I'm not referring to the 14°C drop in temperatures over four hours yesterday, though that did suck. (And it did drench me.)
No, I'm talking about how, after calling countries that have dark-skinned citizens "shitholes," the best President we have right now abruptly cancelled a visit to the UK to dedicate our new (and ugly, and inconveniently-located) embassy on the south bank of the Thames:
The president claimed on Twitter that the reason for calling off the trip was his displeasure at Barack Obama having sold the current embassy for “peanuts” and built a replacement for $1bn (£750m). “Bad deal,” he wrote.
But the embassy’s plan to move from Mayfair to Nine Elms in London was first reported in October 2008, when George W Bush was still president.
The London mayor, Sadiq Khan, said Trump had “got the message” that many Londoners staunchly opposed his policies and actions.
“It appears that President Trump got the message from the many Londoners who love and admire America and Americans but find his policies and actions the polar opposite of our city’s values of inclusion, diversity and tolerance,” Khan said on Friday.
“His visit next month would without doubt have been met by mass peaceful protests. This just reinforces what a mistake it was for Theresa May to rush and extend an invitation of a state visit in the first place.”
It's important to realize that Trump didn't cancel the visit because he feels one way or another about the embassy move. That's a policy detail that, while irksome to one of the closest allies the US has had for two centuries, is not something he would necessarily be aware of unless someone mentioned it on Fox & Friends. No, he doesn't want to go to the embassy dedication because he hates being reminded that he is less popular in London than Robert Mugabe.
I should also point out that our embassy in Grosvenor Square is an ugly building also, but at least it's convenient to Central London and near to many other embassies and missions. It's right across the park from Macdonald House, which used to house the Canadian High Commission and was also sold recently to private developers.
I should also point out that President Trump doesn't like President Bush fils any more than he likes President Obama, but of course Trump would never blame things on the white guy if he doesn't have to. (See, e.g., "shithole countries" comment, above.)
I'm on a train, using my mobile phone to tether my laptop to the Intertubes. I know this is an old technology, and also the reason I have unlimited data on my mobile, but I still love this stuff.
Things I'm reading:
Now approaching...Highwood! And soon off to my meeting.
I was thinking back to a somewhat strange question: where in the world have I experienced all 12 months of the year? I mean, I think you have to do that in order to say you really know a place.
Before I get to that, let me explain the post's title. The second time I ever set foot in New York was 30 years ago Monday, on 4 December 1987. (The first time was 23 July 1984.)
New York is also the second place in the world, after Chicago, where I experienced all 12 months of the year. I crossed that finish line on 1 April 1989, during my first year at university.
The other places (and dates) are Raleigh, N.C. (1 May 2010), London (1 September 2013), Los Angeles (1 October 2014), and San Francisco (29 October 2015).
L.A. really surprised me. Half my family lived there for 30 years, but between school, work, and dumb luck, it took over 40 years from my first visit there (19 April 1974) until I finally, finally experienced an October day there. And that was a work trip—I didn't even intend to do it.
The other odd bit is that the entirety of the time I spent in North Carolina is documented in this blog.
I think this post will interest about six people, but since one of them is me, and the rest of my brain is working on some pretty slippery user stories for work, up it goes.
I'm chilling in my hotel room on the second day of my trip, not sure how much longer I'll remain awake. (Waking up at 5am sucks, even more so when it's 4am back home.) This is a problem in that I need to write some code before tomorrow.
So I've spent a few minutes perusing the blog feeds and news reports that came in today, and I have a favorite. The favorite is not:
No, though all of those brought little flutters of joy to my heart, the story that London is going to make Oxford Street a pedestrian utopia by 2020 really got my interest. Since I have never driven a car anywhere in Zone 1 and have no intention of ever doing so, I think blocking 800 meters of Oxford Street to cars is fookin' brilliant.
Too much to read today, especially during an hours-long download from our trips over the past two weeks. So I'll come back to these:
But more seriously:
Lunch break is over.
On the southwest coast of Ireland, County Kerry's local newspaper warns that post-tropical storm Ophelia will hit within the hour with "violent and destructive gusts forecast with all areas at risk."
Galway schools are closed an Irish defence forces are being deployed throughout the area:
The Department of Education has ordered schools across Galway to close tomorrow as a red weather warning remains in place for the county.
It follows a special meeting of the Government Task Force on Emergency Planning this afternoon to discuss preparations for Hurricane Ophelia.
GMIT is also to close all of its campuses across Galway – while NUI Galway says it is currently assessing the threat and will make a decision at 7 this evening.
Meanwhile, the City Council says Hurricane Ophelia does not currently pose a strong flood risk.
In a statement, the local authority says while there will be a storm sea surge in Galway Bay, the overall tidal level is predicted to be below the critical level for flooding.
It adds it will continue to monitor the situation and further defences and other measures will be put in place if required.
Meanwhile the storm track seems to have shifted west, so that Islay and Campbelltown are not directly in Ophelia's path; but not entirely safe either:
Three battalions of soldiers are on permanent standby to deal with major incidents in the UK, but the Ministry of Defence said no specific requests had yet been made of them by local authorities.
The Republic of Ireland's Met Office predicts coastal areas will be hit by winds in excess of 80mph (130km/h) from 09:00 BST on Monday until Tuesday and is warning against unnecessary travel.
Gerald Fleming, head of its general forecasting division, told Irish broadcaster RTE: "The track is very consistent [and] has been for days.
