THE RETURN TRIP – Episode180

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 180

…Scott Walker mentioned that his daughter is looking for a way out of “Toilet Paper Politics” in Wisconsin…

Candidate Crippen has already set the wheeloffortune in motion, having Image result for wheel of fortune gifcontacted her Chief of Staff, “Would you call your boss and tell her to meet me in Milwaukee, at the Pfister Hilton, Mason Street Grill tomorrow night at 7P? Tell her that it has to do with the White House.”

“If you didn’t know, the Hilton is a casino… and how do you know anything about where we’re staying in Milwaukee?” Even though Francine can’t know everything her husband does, doesn’t mean she wouldn’t like to know.

“I met her father there a month ago, he being some sort of expert on work-fare and it’s funny, but he mentioned that his daughter  is looking for a way out of “Toilet Paper Politics” in that state. I don’t know why I didn’t press him on the subject, but he did mention she goes deer hunting in late November, bragged about teaching her how to be a sportsman.”

Speaking of the devil, his phone ringtone blares Sputnik-bleeps, “Roy Crippen,” Thity Point Buckhe chimes in.

“Charlotte Walker, Roy, my dad told me he met you a while back, congratulations on your nomination. I would have been in Chicago, but I had an appointment with a 30 point buck… that’s an exaggeration AND a song up here.”

“Can you meet us in Milwaukee? I promise to make it worthwhile.”

“I got the message, I love the Mason Grill. I will see you there.”

The impromptu call ends and so may that nagging 130 {or so} pound Veep-issue headache.

“Now that you have this notion in that one-way brain of yours, I cannot argue with you on the issue of compatible VP choices. But I’m not sure the party faithful will agree.”

“Well it can’t be another Texan and it can’t be another space guy, so why not a rifle-toting, rock’em-sock’em reformer from America’s Dairyland.”

{Wisconsin License Plate Art by DeAnna Roose}


THE RETURN TRIP

America’s Dairyland

Episode 180


page 171

Travel Agents Need Not Apply – WIF DNA Travel

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Places Where

People Have

Rarely Been

Through technological advancement and good old-fashioned human stubbornness, much of the Earth has been mapped and human boots have touched down on virtually every continent, island, desert, forest, and icy plain… or have they?

It might surprise some people to learn that there are still vast areas of the Earth left uninhabited, explored, or even mapped properly. While it is true that much of the Earth has been surveyed, vast portions of wilderness in Chile haven’t been, a handful of mountain summits remain untouched, countless cavern systems have gone unexplored, and the ocean floor remains a vast, alien world left unmapped by humans.

Here are the top 10 places where people have never been. (Except Photographers)

10. Muchu Chhish, Pakistan

In 2003, Bhutan banned all climbing, but some expeditions have been able to obtain permits. In 2014, English mountaineer, Pete Thompson, attempted to scale the mountain, hoping to reach the summit. Thompson expected to have to climb the final 1,453 meters without ropes, but the presence of hard ice derailed his plan to reach the top, forcing him to turn back at the 6,000-meter mark.

Prior to Thompson’s attempt, a Spanish team was rumored to have made it all the way to 6,650 meters and remains the highest point on the mountain anyone has reached.

Pakistan is home to 108 peaks taller than 7,000 meters, and many of these peaks belong to the Karakoram mountain range, of which 40 to 50 percent is covered in glaciers. This mountain range is so large that it borders China, India, Pakistan, and even extends to Afghanistan and Tajikistan. The Karakoram range is also one of the world’s most geologically active areas, as the range was created by the interaction of the Indo-Australian plate and the Eurasian plate.

9. 90% of the Ocean Floor

Earth’s ocean floor is a vast, alien world, which remains almost entirely unexplored by humans. While satellites have managed to map almost 100 percent of the ocean floor at low resolutions, more than 80% of it has yet to be explored or mapped at higher resolutions.

James Cameron famously explored a portion of the Pacific Northern Valley, known as Challenger Deep with a one-man submersible. Challenger deep is thought to be the deepest known point in the Earth’s seabed, reaching a depth of 10,920 meters. Cameron’s dive managed to reach an impressive depth of 10,908 meters, setting the world record.

One of the main reasons why so much of the ocean floor has yet to be mapped is due to the difficulty of developing vessels which can survive the immense pressures and conditions present in the deepest parts of the ocean floor. The deepest portions of the Mariana Trench experience a pressure of eight tons per square inch, enough to crush the human body into a messy pulp.

Before the first divers made their first journey into Challenger Deep more than 50 years ago, it was thought that the bottom of the ocean was a muddy, lifeless desert. But since then, we’ve learned that the reality is quite the opposite. Life thrives in our oceans, and if we could explore these seemingly alien worlds, we might find new extremophiles and unknown lifeforms. A prospect that has many scientists excited.

8. Northern Forest Complex, Myanmar

The Northern Forest Complex in Myanmar remains one of the largest areas of uninterrupted wilderness in South Asia, extending across lowland forests, and wetlands filled with coniferous trees (meaning they have scale-like or needle-shaped leaves). And just above the Northern Myanmar tree line are the majestic, jagged snow-covered mountain peaks.

The region boasts some of the greatest biodiversity in South Asia, many areas remaining virtually untouched by human explorers. It’s believed that numerous species of tigers, elephants, and birds make up a significant portion of that biodiversity.

The heart of the forest is nearly 13,679 kilometers and is the world’s largest tiger reserve.

Despite the relative scarcity of human life in the forest, about 1 million people live around the forest’s borders, living both inland and on the adjacent coast.

Though much of the forest remains under environmental protection sanctions, many of those sanctions are expiring, which some experts suggest could lead to disaster for the future of the forest complex’s continued biodiversity. Illegal animal tracking continues to be a problem, China being a major player in the trade of exotic animals taken from the area.

7. Namibia Desert

The Namibia Desert is one of the most hostile places to life on Earth, and it’s currently thought to be the world’s oldest desert. Because of the extreme heat and arid conditions, the region remains almost entirely uninhabited.

