June 23, 2010

How Becoming a Chevrolet Owner is Changing My Design Ethic

Filed under: Business, Cars, Consumer, Design, Economics — marcstober @ 7:50 am

I feel there is a very different design ethic now that I have the GM car.

I saw that Chevrolet is doing a program to sponsor training for first responders to learn how to extricate people from their upcoming electric car with the Jaws of Life, etc.

There are two ways to look at it. Toyota finds ways to be Lean about everything, and it makes a lot of money, and makes GM look old and stupid.

On the other hand, GM over-engineers things. And so the Volt comes out years behind the Prius, for maybe more money. But for all that extra time they will actually have a car that is a lot more efficient. They are probably losing money because they do things like training for rescue personnel that might not contribute to the bottom line (but if you’re the one in a wreck, it’s good they did)!

Similarly, with our car, the way the radio is all integrated with everything from the driver’s side door to the OnStar system, it’s like – this is not the simplest, leanest way to do it. It has to be more complex and require exponentially more engineering to get right. But the end result is a car that might successfully argue against the “KISS” (keep it simple, stupid) principle. Which is really interesting to me, since I engineer complicated things professionally.

June 21, 2010

Biscuit making / from a working library

Filed under: Economics, Personal Blog — marcstober @ 9:10 pm

So, take an activity—say, cooking, which may be one of the most natural, human things we can do for one another—and break it up into a thousand pieces and you’ll find yourself with a dreary workforce and inferior biscuits. That we ever got to this point, when it is so clearly a source of despair, is astonishing.

via Biscuit making / from a working library, via Ned Batchelder: Fragmented biscuit making.

June 14, 2010

Disqus Amongst Yourselves

Filed under: Blogging, Software Blog — marcstober @ 10:42 pm

This blog now uses Disqus for comments.

Blog comments are a funny thing. If you have something to say, do you leave a comment, or create your own blog post? Or share something on Facebook or Twitter or any of the myriad sites for that sort of thing? And as a blog owner, do I really want anonymous (probably spam) comments, or do I want people to become part of my social network and share their comments?

With Disqus, I can let people sign in with an account (Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo!, and others) they probably already have, share their comments on one of those other services if they want, and generally getting all the networky goodness that we love the Web for in the first place. I no longer allow anonymous comments, but if you don’t want to relate your comment to your Facebook or Twitter profile (and even then, you can just establish you identity that way without posting to your profile), you can just create a Disqus account not linked to anything else. (There’s probably some societal value to truly anonymous comments, but there’s only so much I can do with this blog.)

Sometimes people use a comment to try and contact me, and it’s not really something that needs to be published, so I’ve also added a new contact form.

June 7, 2010

When food hurts – The Boston Globe

Filed under: Allergies, Food, Health, Personal Blog — marcstober @ 1:00 pm

It remains a mystery why, in some people, the immune system responds like a fly swatter to a food allergen while in others, the cavalry is summoned, cannons blasting.

via When food hurts – The Boston Globe.

The “fly swatter” resonates with me. It is indeed a confusing mystery as to whether some itch or tingle is an allergy, something else (which still wouldn’t explain the positive allergy tests), or just me being overly sensitive. Or God forbid, a warning of a worse reaction, which I’ve never had but is in my family history. It’s just good to see the popular media acknowledge this. Everything you find online (including from the food-allergy advocacy groups, unfortunately) tends be along the lines of “kids can die from food allergies; and if it doesn’t kill you, you’re just making it up.”

My only issue that this doesn’t cover is trying to keep kosher but ordering the steak because who knows what combination of nuts and seeds the veggie burger will be fortified with (and I don’t really want to go into it all with the server).