The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Long-ass bike ride cut a tiny bit short

As part of my training for the North Shore Century, I set out today to ride 100 km (62.1 mi). I went south, into the wind (so I would have a tail wind for the more-tired half of the ride), and for only the second time in my life rode to another state:

Then I continued all the way to the bottom of Chicago:

On the way back, only 3.5 km (2.1 mi) from home, a spoke broke. That doesn't sound nearly as bad as it is. When you lose a spoke, the wheel suddenly goes "out of true," meaning it's warped—badly. For a few moments I thought I'd simply run completely out of energy. No, the back wheel was rubbing up against the frame. So Anne had to come get me, and now the bike is at Turin.

Total trip: 96.7 km (60.1 mi) in 3:55:51. My pace was remarkably consistent, just under 25 km/h (15.5 mph), and seven of my 9 splits were withing 30 seconds of each other. This is what long-distance riders look for: consistent power, consistent speed, and consistent pedaling.

Global climate change causes heat waves. Really.

The six-day heat wave in Chicago finally broke Wednesday night, giving us delightful summer weather yesterday, but another heat wave is coming. We don't know when, of course; but it's looking more certain that human-caused climate change will give us more frequent and more severe weather events:

While it is impossible to attribute any one weather event to climate change, several recent studies suggest that human-generated emissions of heat-trapping gases have produced both higher overall temperatures and greater weather variability, which raise the odds of longer, more intense heat waves.
Last week, Paul Della-Marta, a researcher at Switzerland's Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology, presented findings at an international conference on climate science in Gwatt, Switzerland, showing that since 1880 the duration of heat waves in Western Europe has doubled and the number of unusually hot days in the region has nearly tripled.

Fortunately, fewer than 900 days remain in the Bush Administration, but those days include two more summers plus what's left of this one.

Nutty Melvin redux

In the continuing saga of Jew-hater Mel Gibson, a Jesuit priest wrote in Tribune op-ed today (reg.req.) that the Jewish deputy arresting Gibson was "the most Christian" in the whole story:

After the arrest, James Mee said that he held no grudge against Gibson and didn't want to see Gibson's career suffer, even though he's the guy in whose face Gibson spewed his invective. Despite that, this Jewish fellow gave Gibson a little lesson—a parable you might say—about Christian forgiveness.

Oy. Perhaps he showed Jewish forgiveness? Or maybe, faced with a drunken idiot, perhaps Deputy Mee merely showed professional restraint?

Other nuts in the news

Following up on my earlier post, I should mention a possibly-not-religious nut from academia. Fortunately, his 15 minutes are nearly up. I heard him on NPR this morning, because, well, they sometimes roast nuts on the air. The Tribune also picked up the story:

[University of Wisconsin lecturer Kevin] Barrett believes the U.S. government orchestrated the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, to create support for a larger military budget and a long-term Middle East war. He believes the World Trade Center buildings fell after a controlled demolition and doubts that the hijacker believed to have flown the plane into the Pentagon had the skills to do it. He thinks Osama bin Laden is probably dead.
"I have always been trying to distinguish myself from all the weird people," he said, recalling past ventures as a writer. "Little did I imagine I would have become devoted to exposing what most people think of as a conspiracy theory."

From this we can deduce...what, class? Number one: Barrett has not done a good job distinguishing himself from the weird people. Number two: most people think of his hypothesis as a conspiracy theory because it imagines—wait for it—a conspiracy. We should keep in mind that the generally-accepted theory of 9/11 (stupidity at the highest levels of government, 19 fanatical terrorists with no regard for human life, airplanes as guided missiles, Osama bin Laden behind it all) also imagines a conspiracy, so I'm wondering if Barrett might have forgotten an adjective to differentiate his conspiracy theory from the others. (I can think of one.)

Number three: the generally-accepted theory of 9/11 has volumes of corroborating evidence, and his hypothesis has none, which we take to mean the generally-accepted theory may be more correct. Number four: even absent said volumes of corroborating evidence, the generally-accepted theory sounds a lot more plausible on its face. (Kevin Barrett, meet William of Ockham. William, Kevin. You guys really need to have a chat.)

So, yes, even in academia, kooks abound. And because academic nut-jobs rarely have heavily-armed followers, it's OK to laugh at them.

Religious nuts in the news

Two related stories about religious fundamentalists appeared in the news this week.

First, it turns out that Mel Gibson really is an anti-Semitic religious nut who believes millions of witnesses somehow hoodwinked the world about millions of murders. I, for one, find this shocking. Gibson has shown nothing but sensitivity and a desire for accuracy in his historical films, give or take an ancient dialect, and he has gone to great lengths to distance himself from his nutter father, so it really must have been the booze talking over the weekend.