The Skeleton Coast is as deadly as it is beautiful, with white sprawling sands and shipwrecks from bygone eras littering its shores as if warning of the dangers the desert might contain should it be visited by unwary travelers.

Despite this, the Namib Desert and the Skeletal Coast are home to a surprising array of wildlife, such as baboons, leopards, cheetah, and brown and spotted hyena, and hippos have been spotted from time to time wading in the waters of the Skeleton Coast.

The only real traffic the area experiences is due to important trade routes.

6. Hang Son Doong Cave, Vietnam

Hang Son Doong Cave was first discovered in 1990 by a local farmer named Ho Khanh, who was seeking shelter from a passing storm in the jungle. Ho Khanh noticed that clouds and the sound of a rushing subsurface river was coming from a massive hole in the limestone in the jungle. He survived the storm but got lost making his way out of the jungle, and the location of the cave was thought to have been lost for 18 years.

Fortunately for us, he rediscovered the entrance to the cave in 2008 while hunting. The cave is now thought to be one of the largest in the world, stretching an impressive five kilometers long and reaching heights of 200 meters. The first expedition to the cave, led by a group of UK divers, was unable to map the entire cave system, due to lacking the proper equipment to continue.

The cave is home to an impressively unique eco-system, featuring its own localized weather system. Extremely rare limestone cave pearls remain scattered throughout the cave, resting in dried pools, and it’s also home to the largest stalagmite ever discovered, measuring in at a staggering 80 meters.

Because of the delicate eco-system, people are not allowed to enter Son Doong Cave, and much of it remains unexplored. It is thought that the system could be even larger than original estimates suggested.

5. Sakha Republic, Russia

Despite being the largest administrative subdivision in the world, and the largest part of the Russian Federation, the Sakha Republic is a frozen wasteland, where ancient, extinct animals have long been preserved in permafrost. It gets as cold as -43.5 degrees Celsius in the winter, and only 19 degrees in summer. It’s one of the least populated places in the world, home to less than 1 million people despite being large enough to fit several countries inside of it.

Russian folklore tells that God flew over this immense expanse of frozen land, carrying Earth’s treasures, and because of the extreme cold, his hands froze, causing him to drop those treasures all throughout the Sakha Republic. The region is home to some of the richest deposits of natural resources, making up 82% of diamonds, 17% of gold, 61% of uranium, and 5% of iron ores in Russia.

Vast portions of wilderness in the Sakha Republic have been left completely unexplored by man.

4. Gangkhar Puensum, Bhutan

Considered to be the world’s tallest “unclimbed” mountain by many, Gangkhar Puensum’s peak has never been scaled, and it’s unlikely that anyone ever will if the government has anything to say about it. The peaks of Gangkhar Puensum are sacred to the people of Bhutan, and it’s considered an extreme taboo for anyone to attempt to scale its slopes and peaks.

But ordinances and taboos can’t stop everyone, and since part of the mountain extends across the Chinese border, the first and only attempt to assail it was led by a Japanese climbing team in 1998. They were stopped short of their goal to explore the uncharted mountain by political fueled outrage from Bhutan.

The mountain remains untrodden by humans.

3. Karjiang I, Tibet

When viewed from a distance, Karjiang mountain looks like a taller, icy mountain was smashed in by an asteroid, creating a large crater around which the sharp, frozen peaks point inward. Like most mountains in Tibet, it’s an incredible sight. With a height of 7,221 meters, Karjiang’s first peak remains one of the tallest unclimbed peaks in the world.

The Karjiang mountain rests near the Bhutan-China border in the Tibet Autonomous Region.

The last serious attempt to reach its summit was by a Dutch expedition in 2001. At some point in their climb, the Dutch explorers had to turn back due to harsh weather conditions, though they did manage to reach an elevation of 6,820 meters, climbing Karjiang III, before retreating.

While Karjiang I remains indominable, Karjiang II’s summit was reached in 1986 by a party of Japanese explorers led by N. Shigo.

The difficult with Karjiang I is that its slopes are prone to avalanches and the ever-shifting weather patterns make it nearly impossible to predict what conditions will be present during an expedition.

2. Greenland Northern Islands

Greenland is the world’s largest island, and it’s home to stunning glaciers and ice covered mountains which stab up from the Earth like jagged blades. The country is recognized as an autonomous part of Denmark, and most of it is uninhabited, featuring less than 58,000 residents. Greenland’s untamed landscapes tell a story dating back nearly 3.8 billion years and the few travelers that are able to venture there tell of how geological time seems uniquely evident when looking upon the country’s vast glaciated peaks and immensely diverse landscapes.

In 2005, melting polar ice revealed new islands, which escaped categorization when Greenland was first mapped nearly a century prior. The discovery of new lands connected to the immense island is just one of many secrets which could be revealed if climate change continues unimpeded. Scientists are very concerned that global warming could lead to the melting of the glaciers which cover most of the island’s interior.

The country’s largest geological feature, the Jakobshavn Glacier, moves at an incredible speed of 30 meters a day, faster than any other glacier on Earth.

It’s thought that this ice sheet was the source of the iceberg which sunk the Titanic.

1. Northern Patagonia, Chile

The vast wilderness of Northern Patagonia is home to temperate rainforests, glaciers, fjords, and hot springs, and it’s one of Chile’s least populated regions. While the Los Glaciares Park in Argentina and Torres del Paine National Park in Chile continue to be tourism hubs, outside of that area the wilderness remains largely unexplored. As many of the tourist sites touting the desirability of the area for its appeal to outdoorsmen attest, the safety of the average hiker depends greatly on which trails they choose to take. There are vast regions so inhospitable, that even the toughest explorer might have issues navigating the terrain.

The Aysen Region features hanging glaciers, immense fjords which take on complex patterns, stunning blue caverns, and steaming, dangerous rainforests.

The area is only accessible by the Carretera Austral, the name given to Chile’s Route 7 highway.

The ice fields are so vast, in fact, that they’re comparable to those found in the arctic circle and prove incredibly difficult to map properly.


