The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Florida votes to secede from the Eastern time zone

Florida's legislature has voted overwhelmingly to change the state's clocks:

The Florida Senate passed the Sunshine Protection Act on Tuesday, three weeks after the state’s House of Representatives, and sent it to Gov. Rick Scott for his signature or veto. (Asked on Wednesday whether Mr. Scott would sign it, and why or why not, his press secretary, Lauren Schenone, said only, “The governor will review the bill.”) The margins of victory in both chambers were overwhelming — 33 to 2 in the Senate and 103 to 11 in the House — and the measure has considerable public support.

The problem? Florida doesn’t have the authority to adopt daylight saving time year-round.

15 USC 260a allows states to adopt year-round standard time, but not year-round daylight saving time. The Department of Transportation is in charge of what states go in what time zones.

In any event, what the bill's sponsors really want, but didn't know how to ask for, is to move Florida from the Eastern time zone (UTC-5 standard and -4 DST) to the Atlantic time zone (UTC-4 standard), and then exempt the state from DST. The intent is simply to put Florida on UTC-4 year-round.

What would that look like, though? From mid-March to early-November, it would look exactly the same, since they're on UTC-4 when on Eastern Daylight Time. Sunrises in would occur between 7:30am mid-March and 6:30am mid-June, sunsets between 7:30pm mid-March and 8:15pm mid-June.

In the winter, mornings would be pretty dark, but there'd be a lot of evening light. The sun would rise just after 8am on December 21st, but set around 6:30pm. In Jacksonville, way up north, the sun would rise about 20 minutes later. But farther west, in Pensacola, the sun wouldn't come up until 8:45am on December 21st, potentially obviating any benefit of the sun setting close to 7pm.

Note that Pensacola, at 87°11' W, is almost due south of Chicago. Miami (80°17' W) is nearly due south of Pittsburgh. But Florida's latitude reduces the differences between summer and winter daylight hours, compared with what we experience farther north.

Should Florida move to UTC-4? It might not be a bad move, if having daylight extend later in the evening makes up for the later sunrises. It would not, however, actually change the astronomical reality of how many hours of daylight they get.

We'll see if the Department of Transportation or the U.S. Congress gives them the authority to hop.

Youth is wasted on the young, EU railways edition

The European Union will let every 18-year-old citizen travel its railways for free this summer:

This summer, the European Commission is offering 18-year-old European residents a free Interrail ticket—a rail pass that permits travel across 30 European countries for a month. What’s more, they’re not just offering it to one or two teenagers. With a budget of €12 million for this year, the commission plans to fund trips for 20,000 to 30,000 young people, with the possibility of more passes in the years to come. Exact details of how to apply and who will be get an Interrail pass, worth up to €510 ($628), will be released in the next few months. But one thing is already clear: A large town’s worth of European 18-year-olds will be able to travel from Lapland to Gibraltar by train this summer, and the price they will pay is precisely nothing.

Visiting any major European station 25 years ago, you would have found the summer platforms packed with young people using Interrail passes, heading off to pretty much wherever they fancied on a whim. Its price—a then-steep £27.50 ($38) when first launched in 1972—meant that the experience was largely confined to young people who had middle- or upper-income parents, or who had jobs to help them save up. In an era when flights were still an exorbitant luxury and part-time jobs for teenagers more readily available, it was still a great deal. Night trains made it possible to cut accommodation costs, and the sheer range of countries included—all of Western Europe and even much of the Eastern bloc before 1989—was dizzying.

I got a 15-day pass in 1992 for about $300, or about $500 today. I wish I could do that again. Oh to be 18 and European...

Frequency vs efficiency

Pilot Patrick Smith takes airlines to task for scheduling lots of little planes instead of fewer, larger planes as they did in the past:

What’s happened is three things. First, aircraft and engine technology has advanced to the point where smaller jets with limited capacity can be profitable even on long segments. And many of these planes are operated by low-paying regional carriers, two whom the airlines have outsourced much of their domestic flying. Second, the U.S. airline industry has fragmented. There are more airlines flying between more cities. Probably the biggest factor, though, is the way airlines have come to use frequency as a selling point. In a lot of ways, frequency of flights has become the holy grail of airline marketing. Why offer three daily nonstops to LAX using 300-seat planes, when you can offer six flights using 150-seat planes? And so here we are: there are city-pairs all across America connected by a dozen, fifteen, or even twenty flights a day — all in narrow-body jets carrying fewer than 200 people.

