Monday Motorway Music™, May 2 – But Above Everything Else…

 

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LX1266 approaching CPH

There is a decades old song in Denmark that has the chorus line “but up above everything else, Mother Sun is shining!”:)

And sure it did the other day – Friday last week on approach to Copenhagen. And still, there were big holes in the clouds to give a nice view of the ocean below as well.

I have an idea that I may be on to some kind of personal record – in a combination of work and vacation, I believe I’ll end up having 6 weeks at least where I am flying off to somewhere every week… Actually, even if the two vacation trips certainly are enjoyable, it is altogether approaching enough travelling…

Det bedste til mig og mine venner – Gasolin’
Behind These Hazel Eyes – Kelly Clarkson
As Good As It Gets – Beth Hart
Two Tribes – Frankie Goes To Hollywood
Substitute – Delta Cross Band
Loch Lomond (live) – Runrig

Photo by me.
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CFR Notes – why online check-in is important 

…and why it sucks when it doesn’t work.

I’ll be flying Swiss from DXB to ZRH (late) tonight. And until an hour-ish ago, well after I had old-fashioned-like checked in at a counter at the airport, Swiss’ online check-in was dysfunctional.

So while the nice gentleman at the counter moved me from a middle seat (yikes!) to an aisle seat, he also gave me a seat with an entertainment box below the seat in front. And all that is left have the same problem.


This is what makes checking in online and early is important. So no praise to Swiss for the major, prolonged malfunction of their online systems. Not something they did voluntarily, I am sure. But the available seating still sucks.

IMG_9056A little bit over in the mocking end of things, Swiss actually issued boarding passes that advertised the online check-in. Better done when the service actually works, methinks…

 

 

 

PS: The same nice gentleman at the counter told me that I could only access the lounge 4 hours before departure. Which was 3(ish) hours after I arrived. Thankfully, Lufthansa lounge people didn’t even mention such a limitation. Thanks for that!

Seat plan from swiss.com; photo by me
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Cobblestone Flight Review: LGW-CPH on low-cost carrier Easyjet

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Evening sky panorama from the apron at LGW 

No motorway driving today – or, yes there will be but on a motorway out of Tehran, Iran without any reliable internet. So, instead, while I do have internet – here’s a write-up on a flight from this weekend.

 

To be honest, the preconceived notions you may have about flying low-cost airlines all hold true :

  • very tight seat pitch: check
  • everything other than flying from A to B costing extra: check
  • delays and other irregularities not resolved in favour of passengers but of costs: check

Case in point: in an Easyjet home turf airport, we got a message some six hours before our flight that we would have a delay of an hour. According to the crew on our flight when it finally did take place, this was due to late incoming aircraft from Corfu, due to thunderstorms there.

All that is fine and understandable and clearly force majeure and thus not fault of EasyJet. Except for, of course, not trying to juggle things (read: planes) around so as to mitigate the problem and get people on the way on time. Because that obviously might actually – cough, cough – cost some money.

And you didn’t pay for that! So the hour’s delay – live with it.

Then we had a second set of delays due to a massive IT failure in Gatwick – apparently hitting both North and South terminals and closing down WiFi, boarding screens, pay terminals, the works. That is not a fault of EasyJet, fair enough. What it did was add to the delay – the boarding process partly failed so gate agents had to walk up and down the aisle, verifying passengers’ identities. Sigh.

The in flight service? It’s fine, I guess. As long as you find 3€ for coffee fine or 12€ for a pre-packed sandwich or similar plus a drink and a pack of crisps ok. Quality- and quantity-wise, the meal and drinks we had at the airport quite surely matched that – with something to spare.

I’m tempted to compare the discount airline experience with another type of business – discount supermarkets. We have one in my wee hometown and it has actually surprised me considerably – actually annoyed me a bit. See, I expected it to be just another discount experience: generally am untidy mess, not quite enough manning to keep queues short, and all that.

But this one? Well laid out, light and welcoming, very pleasant staff who’re eager to help. Altogether an ok shopping experience. What I am trying to say with this is that with the right mindset, a low cost experience can be made a good one. But in the case of EasyJet et al, it seems that the creep is more like a previous boss of mine once speculated: “it
seems that they actually design the customer experience to actively make you aware that you are flying discount. It’s not meant to be good at all.”

