December 23, 2004

"extreme engineering"

beer tree, originally uploaded by ksporry.

This week was a revelation of engineering feats. Three items revealed themselves to the world, in a most unique way. The first one is this Christmas tree. It is not just a Christmas tree, it's a gigantic Christmas tree. Over 12 meters high. 'So, big deal' I hear you thinking, except... that this tree is not just a tree... It was made of beer crates! In the city of Delft students from the faculty of civil engineering, designed and build this monstrosity of a christmas tree, made of crates for beer bottles (beer bottles in Holland usually come in crates of 24 bottles). This ofcourse is only possible in Delft, where the students run the daily affairs of life...

The tree was build from about 15.000 crates of beer in 50 layers, with a height of 12 meters (ca. 40ft). It was even fitted with lights! Unfortunatly it was broken down on wednesday. Here's one more shot of the tree...


Another feat of engineering, which actually dwarfed the Christmas tree, is the recentlyy opened Millau Bridge in France. This is bridge is supposed to be the highest bridge in the world, with 343 meters surpassing even the Eiffel Tower! The bridge spans the valley of the River Tarn, a 2.5 km wide gorge dividing two plateaux in France's rugged Massif Central region. The largest pylon is 343 metres high- taller than the Eiffel Tower. The bridge has cost 390 million euros ($517m) to build. Drivers will pay a 4.9 euro toll to use it. For more information have a look at the website of the BBC where I got some of these pictures:
  • BBC News

  • What surprises me, is that this bridge is not a suspension bridge. With this size and height, they might have preffered a slightly different construction... Oh well, I'm only an aeronautical engineer. Don't know anything about bridges, just aircraft...





    Wait, I haven't finished yet...! Last week, the good people of Holland were shaken up by a Boeing 747 maunoeuvring itself through the canals of Amsterdam! The enormous aircraft made it's way from Schiphol Airport to Lelystad Airport. Did it take a wrong turn when it received it's taxi instructions? Or was it an emergency landing on The Dam? No, it was actually fairly simple. The 747 is the oldest 747 KLM had in its posession. The 747 is one of the oldest generation. In fact, it is one of the oldest 747's that was actually converted to have the extended top deck! The massive aircraft was donated by the KLM to the Auerospace museum on Lelystad Airport, where they have all kinds of aircraft, ranging from the Fokker spin to, well, this 747... and some of those planes still fly! They transported the 747 by boat through the canals of Amsterdam and manoeuvred it to Flevopolder, where the lats bit was done over land. Apparently this operation was cheaper than flying it over from Schiphol to Lelystad. Actually I wonder if that is true. First of all I doubt that Lelystad Airport can actually receive 747's, secondly I doubt the flight worthiness of this particular aircraft. I suppose that does make the statement true from a certain point of view: I'm sure it is more expensive to enlarge the runway on Lelystad Airport to cater for 747's and getting this aircraft flightworthy surely isn't cheap either. Anyway, here are some pics of the operation. Enjoy!

    Oops...took a wrong turn...

    Control, this is dutchbird requesting progressive taxi instructions. I think we are on the wrong taxiway


    One more thing. Tomorrow I'll be flying to Holland to spend the holidays with my friends and family. So I won't be updating this website for 2 weeks. But when I'm back I'm sure I've got some new stories and photos to show you.
    For now I wish you all a merry christmas and all the best for the new year!

    December 19, 2004

    Relocation, relocation

    Sorry for not posting for a while. I have been in the middle of a relocation. Last week I started and this weekend I finally finished! What a nightmare! I was once again reminded of the horror of moving house. Though I don't have a whole house worth of stufff to move, I do have a lot of junk!
    Earlier tonight I was talking to my (now previous) landlord. As expected my flatmate Chris, f*cked up my rent calculations, claiming to know better what I paid than my bank does. I keep waiving the bills, receipts and statemnets under his nose, but no luck. So I had to clear things up with the landlord. He wants to write us a big fat cheque for the deposite and the money he now owes me (I paid half a months rent too much, which he is now giving back). I also would like to recalculate whatever he plans to pay back because he seems to have deducted 100GBP for 3 days rent and I don 't believe that is right. Chris seems to think so, but to be honest, Chris likes to think complex and needlessly difficuult so he could easily miss things.
    Anyway, I'm gonna need the money because this morning my PC packed up! The processor just died on me (the pc still turns on, but nothing happens due to a lack of processing power, or actually, due to the non existing processing...), so I have to try and get a P4 2.4 GHz processor cheaply or get really disappointed as I will have to buy as a minimum a new motherboard, processor and memory! I also want to replace my monitor for an LCD. My monitor is still great but it just takes up way too much space.

    Ok, I hope to do another post later this week before I leave for the holidays.

    December 08, 2004

    Japan Food Festival

    London cab

    I mentioned before that I've been to another Japan Festival, so let me tell you about that.

