Category Archives: Travel

Gladwell’s Ethnic Theory Proven by SF Plane Crash?

The San Francisco plane crash that happened this past weekend was extremely unfortunate. It was also very surprising given how rarely plane crashes occur each year, but it does provoke some interesting points that Malcolm Gladwell made in his novel, Outliers, that perhaps should be taken into serious consideration.

According to Gladwell, a large percentage of the plane crashes that do occur are a direct result of miscommunication and language issues —  either among pilots in the cockpit and between air traffic controllers and pilots.  He even goes so far as to propose an “Ethnic Theory of Plane Crashes” which suggests that how good of a pilot you are has a lot to do with which culture you were raised in. Gladwell compares Asian airlines to American ones, and explained in a Q&A with Fortune Magazine:

Korean Air had more plane crashes than almost any other airline in the world for a period at the end of the 1990s. When we think of airline crashes, we think, Oh, they must have had old planes. They must have had badly trained pilots. No. What they were struggling with was a cultural legacy, that Korean culture is hierarchical. You are obliged to be deferential toward your elders and superiors in a way that would be unimaginable in the U.S.

But Boeing (BAFortune 500) and Airbus design modern, complex airplanes to be flown by two equals. That works beautifully in low-power-distance cultures [like the U.S., where hierarchies aren’t as relevant]. But in cultures that have high power distance, it’s very difficult.

I use the case study of a very famous plane crash in Guam of Korean Air. They’re flying along, and they run into a little bit of trouble, the weather’s bad. The pilot makes an error, and the co-pilot doesn’t correct him. But once Korean Air figured out that their problem was cultural, they fixed it.

Gladwell’s attributes pilot error, particularly on Korean airlines, to the country’s authoritarian culture, which has the tendency to negatively effect the pilot teamwork “needed to fly Western-built jets” because co-captains are too afraid to speak up and tell their superiors when they are making a mistake. This makes it extremely difficult and dangerous when dealing with an emergency.

In Outliers, Gladwell also discusses the 10-thousand-hour-rule, which you can hear him talk about in his interview with CNN. The idea behind this rule is: you’d have to essentially be an apprentice and work on your craft for approximately 10 thousand hours in order to be considered great at what you do. Interestingly, the pilot in the SF plane crash, identified as Lee Kang-kook, had nearly 10,000 hours of experience flying planes; however, only 43 of those hours were spent flying the 777 model (ABC).

In the effort to minimize crashes, Airlines across the globe have been working to improve pilot-co-pilot teamwork efforts. It is becoming more and more common for co-pilots to address superiors by first name, and airilnes are teaching them how to be more assertive and get more comfortable with pushing back, particularly in emergency situations. In turn, head pilots are learning to work collaboratively aboard their planes by operating as organizers, negotiators and facilitators, rather than as dominant commanders. The goal is to make it easier for first officers to speak up in order to correct any mistakes caused by the main pilot.

Interviews with the 4 pilots on the Asiana plane are currently still being decrypted from Korean to English. It will be very telling when those interviews are released what happened — whether or not there was some sort of miscommunication or a last second decision that was made in error — that led to the crash (2 deaths and 183 injured).

I really think that Gladwell’s theory has some validity to it, which is unfortunate because the aim is not to strengthen ethnic divides; however, the positive outlook on this is that we can continue to learn and correct our mistakes no matter what ethnic group we are a part of.

 

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Preserving The World’s Rarities

Recognize this fuzzy lion with the cute little roar? Chances are that you’ve seen him in the intro to MGM movies over 1,000 times already. His name is Leo, and he was trained by an incredibly intelligent man named Dr. Bhagavan “Doc” Antle.