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WIF DNA Travel

Out of the Way People – WIF Tribal Travel

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The World’s

Most

Isolated Tribes

The science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke once wrote that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. These technologies are commonplace to us, but even in our very modern world there are still a small number of remote tribes living a way of life largely unchanged for thousands of years.

Some of these tribes are so isolated that we know very little about them; others are classified as uncontacted.

This doesn’t necessarily mean they are entirely unaware of or have never encountered anybody from the outside world. All too often they are painfully aware of our existence, as their territory is invaded and their people murdered.

The uncontacted tag simply means that they have no ongoing peaceful contact with the outside world.

This list takes a closer look at the dwindling number of isolated and uncontacted tribes that still cling to existence in what is all too often a hostile world. The rainforests and islands seem to harbor most of them.

8. The Man of the Hole

Deep in the Brazilian rainforest the Man of the Hole lives one of the loneliest existences imaginable. He has survived entirely alone for more than twenty years; so far as is known he has not spoken to another human being in this entire time.

The man has been monitored at a distance since 1996 by FUNAI, a branch of the Brazilian Government dedicated to the protection of indigenous peoples, but even so he remains something of an enigma. His tribe is unnamed, his language unknown, and he has only ever been captured on a couple of grainy photographs and shaky video footage.

We do know that the Man of the Hole, who is believed to be around sixty years old, digs deep pits to capture animals and survives by hunting small prey with a bow and arrow. All attempts to communicate with the man have failed, and he has fired arrows at those attempting to do so.

This aggression is entirely understandable. It’s believed the rest of his tribe were massacred by farmers in 1995, leaving the man of the hole as the last surviving member of his tribe.

7. The Piripkura Tribe

Whatever the Man of the Hole’s people once called themselves, sadly they are not the only tribe facing imminent extinction.

The Piripkura Tribe, known as the butterfly people for the way they flit through the forest, now number no more than three. One of these, a woman called Rita, chose to abandon the nomadic lifestyle and her ancestral rainforest home. She has explained how she made her decision after her family and most of her tribe were murdered.

This leaves just two men, an uncle and his nephew, known as Tamandua and Pakyi. Efforts have to be made to locate the pair every two years in order to maintain their protection, but they are highly elusive and understandably suspicious of outsiders.

They have only a few possessions, the most important of which by far is their palm bark torch. This is so essential that it had been kept continuously lit for almost twenty years. However, in 2018 the flame finally went out.

Tamandua and Pakyi were forced to ask for help. They made contact only for long enough for their torch to be relit, before they once again disappeared back into the rainforest.

6. The Kahawiva Tribe

Once a numerous and settled people who produced much of their food through farming crops such as corn and sweet potatoes, the Kahawiva Tribe are now threatened with extinction. Their old way of life has been destroyed, and the last few survivors eke out a precarious, nomadic existence in Brazil’s Amazon Rainforest.

The rainforest itself is priceless, but its raw resources are worth billions. Loggers, ranchers, and miners have steadily moved in to occupy the Kahawiva Tribe’s territory. However, in 1988 Brazil ruled that any land occupied by indigenous tribes belonged to that tribe.

In some respects this was good news, but the new laws all too often failed to afford Indian tribes any real protection and brought unintended consequences. Many Indians were simply slaughtered by the encroaching forces of civilization. If the Indians weren’t there, they couldn’t have any rights to the land.

There are now as few as twenty to fifty members of the Kahawiva Tribe remaining. The settlements and gardens where they once grew their food have been abandoned. They now exist as hunter gatherers, moving from place to place. This has meant changing their traditional way of life, but their mobility affords them better opportunity to rapidly flee deeper into the forest at the first sign of danger.

5. The Dani People

Spanning 309,000 square miles the island of New Guinea is the second largest island in the world. It had been discovered by Portuguese explorers in 1527, but deep in the heart of its forested interior the Dani People had lived almost entirely undetected for centuries. That was until they were spotted by an eagle-eyed anthropologist named Richard Archbold as he flew overhead in 1938.

The Dani People’s way of life was based around farming, hunting and gathering. Their tools were created from wood, stone, and bone, and each of the men wore little more than a penis gourd. Women did most of the work, such as tending crops and looking after the children, and pigs were the measure by which a man’s wealth was measured

When Richard Archbold published his account of the Dani People, and what he described as their paradise on Earth, it caused something of a sensation.

Perhaps fortunately for the Dani People the rest of the world would be distracted by World War Two for the next several years, and they were left to their own devices for a little longer. However, hostilities eventually came to an end and the mysterious tribe in new Guinea had not been forgotten.

Missionaries descended on the island, all of them intent on civilizing and converting the Dani People.

These once isolated people have now become something of a tourist attraction. However, even now there are a handful of scattered villages where life goes on for the Dani People almost entirely untouched by the outside world. Their numbers are dwindling rapidly as their young people increasingly abandon the old way of life, and it remains to be seen how far into the Twenty-first Century their traditions can survive.

4. The Korubo Tribe

Sydney Possuelo is a Brazilian explorer who has probably done more than anybody else in history to discover and protect South America’s most isolated tribes. He has devoted his life to fighting for the rights of indigenous peoples, and he is rightly considered the world’s leading expert on remote Indian tribes.

Making first contact can be potentially dangerous, and this was certainly the case in 1996 when he led an expedition in search of the Korubo tribe.

Like many other Amazonian tribes, the Korubo are suspicious of outsiders. Many of them had been killed in clashes with ranchers, loggers, and other settlers. However, the Korubo tribe, also known as the club people in recognition of their favored weapon, fought back fiercely and had themselves killed many outsiders who trespassed on their territory.

Possuelo approached with caution, easing himself in gently by leaving gifts such as axes and knives for the Korubo Tribe to find.

This softly-softly approach proved successful, and Possuelo succeeded in convincing the tribe that he posed no threat. The tribe remain extremely isolated and rightfully suspicious of outsiders; what little we do know of them is largely thanks to Sydney Possuelo.

3. The Ayoreo-Totobiegosode

Across the globe something in the region of 31,000 square miles of forest is destroyed every year. This works out to an area roughly the size of Austria.

