Category Archives: Reviews

Vehicles for the Tall

If you’ve met me then you’ll understand why shopping for a vehicle takes on an extra level of effort. At 6’7″ I don’t get all the headroom that I’m constitutionally entitled to which is an outrage! No seriously, tall guys get left out of a lot of great cars. For a positive spin, there’s a lot of horrible cars that I didn’t even have to consider, so I guess that’s nice too. So when I set out to get a new car, I knew that it would take some effort to find something that would work. I’ve driven a Prius, the Ford Expedition and several Honda Accords in the past, but it’s high time I got something that was made for a big boy. Here are some key takeaways from my research worth calling out:

  1. Of all the trucks, only the F-150 was tall enough
  2. SUVs don’t really offer more space than cars
  3. Man, there are a heck of a lot of SUVs that are basically the same!
  4. There aren’t enough Subarus in Utah

As I am want to do, I created a spreadsheet to help me refine down the list of cars, trucks and SUVs that I’d have to sit in to know if they’d fit. Dealing with dealerships and salesmen isn’t my favorite pastime so I wanted to keep the in-person stuff to a minimum, although it is SUPER important to make sure that you’re comfortable with AND in your new car before you buy. Here are the factors that I looked at:

  • Headroom and its cousin vision line height (VLH)*
  • Price and resell value
  • Consumer reports
  • Gas mileage (this is a commuter car for me)
  • Garage-fit

Weeding out the expensive, gas guzzlers and lemons, there were really just a few cars to seriously consider, although I did try on at least 20 vehicles from at least seven different dealerships. It was amusing to me to watch the reactions from the sales guys on the floor when I told them frankly but courteously that all I wanted to do was “try on a few cars.” They wanted to sell. I wanted to sit. Most of them were pretty cool about helping me out. The key piece of trying on each car was checking out my eye-line, sitting up straight and not leaned back to far, could I see out and up above (like stoplights) without slouching or bending? For some weird reason, in addition to low headroom, a lot of cars curve down from their peak over the driver’s head before the top of the windshield. Wasted space for tall people!

Here’s the spreadsheet I used: Vehicles for the Tall. Feel free to make a copy for your own needs and let me know if I missed anything. 

So in the end it was the Chevy Impala and its little sister the Malibu, and the Subaru Legacy. Of the three the Impala had the best visibility and legroom but I acted on a great deal I found on a Legacy because, in the end, I guess I really am a tightwad. But I’m happy with the purchase. I have the spreadsheet to remind me it was a good buy.

*Thanks to the folks over at Tall.Life for providing the initial research into tall-friendly vehicles. The reason that VLH is so important is because while a car may be tall (height top of roof to the ground), that doesn’t mean there’s a lot of headroom, and just because a car has a lot of headroom, that doesn’t mean that tall people will be able to see well out of the front windshield. VLH tries to give a metric for actual, usable vertical cabin room.

Ownership

Screen Shot 2013-12-23 at 10.32.56 AM

I’m learning Python and needed a decent IDE to get my work done – I’m so spoiled! I installed PyCharm and have found it sufficient. Today, after several days of using it, I finally noticed that the tip of the day is blank! This is fine, I unchecked the box, but what I wanted to point out was the missed opportunity: the tip of the day is your chance to educate the user on helpful functionality, to increase product retention through brand loyalty. And what is done with this opportunity?

Tips not found. Make sure you installed PyCharm Community Edition correctly.

Nope I won’t. If you can’t take ownership of this problem (first take: don’t show the tip by default if it isn’t working) at least in the tone of the presentation, then I know enough able you to move forward.  Disable the feature and wait for the functionality to be proven in the future.  This is a very matter-of-fact approach that could be softened by different messaging:

Woah.  I can’t find any tips!  Click _here_ if you have some time to help diagnose what happened with your install.  In the meantime we’ve disabled this feature, you can get to it again from the Help menu.

See, I already want to buy whatever software would give me this kind of lip service!

How Geography Dictates Fates

I just watched a documentary on Netflix that was based on Jared Diamond’s book, Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies and I’ve been moved. Jared lays out the major factors for why some societies are wealthy and others are in poverty, and they all boil down to one thing: geography. It’s not this simple, but the idea is that temperate climates, combined with high-yield crops like wheat which allow for farm animal domestication, allow people to spend time developing new technologies to fulfill and build wealth. Where these things have not existed, we find poverty and the conquered.

