The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Good news in AF447 case

Via AVWeb, French investigators have recovered the cockpit voice recorder from the crash site:

The investigation team localized and identified the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) at 21h50 UTC on Monday 2 May, 2011. It was raised and lifted on board the Ile de Sein by the Remora 6000 ROV at 02 h 40 UTC this morning, on Tuesday 3rd May, 2011.

AVWeb adds details:

A remotely operated vehicle retrieved the CVR from the ocean floor, 3,900 m down, on Tuesday morning, and it appears to be intact and in good condition.... The units are designed to withstand impact and immersion, but only for 30 days. French transport minister Thierry Mariani said investigators hope to report on their data-retrieval efforts within about three weeks.

The CVR, if it still contains usable data, will help the investigators immensely. Also, locating the CVR makes it more likely that the investigators will find the flight data recorder (FDR), which could still contain enough data to reconstruct the accident sequence moment by moment.

The Tribune makes the obvious more...obvious

As I ride my bike past all the cars stuck in traffic this evening, I will think, briefly, about gasoline prices. So far this year, I've filled up my Volkswagen twice, for a total of $90 or so. Ouch, I said as I paid $50 for a tank last week, that's a lot. Of course, living in a dense urban area, taking public transit, and using my own legs to get around almost all the time (plus driving a car that gets 8 L per 100 km), I think gasoline eats up about 1% of my annual spending.

According to the Chicago Tribune, it actually doesn't make up that much of anyone's budget, but people still freak out about high gas prices for obvious reasons:

For consumers, there's no escaping the high prices, which helps explain their obsession.

Not only do many drivers see gas prices every time they fill up, but tracking the price is unavoidable because gas is about the only product consumers regularly buy that requires visiting a special store. So, they're intensely focused on a single product, as opposed to noticing the price rise of tomatoes when buying a full shopping cart of goods.

They also stand in front of the pump and feel the financial pain as the price digits whiz upward.

And why are gas prices so high? Economics 101, baby. Combine low supply with high, inelastic demand and you get high prices:

So how can we get lower gas prices? Use less of it. Increasing supply won't change the price much because of gasoline's demand inelasticity, meaning how much gas we buy doesn't respond to price increases very much. (The actual rate is about -0.25; that is, for every increase in price of 1, demand goes down about 0.25.)

How to cut your commute in half

Despite taking my bike in for a tune-up two and a half weeks ago, the combination of weather and after-work commitments since then put off riding it to work until today.

It turns out, I'm a little rusty. The bike isn't; even in jeans, a coat (it's 6°C on May 4th!), and a backpack containing shoes (my Felt 65 has cleat-only pedals), I still managed to barrel down Wells St. at 30 km/h. Bottom line, I got to work in 26 minutes, including the 4 minutes or so to get the bike out of its locker. In other words, I cut my commute in half, and burned a few extra calories along the way.

It's supposed to rain the next couple of days, but Saturday the forecast calls for biking weather. More details to follow.

Tortured logic

Yesterday I passed on Andrew Sullivan's thoughts about the role of torture in finding bin Laden. TPM makes the same point this morning: despite what torturers like Dick Cheney say, we found bin Laden using conventional interrogations and a tiny bit of sloppiness by bin Laden's flunkies.

As AP reports, the principal source of information about bin Laden "did not reveal the names while being subjected to the simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding, former officials said. He identified them many months later under standard interrogation, they said, leaving it once again up for debate as to whether the harsh technique was a valuable tool or an unnecessarily violent tactic."

Leaving it up for debate? No. We settled that debate in 1949, shortly after the details of Hitler's crimes became public knowledge.

Torture is morally wrong, even if it were "a valuable tool." Except it isn't a valuable tool at all: it produces crap intelligence, because someone being tortured will generally say anything to stop the torture. Plus, if people think being captured by a particular enemy will lead to torture, they'll do two things which really suck: they'll fight a lot harder to avoid capture, resulting in more of your guys getting killed, and they'll torture your guys in retribution. Armies have known this for centuries. Recall that at the end of World War II, German soldiers readily surrendered to the Americans and British but fought the Russians to the last man. Why? Because they believed we would treat them humanely and that the Russians wouldn't. (Generally the Russian army treated them humanely as well, but the Germans didn't believe that, which emphasizes how important reputation can be.)

Again, and I can't stress this enough, torture is morally wrong. So really, arguing about how effective it is misses the point. But what is morality and what are facts when you're really pissed at the terrorists, right? This is how they win, by the way: by making us diminish ourselves.

Mission accomplished

I don't know what to say, so I'll let CNN, the AP, the Trib, the Economist, and the Times say it:

[1] Look, you know, it's 5 am in London. I suspect they'll have more to say after they've had their morning cuppa.

Girl walks into a bar

Fascinating, and not bad at all. Writer/director Sebastian Gutierrez assembled a top-notch cast (Danny DeVito, Carla Gugino, Zachary Quinto) and put them into a watchable, funny film—only available on YouTube. If your line supports it, watch in HD. Alas, I think it's only available in the U.S. for the time being.