TSA: “Nothing to see here.” [shifty eyes]

“It’s perfectly normal for an employee who makes $9 an hour to be able to steal a 20 ton commercial aircraft,” says representative of government agency that fails at its mission over 90% of the time.

_102932877_de32-1

Advertisements

supersonic will soon be back, but it won’t be big

Sometimes technology seems to go backwards.  For example, the US used to operate the shuttle which was a relatively advanced reusable spaceplane.  Now NASA has nothing, and the replacement vehicle in development has more in common with the Apollo or Soyuz space capsules than it does with the shuttle.

Likewise, Concorde first flew in 1976.  Here we are over 40 years later and every single commercially viable passenger plane of any size is exclusively subsonic.  I’ll save my thoughts pf NASA’s failures for another day.  Today I want to focus on supersonic.  More and more in the news you see that several companies are trying to dive back into supersonic.

But first, what happened after 1976?  In short, supersonic failed for a number of reasons:

– It was never cost effective: Concorde burned a lot of fuel, had a large maintenance footprint, and could never get the cost per seat / seat vacancy ratios correctly to turn a consistent profit.

– Development: Because of the cost considerations, nobody saw a reason to develop a successor to Concorde.  By the end of the 20th Century, Concorde was a 20 year old design and the airframes were reaching the end of usable service.

– 2000: The Air France crash was the end of the road.  Adding up the cost and service life against the reality of a full crash was the end of the program.

And there we’ve sat for decades.  But now folks are willing to try again.  Why:

a) Air travel and airline technology has become so advanced as to be scary in terms of safety. Western airlines have a safety record that’s downright miraculous. Lawnmowers kill more people each year.

b) Modern super fuel efficient engines combined with advanced computing might be close to cracking the code on the cost problem. When you add in the composites that make the newer airframes strong and lighter I think they might cross the threshold on turning a profit per flight.

c) Humanity is more obsessed with time. In the business world, seconds matter whereas when Concorde last flew perhaps only minutes mattered. Think of it, in 2000 smartphones didn’t even exist.  The world has gotten faster, and so I think folks will be far more inclined to put down the cash when they’re staring at the reality of a flight time that gets cut in half.

But will it work?  Well, let’s examine the most realistic commercial supersonic venture.

Boom Supersonic has already booked aircraft orders, 10 from Virgin, and 20 from JAL.  The expectation is they’re flying commercially by 2025.  Its jets will seat 55 passengers, go across the Atlantic in half the current time, and cost approximately $5K per ticket.  Boom claims to have cracked the code on fuel efficiency and subduing the impact of the dreaded sonic boom.

My conclusions:

1) I searched online, trying to book over two months in advance, Heathrow to JFK with a one week dwell.  The cost for an Economy seat is $400.  Boom’s jet is single aisle, single seat each side.  To me, this is an exclusively Business / First Class jet.  Economy does not apply. For a Business flight it’s all over the place.  You can go on TAP Portugal for $2.1K.  Air France is $6K.  United is $7K  To fly BA is $7.5K.

So let’s get something straight.  If Boom states that it’s $5K per seat they either mean the cost to them and/or they’re fibbing on future prices.  When all the major carriers are already charging Atlantic rides for well over $5K for subsonic, then my back of the napkin math says a Boom supersonic seat costs closer to $10K.

So right off the bat you’re looking at a ticket that’s 20 times more expensive between Economy and supersonic.  Thus, to declare that the supersonic ticket is already in the realm of the super-rich is an understatement.  Already it’s the same high-risk niche market Concorde had to struggle with.

2) I don’t care what Boom or others claim, the sonic boom problem is a major problem.  Even if Boom can produce a severely muffled boom, they still can’t break physics, there will still be a boom.   And if there’s a sonic boom, it’s going to be regulated.  If it’s regulated, it’s not going to be easy.

All supersonic has to do is lightly tap one skyscraper apartment window in Manhattan and there will be people up in arms about how the boom is giving them phantom headaches.  Then the lawyers come out of the bushes and it’s a gigantic mess.  Can Boom and other companies get around this by only going supersonic over water, sure.  But in the end as with Concorde, the sonic boom problem is not going to be a rounding error.  It’s a big problem.

