Barred from the hold

Flying with the cats is always complicated, especially as rules and procedures seem to change randomly between each time we go, so Honeybuns is quite anxious to have everything sorted out well beforehand. Accordingly I had been on the phone with SAS several weeks before our flight and made sure we could take the cats along and eventually received confirmation as both SMS and email. Somewhat later, as I was sorting my email, I noted that the email version was rather longer than the SMS and among several other restrictions stated that each animal had to be kept in a separate cage. This was inconvenient, not least since experience suggests the cats feel safer when they are together. New phone calls. No, that rule is only relevant for animals in the cabin, not in the hold. Oh.

So we trundle into the airport, check in, drop off our bags and are directed to Special Baggage to drop off the cats. As we are getting the cats out so the cat cage can be X-rayed, a uniformed fellow turns up and stops the proceedings. The rules have been changed that same morning and the sturdy wicker cage Honeybuns has used for the last 14 years is no longer accepted on board. Sorry. We are pretty incensed at the non-existent notice. The official is sympathetic but explains they have received an injunction and absolutely can’t make any exceptions. On the other hand, they’ll do their best to get us and cats to our destination. Negotiations with various instances ensues, trying to arrange something workable. In the end we are rebooked for a later flight while Honeybuns jumps into a taxi for the nearest zoo shop.

While she is away I hang around Special Baggage, which I realise also is the entrance to the restricted parts of the airport. There are apparently repairs underway as groups of craftsmen go in and out. Each craftsman is carefully patted down before they are let in. Exactly what the security person is looking for is unclear, as each craftsman is carrying in his overalls at least two big knives, a hammer, a dozen screwdrivers and sundry other tools and the sturdy knee pads probably could be made of Semtex. Possibly security just likes feeling up well-built men.

Honeybuns eventually returns with a huge cage, certified for air transport. The cats are very suspicious, but in they go, only to be taken out again a minute later for the mandatory X-ray of the cage. Finally they are carted away and we can pass through security control with our new boarding passes. We profusely thank the airport staff, who in turn promise to improve the information about the rules.

We arrive in Umeå two hours later than planned, and to our relief manage to fit the big cage into the Honeymother’s car.



Thnidu found this nifty animation showing the relative sizes of various celestial bodies and I wanted to put it into relation with something familiar to me, such as the Sweden Solar System. At a scale of 1:20×106 VY Canis Majoris would have a diameter of 153 175 m, i e, if superimposed on the Earth, the surface would be in the mesosphere, i e, around the highest X-15 flights, and the scaled distance would be about as far from Stockholm as Mars is from the Sun. Not that these measures are really graspable either.

Annual rites

Few things are quite as desolate as Stockholm on Midsummer’s Eve. Honeybuns and I, having nothing else on the programme, decided to go out for dinner, but found that our chosen restaurant, as well as plans B and C, was closed. We strolled along Hornsgatan, and while a few fast food places were open, we continued in the hope of something better. Eken was open, but having sat in the conversation-killingly loud mood music for ten minutes without the staff paying the slightest attention to us, we decided that our patronage would be better off somewhere else.

When we reached the Old Town, we realised that the only ones still in the city were the tourists, and of course the tourist traps along Västerlånggatan would be open in order to cater to their needs. Honeybuns suggested we go for Slingerbulten, which turned out to be a good idea. I was at first surprised to be greeted in English, but of course, given the tourist-only population, this made sense. The staff was very friendly, if somewhat confused at times, and the food was quite OK, if nothing remarkable. After dessert we continued towards the Central Station. At Tegelbacken we helped out a couple of Germans who had difficulty orienting their map in the right direction and sent them on towards the Old Town.

Midsummer’s Day started out with rain and thunder, but the skies cleared somewhat in the afternoon and we decided to go visit Gröna Lund. We were rather shocked to find that bus 47 has been disappeared, so we took the tram out instead. It was not crowded. The weather was still unstable and we had both rain and sun at the same time.

We had dinner at Kaskad, which was so-so. The food was decent, but way too expensive. While they pride themselves on being allergy-aware, the staff claimed for the longest while that their Spaghetti Bolognese was gluten-free until I had them double-check, on which they had to admit that wasn’t exactly the case.

