Boeing email re 737 MAX: “I’ll be shocked if the FAA passes this turd.”

737 MAX fuselages waiting to become finished airplanes

Boeing has been forced to publicly apologise after internal communications suggested employees were aware of issues with its now grounded 737 Max plane before disaster struck.

Boeing on Thursday published over 100-pages of internal communications as part of the US Federal Aviation Authority and Congress’s investigations into issues with the 737 Max.

The planes have been grounded globally last March following two fatal crashes that killed all passengers…

“This airplane is designed by clowns, who in turn are supervised by monkeys,” a chat message from April 2017 reads. Another message from the same exchange describes working on the plane as “patch[ing] the leaky boat.”

This is such a shit show,” one employee wrote to another on a chat system in mid-2018.

“Totally,” a colleague replied, “I’ll be shocked if the FAA passes this turd.”

Building crap – or just doing a crappy job of building something – means the same thing to the families of all the folks who died as passengers in 737 MAX crashes.

Tesla getting ready to introduce million-mile electric vehicle battery

Battery on wheels

❝ Battery research revealed earlier this month and affiliated with Tesla could suggest that the company is well on its way to bringing a million-mile battery to market.

The result could last three times as long as Tesla’s current cells—6,000 cycles, across a wide temperature range—and be the electric-car brand’s “secret sauce” as it moves to prove its vehicles as high-mileage self-driving workhorses.

❝ The work was presented by pioneering lithium-ion battery researcher Jeff Dahm, and focused on a new “single crystal nickel metal hydride (NMC)/artificial graphite” chemistry.

“We conclude that cells of this type should be able to power an electric vehicle for over 1.6 million kilometers (1 million miles) and last at least two decades in grid energy storage,” the paper’s authors outline…

❝ Research presented in the paper, published September 6 in Journal of The Electrochemical Society, was supported by Tesla Canada and included years of testing…

Notable in other articles/interviews with Dahm is that Musk isn’t trying to hold the technology secret. Building the EV industry as a whole is also beneficial to Tesla. After all, they’ll still probably be first on the street with this tech.

Hopefully, Xi listens better to Huawei than Trump listens to Apple

NOTE: Bloomberg changed the 1st full showing of this interview to Friday, the 31ST, 9PM EDT.

Music isn’t made the same way, anymore

❝ It’s Grammy time, and as always, watching the awards ceremony…will include a subtext of cross-generational carping: “They don’t make music the way they used to,” the boomers and Gen Xers will mutter. And they’ll be right. Music today, at least most of it, is fundamentally different from what it was in the days of yore — the 1970s and 80s.

❝ Last year, the industry celebrated a sales milestone. The RIAA certified that the Eagles’ “Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975),” was the best-selling album of all time…the album, released almost exactly 43 years ago, was the first to be awarded platinum status…an evocative reminder that songs were once commodities so valuable that millions of people would even buy them in repackaged form. It was also a taken as a quiet victory for people who believe that music today is too loud…

❝ By “too loud,” I don’t mean you can’t crank the Eagles, if that’s your thing. I’m talking about loudness as a measure of sound within a particular recording. Our ears perceive loudness in an environment by reflexively noting the dynamic range — the difference between the softest and loudest sounds…A loud environment in this sense is one with a limited dynamic range — highs that peak very high, and lows that aren’t much lower…Compression boosts the quieter parts and tamps down louder ones to create a narrower range…

RTFA. For there has been and continues to be a war over sound. The sound landscape has never been more varied – from the audiophile with big bucks and peers and who can only afford to supplement the CDs they still buy, radio stations they listen to streamed online — to walking around music fans from hip-hop to classical listening through earbuds.

Geeks on Trump’s payroll make him look thinner, fingers longer

❝ The longest government shutdown in U.S. history shows no sign of resolving, and Americans wonder what President Trump and his team are doing.

Now we know. They are doing the important work the people sent them to do. They are elongating Trump’s fingers.

❝ The tech website Gizmodo reported this week that it found at least three retouched photographs on Trump’s social media pages since October, including two in the past few days, in which his body and face have been slimmed, his face and neck wrinkles tightened, his hair cleaned up — “and in one of the strangest alterations, Trump’s fingers have been made slightly longer.”

Trump still hasn’t gotten over Marco Rubio accusing him of being smaller in other body parts – to match his small hands! Har.

China is Building “Sponge Cities” Facing A Critical Aspect of Climate Change

❝ China is taking the repercussions of climate change seriously. One consequence of our warming world is increasingly frequent and more severe flooding. This is especially problematic in growing, crowded cities, which has made certain regions in China more vulnerable. To combat this growing issue, the country is pursuing the development of “sponge cities.”