Airlines don’t sell frequency so much as they sell the promise, or the illusion of it. Under optimum circumstances, it works for both the industry and its customers. But when the weather doesn’t cooperate, it can be a disaster. The question for the consumer is this: would you prefer ten flights a day that might arrive on time, or five flights a day that will arrive on time?

He included in his post photos of American DC-10s at LaGuardia in the 1980s, which I can scarcely remember. But I do remember that the Boeing 757 was designed to get 250 passengers to that specific airport, with its relatively short runways that end in Flushing Bay.

Buy me a ticket

Eurostar will launch London-to-Amsterdam service on April 4th. Airlines are worried:

Currently, a Londoner bound for Amsterdam by train can expect the journey to take a little under five hours, with a change of trains in Brussels. The new service will reach speeds of up to 186 miles per hour and cancel the need to change in Brussels, shaving off over an hour.

The prospect has already generated a palpable buzz, and the 900 tickets offered a day (starting at a reasonable $47 one way) are likely to sell out fast. But it’s not clear how the service will fare if it extends beyond two trains a day (as it likely will) on a route where price competition with airlines is already fierce. ... Can a train trip that takes more than than three-and-a-half hours succeed in competing with a flight time of scarcely an hour?

The tentative answer provides an interesting snapshot of just how much European travel has changed: 20 years ago, a train taking more than three hours would struggle to compete with an hour-long flight. Today, however, such as service is at a distinct advantage. It’s not necessarily the case that speed and comfort have necessarily skyrocketed for train travel (though there are indeed more fast routes now on offer). It’s because—especially for shorter distances—flying has become increasingly hellish and time-consuming.

Yep. And seriously, €50 return fares to Amsterdam sound really enticing. Hell, at €100, it's still cheaper than flying and takes less time. St. Pancras is in the center of London; Amsterdam's Centraal station is (you will be surprised to learn) also central. Next time I'm in the UK, I will seriously consider taking a day-trip to the Netherlands.

Another ruling in the gig economy

The Federal court in the Northern District of California ruled today that GrubHub delivery drivers are contractors, not employees:

The ruling may have far-reaching implications for other sharing economy companies, including Uber Technologies Inc., whose business models are built on pairing customers with products and services through apps and typically avoid the costs of traditional employment.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley in San Francisco concluded Thursday, in a first-of-its-kind ruling, that a gig-economy driver doesn't qualify for the protections of employees under California law.

Charlotte Garden, an associate law professor at Seattle University, said Corley's decision is a “doubly big” win for GrubHub due to California's relatively high standard for establishing workers as independent contractors.

“If they can make it here, they can more likely make it anywhere,” Garden said. “It is also the first federal court to reach a verdict on whether workers in the gig economy are employees or not, so companies like Uber and Lyft will also be celebrating this win.”

(Of course, Uber may not survive its ongoing struggle with the Justice Department for other reasons, but that's not the point.)

Judge Corley admonished the state legislature to fix the problem this case exposed: “Under California law whether an individual performing services for another is an employee or an independent contractor is an all-or-nothing proposition,” she wrote. “With the advent of the gig economy, and the creation of a low wage workforce performing low skill but highly flexible episodic jobs, the legislature may want to address this stark dichotomy.”

We can expect multiple lawsuits in other Federal circuits any day now. 

Bracing for it

While we hope it will not repeat early February 2011, we expect to get up to 300 mm of snow overnight and into tomorrow here in Chicago:

The Chicago area is under a winter storm warning from Thursday evening through Friday night, with the National Weather Service warning that "travel will be very difficult to impossible at times, including during the morning commute."

Much of the area should see 6 to 10 inches of snow between 6 p.m. Thursday and 9 p.m. Friday, though some areas to the north of the city could get hit with a foot of snow while areas to the south could get almost nothing.

Between 6 p.m. and midnight, forecasts predict a little over an inch in Chicago and more in outlying areas. From midnight to 6 a.m. Friday, another 3.3 inches could fall, making for a messy morning commute. During the 12-hour stretch between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., about 5 more inches could fall, according to the weather service.

"The morning commute is going to be rough," said Amy Seeley, a meteorologist with the weather service. "It will be more impacted than the evening commute."

The storm is approaching out of Montana and South Dakota and is expected to follow Interstate 80 corridor through Iowa, Illinois and Indiana.

Well, tomorrow should be loads of fun...

Setting up lunchtime reading

Over the weekend I made a couple of minor updates to Weather Now, and today I'm going to spend some time taking it off its Azure Web Role and moving it to an Azure Website. That will (a) save me money and (b) make deployments a lot easier.

