Diary of a trip to the UK and Ireland – Pain in the Ash

Dateline 21-April-2010 St. Andrews Scotland

The User Group meeting in Dundee (“Silverlight From Zero”) and in the shockingly beautiful city of Edinburgh (“Silverlight LOB Applications Development with MVVM and TDD”) both went very well.  The turnout was good at Dundee and extraordinary in Edinburgh, with a very warm reception in both cases.

It turned out that my very nice if somewhat small hotel in Dundee had no booking for me on  the 19th or 20th….

and that there was a trade union conference and so every hotel in Dundee was fully booked, and so I made the “sacrifice” of moving out to the end of St. Andrews, where I found meager accommodations at the magnificent Fairmont:


British Kindness

I’ve noticed that my hosts (including incidental hosts who readily adopt responsibility for the bewildered American) is well beyond what one might expect, with participants taking upon themselves not only to be quite sure I have direction,  but to drive well out of their way to lead me to the car park or drive me to the train, following up with an email just to make sure I was alright once they’d left!)  Everyone was quick to give me their mobile (“their cell phone number”) so that I had a friendly person to call should I become confused, lost or, I suppose lonely whilst in their city.

I have to say, cliché as it may sound, that once again I’ve gotten the better of the bargain, learning far from the attendees in the “after session ‘shall we go to the pub?’” discussions than I could possibly have provided in the sessions themselves.

[ Numerous jokes were acquired as well, though many can not be retold here. Shattering yet another stereotype, I’m pleased to say that many highly educated upper class Brits have every bit the potty mouth as Americans. And deliver it, especially in traffic with an under the breath gusto that is a wonder to behold.

And now the news…

The following news analysis has been compiled by our best research team (specifically a quick glance at the London Times, and the Scotsman, listening to many seconds of BBC1, and outright conjecture.)  Best I can tell, early in the volcanic ash crisis the attitude of the British government was “the aircraft manufacturers have stated a zero tolerance policy for ash, the meteorologists say there is ash overhead, thus whilst both are true aircraft are grounded.” This syllogism went unchallenged in the first few days, but then losses began to pile up and the Airlines asserted what, to this customer and potential victim’s ears sounded like an argument no sane minister could take seriously.

Right. We’re losing quite a bit of money here, so obviously there is no need to be nearly this cautious, and since we have absolutely no research except anecdotal “see, he flew and he didn’t fall down” two things much change: first, we must relax these absurd over-cautious safety rules promulgated by the foolish people who think guns are dangerous and bicycle riders should wear helmets, and second, most important, going forward the scientists and politicians must be sent packing and we, the entirely objective airlines whose money is, after all, on the line, should make the fly/no fly decision. Oh yes, and safety is paramount, second only to profits, customer satisfaction and my yearly bonus.”

Thus, although nothing has changed, and recent studies show both that the ash has high concentrations at various altitudes that aircraft cannot detect, the airspace reopens to the general rejoicing of all.

(By the way, the problem with ash is only that it has a high concentration of glass particles that in the presence of high heat, such as within the engines of a jet aircraft, become molten and then cause the minor inconvenience of causing some or all of the engines of the jet to shut off precipitously and unpredictably.)

My agenda was to leave for Ireland by a short flight from Glasgow — where the population is split among those who speak a lilting and quite beautiful English, a somewhat more inscrutable dialect called Glaswegian and the ancient Celtic tongue Mumble – to Belfast (the one in Northern Ireland, not the one in Maine.)

That flight was cancelled, and I’m currently booked on a Ferry, which turns out to be four hours away and since it is now 9:22, I must be off.  (In the sense of “this milk seems a bit off.”)

Best tweet on the crisis to date: Note that Iceland went bankrupt, and now there is a fire. I sense an insurance job

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About Jesse Liberty

Jesse Liberty has three decades of experience writing and delivering software projects and is the author of 2 dozen books and a couple dozen Pluralsight & LinkedIn Learning courses. He was a Senior Technical Evangelist for Microsoft, a Distinguished Software Engineer for AT&T, a VP for Information Services for Citibank and a Software Architect for PBS. He is a Xamarin Certified Mobile Developer and a Xamarin MVP and a Microsoft MVP.
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