3) Think about the turnover rate of a standard subsonic jet.  Take a 737 flying inside the US.  On any given day, one jet is expected to fly over half-a-dozen flights.  They have to turnover at the gate in less than an hour and get back in the air.  They have to not seriously break over hundreds of hours of constant flight.  They have to do it at the safety rate of zero crashes.  Can Boom or other companies crack the code on this, keep the aircraft available enough to fly again and again to generate profit, and do it safely every single fight?  I think they can definitely do it.  But I’m not sure they can do it and consistently make money.  New technology is hard to master.  And going supersonic on a completely new airframe isn’t going to be an easy thing to do.

You need only look at the development hell Airbus and Boeing have gone through with their latest subsonic jets to realize how hard building airplanes is.  Going supersonic is going to generate a whole new level of difficulty.  Plus, Boom is a company that doesn’t have a sustained record of success with previous aircraft models.  Look at what happened with the Bombardier CSeries.  That jet crashed out in development hell because Bombardier made too many mistakes.  They had to sell out the airframe to Airbus for like $1 to avoid bankruptcy.  And the CSeries is a pretty basic modern subsonic jet, and it still was impossible for Bombardier to succeed.  I’m not sure I think companies like Boom truly understand how hard their task will be to develop and build supersonic without going bankrupt in the process.

In closing, I think we’ll see supersonic return and soon.  But given that the passenger market is still only the exclusive rich, the remaining associated problem of profit risk, and my concerns about technology development, I think the end result is supersonic is going to be a very, very small footprint by say 2030.  Only a handful of jets will fly and the companies that run them will be scraping by paycheck to paycheck on cost.  In the end, I don’t think supersonic is going to be viable for major airlines on anything but a small scale.  It’ll be a niche market, or perhaps become a major chunk of the private jet market.  But large scale from major airlines?  I just don’t see it.

_98736611_0db1c45f-7827-4b22-b7b7-937595432c24.jpg

But who knows, maybe I’m wrong?

so I guess bread is back in; but juice is now out?

There’s a neat little statement as Edward Gibbon compares the doomed Romans to their future steppe tribe conquerors.  Gibbon makes the point that the tribes are composed of folks who had likely never tasted bread.

Granted, this is a pretty blatant stereotype.  Not every Hun or Vandal spent their lives drinking only goat milk and eating fire roasted meat right off the bone.  Gibbon is only using the idea to make a point about how a hard living martial culture can destroy a weak culture, even one as old as the Romans.

I think this is roughly what the paleo goons are going for.  It’s more a hardcore thing than a nutrition thing.  It’s a fad, a selling point to display generally how folks choose to live their lives.  The concept of living one’s life and food intake in the hard living martial culture category.  Rather than reaching for a box in the cereal aisle.

But I’d always found it weird when the paleo goons adopted the Gibbon model and shut down bread or grains or glucose in their diets.  Now the news reports that bread has been in the human diet for over 10K years and the headlines question whether the paleo folks can now eat bread again?

Well, sure, why not.  I guess?  But really, whatever, who cares?  Because honestly, please keep in mind the key thing the paleo folks should remember is that cars are only about a 100 years old.  So since humans weren’t using cars in 3746 BC, the paleo crowd should probably stop driving cars.

I’ve also begun seeing more and more ‘advice’ from ‘experts’ that humans beings have no business drinking straight juice.  The summary of this wisdom is that take an orange.  You can eat an orange or two and that’s a pretty decent sized snack.  But a glass of orange juice comes from like seven oranges.  The idea is that no human would ever be able to eat the natural sugars of seven oranges in one sitting.  So a person has no business drinking juice, at least in any large quantity whatsoever.

This is all well and good except that like bread, humans have been drinking juice for thousands of years and somehow we all haven’t burst into flames.  Hey I’m all for progress in culture and our diets, after all, life saving surgery is a pretty cool thing.

But I guess all this paleo or anti-juice stuff just kind of rubs me the wrong way.  Our lives and modern culture is pretty cool, but to think that all of a sudden we’ve got all the answers is pretty darn arrogant.  That somehow after say 5K years of food and drink, that we’re the first generation to be wise enough to forgo bread and juice.

If folks want to eat, drink, or not bread and juice then whatever.  That’s a personal choice.  I just can’t stand the self righteousness of it.  Or the need to redefine arbitrary standards when they’re confronted with reality.

