Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
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Tuesday 2 September 2014

My new Android phone has a built in-GPS and a fairly large Google Maps cache. I'm sure this is true of other phones, but not of my old Windows phone, so until this past trip I couldn't do this:

And then, a few seconds later, I could do this:

I love this phone.

Tuesday 2 September 2014 15:48:34 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Geography | Cool links#
Thursday 28 August 2014

On those rare occasions when I opt for it, I usually enjoy having in-flight WiFi. At this particular moment, however, I'm staring down another two hours of flying time with WiFi throughput under 200 kbps. That speed reminds me of the late 1990s. You know, half the Web ago.

This is painful. I'm not streaming video, nor am I connected to a remote server like the guy next to me. I'm just trying to get some documents written. I believe I will have to write a complaint to GoGo Inflight, as this throughput is completely unacceptable.

But enough about that minor sadness; I've found something truly horrible.

Everyone who took English 1 at my college had to read George Orwell's Politics and the English Language. (I would actually extend this mandate to everyone on the planet who speaks English if I had the power.) In the essay, Orwell calls out a specific passage from Ecclesiastes to show how business English can destroy thought:

I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

He renders it in modern English thus:

Objective considerations of contemporary phenomena compel the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account.

Two things. First, "modern" English in 1946 seems a lot like modern English in 2014. Frighteningly so.

Second, there are worse translations of that passage in actual, printed Bibles. Now, I'm not a religious person, as even a causal reader of this blog knows. But I have an appreciation for language. So it pains me to see that some people learned Ecclesiastes 9:11 like this:

I saw something else under the sun. The race isn't [won] by fast runners, or the battle by heroes. Wise people don't necessarily have food. Intelligent people don't necessarily have riches, and skilled people don't necessarily receive special treatment. But time and unpredictable events overtake all of them.

("GOD'S WORD® Translation")

Or this:

I have observed something else under the sun. The fastest runner doesn't always win the race, and the strongest warrior doesn't always win the battle. The wise sometimes go hungry, and the skillful are not necessarily wealthy. And those who are educated don't always lead successful lives. It is all decided by chance, by being in the right place at the right time.

NO! No, no, NO! This isn't a children's book. Why does anyone need to dumb it down? I mean, fine, vernacular and all, but can't we at least keep the poetry?

It's no wonder the religious right have such poor cognitive skills. The one book they were allowed to read as children has been reduced to pabulum.

Thursday 28 August 2014 17:57:34 MDT (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation | Kitchen Sink | US | World#

United Airlines and Uber have quietly entered into a partnership to help United passengers get rides out of O'Hare (hat tip RM):

United launched the service Thursday that allows passengers to use the United Airlines mobile app to find UberTaxi information including the types of vehicles available, estimated wait times and prices.

The airline’s passengers can hook-up with the Uber service by using the airline’s mobile app to select a ride, at which point they are either directed to the Uber app to complete the transaction or to sign-up for an Uber account.

Only UberTaxi cars can participate, because they're licensed cab drivers.

Meanwhile, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn vetoed legislation that would have made it more difficult for Uber and its competitor, Lyft, to operate in Chicago, and Uber is coming under fire for poaching drivers from the competition.

Thursday 28 August 2014 10:21:58 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Chicago | US | Travel#

Cranky Flier has his hypothesis:

From everything I understand, this particular spat is really about economics and there’s not some underlying hidden issue. While published commissions have disappeared, agencies with heft like Orbitz still do get paid by airlines. They also get paid by the reservation systems they use. How does the reservation system get the money to pay them? They make the airlines cough it up. So really when someone books on an online travel agent site, the airlines are paying for it twice. The airlines have to look at the total amount and decide whether or not its worth the price to play.

Now, if you’re a traveler and you go to Orbitz, you aren’t going to see American or Southwest. ... Sure, United and Delta can pick up some of the slack, but Orbitz becomes significantly less useful domestically. International is a different story, I suppose. That being said, if you really love using an online travel agent, then why not just use Expedia now? There is real risk for Orbitz.

There is also real risk for American, but it’s less than it probably would have been in the past. Before consolidation took hold, there were so many airlines out there you might not notice, as a consumer, that American had disappeared. But now, you’ll notice. At the same time, American has upped the percentage of traffic coming direct, so Orbitz really feels more pressure now than it would have in the past. The balance of power has shifted.

As a loyal oneworld frequent flier, I almost always go to aa.com directly (though I sometimes follow up by checking Hipmunk when I see suspicious direct pricing). But for occasional passengers, the Orbitz is a useful resource. And if Orbitz no longer shows American Airlines prices, will United and Delta raise theirs?

Thursday 28 August 2014 09:25:16 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation#
Monday 25 August 2014

Someimes—rarely—I disconnect for a couple of days. This past weekend I basically just hung out, walked my dog, went shopping, and had a perfectly nice absence from the Web.

Unfortunately that meant I had something like 200 RSS articles to plough through, and I just couldn't bring myself to stop dealing with (most) emails. And I have a few articles to read:

Now back to your regularly-scheduled week, already in progress...

Monday 25 August 2014 12:25:01 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Baseball | Chicago | Kitchen Sink | US | World | Travel#
Friday 22 August 2014

Crain's has the story this morning about how the airline is adapting to reduced travel expense accounts:

Waning customer interest in the costliest tickets prompted American Airlines to drop first class as it adds seats to its 47 long-haul Boeing Co. 777-200s. The aircraft will get new lie-flat business seats — plusher than coach, but lacking first- class flourishes such as pajamas, slippers and an amuse bouche.

“We're responding to what demand is,” Casey Norton, an American spokesman, said yesterday. “We've looked at what the demand level is for business and also what we need in the main cabin as well. That's where we think we've hit the sweet spot.”

The changes will leave American with international three-class service — first, business and economy — only on the 777-300ER, the carrier's biggest aircraft. Fort Worth, Texas- based American has 14 of those planes flying on some of its most-lucrative overseas routes, such as Miami-Sao Paulo, while using the 777-200 for city pairs including Chicago-Beijing.

There are some other factors here. Intense competition for business-class passengers—but not for first-class—has driven most airlines to build business classes that would be incomprehensibly luxurious to passengers who flew first class as recently as 1995. The last time I flew first class overseas on American was Tokyo to Chicago in December 2011. I didn't pay the $12,000 for the seat the airline charged other people on the plane; I paid $400 for a fare-class adjustment to my coach ticket and used frequent-flier miles for the upgrade.

If you want to travel Chicago to London next week on American, you'll pay $7,700 to fly American or BA in business class and $10,600 to fly in first class. Four weeks out the business class price remains the same but first-class seats dry up as the airline moves the refitted 777-200s onto the route.

I love flying in American's business class overseas. But like most people who do so, I'll probably never pay full price for it. And this is the root of the airline's problems with first class.

Friday 22 August 2014 10:08:17 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Travel#
Wednesday 20 August 2014

I'm waiting for Azure to provision a virtual machine for me, so I thought I'd solve a nagging annoyance.

