Bad Design

by Honolulu Mother

Looks Can Kill: The Deadly Results of Bad Design by Lena Groeger

The linked article discusses recent instances of death or serious injury caused by bad design. What I found especially interesting was how many of the examples were of designs that had gone in the wrong direction from a safety standpoint — taking a standard and well-understood design and deciding to visually jazz it up, in a way that increased the possibility of harmful errors. For instance, the laundry pods that look like candy, fuel additives packaged like energy drink shots, detergents packaged to look like fruit drinks, or the shifter design on the right:

which has been blamed for a recent death because it makes it difficult to tell whether your vehicle is really in park.

Design is an important feature in our consumer culture. Good design been credited with propelling some product lines to the top, as in the conventional wisdom that Apple’s design has traditionally been both aesthetically pleasing and intuitive. But does the quest for a redesign to make a product stand out from its competitors sometimes run counter to the quest for better product safety?

And, how important is design to you? Do you pay the premium to buy your kids the interesting or fun school supplies or do you stick with the cheaper basic versions? When you look for furniture, does comfort rule or are you willing to trade it off for the look you want? Are there everyday items you consider examples of especially good or bad design?

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119 thoughts on “Bad Design

  1. Poorly designed things drive me nuts. My gear shifter is so dumb. You have to push to forward to go in reverse and hit a button on top to put the car in park. I have to tell people how to use it. And the GPS on another car is poorly designed, too. When you turn the knob right, it goes left or up.

    I pay up for better designed things when possible. A direct reaction to never having that stuff as a kid. Lisa Frank for everyone!

  2. When you look for furniture, does comfort rule or are you willing to trade it off for the look you want?

    Ha! “You know you’re a middle-aged fat-ass when…” We only buy comfy furniture now. It’s very boring-looking. My DIL has a Pinterest page with all her lovely pseudo-mid-Century-modern choices, and I just think: Honey, the back on that couch isn’t high enough, all those little decorative gew-gaws are going to get knocked over and eaten by the puppy (and later on, kids), none of that stuff is practical. But it’s her first house, so I totally get it.

  3. Good design to me is functional and hopefully not aggressively ugly.

    I hate my work Android phone – I find it incredibly difficult to navigate. A well-designed kitchen gadget is worth its weight in gold. I love my Contigo coffee mug which is actually spill-proof and keeps my coffee hot for hours.

    DS loves this video about Norman Doors aka poorly designed doors. We now spot them everywhere!

  4. Kate – ditto with my car’s little wheely thing that controls the radio, etc. When you turn it R the indicator goes L. It still drives me crazy even though I’ve had the car for 2 years.

    Also really poor design – in our kitchen now, you push the faucet lever DOWN to turn on, instead of UP like every other faucet in existence. And the water pressure is way too high too fast so we (and every visitor) end up spraying water all over the counter and the floor every time we turn it on.

  5. Ivy,

    Working in my building full of hipster scientist not a week goes by that I don’t see someone trying to push the pull door. It reminds me of this:

  6. I agree wholeheartedly. I haven’t yet owned a car with a stupid gearshift, but I see them and think they’re ridiculous. It’s not just the Park issue, but, for example, shifting from R to D with a regular gearshift means you can feel exactly where you are, since to go any farther (into L, as one option) means you would need to also be holding the button, or pulling the lever farther out, or to the side, or whatever. You don’t think about it, but it’s intuitive. You don’t have to modulate your force so much, you can shift it into D quickly because it will hit a hard stop there. With a knob, you suddenly have to be very delicate to only go so far. Nobody would ever suggest putting an electronic knob on a manual transmission with a clutch (although you could), because you’re better off quickly memorizing the physical positions of 1-5/6 and R. It should stay the same with automatic transmissions.

    Another car example not cited in the article are the deaths caused by people parking in their garages and not realizing that the car is still running, since they no longer require keys. Although the engine will turn off once the key gets to be a certain distance from the car, someone’s kitchen counter may not be far enough. And then the carbon monoxide gets them. And back to the article’s example, the stupid shifter wouldn’t have been a problem if it were not for the keyless start, because traditionally you can’t take the key out unless the car is in Park. So with their improvements they’ve overridden two traditional safety checks.

    The current recall would not actually change the design of the monostable shifter. It’s a software update that will automatically shift the car into park if the driver fails to do so before opening the driver’s-side door. It doesn’t correct the flawed usability design, but it does put in place a fail-safe to prevent accidents.

    Don’t give that one to people like my parents who, while stopped at a light, will open the door to pour out cold coffee.

    Another thing I have a problem with are too many touchscreens and touchpads that lose the instantaneous tactile feedback that a button offered. When you’re paying for your gasoline, it’s much quicker to enter your billing zip code on old-fashioned buttons than it is on a smooth touch pad. The same is true for a lot of other interfaces.

  7. Kate – I keep my key in my bag and it doesn’t leave the bag. Easier if no one else needs the key! :)

  8. How do you unlock your house door? That is when I am searching in my cavernous bag for the keys that I can hear but can’t find and curse the lack of ignition key requirement. I don’t remember this issue with my other car that required a key.

  9. “How do you unlock your house door?”

    You don’t. Access is via the garage. (although I dead bolt it if we’re away overnight, and we still have a house key on every key ring in case of a power outage).

  10. I’ve been a passenger in two different Audis that had nav systems controlled entirely by dials. They seem really stupid and inefficient. You have to keep dialing this way and that way to spell things out.

  11. We have a keypad door lock on the house in Santa Cruz and I really like it. Eventually we’re going to put one in here in Denver, whenever DH gets a minute.

