Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
Thursday 25 October 2012

That was the Space Shuttle Carrier's call sign last month. Just watch:

Thursday 25 October 2012 14:34:12 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation#

What does it say that I sent this blog post to Instapaper because I haven't got any time to read it right now?

Sigh. Only a couple more days of this sprint, then things calm down.

Thursday 25 October 2012 08:43:20 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Wednesday 24 October 2012

Apparently the weekend I just spent in the UK did not actually change the number of hours I have to work this month. Oops.

Wales photos tomorrow, I guess...

Wednesday 24 October 2012 16:26:44 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Travel#
Monday 22 October 2012

...two things. (At least today.)

First, it turns out, if you don't get into the Tube in time, you wind up either having to walk several miles in the rain or you have to catch a cab in the City and spend £23 getting back to your hotel. There is no other OECD capital—I mean, none—that fails to provide 24-hour public transportation. Except Washington. But let's not discuss that for a moment.

Second, what the hell is this?

Before you say, "duh! It's a sink!", let me assure you I was able to identify the fixture in real time when it became relevant to do so. What I cannot fathom, so to speak, is how the United Kingdom has enjoyed 2,000 years of indoor plumbing and yet cannot seem to construct a washbasin, shower, or toilet that handles the basic necessities of the task for which it was constructed.

Take this thing. Those tiles are the same as U.S. tiles, about 13 cm on a side. The sink, therefore, is about 20 cm across and 15 cm deep, meaning unless you have hands smaller than the average park squirrel, they won't fit in there. Also notice, despite the technological advances made since the second century of the common era, there is a hot spigot and a cold one. On average, the two produce water at a comfortably warm temperature. Separately, one produces water barely able to remain liquid without flashing into superheated steam, and the other produces almost-freezing slush.

Can someone explain why these ridiculous dual-faucet sinks have survived into the era of the printing press and the wheel? It just doesn't seem like a great intellectual leap to prevent freezing and burning when trying to wash one's hands.

Monday 22 October 2012 02:57:48 BST (UTC+01:00)  |  | Travel#

Since reading about the renaissance of brewing in London last summer, I've had Southampton Arms on my short list of pubs to visit. I spent the evening there (now that I've gotten back on Chicago time after sleeping nearly 12 bloody hours), and I have decided it is, quite possibly, the best pub in the world—Duke of Perth excepted.

First, it has everything I look for in a pub bar one: good atmosphere, great beers, a regular crowd, and no televisions. I only wish it had WiFi. Instead, it has Fred:

Of course I don't mean to make Parker jealous, but Fred—a true bar bitch, despite her name—is astounding not only by being a sweet and calm bar hound, but also by not weighing two hundred kilos. Seriously: the amount of food I watched her Hoover off the floor would have swollen Parker up like the Graf Zeppelin.

Fred must have decided that I had good hands, or at least that I was a pushover, because she spent about two hours keeping my feet warm and hoping that I would drop something resembling food for her. That, and I kept scritching her. Everybody won!

The pub also had some top-notch English independent brews, especially Marble Pint APA and Lagonda IPA, the two best English-brewed beers I've ever had. It's almost as if the quaint island of Britain has discovered that beer tastes better with hops, damned be the old men drinking their real ales. And yet, these two beers topped out at perhaps 60 IBUs and under 4.5% ABV, putting them well within the category we Americans label "session beers." (In the UK, one must remember, all beers are session beers, so these two are actually near the top of the bitterness and alcohol scales here.)

I will absolutely return to this pub the next time I come to London, which, barring injury or war, will be shortly after the new year. And in the spirit of a true English public house, let me thank Joe, Laurie, Martin, Hester, Beatrice, Lewis, and the rest of the crowd with whom I shared many rounds on a rainy, cold Sunday in October.

