The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Big news from Springfield

Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago/Clearing) will lose his job later today after serving in the role since 1983. Rep. Emanuel "Chris" Welch (D-Hillside) received 69 votes (of a required 60) in the Democratic Caucus this morning, making his accession to the Speaker's chair all but guaranteed when the whole House votes in a few minutes to elect the Speaker. Welch will become the first Black Speaker in Illinois history.

In other news:

  • The Illinois legislature ended its previous legislative session earlier today by passing a 700-page criminal justice overhaul bill that ends cash bail and requires every law-enforcement officer in the state to wear a body camera, among other reforms. Governor Pritzker is expected to sign the bill this week.
  • Ross Douthat holds out hope that the "divide between reality and fantasy" in the Republican Party may lead to the party's disintegration.
  • Earth's rotation has picked up a tiny bit of extra speed that may require negative leap second soon.

Too bad those shorter days haven't added up to a quicker end to the current presidential administration. At least we have less than a week to go before the STBXPOTUS is just some guy in a cheap suit.

Chicago sunrises, 2021

Here's the semi-annual Chicago sunrise chart. (You can get one for your own location at http://www.wx-now.com/Sunrise/SunriseChart.aspx.)

An interesting thing happens in 2021: on November 6th at 7:30:11, we'll have one of the latest sunrises possible—indeed, the latest sunrise in 47 years. I found only one occasion from 1975 to 2040 when the sun rises later: at 7:30:35 on 6 November 2032.

The last time the sun rose after 7:30 was at 7:31:26 on 26 February 1974, after Chicago started daylight saving time on 6 January 1974, due to the oil crisis. Chicago also observed year-round daylight saving time during World War II, from 9 February 1942 until 30 September 1945. Chicago's latest-ever sunrise occurred at 8:19:17 on 4 January 1943.

Anyway, here's the chart for the next 12 months:

Date Significance Sunrise Sunset Daylight
2021
3 Jan Latest sunrise until Oct 28th 07:19 16:33 9:13
27 Jan 5pm sunset 07:08 17:01 9:52
4 Feb 7am sunrise 07:00 17:10 10:10
19 Feb 5:30pm sunset 06:41 17:30 10:49
26 Feb 6:30am sunrise 06:30 17:38 11:07
13 Mar Earliest sunrise until Apr 19th
Earliest sunset until Oct 24th
06:05 17:56 11:50
14 Mar Daylight saving time begins
Latest sunrise until Oct 15th
Earliest sunset until Sep 17th
07:04 18:57 11:52
17 Mar 7am sunrise, 7pm sunset
12-hour day
07:00 18:59 11:59
21 Mar Equinox 04:37 CDT 06:52 19:05 12:12
3 Apr 6:30am sunrise (again) 06:30 19:19 12:49
13 Apr 7:30pm sunset 06:13 19:31 13:17
22 Apr 6am sunrise 05:59 19:41 13:41
10 May 8pm sunset 05:36 20:00 14:24
15 May 5:30am sunrise 05:30 20:05 14:34
14 Jun Earliest sunrise of the year 05:15 20:28 15:13
20 Jun Solstice 22:32 CDT
8:30pm sunset
05:15 20:30 15:14
26 Jun Latest sunset of the year 05:17 20:31 15:13
3 Jul 8:30pm sunset 05:21 20:30 15:09
16 Jul 5:30am sunrise 05:30 20:24 14:54
9 Aug 8pm sunset 05:53 19:59 14:06
16 Aug 6am sunrise 06:00 19:50 13:49
29 Aug 7:30pm sunset 06:14 19:29 13:15
14 Sep 6:30am sunrise 06:30 19:02 12:31
15 Sep 7pm sunset 06:31 19:00 12:28
22 Sep Equinox, 14:21 CDT 06:39 18:48 12:09
25 Sep 12-hour day 06:42 18:43 12:00
2 Oct 6:30pm sunset 06:49 18:31 11:41
12 Oct 7am sunrise 07:00 18:13 11:13
21 Oct 6pm sunset 07:11 18:00 10:49
6 Nov Latest sunrise until 6 Nov 2032
Latest sunset until Feb 27th
07:30 17:39 10:08
7 Nov Standard time returns
Earliest sunrise until Feb 26th
Latest sunset until Jan 9th
06:31 16:38 10:06
15 Nov 4:30pm sunset 06:41 16:30 9:48
1 Dec 7am sunrise 07:00 16:20 9:21
8 Dec Earliest sunset of the year 07:06 16:20 9:13
21 Dec Solstice, 9:59 CST 07:16 16:23 9:07
31 Dec 4:30pm sunset 07:19 16:30 9:11

You can get sunrise information for your location at wx-now.com.

