Going Around the Block to Cross the Street . . .

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Perfection can be achieved.

Or – at least – it is sometimes the case that there’s no better way to do something. How many different ways – how many better ways – can there be to turn something Off that was On?

Is there a better way than turning a knob left or right to turn up – or down – the volume? How about changing the station?

Arguably, there are few. And fewer that constitute an improvement.

And yet, the car companies continue to try coming up with new ways that are not better ways.

If you have tried to listen to or adjust the radio in almost any new car – there are still, gratefully, a few exceptions – you will already be familiar with this.

Rather than a knob – or a button –  or some other self-evident, simple control mechanism – you have a screen with a menu that must be scrolled through. Often there are inscrutable icons the meaning of which must first be deciphered – and then remembered. These vary from car-to-car, adding another layer of gratuitous complexity. (Imagine a world in which you had to figure out which symbol stood for the Men’s room and which for the Women’s. We’re getting there, too.)

When you have finally found the function you want – keep your eyes on the road! – you must then select it and then do some more scrolling. Often, there are a number of intermediary steps that must be performed before you get to the menu you wanted and then the interface helpfully steers you toward functions you didn’t want. For example, sometimes the thing is set up to categorize selections – viz, “news,” “talk” and so on – forcing you to scroll through another menu and plumb the byzantine depths of some programmer’s notion of what seemed “helpful,” by forcing it on you.

A simple process has become a tedious – even enraging – multiple-step ordeal.

Just the same as making a call has become.

We used to have phones. These were used for making calls – and not for anything else. Well, sometimes prank calls (an amusement for kids that was common before phones became “smart” – which is etymology of a piece with “fast” in relation to chargers). The phone may not have had the ability to send a pictures or “surf” the Internet – the latter term an etymological vacuity as this “surfing” is like taking a hike by watching others do it – but it worked for its purpose far better than “smart” phones do.

When you made a call using a phone, the call was almost always completed – and rarely ended until one of the parties to it hung up the phone. Maybe you couldn’t make a call from the top of the mountain you just climbed. But the call wouldn’t drop – and you’d be looking at the view rather than gawping at a screen.

The phone was also a generational device.

The one hanging from the wall of the kitchen in the home you grew up in was still hanging from the wall – and working – when you cam back home from college decades later. You paid for it once – not every two three years – because it never needed an “update” that it could not longer absorb.

It was not made in Chyna – and it did not track you or keep track of your interests. But then phones got “smart” – and people got less so.

Often, while trying to show how “smart” they are.

Now we have cars with “smart” phones built into them – a hilarity lost on stupid people. They are told – and frequently agree with what they are told – that it is not “safe” to scroll through menus and tap and swipe while driving because it is distracting. But it is perfectly ok to scroll through menus and tap and swipe a screen if the phone (for all practical purposes) is built into the dashboard.

It is not merely ok, either.

It is becoming impossible not to have to scroll through menus and tap/swipe screens to be able to perform what used to be done with ease, without any need to take one’s eyes off the road. It is not necessary to look at a knob to be able to deftly turn it left or right. And it is as simple as left – or right. There are no intermediary steps. No frog-hops from this “menu” (oy vey, we’re not at an eatery) to that one.

It works brilliantly – and far better – than scrolling, selecting, tapping and swiping. But a knob seems almost as out-of-place in a new car as an engine soon will be, if another species of idiocy isn’t somehow called a halt to. People rendered not-very-smart by their made-in-Chyna devices think it’s both clever and desirable to make something as easy and simple as changing a radio station by turning a knob to the left or the right a multi-step process are the same people who think it’s “smart” to wait half an hour or longer to recover a partial charge and be unable to drive half as far as you used to be able to do with a full tank that took less than five minutes to pump.

And they ask me why I drink.

. . .

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  1. Eric,

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: there’s a reason why (until very recently, anyway) that aircraft had switches, knobs, and controls: FOR SAFETY! It’s much easier to know where a control is, touch it, and by feel, know what adjustment the pilot had made. However, even aircraft are getting touchscreens now. If you ever watch any videos on our new F-35 or F-15EX, you’ll see what I mean. SpaceX’ Dragon capsule also has touchscreen controls now; you can see the astronauts doing things on the touchscreens prior to launch.

    I had to change my car’s A/C fan speed yesterday; all I had to do was reach down, rotate the control, and I was done. I didn’t have to take my eyes off the road, either. I rue the day when I have to get a newer car with all this touchscreen crap on it…

    • Indeed, Mark –

      I have always thought “climate control” to be absurd. You want it cooler – or hotter? Turn the temp down – or up. My Trans-Am has a slide-type manual control to alter the temp of the AC/heat. Move it left or right, to get what you want – by hand and by feel, without needing to look. Or just by glancing. The fan speed has a vertical slide; up for faster, down for less fast. Simple, tactile and functional.

      But it’s not a “display” and so there’s nothing for the sail fawn-conditioned to tap/swipe and gawp at!

    • There are better and worse touchscreen interfaces.

      But none of them are a really good substitute for switches & knobs.

      I can operate the switches & knobs blindfolded after a week or two. Even the best touchscreens don’t offer that functionality.

      Also most dashboards glow way too brightly at night, and are hard to turn down

      Also most LED headlights are so bright they physically hurt my eyes and sometimes come close to blinding me at night.

      There is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

      • Also ASS is freaking annoying, as is having to turn it off every single time.

        Lane keep assist is useless and annoying.

        Backup sensors are unnecessary if you know where the car is, but seem to work reasonably well—except it is annoying when they sound off every time someone creeps up on your bumper in traffic.