  12. poor user interface design is a huge problem in the medical software world. There have been quite a few cases where nonintuitive design has led to incorrect entry of medical information, leading to serious medication errors. There have even been cases where a difficult to use UI in the ED has led to life threatening slowdowns or errors.

  13. Rhett – no, I don’t like it either. My DH uses it for everything and his inbox is impossible to find things in – everything is marked “important” or “starred” or “everything else” and so you have to look through all of those to find anything.

  14. My personal design pet peeve is with iTunes and the associated iPods. It seems like they just get worse and worse with every generation. The original iPod was a thing of beauty, a device that could hold ALL your music, and made it easy to find just what you wanted in seconds. They don’t make them any more. Now, we are forced to use those Nanos, that don’t hold much so we have to spend time in icky iTunes moving music and podcasts back and forth. The user interface is flaky, and all of us complain that it is too easy to accidentally start something playing without realizing it. I find the device in my purse all the time, happily playing music and draining my battery

    I also really dislike the iPhone interface, as well as vendor specific icing on top of Android. I use a plain Android phone, a Droid, which does not have any extra interface on top of the basic one.

  15. Mooshi,
    I always wonder whose nephew runs the Itunes interface at Apple. On the other hand, I love me some gmail.

  16. I see DD going into this area. If this is something she is interested in as she gets older, we will have to figure out how to get her there.

  17. gmail is really easy and I prefer it to Outlook. You have to tag things. That is the beauty of the system. You create your own tags, and aggresively tag everything. Each message can have multiple tags. So I have tags for every vacation I am planning, so I can find all the mail pertaining to hotels and flights. I have a tag “orders” where I keep all those AMazon ship notices. I have a tag for the high school, one for the middle school, and one for the elementary school. Since I am doing class mom again this year, I have a class mom tag. And so on. I can find eveything really fast, while my poor DH is sadly sifting through his braindead optimum online mail client.

  18. Thank you for that video, Ivy! It makes me feel much less dumb.

    I hate iTunes, and only still use it because I don’t want to spend time learning another player. I bought a CD the other day that I could not play because iTunes instructed me to update, but also told me that updating would wipe out my data. So I bought the same CD on Amazon and have been listening to it there.

    “difficult to use UI in the ED”

    Now I feel dumb again because I have no clue what that means. :)

  19. I like gmail, but I can’t figure out how to selectively delete the 1000+ emails I have in a couple of categories. I want to delete everything older than one month.

  20. I keep my car key fob in a zippered pocket in my purse. I don’t touch it unless it’s to give the key to a valet. I keep my house and office keys on a traditional key chain.

    L: We have a vegetable sink in our kitchen that will spray water all over the place. I don’t think it’s due to the pressure, but to the size of the sink. Drives me nuts.

  21. Mooshi – I think I’m just too scared of iTunes for the same reason. I never made a decision to stop owning music, but I’ve drifted to Pandora, and then if I want to hear a specific song, YouTube.

    The iPhone/Bluetooth interface in our cars has much room for improvement. The van will pair with either my phone or DW’s depending on who gets there first, but otherwise there’s no quick re-select feature. But what’s worse is that the car then wants to be the one to broadcast any calls or text messages, and it will disable the phone from doing so, but it will only do this if the radio is selected to Auxiliary. If you’re listening to anything else, you won’t hear a text. The microphone in the ceiling is just OK for a phone conversation, but it makes the voice recognition feature nearly impossible to use, and you can’t just hold up the phone to your mouth, because that mic will be disabled while the phone is paired.

    One time DW and I were driving separate cars somewhere, and she was right behind me at a light. I was in the van, and her mom tried to call her. DW’s car was close enough that her phone had paired with the car I was driving, so I answered it. I was telling MIL “you didn’t call her, you called me.”

    On my replacement radio in my old car (since the CD player broke), I can no longer just push a single button to switch from CD to FM. I have to press Source, then spin the little wheel through BT Audio, Auxiliary, Sirius XM, FM, AM, no go back. FM.” Then push on the wheel to select that option. I hate wheels.

  22. CoC, have you tried creating a filter? I have never made one for deletions, but I have created some to automatically categorize certain email

  23. See, I don;t want to stream music. Most of my music/podcast listening is done while running or while driving the car. I just want to listen to the music from the device. Now that I have a teen sharing my data plan, I am constantly hitting the limit as it is, so I don’t want to add more streaming!

  24. difficult to use UI in the ED”

    Now I feel dumb again because I have no clue what that means. :)

    …user interface in the emergency department…

  25. Thanks, MM. I learned how to create a gmail filter, but I can’t figure out how to create one for emails older than a month. Story of my life . . .

    Thanks, Fred!

  26. “user interface in the emergency department…”

    Or user interface with erectile dysfunction

  27. ‘ I was in the van, and her mom tried to call her. DW’s car was close enough that her phone had paired with the car I was driving, so I answered it. I was telling MIL “you didn’t call her, you called me.”’

    Often when I start our car as it sits in the driveway, i get to overhear a phone conversation from someone inside the house who has their bluetooth on. Not that I want to. I want to listen to my music!

  28. Milo – our CD player in the MDX broke and they told us it would be $1250 to fix and they couldn’t guarantee that it would work, so we just have no CDs in that car now.

  29. I downgraded, but did not cancel my subscription audiobook CD service. So I alternate between that and the library now, otherwise I could just switch to Audible.

