The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

It's worse

Yesterday morning I griped about how dark October mornings seem. Today it's raining. This causes a minor additional problem as Parker has a vet appointment in a little more than an hour, and I'm pretty much committed to walking him up there. So I guess we'll both get wet. What can you do? The weather these days.

Actually, all of this is just getting into the spirit of London ahead of my visit in two weeks. The English call this "having a moan." I still need some practice, clearly; a good English moaner would have been able to extend that last paragraph out for half an hour....

Darktober

There are so many things in life we know intellectually but forget in reality before getting an unhappy reminder. The ever-later sunrises in October, for example, just suck, but we forget.

Since the end of daylight saving time moved from early October to early November in 1986 and 2007, October mornings are just grim, especially when it's overcast and gloomy, like today. The sun rises in Chicago before 7am until October 12th, but even at 6:45 (like today) many people still wake up before dawn.

My second-favorite city in the world has it worse, though. London sees the sun come up around the same time as Chicago in the middle of September, but today the sun came up there well after 7a. The day before the UK goes back to GMT at the end of October, London's sunrise is a depressing 7:43a on the 25th, but it gets worse for them. Boxing Day (December 26th) doesn't see the sun until 8:07a.

Chicago's latest sunrise this year is 7:24a on November 1st. Because Chicago isn't as far north as London, our midwinter sun comes up a few minutes earlier, at 7:19a on January 4th.

So much for quantifying misery. It's all cyclical. October mornings can just be depressing, though.

No.

A clear majority of Scots have rejected independence and elected to remain in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Irleand:

With the results in from all 32 council areas, the "No" side won with 2,001,926 votes over 1,617,989 for "Yes".

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond called for unity and urged the unionist parties to deliver on more powers.

Prime Minister David Cameron said he was delighted the UK would remain together and that commitments on extra powers would be honoured "in full".

Mr Cameron said the three main unionist parties at Westminster would now follow through with their pledge of more powers for the Scottish Parliament.

The Economist's headline: "Britain Survives:"

By a margin of 55% to 45%, and on a vast 85% turnout, Scots voted to stick with the United Kingdom on September 18th. Thereby they ensured the continuation of the nation state that shaped the modern world, one which still retains great capacity for good. They also preserved the British identity which over a third of Scots, English, Welsh and Northern Irish consider of primary importance. Had around 200,000 more Scots answered “Yes” to the question “Should Scotland be an independent country”, these precious attributes would have been damaged, or destroyed, and Britain with them.

Beginning with tiny Clackmannanshire, a deprived fief of the separatist Scottish National Party (SNP) in central Scotland, which declared for the union at 1.30am, the No vote held up surprisingly strongly in most of Scotland’s 32 councils. The Gaelic-speaking, SNP-voting Western Isles delivered another early snub to the separatists. Dundee—dubbed by the SNP’s leader, and Scotland’s first minister, Alex Salmond, as the “Yes City”—gave him a rare victory, but on a relatively low turnout, of 79%, and by a narrower-than-expected margin. In Angus and Mr Salmond’s own Aberdeenshire, the Yes campaign suffered defeats in the SNP’s heartland. When, at around 4.30am, mighty Glasgow delivered only a modest win for the Yeses, with 53% of the vote, the verdict was clear.

I hope Holyrood can now get on again with the business of governing Scotland as a part of the UK. Alex Salmond isn't going away, but he's largely done now. Good.

Rule Britannia.

Rule Britannia?

Polls have closed in Scotland, with polls showing a slight edge towards union:

A YouGov on-the-day survey published shortly after polls closed suggested "No" was on 54% and "Yes" on 46%.

  • Turnout is widely predicted to top the 83.9% recorded in the 1950 general election - the highest in the UK since the introduction of universal suffrage in 1918
  • Ninety-seven per-cent of the electorate - 4,283,392 people - had registered to vote
  • SNP deputy leader Nicola Sturgeon has hailed the ballot as "an amazing, emotional, inspirational day of democracy"

Results should be announced around midnight Chicago time tonight.