        Blind spot detection is pretty good, and accurate. Probably a good idea for most drivers of larger vehicles. Probably should be on semi’s if it isn’t. But for the love of God don’t use it as an excuse not to use your mirrors, it’s a supplement.

        Backup cameras work surprisingly well, visibility is sometimes better through them vs. the window in bad conditions. But again not a substitute for actually looking where you are going.

        Auto-parking, just no. If you can’t park it, you can’t drive it.

    • The Dragon capsule’s “control surfaces” are only there to give the cargo something to do while they ride up to the space station. It is completely controlled from the ground, much like the Soyuz delivery ships.

  2. Are you guys going to do the national F-U on October 4th?
    The goobermint is going to ping every phone on October 4th in order to keep up, The Fear.
    … Are you going to shut off your phone that day?
    …Stuff it in an old microwave?
    …Take out the battery & go spend some time with real People & just live life?

    I like how Doug put it at the end of this live show:

    ‘This is FOOD SECURITY! Off Grid Living ..15 years and counting’


    …The last time the goobermint did this, my dumb flip-phone didn’t receive a thing. …Dumb phones, rock!

    • “Dumb phones, rock!”

      Which is why you can no longer buy one, and why they obsoleted 3G to get rid of all of the remaining dumb phones out there, such as the one I was using for 7 years.

      Even the 4G Nokia flip phones being sold today are “well connected” and run all the apps you could want.

    • Been considering getting a Faraday bag for my phone to use when I’m traveling. Anyone have any experience with them?

      • Hey Philo,

        I did for a while. It worked, though the brand I used (Silent Pocket) seem to wear out quickly, and after I cycled out a couple of them, I had had enough.

        Also, you had to remember to turn your phone off before putting it in the faraday pouch, or the phone would continually try and contact a tower, and the battery would drain quickly.

        With that phone, I could remove the battery, so the Faraday bag was unnecessary. I might consider one for my new twonky, as you can’t (easily) remove the battery.

        I also have a Pinephone Pro, which runs Linux and has hard switches for the phones components, as well as a removable battery, but have yet to get it work consistently for talking and texting. Also, the battery life is pathetic, so you’d have to carry a few of them or be continually charging.

        • Good info, thanks! I’m looking at the SLNT bag. I already turn my phone off while traveling, but I think they can still track you when it’s off. Can’t remove battery. I think it could work for me. I just simply didn’t know if they even worked, but seems they do.

        • Morning (sort of!) Ugg –

          The Great Zap was a fizzle. I expected the computer and TeeVee to flail and screech like the robot in Lost in Space – Danger! Danger Will Robinson! – but all that happened was my phone piped in the usual Emergency Broadcast Test thing for 10 seconds or so and that was it. I think I am still genetically intact…

          • RE: “all that happened was my phone piped in the usual Emergency Broadcast Test thing for 10 seconds or so”

            You forgot to put it in the trunk of your Trans-Am?

            [It’s a bit weird, typing the word ‘trunk’, I no longer use that once well used word. …the sensation of that realization,.. odd, & something else I can’t put my finger on. Maybe, like, the realization you’ve been robbed? Idk.]

  3. If you are able to have a fire in your backyard, make a Norwegian fire log, Swedish too, and have a self-contained fire.

    Chainsaw massacre a tree trunk, make it 16 inches tall with a 12 inch diameter, then cut a criss-cross into the end grain to about 3-4 inches from the bottom of the stump.

    Use a beeswax candle as a starter, kindling on the top of the stump, a bic lighter, a flint and steel, set it afire, the stump will burn for hours.

    Just take it easy, it’s an internecine battle going on out there, why, no one knows. Circle the wagons and build an earthen berm, have to.

    I drove my 1965 Ford sedan all the way around the block in reverse one time, more than 50 years ago now. It wouldn’t go forward, just in reverse. The emergency brake was on, had no idea it was, one of those things that happens. You have to laugh, feel so foolish.

    You learn something new every day.

    • “I drove my 1965 Ford sedan all the way around the block in reverse one time, more than 50 years ago now.”

      Many years ago, I did something similar, many times, in my old Peugeot. But I was on drugs, so slightly different circumstances.

      Good times. 🙂

  4. Speaking of going around the block to cross the street…

    You know what I hate? Medians. Yes, those patronizing islands of concrete built by civic engineers who aspire to be social engineers and that actually force you to drive around the block, and sometimes a mile down the street, in order to get to the other side of the road.

    Where are the climate activists making war against medians? How many millions of tons of carbon dioxide are needlessly released every year to to people having to deal with these goddamned things?

        • I am definitely not being facetious, BaDnOn.
          I can give you three examples from my own life, two of which involve me personally, and one which involves the now deceased daughter of a close friend. I will also state that a) CalTrans’ first priority, after getting people to wear seat belts, is to provide physical barriers between opposing lanes of traffic, and b) a CHP motorcycle officer told me, many years ago, that in any head-on collision, CHP expects to see AT LEAST one fatality. At least.

          My friend’s daughter was decapitated on Camelback Road in Phoenix, AZ, 2 Sept 1978, by a reckless driver who crossed the center line and hit her head-on. Her younger sister, a passenger, suffered a fractured neck vertebra and spent a year in a body cast, following which she experienced severe emotional problems, as you might expect. She also has a burn scar the size of a baseball on her right elbow to remind her every day of the day she lost her sister, who would have celebrated her 21st birthday two days later, 4 Sept 1978, had she lived. A physical barrier would have prevented this collision.

          My first personal experience involves a now deceased AGW, a Riverside County Sheriff’s deputy who crossed the center line on Hamner Avenue in Norco,. CA 22 June 1989 and hit me head-on. The collision demolished his government issue motorcycle and my Ford pickup, and ended his life. He was deemed to be at fault for the collision. A physical barrier would have prevented this collision.

