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The comic tragedy of Balloonfest ‘86

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In September 1986, as part of a United Way fundraiser, the city of Cleveland released 1.5 million balloons simultaneously in a bid to get into the Guinness Book of World Records. As this short documentary by Nathan Truesdell shows, things didn’t really go according to plan.

Nathan Truesdell’s short documentary, Balloonfest, depicts the helium-filled spectacle using archival news footage from local television stations. When the balloons are first released, they form a mass of colorful orbs that wraps around Cleveland’s Terminal Tower, by turns resembling a meteorological phenomenon, a mushroom cloud, or a locust infestation. The image is both awe-inspiring and haunting.

The local news footage is kind of amazing. One of the news reporters inexplicably kisses a woman goodbye he’d just interviewed on-air. When the balloons are released, another commentator screams that America doesn’t have crappy ol’ Cleveland to kick around anymore because baaaallllllloooooooooooons!!

I remember seeing this stunt when I was a kid, probably on Tom Brokaw on NBC’s Nightly News broadcast. This kind of ballooning was big in the mid-80s. Right around the same time, we did a balloon release at school. Each student tied a card with their name and the school’s address on it onto a helium balloon in the hope that whoever found the balloon would write back with their location, which locations would collectively be plotted on a map for unspecified learning purposes. I never heard back about my balloon, and I don’t think anyone else did either.

Balloon messaging turns out to be a very low bandwidth communications medium — and not very good for the environment either. Sometime after Balloonfest ‘86, mass balloon releases began to be discouraged as people realized it was actually just littering on a massive scale and harmful to wildlife. Fun while it lasted though, I guess.

Tags: Nathan Truesdell   video
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macjustice
39 days ago
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Fuck this was stupid.
Seattle
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Epic prank by seniors at Seattle high school fills parking lot with bike-share bicycles

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Updated, June 8, 12:05 p.m. PT: More details from LimeBike have been added to the story below.

If you need a LimeBike in North Seattle today, your best bet would be to head for the parking lot behind Ballard High School.

An epic prank by seniors at the school resulted in dozens of bike-share bicycles being parked in the spaces reserved for cars. Bikes from LimeBike, Spin and Ofo are seen in photographs shared on Twitter and reported on by the community website MyBallard.

“Big props to the seniors, this is outstanding!” Principal Keven Wynkoop said in the MyBallard story, which noted that senior prank day is an annual event.

Another tweet was equally hilarious in that it showed the cluster of LimeBikes on one user’s smartphone app, which is used to locate and unlock the nearest bike.

English teacher Gordon MacDougall told KING 5 that a student told him that LimeBike may have delivered a truckload of the bikes, but a spokesperson for the company later confirmed to the station and GeekWire that it did not participate in the prank, but helped clean up afterward.

KING 5 also reported that a porta-potty was placed in the principal’s parking space with a sign on front that read “Head Beaver.” Ballard High’s mascot is the Beavers.

And it seems the kids at Ballard weren’t the first to pull off such a stunt. LimeBike itself blogged last month about a prank at Rockford East High School in Illinois, and used the opportunity to comment on what it all says about American car culture.

LimeBike, Spin, and Ofo and their green, orange and yellow dockless bikes are a colorful presence in Seattle these days. A recent report by the Seattle Department of Transportation said that the bike-sharing program has led to 10,000 bikes in the city, which have been ridden 468,000 times from July 2017 to the end of the year.

The prank seems like a fun enough diversion compared to other ways the bikes have been mishandled. And it’s definitely better than the dangerous vandalism that has included the cutting of brake lines on some bicycles.

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macjustice
40 days ago
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Seattle
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Slip Coaches: Back When British Express Trains Detached Passenger Cars at Speed [ARTICLE]

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According to British railway lore, the “slip coach” was born when a rail official was riding in a train car that came an unexpected stop. The rest of the express train kept going while his carriage glided to a gentle halt in front of a midway station. As the story goes, the coupling chain broke in transit, so the guard on the slipped car used his handbrake to slow and guide it carefully to a halt alongside the platform. Fascinated by the accident, the official wondered: could we do this on purpose? Thus, in the mid-1800s, train operators began detaching passenger cars in motion, sending them into stations without motive power of their own.

The more likely actual origin story is a little less sudden and dramatic, but nonetheless fraught. Before slip cars, there were reckless rail car detachments — a locomotive might simply slow down a bit to provide some give while an engineer decoupled rear cars on the fly.

