Airlines

Airlines Stricken by Technology Cancer

gc2smFrom the keyboard of Thomas Lewis

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Published on The Daily Impact on August 13, 2016

Plane-Crash

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It was by all accounts a small problem, a little overheating last Monday in the electronic jungle that is the Technology Command Center for Delta Airlines at its Atlanta headquarters. This minor overheating event — okay, “fire” if you insist — caused a nearby voltage-control module to spasm and allow a surge to hit a transformer, which immediately shut down the power supply. No worries, there’s an app for that. It’s called a switchgear, and its job is to sense a power failure and immediately switch the circuit to a backup power source.

The switchgear didn’t work.

Instantly, much of the computer network with which the world’s largest airline tracks and controls its  planes, employees, and ticketed passengers worldwide, crashed. Airplanes on the ground were stopped in place. Aircraft in the air landed at their destination, and parked. A thousand flights had to be cancelled, tens of thousands of passengers were stranded in parked airplanes and airports. Another 500 flights were cancelled on Tuesday, and the airline continued five days later to struggle toward normalcy.

This is hardly an unprecedented event:

  • In July, Southwest Airlines lost its network for 12 hours and had to cancel 2,300 flights over four days. The failure of a single router brought the system down, and it took 12 hours to reboot it.
  • In September of 2015, an American Airlines system glitch stopped its flights to and from its hubs at Chicago, Dallas and Miami.
  • In April of 2013, a national computer outage at American Airlines wiped out a third of its scheduled flights.
  • August, 2012 – United Airlines experienced a two-hour crash of its computer systems that affected 10 per cent of its flights.

Note that the frequency of these events has gone from fewer than one a year (remember that each event costs the airline tens of millions of dollars and the passengers — well, who knows what it costs the passengers?) to two so far this year. Does anybody know why? Of course. Everybody involved knows why:

  • Each airline’s system was built in the 1990s. One of the basic assumptions was that it could be shut down at night for repairs and maintenance. Now the systems are global and it’s always daytime somewhere. The system is like an airplane that can’t land, and has to be fixed and maintained in flight.
  • Since then, the numbers of passengers and aircraft have grown exponentially. Patches and add-ons have been required so that the software can contain, search, sort and otherwise manipulate ever larger masses of data.
  • There have been numerous mergers, requiring that individual, proprietary systems be modified so that they communicate and work with each other.
  • Outside systems and networks — Internet travel agents and ticket sellers, for example, have demanded access to the airlines’ systems. Adding them to an oversized network while maintaining security has not been easy.

After 20 years of slapdash growth, Frankenstein grafts, temporary fixes, plug-ins, add-ons and extension cords, each airline has a system that is too big to fix, and increasingly prone to fail. You can’t fix it because it has to keep going, and it can’t keep going unless you fix it. You can’t afford to fix it, and you can’t afford not to.

This is Stage Four Technology Cancer, and it’s not affecting just the computer reservation and scheduling systems. A recent survey of maintenance personnel for the South American Airline LATAM revealed increasing worry about the effects of cuts in the numbers and qualifications of maintenance personnel, to save money. Giving credence to those worries, another study shows that since 2010, fewer than two commercial airliners per year have crashed worldwide. That was a worse record than that of the previous several years. So far in 2016, three airliners have crashed. The numbers are small so far, but the trend is in the wrong direction.   

This is what technology cancer does; it grows without restraint until it threatens the survival of its host. If its host is the sort who refuses to have surgery because it’s too inconvenient, death ensues.

French Onion Soup

Off the keyboard of RE

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on March 15, 2015

French-Onion-Soup

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If you go into any fine French Restaurant that serves the Upper Class like Lutece in Manhattan, about always you will find French Onion Soup on the Menu in the Appetizers or Soups & Salad category, depending how the Menu is organized.  Well, except you can’t get an overpriced bowl of FOS at Lutece anymore because Lutece is Outta Biz since 2004.

http://images.nymag.com/images/2/daily/2011/01/14_delmonico_560x375.jpghttp://www.coffeedrome.com/images/walk2005/50lutece.jpg

Lutece, once the top 5 Star French Restaurant in NY Shity closed in 2004.  Back in the Wall Street years, we ate there regularly, and dropping $1000 on Dinner for 6-8 people was no problem at all, if you bought a few bottles of Wine anyhow.  1980s Dollars too!  I guess the .01% got tired of the food there after 9/11

AFTER serving one last Valentine’s Day dinner Saturday night, Lutèce, the renowned landmark French restaurant on the East Side, will close its doors, ending a 43-year run as a pillar of French dining in the United States.

”Since 9/11 we have not had enough business to meet expenses,” said Michael Weinstein, president of Ark Restaurants, which has owned Lutèce since 1994. ”This is probably a decision that should have been made a year ago.”