What will happen tomorrow?

With only a few hours to go before voting starts in Scotland, things are really weird in the UK:

Has [Prime Minister David Cameron] been on the hustings in Scotland, taking his case to the people? Not exactly:

Sadly, only a small number of Scots got to hear his appeal [last week] directly. That’s because the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom wasn’t actually able to walk the streets of the United Kingdom to deliver his message. He had to stay safely within the confines of a small building for his own security. Yesterday, Ed Miliband, the man who would be the next prime minister of the United Kingdom, also tried to take his case for the Union out onto the streets. And he was chased from those same streets by an angry mob.

You can see the chaos when Miliband tried to walk the streets of Edinburgh here. And, yes, they yelled at him, calling him a “fucking liar” and “serial murderer” (!) to his face. Some of that is from the usual thuggish suspects – but the atmosphere in the campaign has gotten ugly in the past week or so. The one thing that my friends in Britain tell me about politics right now is that there’s enormous discontent with all the major party figures. They seem like a distant metropolitan clique, cushioned in super-safe districts – not real representatives of actual people.

At the moment, No (secession) is ahead by just a bit, but the "undecideds" still make up 10-15% of polling data.

I'll be watching with interest tomorrow. So will tens of millions of Brits.

Will the Union survive next week?

A week from today, part of a 400-year-old country may elect to secede:

YouGov’s latest survey has No, on 52%, narrowly ahead of Yes, 48%, after excluding don’t knows. This is the first time No has gained ground since early August. Three previous polls over the past month had recorded successive four point increases in backing for independence. In early August Yes support stood at 39%; by last weekend it had climbed to 51%.

Just one week ago, Scots divided evenly on whether their country would be better or worse off.

Yes, for those of you not paying attention to the Ancestral Homeland, next Thursday Scotland will hold a referendum on remaining in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

If the referendum succeeds, it will set in motion a series of steps that could have Scotland become an independent nation within the EU by 2020. If this sounds like a bad idea to you, you're not alone. The economics are horrible, and that's even before figuring out whether Scotland will remain on Sterling. Never mind things like nuclear armaments, North Sea oil fields, and the fact that 400,000 English live in Scotland and a whopping 600,000 Scots live in England.

The Daily Parker votes No. My ancestors came down with James VI. The Union has always been stronger together.

The rise of session beers

Crain's has a good summary today of new moderate-alcohol beers that craft brewers in the area are making:

In June, Temperance Beer Co. released the first batch of Greenwood Beach Blonde, a creamy ale that checks in at 4 percent alcohol. The beer became the Evanston brewery's second-most popular, and the first batch sold out so quickly at Temperance's taproom that owner Josh Gilbert decided to broaden his focus: When Temperance made a second batch last week, it was immediately canned and sent to distributors.

The session-beer trend isn't limited to upstart microbreweries. Some of the largest craft breweries—including Founders Brewing Co. of Grand Rapids, Michigan; Deschutes Brewery Inc. of Bend, Oregon; and Lagunitas Brewing Co. of Petaluma, California, whose Midwest and East Coast operations are based in Douglas Park—now are making ales with less than 5 percent alcohol content year-round.

Premier local breweries such as 3 Floyds Brewing Co. of Munster, Indiana, and Two Brothers Brewing Co. in Warrenville are marketing session brews, and this summer Half Acre Beer Co. in Chicago's North Center neighborhood collaborated on a session ale with a brewery in Maine. The king of lagers, Anheuser-Busch InBev NV, is filling out its line of ballpark beers with Endless IPA from Goose Island, a limited-run ale with a 5 percent alcohol content.

I've had a couple of these, including Lagunitas All-Day IPA and even the InBev Endless IPA. I've also written about English craft beers that fall into the American "session" category because most English beers are 5% or so anyway. Even my go-to Belhaven Twisted Thistle is only 5.3% ABV.

