Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
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Tuesday 2 June 2015

I'm in a remote area with slow Internet for the next couple of days. You will see photos, and descriptions, and probably Yelp reviews coming up...but for today and probably a lot of tomorrow, less so. (Click on the globe icon below for some insight.)

It turned out, visiting Venice for only one day worked exactly right. More on that, too, as time warrants.

Tuesday 2 June 2015 23:55:32 CEST (UTC+02:00)  |  | Geography | Travel#

I'm in a remote area with slow Internet for the next couple of days. You will see photos, and descriptions, and probably Yelp reviews coming up...but for today and probably a lot of tomorrow, less so. (Click on the globe icon below for some insight.)

It turned out, visiting Venice for only one day worked exactly right. More on that, too, as time warrants.

Tuesday 2 June 2015 23:55:17 CEST (UTC+02:00)  |  | Geography | Travel#
Sunday 31 May 2015

The Southampton Arms remains my favorite pub in London, but The Blackbird comes in a close second:

I wound up having breakfast and dinner there yesterday, followed up with drinks at a suburban-feeling club down the block. (Maybe not suburban; more like bridge-and-tunnel.)

Now I'm at Gatwick waiting for my next flight to phase II of this trip: Venice. So far the flight is only delayed 40 minutes. And I may have figured out the Lightroom problem, or at least found a workaround. More on all of this later tonight or tomorrow.

Sunday 31 May 2015 17:55:20 BST (UTC+01:00)  |  | Geography | London | Travel#
Friday 29 May 2015

Traveling today, so no postings until much later. Possibly tomorrow.

Photos too. I did a field-test of my Surface, and everything worked, once I re-installed Lightroom. I hope I don't have to do that again.

Friday 29 May 2015 07:52:46 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Travel#
Thursday 28 May 2015

You know, it sucks to be Greece right now, and Germany is really screwing itself by not negotiating with them. But as an American tourist about to visit the continent, this is a nice thing to see (particularly after the bump earlier in the month):

This doesn't completely suck, either (I'm stopping in London on the way):

Thursday 28 May 2015 15:55:23 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Geography | London | World | Travel#
Monday 25 May 2015

With the Inner Drive Technology World Headquarters move only 21 days from now, this was bound to happen:

Also in the next three weeks is a big vacation. So, you know, no stress...

Monday 25 May 2015 08:35:52 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Travel#
Tuesday 19 May 2015

Via Citylab, the clearest explanation yet for why subways have delays, courtesy NYMTA:

Tuesday 19 May 2015 13:20:05 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Geography | Travel#
Tuesday 19 May 2015 13:13:16 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | London | US | World | Travel#
Wednesday 29 April 2015

A massive effort to rebuild the hundred-year-old El tracks between Howard and Lawrence moved forward this week with the CTA's announcement that work will start in 2017:

Construction will be divided into two segments: The first is expected to keep the Lawrence and Berwyn stations closed for about 18 months; the second will involve closing the Berwyn, Argyle and Lawrence stations and restricting the Bryn Mawr station to southbound boarding only for 18 months to two years.

The station redesigns are expected to include new elevators; wider platforms to reduce boarding times; larger canopies to guard against the elements; and more benches. New bridges won't require pillars in the median, which should provide better sightlines for drivers, [CTA spokeswoman Tammy] Chase said.

This project will complement the ongoing UP-North improvements Metra has been working on since 2013.

This interests me even more than it used to because IDTWHQ is moving to the affected area in just under seven weeks.

Wednesday 29 April 2015 10:12:16 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | US | Travel#
Tuesday 28 April 2015

I had my office door open most of the day and people kept walking in and speaking before I could acknowledge them. Hilarity ensued. Then I closed my office door and people who had appointments to talk to me simply walked away without knocking.

While that fun was happening, I didn't read any of these:

Off to more meetings.

Tuesday 28 April 2015 14:45:07 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US | Travel | Work#
Thursday 26 February 2015

CityLab's Eric Jaffe takes a good look:

Let's acknowledge, right from the start, that there's a lot to like about Chicago's long-awaited, much-anticipated Central Loop BRT project, which is scheduled to break ground in March. The basic skeleton is an accomplishment in its own right: nearly two miles of exclusive rapid bus lanes through one of the most traffic-choked cities in the United States. The Central Loop BRT will serve six bus routes, protect new bike lanes, connect to city rail service, and reduce travel times for about half all people moving through the corridor on wheels. Half.

Officially, CTA says the Ashland plans are proceeding at pace. The agency is considering public feedback gathered during community meetings in 2013 and working through the "higher-than-anticipated number of comments," as part of the standard procedure for a federal environmental analysis. Meantime, CTA continues to pursue funding for the project's next design. Spokesman Steele says it's "too soon to tell" what a timeline for the corridor will be.

