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Not There Yet

Not There Yet

Author: Terence C. Gannon

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The Not There Yet podcast is a ongoing series of short essays covering a wide range of subjects from the perspective of the third decade of the 21st century. They are intended to be thought provoking, challenging, skeptical and hopefully funny once in a while. They are sometimes conventional in nature and others are a little more experimental. They cover science, history, sports, technology, philosophy or just about whatever subject comes to mind. Sometimes they look forward, other times they look back. They will not, however, take up a lot of your time and will be told in an interesting and accessible way.
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Getting back on a plane may look more like the past than the future. I originally wrote The Return of the Golden Age of Air Travel in April of this year and published it on May 1st. It was a visceral response to the early days of COVID-19. As the summer wore on, I felt that maybe the piece was a reflection of a relatively short period which was, for the most part, behind us. Sadly, that's turned out not to be the case. Things might already be worse than they have ever been. So I dusted off this stream-of-conciousness jumble of reminiscenses of travel gone by mixed with an argument that the nature of travel in the future is forever changed. Furthermore, future travel might well more closely resemble travel of the past. I hope you enjoy the essay and that it gives you pause to think about your own relationship with travel. Thank you so much for listening. — Terence C. Gannon, October, 2020 Listen to the essay with the play button, above. The text can be found on Medium where it was published on May 1st, 2020. They key image for this episode shows passengers on a Trans-Canada Airlines DC-8 have pre-dinner drinks in the lounge. (image/caption: AirlineRatings.com)
Some thoughts on a failed Olympic bid and what it tells us about the shocking randomness of how we build our cities. Although it has been many years since I last wrote computer code ‘to save my life’ I still vividly remember the five basic phases of the Cost of Change Curve associated with software development projects. While the fine details are now dim and distant the basic idea is this: the cost of making a given change rises exponentially as we work our way from the first phase, Requirements, through the intermediate Analysis, Coding and Testing phases and then finally to the Production phase. Plot the costs on a graph and the main characteristic is the skyward-to-infinity spike as we get to the latter phases of the project... Listen to the rest by clicking the play button, above. The text version of this essay can be found on Medium where it was published contemporaneously. They key image for this episode is of Pacific Electric Railway cars awaiting destruction on Terminal Island, California in 1956. (image credit: UCLA Library Digital Collections)
Amy Johnson

Amy Johnson

2019-08-0929:43

A remarkable life and the enduring mystery of her tragic death. The late arrival of the inbound flight she had piloted from Hatfield, in Hertfordshire, prevented Amy Johnson from departing Prestwick, Scotland any earlier than 4.00 pm on that afternoon in early January of 1941. Darkness was already beginning to fall. The most direct route from Prestwick to her eventual destination of Royal Air Force base Kidlington, near Oxford, took Amy Johnson right over Blackpool where Amy’s sister Molly and her husband Trevor lived in nearby Stanley Park. The thought of a meal, spending time with family and a decent night’s sleep must have had a lot of appeal rather than slogging further southeastwards in thoroughly awful conditions and at night. She landed the Airspeed Oxford twin-engine trainer at RAF Squires Gate just south of Blackpool proper, and secured the plane for the night. It was just another ordinary day in her life as a ferry pilot working in the dark midst of World War II... Listen to the rest by clicking the play button, above. The text version of this essay can be found on Medium where it was published contemporaneously. They key image for this episode is Amy Johnson at the controls of ‘Jason’ in Australia in 1930 at the conclusion of her record setting flight. (image credit: Ted Hood via State Library of New South Wales)
Champion of Something

