Follow our ground school at MIT via the miracle of streaming video

If you’re not happy with the latest from Netflix and Amazon you’ll love our MIT Ground School course, streaming in real time and on-demand:

Experienced pilots: Start with “Day 1-PM” from the on-demand menu and then scroll to 2:13 for a lecture on F-22 flight controls.

Today was the end of Day 1. We’re also running tomorrow and Thursday.

Full post, including comments

Bike infrastructure doesn’t make Americans happy…

…. or at least it doesn’t motivate them to use their bicycles.

My 2013 post: “Danish happiness: bicycle infrastructure”

From USA Today: “Fewer Americans bike to work despite new trails, lanes and bicycle share programs”

Uber and Lyft are blamed for part of the three-year decline. I wonder if it is the absurdly high price (compared to in China) of electric-assist bikes that is also limiting the popularity of this modality. The article notes that “electric scooters” have cut into bike commuting. If we could get a decent electric-boost bike for $300, would we still buy scooters? This industry report from 2014 says “By utilizing lead-acid batteries, the cost of e-bicycles in China averages about $167. In comparison, e-bikes in North America cost on average $815 and those in Western Europe average $1,546, reflecting the different choice in battery chemistry, according to Pike Research.”

Considering Americans’ propensity for thievery (how long does a bike last in San Francisco?), $167 is a more reasonable price to pay than $815!

The map in the USA Today article shows the sharpest declines in the hilly cities where an electric bike would be the most helpful.

Can we say that bike infrastructure, like socialism, hasn’t truly been given a fair chance in the U.S.? Our capital investments in bike lanes would pay off if e-bikes were available at Chinese prices?

Full post, including comments

Gillette ad shows the changing standards for being a male hero?

I recounted my Costco conversation (see yesterday’s post) about the Gillette ad on Facebook. A cousin in her 20s responded

As someone with a daughter you should be happy about this. The whole purpose of this ad is to show men they can be kind and loving. Which I know you want for Greta. It’s shedding the awful stigmas that have been pushed onto men.

To me the ad was absurd. The situations in which the men found themselves entailed no personal risk and no consequences for action versus inaction. One young man says “not cool” to a same-age friend who is considering pursuing an attractive young woman on the street (maybe “it might be expensive” would be more effective?). A full-sized adult male separates two young boys who are wrestling/fighting on the grass. Shoveling the front walk after the weekend’s snowstorm is more challenging than what any of the guys in the video are doing.

What kind of conduct was valorized when I was this cousin’s age? Roger Olian and Lenny Skutnik were warm and dry prior to deciding to dive into the icy Potomac River to save people from Air Florida 90. They took a huge risk that was in no way related to their jobs or responsibilities. Nobody would have criticized Olian from staying in his warm truck or Skutnik for staying in his warm coat and boots on the shore. That’s not “the best a man can be” anymore, though!

The Thai cave rescue presented a similar situation in 2018. The “over 100 divers” (were they all men?) who went in would not have been criticized for staying home, right? Saman Kunan, a former Thai Navy SEAL who died, was “working in security at the Suvarnabhumi Airport when he volunteered to assist the cave rescue.” Surely at least one of those 100+ divers identifies as a man and is (or “identifies as”?) a Gillette customer. Yet to resonate with young consumers, Gillette decided that men dealing with children on grass was more powerful than men leaving their cozy homes, flying to Thailand, and pulling children out of miles of flooded cave.

I wonder if the debate about the Gillette ad is actually a debate between generations. My young cousin had a completely different impression than I did. So Gillette wasn’t clueless. They just don’t care about older customers who are stuck with a 1970s/1980s concept of achievement.

Related:

  • Dorco Pace 7, the Korean-made shaving system for the non-woke and/or elderly
Full post, including comments

Labadee port guide

If you have do-gooder friends that like to share their tales of helping the world’s woe-plagued, including their voluntourism trips to Haiti, you’ll get a lot of value from any cruise that stops in Labadee, Haiti. Imagine the thrill at cocktail parties of saying how concerned you were about the inequality that you saw in Haiti:

Sign in front of the private luxury subsection within Labadee.

