After certain takeoffs and landings were delayed on Nov. 7 at Paris' Orly airport (several days before the terrorist attacks), a back trace on the problem forced the airport to disclose that its crucial "DECOR" computer system still runs on Windows 3.1 software (introduced in 1992). DECOR's function is to estimate the spacing between aircraft on fogbound, visually impossible runways, and apparently it must shut down whenever the airport scrambles to find an available 3.1-qualified technician.

Cultural diversity

Sony manufactured a robot dog ("Aibo") from 1996 to 2006 for a legion of pet fanciers, but now that supplies of spare parts and specialized repairers are dwindling, many of the beloved family "canines" are "dying" off. Not to worry, though, for many "surviving" owners are conducting elaborate, expensive — and even religious — burials with widely attended funerals for their Aibos. Aibo support groups proliferate online because, said one repair service director, "We think that somehow, [Aibos] really have souls."

Leading economic indicator

Art Basel, the annual weeklong festival for "One-Percenters" in Miami Beach, runs through Dec. 6, and among the many excesses is the sale of on-demand caviar, available by text message, to be delivered in person within the hour, at $275 for a 125-gram tin. Miami New Times calls Art Basel "ComicCon for the world's moneyed elite," and among the extravaganzas is an "exotic dance club sheltered inside a greenhouse." Four thousand artists, from 32 countries, are participating.

Government in action

The federal government confiscated more property from citizens (through "civil asset forfeiture") in 2014 than burglars did, according to FBI figures publicized by the independent Institute for Justice (not counting state and local government seizures, which are not uniformly reported). None of the governments is bound by law to await convictions before exercising seizure rights. (Some of the seized assets must eventually be returned to private-party victims, but news reports abound of suddenly enriched police departments and other agencies being "gifted" with brand-new cars and other assets acquired from suspects never convicted of crimes.)

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