Our new $1,300 three-hour Bosch dishwasher

We replaced a noisy 2010-vintage dishwasher with a brand-new $1,300 Bosch that got top ratings in Consumer Reports. The first installer showed up, pulled the old one out, and declared that the Bosch would never fit due to having a “closed frame” rather than the standard “open frame.” He drove back to the Best Buy warehouse and was never heard from again. I made a few measurements and checked the Bosch installation guide, but I couldn’t figure out exactly why there was an incompatibility.

I assumed that eventually Best Buy would refund our money, but that hadn’t happened after more than a month. I decided to call them up. “We were waiting for you to schedule a redelivery,” the agent said, apparently unaware that the Bosch would never fit under our counter. We agreed on a date. The second installer showed up and, without commenting on any particular challenge, hooked up the new dishwasher. Adventures in American consumerism!

The machine works reasonably well and is nearly silent, but it holds fewer dishes than the old machine and defaults to a three-hour (!) cycle time. A Whirlpool from 1996 was much faster and also better at cleaning. The new machine sometimes leaves things stuck onto spoons, etc.

“Let’s Talk about Ghastly Dishwashers” says dishwashers meeting a 2013 standard use only three(!) gallons of water. (The article also says “Trump is a smart politician” so maybe we should verify the rest of the claims?)

We end up doing about three loads per day, so I’m not sure that we’re saving water or electricity.

Separately, I think it is interesting that, in a society that is otherwise uninterested in quantitative noise measurements, dishwashers are prominently advertised with dBA ratings (40 dBA for the Bosch). If people want to know how many dBA for a $600 dishwasher, why don’t they want to know the dBA for the interior of an aircraft or automobile?

Full post, including comments

Why aren’t specialty smartphones available?

The automobile market requires high capital investment, yet we don’t see just a handful of almost-identical models taking the entire market. Starting from Android, building a smartphone shouldn’t require anywhere near the investment that is required to build a sports car or niche SUV, but where are the niche phones?

Example: Pilots would surely appreciate a smartphone, maybe Garmin-brand, with built-in ADS-B receiver and AHRS. Now a full backup panel is available at all times. Frequencies for ADS-B are 0.978 GHz and 1.09 GHz, not too different from the 0.8-1.9 GHz mobile phone bands.

Readers: What other capabilities would make good additions to smartphones for niche users? Why don’t these devices exist in the marketplace?

Full post, including comments

How was Ivanka Trump’s keynote speech at CES?

My Facebook friends were outraged that Ivanka Trump had been asked to speak at the Consumer Electronics Show. How was her talk?

A senior citizen white male programmer linked to “Ivanka Trump Keynoting At CES Is All That is Wrong For Women In Tech” (Forbes):

Both in 2017 and 2018, the keynote lineups did not have a single woman included on the main stage. … The presence of the so-called “booth babes” continues to anger many. While they were officially outlawed years ago by the CTA, it seems that booth babes are now on stage disguised under tight exercise clothing.

If you are a woman in tech, like me, you are very familiar with the T.WA., the “token woman appearance” on keynote stages and panels. I have been one myself several times, mostly being called to facilitate an all-male panel.

Whose job is it to decide that a person working in a booth is a “booth babe” and must be ejected?

[The author claims to be “in tech” and yet the biography at bottom says

Carolina Milanesi is the Founder of The Heart of Tech, a technology market research and consultancy firm focused on tech in education and diversity in tech.

Isn’t she actually in the diversity industry?]

All of his Facebook friends are white male senior citizen programmers. They were similarly outraged.

Of course, I couldn’t resist:

Me: It is refreshing to see older white men with the courage to boo young women off the stage before they have started to speak.

White Boomer Coder 1: She isn’t there because she is young or a woman. She is there only because of who her vile father is.

Me: I am just waiting for [the original poster] to ask “Why isn’t she home with her three children?”

White Boomer Coder 2: “before they have started to speak” is a rather bizarre claim. She’s not an unknown personna and she’s ever bit as vile as her father. And as already noted, she has literally no relevant skills to this conference.

White Boomer Coder 3: You seriously think she’s credible within the tech community? Age and gender have nothing to do with this. You’re missing the point entirely. I can think of multiple women, white and not-white, who would be almost infinitely more credible, intelligent and knowledgeable, than Ms. Trump. I’m incredulous that this decision was made for any reason other than to pander to the squatter in the WH.

