Category Archives: Blog

The Dreamliner Experience – or why I avoid the 787.

So this summer I had the chance to fly on an almost brand new 787 Dreamliner – having read a number of very complimentary blog posts from business class passengers I was quite excited!

However I rarely fly in business so my experience was that of an economy passenger.  The takeaway point is to avoid the 787 and fly with another aircraft if you possibly can 😦  A lot of the much touted fuel burn improvements seem to be obtained simply at the expense of your comfort!  I am not alone in this view!

So my flight was on a BA 787 from London Heathrow to Montreal (and back).  The way out was a later afternoon flight and way back was an overnight.  There are a number of things wrong with the 787 (as implemented by BA other airlines may differ):

The seats are very narrow.  Both on the way there and the way back you find your shoulders and elbows clashing with your seatmate.  I managed to get an aisle seat each time but on the way back I had to endure some random blokes’ arm digging into my side the entire flight.  It was hot enough so you end up with a sweat patch where his arm touches you – urgh!  Whilst during the flight murdering him seemed a perfectly reasonable course of action, he wasn’t really being antisocial – there is simply not enough room for everyone.  This is a problem as everyone flies the 787 in nine across in economy.  I’ve flow ten across in the back of Emirates 777s loads of times and this felt much worse – I haven’t measured the seats so this is a subjective metric.

The selegroomat pitch is worse than Ryanair!  Again this obviously varies with operator but I had more personal space on a 2 hour trip from Edinburgh to Gdansk than on this transatlantic flight.  See photo left – you don’t get much more legroom with Ryanair but you do get more – a very surprising comparison to me!

The fancy electronic window shades don’t work very well.  So on the way out the cabin crew dimmed the shades but since we were chasing the sunset the sun remained blasting at one side of the plan keeping us in daylight.

The air conditioning system is ineffective.  Since the sun was heating the plane on one side, those of us on the right wereno air vents taking as many of our clothes off as you can get away with and sweating.  On the left side of the plane folk were wrapping blankets around their heads to keep warm.  This might be a function of BAs odd fit which doesn’t seem to fit individual cooling vents (see right).  The average cabin temperature might be fine but the individuals aren’t comfortable – bit of a design failure there!

There is a giant e2015-06-20 05.11.15equipment box in the foot well of every aisle seat.  Again this might be a BA thing but the thing is HUGE – it uses up around 1/3 of the volume.  This means you can’t sit straight in the seat.  This I think runs the entertainment system but is very bulky!

So the thing might be quiet and the cabin humidity might be higher.  I didn’t feel as dried out as I did when I did the Montreal trip in an MD11 the year before – but older aircraft give you much more person space.  Overall it was huge disappointment and I wonder how much the vaunted engineering reduces fuel burn and how much it is simply cramming passengers in like sardines.

I do also think that given that personal space is one of the biggest things being sold on planes that you ought to be able to find out how much space you are allocated easily.    The best way to do this now is via third party websites like Seatguru – which only exist because the airlines don’t provide this information to you.  I don’t see how the market can function without easy comparisons being made.

Anyway to sum up – avoid the 787!



Carpet Buying and the onset of death….

This weekend I actually spent a significant fraction of my weekend (well more than one hour) in a carpet shop, looking for, well a carpet.  I hate carpets and I especially hate wandering around showrooms full of carpet – it’s coma inducing and mind numbingly boring!

I was attempting to deploy a Seymour Cray type approach to carpet buying – go to carpet shop and buy carpet nearest the door thereby leaving more time for fun and interesting things to do.  (O.k. Seymour Cray was buying cars and he had more money which is probably why his algorithm worked and mine didn’t)

The only thing that keeps me going with this mind numbing journey is that our living room floor is covered in paint (as we were going to buy a carpet after we’d decorated) and has several holes in it from where I was drilling door handle holes without a clear idea of how thick the door handle was…

No-one said this blog was interesting….

Saving Paper.

I recently had to fill in a form so that someone could check I was not a criminal or baby killer. Which is all a bit of a waste of time as I know I’m not a criminal or a baby killer. Anyway the form was four pages long, along with four pages of instructions and illustrations as how to fill it. Most of the instructions were there to tell you that two pages should be kept blank!
This agency was cheerfully proclaiming that it had served up ten million of these checks.  Imagine the wasted paper and transport costs for sending off forms that don’t need to be filled in along with detailed instructions for how not to do so!

I actually took the time to write them a letter asking them why they were wasting so much money.  I got a reply today telling me that they were looking into it, I won’t hold my breath…..

Victim of theft!!!

My old bike has been nicked.  Which is shocking and appalling – clearly I am living in a drug ridden, crime laden neighbourhood surrounded by terrorists.  Maybe I should have locked it!
I’m not sure if I should regard this as theft or some form of community recycyling.  The bike after all had flat tyres, brakes that didn’t work and handlebars that didn’t steer.  I’d nearly taken it to the skip several times myself.

If they’d asked nicely I’d probably have given them they key to the lock I hadn’t used…


Since many people seem awfully disapointed that this blog merely contains software hints – here are some thoughts on lecturing. As my dear reader will know I recently started a new job as a lecturer which gives a bit more security than just being a contract researcher for hire.

At some point I’ll talk a little bit about the disadvantages of the whole system of R&D in UK Universities being based on “disposable people” but that’s another story.

Anyway lecturing is a series of extremely short term deadlines, none of which are hugely difficult but are all quite urgent. i.e. sort out lecture for Friday, sort out project description by Monday, write exams papers for some other time…. etc. etc. In contract research you tended to be working on goals on a weekly basis at the shortest time scale.

Don’t get me wrong I kind of like it – you get to talk to lots of people and it keeps you busy! It’s just a thought really.


In passing I should mention that I signed up for a flickr account. Which was less painful than I thought it would be. You can check out my online photographs at My Flickr site.

There are some nice pictures of Stockholm and a couple of Durham.

New Job!

Well I appear to have a new job! Coming this September I will be joining the School of Engineering at Durham University.

I’m very excited. This is what people say about new products – we are very excited about our new range of paving slabs you can have them in all sorts of colours and several different shapes. But really I’m very pleased!

I’m also very lucky to have such a job, it’s a real honour and I’m not really sure I deserve it. But I’m really really looking forward to it.