BRT solves the problem of getting people around quickly without building new rail lines. Chicago's geography makes BRT development a lot easier than it would be in other cities as well. It would be cool if, a year from now, I'm whizzing to the Loop in 20 minutes by bus, instead of my current 40.

Thursday 26 February 2015 12:18:01 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Geography | US | Travel#
Tuesday 17 February 2015
Tuesday 17 February 2015 12:17:23 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Photography | Travel#
Monday 16 February 2015

I've finally pulled my photos off my real camera, but as I have actual work to do for my employer, it'll take a couple of days to publish some of them. This one, though, this one I'll publish today:

This guy chased me around a park in Słubice. This may be a life-size image, too. Once I crouched down to take his photo, he got a little freaked out, and bounced around for a while before his owner called him back.

That was the most hostile reaction I got from any living thing in Poland or Germany last week.

Monday 16 February 2015 10:07:24 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Travel#
Sunday 15 February 2015

Since last report, I've spent time at two bars known for their craft beer selection. Even though I've seriously reduced my beer intake for a variety of reasons (especially its effect on my Fitbit numbers), spending a couple of days away from home let me feel a certain license in my consumption.

Friday night, therefore, I found Kaschk, a Swedish-owned pub on the fringes of the Mitte district in the former East Berlin. Within a few moments of entering I knew I'd come to the right place:

Old Rasputin on draft? And what's this Brewfist Spaceman pale—Italian?

After a 90-minute conversation with the manager, Rab (yes, Rab: he's Scots), I actually accepted that somewhere in Italy someone knows how to make small-batch craft beer.

Then, last night, back to Southampton Arms, we had a rare (for Saturday night) sighting of Fred the Bar Bitch:

And as Southampton Arms is a true pub, the evening wound up with me and a very cool couple (Chris and Jess) closing the place down before I hit the Night Bus back to my hotel. After that began a disappointing and ultimately futile search for kebab. No matter; it was a great evening, with a limited number of very tasty beers, including Redemption Big Chief Ale.

And now I'm back at Heathrow, with a 20-minute walk to my gate commencing in just a moment. Then Chicago, then routine. And less beer.

Sunday 15 February 2015 15:45:17 GMT (UTC+00:00)  |  | Best Bars | London | Travel#
Saturday 14 February 2015

Berlin's Tegel airport is supposed to close at some point, so I shouldn't be too surprised at some of the, ah, artifacts in the place. For example, in the A terminal, the security checkpoints only control pairs of gates, so once you're through you're totally stuck with whatever concessions are inside that gate pair. In my case this means €9,60 (about $12.50) for a ham sandwich and a latte. (Come to think of it, that's about what it would cost at Starbucks...)

This is apparently a feature, not a bug:

"It's super convenient," says Winnie Heun, a Berlin-based cinematographer and Tegel fan flying to Kiev to film a commercial.

"Because of the round design, you can drop off at the gate and from there it's 30 meters to check-in. And right behind the check-in, is security. It's super fast."

This is true. I just wish I'd known that before getting stuck 10 gates away from the lounge.

The other thing is that while they do have free wi-fi (an unbelievable rarity in Germany), it's kind of slow. I mean, modem slow. But at least I can read a couple of emails before boarding.

Waaah, waaah, waaah.

My airplane is here, boarding starts soon, and in less than three hours I'll be in the Tube. Berlin was worth the trip; maybe I'd stay another day or two to see some of the museums I missed.

Saturday 14 February 2015 13:07:29 CET (UTC+01:00)  |  | Travel#
Friday 13 February 2015

Another big walking day in sunny weather took me up to Bernauerstraße and the Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer (Berlin Wall Memorial):

That's a mostly-preserved but partially-reconstructed section of the wall at the corner of Bernauerstraße and Ackerstraße, near the site where the first person trying to flee over the wall was killed. It's hard to imagine that the place I'm sitting now was once in East Berlin, just a few hundred meters from the place by the Wall where Reagan gave his famous speech in 1987.

I ended the walk at the DDR Museum, which outlined what life in East Germany was like from 1945 to 1990. In between I walked down Big Hamburger Street Große Hamburger Straße, in the old Jewish quarter, and stopped to check email (and have some non-German beer) at Sophie'n eck:

This is just a few meters from the monument to all of Berlin's Jews killed during the Holocaust. More grim history.

