I've gotten a lot of sleep the last few days and also a lot of exercise. I can tell that the upper-respiratory infection burbling away in my head right now is taking a beating, and will soon be as dead as any strand of viral DNA can be.
In a timely posting, the Economist's Gulliver blog hints at its origin:
A recent study from the University of Stirling and the University of Ulster...examined hundreds of aeroplane crew members and discovered a direct link between air contamination and respiratory, cognitive and even neurological health problems. Out of 274 pilots questioned, 63% reported health problems consistent with breathing tainted air. When the team examined 15 separate incidents of acute aeroplane air contamination, most of which involed oil leakage, nearly 75% of the time multiple crew members on the flight reported adverse health effects. Airline staff are not the only ones at risk. “This is equally applicable to passengers because they breathe the same air,” says Susan Michaelis, one of the researchers and former airline pilot.
The problem has long been discussed within the airline industry, with several small-scale studies having been undertaken. But the new report is a fresh and more comprehensive take on the issue. The authors argue that manufacturers must change the way planes get their air. Boeing 787s, for example, have a separate system that does not draw in air through the engine.
OK, it really doesn't talk about pathogens spreading on airplanes, and since both my flights this past weekend were on 787-8s, the post doesn't even apply to me.
It's still an interesting post.
Apparently, life went on in the US while I was abroad last week. First, to James Damore:
Of course, that wasn't the big story of the weekend. About the terrorist attack and armed ultra-right rally in Virginia, there have been many, many reactions:
- From New Republic, Ryu Spaeth says President Trump is killing us, and Brian Beutler says the neo-Nazis are Trump's troops.
- Josh Marshall points out that Trump is one of them.
- From Citylab, Kriston Capps says the ultra-right are waging a war against public space, David Dudley talks about the Dodge Challenger as a killing machine, and Yoni Applebaum advocates taking all the Confederate statutes down.
- Krugman flat-out calls Trump un-American, which, it turns out, is like calling Parker a dog.
- Meanwhile, prominent Republicans are trying to distance themselves from Trump's tepid response, with Attorney General Jeff Sessions saying the attack met the legal definition of terrorism.
- Fox News is bending over backwards to cover the story as non-politcally as possible. In some cases, they're succeeding. Though I have to say, it looks like a challenge for them.
Can we have a discussion about domestic right-wing domestic terrorism now? Before we have another Oklahoma City?
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.