Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog
Tuesday 11 December 2012

Possibly in mourning, as the last Hostess Twinkies hit the shelves in Chicago today:

Jewel-Osco said Monday that the final shipment of Hostess Brands baked goods, including Twinkies, will be delivered and sold at Chicago area Jewel stores Tuesday morning.

About 20,000 boxes of Twinkies, Ding Dongs and other Hostess products will be placed on store shelves at different times of day at different stores. Jewel lists the store locations and estimated times of delivery on Facebook, facebook.com/JewelOsco.

All is not lost, of course. The Sun-Times notes, "Hundreds of potential buyers, including at least five major retailers, have expressed interest in Hostess’ brands, recipes and some of its factories." But if you wanted to get one, last Twinkie, hurry to da Jools right now.

Tuesday 11 December 2012 12:10:09 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Kitchen Sink#
Monday 10 December 2012

Chicago has had no measurable snowfall since March 4th, 281 days ago, which is the longest such period in Chicago history:

If no measurable snow falls at O'Hare today [it didn't—DB], we could go on to shatter the previous record by at least another 4 days. The forecast is dry after today through the end of the week. The graphics [on WGN's blog post] show the total snowfall accumulation forecast for the next 10 days ending early next Thursday morning. The GFS model (on top) shows a potential of 33 mm during the period while the European model (on bottom) shows a potential for up to 102 mm. Hang in there snow lovers!

A snow-free environment from March 4th to December 14th is more normal for Raleigh, N.C., not for Chicago. Or anyway, it used to be.

Monday 10 December 2012 17:23:08 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Raleigh | Weather#

The Cranky Flier has some inside dish on the possible airline merger that I mentioned Friday:

US Airways is still trying to convince American that its plan is better. Maybe American management will get a big enough payout to go along. Or maybe AA’s management will see the writing on the wall depending upon how this offer unfolds and just decide it can’t win. Or maybe it can actually come up with something that will keep American independent, but I’d say that the chances of that are slim.

As we head toward the holidays, everything starts to slow down. We might not hear anything about a merger until the new year, but I wouldn’t expect that we’d be waiting much longer than that. The time to decide which way this airline is going is here. Now we just have to sit and wait to see what happens. I’m still expecting that a merger will happen, but I’m really curious to see how it all unfolds.

This comes on the heels of American's pilots reaching agreement with management on a labor contract, which helps fix the value of the combined airline.

Monday 10 December 2012 16:40:59 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation#
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)  |  | London | Travel#
Saturday 8 December 2012

Well, my cousin and I did it. We put down our deposit for two season tickets to Wrigley Field. Even though we both prefer the first-base side, we found better seats right by the press box on the third-base side:

Specifically, these seats:

With this view:

Now we just have to pay for them and go to a lot of games. Otherwise, it's back to the end of the line, which now has nearly 120,000 people in it.

Saturday 8 December 2012 13:26:24 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Cubs#
Friday 7 December 2012

Finally! Reuters reported about 90 minutes ago that US Airways has made an offere to buy bankrupt American Airlines, which would create an $8.5 bn airline:

Under the all-stock proposal US Airways made in mid-November at a meeting with AMR's unsecured creditors committee, the bankrupt airline's creditors would own 70 percent of the merged company and US Airways shareholders 30 percent, the person said.

US Airways and AMR are negotiating toward a potential merger agreement that could come as soon as January, the person added, asking not to be named because the matter is not public.

When the public-quiet period began back at the end of August, I thought it would take close to a year for the airlines to reach a deal. To me, an elite frequent flier on American, the merger is the best possible outcome, because it's the one in which I'm most likely to keep my banked miles and elite status. To American's pilots, mechanics, and flight attendants, it's the best possible outcome because they get to keep their jobs (mostly). And with American's unions supporting the deal, it will likely go smoothly.

January, huh? That would be fantastic.

Friday 7 December 2012 16:35:02 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation#

That's what LinkedIn's career expert says:

Back when I started working with LinkedIn, we released our very first ranking of the most overused profile buzzwords. I remember thinking how important it was to steer clear of “extensive experience” (the number one overused term in 2010) if you wanted to shine among the 85 million professionals who were touting their years in the trenches as their defining characteristic.

Well, it’s three years later and with over 100 million MORE professionals on LinkedIn, the stakes to stand out from this year’s very “creative” (this year’s most oft used adjective) crowd are even higher. Here are a few tips for saying what you mean with words that will get you noticed.

LinkedIn lists these as the most buzzy:

  • Analytical
  • Creative
  • Effective
  • Experimental
  • Motivated
  • Multinational
  • Responsible
  • Specialized

Just try writing a résumé without them...go on...

