Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - March 29, 2015

Brian Gongol

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Please note: These show notes may be in various stages of completion -- ranging from brainstormed notes through to well-polished monologues. Please excuse anything that may seem rough around the edges, as it may only be a first draft of a thought and not be fully representative of what was said on the air.

For the love of STEM

Fareed Zakaria penned an opinion piece for the Washington Post in which he argues that we're over-emphasizing the STEM subjects at the expense of the liberal arts.

Technical skills are necessary to make an economy go, and the liberal arts are necessary to make a democracy go. I think ensuring that people have adequate skills to earn a decent living is a precondition to the liberal arts being of the full use we might desire, though. To (approximately) quote Norman Borlaug, "You can't build a peaceful world on empty stomachs."

Some family members were telling me about a program they have at Joliet Central High School in Illinois. Students pick from one of four tracks, and the tracks are intended to set them on an advantage for their future career courses. I don't think it's contradictory to do this, even as a strong believer in the advantages of a liberal-arts education.

The Germanwings plane crash

Aviation News The Germanwings plane crash looks deliberate
Appropriately or not, a lot of the media speculation has turned to suggesting it was the result of depression. The facts still aren't known to us all, so speculation is inappropriate. But the subject itself is worth discussion: Nobody is embarrassed by "dental illness" -- most of us just go to the dentist as a matter of routine, and some people have more filings than others. Nobody wants cavities, but nobody avoids going in for regular cleanings because there isn't a pointless stigma about going to the dentist. The same philosophy should apply to mental wellness. Some people need prescriptions or therapy that others do not, but we should all go in for regular screenings and checkups. That would be a healthy standard for society to adopt, and it may be the only way to effectively de-stigmatize mental-health issues, which is a highly desirable social goal.

The evidence seems to suggest that the co-pilot was the point of failure in the system. Airlines have competed on price for a very long time and they have been very successful at bringing down prices and offering very competitive airfares to most passengers.

But I would like to see them begin to compete on other issues as well, and one of those areas on which they could compete is the strength of their training. More than that, they could also be emphasizing the quality of their pilot care and screening. Insurance companies should also demand that the airlines care for the mental wellness of their pilots. Just like they should have very high expectations for training, airlines (and their passengers and insurers) also have high expectations for mental wellness care. The key is having someone have skin in the game. A training company that offers inadequate training is going to find itself in severe economic difficulty. Someone also needs to have skin in the game in terms of the mental wellness of airline pilots.

Tin Foil Hat Award

Business and Finance The majority of people don't pay exclusive attention to conference calls
Perhaps because they tend to be poorly-organized, poorly-run, and too long. Though Harvard Business Review's analysis also says 47% of people have gone to the bathroom while on conference calls. Just because we have the technology to "get everyone together to talk about things" doesn't mean it's the most efficient use of everyone's time.

Yay Capitalism

Aviation News State Farm will test drones for inspecting storm damage

This week

Threats and Hazards Saudi Arabia won't say it's not building a nuclear weapon
Meanwhile, the United States is cooperating openly with Iraq and perhaps tacitly with Iran, to conduct airstrikes against ISIS/ISIL/QSIL/Daesh and Yemen is descending into civil war as Saudi Arabia enters the fray with airstrikes of its own.

Business and Finance "If you find it puzzling, your brain is working correctly."
Charlie Munger on today's interest rates

Business and Finance A sign that money is too cheap
A 77-story apartment tower is being planned for Queens. 77 stories? That could only remotely happen under conditions of easy money. Too-easy money.

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