          Following the collision, my then GF, a U.S. Army veteran who had two helicopters shot out from under her in Vietnam, told me, “Well, you’re one of us now.” At the time, I had no idea what she was talking about, but I found out. I hope you never do.

          I stand by my previous assertion. Fact is, most drivers are both stupid and incompetent, so any help we can get to protect us from their stupidity and incompetence is welcome, IMO. Have you ever worked in a roadway? I have, and it is goddamned scary. People just do not care whose lives they put at risk, including their own.

          There was a head-on collision on SR91 in Corona, CA (where I live) two days ago. Wrong way driver. Both drivers were killed. Unfortunately, there is no cure for stupid.

          • Those are moving examples, Adi. I think there is a place for separate roadways, sure, but I also think medians are overused. Maybe I’m wrong. One thing I’ve often asserted, myself, is that an overuse of traffic controls steals drivers’ concentration while simultaneously giving them an illusion of safety. Also steals a drivers freedom to decide to cross the damn street when the coast is clear.

            I contend that people thinking for themselves and understanding the true danger (or lack thereof) is the best remedy for vacuous traffic mishaps. People being circuited along life’s path is a good way to stop them from thinking.

            But, maybe people truly are too retarded. There are obviously separate roads on the highways, and it’s quite obvious when you’re going the wrong way, but people seem to be doing that more and more often. People often blame drugs and/or booze, but I drove decently lit in my younger life and still can’t picture being too wasted to understand I was going the wrong direction on a highway.

            • >I contend that people thinking for themselves and understanding the true danger (or lack thereof) is the best remedy for vacuous traffic mishaps.

              Absolutely. But the laws must be written to deal with the least able, AFAIK. Eric (our host) is fond of telling us that he completed the Bondurant driving course. Good for him, but unfortunately, there are all those “clovers” out there who are not only incompetent, but sometimes *dangerous* to others.

              > I also think medians are overused.

              There is always a tradeoff. As it happens, I am the “instigator” of a campaign to install a curbed and landscaped median on a historic surface street here in Corona (South Main Street, if you are interested), and one of the challenges will be *exactly* what you have described.

              This is a historic street, and is now heavily traveled, as the city has grown beyond the wildest dreams of its 19th century founders. In modern times, major thoroughfares are designed as quasi-limited access, but not so in earlier days. So, we have a “main drag” with houses and driveways fronting on the street, which clearly poses traffic engineering and traffic safety challenges.

              No doubt, people will squawk if they are required to travel to the end of the block and turn around in order to access their driveway, where formerly they could just use the (stripes only) turn bay. It is possible this could kill my cherished project. We shall see.

              • Sorry to tell you, but when I view that area on satellite, my first thought is (cue Orange Man) “What a shit-hole!” No offense.

                Also, Grand Blvd. there looks like some fun. The adolescent in me wants to know how fast you can get going on that particle accelerator-like circuit before your car slides off the road. 😉

                Now, have you ever heard of the “shared space” concept? I do wonder if it would be applicable in your case?

                (Forgive the CNN link)


                “The town of Drachten in the Netherlands was one of the first to experiment the concept in 2002 by removing nearly all traffic signals with the aim of reducing accidents and improving both the towns quality and popularity. Despite increases in traffic volumes, accident numbers fell from 8.3 per year between 1994 and 2002 to an average of just one per year in 2005.”

                • Also, with regards to your area: I’m profoundly relieved to no longer live in such an urban area. It was certainly not my natural environment and my powers were weak.

                  • >I’m profoundly relieved to no longer live in such an urban area

                    I hear you. Now that I am re-tarred, I considered moving to a less congested area, but am well aware of the “gentrification” of rural areas. So, I elected to “shelter in place.” Perimeter fencing (tall, but not electrified, nut ripper spearpoints @ 7 feet), decent alarm system, very private back yard, very secure office (a feature, not a bug) a few unobtrusive security features which actually enhance the appearance. *NO* (exterior) bars on the windows – I refuse to live like that.

                    I’ve been to NYC and Chicago, cannot understand how anyone could live there. Spent 5 years in Cambridge, MA, which was barely tolerable, for me.

                    Diff’rent strokes for diff’rent folks, I guess…

                    • RE: “So, I elected to “shelter in place.” Perimeter fencing (tall, but not electrified, nut ripper spearpoints @ 7 feet)”

                      FerFal wrote quite a bit about such. …& why cities were invented in the first place.

                      I’m a bit confused though. When you wrote, “I’ve been to NYC and Chicago, cannot understand how anyone could live there.” I wondered how that’s different from, “Perimeter fencing (tall, but not electrified, nut ripper spearpoints @ 7 feet)”

                      I’ll say this, saw such in the outskirts of Dubuque,… it certainly looked like a compound with lotsa stuff inside worth/of value.

                      ..Good half-way Coyote dissuaders, I’m imagine.

                • >when I view that area on satellite, my first thought is (cue Orange Man) “What a shit-hole!”
                  Try Google Maps, and drag the little yellow man onto the map for a street view.
                  Start at S. Main and Olive, proceed south on Main to Ontario. There are some lovely old homes on that stretch of S. Main, intermixed with more modern but unremarkable properties.

                  >Grand Blvd. there looks like some fun.

                  Grand Blvd. (The Circle, hence “Circle City”) was the original town. SE quadrant is still pretty nice, other parts not so much. There was a road race held there early 20th century, which had a rich purse and attracted top drivers.

