Facts About Lightning – Be Wary on 4th July

Lightning strikes every second

I think it is safe to say that virtually all of us have at one time or another marvelled at the awesome vision of a lightning storm. Our psyche is wooed by a combination of a giant magician’s show and the force of nature. It is estimated that, every second around the world, there are between 50 and 100 lightning strikes.

Lighting Bolt & Tornado

From a few more or less credible sources, I thought I would provide some interesting facts on lightning. According to a National Geographic article in 2004, “[t]he odds of becoming a lightning victim in the U.S. in any one year is 1 in 700,000. The odds of being struck in your lifetime is 1 in 3,000.” And, for 10% of those struck by lightning, the impact is fatal. For 70%, the impact causes serious long term damage. So, the question is how to avoid it, especially in the summer months when the number of lightning deaths peaks (because people are outdoors)? In fact, the 4th July holiday in the US is a particularly vulnerable date as far as lightning accidents is concerned.

Granny’s Tales

Wearing rubber soled shoes won’t help protect you. Standing under a tree is the worst idea you can have. Followed closely after by swimming in a pool: water is a great conductor of electricity and your head becomes the lightning rod. And, once you are inside, get off the phone at home during lightning storms. As the Nat Geo articles writes, “[p]hone use is the leading cause of indoor lightning injuries in the United States.” Unfortunately, typing on the computer is not advised either as, regardless of any surge protector, you are better off unplugging and turning off electronic equipment.

From Stormwise, I pulled this statement: ” Most lightning strikes average 2 to 3 miles long and carry a current of 10,000 Amps at 100 million Volts.”

I have extracted another couple of “facts” that I found of note from the post carrying this photo:

  • “…lightning is capable of generating a temperature of twenty seven thousand degrees Fahrenheit and travel twenty thousand miles per second.”
  • “The most powerful lightning strike ever recorded in the United States struck the Cathedral of Learning of the University of Pittsburgh on July 31, 1947. The bolt discharged approximately three hundred forty five thousand (345,000) amps. This was enough current to light six hundred thousand (600,000) 60W light bulbs for the duration of the flash which is only thirty five millionths of a second.” Of course, that is not a very long time.

Red LightningAnd, to finish, the most spectacular lightning storm I ever saw was during a rainless thunder storm in barren and arid land on the road going from Antalya to Isparta (Turkey). The lightning was an extremely vivid red. There is apparently a form of “red” lightning called “Red Sprite lightning” which, according to stormwise, “is a newly-discovered type of lightning that zaps between the 40 mile span between the tops of severe storm clouds to the lower ionosphere “D” layer. Red Sprite Lightning looks like a giant “blood-red”colored jellyfish having light-blue tentacles. Red Sprite Lightning creates extremely powerful radio emissions from 1000 Hz through VHF.” If that is what we saw in Turkey, then it was awfully impressive. P.S. The lightning was fully red (the photo here is not mine, nor is it truly red lightning).

Global Gender Gap 2008 Report – Who’s on Top?

The World Economic Forum have just released the results of the Global Gender Gap Report 2008.

Yin & YangThere are a few suprising facets to this WEF report, now in its third year, authored by Ricardo Hausmann, Director, Centre for International Development, Harvard University, Laura Tyson, Professor at University of California, Berkeley, and Saadia Zahidi from the WEF.  First, what strikes me is the tremendous dynamism in the results — from one year to another a country can change by more than 30 places (as France did jumping from 51st to 15th).  Secondly, the list of sponsoring companies for the research includes a number of banks, consultancies and a car company hardly known for women’s equality as well as the employment services company MANPOWER.