"The strongest winds [will be] along the south coast.
"That'll be tomorrow morning, and it'll track up the centre again, going up along the western part of the country."
BBC Weather said Monday would be a "day of huge contrasts" with the strong gusts of wind travelling over the Irish Sea and heading north to central and southern Scotland, sparing eastern parts of the UK.
Eastern England is instead expected to enjoy unseasonably warm weather, with temperatures of 22C or 23C on Monday - compared with an average for mid-October of 15C.
Highs of 24C were recorded in the region on Saturday as some parts of the country basked in a "mini heatwave" thanks to warm air brought by Hurricane Ophelia
I hope the people I met in Ireland and Scotland over the years get through this once-per-century storm with their wits about them—and their houses. Good luck.
Another Atlantic hurricane is heading towards another place I've visited recently. Hurricane Ophelia, now churning in the eastern Atlantic, should reach the south coast of—not kidding—Ireland tomorrow morning as a tropical storm, and a few hours later roll over Islay.
This year’s busy and bizarre hurricane season isn’t done stunning scientists. The latest named storm, Ophelia, is now the sixth major hurricane to form in the Atlantic this year, and the 10th consecutive named storm to reach hurricane strength this year — only the third time in recorded history and the first time in a century that has happened — tying the all-time single-year record. On top of all that, no major hurricane has ever formed as far east as Ophelia has. The storm intensified so far east, in fact, that the continent it now threatens is Europe. Ophelia reached category 3 strength 220 miles south of the Azores on Saturday morning, and is now on track to strike Ireland beginning Monday.
While it won’t still be a hurricane by the time it reaches the British Isles — Ophelia is forecast to have become an extratropical storm before then — it will probably still arrive as “a destructive windstorm in Ireland on par with some of the most damaging in the nation’s history,” according to Henson, with winds as high as 70 mph along the island’s southwest coast. A “status red” alert, Ireland’s highest, has been issued for five counties in that region. Storm surge flooding along the coast is possible, but the biggest threat will be from the high winds.
I mean, this is just weird:
A 140-tonne blob of fat and other horrible things is blocking a sewer in East London:
What has been named the Whitechapel fatberg is a rock-solid agglomeration of fat, disposable wipes, diapers, condoms and tampons. It was discovered to the east of the city’s financial district, occupying a sixth of a mile of sewer under Whitechapel Road, between one of London’s largest mosques and a pub called the Blind Beggar, where walking tours are taken to reminisce about a notorious gangland murder.
Thames Water, the capital’s utility, said the fatberg weighed as much as 11 of the city’s double-decker buses: more than 140 tons. That is 10 times the size of a similar mass that the company found beneath Kingston, in South London, in 2013, and declared the biggest example in British history.
To prevent the contents of the sewer from flooding streets and homes nearby, the utility is sending an eight-member team to break up the fatberg with highpowered jet hoses and hand tools. The task is expected to take them three weeks, working seven days a week.
I mean...yuck. Citylab explains how fatbergs form:
But while it’s easy to shudder at, there is no easy fix for the fatberg problem, especially in a city like London where rising population is matched with an antiquated sewer system. “London is a sort of perfect storm for the phenomenon,” says Dr. Tom Curran, a lecturer at University College Dublin’s School of Biosystems & Food Engineering department, who has studied the problem extensively. Curran says that another problem, in addition to the growing population and various utilities sharing responsibility for the sewer networks, is the burden that the commercial sector places on the aging pipes. “London has a very high concentration of restaurants, hotels, pubs and takeaways, so you have a readily available source of grease waste,” Curran says.
The materials with which cities are built exacerbate the problem, too. Urban waste water often develops a high calcium content after flowing through or over calcium-rich concrete. When that water mixes with cooking grease in the sewer, it transforms the fat into a dense lump via saponification—yes, believe it or not, fatbergs are created by the same chemical process as bars of soap.
And quit flushing "disposable" wipes.
It's not really that perilous to travel from the US to the UK, unless you're in a step challenge.
This past week, I was traveling for almost 40 hours—including 14 yesterday thanks to ordinary aviation delays. When you're on a plane, it's pretty hard to get steps. Fortunately the time change from the UK back to the US is in my favor, so I got 6 extra hours in which to walk, and I also got Parker back. Still, I barely squeaked in with 10,689 for the day and an unusually low 81,638 for the week (helped immensely by Wednesday's 18,319).
The nadir, of course, was last Sunday, when I flew to London. The lost 6 hours occurred right in the middle of the day, so not only did I get the fewest steps (7,407) since June 11th (7,044), but also this happened:
So naturally, I walked to work today. I'm already at 9,770 and heading towards 20k (assuming I walk home, too).
I'm back from the UK, and I hope my laundry will be done soon because my body thinks it's 1:30 in the morning.
I did want to note the horror in Virginia over the weekend, and James Fallows' observations about the President's abject failure to respond appropriately:
Donald Trump had an opportunity yesterday to show that he was more than the ignorant, impulsive, reckless opportunist he appeared to be during the election. To show, that is, that the burdens and responsibilities of unmatched international power had in fact sobered him, and made him aware of his obligations to the nation as a whole.
Of course, he failed.
And those who stand with him, now, cannot claim the slightest illusion about what they are embracing.
It was so tempting, being at O'Hare with my passport and a packed bag, just to hop on another plane...