Southwest 1380 depressurization and single-engine landing happened in 1971 as well

It turns out that the doubters who have commented on “Southwest 1380: think about the flight attendants” have come up with something more interesting than what any journalists have found: National Airlines Flight 27. See Wikipedia and AviationSafetyNetwork for details on this 1971 uncontained engine failure on a DC-10. From ASN:

National Airlines Flight 27 departed Houston for Las Vegas and climbed to FL390. Suddenly the No. 3 engine fan assembly disintegrated and fragments penetrated the fuselage the Nos. 1 and 2 engine nacelles, and the right wing area. As a result, the cabin depressurized and one cabin window, which was struck by a fragment of the fan assembly, separated from the fuselage. The passenger who was sitting next to that window was forced through the opening and ejected from the aircraft. The flightcrew initiated an emergency descent, and the aircraft landed safely at Albuquerque International Airport 19 minutes after [the] engine failed.

From Wikipedia:

One passenger, G.F. Gardner of Beaumont, Texas,[4] was partially forced into the opening made by a failed cabin window, after it too was struck by engine fragments. He was temporarily retained in that position by his seatbelt. “Efforts to pull the passenger back into the airplane by another passenger were unsuccessful, and the occupant of seat 17H was forced entirely through the cabin window.”[5]

The flight crew initiated an emergency descent, and the aircraft was landed safely at Albuquerque International Sunport 19 minutes after the engine failed. 115 passengers and 12 crew members exited the aircraft by using the evacuation slides. Of those, 24 people were treated for smoke inhalation, ear problems, and minor abrasions. The plane was repaired and was later flown by Pan Am (as Clipper Meteor).

This was a more serious incident than Southwest 1380 due to the higher altitude (39,000′ versus 32,500′; time of useful consciousness is much less) and the fact that the passenger who was killed did not remain stuck within (therefore blocking) the window.

Another difference is that the flight crew, rather than being celebrated as heroic, was castigated for monkeying with the auto-throttle system.

To the extent that anyone might doubt the news reports on Southwest 1380, I read this 1971 story as confirmatory. It seems like more or less the same chain of events started by the same root cause (piece of engine comes flying out). But, interestingly, the 1971 incident is ready by the doubters as confirming their doubts.


  • United Airlines 232, where the uncontained engine failure destroyed the DC-10’s flight controls and the flight crew nonetheless was able to save 185 people.
  • Boeing 767 loses engine 400 feet after takeoff, but the pilots aren’t heroes (newsworthy because Leonardo DiCaprio was in the back)
  • United Airlines 811, a 747 whose cargo door blew out over the Pacific Ocean and “The debris ejected from the airplane during the explosive decompression damaged the Number 3 and 4 engines … The N1 reading of engine number 4 soon fell to almost zero, its EGT reading was high, and it was emitting flames, so they shut it down as well. … The flaps could only be partially deployed as a result of damage sustained following the decompression. This necessitated a higher than normal landing speed of around 190–200 knots.” (the pilots did not become media stars, however)
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How to deal with unauthorized purchases on Google Play?

I set up a child with a Chromebook and made the child a member of a Google Play “Family Group”. I then set the child account to require approval for in-app purchases. The credit card associated with the family group was a United Mileage Plus card from Chase.

I thought that everything was going well because the “order history” page on Google Play shows the family group and does not show any unfamiliar purchases. It shows that the approval required for in-app purchases setting remains in place.

Then it was tax time so I looked at my end-of-year Visa card summary. Whoa! Hundreds of dollars in spending on in-app purchases (the card was on autopay and I don’t use it for much else so I hadn’t looked) in small amounts, e.g., $1.99 to $9.99. As there had never been any activity like this on the card for 10+ years I would have thought that it would have triggered a fraud warning, but it did not. These purchases show up only in the child account, not on the page belonging to the owner of the Family Group who entered in the credit card info.

I called up the Chase folks and they’ve temporarily reversed all of the charges. Google Play doesn’t seem to offer a customer service phone number. I’m wondering if anyone else has dealt with a similar situation.

It seems like a terrible design feature to have the only way to monitor spending on a linked Google Play account be to check in with the credit card bank every few days.

