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Friday, July 1, 2011

American teenager falls 20 feet from a escalator, gets away with a fractured elbow

By Ali Plumb

Back in May last year, we brought you the video footage of a Turkish toddler who fell off a moving escalator, only to be caught in the nick of time by an eagle-eyed passer-by. But as this clip below proves, there isn't always someone there to catch you...

This time around, the escalator-faller-offer wasn't a tiny wee tot, it was a fully grown man – an 18-year-old boy called Shane O'Malley from Massachusetts, no less – who had gone to a gig nearby before he started larking about on the moving escalator and promptly fell off.

Amazingly, the 20 foot drop only resulted in a fractured elbow, according to his family, but he's also currently complaining of a very sore back – no surprises there then.

But there's one thing we haven't told you about the incident which might explain why it happened – our boy Shane was drunk. Dead drunk. He'd been drinking so much at the concert that he doesn't even remember the incident properly, but he definitely remembers the pain, that's for sure.

Check out the CCTV footage of the incident below, and remember kids, don't drink and ride escalators. No, wait, that's not right, we mean: always hold onto the handrail. There. A good deed done.

Amazingly, the 20 foot drop only resulted in a fractured elbow, according to his family, but he's also currently complaining of a very sore back – no surprises there then.

But there's one thing we haven't told you about the incident which might explain why it happened – our boy Shane was drunk. Dead drunk. He'd been drinking so much at the concert that he doesn't even remember the incident properly, but he definitely remembers the pain, that's for sure.

Check out the CCTV footage of the incident below, and remember kids, don't drink and ride escalators. No, wait, that's not right, we mean: always hold onto the handrail. There. A good deed done.

Best Treehouse Ever!!


How to Fly a Zeppelin Airship

Piloting a zeppelin airship is a rare privilege—and harder than it looks.

By Jeff Wise

the author at the controls of the zeppelin eureka

Floating through the air 200 feet above the ground, I glide past a cluster of buildings, a stand of trees, the shoreline of a shimmering bay. A golf driving range drifts into view. Four men stop swinging their clubs and stare up, open-mouthed. In an age that's jaded by wall-to-wall entertainment, they're experiencing an all-too-rare sensation: pure awe. A giant oval shadow moves over them, and I'm gone.

If the guys at the golf club think a low pass by a 246-foot airship is impressive, they should check out the view from the pilot's seat. That's where I am, getting flight training in a zeppelin. It's an incredibly rare privilege. There are fewer licensed zeppelin pilots in the United States than there are Supreme Court justices. And there is only one zeppelin airship in the country.

For most people, the word zeppelin evokes one indelible image: the Hindenburg's flaming crash in 1937. That catastrophe struck the death knell for commercial airship travel, but the Luftschiffbau Zeppelin company, which owned the doomed airship, hung in there. Out of the wreckage of postwar Germany, it prospered in a variety of ventures, among them selling and servicing Caterpillar construction equipment. Then it got back in the airship business, launching a helium-filled model called the Zeppelin NT (for "new technology") in 1997. Since then, the company has built three more airships, now flying in Japan and Europe.

To see the American zeppelin up close, I travel to San Francisco, where a company called Airship Ventures operates the Zeppelin NT Eureka. Mostly, Eureka earns its keep by carrying passengers on short sightseeing jaunts. A year ago, however, the company also began offering zeppelin-piloting classes. Customers who have a private pilot's license can spend two days learning about the zeppelin, including 3 hours riding as a passenger and a half-hour as the pilot.

At noon on a sunny Monday, I arrive at the front gate of Moffett Field, a former Navy base. I go to a classroom with five other students and chief pilot Fritz Günther, a severe-looking former flight instructor in the East German air force who introduces us to Eureka's basic principles. He explains that a Zeppelin NT is designed to fly a bit heavier than air, which makes it easier to handle on the ground (airships of the Hindenburg era required hundreds of men to hold them down). To get off the ground, the zeppelin is equipped with propellers that can swivel up and down to provide vertical thrust. Then, when the ship is in the air and moving at speed, it shifts into "flight configuration," in which the engines swivel to horizontal. In effect, the highly maneuverable Zeppelin NT is a cross between a dirigible and a tilt-rotor aircraft like the V-22 Osprey.