Champion of Something

2019-07-2517:26

Dad did his fair share of dreaming big. Particularly when it came to his kids. On a whim in the summer of 1976—no doubt in part because he wanted to drive his shiny silver Alfa Romeo on the twisty and dangerous road through the mountains—my father suggested I have a stab at the Model Aeronautics Association of Canada National Championships held that year in Calgary, Alberta. This was on the strength of some spotty success at similar local model airplane competitions. Dad did his fair share of dreaming big. Particularly when it came to his kids. For my part, I thought it was a perfectly fine idea, and duly registered to compete in the ‘Standard Sailplane’ category. These were models of around eight foot wingspan, without any sort of motor, controlled by the pilots located safely on the ground and connected to their plane by radio link. The gliders were towed aloft by a winch which spooled up the towline and the small, graceful aircraft rose into the sky like a kite... *     *     * Listen to the rest by clicking the play button, above. The text version of this essay can be found on Medium where it was published contemporaneously. They key image for this episode Barron Shurn preparing to launch his model sailplane at a Seattle Area Soaring Society contest in June of 2008. This would have been very similar to the competition described in the essay. (photo credit: Bill Kuhlman / RC Soaring Digest)
The blessing and the curse of capturing lightning in a bottle. The news landed with an apocalyptic shudder on an otherwise beautiful Saturday morning. Just 23 days after the Raptors handily dispatched the Golden State Warriors in six games, the enigmatic Kawhi Leonard announced he had signed a four year, $142 million deal with the Los Angeles Clippers. Predictably, the interstitial period became #KawhiWatch for fans of NBA basketball around the world. Nowhere more so than in Canada. Over the course of a single season, for Canadians, Leonard went from ‘say who?’ to being the leading candidate for pope if the position suddenly came available. We just couldn’t get enough of Kawhi which included, embarrassingly, chasing a lookalike in a black SUV through the streets of Toronto with a news helicopter. We were collectively transformed from diffident admirer to deranged stalker over the course of a little more than a week... *     *     * Listen to the rest by clicking the play button, above. The text version of this essay can be found on Medium where it was published contemporaneously. They key image for this episode is Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry double team Tim Frazier, then of the Washington Wizards, on March 2, 2018. (image: Keith Allison via Wikimedia)
Twitter+

Twitter+

2019-06-2618:40

Some unsolicited—and probably unwelcome—advice on where Twitter should go from here. “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” Mark Twain’s life did not overlap Twitter’s by nearly a century, but he still managed to provide the single best commentary of what Twitter is, and should continue to be. Brevity is Twitter’s essence and that should never change. Any idea which takes more than 280 characters clearly needs more work, a modern day Twain might have said. Twitter’s enforced brevity is not a constraint. It’s liberation. Forcing my verbose, disorganized thoughts into 50 words or less makes them better, not worse. Apart from that one thing, however, almost everything else about Twitter needs to change... *     *     * Listen to the rest by clicking the play button, above. The text version of this essay can be found on Medium where it was published contemporaneously. They key image for this episode is Twitter Headquarters on Market Steet in San Francisco, California. (credit: Shutterstock)
Framing John DeLorean

Framing John DeLorean

2019-06-1323:32

It’s a three-fer: biopic drama, documentary and the-making-of all rolled into one. Three cars were most likely to adorn an adolescent boy’s room in the early 1980s. The first was the brutish Porsche Turbo Carrera with its outlandish fender flairs and whale tail. The second was the Lamborghini Countach which, in its original and purest form, was a single, hard-chined arc from nose to tail. The third was the DeLorean. It might have had a model name but nobody knew what it was. With its unique stainless steel body and gull-wing doors, the car was unmistakable. It was the Potemkin-esque ‘concept car’ you glimpsed at the auto show, but made real and available soon on a lot near you. For a time, the public couldn’t get enough of it... *     *     * Listen to the rest by clicking the play button, above. The text version of this essay can be found on Medium where it was published contemporaneously. Alec Baldwin as John DeLorean in _Framing John DeLorean (credit: XYZ Films)_
His approach to the game is an example we need in these troubled times. I was furious. Not only had Masai Ujiri fired Coach of the Year Dwane Casey in May, now he had traded away DeMar DeRozan for some guy from the San Antonio Spurs whose name I didn’t even recognize. Along with some other guy whose name I didn’t recognize either. My fury was based, in part, on a very weird, very Canadian reason. DeRozan actually liked playing in Toronto and we liked him back for almost that reason alone. Surprisingly, that’s really important to us. Canadians have this unhealthy need to be liked. Particularly by Americans. DeRozan’s remarkable skills as a player didn’t hurt, of course, but we found it endearing that he did not appear to simply be putting in time until he headed south again... *     *     * Listen to the rest by clicking the play button, above. The text version of this essay can be found on Medium where it was published contemporaneously. The key image for this episode is Kawhi Leonard in the game against the Charlotte Hornets at ScotiaBank Arena on March 24th, 2019. (credit: Chensiyuan via Wikimedia Commons under CC BY-SA 4.0)
An old idea for which the best years may still lay ahead. Jack Northrop dreamt of aircraft where everything not absolutely essential for flight was eliminated. Leonardo da Vinci’s theoretical flying machines from the 15th century, Sir George Cayley’s Governable Parachute of 1852, the Wright Brothers’ Flyer of 1903 and virtually ever other flying machine all have one thing in common: they all have tails of one sort of another which are used to stabilize and control their flight. Northrop, contrarily, didn’t believe a tail was necessary. In fact, he believed anything other than the wing actively worked against the elusive goal of all aircraft designers: to find the most efficient means of getting an aircraft aloft and then keeping it there. *     *     * Listen to the rest by clicking the play button, above. The text version of this essay can be found on Medium where it was published contemporaneously. The key image for this episode is of the first flight of the all-jet powered YB-49 on October 21, 1947. (credit: AFFTC History Office)
RV-6