It's also fairly close to Museum Island which—wait for it—is an island on which sits nothing but museums (and the occasional cathedral). Here's the view looking downstream from the northern tip of Museums-Insell:

Upstream a bit is the Berlin Dom, which is not a BDSM maneuver but is still big, intimidating, and German:

Note that all of these photos are from my mobile phone. I have a few hundred on my real camera, but they're inaccessible right now because I forgot the proper cable. I aim to have some of those photos up by Wednesday or Thursday.

Tomorrow I'm off to my second-favorite city in the world, where I have set aside time and calories to park at Southampton Arms for a couple of hours.

Tonight, though: I've got another 6,000 steps to go. I missed 20,000 yesterday by just a handful, but I have over 100,000 for the week, putting me almost up to 80 km. (I've yet to hit 15 km in a day. Maybe tomorrow?)

Friday 13 February 2015 20:22:45 CET (UTC+01:00)  |  | London | Photography | World | Travel#

Nobody, I think, visits Germany for the food (or the UK, for that matter), but when in Berlin, one does as...a tourist to Berlin. And that is why I got suckered in by this guy:

And ordered this:

That is (literally) a hot mess of grilled pork and chicken (though which bits no one can say) in a cream-of-mushroom sauce with some fried potato bits on the side. You think yesterday had surplus calories? I am actually shocked that Germany isn't as fat as the US, on average. Fortunately, I walked another 14.5 km today—er, yesterday—and plan to walk at least 20 km today. (Once I wake up, of course.)

Also, their website promised:

Wir haben Leberkäse, Lammstelzen, „Kasspatz’n“ und weitere Spezialitäten, für die unsere Küche geschätzt wird. Alles wird in Handarbeit hergestellt und frisch zubereitet. Hier können Sie bayerische Küche genießen und sich dabei wie Gott in Frankreich fühlen.

Which I believe means, "We have meatloaf, lamb stilts, 'Kasspatz'n' and other specialties for which our kitchen is appreciated. Everything is handmade and fresh. Here you can enjoy Bavarian cuisine and feel like God in France." (Google might have influenced this belief. Though why one would want to feel like a God in France is a little beyond my understanding of German cuisine.)

I get back to Chicago on Sunday, and I think from Monday morning until I can't take it any more, I'm going to eat nothing but raw spinach, carrots, and maybe a slice of cheese.

Friday 13 February 2015 03:28:47 CET (UTC+01:00)  |  | Travel#
Thursday 12 February 2015

For just a few euro and an hour each way by train, I visited my 24th country this afternoon. Here is the heavily-guarded border between Frankfurt an der Oder, Germany and Słubice, Poland:

Seriously, though, if I hadn't had a phone with a GPS and cached Google Maps I would not have known exactly where the border was. It's not marked; there's just a two-lane bridge with sidewalks. The border is about 100 m from the German bank of the Oder, with no indication that you've entered Poland until the roundabout on the other side.

The trip started at the newish (1998) Berlin Hauptbahnhof:

And on the way there, I passed through the center of German government, including past the Reichstagsgebäude:

Despite spending a whopping €3,60 on a Bockwurst mit Brot und Bier at the Frankfurt (Oder) train station (ugh), I'm going to find some real food in a bit—food that involves walking some more. Later tonight I'll report on some seriously good Fitbit numbers.

* The question came up after posting this: which countries? So here they are, in order of my first visit, excluding the United States: Canada, the U.K., France, Switzerland, Germany†, the Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal, Spain, Ireland, Italy, Sint Maarten/Saint-Martin‡, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates, India, Japan, China, Finland, Estonia, Russia, Korea (ROK), Korea (DPRK), Norway, and today, Poland.

† I'm old, but not that old: I first visited Germany in 1992, which was close to reunification, but sufficiently after the even that no one thought of it as "West" Germany anymore. And I'm writing this from a hotel firmly inside East Berlin as it existed when I was planning my first trip to Europe in the 1980s.

‡ I'm counting the island as one country, even though it's a territory inside two other countries. I feel this is an appropriate compromise, since neither the Netherlands nor France recognizes their bit of St. Martin Island as an independent nation. So: Both Sint Maarten (Netherlands Antilles) and Saint-Martin (French Overseas Collective) are, on this list, counted as one country.

Thursday 12 February 2015 18:53:45 CET (UTC+01:00)  |  | Travel#
Wednesday 11 February 2015

Fitbit says I've gotten 10.4 km in so far today, over to the Brandenburg Gate, through the Holocaust Memorial, down to Mehringplatz, then up Friedrichstraße past Checkpoint Charlie and back to Unter den Linden.

I might have some more walking in me yet. One bonus (at least on that front) is that my hotel room is not only one of the furthest from the hotel entrance, but it's up one flight of stairs and down another to get there. Nice room, though, with windows that actually open, which is unusual these days.