Sometimes the booze talks through me, too. So I understand. One time, the booze not only talked through me, it talked to a really gorgeous young lady whose booze had nothing to say in return. Though I don't remember what the booze said, I'm pretty sure it had something to do with a hypothetical plan for the evening with the gorgeous young lady but, instead of talking, her booze wound up in my face. So yes, booze says bad things. Or, at least, ill-advised things, because if I'm not mistaken, my hypothetical plans for the evening with said gorgeous young lady did, in fact, reflect my deeply-held convictions at the time; I just didn't phrase them appropriately. Or, more to the point, I didn't keep them to myself, which may have saved me a few bucks in dry-cleaning the next day.

In other words, booze may talk, but it doesn't have any ideas of its own, so it borrows them from the boozer. I believe people who spoke Aramaic for real knew this, too. No, I think we've learned in the thousands years of experience with booze that when booze talks, it's really you talking, no matter how offensive it sounds.

Like many successful religious nutters, Gibson probably also believes that his religion has gotten him where he is today. Being a fundamentalist crackpot takes a certain willfulness, a certain élan, a certain myopia, that tends to self-reinforcement. Once you believe that things happen directly because God makes them happen, you start to believe that God sanctions your fundamentalist crackpottery. You start to believe that you won an Oscar for Braveheart because God loves you, rather than that it grossed more than Babe and Tom Hanks. You start to believe that God directed the steps of all the other religious nutters who made Passion of the Christ such a bonanza for the studio, rather than realizing you're in a fundamentalist echo chamber.

In short, you start to believe people support your religious ideas, rather than people simply put up with your religious ideas because you're making them rich. It's just business.

Kind of like in Kansas. An apparent fundamentalist nutter there got un-elected from the school board, meaning children in Kansas may soon resume learning something about science as scientists actually see it. But whatever Brad Patzer's true beliefs, I'm under the impression that the anti-evolution Republicans on the Kansas school board were actually there to distract attention from the other, quite sober Republicans in the Kansas legislature who have systematically ground Kansas into poverty in the name of free enterprise. For that story, I recommend What's the Matter with Kansas.

So, this week, our fundamentalist kooks suffered some setbacks, but don't worry. There are plenty of them to go around.

Upstate New York also uncomfortable

From guest blogger Sean:


About Chicago's recent weather—today the temp in Oneida is expected to hit 36°C (97°F). Some areas will likely see 38°C (100°F) or more. I don’t think I've ever seen it this hot in this area before, not in almost 36 years. But after last summer, which was the hottest average summer yet, we really don't want more heat here.

At least we aren't merely baking, though; we're broiling: July finished with an official monthly precipitation total of just over 10 inches. In one month. My tomato garden is now a rice paddock. The water table around my house has risen to just below the two-foot mark. And yet the NWS is telling President Bush the evidence for global warming is "inconclusive?" Excuse me, when upstate NY has already seen over a dozen 32°C (90°F)-plus days this year as of August 1st and this much rain, and the Midwest is another Dust Bowl, and the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica continues to erode at an alarming rate, I think there's more than enough conclusive evidence for global warming. How much is human-caused and how much is a larger natural global cycle, now that's the real question, but come on, I think we can draw some very clear conclusions here.

On another and unrelated note, we picked almost 9 gallons of blueberries last week and we’ve just started harvesting blackberries from the pasture—over 2 gallons there yesterday and we can expect many, many more over the next month. The apple trees—which I aggressively pruned—are bearing a nice harvest of fruit. Too bad my tomato plants are flowering at less than half size and speaking Vietnamese. Well, that means next year we create raised beds with better drainage. And dig out the pond as planned.


Sean is a teacher and farmer in Oneida, N.Y.

Update, 18:00 UTC: You can see more of Sean's agony at the experimental Weather Now history page.

But we <em>don't</em> live in the South

As threatened, it hit 37°C (99°F) in Chicago today, making it possibly the hottest July 31st on record. We won't know for sure until tomorrow.

From July 1st until today the average high temperature in Chicago was 29.6°C (85.3°F), modestly above normal, but not quite like those in Jamie's and Angela's home cities, which were 32.2°C (90°F) and 32.4°C (90.4°F), respectively. As Angela pointed out, this is much more normal for Atlanta than it is for here, but that doesn't make it any more pleasant in either city.

