Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
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Tuesday 25 March 2014

I got home with no difficulty and bypassed the dead El train at O'Hare through the simple expedient of taking a taxi.

I'm catching up on work right now, so further comments will issue later. It also turns out, apparently, that a virus had made a beachhead in my nose, so I will have to fight that off before my wit and verve returns.

In totally unrelated news, today is the 30th anniversary of the fictional Breakfast Club.

Tuesday 25 March 2014 15:54:48 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Kitchen Sink | London | Travel#
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)  | Comments [0] | Aviation | Chicago | London | Travel#
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)  | Comments [0] | Aviation | Best Bars | London | Travel#

I debated this question with someone at a dinner a couple weeks ago. She suggested higher megapixel numbers told you more about the ego of the camera buyer than about the quality of the images.

I said it depends on how you're using the photos, but generally, more data yields more useful photos.

Here's an illustration, using a vaguely-recognizable landmark that I happened to pass earlier this weekend, and just happened to have photographed with three different cameras.

Sunday 23 March 2014 22:49:16 GMT (UTC+00:00)  | Comments [0] | Geography | London | Photography#
Saturday 22 March 2014

Thursday morning:

Thursday evening:

More photos tonight.

Saturday 22 March 2014 14:05:10 GMT (UTC+00:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation | Chicago | London | Travel#

I had planned to post some photos tonight showing the evolution of digital cameras, using a local landmark, but there's a snag. The CF card reader I brought along isn't showing up on my computer, even though the computer acknowledges that something is attached through a USB port.

As I'm visiting one of the most sophisticated and technological cities in the world, I have no doubt I can fix this tomorrow. Still, it's always irritating when technology that worked a few days ago simply stops working.

For those doubting my troubleshooting skills, I have confirmed that the CF card has all the photos I shot today; that the computer can see the CF card reader; and that the computer can connect effectively to other USB attachments. The problem is therefore either in the OS or in the card reader, and I'm inclined to suspect the card reader.

Saturday 22 March 2014 02:58:25 GMT (UTC+00:00)  | Comments [0] | London | Software#
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)  | Comments [0] | Aviation | London | Travel#
Sunday 9 March 2014

When we got a few centimeters of snow on December 29th, no one expected it would still be on the ground after we changed the clocks in March. Yet there it is, officially 50 mm for the last 24 hours.

The 11am temperature at O'Hare was -0.6°C, and the forecast calls for the temperature to pop up to 7°C this afternoon and then stay above freezing until Tuesday night—possibly even getting up to 14°C tomorrow afternoon. If the little snow we've still got can survive that onslaught, then I will be impressed.

And the best part about this forecast? I won't write anything more about how many consecutive days of snow we've had. You're welcome.

Snow-cover reports come out every six hours. (The next report is due at 1pm.) I'll post as soon as the ground is officially snow-free.

Just one more moan: It's 18°C and sunny in London. But I won't be there for almost two more weeks.

Update: At 1pm the official snow depth was still 50 mm, but the temperature was up to 2°C. I'll check back in six hours.

Sunday 9 March 2014 11:30:16 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | London | Weather#
Saturday 8 March 2014

Someone forwarded me a year-old short story by Neil Gaiman the Guardian published last spring. It begins:

The Thames is a filthy beast: it winds through London like a snake, or a sea serpent. All the rivers flow into it, the Fleet and the Tyburn and the Neckinger, carrying all the filth and scum and waste, the bodies of cats and dogs and the bones of sheep and pigs down into the brown water of the Thames, which carries them east into the estuary and from there into the North Sea and oblivion.

It is raining in London. The rain washes the dirt into the gutters, and it swells streams into rivers, rivers into powerful things. The rain is a noisy thing, splashing and pattering and rattling the rooftops. If it is clean water as it falls from the skies it only needs to touch London to become dirt, to stir dust and make it mud.

Read the rest here.

Saturday 8 March 2014 14:14:14 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | London | Writing#
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)  | Comments [0] | 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 18 December 2013

Shortly after my last trip to London I blogged that UK Prime Minister David Cameron's crowing about Britain's economic recovery entirely missed the point of how awfully and slowly that recovery was going. This morning Krugman freshens the evidence:

A couple of weeks ago I tried to get at what’s wrong with the latest tactic of the austerians in terms of a classic Three Stooges scene. Curly is seen banging his head against the wall; when Moe asks why, he replies, “Because it feels so good when I stop.”