                  One lap of the circle equals 3 miles.
                  The third race, in 1916, had a fatal crash which killed, I believe, 3 people, and that ended the Corona Road Race. Some old cars from that era are still around, and every once in awhile there will be a “parade lap” of the old machines around the Circle.
                  Pretty cool. 🙂


                  • Here is a video of the fatal crash in 1916:

                    Eddie Pullen won the 1914 race, driving a Mercer. Mercer automobiles were another project of the Roebling family, more famous for steel wire and cable, and the Brooklyn Bridge. The name Mercer comes from the fact that Trenton, NJ is the county seat of Mercer County. The Roebling family had their own bank, Trenton Trust Company.

                    My grandfather, who was born in Brooklyn, was a banker, and worked for Trenton Trust until he retired at 80. Mary G. Roebling, the President of Trenton Trust, bent the rules (retirement at 65), because she thought highly of my grandfather.

                    We lived in Plainsboro, on Grover’s Mill Road. Grover’s Mill is where the Martians were supposed to have landed in the 1938 Orson Welles radio broadcast.

                    I guess a few yahoos shot up a water tower, but most people locally, from what I have heard, knew there was no Martian invasion, and the radio broadcast was just for entertainment. 🙂

                    My family (parents and grandparents) did not move to Plainsboro until after WWII.

                    • Interesting, Adi.

                      Firstly, what were they doing at 0:17 in that video? Were they fueling Mr. Fusion?

                      Also, I’m assuming they shot up the water tower because they were full of moonshine and thought it was an alien spacecraft?

                      Strangely enough, the other day I saw a water tower on TV in Phoenix, and I wondered if anyone had ever shot up one, just to be an asshole. Seems like a glaring Achilles-heel for a town.

                    • Yes, the yahoos shot up the water tower in Grover’s Mill because they tuned in late to the broadcast (Mercury Theatre of he Air), thought the “Martian invasion” was real, and the water tower was a Martian spacecraft.

            • >People often blame drugs and/or booze,
              Sometimes the motive is purely criminal (and purely stupid).
              As in this video:

              This is *not* the two car collision I mentioned earlier. Busy week here in town. 🙂 Stolen vehicle, multi county pursuit, rammed by police vehicles, attempted to flee by traveling the wrong way on a major highway. Fail. HTBAA* man (not a woman, man wearing a wig) now in custody. No deaths, fortunately.
              *Happens To Be African-American

              > I drove decently lit in my younger life
              To which I also plead no contest, your Honor, and not proud of it, either. Sometimes known as “drive by braille” (Bott’s dots on the highway). No “self driving” cars in those days. unfortunately.

  5. The cassette and turntable have returned, so too will simpler functional controls to many things.

    Analog watches can still be purchased. There is always a market for “traditional” devices, and someone will move to fill that market.

    • Analog watches are highly prized for their mechanical beauty. Maybe one day analog cars will be as well. I believe if a manufacturer produces under 500 cars a year they can get away with a lot.

  6. I know that Audi and MB have a fully integrated voice command system. To be honest, I think it’s kind of annoying. The Allroad and A8 that I have (2015 & 2014 respectively) have a clunky push-button to command the voice system on the steering wheel.


    And then in a voice that sounds like something from an 8-bit Nintendo game, it says “Please say your command or choose from the menu.”

    – “Call so-and-so”
    – “Play artist Led Zeppelin”
    – “Address blah-blah-blah”

    The thing is next to retarded which is why I’ve rarely used it. I guess that the MB one doesn’t require a key press to start but you have to say “Hey Mercedes” which is a mouthful!

    Supposedly, they’re working on their respective systems to make the interface less manual, more natural, and less error prone. I’m betting that all the EV pushers think they’re gonna do likewise.

  7. Beyond the mere inconvenience of reduced ease of use, the move from analog to digital was the beginning of the end for privacy. The relatively recent ability to intercept and store information digitally, forever with no degradation means that every connected digital device you interact with is stealing, transmitting, and storing your information on a server somewhere for someone at some future time to retrieve, possibly manipulate, and use against you.

    Can you feel the digital prison walls closing in around you? I can.

    • ‘Can you feel the digital prison walls closing in around you?’ — Philo Beddoe

      While living in France several decades ago, I had a friend who worked in the municipal records office of a large city. She showed me the paper files which were kept on French citizens at the time: birth/death, educational, health, professional, criminal, etc.

      How quaint! How old-timey! Now the NSA’s Utah Data Center stores every phone number you’ve called, or been called from, for the last 20 or 30 years. It’s got the text of every message and email you’ve sent. And — thanks to a retroactive blessing from Clowngress — it’s ‘all legal’:

      ‘Former AT&T engineer Mark Klein handed a sheaf of papers in January 2006 to lawyers at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, providing smoking-gun evidence that the National Security Agency, with the cooperation of AT&T, was illegally sucking up American citizens’ internet usage and funneling it into a database.

      ‘The documents became the heart of civil liberties lawsuits against the government and AT&T. But Congress, including then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-Illinois), voted in July 2008 to override the rights of American citizens to petition for a redress of grievances.

      ‘[The FISA Amendments Act of 2008] absolved AT&T of any legal liability for cooperating with the warrantless spying. The bill, signed quickly into law by President George W. Bush, also largely legalized the government’s secret domestic wiretapping program.

      ‘Obama pledged to revisit and roll back those increased powers if he became president. But, he did not.’


      Bush … Obama … Uniparty … traitors all.

    • “Gaming,”‘ eh?
      How long before some Bright Young Person” gets the idea to bring “gaming,” in the Las Vegas sense, to the automobile? A real time hookup to a Las Vegas casino, without ever leaving he comfort of your auto… What a concept! Off track betting! Craps! Roulette! Slots! No problem!

