The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

More stuff to read

What a day. I thought I'd have more time to catch up on reading up to this point, but life intervened. So an hour from now, when I'm cut off from all telecommunications for 9 hours, I plan to sleep. And if I wake, I'll read these articles that I'm leaving open in Chrome:

And now, I head to my airplane.

Why I hate the suburbs

I spent over 3 hours in my car today in principal because there were no public transit options to my remote, suburban destination. That, plus all-day meetings, means that instead of outlining what I'm planning for the weekend—I'll do that tomorrow—I'm just going to line up some articles I want to read:

I now have to pack. Parker will be unhappy with this.

Feeling warm and secure

As part of my current project's non-technical requirements, I've just completed 5 hours of anti-terrorism and security training. Biggest takeaway: bullets ricochet down, grenade shrapnel goes up. Also, don't put random CDs in your computer. Oh, and I have to repeat about 3 hours of it a year from now.

Today is actually a company holiday but I've got a lot of work to do, including this training. Also we've gotten about 60 mm of snow today with more coming down. So steps go down, heating bill goes up.

Even on weekends I'm busy

A few links to click tomorrow when I have more time:

And now, I rest.

Cold and biting

I'm not referring to the 14°C drop in temperatures over four hours yesterday, though that did suck. (And it did drench me.)

No, I'm talking about how, after calling countries that have dark-skinned citizens "shitholes," the best President we have right now abruptly cancelled a visit to the UK to dedicate our new (and ugly, and inconveniently-located) embassy on the south bank of the Thames:

The president claimed on Twitter that the reason for calling off the trip was his displeasure at Barack Obama having sold the current embassy for “peanuts” and built a replacement for $1bn (£750m). “Bad deal,” he wrote.

But the embassy’s plan to move from Mayfair to Nine Elms in London was first reported in October 2008, when George W Bush was still president.

The London mayor, Sadiq Khan, said Trump had “got the message” that many Londoners staunchly opposed his policies and actions.

“It appears that President Trump got the message from the many Londoners who love and admire America and Americans but find his policies and actions the polar opposite of our city’s values of inclusion, diversity and tolerance,” Khan said on Friday.

“His visit next month would without doubt have been met by mass peaceful protests. This just reinforces what a mistake it was for Theresa May to rush and extend an invitation of a state visit in the first place.”

It's important to realize that Trump didn't cancel the visit because he feels one way or another about the embassy move. That's a policy detail that, while irksome to one of the closest allies the US has had for two centuries, is not something he would necessarily be aware of unless someone mentioned it on Fox & Friends. No, he doesn't want to go to the embassy dedication because he hates being reminded that he is less popular in London than Robert Mugabe.

I should also point out that our embassy in Grosvenor Square is an ugly building also, but at least it's convenient to Central London and near to many other embassies and missions. It's right across the park from Macdonald House, which used to house the Canadian High Commission and was also sold recently to private developers.

I should also point out that President Trump doesn't like President Bush fils any more than he likes President Obama, but of course Trump would never blame things on the white guy if he doesn't have to. (See, e.g., "shithole countries" comment, above.)

Why do we need to sleep?

The Atlantic reports on some new research in why animals all do this thing that could get them eaten:

There are a handful of substances clearly demonstrated to cause sleep—including a molecule called adenosine, which appears to build up in certain parts of the brains of waking rats, then drain away during slumber. Adenosine is particularly interesting because it is adenosine receptors that caffeine seems to work on. When caffeine binds to them, adenosine can’t, which contributes to coffee’s anti-drowsiness powers. But work on hypnotoxins has not fully explained how the body keeps track of sleep pressure.

For instance, if adenosine puts us under at the moment of transition from wakefulness to sleep, where does it come from? “Nobody knows,” remarks Michael Lazarus, a researcher at the institute who studies adenosine. Some people say it’s coming from neurons, some say it’s another class of brain cells. But there isn’t a consensus. At any rate, “this isn’t about storage,” says [Japanese researcher Masashi] Yanagisawa. In other words, these substances themselves don’t seem to store information about sleep pressure. They are just a response to it.

Unfortunately...they still haven't figured it out. But there is a cute video at the bottom of the article.

Whipsaw weather

The temperature poked its head all the way up to 14°C this morning and has otherwise held steady around 13°C since yesterday evening. That means it's a full 37°C warmer—yes, the difference between freezing and typical human body temperature—than January 1st (-23°C).

Unfortunately, a cold front will bring Canadian cold through Chicago this evening, dropping the temperature 20°C overnight and another 5°C (to around -14°C) by Saturday night.

So picking the right coat this morning was more challenging than one might think.

And this, by the way, is a predicted result of anthropogenic climate change: weather extremes, from unseasonably warm to unseasonably cold, in the winter—but only in some places. Because right now, the northern hemisphere is way, way warmer than normal:

Long-ish days

I drove up to Milwaukee and back today for work, so not a lot of time to write today. I will only point to pilot Patrick Smith's observation that 2017 was the safest year ever for commercial aviation—and this had nothing to do with the president:

One. Of the more than two billion people who flew commercially last year worldwide, that’s the number who were killed in airline accidents. One person. That unfortunate soul was a passenger on board an ATR turboprop that crashed after takeoff in Canada in December. Twenty-four others on the plane survived.

Thus 2017 becomes the safest year in the history of civil aviation.

It was 2013 that held that honor previously, but the fact is that flying has become so safe that year-over-year comparisons are increasingly academic. Instead of playing the same game every January, it’s better to look from a wider, more macro perspective. What we see is a trend that began about thirty years ago, and has since reached the point where air safety, as we know it, and what we now expect of it, has been radically transformed.

The big question is, how did we get here?

No, it has nothing to do with Donald Trump, who this week shocked absolutely nobody by taking credit for the good news in a typically preposterous Twitter message. “Since taking office I have been very strict on commercial aviation,” Trump tweeted. Whatever policies or measures he’s referring to, they exist only in his imagination and are better left unexplored. In typical fashion, instead of congratulating the thousands of professionals who helped make this happen, he congratulated himself, having done virtually nothing.

There are three very real things, on the other hand, we can thank, all of which precede Trump’s presidency....

It's kind of amazing, when you think about it. The last time the U.S. experienced a major air disaster was 16 years ago, when American 587 crashed in Queens.

First normal commute in weeks

Between my company's work-from-home week between Christmas and New Year's Eve, and the excruciatingly cold weather the week after, this morning was the first time since December 21st.

It turned out that commuting by public transit took exactly the same amount of time as driving to work, but gained me 2,500 additional steps. That's helpful, because in the last 20 days I've missed my step goal 10 times.

Here's to warmer weather and better exercise habits.