As Simon Wren-Lewis tries to explain, this is exactly the basis of the Cameron government’s triumphalism now that UK GDP is growing again.

The basic fact of UK economic performance since the financial crisis is that it has been terrible — in fact, as the NIESR documents, GDP performance has been substantially worse than during the Great Depression.

It's tragic, really. The only question going into the May 2015 elections will be: do Britons understand how much better off they could have been?

Wednesday 18 December 2013 11:52:29 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | London | World#
Tuesday 17 December 2013

From The Atlantic Cities blog:

Over the past decade, 1,300 London pubs have emptied their cellars and wiped down their tables for the last time. It's not just obscure, unloved bars that are dying. This winter, two well-known historic pubs, both open for over a century apiece, will likely be turned into private housing. One is the Old White Bear, a red-brick building hidden away in village-like Hampstead, a former spa town swallowed up by Victorian London. The other, just down the hill, is The Star, an inn dating back to the 1820s with a wood-lined interior (featured in this 1980s pop video) that makes drinking there feel rather like sitting inside a whiskey-soaked violin.

Under the British system, the pub "landlord" (in British pub terminology, this actually means a manager that rents a premises, rather than an owner) must buy their booze from the company they rent the pub from. With no competition, the prices they pay are generally inflated, meaning that even if landlords trim their profit margins, beer still comes out pricier than it otherwise needs to be. While pub companies turn a profit, individual landlords are pushed to the wall. The pub companies then sell off under-performing premises, even though pubs wouldn't actually be unsustainable if landlords got a better deal.

There's a silver lining, and not just from pubs like Southampton Arms: The City of London has taken steps to preserve some landmark pubs.

Tuesday 17 December 2013 13:47:17 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Kitchen Sink | London#
Wednesday 11 December 2013

The Atlantic Cities blog sounds the alarm about London's bike share program:

While the system recorded 726,893 journeys in November 2012, last month there were only 514,146. To cap these poor user figures, today Transport for London announced that the scheme's major sponsor, Barclays Bank, will pull out of its sponsorship deal in 2015. Given the bad publicity the system has received recently, it may be hard to find a replacement sponsor without some major changes.

None of this would matter much if London’s scheme was entirely self-sustaining. But while Paris's bike-share scheme actually makes money for the city, London's 4,000 bikes cost local taxpayers an average of £1,400 per bike per year. As the Daily Mail points out, this would be enough to buy each of the scheme's 38,000 registered users a £290 bike. Barclays has thus found its sponsorship deal a mixed publicity blessing – though the bank itself may be part of the problem. The £50 million it promised was never going to be enough, and the amount it has actually handed over so far suggests their ultimate contribution could be at little as half that.

So, Toronto and London are having problems; Chicago and Paris are booming. This is turning into a fascinating natural experiment.

Wednesday 11 December 2013 12:50:17 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | Biking | Chicago | Geography | London#
Wednesday 30 October 2013

This rocks:

The so-called "Starpath" is a type of solar-enhanced liquid and aggregate made by Pro-Teq Surfacing, a company headquartered southwest of London near the awesomely titled town of Staines-upon-Thames. It's in the prototype phase, with a test path running 460 feet in a Cambridge park called Christ's Pieces. (The British and their delightful names!) The material works by absorbing UV rays during the day and later releasing them as topaz light. In a weird feature, it can somehow adjust its brightness levels similar to the screen of an iPhone; the path gets dimmer on pitch-black nights "almost like it has a mind of its own," says Pro-Teq's owner, Hamish Scott.

Pro-Teq is hoping that governments will embrace its self-aware, supernatural-looking pathway for its energy-saving elements and the ease in which it goes down. The installation is fairly quick (the Cambridge job took about 4 hours), and because it's a resurfacing technique doesn't involve the burdensome disassembly and disposal of existing pathways. "The main bulk of the U.K. path network is tarmac, where perhaps it's coming toward the end of its useful life," says Pro-Teq pitchman Neil Blackmore in the below video. "We can rejuvenate it with our system, creating not only a practical but a decorative finish that's certainly with the Starpath also very, very unique."

From the company's press release:

This product has recently been sprayed onto the existing pathway that runs through Christ’s Pieces open space, Cambridge between the city centre and the Grafton Centre, and is used by pedestrians and cyclists during the day and night.