Gender Gap
Those quibbles aside, the research shows that there is a “…a strong correlation between competitiveness and the gender gap scores.”  And the report indicates once again the strength of the equality movement in Scandinavia, with Norway coming out on top this year ahead of its neighbouring Scandinavian countries.   Here is the list of the top 10 for 2008.  Noteworthy for being absent from the top 10 (I should say again) are the United Kingdom (13th) and the United States (27th, behind Cuba) which scores highest in “economic participation and opportunity.”  And, fairly astonishing for being in the top 10 are the Philippines and Latvia.  The report voluntarily overweights the importance of having female leadership — as a way of providing visible role models (which clearly boosted the Philippines).  How much credit for France’s rise goes to Ségolène Royal (and Carla Bruni)?.  A

Global Gender Gap Index

Rank 2008

N. Zealand



Rank 2007
*0 to 1 scale: 0=inequality, 1=equality

The report establishes the following “top line” numbers, indicating that on balance things are tending to get better, although there were nearly twice as many countries where the gap was widening in 2008 versus 2007 as opposed to the prior year.  The big conclusions of the report are that the world has again shown progress in closing the gaps in economic, political and education; however, it has actually lost ground on the health gaps.

Gender Gap 2008 Report

The criteria for selection are worth citing:
Male & Female Signs“The Report examines four critical areas of inequality between men and women:
1. Economic participation and opportunity – outcomes on salaries, participation levels and access to high-skilled employment
2. Educational attainment – outcomes on access to basic and higher level education
3. Political empowerment – outcomes on representation in decision-making structures
4. Health and survival – outcomes on life expectancy and sex ratio”

Meanwhile, tailing off the bottom of the list are a host of countries without need for comment: Saudi Arabia, Chad and YemenIndia (113rd) landed basically on par with Iran (116th).  Japan wallowing in at 98th is a blemish…especially when you find higher up Mongolia (40th), Kyrgyz Republic (41st) and Russia (42nd).  Italy lies at 68th, not exactly brilliant.  Meanwhile, I thought Turkey (123rd) might have ranked higher.

Here is the writeup from the BBC and from TIME (with a good and lively analysis).  If nothing else, the research and report allow for some debate and exposure to this very important issue.

Euro 2008 semi-finals — half the expected teams

Euro 2008 Semi-FinalsThe ongoing Euro Cup 2008 is showcasing a new set of teams and cast of players, specifically in the form of the never-say-die Turkish team and the pesky Russians. There have been a number of ‘disappointments’ (depends on your perspective, of course) proving that, aside from talent and money, it is important to have good chemistry and timing (as in, when you peak). With the semi-finals now just around the corner, the heavy favourites must be Germany, with a likely final opponent of Spain. But, I suppose you never know. Are Turkey’s squad of 14 and Russia’s need for revenge against Spain going to be enough?

Personally, I’d love to see Russia versus Turkey in the final.

However, one thing I remain curious about is how or who ruled that the players must come from the country to play on a team, but a coach can be another national (as in Russia’s Guus Hiddink who coached the Russians past his own nation). Seems odd, no?

Turkey dramatically defeats Croatia in penalties in Euro 2008 Quarter-Finals

Euro 2008 Quarter Finals Croatia v TurkeyTurkey produced miracle #3 of the Euro 2008 tournament by beating Croatia in the quarter finals in the most unlikeliest of circumstances. After regulation, the match was 0-0. Some might ask how a 0-0 game can be exciting. Well, sometimes, it just needs to have high stakes, a bit of woodwork, luck and the definitive need for a victor. The Turks had 56% of the possession and yet also had 4 bookings to 0 for Croatia. Meanwhile, the Croats had 15 (7 on target) total shots to 10 (4 on goal) for the Turks.

Then came the magic of overtime. Unlike ice hockey, it is not sudden death in football. There are twoTurkey downs Croatia in penalties Euro 2008 extra halves of 15 minutes. Twenty-nine minutes into OT, that is to say 1 minute before the end of extra time, Ivan Krasnic of Croatia scores with the head, 1-0. Jubilation. The Croatian players could taste the semi’s. After all, after 119 minutes of scoreless football, another score would be utterly improbable. At 120 minutes, the sidelines announce 2 minutes added on for injury time. With the clock ticking down at 121’50” the Turks rifle a long distance free kick that lands more-or-less on the foot of Senturk who pummels the ball with his left foot into the top left hand corner of the goal. The final whistle blows as soon as the ball soared into the back of the net. A scorcher, beautiful under any circumstances. Unfathomable in this moment.

1-1. Penalties.

The deflated Croats miss three of the next four penalty spots, two absolute misses and one saved by the Turkish Captain (and substitute) goalkeeper, Rüştü Reçber. The Turks ruthlessly knock in their spot kicks, including a Senturk right-footed execution.

