~ Archive for Uncategorized ~

General aviation accident rate flat for a decade despite fancier technology


The 27th Nall Report, analyzing aircraft accidents in 2015, was recently published by AOPA Air Safety Institute. The publisher says “Imagine a year without a single fatal accident in GA [general aviation]. We aren’t there yet, but we’re getting closer every year.” The data plotted on page 6, however, show that the accident rate and fatal accident rate are essentially flat from 2006 through 2015. During that time the fleet has seen a lot of technological upgrades. Old Cessnas and Pipers have been retired in favor of some of the thousands of parachute-equipped glass-panel Cirruses produced during those 9 years. Datalink weather (XM or ADS-B) has been added to a lot of planes. Retrofit glass panels. Synthetic vision (a flight simulator-style view of the terrain out the window).

The fatal accident rate for GA non-commercial (Joe Average flying around in a Cessna or Cirrus) went from 1.22 per 100,000 hours to 1.13 between 2006 and 2015 (fixed-wing commercial was a lot better! Only 0.24 and that includes dangerous agricultural work as well as safe two-pilot charter work.)

It might be a statistical fluke, but the fatal accident rate for non-commercial helicopter operations was down to 0.57, well below that of fixed wing and barely higher than the rate for commercial helicopters (0.45 per 100,000 hours).

My take-away: we need radical change if we want to see radical improvement. Maybe it is “Ground Monitoring for Part 91 Operations”. Maybe it is aggressive envelope protection for existing flight control systems (see “Could the latest autopilots with envelope protection turn a deathtrap into a safe airplane?“). Maybe it is a retrofit fly-by-wire flightpath-based flight control system (see the U.S. Navy’s MAGIC CARPET system for landing the F/A-18).

Readers: What do you think? Would you have expected more from the improvements that have been introduced in the last 20 years?

Oshkosh as a Safe Space slide show repeated this weekend at KBED


New Englanders:

I’m repeating our MIT Flying Club presentation on “Oshkosh as a Safe Space” (based on our 2018 camping trip out of an SR20). Possible times are Friday 12:30 and 6:30, Saturday 12:30 and 6:30, and Sunday at 12:30. Email me,  philg at mit.edu, if interested and I can slot you in. There will be food! The venue is the incredibly luxurious and hospitable Rectrix at KBED (Hanscom Field).

(Oh yes, if you’re an aircraft or boat owner, you can come early to participate in a focus group regarding light sport amphibians and get a $300 Amazon gift card!)

[Separately, in asking a friend at the airport whether to invite someone to the focus group, the response was “Well, he used to own two airplanes. But then his wife divorced him and now he’s kind of poor.”]

Is “data scientist” the new “programmer”?


Back in the 1970s, being a “programmer” meant writing one or files of code that input data, processed it in some way, and then output a result. A program that occupied more than 256 KB of memory, even on a mainframe, would have been considered bloated (and wouldn’t have run at all on a “minicomputer,” at least not without a painful process of overlaying). Thus, there tended to be a lot of interesting stuff going on within every few lines of code and certainly an entire file of code might contain nearly everything interesting about an application.

Today’s “software developer” is typically mired in tedium. To trace out the code behind a simple function might require going through 25 files, each of which contains a Java method that kicks a message to another method in some other file. Development tools such as Eclipse can speed up the tedious process of looking at a 20-layer call stack, but there remains a low density of interesting stuff to look at. A line of code that actually does something is buried amidst hundreds of lines of glue, interface, and overhead code. How did applications get so bloated and therefore boring to look at? I blame hardware engineers! They delivered the gift of infinite memory to the world’s coders and said coders responded with bloat beyond anyone’s wildest imagination.

Does the interesting 1970s “programmer” job still exist? While teaching an intro “data science” class at Harvard, I wondered if the person we call a “data scientist” is doing essentially the same type of work as a 1970s Fortran programmer. Consider that the “data scientist” uses compact languages such as SQL and R. An entire interesting application may fit in one file. There is an input, some processing, and an output answer.

Readers: What do you think? Is it more interesting to work in “data science” than “software engineering” or “programming”?

Older readers: Is today’s “data science” more like a programming job from the 1970s “scarce memory” days?



