Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
Wednesday 3 August 2011

Yesterday, when I talked about American's new pricing tool, it didn't produce any results for me. Today, it seems to be working.

Chicago to San Francisco, August 20-24, costs 26,000 miles using the dynamic tool but 32,500 miles using the regular tool. Searching September 3-7 got me to 25,000 miles through a regular award and 24,000 miles dynamically.

So, no really huge savings (at least with my pathetic sample size), and you have to use both tools simultaneously to see the deals. Also, their regular tool allows you to look at an entire month of prices at once.

I hope the tool improves. It's a great idea, but it's not really ready for the world yet.

Wednesday 3 August 2011 14:34:50 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation#
Tuesday 2 August 2011

This is cool. American Airlines now offers frequent-flyer trips to U.S. elite members (those who fly more than 40,000 km per year) at demand-based costs. This means, instead of costing a flat 25,000 miles per round-trip, elite members will be able to book trips for less if the flights have lower demand—or more, if there's more demand:

Dynamic Air awards are an enhancement to our existing flight award offerings, providing AAdvantage® elite status members with a range of flight redemption options below the AAnytime® award level. The amount of miles required for a Dynamic Air award is based on published fares, so award levels will vary as fares vary. MileSAAver® and AAnytime® awards are still available at AA.com.

I poked around. The Dynamic Air awards go through a different Web application than their main reservations system, so it's hard to compare directly. And there are some annoyances. Well, one big annoyance: there doesn't seem to be any flights.

For Chicago to San Francisco the weekend of September 3rd, flying out Saturday and back on Tuesday, there were no flights with dynamic pricing. Nor for the next weekend. Nor the next. Chicago to Raleigh? Nope. Des Moines? Nope. LaGuardia? Uh-uh.

What about short-notice flights? LaGuardia, the weekend after next? Nada.

Using the main reservations system, which displays a grid of dates and award types, showed ordinary 25,000-mile awards for most of the options above—even for Chicago to LaGuardia leaving today.

I'll play with this new system a bit more, but at the moment it looks like it's in late Beta. Pity, it sounds like a really cool idea.

Tuesday 2 August 2011 13:46:18 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Geography#

Lonely Planet has a lighthearted wish list based on tons of passenger surveys:

Article I: The right to remove shoes
Passengers shall be allowed to remove shoes from their feet, but only if the aforementioned feet don’t stink or present health risks to other passengers. The right of the passenger to go to the lavatory without shoes shall not be infringed, as it is really your own business should you want to stand in the urine of others.

Article II: Freedom from unreasonable aromatic assault
No passenger shall, in the time of flight, be subjected to unreasonable aromas, be it from powerful perfume, foods redolent of onion, or other fragrance wholly unnecessary whilst on an airplane.

They go on to list another 12, plus show the data used to derive them.

Tuesday 2 August 2011 13:08:27 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#

This evening I found myself getting off the El here [1]:

A friend, you see—an old, old friend—brought her son and his friend to Chicago this week, and they got tickets to what passes for baseball south of Madison St. Fortunately, the Yankees were in town, and even with Jeter sitting tonight out, the Sox were darned.

The home team got both their runs from this fourth-inning homer by Alexei Ramirez:

The Yankees still beat them 3-2.

The Cubs won tonight, lifting themselves back above .400 (ouch), while the Sox' back-to-back losses have them three games out of .500. As we all sweltered in the 28°C heat (and 22°C dewpoint), we wished it were October, until we realized that no one will be playing baseball in Chicago in October. The Yankees, though, they probably will still have a few games left.

[1] Yes, Wikipedia really has an entry on each El stop in Chicago.

Monday 1 August 2011 22:35:54 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Baseball | Chicago#
Monday 1 August 2011

The Tribune today has this graph showing the extreme precipitation we've had this year:

Monday 1 August 2011 07:25:55 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Saturday 30 July 2011

So far in 2011, Chicago has not only experienced its wettest year ever, but we've almost reached our annual normal rainfall total:

With the record (283 mm) July rains adding on to already above-normal precipitation prior to this month, Chicago's official total for 2011 has reached 858 mm - or 351 mm above normal at this point in the season. Chicago's official rain gage at the O'Hare International Airport observing site has now registered 93 percent of the normal annual 921 mm.

Today, however, it's sunny and clear, and not quite as hot as it has been recently.

Saturday 30 July 2011 15:11:54 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Friday 29 July 2011

Like most American citizens, I have three representatives in Congress: one in the House, and two in the Senate. My representative is Mike Quigley; the Senate Majority Leader, Dick Durbin; and the other guy, Mark Kirk. I've given money to everyone who's run against Kirk in the last six years, and voted for one of them[1], and I've given money to and voted for my other Senator and my Congressman every time I've been able. Thus, I'm batting .667, which isn't bad.

