Friday, April 30, 2010

Belgian Legislation to Ban Muslim Veil

This is a topic I have battled with myself for quite some time, especially sentimentally strong today. The Belgian Government's Lower Chambers voted unanimously to ban the wearing of the Muslim veil (or garments such as the burqua). All my personal feelings aside (either for or against), this must be a direct violation to the basic fundamental Human Rights. Unfortunately, I've been finding it hard to express this in adequate words until I came across an article on the Human Rights Watch website (link):

A blanket ban on wearing such garments in public violates the fundamental right to freedom of religion, thought, and conscience as well as the right to personal autonomy, Human Rights Watch said. Bans of this nature - whether formulated in neutral terms or explicitly targeting the Muslim veil - have a disproportionate impact on Muslim women, and thereby violate the right to freedom from discrimination on the basis of religion and gender.

How can this kind of religious, cultural and gender intolerance still happen in today's multi-cultural and multi-national society. Especially in a country like Belgium where the seats of major international institutions are based (European Union, NATO, etc). We've just taken one big step back into the dark days of legalisation of discrimination against others because of their race, values, beliefs, religion and gender.

Shame... Shame on us all...

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Iron Man 2

I've just come out of the theatre for the latest instalment from Robert Downey, Jr. and Jon Favreau, Iron Man 2. It was quite simply: awesome! In my previous post(s), I've harped on about how I really like a bit of a brainless blockbuster. You know, some action packed flick which allows you to have fun but not having to use too much brain power. Well, this pretty much fits the bill perfectly.

I know I'll get some flack for this, but one of my best friends spent about a year trying to coerce me into watching Iron Man (the first one), and he nearly didn't succeed. There has been quite a number of comic book-turned-live action films recently, mostly due to the advent of new technology allowing filmmakers to portray those amazing super hero types in live action. However, I have never been too fussed about it. None of them really gets where your imagination could take you through simple images arranged in blocks. If I remember correctly, my friend (who knows my movie tastes pretty well) said: "I think this is the kind of movie you'll really enjoy." Dammit... How right he was.

I think I've gone over Iron Man about two or three dozen times already, especially in full HD Blu-ray. I just regret not having seen it in the cinema when it came out.

Just a side note, before I continue rambling on... I never really liked Robert Downey, Jr.'s movies. Until I realised he was in Chaplin, and I thought he was absolutely brilliant. Then Sherlock Holmes came into my cinematic world, and I took a 360° turn to realise I really like him and his movies.

So, back to the topic then, Iron Man 2.

It's always been a nightmare for directors to continue onto sequels or trilogies of good movies, the first time around. A good example would be Jurassic Park. The first one was simply breathtaking, but the rest have all been a bit wet. Lord of the Rings was different because it was set on a three-part book of epic proportions and popularity. Did you see Indiana Jones 4? What utter rubbish. But Jon Favreau (the director of Iron Man and Iron Man 2) came out and made something brilliant out of it.

Yes, there are plenty of faults. For example, the main villain (played by Mickey Rourke) didn't really feature much. Well, not his evil and destructive side anyways. I saw an interview recently where a prominent actor proclaimed that your movie is only as good as your villain. The audience needs to connect with him to be able to grasp what you are trying to tell them. And this villain's time was too short on screen. Oh, and it turns out no one died in the massive destruction that did take place eventually. That's a bit strange...

Still, the storyline was great. It was smooth and easy to follow. The action sequences were definitely worth it if nothing else. But what I really loved about the movie was the dialogue and the really quite funny jokes and off-hand comments being thrown around. It's comic book-turned-live action-comedy, and that really sets a great tone. There's no need to have a stick up the backside for superhero live action films and take everything over seriously. After all, it's fantasy, and it's not real (even though we sometimes wish they may be).

Something that inevitably caught my eye was Scarlett Johansson. She never struck me as very beautiful. Of course she has her charms, otherwise why would everybody be so bowled over by her. But I never really caught the bug. But in this movie, it's one of the few occasions where I suddenly realise she is extraordinarily hot. The other time I felt like this was in the first movie when I was shocked to see how pretty Gwyneth Paltrow was. I always thought she looked a bit too old and a bit too boring. In Iron Man, WOW!

