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.
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.
2017 is officially over for us here in Chicago. Let auld lang syne be forgot; we've got 309 days until what all my friends (except that one guy) hope will be a corrective election.
We're also hoping for warmer weather, which is actually more certain to happen, and sooner, than the Democratic Party regaining power in the U.S.
Still, we can look forward to the future, and hope.
This time, I'm getting this in early, and posting it automatically just before midnight. So the numbers might be a tiny bit off.
2017 saw almost no significant changes over 2016, except in Fitbit numbers:
- I again only visited one foreign country (again the UK) and 8 states (Michigan, New York, Missouri, Louisiana, Virginia, D.C., Maryland, Texas, and California). I again took only 15 flights. That came out to 31,042 km in the air, one of my lowest showings ever, and the fewest flight miles since 1999. In fact, I didn't fly anywhere for almost the first seven months of 2017. So sad.
- Including this post, I wrote 456 entries for The Daily Parker, down only 3 from last year. For the second year running, it's the fewest since 2010.
- Parker got 202 hours of walks, just shy of last year's 211 hours. That's not so bad, but we can do better next year (if the old dog is up to it).
- Pending today's final step count, I got 5,106,522 steps this year, up a whopping 413,095 over 2016—a difference greater than the number I've gotten in any of the past 4 months. So, basically, my step count in 2017 was almost a month's steps better than in 2016 or 2015. No wonder I wore out a pair of shoes between May and November.
- I also gained 600 grams in 2017. Pfft.
- 2017 may be my most disappointing year for reading in a long time. I only started 17 books, and only finished 13. I've just been really busy. That said, the circumstances that encouraged me to finish 47 books in 2007 and 52 in 2008 aren't any I'd like to repeat. (Now, if I could just find a way to read a book a week without interfering with all my other activities...)
Here's 2016 in review. It was similar.
It's now just past what computer people call "2018-01-01T00:00:00" (or, in more human-readable form, "2018-01-01 00:00:00 +00:00").
Some of you will remember that 2017 was exactly 1 day and 1 second shorter than 2016, owing to the leap second added a year ago at 2017-12-31T23:59:60.
Even thought 2017 was that much shorter than 2016, it seemed so much worse. But that's literally behind us now (or at least in the 13/24ths of the world on GMT or ahead of it). Here's looking to 2018 to be just a tiny bit better.
Happy new year!
Just a minute or two ago, Kiritimati (Christmas) Island became the first place in the world to enter 2018. This happens every year—or, at least, every year since Kiritmati moved from UTC-10 (the same clock time as Hawai'i) to UTC+14 (the same clock time as Hawai'i but a day ahead) so they could be the first place on earth to enter the 2000s.
So, just a few minutes ago, that choice caused a fascinating consequence.
As of right now, and until the next person is born on the island (which could be days or weeks because of its small population of 6,500), every single adult on the island will have been born in the 1900s, and every single child will have been born in the 2000s.
As each successive time zone moves into 2018 today, this will continue to be true until the first baby is born before 1am in a particular zone. My guess would be that New Zealand will probably have a baby born before 1am, and eastern Australia certainly will, which means the 1900s/2000s split will only last 3 or 4 hours.
It's just an interesting consequence of a public-relations decision a tiny Pacific atoll made 18 years ago.
Today is the last work day of 2017, and also the last day of my team's current sprint. So I'm trying to chase down requirements and draft stories before I lose everyone for the weekend. These articles will just have to wait:
We now return to "working through lunch," starring The Daily Parker...
I'm under the weather today, probably owing to the two Messiah performances this weekend and all of Parker's troubles. So even though I'm taking it easy, I still have a queue of things to read:
I will now...nap.
Chicago's largest auditorium north of the Loop needs saving soon, or it might be lost forever:
At the intersection of Lawrence, Racine and Broadway in Uptown, the massive, once-grand Uptown Theatre, a shuttered movie palace that has awaited restoration for nearly 40 years, is slowly deteriorating. Its reopening—an expensive proposition that would require public and private funds—is key to the neighborhood's vitality and could make it a premier destination for live entertainment.
Preservationists say that because of its decrepitude, something needs to happen fast to save the theater from permanent ruin. "If this isn't resolved soon, this building will continue to deteriorate," says Ward Miller, executive director of Preservation Chicago.
A reopened Uptown would, at 4,500 seats, have the largest theater capacity north of downtown (the Auditorium in the Loop has nearly 4,000). Mark Kelly, commissioner of the city's Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events, shares Emanuel's vision that the Uptown would solidify the intersection of Lawrence, Racine and Broadway as a destination for live entertainment. "What would be most desirable is we get a mix of these awesome performance venues at a very high level to accommodate a lot of people," Kelly says. "Then it's a real entertainment district."
The neglect dates to the 1970s, when the Uptown was used primarily for closed-circuit boxing matches and rock concerts by acts including the Grateful Dead and Bruce Springsteen. Accelerating its demise was co-owner Lou Wolf, a notorious Chicago slumlord and felon who purchased the theater in 1980 and shuttered it the following year. Unoccupied and uncared for for more than three decades, the building suffered water damage after the heat was turned off. In 2014, 6 inches of ice covered the grand stairway and 4 feet of water rose in the basement. Broken windows, animal infestation, vandalism and plaster-killing summer humidity followed, along with hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid property taxes.
Fortunately, the city designated a landmark district in 2016 that includes the Uptown, but that only means it can't be demolished. But it still needs maintenance, desperately. I hope someone steps up. I'm looking at you, Rahmbo.
The following appeared in my inbox while I was in the air. I'll read them later:
I'll probably read them after my body wakes me up at 6am local time tomorrow. The westbound time change is so much easier than eastbound, but it's still hard to sleep in.