Despite my knees touching the seat in front of me, I did catch some sleep on the way to Copenhagen. Which was good in more ways than one – I only had a 7-hour turnaround so any sleep counted and it made the flight pass mercyfully quick.

Looking at it, the only thing that counts on the plus side on this one is that we got from A to B. Which, I guess, is something. But not something I’d give out any cobblestones for.

score-blankscore-blankscore-blankscore-blankscore-blankscore-blank
PS: Why did we fly them, then? Availability of tickets that matched our long-weekend, fair and simple.

Photo by me
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Cobblestone Cooking Music XXV – Turkey Breast Roulade

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Wheeee, photos! And even if this is actually from Friday, it’ll have to substitute for the Monday column as I haven’t been on any motorways today and won’t be for days.

  • Stan Getz et al, The Girl from Ipanema
  • Lounge Theme, Easy J

2016-04-08 17.51.23Ok, had a turkey breast in the fridge that needed doing and had a dear friend and a daughter for dinner (along with the usual suspects, aka the in-house family). Butterflied the meat and spread cream cheese over it and added finely chopped ramsons and parsley.

Then rolled it up – it is often a good idea if you can borrow an extra pair of hands for a minute for that – and tied it down to keep it in shape (see top picture). The needle you see in there is just because the ¤%#¤&&/%¤ turkey breast fought a bit against the butterflying and had to be held a bit more together than planned…

  • Hilary Duff, Rock This World
  • The Veronicas, All About Us

Into an oven pre-heated to 225°C, give it 10 minutes to sear and then turn down the heat to 175°C or so.

2016-04-08 18.02.25Sides#1. What we in Denmark call Hasselbach potatoes – peel relatively large (but not quite baked potato large) potatoes and cut them in slices – but only almost through.

  • Frontline, Can’t Be Seen
  • Fleetwood Mac, Book Of Love

Brush/drip them with butter, sprinkle with salt and paprika & a dusting of dried breadcrumb. Into the oven they go, too – a little before the meat, even. A wee hour at 175-200°C.

 

  • Mike Oldfield, Thrash
  • David Bowie, It Ain’t Easy

Side #2: Broccoli/bacon/onion salad. Finely dice red onion and cut/break broccoli into small, mouth-sized bits. Fry cubed bacon until crisp, and let it drip on some paper towel. Mix these things and stir with a dressing of mayonnaise, creme fraiche, salt, pepper and a bit of lemon juice. Actually should have had dried cranberries and roasted pine nuts as well – but the cranberries we were inexplicably out of and the pine nuts went against the allergies of our friend.

  • Eddy Grant, Electric Avenue
  • Bangles, Complicated Girl.

And that’s it. Could be served with a fuller white – we had a not-too-heavy Italian red with it and nobody was unhappy with that.

Happy cooking!

Photos by me.
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Monday Motorway Music™, April 4 – Managing On A Monday!

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Sunset at CDG

This is a bit particular. In spite of travelling, I am actually posting a Motorway post on … a Monday! And, to be sure, I am – maybe not quite cheating, but having to pull at not-so-common resources. Such as the wireless in the SAS lounge at Paris CDG.

And Bob knows, I’ve done motorways today. Something like 650 km – plus the 70-ish to the airport in Copenhagen and back!

You could call it a trial run for summer vacation – we’ll be going on a road trip to Normandie / Bretagne and that is where I was for a customer meeting today.

 

Drive – The Cars (!)
Oh, Pretty Woman – Roy Orbison
Can’t Fight This Feeling – REO Speedwagon
Sleeping on the Sidewalk – Queen
Hey Nineteen – Steely Dan
Fever – Peggy Lee
The Winner Takes It All – ABBA
Loch Lomond (live) – Runrig
I Touch Myself – Divinyls
Stand By Me – Seal
Turn Out The Light – Joan Armatrading
You Make Loving Fun – Fleetwood Mac
I Don’t Know Enough About You (live) – Diana Krall
Don’t Ask Me Why – Eurythmics
Because The Night – Patti Smith Group
Hootblooded – Roxette
Ain’t It Heavy – Melissa Etheridge
Down On West Fuxing Lu – Sinne Eeg
Suite Madame Blue – Styx

Photo by me.
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Fridav Motorway Music™, April 1 – Predictions Being Fulfilled

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I did say it, didn’t I? Travel madness would ensue? Check. And add to that the number of national holidays in Spring – we’ve just had a full set of three over Easter (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday & Easter Monday are all days off) – and in terms of regularity around this blog, all bets are off. Until … well, until normality is restored and anything you can’t cope with is therefore your own problem (with due apologies to Douglas Adams).