      Every game but blackjack, of course. 🙂

  8. Ever try to change the radio station in a ’21 top-trim Highlander while backing up? Happens to me at least once a week. Longing for my Craig AM-FM-8 track.

  9. As mentioned in the article, the massive hypocrisy of banning looking at cell phones while driving, but having to navigate a giant touch screen to work the vehicle, is frustrating. I wonder how many of those displays are smashed and broken by frustrated drivers fed up with having to navigate multiple menus to do stuff you used to be able to do with a single dial or switch.

    Which reminds me, has anyone ever smashed a crack in their dashboard? I remember doing that once when younger. Don’t remember what I was mad about, probably something with the car, but I was so pissed I slammed my fist on the top of the dashboard and it cracked. It was an old beater, but still. I know a guy that got so mad at his car he pulled a gun out and shot it. I found out that kind of stuff does not make the situation better.

    • The day they pipe ads onto my car’s dashboard is the day I smash it. With a sledge hammer. It’s already happening on some small scale with the car’s GPS systems. Never a moment’s peace – the constant bombardment of my senses with some marketing douche bag’s brain farts. Like the God Damn gas stations that blare little ad jingles and Cheddar News blurbs when all I want to do is just get some fucking gas, in peace and quiet save the traffic noise going by. I want to pour gas on the pump’s little TV and light a match.

      • oh yeah, damn ads at the gas pump is messed up, like I want to hear that crap. Soon they will be doing PSA’s and telling us to treat out kids right and support gays. And you’re right that is coming to the displays in cars someday.

      • ‘I want to pour gas on the pump’s little TV and light a match.’ — BAC

        At my last fill-up, the Talking Clownscreen had three one-inch diameter dark spots, as if someone (not me) had pounded it with a hammer. It still functioned, sort of. But one of the menu options was blanked out by a dark spot.

        The disgruntled customer should have used a drill with a circular saw bit … to fix it where it couldn’t be fixed. 🙂

      • I recently found out that there is a mute button for those gas pump screens. One of the buttons on he side of the screen. For me in my area, it’s the second button down on the right side of the screen.

      • > gas stations that blare little ad jingles
        Gray tape is your friend.
        The speakers I have seen are small, and easy to tape over.
        A mute screen is easy to ignore.
        Like you, I refuse to get quacked at as a condition of buying gasoline.

  10. I realized decades ago that the entire computer/IT industrial complex is built upon the foundational principle of, Contrive Complexity for Job Security.

    • Yes absolutely! Took years but my aerospace job finally got the new and improved integrated design/plan/build computer system. Designers and techs spent weeks in training classes to try and sort it all out even the instructors were still head scratching.

      I was really p/o’d because what was simple became a nightmare of icons, drag and drop, sequences without logic that had to be followed exactly or parts didn’t order and plans didn’t show up in the factory. Finally dawned on me, we were manually assembling instructions for the “system” that if they’d spent a bit more would have been automated – confirmed by a developer that came back to my group. Yea! The tech planning production white collar full employment act! No more quick turnaround, management gave up asking. Plus lots of overtime for Christmas and more Harley parts! Worked a New Years Day which was a paid holiday plus double time for coming into work, cha ching!

  11. In defense of the smartphone…

    It isn’t a phone, it’s a pocket computer. A pocket computer that happens to make phone calls. Problem is, that sounds a little too much like “pocket protector” to the marketeers. The nerd market is pretty small, but at least half the population loves talking to each other on the phone all day. A smart phone is an easy sell.

    In the 1970s and 80s, the pocket computer was called a programmable calculator, because at the time calculators were the hot mainstream electronic devices. It could have easily been called the electronic slide rule or mobile accountant. When cell phones got small enough to be pocketable, the pocket computer industry rebranded programmable calculators as smartphones. If the Gameboy would have been a little more mainstream we might all be walking around with “pocket consoles” or some other term borrowed from gamers for them.

    Just don’t call it a pocket computer.

    • >It isn’t a phone, it’s a pocket computer.
      It is a surveillance and tracking device which incidentally allows the person being tracked to make phone calls. No thanks, I do not want one.

  12. Aye, one of many reasons I have taken up drinking also. The primary reason for this madness is women in positions where they can make the rules. Judges, bureaucrats, senators, you name it. Add to that the men who desire their approval and you have modern society.

    And our businesses; wow, doesn’t it play out there? There we were, trying to do a good job and “Oh no, we’re $6 million in the hole all-of-a-sudden”! Gee, some of us guys warned the ladies on the top floor about this 10 years ago, but diversity was more important.

    God told us that if we did not obey, He’d punish us by having “women rule over us.” Hello, abolitionist movement. Hello, 19th Amendment.

    Nothing worse than being a “kept” man. Thankfully it’s five o’clock somewhere, Mr. Buffett.

    • Really, Scooter? Women as judges and senators is causing the creation of stupid IPad looking devices in automobiles? Wasn’t it a man that designed the IPhone? Isn’t it mainly (male) engineers that are designing these vehicles with these ridiculous “safety” features?

      • Mike Okuda laid out the principles for how the interfaces of “smart phones” and tablets currently work in his writers’ technical manual for “Star Trek: The Next Generation”. Apple designers and engineers in particular acknowledge their debt to Okuda for the interface of the iPad.

        This video has spoilers for “Picard” season three and the “Barchetta” Okuda helped build last year, but it offers a really good taste of how much deep thinking he did back the 80s about these concepts.


        • Of course, whether it was a good idea to use Okuda’s principles to implement these real life time sinks, that’s a separate question than where the concept came from.

        • I believe Minority Report also had a ton of swiping (with the hands) to move stuff around before the smartphone stuff. Also the pre-crime surveillance state, it was a unique movie.