Nowhere is this deforestation happening faster than in Paraguay’s Gran Chaco Forest, where up to 14 million trees are cut down every month. This rapidly diminishing ecosystem is home to South America’s last uncontacted tribe outside of the Amazon basin.

The Ayoreo people are made up of numerous subgroups, the most isolated of these being the Totobiegosode, which translates as the people from the land of the wild pigs. For generations the Totobiegosode have lived off the forest, cultivating a few crops and hunting tortoises and boar. However, the destructive forces of civilization are drawing ever closer.

Hemmed in on all sides, with their ancestral lands being bulldozed to make way for cattle ranches and soy plantations, some Totobiegosode have emerged from the forest to ask for help. Others have been kidnapped and forced into slavery. As the outside world closes in, it brings diseases to which the tribe have no built up immunity. In recent years a tuberculosis epidemic has cut swathes through the community and cost many lives.

Nobody can be certain how many of the Totobiegosode still survive in the depths of Gran Chaco Forest or what the future holds for them. However, there was some good news in 1996 when the Ayoreo people were granted the land rights to 100,000 hectares of the Gran Chaco Forest. However, they believe this is less than half what may be needed to ensure the survival of their most isolated kin in the forest.

The struggle for land continues, and after a hard-fought, protracted battle the legal rights to another 18,000 hectares was secured from the government in 2019.

2. The Yanomami Tribe

The Yanomami Tribe are another of the isolated tribes that call the Amazon Rainforest home. However, their culture is rather different to most of the others. This is most apparent in that they don’t have any leaders. Rather than take orders from a chief, the tribe get together to discuss any important decisions that might need to be made. The outcome is only decided when group consensus is reached.

Around 20% of the Yanomami tribe’s diet is made up of the monkeys, birds, armadillo, and deer they hunt with bows and arrows. However, the hunter himself will never eat anything he has personally caught. It is instead shared out amongst others.

While the hunting is done almost exclusively by the men, the women use their extensive knowledge of the forest to gather berries and edible insects. It’s believed that they regularly make use of more than 500 different types of plants with which to provide medicine, body paints, dyes, poisons, and even hallucinogenic drugs.

In keeping with a hunter gatherer lifestyle, a typical working day of just four hours is enough to provide the Yanomami with everything they need to survive and thrive.

So far the Yanomami have fared better than many of South America’s isolated tribes, and it’s believed there are still around 35,000 of them living in up to 250 scattered villages across Brazil and Venezuela.

1. The Sentinelese

North Sentinel Island is a scrap of land covering barely more than 23 square miles. It can be found in the Bay of Bengal, just a few hundred miles from India, the world’s second most heavily populated country. Despite this, North Sentinel Island is one of the most remote and mysterious places on the planet.

Only a handful of outsiders have ever set foot on the island, and even fewer have made it off alive. It is home to the Sentinelese Tribe, arguably the most isolated tribe of anywhere on Earth, and somewhat paradoxically also one of the most famous.

Very little is known of the Sentinelese people. We don’t even have any clear idea of how many of them there are, with estimates ranging between anything from 15 to 500 individuals.

Their island home is under the protection of the Indian Government, which periodically attempts to take a census from the air. This is all that can be attempted; the Indian authorities have made it illegal to set foot on the island without permission, and permission to visit is almost never granted.

The law is designed not just to protect the islanders, who have no natural immunity to many common diseases, but also for the safety of any prospective explorers. The Sentinelese have shown little desire to interact with the wider world, they are skilled archers, and when they feel threatened they are prepared to defend themselves with force.

In 2018 this remote tribe became headline news across the world. An American missionary named John Chau paid local fishermen to illegally transport him to the island, where he intended to convert the locals to Christianity.

While there is no question that his actions were well intentioned, he placed both himself and the Sentinelese people in terrible danger.

Chau’s diary entry records that he offered gifts, only for a young boy to fire an arrow that struck his waterproof bible. The young American retreated but unfortunately failed to heed what was a very clear warning. His diary records that he determined to make another attempt to approach the Sentinelese people.

Sadly, his determination cost him his life. The Indian authorities concluded it would be too risky to attempt to recover his body.


Out of the Way People

WIF Tribal Travel

Fly Me to the Moon – WIF Aviation

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Incredible Commercial

Aircraft We Might

See in the Future

Obviously any article dealing with ‘future’ anything is largely speculation. This is doubly true in an industry that, despite seeing plenty of technological breakthroughs over the years, hasn’t really changed much in all that time because major overhauls are rarely worth the cost to implement. Regardless of what type of engine or propulsion system the aircraft has, you check your bags, get screened, stand in line, sit in crowded coach seats with a TV, round window, fold out tray and peanuts, or you get a little more legroom and champagne in first class. Airlines are airlines, is the point, and they have been for decades.

But that hasn’t stopped people from dreaming bigger, developing better and faster ways to travel via air. And with the age of fossil fuels coming to an end, who’s to say some of these ideas won’t finally see the light of day when aircraft designs are overhauled? We’ve collected a handful of the coolest ever commercial airline trends of the future. So lock your tray in the upright position and let’s take off.

7. Electric Air

It’s probably not too surprising that very few of the ideas that’ll grace this list, or any similar one, will revolve around burning fossil fuels. Why would they? Burning gas and coal is effective but dirty and archaic, and the world is sprinting towards renewable, clean energy sources. And if electric cars are making a splash, there’s no reason to expect we won’t be seeing electric planes in the hopefully not too distant future.

Small electric motors, like those featured on NASA’s X-57 prototype, will allow even a large aircraft’s propulsion to be distributed across the structure of the plane. Not only does this minimize the impact of a potential engine failure, but reduced operational costs and noise levels will greatly expand the ability of aircraft to travel near places of business and residence. That might sound like a nice enough, but ultimately small, improvement over the airline status quo. But in reality, it could transform commercial air travel from what are essentially flying passenger ships to modest air taxis, transporting goods and people nearly to the doorstep of their destination.

