The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Chicago's great sports teams

Chicago's two baseball teams gave up a combined 36 runs yesterday, with the Cubs losing to the Reds 20-5 and the Sox losing to the Red Sox 16-7. Perhaps the bullpens could use a little work, hmm?

In other news:

Finally, astronomers have produced a photo of the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy, and were surprised to see it looks nothing like Ted Cruz's head.

Elizabeth Line opens

The Elizabeth Line through central London, formerly known as Crossrail, opened today:

First approved in 2008, the heavy rail line will dramatically improve public transport coverage of the city, says Transport for London (TfL), slashing journey times, providing substantial extra capacity and making the city more altogether more accessible. By extending the transport system to areas that were previously much slower to access and creating new central hubs for transfers to the Tube, the line could also reshape the way people navigate the city.

Travel times from Southeast London’s Abbey Wood to the major western rail terminus of Paddington, for example, will be cut by almost half to 29 minutes. Journeys from southeastern Woolwich—currently one of London’s worst-served areas for train connections—to London’s main eastern rail terminus at Liverpool Street will be halved to 15 minutes, while connections between Farringdon, in London’s financial district, and the newer dockland business hub of Canary Wharf will be slashed from 24 minutes to just ten. While all Londoners stand to benefit from these connections, business travelers will be particularly well-served, with connections from Heathrow Airport to Canary Wharf soon to be possible in 44 minutes.

An additional 1.5 million people will be within a 45-minute commuting distance from the capital’s major commercial and business centers of the West End, the City and Canary Wharf, up from 5 million currently according to Crossrail.

The Elizabeth Line will also redraw the map of London’s central transport hubs.

To take an example: Farringdon Station—the central London terminus of the world’s first underground railway, which opened in January 1863—was, before the Elizabeth Line’s opening a busy but not necessarily pivotal station in London’s transport network. Thanks to the Elizabeth Line, it will now be a key interchange station, connecting the line not just to the Tube but with high frequency trains to London’s northern and southern suburban hinterland that are routed through the station. Farringdon will also now have direct links to St. Pancras International for Eurostar connections and to three major airports: Gatwick, Heathrow and Luton. Combined with the station’s existing Tube links, Farringdon will eventually be served by over 140 trains per hour at the busiest times.

I will deliver a full report in July.

Meanwhile, 89% of UK railway workers have voted for a national railway strike, so who knows how long the Elizabeth Line will run?

The Elizabeth Line opens this month

The London Underground gets a new line on May 24th. Eventually, you can take the Elizabeth Line from Heathrow to Essex in one go; for now, you have to change twice. But it still adds about 10% more capacity to the Tube:

The Elizabeth line will initially operate as three separate railways, with services from Reading, Heathrow and Shenfield connecting with the central tunnels from autumn this year. When the final stage is complete, customers will be able to travel seamlessly from Abbey Wood to Heathrow and Reading, and from Shenfield to Heathrow.

  • Shenfield and the central section of the route will need to change trains at Liverpool Street, walking to/from the new Elizabeth line Liverpool Street station
  • Reading or Heathrow and the central section will need to change trains at Paddington, walking to/from the new Paddington Elizabeth line station
  • Paddington and Abbey Wood only - no changes needed

The line has all-new trains, all-new signals, and all-new controls, making it "one of the most complex digital railways in the world," according to TfL.

The Heathrow to Paddington route looks like it could give the Heathrow Express some competition, as £6 is less than £25, even if the route takes twice as long.

Not quite back to normal yet

We had two incredible performances of Bach's Johannespassion this weekend. (Update: we got a great review!) It's a notoriously difficult work that Bach wrote for his small, amateur church chorus in Leipzig the year he started working there. I can only imagine what rehearsals were like in 1724. I'm also grateful that we didn't include the traditional 90-minute sermon between the 39-minute first part and the 70-minute second part, and that we didn't conclude the work with the equally-traditional pogrom against the Jews of Leipzig.

It's still a magnificent work of music.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the world:

Finally, Rachel Feltman lists five myths about Daylight Saving Time. Our annual tradition of questioning it without changing anything will continue, of course.

And it's about 16°C outside, so it's time to take Cassie on her third half-hour walk of the day.

Productive first day of spring

I finished a sprint at my day job while finding time to take Cassie to the dog park and make a stir-fry for lunch. While the unit tests continue to spin on my work computer, I have some time to read about all the things that went wrong in the world today:

I'm heading out tonight to watch President Biden's first State of the Union Address with friends. Robert Reich will also tune in.

Fake design firm in London "jobfished" its entire staff

A truly bizarre story from the BBC:

Madbird hired more than 50 others. Most worked in sales, some in design and some were brought in to supervise. Every new joiner was instructed to work from home - messaging over email and speaking to each other on Zoom.

Days were often long. Jordan Carter from Suffolk, who was 26 at the time, was credited with being one of the hardest working members of Chris's sales team. In five months, he pitched Madbird to 10,000 possible business clients, hoping to win deals to redesign websites or build apps. By January 2021, his work ethic had earned him the title Employee of the Month.

