Weekly Roundup, Friday 24 April 2015

The death certificate my family received after we lost a relative at Gallipoli in 1915.
The death certificate my family received after we lost a relative at Gallipoli in 1915.

Good morning

Tomorrow is a very solemn day in New Zealand and Australia, perhaps the most solemn in the last 100 years.

It marks the 100th anniversary of what we term ‘Anzac Day’, a date that commemorates the huge losses suffered by both NZ and Australia during the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign in World War 1 and more generally our dead in all wars (although we also have a Remembrance Day on 11 November too).  25 April 1915 was the date of the first landings, and the battle continued for some 8 months, before ending in the defeat of the Allied forces at the hands of the Turks.

While NZ ‘only’ lost 2,720 men and suffered another 4,750 wounded, and Australia lost 8,710 and 19.440 wounded, this has to be considered in the context of a 1915 population of 1.1 million in NZ and 4.9 million in Australia.

NZ and Australia each lost more people in WW1 than in WW2, even though their populations were 50% larger for the second world war.  The impact of WW1 on both countries was and remains profound – I doubt that there’s a town, no matter how small, in either country that doesn’t have a WW1 memorial of some sort or another to their local dead.  While the entire war was terrible and orders of magnitude worse than any we’d participated in before, it was particularly the Gallipoli campaign that has become a focal point, more so than the endless trench war in France and Belgium.

Gallipoli is something that the Australians and New Zealanders choose to blame on the British (and Churchill in particular) and it definitely was a disastrous campaign.  It was probably the point where both countries become proud independent nations, and started to sever the unquestioning bonds that had formerly tied them to Britain.

The horror and loss of life at Gallipoli is echoed in Turkey, too, where a Turkish colonel served gallantly before going on to much greater things – Kemal Ataturk.  It is interesting how the Gallipoli experience has united NZers, Australians, and Turks in a shared remembrance not of our enmity but of our mutual gallantry and the terrible losses we all suffered.

If the story of this tragic campaign has any interest at all, two excellent books are Gallipoli by Robert Rhodes James and Gallipoli 1915 by Tim Travers.  Or, if you prefer, the movie Gallipoli, starring Mel Gibson , gives you a searingly visual feeling for the life and times of the Gallipoli experience.  It really was a time when our countries, and the generation of fighting men, lost their innocence and sense of wonder at the world.

One more thing about the Gallipoli disaster.  Military censorship prevented the full true account of the losses and disgrace of the Gallipoli campaign reaching the British public until a young Australian reporter smuggled the story out and passed it directly on to the Australian Prime Minister, who raised an outcry with Britain’s David Lloyd George and saw the dismissal of the British commander responsible for the campaign, Sir Ian Hamilton.

That young reporter was Keith Murdoch, and if there’s a slight familiar sound to the name, he is the father of media mogul Rupert Murdoch.  The Murdochs have now been major media forces for 100 years.

One other anniversary.  Thursday was the 10th anniversary of YouTube.  What was first an oddity has now become an essential part of many people’s lives; indeed many people now search for information on YouTube rather than Google (great for the less literate among us, perhaps).  It has become the third most popular website in the world, and the perfect companion for the ubiquitous camcorder we all have built in to our cell phones these days.  Nothing seems able to occur in the world these days without reaching YouTube mere minutes later.

An interesting statistic – Cisco estimate that one million minutes of video pass through the internet – every second!

When I see the list of top ten YouTube videos, however, I wonder about our world and where it is headed.  Might we be better off in some sort of abstract intellectual way without YouTube?  That’s a dangerous thought!

On a more certainly positive technological note, my free wireless router from T-mobile continues to impress and appeal.  Yes, T-mobile gives free top of the line routers to any of their customers who ask for one.  I discovered earlier this week, while experimenting with some of the router’s settings, that it has a VPN feature that allows one to quickly and conveniently create one’s own VPN server.  That amazed and delighted me.

