Archive for the 'Umm .. Other stuff' Category

The Tesla vs. John Broder (of the NY Times) fiasco

(Updated to include all of Broder’s published pieces on the matter)

After their 2011 cock-up with their Top Gear review, you might be forgiven for thinking that Tesla had learned a valuable lesson.  Nope.

Here (10 Feb 2013) is the review by John Broder of the NY Times, in which he roundly disparages the Tesla Model S.  Elon Musk — Chairman, Product Architect and CEO of Tesla — firmly disputed Broder’s account of what happened.

Here (12 Feb 2013) is Broder’s second piece on the matter, in which he defends the allegations he made in the review.

Here (13 Feb 2013) is Tesla’s public response, including detailed logs of what the car was actually doing.  On the face of it, this appears to completely vindicate Musk (not to mention raise questions about Broder’s approach to journalism).

Here (14 Feb 2013) is Broder’s third piece, with a point-by-point reply to Tesla’s blog entry.  Many, if not all, of his points sound reasonable.

At this point, the whole thing is a he-said-she-said debacle.

None of that matters, though.

Tesla screwed up here, and badly. Not technically (i.e. from an engineering perspective), but definitely on the marketing side.

It might be cynical, but looking into the past work of the dude assigned to evaluate your product is just basic PR management. What kind of marketing director doesn’t sit down and think about what prior biases any given reviewer might have? I suppose I can understand failing to think about it the first time, but twice is just plain stupid.

Especially because of the fiasco with Top Gear and Broder’s (apparently) demonstrated prior beliefs, but fundamentally just as a basic courtesy, why didn’t Tesla tell Broder and the NY Times up front that everything would be logged? Heck, why not ask (or even insist) beforehand that the log data be made publicly available alongside the article? Isn’t a near endless supply of data about the car a selling point?

Tesla is a near perfect example of the simple fact that good engineering and good design are not sufficient to produce a successful product.

Nobody approaches a new thing (product, topic, event, whatever) with a completely open mind. Everybody has pre-conceived notions that shape (i.e. bias) their experiences.  It’s called “being human.” Failure to recognise and work with that simple fact demonstrates an almost child-like naivety. Seriously, does everybody at Tesla think that Apple is successful only because of their design and engineering?

Tesla fans are going to feel smug over this whole affair.  Telsa itself is going to lose potential customers.


Reblog: Cranial Heat Sink

Hey, if you can retweet, you can reblog.  Jeff Ely:

Tyler Cowen tweeted:

Why do chess players hold their heads hard, with their hands, when they are thinking? If it works, why don’t more thinkers do it?

To prevent overheating of course.  You’ll notice that they typically extend their fingers and cover their foreheads which is the hottest part.  They are [unconsciously] maximizing surface area in order to increase heat dissipation.

Here is a suggestion for how to super-cool your cranium and over-clock your brain.  On a more serious note, here is a pipe that is surgically implanted in the skull of epileptics to reduce the intensity of seizures.

The dude at Macquarie …

The Reserve Bank of Australia just decided, somewhat unexpectedly, to keep interest rates on hold.  Channel 7 news needed to spin it into a story, though, so they did the usual thing of getting a talking head from the mythical (in Australia, at least) Macquarie Bank to say something.  Unfortunately, there was a guy in the background who chose that moment to look at topless pictures of Miranda Kerr.  Here’s the clip.  The guy starts looking at them at the 1:00 mark.

I don’t think he’ll be fired.

It looks like he was opening images from an email and that gives him a little cover.  If the sender was a Macquarie employee then they will have some serious problems, it being considered worse to send “offensive” material than to receive it.

The dude will probably get an official reprimand and he might not get the same pay rise as others in his team next time ’round (at the least, he was just demonstrably slacking off from work), but I think that’ll be about it for him.

I think that Macquarie will look at their email and web-browsing policy again and consider increasing the paranoid parameter of their filters.  There are plenty of algorithms for detecting skin tones in images and I’m 99% sure that they’ve been incorporated into email filters. It’s just a question of turning them on.

I think they’ll also reconsider their policy on having their talking heads stand in front of an office like that. I know they do it to look more important — I’ve taken 3 minutes out from my dazzlingly busy schedule to explain that your mortgage payments won’t change today, but will probably go up in a month or two. Gosh, don’t I look impressive? — but exactly this sort of stuff is the risk with which it comes.  I’ve seen other stupid things going on behind US presenters, so I don’t think they’ll stop the practice, but they might consider staging the background a little more than just sticking a big cardboard Macquarie sign in there.

In the end, it just shows what everybody working in an open-plan office already knows: the exact position and alignment of your desk is of crucial value.


Taken at 12:13pm, Monday the 18th of January, 2010, on Russell Square (where Woburn Place turns into Southampton Row).

Auto-appendectomy: the removal of one’s own appendix

Those crazy Russians!  In 1961, a team of 12 Russians spent the winter in Antarctica.  The doctor, a surgeon, developed appendicitis and eventually cut out his own appendix.

The story is in the 15 December 2009 edition of the British Medical Journal.

The skill at writing that the guy possessed is incredible.  Look at this, written in his journal while suffering appendicitis:

“I did not sleep at all last night. It hurts like the devil! A snowstorm whipping through my soul, wailing like a hundred jackals. Still no obvious symptoms that perforation is imminent, but an oppressive feeling of foreboding hangs over me.”

Here he describes the operation:

“I didn’t permit myself to think about anything other than the task at hand. It was necessary to steel myself, steel myself firmly and grit my teeth. In the event that I lost consciousness, I’d given Sasha Artemev a syringe and shown him how to give me an injection. I chose a position half sitting. I explained to Zinovy Teplinsky how to hold the mirror. My poor assistants! At the last minute I looked over at them: they stood there in their surgical whites, whiter than white themselves. I was scared too. But when I picked up the needle with the novocaine and gave myself the first injection, somehow I automatically switched into operating mode, and from that point on I didn’t notice anything else.

“I worked without gloves. It was hard to see. The mirror helps, but it also hinders—after all, it’s showing things backwards. I work mainly by touch. The bleeding is quite heavy, but I take my time—I try to work surely. Opening the peritoneum, I injured the blind gut and had to sew it up. Suddenly it flashed through my mind: there are more injuries here and I didn’t notice them . . . I grow weaker and weaker, my head starts to spin. Every 4-5 minutes I rest for 20-25 seconds. Finally, here it is, the cursed appendage! With horror I notice the dark stain at its base. That means just a day longer and it would have burst and . . .

“At the worst moment of removing the appendix I flagged: my heart seized up and noticeably slowed; my hands felt like rubber. Well, I thought, it’s going to end badly. And all that was left was removing the appendix . . .

“And then I realised that, basically, I was already saved.”

There are a couple of pictures in the link, too.