All in all, this is a great movie. If I have a chance, I will actually go see it again (or maybe even a third time). By the way, Don Cheadle is a great replacement for Terrence Howard - who seemed to have a very broken and fragmented speaking voice, annoyingly.

Go see it! It's worth it!

Image Source: Paramount Pictures and Marvel Studios

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Hubble Space Telescope @ 20 Years

The Hubble Space Telescope celebrates its 20th year in service to the human race today. The HST has been a fascination for me since it was launched in 1990, when I was still a small child. I remember going with school to the newly opened IMAX Theatre in Cape Town, somewhere in the mid-90s, and watching an astronomy presentation filled with those wondrous images from Hubble. I could never help thinking... How insignificant we are to that grand scheme of everything - the Universe.

Hubble instills humility and humbleness in me every time I gaze upon its amazing images. They take me to a place where I can dream and wonder the beauty and vastness of space. For the past two decades, Hubble has been a significant contributor to the advancement of human understanding of the world, and the Universe in which we reside.

It has discerned the age of the Universe - by measuring the speed at which it expands. It has shown that even in the tiniest and darkest speck of the sky, there are potentially thousands upon thousands of galaxies floating in the heavens - how can we be alone? It is now even looking at measuring and cataloguing Dark Matter - which forms the gel or foundation to the Universe.

Thank you Hubble. And may your retirement be as glorious as you have painted the Universe to be.

Image source: NASA, European Space Agency

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Terrorism 1 : Freedom of Speech "Dead"

Well, it's official. Comedy Central, the parent broadcaster of the hit TV cartoon series "South Park" self-censored the latest episode titled "201. Following threats by Islamic radicals, the cable company decided to censor a big portion of the show after the show was produced and delivered by its creators.

Any mention of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad is given the bleep treatment. The black-box visual censor is also applied for the image of Muhammad (this could partially be intentional as part of the joke of course). Worst of all, the entire final monologue by the South Park characters where completely bleeped out.

This is disgusting, and it's sick. It's an own-goal for the broadcaster who has put up with a lot more than the current minuscule issue. They've let some random blogger force them to submit to their threats and demands.

What have we come to when entertainment has to be politically censored? I can't wait to see how they will justify this.

Update (00:40 CET Friday): The show's creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker have made the following announcement in response to the growing outrage at the network.

In the 14 years we’ve been doing South Park we have never done a show that we couldn’t stand behind. We delivered our version of the show to Comedy Central and they made a determination to alter the episode. It wasn’t some meta-joke on our part. Comedy Central added the bleeps. In fact, Kyle’s customary final speech was about intimidation and fear. It didn’t mention Muhammad at all but it got bleeped too. We’ll be back next week with a whole new show about something completely different and we’ll see what happens to it.

Image Source: South Park Studios

22 April 2010: Number 3

The long, and painfully, awaited episode number 201 of the long running Comedy Central show South Park was finally released yesterday. All day, media outlets are reporting that South Park has gone to far and may have crossed that very fine line. It seems all media outlets based their reports on a blog posted by - and this is not reported by anyone - an American JEW who turned Islam. Now this post, and you can read about it in my previous posts, threatened the creators of South Park, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, with death and retribution for their 200th episode, which featured Muhammad in a bear costume. The crazy blogger threatened their deaths similar to that of a Dutch journalist who angered the Muslim faith - he was killed by Islamic radicals.

By the way, if my understanding is correct, Jews don't like Muslims very much, right? Although, ironically, they all come from the same stem of religious belief, together with Christianity.

I may have commented too early on the latest episode on my Facebook page (mental note to self: "remove comment after updating blog") because something just popped up on my page. I have to read it first before I can continue writing about it.

Basically, what I thought was that the extra censorship in the episode - where the name "Muhammad" could not be spoken and Tom Cruise being "black-boxed" after receiving the "goo" from Muhammad - were intentionally created as a very sophisticated and fantastic joke. But it turns out, this may not have completely been the case. Since I've ranted on enough, why don't we wait until the smoke clears before continuing further?


