The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Chicago is an Amazon HQ2 finalist

I can't tell if this is good news or neutral news. It's not bad news:

Chicago has been named a finalist in Amazon’s search for its second headquarters, known as H2Q.

Amazon announced the short list in an early morning tweet, but didn’t offer many other details other than the other cities that made the short list. The other finalists are Columbus, Ohio; Newark, N.J.; Toronto; Indianapolis; Denver; Nashville; Los Angeles; Dallas; Austin; Boston; New York City; Pittsburgh; Philadelphia; Washington, D.C.; Raleigh, N.C.; Montgomery County, Md.; Northern Virginia; Atlanta and Miami.

Illinois, Chicago and Cook County teamed up to offer more than $2 billion in incentives to Amazon, and offered 10 proposed sites. They are Lincoln Yards, a development along the Chicago River near Lincoln Park and Bucktown; the Downtown Gateway District, which includes space in Willis Tower and redevelopment of the old main post office and Union Station; City Center Campus, a proposed redevelopment of the state-owned Thompson Center in the Loop; the River District, a 37-acre development along the river and Halsted Street; the Burnham Lakefront, a Bronzeville development that includes the Michael Reese Hospital site; the 78, a development planned on 62 acres along the river between the South Loop and Chinatown; Fulton Market district properties controlled by multiple owners; Illinois Medical District redevelopment; the soon-to-be-vacated, 145-acre McDonald's campus in Oak Brook, which the company will leave for Fulton Market; and more than 260 acres available for development on the longtime Motorola Solutions campus in Schaumburg, where Zurich North America recently built a new headquarters.

Even if Amazon chooses a different city, it's still good for Chicago. I'm just not sure about the $2 bn giveaway.

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.

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.

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:

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.

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.