Antle is the founder and director of The Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species (T.I.G.E.R.S.), a wildlife education organization, dedicated to promoting global conservation with informative, educational, and entertaining interactive programs. Additionally, he established the Rare Specific Fund (RSF) to provide funding to critical on the ground international wildlife conservation programs, thereby complimenting the educational messages and field research of T.I.G.E.R.S. The RSF receives its financing base through a percentage of revenues taken in by T.I.G.E.R.S., the generosity of donations from exhibit guests, and the general public.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to meet Antle and visit the T.I.G.E.R.S. preservation in Myrtle Beach, SC. To say the very least, it was one of the most amazing experiences that I’ve ever had…

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The first big cat that I met was Hercules, a Liger. Napoleon Dynamite may have made them more popular commercially, but Ligers are extremely rare to come across. Over 11 foot tall, and at 900 lbs., Hercules is not only the largest breed of cat in the world, but he is in fact THE largest cat across the entire globe. He is a cross between a male lion and female tiger; thus making him a Liger. (If a female lion were to mate with a male tiger, they would produce a Ligon.)

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The next cat I met was a cheetah. The way she just stared so intently…she pierced through your soul. It was incredible. Then she walked by us, and suddenly her body became sleek and elongated, her hips dipped low — riiight, llllleft, riiiight, llllleft — and her tail sort of flicked with attitude and poise. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her….until we met the baby tigers.

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They were all  1 – 6 months old Bengal Tigers, some the standard orange with black stripes, others white and black with blueish-green eyes. In between running across our legs and playing with chew toys in our laps, we fed them milk out of baby bottles and cuddled with them until they grew tired. While I held a baby girl in my arms, one of the trainers said, “In less than 20 years you’ll never be able to do this again.  When children see pictures of these beauties in books, they’ll ask what they are, and we will only be able to share memories with them.” In the moment, I was so amazed and in awe to be touching the tigers; but the trainer’s words made me feel sad, desperate, and angry that human consumption is responsible for making wild tigers endangered in the first place.

The reality is that there are only about 3,000 wild tigers left in the entire world. Only 1 out of every 10 tigers lives long enough to reproduce — the biggest threats being human consumption of land and resources, starvation, and tigers killing one another over territory and food. My heart broke a little, maybe a lot..

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…even more so when we watched the older adults swim and play in the pool. It’s difficult to put into words how their heart beat really pulsates through your body when you’re around them; but if I had to, I would say that it’s like falling into the slits of the soul in their eyes while an orchestra of the loudest drum beats and a stable purr soothes. It’s enchanting.

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The next animals we got to play with were wolf pups. Their mom was an Arctic Wolf, their dad was a Timber Wolf, and they were gawwwwwgeous. They reminded me of my girls (huskies) so much…they way they wandered (lone wolf) only to return to their pack, they way they crooned colloquially, and their eyes…they way they felt and understood you. Wolves are said to be a guide, a symbol leading you in the right direction based on intuition; trust them, trust yourself. Like wolves, I often travel alone. I like it that way because I don’t have to answer to anyone, and I can move at my own pace. But as an only kid, I’ve always longed to be part of a bigger family and closer to my own. My little wolves have showed me unconditional love that I’ve never felt before, and for that I am grateful. The pups at the T.I.G.E.R.S. preserve felt like guides, too. Their energy was just refreshing, no words needed to be said to be understood.

Here are some of the other animals that I got the chance to meet:

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In the top left is Bubbles the West African Elephant, who has been seen in a number of films and entertainment productions, such as Ace Ventura and Ashanti’s “Rock Wit U” Music Video. In the top right is an Orangutan; bottom left, a Gibbon; and bottom right, a Chimpanzee. The elephant is over 30 years old, and was raised by Antle since she was only a baby; all of the monkeys were still in their diaper days :P

Interestingly, many if not most of the animals of T.I.G.E.R.S. are actually renowned actors in over 500 film, television show and commercial advertisement credits. The list is really too long to comb through in its entirety, but some of the most recognized credits include the Discovery Channel, National Geographic, Animal Planet, Jay Leno and other late-night talk shows, Ace Ventura, Dr. Dolittle, and the Schweppes commercial campaign.