The next morning we finally get to climb aboard. Inside, the gondola is spacious, more like the interior of a yacht than an aircraft. It feels like a yacht too—even on the ground, the gondola's slow rolling motion reminds me of an ocean swell. The first student straps into the pilot's seat, with Günther in the co-pilot's chair to his right. The engines increase in pitch. Smoothly, we begin to rise vertically into the air. We start to move forward as well, as though ascending a giant escalator. The expanse of the airfield falls away, and soon we are coasting along at 1000 feet over Silicon Valley.

Those of us who aren't at the controls roam around the gondola, admiring the view. The windows slope outward, so we can look straight down and watch the scenery scroll beneath our feet. I open a window and stick my head out into the 40-mph slipstream like a dog on a road trip. Mountains lie to the west, the bay to the east, all of it soft and gauzy in the morning's lingering haze. As an Airship Ventures staffer hands out snacks and drinks, I feel like I'm at a party that happens to be dangling a quarter-mile up.

Eureka returns to the airfield and touches down; now it's my turn. I strap in and put on a headset. Almost immediately I'm struggling to keep up as Günther talks me through the controls. There are so many of them. One lever controls the angle of the two forward propellers; a nearby pair changes their thrust. A joystick on my left-hand side commands the rear propellers to pitch the nose up and down or to yaw side-to-side. On top of that, there are numerous switches and levers and toggles to control the pressure of the helium and the distribution of ballast. Helpfully, Günther tells me what to do; if I'm too slow, he reaches over and moves the control himself.

Up we go, climbing and gaining forward speed. I focus on the stick as I try to keep the enormous lumbering craft under control. With three engines, four propellers and a bag of helium gas whose buoyancy constantly changes depending on the temperature and pressure, piloting the zeppelin is like flying an airplane and making a scuba dive at the same time. As I try to figure it all out, Eureka bucks and weaves through the California sky like a spastic humpback whale.

As we reach 25 mph, Günther switches the ship to flight configuration. Now we're using the fins, not the engines, to control the ship's motion. I'm starting to get the hang of it. Part of the trick is to fly the zeppelin like you'd steer a sailboat, anticipating corrections by a few seconds. But I still can't seem to stop the ship from unexpectedly rearing up or shifting to one side. "Remember, it's not just you moving the ship," Günther says. "You've got air currents and lift from thermals."

I keep trying. Precision flying, this is not. But I've reached my moment of Zen: No matter how badly I fly this thing, it's still going to keep bobbing along. You can't flip a zeppelin upside down; you can't dive-bomb it into the earth. The ship is inherently stable. That's comforting to know. And the golfers below certainly seem more than impressed.

My time is almost up. I head back toward the airfield and start coaxing Eureka down, angling the thrusters forward and back, toggling the throttle, easing us slowly toward the tarmac and the waiting ground crew. A few yards off the ground, the ship hangs, hesitant, then a nudge of thrust brings the front wheel down. The crew grabs a line hanging from the nose, and we're back on the ground. I unstrap and climb out of the pilot's seat, still feeling lighter than air.

It's Time to Denmark-ify Our Cities: A Copenhagen Case Study

by Brian Merchant


Photo: Mik Hartwell via Wikimedia Commons/CC BY

If we're going to consider trying to Denmark-ify societies around the world, perhaps the first thing we should do is make sure that people would actually want to live in those societies. So let's take a closer look at Denmark's capital, Copenhagen. Along with being the most populous city in the nation (the greater metropolitan area is home to just under 2 million people), it's the political, commercial, and cultural hub as well.

And if you're a regular Treehugger reader, you're probably aware that it's one of the most highly regarded 'green' cities in the world -- and consistently ranked as among the most livable. Here's why:

First of all, it's perhaps the bike-friendliest city on the planet. A well-designed network of bike lanes and ample municipal support has enabled huge swaths of the population to take up on the bicycle as their main form of transportation. Half of Copenhagen residents own bikes, and 40% use them to commute to work.

And that's not just an overly rosy stat offered up by the city's PR team. Step out onto any major thoroughfare, and you'll see Danes of every stripe cruising by: businessmen decked out in suits, mothers carting their adorable Scandinavian children, older folks, kids -- everyone bikes in Copenhagen. No wonder cities as far away as Portland are looking to its example to increase bike ridership.

Secondly, there are ample public squares and green spaces, and the canal than runs through the city center is kept clean enough to swim in. Much of the city is walkable, and the main commercial district is largely pedestrian-only. Copenhagen is also in the process of expanding its popular metro system, so that it might reach further out from the urban area.