    My current book from the library, Bedford Boys, has had me near tears driving back and forth to work. I don’t know what’s wrong with me lately. (Nonfiction about a National Guard company near Lynchburg that was kept together and integrated into the Army during WW2. Where my understanding of history was way off was my mistaken assumption that the D-Day invaders had been somehow engaged in various battles all along, and this was just the next step. In reality, the U.S. kept almost all of them — 11 divisions–quietly in England for over a year, practicing for the invasion. They had never seen any action. On D-Day, this group was the very first to arrive on Omaha Beach, and they didn’t stand a chance. It was totally pointless until a few hours later when the ships moved closer and blew up all the German bunkers.)

  30. This particular piece of bad design is unique to my house, but it drives us crazy. The light switch for the pantry is on the far side of the door, such that if you forget to turn it on before you open the door, you have to step out of the pantry and close the door to reach over to where the switch is. It is ridiculously annoying.

    In good design – we just installed a stereo with Apple CarPlay in my DD’s car and she loves it.

  31. I can go on forever about poor medical design (and even longer about poor electronic medical record design):

    Some highlights that come to mind (that have led to deaths:)
    – blood pressure tubing that can be connected to IV tubing. A few ml of air in the IV tubing never hurt anyone (despite what you see on TV), but hundreds of cc forced in under pressure is deadly.
    -similarly – feeding tubes that easily connect to IVs. Tube feed solution is deadly given IV.
    -various concentrations of medication that look the same (heparin in a 1:5000 solution looking similar to heparin in a 1:50 solution). Possible to give 100x the dose, which is deadly.
    -alarms that sound the same for “patient just moved around in bed a bit” and “patient has a non-perfusing rhythm and is actively dying, intervene in the next 60 seconds or it’s all over…” People ignore alarms when they are frequent and useless.
    -no flared base on the central line wire – meaning the metal wire you use to thread a central line into the big blood vessels can get pushed all the way into the body (it’s about 1 meter long). It happens about 1 time per year at the teaching hospitals I have worked at.

  32. I also think iTunes has been “improved” to the point that it is nearly un-usable. I don’t really have a good replacement though.

    Gmail is okay. Not great. It works fine for personal email, but nothing special. I find the smart features like marking things “important” or bucketing them into “social” or “promotions” to be unhelpful and also not very accurate. That’s kind of how I feel about everything Google does except search. Meh.

  33. I must be the only one who does 99% of my personal emailing on an iPad or iPhone. And Outlook at work. I don’t even remember my gmail password; if I need to access it, they’ll text me, and then make me change it, ensuring I forget it again.

  34. “So with their improvements they’ve overridden two traditional safety checks.”

    This. It just tells you that not only is no one paying attention to how things are used, but that no one is looking at the entire system to see how changing one thing changes something else.

    To me, the only purpose of design is to provide a seamless experience. But our current focus is all on making it cool and new, utility be damned. Argh.

    And why does everyone have to be different on purpose? E.g., why does every phone I get have to come with a new version of a charger? Why does every nav system have to have their own completely different interface, with their own separate link/wifi/extra data/”assistance” package necessary to make use of it? It’s like everyone is in a race to become The New Standard and capture the market, and they’re all excited about the $ they can make from all these extra subscriptions they can sell. But no one seems to notice that the extra complexity/cost means that I just end up using Google Maps and propping my phone somewhere on/near the dash (clearly *less* safe than using the actual damn screen).

    @Rhett: that is precisely the lock we now have on the garage and back door! I was bound and determined not to add more keys to my daily annoyance. It is freaking *awesome*.

  35. Please disregard if you know my address and plan on breaking into my house. However, we have 2 electric locks (both batter powered, shouldn’t fail at the same time). We never use keys or take them anywhere. We have a bucket of car keys, and we just take the key for the car we are using (we’re up to 4 right now, but hoping to lose one this month). It has made my life so much better and simpler.

  36. Outlook, which I am forced to use at work, is a good example of a UI that has just gotten worse and worse over time. We are now on Outlook2013, which is so gray and colorless that I cannot tell anything apart. And there seems to be no easy way to customize its look. The gray thing may be a chic design choice, but it makes it really hard to visually find things. And search now seems to be utterly broken. It isn’t just me – everyone who got upgraded is complaining that search just hangs in an endless loop. Our useless IT people just shrug and say they have no idea what is wrong.

    My main peeve, though, with Outlook is that you can’t flexibly categorize things. You can push things into folders, but it isn’t a fast convenient action like tagging is in Gmail. And it is more inconvenient to copy mail into multiple folders (the equivalent of multiple tags in Gmail)

  37. TED Talks did a podcast on May 19th of this year titled “The Power of Design” that was very interesting. Basically if no one can figure out your design – you’ve failed. Don’t care how cool it looks etc.

    The new Apple IOS has removed the ability to swipe to unlock your phone but left the fingerprint touch. The problem is if you an Otter box you can’t get to fingerprint touch so now you have to use the home button, which half the time is activating Siri and not opening my phone. DH is convinced they will be offering a phone protector soon that will work so they can get more of the accessory market.

  38. “The new Apple IOS has removed the ability to swipe to unlock your phone but left the fingerprint touch”

    I hate this new feature. I’m having trouble getting used to it.

  39. Interesting question, but I don’t think we can really say whether our purchases are influenced by “design”. Using the Apple Mac example, the early versions were hits not much because of how they looked, but because consumers thought they felt intuitive. In good design, form supports function and does not necessarily announce itself. And now that live edge tables & countertops and all sorts of “industrial” looking metal are in fashion, it’s even harder to say what’s “design” and what isn’t.

