I have just inflicted this on my friends; you're next:
After the "incident" with Esmerelda, the Cathedral of Our Lady in Paris—Notre Dame—needed a new bell-ringer. A man showed up for the job. The bishop in charge of hiring noticed he had no arms. "Pas de problème," said the man. "I hit the bells with my head, like this." He then proceeded to play a magnificent carillon using only his face. As he reached a crescendo, the glorious music reaching out across Paris, he slipped, fell from the bell tower, and died instantly.
The monsignor ran over to the bishop and demanded, "What happened? Who is this man?"
"I don't know," said the bishop, "but his face rings a bell."
The next day, another man showed up to apply for the job. He introduced himself to the bishop, saying, "It was my brother who fell from the tower yesterday. We are all very sad, but our family is one of bell-ringers. I must take his place."
The bishop nodded, but then noticed the new man had no legs. "Pas de problème," said the brother. "Ecoutez." He climbed up to the bell tower using only his massively-powerful arms, then began another carillon, even more glorious than his brother's had been. He swung from rope to rope, in perfect time, sometimes pulling on two or three ropes at once, building to a finale that had the bishop in tears of joy.
As he rang the final bells, he returned to the ground floor, and presented him to the bishop. But before he could speak, he had a massive heart attack, and died instantly.
"Not again!" cried the monsignor. "And who was this man?"
"I don't know," said the bishop, "but he's a dead ringer for his brother."
I haven't any time to write today, but I did want to call attention to these:
Back to the mines...
Aaron Sorkin, writing for Maureen Dowd's column today, imagines the conversation:
BARTLET And that was quite a display of hard-nosed, fiscal conservatism when he slashed one one-hundredth of 1 percent from the federal budget by canceling “Sesame Street” and “Downton Abbey.” I think we’re halfway home. Mr. President, your prep for the next debate need not consist of anything more than learning to pronounce three words: “Governor, you’re lying.” Let’s replay some of Wednesday night’s more jaw-dropping visits to the Land Where Facts Go to Die. “I don’t have a $5 trillion tax cut. I don’t have a tax cut of a scale you’re talking about.”
OBAMA The Tax Policy Center analysis of your proposal for a 20 percent across-the-board tax cut in all federal income tax rates, eliminating the Alternative Minimum Tax, the estate tax and other reductions, says it would be a $5 trillion tax cut.
BARTLET In other words ...
OBAMA You’re lying, Governor.
Yeah, we really could have used Josiah Bartlet up there Wednesday. But there are three more debates...
Two aviation articles this morning. The first, via the Economist's Gulliver blog, examines how checked baggage tags have cut lost luggage down to nearly zero:
In July alone, 53 million passengers boarded domestic flights. Only about one-third of 1 percent reported a mishandled bag. Given the phenomenal scale of American aviation (measured in seats and miles, the U.S. market is three times larger than any other) and our reliance on luggage-juggling hub airports, that’s an excellent result. Even caged birds are treated pretty well by modern air travel (though remarkably, they do get airsick): In July, U.S. airlines lost just one pet.
This success is largely due to the humdrum baggage tag. That random sticky strip you rip off your suitcase when you get home? It’s actually a masterpiece of design and engineering. Absent its many innovations, you’d still be able to jet from Anchorage to Abu Dhabi. But your suitcase would be much less likely to meet you there. (Disclosure: I am a pilot for an airline that’s not mentioned in this article.)
I also had the latest from the Cranky Flier in my RSS feed this morning, about how American Airlines' management is getting PR horribly wrong:
While people might not want to fly American for its lack of reliability, it’s much more of a crisis if people don’t think the airline is safe to fly regardless of whether flights are on time or not. While I personally don’t have huge concerns about flying the airline, I’m not the general public. If I worked at American in PR, this would have me at DEFCON 1, yet the airline has treated this as if it’s just a minor issue.
The most visible of the safety issues has been the seats coming loose on 757s. This is a major issue in that it could easily be believed by the general public to be sabotage or the sign of an airline failing to do proper maintenance. Neither is remotely acceptable. It sounds like American has found a possible reason for the issue and in yet another stupid move is blaming passengers. While this issue has now apparently been fixed, real damage has been done. And now the media is piling on, making things worse.
He goes on to say that the pilots and mechanics have had a little more intelligence behind their PR efforts. I hope, I really hope, that American's executives don't kill the airline before USAirways has a chance to close the merger.
I just discovered something that should have been obvious: Chicago Public Radio dropped Car Talk too early.
