Day: July 14, 2009

how to behave in the air – do you need reminding?


+  If you are asked to board in groups, there’s a reason.  It is called efficiency.  Cutting in line to get on the aircraft before your group is summoned will simply delay take-off.  Indeed, this form of aircraft entry is designed so that there are not people blocking you as you try to get to your assigned seat and they try to get their carry-on luggage situated by standing in the aisles.

+  Do your best to stow your bags in the bins above your assigned seats.  If you can’t, secure a bin within reaching distance.  This is helpful not only if you need something from up above during the flight, but also after the plane has landed and you are allowed to reclaim your carry-on and deplane.  In both instances, you are apt to cause the least amount of commotion if you are easily able to grab your bag out of a bin.plane overhead

+  Keep your laptop underneath the seat in front of you, for your protection as well as for the protection of the people sharing your overhead bin.  Since items tend to tumble around a bit while stowed up above, expect some fallout some of the time when the bin is opened. That said, the last thing you or your fellow passenger needs is to be knocked on the head by a flying computer.  The same goes for bottles of wine or pieces of heavy glass.

+  If you are toting any of the items mentioned above (computers, wine bottles, etc.), do not book a bulkhead seat (a seat that faces a wall) because those particular seats do not have any seat in front of them and therefore they have no under seat storage capabilities.  By default, those passengers occupying bulkhead seats must stow everything in the overhead bins.

+  If you are physically able to help someone struggling to get their bag up above in the overhead bins, do so without hesitation.  Likewise, if you need help with your load because you are not strong enough to get it up above by yourself, ask nicely if someone can help you, whether that be a flight attendant or a fellow passenger.

+  At the beginning of a flight is a good time to gab but when the lights are lowered after your meal, remember that some people like to take that opportunity to sleep or to watch a movie.  If need be, keep your talking to a minimum and whisper if you must keep the conversation going.

web passport etc+  If you are one of those people yearning to sleep in peace while up in the air, consider purchasing a pair of headphones that reduces noise.  Bose offers this product and so does Pro-Tech, with their NoiseBuster ( The latter is my choice since, at least for me, the quality is as good as the Bose alternative and yet the NoiseBuster is much less expensive.

+  Check this article (click here)  for more ideas from Kelly S Kelly, great travel writer and Tampa Travel Examiner.

southern skies: a starlight national park in the sky?



The Mackenzie Country is one of the special places left where you can still see the night sky and its dazzling starlight and, from the top of Mt. John, I have a 360º view of the big skies of the McKenzie Basin and its carved-by-ancient-glaciers landscape.

Fed by the glacial waters of New Zealands Southern Alps, below me is the 30-kilometre long Lake Tekapo with its remarkable turquoise colour – caused by the refraction of light through the finely ground rock particles of the melt waters.

Lake Tekapo in winter (photo from Earth & Sky)
Lake Tekapo in winter (photo from Earth & Sky)

Through-out the world stars are disappearing under the haze of light pollution and locally, a group called the Starlight Reserve project are pushing to preserve this view and gain UNESCO world heritage status for a ‘National Park’ in the Mackenzie Country sky.

Graeme Murray of Earth and Sky tells me “The local council are leading New Zealand and many parts of the world and have special ordinances about the use of lighting and light pollution.  All Lake Tekapo lights must be beamed downwards and no spillage is allowed.  It recognised the dark sky as a valuable resource to protect and value and to also encourage the responsible use of energy.”

At the international convention on the Dark Sky in Spain last year, Starlight’s proposal received total endorsement and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) nominated Mt. John and the Lake Tekapo area  as the pilot study for the first ever “World Heritage Starlight Reserve”

They are hopeful this protection and status will be formally announced during January – in Paris, during the International Year of Astronomy 2009 that marks the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s first astronomical observation through a telescope in 1609. (SEE THE LATEST NEWS RE THIS –  November 2009 here)

Because if its latitude, astro-tourism or stargazing from the summit of Mt. John (a ‘roche moutonnee’ a braided rock mass formed by old glaciers) is considered the best in the country and seduces and captivates locals and tourist alike.

A daytime tour of the observatory tells me something of the latest scientific space research and I view Alpha Centauri, which is not only a daystar but also the earth’s closest star.

McNaughts Comet: Mt John ( photo from Earth & Sky)
McNaughts Comet: Mt John ( photo from Earth & Sky)

Later, I join the Earth and Sky night-tour and with their powerful telescopes explore the wonders of the southern sky.  The sky seems diamond-studded and it seems as if I could reach out and touch the moon or Saturn.

We see clusters of stars, the Orion nebulas, Mars, Jewel-box cluster, the Southern Cross and clouds of glowing gas that are millions of light-years away.  The moons craters are breath taking: add the fascinating rings of Saturn and I’m amazed I’ve never looked skywards until now.

This observatory also has New Zealands largest telescope and the scientists are searching for objects such as extra solar planets and celestial bodies that constitute dark matter and black holes.

Part  of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings was filmed in this area which was first populated by Maori during eel and bird hunting expeditions in the summer, and the Mackenzie Basin really only became known to the Pakeha (European) settlers in 1855 when James Mckenzie, a Scottish shepherd, was arrested for sheep stealing in the area.

For more information:

This article was originaly published in the South China Morning Post

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