Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Final Note On Jackson

I was in Atlanta last Thursday, and I had the occasion to speak with a writer for CNN. I initially offered my polite criticism of his employer, which he seconded with a far more scathing rebuke. He was embarrassed to be associated with them, and hoped to leave as soon as possible. In fact, he didn't even get CNN at home.

One of my criticisms was that CNN should start an entertainment news network, and cover all of those stories there, leaving the core channel for actual news.

It was only a few minutes later that I was to hear about the death of Michael Jackson. Today, we learned that "Fully 93% of cable coverage studied on the Thursday and Friday following his death was about the King of Pop."

For days, their top story was: "Michael Jackson is still dead."

Jackson death also killed any remaining interest the world had in the Iranian election, let alone hiking trips conducted by southern governors.

Monday, June 29, 2009

One Rabbi's Experience With Michael Jackson

I don't follow much celebrity gossip, and I am not particularly interested in reading that Michael Jackson is still dead.

That said, I found this article in the Jerusalem Post by his onetime confidant, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach sufficient to put his life in perspective. Ultimately, Rabbi Boteach was unsuccessful in helping this talented, yet deeply trouble person. In death, he humanizes Jackson in a way he was unable to do in life.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Talk Nicely, and Carry a Big Stick

Obama is not a simple person. Depending on who you talk to, he a Communist, a Muslim, a Christian, a foreigner, or perhaps even a centrist Democrat (no way!).

This article seems to nail his political strategy to a T. Obama corners his opponents in public by being conciliatory, and then kills them in private. A great strategy, especially when you agree with his policies.

Good Riddance to "Clear"

The "Clear" registered traveler program went broke and is no more, and that is a good thing. Not only is was it unprofitable, it set a terrible precedent for paying for security.

With paid screening programs like this, the incentive is for the alternative to get worse and worse. I am sure it bothered them to no end when the TSA added new lanes or opened up the existing ones at peak times.

Fortunately, their fatal flaw was that they really didn't do anything but allow you to cut in line. Passengers were subjected to the same security, just possibly with slightly less waiting beforehand.

Actually, the precedent was set a long time ago when they established separate lines for elite members of airline's frequent flier clubs. Of course, membership in these "elite" programs can be obtained through some credit cards without even stepping on a plane. In other instances, a promotion offers the opportunity to take one or two flights that will give you status. So much for the idea of a "frequent flier". And really, how the heck does a private company give you some card that determines your access to a federal security screening? Why can't I use my Blockbuster or Starbucks card?

Ultimately, less ability to bypass security will make the problems of the TSA more noticeable to some of the country's most frequent fliers, our members of Congress.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Air France Tragedy and Fernando de Naronha

Fernando and Me

This tragedy really struck both my wife and I on a personal level. While the rest of the world is unfamiliar with the area off of the coast of Brazil where this plane disappeared, we remember it fondly as the place where we spent the first week of our honeymoon in July of 2005. The island of Fernando de Naronha (pronounce naron-ya) is an amazing place, often referred to as the Galapagos of the Atlantic.

The Middle of Nowhere

This is an island that is so remote, that it's meager population of a few hundred are the only inhabitants of it's entire time zone, making it the least populated time zone on the entire planet. From that description, and the picture above, you can see why it was such an attraction to us as a honeymoon destination.

The island is incredibly well known throughout Brazil, yet very few Brazilians have ever visited there. It is expensive, by Brazilian standards, and as a National Park the number of visitors is tightly restricted. Very few people outside of Brazil have heard of Fernando, and at the time, it was extremely hard to get there. From Denver, we flew via Miami, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Recife, and finally to the island of Fernando. Five flights traveling a great deal out of our way were required since at that time, there was no service from the United States to northern Brazil. Today, Delta and American Airlines serves Natal and Recife from Atlanta and Miami, which are both much more direct routes to the island.

The island is only a few miles across, just large enough for a tiny commercial airport in it's interior. It receives only two flights a day, and it's "terminal" is about the size of a small cafe. Nevertheless, it is easy to see how any distressed pilot in the central Atlantic would immediately turn towards Fernando in the event of an emergency, as there is nothing else out there for hundreds of miles between South America, Africa, and Europe.


It is said that there is no such thing as bad publicity, and in the wake of the Air France 447 disaster, billions of people know of Fernando de Naronha who would have never known of it's existence. If .0001% of them ever visit there, it will be a major influx of people.

This New York Times article explains some of the islands history, and references the fact that the paper hasn't written an article about it in nearly 20 years.


What brought the plane down? For some informed information, I would refer your to the website of pilot and former CNN correspondent Miles O'Brien. Now that Miles is no longer with CNN, I believe they now cover aviation stories with whoever on their staff happens to have the most frequent flier miles at the time.

Here is an interesting article about the chances of a meteorite hitting an airplane. Of course, who is to say that a small meteorite would be instantly disastrous?

I personally am leaning towards some kind of turbulence induced structural failure, like American Airlines 587.


This kind of accident scares us in part, because there is not yet a known cause. It has been so long since a large jetliner was lost without survivors, the scope of the tragedy seems to have receded from our memory. The last major aviation disaster was actually the aforementioned American Airlines 587 that crashed in November of 2001. This article about the people who accidentally missed boarding that flight shows the random forces that continues to choose between life and death in our modern world.

Few things bother me quite as much as when people say "Everything happens for a reason". It doesn't. There is no reason some people made that flight, and others didn't. When the people who skipped work at the twin towers on 9/11 started saying nonsense like, "I think god wanted me to live", what did those statements imply for the thousands who did show up for work that day?

It is scary to live in a world where the most casual of decisions can ultimately determine life or death. The upside of this realization is that it reminds us to live life to it's greatest extent. That was our motivation for taking three weeks off of work in July of 2005 to visit Brazil, and explore paradise in the Central Atlantic.

Blogging Update

As some have noticed, I have taken a break from my personal blog. I have also stopped blogging as the Denver Local Expert over at PlanetEye. PlanetEye was a fun gig, but they have restructured their once generous payment system so that I would hardly be getting paid at all there.

All of the while, I have been contributing to the blog at AskMrCreditCard. I have actually learned a lot about the credit card and banking industries while producing lengthy posts nearly every day. If you don't currently read it, I highly recommend that you check it out.

I am now ready to resume some more blogging here on Steele Street.