Partying tax-free in Puerto Rico


“How Puerto Rico Became the Newest Tax Haven for the Super Rich” (GQ) is kind of fun. While Americans elsewhere are outraged by inequality, the Puerto Rican government is seeking to maximize it (by importing as many high-income citizens as possible and giving them a 4 percent tax rate).

[Actually, the rest of America is also working hard to increase inequality, but by bringing in low-skill immigrants to expand the bottom of the distribution. The Puerto Ricans have a policy to increase inequality by bringing in more people to occupy the top. So there are Americans everywhere decrying inequality while working to increase it!]

Our first emails from the school


How is everyone enjoying the school year so far? Here’s the first communication I received from the elementary school…

This letter is to inform you that a student in your child’s classroom has a severe allergy to peanuts and tree nuts. Strict avoidance of all peanut/tree nut products is the only way to prevent a life-threatening allergic reaction. … [bold in the original]

Our town’s school system also runs a preschool. Here’s the first email from the teacher.


Welcome to preschool! I am so excited to spend this school year with all of your children and I can tell we are going to build a strong, positive classroom community.

** I wanted to be sure that everyone is aware that we have a strict “no peanut/tree nut” policy at the preschool. This includes items that were manufactured or processed in a facility that also processes peanuts or tree nuts, so please be sure to check labels carefully. Tomorrow (or on your child’s first day) I will be sending home a notice from the nurse explaining the policy.


  • web site regarding the debate in our town about whether to tear down the current school, move the children into trailers for three years, and spend $100 million on rebuilding the school in-place (maybe proponents could win this debate simply by saying “we found a nut in a classroom so now we are forced to demolish the old building”?)


Judge Kavanaugh dust-up shows that Republicans need to abandon white men?


Back in July I asked “Amy Coney Barrett nomination would stop working parents from demanding more help?

Donald Trump decided to nominate Brett Kavanaugh (generic white guy) instead of the mom-of-7 and now the white male has been #MeTooed.

Earlier this year I wrote “Should Republicans run only black women for Congress and Senate?” The same question could be asked regarding appointees. In a country of roughly 330 million (Census), why do Republicans need white males for any job?

Let’s consider Nikki Haley, Trump’s U.N. Ambassador. She’s accorded victim status as a “brown woman” in this 2011 New York Times article:

Why on earth did your parents — wealthy Sikh immigrants from Punjab, one with a law degree, the other with a Ph.D. — settle in Bamberg, S.C. …

You don’t think it’s just a question of their preferring any white guy over a brown woman?

[Separately, a friend asked in a Facebook Messenger thread:

How come all of Clinton’s accusers can’t find work but Anita Hill and all Democrats who accuse someone end up with cushy university jobs?


Why can’t the Republicans learn from this and appoint only people whom the U.S. media will defer to as victims of racial, gender, or sexual orientation prejudice?

Hierarchy of identity groups within State Street Bank picking apples


Happy Fall Harvest Season to everyone.

State Street Bank had a private event going today at a local pick-your-own apple orchard. The company is Certified for “Global Inclusion”, according to the top/big banner for the “Black Professionals Group”. Underneath this group are the following:

  • Asian Professional Alliance
  • Indian Employee Network (Indians aren’t Asian? Or they are Asian, but not “professional”?)
  • Jewish Professionals Network (because it is difficult for Jews in finance to find other Jews who work in the American finance industry?)
  • Asian Professional Alliance (there is only one Asian “professional” (note singular), but the alliance needs to be listed a second time)
  • Latin American Professionals Group
  • Working Parents Group (why not simply “parents group”? if this is for State Street employees, don’t they all work?)
  • Black Professionals Group (again)


This was in the western exurbs of Boston, home to roughly 50 Black Lives Matter banners for every person who might identify as “black.” Despite the primacy given to the Black Professionals Group, we didn’t see an unusual number of African-Americans among the trees.

I wonder if a State State employee who was childless, white, non-Jewish, and non-Hispanic would have been able to join and skip out on paying $20/bag for the privilege of laboring in the orchard. As the event was fairly small compared to the 36,643 employees (Wikipedia), I think the answer is “no”.

