Monday, December 12, 2011

Flight Report: To Sweden for My Graduation

I officially graduated from KTH in October. The degree is in my hands and unless I end up coming back for a conference or some other reason, I have done everything that I need to do at KTH. My main interaction with my school from here on out will be to look up towards the campus when I switch to Roslagsbanan, the suburban train that serves Northeastern Stockholm. Before that, though, I have my graduation. In some ways, this is a bittersweet graduation. The policies at KTH are such that in order to attend the graduation ceremony in June, you have to have your degree issued by the end of April. For “normal” students, their defense would be in May and for those that defend in early summer, they are invited to the event in December.

The event itself is worth attending: It’s in the Blue Hall of Stockholm City Hall, which is a fantastic building and where the Nobel dinners are held every year. Despite its name, the hall itself is actually red from the bricks used. The story is that the architect originally planned to paint the hall with blue paint, but changed his mind on seeing the space. It is beautiful and it’s also open to the public, if you visit Stockholm. The Stockholm City Hall tour will take you through all the spaces and are offered in a variety of languages. That said, there is something disappointing about being asked to wait six months to celebrate an accomplishment and knowing that I wouldn’t be able to attend the celebration in the summer was part of the reason that I decided to expand my thesis and defend in September. No one celebrates something six months stale. It’s not even appropriate for a belated card. At that point, you might was well resign yourself to congratulating the person for their next accomplishment on time and feign ignorance. Basically, who has ever heard of a super bowl party in August? Or who has actually, seriously, celebrated Christmas in July?

After the break, three flight reports, some pictures of the in-flight meal, and some comments on suburban roads, plus pictures from the whole trip, including another shot of Mount Rainier.

Both of my flights this time were full, but no luck on volunteering for a bump and no luck for upgrades either. The first flight to Washington DC was a smooth flight, with a great view of Mt. Rainier. After we broke through the clouds all of the sister mountains in Washington were visible along the horizon. It was quite a sight and I was on the right side of the plane this time around. The 757 only had main screen entertainment, which was Friends and The Simpsons, and because it’s domestic there only food for purchase.

Over the Midwest: Roads look like a circuit board laid out on the snow.

On arriving in the Washington DC area, we started our approach to IAD. There are three airports that serve Washington DC and Dulles is one of the ones further out. I could see the Washington Monument from the plane, but otherwise it was endless suburbs …which can actually be very fascinating. In the rural areas here, horses seem to be the big thing while as you get closer you start seeing different typologies of suburbs emerge. The main thing I look for is type of housing and network connectivity, which is about the road network. In areas with higher network connectivity, you are better connected with your surrounding community. There are less dead-ends and there are more ways in and out of the area. Many people like it like that because it gives them a sense of security and reduces the traffic on their streets, but it also means more time driving and having fewer neighbors within a 10 minute walk.

These pictures below illustrate density as we get closer to the airport, as well as differences in income. In the second picture, consider the impact of the road network: If you lived in houses on opposite sides of one of the golf courses to visit your neighbor who is less than two blocks (as the crow flies) is now about a half mile away. For another example, compare these two neighbors to these two. Both houses are equidistant physically, but the way the neighborhood is designed causes the first set to be further away in real travel time (Of course, kids will always punch holes in fences for shortcuts).

It must be very nice.

A different type of neighborhood: Prefabricated mobile homes nearest to the Airport. Airport noise causes lower land prices, which can enable neighborhoods like this even in high demand areas. 

On the ground in IAD, in the United Club.

Once on the ground, I got my first taste of IAD. It seemed rather antiquated and I think there is a distinct lack of maps in the terminals. I never saw a map and never knew if my gate was 5 minutes or 15 minutes away. Some airports that are sprawled this time in other places actually give you that information from any given map. It’s very helpful for making the most of a short layover. The main terminal building did look like it’s an architectural icon, but I didn’t get a chance to see it.


My next flight was to Frankfurt and it was another completely full flight. I was hoping to get bumped to the Lufthansa flight leaving 40 minutes after, but it wasn’t going to happen. It was on a 777, which was a little on the older side. My seatmate on this flight was a French gentleman working with NGOs to provide malaria tents and water filtration to less developed communities. The biggest frustration though was that my Kosher meal wasn’t there when meal time came around, and instead of something interesting and delicious (last time there was a tuna rillette as a side dish), it was pasta mush. That was kind of a let-down. For me, it’s not that big of an issue because I order Kosher because I prefer it over mush, but if I was an observant Jew I’d be hungry right now and that really is a problem. The system for accommodating special dietary needs should be beyond consistent.

It tastes as good as it looks. Yuck.

It's about as exciting as it looks.

On the ground at FRA
Breakfast on board was a strawberry pastry thing and yogurt. Shortly afterward, we hit Frankfurt and I am starting to crash. The senator lounge here in Frankfurt is very nice and actually offers real food in continental style: Fresh bread with spreads and veggies, plus fresh yogurt and juices. To give you a comparison, in Washington DC the United Club had cheese, crackers, and shortbread cookie, plus some fruit. It’s a huge difference.
German ginger bread cookies!

The final flight of the day was from Frankfurt to Stockholm. An Lufthansa A320 was the plane and I only remember half of it because I almost instantly fell asleep when we started climbing. Food might have been served, but I was out cold. The only thing really notable was the seats: Lufthansa has a newer style of seat that is paper thing. It’s not entirely uncomfortable but it is less padded than the older economy seats. Because they’re so thin, it feels like there is more room, but in reality the seats are closer together.

A380 on the ground at FRA. That's a very tall tail. 

Take off from FRA

It's colder here in Stockholm.

The Stockholm Air Control Tower.

Finally, I arrive in Stockholm. In two days, I’ll be at city hall for the graduation ceremony and then three days after that I’ll be back in Seattle. 

1 comment:

  1. Good Photos
    Thanks A lot ,,,