Toyota needs Jack Davis

The Toyota move to stop production of many models is interesting. They’re handling the problem well in terms of retaining customer trust but as each day brings out more problems, methinks they’ve not hit the bottom of the pit yet. What a contrast to how Audi handled the exact same problem years back. They never really recovered from the fiasco of blaming their customers for the problem and never, ever doubting German engineering. You know that somewhere in Tokyo there’s an engineer sharpening his sword so when he falls on it, it will be painless. What Audi did was to tell their customers that they were stupid which is perhaps the dumbest thing you can do. I’m stupid for buying an Audi is what we all heard.

As a former engineer I can give you a decent opinion on what’s going on. Toyota simply doesn’t know what the solution is. They thought at first it was the floor mat problem or a sticky gas pedal and in fact, those designs might not be optimum. They have information now that says that isn’t the (only) problem. Thing is, they don’t know exactly what the problem is but they can’t duplicate it in the lab. Every engineer’s worst nightmare – you know a problem exists because it’s being reported consistently but you can’t get it to happen in the lab under controlled conditions so you don’t know how to fix it. To me, some of it sounds like timing problems – those would be the problems that occur when the hybrids are switching between battery and gas power; some of them sound like electrical interference problems – those problems that occur randomly. And of course there is the ever present software glitch. I have a mental image of the programmers at Toyota blaming the hardware guys and visa versa. Lots of yelling and rice bowls sailing around the lab. Interference problems are really a booger bear to isolate since the conditions at any given time and in any given car are likely to be different and not repeatable in the aggregate. I would expect the problems to be more difficult and frequent with hybrids where there’s some heavy duty electric power switching going on. Toyota needs to hire my buddy Jack Davis to jump on it. Jack could always fix stuff like this but it’s was never an easy, cheap fix.

I actually experienced the phenomena once myself about 5 years ago with our old Toyota. I was driving on I-4 with the cruise control on. As I approached an exit I tapped the brake to disengage the cruise control which it did and the car decelerated properly. We slowed down for a few seconds when all of a sudden it accelerated. I hit the brake again and it went back to normal operation. I assumed that for some reason or other, the cruise control re-engaged. It has never happened again but it was scary enough that I’ll never forget it. I’ve also experienced the floor mat problem but rather than accelerate, the problem I had was that the mat crept up under the pedal so when I showered down on it entering the Interstate, it wouldn’t depress properly so I couldn’t gain speed. Every now and again I feel the pedal getting non responsive and automatically reach down and pull the mat out.

And now a Honda recall! Man am I glad I bought Ford stock when it was bargain basement. Wonder how the Fed’s will deal with this now that they own an auto company and will benefit from Toyota’s pain? What we have here is a classic conflict of interest situation where the regulator has a vested interest in dropping the hammer.

Lake Recovering

A follow up on the pepper plant recovery from the December freezes. Looks like 5 plants are surviving (out of 10) and putting out new leaves. One is still looking bad but not dead. I’ll give that one another week and then put it out of it’s misery and on to a better future in the compost pile.

The lake is recovering fairly well from the big draw down a couple of weeks ago. When all was said and done they had pulled the lake down about 18” which is quite significant and puts me right at the edge of being able to get in and out of my boat. Since then we’ve had a few inches of rain which is unusual for this time of year and some of the water they pulled out must have eventually drained back. It’s up now about 10” from the low point. The other place I was hurt from the drawdown was that areas I trolled for specs are now just a bit too shallow and I hang up on grass or, even worse, a lure stealing snag. We have a few days of rain projected in the next week so we’ll make up a bit more. And I’m sure hoping that the combination of more water, warming, and a full moon will finally get the fish biting back the way they were a few weeks back. I go out whenever the wind permits and troll around to a few old hot spots but so far all I’m doing is picking up one or two. Big ones for sure, but not very many. The water temp is hanging in the upper 50’s and it really needs to be in the mid 60’s to turn the fish on.

Actually, I’m ready for the rain to stop. When I saw how low the lake was and knowing the dry season lasts another couple of months, I conjured up a new project to expand the dock. It’s much easier to add pilings when the lake level is down so I did a design and started cleaning up the shoreline for the addition in anticipation of a March project. So now, I guess, we can expect the wettest spring on record or something.

Got a new yard toy. We were in Lowe’s the other day and they had a mulcher attachment for a shop-vac. It sucks up leaves and chops them for a 15:1 reduction – so 15 bags of leaves converts to 1 bag of shredded mulch. What that means to me is much faster conversion to compost. I live in a forest of 100’s of trees so it, more or less, rains leaves. This could be a revolution for me. It has a 2HP electric motor, 6” intake hoses, and steel blades so I’m thinking this machine will get the job done big time. I’ll have to be careful not to suck up driveway rocks. As usual nothing is easy. It turns out that it doesn’t fit on my Sears shop vac. The box said it fit any 16” shop vac, not in capital letters, but what it should have said is that it fits any 16” shop vac except for the Sears unit. Damn. So I had to order a new bucket from Shop Vac corp. If I had known that from the get go, chances are I would have dropped the whole idea. But once I got the attachment home, unboxed it and saw what a moose machine it was, I was hooked.

The new bucket finally arrived and it all went together perfectly. In the past week one of our maple trees did a complete leaf dump so I had the perfect place to give it a flight test. It does indeed suck up the leaves and twigs nicely and converts them into a fairly fine mulch. From the maple tree I got three, 12 gallon bucket loads. That’s a good size for me because one bucket load exactly fills up my large wheel barrow. My compost pile is now overflowing so I’ll wait a couple of weeks before attacking the oak leaves covering the driveway.