The Cambridge pathway measures 150 square metres, took only 30 minutes to spray the material on, and the surface was ready for use less than four hours after the job commenced. This short installation time allowed minimal disruption to the public.

Bike hike to Cambridge, anyone?

Wednesday 30 October 2013 11:36:03 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Biking | London | Cool links#
Tuesday 8 October 2013

I've held off posting this one from my walk through Hampstead Heath last month because it needed a little Photoshopping. Today at lunch one of my colleagues let me use her laptop for five minutes. Voilà:

I'll have to round up some of the HDR sequences I've shot over the past couple of years...this is fun.

Tuesday 8 October 2013 13:29:57 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | London | Photography#
Thursday 19 September 2013

The question just came up in an email exchange with a friend's friend's sister: what are my favorite pubs in the world?

After a couple minutes' thought, I got here:

1. Duke of Perth, Chicago. Obviously; it has been my remote office off and on for over 20 years.

2. Southampton Arms, London. If I ever live in the UK, this may switch places with the Duke. It's just hard to say a place is my favorite when it's 6,000 kilometers away and I only go there twice a year.

3. Tommy Nevin's, Evanston, Ill., my former remote office.

4. Nag's Head, Hoboken, N.J. Another that used to be my remote office—but in the days before Wi-Fi and ubiquitous laptops. I still visit if I have time while I'm in New York.

5. Guthrie's Tavern, Chicago. Since the Duke of Perth is halfway between my house and Guthrie's, I don't get there as often as I used to. But it's worth the trip.

Some honorable mentions:

  • Bucktown Pub, Chicago. I'm starting to warm to the place, especially after many trivia nights there. Unfortunately, I don't live in Bucktown.
  • Peddler's Daughter, Nashua, N.H. (A former temporary remote office.)
  • The Bridge, Amberley, England. A real, live English country pub.
  • Kennedy's, San Francisco. By day, on its patio, it's wonderful. At night, it gets a little too loud and crowded, and there are too many TVs. Still, I almost always stop in when I'm out there.
  • Tigin, Stamford, Conn. My then-girlfriend lived right around the corner.

And some that are no more, and missed: Abbey Tavern, New York, where I hung out weekly from 1997 to 2000; closed in 2006. And The King's Head, Earls Court, London—which was really great before the new owners turned it into a trendy gastro-pub.

I'm always looking for suggestions.

Thursday 19 September 2013 17:12:41 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Chicago | Kitchen Sink | London | San Francisco#
Wednesday 18 September 2013

I live for this kind of thing:

What did Shakespeare’s English sound like to Shakespeare? To his audience? And how can we know such a thing as the phonetic character of the language spoken 400 years ago? These questions and more are addressed in the video above, which profiles a very popular experiment at London’s Globe Theatre, the 1994 reconstruction of Shakespeare’s theatrical home. As linguist David Crystal explains, the theater’s purpose has always been to recapture as much as possible the original look and feel of a Shakespearean production—costuming, music, movement, etc. But until recently, the Globe felt that attempting a play in the original pronunciation would alienate audiences. The opposite proved to be true, and people clamored for more. Above, Crystal and his son, actor Ben Crystal, demonstrate to us what certain Shakespearean passages would have sounded like to their first audiences, and in so doing draw out some subtle wordplay that gets lost on modern tongues.

[D]espite the strangeness of the accent, the language can sometimes feel more immediate, more universal, and more of the moment, even, than the sometimes stilted, pretentious ways of reading Shakespeare in the accent of a modern London stage actor or BBC news anchor.

Next trip to London, I want to catch an OP production at The Globe.

Wednesday 18 September 2013 11:44:49 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Kitchen Sink | London#
Thursday 5 September 2013

Remember the Google Street View Tardis Easter egg I mentioned? It's real:

That's right in front of the Earl's Court Tube stop this past Sunday.

Apparently the Doctor has installed a CCTV camera on his roof...hmm...

Thursday 5 September 2013 16:39:21 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Kitchen Sink | London#

I'm a big fan of the Ed and Dave show, also known as Prime Minister's Questions, which C-SPAN airs live when the House of Commons is in session. Today's game included a series of set pieces in which Conservative MPs had batting practice with the PM who hit a bunch of pop-ups that any competent infielder should have caught.*

Unfortunately, Ed Milliband leads the Labour Party right now, and—continuing the metaphor into extra innings—his side of the house play like Cubs.