Even though I travel a lot, I don't have a good carry-on-sized bag. My medium-sized travel bag, which has been around about ten years, goes into the hold of the airplane and sometimes I don't see it again for an hour after landing at my destination. This is especially irksome when I go on a 3-day business trip.

So I've been thinking about replacing my medium-sized bag with a smaller one. I've got it nailed down to two: the REI Wheely Beast Duffel and the Travelpro Luggage Crew 9. Both are about the same size, have good (independent) reviews, cost about $150, and would allow me to donate my current medium-sized travel bag to whomever wants it. (That last bit is because the bag actually belonged to an ex.)

This isn't the biggest decision I'll make all year, but the reduction in irritation it brings will be welcome, especially given the number of 3-day business trips I expect to take this fall.

Wednesday 20 August 2014 10:47:25 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Travel | Work#
Sunday 17 August 2014

The Chicago Air and Water Show may not happen today because of rare weather conditions:

[T]he Chicago National Weather Service said "rare low clouds" are impacting the Air and Water show. Low clouds have a ceiling height of 1,000 feet, the weather service said. Only 2 to 3 percent of August days have had low clouds since 1973, the weather service said.

Now, skipping the foggy understanding of weather terms and government agencies the ABC reporter showed in that paragraph, it doesn't look good for the show. Right now conditions the lakefront has low instrument meteorological conditions due to a 125 m ceiling (somewhere around the 60th floor of most downtown buildings) and 6 km visibility. The latest forecast calls for more clouds.

We've had a cool, wet summer, following a record-cold winter, so Lake Michigan is just a huge fog maker lately. Yesterday was warm and sunny, but in the past 12 hours a low pressure system has passed directly overhead bringing northeast winds and draping a cold front across the region. It's 6°C warmer in Aurora and Kankakee than it is in Waukegan or Racine, for example.

So, thousands of people are disappointed today. Still, it's quiet and cool in Lincoln Park right now. That's not a horrible outcome.

Sunday 17 August 2014 13:38:45 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Chicago | Weather#
Thursday 7 August 2014

He thinks we should all use GMT instead:

[W]ithin a given time zone, the point of a common time is not to force everyone to do everything at the same time. It's to allow us to communicate unambiguously with each other about when we are doing things.

If the whole world used a single GMT-based time, schedules would still vary. In general most people would sleep when it's dark out and work when it's light out. So at 23:00, most of London would be at home or in bed and most of Los Angeles would be at the office. But of course London's bartenders would probably be at work while some shift workers in LA would be grabbing a nap. The difference from today is that if you were putting together a London-LA conference call at 21:00 there'd be only one possible interpretation of the proposal. A flight that leaves New York at 14:00 and lands in Paris at 20:00 is a six-hour flight, with no need to keep track of time zones. If your appointment is in El Paso at 11:30 you don't need to remember that it's in a different time zone than the rest of Texas.

Sigh.

It's even easier to get people to use International System measurements than to get them to understand the arbitrariness of the clock, but let's unpack just one thing Yglesias seems to have missed: the date.

Imagine you actually can get people in Los Angeles to use UTC. Working hours are 16:00 to 24:00. School starts at 15:45 (instead of ending then). In the summer, the sun rises at 12:30 and sets at 02:00.

Wait, what? The sun sets at 2am? So...you come home on a different day? That makes no sense to most people.

Yes, in a world where people are unwilling to give up their 128-ounce gallons and 36-inch yards in favor of 1000-milliliter liters and 100-centimeter meters, a world where ice freezing at 32 and boiling at 212 makes more sense than freezing at 0 and boiling at 100, a world where Paul Ryan is thought to be a serious person, we're not moving away from the day changing while most people are asleep.

And don't even get me started on the difference between GMT and UTC.

Thursday 7 August 2014 09:35:35 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Aviation | Geography | US | World | Travel | Astronomy#
Monday 4 August 2014

From my hotel room right now I can see the A-concourse at Cleveland Hopkins Airport about 500 m away. Between here and there is a parking lot and the terminal access road. The setup isn't fundamentally different from the location of the O'Hare Hilton, except a few trees and traffic levels. Oh, and the walkway.

The O'Hare hotel connects directly to all three terminals via underground walkway as well as surface paths through or around the parking structure. In other words, a traveler can walk from his plane to the O'Hare Hilton directly, without taking his life into his hands.

Not so here. Look (click for full size):

If you walk along the terminal access road, you run out of sidewalk by the first curve. Somehow there's a path through the parking structure, but again, once you get to the edge of the parking lot southeast of the structure, you're climbing through sod and ground cover to get to the hotel's ring road.

Still, I did it last night, and from my gate to the hotel took 17 minutes. Last time, when I waited for the hotel shuttle bus, it took twice as long. Fortunately it didn't rain either time, but if it had rained, waiting for the shuttle bus would have been damper.

Now I've got to catch the rental car shuttle, which picks up back at the terminal, so I'll have to pick my way across the parking lot and parking structure until I find a way though to the pick-up spot. Because no one wanted to build a sidewalk to bridge the one-block chasm between the hotel and the airport.

Related: NPR reported this morning that our food intake hasn't changed in 10 years; we're all getting fat because we don't walk enough.

Monday 4 August 2014 08:15:07 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Aviation | Geography | Kitchen Sink | Travel#
Friday 25 July 2014

I'm back in Chicago today, but catching up on all the things I couldn't do from Cleveland. Regular posting should resume tomorrow.

Also, at 6 hours and 15 minutes to get from the client site to my house door-to-door, plus renting a car in Cleveland and having to schlepp bags hither and yon, I'm wondering if I should just drive next time.

Friday 25 July 2014 12:37:01 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Travel | Work#
Saturday 19 July 2014

Pilot and journalist James Fallows has an op-ed in today's New York Times explaining how MH17 was following the rules:

Before Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 took off on Thursday, its crew and dispatchers would have known that a few hours earlier Ukrainian authorities had prohibited flights at 32,000 feet and below across eastern parts of their country, “due to combat actions ... near the state border” with Russia, as the official notice put it, including the downing of a Ukrainian military transport plane earlier in the week.

Therefore when they crossed this zone at 33,000 feet, they were neither cutting it razor-close nor bending the rules, but doing what many other airlines had done, in a way they assumed was both legal and safe. Legal in much the way that driving 63 in a 65-mile-per-hour zone would be.

And safe, not just for regulatory reasons, but because aircraft at cruising altitude are beyond the reach of anything except strictly military antiaircraft equipment. During takeoff and landing, airliners are highly vulnerable: They are big, they are moving slowly and in a straight line, they are close to the ground. But while cruising, they are beyond most earthbound criminal or terrorist threats.

This is why, even during wartime, airliners have frequently flown across Iraq and Afghanistan. The restricted zone over Ukraine was meant to protect against accidental fire or collateral damage. It didn’t envision a military attack.

The rebels are reportedly blocking access to the crash site, while the Ukrainian government says it has proof Russia supplied the missile that killed 298 civilians.