As it's just noon in Chicago, and possibly due to the walking, I'm a bit hungry, so I'm off to find some Schnitzel. Photos later.

Wednesday 11 February 2015 19:04:02 CET (UTC+01:00)  |  | Travel#
Thursday 5 February 2015

Getting out of a snowy parking space is tough. Getting into one can be tougher. Boy, do I like my car's all-wheel drive and manual transmission:

I'm actually far enough from the car behind mine that, should he manage to dig himself out fore and aft, he'd have no trouble getting out.

And, wow, has this weather been hell on my Fitbit numbers.

Thursday 5 February 2015 11:41:38 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Travel | Weather#
Monday 2 February 2015

Chicago officially got 450 mm of snow yesterday; here's Lincoln Park this morning:

Fortunately, my car is parked on a stretch of street that acts as a wind tunnel during typical Chicago blizzards, so I'll actually be able to move it today:

The car has all-wheel drive and the "winter package," and handles beautifully in snow. Unlike this poor Beetle just a few meters away:

In other news, Punxsatawney Phil saw his shadow, which means mostly that there is a very irritated rodent in central Pennsylvania.

Monday 2 February 2015 09:51:10 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Travel | Weather#
Thursday 29 January 2015

I may have time to read these over the weekend. Possibly.

In other news, J's Lincoln Park will close Sunday night, the owner having sold his lease to Bank of America. So our dog-friendly Euchre nights will have to move uptown a bit. I'm happy for the owner, but kind of sad that one of the last dog-friendly bars in my neighborhood is closing.

Back to creating a separate code repository for contractors...and other things...

Thursday 29 January 2015 11:57:16 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation | Best Bars | Kitchen Sink | US | World | Travel#
Friday 23 January 2015

In other news, American Airlines took delivery of its first Boeing 787-8 yesterday:

The airplane, N800AN, is scheduled to leave Paine Field at 10 a.m. and arrive at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport at 4:21 p.m.. It’ll be parked at an American hangar there.

“Once the plane arrives, the Tech Ops team at our DWH maintenance base at DFW will begin the acceptance process and prepare the airplane for flight training and other readiness activities, including putting the final touches on the interior and getting it ready for prime time,” American told employees in its weekly “Arrivals” newsletter.

American has 42 Boeing 787s on firm order, with options for another 58. The original October 2008 order called for all 42 to be the larger Boeing 787-9 version. However, the order was later modified to covert some into the smaller 787-8 version, and Friday’s arrival is a 787-8.

I am very much looking forward to flying in one. I flew in a British Airways 787-8 back in March; I hope that American packs in slightly fewer people in Coach, or that I get upgraded.

Friday 23 January 2015 11:03:52 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation | Travel#
Thursday 22 January 2015

The Economist has a new Big Mac Index out today, reflecting the gyrations in currency exchange rates that will (I hope) make my trip to Berlin next month a lot less expensive:

The Economist whipped up the Big Mac index in 1986 as a bun-loving way of explaining currencies’ relative values. It is based on the theory of purchasing-power parity, which posits that over the long run, currencies should adjust so that a basket of identical goods costs the same everywhere. We fill our basket with just one item: the Big Mac, which is made to the same recipe in almost all countries (India’s Maharaja Mac, a chicken sandwich, is an exception). Buying a Big Mac in Denmark, for example, costs $5.38 at market exchange rates compared with $4.79 in America, so our index suggests the Danish krone is 12% overvalued (see chart). No wonder Denmark’s central bank cut rates this week.

On average, Americans abroad get more burger for their buck than they did last summer. Relatively beefy growth in America has helped to fatten the greenback. Elsewhere, however, central bankers are still trying to add sauce to their economies, in part by encouraging their currencies to fall. In Japan, for instance, a belt-busting bond-buying scheme has caused the yen to waste away. The expectation that the European Central Bank would serve up a hearty dose of QE seems to have prompted Switzerland’s stomach-turning scrapping of the franc’s peg to the euro. Last week a Swiss Big Mac cost $6.38, but now it gobbles up $7.54.

Yes, they really super-sized the food and burger puns this year...

Thursday 22 January 2015 12:38:11 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Business | Travel#
Wednesday 21 January 2015

Today is the last day the CTA will run 1970s-era trains from the 2400 Series:

With their traverse-style seating, return to sliding doors and bicentennial trim, Chicago Transit Authority’s 2400-series rail cars proved popular with riders when they first debuted in 1976. CTA also got more than their money’s worth from the 200 cars they ordered from Boeing-Vertol, as they were only phased out of use once CTA began adding the Bombardier 5000-series rail cars to its fleet.

