The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Another minor navigation error

Technically yesterday's incident happened on a Northwest airplane, but since Delta owns Northwest now, and after last week's error, I'm wondering if the jokes from the 1990s about Delta's navigation abilities might not be coming back in earnest:

Today a Northwest Airlines Airbus A320 flight missed their destination of Minneapolis by 150 miles.

The flight crew said they became engrossed in a conversation about airline policy (and honestly, who couldn't?) and lost track of their location. However, the FAA is investigating if pilot fatigue played any roll in this event.

The flight from San Diego to Minneapolis had 144 passengers onboard and none of them were aware of what happened, until the aircraft was swarmed by police once they finally arrived. The police kept all passengers onboard until they were allowed to question the flight crew.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune has more:

Military jets had been on standby to track down the jet after it dropped out of radio communication for about 75 minutes.

"When you hear that fighter jets were ready to scramble, that just gets you really mad," said passenger Scott Kennedy.

I certainly hope the next American Airlines flight reaches its proper destination...

Could have been worse

First, via AV Web, a report that a Delta 767 landed just a bit off the runway centerline returning from Rio de Janeiro Monday:

A couple of Delta Airlines pilots have been suspended after the Boeing 767 they were flying from Rio de Janeiro landed on a taxiway at Atlanta Hartsfield Airport early Monday morning. The FAA reported there were no other aircraft on the taxiway and the landing and rollout were normal. Spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said the crew was dealing with a medical emergency on board and had been cleared for Runway 27R.

Instead, the crew landed on taxiway M, which runs parallel to the 12,000-foot runway. There was no indication that approach, runway or taxiway lights were malfunctioning. Taxiway landings occur from time to time, but Bergen told Atlanta media that she believes it was the first such incident in Atlanta.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has more.

And this, from Tom Vanderbilt...well, good thing the pedestrian had a running start:

I guess the parking meter deal wasn't all that

Mayor Daley found another $500m hole in the city's budget this year, so he's proposing...nothing new:

Mayor Richard Daley unveils his new budget this morning, and he's going to call for spending more money from the controversial parking meter lease, slashing the tourism promotion budget and ending Chicago's longest-running public party, Venetian Night.

A key labor union that bankrolled challengers to Daley's council allies in the last election praised the mayor's decision to raid reserves from the $1.15 billion parking meter deal. The 75-year lease, which aldermen quickly approved last year, ushered in sharp rate increases at more than 36,000 public parking spots.

More than $400 million was used to balance this year's budget, records show. And the city already has announced plans to spend at least $146.3 million in privatization proceeds next year.

Remember that, even at a conservative discount rate, the $1.15bn parking meter deal was about $3bn too cheap. So we've given up 75 years of parking meter revenues worth $3bn in exchange for, what, about 6 years of partial operating revenue?

We also got some bad news from recent arrival Boeing, which lost $1.6bn last quarter:

Boeing, the world's second-largest commercial plane maker after Europe's Airbus, has struggled with a series of setbacks: Production problems have delayed its eagerly awaited 787 passenger aircraft and a bigger version of its 747 jumbo jet, resulting in charges from write-downs and penalties.

Those charges, which were expected, led the company to cut its 2009 profit forecast to $1.35 to $1.55 per share, down from $4.70 to $5 per share. Analysts had predicted $1.53.

On the other hand, today is probably the warmest day we've had in a month, and probably the warmest we'll have until next spring. So Parker and I will now go for a long walk.

How not to market your restaurant

A Wicker Park chicken-wing stand annoyed hundreds of potential customers recently by sticking fake parking ticket advertisements in their windshields:

Wing Stop's "parking tickets" are menus that look strikingly similar to Chicago's more menacing version, both in design and color scheme. But instead of expensive violations for expired meters and double parking, the restaurant's version has citations listing the restaurant's signature hot wings, sides, drinks and even offers a free order of fries with your ticket.

Representatives of Malcolm X College and William H. Brown elementary school, along with a host of upset recipients of Wing Stop's ticket menu called to voice their displeasure according to Barjas and Pirozzoli. The Chicago Police Department called the other day to ask the restaurant to stop passing out the fliers as multiple complaints had come into the 14th District headquarters. And the City of Chicago called to discourage the promotion as well.

"Advertising taking the form of parking tickets can be confusing to motorists," explains Chicago Department of Revenue spokesperson Ed Walsh. "Sometimes it generates complaints. As such, we ask businesses to refrain."

Personally, I won't patronize any seller who sticks anything on my windshield...but in this case, I might have called the health department on them, just out of orneryness.

Another predictable outcome

Of course the Taliban treat their prisoners better than we do. It's excellent P.R. for them, and makes us look really bad:

At first, our guards impressed me. They vowed to follow the tenets of Islam that mandate the good treatment of prisoners. In my case, they unquestionably did. They gave me bottled water, let me walk in a small yard each day and never beat me.