6. Biofuel Planes

As is the case with cars, ships, trains, or any transportation, really, electric aircraft propulsion isn’t the only option we’ve got to combat greenhouse-emitting fossil fuel dependency. Furthermore, given the decades-long service life of most passenger jets and various other frustrating factors, it’ll be two to three decades before we’re able to fully transition away from gas powered planes and onto something more environmentally sustainable, even if we started building electric ones exclusively starting tomorrow.

While we wait for that change, though, and get our ducks in a row, replacing fossil fuels with biofuels (special combustible crops, or algae) would reduce airline carbon emissions by 35-85%. It’s still important to keep in mind that biofuel cost parity with current fossil fuel sources is still a decade or more out. But like we said, that’s roughly half the time it’ll take (at least) to transition fully to electric power, and you can’t hammer away at prohibitive costs while sitting around complaining about them. The planet can’t wait forever for us to take its health seriously, so more green airplane tech is a noble goal to aim for.

5. Automation

Here’s another trend we’re seeing everywhere: the replacement of humans with machines. The military realized a while back that sending robots to the battlefield is infinitely better than putting boots on the ground, and now we have missile-launching, remote piloted drones doing the work of jet fighter pilots. Commercial airline pilots aren’t exactly in much danger, but then again, neither are cashiers, lawyers, truck drivers, delivery men, shelf stockers or even hospital orderlies, all of whom are in danger of losing their jobs to an algorithm that doesn’t even know it exists but can still perform better, cheaper and longer than even the best human for the same job.

There’s no reason to think that if automated cars are rapidly approaching, we won’t see equivalent when it comes to air travel. As travel increases, so too will the demand for pilots (the current global 200,000 is roughly about a third of what experts predict we’ll need in the next two decades). Facing such looming personnel shortages, a new system that requires no training, sick days or paychecks looks appealing indeed.

4. Tailless “Flying Wings”

This basic design is hardly new (think the SR-71 Blackbird), but it never got off the ground as far as commercial useable when it was first introduced, largely because it featured amphitheater-style seating in which passengers would sit in long rows rather than columns which allowed for easier movement. Imagine having to use the bathroom when you’ve got 25 people on either side of you… “Excuse me. Pardon me. I’m so sorry. Don’t go back to sleep, I’ll be back in a minute. Pardon me, sorry.” But that’s fixable if you put your mind to it.

Now imagine the vast majority of aircraft passengers having no windows in such a design. Now that could be an issue, because the lack of visual references would result in dizziness and sickness. As if most commercial jets aren’t unpleasant enough. But with new electric engineering, the possibilities to replace the drab interior of an airliner with advanced screens are endless. You could project just about anything onto them. The easiest thing would be to simply let folks see what’s just outside. Imagine being surrounded by clouds during a flight, rather than having to observe them through a tiny window. That might seem unnecessary and pointlessly expensive, but tailless planes would eliminate the need for currently required elevators, rudders and, well, tails, all of which strangle maneuverability and add significant, fuel-burning drag.

3. Supersonic Travel

Speed. It’s the one, seemingly basic arena of commercial flight that’s gone backwards in recent decades, rather than forwards. The hook-nosed Concorde aircraft allowed for supersonic passenger jet travel as far back as the 1970s (its maiden flight was 1969), after all. But ballooning costs, frequent malfunctions and the unacceptability of sonic booms over metro areas forced airlines to mothball these and similar craft indefinitely. But not everyone gave up the dream.

Recognizing that costs are as much to blame for the lack of Jetsons-level society as inadequate technology, Silicon Valley startup Boom Supersonic has been working tirelessly to reintroduce faster-than-sound commercial air travel at lower costs. Other projects with similar ambitions are popping up, too, such as the still under development Aerion AS2. But even those quite literally deafeningly fast planes would be snacking on the dust of DLR’s suborbital hypersonic SpaceLiner, which could take you (at speeds in excess of Mach 25) from London to Sydney in an hour and a half. The availability of such rapid travel would revolutionize the planet in ways that are difficult to imagine.

2. Revolutionized Interiors

Not all airline-changing ideas have to do with aerodynamics, fuel efficiency or propulsion systems. One area that’s been in desperate need of overhaul for decades is the cramped, groan-inducing interiors of nearly every commercial passenger jet. There’s som variation in accommodations, but not much. Most are riffs on the same one or two lane design that stuffs miserable commuters shoulder to shoulder with about a half-inch of legroom and a bag of dry peanuts.

Luckily, Hamburg Aviation’s Crystal Cabin Awards aim to award anyone – please, anyone – who can design the next generation of airborne commuter comfort. The link above has no shortage of eye popping ideas. There’s Airbus’s winning submission, featuring spacious seating and an app that lets commuters order food, communicate with the crew and set lighting and temperature for their seats. AerQ also had a game changing idea, to do away with the class barriers that separate first and economy class seating and only serve to increase the claustrophobic conditions of spending several hours in a giant metal tube. Aident went in another direction entirely and straight up added a bed to the economy section. The ideas are out there, airlines. Assuming any of you survive the Covid-19 crisis, think about implementing one or two of them. For the sake of our knees and sanity.

1. Privatized Space Flight

Don’t expect to be on the moon in the next few years unless you’re already working for NASA. But in little but steady increments, private companies like Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic are beginning to take the reigns of space flight from government funded giants the world over. Cost, of course, is and always has been the main issue. But only by diligently swinging away at those barriers can they ever be reduced. Right now, the cost of lifting cargo into orbit is plummeting. Again, it won’t be at levels where we can expect to head to the star port for a Thursday afternoon business meeting on a space station for quite some time. But it’s on exactly the trajectory we want it to be on.

Other advances have been made towards reusable rockets (as opposed to long-existing and current models where we have to dump the spent boosters into the ocean), and in low cost resupply runs to keep in-orbit craft fully stocked for the long haul. Investor seeding and government co tracts are currently the only way to keep the private space-minded giants funded. But hopefully sooner than we think, rich benefactors will be the first private passengers beyond the planets atmosphere. Their money will make further developments easier to reach, which will in turn drive down costs even more.


