World's Greatest Vessel Sinks on Maiden Voyage

[Here’s a news article from almost 100 years ago today that details an interesting event. Note that the $10 million mentioned in the story would represent over $225 million today]

Waterloo Chronicle-Telegraph, (Waterloo, ON, Canada), April 18, 1912, page 1

World’s Greatest Vessel Sinks on Maiden Voyage

Women and Children Constitute the Majority of those Saved While it is Believed That First Class Cabin Passengers are Probably Among Rescued

New York, April 15.—A message from the steamer Olympic reporting the sinking of the Titanic and the rescue of 675 survivors, which reached here late to-night, expressed the opinion that 1,800 lives were lost.

“Loss likely to total 1,800 souls,” the despatch read in its concluding sentence.

It is hoped and believed here that this is an error, unless the Titanic had more passengers on board than were reported. The list as given out showed 1,310 passengers and a crew of 860, or 2,170 persons in all. Deducting 675, the known saved, would indicate a loss of 1,495 persons.

The Olympic’s despatch follows—

“Carpathia reached Totanic position at daybreak. Found boats and wreckage only. Titanic sank about 2.20 a.m., in 41.16 N., 50.14 W. All her boats accounted for, containing about 675 souls saved, crew and passengers included. Nearly all saved were women and children. Leyland liner California remained and searching exact location of disaster. Loss likely to total 1,800 souls.”

Earlier Story Said 1,500 Lost.

More than 1,500 persons, it is feared, sank to their death yesterday, when within four hours after she crashed into an iceburg the mammoth White Star Liner Titanic, bound from Southampton to New York on her maiden voyage, foundered off the Newfoundland Banks. Of the approximately 2,200 persons on board the giant liner, some of them of world-wide prominence, only 675 are known to have been saved. The White Star Line offices in New York, while keeping up hope to the last, were free to admit that there had been “horrible loss of life.”

Greatest Marine Disaster.

Accepting the early estimates of the fatality list as accurate, the disaster is the greatest in the marine history of the world. Nearest approaching it in magnitude where the disasters to the steamer Atlantic in 1873, when 574 lives were lost, and to the Burgogne, in 1898, with a fatality list of 517. Should it prove that other liners, notably the Allan liners, Parisian and Virginian, known to have been in the vicinity of the Titanic, early yesterday, had picked up others of her passengers, the extent of the calamity would fortunately be greatly reduced. This hope still remains.

News of the sinking of the liner and the terrible loss of life in consequence came early last evening with all the greater shock because hope had been buoyed up all day by reports that the steamship, although badly damaged, was not in a sinking condition, and that all her passengers had been safely taken off. The messages were mostly unofficial, however, and none came direct from the liner, so that a lurking fear remained of bad news to come.

The First Bad News.

Shortly after 7 o’clock last night there came flashing over the wires from Cape Race, within 400 miles of which the liner, in the treacherous Newfoundland Banks region, had struck the berg which brought her to grief, that at 2.20 o’clock Monday morning, three hours and fifty-five minutes after receiving her death blow, the Titanic had sunk.

Arrived Too Late.

The news came from the steamer Carpathia, relayed by the White Star liner Olympic, and revealed that by the time the Carpathia, outward bound from New York, and racing for the Titanic on a wireless call, reached the scene, the doomed vessel had sunk.

Left on the surface, however, were lifeboats from the Titanic, and in them, as appears from the meagre reports received up to a late hour, were some 675 survivors of the disaster. These, according to advices, the Carpathia picked up, and is now in her way with them to New York.

For the rest, the scene as the Carpathia came up was one of desolation. All that remained of the $10,000,000 floating palace, on which nearly 1,400 passengers had been voyaging luxuriously to this side off the Atlantic, were some bits of wreckage. The biggest ship in the world had gone down, snuffing out in her downward plunge, it appeared, hundreds of human lives.

Doom Of Men On Board.

A significant line in the Cape Race despatch was the announcement that of those saved by the Carpathia nearly all were women and children. Should it prove that no other vessel picked up any passengers of the sinking liner this might mean that few of the men on board had been saved ,as the proportion of women and children among the passengers was large. The same facts would likewise spell the doom of practically the entire crew of 860.

In the cabins were 260 women and children, but it is not known how many there were among the 740 third-class passengers.

In the first cabin there were 128 women and 15 children, and in the second cabin 70 women and 8 children.

A Faint Ray Of Hope.

A ray of hope appeared shortly before 11 o’clock last night in a message to New York from the operator at the Marconi wireless station at Sable Island, near the scene of the disaster. Answering an inquiry regarding the delivery of wireless messages to the passengers of the Titanic, the operator reported that it was difficult to deliver them, “as the passengers are believed to be dispersed among several vessels.” Even this faint indication that other vessels than the Carpathia had picked up survivors of the Titanic was eagerly seized upon by thousands of relatives and friends of those who had set sail.