And with two 777 hull losses in three months, Malaysia Airlines' future is in doubt.

The drumbeat continues.

Saturday 19 July 2014 14:00:45 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | World#
Thursday 17 July 2014

I'm still outraged at the Russian thugs who shot down MH17 today. But a couple of other things were noteworthy:

  • Someone, possibly Chinese military, infiltrated the e-QIP database that the Office of Management and Budget maintains to keep security clearance information. Schneier points out, "This is a big deal. If I were a government, trying to figure out who to target for blackmail, bribery, and other coercive tactics, this would be a nice database to have."
  • In a turn of events that should surprise no one whose IQ crests 90, it turns out that Stand Your Ground laws actually increase crime, assuming you think shooting people is a criminal act. In states that have adopted these insane laws, more people are shot to death but the overall crime rate stays the same.
  • Someday, I want to go to the Farnborough air show. So, apparently, does the F-35, which wasn't able to fly there this time.

All right. I've got about two hours until my flight leaves—yay, consulting!—and I actually have work to do. But in case I was distraught at having to stay home for three consecutive days, it turns out I get to come back here Sunday night. Again: yay, consulting!

Thursday 17 July 2014 18:18:24 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Aviation | US | World#

Rebel forces in southeastern Ukraine appear to be responsible for downing a civilian plane with 295 passengers and crew aboard. The U.S. has confirmed someone shot the plane down with a Russian-supplied surface-to-air missile:

An unnamed American official has confirmed that the Malaysian passenger jet that crashed in eastern Ukraine on Thursday was shot down, according to multiple media reports.

The official told CNN that a radar spotted a surface-to-air missile track an aircraft right before Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crashed. According to the official, another system captured a "heat signature" right at the time the plane was struck.

The missile, suspected to be a Russian-made Buk, is capable of hitting aircraft well over 20 km above the ground; MH17 was flying at 10 km.

James Fallows reports that American airplanes have been prohibited from the area since April:

Nearly three months ago, on the "Special Rules" section of its site, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration put out an order prohibiting American pilots, airlines, charter carriers, and everyone else over whom the FAA has direct jurisdiction, from flying over southern parts of Ukraine.

Rebel forces appeared to take responsibility for the attack, even after learning the plane was civilian, but took down the smoking-gun post when they discovered it wasn't Ukrainian.

This is a developing situation, and because the crash site is in rebel-held territory, it might be some time before all the details emerge. For now, it appears that Russian separatists murdered nearly 300 people. What they hoped to accomplish by attacking an airplane is beyond me. That they downed this airplane is sickening.

Thursday 17 July 2014 18:04:16 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Aviation | World#

Via the Economist's Gulliver blog, Airbus has taken out a patent on the worst airplane seats imaginable:

Airbus’s patent says that traditional seats cannot be narrowed any further, or the pitch reduced much more, in order to accommodate extra passengers. Therefore, carriers will have to redesign the seats if they want to cram in more flyers. Its suggestion is a fold-down saddle, a small backrest and a couple of retractable armrests. Certainly no tray-tables, underseat storage or pockets to keep your sick bag in. This, it reckons, will allow airlines to wedge a third more people on to a plane—that’s an extra 63 passengers on one of Ryanair’s Boeing 737-800s. It would only be for flights lasting "a few hours" but judging by the pictures in the patent application (above), it doesn’t look like a fun ride.

Their blog entry has an illustration that I simply can't reproduce out of sadness.

Thursday 17 July 2014 06:37:16 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Aviation#
Monday 14 July 2014

I didn't sleep terribly well last night because, let's face it, the Cleveland Airport Sheraton is neither my own house nor the Ritz-Carlton on Park Ave. It is, however, in Cleveland, where my current client is also.

There are essentially two options for traveling: fly out the night before your meetings, or the morning of your meetings. And for me it comes down to one thing: Is the trade-off for one night at home going to be getting up at 4:30am to get a 7am flight from O'Hare?

That's not a trade-off I'm likely to make without serious counter-incentives.

So, expect lighter-than-usual posting this week. I hope nothing interesting happens in U.S. politics while I'm here...

Monday 14 July 2014 08:48:27 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Aviation | Travel | Work#
Monday 7 July 2014

To lose one partially-completed airplane is unfortunate; to lose six smacks of carelessness:

Nineteen cars in a 90-car BNSF Railway Co train loaded with six 737 narrow-body fuselages and assemblies for Boeing's 777 and 747 wide-body jets derailed near Rivulet, Montana on Thursday.

Oops. At least no one was hurt.

Photo: Kyle Massick, Reuters

Monday 7 July 2014 17:06:42 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation#
Thursday 3 July 2014

I love the night buses in London. Given my habit of staying on Chicago time, I've ridden my share of them. (If American 90 arrives after 11:30pm, I'm guaranteed to do so.) So today's story in the Atlantic's CityLab blog about the phenomenon made me smile:

You see, London’s night buses are actually the great, unsung glory of the city’s travel network. Compared with cabs, they’re dirt cheap (they cost the same as a regular daytime bus), come extremely frequently and cover a wide area, and go quickly through the mainly car-free nighttime streets. This could be why they’re so popular, carrying 42 million passengers a year. There’s more to them than even all that: Night buses have played a huge role in opening up London’s nightlife to everyone, especially to people whose modest means or far-flung suburban homes make cab fares seem exorbitant.

It is true that night buses often smell of kebabs, London's alcohol-sponge of choice, and they can be noisy and crammed. They’re popular with a certain group of British exhibitionists that can only really enjoy themselves by seeing their revels reflected in other people’s eyes. “I exist! I’m fun!” their behavior screams, making fellow passengers disbelieve the latter and wish the former wasn’t true. You also rub up against people you might not choose to. I was part of one ugly incident in which some guys apologized for flicking ketchup sachets at my sleeping friend, explaining that they’d only done so because they “thought he was homeless." Still, the party-on-wheels thing can be fun, and almost cozy at times. A fellow passenger once sewed up the ripped hem of my friend’s 1950s ballgown, and I’ve been not-disagreeably hit on with the immortal opener, “Would you like a chip?” Most of the time, I’ve just sat down, not been bothered by anyone, then hopped off at my destination.

Meanwhile, over at the Economist's Gulliver blog, a reminder that it can be cheaper to take Eurostar to Paris and fly from DeGaulle than to fly out of London, and what an independent Scotland might do about this:

It is a complicated issue. Although British airlines hate APD, especially as tough competition from continental European carriers for transatlantic passengers means they find it hard to pass on the whole cost to customers, there is not much evidence that low airline taxes are correlated with broad economic success. My colleague has called for a rethink of the tax; I would like to see some more evidence of its impact before joining that campaign.

Nevertheless, Alex Salmond, Scotland's nationalist first minister, clearly thinks cutting APD is a winning issue. And Willie Walsh, the head of British Airways, seems to agree. He has warned that English travellers will simply drive across the border to avoid the tax if Scotland becomes independent. Perhaps the real question is whether Mr Salmond's campaign promise, and pressure from airlines and travellers, will force David Cameron's government to reconsider its own support for Britain's high air travel taxes. I wouldn't bank on it.

