September 07, 2009

Don't trust the GPS

In an episode of "The Office," Michael Scott drove his car into a pond when he put too much trust in his GPS navigator. I knew that some of the details could be a little bit off in the real world, but now I know I can't even trust my Garmin to plan a route. On a recent drive in the New Orleans area, the female voice told me to "Turn right, board ferry." With all the bridges around, I knew that it did not require a ferry to go from New Orleans to Lafitte. However, this damn device had actually directed me away from where I needed to go just because it thought a ferry was closer. How can I make this navigator plan a decent route? In the setup options I had never seen a checkbox for "favor bridges" or "avoid ferries." What an annoyance. "Recalculating," she said as I drove past the entrance to the ferry boarding area. Recalculating is right, you stupid box of electronics. What's next? "Jump curb for shortcut"? "Activate amphibious apparatus and cross swamp"? "Speed up and jump over missing bridge section"? "Increase speed to 88 miles per hour and enter year 1955"?

August 09, 2009

Why cash for clunkers is ridiculous

Is this government program supposed to help the environment or stimulate the economy?

It is hardly going to help the environment. First, it's promoting the production of new cars, meaning that the earth has to be mined for the materials and enormous amounts of energy have to be burned to produce the car. The amount of resources required to produce new equipment always has to weighed against the resources wasted by difference in efficiency of the old equipment.

Second, the requirement that the so-called "clunkers" be junked and recycled also works against achieving a higher average fuel efficiency of all cars that are on the road. The oldest cars on the road that are least fuel efficient and most polluting are going to be left on the road because the owners of those cars drive those cars precisely because they could not afford a new car even with a government subsidy. Those cars will stay on the road while the used cars their owners would be glad to trade up to -- which are more fuel efficient with cleaner emissions -- are getting junked under this stupid program. Furthermore, the used cars that are still much better for the environment will get more expensive and more out of reach for the owners of the oldest cars because the supply is being reduced.

This program is shaving off the cost of new cars for certain buyers, but how can it help the economy when consumers are being encouraged to take on more debt? I thought consumer debt was reaching a crisis level. And isn't the federal government running at a deficit? After the bailouts and the stimulus, the government is taking on even more debt. Good shot, Congress.

Originally posted as a Facebook note.

January 20, 2009

"It works"

The year — probably '95. The scene — the shop at the residence of my friend. He and I were hanging out as we often did, and we always acted silly. One of my jokes was completely unremarkable: I picked up the telephone handset, listened for a dial tone, and hung up. “It works,” I announced. Later that day, my friend's sister came home, and she picked up a telephone, put it to her ear, said, “It works” — and she hung it up. Had she been spying on us? No, she was not even home at the time, it seemed. I think fate was just trying to amuse us. I hope so. (Or she did a good job of hiding.)

Later in life I became a telephone company technician. I often had to check dial tones. And then later the sister and I both went to law school.