This lease, which runs through 2050, was a stroke of genius by Royal Caribbean. It is only a few steps from the dock to the beach and, for folks who have trouble with steps, the beach is wonderfully accessible to the wheelchair-bound. There are concrete paths along the beach and balloon-tire wheelchairs and boat shuttles from the dock to the farther beaches.

Here are a couple of overview drone photos, one from the top of the insane zipline, that the manager of the resort shared with me:

The nearby town of Labadie had a population of about 1,200 when Royal Caribbean showed up in 1986. Due to migration from other parts of Haiti, the population is up to 5,000. There is a carefully circumscribed tour to a corner of this town that is kind of interesting. The locals are grateful to the company for the electricity and clean running water that has been arranged. One worker in the resort had been born in 1981 in Labadie. He was enthusiastic about the Royal Caribbean presence: “The money that my father earned building this place was used to send me to college and learn English.”

Labadie is atypical, despite not being part of the Royal Caribbean lease, because there are no roads connecting this town with the rest of the country. People who want to shop or see friends take a two-minute water taxi to a dock next to the Royal Caribbean area and then a 30-minute 8-mile $5 minivan taxi to Cap-Haïtien.

A big part of the tour was on the topic of medicinal plants, of which dozens are used for specific ailments and for which specific preparations are required. I explained to our guide that medicine in the U.S. is more advanced, especially in Massachusetts. We have found a single plant that is said to cure all ailments: medical marijuana.

There is a Trump-style border wall between Labadee and the rest of Haiti:

Big question: If a pregnant woman scales the wall and gives birth on the Royal Caribbean side, is the resulting infant entitled to a birthright Seapass and lifetime membership in the Crown and Anchor Society?

When a small ship such as the Empress of the Seas is the only ship in port, the beach is wonderfully uncrowded. The beach barbecue is basic, but the chicken was perfect. You can tell do-gooder friends about how you weren’t afraid to eat any of the food offered in Haiti and how everyone there was enjoying at least 6,000 calories per day (note: everything that you might consume in Labadee was loaded onto the ship in Miami). Prices for excursions are reasonable. One couple we talked to did a 45-minute jetski tour for less than $100 and raved about it.

This was the last stop on our tour and it was a little sad to be sailing away…

Full post, including comments

Gillette versus Dorco Shaving Test 1

The controversy over Gillette’s recent “toxic masculinity” ad campaign got me curious about the state of the art in razor blades.

Test 1:

  • three days of growth
  • no shower beforehand
  • warm water applied with cloth
  • Edge shaving gel
  • Dorco Pace 7 on right side of face
  • latest and greatest Gillette Fusion 5 ProShield with FlexBall on left side of face
  • brand new cartridges in both handles

Results:

  • Dorco: slight pulling/grabbing sensation at times, no trouble shaving under nose despite lack of single blade in the back, no nicks
  • Gillette: less resistance, one nick

Winner: Draw. Equal smoothness of face on both sides.

[Separately, from Friday:

Costco cashier assistant (looking at roses in cart): “What’d you do?”

Me: “If you’ve seen the Gillette ads, then you know that simply existing as a man is reason enough for apologizing.”

Assistant (in her 60s): “Aw. That’s not true. We need men.”

Cashier (in her 30s): “I’m doing fine without. The only thing that I miss is the dual income.”

]

Readers: How much better could Dorco do in the U.S. if they didn’t market their flagship under the name “Dorco”?

Related:

Full post, including comments

Mindless Enthusiasm for Mindfulness

From Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer by Barbara Ehrenreich:

Jon Kabat-Zinn, a Zen-trained psychologist in Cambridge, Massachusetts, had already extracted what he took as the secularized core of Buddhism and termed it “mindfulness,” which he extolled in two bestsellers in the late 1990s. I first heard the word in 1998 from a wealthy landlady in Berkeley, who advised me to be “mindful” of the suffocating Martha Stewart– ish décor of the apartment I was renting from her, which of course I was doing everything possible to unsee. The probable connection to Buddhism emerged when I had to turn to a tenants’ rights group to collect my security deposit. People like me— renters?— she responded in an angry letter, were oppressing Tibetans and disrespected the Dalai Lama. During the same stint in the Bay Area, I learned that rich locals liked to unwind at Buddhist monasteries in the hills where, for a few thousand dollars, they could spend a weekend doing manual labor for the monks. Buddhism, or some adaptation thereof, was becoming a class signifier, among Caucasians anyway, and nowhere was it more ostentatious than Silicon Valley, where star player Steve Jobs had been a Buddhist or perhaps a Hindu— he seems not to have made a distinction— even before it was fashionable for CEOs to claim a spiritual life. Guided by an in-house Buddhist, Google started offering its “Search Inside Yourself” trainings, promoting attention and self-knowledge, in 2007.

