Monday, April 19, 2010

Hello from Germany

As previously mentioned, I am presently on a 1,500 km road-trip from Stockholm to Frankfurt. Skies are clear and blue, but the weather forecast says the wind in Central Europe will continue to blow South-East, directly from Iceland, for some more days. Stefan managed to get a train ticket to Copenhagen, where we met. Currently we are in Hamburg. Below is a photo from the ferry from Denmark to Germany. (If you look closely you can see the guy who took the photo in the reflection in the door.)


All along the way there are stranded travelers. Rental cars are impossible to get. Train tickets are in high demand. A few companies acted fast and are offering bus services between major cities. So far, people are taking it well-humored and calmly. After all, a volcano eruption is as close to higher power as one wants to get while alive. In Copenhagen, we were staying in an airport hotel which was peacefully quiet. In the lobby they had an information screen that usually lists departure times. It showed "cancelled" all the list down.

Meanwhile, after several days being grounded, the airlines are starting to grumble whether the flight ban is necessary since the scientific basis is basically lacking. There have hardly been any measurements taken, due to lacking equipment. Some planes seem to have been moved empty between airports, and no problems occurred. Especially short-distance flights do also often not reach traveling altitude. I read this morning that some airports in Europe have been reopened today.

And while I was at downloading the photo from my digicam, here's another photo. That's how living in the EU is like:


The above is an ironing instruction from my curtain (IKEA of course). The literal translation of the German instruction is actually not "iron on reverse" but "iron from left." I have no clue why, but if one carries a T-shirt inside-out, in German you'd say it's carried left. Maybe there's a political interpretation for that ;-) But if it makes little sense for a shirt, it makes even less sense for a curtain. Note: In Germany, the side facing the window is left.

While the language barriers in the EU are slowly fading with the younger generation all speaking English as second language, one would wish Europe could at least agree on one currency. But our pockets are presently filled with EUR, SEK and DKK. They can't even agree on whether it's Kronor or Kroner!

28 comments:

schmontology said...

The Dutch says "Iron on the wrong side". While we have a perfectly good word for "achterkant". *shakes fist at IKEA*

It's shocking to notice how much air travel we usually have going on!

stefan said...

The train ride from Hamburg to Copenhagen was really funny. The train was completely crowded, I didn't have a seat, but the mood was quite relaxed, with people did share seats and stories where they came from (from Rotterdam to Stockholm over the weekend - oops, weekend nearly over, not yet in Stockholm; from Berlin back to Oslo; actually, from Chicago, plane detoured to Munich Friday evening, on the way home to Goteborg; from London, via Paris and Brussels, ...) People were reminded of Interrail times ;-)

Cheers, Stefan

Steven Colyer said...

Aw, you're both wearing red. How sweet!

Always look at the bright side. Seafaring is always incredible. You don't even have to think about the the wavicular nature of reality, the sea waves are a pleasant end in themselves, and meeting folks and hearing stories on a train is nice, even if you have to stand. Without the ash, it would have been ... airports! Ugh.

Yeah, looks like the airports should open again. Don't see any ash on your clothes. Cheers.

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee & Stefan,


It’s nice to see your smiling faces and taking it all in stride to turn this into an adventure. So that large expanse of water between Denmark and Germany is crossed by ferry, which now makes sense as it looked to be quite a distance. I then suspect also this is one that takes on cars as well. Even though this is not the way you first planned it, I will bet it will end up being one of those times you will fondly look back on to remember and talk about in the years to come.

Air travel may be convenient, yet it has had something to travel lost and that of course being all that would otherwise be experienced along the way. Perhaps then this volcano thing should happen a little more often, as to bring some of the realization back that a journey can be more than a place you begin and one you end up in.

Best,

Phil

Steven Colyer said...

That's nice, Phil, wishing for more Icelandic volcanoes for romantic reasons.

Funny thing is though, Iceland will probably come through in that regard. They've got plenty.

Hey, beats Hurricane Katrina or Earthquake Haiti any day of the week.

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Steven,

Hey, beats Hurricane Katrina or Earthquake Haiti any day of the week.

Absolutely, and comes with the bonus of providing spectacular sun sets and rises.

Best,

Phil

Peter said...

"So that large expanse of water between Denmark and Germany is crossed by ferry, which now makes sense as it looked to be quite a distance. I then suspect also this is one that takes on cars as well."