Image Source: South Park Studios

22 April 2010: Number 2

The crazily skint boss of Ryanair - one of Europe's most successful budget airline - Michael O'Leary has been waving his arms around complaining about the refunds his company will have to pay out to the tens of thousands (not millions, surely his company do not have that many passengers) of passengers they have inconvenienced in the past week or so - due to the volcano in Iceland. Well, since he runs a budget airline, and from my working experience, he is as skint and tight-arsed as there can be. Fine. But all the other airlines are all waving their arms around saying the same thing.

Let's analyse this a bit before we come to a conclusion.

1) Airlines

All of them are facing uncertainty after the insanely bad year they all had last year. Many airlines have filed for bankruptcy and are facing closure. This means thousands of people more will lose their jobs. Meanwhile, we hear the "2009 Financial Crisis" is over. Yeah right! So they are having it tough, and this volcanic ash is not helping them out. Airlines were losing tens of millions of euros per day they were not operating. They are relatively justified to make complaints about these EU policies for payout to passengers. But they should do better to lobby extremely hard and well to have the EU bail them out. The banks could, why can't airlines. I think these Eurocrats also like flying quite a bit (perk from the job... and nearly no tax, and, and, and...). I know this because they have a huge employment quota for Travel Agents to deal with their needs. So get some of this EU money!

2) Passengers

Should passengers have to take all the costs themselves for something which is, more than for the airlines, completely out of their control? No! I've been through this with the 2006, so-called, "terrorist attack" in London. I lost more than €500 euros in two days, and I got nothing back from British Airways. I believe they said that "terrorism" is not on their insurance policy... After 9/11? Really?! But anyways, the EU has a set of rules to govern this situation and it stipulates that the airlines have to support the passengers in these events. Whatever the business model is for the Irish bloke, that's his problem. BA has more than enough liquid assets to fix the whole issue.

3) Finally... the EU

Well these fat-cats have tons of money in their pockets. They run around my side of town with pristine suits. They pay hardly any taxes. And they are very well paid... FROM MY TAX MONEY! They came up with the rules to govern situations like this, or did they? Well, no-one planned for the volcanic ash contingency. No-one. If someone tells you otherwise, slap them and tell them: "stop being stupid!" This is a once in a few decades kind of event, and of this magnitude, unheard of in modern history. So it's not their fault, then. Or is it? I just read that the Transport Minister of the UK said, after learning about the complaints from airlines for the "unnecessary" scope of the flight ban: "unless we can guarantee the safety of the air traveling public, there will be no planes flying at all." Really? Can you, Lord Adonis, guarantee the skies are safe? There was a whisper of a British Air Force training flight which reported levels of ash in their engines exceeding safe levels. All military air operations are temporarily grounded again. So, once again Lord Adonis, can you guarantee the skies are safe?

Here's what should happen:

Civilians who were horribly damaged by this week's craziness claims from the airlines (which Lord Adonis condones 100%, by the way). Airlines forces the EU for a bail-out citing the ineffective decision making process throughout the European Institutions. EU finally falls to its knees because if airlines go bankrupt, Eurocrats can no longer travel on public budget. So EU pays the Airlines out, who in turn pays the public. So, tax money not gone to waste anymore.

Elect me to power and I will fix all the problems!

Image Source:

22 April 2010: Number 1

The Belgian Government has broken apart again. The coalition government set up after the previous debacle was left with one less member which led to the prime minister tendering his resignation to the King. I'm sorry, but all of this seems a bit stupid. In the past five or six years I've been living in this country, there's been... what? A government for 40% of the time? The rest of the time they are bickering and breaking apart. If the King was half useful, we should just go to a Monarchy. Probably solves a bit of problems. Let the Man appoint his staff and let it be.

And in a few months, Belgium is supposed to take up the European Union Presidency. So... a non-government taking control of an incompetent and broken political institution that has not brought about anything useful since it was formed. I heard something funny about this today. A colleague at work, who is Belgian, said: "we're a non-country." This reminds me of a comment from a certain politician from the UKIP party who launched into a tirade against the incumbent European Council President, Herman Van Rompuy. I recall everyone up in arms with that comment and his direct attack at Herman. Well, he was right, wasn't he?

