This article discusses Apple’s manufacturing process for nearly all of its products, machining aluminum at a scale unlike any other company in the world. It is a fascinating discussion of Apple’s fanatical attention to detail and the amazing enormity of the scale at which it works.

I bring it to your attention not simply to praise Apple or its products, but to bring up a different point, namely that nearly everything is more complicated than you think it is. You see, the impetus for the linked article was a claim that the iPhone 8 would be made of industrial ceramic, like the new Apple Watch Edition, instead of the current machined aluminum. But the author of the post points out all the reasons why that can’t be so.

Many of those reasons are things that only someone involved in the world of industrial-scale manufacturing would know. But they are very real limitations… or at least challenges. But unless you inhabit that world, you wouldn’t understand.

I’ve found this to be applicable in nearly sphere of life. I’ve been on the inside of a number of organizations, including a few with controversial public faces. And almost invariably I have found that critics and kibitzers think they know what’s going on when they really don’t. They imagine motives and capabilities and options that are mere figments of their own imaginations and wishful thinking.

So the next time you (or I) are tempted to say, “Of course they should do X because this is what they’re thinking,” pause for a moment and consider that may be they shouldn’t because maybe they aren’t because probably you don’t know.

I Welcome Our Robot Snowblower Overlords

kobiMeet Kobi, the Roomba for lawn-mowing, leaf-mulching, and most importantly, snow-blowing. This $4,000 robot can not only blow snow autonomously, as in I sit in the warm house while it does the dirty work, but it can monitor the weather forecast and sense snow while it’s falling so it does it’s thing by itself during the storm. Thus it only has to blow a few inches of snow at a time.

Sure, it’s an automated machine with a giant spinning blade of destruction on the front of it roaming at will through the driveway.

But … No Snow Blowing!

Best $4,000 I will have ever spent.

The First American Chaplain Killed in WWII

Fr. Aloysius Schmitt died on December 7, 1941 in Pearl Harbor just after celebrating Mass on the USS Oklahoma. He was among the men trapped inside after the battleship capsized and helped a dozen men escape through a porthole, but he died because he couldn’t fit. (I can sympathize.)

He was posthumously awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal and had a ship, the USS Schmitt named for him.

Thanks to DNA testing, his remains have been identified and he is returning home this month to Iowa to be interred in a chapel dedicated in his honor.

From Irish Convict to Boston Catholic Newspaperman

John O’Reilly was an Irishman born in 1844 who join the British Army, but was then transported as a convict to Australia, until he later escaped and made his way to America, eventually coming to Boston and becoming of America’s then-largest newspaper which is now the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Boston, The Pilot. It’s a fascinating story that comes from the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Perth, Australia.

Grown Up Popcorn


I’ve tried a lot of different popcorn recipes, toppings and sprinkles to spice up regular old popcorn. Of course, there are the store-bought classics like candied popcorn and SmartFood cheesy popcorn, but when it comes to homemade I’ve always stuck with butter and salt.

But when I saw this recipe for popcorn with soy-sauce butter, I had to try it, especially as I read the description of the complex umami flavors.

I opted for the variation that included garlic powder (not garlic salt, if you can help it) and Sriracha along with the soy sauce and it is very, very good. Addictive almost. If I had more time I might toast some sesame seeds to go with it.

Next time, I might go in a different direction and do a “buffalo” popcorn. Perhaps this Buffalo parmesan popcorn recipe, which sounds like an interesting combination.

A Review of Designated Survivor


“The biggest terrorist attack since 9/11.” That’s how the new ABC show Designated Survivor describes the attack that sets up the premise of the show and it’s illustrative of the weaknesses of the show.

(There are only minor spoilers in this review, but read at your own discretion.)

First, I want to make it clear that I do want to like this show. Melanie and I always have one show at least that we watch together and now that Person of Interest is over we’ve picked DS.1 As for that line? In this fictional attack, a bomb in the Capitol Building during the State of the Union kills the President, the Cabinet, Congress, the Supreme Court, and the Joint Chiefs in one fell swoop… except the designated survivors of Sutherland’s character, Kirkman, who was the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and a congresswoman. They say in the show that about 1,000 people died, which in absolute numbers is smaller than 9/11’s 3,000, but we’re talking about the decapitation of the governments of the world’s hyperpower. I think that qualifies as bigger.

This sort of small thinking is endemic to the show. An FBI agent says they have 50 agents working through the rubble of the Capitol looking for clues. Fifty? In reality there would hundreds, maybe even thousands. Everything they have the president doing and dealing with sometimes feels like he’s a small town mayor, not leader of the free world. Meanwhile, there’s one general who seems to speak for the entire military, who is himself a caricature of a hawk who is demanding Kirkman nuke everyone in sight, conveniently shifting from one bogeyman to the next. Last week, he was demanding Kirkman nuke Iran, until Kirkman found out they weren’t involved, and rather than act chastened, General Fire-up-his-butt shifts to some made-up al Quaeda analog the next week.