So, in a veritable three-peat, Turkey is through, and Croatia, the former giant killer, is out. The Turks pulled off a last gasp win against Switzerland, 2-1, scoring in the 92nd minute to avoid a draw.  And then they made a sensational come-from-2-0-behind victory over the Czechs (down 2 goals with 15 minutes left). They scored three goals in the last 15 minutes to qualify for the quarters. For added drama, their goalie is ejected in the very last moments of the game.

Having visited Turkey and understood the intensity of the rivalry between the Istanbul football teams, I know the utter passion for football in Turkey (there is nothing more torrid than an encounter between Fenerbahçe v Galatasaray).

Not three, without four? Can the heavily yellow-carded Turks overcome the stalwart Germans in their first ever Euro semi-final? Clearly, the Turk coach, Fatih Terim, will have a difficult choice to make in goal.

Googlotics: Australia prepares for Google Politics

I mentioned in a prior post that on-line activity in elections was heating up (Turkey, for example). The elections of the future can and will be decided by the on-line campaigning. In the pursuit of open debate, we can hope to see lots of on-line chatting, blogging, etc., on the candidates in the run up to elections.

Australia is taking the bull by the horns by creating a Google platform for “2007 Australian Federal Elections” for electors to read up on the candidates, use Google maps, games and gadgets. The Google site (no longer functional) provides an aggregation of information that, if mismanaged, could certainly go bad (and bring Cory Doctorow’s vision of the future just a little closer.

Here’s the story from Google’s own blog. “At Google, we believe that democracy on the web works, and also that the web can work for democracy,” says the company on its Australian blog.

50th Anniversary for Kerouac’s On The Road

This year is the 50th anniversary for Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road.” As I discovered in crawling some blogs, Kerouac had pretensions on French aristocratic lineage, although apparently his name is Breton. I don’t know about you, but there’s always been of On the Road in me. Happily I can satisfy the urge with the occasional random road trip that we, as a family, undertake (as we did in Turkey this summer). Felicitations a Kerouac… French or American, I must say that I can still relate. Not alone in my adulation for Kerouac, I note that he was hugely influential in Jerry Garcia’s life. And, for those of you who haven’t read the biography by McNally, “A Long Strange Trip,” Kerouac’s life was instrumental in many ways for the Dead, including the wonderful, “On the Road Again.” I will post a live performance of that song.

Geting a new US passport

A little story that I didn’t talk about regarding our holidays and one that is, by nature, a tad embarrassing. Three days before going for our holidays in Turkey, I went on a business trip to London. After a day of meetings, on the Thursday night, upon arriving at Waterloo to take the Eurostar back to Paris, I found I no longer had my passport. It was past 5pm. Getting on the train was impossible. Panic aboard (except I wasn’t aboard at all). Our trip to Turkey was hanging in the balance. Our charter flight from Paris to Antalya left on Saturday. I had less than 48 hours and only one business day left to get a new passport in London, get a train back and then do everything one has to do on the last day of work at the office before going on holidays on the fly. A tall task. My wife supplied via email with me with scans of my lost passport, birth certificate, etc. (note to self: best to carry a copy with yourself in your bags).

On Friday morning, having taken an appointment on line for 8:30am, I got up early as I had to find a place to take my two photos — in a size not available in photo booths — that was open early AND not too far away from the Embassy.

After rumbling around, I managed to find a spot that was open early and, photos in hand, rushed to the Embassy. I arrived at the gate at 8:30 on the nose. The appointment apparently took into consideration the queue. Sparing you on the smaller details about the comedian guard, I was walking out through the in-door at 10:25am with the emergency passport in my hand. It took under an hour and a half to get a replacement passport. I was astounded. Aside from what I thought would be the inevitable long queue, I didn’t even know a passport could be issued in a day. Until you need it that fast, it’s not a question you really want to ask.

I was back at Waterloo at mid-day and, to the relief of all the family, back on my way to join the family. Of course, there was some work to be done, some bags to pack and some other last minute stress. But, we made it.