Phil, we are actually considering building a bridge:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fehmarn_Belt_bridge

It's just one more for the collection:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%98resund_Bridge

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Belt_Bridge

My sister-in-law uses the Øresund bridge daily, as she works in Sweden (after a company merger).

The other one is very nice for family visits to Jutland: 15min by car instead of a one hour ferry trip (+ waiting for the ferry + occasional delays + they didn't go round the clock etc).

Kay zum Felde said...

Hi Bee, hi Stefan,

the term 'washing from the left' is really a little mysterious ? Where does it come from ? Couldn't find a good source. Seems that people think that 'left' is the wrong site.

Nice photo!

Best Kay

Uncle Al said...

Tens of millions of liters of aviation kerosene are not being burned every day, thus ending global warming without paying the Carbon Tax on Everything. Airline companies must be viciously penalized for providing product without process. Tax everybody who did not fly.

One wonders how Thailand has such an efficient language. Does it specialize in irony? English usually has the fewest characters to convey information.

If the Russans were clever, their tanks would be rollng east without worries of US military air interdiction.

CapitalistImperialistPig said...

If you turn a shirt inside out and put in on, with the collar in back, your right arm is in the left sleeve. We often say that a mirror switches right and left, but it actually reverses back and front (your mirror image reflection is facing the direction your back faces. My guess is that these phenomena are the origin of the "iron from left" idea.

Arun said...

Looking at the bright side of the airlines cancellations - that photo of the two of you couldn't have been taken on an aeroplane :)

Best,
-Arun

Rastus Odinga Odinga said...

Bee, surely you wouldn't want the beautiful Swedish and Danish coins and banknotes to be replaced by those awful dreary designed-by-committee Euro notes? The advent of the Euro was a disaster --- it used to be so much fun having francs, lire, gulden etc, and all of those were certainly more attractive than the current play-money....

Bee said...

Hi Peter,

Thanks for the information! Stefan actually mentioned he had heard there are plans on building a bridge.

Hi Neil,

I read that the eruptions are unlikely to have a long-term influence on the climate because the ash hasn't reached the Stratosphere. (I read it here, but it's in German.)

Hi Rastus,

When I was a kid I liked to collect coins that friends and relatives brought from their travels. That's nice as long as you don't have to use it. I find it unnecessarily cumbersome to carry around 3+ different currencies. If possible, I pay everything by credit card. If you hold bank accounts in different currencies it also means additional financial uncertainty. Best,

B.

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

Isn’t it interesting that although a meteorologist would admit that the flap of a butterfly’s wings could determine the difference between a hurricane forming or not that the roar of a Volcano is given such disregard, To add insult to injury they say that even the CO2 it’s spewing was dwarfed by the amount spared being added to the atmosphere by the grounding of the planes:-)

Best,

Phil

Bee said...

Don't mix up weather with climate.

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

I can assure you I won’t , just poking a little fun. What I found most interesting was the lightening the volcano produces with friction ctreated with the speed of the vented particles; Tesla would have loved it :-)

Best,

Phil

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Peter,

Thanks for the info on the bridge, yet when completed will have something lost, not the least being no toll for the troll :-)

Best,

Phil

Bee said...

Regarding the question of how much is known about the ash-cloud, I read this morning a quite interesting article, The Scientific Debate over the Flight Ban, that explains what measurements actually have been made. It is indeed wrong what I said above (which is what I heard on the radio) that there are basically no measurements. As is explained in the article:

Atmospheric researchers are able to detect the cloud using a special measuring device that functions a lot like the laser pistols used by police. So-called light detection and ranging systems (Lidar) send laser signals straight up into the sky, which are then reflected back by the airborne particles in the atmosphere, so-called aerosols. Using the lidar signals, scientists can determine the type, dimension and the elevation at which the ash cloud is moving -- at least where sensors are in place. Compared to other types of aerosols, ash tends to absorb considerably more light. [...]

It is true that scientific measurements of the ash plume have been slow to get going. It is barely visible to the naked eye. But a large number of scientists have detected the malicious cloud, and some are irritated that airlines have indirectly accused them of failing to take action. The volcanic ash plume, they claim, definitely exists.
Albert Ansmann of the Leipnitz Institute for Tropospheric Research in Leipzig said it was a "baseless impertinence" to claim that "measurement isn't taking place in Europe. From the Netherlands to Romania, we know where and how thick the ash cloud is." With a Europe-wide network of laser instruments set up at the start of the decade, "we have been measuring like crazy since Thursday," Ansmann told SPIEGEL ONLINE.