Eat what they want.  Drink what they want.  Or not.  It’s all good.  Just don’t wear it on the sleeve, shove it in other folks faces, and think they’re better than others (and all of human history).

an arrest record one can be proud of

If you’re like me and try to read the BBC every day you’ll realize that at any given time, probably 1/3 of the links on their News main page is pure clickbait.  I’ve always found this weird and kind of shameful for what should otherwise be a professional news organization.

But I guess every website feels compelled to use clickbait now.  There’s a charity that helps cure malaria in children, and on their web page front and center is a link that says: “You’ll never guess what job can increase your happiness this much!”.  Hint, it’s undertaker.

Hey speaking of death, the BBC got me.  I’m so ashamed.  I couldn’t help myself and dove into this clickbait headline:

Ethiopian ‘prophet’ arrested after trying to resurrect corpse

Essentially this dude had folks dig up a corpse and he tried to bring said dead body back to life:

Getayawkal Ayele had tried to revive the corpse of Belay Biftu by lying on top of him and repeatedly yelling “Belay, wake up”.

When this didn’t work (for whatever reason) the guy’s family started to beat up this false god.  For his efforts, Mister Ayele got himself arrested for messing with a dead body, which is apparently a crime even if you received the family’s permission to do it.

We at TAP have a few conclusions to draw from this most consequential of today’s events.  Please bear with us as we display only keen insight and brilliance.  Your cooperation, as always, is truly appreciated.  We truly desire to keep liquidation to an absolute minimum.

1) What did the family of the deceased expect to happen?  I’ve seen some pretty crazy shit in my life, but I’m pretty sure there are some things you can bet your life on.  For example, unicorns don’t exist.  Did the family really expect that they would be the first folks to experience something that has never, ever happened before in all of human history?

2) What did Ayele expect to happen?  Either he’s insane, was intoxicated, or what?  But did this guy actually expect this to work?  Usually a grifter has a backup plan.  When he discovered that he could, in fact, not actually resurrect the dead what was his next move?  Was he just going to run away in a puff of smoke ala the Roadrunner?

3) This is an arrest record one can be proud of.  If you’re going to get wrapped up by the authorities, it should be something you can be proud of.  “I got taken in for drunk driving”, makes you sound like a dick and a loser.  “I got taken in for trying to resurrect a corpse”, instantly makes you the most popular dude in the bar.

4) Fuck Netflix’s The Frankenstein Chronicles.  So bad.

5) This will not be the last time in your lifetime you see an attempt to resurrect a corpse.  Soon, they’ll be growing human hearts in a lab.  And a guy or gal will have a heart attack and essentially, well, die.  Then they’ll rush that corpse to the ER and instead of calling it, the doc will try and put a new heart in the person and essentially bring them back to life.  The social and religious implications of this are astounding, but it’s going to happen.

6) “My mum found my first grey hair at seven.”  Hmm, that sounds weird.  Maybe I’ll click on that, and so [eyes glaze over], no, No, NO! [waves hands around head as if shooing away flies]

7) The title of this blog post was intentionally clickbait.  Did I get you?  If so, I’m not sorry.

PS, I really am sorry.

the false promises of doing good

It seems every few weeks something that was once benign is placed in the crosshairs and suddenly becomes beyond the pale.  Did you know plastic straws were evil?  Well, I guess they are now.  Because a bunch of people said so.

Accordingly, Starbucks is set to ban the use of all plastic straws within two years.  This will supposedly help do better for the planet by removing a source of plastic that for the most part can’t be recycled.

Here’s my problem though.  People might feel good about this, but in the end it’s not even a rounding error.  Plastic straws were fine, now they’re bad.  So folks will hate on them and get rid of them.  Just like plastic bags.

In the end though, what does all this actually accomplish?

I read an article that said in order to overcome the carbon footprint of making a reusable bag verses a plastic bag that you have to use the reusable bag like 150 times.  Let’s say the average shopper goes to the grocery once a week.  That’s three years of using your reusable bag before you were better off asking for plastic.

Are folks actually using their reusable bags for north of three years?  I do, but I’m not sure most people do.  And so banning plastic bags may have done some good, but not nearly as much good as folks probably think.

