tej dhawan's random musings

Month: April 2022

Beyond Obsolete

I was reminded recently of technology obsolescence when jumping behind the wheel of a maximalist (is that the opposite of minimalist?) dash on a rental car. I spent a good part of 15 minutes clearing previous settings and saved items, re-learning the basic navigation (and built-in GPS) settings, audio, seat controls and more before putting the car in gear and driving away.

Although I gave up on and decided not to use many of the car’s controls within a dozen or so miles, I remain amazed how the built-in GPS has become utterly useless. My mobile phone’s apps and maps were eminently usable and current. The recent model year car’s built-in GPS couldn’t locate my hotel built-in 2019 in a major urban city!

The space the screen consumed on the dashboard, the car’s numerous buttons on the touchscreen, dashboard AND by the gearshift were an exercise in ridiculously poor customer experience and wasted opportunity. The center console, stuffed with buttons, some duplicated on the steering with others labeled in confusing and non-standard ways confounded me further.

The sad part is that this late model year crossover from a ‘luxury’ carmaker was as much (or more) confusing than our 2015 Acura MDX, itself a victim of poor dash design, TWO 6-inch monitors, and a GPS UI that’s reminiscent of the early 2000s.


The following have outlived their useful life on car dashboards and are beyond need of retirement. They just need euthanized:

1. Built-in GPS (and the $149 fee for the dealership to ‘load’ the map updates!
2. Dare I say, car dealership cartels!
3. Custom voice interfaces – Siri, Alexa, and Google won.
4. Radio station presets. The rental’s largest and most prominent buttons were the six radio presets.
5. Steering control for anything but voice command, volume, and possibly cruise control.
6. OBD port. Why not show the output directly to the screen(s)?
7. Single device Bluetooth. We know cars frequently have two or more passengers. Do we really need to be connected to only a single device?
8. Low wattage USB ports. Drivers and passengers routinely carry multiple devices with larger, hungrier batteries that demand charge. Why, then are built-in chargers still delivering barely 0.5-1 amps?

Legacy carmakers – Are you innovating or sleeping at the wheel?

Failure: an unfulfilled expectation?

We celebrate failure in modern life and use it as a means of self-improvement. My introduction to this conversation comes from the field of startups and entrepreneurship where this badge of honor is well-known as a path toward and predictor of eventual success.

My memory of recognizing failure is rooted in elementary school where incorrect answers to math problems led to a low score. Being the son of a math-loving mother, the failure at school invariably led to additional punishments at home, thereby cementing the memory. The high school punishment of 12 canes on the behind for scoring 36/100 on a math exam further created an expectation to score at least high enough to not be caned again. An expectation that stayed with me long past high school, the teacher, and even into environments that no longer permitted corporal punishment.

A recent discourse between a middle school student and a film artist recently shook that memory loose. During a Q&A hosted by Ballet Des Moines at the Des Moines Art Center, a young man asked a Beau Kenyon, a composer, DaYoung Jung, a ballerina, and Oyoram, a movie maker how they manage failure. Oyoram responded that to him failure isn’t criticism by a client, a critic, an audience or a viewer. Failure instead is when his work fails to live up to his own vision.

Oyoram had earlier shared his process of scripting, modeling, creating, and installing his immersive experiences. He explained how the experiences came alive at scale.

Mental Banquet: Painting with Lights, 2018 Des Moines, Iowa

But if he couldn’t feel what he had imagined and documented during the visioning process, he had experienced failure!

I’ll have to try this technique. Rather than await validation or criticism, I’ll try to be the golfer who knows almost immediately upon hitting the ball or the composer who can hear discordance even when the listener cannot.

So , why not evaluate failure as an unfulfilled expectation. After all, isn’t the expectation tied to the original vision? And if we decouple the two, aren’t we lying in a way that renders success elusive forever?

Bias encumbers learning opportunities

150000 lbs each.

I’d gotten bumped and rebooked twice for flights yet was going to miraculously end up flying cross country AND make it to my destination 5 hours earlier than scheduled. The gate agents had still put me in advanced boarding so I boarded with wheelchair bound fellow passengers. Two ladies above 70s settled in next to me for the short puddle jump. And I began to wonder how I’d get out of my window seat at the destination ahead of them.

As the mother and daughter talked, I stared out the window, marveling at how close the Vegas strip was to the runway. It was then the daughter pointed out one of the tugs to the mother.

“Ma, it’s been 20 years since I made one of those “

Made?? I eavesdropped further; my eyes no longer focused on the strip.

Yes, the last one was for the 777s and boy those are heavy. The trailer bringing the weights for the first one twisted and broke apart when taking its first turn.

Now, I was really listening. I’m a sucker for all things airplane.

Yes, the tugs ordered for the 777s are 5 times heavier than those pushing our “little” 737. Each weigh about 150,000lbs to push the plane.

Without thinking first principles, why? I wondered aloud, betraying my silent eavesdropping.

She knew.

The nose of the aircraft carries nearly a sixth of the plane’s weight being pulled down by gravity. To counter those forces, the tug has to apply at least that much force. At a 90-degree angle to gravity, even more.

By now, I’d forgotten my reason to rush out of the aircraft upon landing. I’d even stopped wondering when our tug would arrive at the plane to push it back from the jetbridge. I was now simply mesmerized by the stories told by this retiree, my seatmate, who loved driving from Ogden UT to Las Vegas to see her sister regularly. On a plane this time because car rental and fuel were more expensive than the plane ticket.

Luckily for me, I was seated next to her due to my own set of circumstances and learned something new about airplanes, airports, and even the tugs.

What was the hurry to deplane again?

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