White Boomer Coder 4: Philip Greenspun Are you a troll or an idiot? Serious question. She has no qualifying characteristics for delivering such a talk. It has nothing to do with race or gender. I don’t care one whit about boycotting CES or not. But shame on anyone who would attend that talk. And shame on the fools and tools who booked her. If you are serious about breaking the speaker mold, there are credible choices out there. However, you clearly are not serious about this…

How is CES lately? The folks protesting Ivanka Trump’s presence there make it sound like a sacred temple. I was there so long ago that silicone (adult film stars and their products) and silicon were able to coexist on the same floor. If almost everything interesting in technology is happening inside smartphones, how relevant is a show centered on “everything else”?

And, circling back to the top… how was Ivanka Trump’s talk?

Full post, including comments

Feel better about the time you’ve invested in writing documentation

During a recent rental car excursion I became curious about the USB-C port in the front of the Nissan Maxima. Could one run a laptop from the car, for example? I decided to open the glovebox and read the specs from the owner’s manual. After one year and more than 20,000 miles of rental by perhaps 100 different drivers…

(still in its shrink wrap)

Full post, including comments

Campusland: novel of sex and inclusion

Our ground school at MIT starts today (videos from last year linked from course web site). I’m hoping that there are no similarities with a recently finished novel: Campusland.


Colleges don’t make fools, they only develop them. —GEORGE HORACE LORIMER

How to be a popular university president:

The protesters spotted Milton and instantly became animated. “Hey, Milton! Divest from Israel now! Stop the murder!” cried one. “Divest now! Divest now!” Their homemade signs thrust up and down like pistons. Milton smiled and walked over. “It’s great to see everyone. Really great.” He began shaking hands, much to the bewilderment of the protesters, who didn’t know what to do other than shake back. “Keep up the good work, and welcome back to school!”

Unrealistic: Mom walks out and leaves potential cash-fountain daughter with rich dad in Manhattan (perhaps an extremely poor understanding of New York family law?) After Dalton, Lulu ends up at Devon University, in “Havenport, Connecticut” (Yale?).

Her application was pushed over the finish line with a substantial check. … Her politics, to the extent she gave them much thought, closely adhered to the agendas of the benefits and political fund-raisers to which she aspired. This meant that by default she was a Democrat, like Sheldon (or she would be, as soon as she figured out how to register). She supported all the causes of the moment. Lately, she’d memorized a wholly impassioned-sounding plea for transgender rights that seemed to play well. Not that she’d ever met a transperson, but she was sure if she did, she’d know how to use the correct pronoun. Pretty sure.

The Progressive Student Alliance decides to target an English professor who includes Mark Twain in his syllabus, but not any African-American authors. The class is canceled and the professor goes on administrative leave and the subject of an investigation by Dean Martika Malik-Adams, Dean of Diversity and Inclusion. Lulu turns out to be his biggest defender against the diversity protesters, but things go south after a private moment in his office:

Lulu was drinking heavily, licking her wounds. She hadn’t told anyone about the incident in Professor Russell’s office, nor would she. There was nothing to gain from it. Sure, she’d been aggressive, but no one had ever turned her down like that, let alone heaved her unceremoniously onto the floor. Not even the ones with girlfriends. He must have known where she was going—she couldn’t have been more obvious, and she could feel him responding to her. How dare he humiliate her, especially after what she’d done for him!

After drunken sex with a frat boy, she falls and strikes a coffee table with her face.

Yolanda’s [graduate student RA] eyes narrowed. “Did someone do this to you?” “No, no one did anything.” “Something happened.” “Really, Yolanda, I just want to get a couple hours’ sleep and then get out of here…” “I smell alcohol, and your clothes are disheveled. What happened to you? Did you have sex with someone last night after drinking?” Yolanda’s eyes were now two slits. “Is there any other way it happens?” Lulu giggled, despite herself, which only made the pain worse. Why wouldn’t this woman go away? “You don’t understand. By university policy, a woman cannot give consent while under the influence. Sex under the influence is automatically assault.” Yolanda looked almost excited. As an RA, she’d had over thirty hours of mandatory training on sexual assault protocols, and she was sniffing the first opportunity to put her training to use. … Yolanda grew frustrated. “You’re not hearing me. In all likelihood, you’ve been raped, and on top of that someone obviously struck you. I’m a mandatory reporter, and— “A what?” “Mandatory reporter, which means I’m obligated by the Devon Committee on Title IX Enforcement to report this.” “Would you please relax? No one’s been raped.”