Useless... all of them fat arses taking tax payers money. FORTY-FIVE PERCENT! AND THEY CAN'T RUN A COUNTRY!

Lines of Divide

The planes are back in the air but so is something which rates as my Top 5 hated things living in Europe - contrails. Gone are the beautiful clear blue skies we've had for the past week...

- Posted from my iPhone

Image source: Krypton Zone (c) 2010 Entertainment

Is it a bird? Is it a...

What's that?

Oh my... It's a plane flying over Brussels!

- Posted from my iPhone

Image Source: Krypton Zone (c) 2010 Entertainment

Stoner Park

I really don't want to get into this into too much detail because it's something the media has been digging through and through. I've been seeing this quite often, where the media is desperately finding something to report on or say even when the last dregs of information has been pulled out of the tiniest cracks. Yet, they still milk it for all its worth until a point where you can see they are milking it and it becomes pathetic and negatively reflects on this media source, and news media in general.

Anyways, there's a big commotion going on about the latest episodes of Comedy Central's South Park, "200" and "201." In "200," they brought in some old and familiar faces to celebrate their 200th episode - an amazing achievement. Apart from the Tom Cruises, "H"eniffer Lopez's, Mr Hats, Jesus', there he was, Muhammad (again).

When he was supposed to be shown, there was a big black block showing "CENSORED", which is not so much self-censoring but comedy. But after some debate about how to give Muhammad to Tom Cruise and his friends, the town of South Park decided to dress Muhammad up in a bear costume.

Do you know what? I think that's awesome! I really rolled around laughing because they have dissected the current social and political environment and ripped it apart in comedy. It really showed how stupid we are these days.

Now we have some Islamic radicals threatening, wait... "warning" Matt Stone and Trey Parker about their little bit of comedy. The reports say they want to see the creators of South Park end up like the Dutch journalist who was shot and stabbed to death for making a documentary on Islamic women.

"This is not a threat, but a warning of the reality of what will likely happen to them" - Abu Talhah Al-Amrikee

Whatever "Abu"... It's people like you that cements this fear and hatred in most people in the civilised world to try and limit you and your actions. It's people like you who take the sacred scriptures to such an extent that you are willing to kill on behalf of your deity/holy person.

Do you even know how religions came about? If you are so devout in your religion, shouldn't you at least learn about where all this came from? Well, it came from MAN. Christianity, Judaism AND Islam all came from the same part of the world, at about the same time in human history. All three religions are linked, yet these three religion's differences have been the cause for war and human suffering for centuries.

No deity, none, have ever said: "go out, kill thine fellows, show your true believe in me!"

So all of you people who are too serious about religion should take a break and take that stick out of the darkest part of you, and realise the truth. All holy scriptures are trying to do is to make you a better man/woman. No one wants you to go kill. Anyways, the Koran applies to those who believe in the Islamic faith. Most of us in the civilised world do not.

Darn... I got dragged into it. Now I'll be bombed! Yay!

Image source: Comedy Central

Monday, April 19, 2010

Formula 1 and Ash

I've been posting quite a ton's worth of posts about the Volcanic Ash situation here in Europe, matching much of what that annoying volcano in Iceland is actually spewing out. But it's about time I bring my blog's attention back to where it should be: Formula 1.

At this point in time, quite a lot of F1 teams are still stuck in China waiting for the air travel conditions to return to normal. I've just read that Bernie Ecclestone vows to bring everything back to Europe on time for the pre-European Season development to be done by the teams. It seems he is certain the Spanish Grand Prix in 3 weeks will go ahead as planned. Being Bernie, I trust him hands-down.

This is quite a strange situation though. Formula 1 teams arrange travel for their personnel every race weekend by themselves. But the equipments and, most importantly, the cars are arranged by Bernie's freight company working for F1. A number of teams, including Ferrari, have taken the option offered by AirAsia and Lotus F1 boss Tony Fernandes to fly to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia after the race and take his chartered flights back to Europe when the air restrictions have been lifted. What would happen if Bernie can't make good on his promise or if the precious cargo gets back to Europe too late for shakedown and servicing?

