Bizarre airplane news


Just one issue of Avweb…

The news was not all bad/strange:

Honda Clarity versus Accord test drive


We still need a new car and, except for the broken Apple CarPlay, are happy with our Honda Odyssey. So I went down to the local dealer and drove a base Clarity plug-in hybrid and an Accord EX.

(Why not keep having the old car fixed when it fails? Americans are no longer willing or able to work as automobile mechanics (see nytimes). Actually I wonder if there could be a good business exporting seriously broken cars to Eastern Europe or some other part of the world where there are a lot of skilled craftspeople. If a car needs more than 15 hours of labor to repair, ship it out!)

A lease on the stripped Clarity has come down in price a bit, but stripped is pretty stripped, e.g., there are no power seats. The worst part of the Clarity is a bizarre touch-screen slider volume control. Considering that the touch screen on our Odyssey freezes up every three or four drives, having it be the primary means of controlling audio volume wouldn’t be my first design choice. Given that a car is often in motion (well, maybe not in a U.S. populated by 327 million people using a road network designed for 150 million), how could it ever be the case, for a frequently-used control, that a touch screen is better than a knob that can be adjusted by feel?

If Honda’s brilliant engineering minds had in fact settled on this interface for all of their cars I would be prepared to consider the possibility that they were right and I am wrong. But the Accord EX has the same touch screen…. surrounded by physical buttons and two knobs (one for volume, one for tuning). Does Honda expect a different species of animal to be behind the wheels of these two cars? If not, why wouldn’t one design choice be considered optimum by the engineers at the same car company?

[Honda’s 2018 line-up seems to embrace the idea of at least three different types of human brains, actually. The Odyssey EX-L has the touch screen and, unlike either the Clarity or the Accord, a single physical knob (power/volume). It lacks the physical button surround of the Accord. Maybe this design harlequinade will stop aviation nerds from complaining about the deep menu structure of the Garmin G1000?]

Similarly, Honda can’t seem to make up its collective mind regarding what safety systems should be included in a car. The Clarity lacks the blind spot monitoring system that is on the Odyssey and the Accord. The Accord lacks the “beep if you’re about to back into something” feature of the Odyssey. It seems like a bad idea for a multi-car family to have one car with features A, B, C, and D while the other car has only A and C. The driver will get complacent in the car with more safety systems and then be rudely surprised in the less intelligent car.

The Clarity has current capacity stamped right next to its USB outlets. The Accord does not. Interestingly, Honda has chosen capacities of 1.5A and 1A for the front USB outlets of the Clarity. The machine has a powerful enough electrical system to push a car 50 miles down the highway, but it can’t charge an iPad with 2.1 amps? Maybe it would be too much to ask for USB-C quick charging in a 2018 car, but why not a full power USB outlet if they are going to bother with one at all?

The Accord EX is not as nice a highway cruiser as the vault-like Odyssey EX-L. There is no acoustic glass and consequently there is plainly a lot more road noise. The Accord has power seats, like in the Odyssey, but no memories!

Readers: What’s a good sedan that can be leased for $300-400/month and has at least comparable driver idiot-proofing to the latest Honda Odyssey? Also, one member of our household is an animal-lover and would prefer not to sit on the dead skin of an unfortunate cow (i.e., she prefers cloth upholstery, as featured in luxury Robinson R44 helicopters).

Teachers are both unionized and underpaid?


My friends who are still mourning Hillary’s loss like to say that (1) public school teachers are “underpaid,” and (2) workers need to be unionized. [What’s their mourning process, you might ask? Lately it seems to be full-time speculation about which women agreed to exchange cash for sex with a certain hated billionaire 12 or more years ago.]

The West Virginia teachers recently went out on strike. A Facebook friend interrupted his stream of Trump hatred to post “Solidarity forever. Most people in politics just talk about doing things for working people.” on top of an article about the Legislature giving unionized government workers a pay raise in hopes of ending the strike. (Now the median-earning “working people” in West Virginia will pay higher taxes so that the above-median-earning teachers in West Virginia can move farther away from the median. Also, it is likely that Medicaid funding will be cut so the poorest folks in West Virginia will be financing this raise as well.)

