Head in the Clouds

What is it with airports? I mean, if I built an airport in the town called Mansfield, I would probably seriously consider calling it "Mansfield Airport". It seems a good name since it identifies where the airport is, and what region or area it serves. The island of Madeira has only one airport (which, I guess, is not surprising as 95% of the island slopes at around 45 degrees), located next to the town of Santa Cruz. However, it's not called "Madeira airport", or even "Santa Cruz airport". It's called "Funchal airport"; I suppose because Funchal is the island's capital city. I wonder what they'll do when they finally bulldoze enough of the island to build another airport?

Imagine if we followed that approach here in England - we'd have dozens of airports called "London airport". Strangely, however, we actually do have four called that already; "London (City)", "London (Gatwick)", "London (Heathrow)", and "London (Stanstead)". And only one of them is in London. Maybe they ought to rename a few US airports the same way. I can start asking for a ticket to "Washington (Seattle)", which will be really confusing because Seattle is in Washington state... I think I can feel jet lag coming on already.

Mind you, renaming airports seems to be a growing sport. Here in England they renamed Liverpool airport to "John Lennon airport", just in case anybody that knew who John Lennon was didn't know that the Beatles came from Liverpool. And Doncaster airport got renamed to "Robin Hood airport", even though it's 50 miles from Sherwood Forest. In fact, Mansfield (just across the motorway from where I live) is within the boundaries of the old Sherwood Forest. I wonder if, when I build my airport, I can ask for the name back.

Best of all, though, is the airport we flew from last week. For as long as I can remember, it's been called "East Midlands airport" (EMA). It's in the East Midlands, just inside the Derbyshire boundary and not far from Nottingham. Recently, however, Nottingham city council tried to get it called "Nottingham airport", though that meant they'd need to change the name of the existing airport at Tollerton that's called "Nottingham airport". But then Derby city council got upset, so they considered calling it "Nottingham/Derby airport".

However, it's not far from Leicester either, so they obviously decided they wanted their share and that it should be called "Nottingham/Derby/Leicester airport". I discovered that they resolved the situation by calling it "East Midlands Airport Serving Nottingham, Derby and Leicester". It's a good thing they built the new arrivals hall, or they wouldn't have had enough room for the sign.

Still, maybe the airports thing is just change for change's sake. Worse are changes due to stupid bureaucracy. Today, as I was reading Motor Cycle News while waiting for a haircut, I discovered that the nameless bureaucrats who run the People's Republic of Europe have stipulated that the new driving test for motorcycles will include a "swerve" test to be executed at 50 kilometers per hour. In real money, that translates into 31.07 miles per hour. Unfortunately, almost all of the existing driving test centers are located in built-up areas (obviously) where the speed limit is 30 miles per hour. So, have a guess what the solution is:

a) Allow the "swerve" test to be taken at 30 miles per hour
b) Build 220 new driving test centers outside urban areas

If you answered a), you obviously are not familiar with European bureaucracy. Yep, they stipulated that the test can only be taken at an urban test center. OK, so a few of the 220 new test centers are due to be ready (perhaps) when the change takes place. I wonder how many hospitals they could have built with the money...?

After all that, it's good to know that we, here in the software industry, aren't tempted to change the names of things just for fun and for no reason. I'm absolutely convinced that the next version of Windows will be called "Windows 2010", or maybe "Windows XP Extra", or perhaps "Windows Vista II". And it will integrate seamlessly with Hotmail, or MSN, or Windows Live. And provide an architecture for building applications based on SOA, or SaaS, or S+S, or (like airports) it may have varying cloud cover.

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