What is a VPN server, and why was I amazed and delighted?  Well, to answer that question, please read the article following tonight’s roundup.

Talking about T-Mobile, I had an amazing experience with their customer service recently.  I’d apparently and inadvertently changed one of my account settings, with the unexpected outcome of running up some $1500 in international phone calls before I realized what I’d done.  It was probably my fault, but I threw myself on their mercy, and guess what.  Yes – a $1500 credit.  I did that by carefully following the guidelines in my article series on The Art of Positive Complaining – I say that not to detract from their great kindness and fairness, but merely to point out that a well structured complaint, when falling on receptive ground, can work wonders.

What Else This Week?  Please keep reading for :

  • Small Survey Request
  • Hero Pilot?  Or Zero Pilot?
  • Still More Pilot Error?
  • Are Planes with More Seats also More Dangerous?
  • More Space in Boeing Overheads
  • Battery Powered Rockets
  • TSA to ‘Tighten’ Airport Security, Sort of
  • Move Over, Mall of America
  • And Lastly This Week….

Small Survey Request

I’m continuing to develop an interesting new concept for an internet service that might take the world by storm – or perhaps might not.  So far, several readers are betting that it might and have invested substantially into this new business, and if you’re also interested in high risk but possibly high return startups, please do let me know.

May I ask you a question to help me with a possible advertising catch-phrase for this service.

Would you agree with the statement ‘You’ve lived your life responsibly’?  Does that sound like you?  Would a service that builds on that responsible living creed be one of interest to you or not?

I’d be interested to know your reaction to that line.  Could you please click the square in this matrix that best matches your reaction and your age group.  It will generate an empty email to be sent to me, which I can then total up.

I’ll share the answers with everyone next week.  It will be interesting to see how responsible we rate ourselves!

Not Me
Not Interested
Not Sure
Describes Me
Am Interested
Under 40Click HereClick HereClick Here
41 – 50Click HereClick HereClick Here
51 – 60Click HereClick HereClick Here
61 – 70Click HereClick HereClick Here
71 +Click HereClick HereClick Here

Hero Pilot?  Or Zero Pilot?

Why is it that people who do their ordinary jobs these days are lauded as heroes?  In particular, I’m always struck how a pilot who does something to prevent a plane from crashing (as often as not, with the risk of the plane crashing being due to something he’d done immediately before!) is described as a hero for saving the plane and all its passengers.

Wise up, folks.  The pilot’s first thought wasn’t to save the passengers.  It was to save himself!  And he didn’t voluntarily accept any additional risk in what he did so as to save himself and the other people on the plane.  He merely did what he could to rescue the situation.

A hero is someone who voluntarily accepts additional and unnecessary personal risk in order to help someone else.  In its ultimate expression, a hero sacrifices his life so another may live in his place.  Okay, so maybe if the pilot had to clamber out onto the wing to free a stuck control, that might be approaching heroic, but he’d still be doing it as much for self-preservation as for any other reason – he’d be as likely to do it flying an empty plane as he would flying one full of passengers.

Here’s a case in point.  The article originally was linked to from other pages on the newspaper site as being about how a hero pilot saved his passengers; they subsequently went light on the word ‘hero’ in the article itself.  Do you think that might be because while he

saved his passengers with just seven seconds to spare after his plane was struck by lightning and went into a steep dive

it turns out that he and his copilot were suffering from a ‘misunderstanding’ about the setting of the autopilot.  So rather than saving the day, his actions almost ruined the day.

Is this the point where I again look eagerly forward to replacing pilots on planes with computers?

Still More Pilot Error?

In an event very similar to its crash at SFO in 2013, Asiana had another plane approach way too low and land hard and short, this time at Hiroshima.

The plane first hit the ground about 400 yds outside the airport perimeter, then crashed through the boundary fence, skidded along the ground for almost a mile of runway, then spun off and over to the passenger terminal, where it serendipitously finally came to a stop close to its intended gate.  No, the jetway couldn’t quite reach, and passengers evacuated down emergency slides!