Dark and grey in Chicago

December 7th is usually the day when the sun sets earliest in the Northern Hemisphere. In Chicago this evening, that meant 16:20, a few minutes ago. We get back to 16:30 on New Year's Eve and 17:00 not until January 27th. We didn't see the sun today at all, though.

So in the dark gloaming, I will (a) try to get my 10,000 steps for the day, and (b) try to find some fresh-ish basil for dinner.

Yesterday got away from me

Just reviewing what I actually got up to yesterday, I'm surprised that I didn't post anything. I'm not surprised, however, that all of these articles piled up for me to read today:

While I'm reading all of that, I've got a stew going in my Instant Pot (on slow-cooker mode). Unfortunately, it seems I underestimated the bulkiness of stew ingredients. I think I'll have a lot of leftovers:

Star Trek: Discovery's 3rd season irks me

Don't get me wrong, I am enjoying the latest Star Trek series immensely. But the third season's handling of its pretty stark historical implications bug me to death.

Warning: spoilers possible ahead.

Star Trek: Discovery's third season begins with the series protagonist, Cdr Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), having jumped from the year 2259 to 3187, more than 900 years after the events of season 2. The eponymous starship shows up a year later. Now, even though Discovery has a unique propulsion system that enables it to travel to any point in space instantaneously, it's still a 900-year-old ship. And yet somehow it and its crew can function in its new era without too much friction.

Let me try to paint a picture of our world 900 years ago and see if the multitudes of problems with this scenario make you scratch your head too.

In 1100, the most powerful military vessels were Viking longboats, made of wood, using square sails, and projecting force 200 meters or so with iron-tipped arrows delivered by longbow. Today, the most powerful military ships (measured by deliverable ordnance) are ballistic-missile submarines, made of high-strength steel and titanium alloys, using nuclear reactors powering silent, computer-designed screws, and projecting force to any part of the planet with hydrogen-bomb-tipped rockets. A 17,000-tonne Ohio-class submarine could destroy a fleet of longboats merely by surfacing from directly beneath them. And you don't even have to think of how the Vikings would fare against a submarine or even an aircraft carrier to get a sense of what 900 years of technological advancement has accomplished: a Coast Guard Medium Endurance Cutter could lay waste to the entire Viking navy without even removing the safeties on its 62mm cannons simply by swamping the Viking ships with its 30-knot wake. Or forget military vessels: how well do you think a Viking fleet would do against a Panamax container ship? Or how about a 16th-century man-o'-war, which can sail almost directly upwind while firing guns?

In 1100, advanced non-military technology included windmills (10th century) and the number zero (8th century, just getting to Europe around 1100). The Chinese had just invented moveable type a few years earlier, and the Arabs were about to invent al-Jabr (algebra), but neither of these ideas would penetrate Europe for centuries. People would have to wait 200 years to button their clothes or wear eyeglasses, and 700 years before getting a vaccine for anything. I mention the first vaccine because the disease it prevented (smallpox) no longer exists in the wild, but neither does the vaccine. An average Roman from 1100 suddenly popping up in Rome in 2020 could kill thousands just by breathing—but social distancing wouldn't be a problem, because the 12th-century Roman probably never bathed in his life.

In 1100, nobody in Europe spoke a language that is spoken today, except possibly the Basques. Communication might be possible with a 12th-century Chinese person in Mandarin, but even then, I expect pronunciation might have drifted a bit. The Star Trek universe has universal translators, but personal-size UTs didn't exist during Discovery's era, and wouldn't for another 70 years. Maybe everyone in the 32nd century has one? Maybe all the UTs in 3188 also come with a package of historical languages that died out hundreds of years ago, like English may have, just in case? Before you say "people spoke Latin both in 1100 and today," I assure you that the Latin "spoken" in 1100 wasn't actual, spoken Latin, because that died out in the 5th-7th centuries after Rome fell. By the 1100s, the Catholic Church's "Latin" had devolved into a unique, bizarre, ahistorical form that no citizen of the Roman Empire would have understood even without the vowel drifts that occurred over time. Perhaps some scholars in the Vatican today might be able to speak with their 12th-century counterparts, but that is kind of my point. I'm sure someone in some university on Earth could speak and understand English in 3188, but that wouldn't help Burnham when she first met Book, now would it?

