My 2018 in review

I started writing these “year in review”s back in 2014 because I had trouble remembering what I did over the whole year. Because of the clustering of major life events that was this year, this wasn’t so hard this year. Most of my accomplishments were:

  • Finished building our new house
  • Moved into said new house!
  • Fixed up old house and put it on the market
  • Bought a car, a plugin hybrid minivan that gets excellent mileage!
  • Kid #2 was born!
  • Sold old house!

So that was a lot! I did have time for a few projects:

And finally, non-project stuff:

Happy new year, and here’s to a less hectic 2019!

what I would get if I could have anything

When I was a kid, what I wanted was lots of money to spend on frivolous things.  (that’s a kind of universal thing, right?)

When I got older, we had plenty of money and what I really wanted more of was time.  (yeah, you can trade money for time to some extent, but it’s generally messy and it’s not like we were millionaires or anything)

Now that I have kids, time would be nice, but what I really want is more energy.  I feel like I can’t fully enjoy the time I have with the kids because I’m too exhausted!  Hoping things will get better as the kids get older…

commercial airplane crashes and the chain of events

I have a bit of a fascination with airplane crashes, and while feeding baby Nick in the middle of the night I’ve been watching a lot of Air Disasters (also known as Mayday/Air Crash Investigations/etc.). It’s pretty well done and does a good job of presenting the investigation as a mystery that needs solving, although I have a feeling things are dramatized a little bit to preserve this narrative.

After watching way too many episodes, one of the takeaways is that commercial aviation is incredibly safe, so when a plane crashes it’s because a bunch of things went wrong, not just one thing. This is know as the chain of events, and I recently watched an episode that really encapsulated this well.

The flight was Garuda Indonesia Flight 152. Here are all the links in the accident chain:
– The air traffic controller used the wrong callsign for the plane when giving instructions, because he was confused with an earlier flight that day (“Merpati 152” instead of “GIA 152”). When he realized his mistake, he repeated the instructions with the correct callsign, but forgot to say again that he was putting them on a course to approach the runway from the right side instead of the typical approach from the left side. (this was done because there was a plane departing from the runway at the time)
– Then when the plane was told to turn right, the captain (who was used to flying the normal approach) instead turned left, presumably out of habit.
– The first officer was distracted during the turn because the captain was complaining about the cockpit being hot. (In the US, this would be a violation of the Sterile Cockpit Rule, although I’m not sure if there’s a similar rule in other countries)
– As a part of the turn they were cleared to descend to 2000 feet. But the plane continued to descend lower than that – the assumption is that the captain set the autopilot wrong, although this is unclear.
– Because of forest fires in the area, the air was smoky so the pilots couldn’t see the ground.
– For some reason, their GPWS didn’t activate telling the pilots they were getting close to the ground. This was presumably a bug in the GPWS or something.

If any one of these had not been present, the accident would have been avoided. And during the investigation, safety agencies like the NTSB will try to address all the causes. For example, in this case a recommendation was made that flights going to the same destination should not have the same flight number, even across airlines. This is what makes commercial aviation so safe!

(this is similar to the computer security idea of defense in depth – you want to be protected at multiple layers)

How to feel about the midterm results: pretty good!

So the results from last night were a little confusing – it’s hard when there are sooo many races to make sense of it all. Here’s why I’m relatively happy this morning after sleeping on it:

– The biggest thing is that Democrats took the House by a pretty healthy margin. There are still a number of races that need to be counted (grrr California) or recounted, but it’ll be something like D 230-R 205. This means the Democrats can stop any funny business with the Census or repealing Obamacare, and will also have oversight power over the Executive branch (hopefully they won’t overplay their hand; very curious to see how this plays out)

– Beto lost, but only by 3 points in Texas which is very good. The fact that he turned so many people out to the polls almost certainly helped Democrats flip two House districts (including the one where I grew up!), two state Senate seats, and at least 11 state House seats!

– The Democrats didn’t do quite as well at governors races as we had hoped, but we did flip seven states. (including beating Kris Kobach in Kansas(!) and Scott Walker in Wisconsin) I will say that losing in Florida and Ohio is not a great thing if you’re looking for omens in 2020…

– The Senate was, obviously, not great. If you look at the predictions for the outstanding ballots it looks like it will be R 54-D 46. But it was an incredibly tough map for Democrats. And it is encouraging that we easily won Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. (thinking about 2020 again!)

– Apparently:

which is very good news when it comes to redistricting in 2020 and whatnot.

– Ballot measures were really positive. Idaho, Utah, and Nebraska all expanded Medicaid coverage (although Montana did not) A whole bunch of anti-corruption measures passed, including redistricting reforms in Michigan and Colorado. Florida will no longer disenfranchise convicted felons that have served their time.

I am disappointed that it wasn’t more of a direct rebuke to Trump, as candidates Trumpiness didn’t seem to affect the results very much. See:

But in general it was a pretty good night. Remember: Democrats won the national popular vote for the House by around 7 points, which is a big accomplishment!