Things to do on a 16-hour flight

By the time you read this, I will probably on my 16-hour flight from Newark, USA to Mumbai, India. Though I rather like flying (I like machines in general). I don’t really fancy being stuck in a small cramped space with lots of other people for long periods of time. Why can’t the laws of physics just be simple and allow cheap instantaneous teleportation between arbitrary points? Anyway, enough bitching and complaining on my end, I’ll save it till after the flight. Even though I’ll be stuck on a plane for 16 hours, I do not intend to waste all that time simply getting bored. So here is a list of things (in no particular order) that I might try to do during the flight.

1. Sleep

Come on, you don’t seriously expect me to be at my productive programmer best on a plane do you? A nice airport waiting room, maybe, but not on the plane. Let’s face, despite my love of flying after an hour or two I will want nothing more than to land. So I will try my best to sleep through as much of the flight as possible. Unfortunately, I’m not much of a sit-up sleeper so I don’t know how much of my time will actually be spent sleeping liking a baby. Speaking of babies, I sincerely hope there aren’t any babies near my seat. I like babies, but not near me on a plane.

2. Read

The all time classic timepass activity. Now the question is, what? I don’t have many fiction titles at hand and the ones I do I’m not inclined to read on a plane. I would consider taking something I’ve already read before and know I like, but from past experience I know that’s not a good idea. My choices right now are between a number of really good popular-science type books that I’ve been wanting to read, but haven’t gotten around to, or one of the equally well written computer/science engineering books that I need to take along. I was seriously considering taking SICP, but I’ve found that the best place to read that book is in front of a computer with a Scheme interpeter open so that I can work through the examples as they come. I could do some paper programming, but the tray holders aren’t very conducive to having a book and a large-ish notepad open at the same time. And it is simply an exercise in frustration to paper program on small paper. I’ll probably take up Roger Penrose’s The Emperor’s New Mind and something else a bit lighter.

3. Design

My research project is somewhat stagnated at the moment and it’s fairly obvious (to me at least) that we need a new design to control all the things that are going on and are likely to happen soon. I think some time of my flight at least will be spent thinking about this design. If I have space left over I’ll take the Design Patterns book because I think I’ll be using some of those patterns to come up with a working design. And it’ll be nice to be able to think without being near a computer for a change. The control language we’ve been using will also need some fairly heavy changes, so that’ll be something else (which I am more familiar with) that I’ll have to think about.

4. Plan

I’ll be starting sophomore year at college soon. This year is going to be interesting. Not only am I mostly done with all my mundane requirements, I’ll be involved in some research throughout the year and I plan to take a self-designed independent study. I need to do some thinking about the study and also about what new languages/technologies I want to learn. I read Steve Yegge’s 10 predictions today and I think I’ll also try to make some sort of predictions regarding the state of the computer world for the sole purpose of seeing how much I understand the things going on around me.

5. Draw

Like many children, once upon a time coloring used to be my favorite sport. As a programmer I’m often doodling design diagrams and pseudo-flow-charts and other random interaction stuff. I might just feel inclined to try and turn on the creative juices a little. I’ll probably be doing a fair amount of doodling as part of my designs, but I don’t have to stop there.

6. Music and Podcasts

I’ll make sure that my iPod has a full charge which will easily last it the whole flight and more. I have a good 10 gigs of music and 10 episodes of the Stack Overflow podcast to listen to and I hope all that, if nothing else, will keep me partially alive. I might even look around and see if I can find some more interesting Podcasts and audiobooks. No, I won’t consider movies, because I can see absolutely no point in watching a movie on such a small screen.

7. Sit and stare

Yes I’ve done this on my last flight and it’s actually quite easy. You sit and you stare, that’s it. You don’t have to look at anything particular and you don’t have to react to anything either. Of course if you’re doing this, you’re probably in the last stages of boredom before it becomes terminal and chances are you’ll need rehab once you land (lugging heavy luggage sometimes helps). I’m certainly hoping I don’t get to this stage, at least not until I get to the part where we have to buckle down for landing and there is really nothing else to do.

Once I’ve landed and have sufficiently recovered thanks to my mother’s cooking, I’ll list all the things I actually did, that is, unless I’m in boredom rehab. I do hope it won’t come to that.

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Published by

Shrutarshi Basu

Programmer, writer and engineer, currently working out of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

One thought on “Things to do on a 16-hour flight”

  1. Hey, I am in a similar situation…my flight is on the 19th. Ditto situation.

    I love the sit and stare part, that’s me probably ALL during the 16 hrs…

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