So the Monday of this week where this column belongs – was a day off. And the “Monday” in terms of the work week beginning – i.e. Tuesday – was a “250 Emails in the Inbox due to travels and vacation” kind of day. Blogging? Who’re you kidding??

And so on, until we hit today.

But hey – it’s spring:) The daffodils – that we call Easter Lillies – actually sprung for Easter, even if it is a rather early one this year. And as they’re pretty and all that, they got the honour of heading up this week random notes and music selection.

Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight) – ABBA
Strong Enough – Cher
Only You (And You Alone) – The Platters
Sexbomb – Tom Jones
A.C.D.C. – Joan Jett & The Blackhearts
Missionary Man – Eurythmics
Babe – Styx
Dead Ringer for Love – Meat Loaf

Photo by me.
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Cobblestone Cooking Music XXIV – Köfte-inspired Meatballs

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Did someone promise to remember to take photos? Yes? Who, me? Naaahhh… *sighs*

So, I can’t show you mine (presto: song lyric coming up: “First show me yours / Maybe I’ll show you mine” – Melissa Etheridge. But I digress…) Apart from the sides, though, they looked quite a bit like in the Flickr picture above, only maybe a bit more longish.

  • Village People, Go West
  • Lipps, Inc., Funkytown

And while we’re at it with confessions, this is largely a recipe by Danish manuscript writer & TV chef Adam Price (of Borgen fame, should any of you have watched that) – subdued a little as I reckon my family is not quite as tolerant for hot ‘n’ spicy as the recipe calls for. Original (Danish) recipe here.

  • Soft Cell, Tainted Love
  • Let’s Dance, David Bowie

516563651_a5fce5299c_zJust one more thing before we start with kitchen tools and ingredients – searching for a köfte image on Flickr (my favourite for this kind of use as you can easily find Creative Commons licensed images – i.e. ones that you can use without stepping on royalty toes or other creative property rights), I hit an astounding number of very cute kitten pictures. Now, I sure hope the cat’s not going to made into köfte – don’t for a moment think so – but at least, here is one of the cuter!

Cook bulgur following the recipe on the pack (get water boiling, put in, remove from heat and let sit). Next, mix lamb mince with spices – chili, garlic, onion, cumin, parsley (what needs to be chopped is finely so) as well as an egg and a handful of breadcrumbs. Mix well and let sit for a little while.

  • Gloria Gaynor, I Am What I Am
  • Elvis Presley, Heartbreak Hotel

Take some greek yoghurt and mix with a little olive oil, lemon juice and zest, salt & pepper. Set cold.

In olive oil, fry finely chopped onion & garlic plus chili (the recipe called for a whole medium hot chili plus dried chili – I opted for the latter by itself), add tomato paste and (again, to tone down the heat), a can of chopped tomatoes. Season with salt, pepper and sugar and let simmer.

  • Alphabeat, Touching Me Touching You
  • Queen, Man on the Prowl

Form the mince into suitable meatballs or go all in and put them on skewers for the BBQ. If you don’t  – I didn’t – fry them on a pan, initially on high, then medium heat. Takes 10 min or so in total. While they fry away, make a quick & simple green salad and stir the done bulgur with finely chopped red onion, parsley, lemon juice and zest & the ubiquitous olive oil.

  • Shania Twain, Man! I Feel Like A Woman
  • Natalie Cole, Pink Cadillac

Serve the köfte-meatballs along with the hot tomato sauce (it’s actually a wee bit thick to be called a sauce … ??), bulgur & citrus yoghurt with the salad on the side.

Went down pretty well here – happy cooking out there!

