The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Noted, with sadness

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...

Byeslay

Despite (or because of, unclear) normal Scottish weather, we killed an hour at the Laphroaig Distillery before heading out on the ferry back to the mainland. I claimed my rent on my one square foot of land* and my dram of the 10 year old. Then we got a couple more drams (in takeaway containers), a book, some lip balm, and rained upon. But I did manage this photo through the window:

And then we headed to the ferry and said goodbye to Islay (for now):

Now, as was common in days of yore, we're taking a few days to get back home. We stopped for lunch at the Drovers Inn outside Loch Lomond, and now we're in Glasgow.

* The coordinates on my certificate are the coordinates showing on the map there, but there are differences between what GPS says and what maps say all the time. I'm not sure if this is a mismatched datum or that Laphroaig's GIS don't agree with Google's. There are tons of reasons why this would be. But it's fun anyway.

Not how I expected to spend the day

When we started planning this trip in May, it didn't occur to us that we would spend half a day at the Ileach equivalent of a county fair, complete with purple sheep:

The day started here, however:

We took part in the warehouse tasting, in which Lagavulin's Iain Macarthur let us taste some malts pulled right out of the barrels, including a 35-year-old and a 23-year-old, worth well over £150 each.

Now we're chilling before catching live music at the only venue that's open anywhere near us tonight, the Islay Hotel.

Port Ellen

Today, after a 6 km walk through squelchy bogs from Ardbeg up to Solam, and a drive to Bowmore, we had dinner in Port Ellen just before sunset. This was the scene after dinner:

I've got 759 photos to get through when we get back to the US in a couple of days. Meanwhile, my phone camera seems to be doing an adequate job, as the shot above shows. I think my SLR will yield better results overall, but for holiday snaps, the phone doesn't suck. I like living in the future.

Islay's well

Safely ensconced on Islay for a couple of days. Lots of photos that will have to wait until I get back to the U.S. Many sentences without subjects.

This is where we're staying:

Somehow we'll cope.

Why can't we have these things in the U.S.?

I'm on a train hurtling through the English countryside at 200 km/h and using WiFi.

Seriously, why can't we have a train like this back home? I mean, some Amtrak routes have WiFi, and Acela maxes out at 240 km/h between Boston and New Haven, Conn. But that's it. Chicago to Milwaukee trains plod along at half that speed, and the trains to St. Louis are even slower (and frequently delayed by freight traffic).

Where's the President's infrastructure investment plan that we've heard so much about?

London again, for a few hours

This turns out to be my 35th trip to Heathrow this century. Of those, 20 have flown from O'Hare, and of those, 11 were on American flight 90. This is, however, the first time I've flown on AAL90 in something other than a Boeing 767, and I have to say I really like the business class in American's 787-8 planes.

This is not my first time in a 787, nor is it my first time in business class on one. (It's my second for both.) I flew from London to Montreal in British Airways' coach class in 2013, and from Los Angeles to Dallas in American's (domestic) business class in 2014. Since then, American has reconfigured its business class to fit in more seats in a diagonal front/rear-facing jigsaw. The result is that only six business-class seats actually put your head next to a window; the other 10 "window" seats put your feet by the window so they feel more like aisle seats. Thanks to SeatGuru, I got some warning about this so I could choose wisely when my upgrade went through.

A couple more observations. First, it seems that GPS signals have a harder time penetrating the composite skin of this airplane than the aluminum skin of the other Boeing models in American's fleet. In consequence my phone can't tell me where I am right now, so I'll have to grab the coordinates retrospectively from FlightAware. Since I'm posting this entry retrospectively anyway, this isn't that big a deal.

Second, despite the widespread passenger loathing of American's 767 fleet—at least for everyone who didn't get a "twilight zone" seat in rows 10 through 13—the flight attendants I spoke with actually preferred the 767s to these new 787s. Apparently the galleys on the 787s are cramped and lack adequate counter space.

Third, I'm not sure if we should give kudos to American for ditching the 2-4-2 seating arrangement in coach in favor of 3-3-3. This increased the number of passengers by increasing the number of middle seats. But more passengers on the airplane generally translates into lower fares. Also, it means that American can move their 777s (which are still 2-5-2 in coach) to their Asia routes and fly 787s exclusively on the Chicago-London route. The 787 is just enough smaller that it doesn't feel like a freight car in coach. Even if American moves to 3-3-3 seating on their 777s, the planes still carry almost 100 more people, which makes boarding and baggage claim that much less enjoyable.

I'll have a couple of photos at some point. A couple of four-hour train rides and two-hour ferry rides will give me some downtime to edit photos.

Yesterday and today

At the Bristol Renaissance Faire yesterday I caught my friend Megan trying on earrings:

Today, though, I'm getting on this gorgeous machine and flying to the Ancestral Homeland:

I'm also operating on about 4 hours of sleep, since my plan to wake up at 10:30am British Summer Time (4:30am Central Daylight Time) worked a lot better than my plan to go to sleep around 3am BST (9pm CDT). For that I thank the squad of Irish bros across the alley who had one of the louder parties I've ever witnessed until...well, there were still stragglers on the porch when I took out my trash at 5am.

I did get upgraded today, however, so at some point over the next couple of days I'll have a photo or two of Amercian's B787-8 business class.

Slow news day

President Trump, our hypocrite in chief, is taking the first official vacation of his presidency, after spending 41 of the last 196 days away from the White House. This is a man who criticized President Obama for taking too much time off, which makes sense because Trump projects and lies the way you and I breathe. Obama, in fact, had spent 21 days away from the White House at this point in his presidency, including 8 visits to Camp David (which, while relaxing, is hardly a vacation).

As CNN's Chris Cillizza points out,

Generally speaking, I think "the president is taking a too-long vacation" is a dumb storyline. Presidents -- of both parties -- deserve some down time. Whether they play golf or clear brush in their free time, it's fine with me! We all need a little break. And let's be honest: If I am always not so far from my phone (and work) on vacation, then you can sure as hell bet the president of the United States is staying dialed in too. It's not as though these presidents go to a remote island where there's no phone or Internet service.

That said, Trump asked for this criticism. He was relentless not only in his attacks on Obama's vacation habits but insistent that he wouldn't take any vacation if he was elected president.

"Pres. Obama is about to embark on a 17 day vacation in his 'native' Hawaii, putting Secret Service away from families on Christmas. Aloha!," Trump tweeted in December 2013. "President Obama has a major meeting on the N.Y.C. Ebola outbreak, with people flying in from all over the country, but decided to play golf!," he tweeted in October 2014.

I'm on vacation as well, flying out tomorrow to the Ancestral Homeland. First, though, I'm spending a day enjoying our perfect late-summer weather at the Bristol Renaissance Faire. Photos forthcoming.