More Than A Mere Man…

Alex Massie draws our attention to what is probably the most over-the-top description of John McCain yet written. This is from David Gelernter in the Weekly Standard:

There is no single English word for McCain the hero, the moral entity. But in Hebrew he would be called a tsaddik–a man of such nobility and moral substance that he approaches holiness. If this assertion sounds crazy, that only shows how little we have thought about the issue.

Who knew? But doesn’t this sound just a little bit… oh, I don’t know, elitist?!


Yesterday I flew home from Dublin. The day started at 6am with a taxi to the airport, discussing EPFL managers and their bizarre strategies with the driver. The first flight was from Dublin to Heathrow on British Midland, which was scheduled to be operated by an Airbus A319. I’d checked in online the day before, and chosen seat 6F, near the front of the economy section. When I boarded, I discovered that they had substituted a larger A320, and 6F was now in the last row of business class. But economy was full, and business was mostly empty, so the flight attendant told me to stay where I was, and I got business class service (cooked breakfast and free beverages, rather than the pay-for-every-single-item service in economy).
The next flight was Heathrow to Chicago on a United 767. I had to check in with a human being at Heathrow, because the website wouldn’t allow me to check in online, and the self-service kiosk wouldn’t scan my “green card”. I think that the agent took pity on me, because she tagged my boarding pass for complimentary lounge access. ((There is no Red Carpet Club in Terminal 1; instead there’s a Star Alliance lounge, which is rather nicer than most RCCs)) .Boarding was delayed by 25 minutes because of a maintenance issue, and strong headwinds compounded the problem. We arrived at Chicago at 4pm, 40 minutes late, and when I turned on my iPhone the first email message that I saw was an alert from United telling me that they’d rebooked me on the 8:40pm flight to Seattle. Presumably they had decided that I wouldn’t be able to clear customs and immigration and get to the C concourse in time to make my 5:20pm connection.
I breezed through immigration and customs ((I hadn’t checked any bags.)), muscled my way onto the inter-terminal train ((And yes, the escalator at concourse B is still broken.)), found the shortest security line, raced through the tunnel between concourses B and C, and boarded my original flight with 10 minutes to spare. I even got my original seat, because the flight was less than half full.
The final stretch from Chicago to Seattle was a little tedious. The same headwinds kind of that had delayed LHR-ORD were at work, and in spite of pushing back 5 minutes early, we reached Seattle 15 minutes late.
Thoughts on the trip overall? From a work perspective, it was very productive. From the point of view of the air traveller, it was OK. No upgrades (except the inadvertent bump up on the BMI leg from DUB to LHR). One free lounge admission, so I didn’t have to use any of my RCC coupons. The most comfortable (and spacious) seats were actually on the United 757 on the final leg; Economy Plus on the 757 seems more generous than on the 767. ((Perhaps the 767’s bulky IFE equipment under the seat is the culprit.)) Terminal 5 at Heathrow is really cool, and comparable to many of the other new airports that I’ve seen recently. Iasi has the tiniest international airport I’ve ever seen; it’s smaller than, say, Monterey in California. And Tarom wins the award for the strangest food service: a small, plastic-wrapped sandwich, consisting of a thin slice of bologna and an even thinner slice of cheese between two half-slices of dry, Wonderloaf-style, white bread.

How badly can you misconfigure a proxy server?

I’m composing this blog entry from my room in the Maldron Hotel in Smithfield, Dublin. After enduring a variety of bizarre and expensive hotel internet access schemes on this trip, I was pleased to find that Maldron offers “FREE Broadband Connection”.
However I’d happily pay extra for a service that actually works.
I’m not sure exactly what they’ve screwed up, but my guess is that it’s the DNS server portion of the proxy server they’re using. The first time I point Firefox at a new URL, it immediately fails, just as if the DNS server had returned a authoritative “not found”. If I hit “Reload” a few times, the page will eventually load. Or some of it will. On a moderately complex site, like My!Yahoo! or the Guardian newspaper, the first “successful” load will yield a mangled, unstyled page together with dozens (even hundreds) of errors, because every image, CSS, script, or iframe that refers to a different URL will fail to load. If I’m lucky, I can load the complete Guardian front page with no more than ten clicks on “Reload”. And the DNS entries have incredibly short TTLs: by the time I finish typing this piece, I can be pretty sure that the entry for will have timed out, and I’ll have to reload a few times. (Memo to self: copy the text of this entry to the clipboard first, just in case WordPress loses the plot.)
Add to this the fact that it’s impossible to use a VPN (I can establish the tunnel, but I never receive any traffic), and that the WiFi in the restaurant is completely non-functional, and you can understand why I won’t be returning to this or any Maldron any time soon. (I stayed here before when it was part of the Comfort Inn chain; I don’t remember it being this bad.) And if any Maldron employee picks up on this, please fix your service.