In a stroke of genius, Gordhamer found a way to raise the issue while actually flattering the tech titans. He claims to have discovered that, while the rest of us struggle with intractable distraction, leaders from Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other major tech companies seem to be “tapped into an inner dimension that guides their work.” 22 He called it “wisdom” and started a series of annual conferences called Wisdom 2.0, based originally in San Francisco, in which corporate leaders, accompanied by celebrity gurus, could share the source of their remarkable serenity, which was soon known as mindfulness.

Mass-market mindfulness began to roll out of the Bay Area like a brand-new app. Very much like an app, in fact, or a whole swarm of apps. There are over five hundred mindfulness apps available, bearing names like “Simply Being” and “Buddhify.”

While an earlier, more arduous version of Buddhism attracted few celebrities other than Richard Gere, mindfulness boasts a host of prominent practitioners— Arianna Huffington, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Anderson Cooper among them. It debuted at Davos in 2013 to an overflow crowd, and Wisdom 2.0 conferences have taken place in New York and Dublin as well as San Francisco, with attendees often fanning out to become missionaries for the new mind-set— starting their own coaching businesses or designing their own apps. A recent Wisdom 2.0 event in San Francisco advertised speeches by corporate representatives of Starbucks and Eileen Fisher as well as familiar faces from Google and Facebook. Aetna health insurance offers its thirty-four thousand employees a twelve-week program and dreams of expanding to include all its customers, who will presumably be made healthier by clearing their minds.

How well does it all work?

What there is no evidence for, however, is any particularly salubrious effect of meditation, especially in byte-sized doses. This was established through a mammoth federally sponsored “meta-analysis” of existing studies, published in 2014, which found that meditation programs can help treat stress-related symptoms, but that they are no more effective in doing so than other interventions, such as muscle relaxation, medication, or psychotherapy.  … So maybe meditation does have a calming, “centering” effect, but so does an hour of concentration on a math problem or a glass of wine with friends. I personally recommend a few hours a day with small children or babies, who can easily charm anyone into entering their alternative universe.

[Based on the last sentence, I think it is safe to say that the author has never been to our house.]

More: read Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer 

Full post, including comments

Cruise ships should be wired up for stargazing

One of the luxuries of being out at sea in the old days was seeing stars that would never be visible from light-polluted cities. Cruise ships don’t offer this, though, because they don’t want people stumbling and falling on the upper/outer decks.

The officers of Empress of the Seas talked about trying to darken the top deck for stargazing during a ferry trip (crew-only). It turned out to be impossible. “Every time we thought we’d turned off some lights with a breaker, an emergency system would come on and replace them. We ran around for about an hour trying to turn off individual switches, but gave up.”

In case any future cruise ship engineers happen to read this… how about a system where a top deck area can be darkened for 15 minutes? Passengers can walk up there for an event. Once they’re all comfortably established on the ubiquitous lounge chairs, the crew can kill the lights.


Full post, including comments

Women’s March: three of our best friends are Jewish

The second annual Women’s March is today. This raises a few questions…

If the march is protesting female victimhood, when can victory be declared? When women have more income than men? When women have more spending power? When women occupy a majority of seats in Congress? Or will women become a perpetual victim class, marching every year for the next few hundred years?

(And where does that leave other would-be victim classes? If the best jobs are set aside for white and Asian women, for example, doesn’t that necessarily exclude members of other victim classes? Two victims cannot simultaneously hold the same job.)