The book is in sync with the latest New York Times thinking that all U.S. wealth can be attributed to the profits of slavery (1619 Project):

One of the female students [occupying the president’s office] took up the reins. “This place, this place you call Devon, is white, white, white. It’s violent, in your face, everywhere you go. You, the university president, you’re white. It’s oppression. But know this: we owe you nothing. It’s Devon that owes us everything. We built this. This is ours. This place was built on the backs of our people, and yet we are second-class citizens on this campus!” The girl was so worked up tears were now steaming down her face. Milton nodded, as if in profound agreement, deciding not to point out that slavery was largely nonexistent in eighteenth-century New England when Devon was founded and was completely abolished by the time most of the current campus was constructed. But surely the girl was speaking metaphorically, and her pain was plainly real. “Please, tell me how I can help.”

[The occupation is eventually ended when the university agrees to require that all first-year students take a course titled “Identity and Privilege”.]

Lulu gets some inspiration from Columbia:

About halfway through, past the hard news, an article caught her attention. Called “Campus Nightmares,” it was about the wave of sexual assaults on American campuses. The victims—known as survivors—were bravely coming to the fore, exposing their pain for the common good. There was a lot about Emma Sulkowicz, the famous “Mattress Girl” at Columbia, who had carried a mattress around campus for an entire year to protest an alleged assault by a fellow student. Lulu thought there must be less exhausting ways to get attention, but she couldn’t argue with the results. Sulkowicz had become a campus celebrity and a feminist hero. She even got invited to one of Barack Obama’s States of the Union. Lulu googled Mattress Girl, and there were 2.7 million hits. Another girl had accused a teacher of assault and her whole campus had rallied around her cause. She was hailed with words like brave and pathbreaking and was said to be taking on the “power imbalance” between teacher and student. Something new was happening here. Victims as celebrities. Yolanda Perez had kept on her about that black eye last month, the one that forced Lulu to hide her first week in St. Barts. Perez had even shown up at her door with some woman from a campus feminist group. They pressed Lulu hard for a name, promising to “title nine his ass.” As much fun as it might be to get the hairy man-boy in trouble, Lulu didn’t have time for a bunch of dykes. As a likely English major, she was, however, intrigued that title nine was now being used as a verb. … She needed a plan. Simply being another run-of-the-mill “survivor” would not suffice. That market was getting crowded. Some of the early girls got a lot of play, sure, but only Mattress Girl had transcended her own campus. The mattress angle was clever, but it had been done. Lulu needed a bigger play, something original.

I don’t want to spoil the book too much, so let’s just say that she comes up with a brilliant plan.

The professor, meanwhile, goes through the Title IX process in front of Dean Martika Malik-Adams:

“Excuse me. A question, if I may. Where is the rest of the tribunal? If Ms. Coughlin is counsel, and Ms. Gomez is the stenographer, that just leaves … you.” “That’s correct.” “So where is everyone else?” “I am the tribunal, Professor Russell.” “Just you?” That lawyer warned him it might be the case, but Eph had found it difficult to believe that the university would put his professional future in the hands of a single person. “The majority of Title IX cases are adjudicated by a single person; it’s well within the federal guidelines. It’s a question of efficiency.” “Will there be an investigation? How does this process establish facts?” “I also perform that role, and it has already begun.”

Readers: is this factual or literary license? Can a university have a single person investigating and deciding Title IX cases, expelling students and faculty from campus?

Per usual, authors and editors don’t go a great job with general aviation. A rich alum is going to show up in his Gulfstream G650:

Since this was his first trip to Devon in his new iron, his people had had to call to make sure Havenport Airport’s lone runway had the necessary length. It did, if just barely.

(New Haven has two physical runways (four distinct numbers, one for each landing direction) and nobody would call an FBO or airport manager to find out the runway length, since this kind of information is available in public databases and web sites.)

More: read Campusland.

Full post, including comments

Tesla proves that it is easier to deal with government of China than government of Michigan

Annals of free markets #7231… “Tesla Model 3 floodgates open in China next week” (CNET):

Now, with local production in Shanghai, Tesla can skirt the ongoing US-China trade war. The occasion is also monumental for a different reason — Tesla’s Chinese factory is one of the first solely owned by a foreign automaker.

