The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Everyone's talking about John Bercow

As I noted last week, John Bercow MP, the Speaker of the House of Commons, has exercised more control over the Brexit debate in Parliament than previous speakers would have dared. Today, Parliament votes on amendments to the Brexit deal that could radically change its outcome, and Bercow is the one choosing which amendments, and which MPs, get heard. The Guardian has a podcast going even more into the details. And yesterday, the New Yorker brought the issue to the smart set:

On Thursday, I spoke to Vernon Bogdanor, a visiting professor of government at King’s College London, who is one of Britain’s leading constitutional scholars, about Bercow. “I think he has damaged the role of the Speaker,” Bogdanor told me. “Every other Speaker in living memory has been scrupulously neutral, never been accused of any partisanship. He is the first.” Next week, the pressure will increase further. Bercow’s every call will be scrutinized. On Tuesday—the next big day in Brexit—the Speaker has to choose six amendments from M.P.s, which will set the course of the drama for the coming weeks. Another plot among rebel M.P.s, who are searching for a cross-party solution to Brexit, is to suspend the rule that gives the government’s agenda priority in the House of Commons. If Bercow allows that, it would probably be the most dramatic act by a Speaker since William Lenthall defied King Charles I, who was trying to arrest five M.P.s, in January, 1642—and that helped set off the First English Civil War.

One of the saddest, and most maddening, aspects of Brexit has been the timidity of many British politicians to speak their mind about what is happening to the country. Neither Theresa May nor Jeremy Corbyn has ever said—or is likely to say—that leaving the E.U. will be positive for Britain’s health, wealth, culture, or well-being. It is both shocking and not surprising that one of the only people who really isn’t allowed to have a point of view about Brexit seems determined to express it—and that isn’t helping, either.

The votes are underway at this writing. I'll have more later today or early tomorrow, and some analysis of tomorrow's PMQs.

It's worse than that: he's dead cold, Jim

The forecast for Wednesday not only predicts the coldest day since 1996. Now meteorologists predict the coldest day ever recorded in Chicago:

Temperatures are forecast to inch up to a daytime high of about -26°C on Wednesday—the first subzero [Fahrenheit] high temperature in five years and the coldest winter high ever recorded in Chicago—before dipping, again, to about -29°C overnight. The coldest daytime high in Chicago was -24°C on Christmas Eve 1983.

For younger Chicagoans, the burst of Arctic air set to overtake the city this week could be one of the coldest days of their lives. For Generation Z, this week’s predicted low temperatures have only two rivals: -27°C on Jan. 6, 2014, and -28°C on Feb. 3, 1996.

Awesome. Note that I experienced all of those, and blogged about the 6 January 2014 weather right here. 

In no small irony, this cold snap seems directly related to global warming:

The wintry onslaught will be driven by the Northern Hemisphere’s polar vortex, the pocket of cold air sitting atop the North Pole. When temperatures rise in the Arctic, the polar jet stream — the torrent of westerly winds that hold the polar vortex in place — can weaken and dip into parts of North America.

“Occasionally this ring of winds deforms or even splits, which allows the cold air to spill southward over mid latitudes — this is exactly what’s happening now,” said Jennifer Francis, a senior research scientist with Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts, in an email. “It just so happens that the lobe of cold air is located over central North America, with Chicago in the crosshairs.”

A growing body of evidence suggests another warming trend in the Pacific Ocean is believed to be causing the jet stream that confines the polar vortex to warp further, with warm air penetrating near the Pacific Northwest and a lobe of cold air sinking into the Midwest and Northeast.

“The stronger ridge does two things: It pumps cold air into central North America, which deepens the downstream trough, and it also becomes more persistent because larger jet stream waves move more slowly than small ones,” Francis said. “This is partly why this jet stream pattern tends to be long-lived once it sets up.”

Whoo boy. Can't wait. Doggie daycare is closed, and Parker's regular dog walker isn't certain he can make it, so I'll be working from home.

Pants on fire for what reason?

People in and out of the Trump Administration have lied so often and about so many things. The Post asks, but why?

Did the president’s men lie to protect a still-hidden dark secret about the campaign’s interaction with Russia, engaging in a broad effort to obstruct the probe — one that included perhaps even Trump?

Did they lie to avoid diminishing Trump’s victory by acknowledging Russia played a role in his election?

Did they each lie for their own reasons, taking their cue from the president — who has told many whoppers of his own, including about Russia?

Trump’s former campaign chairmandeputy campaign managerformer national security adviserpersonal lawyerand a campaign foreign policy adviser have all been accused of lying to investigators exploring Russia activity.

In the first two years of his administration, the president made 8,158 false or misleading claims. Perhaps like attracts like? 

Here comes a real winter

We've had some snow, and we've had some cold, but this week we will have both. A lot of both:

Tonight
Snow, mainly after midnight. The snow could be heavy at times. Patchy blowing snow after 11pm. Temperature rising to around -3°C by 5am. Wind chill values as low as -19°C. Breezy, with a south southeast wind 15 to 25 km/h increasing to 30 to 40 km/h. Winds could gust as high as 50 km/h. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New snow accumulation of 80 to 120 mm possible.

Monday
Drizzle and snow, possibly mixed with freezing drizzle before 1pm, then a chance of snow and freezing drizzle between 1pm and 4pm, then a chance of snow after 4pm. Patchy blowing snow before 8am. Temperature rising to near 1°C by 9am, then falling to around -7°C during the remainder of the day. South southwest wind 25 to 30 km/h becoming northwest in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 50 km/h. Chance of precipitation is 100%. Little or no ice accumulation expected. New snow accumulation of 10 to 30 mm possible.

Tuesday
Partly sunny and cold, with a high near -16°C. West wind 20 to 30 km/h, with gusts as high as 50 km/h.

Wednesday
Partly sunny and cold, with a high near -23°C.

Yes. A high of -23°C. If it happens, it would be the lowest maximum temperature recorded in Chicago since 3 February 1996. (Sadly, I remember that one too.)

So tempted to work from home...so tempted...

At least the longer-range forecast calls for normal temperatures the week of February 4th.

Rally nice view

I'm happy to announce that I started a new role on the 14th at Rally Health, a software company wholly owned by United Health Group. I'll have more to say later (still figuring out the social media policies), but for now I can say, look at the view:

And here's the view from the north:

Today, by the way, is the first day since I started that we've had anything approaching full sunlight. Of course, it's frighteningly cold out, but hey: nice view.

(I'll update Facebook and LinkedIn over the weekend, for those of you who care about those things.)

The cone comes off

Parker got his leg stitches out yesterday. Mysteriously, the suture in his neck had already dropped off. Regardless, both incisions have healed well enough for him to ditch the cone:

His fur is growing back pretty quickly too, in part because it's winter. He really, really liked going to the vet yesterday. And he's a much happier dog today.

One month of Prius

In the month I've owned my Prius, I've driven 439 km and used 8.8 L of fuel. That's a fuel economy of 0.5 L/100 km. My old BMW got around 12 L/100 km, for comparison. Most of the time I don't even use gasoline, because she can run about 35 km on battery power, and I rarely drive farther than that in a day.

I also haven't named her yet—until now. I'm going with Hana (はな or 初夏), which means "early summer." Fitting for a car meant to help prevent global warming.

She's still this pretty: