything is fluid. I am moving around. They have to be on their target and you have to be on yours. There are no shortcuts. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

You have to see this photo.

The Open Secret

James Fallows points out the alarming parallels between sexual harassment in Hollywood and President Trump's manifest unfitness for office:

In the very short term, a few people reflexively offered “open secret” as an explanation, even a rationalization. Of course everybody knew that Harvey/Roger/Kevin was this way (the reasoning went). If you were smart, you kept your distance, and you’d never take the bait of going for “a meeting” up in the hotel room. Want to give, or get, a “massage”? No way!

But you rarely hear rationalizations of that sort any more. Now the open-secret premise usually leads to a follow-up question. If “everyone” knew what was going on, why didn’t anyone do more to stop it? And this in turn has led to institutional and personal self-examinations.

Based on the excerpts now available, Fire and Fury presents a man in the White House who is profoundly ignorant of politics, policy, and anything resembling the substance of perhaps the world’s most demanding job. He is temperamentally unstable. Most of what he says in public is at odds with provable fact, from “biggest inaugural crowd in history” onward. Whether he is aware of it or not, much of what he asserts is a lie. ...

This is “news,” in its detail, just as the specifics of Harvey Weinstein’s marauding were real, hard-won news. But it also is an open secret. This is the man who offered himself to the public over the past two-and-a-half years.

This is scary stuff. It's bad enough when you're talking about a powerful entertainment executive; quite another thing when talking about the most powerful office on earth.

Cold weather and steps

My step count over the last week and a half has really suffered. Between Arctic temperatures and working from home (and a dog who hates boots), my average over the last 7 days of 2017 was just 8,441 steps per day. Throughout 2017, I only missed 10k steps 26 times—6 of them between Christmas and New Year's Eve.

This weekend should be warmer, and I'm back in the office this week, so I expect better results going forward. Both yesterday and Monday I hit my 10k goal, and today I'm likely to.

But wow, I hate missing it. I really do.

Expert tips on going dry for January

I will not be doing this (though I am taking it easy this month):

After a week or so, I’m sleeping better and have noticeably more energy. However, because my job is literally to go to bars and clubs, I can’t board myself up in a room, “Trainspotting”-style, to avoid temptation. I still go to cocktail bars and check out DJs and bands — I just don’t drink while doing so. Thankfully, with the explosion of the District’s drinking scene, more bars are putting an emphasis on house-made sodas and fresh juices, which can usually be consumed on their own, without alcohol. The Columbia Room2 Birds 1 Stoneand Hank’s on the Hill are among the best at this, though I’ve noticed more bars and restaurants adding nonalcoholic sections to their menus.

While approaches may vary, there are some general tips:

  • Drinking a soda water with lime looks makes it look like you’re drinking a gin and tonic, which may help avoid questions.
  • Tip your bartenders for sodas and water the same way you would for a beer or cocktail.
  • Talk to people.
  • Remember: There are other places to have fun in January outside of bars, too.

Most of all, don’t worry if you slip up, or decide to change the length of your hiatus. I know I’ve ended a few days early because there was a beer tapping I really, really wanted to attend. “It doesn’t matter,” [Columbia Room owner Derek] Brown says. “It’s not a religion; it’s a practice.”

I'll drink to that. But just a little bit.

Not as cold as yesterday

It turns out I'm still right about two things I said yesterday: First, yesterday did set the record in Chicago for the coldest January 1st on record when the temperature only managed to get up to -17°C. (The previous low-maximum record was -15°C set in 1969.)

Second, last night's overnight minimum temperature was a full half-degree C warmer than the overnight low on January 1st. So far, then, January 1st is still the coldest day of 2018.

That said, I did not enjoy my commute this morning.

Cold open

Just 3% of New Year's Days have been this cold in Chicago since we started keeping records in 1871. The normal temperature range for January 1st is -9°C to -1°C; right now it's -17°C, noticeably warmer than the overnight low of -23°C. That overnight temperature actually tied for the second-coldest January 1st on record. Only 1969 was colder. If the daytime temperature stays where it is, we'll set a new record for the coldest January 1st in history.

The forecast calls for warming temperatures next weekend, but with a string of -17°C–degree nights until then. It discourages me from leaving the house. Even Parker hasn't liked going outside the past two days, despite his boots and two fur coats.

The silver lining to this frozen cloud is that there is a real possibility that today will be the coldest day of 2018. Despite what people believe about Chicago, days below -18°C are pretty rare: even during the Polar Vortex of 2014 when we set the record for most days at that temperature, we only had 26 of them. And it's even less likely that we'll stay below freezing for the entire month of January; the record for that is 43 days, set from 28 December 1976 to 8 February 1977. We'd have to go through February 5th without getting above freezing to set a new record.

In other words, the probability of having any more days this winter dropping down to -23°C is pretty small.

At least, that's what I told myself when I walked Parker this morning.