How are things back here in the Land of the Free (market)? Wikipedia shows that Tesla is restricted or banned from selling its products in 20 out of 50 states. It is banned from servicing its vehicles in 5 out of 50. “Our Tesla Model 3 Suffered a Catastrophic Failure While Parked” (Car and Driver):

… he received an ominous push notification from the Tesla app that the car had “suffered a failure and will no longer drive.” … it’s also an extraordinarily rare case of any car leaving us stranded, something unacceptable for any new vehicle, particularly one that costs $57,690 and with merely 5286 miles on the odometer. … even on Christmas Day, Tesla roadside assistance got a tow truck to us in about a half hour, which brought the car to the closest service center: Toledo, Ohio, because Tesla isn’t allowed to operate company-owned service centers in Michigan.

After a two-day wait, we were informed that there are issues with the rear drive unit, the pyrotechnic battery disconnect, and the 12-volt battery and that they are waiting for parts.

Separately, another recent Car and Driver article has a calculation by Mazda that its own modest-range electric car only emits less CO2 than a diesel-powered version after the car is driven at least 50,000 miles. It looks like a Tesla with a big battery would have to go 200,000+ miles before there was a net reduction in CO2 emissions compared to an efficient petroleum-powered car.

Full post, including comments

What’s the best money you’ve ever spent?

A Facebook friend posted the following:

What’s the best money you’ve ever spent? (Money you think was particularly well spent, that is.)

This generated over 200 responses. Sample of those related to children:

No question, the extremely high price tag of buying our eggs, creating embryos and having women carry them to term for us. Worth every penny though. Nothing better in the world than children!

[bunch saying “private school”]

The Paperwork and admin fees of adoption

IVF [my jet-owning physician friends will be happy to read this!]

Car potty with three kids under 7. Best $20 spent.

[inspiration for the not-yet-parents] The Lice lady who came to our house and spent 5 hours on O’s head when he was little!

Divergence of responses from those with female versus male first names:

  • My divorce
  • yes, amen, my divorce also.
  • God bless the broken road
  • on my very worst day I can always say, “well, at least I’m divorced!”
  • [male] Getting a vasectomy.
  • [male] The prenuptial agreement for my first marriage. [but he did it again? note that a prenup wouldn’t have cut down on any of the litigation depicted in the movie Marriage Story; see also Massachusetts Prenuptial Agreements for why these have no effect on the most common and intensive family court lawsuits]

The original poster’s friends are nearly all righteous denouncers of Donald Trump and the Hate for which He stands, yet only one person out of 200 said anything about charity:

  • change I gave to a homeless man

Responses such as “Private Disney World Guide” and other personal luxuries were common, on the other hand.

Readers: What would you say to this question?

Full post, including comments

Homer thought 10 years was an endless war

I recently picked up a cartoon (“graphic novel”) version of the Iliad to read with the kids. It struck me that Homer was using 10 years as the time at which a war could reasonably be considered “endless”.

We will observe the 19th anniversary of our Afghanistan War in 2020 (Trump says he will get our military out in 2020 (NBC), but if he has authority as Commander in Chief, why didn’t he do this in January 2017?)

Our Iraq war is entering its 17th year? Wikipedia claims that it ended in 2011, but we had at least 5,200 troops in Iraq at the end of 2019 (Al Jazeera). Can we say that we’re no longer at war if we still have soldiers in the country who are fighting? And what about the recent drone strike against Iranians at the Baghdad airport? Is that a new war against Iran or a continuation of the old war against Iraq?

Supposedly the modern world proceeds at a faster pace than did the Ancient world, yet it takes us longer to prosecute a war than Homer thought was conceivable.

Separately, what is the story with the drone strike that killed Qasem Soleimani? A typical post from a Facebook friend who had no idea who this guy was a week ago:

This morning we need a fear emoji. Karen Palmer writes: “Every national security expert I follow on Twitter — Democrat, Republican, military, civilian, you name it — is thunderstruck by this move. No conversation with Congress and no advance warning. This isn’t like the Bin Laden assassination — Bin Laden was a fugitive running an independent terror operation. Suleimani is a bad, bad guy, but he’s an appointed government official of the highest rank. There are bound to be serious repercussions, and nobody who will actually have to manage them had any idea this was coming. We should be very concerned for the safety of all the diplomats and military personnel in the region.”

