Question for readers who are old and genetically defective (progressive lenses)

Because I voted for Bernie I wear progressive eyeglasses. These fix a touch of adolescent myopia and astigmatism (for distance vision) and old-guy-needs-reading-glasses on the lower portion. To show my support for our 2SLGBTQQIA+ brothers, sisters, and binary-resisters, these are “Transitions” lenses that darken when I venture out with Mindy the Crippler. The dark glasses ensure that we aren’t recognized by the Paparazzi.

I recently got an updated prescription and things have changed a bit since my previous exam (pre-coronapanic). My frames are in good shape (hard to damage your eyeglasses when you’re ordered to stay at home) so the place that did the exam suggested that I replace the lenses… for about $780:

If memory serves, which it probably doesn’t, the complete frames+lenses back in 2019 were about $400 each. Now the lenses alone are over $600 for the ghetto version. As Californians have recently discovered, living one’s progressive ideals isn’t always cheap. What’s the difference among these three options within the Varilux line? The optician says that it is all about the field of view. This sort of makes sense if you consider eyeglass lenses to be like binoculars, but I’m not sure why they should be.

Muddying the waters to some extent is the fact that Varilux is made (in China?) by Essilor, a French company. They were the pioneers in this area and the French have some history with optics, e.g., Angénieux makes some great lenses for cinematography. Nonetheless, France is not one of the nations that comes to mind when great optics are being discussed. What do the Japanese have to offer? Nikon has a web page, but hardly any retailers in the U.S. Canon and Sony don’t seem to be in this product area at all. Seiko makes eyeglass lenses. Asahi-Lite offers progressives in the U.S. It looks as though Tokai and TALEX are also Japanese companies. I can’t figure out which of these is the best or if any of them compete with Varilux. How about the Germans? Leica offers “Variovid Superior Progressive Lenses”. Zeiss seems to be the big competitor to Varilux in the U.S. market for high-end progressives. Rodenstock, the view camera photographer’s favorite, makes progressives starting from an individual eye scan:

(Sadly, this is available only in Europe and the UK. Is it U.S. regulations or the U.S. legal environment that are keeping this amazing company out of our purportedly competitive market? As noted in the comments, I talked to a Dutch optometrist who sells Zeiss lenses and isn’t all that impressed with the Rodenstock idea. The best Zeiss photochromic lenses over there are €1220 for a pair. For the fancy Rodenstock it would be €1358. Then add a little something for frames!)

I can’t find good information about any of these products, though. I’ll be getting two pairs of lenses, so we’re talking about potentially $1500+ in spending plus 7 percent sales tax (6 percent to support the fascist tyranny of Ron DeSantis and 1 percent to keep Palm Beach County’s luxurious services going).

Readers: Have you ever gone from “basic progressive” to “premium progressive” and noticed an improvement in field of view? Have you figured out which brand of high-end progressive lenses is the best? (I guess there is always the option of assuming that Costco has figured this out and rolled it into their optical shop.)

Update: As part of my two-year boycott of the Jupiter, Florida Target, I stopped into the Jupiter, Florida Walmart. The optical department there sells Nikon wide-field progressive lenses for $$280 plus $85 for the Transitions feature. If you want to show your support for the 2SLGBTQQIA+ community without glasses that darken in UV light, Elton John-brand frames are available:

Nikon seems to be playing the same game that the mattress companies use. The Nikon wide-field progressive lenses at Walmart are branded “Nikon Focus”. At independent opticians, Nikon offers “Presio” and “Seemax”. Is this an alternative to the Essilor Empire? The web site has a copyright banner across the bottom that references Essilor:

It’s a little confusing, but it might be because Nikon is using the Essilor TotalShield anti-scratch anti-reflective coating. That’s confusing because Nikon has been coating lenses since at least the 1950s (some mostly-peaceful Germans developed modern A-R coatings in 1935).


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Should everyone buy a home AED now that we’re all vaccinated?

Science proves that cardiac arrest cannot be caused by a COVID attempted vaccine. But Science also proves that we can never be killed by COVID-19 if we have been injected with at least 4 (or 5? or 6?) COVID shots. Therefore, we can move on to worrying about ways to die other than via SARS-CoV-2…. e.g., cardiac arrest!

A friend is a police officer and recently went through recurrent CPR training. Americans who get shot have a 90 percent survival rate, but those who suffer a sudden cardiac arrest survive only about 10 percent of the time. The automated external defibrillator (AED) is the key to survival, not CPR, according to the nurse who provided the training. Why not buy a home AED? They’re compact and available for as little as $700 “recertified”. The refurbished units are typically never-used machines that run out of their 4-year battery certification and the recertification process may be as simple as putting in a new battery.

Will the home AED definitely save you? The nurse training my friend explained that it probably won’t save a married man. “The wife would rather get the insurance money than provide resuscitation.”