Is it legitimate to have a “Women’s” march in a fully transgender/gender-fluid age? For whom are the marchers advocating? People who currently identify as women? People who might one day identify as women? People who formerly identified as women, but changed to male because of the prejudice in our society against women?

“The Heartbreak of the 2019 Women’s March” (nytimes):

Serious allegations of anti-Semitism have dogged some of the Women’s March’s leaders for over a year, but they’ve lately reached a crisis point. … Leaders of Women’s March Inc. — as the nonprofit organization is officially called — tried to make amends. It added three Jewish women to its steering committee.

When will they say “Three of our best friends are Jewish!”? (i.e., instead of changing their views, statements, or behavior, they’re dragging in a few token members of the group they’re accused of bigotry against)

[This reminds me of a recent Facebook exchange, which I’m fairly sure reduced my friend count. A post that was shared into my feed:

Americans haven’t become more sensitive. We’re not suddenly overcome with political correctness. You’ve ALWAYS offended us. You holier-than-thou, hypocritical, sanctimonious Haves have always walked through the world not noticing the cringing around you, the anger, the devastation. But now when you say that you jewed someone down on the price, I speak up for my friend Jennifer. When you refer to The Orientals, I gently point out that the correct term is Asians. When you call someone a tranny, even in the locker room, I defend my transgender family members. And when you call someone a faggot I don’t shrink back into my seat and try to become invisible. I stand up for MYSELF and tell you that you can’t use language like that in my presence. And I now know, unlike 25 years ago, that there will be people around who have my back. Don’t long for the days when everyone was less sensitive. Step up and acknowledge a lifetime of being an asshat, and change.

My response (to the share, not the original post):

He has multiple transgender family members, but knows only one Jew? (“Jennifer”)

Separately, I would love to know where this guy hangs out and hears people regularly using the out-of-favor terms that he references! “Tranny” in the locker room?]

Readers: What’s going on with the Women’s March in your neighborhood?

Related:

  • post from 2018: I know of a well-educated medium-income woman in her 20s. She was sufficiently passionate about feminism to go to the Women’s March in the off-the-charts-expensive city where she lives. She met a man in his mid-50s who owns a modest (i.e., $3+ million) house. She is now protesting the patriarchy by living in this man’s house.
  • “The Future is Female”: Women’s March in Boston 2018
  • Donald Trump-themed mini golf course: Hole 7: Women’s March. Mechanical string of pussy hats drawn across the fairway. If ball gets stuck in one, 20 points are added to player’s score in the “child support” row. If there are any attorneys on the course, player makes their mortgage, car, and kids’ college tuition payments.
Full post, including comments

Why do people who hate Trump want the U.S. government shutdown to end?

My Facebook feed is packed with demands that the government be reopened from people who previously compared Donald Trump unfavorably with Adolf Hitler.

Why do they want a government run by NeuHitler to be reopened? If a government is committing evil acts, wouldn’t it be better to minimize the number of acts that the government can commit, e.g., by sending some employees home for a paid vacation? If they weren’t catching up on Netflix series, some of these folks might be making repairs, for example, to the existing 580-mile U.S.-Mexico border fence, recently declared “immoral” by the Democrats.

(The folks who are home on Xbox or sipping drinks on a Caribbean beach are actually “unpaid” in New York Times parlance, because the paychecks will arrive a few weeks after the time off; how many private sector workers would be willing to tolerate the horrors of a paid month off work in exchange for waiting a few extra weeks for the cash?).

[Vaguely similar issue: my friends in Berkeley said they believed that the U.S. government was committing crimes comparable to what Germans and Japanese did during World War II. (Most heinous: separating children at the border from migrant parents, something that happens every few minutes in the nearby California family court without attracting their attention) Yet despite having ample resources and the prospect of a good job for the husband in France or Switzerland (the wife does not work), they had no plans to renounce their citizenship and stop paying taxes to fund this as-bad-as-the-Nazis evil enterprise.]

Finally, I learned from a patent litigator (one of the perks of being an expert witness is talking to these smart folks!) that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is going full steam ahead. They have money left over from the previous fiscal year so they’re good through February and, should those funds run out, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board will declare that the folks who accept filings are “essential”.