London transport: always an adventure. And still better than anything in the U.S.

Thursday 3 July 2014 15:04:26 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | London | Travel#
Tuesday 24 June 2014

Maryland dentist Edward Gramson got taken for a ride by British Airways:

When a North Bethesda, Maryland, dentist planned a trip to Portugal for a conference last September, he decided he'd quickly swing by Granada, Spain, to see the famed Alhambra and other historical sites.

But carrier British Airways had other ideas, and instead sent Edward Gamson and his partner to Grenada — with an E — in the Caribbean, by way of London, no less.

Gamson, who said he clearly told the British Airways agent over the phone Granada, Spain, didn't notice the mistake because his e-tickets did not contain the airport code or the duration of the trip. It was only 20 minutes after departure from a stopover in London that he looked at the in-flight map and asked the flight attendant, "Why are we headed west to go to Spain?"

I'm scratching my head over this one. I travel a lot, through Heathrow sometimes, on BA other times, and I'm just not sure how so many things could go wrong no matter how many letters are different. What about the flight schedule? Departure briefing from the pilot? Passport control? Size of the bloody plane? (You don't take an A320 to the Caribbean and you don't take a 747 to a regional Spanish airport.) This guy had at least 350,000 frequent-flier miles; how did he not notice any of these things?

Gramson has sued BA pro se for $34,000, which he estimates to be the losses from hotel and travel reservations. I can't wait to hear the disposiiton.

Tuesday 24 June 2014 13:03:36 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Geography | London | Travel#
Saturday 21 June 2014

The flight from New York to Chicago takes two hours in the air, and is on-time if it takes three hours from gate to gate. Yesterday my flight was not on time:

  • Late crew arrival: boarding starts at the scheduled departure time.
  • APU inoperative: mechanic inspection and sign off takes 40 minutes.
  • JFK on a Friday evening: 55 minutes from push-back to take-off.
  • ILS inoperative on one of O'Hare's runways: take a 10-minute holding loop over Michigan.
  • Landing runway 9L: spend 17 minutes taxiing to the gate.
  • Friday night at O'Hare: 35 minutes from gate arrival to bag delivery.
  • Friday night at O'Hare: taxi line takes 20 minutes.
  • Cabbie forgets the biggest traffic news in Chicago: miss two available exits because the Ohio ramp is closed.

Total time from leaving my hotel in New York to arriving at dinner an hour late: 8 hours, 28 minutes. (On average, my door-to-door time from New York is just over 5 hours.)

And none of it was American's fault, except for the bit about being one of 40 airlines to schedule a 5pm departure from Kennedy.

I chose the departure from JFK because, using miles, my options were limited, and spending 20 hours in my third-favorite city in the world seemed like a good end to the week. It wasn't until I tried to leave that random events started conspiring against me.

Still, it was a fun trip. I read four books entirely, got most of the way through one and started a sixth. And I had two new beers at Southampton Arms: Jones the Brewer's Abigail's Party Ale and a special pale whose name I forgot to write down, apparently.

Saturday 21 June 2014 17:30:42 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Kitchen Sink | London | Travel#
Thursday 19 June 2014

(I never get that last word, nor do I suspect Billy himself knows what it is.)

It's a beautiful day in northern France, just 20°C and partly cloudy, with 19 or so hours of sunlight. And yet I'm in the airport club at Charles de Gaulle staring at my plane just below. I didn't have as much opportunity to explore Lille as I'd hoped, either. Why? This:

A week into a nationwide train strike that has tangled traffic and stranded tourists, police fired tear gas Tuesday at protesting rail workers. Two polls suggest passengers have little sympathy for the train workers' lament. Even the labor-friendly Socialist government is breaking a long-held French taboo and is openly criticizing the striking unions.

The strike has caused some of the worst disruption to the country's rail network in years — and heated up as the reform bill went to the lower house of Parliament for debate Tuesday. The bill would unite the SNCF train operator with the RFF railway network, which would pave the way to opening up railways to competition.

You have to love the Daily Mail, talking about "paving the way" to competition with rail, without mentioning that trucking and aviation—both of which have more to do with paving—already compete heavily against it. Still, I worry that France is slipping into the privatization illness that the U.S. and U.K. have suffered since Reagan and Thatcher took power. Passenger railroads provide public benefits out of proportion to their direct economic costs; that's why governments need to prop them up.

For example, several hundred people got on the TGV with me at Lille and arrived at De Gaulle just 50 minutes later. This took hundreds of private cars off the highways, or dozens of buses, or even planeloads of people if you like.

Moving back down the ladder of abstraction, however, those hundreds of people had been scheduled to take any of the 10 trains cancelled this afternoon because of the strike (mine included). So, yes, I was on a train that crossed the French countryside faster than the Cessna 172s I usually fly could have done. But I was standing mid-carriage leaning on someone else's luggage while fatigued students sat in the aisle.

That is why I'm staring out the window watching planes land and writing in my blog instead of just getting off the TGV about now. But in a few hours, I'll be in my third-favorite city in the world, hunting down a greasy slice of pizza from a random deli in the east 30s.

Gare Flanders, Lille, France

Thursday 19 June 2014 08:18:16 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | World | Travel#
Wednesday 18 June 2014

My bag has arrived at Gatwick. This means, instead of sleeping in, getting a leisurely brunch, and hopping on the Eurostar at St. Pancras (just a few blocks away), instead I have to get up now, hop the Victoria line from St. Pancras to Victoria, spend £40 on a needless trip to Gatwick, then reverse the process back to St. Pancras. And brunch will be some kind of pastry and some tea on the run.

My friends assure me this is why they hate traveling. I don't think this has anything to do with traveling per se, simply because it hasn't happened to me in 30 years. I do think this has something to do with MCO.

Wednesday 18 June 2014 09:45:03 BST (UTC+01:00)  |  | Aviation | London | Travel#
Tuesday 17 June 2014

This time it's personal.

I am in London. My bag is still in Orlando. Why? Apparently, even with more than an hour to do so, the Orlando baggage handlers were unable to get my bag from an American Airlines airplane to a British Airways airplane.

Part of that could be related to the unbelievable sprawl of Orlando International Airport. It epitomizes everything I dislike about the state: it takes up a lot of room but has surprisingly poor usability. It's mostly mall, you see, with very small areas to wait for your flight.

I will never voluntarily go to Florida again. And they'd better put my bag on the next flight to London or I'll be really cross.

By the way, this is the first time a bag of mine has gone astray since the mid-1980s. Very few bags actually get lost or mishandled anymore. But the baggage desk at Gatwick admitted that Orlando is a particular problem for them, which reinforces my main point.

Now I get to spend part of my afternoon clothes-shopping instead of going to the Tate.