RV-6

2019-05-0228:55

A labour of love — and hate — 23 years in the making. “The baby is on the roof with an umbrella and he looks like he is about to jump.” My mother tells this story — undoubtedly embellished over the years — about a chillingly calm call she took from a neighbour to warn of the seemingly imminent, tragic death of her younger son. I don’t remember the event myself but if it worked for Mary Poppins, I must have reasoned, surely it would work for me. Besides, I had a backup plan: my satin-edged security blanket tied, Superman-style, around my neck. If Poppins didn’t come through then surely Superman wouldn’t let me down, would he? Then, in my pre-teen years, there was the control surface from a full-sized aircraft — it was an aileron, I think — which somehow came into my brother’s and my possession. After evaluating a few alternatives, we ended up duct taping it to the crossbar of my mustang bike... *     *     * Listen to the rest by clicking the play button, above. The text version of this essay can be found on Medium where it was published contemporaneously. The key image for this episode the RV-6 which is the star of the episode, when it was at Delta Heritage Air Park, in September of 2018. (image: author)
Thankfully, things didn’t turn out the way many expected. What caught my attention, and that of a few others, was a small article about an amateur golf phenom out of Cypress, California with the improbable name of Tiger Woods. He had just quit the economics program at Stanford University and was turning pro at just 20 years of age. I think I recall somebody saying “he’s going to regret quitting Stanford!” Now I think about it, that could easily have been me. At that time, however, Stanford was already known for churning out soon-to-be Silicon Valley millionaires. It seemed folly that even if Tiger was there a golf scholarship, he had still managed to get himself into one of the most prestigious schools in the United States. “He should stick it out for another couple of years just in case the golf thing doesn’t work out,” I remember thinking, enviously. I also remember somebody else, not me, remarked “do you suppose that he’s going to have a line of clubs called Tiger’s Woods?” *     *     * Listen to the rest by clicking the play button, above. The text version of this essay can be found on Medium where it was published contemporaneously. The key image for this episode is by PeetlesNumber1 via Wikimedia under CC BY-SA 4.0. The image has been slightly cropped to fit the Fireside format.
The future of newspapers may lie in their past. I have not bought a hometown newspaper for a decade. I haven’t read a whole one in years. I do occasionally read the article which just happens to be facing up on The Globe and Mail abandoned at Starbucks while I’m waiting for my four shot American Misto. I rarely touch the paper itself. That’s not because I’m a germaphobe — although I do have tendencies in that regard — it’s a subconscious holdover from the days when the ink used to come off on my fingers as I hungrily turned the pages of the The Vancouver Sun on Saturday mornings when I was a kid. I am also struck by how small the pages have become — sub-tabloid size and not much larger than an 11 by 17 sheet of paper. More of a news flyer as opposed to a broadsheet of old. More colour, perhaps, but less colourful. When you think about them in the context of the all-digital, all-the-time 21st century, the mere notion of a newspaper is utterly absurd... *     *     * Listen to the rest by clicking the play button, above. The text version of this essay can be found on Medium where it was published contemporaneously. The exquisite key image for this episode is by Photo Kozyr / Shutterstock. The image has been slightly cropped to fit the Fireside format.
The Comet