I always knew the hop-and-high-alcohol fetish beers would give way in time to much more drinkable brews. I'm glad the market has responded so quickly and affirmatively.

Steaming hot Tube of love

Keep your pants on. I'm referring to the London Underground, which last week got "journalists" to copy and paste a story they ran five years ago. It turns out, the Tube is too hot:

It’s not fair to compare London’s cramped commuters to cattle; right now, livestock actually get the better deal. As temperatures in the U.K.’s capital push towards 32°C for the second week running, heat levels in London’s Tube and bus system have now risen above the EU limit at which it is legal to transport cows, sheep, and pigs. The highest recorded temperature on the network so far this year is 35°C, 5°C above the permissible 30°C for livestock.

I thought that sounded familiar. For comparison, here's the story from August 2009:

A map which reveals the hottest spots on London's underground system has been revealed to commuters.

The map of zones 1 and 2 shows temperatures over above 35°C have been recorded in some areas - making the trains officially unfit for transporting cattle.

The Central line had some of the worst spots, while the Bakerloo line also felt the heat when the map was compiled.

It turns out, I was in London in August 2009, and I remember really hating the temperature as the Circle Line got round to Tower Hill. Glad to see the city have kept some traditions going.

Transport in and out of London

I love the night buses in London. Given my habit of staying on Chicago time, I've ridden my share of them. (If American 90 arrives after 11:30pm, I'm guaranteed to do so.) So today's story in the Atlantic's CityLab blog about the phenomenon made me smile:

You see, London’s night buses are actually the great, unsung glory of the city’s travel network. Compared with cabs, they’re dirt cheap (they cost the same as a regular daytime bus), come extremely frequently and cover a wide area, and go quickly through the mainly car-free nighttime streets. This could be why they’re so popular, carrying 42 million passengers a year. There’s more to them than even all that: Night buses have played a huge role in opening up London’s nightlife to everyone, especially to people whose modest means or far-flung suburban homes make cab fares seem exorbitant.

It is true that night buses often smell of kebabs, London's alcohol-sponge of choice, and they can be noisy and crammed. They’re popular with a certain group of British exhibitionists that can only really enjoy themselves by seeing their revels reflected in other people’s eyes. “I exist! I’m fun!” their behavior screams, making fellow passengers disbelieve the latter and wish the former wasn’t true. You also rub up against people you might not choose to. I was part of one ugly incident in which some guys apologized for flicking ketchup sachets at my sleeping friend, explaining that they’d only done so because they “thought he was homeless." Still, the party-on-wheels thing can be fun, and almost cozy at times. A fellow passenger once sewed up the ripped hem of my friend’s 1950s ballgown, and I’ve been not-disagreeably hit on with the immortal opener, “Would you like a chip?” Most of the time, I’ve just sat down, not been bothered by anyone, then hopped off at my destination.

Meanwhile, over at the Economist's Gulliver blog, a reminder that it can be cheaper to take Eurostar to Paris and fly from DeGaulle than to fly out of London, and what an independent Scotland might do about this:

It is a complicated issue. Although British airlines hate APD, especially as tough competition from continental European carriers for transatlantic passengers means they find it hard to pass on the whole cost to customers, there is not much evidence that low airline taxes are correlated with broad economic success. My colleague has called for a rethink of the tax; I would like to see some more evidence of its impact before joining that campaign.

Nevertheless, Alex Salmond, Scotland's nationalist first minister, clearly thinks cutting APD is a winning issue. And Willie Walsh, the head of British Airways, seems to agree. He has warned that English travellers will simply drive across the border to avoid the tax if Scotland becomes independent. Perhaps the real question is whether Mr Salmond's campaign promise, and pressure from airlines and travellers, will force David Cameron's government to reconsider its own support for Britain's high air travel taxes. I wouldn't bank on it.

London transport: always an adventure. And still better than anything in the U.S.