I don't think the servicing and shakedown would be too big of a problem for the teams. They can probably do 70% of that in the pits at the race track. Albeit the engineers would have to put in a lot of overtime and work through the night - we've seen that before.

But the cargo getting onto European soil is the main issue now. It would be a disaster if the Spanish Grand Prix is cancelled. All the logistics of refunding tickets, and I think the Spanish GP this year should be quite well attended as with recent years. Now that Fernando Alonso has joined Ferrari and is quite competitive, it means it's probably business as usual for the race track operators. It wouldn't be Bernie's fault of course, but would this be a reason for the teams to take even more control away from him? It all depends on how he manages the situation I guess.

One final thought...

Everyone has been harping on about how Nico Rosberg, who is significantly younger and less experienced than Michael Schumacher, is continuing to "out-shine" the seven-times World Champion F1 master. This is quite annoying. I think the people who say this don't really know what F1 is about. The pundits who make this comment are all trying to drum up even more stories to talk or write about - which is absolutely unnecessary considering that this season has been quite unpredictable already.

Formula 1 is a very demanding sport. When I was in the Paddocks last year, I saw Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton, Jarno Trulli and other drivers who crashed out, stand in front of the world's media - and me! - perspiring like they've just climbed Mount Everest. These guys train like every other sportsmen and women, and often even more. After crashing out having done 30% of the race, they are wasted.

This brings me to the point. Leaving three years, and coming back into the sport where the rules have gone through all the washing cycles in the FIA washing machine, and - don't forget - all the technological advances during this time, means Schumi had a tough time before he started. He had hardly any testing, due to restrictions, and he has been out of shape (I say "out of shape," but I mean "not as fit as before" because he is damn hell as not going to waste away) for all this time. Did anyone seriously think he would jump in and finish on the top of the podium?

Schumi has been my biggest idol for more than a decade. I admire the man and I think he is a genius, and nobody should say any different - seven world titles! Coming in and qualifying in the top 10 and finishing in the top 10 (except one race) out of the four races so far is a very respectable achievement. Jenson Button (who is also an idol of mine) won the Championship last year, and managed to finally clinch two victories in the last four races, often because of changing weather conditions. I think this illustrates quite clearly how tough it is.

Stop bad-mouthing Schumi. He is great and to us, the real fans, he will always be great even if he is last in the race.

Go Schumi!

Image Source (Bernard Charles Ecclestone and Jarno Trulli): Krypton Zone (c) 2010 Entertainment
Image Source (Michael Schumacher):

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Mobile Posting

Since I'll be blogging a bit more now, I thought it may be a good idea to sort something out to blog from my iPhone. Unfortunately I'm taking a leap here because I'm already about to head off to catch some well needed z's I won't see the result until tomorrow.

Potential problems expected: formatting, content, etc. We'll see...

Welcome to mobile posting!

- Posted from my iPhone

What's that in the Sky?

At this time, most European airspaces are still closed. Most flights are still grounded. The EU and various governmental agencies have been trying to work out a solution to the current volcano caused air travel bans. The UK government is calling a meeting tomorrow morning to discuss. The EU has been doing some teleconferences to see what can be done. Airlines are test flying with no visible damage after flying through the ash clouds. Various travel organisations are now questioning the need for such drastic measures imposed by Eurocontrol.

Something has to give. The implications of this is now ranging from food produce to postal services. Everyone is losing out. Perhaps excepting alternative, ground-based transportation services. As much as I support getting stranded people home as quickly and as painlessly as possible, I hope operators like Eurostar and Thalys won't be trying to make a quick buck out of this.

At the current damage extent, airlines will be suffering tremendously. Added to their poor performance during the economic downturn, expect to see some requests for bail-outs by European governments to avert further disaster of losing more carriers.

Will it end? I think that's the biggest question now. We've long gone past asking "when?"

The Slated iPad

I happen to have come across the new and much hyped about Apple iPad today and was able to give it a whirl, bar any kind of internet connectivity sadly. The first thoughts were quite positive, but I'm still not quite convinced by its practicality after about 20 minutes of testing. The following are my observations:


The iPad is relatively heavy, quite surprisingly. Holding it in one hand for a long period while the other hand is operating the touch screen, as you are expected to do, make the operation tedious. If you have to compose a long-ish email (which may happen), write a novel (less likely, but still possible) or read an e-Book, it will become a bit annoying.