Think banning plastic straws is going to help the planet?  It might, but not nearly as much good as folks probably think.  Just take a gander as this report from The Economist which shows the life cycle of plastic throughout the planet.

The vast, vast majority of plastic that enters the oceans comes from Asia where consistent recycling and landfills do not exist.  So Starbucks can ban all it wants, but that’s not going to stop rivers of plastic from flowing down the Yellow River into the sea.

And Starbucks also doesn’t seem to love the planet enough to stop using disposable coffee cups that can’t be recycled.  I hope folks realize this.  That over 99% of disposable coffee cups are in fact not recycled regardless of what’s claimed or where they’re tossed.

But do you think Starbucks is going to do something about getting rid of disposable coffee cups?  I doubt it.  Why?  Because: $

There are ways to help the planet.  And even executing rounding error efforts like banning plastic straws helps.  But false promises can also be dangerous.  Solving ocean plastic is hard.  Just comprehend what it’d take to help all of Asia establish coherent trash and recycling policies.

But when all you’ve got from folks is easy answers like: “Oh, I’m not using a plastic straw, I’ve done good for the planet today. [pleasing sigh]”  Then that’s a false promise and in the end doesn’t really help the planet.  Particularly if the thought stops there, and doesn’t move on.

plastic straws.jpg

life makes fiction look silly (again)

I’ve been reading (or re-reading if I loosely remember my education) Mark Twain.  Tom Sawyer gets himself stuck in a cave for days with his young love and the whole town gives them up for dead.  It’s a neat little tale.

But when the planet announces that a dozen Thai kids and their coach are lost in a cave and they’ve had to drag out the divers to find them, in my mind I’m like, they’re dead, there’s no way.

Hah, fuck my idiocy.  Turns out they’re alive.  Nine days in there and they’re still in it.  Smile humanity, this is insane, and awesome.  Let’s breathe in some good news for a bit.

_102301615_363c0ae6-7b55-4d09-8e47-30e0289128ee.jpg

And get a load of these UK cave divers who flew in to help.  These guys are heroes, so it’s great that they also look like they own your local gas station.

_102305032_51bdf46c-2e2e-432f-b31e-32473b70f36d.jpg

A happy Mom and Dad.

_102303658_047890294-1.jpg

Win.

Mexico gets ready to dive into the wonderland too

It would be quite the short list of president and/or prime minister that I would be comfortable walking my dog.  In my estimation, most of the planets current leaders are bland losers or actual evil people.  So I’m not exactly the best defender of the establishment or whatever.  But one has to wonder if this is the time to dive into some kind of mysterious wonderland.

In North America, USA’s got Trump.  Canada is led by a ninth grade drama teacher.

In Europe, Italy is now in the hands of a former C-grade professor / bicycle mechanic.  Turkey just re-upped with a guy that would make even the most jaded 17th Century Sultan jealous.  Britain remains in the hands of the least effective prime minister since Chamberlain.  Germany still has that lady who refuses to even firmly decide what she wants for lunch.  The verdict is still out on Macron, who could implode at any moment.

I’m not even going to get into Africa and Asia which are for the most part still led by the usual battery of dictators, crooks, race baiters, and closet Chelsea fans.

In South America, Nicaragua has now joined Venezuela on the list of countries where it’s totally cool if the police execute you on the streets.  Argentina seems set to go broke, again.  The aforementioned Venezuela is probably now poorer than it was in 1945.

So you would think in elections now’s about the time to pick the blandest person ever.  Just elect a coat rack for all I care.  The coat rack can just hang out in El Presidente’s office for the next few years and just ride out this filth.

Instead, Mexico seems bent to elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador in a landslide, aka AMLO, aka serial election loser and revolutionary, aka former mayor of Mexico City, aka lunatic.

Maybe AMLO has what it takes to lead a dysfunctional Mexico in a troubled world.  Maybe not getting to sit in the big chair so many times has humbled the guy and he really does indeed mean to tackle corruption.  But I doubt it.

In the end, men are what they are.  AMLO is cut from the same cloth of the current horrible men running Nicaragua and Venezuela.  Mexico should elect the coat rack.  They won’t.  And AMLO is going to make them pay for that foolish vote for years.

skynews-manuel-lopez-obrador_4350216

Photograph of an incompetent dictator, Circa 2023.