I mailed in my passport renewal application on the 7th and got both my new passport and my passport card yesterday. I still haven't gotten my old passport back, but that's OK for now.
Two weeks and $200, start to finish, without using Express Mail. Nice job, guys.
I'm visiting one of my oldest friends in Durham, N.C. She is fostering Lexi, who had nine puppies on the 5th:
So, it turns out that puppies under two weeks old (a) smell horrendous, no matter how often you change their bedding, and (b) don't do a lot. But in the 18 hours I've been here most of them have opened their eyes for the first time. And they are really cute.
This morning we took a short hike at the Museum of Life and Science, which encourages John Cleese to visit:
It helps that while Chicago basks in its tropical -12°C January heat, here in Durham it's a chilly (to them) 12°C.
...that I finally passed my private pilot checkride and got my certificate.
I finished all the requirements for the checkride except for two cross-country flights for practice on 18 July 1999. Unfortunately, the weather in New Jersey sucked on almost every weekend for the next six months.
I finally took a day off from work in early December, took my checkride...and failed a landing. (I was too far off centerline to pass, but otherwise it was a perfectly safe landing.) It then took another six weeks to take that one part of my checkride over, on 15 January 2000.
Someday soon, I hope to get back in the air. Probably this spring. But as any private pilot can tell you, life sometimes interferes.
The New York Times analyzed eight social-studies textbooks published in both California and Texas. Both states have state-wide standards for education, which textbook makers have to honor given the number of students in each state. You can guess some of the results:
The books have the same publisher. They credit the same authors. But they are customized for students in different states, and their contents sometimes diverge in ways that reflect the nation’s deepest partisan divides.
Hundreds of differences — some subtle, others extensive — emerged in a New York Times analysis of eight commonly used American history textbooks in California and Texas, two of the nation’s largest markets.
The differences between state editions can be traced back to several sources: state social studies standards; state laws; and feedback from panels of appointees that huddle, in Sacramento and Austin hotel conference rooms, to review drafts.
Requests from textbook review panels, submitted in painstaking detail to publishers, show the sometimes granular ways that ideology can influence the writing of history.
Context: I have a Bachelor's in history, and a law degree, which means I have read a lot of social studies texts (not just textbooks) in my life. I have Howard Zinn next to Paul Johnson in my bookshelf, for example. So I favor the California method of teaching kids about the warts. I also believe that knowing how we screwed up in the past helps us become a better nation.
I'm glad the Times did this analysis. It helps show one more way in which we live in two Americas, and how politicians try to keep it that way.
But I think George Washington's farewell address might guide us even today: "One of the expedients of party to acquire influence, within particular districts, is to misrepresent the opinions and aims of other districts. You cannot shield yourselves too much against the jealousies and heart-burnings, which spring from these misrepresentations; they tend to render alien to each other those, who ought to be bound together by fraternal affection."
(The title of this post refers to this bit from Evita.)
...as long as you aren't in Chicago:
Lake Shore Drive was being hammered with waves Saturday morning causing officials to shut down the bike path in some parts on the North and South sides.
Officer Michelle Tannehill, a spokeswoman for police, said the northbound path remains closed between Ohio Street and Fullerton Avenue as of 11:30 a.m. There also were reports of trouble on South Shore Drive in the northbound lanes from 7100 to 6700 South Shore Drive.
Still under a winter weather advisory until 3 a.m. Sunday, parts of Cook County along the shoreline were expecting winds to reach up to 50 mph as rain showers threaten to create slick conditions.
It gets better:
Those in and around Chicago can expect snow by Saturday night, but before then, a complex and messy storm will possibly bring freezing rain, thunderstorms, sleet and dangerously high lakefront waves into early Sunday, forecasters said.
A winter storm warning was in effect for McHenry and other outlying counties northwest and west of the city from 9 p.m. Friday until 3 a.m. Sunday, with snow as deep as 7 inches predicted in some areas. A winter weather advisory was in effect for Lake and Kane counties starting at 3 a.m. Saturday and for Cook, DuPage, Kendall and LaSalle counties, lasting until 6 a.m. Sunday.
Officials said the storm will start with rain and sleet. There may also be ice pellets, but it might not freeze all surfaces, which may cause patchy slick spots in the area. It is expected to snow after 5 p.m. Saturday and continue snowing till 1 a.m. Sunday, Friedlein said.