Fly Me to the Moon

WIF Aviation

Curious Europe on a Dime – WIF Travel

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Interesting Facts

About Europe

Isn’t it scary how many people don’t know if Europe is a country or a continent? Wow…
What kind of expectations should we have from the poor, ignorant people if even the president called Europe a country?!

Now, let’s give the man the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he wanted to say “countries like in Europe” and not “countries like Europe”

But it is a continent and a quite enchanting one at that.

10. Istanbul, the City of Two Continents

Since ancient times, Magical Istanbul has united Asia and Europe through the mighty Strait of Bosporus. Without a doubt, this amazing city is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Istanbul is the only metropolis in the world bridging two continents. Istanbul was Europe’s Capital of Culture in 2010, a program initiated by the European Union.

Throughout history, the city has been the capital of many empires. Napoleon Bonaparte once said: “If the earth was a single state, Istanbul would be its capital.”

If you are considering breakfast in Asia and lunch in Europe, Istanbul is the place for you!

9. Europe’s Most Famous and Active Volcanoes

Etna is Europe’s largest active volcano. With a maximum elevation of about 3350 m, Mount Etna is a stratovolcano situated in Sicily, southern Italy.

The tallest European volcano is actually one of the most active volcanoes in the world. Etna erupted again this year and one of the most recent eruptions occurred at the end of July. You can look for updates on this topic browsing the website of Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia. An English version is available. The volcano’s eruptions have been documented since ancient times, more exactly since 1500 BC. It’s the longest period of documented eruptions in the world.

Stromboli is also one of the planet’s most active volcanoes. It is one of the eight Aeolian Islands (Isole Eolie), a volcanic archipelago off the coast. According to specialists, Stromboli is the only active volcano on the European mainland.

Mount Vesuvius, best known for its eruption that completely destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum, last erupted 67 years ago, in 1944.

Vatnajökull (Iceland) is the largest European glacier in volume and underneath its ice-cap are at least seven volcanoes located.

8. The Largest/Smallest Country in the World

Image result for vatican

Europe is home to both the smallest country in the world, Vatican City State

(Stato della Città del Vaticano), and the largest, Russia (by both population and area). China is the country with most neighbors (15), followed by Russia (14) and Brazil (10).

According to the CIA World Factbook, Russia’s area compromises 17,098,242 sq km (land 16,377,742 sq km; water 720,500 sq km), while Vatican’s area is only 0.44 sq km. The Vatican City State is a UNESCO world heritage centre, the only site to encompass an entire state.

7. The Merry Cemetery in Romania

Cemeteries are often sad places, but they can also be amusing and entertaining. Sapanta, in Northern Romania, is worldwide famous for its Merry Cemetery, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Sapanta is a unique cemetery and a major touristic attraction.  What is so unusual about it? The atypical design of the tombstones. The tombstones are big crosses sculpted from oak wood. They are painted by hand in vivid colors such as red, blue, green, yellow and engraved with funny epitaphs briefly describing the life or the circumstances in which these persons passed away.

The man behind this concept is Romanian craftsman Ioan Stan Patras, who started sculpting the crosses in 1935. The ancient culture of the Dacians, the Romanian’s ancestors, viewed death as liberation and the soul as immortal. Sapanta preserves this positive attitude towards death and welcomes it with a smile.

6. The Statue of Liberty was Constructed in France

 

Unknown to many of us, the famous Statue of Liberty was designed by Frédéric Bartholdi. The colossal neoclassical sculpture was constructed in France and given as a gift of friendship to the United States of America. Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, the brilliant French engineer behind the Eiffel Tower in Paris, made the statue’s steel framework.

The total overall height of the statue  is 305 feet, 6 inches, and the seven rays on Lady’s Liberty crown represent the seven continents.

Replicas of Lady Liberty have been created all over the world, the most famous being located in France.

5. Europe, the Meaning

Image result for europa myth

According to ancient Greek mythology, Europa was a beautiful Phoenician princess. She was the daughter of Agenor, king of Tyre. Zeus felt in love with Europa, so he decided to appear in front of her as a magnificent white bull to gain her trust. Zeus’s power of metamorphosis is a key element in Greek mythology.

The princess climbed on the bull’s back and was immediately carried to Crete, where Zeus revealed himself to Europa in all his glory. The king of Gods and Europa had three children – Sarpedon, Minos and Rhadamanthys.

Etymologically speaking, the word Europe comes from ancient Greek and means broad, wide-gazing, broad of aspect.

4. The Mediterranean Was Once a Desert

Image result for Messinian Salinity Crisis

In the last 40 years solid evidence has been found that the Mediterranean Sea frequently dried up completely in the past. The event is also known as the Messinian Salinity Crisis. The amazing story of the discovery is told in “The Mediterranean Was a Desert, Voyage of the Glomar Challenger”  by Kenneth J. Hsu.

According to Rob Butler, “the ‘Salinity Crisis’ in the Mediterranean represents one of the most dramatic examples environmental change outside of glaciated areas in the relatively young geological record.”

3. Greatest Empires

Many of the greatest empires in history were based in Europe. The British Empire was at one time the largest empire in the world. It covered more than 36 million square kilometres and had a population between 480 and 570 million people. At the peak of the Empire’s power, it was said that the “sun never sets” on it, because the sun was always shining on at least one part of the Empire. It covered a quarter of the Earth’s surface.

Other notable colonial empires were the Spanish Empire, the Russian Empire, the French Empire, the Portuguese Empire etc.

The Roman Empire, a pre-colonial empire, often described as the cradle of modern civilization, was one of the world’s most successful empires.

2. The Longest Names

Image result for Llanfair

Prepare yourself for some of the longest names officially recognized. It is hard to beat Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu, the M?ori name for a hill in New Zealand, but let’s give it a try.

A village in Wales, United Kingdom contains 58 letters and is the longest European one-word place-name. Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch means “Saint Mary’s Church in the hollow of the white hazel near a rapid whirlpool and the Church of St. Tysilio of the red cave.” The shorter version of this name is Llanfairpwllgwyngyll.