Meanwhile, a number of articles bubbled up overnight that I'll try to read at lunchtime:

Back to Azure deployment strategies.

Snow time for a walk

Things will be a little low-key today owing to the snow falling on London right now, even though the temperature is rising as a warm front pushes through. The forecast calls for rising temperatures and rain all day, which I guess isn't all bad.

So I'm taking some time to do long-overdue chores for the Apollo Chorus (de-duping our master database, setting up ticketing for our next two concerts), and I've started yet another book (Harold Nicolson's beautifully-written 1939 polemic Why Britain is at War). Yesterday I read John Le Carré's The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, cover to cover.

My plan today really was not much more than to read, walk around if the weather permitted, check out two pubs I've never seen, and—oh yes—see Richard Strauss' Salome at the Royal Opera tonight.

Back home tomorrow.

More goals met

On Thursday I hit all my (admittedly non-taxing) goals for the day. And yesterday, on into this morning, I almost did again, except that making three of the goals interfered with making the fourth.

Goal #1: See the Churchill War Rooms. Having recently seen "Darkest Hour," I wanted to see the rooms where it happened. I did, and they were really cool.

Goal #2: Visit three more pubs. I had planned to check in again at 214 Bermondsey, then head up to Ye Olde Mitre before stopping again at The Ship Tavern. I walked from the Churchill War Rooms to 214 Bermondsey (3.7 km) but it turned out they weren't open yet. So I trundled up to Fleet Street (another 3.7 km) and went to The George instead. At Ye Olde Mitre—which can use the archaic spelling legitimately as it's over 400 years old—I met up with an old friend, went to dinner with him, and then finally made it to The Ship Tavern.

Goal #3: Get to 10,000 steps as early in the day as possible. At the stroke of midnight I set off from The Ship Tavern back to my hotel in Earls Court, a distance of 6.4 km that got me 6,828 steps in just under an hour and ten minutes. I dropped my bag off, ate the curry I'd picked up on the way, and trundled around Earls Court for another half-hour before hitting 10,000 steps at 2:09 am GMT. Someday soon, but not today, I'll get there even earlier. At the pace I set from Holborn to Earls Court, it would have taken me only 102 minute had I not stopped for food.

Goal #4: Read another book. At The George, I started Robert Abelson's Statistics as Principled Argument, and managed to get halfway into the second chapter before getting swept up in conversations with the Aussies who mobbed the area where I was sitting at the Ship Tavern. It's also a bit denser than the Frum I read cover to cover on Thursday, which slowed me down a bit.

Today's goals included stopping in two more pubs, including the Southampton Arms, about which I have blogged frequently, and reading a third book. Alas, neither looks promising, for several reasons including the pouring rain outside right now and the six pubs I've already visited since I got here. So this afternoon I'm going to nap, plough ahead with the Abelson, and head up to Southampton Arms when the rain lets up, which the Met Office assures me will happen around 5 pm.

The pubs shall be numbered three

Yesterday I did exactly what I set out to do: visited three pubs and read an entire book.

The book, David Frum's Trumpocracy, should be required reading by Republicans. Frum is a Republican, don't forget; he's trying to put his party, and his country's shared values, back together. As a Democrat, I found his critique of President Trump and the current GOP's policies insightful and well-written. I don't agree with Frum's politics entirely, but I do agree with him fundamentally: disagreement between the parties is healthy when we agree on the fundamentals of what it means to be American.

The pubs were entirely less controversial.

First: The Anglesea Arms, Hammersmith, where I had a St. Aubell Tribute Cornish Pale Ale. Second: The Dove, also in Hammersmith, where I had a Hammerton N1 American Pale Ale and some foccacia with olive oil. (I'm trying to appreciate some pubs, not get sloshed.)

Both pubs were comfortable, classic English pubs. The Dove was more classic (it opened in the 17th Century), but the Anglesea Arms was more comfortable. I'd go back to either in a minute.

The third pub, where I read about half of Frum's book, is my third-favorite pub in the world*: The Blackbird in Earls Court. Over three hours, I sipped a couple of Fuller's ESBs and had their amazing steak and ale pie.

I may post some photos when I get back, but the glass over my phone's camera is all jacked up and I didn't bring my real camera.

Today I also plan to read a book and visit three pubs, and for the entire trip (including the flight home), I aim to finish four books and visit 10 pubs. And as it's already 11:30, I should get cracking.

* After Duke of Perth in Chicago and Southampton Arms in Gospel Oak, London, which I plan to visit tomorrow.