The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Perfect early-autumn weather

Inner Drive Technology WHQ cooled down to 14°C overnight and has started to climb up into the low-20s this morning, with a low dewpoint and mostly-clear skies. Perfect sleeping weather, and almost-perfect walking weather! In a few minutes I'm going to take Cassie out for a good, long walk, but first I want to queue up some stuff to read when it's pissing with rain tomorrow:

Finally, my indoor Netatmo base station has picked up a funny mid-September thing: cicadas. The annual dog-day cicadas have only a few more days to get the next generation planted in the ground, so the remaining singletons have come out this morning instead of waiting for dusk. As you can see, the ones in the tree right outside the window closest to the Netatmo have been going at it since dawn:

The predominant species in my yard right now are neotibicen pruinosus, or "scissor-grinder" cicadas. But we also have our share of other species in Northern Illinois. And, of course, next May: Brood XIII comes out. That'll be fun (especially for Cassie)!

UK's Crooked House Pub destroyed; police suspect arson

The charming West Midlands pub with its 16-degree list burned down a week ago. Locals are heartbroken; police are suspicious:

When locals awoke on Sunday morning to the news that the pub, famously wonky due to mining subsidence, had burned to the ground the previous night, there was mounting anger.

As more details emerged, suspicions grew. The road to the pub, which had been sold to new owners nine days previously, was blocked with mounds of earth so fire engines were unable to get close to the burning building.

There was already nationwide concern over the blaze, but the events of Monday caused a huge outcry. While Staffordshire police were releasing a statement saying they were reviewing all evidence to investigate the cause of the fire, a video appeared online showing a digger knocking down the remains of the building. South Staffordshire council disclosed that they had spoken to the owners but did not agree to a full demolition. It also emerged that the digger had allegedly been hired and brought on site before the fire took place.

All that remains is a pile of rubble, along with scattered placards from locals who have been staging protests at the scene, demanding that the pub be rebuilt.

The Times has more:

The Crooked House had faced tough financial circumstances, a local councilor, Roger Lees, said, although other customers said the spot had still been doing relatively brisk business. The new owners intended to redevelop the property for “alternative use,” said the West Midlands mayor, Andy Street, rather than maintain the pub.

The previous proprietor, Marston’s, sold the building to a company called ATE Farms Limited in late July, a Marston’s spokesman wrote in an email. ATE could not be reached for comment.

In a statement on Wednesday, Staffordshire’s police department said the fire may have been started deliberately, although it did not name any suspects. The police and firefighters visited the demolition site this week with a dog specially trained to detect accelerants, the department added. The police and the fire service declined to comment further because the investigation is ongoing.

I had hoped to visit the pub next year. This is disappointing, to say the least. The pub's destruction has spurred new calls for legislation to protect the UK's historic pubs. I hope it gets through Parliament soon, and also that whoever burned the pub down goes to jail for a long time.

Next trip, though, I'll make sure to stop by the Carlton Tavern, just a few blocks from Abbey Road Studios in London. The pub opened in 1921 and was the only building on its street to survive the Blitz in 1940-41. Tel Aviv-based CLTX Limited demolished it illegally in 2015—just two days before it would have been listed officially as an historic building. Outrage over its destruction led to the Westminster City Council to order it rebuilt brick by brick. It reopened in April 2021, six years and three days after its bulldozing, under new ownership.

Taking a day to catch up

Between my overflowing PTO balance and getting two "floating" holidays every year, I decided I have enough free time to extend my vacation by a day to get stuff done. I'm glad I did. Cassie provided her vet with a really good sample of...things that her day care needs to know about, I've done 3 loads of laundry and queued up a 4th, I've gone through the important receipts from the trip, and I've loaded all 740 photos up into Lightroom. I've also done some Apollo-related stuff, so some of today went to other people.

I still have stuff to do, so I'm not going to get to the photos today. Probably not until Friday or Saturday, truth be told. And I've got a freelance project for a local non-profit that I'd hoped to start on the flight to London but somehow didn't find time to do.

did finish four really good books, including The Rise of the Warrior Cop by police reporter Radley Balko; There Is No Antimemetics Division by British author and programmer Sam "qntm" Hughes based in party on some of his articles for the SCP Foundation (which you should absolutely start reading whenever you want to lose yourself in some fun and cool shit); techno-thriller Daemon by Peter Suarez; and Death of the Great Man by Peter Kramer. I recommend all of them, especially the last two.

I will now...waste some time on the Internet, and then go walk Cassie.

