All The Kings Horses….

As part of a television series called “We Built Titanic” the producers decided to recreate the hauling of Titanic’s anchor which required a team of Shire horses to accomplish the task. The original center anchor built by Noah Hingley & Sons in Netherton, weighed 15 tons, 16 cwt with a length of 18’ 3” and 10’ 6” in width. It was the heaviest center anchor in the world at the time. It required a team of 20 Clydesdale horses. The anchor was lowered onto a cart, the horses were connected. It traveled two miles from Hingley to Dudley where it would travel by rail to Fleetwood in Lancashire. As you can expect, it was quite a sight to see 20 horses pulling this massive anchor.

The recreation done recently was in reverse from Dudley to Netherton where the replica anchor (weighing 16 tons from the news reports) will be placed in a historic museum. However they did not get the footage they wanted. When the horses started to move, the anchor began slipping on the cart. And the cart had no brake which meant horses could be injured if the cart moved too fast. So tractor had to be hooked up which caused other problems, namely the horses had problems getting a firm grip on the road surface. In the end, the horses had to be removed and the tractor pulled the cart for most of the distance. The horses only moved the cart roughly half a mile before they were removed.

It is ironic that they moved the anchor without the benefit of a tractor yet 99 years later they could not replicate it. Perhaps the problem is memory. We simply have forgotten how to use horses as they did back then. Back then the anchor would have been fastened down on the cart to prevent it from moving while in transit. Perhaps they did so this time but not enough. Brakes would have been used on most carts hauling items. Slowing the horses is one thing but you need to slow the momentum of the cart as well or bad things would occur especially if you are carrying very heavy items like anchors. Rules of physics apply then as now and it looks like someone forgot to consider that. Good thing the tractor was available. That is ironic in itself since the tractor ended the use of horses on most farms after World War I.

Stourbridge News, Netherton To Welcome Home Titanic Anchor, 9 Aug 2010

Daily Mail, History Revisited As 20 Shire Horses Haul 16-Ton Titanic Anchor, 16 Aug 2010

Metro,  Horses ‘Overheat In Titanic Stunt’, 17 Aug 2010

Horsetalk, Shire Horses And The Titanic Anchor’s Journey, 24 Aug 2010

Titanic Musings….Part Deux

Titanic Musings…Part Deux

Some have emailed asking if I oppose the Titanic expedition. No, it does have scientific merit. From news accounts it appears Premiere Exhibitions has tried to woo a lot of skeptics (skeptics because they have misgivings about salvage and the company’s handling of artifacts) to go on the expedition. Actual salvage is over; the company made it clear in its court filings to get the salvage award. So it is simply trying to massage its public image by sponsoring a scientific expedition. The reason is simple: the salvage award. They know that a lot of folks out there dislike salvaging Titanic. Many will be displeased the company will be able to sell the artifacts. So I see the expedition as simply trying to buy some goodwill.

On Top Chef: Washington I got some emails criticizing my viewpoint. I stand by the assertion this is a dull season with no one standing out. Sure it is easy to see the weak ones but hard to like any of the stronger ones either for a variety of reasons. As for the pea puree, I am not convinced Alex would need to steal or misplace Ed’s since he made his own (Tom C. said he talked to others who saw him make it). Everyone focuses on Alex forgetting that the culprit could be someone else. If we assume it was stolen or purposely mislaid, one of the other cheftestants who saw Ed as a threat may have done it with a bonus of fingering Alex. The Triple K’S (Kelly, Kevin, Kenny) all ganged up on Alex at Judges’ Table and in the stew room. It is possible the anger against Alex was ramped up by the guilty party.

One blogger wondered whether any of the cheftestants will be memorable. In past years some competitors (like Fabio or Sam) continue to be remembered by fans. In this case, it seems to be a season where the competitors will struggle to be remembered once the show is over.

Titanic Musings

Titanic Musings And Other Things

I took a break for a needed vacation and catching up on Titanic news and recordings in my DVR.

1) The Grand Expedition
Call the press, contact cable and network shows for booking, and get lots of video coverage about the sorry state of a wreck two miles down. We will fill the ship with historians, scientists, and other interesting people to comment on the state of the wreck. Get that? It is about the decay rate of the wreck as if we did not know already that nature is consuming the wreck. Sure there is scientific interest in finding out the decay rate, how organisms two miles down operate, and lots of other technical stuff. If that was it was about, it would be a special edition of National Geographic Explorer. If they wanted zing, bring any or all of the following from the Travel Channel: Anthony Bourdain, Andrew Zimmern, Samantha Brown, and the guy who yells. Otherwise I suspect it is a yawner and just to create positive buzz for Premiere Exhibitions and its subsidiary, RMS Titanic Inc perhaps because.…

2) Salvage Verdict Comes Down in Their Favor
What wonderful coincidence! Federal Judge Rebecca Beach Smith finally issues after what seems a millennia, her ruling on the salvage award. Issued just before the Grand Expedition, she rules they are entitled to compensation and sets the value of the artifacts at $110 million. What is left to be determined is how they will get compensated The easiest–and most controversial–would be to give them the artifacts. RMS Titanic, Inc would then be free to sell the artifacts to museums, collectors and other interested parties. The predictable howl from the anti-salvage crowd will be loud if this occurs. Long ago the pro and anti salvage crowd on the Internet got into heated flamewars resulting in Titanic enthusiasts hating each other. It split the Titanic community into rival camps and still does when the topic comes up. One the other hand, Judge Smith could award them the artifacts on the condition they only be sold to museums and recognized exhibitors. The other option is for the court to hold the sale and distribute the proceeds.

There are lots of legal issues that have to be worked out and that will take time. It is also possible others will file appeals to overturn the decision or seek the court to modify its decision in some way. Stay tuned!