Tuesday 17 June 2014 14:43:08 BST (UTC+01:00)  |  | Aviation | US | Travel#
Monday 16 June 2014

I am here:

Actually, despite being content to read on most flights, and despite being without a full-time job until Monday, I actually have some work to do for my oldest surviving and most loyal client. If I'm lucky, Orlando has WiFi, and I can upload the changes I'm making right now. If not, I'll have to do it tomorrow night in London.

This will be an unusual trip for me. Because I didn't know for sure if I'd have this week off until just a few weeks ago, it was challenging to book this trip on miles. I wound up booking two one-way trips, with indirect routes and with the return trip originating in a different country than the outbound arrival city. So today I'm going to London's Gatwick airport via Orlando, then Wednesday I'm taking the Eurostar to Lille, France, Thursday on the TGV to Paris–De Gaulle thence New York's JFK, finally returning Friday, again through JFK.

This will be the first time I've traveled through Gatwick since 11 June 1992, my first visit ever to Europe. American no longer travels there, and British Airways doesn't fly many North American routes from there. In fact, my flight tonight will be on the rare 3-class 777—so rare that SeatGuru doesn't even have the right seating plan for it.

Other than this patch that my client needs this week, I plan to do nothing of value for the next three days except read and ingest. (Writing blog entries counts as "nothing of value.") Allons-y!

Monday 16 June 2014 16:59:55 EDT (UTC-04:00)  |  | Aviation | London | Travel | Work#
Thursday 12 June 2014

The SR-20 was the first GA airplane with a parachute. It means emergencies are a lot less likely to kill you, as an instructor and student pilot discovered yesterday:

Yesterday there was another dramatic save, near the very busy suburban airport Hanscom Field in the western suburbs of Boston. As you can see in a TV news report here (not embeddable) the plane for some reason had an engine failure; the woman who was serving as flight instructor calmly reported the situation to the tower, directed the plane during its powerless glide away from the very crowded Burlington shopping mall area and toward a marsh, then pulled the parachute handle, and landed safely with the male flight student. The news station video shows flight instructor and passenger both walking out from the plane.

The LiveATC capture of the air traffic control frequency conveys the drama of the event—and also the impressive calm of all involved. These include the flight instructor, starting with her first report that she is unable to make it back to the airport; the controller, who is juggling that plane's needs with the other normal flow of traffic into Hanscom field; and another pilot who is (it appears) from the same flight club and who immediately flies over to check the disabled plane's condition from above. 

Of course, this works a lot better for a 1,300 kg four-seater than, for example, a 250,000 kg 777...

(Note: yesterdays accident involved a Cirrus SR-22, which is a slightly more powerful version of the SR-20.)

Thursday 12 June 2014 14:30:40 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation#
Wednesday 11 June 2014

A whole list of interesting articles crossed my inbox overnight, but with only two days left in my job, I really haven't had time to read them all:

I can't wait to see what happens in the Virginia 7th this fall...

Wednesday 11 June 2014 09:48:40 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Chicago | Kitchen Sink | US | Travel#
Tuesday 13 May 2014

The FAA facility handing arrivals and departures for Chicago's two main airports shut down earlier today:

The FAA started issuing revised flight departure times to airlines Tuesday afternoon after an approximately two-hour “ground stop’’ halted all flights to and from Chicago’s two airports because of smoke in an air traffic radar facility serving northeastern Illinois, airline officials said.

The ground stop was ordered as FAA workers were evacuated from the radar facility and operations transferred to the FAA's Chicago Center in Aurora, which usually handles just high-altitude traffic.

The smoke was traced to a faulty ventilation motor and the workers were allowed back into the facility around 1 p.m.

No planes were imperiled by the outage. The Chicago Center facility has no trouble handling arrivals for an hour or two.

Tuesday 13 May 2014 15:00:47 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Chicago#
Monday 5 May 2014

...these:

More later.

Monday 5 May 2014 13:24:16 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Kitchen Sink | US | Religion#
Monday 7 April 2014

Via AVWeb, the FAA has announced a proposed rulemaking that would eliminate the 3rd class medical requirement for most small-plane pilots (like me):

The FAA on April 2 announced plans to go through a rulemaking process that could result in expanding the number of pilots eligible to fly without the need for a third-class medical certificate. The announcement comes two years after AOPA and the Experimental Aircraft Association jointly petitioned the FAA to expand the third-class medical exemption to cover more pilots and aircraft.

The rulemaking effort, which the FAA is calling the “Private Pilot Privileges without a Medical Certificate” project, will consider whether to allow private pilots to fly without a third-class medical certificate in certain circumstances. Instead, pilots will be able to use other criteria, including a valid driver’s license, to demonstrate their fitness to fly. The agency offered no other details of the planned rulemaking.

The FAA has announced plans to go through a rulemaking process that could result in thousands more pilots being allowed to fly without a third-class medical.Legislation to expand the medical exemption has been gaining momentum in both the House and Senate. That legislation, known as the General Aviation Pilot Protection Act, would go a step further than the AOPA-EAA petition. Under the General Aviation Pilot Protection Act, pilots who make noncommercial VFR flights in aircraft weighing up to 6,000 pounds with no more than six seats would be exempt from the third-class medical certification process. Pilots would be allowed to carry up to five passengers, fly at altitudes below 14,000 feet msl, and fly no faster than 250 knots. The FAA would be required to report on the safety consequences of the new rule after five years.

That would be great. I haven't had an aviation medical in a while, and it's one of three things keeping me from flying lately. (The other two are time and money.) The medical certification process never seemed particularly onerous, but it is expensive ($200 or so) and time consuming (find an AME, go to the AME, get the exam, go home). I hope the legislation and the rules both pass.

Monday 7 April 2014 08:42:12 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation#
Monday 24 March 2014

I'm now at Heathrow where I've got a really great perch overlooking the approach end of runway 9L. A JAL 777 has just floated down to the runway and a BA 747 is taxiing past the window. It's a little piece of aviation heaven in Terminal 5 as I wait for the 787 to Toronto.

As I mentioned earlier, however, my trip home tomorrow morning may end a little differently than usual because of this:

(Photo credit.)

Fortunately, no one was hurt. Unfortunately, the El still missed its flight. Never try to carry too much baggage up the stairs; use the elevator instead.

Boarding starts in a few minutes. Time to boogie. But I'll wait for this BA 777 to land. They're really amazingly graceful when they touch down.

Monday 24 March 2014 15:27:53 GMT (UTC+00:00)  |  | Aviation | Chicago | London | Travel#

Just checking the local news in Chicago a moment ago I see a weather forecast of -2°C and blowing snow for Tuesday, rain for the rest of the week, and a crash at the O'Hare subway station:

Thirty people were injured after a CTA Blue Line train derailed and hit a platform at O'Hare International Airport about 2:55 a.m. Monday.

The injuries are not life threatening, according to early reports from the scene to Chicago Police Department headquarters, Chicago Police Department News Affairs Officer Ron Gaines said.

It's not clear how fast the train was moving but it jumped a bumper at the end of the line and moved up an escalator, according to Chicago Fire Department Spokesman Larry Langford.