Check out these other unusually long names: Äteritsiputeritsipuolilautatsijänkä, located in Finland, Siemieniakowszczyzna in Poland and Newtownmountkennedy in Ireland.

1. Age of Migrations

The “Age of Migrations” remains one of the most unknown facts about Europe. There was a period in history, also called the Migration Period, when various tribes flooded Europe.

The first phase of the migration movement came to an end around 500 AD, when the Germanic tribes (Franks, Goths, Saxons, Vandals, Lombards etc.) established their own kingdoms in Central, Western, Southern and SE Europe. This period was followed by the second phase of the Migration Period ((ca. 500-700 AD), the migration of the Slavic people.

The invasions of the Avars and Bulgarians, the Muslim Conquest of Sicily, the Hungarian Invasions and the invasion of the Vikings are other important moments in European history.

This is how the rich course of history has shaped and defined Europe’s peoples and their intangible culture over the centuries.


Enchanting Europe on a Dime

WIF Travel

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 129

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 129

…The Air Jamaica aircraft lifts up and away from the seaside airport, not being a very long flight, they barely get above 20,000 feet

20000 ft by Photojournalist Rdiger Nehmzow

Old Francine

“Do you possibly have an open seat somewhere — you know what I mean?” she points and whispers to a flight attendant, wanting to escape her sweaty human sandwich. “What is the holdup Miss?”

Old Francine would have thrown an absolute fit and shouted her way off the plane, accomplishing absolutely nothing except drawing undue attention to her disrespectful derrière.

New Francine

“We are under a security alert, something going on to the west, sort of like a red light in the sky.” A loaded passenger plane sitting on the taxiway for two hours is borderline cruel and unusual. “We just had a single window seat, 3A open up, why don’t we move you up?”

New Francine asks for the attendant’s name, “I will be writing a letter praising your service to Air Jamaica, thank you.”

Just after staking her claim at the front of the jet, the calming voice of the Captain fills the cabin, “Good afternoon passengers of Air Jamaica Flight 217 nonstop to Related imageHouston Texas. We will be taking off shortly and we thank you for your patience. The stewardesses will be handing out complimentary beverages.”

“If he weren’t the oldest pilot in the fleet, I would be offended.”

“At least he didn’t call you an airplane waitress…I’ll have a vodka rocks please,” Francine relates her similar story of having been introduced, early in her career, in a pre-sweeps station promo, as anchor-girl Francine Bushel.

The jet aircraft lifts up and away from the seaside airport. It is not a very long flight and they barely get above 20,000 feet, but the view from her window is nonstop fantastic, with Cuba fading into background of the azure Gulf-blue waters and the familiar soil and foliage of the Gulf Coast states rising to the north.

Like tiny islands, oil drinking platforms dot the water below, but one in particular seems to be the hub of activity. She reaches down to her carry-on to retrieve her trusty pair of field glasses, every good reporter has one, and gets a 20x power view of the action. She pulls back, rubs her eyes to make sure she isn’t seeing things, the one thing being the familiar blue & white paint scheme of Roy’s helicopter; blades idling, atop the one acre pedestal. There are a good thirty-odd people mulling about, many of whom belong to that huge Coast Guard cutter lashed to the side.


THE RETURN TRIP

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 128

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 128

…“You take care Missy and if you don’t mind me saying, you would be wise to hitch your wagon to that astronaut guy.”

“He is something special isn’t he?”…

Image result for something special artwork

Who’s in that other chopper,” Gus points.

With everything secure, the unarmed aircraft settles down nearby.

“That is Uncle Roy’s Sikorsky, wow!” Deke McKinney is beside himself, both off and running into the arms of their joint Godfather.

“This is not the way home from school, boys,” Roy states the obvious.

“We’re the last ones on the bus and they nabbed us at the end of the driveway, nearly scared old Frank the bus driver half to death.”

“I’m sorry boys. We should have had some security for you two rascals.”

“Why would they grab two kids like us? The only thing we could understand, besides “shut up” was Allah this and Allah that”, what does god have to do with kidnapping?” Deke wonders

Roy parses his words, “Some people use their gods as a cause for mischief, especially those who are jealous of a unified planet.”

“That is dumb,!” Gus proclaims.

“Dumb.” echoes Deke

“Dumb,” and Roy makes three.

Not at all dumb and equally as patient, Francine sits on a crowded Air Jamaica jet, currently under an unexplained ground stop. She knows that Roy has his hands full, so she does not fret over her failing to receive desired updates. But it doesn’t help that she has drawn the short straw: middle seat between two overweight natives.

She is also fortunate that she still had a KHST Press credential when it came to poor Roger’s attempts to get all her stuff {luggage-purchases-Roy’s luggage} into the cargo bay in the belly of the MD-110. Once she was all set and ready to go, she shares her genuine feelings for Roger the Dodger. It has been a whirlwind term of service for the affable driver and his valuable flexibility has made her stay worth the price of admission. “You take care Missy and if you don’t mind me saying, you would be wise to hitch your wagon to that astronaut guy.”

“He is something special isn’t he?” She reflects on what is important in life. It is not Old Francine in control here, who would be sure to view Roy Crippen as a dull knife and dismissing him for anything but a great story source. “I believe we have an understanding, Rog. And we will be in touch, I promise.”


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 125

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 125

…Where are Gus and Deke headed now, or are you going to tell me they are dead, which caused Braden to have a coronary

Burning the Midnight Oil by Mick Dean

After Roger Rodrigues drops his passenger off at the Montego Bay airport, Roy is off and running across the tarmac to the hanger that houses his waiting Sikorsky, without waiting for that occasional luggage ferry. After pat-down customs check and a quick systems run-through, he is towed into open space and cleared for takeoff. At about 300 feet the fuselage turns toward a west-by-northwest direction and rising, coming to 180 MPH cruise speed posthaste.

Sikorsky S-92

After an hour of thinking that someone forgot to pay his satellite bill, his NASA device comes to life, this time with a face other than the Communication Director.