    It was a glorious day. We arrived by bus on Victoria station and walked to the. Unfortunately British efficiency popped his head up here. We needed some day tickets and Tina had to get a discount card for the coming week. She ordered it in advance so it was just a matter of picking that one up. We arrived in the main hall of teh station, and as couuld be expected, it was crowding with people. The train ticket desks were absolutely packed, with queues running through 3 halls! We weren't looking forward to waiting hours in a bloody queue, so when we saw a fairly short queue we jumped into that one. It was for reservations, so that was good. After half an hour it was finally our turn. So I immediatelt do my story and the guy says I should go to the next hall for day tickets with the underground. Ofcourse, half an hour waisted. So we walked to the next hall, but no signs whatsoever. Now I have lived in Bristol for 4 years so you would guess that I would be able to spot where we need to go. Wrong! I couldn't find any evidence of an office where to collect subway tickets. Thus we asked about 5 shops around, and finally were told we should go downstairs into the underground itself. So we did. First I walked up to the automatic machines, but they stated that day tickets were only valid from 10.00 to 16.00. That was not what I wanted, so we had to stand another 30 minutes in yet another queue. We got our tickets for the day (the guy was helpfull luckily). We asked where we could collect reservations and we had to go upstairs again. Andd ofcourse: another queue awaited us, but not before we had another half an hour of searching before we found the place. There we gave them the reservation of Tina, and they gave us the week ticket. Leavin gthe station we noticed that the dates were all wrong. the reservation date was for monday to wednesday but the ticket said saturday to monday! So we went back because I could have sworn teh dates were stated on the reservation. the guy told me to point it out, and unfortunately they were not. The guy was still kind enough to change it over. he said that the reservations are open ended. you had to specify the dates you wanted otherwise they assume "from today". Luckily he was kind enough to exchange it for a ticket with the right dates.


    After what turned out to be quite a ride on the underground, we ended up somewhere on the second ring of London. the station was only about 5-10 minutes walk to th evenue, and the weather was absolutely fabulous. The area was very very nice. Beautiful houses, quiet, clean.

    So when we got there we bought some tickets. Thank god it was outside as well! They couldn't have picked a better day. It was some 25 degrees. Tina even wanted to get a sunbrella (my english word for a "parasol"). First we walked a bit around the stands. Most of them were food stands, with all kinds of Japanese food. Considering the weather I decided not to try the sushi. How can the fish be fresh when with this kinnd of weather?!?


    We walked to the end of the field, where they had some demonstrations in Kyudo. Kyudo is the art of Japanese archery. there are multiple forms for it (horse back archery is one of them). The sport is a lot more traditional than modern archery. The participants use traditional Japanese long bows and wear traditional clothing. Unlike modern archery, where it is best to concentrate then pull the string, aim and let go in one breath, as you often can't hold the bow aimed for too long. Kyudo demands a lot more of the mind and body as you are expected to do all the handling in a slow and controlled manner, showing discipline and control.
    Each time an archerer had to shoot the rest would sit down, with only the one selected standing and doing his thing. Below are some pictures of the Kyudo session.

    kyudo 3

    kyudo 4

    Next we walked around a bit more and stopped by a huge party tent where they performed a tea ceremony. Before the ceremony an old lady explained the ritual in rough lines, basically telling us teh steps she would be performing. After that she performed the ceremony. They could have done that a bit better I think. I know the tea ceremony is a special ritual, and is commonly used to either entertain respected guests or to express someone's affection for the other participant.
    However, here we could only see them perform the ceremony without any explanation of what was going on and why it was done that way. A bit of a shame, but I guess you can write many books about the ritual. I'm sure it isn't easy to explain.

    tea ceremony preparation

    tea ceremony

    Following that we went to a cooking demonstration. that was very entertaining, and the cook made it look so easy! I was really surprised with th eefficiency and the skill she performed the recipes. I asked her later where I could get some of the traditional equipment. She said I should be able to find a sushi rice bowl without much efford here in england. Though I did manage to get onen at one of the local asian supermarkets quite cheaply, it isn't particularly high quality. So I will kepe my eyes open for a better one. However, she told me that the omelet pan (japanese use a copper coated, square pan for the omelets) I would probably not be able to find in the UK. She got it from Japan directly. I still ahve some of her recipes, and shame on be for not having tried them yet. I wanted to watch the other cooking programs as well (I am a great fan of cooking asian dishes), but Tina had enough and wanted to see something else.
    I have to say, the lady looked quite young. I would have guessed here around my age (as it happens she looks very much like one of the dutch girls working here at Airbus, and she is a few years younger than I am), so I was surprised to find that not only did she have a daughter, her daughter turned 13 that same day!


    So we walked around a bit more. Watched some kimonos. At some point we watched some Taiko. Taiko is Japanese style drums. it is very rythmic and harmonous. It sounds very energetic and dynamic. They had 2 groups. One group was, what appeared to me as a group of beginners., mostly older women and one man. There can be quite a bit of shouting when Taiko is being played. It is part of the performance. The second group was a group of young ladies, and they were a lot more dynamic! They played with such enthusiasm! I made a couple of photographs but they didn't turn out well, so I left them off. At two of them you can see one of the girls looking straight at me, she cought me straight in the act!

    After a while Tina had seen enough as she started making sarcastic "Domo, Arregatou, Gomen nasai" comments, so we called it a day.
    All in all it was a great day, and it stimulated me more into going to Japan some day...