Last year, despite an all-time July high of 38.2°C (102°F) in Chicago, the average July highs for Atlanta, Chicago, and Raleigh were 30.4°C (86.7°F), 30.2°C (86.4°F), and 33.8°C (92.8°F), respectively, which were much closer to normal for all three.

But let's review. The average daily high temperature for June in Chicago was 25.9°C (78.6°F), which I think we can all agree was much more pleasant. And, moreover, we chose to live in Chicago, not anywhere South of the 40th parallel, for precisely this reason.

Oh, and another thing: at this writing, it's 34°C (93°F) in Raleigh, 33°C (91°F) in Atlanta, but 37°C (99°F) here. So, yes, my dear Southern friends, it's really quite warm in Chicago right now.

More yummy weather. Not.

The National Weather Service had this to say three hours ago:

URGENT - WEATHER MESSAGE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE CHICAGO/ROMEOVILLE IL 517 AM CDT MON JUL 31 2006
HIGH PRESSURE WILL REMAIN DOMINATE OVER THE ATLANTIC OCEAN SOUTH OF 30 DEGREES LATITUDE THROUGH THURSDAY. THIS WILL CAUSE SOUTH WINDS TO BRING HOT AND HUMID AIR INTO NORTHERN ILLINOIS THROUGH LATE TUESDAY NIGHT.
...EXCESSIVE HEAT WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 8 PM CDT TUESDAY...
THIS HOT AND HUMID AIR WILL PRODUCE A HEAT INDEX OF AS HIGH AS 109 TO 112. THESE ARE DANGEROUS WEATHER CONDITIONS WITH THESE NEAR RECORD HIGH TEMPERATURES. YOU COULD BE AT RISK FOR SUN STROKE ...MUSCLE CRAMPS AND HEAT EXHAUSTION. IF YOU ARE EXPOSED TO THESE CONDITIONS FOR A LONG TIME OR ARE PHYSICALLY ACTIVE YOU COULD SUFFER HEAT STROKE.
THE DURATION OF THIS HEAT EVENT IS PARTICULARLY DANGEROUS TO PEOPLE WHO ARE HEAT SENSITIVE...THE ELDERLY...THE VERY YOUNG AND THOSE WHO ARE CHRONICALLY ILL. THESE PEOPLE SHOULD STAY IN AIR CONDITIONING IF POSSIBLE OR SEEK AIR CONDITIONED SHELTERS.
TAKE EXTRA PRECAUTION IF YOU ARE GOING TO BE OUTDOORS. DRINK PLENTY OF NON-ALCOHOLIC LIQUIDS AND WEAR LOOSE FITTING...LIGHT COLORED CLOTHING. WEAR A HAT AND SUNBLOCK TO PREVENT SUNBURN. IF POSSIBLE SPEND TIME MORE TIME IN AIR CONDITIONED OR WELL VENTILATED BUILDINGS. PROVIDE WATER AND SHELTER FROM THE SUN FOR YOUR PET.
RESIDENTS OF THE CITY OF CHICAGO SHOULD CALL 3 1 1 FOR INFORMATION ON LOCATIONS OF...AND TRANSPORTATION TO...CITY COOLING CENTERS.
ELEVATED OZONE LEVELS WILL COMPOUND THIS HEALTH SITUATION CREATING UNHEALTHY CONDITIONS FOR INDIVIDUALS WITH RESPIRATORY SENSITIVITIES.

(Why the NWS still can't wrap its head around lower-case letters baffles me, but they're pretty good at predicting weather.)

At the moment, Chicago is only 28.3°C (83°F) with a heat index of 31.1°C (89°F). Of course, it's just past 8:00 am. Stay tuned.

Is it October yet?

It was 29°C (85°F) by 9 this morning. The temperature may possibly fall below 25°C (77°F) before sunrise Tuesday, but not likely before then.

Last night, my buddy from Washington remarked about the 30°C (86°F) evening and said, "back home, this is delightful July weather."

Bleah. I want frost.

Thunderstorms + old radar = bad flying

Anne is stuck in Washington because of storms in Chicago...sort of:

O'Hare International Airport was experiencing [hour-long] delays, she said, but the airport's flight schedule also had been interrupted by technical problems at a Federal Aviation Administration facility in Elgin.
[Chicago Transportation Dept. spokeswoman Wendy] Abrams said the delays were expected to continue throughout the early evening.
The National Weather Service in Romeoville issued a Severe Thunderstorm Watch, which will remain in effect until 11 p.m., for northeastern Illinois and northwest Indiana.

I may see her tonight. I hope.