The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Yes, I really did pay money for this

I'm in the Ancestral Homeland on a my last-ditch effort to maintain American Airlines Platinum status for 2016. If that sounds bizarre and pointless to you, then you have some empathy for the UK Border Force agent who interviewed me for fifteen minutes this morning.

Usually my UK entry interviews are about ninety seconds. I'm here four times a year, I always go home, and...well, that's basically all they've ever been concerned about. Until today, for the 23 years I've been visiting the UK, I have never had any trouble entering the country.

Today, however, we went several rounds on the theme "wait, you paid money to come here for one day?" Yes. I really did. I needed 6,149 elite-qualifying miles to keep my status, and the round-trip from Chicago to London is 7,906. Plus, it's London, a city I love dearly and would live in if circumstances and HM Customs and Immigration allowed.

So, I'm in, and I have a new note in my Border Force dossier now that includes things like, I have £99 in my pocket, and no official reason to be in the UK other than tourism. This may have an impact on my Registered Traveler application, which may now be rejected. The Border Force website says tourism is a totally valid reason for Registered Traveler status; but the agent in booth 34 this morning disagrees.

It's sad, really, because so far for the last 25 years all I've ever done in the UK is spend money and return home a few days later. Of course, I'll still visit, but who likes being rejected?

More meetings, less reading

More things I haven't read yet:

And a customer technician spent 90 minutes over two days worth of conference calls denying that something obviously his responsibility was not, in fact, his responsibility, until a network tech from his own company said it was.

Familiar-looking airplane at Heathrow

One of the few remaining British Airways Concorde airplanes is parked on the east side of Heathrow, and last Sunday my plane taxied right past it:

I remember, going to school outside New York, watching that thing fly over campus at 9am after leaving London at noon. That was cool.

63 years, 216 days

Today, Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the Seas Queen, Defender of the Faith, has just moments ago become the longest-reigning monarch in British English history:

At exactly what time Her Majesty out-reigns her great-great grandmother is not precise, due to the uncertainty of the timing of the death of her father, George VI, who died in his sleep. But Buckingham Palace has estimated, to be absolutely safe, she will pass Victoria’s 23,226 days, 16 hours and 23 minutes at around 5.30pm*. That calculation assumes George VI’s death was around 1am, and factors in extra leap days in the reigns of “Elizabeth the Steadfast”, as she has been described, and the Queen Empress.

There will be no bonfires on Wednesday, however. Palace aides have reminded the press of the sensitivity of the occasion given it owes much to the premature death, at the age of 56, of the Queen’s father. “While she acknowledges it as an historic moment, it’s also for her not a moment she would personally celebrate, which is why she has been keen to convey business as usual and no fuss,” said one.

The only living monarch to out-reign the Queen is Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who is two years younger but has reigned for six years longer. However she beats him, and all other contenders, on one matter. According to Guinness World Records, she holds the world record for most currencies featuring the same individual.

* 5:30pm BST is 11:30am CDT, or right about now.

Prince Charles, her heir-apparent, is 66, and also holds the record for being the longest-waiting heir-apparent in English history.

Buffaloed bulls

Long-time readers may remember my shaky association with South Downs livestock, in particular the time I got run off a public footpath by several tons of angry beef. Yesterday, I put to test what my more agriculturally-minded friends have told me often: cows are easily intimidated.

Yesterday's walk through West Sussex included sections of public footpaths on which many enormous animals were grazing. In particular, one section of the walk went about 200 m straight across an open field with absolutely no barriers between me and these guys:

From the moment I entered the field, when the bulls were some distance away, they all noticed me and stared. Now, when predatory animals—dogs, for example—stare, you need to be somewhere else, unless you're armed. I was not armed, nor did I even have a big stick. But more to the point, cattle aren't predators.

It turns out that, under most circumstances, cattle are curious about but wary of humans. So as I'd been advised many times, when they inevitably started approaching me, I simply got loud and kept walking towards the other side. Shouting "Hey!" while pointing directly at them turned out to be a pretty good strategy; even better, for my mental health anyway, was how they got the hell out of my way if I stepped towards them aggressively. Then, once I was safely through the stile at the other end of the field, and my heart was no longer in my throat, I took the photo you see above and patted a few on their noses over the fence.

If you grew up in the country, this seems ridiculous. You know cows are dangerous the same way cars are: if you do something colossally stupid (like running away from them as I did in 1992), you could get seriously hurt. But if you remember that they're herbivores, bred for millennia to be docile, and completely dependent on humans for food, water, and protection from other predators (which they know on some level), cattle are generally harmless.

Plus, in 1992, I encountered young, aggressive bullocks—the one truly dangerous subset of cattle. These guys were steers, which are actually less dangerous than cows with calves.

Again, my rurally-raised friends have to find this hilarious. But I haven't done too many things lately that scared me as much as walking through that field yesterday. I really would have preferred sheep in the field to bulls, too. But at least now I think I'll be much less apprehensive about the next herd of cattle I stumble upon, whenever that happens.

Lots of walking

I logged 24,771 steps yesterday (argh! 229 short!) mostly by walking from Arundel to Amberley in West Sussex. The walk seemed longer than 6 kilometers, but that's what my FitBit counted. I also walked from Victoria Station to my hotel, another 3.9 km, but at a much faster clip than down public footpaths and across fields in the South Downs.

My first stop was The Black Rabbit:

My last stop was The Bridge, where I stopped on similar hikes in 2009 and 1992. And I ended the day at The Blackbird, because of this:

I didn't bring my real camera on this trip, mainly because I didn't want to carry it and I wasn't sure about the weather for today's hike. I'm surprised and satisfied with my phone's camera, though it's not even in the same league as my 7D. It's also not nearly as heavy.

I'll have a couple more photos from the walk later on.

BA's 747s

Bloomberg analyzes the reasons that British Airways continues to invest in its Boeing 747 fleet when everyone else is retiring the model:

A clue to BA’s lingering love affair with the 747 lies in the model’s ability to eke out capacity from scarce operating slots at its London Heathrow hub at a time when lower fuel prices make retaining older planes an option. The revamped jets, the first of which returns next month from a refit center in Cardiff, Wales, will also get 16 extra business-class seats, aiding deployment on lucrative trans-Atlantic services.

“It makes hard business sense,” JLS Consulting Director John Strickland said. “These aircraft have a lot of life in them and can be used in very effective commercial ways. Given the capacity constraints at Heathrow and the high demand they have on certain routes, it’s still a very good model.”

The four-engine planes suck up a lot of fuel, however. Lower fuel prices have helped, but really the motivation seems to be capacity limitations at Heathrow.