The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Hampshire and Gospel Oak

 Lunch yesterday, at the Iron Duke in Hampshire:

The place is so named because it's on the Duke of Wellington's estate. The current Duke lives just a few kilometers away in a somewhat modest house (at least according to Queen Victoria) whose driveway is 5 km long.

Walking to and from lunch looked like this:

I ended the day at the Southampton Arms as I typically do at least once when visiting the UK. Shortly after arriving and opening a packet of crisps, Marty here came over to investigate:

His attitude toward me shifted a bit when I wouldn't give him any:

I'm flying home this afternoon to my own dog and my own bed, two things I really miss.

Cashless

Just a quick observation: since I last visited London two years ago, almost every business I've encountered has gone cashless. Coffee shops, pubs, the Transport Museum, all cards-only. In 2019, most of the smaller places preferred cash.

No real consequences, other than not needing to withdraw Sterling so far this trip. When I get home and sync up Quicken, I expect I'll have a little work, but again, not a biggie.

It's alive! It's alive!

Just in time for my visit this week, a new report declares the River Thames no longer dead:

In 1858, sewage clogging London's Thames River caused a "Great Stink." A century later, parts of the famed waterway were declared biologically dead.

But the latest report on "The State of the Thames" is sounding a surprisingly optimistic note.

The river today is "home to myriad wildlife as diverse as London itself," Andrew Terry, the director of conservation and policy at the Zoological Society of London, writes in a forward to the report published Wednesday. Terry points to "reductions in pressures and improvements in key species and habitats."

The report highlights several promising trends. But it also cautions that work still needs to be done in other areas, and warns of the negative impact of climate change on the river, which is a major source of water for the city.

There is a possible fix on the horizon. London is currently building a "super sewer" project, which is called the Thames Tideway Tunnel and is due for completion in 2025.

"Once operational it will capture and store most of the millions of tonnes of raw sewage that currently overflow into the estuary," the report says.

I will not, however, go for a swim in the Thames on this trip.

The last bit interests me. In many ways, Europe surged ahead of the US technologically and socially in the last 50 years. Apparently, though, London is just now working on the equivalent of Chicago's Deep Tunnel, which we started in the 1970s.

Meanwhile, back home, Chicago resident Jarrett Knize caught a 33.9 kg carp in the Humboldt Park Lagoon on Sunday, which if certified will be the biggest carp ever caught in Illinois. The Humboldt Park Lagoon is about the size of the Serpentine in London's Hyde Park, and about as urban. No word from the possibly decade-old carp about how it got into the lagoon in the first place.

Back in the Ancestral Homeland

Oh, hello. I think we've met:

That's why I try to sit on the right side of the plane coming into London. This morning, it worked out well.

After getting to my hotel I crashed for more than two hours, so by the time I got outside again it had gotten gloomy and a bit chilly. Perfect London weather! And really interesting light on St Mary Le Strand:

And just off to the right of the church, Somerset House has built a skating rink for the winter:

I'll re-edit the photos when I get home. Phones aren't the best platforms for photo editing.

On the road again

I'm leaving the country today, for the first time in almost exactly two years, and I couldn't be happier. I miss my Ancestral Homeland. And the list of Covid-related travel requirements, while annoying, make sense to me. In fact, because I return Sunday, I timed my (£39 FFS!) UK 2-day test to double as my US 3-day test.

Before I take off, and consign poor Cassie to 103 hours of desperate loneliness (albeit with her entire daycare pack), I want to comment on two news stories.

First, the Chicago Anti-Cruelty Society has temporarily waived adoption fees because adoptions have declined 33% in the past three months. "The rescue organization is housing and caring for more than 420 animals and has 140 animals in foster care," Block Club Chicago reports. I foresaw this at the beginning of the pandemic: people feeling lonely and isolated adopting pets that they wouldn't want when the pandemic started to wane. It really pisses me off, but after all, we live in a selfish, consumerist society that views dogs and cats as disposable.

Second, the New York Times reported Monday on how President Biden's infrastructure bill will help Chicago's West Side—but thanks to conservatives in the party scything away hunks of it, it won't help enough:

[T]he protracted negotiations over both spending packages have forced Democrats to cut several initiatives partly or entirely: tuition-free community college, a clean energy standard to combat climate change, billions of dollars for affordable housing assistance and measures to lower the price of prescription drugs.