"We measured the cloud for the first time on Sunday night," said Volker Wulfmeyer, an atmospheric physicist at Germany's University of Hohenheim. "We see a structure at an altitude of eight kilometres, otherwise everything looks very clean." Hohenheim's measuring devices are located near the Stuttgart Airport.

At the Leibniz Institute of Atmospheric Physics in Kühlungsborn on the far north of Germany on the Baltic Sea, scientists have also confirmed the existence of the ash plume [...]

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

An interesting report, however, in the end it appears the ash cloud is at attitudes that are above those of regular commercial flights and then perhaps not really a treat. I had heard another report that there was some engine damage noted on F-18 fighter engines that had taken off from Nato bases in Europe and yet as they are capable and do fly at greater altitude this too would be consistent with the findings, This of course gives even more reason today why we should get our science right and not act out of irrational fear as thinking caution being the better aspect of valour.

Best,

Phil

Bee said...

Hi Phil,

Yes, the story with the NASA planes is also in the article. For all I know the standard flight altitude for long-distance flights is about 10km, ie if the cloud is at 8km, they can't stay below. However, as I mentioned in my post, short distance flights often don't reach that altitude. However, I think one of the big problems is that the measurements they can take are spotty. They might make a measurement here and there, but it is probably nearly impossible to say exactly where which cloud hangs in what altitude. Best,

B.

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

It just sounds like at worst they would expend a little more fuel and perhaps not be able to take full advantage of the jet stream. One thing for certain there will be many lawyers now wringing their hands in joy. That seems all we can look forward to today is on top of all our other problems we have to put up with the vultures as well ;-)

Best,

Phil

Bee said...

Hi Phil,

I don't know much about flight traffic, but I think it's more complicated than that since they have predetermined routes that are, so I'd guess, delicately layered and timed. It probably takes a considerable amount of replanning and rescheduling to work around the cloud. The other thing is that the cloud it self is not very predictable. They actually expect more ash to arrive in central Europe later this week from another eruption. Best,

B.

Anonymous Snowboarder said...

And here I was expecting soot to be falling from the sky and instead it is a bluebird day.

Are the Eurocrats going to be doing a study of cloud formation similar to what was done in the states after 9/11?

Phil Warnell said...
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Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

Self admittedly I’m no aerospace or airline expert either and yet I know they rapidly adjust altitude and speed all the time according to local conditions. Obviously there was a lack of information in all this and yet in the history of aviation we have had volcanic eruptions before and to me it smacks of some bureaucratic knee jerk reaction, resultant of being more concerned with their own asses, rather than those of the passenger’s or public’s.

I don’t know what your general perception of the world is lately, yet I find it to have totally changed since 911, where the preoccupation of many is how to avoid dying, rather than how we might live better. I think the first part of anything involving risk management is one first must understand what’s at risk, how and to what extent, which is to be found in having an understanding of statistical mathematics and science, more so then an understanding of politics, as to be more concerned with personal assessments of political capitol. This of course relates to what they call political science, which for the present I conceder nothing more than a oxymoron; no actually I think we can remove the oxy prefix to have it better understood:-)

Best,

Phil

Steven Colyer said...
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Steven Colyer said...
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William said...

Hi Bee,

Nice photo of you and Stefan! And reflections can be fun.

So in the photo, due to the reflection in the door, I can see you from the front and behind.

And that reminds me of a thought I had before on your post of the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB), in which your initials, SH, were readily visible in the photo of the CMB. Although, Steve Hawkings and Sherlock Holmes also might make that claim. :) Anyway, the three of you are all famous detectives seeking answers to great mysteries, so I'd say you all have equal claim to those CMB initials.

Though what came to my mind is that it is not necessarily "SH" which the CMB is displaying. From the CMB's perspective, wouldn't those letters would be seen from "behind"? And when seen from behind, SH becomes seen as H2 ... in fact, perfectly so in digital font. And the creation of H2 gas was the highlight of the CMB era .. before it got re-ionized. So what a coincidence!

But then it's curious: is there anywhere in the universe where the CMB with the letters SH there can be seen from behind? It would seem that any object seen with a telescope has an opposite side somewhere in space in which the object can also be seen from the opposite side (aka "behind"). But I think there is no place in the universe, at this time, where the CMB pattern with the SH letters can seen from behind... and I wonder if there was ever any such position in space-time? Hmmm.