After food we went for the rides. Most Stockholmers still being away, all queues were pleasantly short. Honeybuns is much more fond of g-forces than I am, so on all the in-ride photographs that are de rigeur for roller-coasters these days one could see a happily beaming Honeybuns and a clenched-jaw me. Despite much cajoling I absolutely, positively, refused to ride the Insane.

In French cotton candy is known as barbe à papa and there was indeed pink strawberry-flavoured cotton candy as well.
We also did some small amount of betting on the chocolate wheels, but no jumbo packages of candy for us this time. Around this time I suddenly realised that the Ferris wheel also has been disappeared. First they rebuilt the view tower into Free Fall and now they’ve taken the Ferris wheel away. Are there to be no calm and dignified rides at all left? At least the Circus carousel is still around.

Finally we took the ferry to in to the city and arrived home around midnight.

The Sunday was spent eating strawberries at my mother’s.


Word of the week: embarrassingle

Some people consider it shameful to live alone, to be embarrassingle.


Men in Black

The board went up on the roof the other day to inspect the ventilation system.


Veterans’ Day

Skå-Edeby aerodrome hosted their annual Veterans’ day and some friends and I went there to see it. A brilliant and hot summer’s day, but finally wise from earlier mishaps, I donned my straw hat and slathered myself richly with SPF 50+, rather to the amusement of at least one in the company.

We had a most excellent day, went exploring in the hangars, ran into various friends and watched the displays. The refreshment hangar not only was able to supply gluten-free snacks (as it was unexpected I had actually brought my own), but also had a jazz band playing old favourites.

A police helicopter arrived and did public relations. They noted that their works is divided into roughly equal shares “looking for people who want to be found, looking for people who don’t want to be found, and, uh, other things [ominous wiggling of eyebrows]”. Apparently an embarrassingly large number of people manage to get surprised by nightfall while out picking mushrooms. The police would appreciate if the public wore brightly coloured garments on such occasions, rather than the tree-and-rock-coloured clothes they are wont to do.

A very dusty Yak-55 in a hangar. Seems the repairs got interrupted.

The unlikely-looking Rutan Quickie. Another surprise is that the registration cannot be found in the Transport Agency’s register.

A much earlier example of the tandem wing concept: A Flying Flea.

Not only aircraft but also ancient cars, fire engines, and motorcycles graced the airfield with their presence.

Biltema’s Spitfire Mk XVIE made several displays during the day, here starting with mighty exhaust flames.

And at the end of the day, my skin was as pristinely fish-belly white as in the morning, the sunscreen having fulfilled its duties perfectly.


SJ, get your act together!

I was going to Ballerup for a job-related course, so I booked tickets on the usual X2000 to Copenhagen. As occasionally happens, first class tickets turned out to be cheaper than second class, so I went for them. Meal reservation? Yes, please. However, SJ still can’t prebook dietary restrictions, so I’d have to call them again 24 hours before departure to order my meal.

It struck me later that it would be unreasonable to have to call exactly 24 hours before departure, but that it was a bit unclear whether one should call 24 hours beforehand at the earliest or at the latest. If the latter, one would think they should be able to do the booking already when I booked the tickets, if the former, it’s unclear when the last possible moment to call is. Presumably the actual window during which one should call is something different entirely. In any case, when I called, approximately 24 hours before departure, the person at the other end took my dinner requirements and claimed to leave a message for the uptrip as well. Good, then I wouldn’t have to call from Denmark and sit in a telephone queue for that.

I left in the afternoon of Grundlovsdagen. At first I had to struggle a bit to get the wireless connection to work on the train, but a reboot of the machine (my office XP box) eventually solved the problem and I was able to get some crucial job done.

Eventually I got my dinner, which was perfectly decent for a micro-waved readymade.

We stopped on schedule at Malmö C, and then we remained stopped. For quite some while. The train driver explained that we were waiting for a “timetable” from the Transport Administration to continue into Denmark. I found it a bit surprising that a daily train would not have a pre-prepared timetable, but regardless we sat waiting for it for an hour.