The CTA posted to its Twitter page that trains were stopped at O'Hare but running between the Logan Square and Rosemont stops.

Yeah, I'm in a hurry to get back.

Monday 24 March 2014 11:06:17 GMT (UTC+00:00)  |  | Aviation | Chicago | Travel | Weather#
Sunday 23 March 2014

It's 11pm on Sunday and everything is closed, so I'm taking a break from my break. My body still seems to think it's on Chicago time, which will help me rejoin American civilization on Tuesday, though at the moment it means my body thinks it's 6pm and wonders what it will do for the next three and a half hours or so.

I have accomplished what I set out to do this weekend. I visited the British Museum, the Southampton Arms, and another pub a friend recommended, The Phoenix. I've also finished Clean Coder, read Snow Crash cover to cover, and have gotten mostly through High Fidelity. The last book in the list connects Chicago and London—specifically, Camden and Gospel Oak, two neighborhoods I spent time in this weekend—more completely than any other book I can think of.

Tomorrow evening (morning? it's hard to tell) I'm flying out on a 787, about which I will certainly have something to write. I'm quite jazzed about it.

Now, back to Nick Hornby...

Sunday 23 March 2014 23:11:47 GMT (UTC+00:00)  |  | Aviation | Best Bars | London | Travel#
Saturday 22 March 2014

Thursday morning:

Thursday evening:

More photos tonight.

Saturday 22 March 2014 14:05:10 GMT (UTC+00:00)  |  | Aviation | Chicago | London | Travel#
Thursday 20 March 2014

I believe I made record time from my house to my final stopping point in the Ancestral Homeland. Most importantly: I got here before all the curry places closed.

More later.

Thursday 20 March 2014 23:54:52 GMT (UTC+00:00)  |  | Aviation | London | Travel#
Tuesday 4 March 2014

If I have time, I'll read these articles today:

Now, to work.

Tuesday 4 March 2014 08:31:47 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation | Chicago | Kitchen Sink | Cloud | Weather | Windows Azure#
Saturday 1 March 2014

Parker, 14 weeksI'm David Braverman, this is my blog, and Parker is my 7½-year-old mutt. I last updated this About... page in September 2011, more than 1,300 posts back, so it's time for a refresh.

The Daily Parker is about:

  • Parker, my dog, whom I adopted on 1 September 2006.
  • Politics. I'm a moderate-lefty by international standards, which makes me a radical left-winger in today's United States.
  • The weather. I've operated a weather website for more than 13 years. That site deals with raw data and objective observations. Many weather posts also touch politics, given the political implications of addressing climate change, though happily we no longer have to do so under a president beholden to the oil industry.
  • Chicago (the greatest city in North America), and sometimes London, San Francisco, and the rest of the world.
  • Photography. I took tens of thousands of photos as a kid, then drifted away from making art until early 2011 when I finally got the first digital camera I've ever had whose photos were as good as film. That got me reading more, practicing more, and throwing more photos on the blog. In my initial burst of enthusiasm I posted a photo every day. I've pulled back from that a bit—it takes about 30 minutes to prep and post one of those puppies—but I'm still shooting and still learning.

I also write a lot of software, and will occasionally post about technology as well. I work for 10th Magnitude, a startup software consultancy in Chicago, I've got more than 20 years experience writing the stuff, and I continue to own a micro-sized software company. (I have an online resume, if you're curious.) I see a lot of code, and since I often get called in to projects in crisis, I see a lot of bad code, some of which may appear here.

I strive to write about these and other things with fluency and concision. "Fast, good, cheap: pick two" applies to writing as much as to any other creative process (cf: software). I hope to find an appropriate balance between the three, as streams of consciousness and literacy have always struggled against each other since the first blog twenty years ago.

If you like what you see here, you'll probably also like Andrew Sullivan, James Fallows, Josh Marshall, and Bruce Schneier. Even if you don't like my politics, you probably agree that everyone ought to read Strunk and White, and you probably have an opinion about the Oxford comma—punctuation de rigeur in my opinion.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you continue to enjoy The Daily Parker.

Saturday 1 March 2014 14:27:44 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation | Baseball | Biking | Cubs | Geography | Kitchen Sink | London | Parker | Daily | Photography | Politics | US | World | Religion | Software | Blogs | Business | Cloud | Travel | Weather | Windows Azure | Work | Writing#
Wednesday 12 February 2014

So how do people at Maho Beach know when planes are landing? They check the surfboard:

And now my final Maho Beach photo for this trip, a US Airways A330 coming in from Charlotte:

We now return to your regularly-scheduled winter, already in progress...

Wednesday 12 February 2014 14:17:51 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation | Travel#
Tuesday 11 February 2014

First, to give you a better sense of what it actually looks like, here's a Delta 737 approaching SXM normally:

And here's a (gorgeous) Air France A340 landing normally:

And here's an American 757 landing two meters above people's heads:

Sorry about the image quality—I had a long lens on the camera, and it was set for a different kind of photo than this. We didn't realize how low he was until just a few seconds before this happened. The entire beach yelled "Whooooooaaaaa!" and then broke into applause.

I love a place where people appreciate a good landing.

Tuesday 11 February 2014 12:00:23 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation | Travel#
Friday 7 February 2014

This is why I love Sint Maarten:

Friday 7 February 2014 17:53:24 AST (UTC-04:00)  |  | Aviation | Geography | Travel#

According to FlightAware, KLM 785 is over the central Atlantic and will land in just under 2½ hours. I've already showered and eaten, so it's likely I'll have time to make the 15-minute walk along the beach to the Sunset Bar & Grill to see it come in. The weather is -19°C and windy—sorry, that's back in Chicago. The weather here is 27°C with a gentle breeze from the east, same as the last 48 hours. (It did get all the way down to 24°C last night. Brr.)

After the 747 lands, I'm not exactly sure what I'll do, but it will probably involve lots of walking. And photos. Maybe a book; who knows? It's irie, mon.

Friday 7 February 2014 10:28:08 AST (UTC-04:00)  |  | Aviation | Travel | Weather#
Thursday 6 February 2014

It turned out that I had an actual task today. Two, in fact. Both were pure stupidity on my part. And both completely scotched my goal of doing nothing worthwhile for four days.

First, I had promised something to my team at work before I left, but didn't realize until I checked email this morning that, well, the task was not completed. (Notice the subtle use of passive voice there.) So I had that task, which took half an hour.

Second, mentioned forgetting a few vital items in my luggage, so I had to buy them. And I paid a stupidity tax. The cost of one hat, two pairs of shorts, one pair of sandals (which I didn't already own and therefore had planned to buy here anyway), and one bottle of sunscreen was two hundred bloody dollars. In other words, I paid a 100% tax on bad packing.