But they viewed me — a nonobservant Christian — as religiously unclean and demanded that I use a separate drinking glass to protect them from the diseases they believed festered inside nonbelievers.

My captors harbored many delusions about Westerners. But I also saw how some of the consequences of Washington’s antiterrorism policies had galvanized the Taliban.

Of all the reasons to treat prisoners well, P.R. ranks at the bottom. It's still a reason, however. It's also something that we Americans invented, and usually do reasonably well. So, even if you don't agree that all prisoners deserve, by virtue of being human, a basic level of decent treatment, possibly you could agree that treating captives worse than the Taliban does will damage our brand a bit?

(Via Andrew Sullivan, who says: "So that's one more feather in Cheney's cap: he brought prisoner treatment under the US to below that of the Taliban.")

London Culture Dash - the short version

Here's the Culture Dash video mentioned in the previous entry. I held off publishing it until I confirmed that the school had published all of the videos to the class. I have also cut two interviews out, as I mentioned before, as the subjects clearly did not want them broadcast. One even told us he didn't want the interview "ending up on YouTube." Unfortunately, he was the bulk of the video's entire first section, so it won't take Roger Ebert to detect that something is missing.

Here, then, is (about half of) Section 1, Team 4's Culture Dash London video:

Lessons learned from the London Culture Dash

I spent 12 hours this week editing video[1] into a 5-minute class project, which I think turned out all right, but which taught me a few lessons I hope help other people.

Shooting video looks easy. You point the camera, you push "record" to start, and you push "stop" when done. Voilà, you've got video!

If only. Shooting video you have to edit together into a cohesive, 5-minute package actually requires serious planning and attention. As a camera operator, you do not want your editor to curse you out loud with enough vitriol to make the dog leave the room, especially if you're the editor. And you absolutely do not want your classmates to say things like, "oh...that was...different..." when you're reviewing it in class.

First, some background on the project.

During each non-U.S. CCMBA residency, the teams go out for a five-hour block of time to shoot a video project. The assignment requires us to go to three culturally-significant locations (from a list of 12) and interview people about the locations' cultural significance. We also have to map each location to a list of "Cultural Dimensions" (from Cornelius Grove's 1995 GLOBE study) and, one hopes, find at least one person who can confirm on video the team hypothesis of which dimension the location represents.

The teams fanned out across London on August 19th with our Flip cameras and notebooks. My group chose to visit Crystal Palace, Westminster Abbey, and No. 10 Downing Street (which we believed represented "Performance Orientation," "Collectivism," and "Power Distance," respectively). We shot about 17 minutes of video, including about 2 minutes of my feet when I failed to press the "stop" button firmly enough at one point.

Here, in descending order of importance, are the things I learned editing this video:

Outline your story before anything else. This isn't always possible, but the more planning you can do before heading out, the stronger your package will look. Every story has a beginning, a middle, and an end; identify these three things before shooting a single frame of video, and everything else will fall into place.

Get as much tape as you can. As all my Hofstra T.V. friends will remind me (Yak, my college roommate, especially), for a 5-minute package you need at minimum 25 minutes of raw tape—50 if you haven't outlined your story first. Really, you can't have too much tape: you can always cut out what you don't need, but when you're editing in Chicago you can't go back to London to get B-roll[2].

Shoot as much B-roll as you can, too, because if you have to cut an interview while the subject is speaking, having a 10-second shot of something else over the interviewee's speech can mask the edit.

Script the opening interview questions. Obviously you can't script an entire interview. But having scripted questions gives you two things in post-production: first, it allows the editor to cut in reverses[3] that flow seamlessly into the interview. Even though you'll want to shoot the reverses after the interview, it's incumbent upon the reporter to ask exactly the same question that the subject answered. Scripting also helps the reporter to be succinct, which makes editing easier; viewers want to see the interviewee, not the interviewer, but a long, rambling question can't be cut gracefully.

Plan your shots before going to the location. You need to know ahead of time the shots you must have to complete the package. Again, thinking to oneself, "I really want a shot of Victoria Station right here..." is kind of frustrating when you're editing video 6000 km from Victoria Station. Same with thinking of a follow-up question two months later: unhelpful.

Take your time at the shoot. There were a couple of times when I started or ended a shot abruptly. Fortunately, Yak's frequent rants in the dorm about the sophomores he was supervising were burned into my brain, so I took his advice to get at least 10 seconds of still footage at the beginning and end every shot. I also got the stand-ins to pause for a few seconds before starting to speak, and held on the interview subjects for several seconds after they finished. This helped immensely with transitions, fades, etc.

