INVOL RER DUE TO OVERSOLD LX40

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I’m not sure where to start this story. I could tell you how I’ve been flying around the world on a business trip, or I could tell you what I think about Swiss Air business class. Instead I’m left thinking I should mention carbon. You see, I was sitting in first class on a Swiss Air flight to New York City yesterday, and I was surrounded by tree. Big centimeter thick panels of it are all over the place. When other airlines are doing things like using lighter foam for seat cushions or asking passengers to go potty before boarding to reduce the weight of their aircraft (and therefore carbon emissions), Swiss has chosen to find a forest and cut it down to put in their brand new plane. This forest will be flying around for a couple of decades I would think.

Sure, its only in first class (business class gets veneer), and I’m a bastard for being in first class at all. There’s a story to that too though. I booked an ultra cheap around the world business ticket through Swiss Air. It was in fact cheaper than the same flights in economy with Qantas. This is despite the fact that two of the business class segments are in fact on Qantas. That’s how I ended up in first class — I was going between London Heathrow and San Francisco, but Swiss had oversold the Zurich to LA flight. So, I’m bumped to first class via NYC, which added about six hours to my total travel time yesterday.

Being bumped wasn’t all bad. I’ve never been in first class before, and it was very nice. I might have chocolate poisoning of some form. I also got to “experience” American Airlines business class from New York to LA, in a plane which is possibly older than me. In fact, its entirely possible this plane predates flight. The seat pitch was nice, except that my chair kept involuntarily reclining. I didn’t mind too much, as I hadn’t slept in about 24 hours at that point, so I nodded off. Before I nodded off, I was also forced to decide that it was in fact the chick from Gilmore Girls (the one who plays Lorelai) two rows in front of me. She dropped her bag at one point in the airport, and I am excited to report that she watched a DVD during the flight. Citizen journalism at its finest.

I wouldn’t normally mention the actress in the front of the plane, especially after TechCrunch taught me that no one gives a crap about what’s happening to me (or in fact you) in real time. However, this being a stream of consciousness blog post written at 8am in LA airport while killing time for yet another flight, I think I am justified. Oh, and I also don’t care if you give a crap.

I have more to complain about. Take for example the Swiss Air business class flight that I’ve just taken from Narita near Tokyo to Heathrow, via Zurich. Its clear why the ticket was cheap. Swiss business class simply isn’t up to the standard of Qantas’. The seats don’t lie flat (when you try to sleep you slide down to the end of the footrest in a little mound), the on demand entertainment system works, but appears to have some sort of image resizing error (everything is pixelated), and the cabin service is terribly slow. Lunch has just taken about two hours to serve. It took two hours in first class as well, but that’s because they were trying to shove five courses into me.

The cabin fit out on that business class flight was the same standard as Qantas had before they went to their new lie flat configuration. To put that in perspective, that conversion was done at least ten years ago. I think the standard of the equipment being used might also explain why only half of the seats are taken in business class, where Qantas would be running at capacity. This was clearly one of the older Swiss aircraft, but even the brand new one with the forest in it had a business class which wasn’t up to the same standard as Qantas.

I can’t complain too much though — it still beats the pants of Qantas economy, and the flight did give me a chance to discover what I believe might be the most boring television program ever made. Its called “Swiss Railway Journeys”, and I heartily don’t recommend it. Unless you deeply care about the age of each wheel on the train.

One last thing. While the Swiss Air staff were all much older than I am used to on other airlines, I think that’s because of the vagaries of the youth of today. Each of these staff could speak four languages fluently, and would begin the conversation when you first boarded with a little protocol handshake where they said hello in all four languages and waited to see which one you replied in. Once they had you figured out, they would use the correct language from then on. Modern youth are too busy twittering to learn one language, let alone every language ever used. Oh, and if you know four words of German, don’t use them at the start of a Swiss flight. You’ll be stuck for the rest of the journey conveying your desires through interpretive dance.

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Triplanetary

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This is the first book in the EE Doc Smith Lensman series, a series which sweeps from pre-modern Atlantis all the way well into the future. Its pretty old, so some of the science is dangerously dated, but that’s not its biggest flaw. This book suffers from uncontrolled hyperbole, which I guess isn’t that unexpected for a space opera. I guess it was also more common at the time, before science fiction started taking itself seriously. The plot is also a little hard to believe, with both sides at one point murdering entire cities. They then of course forgive each other because “its logical”.

However, I have an emotional attachment to this book, because it is the one which interested me in reading as a young child. Despite its flaws in both science and plot, it is still an ok book. I enjoyed reading it, and it was entertaining.

