New car

I bought a 2002 Subaru Legacy GT wagon in 2004 with the goal of keeping it for 10 years. It had about 50K miles on it when I bought it, but it still seemed like a good bet since I didn’t drive much and my father worked for a Subaru dealer. But from the start, I hated it. The driver’s compartment was too small, it was gutless, it got terrible gas mileage, and it seemed to require too-frequent expensive maintenance. The all wheel drive was occasionally nice, but since I rarely drove in snow, it was unnecessary. I wrecked the car four times and replaced the entire front end twice. By the time 10 years rolled around last summer, my old Subaru was limping along and ready for retirement. I swore I’d never buy another Subaru.

But I loved having a wagon, especially after having kids. I considered the Audi Allroad, BMW sportwagons, Volvo V50, Volvo V60, and Mercedes E-class. All were stupid expensive and impractical. You buy a wagon so your kid can spill applesauce on the back seat, but eating isn’t allowed in the Benz! I also looked at minivans, but since the new car would be my daily driver, I just couldn’t. The Subaru Outback suddenly seemed like the only real option.

And then, Subaru announced the 2015 Outback and its suite of features that pretty much eliminated any remaining concerns. I wanted keyless entry and pushbutton start (these options were previously only available with a “special appearance package”). I wanted dark leather seats and a dark blue exterior, which hadn’t previously been an option at all. Best of all, the prices were essentially unchanged from 2014. Sold! I bought a fully loaded 2.5 Limited in Twilight Blue and gray leather interior.

It took 12 weeks from the day I placed my order before I could take delivery of the car (with 7 miles on it!). Since then, I’ve racked up about 1500 miles, and I love it:

  • My old Legacy was a gutless wonder. 0-60 in 15 seconds, with a tailwind. Throttle lag so bad that I was afraid to make quick lane changes. My new Outback isn’t going to win any drag races, but the car moves immediately when I hit the gas and it can get up to 60 MPH before the end of an on-ramp. It also has a throaty exhaust note.
  • My old Legacy got 12 MPG. My new Outback is averaging 25 MPG.
  • The Harman-Kardon sound system is ridiculous.
  • My new Outback has the Eyesight system, and adaptive cruise control is one Eyesight feature I really like. You can set the cruise control to 60 MPH and tell it to stay two car lengths behind the vehicle in front of you, and it magically does.

Some minor beefs:

  • The touchscreen for the sound system, etc. is really distracting and hard to use while driving. Tactile controls are much easier (and presumably safer) to use without taking one’s eyes off the road.
  • The sound system allows you to have different settings for each input source–AM, FM, SiriusXM, iPod, etc. Even the volume is unique to the input source. I understand why this might be a desirable feature but it caused me some confusion.
  • The navigation system is awful. Terrible. Using Google Maps on my phone is a much better (and safer) option.
  • I am still getting used to Eyesight beeping at me when I cross a lane marker, or when it thinks it sees an obstacle in my path. Overall I think having the system is safer than not, but so far it has all been false alarms.

My Outback received its first dents within a month. I found a small ding in the passenger door, and then a scrape on the rear bumper. Hooray for city living, but I am glad I did not spend another $20K on an Audi or a Mercedes!


More fun with morality

Is a Moral Compass a Hinderance Or a Help For Startups? – Slashdot.

Put another way: is being a Libertarian bad for business?

Decision Points

Secret ‘Kill List’ Tests Obama’s Principles –

I’ve been reading George W. Bush’s memoir, Decision Points. I was hoping for a “choose your own adventure”-style book, where he lays out all of the information available and then asks the reader (even rhetorically), “What would YOU do?” Instead, he walks the reader methodically through each decision. I wanted more. I am not sure why this surprises me.

Ask yourself: what information would you need to order the military to execute someone without a trial? It is an appalling exercise for me, because once I arrived at an answer, I realized that (in all likelihood) I probably wasn’t far off from the truth.

Coffee pot economics

At my office, there is a kitchenette with six coffee urns and one very simple rule: if you empty the urn, you start a new one. See also:

Obviously there are various factors here. If you empty the urn, and someone else saw it happen…or if you empty the urn when you are running late for a meeting with your vice president–these things can influence your decision making.

Likewise, if you are pouring your first of several cups of coffee when the urn runs dry, I suspect that you are more likely to make another pot than if you are drawing your final cup of the day. This is Economics 101 stuff: if you expect to benefit personally from the extra effort, you are more likely to do it.

Lately, some folks at work have been introducing other incentives to increase the marginal cost of not making another pot. One person has been labeling the urns with the time of day when the pot was made. I’m not sure this is the right approach. When choosing between urns to refill my empty cup, I assume that the urn with the later time on it contains more coffee (and thus decreases the likelihood that I’ll need to make another). The coffee tastes awful regardless of its age, so freshness isn’t a concern (those who want fresh coffee will buy it from a coffee shop).

I think the ultimate solution is a combination of access restriction and public shaming. Require employees to swipe their badges in order to pour a cup of coffee, and display the photo/name of the last person to pour.



Nina Ellen Pratt – July 4, 2014


Our son James took his sweet time being born, despite arriving four days prior to his due date. Emily started noticing contractions on a Sunday night. We spent all day Monday packing and preparing to go to the hospital before finally heading in around 5:00 PM. Once we arrived, we were immediately turned away and told to go walk around the block for a couple of hours. In the middle of the night, we realized that he wasn’t coming imminently, and the doctor fired up an epidural so Emily could sleep. Finally, James was born on Tuesday at 11:53 AM, over 24 hours after we started.