Also unanswered:

  • Is the “Latin American Professionals Group” for people who specialize in investments in this region of the planet? (maybe the real experts shorted Venezuela when Hugo Chavez was elected and they’ve retired to the beach?) Or for people who have some ancestry from this region?
  • Where was Senator Elizabeth Warren to protest the lack of a “Native American Professionals Group”?
  • The U.S. Census Bureau considers “Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander” to be a race. Why is there no group for these individuals among the 36,000+ State Streeters?


  • Boston Globe article on Harvard study that found Boston suburbanites developed anti-immigration once they had three days of exposure to Spanish-speaking immigrants vaguely near their neighborhoods (Enos and his staff took to Craigslist to enlist pairs of Mexican immigrants, mostly men in their 20s, to wait every day on platforms on the Franklin and Worcester/Framingham line. The immigrants were instructed to stand at the platform, but were not told what to say to one another or that they needed to speak at all. “Because we are chatting in Spanish, they look at us,” wrote one of the Spanish-speaking riders in a report to Enos. “I don’t think it is common to hear people speaking in Spanish on this route.” … Compared with initial survey responses, the routine riders who had noticed the new Spanish-speaking riders for three days were less enthusiastic about increasing the number of immigrants in the United States, less willing to allow undocumented immigrants to stay in the country, and more likely to believe that English should be declared the country’s official language.); see also the original paper

NYT: Okay to extrapolate negative characteristics of men from a sample of two


“Honey, I Swept the Floor! Why do so many husbands feel the need to boast about completing simple household chores? With mine, it’s all about branding.” (nytimes) has “so many husbands” in the headline.

How many did the author and the editor find? Two. The husband of the author plus

Another friend said: “After my husband cleans the garage or the pool, he makes each person in the family come for a separate ‘viewing’ so he can solicit praise and bask in his accomplishment.”

Would the Times publish an article in which two women were found who exhibited a negative characteristic and from this there was an extrapolation to “so many women”?


  • Maine family law, should the authoress deliver on her stated commitment “Time to change the narrative.”

California taxpayers fund a “diversity in astronomy” chair


In 1996 California voters approved Proposition 209:

a California ballot proposition which, upon approval in November 1996, amended the state constitution to prohibit state governmental institutions from considering race, sex, or ethnicity, specifically in the areas of public employment, public contracting, and public education.

Now we have “Gifts to UC Santa Cruz fund new presidential chair for diversity in astronomy”, in which the last line is “The UC Office of the President provided matching funds of $500,000.”

In theory a white male who loudly espoused a commitment to diversity could apply for this position:

The endowed chair was created to advance the cause of diversity, equity, and inclusive excellence in astronomy. The holder of the chair will embody the spirit of diversity in one of a variety of ways, such as their proven ability to attract and train new astronomers from all walks of life.

For Sandra Faber, who worked with Rubin at the Carnegie Institution of Washington early in her career, the more experienced astronomer served as a model of a successful woman in a field dominated by men. “At a time when few women succeeded in science, especially astrophysics, Rubin began to pave the way for all members of underrepresented groups,” Faber said.

How successful was Vera Rubin in her paving project?

Women have composed half of UC Santa Cruz astronomy Ph.D. students for more than a decade, and 30 percent of current graduate students come from underrepresented backgrounds. The department’s six active women professors are the largest tenured cohort of female astronomers in the nation, led by eminent scientists such as Faber and Claire Max, director of UC Observatories.

Can this be consistent with the state constitution? The holder of the chair will embody the spirit of diversity. Doesn’t that suggest that the color and/or genetic sex of the applicant’s body will be considered, contrary to the constitution?

Google throws away 12 years of work by investors (Portfolios in Google Finance)


I went to Google Finance the other day to see how a hypothetical portfolio invested in 2012 would have done. This is something that I took the time to type in back in 2012. I discovered that keeping a database of a few symbols and numbers and doing a multiplication is too onerous for folks at Google (they’re busy stamping out heresy?). So they have thrown out my work. Here are a few articles on this attack on human productivity by Google:

When we combine this with Google’s destruction of millions of person-years of (part-time) work in Picasa, is the only reasonable conclusion that Google has re-hired Marissa Mayer?

Readers: How would you track a hypothetical investment, including reinvestment of any dividends? Especially in a mutual fund ticker.


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