Inner City Maths Exam

[Found this humourous exam on the Internet a long time ago and I thought it was worth a re-post --James]
Inner-City High School Maths Proficiency Exam



1. Johnny has an AK-47 with an 80-round clip. If he misses 6 out of 10 shots and shoots 13 times at each drive-by shooting, how many drive-by shootings can he attempt before he needs to reload?

2. Jose has 2 ounces of cocaine. He sells an 8-ball to Jackson for $320 and 2 grams to Billy for $85 per gram. What is the street value of the balance of cocaine, assuming he doesn’t cut it?

3. Rufus is pimping for 3 girls. If the price is $65 for each trick, how many tricks will each girl need to turn so Rufus can pay for his $800 per day crack habit?

4. Jarome wants to cut his half pound of heroin to make 20% more profit. How many ounces of cut will he need?

5. Willie gets $200 for stealing a BMW, $50 for a Chevy, and $100 for a 4×4. If he has stolen 2 BMWs and 3 4x4s, how many Chevys will he need to steal to make $800?

6. Raoul is in prison for 6 years for murder. He got $10,000 for the hit. If his common law wife is spending $100 per month, how much money will be left when he gets out of prison, and how many more years will he get for killing the bitch who spent his money?

7. If the average spray can covers 22 square feet, and the average letter is 3 feet square, how many letters can a tagger spray with 3 cans?

8. Hector knocked up 6 girls in his gang. There are 27 girls in the gang. What percentage of the girls in the gang has Hector knocked up?

9. Thelma can cook dinner for her 16 children for $7.50 per night. She gets $35 a month in welfare for each child. If her $325 per month rent goes up by 15%, and assuming there are 30 days in a month, how many more children should she have to keep up with her expenses?

10. Salvador was arrested for dealing crack. His bail was set at $25,000. If he pays a bail bondsman 12% and returns to Mexico, how much money will he lose by jumping bail?


Check your answers before handing in your exam.

Achievements in Life

Something to think about: What accomplishment of yours are you the most proud of that meets the following three criteria:

  1. The accomplishment is something that you chose to do
  2. You accomplished the accomplishment primarily through your own effort (not by others’ efforts, luck, natural processes, and so on)
  3. Simply choosing to do the task did not make the accomplishment inevitable.

I found that it took a while to come up with something that met all three criteria. What’s your biggest such accomplishment?

Thoughts on Joe Paterno

One of the headlines in today’s news is that Joe Paterno has died today (and it appears that he did die and this isn’t just a false report, like last night). While it might be hard to argue that there ever is a good time to die, the timing of Paterno’s death is particularly bad for him. Had he passed away earlier, the news headlines would recite his accomplishments with Penn State, not his role in a child sexual abuse scandal at Penn State (he was fired last year for not reporting to the police the sexual abuse of a minor that was reported to him). A little later, and he would have had some time to enjoy his retirement while the media forgot about the scandal.

While, in retrospect, it is quite clear that Paterno’s decision not to let the police know about Jerry Sandusky was wrong, I don’t think we should be too quick to judge him too harshly. I suspect that, if we were in the exact same position that he was in, most of us would do the exact same thing. What if someone that you barely knew came into your office one day and told you that someone that you did know quite well was sexually abusing a child? Especially if you’ve invested 50 years in your job and didn’t want everything to be wrecked over allegations that, for all you knew, might be false? And if perhaps you grew up in an era in which problems were “resolved” in a different way? And if you trusted higher-ups to make the right decisions? And so on, and so forth?

I suspect that many people who have read to this point are thinking, “Not I! Sure, a lot of people might give in to the dark side in this scenario, but I would have the strength to do what’s right in that situation!” Well, let’s look at another example. Take the following experiment. In this experiment, the subject is led to believe that he is participating in an experiment about learning. He is in the position of a “teacher”, and his task is to drill a “learner” in another room on lists of word pairs, administering an electric shock to the “learner” whenever a wrong answer is given. This shock starts out at a low voltage (15 volts) but become increasingly more powerful with every wrong answer, until it reaches dangerous and eventually lethal levels (450 volts). What the subject doesn’t know is that the “learner” is a confederate of the experimenter, is purposely giving wrong answers, and is not really receiving shocks, but is acting as if he were (initially expressing minor discomfort, but later screaming in pain and eventually falling silent as the voltage increases). If the subject expresses concern about shocking the “learner”, he is variously prodded and reassured by the experimenter. Now, what percentage of the general population do you think would be uncaring/sadistic/whatever enough to administer the entire series of shocks up to and including 450 volts?

The experiment described above is actually a famous one that was performed by Stanley Milgram in 1961. Milgram took a survey before performing the experiment, finding that people believed (on average) that 1.2% of the population would administer the full range of shocks. What he found upon performing the experiment, however, was that 65% of people did, while many of the remaining 35% still administered very painful (or so they thought) voltages. While Milgram’s experiment was about obedience, it also shows that under certain circumstances, we are all capable of doing very bad things. However, while we accept that others can do very bad things, we are often blind to the fact that we (or our friends or relatives) can do very bad things.