Monday 22 October 2012 02:08:21 BST (UTC+01:00)  |  | Travel#
Saturday 20 October 2012

I'm in London this weekend, having used a bunch of frequent-flyer miles to get here. And because they were frequent-flyer miles, I decided to fly British Airways first class.

Usually, when I fly to London, I take American Airlines flight 90, a 767 (my favorite plane in American's fleet) that leaves Chicago around 9am and arrives at Heathrow around 10:30pm. That schedule completely eliminates jet lag for me. On arriving in London, I have dinner at a takeaway curry place or something around midnight, stay up until 3 or so reading, and from that point on manage to stay approximately on Chicago time for as long as I'm in London.

This time, because I wanted to fly in BA's updated first class cabin, I had to take an overnight flight. (From Atlanta, in fact—but that's a different story.) I thought, hey, great, I can sleep, and then wake up just before we land (at 10:30am), still pretty close to a Chicago schedule.

Nope. Not even close. At 6am London time (midnight Chicago time) I was in that wired state where I couldn't concentrate enough to read and I couldn't close my eyes to sleep. I managed about 90 minutes of sleep, disrupted, I have no doubt, by the Glenlivet 18 and 20-year-old port that the flight attendant kept bringing me.

In consequence, it's just past 7:30pm here, and all I want to do is sleep. But that would be really, really dumb, because I would wake up at some random time in the middle of the night, which would put my body on New Delhi time or something. I could go to a pub, but for some reason I don't think having a pint is a good idea at this particular moment. I can't really focus long enough to read yet, because of the fatigue and sleep deprivation, and as you can see I'm having trouble writing coherently.

Tomorrow I'll probably have gotten the diurnal cycle sorted out. Tonight, I'm kicking myself for making a series of choices that essentially cost me an enjoyable day in London.

Oh, and half the damn Tube is out this weekend. Moan, moan, moan.

Saturday 20 October 2012 19:45:26 BST (UTC+01:00)  |  | Aviation#
Friday 19 October 2012

Via The Atlantic Cities blog, the City of Chicago has unveiled a proposal to beautify the Chicago River:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Monday unveiled plans to expand the riverwalk another six blocks along Chicago's River.

“The Chicago River is our second shoreline," Emanuel said in a statement. "“It is now time to celebrate this incredible waterway with the completion of the entire riverwalk project, from Lake Michigan to the confluence of the three branches.”

The conceptual plans include a theme for each block of the riverwalk with names including The Marina from State to Dearborn, The Cove from Dearborn to Clark, The River Theater from Clark to LaSalle, The Swimming Hole from LaSalle to Wells, The Jetty from Wells to Franklin and The Boardwalk from Franklin to Lake.

The Marina, for example, would be designed for restaurant space and public seating, while the Cove could include kayak rental retail space, and the Swimming Hole would provide recreational space. Floating gardens, fishing piers and an iconic bridge from Upper Wacker the riverwalk also are among design plans.

This means they might even finish the Wacker Drive reconstruction someday...

Friday 19 October 2012 11:40:18 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Chicago#

Amtrak today will run a train from Chicago to Pontiac, Ill., at speeds up to 175 km/h:

The time spent traveling at 175 km/h will be relatively brief, lasting for only 24 km on new rails and new concrete ties between Dwight and Pontiac along the 457 km Union Pacific Railroad corridor from Chicago to St. Louis.

Dwight is about 130 km southwest of Chicago and Pontiac is about 30 km further to the southwest. The train will then continue on to Normal at top speeds of 125 km/h before heading back to Chicago Union Station, officials said.

For comparison, on Monday morning I'll be on a bog-standard train from London to Cardiff that will average 125 km/h, including stops, and between them toodles along at the pokey pace (for the U.K.) of 150 km/h. That's a slow train in Britain. The fast trains in Britain, like the one I took in March, go considerably faster. And don't even get me started about Shanghai...

Someday I hope the U.S. will have a modern transportation network. Someday.