❝ The Sponge City Initiative, launched in 2015, invests in projects that focus on absorbing floodwater. Currently, spongy designs are being explored in 30 cities, including Shanghai, Wuhan, and Xiamen. The current aim of the initiative is that, by 2020, 80 percent of urban areas in China will re-use at least 70 percent of their rainwater…

The creation of a sponge city is not a singular, defined process. Each project is customized to its region and aims to improve upon previous techniques and overcome difficult challenges. Strategies include using permeable surfaces and green (meaning that it incorporates plant-life) infrastructure. The concept has so much potential that other cities around the world, like in Berlin, are looking to become more “spongy.”…

❝ Increased natural disasters will be a consequence of climate change that threatens all countries around the world, as illustrated by the recent hurricane and resulting flooding in Houston. …China is taking a firm stand against such flooding with this initiative, and the rest of the world might follow suit. From advanced drainage systems to roadways capable of absorbing water and creative planting, sponge cities are getting increasingly innovative in how they might be able to better fend off treacherous floodwaters.

Or we might continue with the existing style firmly grounded in conservative American politics. “Thoughts and prayers, thoughts and prayers” for the victims of a growing number of environmental disasters.

Robots will put millions of American truck drivers out of a job. Sort of soon.

Freightliner self-driving prototype

So far, discussion of self-driving cars has mostly confined itself to tech geeks and urbanists. But if they live up to their promise, autonomous vehicles could have seismic effects on America’s economy and culture. It’s probably time for a wider circle of participants, including economists, politicians, and social scientists, to start grappling seriously with what’s coming.

Let’s take just one example: long-haul trucking.

Millions of Americans drive trucks for a living

Freight trucks (semis, 18-wheelers, tractor trailers, what have you) are so ubiquitous on US highways that we scarcely give them any thought. But they are a big piece of the US economy. According to the American Trucking Association, these vehicles carry 67 percent of the freight that moves within the US — some 9.2 billion tons a year…

All that driving employs lots of people. In 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were about 1.8 million people driving heavy trucks. It is one of the last jobs available in the US that pays something close to middle-class wages…without requiring a college education…

When it comes to self-driving cars, the hardest problems are in urban environments…Freeways and interstates are much easier…Many cars already have the capacity to automatically stay within a lane, sustain cruising speed, and maintain a safe distance from other cars — they are becoming self-driving on highways first. For trucks, that’s most driving.

Also, trucks are big, so they can carry more sensors and cameras, enabling them to achieve better situational awareness. So self-driving trucks are likely to arrive sooner than self-driving urban vehicles…

How soon? Well, it’s already underway. Trucks have reached level 3 on NHTSA’s scale of autonomy…

Maybe it’s two years, maybe five, maybe 10, but either way, the trajectory is toward drivers being put out of business, and 1.8 million truck driving jobs…is a lot to lose in that short a period of time.

Consider: Coal mining has lost around 150 thousand jobs over 30 years or so, around 50,000 in the last five years. And that is considered a social and political crisis worthy of presidential attention.

Truck drivers are a lot more spread out, and 1.8 million, or even half that, is a lot more than 50,000. These will be people…losing well-paying jobs, with few alternatives, and they probably won’t be happy about it.

In a great post about autonomous trucks, blogger and independent researcher Scott Santens advocates for a universal basic income to protect truck drivers and the many others who will lose jobs to automation and robotics in coming decades.

That’s an interesting idea…but it seems unlikely to manifest in the US in the next decade.

Until then, what’s the solution to hundreds of thousands of unemployed truck drivers?

The one-percenters running American freight aren’t dumber than our coal barons. Even if they can afford to – and actual competition forced their hand – they aren’t about to make changes this dramatic overnight. Coal took 30 years to automate. Freight companies will do more or less the same. If our nation ever modernizes rail lines, that will change part of the syle of the equation, but not the result or pace.

The solutions part – is an easy answer as long as our politicians don’t really have to do anything constructive. Education is always the automatic call. Trouble is how much education is required to be a truck driver in the first place? How far out of the way from, say, joining the Army, did the average truck driver have to go to get the gig?

I’ve done everything in modern logistics from loading trailers and running a lift truck – to basic traffic management, scheduling, dispatching, plugging-in materials acquisition – through to choosing markets. Machine operators need more skills than truck drivers and they have been automated out of existence already. Without the two old political parties doing squat.

Yes, education is always the answer. Giving folks the qualifications to move on to more demanding, more complex employment. New acquired skills. But, our politicians and the economic system they represent don’t really care to do anything transformative unless they’re scared crapless.

Populist movements swelled by unemployed truck drivers aren’t likely to embrace political action more demanding than racist rallies led by demagogues like Trump or his Republican peers. They certainly won’t encourage modernization of an education system that’s been cratering since Baby Boomers discovered Freud. So, what I think we will get — at a minimum – is something ranging from today’s basic Democrat reforms extending up through LBJ’s Great Society. If the Democrats have the backbone to join Bernie’s fight to end gerrymandering, that should peak in the next three or four years. Then, Liberals and Progressives can fight it out to see whether American education will be run as a human right in a modern society — or continue as a social bandaid run by a 19th Century guild of teachers and administrators.

Truck drivers have about as much chance of continuing in their set ways as elevator operators.