Tonight I'm hosting some fellow singers for madrigals and wine. (You read this blog and didn't realize I'm a nerd?) Fortunately I'm close to public transit. I hope I'm not stuck with too much extra cheese and wine; that would be tragic.
On Tuesday I mailed my passport to the National Passport Agency in Philadelphia with an extra $60 so they'll expedite its replacement. I feel a little anxious without it. Not because I live in 1950s Czechoslovakia or anything; more that I love travel so much, not having a passport even for two weeks every 10 years feels a little off.
Well, not exactly 10 years, more like 9½. While US passports last 10 years, many countries—for example, the UK, where I go several times a year—won't let you in if your passport will expire within six months. For me, my August 2010 passport would not meet UK entry requirements at the beginning of next month, so off it went. But I held onto it until after the new year so that the new one expires in 2030 instead of 2029.
I'll get the new one probably in two weeks. Meanwhile, the only sign of life I have is the certified mail receipt the Postal Service emailed me yesterday. So my old passport arrived safely in Philadelphia after all. I can hardly wait for the new one.
We're having unseasonal warmth in Chicago this weekend—5°C instead of -5°C as we'd usually get—so I spent a good bit of today walking around. And I'll continue to do so later.
Also, I didn't really want to think about Iran.
Come back tomorrow for more scary posts on the imminent end of the world.
Yesterday I spent a few hours at the Begyle Brewery Taproom and read about half of Mark Dunn's Ella Minnow Pea. I just finished it. It delighted me, and I think it might delight you.
So one book in two days? Maybe I can read 180 books this year? Not likely. A short novel by a playwright may not take a long time. But I'm only a third the way through Robert Caro's biography of Robert Moses, and I started that in June.
As I've done several years running, I'm taking a look at my statistics for the past year:
- I flew the fewest air miles since 1999 (14,462 against 1999's 11,326), and took only 9 trips out of town (up 1 from 2018). As in 2018, I took 11 flights, but because I took two road trips I wound up visiting 9 states (Wisconsin, Indiana, Missouri, Michigan, Ohio, New York, North Carolina, Texas, and Colorado) and 2 foreign countries (UK and Ontario, Canada) to 2018's 8 and 1, respectively.
- I posted 551 times on The Daily Parker, up 33 from last year and a new all-time annual record! (The previous record was 541 in 2009.)
- Parker got 187 hours of walks, up 54 hours and 40% from last year.
- I got 5,135,518 Fitbit steps and walked 4,630 km, down 2½% from last year. But I went 207 days in a row, from April 15th to November 7th, hitting my 10,000-a-day step goal, which I did 352 times overall. Also during the year I passed 25,000,000 lifetime steps and 20,000 lifetime kilometers.
- Reading jumped a lot. I started 36 books in 2019 and finished 33, up 50% from 2018, and my best showing since 2010 (when I spent several days on airplanes and read 51 books). With at least three trips to Europe planned for 2020, both my flying and my reading should improve.
Let's see what 2020 brings. I'm especially bummed that my Fitbit numbers declined, even though Parker got 40% more walk time. (But he walks 40% more slowly than last year, so...)
For the past seven months I've worked as a contract development lead in Milliman's Cyber Risk Solutions group. Today I officially convert to a new full-time role as Director of Product Development for Cyber Risk Solutions.
We have a lot to do in 2020, and I'll post about it what I can. So far we've started building "a new generation risk platform which uses an ensemble of cutting edge techniques to integrate what is known, knowable and imaginable about complex risks in order help risk managers identify, assess and monitor dynamic, high velocity, complex risk such as cyber," as the partner in charge of my practice says. It's cool shit, I say. And I'm happy to make Milliman my permanent home.
The role now shifts a little bit from building out the minimum-viable product to building out the team. I'll still have to write a lot of software, but I'll also expand our partnerships with teams in London, Sydney, and Lyon, and will probably have to visit at least two of those places more than once in 2020. In fact, at minimum I'll be in the London office four times, probably six. The only one sad about this is Parker.
And as an example of how great the management team is, they're starting me today so that my benefits kick in tomorrow. That was a very cool gesture.
Watch this blog for more updates.