Gemma Brett, a 27-year-old designer from west London, had only been working at Madbird for two weeks when she spotted something strange. Curious about what her commute would be like when the pandemic was over, she searched for the company's office address. The result looked nothing like the videos on Madbird's website of a sleek workspace buzzing with creative-types. Instead, Google Street View showed an upmarket block of flats in London's Kensington.

Gemma contacted an estate agent with a listing at the same address who confirmed her suspicion - the building was purely residential. We later corroborated this by speaking to someone who'd worked in the building for years. They had never seen Ali Ayad. The block of flats was not the global headquarters of a design firm called Madbird.

Using online reverse image searches they dug deeper. They found that almost all the work Madbird claimed as its own had been stolen from elsewhere on the internet - and that some of the colleagues they'd been messaging online didn't exist.

The person claiming to be Ayad exists, and the Beeb interviewed him briefly. But they couldn't explain why he had created a fake company in the first place.

Cue the weekend

The temperature dropped 17.7°C between 2:30 pm yesterday and 7:45 this morning, from 6.5°C to -10.2°C, as measured at Inner Drive Technology World Headquarters. So far it's recovered to -5.5°C, almost warm enough to take my lazy dog on a hike. She got a talking-to from HR about not pulling her weight in the office, so this morning she worked away at a bone for a good stretch:

Alas, the sun came out, a beam hit her head, and she decided the bone could wait:

Meanwhile, in the rest of the world:

  • Julia Ioffe interviews Russian diplomat Dr Andrey Sushentsov about Russia's views of the Ukraine crisis. tl;dr: the US and Russia don't even have a common set of facts to discuss, let alone a common interpretation of them.
  • In Beijing, former Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon blasts the Russian team for once again crapping on their own performance with yet another doping scandal.
  • The government of Ontario secured a court order last night allowing the Windsor Police and OPP to start clearing the Ambassador Bridge. So far, they have managed to do so without violence, but a few extremists haven't yet budged.
  • James Fallows updates his earlier post on how framing outrageous actions as "that's just Trump" is an abrogation of the press's responsibility to its consumers. "For perspective here: the late Sandy Berger, who had been Bill Clinton’s National Security Advisor, was investigated, charged, fined $50,000, and sentenced to two years of probation for stuffing copies of a classified document into his socks, and sneaking them out from the National Archives. The story of his downfall was a major news feature back in the mid-2000s."
  • The UK now allows fully-vaccinated travelers from most countries to arrive and depart without getting a swab stuck up their nose.
  • Comedian Bob Saget died of blunt head trauma, consistent with a slip and fall, according to an autopsy. It also found his heart had a 95% blockage, which might have killed him even without the fall.

Finally, in 2018 Rebecca Mead returned to London after living in New York for 30 years. Her 15-year-old son now speaks with a unique accent Mead says has become the new standard "Multicultural London English."

Earth to Warren...come in, Warren...

One hundred years ago today, President Warren Harding installed a "Radio Phone" in his White House office. As the Tribune reported, "Navy radio experts commenced work to-day installing the latest scientific means of communication."

Flash forward to now:

  • Margaret Talbot argues that Justice Amy Coney Barrett, whom nobody ever elected to public office, is playing a long game to bring her right-wing Catholic ideology into the mainstream—or, at least, to enshrine it in the law.
  • Times columnist Margaret Renkl, writing from Nashville, argues that Tennessee has bigger problems than just one school board banning Maus.
  • Ultra-low-cost airlines Spirit and Frontier have merged, after years of dating and several previous feints toward the altar.
  • The oldest pub in the United Kingdom will close because of lost revenue during the pandemic, according to its current proprietor. The landlord hopes the pub, first opened in 793 CE, reopens soon.

And finally, Max Boot asks, why does anyone care what Ben, Jerry, Whoopi, or Joe have to say? In my conversation just now with the reader who sent me the link, I pointed out that people have had about the same reaction to every new communications technology back to the printing press. (Probably back to the stone tablet, if you really think about it.)

Tragedy and farce

We're all set to perform Handel's Messiah tomorrow and Sunday, which got noticed by both the local news service and local TV station. Otherwise, the week just keeps getting odder:

And to cap all that off, the National Weather Service has announced a Hazardous Weather Outlook for tonight that includes...tornados? I hope the weather gets better before our performance.

Not the pub crawl anyone expected

A group of pub-goers in Yorkshire got trapped with an Oasis cover band after freak snowfall made the area impassible:

Dozens of people, mostly strangers, spent the weekend snowed in together at the remote pub after heavy snowfall blocked the exits.

The Tan Hill Inn, which calls itself the U.K.'s highest pub, was hosting the band Noasis when snowfall made leaving the area dangerous for staff, musicians and pub-goers.

So they stayed — and stayed and stayed — all weekend, waiting for the danger to pass.

The band was trapped at the pub as well, causing them to miss their next gig in Essex. "We're very sorry to announce that we are stranded in Yorkshire, snowed in at the venue after last night's gig at The Tan Hill Inn," the band wrote on Facebook.

I mean, I guess there are worse places to be trapped. At least they had food and beer.