Back in Paris after the holidays and after a quick business trip to Switzerland, I then went to get a permanent passport. (BTW You can’t get two emergency passports in a row). This morning, I showed up a 8:50am to drop off my application. I was out by 9:10. Seems so weird to spend so little time doing bureaucratic things. Kind of got me thinking… I can only imagine this is the privilege of being a US citizen. But I have other frames of references of how Embassies/Consulates will treat their own citizens. Is it possible that US embassies have figured out how to run efficiently? Have people stopped lining up for visas to go visit the US? Whatever the reason, a good score on my account.

And in yet another bonus: The US Embassy called me up later today to ask if I wanted to add a suffix “2nd” to my name, as that was what appears on my birth certificate and it had been omitted in my passport application form. It’s true that I have not had that “II” or “2nd” on my passport for all my adult life. But considering the ‘discovery’ (ongoing book) of my grandfather, after whom I was named and who died as a Japanese POW in 1944, I told the woman that I would indeed be glad to add the suffix. I am proud to be NMD II. My step-grandfather, Kenn Hinks, who married my widowed grandmother and was a remarkable man in his own right, always used to write to me with “II” behind my name on the envelope. An elegant gesture. In a touch of serendipity, this is an official rebirth of the notion of the II in my name.

The bad news, and just in case you needed another reason not to lose your passport: Every time I enter the US, for probably the rest of my travelling life, I will be stopped at the US Customs & Immigration and made to pass a second scrutiny of my passport to ensure that it is not a forgery or the lost passport in re-circulation. Might as well always check through baggage because I will have a minimum of 10 extra minutes to wait for the extra security check.

P.S. Anyone find my old, cancelled passport, please send it on to me!

The Rugby Haka : Sports as dislocated battle ground

As we ramp up for the Rugby World Cup 2007, my first observation is that, perhaps because France will basically be on break for the months of July and August, there does not seem to be much warm up ‘buzz’ here. Cafe banter — French equivalent of water cooler discussions — is not streaming with debate about who will win the RWC and/or how les Bleus will fare. Possibly the two walkovers in June against the New Zealand All Blacks (combined score of 103-21) put a kabosh on French spirit — regardless that the French team was essentially a load of second string players. (As an aside, I laughed when the French coach unloaded on an Australian referee, then wrote an apology letter in French. See article).

Meanwhile, the South African Springboks coach has asked for permission to introduce officially a Zulu-inspired Haka pre-game tribal war dance. Apparently, it’s been in the pipe for several years — although you wouldn’t know it (or believe that it has made a difference) given the dismal recent results of the Springboks against its traditional foe. If you have ever been in the presence of an All Black (all you need is one man) who performs a Maori Haka, you can only be left impressed. A swath of 15 fired up Kiwis on a pitch is another sight altogether. The people I have met who have personally faced that sight on the pitch have, to a man, all professed intimidation.

Between these various Hakas, you definitely get a whiff of the warlike overtone of a rugby match. Much has been said about sports providing a surrogate for man’s innate warrior instinct. What made me write this piece this morning was a comparison between Rugby (aka Rugby Football) and American Football. Aside from the bravado about “no pads” in rugby, I was considering the different attitudes to pre-game warmups. Like all national sports, the national anthem would be a feature — except there is little occasion for the US to field a national American Football team. That said, at the 2007 “American Football World Cup” at which the US, for the first time since its inception in 1999, fielded a team (and yes they won, but only 23-20 in the final against Japan), there was a US team. Anyway, after the national anthem, things diverge in Rugby and American Football (aka Gridiron Football in parts of the world).

In Rugby, at least when you play the All Blacks, the Haka is a must see. It is legendary. Of course, aside from RSA and Tonga, I don’t believe any other national team has such a ritual. But the fact that these three teams have a haka is enough for me. The haka truly sets the tone. In American Football, on the other hand, we have marching bands AND cheerleaders. The marching bands are the closest we will get to “warlike.” And, well the cheerleaders? They are the equivalent of the women at home, keeping the homefires burning and wishing on their men at war?

In the final analysis, sports as a dislocated field of war suits me fine as long as it reduces war (there have been many articles–I site one–written on how cricket has been a great antidote to war). However, that doesn’t exactly seem to be the case these days. At times, sports itself instills warlike behaviour (for example, the rivalry between Turkey’s Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe). And, although we have had a long stretch without a traditional world war, war is on the lips all the time (and more war seems more likely than less war; for example, Turkey and the Kurds).