Well worth my time to watch, and I’ve added the book to my list to learn more. It’s quite sad, but also encouraging.

Using Game Theory for Positive Outcomes

Game theory investigates the motives and dilemmas of social interactions relative to selfishness and cooperation. As we understand game theory we can increase our chances of finding satisfying resolutions by adopting new strategies or even by just having a clearer view of social dilemmas and their underlying causes. In his book on the subject, Rock Paper Scissors, Len Fisher gives the following ten tips:

  1. Keep the same strategy if you’re winning, shift strategies if you lose.
  2. Bring a third player in. They can be a known negotiator or a known cheater – either way it helps.
  3. Set up reciprocity. Knowing that you’ll deal with people after a conflict can increase the incentive to cooperate.
  4. Limit future options or provide incentives. This shows that you are committed to the best possible outcomes.
  5. Offer trust. It’s simple, but it can be effective.
  6. Create a situation from which neither party can escape from without loss.
  7. Use side-payments to maintain cooperation.
  8. Know the seven deadly dilemmas and avoid the worst outcomes:
    1. The Prisoner’s Dilemma – all must cooperate or all fail.
    2. The Tragedy of the Commons (a series of Prisoner’s Dilemmas) –self-interest prevents cooperation despite impending long-term failure.
    3. The Free Rider problem – people taking advantage of a community resource without contributing to it.
    4. Chicken/Brinkmanship – each side tries to push the other as close to the edge as they can, with each hoping that the other will back down first.
    5. The Volunteer’s Dilemma – someone must make a sacrifice on behalf of the group, but if no one does, then everyone loses out.
    6. The Battle of the Sexes – two people have different preferences, but each would rather share the other’s company than pursue their own preference alone.
    7. Stag Hunt – cooperation between members of a group gives them a good chance of success in a risky, high-return venture, but an individual can win a guaranteed but lower reward by breaking the cooperation and going it alone.
  9. Work to create transparent processes that are inherently fair.
  10. Favor smaller groups, it’s easier to foster trust and cooperation

Redesigning the Weather

Weather.com has, at least in my mind, always been the go-to place for weather forecasts. I don’t know why I made the association… oh wait! It’s because its probably one of the best domain names on the Internet.  Nice job.  Anyway, my only complaint has been that there is so much clutter in between me typing in my ZIP code and getting the actual forecast.  Wait no longer, the site had a redesign this last week!

Weather.com Redesigned

Weather.com did an excellent job branding the redesign as an overwhelming improvement, stating that the changes were based on the following customer feedback:

  • the site is too cluttered
  • I can’t find what I’m looking for
  • The site is too slow
  • The site is too hard to navigate

You’ll probably see that same kind of feedback on a lot of ad-supported sites!  In the redesign, Weather.com added new features like saved locations, weather apps and user contributed pictures and video, as well as a large slide show that highlights top stories and regional coverage.  The redesign added a more comfortable layout, better top-level navigation and menus and did an excellent job of blurring site content with ads – check the right column.

Overall, I give it a B+ and a better commendation of continuing to use the site.

Avoiding the Important

I’m reading the 4-hour Workweek right now, and one of the principles author Timothy Ferriss repeats over and over is to remind yourself to not invent things to do just to avoid doing the important things. Taking that into mind, yesterday I filled out a sticky note of things that I wanted to do today, and stuck it squarely in the center of my monitor, vowing to focus on the most important things. It’s still there, and I’m actually moving my windows around the note, trying to read my email first anyway. Even now, I’m typing this quick post around the sticky note. Clearly, I have a problem with avoiding the important. More to come.

Food, Inc

Every six months or so, a movie comes out that has the capacity to actually change me. I have to admit that I have scoffed the recent push for organic foods a few times, but I won’t anymore. In fact I may even buy some, because I appreciate what they are trying to do and I want to cast my vote at the checkout scanner for the foods that are produced responsibly and sustainably.

Anyway, enough of the rhetoric. No matter what foods you like, you should see this movie, gather some information and then make a decision about your life and your food, because it does matter.