  40. Ivy, nice video! I have a picture I took of a Norman door, because it reminds me of that Larson cartoon about the school for the gifted. And I can relate to the ligh switches and faucets moment too; I once broke into tears over those very things in Germany. It was a bit embarrassing, because it was at my boyfriend’s apt & he had some friends over. They were all supportive once they got it, but it took them a minute to wrap their heads around it, because they were all Somali refugees. I later went to visit my BF’s family at the house his father bought after divorcing his mother, to spite her. I honestly don’t remember what the doors looked like, but I know they were there, because we closed them every night so the goats wouldn’t come in from the courtyard while we slept. Flushing the toilet was accomplished by getting a bucket of water and schlepping it to the bathroom as you went in, then pouring it down the hole when you were finished. So not the same switches as in Berlin.

  41. Outlook, which I am forced to use at work, is a good example of a UI that has just gotten worse and worse over time.

    At my last job they added everyone’s picture to outlook which meant the preview pane consisted of nothing but the picture.

  42. I like folders better than tags, so I like outlook and yahoo (in which I created a ton of folders). Then I just search for the email I am looking for in the folder or if I am at work, in “all mail items”. Search still works fine for us in outlook (although I am not sure which version it is).

  43. I do music and email he way Milo does. Never really meant for it to be that way, just sort of slid there. I don’t like having to tag things to find them, and I don’t. In gmail, I do the same as in hotmail and just search for a word I know shows up in the message I’m searching for.
    My folks have a new MDX and are apparently having trouble with the keyless driving. I’m not sure how, but looking at comments above, I don’t think we will try to get much going sound-wise once they can play subscription radio.

  44. This is kinda design-related, but anyway, it’s afternoon now, so…

    I have both Costco and Sam’s Club memberships. Yes, I know the Walmart universe is evil, but tough tacos. Sam’s is one mile from my house, it opens at 7:00 AM instead of 10:00 AM, and now it has this awesome new app. You can walk in, scan your items with your phone, and then pay with the phone and show your phone receipt to the door guard and just walk out. It’s fabulous. I can run in for a couple of steaks and some green beans, scan them, and then run out the door without waiting behind 15 people with enormous carts loaded with stuff. Costco needs to get on this pronto.

  45. RMS, you have identified why I don’t shop at Costco. It is impossible to get in and out in under half an hour, even if you only buy one package of green beans.

  46. Well, that’s usually true at Sam’s, too. It’s just that if you get there at 7:30 AM you can usually get out pretty quickly, and now with this app you don’t even have to time your trip.

  47. We don’t have Sam’s. And the people in my town hate Walmart’s Neighborhood Market so bad that the service desk is really fast. With Amazon’s new $49 shipping requirement, I’ve started having some stuff shipped there from Walmart.

  48. I am an extremely high volume email user (it is the preferred way that students and collagues interact, plus I am on mailing lists and get lots of school crap that way too). I get hundreds of messages a day. Being able to organize and delete with as few clicks as possible is critical. It takes more clicks to move mail to multiple folders than it does to set multple tags, so I prefer that. Also, gmail is relatively good about separating my mailing lists into Forums, and the promotional crap into Promtions, so I can deal with all of that separately. You can actually train it a little bit. For example, I wanted one critical mailing list to come to Primary, so I was able to tell gmail to do that.

    I look at Promotions once a day, on my tablet, where I can use my finger to swipe, swipe, swipe the crap into the trash. It is really fast.

  49. Rhett, my work does that with Outlook pictures, but it’s optional. in a conference call the picture of whoever is speaking shows up almost lifesize on my 24″ monitor. It is creepy. I choose not to load my pic. A surprisingly large number of people use pics of themselves dressed like they are going clubbing for their pic, apparently confusing the work email
    system with Facebook?

  50. @MBT – We have some truly puzzling photos used for work profiles as well. Cartoon characters are more popular than you would think too as are pictures of people’s pets or kids, which I also find inappropriate for work. There was a day where they set up a photographer to take professional photos for people, but turnout was low.

  51. Ivy, they offered that here, too, but same tepid response. These are the things I come home and lecture my kids on.

  52. “You don’t. Access is via the garage. ”

    You leave the door into your house from the garage unlocked?

    We’ve seen or heard of too many times when garages somehow were left open and unattended:

    -One T-day weekend, we saw the garage of my neighbor, who’s also a good friend, wide open when we knew he’d gone skiing for that weekend. We closed it for him.

    -A friend once left for a weekend, making sure to close his garage, but when he got home, it was wide open and cleaned out.

    -Another neighbor’s garage was wide open because something got under the door, so it automatically opened (safety feature to keep the door from crushing a person).

    -When the Navy conducts exercises offshore here, garage doors have been known to randomly open.

    We always lock the deadbolt on the door from the garage into the house when we leave.

  53. “I was bound and determined not to add more keys to my daily annoyance. It is freaking *awesome*.”

    We bought a set of deadbolts keyed alike, so our front door, door from the garage, external door into the garage, and back door all use the same key.

    A locksmith could also key your locks alike.

  54. I don’t see how tags are different than folders. When I tag something in gmail, it goes out of my in box and essentially is in a folder with the name of the tag. Then I can just look through the tag the same way I would look through a folder in outlook.

    And iTunes is the biggest POS software around. Even the apple fans I know agree.

  55. A friend once left for a weekend, making sure to close his garage, but when he got home, it was wide open and cleaned out.

    Please. I should be so lucky.

    When the Navy conducts exercises offshore here, garage doors have been known to randomly open.