          • Thank/blame “Minority Report” for the really wide curved monitors which are still popular provided you have the GPU capable of driving one.

      • No. Of late these are the people who insist on safety and “fairness” in almost every context. Us men who enable it are guilty as well.

        “Another of Chair Homendy’s priorities is to ensure the NTSB’s readiness to carry out its mission amid rapid technological advancement in all modes of transportation, including advanced driver assist systems, automated vehicles, commercial space transportation, uncrewed aircraft systems, advanced air mobility, supersonic aircraft, high-speed ground transportation, and clean energy sources to fuel vehicles, such as high-voltage lithium-ion batteries and hydrogen. She is pushing for measures that not only will save lives but preserve the public’s trust in proven lifesaving technologies, such as automatic emergency braking and forward-collision warning.”

        • I guess we can thank Trump for that pick to the NTSB. So much for getting rid of the Swamp. 😳

          Jennifer Homendy makes her living off the backs of taxpayers. The last 25 years she has been a government official in some shape or form. She knows nothing else than to nod her head to get her next promotion.

          I wished these idiots were forced to drive (not just ride in) the vehicles that they enforce these “safety” features on. Everything that the NTSB is mandating is making us dumber. It removes our ability to critically think and lowers our response times which makes it even more dangerous for these vehicles (and the people driving them) to be on the roads.

          As someone who purchased a “new” vehicle a few months ago this “safety” equipment is more likely to kill us or someone else. I absolutely abhor it. The electronic systems are so entwined that if something bad does occur there is no way for the driver to change course. One is at the mercy of the automobile. You cannot override it.

          The danger will even be more prevalent as we start seeing larger gaps between newer automobiles and older ones. Those with vehicles a decade or older will need to drive defensively 100% of the time as the newer vehicles will try to over correct simple automotive tasks causing exposure for anyone on the highway.

          • Absolutely. That Thomas Chapman fella is also to blame. The other two are more in the aviation space, but still.

            With my original comment, I certainly am thankful for the common-sense women. Rare indeed, and highly prized my us men. In this age they can undermine the nonsense within the current structure far longer than the guys.

          • In the 1930s there were two competing ideas.
            1) Concentrate on competency, vehicle ability, and avoiding crashes
            2) Build better idiots with enforcement.

            The later was chosen. When it failed crash safety was ramped up.

  13. “You paid for it once – not every two three years – because it never needed an “update” that it could not longer absorb.”
    Actually, not true. Ma Bell gave us the original subscription model. Prior to the breakup of AT&T in 1982, you could not “own” a telephone in your home. They were owned by Ma Bell and you paid a monthly fee. They had the ability to ping your line and determine if you had unauthorized devices. On the plus side, those phones were built like a brick shithouse and would probably survive a nuclear blast. After the breakup, Radio Shack and places like that started selling phones, and they were usually cheap plastic garbage.

    • The only reason they lasted so long is because a broken phone costs the phone company money. And they could capitalize the cost. If they could save a penny on every handset they would, but only after assurances that it wouldn’t become an expense later. Overbuild it to the point that it and cockoraches will be the only things left after a nuclear war and you won’t need to send a tech out to replace it when the psychopath beats his wife to death with it. Just hose it off and leave it for the next tenant.

      • I worked a summer job my senior year in HS at a phone company warehouse (NJ Bell) where they brought in old phones that had been removed from houses/apartments/businesses. We actually got a couple over the course of my time there that had large bloodstains on them. They were indestructible for sure, used to use the handset as a hammer occasionally.

    • >They had the ability to ping your line and determine if you had unauthorized devices.
      They measured capacitance on the bell circuit. This “feature” was explained to me by a telco employee who operated the test board in a telco repair service office. People like to talk about their work. Disconnect the bell circuit on all but one phone, and you were home free. 🙂

  14. I totally agree on all the touchscreen functions. There are way too many distracting functions going on in new cars. The newest addition to the heads up display is to display the speed limit continuously then flash it when the driver exceeds, so it constantly flashes basically. Hell no. I disabled that along with every assist on the first day. Dreading the first time it needs servicing because in my last 3 series the techs updated my apps to make it impossible to default to no assists unless i turned them off every drive. If they do that to this car I might just lose my shit. Funny story about nav tho. I recently drove from an unfamiliar neighborhood to San Francisco. Used nav to get on the freeway then forgot to turn it off and when i approached the Bay Bridge it ordered my towards Oakland. Irritated, I got on the bridge and ended up stuck on it for two hours waiting for an accident to clear. The nav was silent until i cleared the bridge. Then it piped up a command. I almost expected it to say I told you so!

    • If you have to park your car on the street in San Francisco, it will very likely be broken into. There are thousands of car break ins every year in San Francisco. Many people deliberately leave their car unlocked so that the roving bands of thugs won’t have to break into their car only to find that there is nothing to steal. The thugs might end up vandalizing the car anyway, just for the hell of it. Welcome to San Francisco!

  15. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels nothing but revulsion for the massive touchscreens in new cars; a small one to display incoming phone calls is probably OK though. Since all my vehicles are over 20 years old I have the pleasure of having glorious and practical knobs to control my accessories. And yes I’ve even still using an assortment of rotary and touch tone phones at home. The cell phone is of course a flip phone.

    But have you considered what happens today if you don’t own even a flip phone? A buddy found out when ordering some roofing materials. Either the credit card company or supplier wanted verification that it was a legit order and sent him a text to verify the order. Of course it went to a land line at which point the fun ensued (order cancelled due to no response). Luckily he found out in time and the materials were delivered.

    Wait till they put chip in to everyone.

