The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

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.

Drawing pictures in the sky

Chicago-based Boeing tested new engines on a 787-8 Wednesday, and chose an imaginative flight path:

Quartz has the story:

Without context, this seems like a publicity stunt. The distance covered in the flight is estimated to be about 25,400 km (15,800 miles). By one estimate, the 787-8 dumped more than 300,000 kg of carbon dioxide in the process.

The endeavor was not a complete waste. A Boeing spokesperson told Quartz that today’s flight was to test the endurance of new engines and it was required by regulatory agencies. “Rather than fly in random patterns, the test team got creative and flew a route that outlined a 787-8,” he said.

Boeing's company blog has more:

With time to spare in the air, a Boeing test team got creative, flying a route that outlined a 787-8 in the skies over 22 states. The nose is pointing at the Puget Sound region, home to Boeing Commercial Airplanes. The wings stretch from northern Michigan near the Canadian border to southern Texas. The tail touches Huntsville, Alabama. The flight plan is visible using a flight tracking website like Flight Aware. The 787 Dreamliner is designed to allow carriers to provide more direct flights on long-distance routes.

Hey, if you have to fly for 18 hours straight, at least have some fun with it, right?

What Brexit means to Crossrail

Crossrail, the UK's £14.8bn rail line connecting London's far western suburbs with its eastern ones, either represents the end of an era or the beginning of one, according to today's New York Times:

Before Britain voted last summer to leave the European Union, Crossrail was conceived for a London open to the world and speeding into the future. Now, with Brexit, the nightmare scenario is that this massive project, to provide more trains moving more people more quickly through a growing city, ends up moving fewer people more quickly through a shrinking city.

Extending roughly 110 km, it is built to speed about 200 million passengers a year in a kind of Y from far to the west of the city, in the county of Berkshire, through Heathrow, to the heart of London, forking east to Shenfield in Essex and to the neighborhood called Abbey Wood, on the historically neglected southeast side of the Thames River. Linked with the existing Underground subway network, it will be rechristened the Elizabeth Line, inserting what is in effect a new steel-and-wheels spine into Britain’s capital.

“The danger with Brexit,” [George Iacobescu, Canary Wharf’s longtime chairman said], “is that if Britain gets out of the European Union and doesn’t keep the U.K. an attractive place for financial institutions, they will think twice about growing here. The issue isn’t banks leaving Canary Wharf. Most of them have long-term leases. The issue will be the pace of growth.”

But that’s not quite true. Because of Brexit worries, construction plans for several of Canary Wharf’s new buildings have already been put on hold. And long-term leases can always be broken.

The subway will open to passengers in 2018.

Chan eil iad mar a tha thu

Scottish authorities are making it difficult for Donald Trump to expand his money-losing golf course outside Aberdeen:

Two Scottish government agencies—the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and Scottish Natural Heritage, a conservation agency—say they will object to the Trump Organization’s plans to build a second 18-hole golf course at Aberdeen, known as the Trump International Golf Links. If they succeed in killing this expansion, it will be a major setback for Trump and raise doubts about the future profitability of the whole venture.

Industry experts say the value of many of Trump’s golf resorts is not in the daily management of the course itself but rather in the development and sale of housing. And according to the 2008 master plan that Trump convinced local planning officials to accept, he needs to build two courses before he is allowed to break ground on the profitable housing development. 

But with the Trump Organization back to trying to get the second golf course built, Scottish regulators are making the case that Trump apparently doesn’t fully understand the development limitations. According to the Guardian, the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency is objecting to the Aberdeen expansion on the grounds that the Trump Organization’s plans for managing sewage are inadequate. Scottish Natural Heritage, meanwhile, says the company’s expansion plans don’t take into account the fragility of the nearby dunes and how they may affect the course as they shift—already a recurring problem on the first course, where greens are strafed by mini-sandstorms. 

It turns out, Scots are really hard to bully, and (as the headline above says), they really do not like him.

So long, big guy

Yesterday around 7pm, as I dropped a friend off at O'Hare, I was lucky enough to see the last United 747 take off from Chicago:

Chicago-based United still has 14 747s in operation that typically only fly from San Francisco to a handful of cities in Asia and Europe.

But United will have one of its 747s fly from Chicago's O'Hare International Airport to San Francisco on Friday, the airline said. Tickets for the flight — UA2704, departing Chicago at 6:30 p.m. — went on sale Tuesday, said United spokeswoman Maggie Schmerin.

Here's the airplane's flight track.

It was majestic, this huge thing taking off over Terminal 5 just as we were pulling up. And then it was gone, never to return.

Kind of like the American 767s that used to fly from Chicago to London twice a day. My flight next Sunday will be on one of American's brand-new 787-8 airplanes, and wow, am I looking forward to it.