Longest vacation in years

I'm finally at Heathrow about 10 minutes from boarding. Whew. I've got loads of photos to go through, and hours of sleep to catch up on. I am ready to be home.

Tonight I'm going to spend as much time as possible on the couch with Cassie. I've got a lot of pats for her.

The Elizabeth Line, a year on

The billion-pound London rail project called "Crossrail" when it began opened a year ago as the Elizabeth Line. I rode it for the first time to West Ealing last Sunday, and thought it absolutely the slickest, cleanest train in the UK. (I'll ride it again tomorrow thanks to industrial action and construction on the Piccadilly Line.)

British Airways pilot Mark Vanhoenacker takes it every time he comes home from a trip, and loves how it connects the city in all new ways:

Running from Reading and Heathrow Airport in the west to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east, the Elizabeth line brings an additional 1.5 million people within 45 minutes of the capital’s busiest districts; eases congestion on older lines; and makes London more accessible to all, as wheelchair users can reach its platforms from street level. As a pilot who commutes to Heathrow — I fly the Boeing 787 for British Airways — I’m often among its 600,000 weekday riders. The line, which runs alongside the Heathrow Express, offers another comfortable way to get to work.

[T]he line empowers travelers to leave behind the familiarities of Zone 1 — the often tourist-clogged core of the city’s transport network — and embark on fast, inexpensive journeys to fascinating outer-London destinations.

On the line’s northeastern branch lies the market town of Romford. Start at the Havering Museum, whose exhibits include a model of the long-gone Havering Palace, where Queen Elizabeth I occasionally stayed. You’ll also learn about Romford’s link to William Kempe, an actor in several of Shakespeare’s original productions, who morris danced around 100 miles from London to Norwich in 1600, and about the weights and measures that once set standards in Romford’s market.

It’s fitting, then, that the first station beyond [the eastern Thames] tunnels is Woolwich, where armaments were manufactured for around three centuries, including by one Henry Shrapnel. Woolwich was also renowned for music — its Royal Artillery Band, Britain’s first formal military band, was organized in 1762 — and for football: Arsenal, based today in Islington and still nicknamed “the Gunners,” was founded here in 1886 as a team for armaments workers.

Between my arrival this afternoon and my departure tomorrow afternoon I'll be in the UK only 23 hours, many of them in my hotel room asleep, so I won't have time to explore the places Vanhoenacker describes. But I have a hunch I'll return to the London before too long.

Jsem v Praze

I'm in a European-sized hotel room in a European-sized city. I'm also exhausted. But I did get out of Heathrow for about an hour and a quarter, and walked around Ealing a bit:

And now I'm here:

More tomorrow. I'm pooped.

Looking for the shoe that could drop...

I just got from the curb to the lounge in 18 minutes. No kidding: my bag check line was empty, and so was the TSA Pre-Check queue. I should point out, no other queues were empty; in fact, it looked like the general security queue is long enough to gestate an elephant.

So, at least for the first hour of my vacation, things completely fail to suck.

Great news! My flight tomorrow got cancelled

I'm serious: I couldn't have planned it better. Remember how I said I booked the early (4:50pm) flight because I wanted to fly on one of British Airways' brand-new 787-10 airplanes, and they swapped it out for one of they're old-ass 777s? Well, I woke up this morning to an email saying that the old-ass 777 won't actually make the trip after all, so they shoved me onto the next available flight on American.

After a not-so-quick call to American Airlines (them, because they issued the original ticket, and long, because British Airways screwed up the rebooking), they got me on the 9:15pm flight on a relatively-new Airbus 380. More to the point, instead of getting in at 6:30 am BST (12:30 am Chicago time), I'm now arriving at the much more humane hour of 11 am BST (5 am Chicago time).

That also puts me much closer to the bag-check time for my flight to Prague, and I'll still have enough time to get out of Heathrow for a bit. I hope.

If not, I have airline status with both American and BA, so the worst case is I cool my heels in the first-class lounge in Heathrow Terminal 3. Not ideal, but not like sitting in genpop with my luggage for 10 hours.

Updates as the situation warrants.

Taking a break from heads-down coding

I spent the morning going over an API for standards and style, which will result in an uncomfortably large commit before I leave the office today. I prefer smaller, more focused commits, but this kind of polishing task makes small code changes all over the place, and touches lots of files.

So while I have my (late) lunch, I'm taking a break to read some news:

Finally, the Securities and Exchange Commission has fined the Mormon Church $5m for failing to disclose its holdings as required by law. As the Church has some $32 billion in holdings worldwide, that $5m fine will sure sting.