Remember these?

Antle helped train all of these animals, and he has used the money earned from these credits to help continue to fund T.I.G.E.R.S.

Overall, this past weekend was amazing. It of course allowed me to experience and share energy with some of the world’s greatest gems, but it also opened my eyes to the threats endangering these animals and what I can do to help. It makes me happy to know that my money is truly going to a great cause. In 10 years I want to hear that 3,000 has doubled, or more. We can all help make this happen.

If you’re interested in visiting the T.I.G.E.R.S. preservation, visit http://www.tigerfriends.com/ for more information. If you’d like to know how you can help raise awareness about endangered animals and/or donate to the RSF, visit http://www.rarespeciesfund.org/.

Poem: Slept With a Stranger

Last night I slept with a stranger.

I wasn’t pressured or forced against my will,
but his pill instilled such a natural high.
And still,
he took his precious time
to approach me out of curiosity
and ask all the right questions.
I showed reciprocity
with some hesitations and no expectations.

To my surprise,
he was attentive to my sensations,
evoking warmth and euphoria to alleviate my frustrations.
Persistent pulsations (in),
patient exhalations (out);
an emotional and sensual orchestration throughout.

A word was never spoken between he and I,
but his myths, legends, and mysteries reflected blue hues in my eyes. (So deep.)
Miles beneath his surface,
I imagined his darkest secrets;
Some funny, some sad,
others hidden how he saw fit.
Who was I to judge, you know?
We’ve all got skeletons in our closet.
And rib cages make for perfect coat hangers when your subconscious drowns your logic.

It was pretty ironic, though,
the way that he teased me on the surface;
we both knew that staying was never really his (or my) intended purpose.
But for the moment,
neither of us cared…
..whether we got lost while the moon just stared.
The time we shared
and the energy in the air,
I swear it lead to a new beginning,
the beginning of another day..

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The ocean is such a beautiful stranger.

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In April, Dan Marker-Moore shot a series of photographs of the rising moon over LA’s skyline and turned them into 3 final pieces. The first piece was the “time-slice” photograph above showing multiple instances of the moon in a single frame (different … Continue reading

Wordle Me.

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I took some of the most recent pieces that I wrote and put them into a Wordle..

The words that appear to be the biggest were the words that I used most prominently throughout my writing — more often than not to describe myself, my experiences, and my surroundings. The words that appear in a smaller font were used less frequently when talking about these same (physical and figurative) objects. When I did this, it was interesting to me that the bigger words all seemed optimistic and accurate precursors to the next chapter of my life; the smaller words were more pessimistic and sort of stuck in the past. This little exercise made me smile. It made me feel at peace with what I have walked away from, and excited to embrace the new experiences that are awaiting. I am going…to keep writing my story. This feels good..

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Perspective

Perspective is everything.

Are things exactly as we see them? Have they always been this way, or do they change as we do? Sometimes it’s good to revisit the places that we seem to take for granted..appreciate what we have grown up with and how it has shaped us. And yet, remain open minded, willing to learn from another perspective when appropriate.

6:21 pm on 4/18/13, at Rockefeller Center:

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This is where people come to fulfill their dream. Where they thrive…or get chewed up and spit out. Bumping shoulders, avoiding eye contact, exchanging brash words; racing to get from point A to point B, C, D…Z. The city is moving…so fast that we sometimes tend to become nearsighted. Work and money draw a heavy focus here.

8:12pm on 4/18/13, at Rockefeller Center:

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A thick layer of fog has descended on the city, creeping along eerily…calming the energy outside. The city’s people, they are still pacing. But the city, it is illuminating. Focus relaxes and grows increasingly farsighted — on the bridges stretching across East River, the skyline reflecting on water,  the lights on the Empire State Building as they sequentially alternate colors, and the sea of orange-yellow trying to navigate through every crevice of the city. There is a new appreciation at night because we survived another day to look at all of this.