“The AED in Resuscitation: It’s Not Just about the Shock” (2011):

Newer guidelines have simplified resuscitation and emphasized the importance of CPR in providing rapid and deep compressions with minimal interruptions; in fact, CPR should resume immediately after the shock given by the AED, without the delay entailed in checking for pulse or rhythm conversion.

Although CPR predated the development of the modern automated external defibrillator (AED), the technique seemed to be relegated to a lower priority after introduction of the modern AED. Recently, CPR has been increasingly recognized as a critical factor in treating cardiac arrest, in combination with the AED.

Readers: Do you have an AED in your house? If not, why not?

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What to do with two old iPad Mini 2s with free T-Mobile mobile data?

We have a couple of iPad Mini 2s that were introduced in 2013, model number MF575LL/A (64 GB and T-Mobile LTE). If memory serves, these came with a free lifetime low-speed T-Mobile connection (though right now it seems not to be working; maybe it needs to be reactivated?). Checking the various “sell my stuff” web sites, these have no commercial value ($729 back in 2013, which purportedly corresponds to 947 Bidies). But they’re in great cosmetic condition and the batteries still work for a few hours at least so I’m reluctant to throw them out.

They can’t run the latest iOS, but most major apps work fine on iOS 12.5.

What is a useful application of such obsolete hardware, with particular attention to the mobile data connection. Thanks in advance for any ideas! (“idea” can include “give away to X”)

What if the idea is “throw out”? Here’s Apple’s environmental report from September 2015:


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ChatGPT is almost as bad at home maintenance as I am

Perhaps of interest to stupid people who have purchased houses instead of renting professionally-maintained apartments…

I asked ChatGPT about a few recent homeowner challenges and it struggled. A few minutes on YouTube and one can learn that the Bosch E25 error code means that something is stuck in the impeller, which is below the filter and accessed via an extra cover. ChatGPT is confused and says it is all about the filter:

Our house in Florida is too humid because the previous owner called in a humidity strike on his own position by installing low-E hurricane glass windows in place of the previous single-pane clear windows. This brought the required A/C tonnage down from 10.5 to 8.5. We now have 12 tons of single-stage A/C in a house that needs only 8.5 tons. This is a classic recipe for high humidity because the system doesn’t run long enough. ChatGPT completely misses the “oversized A/C that is not multi-stage” possibility.

What if you happen to know that the fix is a “communicating” variable-speed condenser?

ChatGPT seems to think that going from 3 wires to 4 is a minor challenge (“slightly more”). I guess the program has never had to rip a house apart. Also, I think that ChatGPT is confidently incorrect. Here’s the latest and greatest Carrier Infinity, which needs… “2 control wires to outdoor unit”:

ChatGPT on indoor air quality:

This is the one that impressed me:

Let’s circle back to appliance repair….

The actual problem with this fridge, according to the service tech, is failed insulation between fridge side and freezer side. This results in frost building up over 3-4 weeks and blocking airflow until a manual defrost (remove everything and turn off for 12+ hours) is performed. ChatGPT got close by suggesting defrost system problems, but that just leads to about $500 of futile defrost system component replacements. (We are about halfway through the one-year wait for a new fridge that we ordered back in early November 2022 (pre-coronapanic, the same size/brand fridge was available in 7-10 days).)

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Intel or AMD if you’re committed to social justice?

Now that the GPU shortage is mostly over, friends have been putting together new desktop PCs. They’re not persuaded, apparently, by GPU performance improvements since 2015 (and why not just use motherboard graphics?). Similar to the great Gillette v. Dorco shaving-for-justice inquiry, one question that has arisen is whether a person passionate about social justice should prefer Intel or AMD.

(Apple is, of course, the historical nerd leader in social justice, marketing 2SLGBTQQIA+-themed products in every country where the Rainbow Flag religion is already celebrated (but somehow not in countries where 2SLGBTQQIA+ sexual acts are illegal). Example from 2022:

But suppose that we are Luddites who prefer Windows 11, want to put our filthy SARS-CoV-2-tainted paws on a touch screen, etc. We can’t buy from Apple.)

Intel was celebrating Pride Month 2022:

(Comment from a hater: “But wasn’t pride about non binary?”)

AMD said in 2022 that they want Pride Month to last all year:

The Corporate Equality Index, “the national benchmarking tool on corporate policies, practices and benefits pertinent to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer employees,” rated AMD a full 100 in 2022. Intel, however, also rates a full 100 and goes one step beyond by being a “National Corporate Partner, Platinum”.

AMD’s Diversity, Belonging & Inclusion page says that they discriminate against 73 of the 74 gender IDs recognized by Science. The company wants to advance only those people who identify as “women”:

The company sorts employees by skin color:

How about Intel’s comparable page? They too sort employees by race:

(Note the hateful implication that there are only two gender IDs in the United States.)