Once a slip coupling was developed, there was theoretically no limit to the number of cars that could be slipped or how many times it could be done along a route. An express train between London and Glasgow could, for instance, drop a few cars off in one smaller town or city along the way, then a few others in another (as long as there was a guard manning a set of brakes in the lead car slipped at each stop). The slipped cars could then open up to let riders off, or be attached to another train, routing them along without people needing to transfer.

Passengers boarding a typical car of this kind could expect to be locked in for the duration of the journey, largely for their own safety. Unable to access restaurant cars, however, some customers complained,, and corridor-accessible variants were developed. But these led to other concerns — for instance, what if a car was slipped while someone was away from their car or between cars? A lot depended on the guard, ultimately, who had to time things and watch signal lights on the car ahead to cue his release. The main train operator also had to be careful — in at least one case, accidentally slowing down post-slip resulted in a collision with a detached car behind running into the main train.

By 1914, close to 100 cars were being slipped each day. At its peak, the British rail network had as many as 200 working slip cars. But while the system was used for close to a century in Britain, it did have its costs and drawbacks. Each slipped car set required its own guard, as well as people to reattach the cars, adding to personnel needs. And while cars could be detached on the move, they couldn’t be as easily reattached.

As trains grew faster, the prospect of disconnecting cars at speed also became increasingly fraught with potential danger. In the end, due to costs and other concerns, the last slip journey took place in 1960 (a historic final trip that was documented in the video above).

The basic idea of dividing cars continued on, though. In some cases, trains halt to detach cars that are then reconnected to a new engine. In others, multiple locomotives are connected for a stretch, then separate at a stop before continuing under their own power. Such divided-train systems have made their way across Europe and to the United States.

But while modularity persisted, the most exciting (and dangerous) element was dropped from the mix — jettisoning cars in motion.

The post Slip Coaches: Back When British Express Trains Detached Passenger Cars at Speed appeared first on 99% Invisible.

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jad
40 days ago
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macjustice
41 days ago
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Seattle
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1 public comment
JimB
39 days ago
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Innovation born of accident

Was there an unannounced missile launch on Whidbey Island early on Sunday morning?

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Greg Johnson of Skunk Bay Weather on the northern Kitsap Peninsula has one of the most impressive weather cam facilities in the nation, including high quality digital cameras photographing the clouds at night.  He is an extremely reliable weather observer.

But early Sunday morning he picked up something that is both startling and unexpected:  what looks like a missile launch from Whidbey Island.

Here is the picture (with a 20-second exposure) at 3:56 AM Sunday morning from one of his cameras (looking north towards Whidbey Island).  Can you see the bright vertical streak on the left side of the figure?   Note the illumination both inside and outside the cloud.  It really looks like the ascent of a rocket.


Greg provided me with a close up of the top portion of the image (see below).   Really looks like an ascending missile.


For your orientation, the map below shows the location of the Skunk Bay camera (red circle) and Whidbey Island Naval Air Station (blue circle)


I have never heard of rocket launches from Whidbey Island Air station in Oak Harbor.   And checking online, I can not find any discussion of this feature.

This feature does not look like a meteor, nor are there any meteor reports for the area that I could find online.  The lightning networks did not show a strike in that area.

Scott Sistek at KOMO TV says that they contacted the Navy about it yesterday.   The Whidbey NAS spokesperson says they don’t have missile launch facilities there; Navy west coast spokesman said no ships in area.

Was there a missile launch on Sunday AM?   Is there some other explanation of this feature?

I would be interested if someone had some insights into this siting.



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macjustice
41 days ago
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Seattle
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Attempts to weaken the ACA seem to have lowered uninsured rates of Democrats and increased rates among Republicans.

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Attempts to weaken the ACA seem to have lowered uninsured rates of Democrats and increased rates among Republicans.

↩︎ Vox

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macjustice
78 days ago
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Seattle
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Bradley Chambers on Apple’s Education Strategy

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Bradley Chambers, in his summary of last week’s Apple education event:

Apple’s next book for education needs to be about reinventing everything. Part of the Tim Cook doctrine is this:

“We believe that we need to own and control the primary technologies behind the products we make, and participate only in markets where we can make a significant contribution.”

This doctrine should apply to education as well. If Apple believes they can make a significant contribution to schools, then they should go all in to change everything about school technology. They should buy major a textbook publisher and change the purchasing model for books when you deploy iPads. They should buy (or buy back) a student information system platform and integrate it with all of their new apps.

They should build a viable alternative to G-Suite that makes it easy for schools to manage communications. They should do all of this at a price where the least affluent districts can deploy it as easily as the most affluent ones.

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macjustice
85 days ago
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Apple's education and enterprise strategies are non-existent. As somebody who manages Macs for a living, I wish they would decide whether they're committed to the sector or not.
Seattle
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