Friday was the last day of Winter and my last day at work before our one week holiday in Japan begins. The end of Winter was warm and sunny and it felt more like Summer holidays with both the campus and our offices strangely quiet. It was the perfect atmosphere for beginning a holiday.
In the morning I had a video conference demonstrating the my web form contributions to the capability browser project. The web application isn't finished yet but that's because the only time I have had to work on it has been my spare time, at night, on the train. Despite this being a high level project, my regular work has had to take priority, especially as one of my group managers has now left and my supervisor and only other web person in the group has been off sick for two weeks.
Anyway, I'm going to put all the behind me and hopefully enjoy this holiday. In preparation I have been converting various media files into formats suitable for the Zaurus and MP4 player. I thought it would be nice to watch an English movie or two in the hotel and have some video entertainment ready for the night flight back to Australia.
I bought a Western Digital 160G Passport portable hard disk drive to store the information and photographs on as we travel. I thought I might copy some unwatched movies from our Hotchip PVR and view them on the computer. However, the USB file copying from the PVR was really slow, probably USB 1.1. The 3G file was also split into two in the process, possibly because of a file system limitation (FAT32?). It also seems so far that the file must be converted before it can be viewed, despite me downloading the recommended codecs, and that this must be done in the Hotchip's File Explorer application. I have yet to try this as my laptop lacks the power and my "big hard disk" laptop is currently busy converting a pile of DVD's I recently bought into a format suitable for my portable players.
The safest seat may be at the rear of a passenger plane but that's where you will fell the greatest effects of turbulence. As turbulence is far more common than crashes I think I'll stick to the front of the aircraft (or as close as I can get in discount economy!).
The Sydney Morning Herald recently carried an article entitled High altitude flights spark symptoms. It referred to a study of the Effect of Aircraft-Cabin Altitude on Passenger Discomfort published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study found that the reported rates of discomfort increased greatly at simulated altitudes above 2100 metres and durations between 3 to 9 hours. The onset of acute mountain sickness did not appear to depend on the altitudes studies (between 198 to 2438 metres) in those that experienced it (17.4%).
I believe that I experienced altitude sickness on flights with Malaysian Airlines and Asiana with severe headaches and nausea that improved upon descent to lower altitudes. It is interesting that this did not occur with all airlines (eg Qantas, Cathay Pacific) leading me to suspect that some airlines cycle cabin air more often (perhaps affecting the oxygen and carbon dioxide ratios) or keep their cabin pressure lower (although the study would seem to discount that). Both strategies save fuel.
I'm amazed how popular my Views from a train blog is in comparison with my other blogs, including this one. All it consists of is photographs taken from my mobile phone, generally of my daily commute by train. Maybe it's the fact that Telstra includes a "recently updated blogs" box on all the Bigblogs. Okay, my site isn't that popular, but it does seem to get more hits than this one.
I've also started a new blog solely devoted to recording my travels called, creatively enough, allrite's travels. I was impressed enough by Blogger's usability during our trip to China that I decided to use it on my custom domain. I've noticed that it's difficult to keep track of older travel blog entries on this Drupal powered site in comparison to Blogger's labelling and date system. Yes, a few changes to my Drupal setup could possibly cure that, but I really don't have the time or urge to fix that now, plus it's a good opportunity to play around further with Blogger and Google's systems. I'll be using the new blog to record our upcoming trip to Japan in September.
Jetstar had another sale on, so I was able to rebook our Osaka flights with less of a penalty than normal. Still isn't as great as the original deal though. What was a surprise was the enjoyable experience of calling Jetstar. The young bloke on the other end of the phone line may have had an Australian accent, but his family was in Osaka. While changing the booking we had a fun chat about the hazards of shopping in Japan - excess baggage!
I didn't realise it during the booking, but we are now scheduled to be away during the APEC "long weekend" which means one less day of leave expended. Cool! I could do with a holiday right now, but there is plenty to do.
The other day my sister asked me to assist her boyfriend in finding a flight between Amsterdam and Australia. Now that's too far for a direct flight, so he will need to stop at least once during his trip. Some travellers view this as a painful waste of time, but B and I have come to enjoy stopovers as opportunities to enjoy yet another country and culture on our holiday. So, how do you go about making the most of your transit? Let's use the boyfriend's trip as an example and explore some of his options.
If you check the internet you can find quite a few flights between Amsterdam and Sydney or Brisbane, his two possible destinations. From those two state capitals he then wants to fly to Rockhampton, a regional city in Central Queensland. Many of the flights from Europe involve a short-haul trip between Amsterdam and another hub city. For example, to fly to Australia with Qantas he must first catch a small flight to Heathrow, then change to another flight to Australia via Bangkok or Singapore. We've done short transfers like that a few times and they can add complexities to your trip. Our example of Heathrow can be a painful place to transfer planes and twice during short transits our luggage has taken a while to catch up with us (Heathrow - Charles de Gaulle and Amsterdam - Frankfurt), so let's neglect such flights for now.
A number of airlines offer one stop flights to Australia from Amsterdam, either by themselves or in codeshare with another airline. I looked at the flights via Asia as these are the shortest and the options I am most familiar with. The transit options that I considered were:
Not only does B always discover my surprises, somehow my plans are usually frustrated as well. My surprise trip to Tasmania to propose to B - her mother stopped her. Now her boss has refused to let her travel during the time I booked our Jetstar flight to Osaka. I'm extremely peeved, because rebooking that flight means we pay the full fare difference plus $300 in change fees. Worse than that is that her company won't let us celebrate our wedding anniversary the way I want to - a holiday. It's six years since the days and dates coincided and it won't happen again for another five.
Almost every day of the year you mould your life and activities around your employer's routines, but you don't have equal power to make the reverse true.
I was also frustrated today about flights in another way. The Airbus 380 was going to do a low flight over the harbour today. I hoped to go down to the city to see it and maybe the airport as well, but the stormy and wet weather meant it wasn't worth it. Oh well for that one, as there should be a few A380's around next year. A few workers were zapped by lightning at Sydney Airport today, so perhaps it wouldn't be a good idea to stand out on the observation deck.
More comfortable would have been the new Qantas First Class Lounge. So opulent and those garden walls look amazing! Sadly, I don't think I will ever experience such luxuries during my travels.