Finally the hassle was solved and we rolled the last bit of the way into Copenhagen. Now to get on the local train to Ballerup. There were ticket machines in the station hall, but I was not able to figure out what kind of ticket I was supposed to buy, so I got into the queue at a manual desk and got my ticket. Pretty steep at 48 DKK, I thought, but then Stockholm has in general fairly cheap (in several senses) public transport. I located my platform and looked at the ticket cancelling machines, but my ticket seemed to be the wrong size, so I asked a railway employee how I should go about matters. “Oh, you’ve wasted your money. Today’s the first Sunday in the month, so travel is free.” Argh!

Anyway, I got on the train, which was quite spacious and equipped with wireless Internet and television screens. I got off at Malmparken, which was the station closest to both my hotel and the training site. The only other people getting off was a couple of young women, also looking a bit disoriented. They turned out to be Portuguese students, there for a course at the university. As is my (bad) habit, I took the lead and we trundled away in the general direction I remembered from the map lookup before I left. (Stupid to not have printed out the map, but it had looked as if the hotel would be visible from the station. Not quite so.) I poked my head in at a McDonald’s we passed and received a course correction and soon we arrived at Zzzleep. Friendly checkin and the room was clean and nice, but had the narrowest beds I’ve ever seen. I carefully centred myself and soon slept.

In the morning I checked the map and took out the course to the training site. What I saw of Ballerup wasn’t all that exciting—an industrial area quartered by motorways. The course turned out to exceed my expectations, it proceeded at a breathtaking pace and I had to struggle to keep up. At least the teachers were kind enough to talk English, rather than Danish, though I noticed chatting over lunch that the Danes had even more difficulty understanding my Swedish than I their Danish. How strange, Swedish that is so clearly enunciated… By 17 I was tired but pleased—I would have lots of things to improve when I got back to the office. I bought some postcards and stamps (“Two to Sweden and one to Uruguay!?” Yes, please.) and then proceeded to an Italian restaurant I’d noticed along the way. It was nice enough and I had a pleasant meal. Back at the hotel I flipped on the TV to find a Columbo episode just starting and watched it. Good stuff and I noted with interest that Steve Bochco had written the teleplay for the episode.

The next morning, break-neck work again. When we finished for the day I started towards the train station, as I didn’t have all that much time before my train, the last for the day, would leave from Copenhagen. Now I would have to figure out how to operate the ticket machine, as it was an unmanned station. This machine had an, in principle, more obvious interface than the ones at the central station, on the other hand it was not very responsive to button presses, did not like to read my credit card and in general was hard to operate. I in fact missed one train while attempting to get a ticket, fortunately it was only ten minutes to the next.

When I arrived in Copenhagen I could see the X2000 on the next platform, but as soon as I got there it left. It turned out that this was actually the previous train, that should have left an hour and a half earlier. Oh well. On the other hand, the train I should be on was cancelled. What now? A PA announcement was made to the effect that we should jump on any train going to Malmö and continue from there. Well, OK. I do not know if they had managed to screw up the timetables again, but it was a bit annoying. And what if I’d come on the local train ten minutes later, that I saw pulling into the station just as the train I was on left?

In Malmö, the train was at the platform, but not allowing us on board yet. We milled about a bit until we got on board. Ah, good. Now to get home. Internet connection, check. Meal being served…uh, this is not my order. Confusion. Double-checking. Despite the promise of the SJ person I’d spoken to, the order had not been passed to the caterers. Just brilliant. The train hostess was very sorry, but could only offer me meal tickets for the bistro car, where I already knew I wouldn’t find anything edible but fruit, which I already had for free in my first class car. Apples did only a bit to stave off starvation. When I finally got home, about 01:00, I was pretty hungry and stayed up a bit longer to eat something more substantial.

Then up again in the morning to get to work and employ my new skills.


Catering to special needs

Ian Allan Publishing, whose books I’ve often bought, has branched out into travel. Like their books, their trips are for special people:
5–13 Nov PERU: Peruvian Air Force bases—visits to all main bases and storage sites.
Honeybuns said:
“That’s so weird I would come along just to see it.”
Unfortunately the trip is already sold out.