There are lots of surveys with curious results that illustrate this phenomenon. Fifteen years ago, U. S. News and World Report took a survey of who their readers felt was most likely to go to heaven; the winner was “Myself”, with 87%, well ahead of Mother Teresa, who was in second place with 79%, or Oprah Winfrey, who was in third place with 66%. Here’s a more recent one: Parents with teenagers, on the average, think that about 60% of teenagers drink, but only 10% think that their teen drinks. And so on and so forth.

So, before we berate others for their flaws, perhaps we should look at ourselves first. This certainly isn’t a new idea; 2,000 years ago, Jesus said, “Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3, NRSV). After all, regardless of what flaws Joe Paterno may have had, these flaws can no longer hurt us. However, our own flaws will continue to hurt us every day for the rest of our lives. Perhaps we should work on those first before we criticize others.

The theme of this post has been really depressing, so I’ll close it off with a positive thought: If we are capable of very bad actions if put in a certain set of circumstances, then we should be capable of very good actions if in another set of circumstances. Our lives and the lives of others would probably be much, much better if we were to work to try to create those circumstances in our lives and the lives of others.

Arriving to parties: On-time or late?

It’s the holiday party season again, and this raises a perennial question:  Should you arrive at a party on time, or should you arrive “fashionably late”?

I’m sure that any etiquette book will give you an answer, but I’m going to ignore that sort of answer and look for a more practical, logical one.

To start off, let’s look at three possibilities that cover everything:  Either you can be early, or you can be on time, or you can be late.  First, let’s look at this question:  If you only had the choice of showing up early or late, which would you choose?  I think that most people would choose to be late.  If you’re early, you might catch the host/hostess still getting ready, it’s awkward with no-one else there, and so on.  So, late it is.

Now, let’s examine whether to show up on time or to show up late.  Problem is, unless you live next door to the party, it just isn’t possible to show up on time.  Whether you drive, take a taxi or public transportation, get picked up by someone, or whatever, there’s enough unpredictability to ensure that you’re either going to get there a few minutes early or a few minutes late.  But, wait a minute.  We didn’t want to show up early, remember?  So, faced with this unpredictability, I think that a lot of people, perhaps unconsciously, choose to leave at a time that, at best, they’re there on time.  Most likely, they’re a few minutes late.

So, it’s not that people who arrive “fashionably late” are just sitting around twiddling their thumbs waiting for the right time to leave for them to be 15 minutes late or whatever they might be aiming for.  Rather, these people are trying to be on time without being early, and, the world being as unpredictable as it is, this means that they’ll usually be late.

The Montreal Canadiens: An Anachronism?

I’ve been getting a little behind in writing due to Christmas, but I did want to touch on the story of Randy Cunneyworth being named head coach of the Montreal Canadiens the other week.  As you’ve likely heard, there was a bit of an uproar that the head coach of the Canadiens couldn’t speak French.  I think that this uproar suggests that the idea of the Montreal Canadiens is obsolete.  Why?  Well, let’s look at the history of the club.

The Montreal Canadiens were first formed slightly over 100 years ago.  Back then, it was quite common for teams, even those competing at the highest level of play, to be composed solely of people from the same ethnic group.  You can find teams named the “Bulldogs”, “Shamrocks”, “Thistles”, and other ethnic designations on the Stanley Cup or in the standings for various leagues.  It was in this atmosphere that the Canadiens were born.  Their roster was populated solely with French-Canadians.  And, unlike some of their competitors, this idea actually worked out pretty well for them, and they survived and won lots of Stanley Cups.

During the “Original Six” era (I don’t like that name, since four of the six teams weren’t original, but I won’t dwell on that here) each team had the exclusive rights to juniors who were from the surrounding area.  For the Canadiens, that primarily comprised, you guessed it, French-Canadians.  The fact that they had access to all of this talent was a big reason for their success in the “Original Six” era (and a big reason why Boston, Chicago, and New York, who at the time were surrounded by relative hockey wastelands, were unsuccessful back then).  During the mid 1960s, the NHL, anticipating expansion, switched to a draft.  Now, the talented French-Canadian might end up anywhere.  However, the Canadiens still had lots of talent in their farm system, which enabled them to remain a strong team until the end of the 1970s (they won four cups in a row between 1975-76 and 1978-79).

Over the next 32 years, the Canadiens have only won the cup twice.  Now, that’s a bit better than chance and a bit better than some other teams *cough*Toronto*cough* but the Canadiens are far from the dynasty that they were when they had exclusive access to some of the best hockey talent in the country.  Things have changed.  First, there are a lot more sources of hockey talent than Quebec.  Second, if they want that hockey talent from Quebec, they can’t get it for free anymore; they’re going to have to pay for it.  Basically, the Canadiens must make a choice.  They can either choose to be a French-Canadian team, or they can choose to be a winning team.  Either they choose the best players they can get, or they choose French players that may not be as good.

The same goes for their head coach.  They can either choose a good head coach, or they can choose one that speaks French.  The choice is theirs, but it’s an either/or choice.  They can’t have it both ways.  If the Canadiens want to win, they need to realise that the idea of the team as a French-Canadian team is an anachronism and abandon it as obsolete.