The Comet

2019-03-2120:20

The MacRobertson Air Race of 1934 marked the beginning of modern air travel and the beginning of the end of the Golden Age of Aviation. It was a time when daring—or simply dangerous—aviation events were concocted for the slightest of excuses. In the case of the 1934 MacRobertson Air Race it was nominally to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the city of Melbourne, Australia. The sponsor for whom the race was named was provided this honour simply by putting up the £15,000 in prize money. Sir Macpherson Robertson—he preferred the more catchy ‘MacRobertson’—was an Australian confectionary baron who likely saw the unparalleled promotional opportunity for what it was: a means of getting his name, and subsequently his candy, on the lips of everybody from England to Australia and everywhere in between. MacRobertson would accomplish this purely commercial objective simply by being the title sponsor for a race where entrants would depart Mildenhall, England and, as fast as they dared, make their way to Melbourne, Australia some 11,300 miles away... *     *     * Listen to the rest by clicking the play button, above. The text version of this essay can be found on Medium where it was published contemporaneously. The exquisite key image for this episode is by Kev Gregory and is available on Shutterstock. The image has been slightly cropped to fit the Fireside format.
'F' for Freddie

'F' for Freddie

2019-03-0724:01

It wasn't supposed to end this way. "Eye-witnesses to the crash told how F-for-Freddie's rubber dinghy dropped out, inflated automatically and landed, as neatly and naturally as though something had gone wrong over the North Sea" so the local newspapers reported. Except it wasn't over the North Sea. It was in the middle of a cattle pasture and not far from a poultry farm on the prairie near Calgary, Alberta, Canada. It was certainly nowhere near anywhere a rubber dinghy would have been of any conceivable use. It was also thousands of miles away from the hostile skies of Europe where this particular aircraft had flown a record 213 missions before the war there had officially ended just two days before. A few hundred yards away, what was left of the battle weary de Havilland Mosquito, nicknamed 'F' for Freddie, was still burning while the unimpeded prairie wind scattered the black smoke to nothingness... *     *     * Listen to the rest by clicking the play button, above. The text version of this essay can be found on Medium where it was published contemporaneously.)
They didn't ask me but here's what I think anyway. I had to reread the headline at least a couple of times: Podcast Platform Himalaya Raises $100 Million, Launches Apps With Tipping Function $100 million? What on earth is Himalaya going to do with all that money? Besides, of course, the oddly headline-worthy 'tipping function'? Then it occurred to me: The Oprah and LeBron Show. The two stars would richly deserve that money just so long as their deal includes three important words: Only on Himalaya. At that point, Himalaya is only two tweets away from over 80 million high engagement Twitter impressions. And that's the whole game, of course. Content really is king. If there is any doubt about that just ask Netflix. On the other hand if all that's delivered for the $100 million is exclusive distribution deals with those who need no further introduction other than their first name, that will be a crying shame indeed... *     *     * Listen to the rest by clicking the play button, above. The text version of this essay can be found on Medium where it was published contemporaneously. The key image for this episode is "On The Air" by Alan Levine (Via Wikimedia under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic. Image slightly cropped to fit Fireside format.)
We need the willing suspension of disbelief to sell shoes? "How is corporate storytelling different from other kinds of storytelling?" I was stumped by the question. I have to thank the interviewer who found the bullet point in my LinkedIn profile and called me out on it. I hope his audio editor eventually eliminates 90% of the pause that followed so I sound a whole lot sharper than I guess I must be. I eventually replied with the only thing which came into my head at the time: "It isn't," I offered, with a hopefully inaudible rising inflection. As the interviewer seemed to approve of my initial answer, I began to gain confidence in it: "yes," I thought, "corporate storytelling is just like any other kind of storytelling, right?" That is, in the sense its ultimate effectiveness is related to its ability to transport us, the audience, to some other place or time - to have us willingly suspend our disbelief, as Aristotle put it. After that, anything is possible. We'll go wherever the storyteller wants us to go. It just has to be a great story... *     *     * Listen to the rest by clicking the play button, above. The text version of this essay can be found on Medium where it was published contemporaneously. The key image for this episode is a screen capture from the 2013 edition of the 'World of Red Bull' series of short promotional films. (credit: Red Bull)
The Arrow

