Knocking on Space’s Door.

The idea of space travel has been knocking about in the back of my brain for quite a few years now, in fact since the time when Sir Richard Branson was sponsoring the Brawn GP Formula One Team. Back then we (KL) were mulling over getting into F-1 sponsorship (which we eventually did get into by sponsoring Scuderia Ferrari) and I met RB at a race. To cut a long story short, after a good bit of banter I ended up buying a ticket from his good offices – for a trip into space!

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Since then, I’ve managed to bone up and get some practice in on space-related themes by experiencing weightlessness (in an IL-76), witnessing the launch of a Soyuz from Baikonur, and visiting the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City.

Weightlessness is just awesome, and I had no real problems getting the knack of it. But to dock a Soyuz trainer to a mock-up International Space Station – I couldn’t crack that: I couldn’t get the hang of the management console there. It seems space engineers have no clue about user experience and A/B testing :).

In the meantime, a cosmodrome was built for Virgin Galactic. This isn’t too large as only sub-orbital planes are planned to be launched from it. There’ve already been test flights, glamorous presentations, and other assorted good news stories coming out of it. Then there was some very bad news; then there was a long silence for some 18 months.

Then, just the other day, out of the blue space, I received a communication of cosmic importance! (They don’t forget about their clients – already a good sign. But it gets better…)

Read on: Dear astronaut…

Korea to Switzerland on Turkish.

Quite a flight the other day night for us – 11 hours up in the air!

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Looking at the flightpath got me thinking… I wonder why our trajectory was so straight. If we were to fly via southern Siberia it would have been shorter, thus quicker – probably by around two hours. Is it that Turkish Airlines don’t want to pay the Russian overflight fees? Or is it geopolitical? These musings led to further questions on this topic:

  1. On the Seoul–Istanbul route how many kilometers would you save if you were to fly in a northerly arc, and how many minutes or hours would you save?
  2. How much would the fee be for a Boeing 777 to cross Russia from the border with northeastern Mongolia and Novorossiysk (on the opposite side of the Black Sea to Turkey)?
  3. Or is it all geopolitical based on ‘principle’?

Anyone know the answers?

Read on: Anyway, what does it matter really?…

I Know You Got Seoul.

I hardly ever take the subway/metro/underground, no matter where I am in the world. My usual MO is~: plane – car – hotel (or home) – car – office – car – hotel (or home) – car – plane… I do use those trains that ferry folks between airport terminals quite a bit, but city metros – nope.

But just the other day in Seoul someone suggested we take a ride on the metro. The nearest station was just 200-300 meters from our hotel, so we thought why not?!

What can I say? Well, though I’ve been spoiled by having Moscow’s monumental metro on under my doorstep, I can still say that Seoul’s ‘Metropolitan Subway’ really is quite something. New and modern-looking, neat, tidy, comfortable, and massive. Though opened only in 1974 it’s more than twice the size of Moscow’s ever-expanding metro, and one-and-a-half the size of London’s Tube. Whoa. The Koreans sure can dig :).

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Read on: Third busiest in the world!…

Tokyo – Seoul.

This time in Japan, there were no Top-100isms, no day trips, no walks… no time-off. It was all conferences, meetings, interviews and other assorted shigoto (仕事), that is, work.

Before coming over to the land of the rising sun this time, I was hoping the tempo would be less hectic than usual, with more freedom for relaxed beholding of historical and natural landscapes, meditative evening strolls, cherry blossoms and so on. Right. The further into the trip, the further I seemed to get away from any chance of seeing things like Mount Fuji or Aogashima, and deeper into ‘all shigoto, shigoto, shigoto‘. Which is also good, of course, but… well, look what happened to Jack!

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The only bit of micro-tourism I did get in was a quick march along my favorite route outside/round the grounds of the Tokyo Imperial Palace.

Read on: Tokyo by night…

360-Degree Tokyo.

This is a first…

Early this morning I got to see a full panoramic view of Tokyo from a high up in a skyscraper-hotel!

Normally you only get to see one side of the city; however, this time my travel companion A. Sh. was on a different floor on the other side of the building. Out of my window we could see financial skyscrapers and Mount Fuji in the distance on the horizon, while out of his we saw the rest of Tokyo. Being so high up also had its benefits of course. Especially when the hotel management leave binoculars in every room on special plates :).

Read on: And if you look very carefully, you see…

Let Me Show You the World Moscow in My Eyes.

Privyet droogs!