No-one has been lauding these two pilots as heroes.  But not enough people have been pointing out that this is another case of a pilot-caused rather than a pilot-prevented accident.  The technology is out there – for our own safety, we need to allow planes to fly themselves.

Details here.

Are Planes with More Seats also More Dangerous?

Talking about plane crashes, you probably know that part of an airplane’s certification is a test where a simulated emergency evacuation drill is timed to see how quickly everyone on board can exit the plane when half its exits have been disabled.  The requirement is that the rated maximum number of people on the plane must all be able to exit the plane in 90 seconds or less.

Here’s a slightly overly dramatic video showing the evacuation test used to certify the A380.

These tests have often been somewhat derided for being ‘best case scenario’ tests rather than worst case scenario tests, and for sure there’s a great deal of difference between a prepared group of largely airplane manufacturer employees and their friends exiting a plane in a hangar in a pretend emergency, and the reality of a crash landing, injured and/or hysterical and/or drunk/drugged with sleeping pill passengers, a cabin filling with toxic fumes, smoke, fire, water, water, some people screaming, and others holding everyone up while they fetch their belongings from the overheads (amazing but a common feature of all recent emergency evacuations).

As you would see in the A380 video, while they make a big deal about ‘no-one knows when the evacuation drill will begin’ the imprecision was only of a matter of seconds, and all the people who evacuated seemed to be physically fit, alert, cooperative and sober.  There was no shock or delay, the instant the evacuate order was given, everyone leapt into action, and in a calm and orderly managed manner, left the plane.

Nonetheless, the official test is what it is.  We have no way of knowing how the controlled 90 second evacuation will relate to whatever occurs in a real crash, but at least it gives us a point of consistent reference.

Or does it.  Some commentators have been observing that with the new smaller seats more tightly packed into economy class, it might take people longer to exit their rows in an emergency now than when things were relatively more spacious, invalidating earlier evacuation test results.

While the regulation requires a new test if the passenger seating on a plane is increased by more than 5% over its tested capacity, or if there has been a ‘major change’ in the passenger cabin interior that would affect the emergency evacuation process, that second requirement is very subjective and can’t really be determined short of actually doing a new test, and the 5% rule is sometimes avoided by adding more space in the premium cabin while squeezing the same number of people into less space in the coach section.

So are evacuation times subtly lengthening for modern planes?  No-one really knows for sure.  On the other hand, with more robust seats, we are better secured in our seats during a high stress landing to start with, and with flame retardant materials, the cabin isn’t quite as rapidly combustible as was formerly the case, so maybe things balance out?  No-one really knows for sure.

More Space in Boeing Overheads

Here’s some good news.  Boeing is introducing a new more spacious overhead luggage bin into its 737s.  Named ‘Space Bins’ they will hold almost 50% more bags than the present generation of overheads (officially known as ‘Sky Bins’).

This means that on a 737-900, there will notionally be space for 194 instead of 132 bags at present.  A 737-900 typically carries about 180 passengers, and as we know, 132 bag spaces isn’t enough, but perhaps 194 might work out well.

There’s a neat slider image on Boeing’s promotional page that shows how the bins, while holding almost 50% more bags, don’t appear much bigger in the cabin.

Battery Powered Rockets

We’ve been extolling the virtues of battery powered vehicles, but even we were astonished to read this account that purports to be of a battery powered rocket.

The thing is, as appealing as the notion of a battery powered rocket may be, rockets don’t, won’t and can’t work on electrical propulsion (ion drives notwithstanding).  A rocket needs to expel something out its nozzle, as fast as possible, in order to generate the countervailing ‘equal opposite force’ that propels it in the other direction.