  16. I can hop in the 23-year old GMC Sierra and know exactly which stations are set to the buttons.

    I can hop in the 2-year old BMW X3 and have a gazillion XM radio stations, local AM/FM, or I can listen to audiobooks through the iPhone. Honestly, I love the options especially on a long drive or while stuck in traffic.

    My rule is to not tinker with the appliance while driving. This self-imposed limitation is necessary bc like EP said, the simple act of switching any setting on a modern car has become a hassle. I lack the hand/eye coordination & end up loitering (ie not looking at the road) for too long.

    • Such electronic gadgetry is often hard enough to operate sitting in my recliner at home. Much less while herding a couple of tons of vehicle down the road at 70+ mph, among others doing the same.

  17. Great post. When I test drove the 2024 Mazda3 manual hatchback a few weeks ago, I found there were too many distractions going on for me to safely drive the car:

    1. The HUD (heads up display) right in front of my face on the windshield constantly flashing the speed limit, my speedometer info and other navigation icons. It drove me crazy. I understand the theory is it saves people from looking down to the dashboard (eyes off the road BS), but how did humans survive all this time driving vehicles with dashboards? I guess humans have evolved to be more stupid and not smarter.

    2. The center console is too busy and unintuitive. Even with Mazda’s nontouch screen, using the dial is irritating scrolling through screens and screens just to get to the radio. I spent too much time looking at the screen and not the road using the center console. How is that safe?

    3. The outside door locks/unlocks on the handles are too much in my opinion. You can use the fob to unlock and lock the car, but you can also use the door handles to lock and unlock the car if you have the fob on your person. BUT don’t leave an extra fob in your car if you lock the car (I did that yesterday), as the car will beep like a son of a gun because now someone can unlock the car by the door handles. It is maddening. Give me an old fashion key to unlock the doors and start the car.

    I guess I am just old and tired, I prefer to drive a car with no distractions. I can see why there are so many distracted drivers on the roads. New car bells and whistles really are dangerous.

  18. The addiction to gadgetry. “Its new. It’s different. It must be better”. Add that to the addiction to convenience, and we get an everchanging world, changing for the worse. Making the human being a bystander. At the mercy of those who are creating the new and different, and the more convenient. I wonder, how many drivers are actually able to read a road map now?

    • Speaking of reading a map…yesterday I used crappy Google Maps to get directions to a beer store that was 40 minutes from my house. The link to Google Maps’ directions was on the beer store’s Facebook page, I didn’t add the address by hand. I assume the beer store knows their own address and assigned the link correctly on their Facebook page.

      Wrong. Google Maps took me to a completely different road and address 5 miles from the beer store. I hate with a passion Google Maps as this is not the first time it has done that. I say 50% of the time I use Google Maps it takes me to a wrong address, many times “I arrive at my destination” in the middle of nowhere.

      I finally found the beer store by using my brain and heading toward the town’s business district and using my compass in my car. I then went home a different way by reading road signs and using my compass. I am fed up with phone GPS systems. I do use a Garmin GPS every once and a while (runs on 12v), but that GPS is a major pain to program. I have maps in my car for emergencies, it is time I start using them as my main source for directions.

      • Hi Pug,

        I have no navigation system in my car and because I have a flip phone I also don’t have one on my phone.
        It drives my husband crazy. This past weekend we drove to NC to pick up his car that had some work done to it. We drove separate vehicles on the 6 hour trip back. He relies on his Waze to go everywhere. I rely on eyesight.

        We had to stop for gas coming back on I77. He types in “gas station” and they send him to the nearest one which was shutdown to one lane because VDOT was repairing the road. Because I have to be more alert I see construction going on and I don’t follow him and ended up driving another three miles down the road to a gas station that was easy to access.

        I got a phone call asking why I wasn’t behind him. I stated I didn’t have time to sit in 10 minutes worth of traffic. I told him where I was. I had filled up my truck, reorganized the backseat of the truck, and was patiently waiting eating my snack when he shows up 15 minutes later. The backup on the bridge for him to turnaround was so bad he wasn’t able to get gas so I waited another 5 minutes. I told him I was very impressed with his phone’s technology. I got an eye roll and some under the breath mutterings. 😜

        • That’s funny, RG!

          It’s usually the other way around. The guy uses his eyes – and his memory (and instincts). The wife/gf uses her phone! Maybe it’s also a generational thing, too. I despise all these electronic crutches. I get irritated whenever I hear “assistance technology.” It means you’re an idiot – or inept. How about “Pro” – as in “Pro Trailer Assist? If you can’t back-up a trialer without “assistance,” then you are not a “Pro”!

          • Hi Eric,

            I don’t know if it is necessarily generational as hubby and I are the same age. He is much more comfortable with it tracking him (or he doesn’t think about it) then I am.

            He sees it as convenient. I see it as a control mechanism that is going to make all of us dense.

            Am I a Luddite? Probably. The more technology takes over our lives we forget the basics of survival. That is precarious especially for each generation that doesn’t remember a time before computers and internet.

        • I always look up a map of where I’m going ahead of time and make a rough sketch of the route and side streets so if there’s construction, an accident, etc. I can figure a way around it. Concur with Eric it’s a generational thing for us old farts, plus my Boy Scout training 😆.

      • ‘50% of the time I use Google Maps it takes me to a wrong address, many times “I arrive at my destination” in the middle of nowhere.’ — Pug

        Believe it or not, this happens out in the woods too. Trails are constantly being upgraded and rerouted (I’m one of the crew doing it), but the popular apps depend on user input and can be slow to catch up.

        “Where do you think you are right now?” a woman importuned me, waving her cell phone, on a trail our crew had opened three years earlier. Her phone had never heard of it. Whereas I, phoneless, knew exactly where I was.