It might be a little trite, but in the Islam v Western World (including of course Australia, NZ, etc.) conflict, maybe a little sports interest would be valuable. The Iraqi national football (soccer) team makes valiant strides in difficult times. However, I don’t imagine that sports banter is a common feature in Al-Qaeda huddles. Maybe they need some athletic recruits more than MDs for that to happen?

One thing is for sure, as in war, when you like sports, you must announce your colours. Otherwise, you get the less-than-courageous moniker of “neutral.” BTW, I am a Galatasary fan.

When politics, branding and entertainment merge…

We are in the midst of a number of important changeovers in governments around the world. My home country, France, has not only changed government, but seems to be giving France a JFK-esque-1st-100-days-run-for-your-money changeover. Sarkozy is giving true meaning to “Ensemble Tout Devient Possible.” And, by ravaging the Socialist Party with nominations in his government, Sarkozy is going a whole new power to the word Ensemble (together). During the French elections, campaign websites were a must, political platform comparison sites were the rage (see prior blog), and blogs were in full action, Sarkozy Campaign (not continued since election) and even for the Ecolo Dominique Voynet, among others, were on line. Of course, campaigning must be virtual and ‘brick & mortar’. As my friend Eric says, the Sarkozy brand even took up the democratic jogging. All in all, branding and the place of new technologies was at a new level in the 2007 Presidential Elections.

In the UK, after elections in Scotland, Ireland and Wales earlier in the year, Blair handed over to Brown without much real fanfare. While England can theoretically wait until 2010, it would seem likely that Brown will call for an earlier General Election. We’ll see then how much Brown will play with his image, touch new technologies and revolutionize the election process.

Looking ahead now, elections will be spawning like tadpoles. Many of them will be very important for geo-politics. In the next month alone, we will be seeing elections in India (Presidential this week), Kazakhstan (parliamentary), Turkey (parliamentary this weekend); then in Jamaica as well as 5 countries in Africa (Cameroon, Mali, Congo, Sierra Leone…). In the fall, there is Switzerland, Ukraine, Vietnam, Australia and Argentina (not many in the Middle East!). But, the BIGGIE, of course, is 2008 in the US. And the jockeying is well under way.

If the preliminaries are any indication, the amount of novelty in communications may well prove revolutionary as well. I have recently fallen upon the viral campaign by Hillary Clinton. See Hillary Clinton Viral Video, a Sopranos parody based on the Series Finale….It is a little rough, but the amateur feel is not disagreeable as, too slick could send the wrong message. I applaud the originality of her e-campaign chief. If Ms Clinton continues in this direction, she will certainly set the stage for a new kind of campaign and, by starting now, she will create a deep rooted buzz as well ramp up the learning curve in the run-up. John Edwards, aside from his notoriously expensive crop, is a regular on www.twiter.com. Meanwhile, the main content provider is, of course, the internet community itself. Just search youtube and any one of the major candidates; one highlight: the 1984 takeoff, a mash-up video inspired by Apple, which was apparently done by a disenchanted ex-Obama staff member. For the most part, youtube projects the bad side of the candidates. But, I believe that could change for candidates knowing how to play in that arena. It will mean have exceptional communications skills – applied to a whole new media compared with 2004. In Turkey, because of the restrained access on television, the campaign seems to have become half in the streets, half on youtube, where (according to Europe 1 radio) there are a combined 7,000 videos posted for the two main parties. All in all, these types of messages give new meaning to branding, entertainment and politics. New technologies will definitely play a very strong role in USA ’08 Presidential Elections. Who can compete as effectively with Hillary? It should be enthralling. And, to some extent, it will be more about brains than brawn, because quick amateur videos are very democratic and, moreover, tend to be better received than slick, professional ads.

Les Terreurs d’Uchisar – Turkish Nightmare

The Dial ’07 Summer Holidays, Lodging a Complaint — Part 3 of 3.