Over the next four decades the 2400-series cars provided thousands upon thousands of rides and arguably as many “hobo corner surprises” while the last of the cars were eventually pulled from the Orange and Brown lines. To commemorate their service, CTA is saying C-YA to the 2400 series cars with a fanfare-studded “final ride” Wednesday, Jan. 21. A train of eight 2400-series cars will roll along the tracks in the Loop, on the Brown Line, the North Side Red Line and South Side Green Line, to and from the Ashland/63rd Street station. The cars will be decorated in their original bicentennial detail, follow their original routes and contain interior map and advertising cards from the period when they first launched. CTA also plans on having shuttle bus service to pick up riders to board the trains in the Loop at Washington and Wells.

This doesn't mean a lot outside the city, but for we who take the El often, it's a good thing. The 40-year-old cars will not be missed by the average commuter.

Wednesday 21 January 2015 12:12:36 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Travel#
Monday 19 January 2015

If you're a frequent flier in the U.S., test your knowledge of terminal layouts. I got 10.

Monday 19 January 2015 11:46:57 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Travel#
Sunday 18 January 2015

Tuesday:

Friday:

This morning:

Home in just a couple of hours.

Sunday 18 January 2015 18:33:07 EST (UTC-05:00)  |  | Travel#
Tuesday 13 January 2015

One more quick note: despite the cold and rain (and traffic), three of us had dinner last night at The Oval Room in the District. Fantastic. We all would recommend it.

After dinner we walked two blocks to my friend Barry's house:

We didn't knock on the door, but one of my colleagues swears someone waved to her from the North Portico.

Tuesday 13 January 2015 13:23:47 EST (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | US | Travel | Work#

I had nothing to do with this:

It was a commuter’s worst nightmare: a Metro train abruptly stops, goes dark and fills with smoke in a tunnel in downtown Washington. Before it was over, one woman was killed and more than 80 passengers were suffering from respiratory problems and other health issues.

[A]uthorities now believe they know why the train, which had just left the L’Enfant Plaza station, came to a halt about 800 feet into the tunnel. The National Transportation Safety Board said “an electrical arcing event” occurred about 1,100 feet in front of the train. The event filled the tunnel with smoke, the NTSB said.

The agency said the arcing involved cables that power the third rail. Arcing is often connected with short circuits and may generate smoke. There did not appear to have been a fire.

Train service has been mostly restored, except for Yellow and Blue line service to L'Enfant Plaza.

Tuesday 13 January 2015 11:00:21 EST (UTC-05:00)  |  | Travel#

Yesterday I only logged 4,447 steps for 22.4 kg, my least-active day ever since getting a Fitbit on October 23rd. It's galling, too, because at this writing I have 994,008 lifetime steps—which would have gone over 1 million yesterday had circumstances been different.

Today I should hit that mark, if only because I'll have to navigate to and from the DC Metro, around Reagan and O'Hare, and...huh. No, it's not a sure thing.

At least it's not raining in either DC or Chicago today. That will help.

But wow, less than 4,500 steps? This is why I don't like the suburbs.

Tuesday 13 January 2015 07:56:39 EST (UTC-05:00)  |  | Travel | Work#
Monday 12 January 2015

Even if it weren't rainy and getting dark outside, this isn't the most appealing view I've ever had from a hotel window:

At least I've managed to convince some of my team to head into the District for dinner tonight.

Monday 12 January 2015 17:11:48 EST (UTC-05:00)  |  | Travel | Work#

Back in July, I turned off the motion sensor on a hotel thermostat so that it would cease cycling the A/C and waking me up whenever I stopped moving (which one does when one falls asleep).

Now I'm at a Hilton Garden Inn outside Washington and the thermostat may have a motion sensor, but it's not clear. It has an all-or-nothing understanding of how to heat or cool a room, and it's paired with a very loud HVAC unit.

Fitbit says I got more than 6 hours of sleep last night because the Fitbit device doesn't sense when something wakes you up and you lie still, silently curse mechanical engineers everywhere, without actually moving your arm. (It did log 15 "restless" incidents spaced at regular intervals, however.)

Must...get...caffeine...

Monday 12 January 2015 07:21:33 EST (UTC-05:00)  |  | Travel | Work#

One of the consequences of being willing to jump on an airplane to take care of a client matter is, of course, one gets sent places to take care of client matters. And this is how I find myself, not yet a full week into my new job, in Northern Virginia.

At least it's above freezing here, so I got my Fitbit goals for the day. Plus, it looks like I'll hit 1 million lifetime steps either tomorrow or Tuesday—"lifetime" counted from when I joined Fitbit in October. So that's kind of cool.