        • >Believe it or not, this happens out in the woods too.
          Not only out in the woods.
          I have a cousin who lives in Georgia whose street address is unknown to Google. U.S. Postal Service knows where it is, though. 🙂

    • Amen, John –

      Change for the sake of change is not change for the better. An example: Every couple of weeks or so, my computer will be different in some way. It’s the same box on my desk but it works differently now. Not because I did anything to change it. Rather, because it was “updated” while I slept and now some way of doing things I used to know how to do is different – and I have to waste time and energy figuring out the new way. It is like waking up in the middle of the night to pee and – as you start to go – realizing someone moved the toilet and put the hamper there.

    • I do prefer the in hand navigation system, AKA a paper map! Doesn’t go blank from a dead battery, big enough to see where you’ve been, where you are, and where you’re going. But Sparkey, what about the rain? Biker bud has a set of laminated maps that folds up & fits neatly in a saddlebag and won’t turn to pulp if they get wet.

      The one redeeming feature of a nav app on the cellulite phone is the ability to search for vital things – on a scooter trip in the middle of Oregon quickly located the liquor store in a town we’d never seen.

  19. ‘Often there are inscrutable icons the meaning of which must first be deciphered .’ — eric

    BZZZZTTTT!! You just pressed the hot button, on a burr that’s been under my saddle since adolescence.

    Way back in Ike & Mamie days, when cars were built by Americans for Americans, the headlamp switch (a knob on the dash) was labeled LIGHTS, with roman letters. Likewise, WIPERS (also a knob on the dash). Then there was a sliding lever (which operated a hot water valve) labeled HEAT. And VOLUME and TUNE knobs on the AM radio.

    In the Sixties and Seventies, this began to change. Japanese cars, intended for sale in multiple countries with different languages, used icons for these functions. Though I loved rice rockets for their tight steering and taut suspensions, I deplored that aspect. “Can’t read these frickin’ carTOONS,” I groused to friends.

    But suddenly in the 21st century, it got a whole lot worse. Some early cell phones had a full complement of tiny chiclet keys. Then Steve Jobs (and touch-sensitive glass) led to the insight that a 14-square-inch interface needs nested on-screen menus to operate its dozens of functions.

    All well and good, for an interface that fits in your pocket. But wholly inappropriate — and unnecessary — in a vehicle that fits in your garage. The grotesquely outsized protuberance in the top photo (in a Tesssss-la dash) chokes me with aesthetic revulsion. I wouldn’t last five minutes before frustration and disgust compel me to smash it to bits.

    • Hi Jim,

      I agree with you 100%. I don’t understand the screens. Once upon a time the engineers and designers of automobiles believed in creating a product that flowed. The controls, the seats, the radio, the gears all integrated beautifully within the vehicle.

      I look at cars (mainly those created in the last 4 years) and they look like they were thrown together at the last minute. “Hey, we need an IPad in here. Let’s just throw it here on the dash. The buyer won’t care.”

      Don’t get me started on what they have done to the damn reverse gear. Why is it for 60 years you shifted back to go in reverse, but now you have to shift forward? Stupidest crap I have seen.

      • Indeed, RG –

        Also, unreliable. Last week, I had the Ford Escape. The radio just stopped working – or rather, receiving. The FM/AM antenna seemed disconnected; the tuner could not get any channels other than one or two. The Mazda3 I am driving right now? I was driving it around yesterday, listening to Sirius/Xm – and the sound just went mute. Stayed that way for 10-15 minutes. Then eventually came back on.

        I have had new BMWs that changed station in the curves. Without me touching anything.

      • The screens present lots of patent opportunities for the engineers, both in the tech used to implement the systems and the “human interface” design.

        Where I currently work, the pay grade above mine must present at least one patent idea per year to the company lawyers or face consequences at bonus time. I have to be really careful to document my work lest ideas get stolen or, at the very least, other names attached to the concept.

        Plus, people are impressed by the sail phone-style whiz bang gadgetry.

        • Eric’s article & your comment reminded me of an old sorta-joke about scientists trying to invent a new hand-held writing instrument which would write upside down while in space, etc…

          Eventually, the solution was, a pencil.

          • NASA spent millions on a pen for astronauts.
            USSR cosmonauts used a pencil.
            Occasionally even commies got something right.

      • ‘Why is it for 60 years you shifted back to go in reverse, but now you have to shift forward?’ — RG

        Anti-intuitive design is not just bad; it’s dangerous.

        Post mortems on nuclear power plant near-meltdowns showed that anti-intuitive controls, which did not do what the operators thought they did, led them to close cooling system valves which actually worsened the core overheating.

        My fear is that textbooks on human interface design will be contaminated with the cell phone aesthetic, in situations where it shouldn’t apply. Surely there’s an iPhone app to run the local nuke plant!

    • Right on Jim – I hate trying to decipher the hieroglyphics that you see on guvmint signs, in cars, on all kinds of gadgets, and in manuals! I especially like the one for a library… a symbol or representation of a person reading a book…I mean, if you’re too illiterate to read the word “Library” printed on sign, why in the hell would you even want to go to a library! Just print the damn message in LETTERS so it can be READ, if someone’s illiterate or a foreigner – TFB!

  20. @Eric – Chances are that the phone on the wall in your parents’ kitchen was rented from Ma Bell in perpetuity, even after the rules changed, divestiture happened, and the phone companies had to allow you to *buy* a phone and plug it into the wall.


    Of course, the tradeoff was that the phone had a simple interface, lasted forever despite abuse, and a repair call from a tech could usually resolve any issue to put the device back into service in like new condition. I don’t thin Elon or Mary Barra are going to guarantee that level of quality in perpetuity.


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