Norm for good service

Boy away on school camp.
Girl takes full advantage of parents’ undivided attention, asks if we can do dinner.
Of course we can.

Dad checks menu online.
Dad reads the small print.
Never read the small print.

Small print too small for you? Here’s what it says:

Gratuity Policy
We hereby respectfully advise that gratuity is not included in our main prices. The norm for good service is 100% of the total bill. The payment of gratuity is entirely voluntary and the amount is based on the quality of service.

Did I miss something here? Not since the Waterfront branch of Cape Town Fish Market conveniently informed tourists that ‘in South Africa, we routinely tip twenty percent’ has there been such a blatant attempt to rip restaurant patrons off.

But even the pisspoor CTFM kept it vaguely reasonable. This is completely off the scale. And at a restaurant where a 3 course meal plus wine will set you back ±R400 per person, it’s no wonder that the parking lot is full of Audis and Beemers – that’s clearly how the waiting staff get to and from work.

Goodbye Lily

So long, farewell, auf weidersehen, adieu.
Adieu, adieu, to “yieu and yieu and yieu”.

That last line by some distance the worst lyric in musical history (and there’s a lot of decent competition out there).

But this morning, an email from Lily. (Never mind the fact that I unsubscribed from their mailing list ages and ages ago.)

Lily are no more. 

Here’s the full story:

Antoine and Henry here from the Lily team. When Lily set out on the journey to create a flying camera over 3 years ago, we were determined to develop and deliver a product that would exceed your expectations.

In the past year, the Lily family has had many ups and downs. We have been delighted by the steady advancements in the quality of our product and have received great feedback from our Beta program. At the same time, we have been racing against a clock of ever-diminishing funds. Over the past few months, we have tried to secure financing in order to unlock our manufacturing line and ship our first units – but have been unable to do this. As a result, we are deeply saddened to say that we are planning to wind down the company and offer refunds to customers (details below).

We want to thank you for sticking with us and believing in us during this time. Our community was the drive that kept us going even as circumstances became more and more difficult. Your encouraging words through our forums and in your emails gave us hope and the energy we needed to keep fighting.

Before we sign off, we want to thank all the people who have worked at Lily, who have partnered with us, and who have invested in us. Thank you for giving your all, nights, weekends and holidays, in the effort to deliver a great product.

After so much hard work, we are sad to see this adventure come to an end. We are very sorry and disappointed that we will not be able to deliver your flying camera, and are incredibly grateful for your support as a pre-order customer. Thank you for believing in our vision and giving us the opportunity to get this far. We hope our contribution will help pave the way for the exciting future of our industry.

Sincerely,
Antoine and Henry
Lily Founders

Lily tried to make something that no-one had ever managed to make before: a drone which film your adventures while it followed you around, filming your escapades in luxurious HD, but more than that, a portable drone which you could pop in your pocket and take anywhere. (That description just for those of you that struggle with the definition of ‘portable’.)

It looked good. It looked like something I was after, and thus, following some degree of due diligence, I dived in. As did over 60,000 others, yielding more than $34,000,000 in revenue.

But despite a huge uptake, the process was fraught with problems. Reviews of the product test shots were less than complimentary, although the Lily guys always had a reason and a fix and buyers were kept well informed as to the latest developments via email. It was this excellent communication policy that kept me going, despite the delivery date being moved further and further out. Then – 18 months into a 10 month process – they decided that they couldn’t deliver to SA and the alarm bell, tired of being overused and ignored fell off the wall. I pulled the plug.

I’m not surprised that they are struggling to find funding. If they were at this stage 2 years ago, there would be no issue. But things have outpaced them: the good news was that while Lily were struggling with hardware, software, camera, funding and shipping issues, other companies were moving on in the background. DJI had (finally) seen the gap in the market and moved all their existing Phantom technology into a portable drone: the Mavic Pro. Notably more expensive than Lily, but also packed with more features such as 4K video, obstacle avoidance and actually existing, mine arrived last week. Even if Lily were still going, I’d not have their drone yet. And it’s nearly 2 years on from my order.

I’m sad. Lily were trying to do a good thing, it just didn’t work out. As with any start-up, the mountains they had to climb were huge. The issues with the technology are a bit beyond me, but perhaps their biggest error was repeatedly promising too much and repeatedly having to backtrack. Another player in the market would have been great, (especially as Parrot are also struggling) but perhaps it was their idea and the interest it generated that prompted the development of the Mavic Pro. So, for that, thank you Lily.

Hopefully, there are positives that the Lily team can take out of this experience: their communication strategy should be one of them. I’ll keep an eye on what they are going to do next, because I have (more) high hopes.

On Giraffes

Giraffes have featured on this blog before – mainly in news stories of incidents where they have attacked humans and killed humans (well, a cyclist, but still), but also in happier circumstances.

Oh, and then in the way that they have died. I’m talking about the dangers of low bridges and bush runways.

If only there was a page on the internet documenting Unusual Giraffe Deaths. Then we could all… I’m sorry… What?… Seriously?… Well, that’s just great. Let’s go for it. Perfect.

Of course, there is a page on the internet documenting Unusual Giraffe Deaths – here it is. It deals with the age old issue of lightning strikes:

Between 1996 and 1999, the Rhino and Lion Reserve near Krugersdorp, South Africa, had two of its three giraffes killed by lightning – the third animal (a juvenile) was also struck but survived. Betsy the giraffe was killed by lightning at Walt Disney World in Florida in 2003 (in front of lots of witnesses).

Mmm… Braai tyd!