Also, I once again have to say how much I like flying in American's new 737-800 planes.

Sunday 11 January 2015 22:26:41 EST (UTC-05:00)  |  | Travel | Work#
Saturday 3 January 2015

Simple: Go down to Amundsen-Scott Station and walk around the pole.

But if you don't want to cheat, get a very fast airplane:

Jeremy Newton is an Air Force veteran who flew F-18s, but, when contacted by e-mail, suggested the F-22 for a variety of reasons. First, it can fly at 1.5 Mach (about 1,000 mph) without using its afterburner, meaning it burns much less fuel. It tops out at 2 Mach, though that burns more fuel. Second, it can refuel in 10 minutes -- in mid-air while traveling at 400 mph. And third, as the video shows, it can go from full speed to full stop in under four minutes, and to top speed at 30,000 feet in under 5 minutes.

If you don't have access to military hardware, you can still probably hit the four time zones in the United States in that Gulfstream, although you'd be touching down in less exciting locales. (Unless you love the Upper Plains, in which case: go for it.)

The maximum number of time zones you can hit by plane depends on the plane, of course, and on how much you're willing to push it. It seems as though the Gulfstream could get you from GMT+11 to Greenwich Mean Time -- on one tank of gas. The Raptor can do a little better, from GMT+12 to GMT-1, as on the map below.

This is, of course, silly. But it's close to a plan I have on my bucket list: on the June solstice, see the sun rise over Passamaquoddy Bay near Lubec, Maine, and see it set over the Pacific Ocean near the Makah Indian Reservation in Washington. I'd bet you can even do that taking commercial flights.

Saturday 3 January 2015 12:55:05 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Travel | Astronomy#
Friday 26 December 2014

The brilliant Central Coast morning that produced the photo I posted earlier gave me a hell of a view climbing out of SFO an hour ago:

Home in four hours...

Friday 26 December 2014 13:18:22 PST (UTC-08:00)  |  | Aviation | Travel#
Tuesday 23 December 2014

You may have noticed that the photos I've posted lately have unusual aspect ratios and sizes. This is because I have been lazy.

Usually, I upload photos from my camera or phone to my laptop, process them with Adobe Lightroom, and crop them to a pleasing 2:3 aspect ratio. Lately, though, I've just shot them through Google Hangouts from my phone. I have little understanding of Google's choices but they seem to be around the byte count and not around the dimensions.

Here, for example, is a shot of O'Hare Terminal 3 from this morning:

Google did that one at 1236 x 695, at 249 kB. The original is much larger (4 MB), but the same aspect ratio.

I may re-edit the photos later, after landing.

Update: here's the same photo after going through Lightroom:

Tuesday 23 December 2014 11:26:08 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Photography | Software | Travel#
Monday 22 December 2014

My vacation officially began at 12:20 this afternoon when I turned in my laptop and badge to West Monroe. I have exactly one day of vacation more than required to burn down PTO until the end of the year, plus I have some final Christmas shopping to do, so I have returned to my old remote office for a moment:

In reality, I'm not going to do nothing on my vacation. Someday I'll have two weeks off with pay and no responsibilities, but starting a job as CTO isn't like starting other jobs. I'm already working with my staff and CEO to start 2015 at full throttle. At least with the holidays, and going out to see the nephews, and a 2½-day week leading up to New Year's Eve, I can warm up behind the pace car before gunning it on the 5th.

I'm still formulating my 2015 resolutions. That said, the forecast out by the P's this week lets me state one goal out loud: 25,000 Fitbit steps Wednesday or Thursday. And a ton of food.

Monday 22 December 2014 14:55:14 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Best Bars | San Francisco | Travel | Work#
Thursday 18 December 2014

The trouble with holiday parties on Wednesday is that you have to function on Thursday. So, to spare my brain from having to do anything other than the work-related things its already got to do, here are things I will read later:

All for now.

Thursday 18 December 2014 12:36:35 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation | Chicago | US | World | Business | Travel | Weather#
Thursday 11 December 2014

Since the client on the Paris thing for some reason declined to spend $9,000 per person for us to fly business class, I decided to take American 90 to London and then take Eurostar under the Channel. The strategy worked; I got sleep on a real bed Sunday night, and was coherent and lucid Monday afternoon at the job site.

This time, I put a clock on the train. Here's what my phone GPS showed about 30 minutes outside London:

The screen shot above (click for full size) shows that about here the train was moving 281 km/h, which is how it gets from London to Paris with two stops in under two and a half hours. Flying from London City to Orly would take about that long, and I'd still have had to take the RER up to the job site. At one point I clocked it at 297 km/h, which is still not the fastest train in France. SNCF's TGV-320 goes—wait for it—320 km/h. (Then there's the Shanghai Maglev...)

