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Category Archives: Thoroughness

Baloney Alert: PolitiFact Is Light On Logic

The St. Petersburg Times Memorial Day edition had a PolitiFact article with the following headline :

“Bulb warnings are light on facts

There’s no plan to ban incandescents, just make them more efficient”

PolitiFact’s second statement above is so logically absurd it made me laugh out loud when I read it. At ET we believe in straightforward honesty: no lies, no spin, no deception, and no misdirection. This includes having the integrity to accept statements in their clearly-presented context. Unfortunately, PolitiFact often likes to twist and distort the context of statements, in effect gerrymandering them into one of their preferred liberal themes.

In this case, here are the facts: the government has not literally banned incandescent light bulbs, true. But it has passed regulations requiring light bulbs to have efficiencies that are impossible for them to achieve. There is no technology on the horizon that will allow incandescent bulbs to achieve that efficiency. Manufacturers of incandescent light bulbs have reacted accordingly by shutting down production. Therefore — bottom line — the government has indeed, in essence, banned the use of incandescent light bulbs.

PolitiFact’s childish contrary argument earns our maximum 5-baloney rating.

Regarding PolitiFacts’ other comments on the compact fluorescent lighting (CFL) replacement for incandescent bulbs, please see “Unintended Consequences: Nanny Engineering” in the DACI 2nd Qtr 2011 Newsletter, and “Why Government-Directed Energy-Savings ‘Investments’ Are Illogical.”

Notes

The St. Petersburg Times is as good as it is bad. We were planning a piece called “It was the best of Times, it was the worst of Times,” where best refers to their investigative reporting, and worst refers to their editorials and their PolitiFact operation. At this point other priorities have intervened, but we hereby want to provide an honorable mention of their stellar investigative work.

Also, we strive hard to be objective, with our critical commentary targeted at non-ET people or organizations, regardless of political affiliation. Although we believe there are sound reasons that support a small-government-is-better theme, this does not mean that honorable people cannot disagree, or that there are no ET deficiencies in the corporate/business world. If you have a suggestion of a person or firm that would be worthy of an ET review, please let me know.

Update 2011/05/31

Here’s another good summary of the unintended consequences of using CFLs: “The CFL Fraud” by Edmund Contoski.

Update 2011/06/02

For a follow-up discussion on this issue, including some facts on the halogen alternative to the standard light bulb, please check PolitiFact Bias under “Bryan adds.”

-Ed Walker

 

 

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A Summary Of Engineering Thinking Principles

Engineering Thinking is a wonderful tool set for making good decisions. This is not because engineers are better than anyone else, but because engineers work within a scientific/capitalistic framework, or culture, that strongly promotes excellence. Within the framework, if you do good work, you are rewarded; if you don’t, you aren’t. It’s really as simple as that.

You can pick any issue or problem — world events, politics, a purchasing decision, a relationship issue — and ET will help.

So what are the basic principles and corollary traits of Engineering Thinking?

ET PRINCIPLE / RELATED TRAITS

Define the problem and set the goals / Organized & focused

Do the research / Thoroughness and persistence

Challenge assumptions / Avoid emotional blockages and confusion factors

Analyze & test / Apply logical thinking, as supported by empirical evidence

Conclude & correct / Follow-through to apply what has been learned

ET principles can simplify your life and lead to better decisions, while reducing stress:

Life is simplified if you have some rules to follow for important decisions; ET provides those proven time-tested rules. Better decisions are the result of ET’s reliance on objectivity — which includes the avoidance of emotional blockages — to improve the odds of making a good decision. Note that ET does not guarantee the proper decision, but it does optimize the chances of arriving at a good decision, and for human beings that’s as good as it gets.

ET also reduces stress. Although you may not (and should not expect to) win every argument or make the best decision every time, you can sleep better by knowing that by applying the principles of ET you did the best that you could.

Furthermore, after applying ET in a civil manner, if you experience unreasoned hostility or stubbornness (emotional blockages) from the other party, such a response provides you with significant feedback as to whether you should bother to discuss certain issues with that person; i.e. why waste your time? In some cases such a response may suggest whether or not you should even continue to maintain a serious relationship with the other party.

Example: You have a roommate that drops their socks and underwear wherever they happen to be at the time they are changing from their work attire and getting comfortable for the evening, such as in front of the TV. Seeing dirty socks and underwear in the living room annoys you.

ET step 1: Define the problem and goals: Messy roommate, want them to pick up after themselves.

ET Step 2: Research: Get on the Internet and determine if this is a common problem, and if so what are some solutions.

ET Step 3: Challenge Assumptions: Be willing to adjust your views and lower your expectations if you find that your roommate’s behavior is more normal than you think it is.

ET Step 4: Analyze the situation. Assuming that your research has determined that your roommate’s behavior is considered generally unacceptable [note: I have not researched this and don’t really know what the norm is for such unkempt behavior], apply the remedies suggested by your research and monitor the results.

ET Step 5: Based upon the results of your roommate’s response to your trial solutions, if satisfactory, then problem solved. If not, (a) modify the solution and try again, (b) learn to live with an out-of-the-norm roommate, or (c) get a new roommate.

-Ed Walker

 

 

 

 

 

 

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ET Extra: Protecting Your Life: More On Toyota Unintended Acceleration

More info on Toyota Unintended Acceleration has been posted in the DACI 1st Quarter 2010 Newsletter.

 

ET EXTRA: Unintended Consequences

Engineering Thinking Extra Is A Short Review Of A Current Hot Topic

An essential Engineering Thinking principle is thoroughness. This involves not only checking the details, but also exploring nooks and crannies to be sure that all the details were indeed checked. The best engineers will do this, plus will stand back and look at the big picture to try to spot unintended consequences; particularly when dealing with critical safety issues.

There is nothing more disheartening than thinking you’ve done a great job, only to find out later that you missed a subtle but important flaw, and you’ve made things worse instead of better. Despite our best efforts, this does on occasion happen to all of us, sooner or later.

A recent example of unintended consequences is the switch to efficient LED lighting to replace older incandescent bulbs used in traffic lights. Municipalities have found out to their chagrin during the recent snowy weather that LED lights do not emit enough heat to melt off any snow that may cover them up, resulting in traffic hazards and expensive manual maintenance to keep the lights uncovered. By contrast, the older inefficient incandescent lights gave off enough heat to melt any snow, so “snowy weather maintenance” was not required.

(Ref. “LED Traffic Lights Don’t Melt Snow,” by Mark Frauenfelder)

-Ed Walker

 

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