30 May 2012

A short walk to Frankfurt Airport (Is this possible?)

My meeting at Vulcan High Command having finished on time at 16:00 and having 6 hours before my flight home I decided to try walking to Frankfurt Airport.  I noticed there was a very nice forest under the flightpath (BMI using the new western runway) and reckoned there ought to be some way across the railway, autobahn and other obstacles into the airport...

This track appears to be going the right way
Occupied by a young, and very noisy, woodpecker - sadly camera shy
Ohhhh - wild strawberries!
Yup - still heading in the right direction
The signpost says it is 3.5km more to the viewing point - but I want departures - and that is just across the road/autobahn/railway/perimeter road/etc.
Getting close now (the new train station) - but there does not seem a way in - perhaps I can get up into that bridge

Aha! Just need to get across the busy road
No luck - its a fire escape - and security locked at the top

Wait - these two businessmen appear to have a local minder - I will follow (and the police stopped the traffic so they could cross)
and my reward - €17 of sausages from all the regions
It would have been easier (but less fun) with a map - I walked from Lyoner Strasse (near the river bridge) to point A.

A short visit to Planet Vulcan

All is not good in Burostadt, Niederrad - there are a lot of unoccupied properties, some derelict.  If the Greeks are relying solely on Germany - perhaps it is time to get really worried

And the new-old enemy are there in strength

View from my hotel room, toward the financial/business district of Frankfurt - which seems to be burning down
NH Hotel Frankfurt Niederrad is on the crossroads (lower right) - just down wind of the BIG sewage works.  The sedimentation ponds look like Ram chips and the aeration tanks like drinking chocolate - bit of a smell tho'.
 I went for a run - along the river I hoped - but it is pretty much fenced in and private - after some km I found an island park...

With a landing craft/barge done up as a bar - Lilu

Eventually - a nice piece of duck with polenta and cabbage in cream sauce.  There were some service issues in the restaurant - all sorted - Eventually
And here is Vulcan High Command - VDMA (Verband Deutscher Maschinen und Anlagenbau e.V) - a standards institute where I have come to talk standards for mix-proof sanitary valves.
Needless to say, everything in this still spotless 1960's building functions perfectly in quiet efficiency

My meeting ended - as per the agenda - at exactly 16:00 - and with my flight at 22:10 I decided to walk the 5km to Frankfurt Airport - well it was a sunny day (to be continued in a following posting)

25 May 2012

Through a Glass Very Darkly (Indeed) - Birmingham Giant Screen (ex-IMAX)

Disappointing experience at the Giant Screen Cinema, Birmingham, UK

I have been an irregular customer of the IMAX/Giant Screen - visiting when there is something where the visuals might be expected to be truly spectacular and therefore benefit from "big screen-high-resolution" presentation.

Star Trek was so brilliant and visually stunning on the IMAX 2D - that I came back for a second visit - dragging my sister along for the repeat viewing
Similarly Avatar - I think it was three times to the IMAX for me.

but with the new glasses and new projection system* - so disappointing

*It is not at IMAX anymore


I am guessing that Avengers Assemble was not shot in 3D so I won't comment on this.

Through A Glass Very Darkly

Avengers 3D - can you tell what it is yet?

The image was dim - even the bright daylight scenes were dim - and in the dark scenes - a lot of information was lost in the shadows.

Colours were dull and the pictures were murky.  This spoiled my enjoyment.

Removing the glasses made it clear that this was due to the dark polarizing lenses .

I know this is a problem with 3D - but you would thought that the "giant screen" projectors could compensate for the "double loss" due to polarisation.

Viewmaster 2012

Tunnel Vision

I felt that the new, smaller, 3D glasses were cropping my vision - I know that E19 is a "forward" seat and on careful inspection I could see nearly all of the screen without moving my head but the small size of the lenses and the thick black frame made it feel like I was looking through a tunnel, binoculars or a "Viewmaster"


These two factors combined made the experience less than immersive and overall disappointing.  Certainly the advantage that the IMAX had over competing Birmingham cinemas appears to have been lost. 

In addition the queue for sweeties/food/drinks was long; I had to give up waiting and go see the movie even though I arrived 35 minutes before screening time.

If we combine the higher cost of tickets, rather steep online booking fee (£2.75), very long queues, need to drive into the city and then pay for off street parking I can't imagine I will be making another visit until a better experience can be guaranteed


This is not really a complaint - it is more of a begging letter

I want to see things like Prometheus or Dark Knight or Star Trek II at their best:

On a whopping big screen with stunning visuals and sound that bounces me out of my seat - its just a shame that, unless things change at the Giant Screen, that is not going to be anywhere in Birmingham.

I am happy to pay extra for better - but not for "same".


David Williams

Off to see Prometheus in 2D at Empire Great Park because in 3D I might as well just close my eyes:

It appears to be a bit of a dark movie - I think I need to see it in 2D first

23 May 2012

It's Temperature Inversion Day 2012

23rd May 2012 - and finally the outside (shade) temperature is higher than the temperature in my kitchen
Finally Summer has come to Bournville...

Nice weather in Bournville - and I am organising a very hilly orienteering race on Thursday - 

19 May 2012

Adventures in Chocolate

While Mike and I were having a natter Kirstie decided it was time for chocolate, understanding fully that Daddy would not approve nor assist...

Nope - no chocolate in there

I know there is a secret stash - Where could they have hidden it?