This is why I love Europe.

Thursday 11 December 2014 17:05:46 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | London | Travel | Work#
Wednesday 10 December 2014

Because I stayed in the Airport Sheraton, had only carry-on bags, and got my boarding pass last night, I got on my flight home less than half an hour after leaving my hotel room this morning. Then, at O'Hare, because of the aforementioned lack of checked baggage, a New York-style walking speed, and Global Entry, I got from the airplane to my car in exactly half an hour. Parker was in the car half an hour after that.

Compare that to the trip out, when I left my house at 7, the plane finally left the gate at 10:30, and—oh, right, it only took me 55 minutes to get from the airplane to my hotel in London, including the ridiculously long walk from Terminal 3 to the Heathrow Express and flagging down a taxi at Paddington.

Anyway, dog and man are home, I've completed my deliverable for tomorrow, and I will now get a nap before Euchre Club meets at 7:30.

Wednesday 10 December 2014 16:51:40 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation | Geography | London | Travel | Work#

I had a pretty good blog entry to post a couple of hours ago, and I forgot it totally. This is because I was wrestling a virtual machine to the ground because it had gone somewhere HTTP requests could not follow. I'd have posted about that nonsense, too, except the VM hosts The Daily Parker, you see.

I am therefore reduced to a link round-up, though this time I will embed, rather than link to, two of the things that people have sent me in the past day and a half:

  • I had an excellent dinner tonight.
  • Science writer Michael Hanlon thinks innovation peaked in 1973. I disagree, but I haven't got a rebuttal yet.
  • People in L.A. suspect that arsonists burned down one of the most anti-urban development projects ever thrust upon Americans.
  • My flight Sunday got delayed in part because of de-icing. Patrick Smith explains why this happens.
  • Chicago steak houses are suffering because the price of wholesale beef has shot up in recent days. I feel for them, I really do, but I also want to have a Morton's steak before year's end. Anyone want to join me?
  • Talking Points Memo has a timeline of the New Republic's self-immolation. I still mourn.
  • I got some personal news today that will make Daily Parker headlines when it's officially announced next week.
  • I'm staying up until 3am CET (8pm Chicago time) because I don't want to fall asleep at Euchre tomorrow. Just remember: the left bower is trump, you idiot.
  • A propos of nothing, I'm posting one of the best speeches by one of the worst characters in all Shakespeare:
    There is a tide in the affairs of men.
    Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
    Omitted, all the voyage of their life
    Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
    On such a full sea are we now afloat,
    And we must take the current when it serves,
    Or lose our ventures.

You have been patient, and have earned your reward. Here are your two videos, hat tip to reader MG:

And this, but you have to skip ahead to 37m 53s to get the point:

Wednesday 10 December 2014 02:10:14 CET (UTC+01:00)  |  | Geography | Kitchen Sink | London | World | Travel | Work#
Tuesday 9 December 2014

It's 7:35, and pitch black outside. When people talk about permanent daylight saving time, because they don't want to switch clocks twice a year, they should consider that France is an hour ahead of the "correct" time zone for its longitude and therefore has sunrises at 8:30 in the morning this time of year.

If there were daylight right now, I'd upload a photo of all the airplanes taxiing past my hotel window. It's kind of cool. Tomorrow, when I can sleep in.

Tuesday 9 December 2014 07:37:50 CET (UTC+01:00)  |  | Travel | Astronomy | Work#
Sunday 7 December 2014

Business travel sometimes presents contradictions. Here are mine today:

  • Good news: I got assigned to do a technical diligence in Paris.
  • Bad news: We'll be at the airport for two days, with only one opportunity to see the city.
  • Good news: Hey, it's an all-expense-paid trip to Europe.
  • Bad news: In coach, which is really grim on an overnight flight such as one from Chicago to Paris.
  • Good news: There's a 9am flight to London and the Eurostar to get me to Paris the next morning.
  • Bad news: I have to get up at 6:30am on a Sunday.
  • Good news: There's no traffic on the Kennedy at this hour on Sunday morning, so I got from my house to the airport and through security in only 30 minutes.
  • Bad news: It's still Sunday, and I'm missing two full days for travel.

On balance, it's worth the trip. But yes, I'm going to be grumpy about some aspects of it.

Updates as the situation warrants.