So to compensate for having to do things today, after accomplishing both tasks I put on my new shorts, sunscreen, and sandals, then walked the 800 meters from my hotel to the opposite side of Maho Beach and watched planes land for three hours. I need to point out that along the way, I walked through the Caribbean Sea. My new shorts got seawater on them. I think this is exactly what they're for. Especially since the seawater was about the same temperature as the air (27°C), and unlike walking through Lake Michigan on any day except that one day in the beginning of September when everything lines up perfectly, it felt really good. (My feet are, in fact, still wet.)

I also met a few good people, had a few good drinks, and learned that the best airplane landing of the week occurs tomorrow around lunchtime when KLM flight 785 lands. It's a 747-400, the largest plane that flies here. If I have to stand out in the rain, I'm going to see this thing land.

Of course, this means I now have a plan. Even though I came to this island with the explicit goal of not accomplishing or planning anything, except maybe reading a book or two, I just can't help myself. The Dude is onto something...I just can't get there yet...

My plan is:

  • Tomorrow: sleep late, eat something, walk across Maho Beach, take photos of the 747 landing, walk back to my hotel, change my shoes, walk somewhere else (possibly Marigot or Phillipsburg), have some drinks.
  • Saturday: sleep late, walk somewhere (maybe even take a bus and then walk), read something, walk somewhere else, read some more, have some drinks.
  • Sunday: sleep late, shove things into my suitcase, walk somewhere, retrieve my suitcase, go to New York, have some drinks.

Understand that "have some drinks" is an ongoing activity. And the happy accident is that the room I got for cheap through Bookings.com includes free drinks.

Someday, and that day may never come, I will do nothing for an entire week. Meanwhile, this is the least I can do right now. Baby steps.

Thursday 6 February 2014 17:12:37 AST (UTC-04:00)  |  | Aviation | Geography | Kitchen Sink | Travel#
Tuesday 4 February 2014

If most of what Jason Harrington wrote in Politico last week is true, I'm disappointed to have my suspicions confirmed:

Each day I had to look into the eyes of passengers in niqabs and thawbs undergoing full-body pat-downs, having been guilty of nothing besides holding passports from the wrong nations. As the son of a German-American mother and an African-American father who was born in the Jim Crow South, I can pass for Middle Eastern, so the glares directed at me felt particularly accusatory. The thought nagged at me that I was enabling the same government-sanctioned bigotry my father had fought so hard to escape.

Most of us knew the directives were questionable, but orders were orders. And in practice, officers with common sense were able to cut corners on the most absurd rules, provided supervisors or managers weren’t looking.

[T]he only people who hated the body-scanners more than the public were TSA employees themselves. Many of my co-workers felt uncomfortable even standing next to the radiation-emitting machines we were forcing members of the public to stand inside. Several told me they submitted formal requests for dosimeters, to measure their exposure to radiation. The agency’s stance was that dosimeters were not necessary—the radiation doses from the machines were perfectly acceptable, they told us. We would just have to take their word for it. When concerned passengers—usually pregnant women—asked how much radiation the machines emitted and whether they were safe, we were instructed by our superiors to assure them everything was fine.

In one of his blog posts, Harrington points to "the neurotic, collectively 9/11-traumatized, pathological nature of American airport security" as the source of all this wasted effort and money.

I've always thought TSA screeners are doing the best they can with the ridiculous, contradictory orders they have. It's got to be at least as frustrating for them as it is for us. Harrington pretty much confirms that.

Tuesday 4 February 2014 09:23:43 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation | Security | Travel#
Wednesday 22 January 2014

Cranky Flier explains:

You might think that airlines hate when they have to bump people, but that’s not really true. They hate when they have to involuntarily bump people.

These are bad. If the airlines can’t get enough people to volunteer to take a later flight, they are forced to bump people against their will. Naturally, that means that there are going to be some angry people who don’t get on that airplane.

[T]he penalties for involuntarily bumping someone have gone up a lot.

Not only can the penalty now be 4 times the value of the ticket, but the cap has been raised to over $1,000 (and rising). With the potential cost going up, airlines have had to get more conservative on how much they overbook.

He lays out some more details about how airlines work it out.

Wednesday 22 January 2014 12:09:06 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation#
Monday 23 December 2013

Back in October, Chicago O'Hare International Airport opened its fourth east-west runway and promptly switched most operations to east-west from the diagonal pattern they'd used before. Chicago Tribune transportation writer Jon Hilkevich, a private pilot, explains the implications:

Today taxi times to the gate are generally longer than they were several months ago because of a longer route that takes arrivals an extra mile or more around the airfield. The purpose is to have the planes taxi behind other planes waiting to take off so as to reduce the possibility of collisions, airline and FAA air traffic officials said. The taxiing time and distance vary, based on the runway and the gate involved.

Any time saved in the air can be canceled out by the additional time spent on the ground.

"It is a longer taxi route, designed to keep you from taxiing across active runways," said Halli Mulei, a Chicago-based first officer who has flown for United Airlines for 17 years. "But we are flying a shorter final (approach) into O'Hare, saving fuel and about 10 minutes."

From the Oct. 17 opening through Dec. 11, O'Hare has been able to accommodate 112 or more landings per hour on average on 68 percent of the days, according to the FAA. That compares to a rate of 112 or more arrivals per hour only 20 percent of days in November 2012, FAA data show.

The airlines, in other words, love this new configuration, because fuel use while airborne is quite a lot more than fuel use on the ground. Of course, if there are stiff crosswinds, it's a different story:

During winter, when winds often howl out of the north, wet or icy runways are another condition pilots confront.

"The combination of an icy runway and high wind gusts is where we can have a problem," said Mulei, the United first officer and also a spokeswoman for the United chapter of the Air Line Pilots Association. "If braking action is poor, my crosswind limit on a Boeing 767 could go down to 17 knots" from a norm of up to a 40-knot crosswind on a dry runway, she said.

Monday 23 December 2013 09:09:47 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation | Chicago#
Monday 9 December 2013

American Airlines and US Airways are now legally one company:

While we’ve legally combined as one company, we'll continue to function as two separate airlines for quite some time, and very few changes will happen immediately. This is especially important throughout the busy holiday travel season, as our first priority will be delivering a smooth operation for customers of both airlines. There is no impact to any existing travel reservations you may have with American Airlines or US Airways at this time, and any mileage balance or elite status you have earned in either frequent flyer program are completely safe.

Throughout the process, we’ll continue to provide you updates on benefits we plan to begin rolling out in early January, such as the ability to earn and redeem miles on both carriers and reciprocal lounge access. In early 2014, you’ll also enjoy easy access to our combined premier global network through our codeshare agreement with US Airways, which will offer a convenient travel journey when booking, checking-in or connecting on flights between our two airlines.

Cranky Flier has some advice for the new company:

Be American With a Healthy Dose of US Airways
The management team comes from US Airways but they need to quickly get into the mindset that they are now running one of the great global airlines. I really don’t think this is an issue – there has been plenty of time to plan for this and President Scott Kirby is already talking the talk – but it can’t hurt to repeat it. At the same time, don’t lose a lot of the forward-thinking that made US Airways so successful.