On the one hand, Trump did this so it has to be bad. On the other hand, people say that this guy was our enemy (if we spend $1 trillion a year on a military, including veterans, why are any of our enemies still running around free?). On the third hand, almost everything that the U.S. has done militarily since World War II has backfired.

Readers: Was this a good or a bad idea?

Full post, including comments

Bury the Christmas Tree to save Planet Earth

Annals of defriending, installment #4681…

A friend posted a picture of the impeccably dressed family standing in front of a burning fireplace: “Not to distract from the impeachment bonanza, but Merry Christmas and Happy other Holidays!”

This garnered nearly 200 Facebook likes and 40+ positive comments, e.g., “Beautiful Family! Happy Holidays.”

On the other hand, me:

Looks like carbon that had been sequestered in those logs is now being released into the atmosphere. You are stealing [depicted boy] and [depicted girl’s] childhood. HOW DARE YOU?!?

Then a follow-up:

May I gently suggest that next year’s photo depict the family digging a hole in which to bury the wood instead. [Link to “Carbon sequestration via wood burial”]

From the cited 2008 paper:

Here a carbon sequestration strategy is proposed in which certain dead or live trees are harvested via collection or selective cutting, then buried in trenches or stowed away in above-ground shelters. The largely anaerobic condition under a sufficiently thick layer of soil will prevent the decomposition of the buried wood. Because a large flux of CO2 is constantly being assimilated into the world’s forests via photosynthesis, cutting off its return pathway to the atmosphere forms an effective carbon sink.

Based on data from North American logging industry, the cost for wood burial is estimated to be $14/tCO2($50/tC), lower than the typical cost for power plant CO2 capture with geological storage. The cost for carbon sequestration with wood burial is low because CO2 is removed from the atmosphere by the natural process of photosynthesis at little cost. The technique is low tech, distributed, easy to monitor, safe, and reversible, thus an attractive option for large-scale implementation in a world-wide carbon market.

The proposal is to (1) collect dead trees on the forest floor and (2) selectively log live trees. Then the tree trunks are either buried in the trenches dug on the forest floor (burial) or suitable landfills, or logs piled up above ground sheltered away from rain (Fig. 3). The buried woody material will have significantly longer residence time, and it effectively transfers carbon from a relatively fast decomposing pool (about 10 years) to a much slower carbon pool (100–1000 years or longer).

The 10 GtC y-1 dead wood production rate could also be enhanced by active forest management. Instead of waiting for the trees to die, one can also harvest relatively mature trees via techniques such as selective cutting. At first sight, this seems to be a carbon source as live trees take up CO2. However, if trees are selected properly, it may lead to an overall sink because younger forest tends to be more productive, and somewhere in the development stage, productivity significantly exceeds respiration and decomposition loss [24]. Since the less productive trees that do not do well compete for light and other resources, their removal will leave younger trees to grow more vigorously in the gaps, forming a net carbon sink. In an even-aged forest, self-thinning is a major step of the secondary succession in which a major fraction of young trees die to give way to other trees. In this case much younger trees can be selectively cut or collected after death.

It is an interesting question whether this can be a useful geoengineering strategy. Readers: Do you know of newer research in this area?

For trees that have already been cut, however, like the 25-30 million Christmas trees (source) sold each year in the U.S., wouldn’t burial of the trees do more to save the planet than a lot of the empty environmental gestures in which Americans engage?

In other Christmas news, a Facebook meme that seems to have been widely shared…

Boston Museum of Fine Arts tree, in which flags of Islamic nations are featured on a Christmas tree:

Full post, including comments

Aviation lectures at MIT next week

For folks who are already certificated, there are a few guest lectures in our ground school class at MIT next week that might be interesting.

  • Monday, Jan 6, 12:30: flying the Cirrus SR-22 to Europe
  • Monday, 4 pm: “Laz” Gordon talks about the F-22 flight controls (video from last year)
  • Tuesday 4 pm: Eric Zipkin, founder of Tradewind, talks about flying the Tunison Foundation DC-3 in general and across the Atlantic to Normandy for the 75th anniversary of the invasion
  • Wednesday, 10:50 am: Michael Holzwarth talks about drone regulations (yay!) and practical experience as a Hollywood drone pilot (video from last year)
  • Wednesday (Jan 8), 12:00: Oshkosh slide show (me, being Tina’s guest! video from last year)

The fun is in Room 56-114. Except for those who are taking the class for credit, all lectures are offered at a discount of $53,450 from MIT’s normal annual tuition.

Full post, including comments