Yes, I'm a little obsessed with finding out how far I can walk in one day, but you won't have to read about it much longer. Tomorrow's forecast looks perfect: sunny skies, 24°C, and some good breezes to keep the air clear and me cool.
And even as I'm contemplating walking 30 km or so, I have to stop and just be awed by British marathoner Sara Hall's Fitbit data from her 2 hour 30 minute running of this year's London Marathon. Her average pace (3'35" per kilometer) is roughly three times faster than I'll go tomorrow. And given that she only took 28,914 steps to cover a marathon, her stride was a full 144 cm—just a few shorter than I am tall.
Also, don't worry about Parker. He's not coming on a five-hour walk with me. He'll be at doggy day camp.
I'm traveling to the Land of Uk (aka The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) next week, which got me wondering if I've actually seen the country in every month of the year. So I worked it out, and yes, as of 1 September 2013, I've seen the UK in every month of the year:
||2001, 2010, 2011
||2001, 2010, 2015
||1992, 2014, 2015, 2016*
||2002, 2009, 2012, 2014
||2001, 2009, 2010
||2002, 2014, 2015
In all, I've made 34 discrete trips to the UK since my first on 11 June 1992, with 31 arrivals at Heathrow, 2 at Gatwick, and 1 at Dover (by ferry from Belgium). Oddly, only half—17—have been on non-stop flights from O'Hare. And I've never flown non-stop from O'Hare to any UK airport other than Heathrow.
File this away under "personal trivia."
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump won their respective Illinois primary elections yesterday. And in other news:
- Turns out, a strong social safety net leads to lower mortality, and because poor, mostly-white areas in the U.S. voted theirs down to minuscule levels, poor, white people are not doing well.
- When you vote against your own party in a hot battle with the opposition governor, and the governor wins that battle, that's a career-limiting move. Illinois representative Ken Dunkin (D-Chicago) got spanked hard for doing that last night. Good.
- A guy got charged with a misdemeanor for allegedly jamming cell phones on the CTA Red Line.
- President Obama nominated an old white guy to the Supreme Court this morning, flummoxing Senate Republicans who want to stonewall the process.
- For no reason anyone can determine, the city seems to be waging a war against valet parking companies. Businesses are annoyed.
- The Daily WTF thought President Obama sounded like an idiot boss on the subject of cell-phone encryption. Even John Oliver thought so.
- London is using pigeons with tiny backpacks to measure air pollution. No, really.
- Marco Rubio's friends say he's a lazy, devious little twerp—on the record. He's also dropped out of the 2016 race, and will probably be out of politics for a couple elections.
- Donald Trump's butler probably thought he was helping his boss by giving an interview to the Times, but...well...
- The Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2) is this weekend. Here's what to see.
Time to write some documentation. Whee.
I'm leaving Harold Washington in a few minutes, now that I've caught up on some reading:
- Clancy Martin attempted to explain the martyr-like appeal of Ted Cruz.
- Deeply Trivial, who writes survey questions as part of her job, explained why she doesn't take surveys.
- Via Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, the University of Arizona outlined some new data linking sunspots, shipwrecks, tree trunks, and hurricanes.
- Suzy Khimm described the return of the pillory—via Internet, of course—as a tactic of some public prosecutors, most notably in the 2013 "Flush the Johns" operation in Nassau County, New York.
- Cranky Flier got interested in a robot that cleans airplanes. It's pretty cool.
- NPR media critic Adam Frank said I should watch SyFy's new series, "The Expanse."
- Engineer John Hayes wondered if we'll ever see a space elevator of the sort depicted in Neal Stephenson's Seveneves or Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars.
- Spanish writer Cristina Pop thought living in London was the worst three years of her life. (It sounds like her experiences don't exactly line up with mine, starting with her not speaking a word of English when she got there.)
I also watched a time-lapse video of the Chicago River turning green last year. If you want to see this odd Chicago tradition, go downtown tomorrow at 9.
Britons, concerned about the decline of one of their most popular (and useful) species, have found a simple helper for them:
Gary Snyder has holes in his garden fence.
That's not normally the kind of oversight you'd find in a well-kept British garden in a market town like Chipping Norton, 75 miles northwest of London. But the holes are there for a reason: hedgehogs.
Snyder's backyard is now one small rest stop on what conservationists hope will be a network of hedgehog superhighways crisscrossing Britain.
The British Hedgehog Preservation Society has been encouraging people throughout Britain to do the same thing, calling it the Hedgehog Street project. A couple of inches of clearance means that hedgehogs can truck right through suburbia as if it didn't exist.
The NPR article even has a David Attenborough video of hedgehogs mating, if you're curious. Because David Attenborough.
I've had quite a few tasks on my plate since returning from the Ancestral Homeland Monday night, including preparing for the Messiah performances I've got next weekend. I've finally gotten a quick breather to put up some photos.
First, this guy sat next to me on the Tube from Heathrow:
This is the view from my hotel room (recommended!):
And dinner Sunday was, of course, at my second-favourite pub in the world. Bap with fresh-roasted pork loin, apple sauce, and spicy mustard? Fantastic. Dogs? Five. Beers? These two, which I recommend:
Next trip to London? No idea, but I'm hoping this coming spring.
It turned out, whatever the UK Border Force agent reported on Sunday, by Monday HM Customs and Immigration had decided I'm not a risk. Registered Traveller status granted.
I'm in the Ancestral Homeland on a my last-ditch effort to maintain American Airlines Platinum status for 2016. If that sounds bizarre and pointless to you, then you have some empathy for the UK Border Force agent who interviewed me for fifteen minutes this morning.
Usually my UK entry interviews are about ninety seconds. I'm here four times a year, I always go home, and...well, that's basically all they've ever been concerned about. Until today, for the 23 years I've been visiting the UK, I have never had any trouble entering the country.
Today, however, we went several rounds on the theme "wait, you paid money to come here for one day?" Yes. I really did. I needed 6,149 elite-qualifying miles to keep my status, and the round-trip from Chicago to London is 7,906. Plus, it's London, a city I love dearly and would live in if circumstances and HM Customs and Immigration allowed.
So, I'm in, and I have a new note in my Border Force dossier now that includes things like, I have £99 in my pocket, and no official reason to be in the UK other than tourism. This may have an impact on my Registered Traveler application, which may now be rejected. The Border Force website says tourism is a totally valid reason for Registered Traveler status; but the agent in booth 34 this morning disagrees.
It's sad, really, because so far for the last 25 years all I've ever done in the UK is spend money and return home a few days later. Of course, I'll still visit, but who likes being rejected?
More things I haven't read yet:
And a customer technician spent 90 minutes over two days worth of conference calls denying that something obviously his responsibility was not, in fact, his responsibility, until a network tech from his own company said it was.
One of the few remaining British Airways Concorde airplanes is parked on the east side of Heathrow, and last Sunday my plane taxied right past it:
I remember, going to school outside New York, watching that thing fly over campus at 9am after leaving London at noon. That was cool.