No chocolate blocks or bars found - Attempt number number one starting with drinking chocolate - not entirely successful

Let us have another go...
Possibly too much chocolate and not enough water - wait... is it possible to have too much chocolate?

Hmmm - here goes nothing
Smells OK

Yes I think that is definitely it

All in all a successful exercise I think

11 May 2012

I think I need to pay a visit to the supermarket...

(Nearly Empty Fridge)  All the necessary makings for a very dry Martini - if you forget the Tabasco Sauce that is

Yes there are clearly enough calories in my refrigerator for this evening's meal - and the olives would count towards my "5 portions" of fruit or veg per day - but perhaps it would be wiser to pay a visit to my local J Sainsbury.

Potential Employers:  I had run the fridge down before departing on holiday - am not a closet alcoholic - we just have a very good restaurant at Bournville Factory, its only 10 minutes away and I had been home 3 days before I decided I really ought to have something at home to cook at the weekend - and then I remembered - I am away this weekend

04 May 2012

JFK? Never again.

A lightning tour of  New York

With some exceedingly dry humour from our tour guide

Then off to JFK nice and early to catch our flights - do you recognize these? (explained here)

JFK - and especially the Delta Terminal - we arrived about three and a half hours early and then had to queue for about two hours to get through security - everyone wnet through the same channel and they kept on letting priority passengers jump the queue - eventually some passengers were taken by Delta staff to another terminal to be security scanned - as we were near the front we stayed and waited another 30 minutes - only to get to the front of the queue and be stalled again as multiple priority passengers were processed.  When I protested I got a "long look" from security - not wanting to get sent to the back or no-fly-ed - I shut up.

Joce had payed for us to use the Delta Lounge* - we had about 20 minutes in there and then we were called to the gate - where we sat for a long time, then boarded the plane - where we sat for a very very long time

*Don't bother - freezing cold, pathetic food, if there were showers I never had time to find them/use them - the ladies at lounge reception were very polite and they gave me nice chocolates.

After about an hour we are now about 10 from the front of the line - in all we spent nearly as much time from check-in to take-off as we did in the air.  We were late in to LHR and I missed the chance to parkrun

Delta sent me a "how did we do?" questionnaire and KLM sent me a very nice apology:

Dear Mr. Williams,

Thank you for your communication of 6th May 2012. We would like to inform you that KLM handles Customer Care correspondence for Delta Air Lines in Europe. Therefore, on behalf of Delta Air Lines, we would like to apologise for the inconvenience that you and Mrs. Andersson experienced when traveling on flight DL003 from New York JFK to London Heathrow on 4th May 2012.

We are sorry to learn of your disappointment with the security service at New York JFK airport. Whilst we would naturally hope for a smooth and stress free journey for all our passengers, there are times when peak travel periods mean that security check procedures take longer than usual. Unfortunately, such situations are outside of any airline's control since they come under the direct jurisdiction of the police authorities and are carried out on passengers of all airlines.

Having said that, we work in close cooperation with the airport representatives and we can assure you that your comments have been noted and will be used to improve our joint services in the future.

Further we regret to learn that due to computer error, flight DL003 departed from the gate 5 minutes delayed. Regrettably due to this delay, appointed slot for the take-off was lost and pilots had to wait for confirmation from the Air Traffic Control to take-off. We are sincerely sorry for the inconvenience that this situation caused.  You have our commitment that we do out utmost to minimise delays and improve our services in the future.

Despite these experiences, we are pleased to learn that you were satisfied with the flight and service provided by Delta Air Lines. We do hope the above explanation will help soften the negative impact of this situation, and that despite the latest, unsatisfactory experience you and Mrs. Andersson will afford us another opportunity to serve you onboard one of our flights to your entire satisfaction, some time in the near future.

Yours sincerely,

T. Nurro (Ms.)
Customer Care Europe

But of course I have choices - where to fly from and whether to fly at all.

As far as the US is concerned, experiences over the past 20 years have led me to choose "not to fly at all".

Welcome to Ikea... uhhh America

Up really early for our arrival into New York.  Not expected to be as spectacular as in days past - due to the size of modern ships the route is different (still very little clearance under bridges) and relocation of the cruise terminal.  Sadly we are not going to be docking right in the heart of Manhattan
It is about 05:00 and that is sleet

Looking out for the Statue of Liberty - no luck yet...

Just visible in the gloom

The view from our state room while docked at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal - and, yes, there is IKEA again.  I guess the chances are not as slim as might be expected - ports have lots of cheap land, are flat and have good transport connections - onshore and offshore

Spare propeller blades form an "Installation" on the bow

Nearly over...

And now it is - welcome back to the real world
Book your trip here: www.cunard.co.uk

03 May 2012

Our Final Day on the QM2

Smoke me a kipper, I'll be back for breakfast (Ace Rimmer)

A fleeting glimpse - this is what the non-passenger zones look like
The cabin staff are always cleaning - if not the rooms then all of the corridors.  Includes regular sanitization of all contact surfaces.  I am impressed.  Better than some, no in fact, ALL UK hospitals I have visited - NHS please note.

It is dress down for the end of voyage dinner

A last Martini - in retrospect I now understand why my home made Martinis lead to me falling over (suddenly and a-lot) - the glasses sold to me by Debenhams are three times the capacity.

Ladies do not carry their own drinks to the table.  Not Joce has correctly applied sanitizer - you don't get in the dining room without.  Again - good - though the efficacy of alcohol based sanitiser on Norovirus is poor.

And that's your lot