And then there’s the plainly unrealistic stuff. Kirkman’s family includes his wife, his grammar school age daughter, and the requisite long-haired and rebellious teenage son, who it turns out was dealing drugs on the side. In the midst of this national crisis in which an unknown enemy is targeting the leaders of our nation, the First Son, Emo Boy, apparently has the run of Washington, DC, wandering around the city with a couple of Secret Service bodyguards. Yeah, no, in reality he’d be locked down in the White House.

That’s the other thing. We know that this incredibly tragic and scary event that may signal a new World War has just happened in the last couple of days, but everyone is acting as if things are just a little unsettled. The new “fish-out-of-water” president feels regretful he missed dinner at 6:30 with his family, never mind he was dealing with the biggest crisis in history. The deputy chief of staff and Kirkman’s old assistant from HUD jockey for position so each one can become the new chief of staff.

In the second episode, we’re already holding the memorial service for the dead president, but what’s the hurry? It’s been a couple of days. Maybe we should wait until the dust settles and we’ve started to rebuild the government before we begin the state funerals. And then more unreality. After the service, the president and first lady wander out the front doors to their waiting cars in the midst of the crowd of other people leaving, having casual conversations with them along the way. In reality, everyone stays put at the end of the service while the first couple are whisked outside to waiting vehicles and the motorcade rushes off with the sirens blaring. Only then is the crowd released.

Plus what’s your hurry? This is a series that will presumably unfold over a few years. Why not let it do so slowly? It feels like the creators wanted to do a show along the lines of: “What about a guy who isn’t a politician and is essentially a good guy suddenly finds himself president and in control of recreating the government?2 Okay, now how do we do that? A terrorist attack!”

I guess this all sounds like I don’t like the show. That’s not true. I haven’t made up my mind yet and the six-episode rule is in effect.3 I do like Kiefer Sutherland’s president and I do like the basic question of how does the country rebuild after such a loss (if only they can stay away from the cheesy primetime drama plot lines). I can suspend my disbelief for some of the rest of the laughable devices and tropes for the next four episodes. Here’s hoping they improve by then.

  1. She was a West Wing fan and Chris Jackson at the Secret Service agent appeals to Hamilton fandom. As for me, well, it’s Kiefer Sutherland.
  2. We’ve seen this movie starring Kevin Kline.
  3. If I’m interested in a new show I will give it six episodes for the writers and actors to get their feet under them and gel together. This rule began with Star Trek The Next Generation and had its most relevant application with Fringe.

He has already replaced it with an iPhone 7

From the Verge, “Replacement Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phone catches fire on Southwest plane“:

Southwest Airlines flight 994 from Louisville to Baltimore was evacuated this morning while still at the gate because of a smoking Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphone. All passengers and crew exited the plane via the main cabin door and no injuries were reported, a Southwest Airlines spokesperson told The Verge.

More worrisome is the fact that the phone in question was a replacement Galaxy Note 7, one that was deemed to be safe by Samsung.

Best line was at the end: “He has already replaced it with an iPhone 7.”

Ouch for Samsung.

Our Second-Class Civil Right

The US Commission on Civil Rights claims that the right to religious freedom enshrined in the First Amendment must take a back seat to the right to “nondiscrimination”—found nowhere in the Constitution. Dwight Duncan points out that this makes the freedom of religion a second-class right, even though it was the very first right recorded by our Founding Fathers in the Bill of Rights.

As early as the 1840s, Abraham Lincoln had occasion to join his voice to the cause of religious freedom when the nativism of the Know-Nothings was exhibiting a certain anti-Catholic strain: “The guarantee of the rights of conscience, as found in our Constitution, is most sacred and inviolable, and one that belongs no less to the Catholic, than to the Protestant, and…all attempts to abridge or interfere with these rights, either of Catholic or Protestant, either directly or indirectly, have our decided disapprobation, and shall ever have our most effective opposition.”

And for those who aren’t religious and don’t care, keep in mind that if they can abrogate religious freedom so easily, which other rights can they make go away? Free speech and free press? Due process? As long as they can show that it’s in the service of nondiscrimination, right?

Lots of Feelings, but Little Thinking Doom Penguin

This is where we are. A couple of guys thought they were saving the world by stealing an endangered African penguin from a South African aquarium and setting him “free”. But what they’ve really done is doomed the penguin, who was born in captivity and has never learned how to fend for himself in the wild, and set back the breeding program designed to save the whole population.

The law of unintended consequences strike again. Relying primarily on their emotions and their own sense of self-righteousness, these low information do-gooders have only made things worse. How often do we think that because we have read something online or feel strongly about it, that we’re now experts qualified to talk about it.

I see this all the time in the anti-vaccine crowd or the anti-GMO crusaders and the rest, who become so intransigent in their self-imposed partial ignorance that they reject the truth when presented to them.

Thanks, guys, for killing the penguin you were trying to save.

Next Page →