My old employer Capsuto Freres in Tribeca is also now Outta Biz, courtesy of Hurricane Sandy.  The Fine Dining Space there has been taken over by the Chinese.  Apparently Chinese Food is more popular now amongst the .01% than Nouvelle Cuisine French food.  Who Cooda Node?

http://www.nycgo.com/images/uploadedimages/devnycvisitcom/venue/capsouto_v3_460x285.jpg

That’s where I parked my motorcycle when going to work at the bottom left.  I can’t tell if one of the ones behind the first one is mine.

China Blue, the new sister restaurant to Midtown’s Michelin-starred Café China, is now open in Tribeca. It takes up the space that once housed Capsouto Freres, the 33-year-old neighborhood mainstay that was shuttered in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. The new restaurant still has white tablecloths, but now the space, like Café China, takes its cues from 1930s Shanghai, with a menu of Shanghai cuisine to match. That means more seafood and “delicate flavors” than the intense Sichuan style of the original.

A really Classy FOS will have gobs of Melted Swiss Cheese over the top of a huge ceramic bowl, with a nice large hunk of a French Bread slice beneath it, all floating on top of a beef broth that has copious quantities of sliced up Onions nicely sauteed and caramelised in butter or oil in a skillet before adding to the soup.  It’s quite a scrumptious concoction when presented this way, and you’ll likely have to cough up $10-15 for such a bowl in this type of restaurant these days to chow down on it.

In reality though, French Onion Soup is a PEASANT dish that comes from the era before Refrigeration, and all the ingredients are in there because they are conservative of the food the French Peasants had available before refrigeration became ubiquitous in Industrial culture.

Your base of the Beef Broth comes from simmering all the bones and scraps of meat that get leftover after the cow cets slaughtered and carved up into Steaks, Ribs, Roasts, Filets and finally Ground Beef for the least tender cuts, although you will find more expensive Ground Beef from the same cuts that the other beef products are carved from, just because it’s useful in many things like meatballs, hamburgers etc that are common in the western diet.

http://www.eurofoodimports.com/v/vspfiles/photos/AZ00001202-2T.jpgStill, you get a lot more nutrition from your dead cow by simmering up all these leftover parts, and by further boiling down and adding salt to it you can make Boullion which will last quite a while unrefrigerated.  Drop the Boullion Cube into some boiling water, and you reconstitute your Broth for a nutritious soup the next week.  Of course, this is Energy Intensive in the sense you need to use quite a bit of burnables usually to reduce the liquid to a semi-solid.

Onions, your Fresh Veggie in this dish are roots which keep well in a cool Root Cellar, you don’t need refrigeration for them.  The French Bread slice you add ups the calorie content of your bowl of soup with carbohydrates, and you use Stale Bread that can be a few days old and no longer real moist and chewable , but soaked in the broth it becomes very edible again.

Final ingredient, the Cheese you melt over the top is a way to preserve Milk by fermentation, and when waxed over  and kept cool, it also lasts a long while without refrigeration.  It also adds additional calorie count to your soup dish, so by the time you are done here you have a single meal full of Protein, Carbs, Fat, Vitamins, all from stuff which can be grown or raised on a small subsistence style farm, the traditional type of farm back in France before the industrial age.

http://ropcorn.com/a/europe-interrail.jpgWhen I Backpacked and Inter-railed around Europe back in the 70s, I did it on a shoestring budget, as I recall I had $800 in American Express Travelers Checks to last me for 2 months the first time I participated in this Right of Passage common for many European teens at the time, but not that many Amerikans.  No credit card in those years, and debit cards didn’t exist yet either.  The roughly $100/week I had with me had to buy all my food, and hostels on nights I stayed in them.  At the time, a bed in one of the hostels was usually about $10/night in the northern European countries, as cheap as $5/night in Southern Europe.  If you stayed in a Hostel every night, you weren’t left with much to buy food.  The way around that was to take night trains or sleep in train stations, on beaches, wherever.

So for obvious reasons, most interrailers cruised around Spain, Portugal and Greece because it was cheaper.  However, I wanted to see France and Switzerland and Sweden, but in those places I ate on the cheap.  I would buy a Baguette and wedge of Brie and a Salami and that would last in my backpack for 2-3 days while checking out these neighborhoods.  All old fashioned foods that keep for a while with no refrigeration.

I almost actually made it to the end of the two months with enough money to still eat, although for the last week or so the first time there I was sleeping by the Thames River in the “Big Queue”, waiting for a cheap ticket home on Freddie Laker’s “Better Laker than Never”, “Sooner or Laker” discount airline of the era.  Interestingly, it is impossible to find any pics on the web from the Big Queue.  It was quite a hilarious scene overall.

http://freddieawards.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/sir_freddie_laker_crop.jpghttp://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/tm/2007/05/laker2_428x269_to_468x312.jpg

http://www.virgin.com/sites/default/files/legacy/Richard_Branson_and_Freddie_Laker-17612-530x330.jpg

There’s Freddie with the young Richard Branson.  These guys got Knighted for their contributions to Aviation.  Laker went bust in 1982.  Branson is still flying Virgin Atlantic.  He has better access to more debt.