    Damn Growlers:

    The EA-18G can be fitted with up to five ALQ-99 jamming pods and will typically add two AIM-120 AMRAAM or AGM-88 HARM missiles. The EA-18G will also use the INCANS Interference Cancellation system that will allow voice communication while jamming enemy communications, a capability not available on the EA-6B. In addition to the radar warning and jamming equipment the Growler possesses a communications receiver and jamming system that will provide suppression and electronic attack against airborne communication threats.

  56. A locksmith could also key your locks alike.

    I’m amazed there are people who have different keys for different doors. Never made any sense to me.

  57. “We have a keypad door lock on the house in Santa Cruz and I really like it. Eventually we’re going to put one in here in Denver, whenever DH gets a minute.”

    We have one our back door. They are nice, especially if you will need to let people into your house. You can program and delete multiple codes and assign them to various people as needed. E.g., we created a code for our contractor during our remodel, and deleted when they were done.

    We put it on the backdoor because when the kids were quite young, they’d unlock the door when they went out to the backyard to play, then forget to lock it when they came in. The keypad lock allowed us to keep it locked all the time without locking the kids out.

    The main caveat is to remember it runs on a battery, and the key can override it. I suggest that you change the battery regularly; since it’s not your primary house, I’m guessing you won’t use it enough to drain the battery before it leaks and ruins the lock.

  58. Finn, we also used a system where you can clear the tumbler on the key portion of the lock and rekey it to whatever key you want. So our Denver house key will also open the Santa Cruz house if the battery goes dead.

  59. “I’m amazed there are people who have different keys for different doors. Never made any sense to me.”

    Perhaps that’s part of the security posture.

    We have two locks on our doors (deadbolts in addition to the locking knobs), with different keys. If someone steals our keys and tries to use them to unlock our doors, that’ll slow them down.

  60. “So our Denver house key will also open the Santa Cruz house if the battery goes dead.”

    In which case you really want to make sure to replace the battery regularly. You don’t want to have to give someone the key to your SC house.

  61. Finn – if someone wants to break in, it will be pretty easy for her [see, I’m not gender-normative] to break the glass door into the walkout basement. I just don’t worry about it, because we don’t really have anything worth stealing.

  62. I’m not sure if this is happening in other areas where people park their cars in front of their houses, but in San Francisco there are people who drive around with some machine that can match the frequency (?) of the keyless keys and subsequently open the door of the parked car. They then steal stuff from the car or use the garage door opener to get into the garage. I think they can also tap into the garage door opener frequencies as well.

    You are supposed to put your key in the fridge, microwave, or wrap it in foil to prevent this from happening.

    This is only a problem if your car is parked outside, but within some range (maybe 100 feet) of the key that you have in your house.

  63. I also like Gmail / Inbox’s tagging. The automatic tagging works pretty well for me, and as MM said, you can go into the settings to refine it. Outlook (work email) works fine too. Really, compared to the native Roadrunner / Time Warner webmail, all other mail systems are a miracle of usability.

    We’ve been admiring some of the efficient systems in Tokyo, like using our smart cards for trains, vending machines, and convenience stores (you can just hold your wallet up to the sensor!), and the ramen places with the ticket system where you enter your order in the machine and pay while you wait in line, then hand your ticket over when directed to a seat. They can get an amazing volume of customers through with that model.

  64. We don’t lock our doors. I guess we did lock the door when we went on vacation, but that was it. We still need to get the locks changed from when we moved in.

  65. well, back to the earlier topic about iTunes…. I have really had it with Apple and its lack of support for the iPod line. I allowed my nano software to be upgraded – I had been nagged about it for months, everytime I synced with iTunes. And of course now the nano is a brick. Well, it isn’t a dead brick – it just keeps trying to boot, over and over, failing each time. I can’t even turn it off – it just keeps cycling. I looked online and there is almost nothing on fixing nanos. I did the usual reboot and reset, but nothing is helping. It seems like we are always stuck like this. I guess Apple doesn’t care because they just want everyone to buy a latest iPhone, but I don’t want their stupid iPhone. I just want a device that holds my podcasts so I don’t have to stream them and eat my data allowance.
    Grrrr.

  66. WCE, here it’s the wooden Thomas trains :)

    The crooks could make a mint on eBay with those….

  67. ssk, that kind of theft has been a problem in our neighborhood. We keep the keys for our cars that are parked outside in a little cage-type thing. We don’t keep anything of value in our cars, but apparently a lot of people do, because people complain about laptops, ipads, and even handguns being stolen out of their cars. So it’s nice to know our petty thieves are now armed.

  68. “I just don’t worry about it, because we don’t really have anything worth stealing.”

    We don’t either, though I still lock the doors when I leave the house, including the doors between the garage and the house. We have thousands of dollars of wine, but that’s hard to transport in a pillowcase. The jewelry is all cosmetic. Only one TV, and it’s heavy and awkward. One gun hidden away somewhere in the basement. The laptops are usually with their owners. A jar of change.
    Honestly, a smart thief would take the passports, the tax returns, and bank statements, and steal our identities.

  69. Hijack question – DH’s watch broke. I think it was. Raymond Weil (no idea?). It cost between $250-500. He’s frustrated that his two watches that were more expensive (maybe not Totebag expensive but expensive to us) constantly needed new batteries or fixing. He loves antiques and older things. So question to Meme or other watch lovers on where to buy either a classicouple, older watch or better brands for buying new. Thanks!

    My DH was complaining about his watch, and I said that there were people on my blog that know all about watches :)

  70. An older nice but not super valuable mechanical watch that does not use batteries, such as grandad s omega, requires a cleaning and oiling every few years at a low three figure cost.