Friday 19 October 2012 09:58:36 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US | World | Travel#

Last week, I bought an ASUS Transformer TF700, in part to help out with our seriously-cool Galahad project, and in part so I could read a bunch of heavy technical books on tonight's flight to London. And yes, I had a little tablet-envy after taking the company's iPad home overnight. It was not unlike fostering a puppy, in the sense that you want to keep it, but fortunately not in the sense of needing to keep Nature's Miracle handy.

Then yesterday, Scott Hanselman pointed out a great way to get more use out of the pad: Instapaper. I'm hooked. As Hanselman points out,

Here's the idea. You get a bunch of links that flow through your life all week long. These are often in the form of what I call "long-form reading." Hackernews links, NYTimes studys, academic papers, etc. Some folks make bookmarks, have folders called "Links" on their desktops, or email themselves links.

I have these websites, papers and interesting links rolled up and delivered automatically to my Kindle every week. Think about how amazing that is and how it can change your relationship with content on the web. The stress and urgency (and open tabs) are gone. I am naturally and organically creating a personalized book for weekend reading.

I have a bookmarklet from Instapaper that says "Read Later" on my browser toolbar. I've put it in every browser I use, even Mobile Safari. I've also logged into Instapaper from all my social apps so that I can Read Later from my iPhone Twitter Client for example. You'd be surprised how many apps support Instapaper once you start looking for this.

What this means it is that Instapaper is ready and waiting for me in every location where an interesting piece of long-form reading could present itself. I don't stress, I click Read Later and the document is shipped off to Instapaper.

I'm sold. I actually have it updating my tablet every 12 hours, because I do a lot of my reading on the 156 bus. Or, today, British Airways 226.

Friday 19 October 2012 08:42:16 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Cloud#
Thursday 18 October 2012

The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional on equal-protection grounds:

This is a really big deal. [George H.W. Bush-appointed Chief Judge Dennis] Jacobs is not simply saying that DOMA imposes unique and unconstitutional burdens on gay couples, he is saying that any attempt by government to discriminate against gay people must have an “exceedingly persuasive” justification. This is the same very skeptical standard afforded to laws that discriminate against women. If Jacobs’ reasoning is adopted by the Supreme Court, it will be a sweeping victory for gay rights, likely causing state discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation to be virtually eliminated. And the fact that this decision came from such a conservative judge makes it all the more likely that DOMA will ultimately be struck down by the Supreme Court.

The 1st Circuit already found the law unconstitutional. One hopes we can dispense with the law without going through all 12 circuits in order...

Thursday 18 October 2012 13:44:51 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | US#

Yes, one more entry of nothing but links, as my creativity is completely directed at the three five work projects currently on my agenda. But tomorrow afternoon I start a mini-vacation that will include a good, solid 22 hours of being in planes and trains, which I actually find relaxing. (I am not kidding.)

For now, here's what I'm saving to my Kindle reader:

Finally, as much as I love crisp, cool autumn weather, I do not like the sun rising after 7. I've learned to turn on a bunch of lights as soon as I get up to fool my diurnal, reptilian brain that it's daytime. And now I must get more caffeine.

Thursday 18 October 2012 09:10:00 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Kitchen Sink | US#
Tuesday 16 October 2012

A quorum:

All for now.

Tuesday 16 October 2012 13:10:42 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation | Kitchen Sink | US#
Monday 15 October 2012

Well, that was a fun demo. Fortunately we have four more Agile iterations before we're done.

So, now that I have precisely thirteen minutes to catch up on my email and the news of the day, I will note this lede that could only come from a left-leaning British newspaper:

BAA is to drop its name in favour of plain Heathrow after concluding that the initials, derived from the old British Airports Authority, no longer fit a foreign-owned company with no authority that has been forced to sell off half its airports.

So, Stansted will be run from Heathrow. That should really drive people there.

Monday 15 October 2012 16:50:14 CDT (UTC-05:00)  |  | Aviation#
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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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