Do Tech Right
I’ll end with one last note. We saw it with US Airways/America West and it’s been a bigger nightmare with United/Continental. Don’t rush the tech transition, especially the reservation system combination. Just make sure it’s done well. Take all the time you need. Just don’t mess it up.

American is now the largest airline in the world, with 6,700 daily flights to 330 destinations.

Monday 9 December 2013 10:23:19 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation#
Friday 6 December 2013

Wow, do I hate eastbound overnight flights.

Wednesday I felt totally fine. I got up normally, went through a normal day, and felt pleased with myself for conquering jet lag. After picking up Parker, I went to Duke of Perth for a nice cheeseburger (I never eat American food while abroad if I can help it), had an Old Chub, and got home by 9:30.

At this point, my body decided that since it was only noon (in Korea), there was no crashing need to go to bed. So it kept me up for another seven hours. I finally drifted off to sleep around 4:30.

Yesterday, therefore, was a disaster. Last night I slept from 9:30 or so until 7 this morning, and right now I want to crawl back into bed for about three days. Also, I feel chilly, which I hope has to do with the weather (it's -8°C outside) and not with some pathogen trying to get a beachhead in my respiratory system.

Note to self: no more short trips to Asia. Or, at the very least, plan to return during the long weekend, not leave for the long weekend.

Once again, American flight 90 looks like the best thing on their schedule. Next time I go overseas I'm doing that, and avoiding the overnight.

Friday 6 December 2013 10:58:06 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation | Travel#
Tuesday 3 December 2013

Oh, so this is the world's greatest airport. All right, I can go to aviation heaven now, and shop on the way.

Don't get me wrong: less than 10 minutes after I checked in, I was through security and immigration. Kind of like at O'Hare the day I left, it turns out, but Incheon extends that efficiency to everyone, not just those of us who have gotten our Pre-Check clearances.

And I do appreciate the "best shopping chance" advertised on the train, in the check-in area, on the escalators, and in the loo. Yes, because who doesn't like buying luxury goods while waiting for a flight?

And I'm totally down with thinking DFW and O'Hare are not the best airports in the world. In fact, I'll go so far as to put DFW in a category that includes Atlanta, JFK, Newark, and Dulles. If you've flown to any of those five airports you know what I'm talking about.

Maybe I'm just tired and feeling negative about things. Maybe I should remember that I'm about to go a third the way around the world in half a day, taking a trip that 50 years ago required stops in Alaska and Japan and took three days.

So, I've got about 15 hours before I land in Dallas, and with a little help from some frisky yeast I expect to sleep for at least 5 of them. I've got this month's Atlantic, the Economist's "World in 2014" survey (both on paper), and a full Kindle* that includes Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries and today's entire New York Times. Plus I'm still about 8 episodes behind on This American Life.

I'm still processing Seoul. I have a couple of conclusions, which I'll hazard here even though they make me look uncultured. First, after trying a lot of it, I don't like Korean food. I don't know why. I like Japanese food; I like a lot of Chinese food; Thai; Indian—Indian!—and lots of others. Bulgolgi is OK, and so is galbi, I guess. But I just didn't fall in love with Korean street food. And they have crap sushi, I'm sorry to report.

Second, there's something exciting and new about young East Asian cities like Seoul. I can feel the determination, the drive, the shabu shabu. But it's not my thing. I mean, London is my favorite place to be in the world, and I really loved Tokyo, so it's not like I'm all about rocking a hammock for a week or anything. But Seoul doesn't know how to chill. Even their relaxation is intense, like it's work. It's not a good fit.

It's not you, Seoul; it's me.

Like I said, I'm still processing. I may not come to any considered conclusions for a while. Just the same, I feel no need ever to come back to Seoul.

* I have an Asus tablet running Android, not a proper Kindle, but Amazon decided that they're about the content and not the device and made a pretty good Android reader.

Tuesday 3 December 2013 16:20:10 KST (UTC+09:00)  |  | Aviation | Geography | Travel#
Friday 29 November 2013

Two years ago this week, I used a bunch of miles and hotel points to go to Tokyo, and had a great time. That was the week that American Airlines—whose frequent-flyer program had gotten me to Japan—filed for bankruptcy protection. Also that week, journalist James Fallows wrote a blog post about to the ban on using small electronic devices on takeoff and landing.

Well, on my flight to Korea Wednesday, I could use small electronic devices, because the FAA rescinded the ban last month. And right before the flight took off, the U.S. bankruptcy court approved American's merger with US Airways, clearing the way for the airline to exit bankruptcy protection soon. The airlines will consummate their merger on December 9th.

I post this in case you wanted an update about my post from two years ago today. (The post was about American's reassurances to us frequent fliers that, yes, our miles were safe. Yup, they were.)

This is why I blog.

And now that the first glimmer of daylight has appeared, I will now shower and look for coffee. Last night I made it almost until 9pm, and I woke up around 4:30am, so I'm almost adjusted to the +15/-9 hour difference. Almost.

Saturday 30 November 2013 06:39:17 KST (UTC+09:00)  |  | Aviation | Travel#
Search
On this page....
Super-nerdy new-phone moment
The throughput is not to the swift
United Uber Chicago?
American vs. Orbitz: Who's going to win?
Plugged back in
American drops first class from long-haul routes
In the bag
Fog and water show
Matthew Yglesias trolls the IANA Time Zone list
Anti-walking architecture
Meetings, meetings, meetings
MH17 wasn't doing anything wrong
In other news...
Malaysian 777 shot down over Ukraine
Only marginally better than a shipping container
Pro tip: business travel
Unintentionally amphibious airframes
Transport in and out of London
Another reason to take Eurostar
Kennedy Airport on a Friday evening: never again
Me revoici dans se bar enfumé avec mes yeux tirés
Really pissed at Orlando's baggage handlers
Another reason to hate Florida
This never gets old
Why the Cirrus SR-20 has changed general aviation
Send to Kindle...
Smoke at low-altitude radar facility in Illinois
You might also have seen...
The end of 3rd-class medical certificates?
Minor delays on the El this morning
Can't wait to get home
Week ending in London
Modern travel in two photographs
Smooth sailing flying
Morning link round-up
About this blog (v 4.2)
Two last photos from Maho Beach
More planes landing at SXM
It hung in the sky much the way bricks don't
Long-range planning for the day
Taking a break from nothing
Confessions of a TSA agent
How does overbooking flights work to the airline's benefit?
O'Hare runway 10C/28C
American Airlines Holdings, LLC
Worst travel recovery ever
That was the trip that was
Following up on my last Asia trip
Countdowns
The Daily Parker +3228d 21h 42m
To London 30d 00h 37m
Parker's 9th birthday 272d 15h 32m
My next birthday 353d 19h 37m
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David Braverman and Parker
David Braverman is a software developer in Chicago, and the creator of Weather Now. Parker is the most adorable dog on the planet, 80% of the time.
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The Daily Parker by David Braverman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License, excluding photographs, which may not be republished unless otherwise noted.
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