Starting yesterday, WBEZ moved its Saturday schedule around, dropping Car Talk from the 9am slot, bringing Wait Wait! Don't tell me and This American Life forward, and putting new show Snap Judgment in TAL's noon slot. Last week I listened to what I believed at the time to be the last Car Talk episode ever, and found it...oddly routine.
Well, duh. Tom and Ray will continue recording until later this month.
WBEZ: Why, oh why, did you switch the schedule four weeks early? At least there are podcasts.
But wait: it's possible they're not actually going to have a finale. Speculation on the boards is that they're already recycling segments. Say it isn't so, Tom and Ray!
Friday's cold front brought the chilliest weather in Chicago since April 12th. Friday night's low of 1°C yielded cool, cloudy day yesterday and today. It's now mostly cloudy and 6°C with a northwest breeze.
This is significant because right now 45,000 people are running their asses off right around my house. For a variety of reasons I will not be chasing the street sweepers again this year, the chief reason being that while this temperature feels great to a runner, it kind of sucks for a biker.
Good luck, runners!
Update: Good luck, indeed. Ethiopian Tsegaye Kedebe set a new course record just now, finishing in 2:04:38, while Ethiopian Atsede Baysa beat Kenyan Rita Jeptoo in 2:22:03. For those of you not inclined to do math at this hour on a Sunday, Kedebe averaged 4:45 per mile; Baysa, 5:25.
The temperature in Chicago dropped 13°C in six hours yesterday, taking us from summer to autumn between lunch and dinner:
One minute it was summer, with the Chicago area basking in the warmest temperatures of the past 22 days---the next, howling northwest winds were delivering an autumn-level chill.
Readings surged to 27°C at Midway and the Lakefront by mid afternoon but were soon on the run with the arrival of gusty showers—a few with lightning and thunder. These initiated the impressive temperature plunge.
It could have been worse, though, as northern Minnesota discovered:
Warmth was definitely NOT the issue in far northwest Minnesota or eastern North Dakota Thursday. There, 80 km/h-plus wind gusts combined with -2°C temperatures to produce a fairly narrow corridor of blinding snowfall. The area 15 km NW of Badger, Minn., topped that area's snowfall list.
The epicenter of the storm passed well north of Chicago Thursday and its heaviest snow had shifted snowfall well north into Canada's Ontario province by nightfall.
And next week, it'll be warm again. And cold. Welcome to autumn in Chicago.
Behold, the Like-a-Hug:
Designed by MIT researchers, the Like-A-Hug coat senses when a Facebook friend "likes" your picture of a sweater-wearing cat or wistful update about finding true love. Then, via some complicated electronic mechanism that's not quite clear, it rewards the wearer by filling with air to mimic a "hugging" sensation.
So basically this is an article of clothing that broadcasts the owner's craven need for approval, as well as suggesting his or her crushing failure to attract hugs from flesh-and-blood beings.
The project team has produced a video, too:
And hey, after last night, who doesn't need a hug?
The Chicago Transit Authority replaced two viaducts over Evanston, Ill., streets in June, the fifth and sixth of 17 century-old structures. The Daily Parker watched them replace one back in 2006; in 2012, the CTA took video. Here's Greenleaf Street, replaced on June 11th:
And here's Dempster Street, replaced two weeks later:
It's all part of a plan to rehabilitate the Red and Purple lines that may get finished in my lifetime. (The RPM project, one aspect of the plan, is going forward, soonish.) If only there were a massive source of interest-free money available to fund the project, and millions of unemployed people to hire for it. Oh, wait...
I made a mistake Monday: the Astos and Cubs will probably end the season with a combined 208 losses, not 207. It's a bit damp at Wrigley today, so they may not play; but if they do, either the Cubs will wind up 60-102 or 61-101 (to the Astros' 56-106 or 55-107, respectively). That's impressive.
Meanwhile, the new wild-card arrangement has gelled for the National League (Washington, Cincinnati, San Francisco clinch their divisions; Atlanta and St. Louis are wild cards), but the American League might not get everything sorted until tomorrow. The A's and Rangers are tied in the AL West, but since they play each other this afternoon, that will get settled. Detroit eliminated the White Sox already this week. That leaves Baltimore one game behind the Yankees in the AL East, so if Boston beats the Yankees and Baltimore beats Tampa tonight, they'll be tied, forcing a one-game playoff at Camden Yards on Thursday. And the loser will still be in the post-season as a wildcard.
What a weird end to the baseball season. Except for us in Chicago, it's pretty exciting.
More: MLB has an exhaustive guide to the wild card rules for anyone who has trouble sleeping tonight.