Emptying out the mailbag and clearing the history #6

Posted on March 27, 2015

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Other mailbags can be found hereKeep in mind a lot of this is email conversations, comment replies, or some random interesting things I’ve found. By their nature they are not as thorough or complete as a post on one topic.

Here’s what’s covered in this installment (click to be taken to the section):

Airbus 320

In the gym I work out of the news is usually on a few of the TVs. It’s more background noise than anything else. Much like the missing airplane last year, Airbus 320, the recent crash in the Alps, has been on essentially non-stop.

A few clients mentioned to me “Ah, of course. A crash right before I’m about to get on a plane.” I understand the sentiment, I flew within 48 hours of the underwear bomber, out of a New York airport. You can imagine how crazy the security was.

However, a big reason airplane crashes / issues get so much attention is because they’re so rare. The coverage is actually a testament to how good people have aerospace engineering down. In a weird way, all the coverage can be comforting.

There are a few people in the medical world who actually look to Boeing, and the aviation industry, for help with how they can make medicine safer. Think about the diligence aerospace people have. Every single crash / issue is tediously examined, reverse engineered, and then new measures are put in place to make sure it never happens again. Airline after airline is already implementing “Two person cockpit” measures. (From an air traffic controller I talked to about this, apparently this was already a regulation in the States.) When you think of the safety we have for a metal tube flying 600mph through the air, it’s remarkable…but it’s no accident.

“Shit happens” is not a sufficient explanation for these people. When Boeing made the original B-17, it crashed due to pilot error. The people working on that plane didn’t chalk it up to human error. They figured out how to make that plane easier to fly.

Think about the black box. Measures are put into place to try to make sure, no matter what the catastrophe, information about why things happened can be garnered. Whether water, sea water, other fluids, high or low temperature, sea pressure, impact velocity. As much as possible, these people want to know why something went wrong, and try to avoid it next time. It’s inspiring.

For one, fantastic look at this, check out Atul Gawande’s (a surgeon) New Yorker article. Or to go more in depth, his book The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right.

Robert Goddard

I love learning about people who decide to up and build things themselves. No permission needed. As part of an aerospace engineering class I’m in, I recently learned about Robert Goddard. This guy decided to start making liquid propellant rockets by himself.

Goddard and Rocket

For one of his papers, out of 69 pages Goddard wrote eight lines about potentially going to the moon. The New York Times ran an editorial claiming Goddard had less understanding of physics than a typical high school student, because those eight lines on the moon were considered so outrageous.

From NASA, after Goddard wrote his paper:

“Unfortunately, the press got wind of this and the next day, the New York Times wrote a scathing editorial denouncing his theories as folly. Goddard was ridiculed and made to look like a fool. He responded to a reporter’s question by stating, ‘Every vision is a joke until the first man accomplishes it; once realized, it becomes commonplace.'”

Never mind this guy’s awesome perseverance. It’s nice to know even a hundred years ago the media was looking for one or two quotes out of a thousand, all in the hopes of trashing someone…who ended up being right.

Brief comments on Apple

I have a love / dislike relationship with Apple. I’ve used their products for a long time now, and don’t see that changing anytime soon. This is part of my love, from a Financial Times article on Jony Ive:

“Nothing escapes this forensic level of thinking. Nothing is left to chance. Nothing goes uncalculated and untested. Before I leave, Ive holds up the watch’s white outer box. Almost imperceptibly, the bottom begins to move, obeying the law of gravity that pulls it away from its other half. It is graceful, calming . . . and far from accidental. “We work out what we feel is the optimum time for it to drop and then we back off that and work on the tolerances, and even work on the friction of the materials we use. I mean, that’s fanaticism,” he says, with a little smile.”

THAT is attention to detail.

Like many though, Apple rubs me the wrong way at times. Their recent delve into this whole “luxury goods”, $17,000 watch, is one example. They already charge way more than they need to on their other products. I believe I spent almost a $100 getting a power cord last time I was in that store. When you have ~$160 billion in the bank, and climbing damn near exponentially, it’s not necessary.

But they refuse to lower their prices. Something they’ve stuck to since Jobs originally got fired decades ago. This has always struck me as an ego thing, not a business move. (Read Isaacson’s book on Jobs for endless examples.) They can’t take their own egos out of things by charging less than others. They somehow think that means their product isn’t as good. Or as elegant, intuitive, compelling…those three words they use in all their marketing.

That said, I’m interested in the upcoming watch, although I so far have zero desire to buy it. I amazingly, considering I’m in California, don’t know a single person planning on buying it either. Tim Cook is heavy on the fitness aspect, but I haven’t seen anything that’s grabbing me so far. I’d be surprised if they have trouble selling a good amount though. If you get it, let me know what you think of it. I’m very curious.

Kobe Bryant’s Muse

I caught this randomly one night and got really into it. I’ve never been a big fan of Kobe’s on the court. A big measure of mine for athlete’s is whether I would want to play with them, and I’m not sure how enjoyable it is to play with Kobe. Not the angry outbursts, but the shot selection / selfishness.

I’ve always been interested in his process off the court though. His track record with coming back from injuries in particular. He’s much more thoughtful than your typical athlete. Although, he has likely caused a lot of his own injuries with overtraining and refusing to play less minutes.

Anyways, he was talking about when it came time to decide between going to the NBA or college. I was really surprised the way he thought about this. He said when it comes to lawyers, doctors, and such, after high school you go to specific schools to learn these trades. You try to learn from people who are already where you want to be, and you try to find the best people. You don’t go practice being a doctor in your spare time; it’s what you do. He didn’t have basketball school, so his decision was the NBA. That was his place to study.

By doing that, in comparison to the guys in college, how are you going to compete with him? You’re in classes, the social scene, all that college life entails, meanwhile all he’s doing is playing basketball. “How can you compete with me then?” He said. “You can’t. You have other things. You have other responsibilities taking you away from it [playing].” So even if you wanted to put in the time, “You can’t. So I’ve already won.”

I never heard this rationale by an athlete. It’s usually money. (Nothing wrong with that.) But it makes perfect sense. Especially for basketball. It’s of course riskier, and more sacrificial -less time with friends, socializing…but again, that’s the point.

Kobe’s father was a professional basketball player. Kobe would go to practice with him, was a ball boy for games, he even swept the courts during timeouts. He has literally only been doing basketball for nearly 40 years now. (His entire life.) To be at the top of certain disciplines, this is what it takes. Certain personas intuitively get this i.e. Kobe at 17 years old debating which route gave him an advantage over his competition.

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Posted in: Miscellaneous