With a laptop, your fingers are moving around while the weight is supported elsewhere - table, lap, etc. But I guess it's not too different from reading a 500+ page book. Still... the activities are quite diverse, which they crammed into one device.


Even though most people are saying this is a glorified iPhone, the keyboard is really an improvement. It's really large, and the on-screen keys are even bigger than the ones on a typical 15" laptop. The iPad does this because it avoids a lot of the command keys that laptops normally come with. However, the difference between the iPhone and the iPad in terms of typing is extreme.

On an iPhone, you can easily support the device and have both thumbs do the typing (albeit the keys are a bit small and mistakes often happen). You can even very easily reach all the keys while holding the device in one hand and type with the thumb on that hand. Don't forget, the frame is thicker than the iPhone's. It means more distance between your thumb and the screen.

On the iPad, it feels miles away. You have to hold the device in one hand (left in my case) and type with the other (right). This meant I was limited to index finger-typing, which is far from ideal. I also found that the other fingers on the typing hand will end up touching buttons by mistake and ruin whatever my index finger worked hard to do. But I suppose practice and getting used to the device would solve this issue. I tried typing with all five fingers and the result was just as bad. And the hand has to travel double the distance to type half as quite - as opposed to typing with both hands and 10 digits.


I really liked the e-Book concept brought forward by Apple on the iPad. It's refreshing, and the visuals beat anything out there like the Kindle, or other e-Book readers. The books look like their physical counterpart with a bit more flexibility. Would this prompt me to read though? Probably not.

iPad Games

The gaming is quite good too, except the car game I played still uses the accelerometer to control the vehicles. I find this really annoying, and it takes a lot of getting used to. But it brings back the issue of the thick frame - starting to feel like the biggest issue with the iPad now.


This part scored high with me. It was much smoother and user-friendly than my first generation iPhone. It definitely also trumps the speedy iPhone 3GS. It will definitely help when multi-tasking is launched through iPhone OS 4.0 - most likely with a separate version for the iPad.


Some of the older iPhone apps, while being able to work on the iPad, is quite lame. The CNN app, when opened on the iPad expands to fill the screen, with some kind of zoom which causes all the images and even text to become edgy and pixelated. You can zoom it back down to iPhone size, but then 70% of the screen is blank. Why...?

I do like the device, but I think there are quite some improvements that can be made. I would definitely think the 3G active version is much more useful than the Wi-Fi only version. Would I buy it? If I had disposable cash, yes. It just looks too good. Oh, and the one I saw, the case doesn't come as standard. So you'll have to pay an extra $40 for it. Ouch!

Image source: Apple Inc.

That Infernal Volcano

So it seems the latest reports are painting a pretty desperate picture for the air travel industry caused by this infernal volcano. It also doesn't help that millions of people are now stranded away from home, and more to follow. The good news is that the peak of stranded people should be over. The trend should level out somewhat, which will take some pressure off.

Most of the airspaces in Europe will remain closed through Sunday, and I do not see the situation alleviating anytime soon. The ah clouds are hanging around Europe and is expanding its reach. Take a moment to appreciate that only three or four airspaces remain open in Europe today.

This is normally also the last weekend of the Easter holidays for most of Europe which means a lot more people should be returning home. But anticipate that next week the holiday peak would be over, hence the leveling out of travel volume.

The air industry has already lost more than $1 billion. Larger airlines like Lufthansa and British Airways are losing more than $10 million per day they are grounded. Just think, Europe's largest airline Lufthansa reported that none of their planes were in the air anywhere in the world on Saturday.

KLM and Lufthansa have been doing test flights at maximum cruising altitudes. The preliminary report seems positive, with the planes not suffering from any damage caused by the ash. This may seem like the light at the end of the tunnel for some, but I think Eurocontrol (European Air Traffic Control body) will not let up so easily.

