Saturday, February 28, 2009

More Adventures In Bad Design

Just because Tokyo at night is more brightly colored than a 64 crayon box of Crayolas doesn't mean that the intensity of its after-dark display should be emulated by its country's car manufacturers. I rented a new Nissan Sentra last week, which like many cars has an instrument panel that features a mix of analog and digital gauges. Unfortunately, the fuel and engine temperature gauges are in a round LCD display in the middle of the panel. The information is very hard to read under the best of circumstance, but at night, it is a disaster:

The Nissan orange is annoying enough to begin with, but the center display is so excessively bright that it is at once illegible and a constant distraction. I know car manufacturers test their new products extensively under just about all conceivable conditions. I've wondered before whether they test during the day. Do they not test at night, either?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Party Like It's 1997

Having not joined the working world until 1996, I did not join the world of personal financial investments until 1997 or so. As the stock market charged relentlessly upward over the next several years, I found myself regretting that I had not been able to invest more, or had not invested as cleverly as others so as to take advantage of the historic gains of that era

With the word coming today in the stock market has returned to 1997 levels, I can take some perverse solace in knowing that in the end, I didn't miss out on anything.

So now I can’t wait for the next bubble – I’m ready this time! Wait, you mean there is not going to be another bubble anytime soon to increase the theoretical, spreadsheet-only wealth of unsophisticated investors? That’s so unfair.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Surest Bet of All Sure Bets

Michael Jordan is now a finalist for the basketball Hall of Fame. The election announcement will be on April 6th.

I don't think His Airness will need to lose much sleep on the 5th.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Consumer Angst

I can't buy windshield wipers. Shame and embarrassment stalks me at every turn. If I go to the auto parts store in September to buy new blades to prepare for the winter to come, I feel the scorn of the cashier who must be thinking, "What kind of anal-retentive freak are you? It hasn't rained in years." If I walk into the store in a pouring rain, I can almost see the thought bubble form over the clerk's head: "Look at that goober; he doesn't have enough sense to put new wiper blades on his car until it's too late."

When noise our aged, dried out wiper blades made as they chattered across the windshield literally made conversation impossible this weekend, I had no choice but to replace the blades, on pain of a family revolt. To my relief, the purchase went without a hitch. The cashier didn't say a word.

But I know what he was thinking.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

By Air or Sea, Airline Travel Hits High Marks for Safety

It was announced today that U.S. based airlines have gone two years without a fatality, the first such stretch of that duration since the dawn of the jet age. I'm not sure whether to be comforted or alarmed.

In other flight safety news, Cap'n Sully and his crew will appear on Larry King's show tonight in their first public interview since their US Airways Airbus ditched in the Hudson last month. I confess to being very impressed with Captain Sullenberger. The man was top of every class, a highly skilled military aviator, and an experienced consultant on airline safety. When the chips were down, he exhibited every bit of the cool, collected demeanor that you could hope for in an airline pilot (and then some). Since he lives about 10 miles from us, he is quite the local celebrity as well.

I look forward to hearing his thoughts about the whole adventure. I expect his recounting of the story to be remarkably undramatic.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Internet Time Waster of the Day

With Bonus Geography Education Content!

You think you're a world traveler, or a Rand McNally fanatic? Try this, and post your first score. Feel free to beat 23373.