Sunday 7 December 2014 07:56:35 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation | Chicago | London | Travel | Work#
Thursday 4 December 2014

Well, little time today. Since I'll be on an airplane for 8 hours on Sunday, I will probably have time to catch up on these:

Thursday 4 December 2014 10:32:49 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation | US | World | Software | Travel | Windows Azure | Work#
Wednesday 3 December 2014

We finished our business here in Baton Rouge last night, so I'm already chilling at the airport waiting for my (delayed) flight to Dallas. Had I taken the flight I booked originally, I'd get to our final Messiah rehearsal late, or missed it entirely. That would be bad.

The other problem with spending all day in meetings or airplanes yesterday: my FitBit numbers sucked. I went 27 days in a row getting more than 10,000 steps, and almost 40 days getting more than 9,000, but only got 7,500 yesterday. Pfah. Today at least I have the opportunity to park way over by our rehearsal space, which is almost 2 km from my office, and will get me at least 5,000 steps just walking to and from. There's also DFW Airport, where a simple connection can add 3,000 more steps to your day. I need the exercise, too, especially after last night's shrimp, grits, and Boudin balls, the latter of which I need to learn how to make.

Wednesday 3 December 2014 08:45:19 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink | Travel | Work#

December 2014 opened the coldest in 118 years in Chicago, but all the forecasts point to a huge warm-up over the next two weeks:

he scope of the warming being predicted is really something. The global scope of the milder than normal temps is evident from the depiction at the top of this post. The Weather Service’s GFS model, Environment Canada’s GEM ensemble and the European Center’s deterministic and ensemble model are all on board with the onset of a significantly warmer than normal pattern. This doesn’t mean there won’t be some cool days intermingled with the “warmth”. There actually will be. But, these forecasts speak to the overall pattern. Each of these predictions suggest a major pattern about-face heading through mid-December–a radical change from the arctic chill which has dominated the past three months producing the 11th coldest meteorological autumn (i.e. Sept through Nov period) on the books and the 8th coldest November in 143 years of official observations here.

Are prospects for winter cold dead? Don’t count on it. High latitude blocking, a major factor in the cold with which the current season has begun, has been a factor in almost all of our recent winters producing the high amplified (i.e. “buckled” or “wavy”) jet stream patterns which encourage arctic air to dive into the Lower 48.

But not quite yet, it seems. The next week will be seasonable, with temperatures right around freezing. The warm-up, if it occurs, is more than a week away.

On the other hand, I'm in Louisiana tonight, where it's 12°C—too chilly for a long walk in the light sweater I've got on, but a lot warmer than back home. So I'm going to have a look at the Mississippi, then hustle back inside for a pint of something.

Tuesday 2 December 2014 21:13:01 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Travel | Weather | Work#
Tuesday 25 November 2014

I'm dealing with two instances of developer laziness (or stupidity).

The proximate cause of my annoyance this morning comes from les espèces d'idiots at Eurostar who included local references to images in a confirmation email template. In non-technical terms, they put the images they want displayed on an email behind their own firewall, so they only show up when you look at the email behind their own firewall. So, some idiot developer, tasked with creating a confirmation email, put images on it that worked for him (because he was inside the firewall) but didn't have the mental faculties to predict that no one else would see them. Somehow this got past Eurostar's QA as well—presumably because they, too, are behind the firewall.

This set up a flaw in Microsoft Outlook that will render the program mostly unusable until I get rid of the email using my phone. Because Outlook is too stupid to realize that, if it can't download an image from a particular local path because the path is not mappable, then it should still try all the other images on that path one at a time, blocking the UI thread as it goes. This means, for each image on the Eurostar email, I see something like this:

See how the URL doesn't begin with "http://" but instead begins with a double backslash ("\\")? Yeah, that's a local path to some server at the company who designed the email. Great work, guys. And great work, Outlook, for forcing users to wait for all the images to download before returning control of the UI. Because why wouldn't we want to stop everything in order to see the Eurostar corporate logo?

Tuesday 25 November 2014 09:37:17 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Software | Travel | Work#
Sunday 23 November 2014

Only a little, it turns out. I'm in the second of three weeks without travel, but I'm back on the road for the first two weeks in December. I even have to miss a concert, which is a bad thing, but it's because I'll be doing a technical diligence in freakin' Paris, which est pas mal. I'm also going to see about taking a quick side-trip to London, which, given the agenda for the diligence and flight schedules back to the U.S., might not make a difference as far as my work schedule goes.

I've also noticed that I keep missing posts on Saturdays. Not sure why; possibly because I've had a lot going on during the week, and Saturdays have been a little more vegetative than expected.

Sunday 23 November 2014 10:33:51 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Blogs | Travel | Work#
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David Braverman and Parker
David Braverman is the Chief Technology Officer of Holden International 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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