Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Travelog, part 2: EK409 KUL->DXB

My left watch is now set to Dubai time, UTC+4; my right watch is still on UTC where it will remain for (hopefully!) the rest of my or its life. Now blogging on UTC, which I should have done for the last post too.

01:31. Back on board the same plane, same flight number, same seat, for the second leg. 40% battery left and I'm back on seat power. This is well. This is calculated to provoke remark.

01:48. Full list of crew names and nationalities (all unique), but not languages.

01:55. Pushback. It's now clear that there are actually lots of empty seats still; for instance, there's nobody in the window seat next to us.

01:56. The safety video and ICE introduction are played twice, of course; Arabic first, then English. The Arabic one becomes a lot more interesting when we provide our own subtitles in the best anime tradition, explaining the on-screen action as a cautionary tale of the dangers of unguarded information (it can wind itself around your feet and form a tripping hazard, for instance).

02:11. Takeoff. Seven minutes later we're two miles up and thirty-six across... Once again, twelve languages spoken on board. Midga and I resume our exploration of light_bringer777's Learn To Fly games. That penguin will never cruise at 500mph and 20,000ft.

03:11. We've been cruising for a while at 36,000ft and 560mph. Another plane passed beneath us, going the opposite direction; must have been on the downward camera for a whole six frames, I think.

04:08. Lunch is over and we've finished story mode on both Learn To Fly and LTF2. So naturally we discuss random things, like the French butter that was served with our bread rolls. (Emirates use multiple suppliers for such basic comestibles. No idea whether it's deliberate (because they want *this* butter with lunch but *that* butter with dinner), or arbitrary (use multiple vendors to minimize risk of supply problems), or accidental (buy from whoever's best/cheapest in the country where they stocked this flight); it really doesn't matter.) I note that the French butter, as served, is white and approximately rectangular.

04:13. The conversation turns to human brains and how they work. (Naturally. It's the obvious next topic after French butter.) Certain fish and birds have been noted as being able to, for instance, pot-shot an insect with artillery, then calculate exactly where it'll fall (ballistic trajectory) in a very short amount of time. We humans are also capable of same, with practice; when an object begins falling, a hand can be dispatched to catch it, taking into account the time it takes for the hand to move. Some humans are capable of more complicated and/or difficult calculations than others, and it's fairly clear that this is all handled by the brain, not the soul (or if you prefer, by the subconscious and not the conscious mind), as there's no time for 250-750ms lag here. So how do we teach ourselves to do this? Good question. As far as we (oh such experts we are) can figure out in discussion, the human brain stores information by having neurons fire to other neurons, which reduces the electrical resistance between those pairs of neurons, which in turn makes it easier for them to fire. In essence, our brains JIT-compile to EPROM, blowing pathways where pathways are needed. I don't know how accurate that theory is, but it sure sounds cool!

04:24. According to in-flight status info, the plane's heading has changed significantly - presumably in response to varying strengths of cross-wind - and at one point we were apparently pointing due west while travelling northwest. Now we're back to pointing where we're going... and now we're pointing the nose north of our course. It's also been so turbulent that the cabin crew were multiple times sent to their seats, and at one point an apology was made for the interruption to service. Coffee was served in half portions for safety. Midga was doing-doing-doinging and it's not entirely clear whether that was due to the coffee or the air beneath us.

04:28. Cabin crew, please take your seats, cabin crew, please take your seats. Announcement sounds somewhat hasty, as if we're already in the turbulence and should have been warned 30 seconds ago. Midga reckons we get the worst of it every time we cross a coastline and the air changes from land-affected to sea-affected or vice versa, but it's hard to say. We're flying over a lot of small islands, so that doesn't really mean much.

04:40. Midga and I have been happily blogging away, courtesy of Clippy and Traal and text editors (though Midga forgot to install SciTE, so he's stuck with Notepad until we get out a USB stick and transfer Traal's installed base). We've been reading over each other's shoulders for a bit, and now we're both done typing for the moment, we exchange laptops and start reading. And in honour of Jim Hacker, rubbishing the French. We continue making jests along the same lines as the deliberately-vague comment from 04:08.

06:40. Anno 1602 multiplayer is working, for once. I'll disappear again for a while. We've made good use of the vacant seat in the set - and here's the first lesson from this trip: The etherjoiner goes in carry-on, and/or cables longer than half a meter. But we managed.

08:09. Descent into Dubai (not madness, we hope) - will be landing half an hour ahead of schedule. Nice! Time to put Traal into the pocket again.

08:24. We must have had a cross-wind on landing, as the plane was rocking about somewhat on approach; it wasn't a perfect landing, but it was pretty smooth all the same. Approach was very much clouded by haze or mist; the forward camera seemed to have extreme myopia, and I wanted so much to press Ctrl-L to push it further out! Our "distance to destination" had been steadily dropping (20 miles three minutes out, 7 miles two minutes out, etc), but after touchdown, went up to 37 miles. I know the airport is big, but... that big?!

8:31. The slowest part of air travel... waiting for First & Business to depart before we plebs are allowed to move.

9:22. Parked happily in Dubai International Copy And Pastepastepaste Airport and on wifi. Plenty of battery life, thanks to seat power, so we can chat with the folks at home. Yay!

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