2010-06-19 -- Kolkata to Chaing Mai

After our hour-ish long drive from the airport to the hotel (last night), we decided to wake up bright and early and get outta here. Early, as in we left the hotel at 6:30am, and with little to no traffic were at the airport by 7am. Nothing particularily painful or frustrating happened at the airport -- maybe a little slow to check out, we never did get clearance to start the plane (just started and asked to leave).

Flying in India is a little....odd. In nearly every other country in the world (remember, we are flying around the world), a plane taking off from / landing at some airport goes through the same basic conversation with air traffic control (disclaimer: I'm not a pilot, and this is from memory):

Tower November eight five zero sierra juliet, line up and wait.
N850SJ Line up and wait, sierra juliet.

For the most part, ATC initiates conversations, and the pilot acknowledges receiving the message by repeating the message (if the message involves us taking some action) or by saying our name (if the message is just information).

Tower N850SJ, cleared for takeoff.
N850SJ Cleared for takeoff, SJ.

We're now flying.

In the states, the tower would pass us off to either "departure contorl" or some other controller with a brief instruction; we call up the new controller and advise where we are:

Tower N850SJ, contact departure on one three two point four five, good day.
N850SJ 132.45, SJ, thanks for the help.
(we switch frequency to that of departure control and call)
N850SJ Departure, TBM eight five zero sierra juliet, six-thousand for one one thousand.
Departure SJ radar contact.

On the otherhand, in India, the pass off requires a verification:

Tower N850SJ, please report when you have established two-way communication with center.
N850SJ SJ
(we switch frequency to that of center and call)
N850SJ Center, TBM november eight five zero sierra juliet, six-thousand climbing to one one thousand, squak four three six two.
center N850SJ, report when released from tower.
N850SJ SJ
(we switch frequency back to tower)
N850SJ Tower, N850SJ is in two-way communcation with center
Tower N850SJ, radar service terminated, goodbye.
(we switch frequency back to center)
N850SJ Center, N850SJ has been released from tower.

The Indian system has built-in redundancy -- it is useful if communication failure is common, but otherwise a complete waste of bandwidth. The normal communication expects reliable communication, and treats the failure as an exception to be handled rarely; the most common failure I've seen is hearing the wrong frequency; one example, expecting to hear "one three two point seven five" but instead hearing "one three two seven five" (one syllable less) and thinking the last number was cut off.


Canon PowerShot A3100 IS at 6.2 mm; 1/320 sec, f/2.7, ISO 80
On the drive from the hotel to the airport, we saw a lot of buildings under construction. I think they were under construction anyway. Many of them were just empty concrete shells. A few like this one started me thinking about the way we write software -- we write up a skeleton program, just enough to get it running, something to test the rest of the functionality. We'll then pick a handful of "fun" features to implement first, and finish those completely, saving all the difficult and/or boring ones for last.

The building here looks like it is two sections, one still at the skeleton, one nearly finished. I've never seen a building anywhere else constructed like this. Buildings usually go in stages -- all the framing, then the roof, then all the plumbing, then all the electricity, then all the walls, then... Perhaps this is due to all the inspections that are needed; perhaps it is just easier to get all the plumbers in and out quickly.

Sure, software doesn't have an easy breakdown like "all the plumbing" that can be done at once. Maybe software is a gigantic building composed of thousands of little rooms each customized for a specific client -- one that wants all plastic pipes, one that wants all lead pipes, one that wants walls made from cardboard, one that wants a floor of sand, etc, etc -- and there simply isn't any analogy between building construction and software construction. Or maybe the way we write software is just wrong.

Just something I thought about on a not-so-long bus ride to the airport.



Canon PowerShot A3100 IS at 6.2 mm; 1/160 sec, f/8.0, ISO 80
Our plane was sealed by Indian customs. This didn't seem to be very important, since we peeled the sticker off without any customs official looking.



Canon PowerShot A3100 IS at 6.2 mm; 1/640 sec, f/8.0, ISO 80
There was a threat of bad weather near Chaing Mai. We were above it fortunately.



Canon PowerShot A3100 IS at 6.2 mm; 1/400 sec, f/8.0, ISO 80
Clouds and terrain just outside Chaing Mai. We were at 10,000 feet, and the ground looked a whole lot closer than 2 miles away.



Canon PowerShot A3100 IS at 9.4 mm; 1/50 sec, f/3.2, ISO 80
Terrain outside Chaing Mai.



Canon PowerShot A3100 IS at 6.2 mm; 1/15 sec, f/2.7, ISO 800
Desert; four scoops of sorbet. I don't remember the flavors. Dinner was a slightly too spicy panaeng beef curry.



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