In 1100, traveling from London to Canterbury took about a week; traveling to Paris took about two; and traveling to Rome took about four. Today, all three destinations are about two hours away, by car, train, and airplane, respectively. Traveling to North America in 1100 would have taken just under 400 years, because even though people had known the diameter of the planet since Eratosthenes calculated it 1200 years earlier, no one in Europe knew anything lay between there and India heading west, and anyway ship technology wouldn't allow it save for that one time Leiv Erikson got blown off course trying to bring Christianity to Greenland. Erikson barely made it back, remember. Since 1969, if you have a whole week you can go to the moon and back. If you merely want to reach any other point on Earth, there are four commercial air-transport airplane models (A350, A380, B777, B787) that can get you there in under 20 hours with one fuel stop. (In theory, a ballistic missile could get you there in 40 minutes or less, but they haven't quite worked out how to land one safely.)

In 1100, political philosophy tended towards systems of government we generally find unacceptable today: feudalism, theocracy, absolute monarchy. Superstition and violently-enforced tradition mixed religion and politics to a level only seen today in groups we call "extreme right" like the Taliban. Think, for a moment, how representative democracy with universal suffrage would have seemed to even a well-educated person living 115 years before the Magna Carta gave limited rights to an hereditary aristocracy. His head would explode. And I do mean his, as European women weren't generally allowed formal education until the 18th Century. Women couldn't even own property in most places before then. Several things we consider horrible crimes in the 21st century wouldn't even raise an eyebrow in 1100. Beating your wife or child? Your family, your business. Torturing a prisoner to death? Expected. Killing your neighbor for taking a deer on your land? Well, if it's "your land," that means you own land, which means you're the local political power, which gives you all manner of rights over people living on it. Raping the newlywed bride of one of your neighbors is one of those rights, for instance.

I was going to write that "In 1100, the average naval officer wouldn't even understand the concepts of suffrage or democracy," but I realized that in 1100 they wouldn't even understand the concept of "naval officer." In 1100, the concept of "admiral" (in Arabic, "amir-al-bahr:" "lord of the seas") had just reached Europe, and ships had captains as a job but not as a grade. The idea of a formal, dedicated officer corps with fixed grades was still centuries off. The United States Navy had only the ranks of Admiral, Captain, and Lieutenant as late as 1860 when they introduced the rank that eventually became Commander. The 10-grade system we use in NATO countries today is from the 1980s.

In 1100, every government that existed eventually changed form or disappeared. Only one European quasi-governmental institution that existed then still exists in a similar form today: the Catholic Church. Not only have all the other governments that existed in Europe back then vanished, most of the political units have disappeared or changed unrecognizably as well. England arguably has the oldest continuous system of government in Europe, which goes all the way back to...the Act of Settlement in 1707. In the Star Trek universe, the United Federation of Planets was only 100 years old when Discovery slipped into the future, and it was founded only 80 years after most existing Earth governments blew themselves out of existence. So why would any of Discovery's crew, to whom First Contact with the Vulcans was more recent for them than the American Revolution is to us, find it at all surprising that the Federation has all but vanished 900 years later?

So the gulf between 1100 and 2020 is huge. But the gulf between 2259 and 3189 would be far, far larger, because we only recently learned how to innovate on purpose.

In 1100, technology advanced slowly. Pick a European country: 1100 looked almost identical to 900 and 1200. Even fashions remained the same decade after decade. The pace of technological change we live with today started gaining speed with the Enlightenment of the mid-18th century. The ideas that drive modern technology have surprisingly recent origins. Mass-produced books? Johannes Gutenberg, 1452. Modern written English? Mid 1600s. Steam-powered vehicles? James Watt, 1776. Permanent republican form of government? New Hampshire, 1776. Modern patent law? United States Congress, 1790. Light-speed communications? Samuel Morse's telegraph, 1836. First modern sewerage system? James Newlands in Liverpool, 1848. Voice communications? Alexander Bell, 1876. Formal industrial R&D and the electric light bulb? Thomas Edison, 1880s. Universal adult suffrage? New Zealand, 1893. Line-of-sight wireless communications? Enrico Marconi's radio, 1901. Airplanes? Orville and Wilbur Wright, 1903. Synthetic plastic? Leo Baekeland, 1907. Television? John Baird, 1925. Antibiotics? Alexander Fleming, 1928. Controlled nuclear reactions? Enrico Fermi, 1942. Digital computers? ENIAC, 1946. Integrated circuits and microchips? Jack Kilby, 1958. Computer-aided design? Ivan Sutherland, 1963. Geostationary communication satellites? Syncom 3, 1964. The Internet? US Defense Department, 1971. The World Wide Web? Tim Berners-Lee, 1990. The Daily Parker? May 1998. Google? August 1998.