[isbn: 0425053830]

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Python effective TLD library

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I had a need recently for a library which would take a host name and return the domain-specific portion of the name, and the effective TLD being used. “Effective TLD” is a term coined by the Mozilla project for something which acts like a TLD. For example, .com is a TLD and has domains allocated under it. However, .au is a TLD with no domains under it. The effective TLDs for the .au domain are things like .com.au and .edu.au. Whilst there are libraries for other languages, I couldn’t find anything for python.

I therefore wrote one. Its very simple, and not optimal. For example, I could do most of the processing with a single regexp if python supported more than 100 match groups in a regexp, but it doesn’t. I’m sure I’ll end up revisiting this code sometime in the future. Additionally, the code ended up being much easier to write than I expected, mainly because the Mozilla project has gone to the trouble of building a list of rules to determine the effective TLD of a host name. This is awesome, because it saved me heaps and heaps of work.

The code is at http://www.stillhq.com/python/etld/etld.py if you’re interested.

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Nerilka’s Story

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This book takes place over almost exactly the same period as Moreta. However, its not a rehash of those events, as it is written from a different person’s perspective. There are enough points where the two story lines meet for the books to make sense as a pair, and I’d recommend reading them back to back.

This book is an incredibly fast read (I knocked it over in a few hours on a flight), and its a bit more positive than Moreta, which has a pretty sad ending. However, this book isn’t the happiest book ever written either.

I’ve seen commentary that says this book is mostly about how unattractive Nerilka is physically. I dispute that though — the book is about how the human spirit is more important than breeding or good looks, and how Nerilka’s efforts to do the right thing in a time of crisis have a lasting impact.

I enjoyed this book.

[isbn: 0345339495]

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Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern

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Moreta is a book about a pandemic, and its hard to make those fun… If you’ve bothered to find out anything about the book in advance (or read the preceding Pern books, where it is referred to), you know that its not going to be a fun ride. On the other hand, the book is an interesting read, and its educational to find out how much knowledge has been lost in the Pern universe between Moreta and Lessa. For example, its clear in Moreta that everyone knows they moved from the Southern continent, whereas that is much less clear in the books set in Lessa’s time.

Its hard to say that a book about thousands of people dying is enjoyable. However, the story is a gripping one, and I’m glad I read it.

[isbn: 034529873X]
[award: nominee hugo 1984]

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Better Than Life

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This is the second novelized book from the guys who wrote Red Dwarf. The first book of course shares its name with the name of the TV series. This book deviates from the plot line used in the TV series, and at some points feels more like a summary of the series than a novelization. Then again there are also times where they explore things that would be way to expensive to do in a TV show for the BBC, so that’s fun.

[isbn: 0451452313]

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Red Dwarf

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This book was exciting because its the first book I have read on the spur of the moment after perusing my book shelves — for the first time in many years I have my entire collection out of boxes on on shelves, which makes it much easier to just grab something to read. This book is a classic, and I love the TV series (which I discovered before the books), and this book. The book is different from the TV series, and feels more like a summary of the series than anything else, but its an engaging read.

[isbn: 0451452011]

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The King’s Buccaneer

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I really liked this book, as I do most of Feist’s work, although he does have a talent for writing books which are long. This book continues the story line from the Magician (Apprentice and Master), Silverthorn and A Darkness at Sethanon. I like that, and have felt for a while that Prince of the Blood was a bit of a tangent from the main thrust of the series — although characters which are used in later stories are introduced through that book.

[isbn: 0553563734]

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Deadly Exposure

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This book isn’t very good. I read it because my six year old son really liked the front cover art, and wanted me to read it. He wanted me to read it so much in fact that he bought two copies to give me.

The book starts off with something which feels like its lifted straight out of the Andromeda Strain, you know, government agency / possible alien infection / we need a crack team of scientists! The book then moves on to introduce a selection of surprisingly one sided characters — the fat self obsessed scientist, the thin young lady obsessed with getting it on, et cetera. The story jumps around, with sometimes implausible outcomes… For example, people are mid argument, and just magically stop when something happens nearby. Do you know people who stop arguing because the lights flicker?

The book does pick up a little at the end, and I assume all the weird personification we’re subjected to is an attempt to convey that the characters are losing their grip on sanity. Overall, I thought this book was quite rough, which is surprising from an author who apparently has had four other books published.

I have revenge on my six year old planned — I am going to make him read this book when he is older.

[isbn: 0451408721]

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