Here's the current airspace situation (update 11:30 CET):
  • Austria - closed
  • Belarus - closed
  • Belgium - closed (until at least 14:00 CET Sunday)
  • Bulgaria - closed
  • Czech Republic - closed
  • Denmark - closed
  • Estonia - closed
  • Finland - closed
  • Germany - closed
  • Hungary - closed
  • Ireland - closed
  • Latvia - closed
  • Luxembourg - closed
  • Montenegro - closed
  • Netherlands - closed
  • Poland - closed
  • Serbia - closed
  • Slovakia - closed
  • Sweden - closed
  • Switzerland - closed
  • UK - closed (until at least 02:00 CET Monday)
  • Ukraine - closed
  • Bosnia-Herzegovina - partial closure
  • Bulgaria - partial closure northern airspace
  • Croatia - partial closure
  • France - partial closure northern airspace (until at least Monday)
  • Italy - partial closure northern airspace (until at least Monday)
  • Lithuania - partial closure
  • Norway - partially opened northern airspace
  • Spain - partial closure northern airspace
The following airspaces remain open:
  • Greece
  • Portugal
  • Russia
  • Turkey
Source: BBC News, VRT Nieuws,

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Last update...

... before I head out to Germany.

Current airspace conditions (17/4/10 @ 11:20 CET):

  • Austria - closed
  • Belarus - closed
  • Belgium - closed (until at least 20:00 CET Saturday)
  • Bosnia-Hercegovina - closed
  • Czech Republic - closed
  • Denmark - closed
  • Estonia - closed (until at least 02:00 CET Saturday)
  • Finland - closed (until at least Sunday)
  • Germany - closed
  • Hungary - closed (until at least Saturday afternoon)
  • Latvia - closed
  • Netherlands - closed (until at least Saturday)
  • Poland - closed
  • Republic of Ireland - closed
  • Slovakia - closed
  • Switzerland - closed
  • Ukraine - closed
  • UK - closed (until at least 02:00 CET Sunday)
  • France - partial closure northern airspace (Paris closed until at least 14:00 CET Saturday)
  • Italy - partial closure northern airspace (until at least 20:00 CET Saturday)
  • Lithuania - air operators' decision
  • Norway - partially opened northern airspace
  • Serbia - partial closure
  • Sweden - partially opened northern airspace
Source: BBC News, VRT News

Airspace Update

Current airspace conditions (17/4/10 @ 10:05 CET):

  • Belgium - closed (until at least 20:00 CET Saturday)
  • Czech Republic - closed
  • Denmark - closed
  • Estonia - closed (until at least 02:00 CET Saturday)
  • Finland - closed (until at least Sunday)
  • Germany - closed
  • Hungary - closed (until at least Saturday afternoon)
  • Latvia - closed
  • Netherlands - closed (until at least Saturday)
  • Republic of Ireland - closed
  • Slovakia - closed
  • Slovenia - closed
  • Switzerland - closed
  • UK - closed (until at least 02:00 CET Sunday)
  • Austria - partial closure
  • France - partial closure northern airspace (Paris closed until at least 14:00 CET Saturday)
  • Italy - partial closure northern airspace (until at least 14:00 CET Saturday)
  • Lithuania - air operators' decision
  • Norway - partially opened northern airspace
  • Poland - partial closure
  • Romania - partial closure western airspace (from Saturday)
  • Sweden - partially opened northern airspace
Source: BBC News, VRT News

What's the Danger?

With such a large scale disruption in Europe caused by an isolated volcano more than 1,500km away, you may wonder: "what's the danger?" Well, the simple answer is that the ash (even if it is invisible) could cause catastrophic engine failures on jets. There have been two cases in the past (BA through Indonesia, KLM to Alaska) where the planes flew into ash clouds, suffered engine failures, but were able to start them up again. The European Air Traffic Control, Eurocontrol, is taking these drastic steps to prevent air disasters.

Look at this news feed from AP:
A Finish F-18 Hornet jet had a scare, overheating even on a short flight as the ash blocked its cooling ducts. Air Force spokesman Joni Malkamaki says the Hornet "flew for about an hour" on a regular training flight in clear weather and the pilot saw no signs of any volcanic cloud.

The airspace closures seem a bit more justified now...