Places like the West Side may still receive record amounts of federal assistance. But the tug of war leading up to Friday’s passage of the infrastructure bill — and still looming as Congress awaits a vote on the $1.85 trillion social-safety-net package — has delayed the party from what may be an even bigger challenge: selling the investments to voters.

Another issue being closely watched by Chicago community groups, an initiative to replace lead service lines that can cause toxic drinking water, will receive $15 billion in the infrastructure bill and could get another $10 billion in the social-safety-net package, according to environmental groups that have negotiated with lawmakers. That is well short of the $60 billion sought by industry experts and the $45 billion Mr. Biden originally proposed.

I get that legislation takes time, and when your party has a majority of exactly one—and that one is the Vice President—you won't get everything you want. But if Republicans would remember that they represent Americans and not just other Republicans, maybe we could have done better.

All right. Off to the longest doggie day care Cassie has ever experienced...

Fun start to the day

My 8am meeting with colleagues in London had to wait until 9:30 because Comcast screwed the pooch this morning:

Reports indicate the system was down, or at least unsteady, in areas stretching from Chicago to Philadelphia, New Jersey, and South Carolina. Looking at DownDetector, issues had been reported earlier in the Bay Area, but it’s unclear if those are connected to the problems people saw this morning.

Comcast has released a statement regarding the outage. According to a spokesperson, “Earlier, some customers experienced intermittent service disruptions as a result of a network issue. We have addressed the issue and service is now restoring for impacted customers, as we continue to investigate the root cause. We apologize to those who were affected.” It appears that most of the people who reported problems have confirmed they’re back online. There’s still no word on exactly what caused the problem or how many people were impacted at its peak.

In Chicago, the outage affected thousands of people from about 7:30 to 9, by which time I'd already relocated to my company's Loop office.

Oh, and on the day before a trip, my bank called to let me know their fraud department killed my primary credit card. They hope the new one arrives before I leave for the airport.

Yay.

Chicago Distilling Co., Chicago

Welcome to stop #61 on the Brews and Choos project.

Distillery: Chicago Distilling Co., 2359 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago
Train line: CTA Blue Line, California
Time from Chicago: 14 minutes
Distance from station: 300 m

It's dangerous to have such a great distillery two doors down from a great brewpub. It's also convenient, when you're out with friends and want to have a cocktail after having a pile of pub food.

Chicago Distilling makes really good spirits, full stop. And they've recently launched a line of ready-to-drink cocktails, making all the spirits and mixers in-house.

After visiting Revolution on Friday evening, my friends and I ended the evening with three varieties of Old Fashioneds for them and a 60 mL sample of their single-malt Rauch whiskey for me. It tasted as smooth and malty as a solid Speyside Scotch, with just enough smokiness to suggest a blend with a good Islay. I'll try to find some in stores; it's worth another taste.

Outside space? No
Dogs OK? No
Televisions? None
Serves food? No; BYOF
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

The Empire State Trail

The kids today don't know how good they have it. When I lived in New York more than 20 years ago, I would have gotten on a bike and ridden this trail:

Last December, the Empire State Trail — a sprawling, 750-mile cyclist and pedestrian route that connects Buffalo to Albany and New York City to the Canadian border, forming what looks like a sideways T — opened to the public. Considering the pandemic bike boom, the timing was perfect.

About 400 miles of greenways, repurposed rail lines and bike paths already existed in New York. So, when the $200 million project was announced in 2017, the state rushed to fill in the gaps between them.

Where new bike trails were not possible, blue-and-yellow signs were installed on roads signaling the way, and some guardrails were added to protect cyclists from vehicular traffic.

The result — a combination of protected paths, city streets, highway shoulders and country roads that pass by small towns and cities — offers views of wetlands, waterways, grasslands and mountain ranges. It is a showcase for New York State’s history and natural beauty.

Of course, before my knees told me I had to stop biking, I also planned to ride RAGBRAI, so maybe this wouldn't have happened. Still: the kids today have opportunities my generation never had.

And they should get off my lawn.