In which I photograph a plane in Farnborough
Date: 23rd July 2008. We travelled to Iceland with Mum - we would be repeating some of our earlier visit, but going to some new areas.
We stayed at the Hilton in Stansted the night before flying. It wasn't the cheapest of options, but given the convenience, it was worth doing.
We had an oddity in that we could have the room with breakfast or with long stay parking (and an extra 17 quid for breakfast). 17 quid? In hindsight, I should have got the room with Parking for Mum, and the room with breakfast for Monica and myself, paying the 17 quid for Mum.
Stansted is a small airport by Heathrow and Gatwick standards, but worked fairly well. I did kill some time by having a panic that I left the car window open - and this meant that when we went through security we went straight to the gate.
I took my New World Tourist, and was a little worried about the weight limits, but it was fine - I just checked it in. I think it helped that there were three of us, and the other cases were under.
Iceland Express was pretty good, although they did the Ryanair/Easyjet thing of charging for everything on the flight, even down to the cup of tea. This was bad.
We landed at Keflavík airport. Collected our bags and went straight out to the car pickup. It was very windy, and a bit cold. It had been raining! The weather in Iceland is very changeable. over the next ten days we would have everything from warm T shirt weather to fog, cold, wind and rain. Fortunately, the weather was usually good whenever we wanted to see something - the good weather outweighed the bad. Later in the week it'd be 20°C whilst simultaneously standing next to beached icebergs at Jökulsárlón.
The car we had was a Sköda Octavia. Not a bad car at all. I did find that the seat could have done with being a few centimetres more central, as the slope of the side door meant that it would touch my shoulder annoyingly. Apart from that, it was good.
We drove into Reykjavík, noticing that the road was being developed since our last visit. There were new businesses alongside. I do hope that this doesn't end up being one long and thin extension of Reykjavík.
We found our hotel with only a little difficulty (having a streetplan of Reykjavík was essential). We stayed at the Hotel Óðinsvé which is centrally located. It was also the only Hotel which we stayed in to provide tea and coffee facilities in the room (Hotels! This is essential!)
The rooms were pretty good, though Mum's room was not as nice as ours. The staff were helpful, and when we found the TV in our room did not work (not that we wanted to watch it much, but that's not the point) we had a new TV the next day.
Once into the Hotel, we went for a walk around Reykjavík, going around the town centre, seeing the Alþing (the Icelandic Parliament) and exploring that sort of area.
We had a small meal in the Café Paris - which was a reminder of Icelandic prices, and then went back to the hotel.
I considered unpacking the bike - but thought (wrongly) that I'd be able to cycle in Reykjavík before leaving, and so left it in the case.
In the last day or so, a plane in Japan had a problem with it's wheels - the front one stayed down. The pilot did an incredibly smooth landing, the video is online:
Over on 'Interesting People', a chemist discusses the feasibility of the recent 'airline plot' which caused so much disruption at Heathrow (after it was supposed to have been foiled).
You also need quite a bit of organic peroxides made by this route in order to be sure of taking down a plane. I doubt that just a few grams is going to do it -- though of course the first couple of grams you are likely to go off before you make any more. The possibility of doing all this in an airplane lav or by some miracle at your seat seems really unlikely.
So far as I can tell, for the pragmatic terrorist, the whole thing sounds really impractical.
The article goes into some detail of the chemistry involved, and then discusses the 'slippery slope' of trying to eliminate all possible risks (you can't).
It concludes with a sanity check about the level of risk involved in various everyday activities.
So can someone tell me where the madness is going to end? My back of the envelope says about as many people die in the US every month in highway accidents than have died in all our domestic terrorist incidents in the last 50 years. Untold numbers of people in the US are eating themselves to death and dying of heart disease, diabetes, etc. -- I think that number is something like 750,000 people a year? Even with all the terrorist bombings of planes over the years, it is still safer to travel by plane than it is to drive to the airport, and it is even safer to fly than to walk!
At some point, we're going to have to accept that there is a difference between real security and Potemkin security (or Security Theater as Bruce Schneier likes to call it), and a difference between realistic threats and uninteresting threats. I'm happy that the police caught these folks even if their plot seems very sketchy, but could we please have some sense of proportion?
Update: The Register discusses the chemistry of the situation.
Breaking News: A U2 spyplane has crashed somewhere in 'South West Asia'. In US military-speak this apparently means 'The Middle East'. The details aren't being released due to what's called 'Host Nation Sensitivities'. This seems to imply that the host nation invited the U2 into their airspace. So candidates could include Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, or even Iran. I don't think China is a likely candidate as they'd make a big fuss about the issue - unless of course China are willing to keep quiet because they would have to make a fuss, and don't want things to escalate.
Looking back, Gary Powers crashed a U2 in Russia in May 1960 and was sentenced on 19th August 1960
After what seems like an age, today is the day when Monica lands at Heathrow. It's now late (or early, depending upon the point of view) and I know I'm going to have trouble sleeping. Sufficed to say, don't expect too many updates during the day. In the morning I'll be sorting the house out a bit, and in the afternoon I shall be making cups of tea and trying to keep her awake to get her back into the right timezone.
I know that tea isn't the best thing for that... maybe high caffeine soft drink.
This all rather assumes that she doesn't fall asleep instantly, in which case, there may be as many updates as yesterday.
Update: Monica landed on time, and she was surprisingly awake. As she flew east to west it was effectively a fairly long day for her, and she stayed awake until near the usual time. She should be back in the right timezone very quickly.