Amazon’s War of the Words

Inventing the future of reading:

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The next day I flew to Silicon Valley and visited Amazon Lab126, the Amazon subsidiary that develops all of the company’s Kindle products. A tremendous amount of thought and research has gone into these devices. At Lab126 there is a “reading room,” where test subjects are asked to read on various devices for hours at a time. They are filmed and studied. People reading in a chair will, naturally, hold their Kindle differently from people standing up (on the subway, for example), but even people sitting in a chair will shift their positions over time. Eighty percent of page turns are forward, by the way, but 20 percent (20!) are backward. On the conference table before us were the dozens of iterations of possible page-turning buttons for the new Kindle Voyage, buttons that would have been on the back of the Kindle, a switch button, and also arrows alongside the screen—a > for forward and a < for back—the most visually pleasing design and by far the most intuitive, but then in testing it turned out that people liked to turn the Kindle and read horizontally, which meant that the arrows were pointing, confusingly, up and down. (The designers settled on two sleek lines for forward and two cool dots for back.)

Flying Sonoma and Napa Valleys

August is a great time to leave Texas. For pilots especially, summer presents unique challenges. High temperatures and humidity contribute to bumpier, often less enjoyable flights. These conditions also diminish aircraft performance, resulting in longer takeoff and landing distances and reduced fuel efficiency.

Of course, these issues aren’t particularly difficult to deal with. Perhaps the hardest part for me is the time spent on a smoldering airport tarmac for pre- and post-flight operations.

In Austin especially, the months of August and September are not kind to Midwesterners.

For these reasons I was anxious to escape with Lauren to California. Sonoma County is a good destination for anyone seeking chilled air. We decide that before setting out on a fast and furious tour of areas wineries, we’ll kick-off the trip by logging some local flight time in Napa. It would be our first experience in flying out-of-state since I earned my pilot certificate in 2012. Continue reading “Flying Sonoma and Napa Valleys”

Preparing for your private pilot checkride: Here’s what you need to know

Preparing for your private pilot checkrideI passed my private pilot checkride after 18 months of flight training.

I scored well on my written exam, but by the time my instructor signed me off to take the checkride I felt a degree of uncertainty. Part of this was due to high expectations I set for myself, and part of it was based on my knowledge that the examiner I was scheduled to test with had recently failed a number of students for various reasons.

Read More: Is Becoming a Pilot Difficult?

I’m fortunate to have trained with a flight instructor who drives high standards and expectations. In addition, she’s a natural teacher who is able to communicate complex information effectively. Rather than just memorizing fragments of information, my CFI taught the whys and hows of systems, operations and regulations. But the checkride exams –– divided into an oral and a practical flying segment –– filled me with uncertainty.

I channeled my nervousness into more studying and more flying. The end result paid off. I performed well and was issued my pilot’s license; When my examiner shook my hand and told me the job was well done, I felt like I had let out a breath I had been holding in for weeks.

To help other student-pilots out during this grueling process, I prepared the following guidelines on what to expect on the day of your checkride. I also provide a list of likely questions and topics that will come up during both your oral exam and your practical test.

Continue reading “Preparing for your private pilot checkride: Here’s what you need to know”

Google set to update Street View

via Google

Today we’re making our Street View coverage more comprehensive than ever before by launching our biggest ever update–doubling our number of special collections and updating over 250,000 miles of roads around the world. We’re increasing Street View coverage in Macau, Singapore, Sweden, the U.S., Thailand, Taiwan, Italy, Great Britain, Denmark, Norway and Canada. And we’re launching special collections in South Africa, Japan, Spain, France, Brazil and Mexico, among others.

The economic impact of general aviation in Texas

My report for the Texas Comptroller on how airports serve the Texas economy.

“The geographic dimensions of Texas dictate that many companies maintain aircraft to transport personnel and shipments to areas not serviced by commercial airlines,” says David Fulton, director of the Texas Department of Transportation’s Aviation Division. Air ambulances, agricultural pest operations, law enforcement, fire fighting and offshore oil operations all require dependable aviation infrastructure.