The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

When the rain comes

I took Cassie out at 11am instead of her usual 12:30pm because of this:

The storm front passed quickly, but it hit right at 12:30 and continued for half an hour with some intensity. It'll keep raining on and off all day, too.

Other things rained down in the past day or so:

Finally, Super Size Me director Morgan Spurlock has died at age 53 of cancer. No word whether the production of the 2004 documentary contributed to his early demise.

Heads-down research and development today

I usually spend the first day or two of a sprint researching and testing out approaches before I start the real coding effort. Since one of my stories this sprint requires me to refactor a fairly important feature—an effort I think will take me all of next week—I decided to read up on something today and have wound up in a rabbit hole.

Naturally, that means a few interesting stories have piled up:

Finally, Lagunitas Brewing will move its brewing operations back to Petaluma, Calif., (which is a million times better than Megaluma!) and close its Chicago taproom this summer, so I suppose the Brews & Choos Project should get its ass over there pronto.

Cassie's speedy lunchtime walk

Cassie only got a 25-minute lunchtime walk today because of this:

The forecast calls for bands of thunderstorms pretty much through tomorrow, so we're going to dance between raindrops a lot.

Also, she has only one more dose of de-wormer tonight. Then on Wednesday I can take a sample to the vet, hoping to get her cleared for day care in time for Tuesday. Fingers crossed.

Healthy, happy dog once again

Cassie and I just got back from her vet, with a good 2 km walk in each direction and treats at both ends. The semi-annual wellness check was only $88, and pronounced Cassie in perfect health. Even her weight (25 kg) is exactly what it should be, so I can start adding a little kibble to her meals if we walk a lot.

Of course, the heartworm pills were $230 and the fecal test was $107, so not everything about the checkup was great. Le sigh.

Also, it's warm today: 27°C for both walks, which is more like June 14th than May 13th (normal high: 20.9°C). I even had the air on last night. But I can see a cold front approaching from the west, with an expected temperature crash around 6pm and temperatures barely above 10°C (March 24th!) tomorrow. I'm glad we got our walks in already—looks like the first thunderstorm could hit before 3pm.

And check back tomorrow and Wednesday for two more Brews & Choos reviews from this past weekend, including a brand-new brewery that just opened 2 km from my front door.

Solar storm tonight, aurorae possibly visible in Chicago

NOAA has predicted a severe geomagnetic storm watch for tonight:

NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) — a division of the National Weather Service — is monitoring the sun following a series of solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs) that began on May 8. Space weather forecasters have issued a Severe (G4) Geomagnetic Storm Watch for the evening of Friday, May 10. Additional solar eruptions could cause geomagnetic storm conditions to persist through the weekend.

A large sunspot cluster has produced several moderate to strong solar flares since Wednesday at 5:00 am ET. At least five flares were associated with CMEs that appear to be Earth-directed. SWPC forecasters will monitor NOAA and NASA’s space assets for the onset of a geomagnetic storm.

CMEs are explosions of plasma and magnetic fields from the sun’s corona. They cause geomagnetic storms when they are directed at Earth. Geomagnetic storms can impact infrastructure in near-Earth orbit and on Earth’s surface, potentially disrupting communications, the electric power grid, navigation, radio and satellite operations. SWPC has notified the operators of these systems so they can take protective action. Geomagnetic storms can also trigger spectacular displays of aurora on Earth. A severe geomagnetic storm includes the potential for aurora to be seen as far south as Alabama and Northern California. 

The local media picked it up as well, but noted that the sky will probably look like this over Chicago when the storm reaches maximum:

That's the sky this afternoon, anyway. It might even rain tonight. I'll at least be able to read about it tomorrow.

Energetic atmosphere today

Today's second round of severe thunderstorms has arrived:

The National Weather Service issued a tornado watch for parts of eastern and central Illinois until 8 p.m. Tuesday as severe storms redeveloped in the afternoon and were expected to continue through the early evening.

Severe weather hazards include damaging hail as big as tennis balls and gusty winds up to 70 mph as the storms move west to east, according to meteorologists.

Tennis balls? Ouch. That sounds way worse than tennis elbow.

Looks like it'll pass through the area quiclky, though:

I got lucky walking Cassie and getting to the El this morning. I hope I get lucky on the reverse trip this evening. (I actually remembered to bring an umbrella today, though!)

This summer I hear the drumming

I'm mostly exhausted from this week of performing and rehearsing, and I still have another concert tomorrow afternoon. Plus, a certain gray fuzzball and I have a deep need to take advantage of the 22°C sunny afternoon to visit a certain dog park. (I also want to have a certain pizza slice near the certain dog park, but that's not certain.)

Joking aside, today is the 54th anniversary of the Ohio National Guard killing 4 innocent kids at Kent State University. As one of the projects on my way to getting a history degree, I studied the aftermath of the murders, with emphasis on how my own university reacted. (It was an archives project, teaching us history puppies how to do primary research, so that necessarily limited the scope of the project.)