Intel also is interested in one out of the 74 gender IDs that Science recognizes:

The company has an “Intel® She Will Connect” web page in which they disclose their passion for discriminating against 73 gender IDs:

Intel adopted the Black Lives Matter religion in 2020 (source):

“Black lives matter. Period,” CEO Bob Swan wrote in a memo to employees Monday, embracing the rallying cry of contemporary civil rights activists. … In his memo, Swan pledged $1 million “in support of efforts to address social injustice and anti-racism across various nonprofits and community organizations.”

Why is it legal to give away shareholder money in this fashion? Mx. Swan earned $67 million in 2019. Why couldn’t he/she/ze/they give his/her/zir/their own $1 million to the Black Lives Matter movement that he/she/ze/they says that he/she/ze/they supports. (Intel’s donations later expanded to about $7 million.)

AMD supposedly promised to give away shareholder money to Black Lives Matter, but it is unclear how much (source).

Readers: What do you think? For folks who are passionate about advancing social justice, which company is better, Intel or AMD?

Also, why do motherboards still generally support only 128 GB of RAM? The MSI X99S SLI Plus motherboard that I got for $180 in 2015 supported 128 GB. Moore’s Law suggests that the correct maximum RAM for a $180 motherboard today is therefore 1 TB (3 doublings, one every two years). Are AMD and Intel so busy at their mostly peaceful BLM protests and Pride parades that they can’t get organized to support more RAM?

(Might there be a substantial market of consumers who want to buy computing hardware, but who don’t agree with the social justice causes that Intel and AMD advance? Drone technology leader DJI does not seem to invest any of the money that they receive in social justice. DJI has never tweeted about Pride Month. What if a Chinese company offered a BLM-, social justice-, and Pride-free personal computer that included an Arm CPU fabbed by TSMC (never tweeted about Pride Month or Black Lives Matter)? There would still be some money going to advance social justice through fees to Microsoft (Windows 11 will run on Arm), but that’s insignificant compared to when a consumer buys a $4,000-$10,000 Intel- or AMD-based PC from a U.S. company. Maybe it wouldn’t have commercial value because too many applications are distributed in X86 binary and would run slower via translation.)

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Steakflation: $60 per pound at Costco

From the Palm Beach Gardens, Florida Costco today:

(Never buy a steak that costs less than your grill!)

What if you’re on a budget and/or fleeing the Egyptians (who never enslaved any Jews, according to academics)?

As an experiment, I bought a $75 Wagyu steak and grilled it according to the instructions of a Costco member who was confidently buying some. He said “hot grill 1-2 minutes per side”. I chose a full 2 minutes per side, plus perhaps 1 minute extra in the middle of the grill because the thermometer showed only 115 degrees internal temp. It probably could have done without that last minute. Due to the high fat content, there was an immediate grill fire, which is probably why the Japanese sear this in a hot skillet.

Family verdict: Superb. It turns out that even real Japanese A5 Wagyu like this is not ruinously expensive because people are satisfied with a third of a pound.

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Consumer Reports: 10-year track record for appliances

There was a rehab of our Harvard Square condo about 10 years ago. I was up there recently to teach a class at MIT and can give the following report on appliance durability.

The LG refrigerator was plugged in 10 years and has performed flawlessly, including the ice maker(!). That’s 24/7 operation for 10 years. Go Korea! (#Truth from the NYT: “LG refrigerators seem to make the most owners the happiest”)

With only light usage (apartment vacant much of the time and many restaurants nearby), the KitchenAid range has gotten stuck on (burning gas) twice and the control panel developed a buzzing sound. See KitchenAid tries to burn our house down a second time and High-end KitchenAid range with burner stuck on.

With only light usage, the top-of-the-line KitchenAid dishwasher failed completely once (needed a new circulation pump) and then failed almost completely more recently (would not dry; control panel flaky and often locked itself). In its favor, the machine was very quiet. It was just recently replaced by a $1300 Bosch with “CrystalDry” technology that is purportedly amazing, but in fact leaves massive amounts of water on top of coffee mugs. (Maskachusetts law prevents retailers from swapping dishwashers without a licensed plumber, so it isn’t easy/simple like in some other states.) It was challenging to find the desired Bosch dishwasher in stock, so I guess 1300 Bidies is below the market-clearing price (see Is inflation already at 15-30 percent if we hold delivery time constant? from June 2021). The previous Bosch required 7 service visits to work at all, so I guess I should be doubly grateful that this new one seems to work, albeit not nearly as effectively as a Whirlpool that I put in back in 1996. The default cycle time is 2 hours and 39 minutes. Maybe they will soon need a “days” field for the timer?

