The Daily Valet. - 2/14/24, Wednesday

Wednesday, February 14th Edition
Cory Ohlendorf  
By Cory Ohlendorf, Valet. Editor
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Today’s Big Story

A Valentine’s Day Origin Story


Did you hear the one about a saint, a flying baby and a whole lot of candy?


Happy Valentine’s Day … what a funny little holiday, huh? Funny, but lucrative. It seems that the business of love is booming in the U.S. According to the National Retail Federation, Americans spent an estimated $26 billion on Valentine's Day last year, and this year is on track to see even more candy, wine and flowers being bought. But this day of mushy tokens of affection, however, wasn't always about gifts.

Sure, it's easy to write off the day as a “Hallmark holiday” and roll your eyes at the over-priced meals and cutesy cards. No wonder there’s a whole contingent of anti-Valentine’s Day people out there. Besides, the traditions associated with the occasion have long (and, at times, strange) histories. So let's talk about them ...

According to NPR, the origins of the seemingly sweet festival of candy and cupids are actually dark, bloody and a bit muddled. First, there was a match-making celebration during the feast of Lupercalia. And then Emperor Claudius II executed two men (both named Valentine) on Feb. 14 of different years in the third century. Their martyrdom was honored by the Catholic Church with the celebration of St. Valentine's Day. We can also thank Chaucer, whose poetic works forever connected romance and chivalry to this rose-tinged day.

Then there’s Cupid. A weapon-wielding flying baby shouldn't typically inspire warm and fuzzy feelings, right? But his connection to love and romance dates back centuries. Before he was a chubby, winged cherub, Cupid was actually a fearsome deity. The original Greek god Eros was depicted as a handsome young man. Like his mother Aphrodite, he was associated with love and lust, but he also took after Ares, the god of war sometimes attributed as his father. He used his famous bow and arrows for more than harmless matchmaking: One strike could consume his victims with uncontrollable—and sometimes unwanted—desire. This power was often used as a punishment rather than a gift. When the Romans reinterpreted the Greek myth, they renamed Eros as Cupid (which stems from the word for “desire”) and adopted a less threatening, chubby-cheeked child version of the god.

Similarly, the heart shape, like Cupid, has ancient origins. But it only started symbolizing love in the 13th and 14th centuries, when guys like Chaucer and Shakespeare romanticized it in their work, reports TIME. The shape was originally used for purely decorative purposes, and was meant to resemble an actual heart—although it actually looks more like a bird or reptile heart than a person's. And that's all way before Hallmark even got involved—they didn’t start mass producing Valentine’s Day cards until about 1913.

A Love Strike?
Drivers for Uber, Lyft and DoorDash are expected to go on strike on Valentine's Day as part of their continued fight for fair pay.

Democrats Flip a Congressional Seat


Democratic former Rep. Tom Suozzi won Tuesday's race, with big implications for the GOP House majority

Tom Suozzi, a former Democratic congressman, won a closely watched special House election in New York on Tuesday, the Associated Press reports. He will fill expelled Rep. George Santos’ empty seat, narrowing the already thin Republican majority in the House.

While special elections always have unique dynamics, including lower turnout, there are some key takeaways from Tuesday’s election with national implications. According to NBC News, the win is offering Democrats a potential playbook to run in key suburban swing areas in November while raising alarm bells for the GOP. Republicans went all-in on the issue of immigration as their ticket to victory—and fell short. Suozzi countered it by endorsing the bipartisan deal to toughen border and asylum laws and depicting his opponent, Mazi Pilip (who rejected the bill), as beholden to former President Trump and a far-right GOP.

This was a nationally watched election, which allowed both parties to “road test” their respective messages on immigration, abortion and the economy in one of the small group of suburban battleground districts that flipped from blue to red in 2022 and gave Republicans control of the House. Now it has flipped back. The result indicates that this bellwether district—and potentially others with similar mixes of red and blue—are still in flux.

Experts say yesterday's snow storm may've helped Democrats, who had turned out in larger numbers during early voting.

United Grounds Fleet of Planes Because of an Outdated Law


A U.S. law from 1990 requires the ‘No Smoking’ sign on planes to be operated by the flight crew

After causing a stir by mysteriously grounding its new Airbus A321neo planes on Monday, United Airlines wants people to know the decision had nothing to do with safety, as was the case with that recent Boeing controversy. Rather, it was due to the aircraft running afoul of a 1990 regulation regarding “no smoking” signs.

According to Engadget, the 34-year-old ruling mandates that “no smoking” signs found on aircraft must be manually operated by the crew. The newly-designed Airbus A321neo features software that automatically displays the signage during a flight, so the crew doesn’t switch it on and off. That’s pretty much it. Meanwhile, smoking itself was fully banned from both domestic and international flights nearly 25 years ago.

Of course, automated signage systems are not new. Many air travel companies bypass the outdated regulation by applying for an exemption with the Federal Aviation Authority. United filed for this exemption on behalf of its entire fleet back in 2020, which was granted. There’s just one problem. The company's new Airbus planes are, well … new, so they don’t fall under the protection of that exemption. These planes just started flying the friendly skies two months ago. But the planes were actually reinstated after the FAA gave United permission to fly its fleet of A321neos (five in all), while evaluating this request. Maybe they should use that time instead to simply write a new regulation?

Back in September, United issued a brief nationwide ground stop for its fleet because of a computer issue.

People Are Talking About Chrysler’s New Concept Car


The ‘stunning’ EV design aims to redefine a stray brand

Chrysler has unveiled a low-slung electric sedan concept car called Halcyon that Car and Driver says seems to be a preview of the brand's future. The automaker touted the car’s 800-volt architecture and a battery pack that uses emerging lithium-sulfur technology, which is said to reduce the carbon footprint by up to 60 percent compared to today’s EVs.

The design is also pretty appealing. The four-door sedan’s low-slung body design plays on supercar styling. The model sits just four inches off the ground and features aero blade air pass-throughs that minimize wind resistance and enhance efficiency leading to more battery-electric range. The extensive use of glass in the canopy gives a whole new meaning to outward visibility. Chrysler says 45 percent of the car's exterior panels are glass, and that creates sweeping views of the road ahead or the sky above.

In fact, the self-driving technology makes use of all that glass with a pretty novel feature: the car can dim the glass canopy on its own and recline the seats into a laid-back position to prepare the driver and passengers for its “Stargazing mode.” Here, the augmented-reality windshield head-up display projects information about stars and constellations, turning Halcyon into a moving stargazing observatory. Not a bad way to enjoy a road trip.

Jalopnik says that the world would be a better place if Detroit had built these former concept cars.


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