The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Biggest plane ever now at O'Hare

British Airways has started daily service between Chicago and London on the Airbus A380:

Last year, British Airways said it would begin using the A380 on one of two daily flights between Chicago and London. The aircraft seats up to 469 passengers in four cabins, including 14 first-class suites, 97 lie-flat business-class seats and 55 premium economy seats, with the remaining 303 in coach, British Airways said.

It’s only within the past couple of years that O’Hare has had facilities to accommodate the A380, which is 72.5 m long and 24 m high, with a 79.5 m wingspan. O’Hare has had a runway big enough for the A380 since 2013 but lacked gates that fit two-level planes at the time.

There is a non-zero chance, therefore, that I will fly on one of these bad boys before 2018 ends. (It's not a great chance, but it's at least a chance.)

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.

What else I'm reading today at lunch

Fun times, fun times.

Craft beer is the anti-monopoly hero

CityLab digs into "the strangest, happiest economic story in America:"

In almost every economic sector, including television, books, music, groceries, pharmacies, and advertising, a handful of companies control a prodigious share of the market.

The beer industry has been one of the worst offenders. The refreshing simplicity of Blue Moon, the vanilla smoothness of Boddingtons, the classic brightness of a Pilsner Urquell, and the bourbon-barrel stouts of Goose Island—all are owned by two companies: Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors. As recently as 2012, this duopoly controllednearly 90 percent of beer production.

But in the last decade, something strange and extraordinary has happened. Between 2008 and 2016, the number of brewery establishments expanded by a factor of six, and the number of brewery workers grew by 120 percent. Yes, a 200-year-old industry has sextupled its establishments and more than doubled its workforce in less than a decade. Even more incredibly, this has happened during a time when U.S. beer consumption declined.

Average beer prices have grown nearly 50 percent. So while Americans are drinking less beer than they did in the 2000s (probably a good thing) they’re often paying more for a superior product (another good thing). Meanwhile, the best-selling beers in the country are all in steep decline, as are their producers. Between 2007 and 2016, shipments from five major brewers—Anheuser-Busch, MillerCoors, Heineken, Pabst, and Diageo, which owns Guinness—fell by 14 percent.

It's not just the United States. The UK passed 2,000 breweries last fall, with organisations like the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) leading the charge.

At least as far as good-tasting, high-quality beer goes, it's a good time to be alive in the English-speaking world.

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.

Fortunately, I only had one

Getting tea at the local Pret this afternoon I discovered that one of the one-pound coins I tried to use no longer had any value:

On October 15 2017, the round pound ceased to be legal tender. This meant Brits could no longer use them to make purchases in shops, supermarkets, vending machines and even car parks.

The coin was phased out over six months, to pave way for the new five sided £1 which launched last March.

Those who find themselves still in possession of any round ones will have to head to their local bank, building society or post office branch to have them traded. Most will also only agree to do so if you're an account holder.

So, I now have a souvenir round pound that cost me $1.33 at the time. Could have been worse, I suppose. Now I just have to check my £10 notes. The paper ones expire in March.

Even on weekends I'm busy

A few links to click tomorrow when I have more time:

And now, I rest.

Cold and biting

I'm not referring to the 14°C drop in temperatures over four hours yesterday, though that did suck. (And it did drench me.)

No, I'm talking about how, after calling countries that have dark-skinned citizens "shitholes," the best President we have right now abruptly cancelled a visit to the UK to dedicate our new (and ugly, and inconveniently-located) embassy on the south bank of the Thames:

The president claimed on Twitter that the reason for calling off the trip was his displeasure at Barack Obama having sold the current embassy for “peanuts” and built a replacement for $1bn (£750m). “Bad deal,” he wrote.

But the embassy’s plan to move from Mayfair to Nine Elms in London was first reported in October 2008, when George W Bush was still president.

The London mayor, Sadiq Khan, said Trump had “got the message” that many Londoners staunchly opposed his policies and actions.

“It appears that President Trump got the message from the many Londoners who love and admire America and Americans but find his policies and actions the polar opposite of our city’s values of inclusion, diversity and tolerance,” Khan said on Friday.

“His visit next month would without doubt have been met by mass peaceful protests. This just reinforces what a mistake it was for Theresa May to rush and extend an invitation of a state visit in the first place.”

It's important to realize that Trump didn't cancel the visit because he feels one way or another about the embassy move. That's a policy detail that, while irksome to one of the closest allies the US has had for two centuries, is not something he would necessarily be aware of unless someone mentioned it on Fox & Friends. No, he doesn't want to go to the embassy dedication because he hates being reminded that he is less popular in London than Robert Mugabe.

I should also point out that our embassy in Grosvenor Square is an ugly building also, but at least it's convenient to Central London and near to many other embassies and missions. It's right across the park from Macdonald House, which used to house the Canadian High Commission and was also sold recently to private developers.

I should also point out that President Trump doesn't like President Bush fils any more than he likes President Obama, but of course Trump would never blame things on the white guy if he doesn't have to. (See, e.g., "shithole countries" comment, above.)