Friday 7 December 2012 15:55:00 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Business#
Thursday 6 December 2012

Via AVWeb: Boeing has put up a 787 Dreamliner simulator that allows you to (virtually) sit in the cockpit. You can check out any of the instruments, look out the windows, and listen to the cockpit crew.

Someday you might even fly in a real one.

Thursday 6 December 2012 08:48:32 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation#
Wednesday 5 December 2012

It's finally happened.

After 13 years, my cousin has gotten to the top of the Cubs season ticket waiting list. Only a year ago, he was 10,000 away from the top, but for some reason the list got radically shorter this season.

He and I long ago made a pact to go in together. And today, we found out what that means. We have an appointment at Wrigley Field at 9am Saturday to pick seats. And to pay for them.

We can skip the appointment, of course, but that means going to the back of the line—which now has 115,000 names on it. In 12 years my cousin moved up 4,000 places; that makes the list something like 300 years long.

What to do, what to do. I'm not sure the Cubs will have a better season next year than they did this year, and I'm not sure I want to part with all that money. Oh, we'll probably have to put most of them on StubHub, of course, but that doesn't mean we'll sell them. Moreover, we're not doing this to sell the tickets, we're doing this to go to Wrigley Field a lot.

We thought we'd get there in 2015, 2020, even 2025. A couple of older guys, hanging out at Wrigley, watching baseball, you know?

Time to create a decision model...

(Here are the FAQs about Wrigley season tickets. And fortunately I don't have to cough up the money all at once: "Your first payment, due at the time of your seat selection to secure your seats, is based on 10% of the post-tax total for the seats that you select. The first payment is non-refundable.")

Wednesday 5 December 2012 15:35:01 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Cubs#
Tuesday 4 December 2012

Chicago's official weather station lived at Midway Airport from 1928 until 1958, when it moved up to O'Hare. As I mentioned yesterday, Chicago's record high temperature for December 3rd is 22°C. Yesterday's official temperature only got up to 21°C, so we didn't break the official record.

A funny thing happened, however. Yesterday's temperature broke Midway's record, tying the official record set at O'Hare in 1970:

The level of warmth observed across the Chicago area Monday ranked among the rarest of the rare in December. Temperatures at 21°C and higher are exceedingly rare in December---it's happened only twice before on Dec. 3, 1970 (21.6°C) and Dec. 2, 1982 (same).

Further underscoring the rarity of such unseasonable warmth is the fact that of the possible 4,405 December days that are part of the city’s 142 year observational record, there have now been just 3 days on the books with temperatures at or above 21°C!

Chicago’s temperature reached the 21°C mark at 2:14 pm at Midway Airport and at 2:44 pm at O’Hare.

Midway’s peak reading was to end up reaching 22°C, blowing past all of the South Side site’s previous highest December temperatures to become the month’s warmest on record since observations began there in 1928.

Put another way, that temperature is normal for September 22nd and May 23rd in Chicago, or December 3rd in Tampa, Fla.

Today the weather has felt more like the beginning of November or the first week of April: closer to normal, I suppose, but still remarkably warm for December.

Tuesday 4 December 2012 12:56:14 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Chicago | Weather#

Last month, United Airlines and the Star Alliance held a multi-day outing for some frequent fliers that included a couple legs on a 787:

They were bankers, lawyers, programmers, film distributors, entrepreneurs and all-around aviation buffs or, as they lovingly call themselves, geeks. Most were men. All of them had signed up for a MegaDo, a retreat organized by and for travel fanatics who scour Web sites like Milepoint, particularly frequent fliers for whom it is a hobby to accrue miles and learn every last detail about their preferred airline.

The first MegaDo was in 2009. This one, Star Alliance MegaDo 4, had a European leg that wasn’t on a Dreamliner and a domestic leg, and sold out in two minutes. Tickets for the United States portion were $999 to $1,999 and included meals and behind-the-scenes talks and tours with airline and hotel executives. All the proceeds go to charity. Those who did manage to score a Star Alliance MegaDo 4 ticket would ultimately fly on a Dreamliner, party in an airplane hangar, learn how to de-ice a plane, visit United’s headquarters, barely sleep and consume copious amounts of alcohol.

The average traveler has probably never heard of MegaDos, but they have become so significant within the travel industry that, as one of the founders, Tommy Danielsen, put it: “United gives us this plane a week and a half after they introduce it.”

But even occasional fliers will find themselves on Dreamliners in the coming years as more airlines integrate them into their fleets. United, the first domestic carrier to receive the Dreamliner, has two so far and at least another 48 on the way. International carriers including Japan Airlines and Air India have been flying the planes for months.

Unfortunately, American Airlines won't receive any 787s for at least another 18 months or so, and I'm unlikely to fly on United before then. So I'll be patient and wait. Unless USAirways hurries up and buys American already...

Tuesday 4 December 2012 12:26:02 CST (UTC-06:00)  |  | Aviation#
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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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