“Are you there Roy?” asks the new voice.

“I was wondering what was going on. Am I on the pay-no-mind-list or what?”

Silence… For the third time silence…”Braden King was taken to the GLC infirmary, he passed out cold.”

“I could tell he was struggling with something, but he is fit for a sixty-year-old.”

“He had a reason for dropping on & off…the McKinney boys were taken 65 minutes ago……….”

“Don’t tell me, by a f***ing Mi-38 Hind?”

“Oh so you knew?”

“A lucky guess. It seems to me that there is a base of those beggars, probably in one of those drug-states across the Rio Grande.” Roy thinks out loud, Where are Gus and Deke headed now, or are you going to tell me they are dead, which caused Braden to have a coronary?”

“They were flown out into the Gulf of The Americas and were apparently put on a boat or a drilling platform.”

“Which is it?”

“We aren’t sure, with all the fuss about that Samiq Gaad episode going on, we were distracted.”

“For God’s sake why can’t we defend our own territory anymore? I think we need a change in the White House... you did not hear me say that, or the fact that President Sanchez is too cozy with the country of his father & mother!”

Pedro “Pete” Sanchez is the first United States citizen {President} whose parents are not. The Hispanic majority had finally got its wish.

“I am going to buzz every oil rig from Cuba to Texas and you are going to let me know if Braden takes a turn.”

“Yes Sir.”


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 122

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 122

…The situation is fraught with tension, each and every passing minute brings new developments, like looking over the edge of a cliff…

Cliff Walk – Edge of Nowhere (Video Game)

As Roger pulls up, they pile everything into the back seat, “Take us back to the hotel.”

“You got it boss.”

“Francine will be staying behind… you are going to get me back to my helicopter!”

Roger the Dodger

— Roger does not spare the horses, all 300 HP in his 1969 SS model that replaced his mini Honda Civic, to race headlong on to Montego Bay and Sangster International. Perhaps it was his police training, but no finer a display of cutting corners and ability to dodge slow traffic, hence his dodger moniker.

It is a good thing his NASA-issued device is fully charged. He is in constant contact with the covert trifecta of CIA, FBI, and NSA, as well as an audio feed from JET {Joint Emergency Taskforce}, a cooperative agency whenever foreign nationals are involved.

“Radar has lost the two choppers that nabbed Samiq Gaad, somewhere over Honduras,” Braden King is monitoring what information Roy is getting, editing out conflicting reports, giving him the best guidance once he leaves Jamaica.

“I think two Navy F-77s are on their trail, their heading checks out on my navigation app.” He urges Roger to push it, counting on him to get to his hanger in one piece. “What is the deal with Afridi’s family?”

Silence… Nothing on the other end of the satellite connection. The situation is fraught with tension, each and every passing minute brings new developments, like looking over the edge of a cliff.

“Braden, are you there, your face is frozen on my end?”

“I’m sorry Roy, had to catch my breath, having trouble keeping up… Afridi took a few {bullets} from a known Talibanistani operative, we are told…the passengers subdued him, but they were at 38,000 feet and started to lose pressurization, pretty scary I guess. Afridi tells the US Marshall he has some more information to tell you, something about the Sang-Ashi probe. This Talibanistan/Korean connection is gaining traction with the Incident Audit folks,” Braden is like a juggler w/four balls in the air.

“Are you almost ready to get off the ground Roy? It looks like you were right about those Navy fighters… they shot down one Russki Chopper and have another grounded.”

“We are pulling up to Sangster now; my bird is fueled and ready to go!” Roger’s 300 hundred horses=60 miles in 30 minutes. “What’s with all these Mi-38s in our airspace? Should I get a heading for Honduras or what……?”

Again…


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 121

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 121

…“We’ve got a big problem Roy!” Braden King is on the phone with an update, “And to top off a perfectly wonderful day, Deke and Gus never made it to the bus that takes them home to King Ranch.”…

Image result for a problem artwork

Houston, We have a Problem by Dadara

Roy’s text stream reads a continuous, HOUSTON UNDER ATTACK!!!!!!….

The details of which are just coming in:

***   Samiq Gaad {alias Gurkhas Shah Dhangotma} freed before being transferred to Washington D.C. — Two Mil Mi-38 Hind Russian Attack Helicopters headed south out of Houston — Possibly on way to Central or South America ***

***   Aldona Afridi critically wounded on a flight to Galveston from Turkey — Shooter apprehended by US Marshall aboard ***

 “We’ve got a big problem Roy!” Braden King is on the phone. “An hour ago 2 helicopters and a small army attacked the motorcade that was transporting Samiq Gaad to the CIA office in Dallas. They were able to free Gaad and take off to God knows where.”

“Who is Samiq Gaad?”

“He is the imposter you captured back at Gantry #2, you know hero stuff? You knew him as Gurkhas Dhangotma.”

“At least they got that straightened out.”

“On top of that, your friend Aldona Afridi was ambushed in the washroom on a Turkish Airlines Airbus A2100 in the middle of the Atlantic last night. The latest news about that is sketchy, but he was on his way for an interview at Lovell SC and he is still alive.”

“I asked him to come to LVC… I didn’t think he would get security clearance so quickly,” Roy is starting to feel guilty about his absence.

“And to top off a perfectly wonderful day, Deke and Gus never made it to the bus that takes them home to King Ranch.”

“I am on my way back to Houston,” he tells Braden.

After a few minutes of texting back and forth with the NSA, some of which is sorting the known facts from the suppositions, Roy makes his best judgment call.

“I heard your end of the conversation, just go,” Francine can tell that their fairy tale has come to a screeching halt.

“Are you alright with staying here? I do not want you in the line fire again.”

“I’m a big girl, I’ll be alright here,” she grabs his chin to get his attention. “You better give me updates when you can. I am going to book a commercial flight back to my apartment in Houston, but you can bet that I’ll be working the story on my end and see if I can track down some leads.”

“I will keep you in the loop Francine,” he gives her a huge reassuring kiss. “Just remember, I have that job for you when get back, so be ready to rock!”


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