It turns out, if you read the article carefully, that the battery power relates only to powering the turbines that pump the propellant and oxidizer into the rocket combustion chamber.  Its main power source is a fairly traditional mix of kerosene and liquid oxygen.  It is no more a battery powered rocket than is my car a battery powered car due to having an electric fuel pump in the petrol line.

One more thing about this laudatory and uncritical article.  It seems that the cost of one of these rocket launches is in the order of NZ $6.6 million (about US$5 million) to take 100 – 110kg into orbit.  That sounds good, especially when you compare it to the cost of a SpaceX launch – $61.2 million.

Oh, but did we mention that the SpaceX rocket carries not 100-110kg, but 13,150 kg of payload.  So it is actually more than ten times cheaper per kg of payload than the ‘battery powered’ rocket.

TSA to ‘Tighten’ Airport Security, Sort of

Hot on the heels of the news about TSA male staff in Denver deliberately groping male passengers who they found attractive, and unrelated news of an Atlanta baggage handler being convicted of smuggling guns onto commercial jets, the TSA has announced steps to tighten security measures when it comes to airline and airport staff.  There will be more background checks and they’ll be matched to employee fingerprints.  More staff will have to go through TSA screening and unscreened access points to secure areas will be reduced to ‘an operational minimum’.

But – what does that actually mean?  Unscreened access points will be reduced to ‘an operational minimum’?  It would seem that this means ‘there will still be ways for airport/airline employees to enter secure areas without being screened’.  So how does this make anything more secure?

Furthermore, if you’ve ever noticed at an airport, while the employees are screened, most of the merchandize that is trucked in to be sold through airport shops is not screened.  If you wanted to sneak a weapon or some explosive into the secure area of an airport, there’s no need for an employee to try and smuggle a single item through a checkpoint.  Just have an accomplice repack the cargo in a delivery truck and have it trucked in, in bulk!

These new rules might indeed catch out some petty thieves, but would it deter a determined terrorist?  Not one iota.

Move Over, Mall of America

The most popular activities when on vacation for most people don’t extend to seeing beautiful scenery, visiting historic buildings, taking in museums and culture, or even just simply relaxing on a beach under a palm tree.  The most popular activities are eating, drinking, and shopping.  Yes, sort of like what we do at home, only more so.

And it is the ‘only more so’ concept that has been seized on by developers who are seeking approval to develop the nation’s largest shopping mall/complex, including a ski slope, ice rink, water park, submarine ride, Legoland, Ferris wheel and roller coaster, plus hotels and even condominiums (what better place to stay at or live in than in the heart of a shopping mall, apparently!).

Named American Dream Miami, the development would be located northwest of Miami close to where I-75 and the Florida Turnpike meet.

Details here.

And Lastly This Week….

Our Poseidon Arctic Adventure spends some time cruising around Iceland’s coast and ends in Reykjavik.  I’m really looking forward to seeing some of the famous Icelandic elves (before going on to Scotland to visit with the Loch Ness Monster).

Do you think I’m joking?  You might well think that, but spending time, and even becoming amorous with elves is apparently quite common in Iceland.  Don’t believe me?  Here’s an internet article – so it must be true.

The only thing I’m puzzled about is how some elves are described as beautiful if they are also invisible?  I guess I’ll find out, soon enough!

Talking about being amorous with presumably consenting elves, Tisdale is a town of about 3200 people, in the rich agricultural heartland of Saskatchewan, Canada.  But it has a quandary on its hands.  Should it change its slogan, one it has proudly cited for the last 60 years?

What do you think?  Details here.

Until next week, please enjoy safe travels






2 thoughts on “Weekly Roundup, Friday 24 April 2015”

  1. Margaret Mackenzie-Hooson

    That was a wonderful description of Gallipoli–thank you for writing it.
    Good wishes for your Icelandic and Scottish expeditions!
    I had been wondering about your project, noticing there had been no updates, so it was welcome to get a little news of it. Very very good wishes with it.

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