Why did Skytrain suddenly fail? Laker had received an $86 million mortgage on his aircraft from the U.S. government’s Export-Import Bank. As airlines like Pan Am and TWA were floundering in the face of Laker’s competition, they pressured the Reagan administration to have Ex-Im call in Laker’s debt. In addition, the Thatcher government in Britain was worried that Laker might eventually eclipse the parastatal British Airways. Taking away Laker’s capital, paradoxically enough, was a way of saving the airline industry in both the U.S. and Britain.

Laker Doesn’t Leave

Freddie Laker was understandably more than a tad pissed off at the majors, and in January 1985, he filed suit against twelve major airlines from around the world, who had allegedly conspired to drive Skytrain into the ground. At first, they offered him a $50 million settlement, but as Laker dug his heels in, the value of the settlement grew progressively smaller. By August, Laker finally gave up and accepted a $20 million settlement from British Airways.

Bear_Creek_SoupSince I am obsessed with eating cheaply and with food that last a long time, I recently started experimenting with recipes for the many bags of Bear Creek Soups I have in my Prep Arsenal, ready for TEOTWAWKI.  They are fine just by themselves, and one bag will get you through the day by itself if necessary, but as long as there are other ingredients to pitch into said soup, you can make much heartier meals that will last for 2 or 3 days.  This weeks concoction was a Broccoli-Cheese-Beef soup I wrote about Inside the Diner

NEW BEAR CREEK SOUP CONCOCTION!

This one is just SCRUMPTIOUS!  Currently still brewing in the Slow Cooker but I have been Taste Testing over the last couple of hours and it is AWESOME!

Base was some leftover Rib Bones I BBQed, then stewed in beef broth, soy sauce and water to get all the remaining meat to fall off the bones.  Then I added half a package of Bear Creek Broccoli Cheese soup, Fresh Broccoli (actually in the fridge for over a week already) and some shaved parmesan romano cheese, a couple of tablespoons of this.

This is a fucking AWESOME soup!

I think I could improve on it still more with the addition of some fresh Garlic and Onions and some Parsley for garnish, with some crusty day old bread to dip in as well.  Maybe a little Paprika also to make it more tart and lip smacking good.

I’ll be writing up a new Recipe post for the Sunday brunch article this week.  I’ll include this in that article. At least I am still eating like a King here as the world spins down!  This soup would have sold for $10/bowl in 1980s Dollars at my old job at Capsuto Freres!  About $4 in ingredients excluding the leftover rib bones previously chewed on, and would fill about 4 bowls for $40!

RE

http://www.alaska-in-pictures.com/data/media/9/organic-potatoes_2796.jpgAt some point in the future, getting hold of many of the other ingredients to add to one of these soups probably will become difficult, depending on where you are of course.  Certainly, being in a location where Cheese is produced locally is helpful, along with being in locations where there is some kind of Meat available to pitch into the soup to make your Broth, even if it is just Squirrels or even Worms.  This will up the nutritional value of the soup considerably.

Far as the carbs go, even stale bread is fine, but most small farms don’t grow their own Wheat, at least not in my neighborhood, so Bread probably won’t be very available.  Similar with Rice, it doesn’t grow up here in Alaska, although perhaps it could be done in Grow Domes.  Rice though keeps very well once dried and vacuum sealed, so your supply of this can last a while.  Main carb though likely to remain available locally is Alaska Potatoes.

Potatoes are fabulous food which go fine in soups, but there are lots of other good ways to prepare them and spruce them up, which will be the subject of the next SNAP Card Gourmet Sunday Brunch article on the Diner.

http://cdn.spellbrand.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/01/alaska-grow.gif

Ebola: I See Dead People 3

logopodcastOff the microphone of RE

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Aired on the Doomstead Diner on October 12, 2014

Discuss this Rant at the Environment Table inside the Diner

Don’t miss the prior articles and rants on Ebola

Ebola: I See Dead People 2

Ebola: I See Dead People

Snippet:

Police_Squad_Nothing_to_See…Far as travel to and from the rest of Africa is concerned, it also needs to be curtailed drastically. Non-essential travel like Tourism needs to be ended until the Pandemic is brought under control. Land transmission across borders there is quite easy, and folks with means in Guinea for instance who want to GTFO of Dodge will sneak across borders by land, get fake passports in another African country, and then make the trip somewhere else outside of Africa. If only 1 in 100 of those is an Ebola Carrier still asymptomatic, they will bring the disease wherever they go to.

Of course, nothing of the sort here in terms of real restrictions on travel has been implemented as of yet, and beyond that the response from all major Goobermints has been pathetically slow and ineffective, well evidenced here in the FSoA by the stupid pronouncements from POTUS Telepromptus Obama-sama reassuring Amerikans we got nothing to worry about here, Please Move Along. Obama-sama is about as convincing these days as Lieutenant Draben Leslie Nielsen in Police Squad. Why this absurd posturing when you have a clearly out of control problem?…

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For the rest, LISTEN TO THE RANT!!!

Knarf plays the Doomer Blues

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