Here's a typical exchange:

Christopher Pincher (Tamworth) (Con):
Since we last met there has been a spate of good economic news, both in Tamworth and around the country. Unemployment is down and the economy is growing. Manufacturing is up, exports are up and construction is up. Is it not time for those who still propose it to stop messing around, give it up and abandon plan B?

The Prime Minister:
My hon. Friend makes an important point. We have had welcome news over the summer: exports are up 5.8% on a year ago, business confidence is at its highest level since January 2008, consumer confidence is up and all the figures on construction, manufacturing and services are going in the right direction. We must not be complacent—these are early days—but it is because of the tough decisions that this Government took that we can now see progress.

We ought to remember that Labour Members told us that unemployment would go up, but it has come down, and that the economy would go backwards, but it has gone forwards. It is time for them to explain that they were wrong and we were right.

OK, since the Labour Party couldn't explain why the Conservatives were wrong, let me try. It's great that the UK's economy has improved in the last six years, but it could have grown faster without the Tory Party's emphasis on cutting the deficit. A lot faster. In fact, Tory policies probably delayed the recovery by 18 months to two years.

My larger point is this: neither side got it right. But to quite literally sit there and take it seems like bad politics. Especially since we got this exchange right at the end of Questions:

John Mann (Bassetlaw) (Lab):
Is it not the case that real wages have fallen by nearly £1,500 a year since the right hon. Gentleman became Prime Minister?

The Prime Minister:
Of course we live in tough times because of the incredible mess we have had to clear up from the Opposition. I have to say that the Opposition complaining about the economy and living standards is like the arsonist complaining to the fire brigade. It is this Government who are turning the economy around, and that is the way we will get living standards up.

Shit and fried eggs, you've got half a million more people in work since 2010, but they're all earning less money? And the Labour MPs have no response? (At least two other Labour back-benchers got in some facts about the profiteering of free—i.e., charter—schools and the £3.3 bn in energy company profits coinciding with an average £300 per-household increase in energy costs. I've indirectly experienced those high energy costs, too.)

Also towards the end, an old reactionary Tory hawk, Dr. Julian Lewis, trashed the Tories' coalition partners, causing nearly all of them to walk out of the House during the session. Oh, not by himself; I think most of them left when Cameron suggested that the Conservatives would rule alone after the next election that the Lib-Dems had had enough.

Oy. At least we've got nearly two years before the next election, giving the Tories a lot more time to screw people. I hope the Labour Party figures out how to win some matches before May 2015.

* Can I use a baseball metaphor when discussing the UK? Of course I can.

Wednesday 4 September 2013 20:33:13 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | London | Politics#
Tuesday 3 September 2013

I didn't intend to go dark for the last 48 hours, but it turns out none of my devices (laptop, tablet, phone) could connect with the WiFi hub where I've been staying.

Not that I tried any more than the most basic troubleshooting (reset laptop WiFi, reboot router, change router channel). I've been in Edinburgh, with only one full day to explore the city, and struggling with my computer for half an hour seemed like a bad way to spend it.

I've also not shaved since Sunday morning because of Scottish energy prices. Let me explain.

The friend who lent me her spare room last night, and also who generously spent her day touring the city with me, lives in a really cute house just a few minutes outside central Edinburgh. She has a hot-water tank and a boiler, but also, for reasons she has given up trying to work out, an electric shower. The landlord put the electric shower in probably for the same reason people in the US put in granite countertops: because that's what everyone else does. And as she told me, "after looking for a place to live for eight weeks I didn't feel I needed to check the plumbing before signing up."

This friend lived in Chicago for a while, so when she uses relative expressions to compare the two countries, she isn't exaggerating. She told me that heating up an entire tank of hot water costs quite a lot of money. Further, it only goes to the kitchen and W/C taps along with the radiators. So in the summer, she leaves the hot water heater off, since outside the shower (which has an electric heater) she has no compelling need for hot tap water.

You can see where this is going.

It turns out, I don't have an electric shaver; I use shaving cream and a razor. Though my host and I didn't discuss her shaving habits, I infer that she has no difficulty shaving in the shower without a mirror. So, no hot water in the taps, and no mirror in the shower, and at the moment I've got a Don Johnson thing going on, only without the hair, looks, or white jacket.

It's these little differences between the US and UK that keep me coming back.