Does Apple deal with this in a smarter/better way?

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Can the refugee caravan at the U.S. border simply fly up to Canada?

Back in January 2017 I asked “Why accept any refugees to the U.S. if they are welcome in Canada?” in response to Justin Trudeau’s promise to take anyone whom the U.S. rejects. From the Independent article cited in that post:

Justin Trudeau has responded to Donald Trump’s immigration ban by saying Canada welcomes refugees who have been rejected from the US.

“To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada,” he tweeted.

From this weekend: “Migrant Caravan, After Grueling Trip, Reaches U.S. Border. Now the Really Hard Part.” (New York Times):

A long, grueling journey gave way to what could be a long, uncertain asylum process Sunday as a caravan of immigrants finally reached the border between the United States and Mexico, setting up a dramatic moment and a test of President Trump’s anti-immigrant politics.

More than 150 migrants, part of a caravan that once numbered about 1,200 and headed north in March from Mexico’s border with Guatemala, were prepared to seek asylum from United States immigration officials.

With the migrants on the doorstep of the United States, Mr. Trump, in a tweet last week, ratcheted up his rhetoric, vowing “not to let these large Caravans of people into our Country.”

These folks have been rejected by the President of the U.S. Thus they would appear to be eligible for the Canadian Prime Minister’s offer. What is the practical obstacle to these 150 folks being welcomed in Vancouver?

Hipmunk says that AeroMexico will fly them one-way on May 7, for example, at $337 per person via Mexico City ($50,000 total). A chartered Boeing 757 would presumably be cheaper and I’m assuming that there are a sufficient number of good-hearted people who will fund the flight. It is only 1037 nautical miles between the two airports, about 2.5 hours of flight time, so roughly $15,000 in hourly operating costs.

In fact, let this blog post serve as my personal commitment to pay up to $50,000 either to charter an Airbus or Boeing or to fund airline tickets at up to $337 per refugee. I would love to be able to tell my friends in Cambridge that I personally rescued 150 asylum-seekers from, not only the persecution that they faced as Latin Americans in Latin America, but also from crime and prejudice in the U.S., from living under the cruel dictatorship of Donald Trump, from income inequality, etc.

Philip says #WelcomeToCanada!


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Analysis of the second Bill Cosby trial from a criminal defense lawyer

If you hadn’t been following the details of the second Bill Cosby trial, you might be interested to read an analysis from Norm Pattis. It is a quick way to catch up on the issues remaining in the matter. (Thanks to a reader for pointing out this article; I hadn’t followed the second trial because I assumed that the prosecutors and judge were doing whatever would be necessary to obtain a conviction and avoid a second highly publicized failure.)


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Support for the death penalty will increase with the cost of imprisonment?

Two sectors of the economy that are inflating at a rapid rate: building infrastructure and hiring government workers. Yet these are precisely the two things that we need to do if the American gulag (more than 2 million inmates) is to continue expanding at the same rate as our population grows. “California prison compared to Harvard” describes the current cost of imprisoning an unwanted resident of the U.S. as $75,560 per year. Over the 50 years that someone might serve for a serious crime, that’s $3.8 million. The retail cost of euthanasia and cremation for a dog is about $500. If the cost of building and running prisons continues to rise I wonder at what point public support for the death penalty, purely on economic grounds, will rise (currently it is on a downward trend).

Are people willing to pay $250 million in taxes, for example, to keep a convicted murderer or rapist in prison for “life without parole”? (more than the cost of a Boeing 787) Presumably not. So somewhere between $3.8 million and $250 million is the point at which the public will say “We can’t do this anymore”?

If reducing penalties for crime convictions is not acceptable and lifetime incarceration becomes unacceptably expensive, what alternative is there to executing people convicted of serious crimes?

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How hard would it be to get a good answer to “Siri: What should I do?”

Alexa, Siri, the Google Assistant, and similar, are capable of handling simple tasks, but these are usually tasks that are also simple to accomplish with a mouse and keyboard or a touch on a phone.

I’m wondering how hard it would be to get Siri to give a good answer to “Siri: What should I do?” In other words, could Siri function as a life coach, enabling the owner of the device to be more productive (maybe even sufficiently more productive to pay for a new iPhone every year!) as well as to live a more accomplished, social, and satisfying life?

