The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Morning flight

This morning I took my tiny drone out for a longer flight than the short tests I've done so far, in part because at 8am the winds didn't threaten to blow the thing into the lake. I've also started mapping a source of radio interference near my house that had disrupted previous attempts to get up to real altitude.

So this morning, I went to a more open spot away from my house and took the drone up to 70 meters vertical and 200 meters horizontal from its takeoff point:

After this flight, I "walked" the drone around the block like a levitating dog, until its battery started to go and it decided to try flying back to its starting point. It took me a moment to realize I needed to cancel the "return to home" function to let it land next to me instead of a block away.

I'm really enjoying this toy. And I've only crashed it twice...

Then and Now, Magnolia and Wilson

I love historian J.R. Schmidt's "Then and Now" series on his Chicago History Today blog. Mostly he posts photos he took as a kid (late 1940s through early 1960s) and contrasts them with contemporary photos.

Then, recently, I came across this photo from a location just a couple of blocks from me that photographer Bob Rehak took during an arson epidemic on 22 April 1976:

Here's the same location today:

Rehak's other photos from the era are incredible. Uptown was in a different universe 45 years ago.

A bit windy

Day 3 of flight testing didn't go as well as I'd hoped. The winds picked up a bit, so my little guy refused to ascend past 28 meters and at one point lost contact with my remote. I have a feeling that radio interference will make urban flying more challenging.

I did get a good look at the lake, though:

The weather forecast looks breezy today and tomorrow, calming a bit Saturday. And if it's calmer around 8pm tonight, I'll try to get some dusk shots of the city. Honestly, the weather interfering with testing the drone feels a bit like the fall of 1999 when weather delays kept pushing my private-pilot checkride back.

At least I didn't crash today. Yesterday I hit a shrub and a fence, the latter impact actually costing me a propeller blade. At least the yet-unnamed quadcopter didn't suffer worse damage.

The only appropriate response is laughter

Someone threw a widdle tantwum this morning:

President Donald Trump's campaign is demanding CNN retract and apologize for a recent poll that showed him well behind presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

The demand, coming in the form of a cease and desist letter to CNN President Jeff Zucker that contained numerous incorrect and misleading claims, was immediately rejected by the network.

The CNN poll conducted by SSRS and released on Monday shows Trump trailing the former vice president by 14 points, 55%-41%, among registered voters. It also finds the President's approval rating at 38% -- his worst mark since January 2019, and roughly on par with approval ratings for one-term Presidents Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush at this point in their reelection years -- and his disapproval rating at 57%.

David Vigilante, CNN's executive vice president and general counsel, told the campaign that its "allegations and demands are rejected in their entirety."

"To my knowledge, this is the first time in its 40-year history that CNN had been threatened with legal action because an American politician or campaign did not like CNN's polling results," Vigilante wrote in his response. "To the extent we have received legal threats from political leaders in the past, they have typically come from countries like Venezuela or other regimes where there is little or no respect for a free and independent media."

We knew he wouldn't go quietly. So let's just keep laughing at him so that he goes ignominiously.

Mini Me

I mentioned yesterday I got a new toy. Finally, after years of thinking about it (and also watching prices come down), I bought a small drone. The Mavic Mini weighs 249 grams (which has legal significance), flies for half an hour, and takes decent video.

For my first test flights, I put the propeller guards on and did some slow flying around my house. Parker could not have cared less. Encounter number one:

Encounter number two:

So I not only have the best dog on the planet, but I may also have the chillest dog on the planet.

Quick personal notes

Note #1: After 108 days—a record, I think—I finally got a haircut.

Note #2: After thinking about it for years, literally years, I got a new toy. It's a lot of fun. And it combines two of my favorite topics: aviation and photography. Watch this space later this week.

Day 84 of the Year Without a Year

First, some good news: New Zealand has not had a new Covid-19 case in 14 days, making it officially coronavirus-free. Given it's an archipelago of 3 million people more than 2,000 km from its nearest neighbor, they may have had some natural defenses against reinfection.

In other news:

An oddly quiet day, it seems. Probably because it's Monday.

Welp. There goes the neighborhood

A 10-hectare section of Alta, Norway, slipped into the sea on Wednesday, destroying 8 vacation homes and temporarily inconveniencing a dog:

The landslide, which ran 2,133 feet along the shore and went nearly 500 feet inland, was the largest the area has ever seen, according to Anders Bjordal, a Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate senior engineer who was involved in the rescue operation.

“In this municipality, a landslide has not happened in 50 or 60 years, and there has never been one this size,” Mr. Bjordal said on Friday.

Jan Egil Bakkeby, who owned one of the cabins, scrambled out of the building when he heard the landslide begin. “I had just made two slices of bread when I heard it crack in the cabin,” he told the Norwegian newspaper Altaposten. “At first I thought there was someone in the loft, but then I saw out of the window that the power cord was smoking.”

As he moved to higher ground, he filmed the scene as a swath of land under his and others’ properties inched into the water and was soon submerged.

Only one rescue took place: A dog was swept away when the land began to slip, and the animal was carried out to sea, officials said. The dog was able to swim ashore and was rescued by a helicopter that was checking the area for missing people.

The video is surreal:

Big names with big warnings

The Washington Post this morning has two pieces with impressive bylines, both warning about the path the United States is walking right now. First, Salman Rushdie:

In my life, I have seen several dictators rise and fall. Today, I’m remembering those earlier incarnations of this unlovely breed.

In India in 1975, Indira Gandhi, found guilty of electoral malpractice, declared a state of emergency that granted her despotic powers. The “emergency,” as it became known, ended only when she called an election, believing she would win, and was annihilated at the polls. Her arrogance was her downfall. This cautionary tale formed a part of my novel “Midnight’s Children.”

In Pakistan in 1977, Gen. Mohammed Zia ul-Haq staged a coup against Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and executed him in 1979. This dark story was the inspiration for my novel “Shame.” The circumstances of my life have given me some understanding of the dictatorial cast of mind.

Extreme narcissism, detachment from reality, a fondness for sycophants and a distrust of truth-tellers, an obsession with how one is publicly portrayed, a hatred of journalists and the temperament of an out-of-control bulldozer: These are some of the characteristics.

President Trump is, temperamentally, a tinpot despot of this type. But he finds himself in charge of a country that has historically thought of itself — by no means always correctly — as being on the side of liberty. So far, with the collusion of the Republican Party, he has ruled more or less unchecked. Now an election looms, and he is unpopular, and flails about looking for a winning strategy. And if that means trampling over American freedoms, then so be it.

Second, a coterie of 89 former defense and military officials demonstrate all-party condemnation of the president's use of the military:

President Trump has given governors a stark choice: either end the protests that continue to demand equal justice under our laws, or expect that he will send active-duty military units into their states. While the Insurrection Act gives the president the legal authority to do so, this authority has been invoked only in the most extreme conditions when state or local authorities were overwhelmed and were unable to safeguard the rule of law. Historically, as Secretary Esper has pointed out, it has rightly been seen as a tool of last resort.

Beyond being unnecessary, using our military to quell protests across the country would also be unwise. This is not the mission our armed forces signed up for: They signed up to fight our nation’s enemies and to secure — not infringe upon — the rights and freedoms of their fellow Americans. In addition, putting our servicemen and women in the middle of politically charged domestic unrest risks undermining the apolitical nature of the military that is so essential to our democracy. It also risks diminishing Americans’ trust in our military — and thus America’s security — for years to come.

The members of our military are always ready to serve in our nation’s defense. But they must never be used to violate the rights of those they are sworn to protect.

Know hope.