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Walter Bright

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Flying to England on a Rocket

April 23, 2010

Not really, but it's what my 3 year old brother allegedly said when on a transatlantic flight to London. I haven't been traveling in a while, and recently attended the ACCU 2010 conference in Oxford, England. While there, the volcano blew and I got to spend an extra week, which I decided to spend in London.Some notes:

boo - sit in the front of the plane when traveling to Heathrow. Passport control takes forever (one hour for me) when you're behind a planeload of people, and tired and grumpy

yay - on the return flight, if you have a connection in the US, rotting in passport control lines ain't so bad since you've got hours of waiting for the connection anyway

boo - airlines still lose luggage

boo - never, ever put your car keys in checked luggage

boo - do not trust the lost baggage clerk to enter info in the computer. Do a follow up phone call. Otherwise they will never find it

yay - you can wash clothes in the hotel sink using shampoo and dry them with the hotel hair dryer

boo - the only way to deal with airlines is by phone, email and web sites are useless

boo - my cell phone won't work in europe

boo - hotel phones cost a buck a minute, which really hurts when airlines put you on hold for 40 minutes

yay - having someone back home to do the phoning is really nice

hmm - everyone has an Apple iphone, even old people, and they all use them constantly

hmm - twitter.com is actually useful; Roy Osherove (http://osherove.com) used it to incredibly organize a conference Openvolcano10 (http://twitter.com/#search?q=%23openvolcano10) from scratch in one day in a city he was totally unfamiliar with complete with sponsors, space, food, 100+ attendees, etc.

hmm - you need an iphone to use twitter away from your hotel room

yay - Seattle airport has free wifi

boo - Heathrow and Detroit want $16/day for wifi

yay - my laptop works with european electric voltages

yay - packing a british plug adapter is critical

yay - having ear plugs for the airplane is really nice

yay - inflight movies for transatlantic flights

boo - cannot hear the soundtrack with all the cabin noise

yay - subtitles on those movies

boo - the subtitles are not in english

hmm - the in flight video systems are linux based, as the pilot rebooted it and we were treated to many screens of boot script messages

boo - many boot errors along the lines of "[ expected instead of (".

yay - in flight video computers are not in charge of the flight controls

boo - expensive european hotels charge $30/day extra for wifi

yay - cheap fleabag european hotels come with free wifi

hmm - having email while traveling is critical

yay - some airplanes have wifi

boo - it costs $$$$ and there's no laptop power available in steerage

yay - it actually is possible to sleep on an airplane

boo - but only if you've been without sleep for more than 24 hours

hmm - nobody in London is a native english speaker

yay - it is possible to see the sights in London entirely on foot

yay - London streets are clean and attractive for walking, there are even clean public toilets on the streets

boo - London drivers will try to kill you if you step off the sidewalk

boo - London drivers all drive on the wrong side of the road, which is really confusing to me as a pedestrian. Apparently I'm not the only one, as "look this way" is painted on streets in front of the crosswalks

yay - London bus drivers at least have the courtesy to honk at you while running you down

yay - if you hold your camera at arm's length and try to take a picture of yourself in front of some tourist attraction, a passing Londoner will always step forward and offer to take a proper picture

boo - US local flights charge for food

yay - pack 3 chocolate bars, one for yourself and two for the hungry wolves sitting next to you

boo - DVR failed to record Lost or anything else while I was gone

yay - DVR failed to record American Idol

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