Posts Tagged ‘travel’

Call Sign Confusion

June 26, 2008

Always in poor weather and often otherwise, when I fly I will put myself in the hands of Air Traffic Control. This puts me on the same radio frequency as airlines and corporate flights.

When talking on the radio, most of us ‘regular’ pilots identify ourselves by the type of aircraft, followed by the plane’s full (or after contact, shortened) registration number. So when talking to Air Traffic Control, I may be “Cessna 7-3-Bravo” (more on the fun of the phonetic alphabet another time).

Airlines and corporate flights are almost the same, but they get to use more fun names in place of the type of aircraft. And the airlines use their flight number instead of their registration number.

Some airlines are proud of their name and heritage, so listening on the radio you’ll hear—“American 4-1-2-1” or “Aeromexico 2-0-7”

Other airlines, no less proud of their name, still use other identifiers for their flights—“Speedbird 2-7-9” (British Airways) or “Springbok 3-9-4” (South African Airways)

Corporate flights vary in the same way—“Ford 1-7-Foxtrot” (Ford Motor Company) or “Air Johnson 3-7-4” (for Johnson Air)

And some relate to individual people—“Shepherd 1” (that would be the Pope’s jet) or “Unicorn 1” (Prince of Wales)

So, on a flight a few years back, I was surprised to hear a call sign I’d not heard before. I had to listen closely to hear it again. Then asked my passenger to confirm what I’d heard. I later looked it up and could not find an official call sign, so the mystery deepened and continues.

So I ask you, gentle reader… who do you think is being flown in an airplane with the call sign identifier: “Cross Dresser”?


Scottish Kilts

June 23, 2008

Okay, I lied (get used to it)… one more post about Scotland. 

We got a chance to go through a working mill that creates tartan cloth.  We could look down on the automated looms a floor below us and see multiple tartans being made.  Those machines are fast and, yet, it still seemed to be inching along.  I can’t begin to imagine back “in the day” when they did the looming by hand. 

Anymore, the wearing of kilts is reserved for formal occasions—weddings, funerals, NASCAR…  Oh, and the tourist-y stuff—

Even so, there seems to be a pretty good market for the sale of kilts and all the various accoutrements and appendages that go with it.  This mill had lots of those things for sale (yeah, I see all your feigned-shocked faces out there).

Girl Child tried to convince me to buy a full kilt get up.  My brother owns a full kilt and extras, even wearing it at a niece’s wedding. 

Being mildly interested, I looked around the shop to see what was what.  First, I would have no clue what tartan to get.  My family name is not a stand-alone tartan.  Rather, we were a sept (sub-clan) of another Clan.  But the name can also be linked to other Clans as well.  Hmmm…

Second, I noticed that, for the ‘real’ wool kilt in full regalia, I’d have to spend upwards of $1500US.  The ‘cheater’ cotton-polyester blend would cost $500US plus.  And that without the all the accessories.  Owch.  Don’t think it’s going to happen… maybe someday. 

Still hanging around, I nonetheless enjoyed looking at what was on the rack and the walls. 

They had lots of kilts in Clan colors, but also a fair selection of non-traditional kilts – – camouflage, denim, and even leather.  The latter would seem to me to be extra warm and… ummm… clingy, but I still entertained, briefly, the thought of getting one… just for fun, you know.

The extra stuff had lots of options as well.  Knives, socks, belts, badges…  And the sporran, the Scottish ‘purse’ worn with the kilt.  The day-glo orange and day-glo blue caught my eye, but no.

And finally – – The clerk, noticing my interest, came up to me:

Clerk:  Can I help ye, sir?

GnuKid:  I’m just browsing, thank you… but, looking at all these accessories, I couldn’t help but notice—Where are the knickers?

Clerk:  [sly smile, cocked eyebrow, low chuckle]

…I guess “the secret” is still safe…


June 17, 2008

Not the highlight of the visit to Scotland, but certainly one of my favorite stops, was to a distillery.  Yes, the place where they make that precious amber liquid called Scotch by most of us… and merely whisky by the Scots themselves.

We found a distillery offering tours southeast of Edinburgh (which, for some reason i never understood, is pronounced ‘Edinboro’ by the locals).  The Glenkinchie distillery has been in business a couple hundred years and offered us a true education about the Scotch making business.

Thinking we’d get some cheesy little video and see some handbuilt models of the process, we were pleasantly surprised to actually walk through the distillery, seeing all steps of the process on the way.  Including, as seen in this picture, the yeast vats… and our guide opened the lid on them.  Get too close to them and you could get knocked on your ass by the fumes!