    Batteries need to be replaced in quartz watches every year or two, but the guy in the mall usually does that for 15 bucks while u wait.

    I recommend US made shinola watches to new buyers at the 600 price point. Victorinox Swiss army are widely available from 150. Timex at 35 are semi disposable but last a long time. I had a Raymond Weil many years ago and it was unsatisfactory. Most low end watches have Chinese made movements, not Swiss or German or Japanese.

    I have a lot of 60s and 70s steel watches that I give my kids to wear from my eBay sourced cheap collection. When they stop running I just take back the stopped one and give them another rather than have it cleaned and or repaired.

    I am sure there is someone in your vicinity that fixes and sells old watches. It will come with a 6 Mos guarantee. Anything in your target price range before late 1950s will probably not be ideal for modern daily wear. For example, you cant just wash your hands or wear it in a rainstorm with impunity.

  71. Hmm, I think I should upgrade our locks to keyless. Sounds very convenient. And in case anyone is interested, we always lock our doors!

    “Timex at 35 are semi disposable but last a long time. ”

    Can confirm.

  72. Good design: My old Ford keeps the radio on for about ten minutes after I turn off the ignition. It shuts off when I open the door. I like this because I often turn off the engine while waiting in the car and I like to continue to listen to music.

    Bad design: My newer Subaru shuts off the radio as soon as I turn off the ignition. Now, there may be a way to program this so it stays on longer, but at the moment that’s too much work for me to find out. The garage door opener also shuts off, so I have to remember to open/shut the garage door before I shut off the engine. It means I could inadvertently shut the garage door and keep the engine running; not sure if that’s a safety issue.

  73. They were probably thinking that they would protect against thieves breaking into your that’s car parked in the driveway and activating the garage door remote.

    I never thought anyone opened or closed the garage door from a car that’s inside the garage.

  74. Did anyone see the recent Law and Order SVU? Perfect for this board — rich Manhattan mothers of high school seniors sleeping with a director of admissions at prestigious “Hudson University” in exchange for admissions preference for their kids.

  75. I have a question on taking AP classes in high school. If a student is tending towards a Math/Science major for college should they take APs in all the Math (Algebra/Geometry), Physics, Chem, Bio ? Also what about the other core subjects – English, Social Studies ?
    I don’t want kid to leave out a subject if it is seen as a requirement for a major or overtake subjects and be unable to cope.

  76. Only $3.99/month for Echo owners.

    Amazon’s long-rumored on-demand music streaming service is now available. The company is launching its new service as Amazon Music Unlimited, a on-demand competitor to the likes of Spotify, Apple Music, and Google Play Music. Amazon has done a number of things to differentiate Music Unlimited from its competitors, but the most notable one is its price: the service will be available to Amazon Prime members for $7.99 per month or $79 per year, which is cheaper than the premium options from Spotify or Apple Music. In addition, owners of one of Amazon’s voice-controlled Echo devices will be able to get the service for just $3.99 per month.

    I think in Spotify and other subscription services you can download music to listen while offline. I’ve always thought $9.99/month (iirc) for Spotify was too pricey, but the young people I know go ahead and pay that.

    http://www.theverge.com/2016/10/12/13244158/amazon-music-unlimited-launch-echo-availability-price

    “They were probably thinking that they would protect against thieves breaking into your that’s car parked in the driveway and activating the garage door remote.”

    But if it only stayed on for 2-3 minutes after the ignition was turned off, I think thieves would not be an issue.

  77. Louise, I would say a kid should take as many APs as they feel they can handle. Even if they have to retake the math/science courses in college as a STEM major, they will have benefited from a stronger transcript and a “head start” on the college-level courses.

  78. “When the Navy conducts exercises offshore here, garage doors have been known to randomly open.”

    We had that when we lived about a mile from Norad. No one admitted anything, of course, but it was very common in the neighborhood.

    “A locksmith could also key your locks alike.” Of course. But there were two for the back door (deadbolt and knob) that are different on purpose. And that just means more to replace when someone loses a key or a workman doesn’t return it, etc.

    Added bonus of the keypad: no more kids forgetting keys. We have gone through *so* many housekeys in the past @4-5 years since DD began coming home alone — we even bought a Key of Shame (Hello Kitty on a pink lanyard) as an incentive to hang onto her regular one. And half the time the keys don’t even work when we get them home. Now it is entirely irrelevant. Worth it just to avoid the hassle of going to the locksmith to get more keys made.

    “[see, I’m not gender-normative]”

    Well played, Milo, well played. :-)

  79. “Well played, Milo, well played. :-)”

    When we did have a spate of break-ins in the neighborhood a year or two ago, it actually was a group of women who were responsible. That’s why I thought of it.

    I guess NORAD does that really intense electronic jamming, too. It was just my guess with the Growlers yesterday.

    Did you see that Yemen (or someone in Yemen) launched missiles against one of our destroyers in the Bab al Mandeb Strait? The ship fired a countermeasure missile to destroy it. It’s a big deal. When we went through there, we stayed submerged on one pass, even though it’s navigationally challenging. Going the other direction, we had a German destroyer for an escort.

  80. “Good design: My old Ford keeps the radio on for about ten minutes after I turn off the ignition.”

    My TL will run the radio/heat/AC as long as the key is in and turned to that on-but-not-running position. But I have had constant battery problems with it — car is 8 yrs old this month and I think I’m on the 4th(?) battery? So the first thing the guys at the shop told me was to turn off the radio and heat/AC before I turn off the car, and not turn them on again until after the car is running, because the biggest draw on the battery is when you turn over the ignition, so the lower the demand when you turn it on, the longer the battery will last.