Photo of köfte courtesy of Kerimcan Akduman on Flickr.
"Köfte-cat" photo courtesy of Ugur Onder Bozkurt on Flickr.
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Friday Air Corridor Music™, March 18 – A CFR, up-in-the-air Update

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Business on the runway of HKG

OK, when served the opportunity to be online in the sky and post, who wouldn’t? Not me! (I mean, I wouldn’t!) So here it is, from seat 2A onboard SK964 from HKG to ARN:)

To tie this back to the flight review on the outbound trip, there are a few points I must address, more to add and subtract to and from that –

  • 034Yep, the new updated SAS Business cabin is a vast improvement on the old one
  • Given the choice between Air New Zealand’s and the new one from SAS? It’s pretty much a draw. The screen and, especially, the put-things-on / storage space in the new SAS Business seat are superior. On the other hand, the herring-bone configuration and, especially, the much larger and sliding table from Air NZ make their seat good – because it can be shared by a fellow traveller and, noticeably, because you can actually get out of your seat even if the table’s laden with food trays, computer and what have you.
  • Both airlines have very good service up front. Had a long chat with Maja, who was a significant part of taking good care of the A/D corridor on SK964 today. I concluded that while the service may not as such be better on SAS, the fact that you’re on home ground and are met with a familiar glimt in the eye when you step onboard as a Dane / Scandinavian does actually mean a lot.

So yeah, they get a one-up solely on that, the SAS crews!

Away From Me – Evanesence
Love Drunk – Little Mix
Nature Boy – Lisa Ekdahl
Slippery People – Talking Heads
If You Were Me – Chris Rea & Elton John
Whole Lotta Rosie – AC/DC
Candy – Lisa Stansfield
Can Anyone Explain – Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong

Photos by me.
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Cobblestone Flight Review: CPH-PVG-AKL on SAS & Air NZ; Business Class

The start of this post next to a very good New Zealand Pinot Noir and some sad and weak coffee

OK, long one – nominally ten hours something on the first leg and 11:35 for the second. But for once, riding at the front of the bus. Nice change I’ll be the first to admit. So let’s see how SAS and Air New Zealand got along with it.

2016-03-11 17.57.23The SAS Airbus 330/340 was not equipped with the new, updated SAS business class cabin. And, to be honest, the old one is a bit dated with a 2-2-2 configuration, standard side-by-side seats, that when turned into sleepers were not flat but at a … 20° downwards angle?

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Check-in. First things first. Actually tried to do this while walking through CPH on arrival Thursday evening from PRG via VIE. Busy times… And yep, I did get checked in – but no shadow of a boarding card. System just told me that mobile boarding cards weren’t possible. Which sort of was odd as lots of people cleared gate C32 Friday with mobile boarding cards… Fluke of the SAS system, I guess.

But SAS actually still came out – if not ahead, then less behind on this one. More on that later. Back at home, I printed a SAS boarding card on good old-fashioned A4 paper and at least felt ready for the first leg, also having done the usual carry-on bundle-wrap packing.

2016-03-11 20.21.21Apart from the somewhat dated cabin (and we are talking first world problems here), the SAS flight went really well. First time, actually, that I’ve been on a flight with a customised cocktail list. The gin-based Take-Off was quite good, I found. Danish craft brewery Mikkeller makes two beers for SAS – ashamed to say that with cocktail offerings as well as wines, I didn’t get around to those. Liver limitations, y’know.

The food was good and likely had one of the best main courses I ever had on a flight: Deer cheeks. I’ve cooked pork cheeks and I’ve had beef cheeks in Oz – the deer ones were every bit as tender as the others and with the rich game taste to boot. Vewwy nice!

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Deer cheeks. Yummy!

Opted for sleeping through, yet woke up when the cabin stirred for breakfast – and had some much needed apple juice for rehydration (though I did drink water throughout) along with coffee, croissant, fruit and yoghurt. Much a continental breakfast man, me.

Into Shanghai about a quarter late which matched about a 20 min delay out of CPH. Long, slow taxi and apparently they’d parked the plane with an idea of walking instead of flying the last stretch into the Chinese macropolis .But … that was not the worst.

