On Tuesday I mailed my passport to the National Passport Agency in Philadelphia with an extra $60 so they'll expedite its replacement. I feel a little anxious without it. Not because I live in 1950s Czechoslovakia or anything; more that I love travel so much, not having a passport even for two weeks every 10 years feels a little off.
Well, not exactly 10 years, more like 9½. While US passports last 10 years, many countries—for example, the UK, where I go several times a year—won't let you in if your passport will expire within six months. For me, my August 2010 passport would not meet UK entry requirements at the beginning of next month, so off it went. But I held onto it until after the new year so that the new one expires in 2030 instead of 2029.
I'll get the new one probably in two weeks. Meanwhile, the only sign of life I have is the certified mail receipt the Postal Service emailed me yesterday. So my old passport arrived safely in Philadelphia after all. I can hardly wait for the new one.
For the past seven months I've worked as a contract development lead in Milliman's Cyber Risk Solutions group. Today I officially convert to a new full-time role as Director of Product Development for Cyber Risk Solutions.
We have a lot to do in 2020, and I'll post about it what I can. So far we've started building "a new generation risk platform which uses an ensemble of cutting edge techniques to integrate what is known, knowable and imaginable about complex risks in order help risk managers identify, assess and monitor dynamic, high velocity, complex risk such as cyber," as the partner in charge of my practice says. It's cool shit, I say. And I'm happy to make Milliman my permanent home.
The role now shifts a little bit from building out the minimum-viable product to building out the team. I'll still have to write a lot of software, but I'll also expand our partnerships with teams in London, Sydney, and Lyon, and will probably have to visit at least two of those places more than once in 2020. In fact, at minimum I'll be in the London office four times, probably six. The only one sad about this is Parker.
And as an example of how great the management team is, they're starting me today so that my benefits kick in tomorrow. That was a very cool gesture.
Watch this blog for more updates.
This week's New Yorker has a long ode to my second-favorite spirit:
Gin is on the rise and on the loose. It has gone forth and multiplied. Forget rising sea levels; given the sudden ascendancy of gin, the polar gin caps must be melting fast. Torn between a Tommyrotter and a Cathouse Pink? Can’t tell the difference between a Spirit Hound and an Ugly Dog? No problem. There are now gins of every shade, for every social occasion, and from every time zone. The contagion is global, and I have stumbled across gins from Japan, Australia, Italy, and Colombia. Finland brings us the uncompromising Bog Gin. I have yet to taste Dragash, which emanates from a mountainous region of Kosovo, but, if it proves to be anything but wolfish, I shall be disappointed. Visitors to Thailand, or lovers of ginseng, will surely enjoy a nip of Iron Balls.
By any reckoning, the spread of gin has been a freakish phenomenon. (I have seen it described as a “Ginaissance.” Anybody heard using this word should, of course, be banned from public bars in perpetuity.) When, where, and why it began is hard to pinpoint; Federico, at the Savoy, puts the cart before the horse and contends that the founding of Fever-Tree tonic, in 2004, drove the headlong return of gin to the market. What’s inarguable is that the outbreak has occurred since the turn of the millennium. One devout Web site, theginisin.com, which lists three hundred and eight American gins, refers to Death’s Door, a fine Wisconsin brand, as “an old kid on the block,” since it harks all the way back to the mists of 2006.
The article goes on at some length on the history and future of gin, as well as where to go to make your own. Next London trip, I'll stop in to the 58 Gin Distillery and make my own for 99 quid.
As I try to understand why a 3rd-party API accepts one JSON document but not another, nearly-identical one, who could fault me for taking a short break?
Back to JSON and my miserable cold.
Transport for London (TfL) has declined to renew Uber's operating license for that reason:
Uber has lost its licence to operate private hire vehicles in London after authorities found that more than 14,000 trips were taken with more than 40 drivers who had faked their identity on the Uber app.
Transport for London announced the decision not to renew the ride-hailing firm’s licence at the end of a two-month probationary extension granted in September. Uber was told then it needed to address issues with checks on drivers, insurance and safety, but has failed to satisfy the capital’s transport authorities.
TfL said on Monday it had identified a “pattern of failures” by Uber, including several breaches that placed passengers and their safety at risk.
Steve McNamara, the general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, which represents London black-cab drivers, said: “It’s all about public safety and the mayor has taken the right decision.
“As far as we’re concerned Uber’s business model is essentially unregulatable. It is based on everyone doing what they want and flooding London with vehicles. Uber cannot guarantee that the cars are properly insured, or that the person driving the car is the one that is supposed to be driving, as recent incidents show.”
I expect Uber will work something out with TfL, eventually. For now, they'll continue to operate while appealing the ruling.
The audience loved last night's performance of Everest and Aleko. Everest composer Joby Talbot and librettist Gene Scheer attended, and I had the opportunity to meet them backstage at intermission. They both reported being overjoyed by our performance. Nice.
I discovered in researching this post that the BBC Symphony Orchestra will perform Everest at the Barbican on 20 June 2020. Hell yes, I'm going.
If you don't want to wait until June, you can hear us this afternoon at Harris Theater.
I didn't get nearly as much sleep as usual on this trip, compared with other weekends in London, so I'll have to figure out why before next time. But Parker and I are home now, and if I can stay up until 10pm (at least), I should get things back on track.
Of course, between now and Sunday I have two rehearsals and two performances of Aleko and Everest. I think sleep planning might be in order.
Oh, and Chicago had record cold last night: -14°C. Glad I missed it.
It's rush hour in Chicago right now, where commuters are slogging through snow and -5°C temperatures as the second significant winter storm pushes through the area.
And I feel for them. But here in London, it's 9°C and sunny, so one doesn't even need a coat to go out for lunch.
I also had the presence of mind to park in the $17-a-day garage instead of the $19-a-day outside parking lot at O'Hare, which will add 5 minutes to my trip from Terminal 5 to my car and save 15 minutes shoveling it out.
Sometimes I can plan ahead effectively.
Some photos from London. Last night, South Kensington:
Early this afternoon, Earls Court:
Later, the Grand Canal at Kentish Town Road:
One of the pubs I've frequented in London has apparently re-imagined itself as a 19th-century public house. The Blackbird, in Earls Court, used to look like this (May 2015):
Then it looked like this (Sept. 2018):
(Notice all the building permits and the closed door.)
This morning it looked like this:
I mean, wow. That's quite a remodel. Plus, apparently they've converted the upper three floors to "beautiful bedrooms."
I'm still staying at the hotel around the corner, and not at the Blackbird. But it's an interesting shift, to say the least.