After Club Med in Antalya, Turkey, we were ready for the thrill of adventure with a week-long trip, driving up to the Cappadocia region. Images of Chevy Chase in “Summer Vacation” are not out of the question. Other than the middle four nights which we had booked in the beautiful town of Uchisar, we found hotels as and when we needed them. For this blog, I reserve comment for 4 of these places.

Top honor goes to Utopia World Hotel in Alanya. This 5* ‘all-inconclusive’ hotel aloof on a hill offers magnificent views and sunsets. It also is an opportunity to practice your парусский as it seemed that fully 50% of the guests were Russian. The hotel has only been open for a few weeks when we arrived, unannounced last week. Our one night stay, at 308 lira for the four of us, was an absolute treat. Enormous Aqua Park. Great tennis court. Food was a C+. And the Club Med-style animation was B-. The animator spun the evening’s activities in three languages: Turkish, Russian & German. Definitely knew we weren’t at Club Med.

Second prize goes to Olbios Hotel in a town called Kumkuyu (sounds like a swear word, no?). This 4* resort featured a black sand beach that stays moist throughout the day and one of the most gradual slopes into the sea you will ever see. 100 metres out, you are still only up to your hips. Huge pool with a slide offered hours of fun for the kids. Wild animals — including an emu, rabbits, a clipped pelican and chicks — were sprinkled throughout the site. We didn’t try the “Mini Club” because it was strictly monolingual–a sign that the only tourists here were local. German was my main language with the staff. For 170 lira, a great value.

Third prize goes to our lovely host on the outskirts of Aksaray, at the 3* Aratol Hotel. [+90 (0)382-215-8082]. After a warm reception by the owner of the hotel, Mehmet–who is fluent in French and also has a business & home in France–we enjoyed a nice dinner and the spacious rooms. The swimming pool was a bonus.

But, the booby prize goes to the one place we had reserved in advance: Les Terraces d’Uchisar (see photo of town on the left). Run by a French couple, we had bad feelings from the moment we arrived to the time we left, a day earlier than planned. It all started when the owner, Marco, a gruff man, complained about the poor sense of humor of the British. Then, before we had even checked in, we were sold the idea of taking a hot air balloon – for which he said that he would “get us a favorable rate.” We reserved unwittingly for a 4:30am ride the following morning. The room and the view were lovely. However, that night, we slept terribly if at all. Dogs howled and barked all night long. I took a sleeping pill at 1am; Yendi didn’t sleep a wink. The kids woke up several times. Then the day’s first muezzin (call to prayer) started at 3:45, seemingly right outside our window, too. Needless to say, the 4am wake up call was very tough. A 4:32, we were about to head downstairs when the owner pounded on the door and told us off for being late. He was furious at having been woken up by a phone call (apparently no direct telephone lines to the room) from the Balloon operator and said that “he would have expected better from us [than to be late].” When we told him about the horrible dogs, he shrugged it off saying that they weren’t his responsibility. When you know that he was payed up to a 60% cut on the 630 euros we spent for the four of us for the balloon ride… As it turned out, we paid not a penny less than the list price. The 1 1/4 hour ride was beautifully serene–truly a memorable experience. Alexandra, however, got sick and ended up curled up in a corner of the basket for virtually the whole ride. Note that there are a number of different balloon companies — we took the very reputable Cappadocia Balloons run by a charming English/Dutch couple, but there are many local, much cheaper alternatives.

Back at the ranch, we collapsed and slept into the early afternoon. When we informed the host that we were not dining at the hotel, he was visibly irritated. It was like we were supposed to be there to please him. Very odd. That night, we decided to cut our stay short by a day and informed the hostess. The night was a little more peaceful, although we still had a one-hour symphony of howling dogs and the muezzin with which to contend. The next day, we had the good fortune of meeting a very interesting and pleasant French couple in a charming hamlet nearby. And, as they were staying at the same hotel, we chose to have dinner together at the hotel. We learned that the owner had been equally unpleasant to them — including using crass language toward their kids (‘bouge ton cul’). When we mentioned our checkout for the following morning, the owner said, with a big smile, “My dear friend, I will of course still need to charge you for the night you do not spend here.” Without going into the details, we left the following morning, having paid the extra night. This is a place trying to get sold. Wait for new owners before setting foot there. Until then, they remain the Terrors of Uchisar.