Photo: Poom! via Flickr/CC BY

The city is on track to be carbon neutral by 2025. It's in the process of phasing out its coal-fired power plants, which currently generate most of the city's power. The first will be gone within five years, and upgraded to run on biomass. Each of the plants are already outfitted to efficiently capture the heat generated in the coal-burning process, and enable Copenhagen to residents to enjoy an advance district heating system.

Strict energy efficiency codes ensure that new buildings won't waste power, and the progressive taxation rate (yup, Copenhagen residents, like all Danes, pay loads more taxes than you do) provides ample funding for city projects -- Jorgen Abildgaard, the city's Executive Climate Project Director, manager says the budget is balanced, despite this smorgasbord of initiatives.

And what's on the way? Here's Abildgaard:

Bike lanes that extend even further out, into the suburbs. 'Payment zones' for non-electric vehicles, to discourage driving. The city wouldn't mind seeming them go altogether. An expanded metro. Further efforts to revitalize waterside parks.

In my eyes, the only thing that keeps Copenhagen from being a truly replicable model for green cities is its relative lack of density -- the city's building codes prevent any structure from being more than six stories high, and only some 600,000 people live in the city's urban center. That's great here -- city planners project only an additional 100,000 residents over the next ten years.

But in a world increasingly crammed with megacities, the question will be whether the green initiatives can be scaled up without losing the livability we see here in Copenhagen.

Certainly, the core principles that make the city work can and should be adopted around the globe, but that's stuff we've been shouting about for years: Good public transit, interesting public spaces, strong bike-ability, energy efficiency, and so forth. The trick is doing all this stuff either a) with less funding or b) by convincing residents that it's worth ponying up more tax dollars for.

To me, the answer is clear -- if sacrificing some income means the place I live will be cleaner, healthier, and awesomer (not to mention more sustainable and more equal), show me where to sign. But there are a tangle of cultural and political obstacles preventing such an attitude from taking root in much of the world (the wealthy's keen interest in protecting their wealth chief among them). I'll look at some of these later in this series.

For now, allow me to heartily recommend that urban planners take a good hard look at Copenhagen. Your fellow residents will thank you.

More on how we might Denmark-ify societies 'round the world:

Denmark to say 'Goodbye' to Fossil Fuels by 2050 (Video)

Could Denmark-ifying the World Stop Climate Change?

Life in Denmark's Super-Low Energy Suburb, Stenlose South

R.W. Barrel Saunas: Behemoth, body-baking barrels


Saunas were thought to have near-supernaturally restorative properties when invented by the ancient Finnish people, which makes it all the more tragic that modern-day ones are often creepily hijacked by dudes just trying to finish. Bringing back their old-school majesty...and privacy: R.W. Barrel Saunas.

Individually hand-milled in northern Minnesota, these cedar-hewn sweatboxes are made via the same process as regular barrels (but presumably with more ladders), can be styled/sized to your liking, are more affordable/efficient than standard saunas, and have the “traditionally pleasing shape that everyone loves”, despite the cans looking nothing like Scar Jo's. Each unit comes with a weather-sealed door, your choice of heating component (electric, gas, or wood), interior benches that can comfortably seat six, and a tempered glass window; they're all fit together with ball & socket joints, and rimmed with huge stainless steel hoops, aka a cyborg contestant on Flavor of Love 2112. Aside from picking your size, you can also decide between a traditional model or the slightly sleeker tube sauna, which doesn't get bulbous in the midsection like a barrel, meaning it's more easily assembled and thus can be done inside your house after arriving in kit form, assuming you actually want a black Trans-Am with Mr. Feeny's voice inside your house.

If you live within 50mi of the shop -- it's nearly 2hrs outta Mpls, so you likely don't -- delivery's free, but for everyone else, a small delivery fee also buys you an expert hand in getting the thing set up, which's ironic, as avoiding an extra hand's the reason you wanted your own private sauna in the first place.

These things have to be seen to be believed, at

The Jedi Trainer’s Guide To Employee Management


If your startup is getting ready to expand but you have no idea how to handle your newly hired underlings, take it from those who have navigated galactic asteroid fields, staged rebellions against empires and mastered the art of the Jedi Mind Trick.

You wouldn’t want to hear instructions from a Wookie, would you? This Infographic by Mindflash teaches a couple of specific ways in which your employee management skills can benefit from the ancient trials of Jedi training.

Yup, Star Wars will never get old.

Click to enlarge.

Van Damme Friday - Kaput Trailer and some nice words

Napoleon Kaput - Trailer

Trailer for Russian slapstick comedy Napoleon Kaput, featuring Jean-Claude Van Damme.

JCVD Greetings