The Arrow

2019-01-2324:20

The path not taken 60 years ago has a nation still wondering what might have been. On February 19th, 1959 Wladyslaw "Spud" Potocki was test flying the sparkling white Avro Arrow RL-201 in the fair but chilly skies near Malton, Ontario. On that particular flight the World War II veteran fighter pilot was testing the Arrow's roll rates at Mach 1.7. While fast, it was still well below the nearly twice the speed-of-sound the sharp, delta-wing aircraft had already achieved on previous test flights. As aeronautical engineers like to say, the Arrow had 'flown off the drawing board'. The celestial expectations for the all new, Canadian designed and built supersonic interceptor were being met or exceeded with each passing day... *     *     * Listen to the rest by clicking the play button, above. The text version of this essay can be found on Medium where it was published contemporaneously. (photo: The first of six Arrows produced on the near production ready Avro Canada assembly line in Malton, Ontario in the late 1950s.)
Fat Kid with a Cello

Fat Kid with a Cello

2019-01-0916:22

Why you should probably make your child play a musical instrument. The autobiography you won't read is the one I won't write because nothing short of Mitty-esque imaginings could make it interesting. I am vain enough, however, to know what the title of that pathetically thin volume would be: Fat Kid with a Cello. In the fall of 1966, when I was just five years old, my parents enrolled me in what I just recently learned was an experiment in teaching five year olds how to play the violin. Noted professional violinist of the time, Elsie Persson, published an academic paper in 1968 describing how she "undertook to organize a pilot group of ten children at Macdonald College of McGill University" in Montréal. Turns out I was one of those ten children... *     *     * Listen to the rest by clicking the play button, above. The text version of this essay can be found on Medium where it was published contemporaneously. (photo: The indefatigable Mrs. Elsie Persson conducts three members of the Macdonald College Mini Strings in 1966.)
Legalization

Legalization

2018-12-1716:57

I really hope this isn’t the one thing for which Canada is known. When travelling, and the answer "Calgary" to the question "so where do you call home?" draws the fairly common blank stare, there are two things which can usually be relied upon to locate my home town on Planet Earth. My first recourse is usually "ever heard of the Calgary Stampede?" If that doesn't work, which it usually does, then the next thing to try is "remember the 1988 Winter Olympics?" Still nothing? "From Montana, drive north. It's just colder and has lower speed limits but otherwise it's more-or-less the same." Depending on how far south I am in the continental US, that's usually a good bet for finally getting the location pin to drop on the map in my travelling acquaintance's head. I'm expecting, however, that pretty soon all that is going to change... *     *     * Listen to the rest by clicking the play button, above. The text version of this essay can be found on Medium where it was published contemporaneously. (photo: author)
X-15

X-15

2018-11-2122:43

Inspired by its feature role in First Man, a closer look at the first aircraft to fly into space. In the annotated screenplay for First Man, author Josh Singer was asked “why start with the X-15?” for the gripping opening scene in the movie. His answer was simple: “we fell in love with the aircraft. The fastest and highest flying…ever built…[it] flew well over Mach 6 (4,520 miles per hour) and more than 50 miles high, well outside the sensible atmosphere.” Singer’s collaborator and Neil Armstrong’s official biographer, James R. Hansen, adds a fascinating historical footnote: the eponymous first man “really didn’t enjoy talking about the Moon landing, probably because that was all anyone ever asked him about. But ask him about the…X-15 and he’d talk a blue streak.” It’s not surprising the famously taciturn pilot-first-astronaut-later Neil Armstrong was a chatterbox when it came to this remarkable aircraft... *     *     * Listen to the rest by clicking the play button, above. The text version of this essay can be found on Medium where it was published contemporaneously. (photo: Air Force Flight Test Center History Office)
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