Nina made us wait for several days past her due date–in fact, we had just scheduled an induction. Friday was a holiday, and we went to bed on Thursday thinking about all of the stuff we could do with James–the kids’ parade, fireworks, etc.

At 1:00 AM, I awoke to the sound of Emily breathing very loudly and strangely. I realized she was having contractions, and thought, “I should get some rest.”

At 1:30 AM, I realized I wasn’t going to be able to sleep through the racket, and thought, “I should make a pot of coffee. It is going to be a long day.”

At 1:45 AM, I made said pot of coffee. Emily got up shortly thereafter and suggested that we take showers. At this point, neither of us believed anything was really happening.

Emily struggled to get from the toilet to the shower (a distance of approximately six feet). It took her almost 10 minutes. I consumed most of the pot of coffee.

At 2:15 AM, we called my father-in-law to come watch James.

At 2:25 AM, we called the on call doctor. “Well, come on in and let’s take a look,” she said.

At 2:45 AM, we left for the hospital. Emily woke up the neighbors with a contraction between the front door and the car. When I asked if I should run red lights, my normally risk-averse wife immediately said, “HELL YES.”

Of course the only other car on the road between our house and the hospital was a Seattle police cruiser. I thought of passing him and asking for a police escort to the hospital, but then I figured he would take his sweet time running my plate, etc. Thankfully, he exited quickly so we could pick up our pace. I ran the light at Boren & James, and  made an illegal left turn into the Swedish emergency room entrance.

I dropped Emily off at the emergency room entrance at 3:00 AM, and punched the parking garage ticket at 3:01 AM. An attendant at the E.R. loaded her into a wheelchair and we headed for the birth center.

In the birth center, she initially measured 6 CM. Her contractions were otherworldly. The nurses would ask her a question right as a contraction was beginning, and she would repeat the answer Howard Hughes-style through the contraction: “No, I don’t. No, I don’t. No, I don’t. No, I don’t. No, I don’t.”

They were also unable to see baby’s heartbeat right away, which caused a flurry of activity. Things you don’t want to hear: the nurse yelling out, “I need the doctor over here RIGHT NOW.” Thankfully, after rolling Emily onto her side, the monitor kicked in and we could see that the baby wasn’t in any danger.

After we’d been there maybe 15 minutes, the doctor arrived and asked if Emily wanted something for the pain. Emily asked her to check again, and–again, after maybe 15 minutes in the triage room–she measured 9+ CM. “Honey,” said the doctor calmly, “you are having a natural childbirth.”

They wheeled Emily toward one of the birthing rooms. She was on all fours on the bed, because she couldn’t move to roll over or lie down. Almost immediately once we were in the birthing room, her water broke with a splash.

Emily pushed three or four times, and our daughter was born at 3:54 AM. We had not yet been formally admitted to the hospital.

I’ll always remember the doctor. She was from a different clinic, so we had no idea who she was. She walked into the birthing room with a Diet Coke, set it down, changed into scrubs, delivered a baby, did the “repair work”, took her scrubs off, picked up her Diet Coke (which was still cold!) and headed off to the next delivery like it was no big thing.

My kids are already different in awesome ways. One boy, one girl. One born early, one born late. One long labor, one (scary) short labor. Life is good.

Count those beans!

I love this:

…real shareholder value is not about what I can make this quarter. It’s about whether we are going to be in business for a long time. That does not take a spreadsheet guy running the business.

The odds are almost always that if an ex-CFO is running a public company, it’s a short-term play. Not always, but almost always.

It’s why Boeing screwed up the 787. They put the MBAs and the finance guys in charge in a technology company.

Steve Blank on what Yahoo does wrong with startups, Amazon does right – Puget Sound Business Journal.


This is an outstanding blog:

GooBing Detroit.

Click here for the author’s explanation of what it all means.

In Seattle, we were relatively insulated from the Great Recession. My 401(k) took a hit, and my property values dipped a bit, but everything recovered quickly and now we are a boom town again. I knew a couple of people who were underwater in property and couldn’t sell, but I don’t think I knew anyone whose house was foreclosed or anything like that.

Detroit evidently was the opposite of that. That is sad, and a cautionary tale for other cities (ahem) in the future.

Fun with home improvement, the saga continues

When we moved into this house, we used the third bedroom as a junk room/office. It had green walls. From time to time, I thought about painting, but never did–probably because I knew it would only be temporary. We’ve now turned it into the little girl room:

  • We filled in all of the holes and imperfections in the walls. The walls in this room were really beat up. The closet was once a cedar closet, so there were dozens of nail holes.
  • We painted the closet interior, ceiling, and floor moulding “extreme white”–basically a can of Behr paint with no additional color.
  • We painted the walls “silverberry”, but not without mistakenly applying a full coat of “gothic amethyst” (darker purple) before realizing that I’d bought the wrong color.
  • We replaced the floor moulding in the closet.
  • We replaced the three electric outlets and replaced the light switch with a dimmer.
  • We replaced the classic mid-century cheap-o light fixture with a chandelier. The chandelier is a plug-in model, but we wanted to hardwire it, so that was (ahem) a learning experience.

The photo below makes the room look dark, but I’m really pleased with how it all looks now.


Stellar Pizza Lives

A couple of months ago, I posted my tearful farewell to a favorite restaurant, which had closed due to a staggering tax bill:

Stellar Pizza

I’m not sure what happened, but they re-opened on Tuesday! We had dinner there last night. Same menu. Presumably a different owner?

Long live Stellar Pizza!