There are some eleventy-seven different brands of Scotch, each with it’s own unique taste.  That taste is affected by the water of the region, the amount of peat used in drying… or smoking… the malt barley, the size and shape of the copper stills, and finally, by the casks used to ‘mature’ it*.  

As to that latter, the casks are of oak or poplar or other hardy woods** which by themselves add a certain flavoring to the Scotch.  What was surprising to me was that they (well, Glenkinchie, anyway… can’t speak for the others) only use casks already used elsewhere.  For example, the casks Jack Daniels uses for their whiskey maturation are used only once… then sold off to folks like Glenkinchie.  Glenkinchie also uses casks previously holding sherry wine.  Each of these ‘pre-soaked’ casks, then impart a hint of that flavor to the Glenkinchie whisky… for 10 or 12 years (less or more years and the Scotch just doesn’t taste ‘right’).

And, of course, my favorite part of the tour was the tasting room.  Ahhh… it did indeed make this man’s eyes water and mouth drool.  They, of course, first offered us tastes of their own brand.  But, for the purpose of ‘education’ (and who can deny themselves a good lesson now and again?), they also offered quite a variety of other brands from other parts of Scotland so that we could taste the differences.  One brand, for example, uses lots of peat in the smoking process and, to me, smelled like something you’d burn in a kerosene heater rather than drink.  I’ve heard it’s an ‘acquired taste’.  I think i’ll let someone else do that acquisition.

Unfortunately for me, i was the designated driver (the Girl Child having lost her license during an unfortunate pickpocket experience in Istanbul).  i didn’t let that stop me from having three… or was it seven?… samples of Scotch before leaving.

And with a wistful farewell (and a hope to return), we say goodbye to Glenkinchie Distillery.


*There are quite a few folks at work i’d like to put in a cask so they’d actually mature.

**hehehe…i said ‘wood’

More Scotland

June 16, 2008

Some more random blitherings on my trip to Scotland – –

The place is just dripping with history.  You can’t turn around without running into a castle, usually in some sort of disrepair.  Many of those castles have great stories that go with them.  One of my favorites was an abandoned castle (3rd one below) with a sign saying this was the site of the “Roasting of the Abbot Incident”… and that’s all it said.  I guess because it was just an *incident*, it wasn’t worthy of explanation (and, yeah, there are web sites that talk about it ).


The movie connection is mostly known.  I’m sure some of you have seen “Braveheart” or “Rob Roy”.  You’ll be happy to know that those movies are based in whole only partially on the truth. But not so much so as to ruin it all.  And a useless bit of information I didn’t know… the Hogwart Express from the second Harry Potter movie, shown travelling over a long train viaduct, was filmed in the Highlands of Scotland. 

There’s a special breed of Highlands cow (Heilan’ Coo, in the vernacular) that has long hair.  Daughter Person decided they were ‘long haired hippie cows’ who say “Du-u-ude” instead of “Mo-o-oo”.


An addendum to my post on driving in Scotland — as I said, the back roads offered great scenery.  There were also little villages, most picturesque, every 10 miles or so.  All of them required you to slow down to 30 MPH [side note—I was very glad that they didn’t use some arcane speed system like ‘furlongs per fortnight’].  Most of them had speed radar attached to a sign that would blink your speed at you and add a message to “Slow Down”.  Our favorite radar sign, however, was one where there would be a flashing smiley face if you were under 30 and a sad, frowny face if you were going too fast.  Girl Child was always urging me to speed up to get the frowny face… little twit.


Rosslyn Chapel, of “The Da Vinci Code fame, was one of the more incredible stops.  I learned there that the book’s author never visited the chapel before writing.  There is no “Rose Line” or 6-pointed Star of David in the chapel (the movie artificially added them).  But, the architecture was eye watering and I was surprised to find they still hold services there.

More randomness soon… I think I’ll go have some Scotch to ease the night into my veins… [big, cheesy grin]

Back In The Wilds

June 12, 2008

I sit here, bleary eyed, staring at my computer screen wondering where the heck to start in recounting my trip to Scotland. I’m coming to the conclusion that —

(a) My body clock is still on Scotland time; travel lagging,

(b) My mind wanders grandly from thought to thought even when I’m not tired,

(c) There still is no ‘c’, and

(d) There’s no way to get all the highlights in one post anyway.