    I do none of this for the Mustang — Heat/AC and radio are running from the moment I put the key in until the moment I open the door. Including sometimes what CoC does: listening in the garage for a few minutes to finish a song after I turn the engine off so I don’t die from CO. And yet no battery issues yet. Knock on wood.

    And speaking of completely meaningless good design: I love the little glowing mustang that shows up on the ground outside my car door when I lock/unlock the car. Love it with an abiding love that is completely disproportionate and makes no sense whatsoever. My little pony light makes me happy every time I see it. Sort of the same way I felt about the Jaguar hood ornament the first time I saw it.

  81. “Did you see that Yemen (or someone in Yemen) launched missiles against one of our destroyers in the Bab al Mandeb Strait?”

    No! Wow. And what is really depressing is that I had to search to find the article, and I had to do a pretty specific search to find it. You’d really think that would be bigger news.

  82. Bad design: My newer Subaru shuts off the radio as soon as I turn off the ignition.

    Why can’t you turn the key to the spot where the radio is on but the ignition is off? I think having the radio turn off on its own 10 minutes after you turn off the ignition is poor design, because it might shut when you are in the middle of listening to something.

    People want things to work to their own preferences. The problem is everyone has different preferences. Then when products are made that are customizable, people complain it’s too hard to set them up. The holy grail in design is simple customizability.

  83. “we even bought a Key of Shame (Hello Kitty on a pink lanyard) as an incentive to hang onto her regular one.”

    Love that.
    But are you being gender-normative?

  84. @Scarlett: :-) Nope. It was individually selected, ignoring all biological imperatives, societal constructs, and cultural pressures, based solely on its ability to humiliate its bearer.

  85. LfB, is there something I knew about cars before you? Whoop whoop. I learned long ago that all radio, ac, etc should be turned off before starting the car, because of battery drain.
    A problem with “smart” design is that it can outsmart users, or maybe people just don’t all want the same thing. I hate, hate, hate Rome lights that stay on after door is closed. I am so hesitant to walk away, because I’m afraid I’ll come back to a dead battery! Double-checking means opening the door and starting the cycle all over again. But with the radio, it’s different. There are plenty of times that I want the radio to stay on briefly, but they all cut off the instant the door is opened. Le sigh!

  86. Denver Dad said
    People want things to work to their own preferences. The problem is everyone has different preferences. Then when products are made that are customizable, people complain it’s too hard to set them up. The holy grail in design is simple customizability.

    ITA!

  87. Tangentially related to the design topic, this is an interesting piece on the differences between reading on paper and reading on screens. Every new book acquisition involves the Kindle vs. “real” book dilemma, and some of these observations resonate with me:

    “When I need to read deeply—when I want to lose myself in a story or an intellectual journey, when focus and comprehension are paramount—I still turn to paper. Something just feels fundamentally richer about reading on it. And researchers are starting to think there’s something to this feeling.

    To those who see dead tree editions as successors to scrolls and clay tablets in history’s remainder bin, this might seem like literary Luddism. But I e-read often: when I need to copy text for research or don’t want to carry a small library with me. There’s something especially delicious about late-night sci-fi by the light of a Kindle Paperwhite.

    What I’ve read on screen seems slippery, though. When I later recall it, the text is slightly translucent in my mind’s eye. It’s as if my brain better absorbs what’s presented on paper. Pixels just don’t seem to stick. And often I’ve found myself wondering, why might that be?”

    https://www.wired.com/2014/05/reading-on-screen-versus-paper/

  88. “so the lower the demand when you turn it on, the longer the battery will last. ”

    The power draw of the radio is tiny. HVAC is a bit more, but it’s only the fan running at that point, not the compressor. If your battery can’t develop enough “cold cranking amps,” as the parameter is called, to start the engine even with those accessories running, then there’s something else wrong. There may be a small phantom drain on the battery while the car is parked. This is very common on boats, which is why I had to install a little disconnect switch on the battery.

  89. “Then when products are made that are customizable, people complain it’s too hard to set them up.”

    Bose really went whole hog on this marketing idea. Have you ever sat through one of their in-store theater demonstrations?

  90. “LfB, is there something I knew about cars before you? Whoop whoop. I learned long ago that all radio, ac, etc should be turned off before starting the car, because of battery drain.”

    Yeah, I was slow on that. But my point was more surprise that it doesn’t seem to be a problem with the Mustang. I suspect it’s like Milo said, that there is something in the design of the TL that is causing a drain or bleed or just more draw in general than the Mustang (which, despite being several years newer, seems much more analog).

    @Scarlett: wow, that is an excellent observation. “When I later recall it, the text is slightly translucent in my mind’s eye.” Exactly. I have one of those highly visual memories (my test-taking frustration used to be that I could tell you what the page looked like, where the picture was, even what the paragraph looked like, and then the specific words I was trying to recall would be blurred out). I think e-reading makes everything look and feel the same, so my brain doesn’t get the same cues about the weight of the book, the feel of the paper, the paragraph breaks, etc. that makes me somehow remember regular books more.

    I wonder if it is related to the notion I have read about that we feel time passing more quickly when we are doing the same thing all the time, and more slowly when things are broken up by differences — so, e.g., I will remember a summer more when I have a work trip here, a vacation there, etc., vs. if we are just doing normal work-and-camp-and-pool stuff. I wonder if we are just imprinted to remember differences/distinctions (perhaps because from the evolutionary standpoint, those are the things that required us to react/respond/do something different ourselves). Ergo, generic e-writing that scrolls from page to page doesn’t imprint itself in the same way.