And then there is just plain clumsiness:

Herbivores sometimes die after getting their necks caught in branches. This is a hazard for antlered deer but there are also cases where unantlered deer, horses and other animals have died this way too. And it’s happened, at least once, to a giraffe. In this case, the unfortunate animal slipped while feeding and got its neck caught in a forked branch. Its carcass then remained there, suspended, until people pulled it down.

Indeed:

But giraffe-loving readers must recognise that this is a very unusual occurrence and is nothing to get hung up upon.

Can giraffes drown? Well, yes, as air-breathing mammals, it’s certainly technically possible but it would have to be a very deep river or lake to drown a giraffe. And anyway, can’t they swim, and don’t they float?

If only there was a scientific paper on the internet predicting the buoyancy, equilibrium and potential swimming ability of giraffes by computational analysis. Then we could all… I’m sorry… What?… Seriously?… Well, that’s just great. Let’s go for it. Perfect.

Of course, there is a scientific paper on the internet predicting the buoyancy, equilibrium and potential swimming ability of giraffes by computational analysis – here it is.

It’s not a perfect solution, because:

Giraffes are complicated objects, and modelling them digitally is fraught with difficulty.

But it’s sure as hell got to be easier than craning a full size, unanaesthetised giraffe into a really deep swimming pool, watching it sink to the bottom of said really deep swimming pool upon release from the crane and thus concluding that a) no giraffes can’t swim, and b) they’re also really difficult to extricate from really deep swimming pools.

Here’s an excellent synopsis of the paper. It asks all the right questions, like: Can giraffes float?

By rising the simulated water level around the giraffe model [as shown in the figure below], it was found that an adult giraffe would start to float at a water depth of about 2.8 m. It seems that the hindlimbs would leave the substrate before the forelimbs, raising the possibility that giraffes in deep water might be able to pole themselves along with their forelimbs alone.

Well, ok. But can giraffes swim?

No! Yes! Sort of!

Positioned in the water in an uncomfortable pose, afflicted with a relatively high mean density, suffering from substantially high frictional drag, and unable to raise and lower its neck and hence unable to adopt a synchronous gait, we conclude that giraffes would be very poor swimmers, and that it might be assumed that they would avoid this activity if at all possible.

And it’s at this point that it asks the most pertinent question of all:

Does this have any implications whatsoever for anything?

And again it’s a yes:

If giraffes do perform poorly in water – so much so that they avoid crossing large bodies of water should they need do – has this had any impact on their biogeography?

And a no:

Unfortunately, we don’t really know enough to be sure whether these distributional limits actually have anything to do with the ability or inability of giraffes to cross water.

So overall, it’s actually a no. But Henderson & Naish still managed to get funding for their research, whereas I’m left struggling to find R350 to pay for test tubes for essential TB research. I’m not saying that they shouldn’t have been able to try to predict the buoyancy, equilibrium and potential swimming ability of giraffes by computational analysis, I’m just saying that test tubes are expensive and I could do with some research grant money as well.

But don’t let’s allow my personal bitterness on the vagaries of scientific funding derail the learning process that you’ve gone through in reading this post. So, in conclusion, (some) giraffes die in weird ways, most giraffes seem to be able to kind of float, giraffes are not great at swimming and that might (but probably didn’t) have an effect on where they are found in Africa these days.

Also, got any test tubes?

It’s off the hook!

Struisbaai is known as the party capital of Cape Agulhas, and no more so than at this festive time of year. Later today, there’s a Langarm Kompetisie up at the new nightclub in the industrial estate, but I fear that even that won’t match up to the excitement of yesterday’s Sasco promotion at the the local ‘OK’ supermarket (named thus to avoid trade descriptions issues with their original choice of ‘Really Good’):

This man bought a loaf of Sasko bread at ‘OK’, and got to spin the mystery wheel of fortune outside the store.

You’ll never believe what he won:

SOME BREAD ROLLS! Jeez. Times are tough, eh?

Please note Sasko (bakery company) c.f. Sasco – revolutionary student movement.
It should also be noted that only one of these is offering the chance to win R10 worth of products outside the Struisbaai ‘OK’.

But still, BREAD ROLLS!!!!!

DAMN! STRUISBAAI REALLY ARE OFF THE HOOK THIS HOLIDAYS!

Management speak

Corporate nonsense, isn’t it?

Keep it simple, stupid. Just say what you mean. It’s a meeting, you’re not “touching base”. You wrote someone an email, you didn’t “reach out” to them. You finished that report, you didn’t “close the loop”.

I’m instantly wary of people using management speak. They’re trying to hide something, whether it’s their innate stupidity, a lack of self-confidence, or some bad news. That’s why I was suspicious when I saw this update from the Cape Wheel at the V&A Waterfront:

u wot m8?

“Restructuring your ticket options”? Those options being an adult ticket or a child ticket. That looks very similar to what’s currently on offer. That’s not “restructuring”, that’s “applying a non-varying approach”.

What has changed then, as beagle-eyed readers will already have noticed, is the price. Here’s where we stand currently:

And “focussing in on the paramount datum”:

We learn then that basically, “restructuring our ticket options” actually means increasing the prices for a ride by an impressive 20%.

As an aside, inflation in South Africa is currently running at 6.4%.

So that’s a pretty hefty restructuring.

In the spirit of these linguistically disguised augmentations, I’ve just told Mrs 6000 that I’m going to be “restructuring my alcohol consumption options” over the summer holidays. The beverages of choice will remain wine, beer and brandy, so I guess that – like the Cape Wheel’s ticketing options – some other parameter variable (see comments below) of the alcohol consumption will have to change.

I wonder what that could be.