What if Siri could be smart enough to know when was a great time to work on that important, but not urgent, project? If Siri knew everything that is in the book How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life (a time-management classic by Lakein) plus all of the information about the phone owner necessary to implement the Lakein method?

Within this overall challenge there are a lot of concrete sub-challenges:

  1. understanding the customer’s schedule (start with the obvious, e.g., the electronic calendar)
  2. understanding the customer’s short-term and long-term goals, both personal and professional (maybe interface with existing todo list managers as a crude starting point, but also can infer from activity on phone/web)
  3. understanding the customer’s social network (the real network, not just the Facebook friends) and professional network
  4. understanding the schedules of others within social and professional networks (otherwise tough to arrange meetings and phone calls)
  5. understanding everything that is happening within a geographic locale, e.g., social and professional events

Siri can see all of a phone owner’s emails, right? And calendar events. And also the actual phone calls (Siri would conclude from this that I am desperate to lower my credit card interest rates and also somewhat interested in rooftop solar).

Even if Siri can’t coach me to finish the Great American Novel, what about something humble such as arranging a gathering with friends. If you want to get six people together for dinner+movie:

a) call/text/email 15 friends in order to find 5 who are free on the same evening

b) search for a reasonably central movie theater that has 6 seats available that evening

c) search for a restaurant that is close to the movie theater that has a table for 6 that evening

d) buy tickets to movie from a movie ticket web site

e) actually reserve the table at the restaurant on Open Table or similar

f) maybe collect money from some of the people

g) call Uber or Lyft at the right times with the right To/From addresses

That’s at least one hour of effort, right? Why can’t Siri do all of the above, especially if all of the participants are iPhone users (and why would you want to be friends with anyone who isn’t?).

What’s the motivation for an Amazon, Apple, or Google to build this? Consider the lock-in effect. Would you ever abandon iPhone for Android if Siri were your personal coach and already knew your life goals? Also, sometimes the correct answer to “What should I do now?” is “shop for X” or “buy plane tickets and book hotel rooms”. There are transaction fees and commissions to be had when cash is flowing.

Readers: Which company is closest to doing this now? How hard would it be to make something that would give users a real benefit?

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HP acquired Palm for $1.2 billion in 2010

Here’s one of the most bizarre things that I’ve learned recently… HP paid $1.2 billion for Palm roughly 8 years ago. A USA Today story from April 28, 2010:

“This is a transformational deal” in an increasingly mobile world, said Todd Bradley, the former Palm CEO who is now executive vice president of HP’s Personal Systems Group.

Palm’s WebOS operating system, which runs the Pre and Pixi phones, gives HP a competitive edge in the fast-growing market for Internet-connected mobile devices, Bradley says.

The acquisition qualifies as a “no-brainer” for HP, which used to be strong in mobile computing but did not make a strong transition to the smartphone arena, says Michael Gartenberg, an analyst at Altimeter Group. Despite the hefty price, HP made a prudent decision, he says. It needs a strong presence in the mobile market without relying too much on the technology of Microsoft or Google, which also compete. “For WebOS to survive, it needs an operation on the scale of an HP,” he says.

Here’s a guy from whom you want to take stock tips:

Still, Forrester Research analyst Charles Golvin says HP made the right move but with the wrong company. “I don’t think the WebOS platform is viable long term in the face of its competition,” he says, noting that developers are more likely to create applications for iPhone and Droid.

The iPhone was launched in 2007, three years prior to this deal. Android was released to consumers in 2008, roughly 1.5 years prior to this deal.

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City of Cambridge weighs in on the Indian question

In local news… “‘Real Indian’ challenging Elizabeth Warren must remove signs calling her a fake Indian, city [of Cambridge] says” (Miami Herald) is fun:

“Only a REAL INDIAN Can Defeat the Fake Indian.”

The words, emblazoned on two signs that hang off U.S. Senate candidate Shiva Ayyadurai’s campaign bus, appear next to two images: one of a stoic Ayyadurai looking into the camera, and another of a closeup of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren wearing a Native American headdress.

