On my way to Budapest

0100 AT

Airports are already whitewashed by cost, but international travel even more so: Probably 90% white people in Newark’s Terminal B that I saw, both passenger and workers alike. It’s disturbing to see such a strong filter, and I wonder what pressures are selecting this way. Is it hiring for dual language, and in a wing where most flights are to Europe, and so select for European languages? Or is there some more insidious bias?

0300 UTC

I’m flying over the atlantic right now, three hours from Vienna. It’s night, by any stretch of the imagination – early in Vienna, rather late in Boston. I spent all day in airports, mostly waiting in Newark since my midmorning flight in didn’t really come that near my early evening flight out.

The trend to denying passengers checked luggage did the usual damage on this flight: Slow boarding, people cramming bags that did not fit into overhead compartments. I wonder if European flights have different size carryon; mine was one half inch too big to fit in most of the bins, and so had to be put in sideways, taking more space than neccesary. This feels like a classic case of engineers rounding measurements to a convenient number in their native unit, saying ‘close enough’. 33 cm totally equals 12 inches, right? Close enough.

I’m sitting with two delightful women, on their way to Iran; at least one’s a journalist, and I’ve not asked for more detail from the other. They’re kind and fun, and shared chocolate with me. I hope they make their connection – they’ve ten minutes between, and a whole day’s wait if they miss it. We bonded over the difficulty of loading bags in the bins; theirs misfit the same way mine did, and even my height and ability to use brute force to close things didn’t do the job.

I can’t sleep, since the flight’s a little bumpy, and the staff keep nudging my elbow in the narrow aisles. A 777-200 is a lot nicer than most planes I’ve been on recently, but it’s still arranged for sheer number than it is for comfort.

I watched two films.

Since Bailey couldn’t come with me, I got to see ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’, which was fun, but I’m starting to get frustrated with the arbitrary plots of so many movies. I feel like in the past, directors at least tried to satisfy those of us whose sense of disbelief, while suspended, still works. Lately they do not. Every device satisfies plot, not internal consistency, and every failure is arbitrary to the same purpose. It’s the kind of lazy storytelling that leads to killing characters for emotional impact, rather than driving situations where tough choices have to be made. The first bad guy was black, and the green woman had echoes of Star Trek’s Orion slave girls. The criticism of her character development are true, she’s almost all prop to the men in the film, even if she does kick ass initially. There’s even the clicheéd rescue scene toward the end.

Second came ‘Lucy’. It’s as if ‘Kill Bill’ merged with ‘2001: A Space Oddyssey’ and ‘I, Robot’. Bad science, but at least somewhat internally consistent. Bizzarely philosophical even while there’s wonton killing on screen. I can add it to my long, long list of movies that make me say ‘huh’ at the end. I do wish there was a convention for ‘humans have potiential’ other than ‘humans only use 10% of their brain’. It’s so trite at this point that it makes me angry.

0500 UTC

Now we’re over the English Channel, heading across France. my brain is trying to comprehend the path we’re taking given the Mercator projection of the map they display it on and the 11,000 m altitude. One part of me wants to round that down to ‘well, just barely off the surface’, and the rest thinks it’s unfathomably high, and backed up by the -50 °C outside the aircraft.

At that altitude, pressure should be low enough that sustaining large mammal life is almost impossible without hibernation level metabolic change. The temperature, too, would kill within minutes. I wonder what the air pressure is inside the cabin. I’ve never found a good physical indicator using my body, but my ears have popped continuously for the last six hours.

0600 CET

I can barely see the sunrise, I think over the Rhein plain, from my seat since I’ve an aisle. It’s pretty, a dull orange and deep blue, separated by an even deeper blue layer of clouds, slowly lightening.

I’m not sure whether jetlag will hit me or not – I’ve been up for 20 hours or so, but feel like it’s morning. I hope that this bodes well. We’ll see if I make it to tonight. I think there’s a speaker’s dinner, or some other gathering leading up to the conference tomorrow. I should check, but there’s no internet connection in-flight, and we’ll see what happens on that front when I get to Budapest. Maybe I can nap on the last flight and arrive truly refreshed. We’ll see if I get a window to lean against. Chances are aisle or middle though. If a Dash 8 has a middle.

0730 CET

I’m most worried now about whether I can get a SIM card and enough data service to be useful while I’m at the conference. I suspect it’ll be fine, but likely a little annoying.