Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Hell needn't be hot. Mere bad engineering will suffice.

Please be warned: I am going to use A LOT OF CAPITAL LETTERS in this diatribe, since I am mad as heck and I'm not going to take it any more.
Our Whirlpool dishwasher ... and its evil,
seriously over-engineered silverware tray.
Several years ago we bought a Whirlpool dishwasher. With the appliance itself, I don't have any serious complaints. (Except for the time it sudsed over onto our new wooden kitchen floor because we put a little too much soap in it.) But this isn't what has my goat. It's this one very small, seemingly simple piece of equipment associated with this purchase that has come to represent pure evil to me.


We have a routine in our household. Throughout the day, we load the dishwasher. At night we usually have enough in it to run it, and since utility prices are lower at night, we turn it on shortly before we go to bed. By morning, the dishes are clean, dry, and cool. So far, so good.

Three days a week, my wife leaves before I do, so it's my privilege to unload the clean dishes and put them away. I do fine until I get to the dreaded silverware basket.

This one little piece of equipment demonstrates vividly to me, each day, what happens when you overengineer something and then (obviously) don't test it in the laboratory of real life.

Wait a minute, you say ... a silverware basket? We're not talking about a space shuttle here. It's a simple thing, right? It has little compartments that you put silverware in. Then you should just as easily be able to take them out and put them away. Right?

So I would once have thought. So what's the problem? Where do I start ...

First, the basket is designed (as any good silverware basket should be) with little hooks on it that fit into the lower rack of the dishwasher, so it can be lifted out. So far so good. (Except for the fact that these hooks aren't quite big enough or obvious enough to keep the silverware basket secured to the rack, and it sometimes comes loose, causing the entire operation to grind to a halt. But, that's a comparatively minor issue.)

When you lift the basket out, it looks as if it has a flat bottom and you ought to be able to place it upright on the countertop for unloading. Right? But, not so fast! THIS particular basket is a little too vertical, and the bottom edge on one side is ever-so-slightly rounded. You set the basket on the counter ... wait for it ... then, satisfied, you turn your back ... and it falls over with a huge clatter! Silverware is flung hither and yon, sometimes breaking expensive glassware, sometimes pitching sharp knives point-first toward your bare feet. But most of the time, it simply pitches clean silverware onto the floor, meaning of course that particular silverware promptly has to be rewashed.

Making the bottom a little more square and testing its stability in the basket design would have been a simple thing. But NO.

Once you pick up all the scattered silverware, reload any that is contaminated, stop any bleeding, and calm the cat, the next problem presents itself. The individual compartments in the bin are only connected toward the top, so with any motion at all, some of the silverware slides down and goes horizontal in the bottom of the tray. You now have silverware stuck in the bottom of the tray, and there is no way to get it out without opening the latched "easy open" door that these brilliant engineers built into one side of the tray. (In the photo, you can see the door opened.)

Simple, right? Snap open the latch, open the door, remove the silverware, and shut the door again.

Only one small problem ... instead of a REAL hinge, these brilliant engineers built this sophisticated peg-and-hook system so the door could actually be fully REMOVED. (And WHY?) So of course the door invariably comes OFF when you try and shut it again.

Now the challenge is to try getting the door back ON ... and though this should be simple, it reminds me of trying to solve a rubix cube. For there are three pegs-in-hooks and then this little slot-in-hole thing at one end which I think is designed in an effort to keep the door from coming off too easily (which of course it doesn't do, since the door once opened ALWAYS comes off, but instead prevents it from going back on again). You have to get these three pegs-in-hooks all aligned just perfectly, and then you kind of have to slide the entire thing over just so in order to get that locking slot into the hole. It rarely can be done on the first try, even when you do this EVERY MORNING OF YOUR LIFE.

So, every morning of my life, after spending an inordinate amount of time trying to get my silverware successfully unloaded, I am now fuming and frothing at the mouth and trying not to swear or fling the silverware tray across the room. (Which would only warp it so I could NEVER again get it open ... or shut ... or rescue my poor lost silverware. Making the entire dishwasher absolutely useless, and ensuring my cat would never again come out of her hiding place.)

Okay, I know what you're thinking. Why on earth has he taken all this time to write this whole long blog about a silverware tray? And why did I read this far, anyway?

Actually, it's therapy. (For me, not you.) And writing this has taken me less time than it typically takes me to successfully unload my silverware.

By way of a moral to the story, suffice it to say that there is a special compartment in hell for engineers who build complicated things like this, all for the joy of making them complicated, when it should be SO simple. (And then of course they don't test them in the laboratory of real life to see what kind of havoc they have wrought.)

How many things in life do we make WAY TOO COMPLICATED when a simple solution is the best solution? What are the over-engineered things in your own life that make you want to WRITE IN ALL CAPS???

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

What YouTube Missed

May 1-8 is Global Week of Action for Children's Health. Millions of children worldwide are not registered at birth, and therefore are unable to access critical health care resources necessary for them to "Survive To 5."

Join World Vision and Child Health Now in calling for a global effort to ensure newborn children have access to the health care services that could save the lives of many.

For more information, visit Child Health Now.