So you can say whatever you want in Cambridge as long as you have a permit from the city for a sign on which to say it and you need the permit whether the sign is attached to a building or hanging from a vehicle.


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The Sky Below (book by an astronaut)

The Sky Below: A True Story of Summits, Space, and Speed is Scott Parazynski’s account of day-to-day life as an astronaut, plus some mountaineering stories.

It turns out that being an astronaut is bad for your health, even if the rockets don’t blow up. Spending time in a zero-g environment leads to permanent back problems:

my multiple spaceflights and spacewalks mean the likelihood of spinal trouble is almost as inevitable as an overloaded, rickety Jenga tower toppling over into a ragged heap. In space, the spine straightens and the intervertebral discs swell when not being compressed by gravity,

So don’t be too envious when your friend gets accepted by NASA and you don’t! There are minor issues as wel…

In space, astronauts often develop facial edema or swelling, associated with a mild runny nose and headache, because gravity no longer pulls blood and interstitial fluid into the legs as it does on Earth. Conversely, astronauts appear to have “bird legs” with this redistribution of fluid into the central blood circulation, accompanied by a 10 to 30 percent decrease in leg circumference.

Another serious danger is decompression sickness, or the bends, something I was very familiar with from my scuba diving background. If the pressure inside the spacesuit isn’t managed properly, going outside into the vacuum of space could cause nitrogen gas bubbles to expand inside an astronaut’s blood vessels, causing severe pain, cramping, and even paralysis or death. Higher suit pressure decreases the risk of decompression sickness, but lower suit pressure increases the astronaut’s flexibility and dexterity. Like a deep-sea scuba diver doing decompression stops to prevent the bends, astronauts must purge nitrogen from their bloodstream before going outside, accomplished by breathing 100 percent oxygen. The oxygen and other critical systems of the suit are housed in the Primary Life Support System, which resembles a large backpack.

The author is a physician so the book is strong on space medicine.

The author participates in a famous repair to a photovoltaic array that powers the International Space Station. Try searching for some videos of this seven-hour space walk!

As tough as the space walking is, the author describes climbing Mt. Everest as yet more difficult (similar risk of death as well). Two attempts on the mountain, the latter one successful, are describes in the book.

The book describes the author’s formative years. His father was a sales executive at Boeing. Iran looked promising in 1978 and the family was sent there for a one-year assignment:

But three days after we arrive, the country erupts in revolution. September 8, 1978, marks Black Friday, a massacre in the capital city’s Jaleh Square.

Optimistically betting on a quick and peaceful end to the protests, Dad goes to work at the Boeing office selling aircraft in the Middle East and I enroll in the twelfth grade at the Tehran American School, home to 1,059 high schoolers.

In December we receive notice that our 5,500 pounds of household goods have finally arrived from Athens, and Dad arranges for delivery on December 23. We move into a nice but compact rental house in a walled compound, but sometime that month, Dad finds a note on his car. Die, imperialist pig. You have one month to leave the country or we’ll kill you.

Dad feels sure the Shah can put down the insurrection with his substantial army, and he wants to go back and do his job, looking to the promise of a bright future.

In other words, what we think of as the inevitable political and religious trajectory of Iran did not seem inevitable at the time, at least to a foreigner.

The author’s personal life contains some challenges:

by fifteen months, Jenna starts to fall off the developmental curve. We notice she is easily agitated and incredibly noise sensitive, prone to intense, inconsolable tantrums. She doesn’t like to be comforted, or even touched. When she is two years old, after my return from STS-100, Jenna is behind in language development, doesn’t seem very interested in people (including us), and lives in an almost constant state of agitation.

At just over two years of age, our daughter is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder,

Jenna’s diagnosis and the ongoing struggles put a heavy strain on our marriage. For a time, I mourn the loss of my traditional hopes and dreams for Jenna, realizing she might not ever achieve a fully independent life, have a career, get married, or have children.

The author is candid about getting a “divorce,” though the term under Texas family law means something completely different than in California or New York. The financial damage is minimal (Texas caps child support profits and alimony is not generally available for a working spouse such as the author’s). He says that being an astronaut takes a toll on relationships and divorce is therefore common, but he does not look at the role of no-fault divorce laws. Explorers in the 19th century would go away for a year or two, still be married after their return (if they returned!), and then stay married for the next few decades. With on-demand divorce, would their partners have decided to stay partnered?