His friend added “The best part is it’s inspiring teacher strikes in other states, too!” and I couldn’t resist pointing out the apparent contradiction of Americans voting to spend $700 billion per year on K-12 schools and then celebrating when those schools were shut down. My response: “That IS awesome. There is nothing worse than children being in school.” (This was a most definite #NotFunnyAtAll!)

Although it was fun to rile up the righteous, let’s circle back to these dual beliefs. Teachers are underpaid and unions secure fair compensation for workers. If nearly all public school teachers are unionized and, at least in some states, they have the right to strike, how can they be underpaid? And if they are grievously underpaid, despite being unionized, shouldn’t they stop paying union dues? (maybe they will get their chance, depending on how the Supreme Court rules in the recently argued Janus v. AFSCME)


  • BLS data on quit rates for public school teachers: They are only about 1/3rd as likely to quit their jobs compared to an average private sector worker, so apparently they are gluttons for punishment, showing up every day in exchange for an unfair wage. Or maybe this explains the difficulty that American K-12 students have with the critical thinking part of the PISA test. Teachers are unable to recognize how much better off they’d be if they quit their underpaid jobs and took different jobs. How can they then teach students to think critically about their own situations?
  • BLS says that high school teachers need a bachelor’s degree and earned a median $58,030 annually two years ago.
  • BLS says that the median worker with a bachelor’s degree earned $1,278 per week at the end of 2017. So if the school year is considered to be 40 weeks, that would be $51,120 per school year. (i.e., even if the value of health care, pension, and union protections against being fired were worth nothing, teachers earn an above-median cash wage among college-educated Americans)

Mississippi law on abortion after 15 weeks


There is nothing that my Massachusetts- and California-based Facebook friends like better than heaping abuse on Americans who are too stupid to live on the coasts (Gulf Coast doesn’t count as a Big Brain Coast!). The latest issue that excites them is an abortion law update in the South: “Mississippi Governor Signs Nation’s Toughest Abortion Ban Into Law” (NPR). The law restricts abortions after 15 weeks of gestation.

Premature babies were one topic that we studied last month during my sojourn at the local medical school. Preterm babies can be expensive, so much so that self-insured employers will try to avoid paying for fertility services, such as in-vitro fertilization (IVF), due to the risk that triplets will be born and punch a $300,000 hole in their budget (not all triplets are dramatically premature, of course, but $300,000 is the average cost).

We learned that, from a medical point of view, babies can be viable and will receive treatment after 22 or 23 weeks of gestation (about 70 percent will survive; some babies are surviving birth after only 21 weeks of gestation; a recent example from England). There is an ICD-10 code for babies born at less than 23 weeks.

Here in Massachusetts, abortion is available without any reason through 24 weeks of gestation (the law), but also beyond that date “if a continuation of her pregnancy will impose on her a substantial risk of grave impairment of her physical or mental health.” I’m not sure why, in practice, this leads to any restrictions on abortion. What is likely more harmful to mental health than having a kid, whose own physical and mental health cannot be known in advance, around 24/7? What is more likely to interfere with regular gym visits and other physical health-promoting activities than being responsible for a child? (Note that, based on our interviews with family law attorneys, Massachusetts is one of the U.S. states in which it is most common for abortions to be sold at a discount to the net present value of projected child support cashflow; see “Child Support Litigation without a Marriage”)

So… U.S. society is now at the point where we have people who are outraged if anyone proposes limiting spending on extremely premature babies (a bill of $2-5 million for one child would not be unusual), but they’re also outraged if anyone proposes to restrict the ability of a woman to choose an abortion several weeks after the gestational age at which babies are currently viable (given unlimited health care spending).

This reminds me a bit of a “meet the midwives” event at Mt. Auburn Hospital here in Cambridge a few years ago. Given that it was Cambridge, it seems safe to assume that the audience was at least 94 percent faithful Democrats who supported abortion at 24 weeks (6.5 percent of Cambridge voted deplorably in the 2016 election). Yet they talked about their own 12-16-week pregnancies as though the developing children were already fully human and very nearly out and about.