Tuesday 3 September 2013 13:19:08 BST (UTC+01:00)  | Comments [1] | Kitchen Sink | London | Travel#
Sunday 1 September 2013

I've spent the day all over London (oh, so that's Brixton), and I've just got a few minutes to check email and finish this morning's post about the Southampton Arms in Gospel Oak.

This is England:

That is a Curious Pale Ale and a packet of cheese and onions crisps. Later I had an ELB Pale Ale (not as good as the Curious) and a Mosaic Pale Ale, which was better than the first two.

Already present in the pub were a group of visually-impaired people and their guide dogs (3 dogs in all). This is Keira:

Keira decided I had good hands and kept wandering over for a scritch—a fact that her owner would obviously not notice until I returned her or he needed to go to the loo. By the time they all left, Vickie (a Parker-sized black Lab) and Malone (the yellow Lab behind Keira, above) were coming over to me sometimes two at a time, tails wagging. I know that it's impolite to pat working guide dogs, but I think there's a loophole when the dogs are on break at a pub, right?

Then this happened:

That's a pub crawl. They were on Pub #3, and left within half an hour, hoping to get to pub #8 before last orders. There were about eight of them. This guy, Paul, explained that they'd come up with the idea on their pub crawl last month, but they actually made the costumes while sober. Mostly sober.

If I ever move to London, I'm renting the apartment above this pub.

Sunday 1 September 2013 18:27:26 BST (UTC+01:00)  | Comments [0] | Kitchen Sink | London | Travel#

One was able to make do yesterday. Here, for example, is the dreariness on Hampstead Heath:

Also, yesterday I was able to prove conclusively that there is no Airbus A320 hovering over Russell Square:

After suffering through all this non-English weather, I wound up once again at the Southampton Arms:

I will have more to say about it in my next post. (It's getting on to noon and I have to check out of the hotel, so I don't exactly know when that will be.) Suffice it to say that a new show came through about every two hours, and I still managed to finish my book. I could not have spent the day better.

Sunday 1 September 2013 11:11:29 BST (UTC+01:00)  | Comments [0] | London | Travel#
Saturday 31 August 2013

As London continues to suffer with perfect weather this weekend, I'm taking a moment to get in from the cool sunny breezes and small cumulus clouds obscuring almost 10% of the sky. Yesterday the temperature soared to an unimaginable 24°C, causing Londoners to seek solace by standing outside pubs in groups drinking lagers. Today things have cooled off to more realistic levels (19°C right now), but the sun continues to make Londoners miserable and wait the restoration of normal weather.

Anyway, I've been meaning to post this map, which shows the U.S. population by race—one dot per person. Here's Chicago:

The yellow area south and west of the Loop are mostly African-Americans; you can see the abrupt change where the Austin neighborhood meets Oak Park on the west side. White people are blue dots, so purple-ish areas are well-integrated, while bluer areas are not.

Other parts of the country have different stories. Play with the map and take a look.

Saturday 31 August 2013 12:21:04 BST (UTC+01:00)  | Comments [0] | Geography | London | US#
Friday 30 August 2013

Actually, that's not true. I don't even have one bear. *rimshot*

I've arrived at Heathrow, taking advantage of another benefit from using frequent-flyer miles: the arrivals lounge. Shower, breakfast, tea, checking email. Also my second experience in two days of a government adequately staffing their immigration and customs checkpoints to get us through in just a few minutes. Thank you Canada, thank you UK.

All right: now to London.

Friday 30 August 2013 10:44:07 BST (UTC+01:00)  | Comments [0] | London | Travel#
Monday 26 August 2013

Google Maps now shows a familiar-looking blue box parked in front of the Earls Court tube stop. And you can go inside...

Cool.

Monday 26 August 2013 13:36:01 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Kitchen Sink | London#
Tuesday 6 August 2013

I can scarcely imagine how much a team of Thames Water maintenance workers enjoyed removing this:

Last week, officials at Thames Water removed a 15-tonne lump of lard from a trunk line sewer beneath the London suburb of Kingston. It was the fattest fatberg ever recovered from the London sewers, and by extension, probably the largest subterranean grease clump in U.K. history.

"A fatberg," says Simon Evans, media relations manager at Thames Water, "is a vile, festering, steaming collection of fat and wet wipes." Fatberg creation is a vicious cycle, according to Evans, who coined the term. "Fat clings to wipes, wipes cling to the fat," he explains. "They are the catalysts in this horrible fatberg game."

And—you know you want to watch this—Thames Water released video of the thing:

So remember, folks, don't flush your bacon grease or your wet-wipes. Or condoms, but that's another story entirely.