Advertising at its finest

The latest issue of Aeroplane had a full page ad for handcarved mahogany models of the Concorde. The full text is available at the seller’s website, but I wanted to share some breathless quotes with you:
Can You Remember How You Felt When You First Saw Her Fly?

For some of us, driving past Heathrow, the first impact wasn’t the sight, but the sound.
What on earth was that roar rattling the car from behind the fence screens?
And then... as something unreal rose into the London sky, a moment of awe and recognition as we whispered her name.

Beautiful, yes, -untameable too. What else do you call 187 tonnes of slender muscle that tore off the runway at 250 miles an hour?

Everything about her screamed thoroughbred. Nothing could stop her. So Filton’s finest invented the carbon anti-skid brake to at least try.
[— — —]
From the moment you set her in your pride of place, she comes alive. Neither you nor your guests will ever get tired of looking at her, because she always catches your eye.

At 22 inches long, this is no dinky toy!

This prestigious piece looks ready to leap off its mahogany stand. Admire her from across the room, relaxing with a drink and friends. Or inspect her lines from closer in as you heft her in your hands.

Every detail is here: Each window from which gazed a thousand astonished eyes; the ogival ‘double-delta’ wing with its triple elevons, and mighty Olympus engines.

The intakes ready to gulp air; the wingroot lights for those leafy Autumn London days; the nose strakes picked out in detail enough to satisfy even the most determined purist.

Very excited prose indeed, but I agree with the sentiment. I certainly remember the day, many years ago now, when I was walking somewhere near Victoria station. I looked up at the sound and saw the classic silhouette above me. Maybe some would call it a spiritual moment; I was gripped to my core by the soaring grace, such calm beauty just a short distance over the busy and grimy streets of London. I stood there, watching as long as I could before it disappeared behind the buildings. I cannot remember if I shouted. Probably.

It is the only time I have seen the Concorde in the air, which is where it belongs. I have visited the ones preserved at Duxford and Yeovilton, but this is an aircraft to be seen at a distance, above you. Divine.


Går det så går det

Looking at Trumpeter’s USS England I decided that a Buckley class destroyer escort would be a nice thing to build to improve my ship modelling skills. References are of course needed for a good build, so I did a search on Amazon and lo and behold, there was even a book specifically on USS England. But…the cover picture? And what does the star “High quality content by Wikipedia articles!” mean?

A search unearthed this investigation by Chris Rand. Apparently what’s going on is that some guys hit on a brilliant idea: Write a script that downloads a Wikipedia article, follows the links to some pre-determined depth, concatenates all the gathered material and calls it a book. Repeat for all articles in Wikipedia. Print on demand and charge an outrageous sum = profit! There are already thousands of “books” under the imprints of Alphascript and Betascript being distributed through Amazon and other web shops to unwary shoppers happy to find a book on the obscure subject they were investigating.

Beware! Beware!


Pomp and circumstance

Today the Only-Begotten Daughter graduated from high school. Parents and other relatives were not invited to whatever ceremonies were done inside the school, but waited out on the square outside waving the usual placards with baby pictures of the freshly-baked students. Some boys from the lower forms stood in a cluster and shouted intermittently, whether caught up in the expectant excitement or wanting to draw a bit of attention to themselves. A couple of minutes before the hour the graduates exited the school building, led by a blond young man in shorts and buttoned shirt with a shoulder belt supporting the Swedish flag he carried. ”Den ljusnande framtid är vår” got just a wee bit too close to “Tomorrow belongs to me” for my sensibilities.

They paraded around the square and then went up to the school again, to stand on a balcony and sing the Student Song gloriously out of key. Then they all rushed down the hill into the waiting arms of their proud parents. Some of them would then continue into the city by lorry, joining other graduates in spreading loud music and beer over Stockholm.

The OBD however eschewed drunken debauchery, so we just had a quiet celebration in the family.

Now it’s just the rest of life ahead. Does anyone have a job for a skilled artist trained in science?