Heading northwest

More travel today. I’m on a Tarom flight from Iasi to Bucharest at 1pm, then British Airways to Heathrow and Aer Lingus to Dublin. I’ll have to make my way from T5 to T1 at Heathrow, but I have almost 3 hours for the connection and I’m not checking any bags.
When visiting Dublin, I usually rely on the bus service to the city, but I’m getting in at 9:25pm, so I think I’ll just get a cab. Such extravagance….
(Posted from the Amazon office in Iasi, because the Internet access at my hotel failed this morning.)

Dallas, November 1

I’ve just booked my travel to Dallas for Gene’s memorial on November 1st. I note ((With a finely-calibrated sense of irony.)) that the cheap hotel that I’m using (the Staybridge, near the Sun office) offers free wired and wireless Internet. Meanwhile the fancy hotels that I stayed at last week in Edinburgh and Slough charged an arm and a leg for web access, and made me jump through hoops to get it. ((Buy an access card; scratch off the silver patch to reveal a PIN; then use it or lose it.)) Gene would have been appropriately outraged….

Unmitigated B.S. quote of the day.

Lewis Hamilton dominated today’s Chinese Grand Prix. He led from pole, and steadily extended his lead to about 16 seconds, being careful not to over-stress his tyres. Kimi Raikkonen was in second place, unable to catch Hamilton, and Felipe Massa was third, unable to keep pace with Raikkonen. But since Raikkonen was no longer in contention for the title, he deliberately slowed and allowed Massa to take second place at the finish. Raikkonen explained what he’d done and why, but Massa came up with this nonsense:
“I was strong enough to catch and pass [Raikkonen] and that was the best part of the race for me – but it was not enough.”
Pure B.S. What a wanker Massa is…

Strolling the streets of Iasi on a warm autumn Sunday

Today was my one free day on this trip, and the weather cooperated. After watching the Chinese Grand Prix on television (go Lewis!!), I spent several hours this afternoon strolling through the streets of Iasi. The sun was out, the sky was blue, the traffic was light (and some of the streets were closed off), and it seemed that all of Iasi was out for a walk, or sitting in the parks, or fishing in the (vestigial) river. I’m uploading the photographs even as I type this.

Just for the record, let me sketch out where I went. I’m not going to attempt to get the accents right, so my Romanian colleagues will wince when they see this.
I started at the Ramada Hotel, next door to the Palatul Culturii. After admiring the Casa Dosoftei, I walked up B-dul Stefan cel Ma si Sfant, past the Catedrala Catolica and Catedrala Mitropolitana. I crossed the street, went past the Primaria, and through the park leading to the Teatrul National. From there I zig-zagged my way to the big square called Piata Unirii. I cut up Maxim Gorky to the Piata Independentei, dominated by a huge and very forceful statue. I continued north-east to the Piata Mihai Eminescu, then turned south on Str. Gavril Muzicescu and made my way all the way back to the Palatui Culturii. I followed Str. Palat south around the Centru complex until I reached the river at the Piata Podu Ros. By now I was quite warm, and was starting to obsess about the bottle of sparkling water in my hotel room. So I headed up Str. Sf. Lazar (checking the location of the Amazon office for tomorrow), until I reached Str. Grigere Ureche which leads to the hotel.
More anon.

And speaking of Transylvania….

Here’s an interesting piece about a castle that’s often associated with Vlad the Impaler (DBA Count Dracula!), and how it’s up for sale.

The Thin Guy would probably insist that I highlight the fact that this story was produced by Al Jazeera. So I will. And it’s worth reading the comments at YouTube which suggest that the reporter was misled by the sales pitch, and managed to get the history completely wrong.

Emotion Vs. Reason

In an interesting riff on Emotion Vs. Reason, Michael Batz argues that….

…part of the reason that Obama is winning is not because he is speaking about policy, but because he has won the argument that we SHOULD be talking about policy. He has managed to convince people that in these times its important to vote with our brains, and that he’s the right guy for that vote.

There is some irony here. Obama won the primaries based upon very strong rhetoric and some hopeful idealism that had, at its core, a very emotional pull. His public persona before the convention was the lofty speaker who glossed over specifics, but he has pivoted substantially into the serious let’s-talk-numbers guy. It is pretty remarkable, when you think about it.