Readers: Let’s assume that, given the money being poured into this area of treatment, technology and technique will keep advancing such that younger and younger babies are medically viable. Instead of 70 percent of babies being viable at 23 weeks, for example, we’d have a 98-percent survival rate (maybe for $20 million per baby) and 85 percent of children born at 22 weeks would survive. Would that lead to voters and legislators who are currently happy with the 24-week limit changing their minds?


How to lose Jewish friends on Facebook


A Facebook friend linked to “Should there be a Jewish Inclusion Rider?”

… Frances McDormand, … taught us all a new phrase: Inclusion rider. Within minutes of her speech, the phrase was trending on twitter. News outlets spent the ensuing days explaining the term, and interviewing media researcher Stacy Smith, the woman who coined it.

In a nutshell, the inclusion rider is a clause that actors can ask to be included in their contract, demanding at least 50 per cent diversity in the contributors to a film, be it performers or crew. The idea is that a film should accurately reflect, both on and off screen, the demography of the location in which it is set and/or made.

I wondered what an inclusion rider would look like in the Jewish community. And, in particular, how it would impact on the inclusion and representation of women. What would happen, for example, if every man offered a role in a Jewish communal organisation insisted that the organisation accurately reflected the demographics of our community? What would happen, if every male speaker at a communal event insisted that there were an equal number of female speakers? What would happen, if every time a man was invited to appear on a panel, he insisted that an equal number of women were invited too, finally putting an end to the depressingly ubiquitous “manel”.

So to any men reading this, I ask the question. The next time you are invited to speak at a shul event, will you ask how often women are also invited to speak? The next time you are asked to become a trustee of a communal organisation, will you check how many women sit on the board before making your decision?

Here’s my comment on the article:

If she is passionate about diversity, rather than quotas set aside for Jewish women, would it make more sense to have quotas for Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Muslims, etc. at the gatherings that she describes?

[One area where my Facebook friend does not seem to want a quota for Jewish women is in wage-earning. Although her children are now grown and there would be no obstacle to her taking a job, she lets her husband bring home 98 percent of the family’s income.]

LED lighting providing job security for electricians


A couple of electricians came by to fix some intermittent fluorescent lights in the hangar. We chatted as they replaced the ballasts, the first service that these lights had had in roughly 40 years. “When LEDs came out, we thought that we were done,” one said. “But we’re busier than ever because the drivers fail after three years or the lights flicker or they aren’t compatible with dimmers.”

I had big hopes for LED bulbs in our house, but mostly it seems that I launched a Denial of Service attack on my own position. Feit bulbs from Costco flicker when connected to Feit dimmers from Costco. Lutron dimmers and Philips bulbs interact in unexpected ways. We couldn’t get a custom-designed LED fixture to work with any dimmer at all (it does work with an on/off switch though).

Should new houses be built with some kind of standard DC wiring for all of the lighting? And maybe a separate dimming signal? Monkeying with the AC waveform as a way to communicate “I want dim” doesn’t seem to work. Or can we keep the legacy ridiculously high voltage wiring and rely on WiFi bulbs, such as Philips Hue, that dim in response to digital packets received? Whatever we’re doing now seems like a disaster for everyone except electricians.

[Despite our failure to engineer working LED light bulbs, some American geniuses remain filled with confidence in the area of electrical innovation: “MIT Receives Millions to Build Fusion Power Plant Within 15 Years” (Gizmodo). They will just take the hottest thing in the universe and put it right next to the coldest thing in the universe and push the resulting commercial fusion reactor out the door. How hard can it be? Then they will, one hopes, turn their attention to flicker-free LED lighting.]

Books that are selling at Costco


Books for sale at our nearby Costco:

(I showed She Persisted to a friend and he asked “Is that a book about divorce plaintiffs?”)

Books on display at our local library:

Who said Print is Dead?