Similarly, when shooting B-roll, move...very...slowly. You can often speed up a shot subtly without making the audience want to hum "Yakety Sax." But slowing a shot down requires repeating frames, which makes it look jerky, and makes the editor call you names.

Leave captions up longer than you think you need, but keep them succinct. My initial cut had some captions going by so fast even I couldn't read them. Captions need to use a large enough font to be read; they need to stay on screen long enough to read them; and when captioning a speaker, they need to match the speaker accurately. On the latter point, it's perfectly ethical to cut non-essential words from captions if the speaker talks quickly, as long as you don't change his meaning or demeanor.

Get the subjects' names. Even first names help. This was a forehead-smacking oversight on our project.

Designate a producer. The team should have someone else take notes (see previous lesson), corral the subjects, keep the interviewer focused, watch for matching problems, mark interesting things the subject says, and so on. In short, the producer should constantly think about how the final video will look, while the camera operator concentrates on the current shot.

Hold the camera still. It's hard enough getting shots to match; it's nearly impossible to match "Blair Witch"-style footage. (Myrick and Sánchez planned each shot meticulously, by the way.) Similarly, interviewers need to hold themselves still if they're in the shot, otherwise the reverses won't match.

The operator shouldn't talk. Sound volume decreases with the square of the distance from the microphone. If you're holding the camera, you're right next to the microphone; anything you say booms out like the voice of God.

Finally, have fun. We had a great afternoon, and I think we put together a good product. Over the next four residencies the CCMBA December 2010 teams will produce another 80 Culture Dash videos. I hope this post can help make all 80 of them more enjoyable to produce and to watch.

[1] Unfortunately, I can't post the completed video, because we assured two of subjects that we would not publish their interviews. I can post some of it—but not before we formally present it to the class tomorrow morning. I apologize for posting an entry about a video that you're not yet allowed to see.

[2] B-roll is the footage of everything other than your interview subjects and reporters. B-roll includes shots of the location, shots of getting to and from the location, establishing shots, shots of people at the location...essentially, everything that can help you establish context or make transitions.

[3] A reverse shot shows the world from the main shot's point of view. For example, if your main shot is an interview subject, shot over the reporter's shoulder, the reverse would show the reporter, over the subject's shoulder. When shooting reverses it's also very important not to cross the axis, the imaginary line connecting the two people. So if you shoot the subject over the reporter's left shoulder, it's vital to shoot the reporter over the subject's right shoulder, otherwise the edited video will make it seem like they're looking in opposite directions.

Or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying

Via Wired, the U.S.S.R. built a fail-safe device à la Dr. Strangelove—not to deter us, but to deter themselves:

The point of the system...was to guarantee an automatic Soviet response to an American nuclear strike. Even if the US crippled the USSR with a surprise attack, the Soviets could still hit back. It wouldn't matter if the US blew up the Kremlin, took out the defense ministry, severed the communications network, and killed everyone with stars on their shoulders. Ground-based sensors would detect that a devastating blow had been struck and a counterattack would be launched.

By guaranteeing that Moscow could hit back, Perimeter was actually designed to keep an overeager Soviet military or civilian leader from launching prematurely during a crisis. The point...was "to cool down all these hotheads and extremists. No matter what was going to happen, there still would be revenge. Those who attack us will be punished."

Given the paranoia of the era, it is not unimaginable that a malfunctioning radar, a flock of geese that looked like an incoming warhead, or a misinterpreted American war exercise could have triggered a catastrophe. Indeed, all these events actually occurred at some point. If they had happened at the same time, Armageddon might have ensued.

Perimeter solved that problem. If Soviet radar picked up an ominous but ambiguous signal, the leaders could turn on Perimeter and wait. If it turned out to be geese, they could relax and Perimeter would stand down. Confirming actual detonations on Soviet soil is far easier than confirming distant launches.

As long as no one rides an H-Bomb down like a bronco...

Some light travel reading

With 15 days and 9 hours to go until the CCMBA Dubai residency, the box of pre-reading materials just thumped onto my desk. The first term box weighed four tons and had to come up my apartment stairs by forklift and winch. This one only weighs 4 kg:

It doesn't look so bad open, either. Nor does it look like I'll have too much to carry this time:

Seriously, after the first-term box, I've dreaded receiving this one. So what do we have? Three textbooks (two paperback), two very thin course packets, three pages of notes from the program office, a CD, and my Duke ID card.

And "Managerial Economics" turns out to be microeconomics, which I just took last spring. Granted, in the spring I had four months and in Dubai I'll have four days, but still, now that I know what the textbook looks like, I'm not worried.

Listen closely for the sound of my stress draining away. Except, of course, for the part that still hasn't seen my accounting grade yet...