Along the way, I relatively soon found a transfer desk for NZ288. Transfer? Nope! For reasons unstated, I was told I had to check in landside. Which entailed 2 x Immigration and 1 x counter check-in and 1 x Security queues. Or, in round numbers, an hour – or maybe one and a half. Whether that’s due to Air NZ and SAS not systems-communicating or a peculiarity of Chinese airports, even for transfers, remains obscure*). Try asking even a decently speaking Chinese gate or check-in desk agent that –I tried and had a polite smile for an answer.

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NZ288 Boing 787-9 parked at the gate in PVG

That left me with half an hour for a quick lounge visit – something cold to drink and no success with getting internet enough to do anything. The latter was very coherent with the PVG wifi performance.

2016-03-11 07.24.06After that first lot of bad luck and trouble, the Air New Zealand experience just got better and better. The business cabin on their 787-9 has three seats across in a sort of herring bone layout where the seats are at an angle to the length of the plane. Pretty good privacy, no legs to cross if you have to go anywhere, and a wee ottoman seat that you can put your feet up on or – if you’re flying with someone – for a guest to sit on so you can actually share the table.

The inflight screen on the SAS flight was small and embedded in the seat in front – Air NZ in contrast had a seemingly much more hi-res flip-out screen that was nicely responsive and didn’t require any use of the remote. Also, it had a jack plug for those using their own headphones and a USB plug that was capable of charging an iPad. Both airlines ran a standard 110V multi-national power plug but Air NZs connectivity was just a class above that of SAS.

The crew took orders for drinks and main course already before take-off and service was throughout quick and very attentive. And the Pinot Noir I had was superb – if SAS won for best main course, this one takes the prize for the best red wine I’ve yet had on a flight.

2016-03-12 17.03.01And the seat not only turned into a flat sleeper – as in horizontal – but also got equipped with a mattress and fluffy pillow. Slept like a baby – or, almost, because I found it very warm. But as the 11 hours 30 or so passed quite quickly, and that is a sure sign of having had a good sleep.

Into AKL 25 minutes early – which had the Hertz lady scrambling a little as the note on my flight data had not quite gotten through to her. But she gave me a car pretty fast anyway and so I could drive off into the early Auckland morning after what is probably the most comfortable way of getting through a trip of that length. Will be interesting to see if the SAS HKG-ARN flight on Friday will be with the new business cabin so I can get a comparison run. You’ll hear about if it does.

Cobblestones? There are some wins and losses for both companies, whether on their own or through interactions out of their controls. But taking into account that business class tickets make the higher scores harder to get, I’ll be a little harder on SAS than on Air NZ and award 4 and 5:

SAS 997:

score-stenscore-stenscore-stenscore-stenscore-blankscore-blank

Air New Zealand 288:

score-stenscore-stenscore-stenscore-stenscore-stenscore-blank

*) Update: It was due to systems non-communicating. Could not check in online for my AKL-HKG flight back; phoned Air New Zealand and they told me so. In this IT day and age, I do find that such things should just work flawlessly between alliance partners. But as I don’t know if the blame for this belongs to one or the other or both airlines; I can’t really take off the cobblestone that I do feel should be lost on this. But be aware, SAS and Air NZ, that if you can lean back and say, “Hey, that’s probably due to our system”, then you should look at yourscore above and subtract one.

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Monday Motorway Music™, March 14 – Alive, But Upside Down & Ahead of Times

Billede 15-03-2016 14.02.18

Just a quick hello from the opposite side of the globe: Hamilton, New Zealand.

Even if we did do some driving yesterday and listened to music along the way, I was honestly too occupied staying on the right (left, that is) side of the road to keep track of the music and do a proper listing. But I’ve tried to recall some of them to the best of my ability and am listing them below in between registering lab trial results in an Excel-spreadsheet.

Because that’s what we’re down under to do – run some exciting tests and demos and proving that stuff works. Which, luckily, it more or less sems to do:)

A Horse With No Name – D.A.D.
Any Way You Want It – Journey
Ca Plane Pour Moi – Plastic Bertrand
Voulez-vous – ABBA
One of These Things – Katrine Madsen
Feel – Robbie Williams
Heat of the Moment – Asia
Teardrops – Womack & Womack

Photo by me.
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