Ergo, we live in a country where we can still fight about patents, but we can’t visit the Smithsonian exhibits that celebrate our patent system

Full post, including comments

The 49-year-old father and the au pair

From an au pair host family group…

40-year-old mother of three: “Just wanted to give an update/get some advice on my ex-sleeping-with-the-now-former-au-pair saga. She left the US at the end of her travel month around Labor Day. It has come to my attention that the two of them are still in a relationship (he’s 49 and she is 20. Gross). Exhibit A below (try to ignore the fact it’s like it was written by an eighth grader), plus witnesses have put her back in our town as recently as 10 days ago.

Insert photo of handwritten (beautifully) letter: “… I love being with you … I never thought this year would turn out like this … I really hope & wish we have an amazing future ahead of us together. … I’m really going to miss your snuggles.”

[Inquiring minds want to know: how many American eighth graders can write legibly in a foreign language? And what exactly is “gross”? The 20-year-old woman’s body is “gross”? She looks okay in a linked-to Facebook profile (if you don’t mind the tall slender well-proportioned Northern European blonde look). Or the 49-year-old man’s body is “gross”? (If so, why was the 40-year-old mother sharing a bed with this “gross” body?)]

The other au pair host moms pile in with advice:

now going after him in the divorce with this as proof I would totally do. Send to your lawyer and start a file

Agree about divorce files

It’s got to be the saddest midlife crisis ever. Sleezy guys the world over fall for someone new… but look at how this girl writes. [maybe the non-native speaker would be able to spell “sleazy” correctly, though?] What kind of emotional connection could a middle aged man have with her? Can’t even have a mildly stimulating conversation over a glass of wine. She’s too stupid regardless of her age.

He’s a disgusting pig and she’s a horrible person. … I would inform future APs about his gross and inappropriate behavior.

[Nobody questions the inferiority of the 20-year-old’s emotions! But isn’t it more likely that older people are the ones with inferior emotions? Older people are more likely to be thinking about how to get the dishwasher or boiler fixed than about how to phrase a heartfelt poem.]

A (woke) male:

Taking as many of the ex-hubby’s assets along with being alone to think about how he ruined a great family situation for a fling is perhaps the start of just punishment.

[But the 49-year-old is apparently not alone, thus the dust-up.]

The females continue responding…

Take all of his money and don’t lose stamina!

… falling for the babysitter? It’s cliche and pathetic.

… No question. This is disgusting.

That’s double gross.

What a disgusting pig he is and what a poor excuse for a woman she is.

[But the 40-year-old previously tapped into this high-income guy, presumably using her youth to out-compete women who are now 49 and older. If the 20-year-old out-competing the 40-year-old is “disgusting” and “gross” why was it not gross for the 40-year-old to out-compete the 49-year-olds?]

A fellow mom thinking ahead:

She’ll get burned too bc this is all about him. Hopefully before she gets knocked up so [mama’s] kids don’t have to share their child support.

The above shows how little Americans understand about their own family law system. The mom concerned about child support revenue is correct that a European who has sex in the U.S. can cash checks over in Europe (see “Child Support Litigation without a Marriage”). But generally the first plaintiff to sue is invulnerable to attacks from successor plaintiffs, i.e., a court order in favor of a first plaintiff won’t be reduced because a second plaintiff comes along. New York has one of the simplest systems:

As with other states, children of the same parent will have different cash values depending on the sequence in which that parent has been sued for child support. The co-parent of the first child is entitled to 17 percent of the defendant’s income. The co-parent of the second child is entitled to only 17 percent of the remaining 83 percent. The co-parent of the third child is entitled to only 17 percent of the remaining 69 percent.

Linguistics:

Sorry you’re going through this, mama. A total nightmare for sure.

[The word “mama” becomes a title for one adult woman to address another by.]

Readers: Why the outrage over the au pair’s age? The folks in this discussion don’t seem to question the merits of a no-fault divorce system. The au pair was over the age of consent in every state. Either partner in a U.S. marriage is free to abandon the union if a preferred sex partner is identified and/or on payment of cash. Why does the situation become “gross” and “disgusting” and merit larger cash payments if a new partner happens to be 20 years old?

Related:

Full post, including comments