Bumble dating app on guns and marrying for the cash


“Bumble CEO, on Banning Gun Photos” (TIME):

We were founded with safety at the helm of everything we do…

this is a matter of safety

We want women … to feel safe and feel secure

I received personal emails from so many women just saying, “Thank you, I feel safer.”

This confused one of my gun nut friends: “Don’t the women want to see men with gun photos so they know who is scary and whom to avoid dating?” The CEO deals with this in the article, but doesn’t explain her logic:

But to be candid with you, we did have some women reach out and ask: “Well how do I know that someone is a gun owner now?” And once we walked them through our logic, they actually really understood and appreciated where we were coming from. Being able to ask what someone’s beliefs are is not as hard as the consequences of someone casually showing a gun, which might send the wrong message to someone who might go and misuse a gun.

Readers: What do you think? Will women actually be “safer” on Bumble if they never see pictures that include guns, but just find out about an arsenal when they’re on their date’s sofa, feel a lump between the cushions, and pull out a pistol? (This actually happened to me, though I wasn’t dating the gun enthusiastic!)

[Separately, in downtown Seattle the company put up a massive billboard reading “Be the CEO your parents always wanted you to marry. (then find someone you actually like)”

Assuming that the “someone you actually like” is lower income than the female CEO, this is questionable marital advice under Washington family law. The aging high-income female CEO is exposed to the full force of the gender-neutral alimony statute in the event that the husband that she actually liked decides that he would prefer to have sex with 25-year-olds. Her savings from the marriage and earnings going forward will fund his escapades with younger mates. (see Massachusetts Prenuptial Agreements for how one of these scenarios played out)]

New York Times says Ireland is way better than the U.S.


Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Be grateful that you aren’t coming to our house for my experiment in making corned beef and cabbage.

Let’s consider “How the Irish Could Still Save Civilization” (nytimes):

… how did Ireland’s prime minister, Leo Varadkar, the gay son of a Hindu father of Indian descent, merit time from a president who has stirred up a thousand little hatreds from the darkest corners of America?

no one in power has betrayed the Irish-American story more than President Trump.

the prime minister of a tiny nation tried to nudge the mighty United States back to the moral high ground.

We’re stuck with Trump, the most un-American of presidents, who never misses a chance to stoke xenophobic fears. In trying to erase our history, his administration recently removed the phrase “America’s promise as a nation of immigrants” from the federal agency dealing with immigrants.

Should we adopt enlightened Irish policies, then? We want to recapture the moral high ground, right? (definitely don’t want to challenge the assumption that we did formerly occupy the “moral high ground”; there is no need to justify an assertion that, prior to Trump, we were superior to almost all other nations!)

The NYT would suggest that we adopt the all-in Irish corporate tax rate of 12.5 percent (about half of the new federal+state rates in the U.S.)?

And we would eliminate the right to citizenship for kids born in the U.S. if their parents are not citizens? (“over the period 2003 to 2005, Ireland’s citizenship laws were fundamentally changed to eliminate an Irish-born child’s automatic right to citizenship when the parents are not Irish nationals.”; There would be no more anchor babies!

We would reject 90 percent of asylum-seekers? (“Asylum seekers are now believed to be avoiding Ireland since anti-immigration measures began to be introduced in the wake of the 2002 influx of 12,000 asylum seekers, the highest annual number of immigrants in the State’s history.”; source)

The reader comments are interesting. Pretty much everyone seems to assume that Ireland can teach the U.S. how to be friendly to immigrants. One deplorable got through with “times change. The boat is filling up. At what point do we stop taking on new passengers and risk capsizing? In roughly the last 75 years, the world population (and America’s) has increased nearly 3 times.”

When a quick Google search reveals that Ireland has much more restrictive immigration and citizenship policies than the U.S. (as well as a much higher GDP per capita! Imagine how rich they could be if they took American Democrats’ advice to expand low-skill immigration!), how does a scolding op-ed like this get past the editors of the NYT? How do the readers, all of whom have access to Google, also fail to notice that Irish policies would shut down most of the folks currently getting U.S. citizenship?