When asked where I live in the world, I always answer Moscow. However, I only live here something like four or five months a year (the rest of the time (I’m on the road on business). And in those four or five months a year I see little of the city besides the well-trodden (by me) routes between my flat, the office, and all three of MOW‘s international airports. Occasionally I’ll go downtown for this or that occasion like the dentist’s, our Christmas/New Year bash, or the clinic for my booster shot against yellow fever (needed for certain Latin American countries and Africa). But apart from that, I hardly ever see the place. Who’d have thought it? Me – practically a non-stop business traveler-cum-tourist – and I never get round to being a tourist in the city I live in?! Odd. So at the weekend I decided to change this state of affairs. Accompanied by two other Moscow-dwelling fellow ‘tourists’ who I’ve traveled a lot with far and wide, it was time to ‘do’ Moscow – at least, some of it – in a six-hour quick march

We started out at Sparrow Hills, and finished up at Molochnyy Pereulok, or Dairy Lane:

Read on: A very special weekend…

Pre-Passover Knesset Quasi-Tour.

Another week, another avia-triangle; this time: Moscow – LondonJerusalem – Moscow. As per – as per: conference, speech, meetings with partners and customers. It was all work, work, work… but for one smidgen of tourism: a visit to the Knesset.

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The Knesset, folks, is Israel’s parliament – probably one of the most active, heterogeneous, scandal-ridden parliaments on the planet. 120 members of the most varied political stances and religions and degrees of tolerance and liberality; to some, the world’s most unabashed political reality show: a heady brew of the mosaic, much like Israeli society as a whole… but that’s another story – and one widely covered on the Internet. Here though, I’ll try to retell a few stories and incidents that have occurred here, as told me by folks who saw them happen. But more about that later…

Alas, we didn’t catch any live action of an actual session while here as we were in town on a non-working day. In fact we didn’t even get to see inside the Plenum Hall, as everyone was preparing for the upcoming Passover festival. Practically everything was closed for cleaning and polishing so that everything was sparkling for the important Jewish commemoration. Even the bar in the hotel closed at 9pm!

Read on: canteen, committees and… balls…

LHR – TLV on BA: Not OK.

All right, here we go again…

Alarm clock; where am I?; hotel; shower; suitcase; taxi; airport; check-in; x-ray; ‘breakfast’ (sandwich and tomato juice); gate; window-seat. Here comes the first petty torture of this sunny day…: I find myself sat right above the wing – a filthy one at that; a really wide one at that too (we were on a Boeing 777). It was gonna be one of those days. It was indeed…

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Oh well. No view? I’ll just have to get some more shut-eye then. It was an early flight – around 8am – so catching up on the ZZZs would be just the (air) ticket…

I’d just dropped off when I was abruptly awoken by the pilot. He was announcing that due to a technical issue we weren’t able to take off. Boo! Still, better safe than sorry. So we taxied back to our departure gate and all had to pile off and back into the airport until they sorted the problem.

We were sat there for two hours while they pulled out the defective part from the aircraft and replaced it with a new one. At least they had the spare part to hand, I thought.

We piled back onto the Boeing, ushered by the somewhat curt ‘British‘ BA flight attendants with strange accents.

Read on: Every cloud has a silver lining…

Another London Half-Marathon.

Hi folks!

Onward we march on our Thames-side hike. The other day you got the first leg of this day’s walk (taking in a cable car ride + Greenwich and arriving at the Cutty Sark); here’s the second leg.

After the Cutty Sark we came upon the entrance to the under-Thames foot tunnel again through which A.B. and I walked the other week. Not this time…

…This time we didn’t turn right and down through the tunnel, we carried straight on – along the embankment of the river. Why not we thought: the path was nice and smooth, there was loads to look at, the sun was out… even the clouds that day were worth photographing. Yep, no tunnel today…

Read on: Hup two three four, hup two three four…

Back Along the Thames to Greenwich.

What ho, folks!

I’ve been all week in London on business: two conference speeches; interviews, business lunches – all as per the norm. Also as per the norm – a little sightseeing fitted in for good measure. Just the other day I was real lucky that all the work for the day was to be completed before lunch, leaving the rest of the day for recreation. So that morning I donned the trusty ‘smart’ jeans, put my sneakers in my bag for changing into from my office shoes, and out we headed after the obligatory Full English :).

The morning’s work I mentioned consisted of a presentation given at Cloud Expo Europe. This was held in the enormous ExCel London, here, which I soon discovered was not far from the Thames, my fave river :). So it was Thames-wards we – my travel companion A. Sh. and I – headed after the conference…

From the exhibition hall it’s just five minutes’ walk to the Emirates Air Line cable car link that crosses the Thames – the one A.B. and I saw but didn’t have time for just the other week. So glad we had time this week as a short ride on it is just awesome. Highly recommended – if the sun’s out, like it was for us.

Read on: Back down to earth…