3) Titanic Cliche Overload
Far too many politicians, commentators, and others use the Titanic Cliche so much as make one wonder if they ever attended a literature or writing class.

4) Top Chef Washington is Top Chef Boring
Who stole the pea puree? Okay think about that for a second. If the most exciting thing on this show is whether or not a cheftestant stole a pea puree, we have a problem. It seems no one liked this chap very much and quickly labeled him a thief. It became clear that when Kevin, Kenny, Kelly and Amanda were the losing team in Restaurant War when Kenny opened his mouth complaining that Alex did nothing (though on the winning team). It looked petty and foolish considering what the judges told them. Kevin’s dish was excellent, Kenny did two dishes that failed, Kelly did a watery soup they disliked but saved herself on dessert, and Amanda botched cooking the beef. All in all pretty bad. Kenny’s goat cheese dessert was reviled by the judges (Frank Bruni’s look when he tasted it was classic). Kenny got the boot since as executive chef he was in charge, put out two bad dishes, and allowed other bad dishes to go out.

For the most part this show is forgettable and looks tired. From reading the various postings elsewhere, this season is not generating that much great buzz despite being in Washington D.C. Last season saw some great cooking and really top notch competitors. This season seems to have lackluster (by comparison to previous seasons excluding Season Two which was pretty bad) cheftestants and no one really to get interested in winning. More interested in watching who screws up and place bets on who goes home each week. Otherwise watching repeats of Mythbusters is better, funny, and educational all at the same time (and yes they have tackled some food myths along the way).

5) Titanic 2
Yes, it is true that there is a movie by that name. Suffice to say it has gone straight to the bottom as predicted. They ought to have made it high camp instead or turned it soft porn with Pamela Anderson bouncing about.

6) A Titanic Christmas
Two words that ought not go together: Titanic and Christmas. One is a terrible tragedy and the other a religious celebration. So when a press release was sent out over the web (alas I did not get it being a lowly blogger) announcing a Titanic themed Christmas in Pigeon Forge, I wondered if it was a spoof. Not so it seems. According to the release:

“Christmas in a Winter Wonderland” runs November 13-January 1, 2011. Co-owner, Mary Kellogg-Joslyn plans to pull out all the stops to make her Titanic’s first holidays in Pigeon Forge, memorable. First, there will be $150,00 in snow equipment (the same equipment used to make it show every Christmas at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom). Secondly, $100,000 will be spent on Christmas trees, holiday lights and ornamentation throughout the interior and exterior of the museum. There will also be carolers and other musical events. While the holiday celebration will be elaborate, the owners plan to hold true to their idea of the importance of telling the stories of the Titanic’s passengers and crew.”

Some will criticize it but in the end the consumer will decide whether the gamble pays off or not.

7) Dodgeball with a Twist
One of the funny things about Warehouse 13 on SyFy is that they can have some ordinary objects become dangerous. Take the dodgeball. Normally you try to knock the opponents out of the game by hitting them with the ball. Pete and Myka encounter a dodgeball that multiplies on contact. Meaning if it strikes you one becomes two. Then two becomes three and so on. One can see the obvious problem here. In minutes you could have a dozen or so balls hurling towards you and increasing in numbers after contact. It is never said but it is a nod to the most famous of all such things, the tribble from Star Trek. It multiplies quickly if lots of food is around and nothing checks it (we did learn in Enterprise they do have a predator). A nice nod to the Trouble With Tribbles from Warehouse 13.

Cliche of the Day: Changing U.S. Post Office Like Fighting Over Titanic Desert Bar

Writing in the Journal Gazette Paul Carroll and Chunka Mui had this to say about trying to fix the old post office:

The debate over potential changes at the U.S. Postal Service is like a fight over the dessert bar on the Titanic. Raising first-class postage rates and eliminating Saturday delivery won’t matter much when the Postal Service hits the iceberg. And USPS will do just that, soon, unless there is a re-imagining of its mission.

Their article is about how, unless the Post Office realizes the digital age is here to stay, it will become like Kodak. Remember Kodak? When I was a kid, Kodak meant cameras and photographs. For a long time Kodak dominated until the digital age. It supplied materials for film processing, sold rolls of film, and cameras. Digital cameras and technology swept that all away leaving Kodak behind. At first the company tried holding on but as profits went down, it became clear that it had to face a whole new world. It had to either take advantage of it or end up in the dustbin like many businesses that folded when technology made them obsolete. The Post Office, the writers argue, faces the same problem.

The problem is huge for the old post office. It has a total monopoly on mail delivery in this country. You can put nothing in a mailbox except through an authorized official of the Post Office. And by law private delivery services cannot charge less than what the post office charges. Volume made money for the Post Office– letters, bills, catalogs, magazine subscriptions, and packages. Their only competition was from companies like United Parcel Service that delivered packages. Then the digital age hit allowing people to send messages–and money–electronically. Magazines and catalogs have begun shifting to web sites and mobile use ending their dependence on the costly mail. Some magazines offer web subscriptions and the ability to download their publication to your computer. In twenty years many will be reading their subscriptions electronically on portable displays or at home. Catalogs will shift as well. Why send out thousands of catalogs when a website is cheaper?

The Post Office faces a major crisis. Declining revenue means it cannot afford the salaries it once did. Nor can it afford all those fully paid pensions and health plans either. Merely raising rates and cutting service will do nothing unless it has a real idea of how it will survive in the digital age. Rates will continue to rise, service will only get worse. To carry the metaphor of Titanic a bit further, the day of passenger liners crossing the Atlantic and Pacific are gone. Unless the Post Office adapts, it will end up in decay and rot as the rest of the world leaves it behind.

Source: Journal Gazette, Postal Service Can Save Itself, Learn From Kodak, GM, 26 Jul 2010