And why do I want Kirk to retire? Why do I think he completely fails to represent the interests of the State of Illinois, and more specifically, my interests? In part because he says dumb crap like this:

In a potential missile combat scenario between NATO and Iran, Russia is thoroughly irrelevant. So Russian concerns about what we do and not do about the Iranian threat are interesting but largely irrelevant.

O RLY? Does Senator Kirk know that Iran borders Russia, that Russia considers Iran within its sphere of influence, that Russia has sold weapons to Iran, and all that aside, that Russia has just as many missiles as NATO?

Kirk's latest polysyllabic fart, by the way, came in response to a remark the Russian Ambassador's made about him yesterday:

Today in the Senate, I met with Senators Jon Kyl and Mark Kirk. The meeting is very useful because it shows that the alternative to Barack Obama is a collapse of all the programs of cooperation with Russia. Today, I had the impression that I was transported in a time machine back several decades, and in front of me sat two monsters of the Cold War, who looked at me not through pupils, but targeting sights.

Hyperbole aside, I think Ambassador Rogozin is correct: Kirk's politics are an unholy blend of 1963 and 1850, not what either Illinois or the country needs right now.

[1] Kirk represented the 10th District for 9 years, and I supported his opponent Dan Seals twice. However, I live in the 5th District, so I couldn't vote for Seals. Pity; both elections were close.

(Corrected typo, and length of Kirk's time in the House.)

Friday 29 July 2011 12:03:34 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | US#


Two things about this of interest to travelers: First, because it's a frequent-flyer miles purchase, I can hold the reservation without fully committing for a week. So, if something changes before the 3rd, I'm not out anything. Second: as much as the Congressional Republicans boggle my mind, and as much as I wish they'd shut up for ten seconds and reauthorize the FAA, their idiocy is my gain. Instead of the usual expensive tax I'd have to pay to the US for a premium frequent-flyer ticket, I only have to pay Japanese taxes of about $50.

Arigato gozaimas, Congress.

Friday 29 July 2011 11:27:35 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Geography | US#
Thursday 28 July 2011

I'm getting closer to finalizing plans to blow some frequent-flyer miles this fall. I'm down to three choices, though one city has taken a slight lead:

  • Tokyo. The end of November is supposed to have the best foliage. I can also have enough hotel points for three free nights.
  • Budapest. Colder than the other two top choices, but a very old friend would meet me there for a day or two. Oddly, having to connect through New York gives the trip the longest travel time of the three options.
  • Madrid. Excellent opportunity to practice Spanish. Warmest weather of the three choices. Also the smallest city—which could be relaxing, or not. Also, a nerdy reason: Iberia, which operates the non-stop service from Chicago, flies an Airbus 340 on the route, which would be a pleasant change from the 777s and 767s that I usually take overseas.

What reasons am I overlooking?

I will probably book the trip Saturday.

Thursday 28 July 2011 17:51:58 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Geography | Kitchen Sink#

Remember Tuesday, when we were only 13 mm away from having the wettest July in history? Thanks to a storm that dumped a squishy 259 mm of rain on nearby Dubuque, Iowa, Chicago's rainfall this month reached 248 mm, beating the old record of 243 mm set in 1889.

Today's forecast calls for even bloody more rain:

Showers and thunderstorms likely. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 32°C. Heat index values as high as 37°C. Southwest wind between 10 and 15 km/h. Chance of precipitation is 70%. New rainfall amounts between 5 and 7.5 mm possible.

At 7am, the temperature of 23°C comes with a dewpoint temperature of 22°C, which is the scientific way of saying it's warm and sticky.

Let's see...warmer summers, more extreme weather, much more moisture in the atmosphere...saw that one coming.

Thursday 28 July 2011 07:04:51 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Wednesday 27 July 2011

Chicago is still experiencing weather more suited for the jungles of Cambodia:

For a 12th consecutive day Wednesday, Chicago's lows have registered 22°C or higher—the first time that's happened in 12 years and only the fourth time such a long string of warm nighttime lows has been observed at Midway Airport since 1928.

And it's still raining: another 111 mm fell on parts of the area this morning.

A weekend in Canada starts to look very appealing...

Wednesday 27 July 2011 12:24:00 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
Tuesday 26 July 2011

Chicago this year has not only gotten almost enough rain to hit a new record, but it's also gotten more than enough heat:

July's 230 mm of rain at O'Hare places the month only 13 mm away from July's 122 year old record of 243 mm recorded in 1889. A more typical July would have a rainfall tally closer to 67 mm by now—just a third as much as has fallen this month. ...

July's opening 26 days are averaging 26.2°C. That makes the month the warmest at O'Hare since weather readings were first archived at the site beginning in 1959. The 26.2°C average ranks as the 4th warmest July 1-26's over the full term of Chicago weather records spanning 141 years and taken at 12 different sites in the city since 1871.

Hot and wet: my favorite. (There's a joke in there somewhere...) When is October?

Tuesday 26 July 2011 12:50:34 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#
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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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