All of those technologies accelerated the development of newer technologies. In some cases, technologies led to the discovery of principles that couldn't be imagined without practical experience with them—for example, how synthesizing a polymer in 1907 and creating a working radio in 1901 are both required before you can understand that an integrated circuit is even possible, let alone how to mass-produce a billion-transistor microchip.

The worlds of 1100 and 1800 would have been mutually comprehensible (though starting around 1700, politics, religion, and hair styles would seem stranger by the year), but the worlds of 1800 and 1900 would not. Someone from 1900 would probably understand the world of 2020, but that's because by the late 19th century people started to intuit Clarke's Three Laws (1962), so they would universally attribute modern technologies to artifice rather than magic.

That's on Earth. In the Star Trek universe, technological advances happened across hundreds of civilizations, with trade between them bringing everyone up to higher levels even faster. Humans independently invented warp drive in 2063; but the Vulcans who landed in Montana after detecting Zefram Cochrane's warp signature eventually shared technologies that humans had only imagined before. (Peaceful) trade and communication between cultures accelerates development in both.

So to sum up: Discovery popping into the late 32nd century should have even less success integrating into its new surroundings than a Viking longboat popping into 2020. They should find themselves in a universe with not just advanced technology, but totally incomprehensible technology; a universe protected by armaments that consider Discovery's weapons practically harmless—including its photon torpedoes, which can sterilize entire planets; a universe where no one save a few academics understands a word they're saying; a universe where all but fringe extremists find their views on politics and social norms not just embarrassing, but horrifying and immoral; and a universe where childhood diseases from either culture could kill millions in the other.

That said, it's not a bad show. Episode 7 drops tonight.

Sure Happy It's Thursday

So many things to read at lunchtime today:

Finally, a year ago today I made some predictions about what could happen in the 2020 election. Turns out, "Option C" is true, and we're still waiting to see on a few others.

Three quick reads

Happy Sunday. Tonight the sun sets in Chicago at 4:30pm, and won't set after 4:30 again until New Year's Eve. So in the few hours of daylight I have left, I'll read a few things:

  • A low pressure area northeast of Chicago has brought 100 km/h winds to the area, but at least it won't snow today.
  • Entomologists in Washington State eradicated a "small" nest containing several hundred murder hornets. They worry a couple of queens might have escaped.
  • The BBC fact-checked rumors that 10,000 dead people voted in Michigan, and spoke with several of them without consulting psychics.

I'm going to return to doing nothing of value today, which is the point of Sundays.

Long but productive Wednesday

I cracked the code on an application rewrite I last attempted in 2010, so I've spent a lot of my copious free time the past week working on it. I hope to have more to say soon, but software takes time. And when I'm in the zone, I like to stay there. All of which is why it's 9:30 and I have just gotten around to reading all this:

I'm now going to turn off all my screens, walk Parker, and go to bed. (Though I just got the good news that my 8:30 am demo got moved to a later time.)

Slow news day? In 2020? Ha!

Just a few of the things that crossed my desktop this morning:

And last night, Cubs pitcher Alec Mills threw the club's 16th no-hitter against the Milwaukee Brewers. In the history of Major League Baseball, there have only been 315 no-hitters. The last time the Cubs won a no-hitter was 51 years ago.

Astronomical math

My birthday is Saturday, but owing to leap years and that I was born early in the morning, I'm actually turning [redacted]—[REDACTED]!—at 9:09 am Chicago time tomorrow. See, Earth revolves around the Sun every 365.24217 days, you see, so if you take the time and date I was born ([redacted]-09-05T[redacted]) and add [redacted]*365.24217 days to it, you get 2020-09-04T14:09, give or take a few seconds.

So today is my last day in my [redacted - 10]s. And yet I don't feel a day over [fraction of redacted].

The only good news is, given my family genetics and my overall health right now, it's very likely I'll live another [redacted plus a few] years.

I had hoped for a big party, or barring that, a weekend in Europe...but hey, I haven't caught the plague yet.