Volcanic Disruptions

Most of Europe is facing heavy travel disruptions this week caused by the volcanic eruptions in Iceland this week more than 2000 km away. European airspace is facing unprecedented closures and flight bans under safety concerns.

Current airspace conditions (17/4/10 @ 02:47 CET):

  • Belgium - closed (until at least 10:00 CET Saturday)
  • Czech Republic - closed
  • Denmark - closed
  • Estonia - closed (until at least 02:00 CET Saturday)
  • Finland - closed (until at least Sunday)
  • Hungary - closed (until at least Saturday afternoon)
  • Latvia - closed
  • Netherlands - closed (until at least Saturday)
  • Slovakia - closed
  • Slovenia - closed
  • Switzerland - closed
  • Austria - partial closure
  • France - partial closure northern airspace (Paris closed until at least 14:00 CET Saturday)
  • Germany - mostly closed
  • Italy - partial closure northern airspace (until at least 14:00 CET Saturday)
  • Lithuania - air operators' decision
  • Norway - partially opened northern airspace
  • Poland - partial closure (Rzeszow open)
  • Republic of Ireland - mostly opened
  • Romania - partial closure western airspace (from Saturday)
  • Sweden - partially opened northern airspace
  • UK - partially opened
The extent of the current travel disruptions are unclear, however the air industry is reported to be losing €150m per day they are forced to ground planes. This figure is likely to increase throughout the weekend as the airspace closures extend towards the south-eastern parts of Europe. Large European airlines like BA and Lufthansa are losing more than €10m per day.

We are currently seeing far reaching implications into other travel industries. Most stranded passengers are looking at alternate ways to get back home. The Eurostar is fully booked until Monday, even after the rail operator added three extra trains to cope with the demand. Thalys is experiencing similar problems. There are people going on ferries and cargo ships to travel between UK and mainland Europe.

Even if the restrictions are lifted by Monday next week, there will be a long and rather difficult road ahead to return air travel to normal. Apart from passengers and crew, hundreds of aircrafts are also stranded all over the world. The carefully planned schedules by airlines are no longer functioning. Airlines will not be able to recover for weeks, or months to come.

Source: BBC News, VRT News
Image: NEODAAS/University of Dundee/AP

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Clash of The Titans (2010)

It has been quite a nice day today, for a change. The sun was out. The temperature was warm-ish. What a nice thought it was to end the day with a movie - Clash of The Titans (2010).

I think there is nothing wrong with a brainless-action-blockbuster-thriller. This especially makes sense after a long and productive day. It helps to unwind a bit. But I've seen more and more of these brainless flicks where I come out the other end going: "really? I sat through 2-3 hours of this?" Some of the recent silver screen products have been so bad that even if I do intend to go in with my brain completely turned off, I come out annoyed. This movie just scrapes the top the list.

The only positive thing I can attribute to this movie is that it was based on Mythology, which I'm quite a big fan. A bit of fantasy here and there is quite all right. Oh, and some of the actresses were quite a bit of an eye-candy phenomenon.

The story line was poor. The acting was mediocre. The effects... Wow, they were terrible. The only thing that baffled me was Pegasus. I'm not entirely sure how they managed, but that's the only believable thing in there. Characters weren't developed very well... etc, etc. Did you know Hades was actually a giant black bat?

It's just a saving grace that I insisted on not watching this movie in 3D. I've seen Alice in Wonderland (2010) recently, and I fully agree with James Cameron that the 2D-to-3D conversion is just not the same as filming the whole thing in 3D. This would most likely have been really bad, and it would very likely have been able to make me sick (and I don't get car sick or sea sick... and this is on a comfy couch in the cinema...). And it would have cost more!

Please stop releasing rubbish like this! And not every movie has to be in 3D. Some of us wear glasses, and it really doesn't work that well.

One final thought: if you do watch this movie, and you think your eyes have gone misty when you see Zeus, it's not your eyes. It's the horribly cheap digital effect they put on Lian Neeson's "armour" which makes him look camp and fairy-like.


Saturday, April 10, 2010

Update: Current South African Political Climate

Short of writing an essay on the current situation of South African politics, and its related media outbursts, I thought it would probably be easier to make it colourful and suitable for all ages. Enjoy!