That study has informed my attitudes towards the protests on elite university campuses today. I'm close to some conclusions, but not there yet, which has more to do with all the Saint-Saëns, Fauré, Bizet, Honneger, and Poulenc currently stuffing my brain than anything else. I will just say I found the contrast between Andrew Sullivan and Josh Barro this week a bit jarring. I think they're both a little right and a little wrong, but again, until probably Tuesday or Wednesday, I won't have the cognitive space to express how.

in short: children generally don't have the experience or cognitive development required to accept ambiguity in moral matters. The Gaza war is one of the messiest moral miasmas in my lifetime. The simple, black-and-white answers that some of the loudest voices offer makes the discomfort go away. And if no one has ever set real limits on your self-image, it's easy to believe that your own opinion—"guided" as it may be by people who seem to have the answers—must be the only valid one.

Like I said, I need to think more. A 10-kilometer dog walk with pizza as a reward, plus possibly some time sitting outside with a book and a beer, might help.

Stationary front messes with Chicago

Yesterday saw some really unusual temperatures at IDTWHQ:

You don't often see the day's low temperature at 14:16 followed by the day's high at 17:09. That was just weird. 

A similar thing happened at Chicago's official weather station, O'Hare, except the temperature bottomed out around 11am and peaked around 5pm.

Today it's just gray and seasonably cool. It's a lot easier to pick clothes when the temperature curve is flatter, and goes the way you'd expect.

Scattered thunderstorms?

The forecast today called for a lot more rain than we've had, so Cassie might get more walkies than planned. Before that happens, I'm waiting for a build to run in our dev pipeline, and one or two stories piqued my interest to occupy me before it finishes:

Finally, after a couple of months of incoherent babbling, Voyager 1—now 24.3 million kilometers from Earth, 22.5 light-hours away, after 46 years and 7 months of travel—has started making sense again. Well, hello there!

Another lovely day

Except for the sun blinding me around 5:30 pm every day due to a quirk in my house's architecture (I will eventually fix it with window treatments), I love sunny spring days. Cassie and I have already spent almost an hour outside and we'll spend another 45 minutes or so when I get back from an odd music gig that I'll describe tomorrow or Monday.

I wanted to highlight just one story from earlier this week, by New Republic's Kate Aronoff, with the accurate and delightful headline "Anything Elon Musk can do a bus can do better:"

Whether on electrification or autonomous vehicles, Tesla has long been hailed as a company uniquely capable of revolutionizing transportation, with Elon Musk portrayed as the big brain in charge. A series of high-profile blunders, though—like Cybertrucks with stick accelerators and a wrongful death settlement—have cast doubt on Tesla’s capacity to speed the world toward an electrified future. Policymakers might want to start asking themselves: When it comes to creating a transportation system fit for our climate-changed twenty-first century, what can Elon Musk do that the humble city bus cannot?

Public buses are an unbeatable value. Here in New York City, $2.90 will get you between and within boroughs, usually just a few blocks from your door. A pilot program initiated last fall included one fare-free route in each borough, in the hopes of eventually making buses free throughout. Boston made a number of bus lines fare-free this year, as well. Olympia and many other Washington municipalities have embraced free buses throughout their entire transit system, following the example set in 2019 by Kansas City, Missouri, and Raleigh, North Carolina. Luxembourg offers free public transit nationwide, and several other countries offer free buses, trams, and trains to people under 18, students, and senior citizens.

The cheapest Tesla, by contrast, costs nearly $40,000, which isn’t counting the cost of insurance, financing, and all the other headaches involved in purchasing and owning a car. Elon Musk has allegedly scrapped plans to make what would have been Tesla’s most affordable offering yet, a smaller car slated to be priced at around $25,000. That announcement had already been delayed for several years, reportedly because Musk demanded that his engineers produce a vehicle without pedals or a steering wheel.

Finally, public buses offer something to the challenge of decarbonizing transportation that Elon Musk never can: scale. If the goal of decarbonized transit is to get as many people moving using as little carbon as possible, then it’s wildly more efficient to invest more public resources into electrifying and expanding mass transit options than in helping a billionaire sell more luxury items.

Aronoff doesn't even need to point out that Musk himself has never invented a single goddamned thing. He leveraged a family fortune made in Apartheid South Africa into controlling shares of several companies that eventually all failed, whether completely or just simply never lived up to the hype.

But Aronoff is right. I've visited London 20 times in the last 10 years and only twice have I had to resort to taking a hired car—once when the Southern Rail went on strike the day I flew into Gatwick last summer, and once when I was well pissed and didn't want to wait for a bus in the rain. Trains and buses cover the entire Southeast region, run all night in most cases, and don't cost all that much. Chicago has them too. Who needs a Tesla truck that will cut your fingers off if you try closing the trunk?