Worthwhile Reading & Viewing

A special Russia-focused issue of National Geographic, in 1914

Does automation make people dumb?

Strategies for dealing with randomness in business

Labor market fluidity in the US seems to be declining

There are very different reactions to the waving of an Isis flag and the waving of an Israeli flag at Berkeley

Strategies for dealing with toxic people

Czars as political officers

Two princes:  Machievelli’s Il Principe and Antoine de St-Exupery’s Le Petit Prince

“Speaking Truth to Power.”  A great post by Sarah Hoyt on the way this expression is being used:

One of the most fascinating conceits of our ruling powerful elites — be they in entertainment, politics, governance, jurisprudence or news reporting — is the often repeated assertion of being some kind of underdog “speaking truth to power.” This comes with the concomitant illusion that anyone opposing them is paid by powerful interests.


13 thoughts on “Worthwhile Reading & Viewing”

  1. “he found a close connection between a pilot’s adroitness at the controls and the amount of time the pilot had recently spent flying planes manually.”

    The Asiana flight crash at SFO is an example. The NTSB found over reliance on the autopilot was a major factor .

    “In this instance, the flight crew over-relied on automated systems they did not fully understand,” said the NTSB’s Acting Chairman Christopher Hart. “As a result, they flew the aircraft too low and too slow and collided with the seawall at the end of the runway.”

    The French jet that crashed into the Atlantic was also a victim of dependence of pilots on technology they didn’t fully understand.

    A detailed analysis of two black box flight recorders has established that airspeed sensors had malfunctioned – probably because they had frozen up.
    But now a recording of Dubois has emerged in which he says: ‘I didn’t sleep enough last night. One hour – it’s not enough.’

    More important was the failure of the junior pilots to recognize what had happened.

    In one fatal decision, the report says, one of the co-pilots nosed the Airbus A330 upward during a stall, instead of downward, because of false data from sensors about the plane’s position.

    Bouillard said that was an “important element” in the crash. He said the pilots had not understood the plane was experiencing a stall, as only an experienced crew with a clear understanding of the situation could have stabilised the aircraft in those conditions. “The crew was in a state of near-total loss of control,” Bouillard said.

    Robert Soulas, whose daughter and son-in-law were killed in the crash, said investigators had explained that the flight director system indicated the “erroneous information” that the plane was diving downward, “and therefore to compensate, the pilot had a tendency to pull on the throttle to make it rise up”.

    However, the plane was in a stall instead. A basic manoeuvre for stall recovery, which pilots are taught at the outset of their flight training, is to push the yoke forward and apply full throttle to lower the nose of the plane and build up speed. But because the pilot thought the plane was diving, he nosed up.

    Something as basic as realizing he was in a stall. There is a lengthy article written by pilots on this case but I can’t find it now. It fell in a stall over 20,000 feet until, by the time the captain reached the cockpit, it was too low to recover.

    Much the same thing is happening in surgery with “minimally invasive surgery.” The technology is great, and prolonged my career by about seven years because I did not have to bend over to look into an incision, but newer surgeons have not learned the manual techniques as well and may need them in crisis situations.

    One example in cardiac surgery, although gallbladder surgery is more common.

    Buxton’s law states that it is always too early for rigorous evaluation (of a new technique) until, unfortunately, it is suddenly too late (1). This insightful statement was used to describe the phenomenon too often seen in the introduction of new technologies or procedures in medicine. There is a natural reluctance to subject new techniques to standardized assessment too early in the introductory phase in an attempt to avoid negatively biased results while operator learning is still occurring (2). Over the last two or three decades, this phenomenon has been described as the learning curve and has most often been applied to minimally invasive surgery of all specialties, including general surgery, gynecology, and cardiothoracic surgery.

  2. “All the good writers are leftists.”

    You have a right to your opinion but not your own facts. How about a list ?

    Joseph Conrad ?

    Scott Fitzgerald ?

    Tom Wolfe ? “Bonfire of the Vanities” doesn’t sound like leftist writing.

    Hemingway was conflicted.

    The list of new writers, other than popular novelists like Vince Flynn and Tom Clancy, that I would read is extremely short.

  3. In the wake of the Air France and Colgan crashes, simulator training requirements are being upgraded to require practice in recovering from full stalls, especially high-altitude stalls. Prior training has focused excessively on recovering from an incipient stall with minimum altitude loss, under the assumption that full stalls can be prevented from happening:


    “The problem with the minimum loss of altitude standard is that it promoted precisely the wrong behavior in a stall event. In order to minimize altitude loss the pilot may have to maintain or even increase back pressure on the flight controls, rather than release back pressure as is often required to reduce the angle of attack. So in our quest for objective evaluation we have trained a generation of airmen to practice techniques that could be detrimental to their safety in the face of a stall.”

    A considerable length of time (5 years) is being allowed for full implementation of the new requirements, since appropriate aerodynamic models under stalled conditions must be developed for the airplane types simulated in order to ensure that the simulator behavior is accurate.

  4. “You still haven’t provided a list of “properly rated” writers.”

    You must compare him to others in his genre, New Journalism.

    The term was codified with its current meaning by Tom Wolfe in a 1973 collection of journalism articles he published as The New Journalism, which included works by himself, Truman Capote, Hunter S. Thompson, Norman Mailer, Joan Didion, Terry Southern, Robert Christgau, Gay Talese and others.

    Stacked up against that list, Tom Wolfe looks pretty damn good IMHO.

  5. Speaking of good things to watch. Let me draw y’alls attention to “Under the Skin” on Netflix. IMHO the best sci-fi movie I’ve seen in a long time. Understated, bleak, and thoughtful. Social commentary, sex, and unknowable alien ways; it stars the lovely (and frequently unclothed) Scarlett Johansen.

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