But, a few points for now —

Seeing the Daughter Person was wonderful. We caught up on all the little life trivia we hadn’t otherwise shared and we enjoyed seeing the sights. She never achieved her stated goal of “…drinking a pint of authentic Scottish beer in an authentic Scottish pub while listening to authentic Scottish music…”. This was because the only Scottish music we heard being the bagpipes in Edinburgh. And, despite liking that music (in moderation), it would definitely not be welcome in a pub environment. We did, however, share a few pints together…

For being a ‘wee land’ (being about the size of our Maine [state motto: “Hey! Don’t Forget We’re Up Here Too!”]), it is a very geographically diverse and varied country. I was surprised to find so much empty space until being more surprised that there are only some 5 million Scots. And they are outnumbered by Scottish sheep by some 4 to 1 margin. C’mon, Scots! You need more sex! No… no… not with the sheep…

So, suffice it to say that I’ve safely returned to the Frontier of the Midwest. I admit that, besides travel fatigue, I am suffering from a nasty case of “Carpal Butt” from the plane rides home (no, I did not swim it… this time… maybe next, okay?). Tune in over the next few days for other adventures of GnuKid in his journey to one of my many homelands.

Ah dinnae wan’ tae lae ye, am glad tae be haem wi’ ye, but dae wan’ tae gang abroad someday suin.

GnuKid Disappears

June 4, 2008

For awhile anyway. ..

The Girl Child is an adventurer at heart. Much like her Grandma, she views the world as a toy to be played with often and everywhere. And, admittedly, like my Mom, the Girl Child is also a source of learning for me on how to better live life.

So for her recent adventure, the Girl Child is finishing up her semester abroad in Switzerland*. She has been actively bugging me to come over to visit. Between work, finances, and ‘other’ issues**, I’ve been hesitant to agree. But, I finally gave in and we started talking plans.

Girl Child then sets down a ground rule… we can’t go anywhere that she’s already been in Europe.

Now, let’s go back to that “Girl Child is an adventurer at heart” thing. On spring break and most every weekend, she has been almost everywhere in Europe already! Even being pick-pocketed in Istanbul*** didn’t discourage her wanderlust.

So…after reviewing the extremely shortened list of options, I chose Scotland as my adventure spot. I’m a mutt, with about a third being Scottish. As such, I’d sort of like to see my ancestral homeland…well, a third of my ancestry, anyway. And I hear tell that they have a strange and wondrous liquid called “Scotch” that I’d like to try in a native glass… or seven… teen…

Anyway, I’m off to gallivant about Scotland, leaving the Wilds of Ohio, and have an adventure. I won’t e-see you all until the middle of next week (unless I can peek out if I can get access to the Girl Child’s laptop when we’re not touring, walking, gawking, sleeping, eating…).

See you back here soon, riding the range of the Wilds of Ohio!


*I don’t remember having such wonderful opportunities for doing this kind of stuff when I was a kid. [grump] I feel cheated.

**I’m sure you’ll be seeing blogs on the ’other’ issues down the road… be patient.


Travel Games

May 23, 2008

Off to visit my brother in Oklahoma today.  No, not nearly as wild as the Wilds of Ohio, but it will do. 

Sitting in the Chicago airport, waiting on my connecting flight.  I admit to not being as seasoned (paprika or curry, please) a traveler as others.  Should have brought my laptop, but didn’t.  So I was lowered to writing a post with some arcane literary weaponry known as “pen and paper”.  Thank goodness i was able to bully invite my way onto my brother’s internet for this quick post.

So, sans laptop (didn’t know I was bilingual, huh?  yeah, i can speak in tongues, but that’s another post), i wrote furiously (but did calm down soon).  Tiring of that, i engaged in a favored airport practice.  Too shy to chat up a stranger, I revert to ‘lurking’ of a different sort and just people watch.

Where else can you find such a broad specturm of people willfully sharing space when, in the ‘real’ world, they would never want to mingle—Bikers and Bookworms; Sk8ers and Soccer Moms; Rednecks and Hippies; the brutally pretty and the terminally homely;  Businessmen and Sluts… wait… well, yeah, okay, that last one doesn’t count because they mingle all the time…

Yes, i indulge in the standard thoughts of “Who dressed you this morning?  Helen Keller?” or “Whoa, but she’s hot…would love to tap that!”.  But i also play a few other games – –

–  Make eye contact and smile, just to see the reaction.  I’m still at a loss as to why so many people avert their eyes as if i’m some perverted menace… well, i am, but that’s besides the point.  Too few return the smile.  A couple nodded and said “Hi.”, but not enough.  Where did our humanity go?

–  Name the faces… along the same lines as the ‘standard’ thoughts above, but trying to match up to the facial expressions:

  —  “It looks like someone stole your cupcake”

  —  “No, you’re not remotely as gorgeous/handsome as you’re convinced you are”

  —  “You got laid last night, didn’t you?”

  —  “No, I don’t believe you do have a clue.  Thanks for trying, though.”

These are all great games until i notice, while walking to my gate or for a bathroom break, i’m being given the same appraising looks by others.  They’re playing my games, the bastards! 

Sheesh, i hope i look like i got laid last night…