Also, this is probably the first literal use of the "Kitchen Sink" category in Daily Parker history.

Tuesday 6 August 2013 12:47:42 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [2] | Kitchen Sink | London#
Friday 12 July 2013

First, a Boeing 787 caught fire at Heathrow this afternoon; fortunately, no one was aboard:

Video footage showed the plane surrounded by foam used to quell the flames. The airport said in a statement that it was an on-board internal fire, but didn’t offer more details. It said the plane was empty, parked in a remote area and there were no reported injuries. All flights in and out were temporarily suspended Friday afternoon -- a standard procedure if fire crews are called out.

Ethiopian Airlines said smoke was detected coming from the aircraft after it had been parked at Heathrow for more than eight hours.

You can bet that Chicago-based Boeing will watch this story very, very carefully. Their shares dropped 7% on the news, for one thing.

In other unfortunate aviation news, the San Francisco Police have confirmed that one of the two victims of the Asiana 214 crash got run over by a fire truck, but they don't know yet whether she was alive when this happened:

Medical examiners will not release autopsy results for “at least two or three weeks,” San Mateo County Coroner Robert Foucrault told NBC Bay Area on Sunday. Coroner’s officials are working to determine how 16-year-old Ye Mengtuan died.

Police officials confirmed that the girl was hit by the truck in the chaos that followed the deadly crash, which also killed her classmate and travel companion, identified by the airline as 16-year-old Wang Linjia.

The girl was blanketed in white foam emergency crews sprayed to douse the flames billowing out of the Boeing 777, police said. She was discovered in the tire track of the fire truck, police spokesman Albie Esparza told NBC News.

Not a good week for aviation.

Friday 12 July 2013 14:08:34 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation | Chicago | London | San Francisco#
Thursday 20 June 2013

I don't know why I started thinking about full English breakfasts just now. I think I last had one 3½ years ago:

Wow, I need to get back to London...

Thursday 20 June 2013 16:17:28 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Kitchen Sink | London | Travel#
Tuesday 18 June 2013

Last night I poked around aa.com, musing about taking a pair of trips this fall. Two, because during the fall and early winter, airfares and hotels are cheaper than the rest of the year, at least in the places I like to go.

My original thought was to buy a trip to London and use miles for a second trip somewhere else, on the theory that with 8 daily non-stops between Chicago and London, fares would be lower than to somewhere that has only one daily flight. No, not so much.

Some strange airfares and a perverse incentive follow.

Tuesday 18 June 2013 17:44:35 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Aviation | Chicago | London | Travel#
Friday 24 May 2013

While looking up a map of the Tottenham Court Road area of London just now, I saw...something:

Do you see it, just north of the British Museum in the northern corner of Russell Square? Look closely, or click for a full-size capture:

Looks like an A320, doesn't it? Can't tell whose. I just hope that it's as high up as I think it is.

Friday 24 May 2013 13:44:21 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [2] | Aviation | Geography | London#
Wednesday 15 May 2013

Via Kottke, a few fascinating minutes color footage of London shot in 1927:

Want more 1920s UK footage? Voilà.

Wednesday 15 May 2013 10:50:04 CDT (UTC-05:00)  | Comments [0] | Geography | London#
Sunday 9 December 2012

This morning, Transport for London opened a new branch of the London Overground, creating a circular line connecting many of London's less-affluent neighborhoods in a giant circle:

Until recently, substantial parts of London (notably the South and East) had limited subway access, relying instead on poorly integrated, less reliable commuter rail lines run by national train companies. Some of these worked okay and some were terrible – the notoriously unreliable one near where I grew up used to be called the Cinderella Line, presumably because while you were waiting eternally for some grand carriage to arrive, all you saw on the line were mice.

The Overground has taken these old lines and knitted them together with newly constructed underground trackways and new stations (mainly in the under-served South and East). A number of these stations also have subway connections, so this once separate network is now a fully integrated extension to the subway rather than a shoddy, second-tier alternative.

The Overground’s rolling stock is also a huge improvement. While London’s subway trains are constrained by narrow tunnels, the Overground’s single carriage trains are wider and higher, with space for bikes outside rush hour and air conditioning.

(The new London Overground, as of today.)

Sunday 9 December 2012 09:21:52 CST (UTC-06:00)  | Comments [0] | London | Travel#
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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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