Schools help the closeted Second Amendment supporters find each other


IM exchange mostly with a friend with kids in our local middle school, which officially sponsored the anti-gun walkout (see Did your local school officially sponsor a walk-out from school today?). We’ll call his kids Kevin and Kristine (other kids’ names changed as well):

me: [after he posted the school’s statistics on the walkout, roughly 50%] I’m surprised that they didn’t all walk out, considering that it is pretty nice weather. Why would anyone want to stay in the classroom?

other friend: Walking out means you want to ban guns.

friend: I was afraid that if I suggested to my kids to stay they’d be viewed as outsiders. [Kevin] told me that he keeps his views to himself because liberals’ children get belligerent if you disagree with them on this issue. One kid even told him so once. That his mother doesn’t want him to hang out with [Kevin] anymore because of his parents’ political views.

other friend: Your kids walked out?

friend: I don’t know, they are not back yet.

friend: So my kids are back. They didn’t walk out. [Kevin] and [Marsha] (Trump girl) were the only ones who stayed behind in their class. In [Kristine]’s class about half the class stayed. She said “all known republicans or outed republicans”. [the town has only about 2 percent admitted adult Republicans and perhaps 15 percent Republican voters]

other friend: They are outed now.

friend: [Aiden] walked out and said to [Kevin] “i am just going out so i don’t have to be in class”.

other friend: News media coverage is misleading. Imagine if the headline said “School walkout breaks on party lines.”

friend: [Kristine] said that all METCO [state-run program to sort students by skin color and then take some of them off parents’ hands for essentially all waking hours; see Low-effort parenting in Massachusetts via METCO] kids walked out. One black kid stayed behind.

me: [Kristine] will grow up to be like Amy Wax (see “Penn Law professor who said black students are ‘rarely’ in top half of class loses teaching duties”, not to be confused with virtuous articles pointing out inferior academic performance by race (e.g., nytimes, January 31, 2018: “In School Together, but Not Learning at the Same Rate”))

friend: probably

friend: @Philip the Stepford Wife’s daughter didn’t walk out. Closeted Republicans among us. The son of the CEO of *** (acquired by ***) didn’t walk out either.

friend: You should have been here. It was absolutely fascinating to hear how all these kids were coming out to one another. [Kristine] told me her friend who sat in the classroom with her said “don’t tell anybody, my grandfather has a gun”. [Kristine]: ” don’t tell anybody, my dad has quite a few”. girl: “don’t tell anybody, i shot an AR-15 rifle. please keep it secret or i will have no friends here.”

friend: the Chinese kid [Wallace] who lives down the street – moved in from China a few years back also didn’t walk out. His point of view was different – “it’s a waste of time, won’t change anything.” Neutral response – reminds me of Beijing’s foreign policy and my days with Chinese mafia in business school.

friend: [Kevin] said “Dad, you know some of them marched to the center of Happy Valley and back with protest signs. I said, guys why are you doing it here where 95% of people are Democrats. You are trying to convince your own kind of things they already believe in? Fly to Texas and do it there.”

me: Your whole street is going Chinese. [the friend’s next-door neighbor is occupied by a family that moved from Taiwan a few years ago; and, for the record, in case anyone wants to accuse me of anti-Chinese sentiment… some of my best friends are extremely rich Chinese-Americans.]

other friend: Who said “Your whole street is going Chinese … there goes the neighborhood”? No One.

friend: [Kristine] told me some more. She asked the girl “are you a democrat or republican?” Answer: “well, i think on the political spectrum i am near democrat…” [Kristine] said “well, i am a republican”. The girl then immediately went “oh god, yes, i am too, i just didn’t want to say it. it’s so nice to know there’s one of your own kind around!”

Here’s a question… Suppose that a group of children wanted to walk out to protest restrictions on their perceived Second Amendment rights. Perhaps they could cite some folks who were victims of violent crime because they hadn’t been able to purchase and/or carry a gun to protect themselves (so it would also be a remembrance for victims of violence). Would the school sponsor or allow that? If not, how can the purportedly apolitical school support an anti-gun walkout?


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