Monday, April 5, 2010

Non sim building thoughts and reports

Dear reader,
As you know, I've been out of pocket for a couple of weeks, resulting in zero activity on the build. I did get to fly in real life though and thought I'd share my thoughts on it, in the absence of anything build related. If you're not interested, feel free to tune in later in the week when I should have something on topic to share...

My trip was to Europe, partly business and partly to see family and friends. The direct routes from San Francisco invariably take you over northern Canada, Greenland, Iceland then down over England to the mainland. My option is always for a window seat on the left hand side of the plane. Three reasons:
  1. I don't want some jackass pushing past me every hour or so wanting to go to the bathroom
  2. I am that jackass that will push past you in the middle and aisle seat....
  3. At this time of year you stand an excellent chance of seeing the northern lights
On point 3, I wasn't disappointed. While the other dullards were watching an edited version of a movie on a tiny screen, with lousy sound quality (the same video you can rent or buy in the next 6 weeks), I had my head glued to the window after sunset, waiting for the light show. Sorry, no photos. Even if I had tried it wouldn't have done it justice - it's something you need to experience yourself. To get an idea of what I'm talking about though, here's a ground based photo from Senior Airman Joshua Strang:

Of course it's not a moving picture. When you see the northern lights they are constantly "moving" and changing. To see something of this scale appear to ripple across the viewable horizon is breath taking. On this occasion it was very bright and at times had more color to it than I've seen before. Have yet to see it from the ground but can fully recommend watching it from the comfort of your window seat.

Flying back from Europe, I always try to get a seat on the right hand side of the plane. You will miss the views of the Golden Gate bridge (assuming a Golden Gate 5 arrival) but what you will stand a better chance of seeing are spectacular views of Iceland and Greenland. Like these:

A pet peeve is having to fly economy. Not so much because I have to disturb and trip over my fellow passengers every hour on the hour, more because I often get stuck in front of someone who is determined to massage my kidneys with their knees. No better example than on the flight home this weekend. A "gentleman" sporting a Fresno State polo short (yes, you know who you are..) spent most of the 11 hours banging into the back of my chair then apologizing repeatedly and profusely every time I gave him the hairy eyeball. Now I'm a good person to be sitting behind since I rarely recline my seat. Mr. Knees behind me didn't take that into account.

So here's my other flying tip for when the knees get to be too much: go stand near the galley and scrounge whatever you can from the attendants. Don't return to your seat until you are sure the people in the aisle and middle seat have finally fallen asleep.

Also of note, while in Germany I visited the Speyer Technik Museum. They have a 747 up on 40 feet high stilts. Check out the web page and you'll see that the thing is banked over to give the impression of flight. You access it by an external staircase. 2 things struck me: when you step into the 'plane you are immediately disoriented because the thing isn't level. A bit like being seasick. The second was just how "dangerous" the thing is in places!

You can access the cargo hold via a steep ladder. Once you're down there, you need to step over the 3 foot high bulwarks, all apparently designed to snap your legs off at the knees! Now of course to we anoraks this is no problem but in the US it would represent a liability issue that the lawyers would cry verboten and that would be the end of it. So hats of to the Germans for not appearing to give a hoot about your safety. Oh the other thing you can do is walk out onto the wing at look back at the fuselage (don't worry, there are handrails). Excellent viewpoint to give you a different appreciation for the size of the sucker.

The other highlight at the museum is the Russian Buran shuttle. The thing even had jet engines...

Many thanks to all the friends and family that put me up last week. Special thanks to my big sis and bro in law. They are spreading the word of this blog to anyone with a passing interest in others with obsessive/compulsive disorders, such as mine. Couldn't help but notice the scrap of paper on the dining room table with this URL scribbled on it...

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