    Or maybe I’m just an old fart who grew up on paper. Maybe *I’m* imprinted this way but younger folks aren’t.

  91. LfB,
    My millennials sons all prefer “real” books to screens. Of course, they were raised reading “real” books, but it has surprised me that they use their Kindles almost solely for travel, and have far less downloaded on their devices than I do. All of them used real textbooks, even in English classes where the books they were reading are readily available, sometimes for FREE!!, on Kindle. We’ve talked about how our brain remembers the part of the page where a particular passage appeared — as you point out — and then Kindle screws that up by sometimes moving the text around in a mysterious way when you go back and forth through the screens.

    With Kindle, like audiobooks, sometimes I get the sense that I didn’t *really* read the book in the same way as a print book. It’s very strange. Same thing with a newspaper on a tablet, though I am trying really hard as I can se the writing on the wall, at least in our community. Pretty soon there won’t be enough WSJ print subscribers living near me to make it worth the carrier’s while to deliver it.

  92. I never even thought about textbooks on Kindle, because I am olde. That would never have worked for me. Since I mostly read recreationally I don’t care hugely about paper v. Kindle. But for something serious and heavy, yeah, I need paper.

  93. My personal design pet peeve is with iTunes and the associated iPods. It seems like they just get worse and worse with every generation. The original iPod was a thing of beauty, a device that could hold ALL your music, and made it easy to find just what you wanted in seconds. They don’t make them any more. Now, we are forced to use those Nanos, that don’t hold much so we have to spend time in icky iTunes moving music and podcasts back and forth. The user interface is flaky, and all of us complain that it is too easy to accidentally start something playing without realizing it. I find the device in my purse all the time, happily playing music and draining my battery

    I also really dislike the iPhone interface, as well as vendor specific icing on top of Android. I use a plain Android phone, a Droid, which does not have any extra interface on top of the basic one.

    Mooshi, why don’t you just use your phone to listen to music?

  94. Completely off-topic: favorite online florists or fake flowers? I want to cover an ugly door, or at least a 25×35″ portion of it, with something attractive, seasonal (fall, going past Halloween) and not too expensive.

  95. I love my Kindle, but I also don’t know if I would have liked it for textbooks. I never read physical books anymore, and I don’t miss them at all. I love that I can check out kindle books from the library too.

  96. I have been lusting over a Shinola watch, but haven’t pulled the trigger. I do have an iPhone case and a bag, and they have both held up very well over a year or so.

  97. My kid has declared no more paper books for pleasure reading. He hasn’t encountered textbooks online, but does have lots of assignments posted–things we would have gotten copied on paper, like “interpret this cartoon”. I wonder if he will be able to recall details from digital sources well when he tries digital textbooks.
    I’m with the others who see a passage on a page when recalling it. If my sticky notes fall out (or I didn’t use one), I’ll hunt through a book for something by looking for its shape and page position. Otoh, I haven’t tried much serious reading on screen, and I did manage to transition from composing on paper to starting out onscreen. Paper is now a last resort when I can’t get started.

  98. I also enjoy reading sometimes on my phone (via kindle). Usually light books, detective or chick-lit series that are perfect for waiting times in public or right before I go to sleep.

    Other than that, I want a real book. I think there must be something to Scarlett’s idea about remembering what I have read on my phone – I usually can’t do it, and can’t even remember the name of the book because I don’t see it every time I start to read (and have to pick up the physical book).

  99. “and I did manage to transition from composing on paper to starting out onscreen.”

    This is also true. This was the hardest for me — for the longest time, I had to write the first draft longhand and then was able to edit it on the computer. It took a rather ridiculous amount of effort to overcome that.

  100. “There’s something especially delicious about late-night sci-fi by the light of a Kindle Paperwhite.”

    The modern equivalent of reading under the covers with a flashlight.

    My kids still use hardcopy books for school, especially English. They are still taught to mark up the books, underlining, highlighting, and marking pages with post-its, although those same things can be done on an electronic copy.

  101. “I could inadvertently shut the garage door and keep the engine running; not sure if that’s a safety issue.”

    It definitely is a safety issue. Carbon monoxide poisoning.

  102. Louise, WRT AP, I suggest your kids take the most rigorous curriculum they can handle in all subjects, but if AP/honors across the board is too much, they might want to prioritize the math/science AP/honors track.

  103. “I hate, hate, hate Rome lights that stay on after door is closed.”

    I dislike dome lights that do this. I consider it more of a bug than a feature.

  104. “And that just means more to replace when someone loses a key or a workman doesn’t return it, etc.”

    ITA, the keypad locks are great for this. I was just pointing out another way to deal with your complaint about additional keys.

    “why does every phone I get have to come with a new version of a charger?”

    My perception is that most non-Apple phones these days, along with many other devices (e.g., KIndles) all use the USB micro jacks for charging.

    I do remember BITD when Motorola seemed to come out with a new charger jack with every new phone model.

  105. @Finn — I think you’re right on the slowdown on that. I distinctly remember when we had two different Apple devices with two different apple chargers, and then Blackberries and other non-Apple devices with their own completely different and individual sets of chargers. I have SO MANY useless old chargers that I hate to throw away. But now that we are all Apple, we are down to two versions, which is better.

    Which probably means we’re due for another upgrade in charging technology with the next iteration of the iPhone/iPad. :-)

  106. Yes, one reason DW is hanging on to her current iPhone is the peripherals she’s bought for it won’t work with the newer models. Perhaps she’ll be able to skip an entire generation of peripherals and upgrade at the next change.

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