Once free of the wife with whom he does “not see eye to eye,” the author is quickly united with Meenakshi Wadhwa, a professor at ASU with whom he works (apparently it isn’t a #MeToo situation if the woman thinks that you’re tall, good-looking, and fit…).

Let’s hope that the ex-wife isn’t reading this book:

I pour out my heart to the most remarkable woman I’ve ever met. I thought soul mates only existed in Meg Ryan movies, but here is a woman who shares my great passions in life, accepts my weaknesses, and who brings out my very best. We are dreamers who never dreamed we’d find each other. Somehow, the universe brought us together through Earth, space, and ice. And I am never going to let her go.

They’re both on government-paid trips to Antarctica at the time of the proposal. Being a scientist has its perks! (but the childless status of Professor Wadhwa suggests that there is a price to be paid, especially for women)

Why are the rest of us such underachievers by comparison?

Most dreams are left on the pillowcase, unfulfilled. Dreams without a plan and a purpose get left behind in the rush of daily life. I get it; I have many dreams still on the shelf, and I learned early on that the pathway to success is long and arduous, and giving up can be tempting as hell. But I have learned how to dream big and then set course to make it happen. I’ve learned the essentials: keeping laser focused, visualizing the path to success, maintaining a strong support network, training for success but preparing for failures along the way, and having confidence tempered by humility and a dose of luck. If you are ready for the call of opportunity when it rings, and you are willing to put in the work required, it’s remarkable how dreamlets emerge, tangible, from the fog of unrealized dreams. It’s really not all that hard if you aren’t afraid to stumble every once in a while and then get back up. And back up. And back up again. The summits and calderas and skywalks and other bold life challenges are out there, waiting for you to dust off your dream. Everything is possible until proven impossible, and then you just need to become more creative. The sky is not the limit. And it never will be.

We need a dream and a plan!

More: Read The Sky Below: A True Story of Summits, Space, and Speed

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Virtue lessons from our Silicon Value superiors

From a group chat… “Sheryl Sandberg Talks Paid Family Leave, Community Organizing, and Cambridge Analytica”:

It’s not enough to have the policies, you also have to use them. I’m really proud that Mark [Zuckerberg] took paternity leave. He sets the right example. Our CTO took paternity leave, our chief product officer took paternity leave. One of the most important things we need to fight is the idea that this is a female issue. This is an issue for families and if we want mothers and fathers to be equal parents in the households, we need to start out equal. And that’s why equal paternity leave is so important. We give four months to both [mother and fathers] and we really encourage people to take it. Another thing we found is that flexibility in how you take the policies works. We offer four months over the course of the first year. And that really increases participation, especially amongst men.

Friend’s comment:

Mark Zuckerberg took paternity leave so his stay-at-home wife could continue to provide for the family while he took care of the baby

I wonder if these multi-billionaires actually can set examples for the rest of us. It is nice that Mark Zuckerberg could take some time off while the childless workers at Facebook had to stay at their desks in order to get paychecks so that they could pay the rent, but he could also take the rest of his life off if desired.

Separately, the article gives some insight into the future of politics on Facebook:

Do you still see Facebook as a viable tool for activism?

Sandberg: I think [Facebook is] a critical tool to organize around issues. A bunch of the Parkland March [for Our Lives] was just organized on Facebook. Some of Black Lives Matter was organized on Facebook. Facebook is a critical way that people communicate and we’re really proud of the role Facebook plays in social mobilization. The Women’s March was [born from] a [Facebook] post a woman did. She said, ‘What if people march?’ She woke up the next day and there was a Women’s March. That doesn’t mean there haven’t been things on Facebook that we don’t want to have happen on Facebook—and we’re taking strong steps to correct that—but as an organizing tool for people who are trying to reach communities, it’s huge.

Readers: Do you think that these stratospherically wealthy and powerful Silicon Valley folks can be role models for ordinary schmucks? If Mark Zuckerberg does something, will Joe or Jane Average try to do it too?


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