English: This is a photograph from the assortm...

English: This is a photograph from the assortment of freely available pictures at Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s web site. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Antifragile, Things That Gain From Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb who also wrote the bestselling The Black Swan. In chapter two, he talks about making piloting an aircraft so easy that pilots lose their edge and concentration. I think that observation may apply to the recent crash in San Francisco of Asiana flight 214. One pilot interviewed stated that the device that maintained air speed was not monitored by the pilots until it was too late to recover from a too low and too slow approach to final landing.

Taleb’s words:

“… automation of airplanes is underchallenging pilots, making flying too comfortable for them, dangerously comfortable. The dulling of the pilot’s attention and skills from too little challenge is indeed causing deaths from flying accidents. Part of the problem is a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulation that forced the industry to increase its reliance on automated flying. But, thankfully, the same FAA finally figured out the problem; it has recently found that pilots often ‘abdicate too much responsibility to automated systems.'”

Antifragile was published in late November, 2012. Some FAA directives are implemented immediately and others are phased in over time. I do not know which category this falls under, but I suspect that it was not implemented immediately.

Advice to the GOP

Seal of the RNC

Seal of the RNC (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Republican National Committee has just issued a report on how to reform the GOP message in order to win the presidency in 2016. They intend to reduce the number of debates and hold the national convention in June, 2016. That is a very good idea to avoid the hurricane season which disrupted both the 2008 and 2012 conventions. In addition, I would suggest that the GOP not hold their convention on the East Coast, the Gulf Coast, or south of San Francisco on the West Coast. They might even consider Alaska which never sees a hurricane or a typhoon.


McSweeney's San Francisco Panorama newspaper s...

McSweeney’s San Francisco Panorama newspaper section 2 (longer articles) (Photo credit: Steve Rhodes)

It is such a pleasure to hold something American-made in my hands, even if it is something as prosaic as a book. I am reading A Million Heavens by John Brandon and published by McSweeney’s Rectangulars of San Francisco. They have a website at  Instead of a dust jacket, the book has cleverly designed, embossed front and back covers. The type is a crisp and clean black on off-white paper that appears to be acid-free. The pages are sharply cut and all of the same size. I read a great deal, and a book of this quality is a pleasure to handle. I expect that I will be writing more about the book when I finish reading it.

Mark Twain

A portrait of the American writer Mark Twain t...

A portrait of the American writer Mark Twain taken by A. F. Bradley in New York, 1907. See also other photographs of Mark Twain by A. F. Bradley taken in March 1907 in New York on Mark Twain Project Online. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

England has William Shakespeare, the most quoted writer in english, and we have Mark Twain, the second most quoted writer in english. Twain’s english is closer to our modern english and is therefore easier to understand IMHO. As a student, I much preferred to read Twain’s works; Shakespeare was a chore in school.

These are two of the quotable sayings of Twain’s. “The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco.” I still remember my first visit to San Francisco in June, 1963. I drove into town in a rented convertible from Sacramento. As I approached the city on Interstate 80, the temperature dropped steadily. Finally, I stopped and raised the convertible’s top. I was never to put it down again for the four days I spent there.

A second Twain saying, “A lie can travel halfway round the world while the  truth is putting its shoes on.” And that was before the internet and FOX News. I enjoy Twain’s sayings so much because they are usually short and make their points memorable using humor.

Mark Twain was also the author of The Gilded Age, which I am reading now for the first time. Since many are labeling the present day the Second Gilded Age, I decided to read it and I will write about it when I finish.

Golden Gate Bridge

English: Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco ...

English: Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco at sunset (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California opened 75 years ago today. Construction began in the final months of the Hoover administration and the bridge was completed in record time, 4 years and 4 months later. Imagine the GOP supporting the construction of a project of similar magnitude today. No, I can’t imagine it either. We can’t afford it or government should not compete with private business or put ferries out of business.

What we can look out for is an effort by government, any government, to sell or lease an entity like the Golden Gate to private enterprise, which in turn would levy high tolls for the public use of what we bought and paid for years ago. Beware of creeping privatization in your locality like the parking meters in Los Angeles and Chicago.