The plumber who came to deal with the dishwasher was also tasked with restoring flow through a shower valve and a kitchen sink. Cambridge water is full of sediment and minerals that clog up plumbing fixtures. Ten years was long enough to disable the shower (no hot water; new Hans Grohe temperature control valve required; thanks to Hans Grohe for keeping parts available a decade later!) and reduce flow in the kitchen to less than what a bathroom sink had.

Two of the Levolor custom cellular cordless blinds (over $100 each) failed such that they won’t pull down all the way. The 10-year warranty is worthless in this situation because Levolor demanded that the old blinds be sent back and then they will rehab them and return them after 6 weeks. That’s a long time to go in a bedroom with the street lights pouring in!

The Schlage electronic locks are still working perfectly, though it was impossible to buy a new 9V lithium battery as I had wanted/intended to.

I can see why Floridians tend to reject any house older than 20 years and strongly prefer a brand new house. Nothing lasts and it is tiresome to be an amateur property manager. As I dealt with all of the issues above, the words of my friend in Houston rang in my ears: “I won’t go anywhere north of Washington, D.C. because everything is dilapidated. In New England they call it ‘charm’.”

Meanwhile, back in Florida, the Bertazzoni in-wall microwave wall suffered a disabling failure when a clip holding a browning coil to the oven roof broke. Cost of a replacement, including shipping: $40. Cost of a new standalone microwave from Walmart: $55, That’s luxury!

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Who is rich enough to buy genuine HP toner cartridges?

I returned to stay at my grad student apartment in Cambridge, Maskachusetts (pre-2020 it was popular on AirBnB, but despite a 25 percent rate cut (via Bidenflation) it sits vacant much of the time these days) while teaching at MIT. I found that the HP 400 MFP M475dw printer cartridges had been depleted by the AirBnB guests. I went onto Amazon and found a genuine HP replacement set at a shocking $484:

The printer itself, including four cartridges, cost $750 in 2012 (equivalent to 1,000 of today’s mini-dollars).

I elected to buy refilled cartridges for $70:

Who is actually rich enough to pay for the genuine HP-brand cartridges? HP claims that the yield will be roughly 2,000 pages so the HP cartridges will cost 24 cents per page. The ghetto-brand folks say that their cartridges will yield more than 4,000 pages, about 2 cents per page(!).

I would love to know who says “I don’t mind paying $484 rather than $70”!

Another question is why the refillers don’t want customers to send back the spent HP cartridges. The box says “made in China”, but they need to get their old cartridges from somewhere, right?

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Toaster for Kwanzaa

Happy 5th day of Kwanzaa everyone. Here’s a kinara that a friend designed and 3D-printed:

I can probably get the 3D model from him if you need it for next year.

Inspired by the life of Professor Dr. Dr. Maulana Karenga, Ph.D., Ph.D., the creator of Kwanzaa, I ordered a new Breville toaster oven (“They also were hit on the heads with toasters” — Wikipedia) this week. It would have been nicer to get a Karenga- or Kwanzaa-branded toaster, but the Australians behind Breville apparently aren’t experts on Kujichagulia, Ujima, and Kuumba. I’m pretty sure that they have studied Professor Karenga’s work on Ujamaa (“cooperative economics”) because I have had to cooperate with them on about 6 toasters in 12 years (the function knobs fail, making it tough to switch modes; I paid Amazon for 3 extra years of warranty on this latest one). Our old huge-for-a-countertop Breville air fryer oven still works, though the function knob is touchy, but we’re using it outside to cook fish, etc. The Smart Oven Pro takes up less counter space and is plenty big for most projects. It is not quite as heavy as the air fryer version, but still suitable for traditional Kwanzaa observance (hitting kidnapped women on the head). Due to the small size and low thermal mass, it heats up much faster than your regular kitchen oven(s). I love this toaster oven for everything except… making toast. The bread is much farther from the heating elements so you don’t get the fast perfect browning of a conventional pop-up toaster. Who else bought a toaster this year for Kwanzaa?

Let’s check out the Ministry of Truth at ChatGPT:


The founder of Kwanzaa is Maulana Karenga, who is not a convicted criminal.


In 1971, he was convicted of felony assault, torture, and false imprisonment of women.

(Unclear if there was a specific toaster-related conviction.)

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Why can’t we get Art Nouveau furniture made by CNC?

What I wanted for Christmas and did not get is an entire house full of Art Nouveau furniture as seen in the Musée d’Orsay or the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Here are a few images of the collection at the d’Orsay, from our October 2022 trip there:

With modern 3D printing (e.g., for the lamp) and computer numerical control (CNC) routers, what stops the mostly-automated production at near-IKEA prices of replicas of the above works of genius and craftsmanship? An IKEA-crafted bed for comparison:

Maybe the problem is that putting an Art Nouveau piece into a standard American developer-built house or 2BR apartment would make the walls look sadly lacking in ornamentation.


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