…Post something about the Monty Hall problem.
I have a selective memory (don’t we all). One of the things it selectively remembers is silly poetry from my youth [father William, the young man said]…
I have a little philtrum
Wherein my spilltrum flows
When I am feeling illtrum
And runny at the nose
…When I’m about to click on something, when the “press down now” signal from my brain is already en route to my finger, but an instant before the actual click takes place a dialog box from some other program pops up on top of the window and steals my click. I then have no idea what I just clicked on, because the dialog has immediately gone away and was only onscreen for part of a second. Perhaps it was a box that said:
“Would you like to format your hard drive now? [ Yes ] [ No ]“
All I know is that that just happened, and that now my hard drive is making lots of noise. Hmm…
There’s a weird dance you have to do with auto mechanics. I strongly believe in second opinions, but that culture doesn’t really exist, as far as I can tell, with respect to mechanical repairs. I feel like if I’m told “your O-ring distributor valve spark-plug pan gasket is broken” and I say “I want to get a second opinion on that”, that I’m directly calling into question the mechanic’s honesty, a clear affront. We all know the human body is extremely complicated and that when a doctor makes a diagnosis, it’s a sort of very educated guess, basically a deduction based on symptoms, and doctors themselves are (or should be) happy to have a diagnosis checked– (strongly encouraging towards, even). It’s not about honesty in medicine, but about the realities of the trade. Some conditions might have a very obvious diagnosis (in which second and third opinions will always agree), and some might have subtle symptoms where other doctors would not agree– in which case the other opinions give you (and each doctor) more information to work with. But a car is just a mechanical thing, and we assume a good mechanic should be able to tell what’s wrong with 100% accuracy– if there’s doubt, just take it apart some more until he knows what’s wrong for sure, although it should generally be obvious. You never hear “well, we think it’s the master slave cylinder, but we still have to run some more tests…”
Anyway, the fundamental issue is that I don’t implicitly trust auto mechanics, even when they’ve been specifically recommended to me. Well, why should anyone, given everything you hear? (…All those “hidden camera” operations where 4 out of 6 garages will claim they’ve fixed something but really haven’t done anything, and so on. E.g., the Jiffy Lube scam. If it happens in big chains with lots to lose for getting caught, you can bet it happens in independent garages.) Actually, the recommender’s word carries some weight, but then (in a specific case of my own yesterday, moving from the hypothetical to the real) I got a call telling me I needed a couple thousand dollars’ worth of additional repairs. Power steering rack and pinion system needs to be repaired because of a leak ($700)? Huh? Master clutch cylinder has a leak ($300)? Why have I never heard of that part before? Anyway, my point is that because I don’t have a detailed understanding of everything under the hood, I don’t have a way of fact-checking what a mechanic tells me besides my intuition, and that’s (as mentioned) limited– all the knowledge I have is from past repairs and from what I’ve tried to pick up by looking under the hood myself now and again when smoke starts pouring out, or something.
But I do have one trick up my sleeve, and that’s the ability to play one mechanic against another– to get that second opinion. What I like to do sometimes is bring my car to a dealership, pay $100 for a full inspection, and see what they find. I feel like dealers are going to be pretty (or at least more) reputable in telling you what’s wrong with a car, because they charge enough for actual repairs to not have to bother with faking problems and/or work. Anyway, I take that list of carefully itemized stuff, call up independent garages, and ask how much said repairs will cost: There’s your second opinion on parts & labor, as opposed to the problem itself. (I’m not even bothering to cross-check the dealer’s price, here; that’s going to be several times other mechanics’ prices just as a given. But people regularly pay those prices simply because they don’t trust the average independent garage– and understandably so. And I’m making an assumption that dealers are trustworthy, too, but it seems more likely they would be simply because they have more on the line if caught than independents.)
So (back to reality), I brought my car in yesterday to a garage recommended highly by a coworker (and highly rated on Google Maps, too), because the engine was overheating, according to the guage. No problem, they diagnosed that as a faulty themostat. Okay, I’ll pay $160 to fix that. Maybe it’s on the high end of the price scale, but it’s not worth the time to shop inexpensive things around. But their suggested $2,000 of additional repairs? I’m usually told about those various leaks (if they seem serious) whenever I get an oil change, so the sudden appearance of all these expensive mechanical issues puts me on guard, and I have to tell the nice mechanic or “garage salesman” (since I’m sure he wasn’t the one actually doing any of the work) not to fix anything other than the thermostat (and change my front tires; all right). After having described and detailed all those other problems in such a grave tone of voice it was almost strange that he didn’t further attempt to sell me on the other repairs, as in “…but your car’s gonna explode if you don’t fix this!”, like there was some sort of miscalibration in the story– it was just a light “okay” now, as if he tacitly recognized that I wasn’t a sucker and immediately backed off. I threw in a “…but I’ll watch out for those issues” to validate his mechanicsmanship, and asked him to itemize all of the findings on paper. So now I’m tempted to bring my car in for a dealer inspection and compare the findings from that, side by side, with these– the proof should be in the pudding, as it were. Or maybe my car did have these problems, but “seriousness” and “price-to-fix” were both exaggerated. But this had me wondering, how often do people do this kind of thing (seek second opinions under some other guise)? I’m sure there are trusting and mistrusting folks. Some people (“suckers”, assuming widespread dishonesty by mechanics, which there’s evidence is the case) who do exactly what’s suggested and pay full price for it every time. But of the ones who compare, who get second opinions… What if mechanics colluded, and had a secret online database where they shared fake repair findings tagged by license plate or car description? Okay, that seems too far-fetched, now that I write it. Especially because other fields with even more nebulous findings don’t need to stoop that low. (I was reading about chiropractors the other day, and how second and third opinions very frequently report completely unrelated conditions, as if diagnoses had been pulled out of a hat.) So I don’t worry about a hypothetical level of collusion among independent mechanics (even the ones next to dealerships) but still, my intuition pinged, and now I want to get that second opinion just so I can personally validate what seems to be a general trend in the car repair “community”. And show up the guy who recommended this particular shop.
I hope I didn’t just get a ticket. 2 a.m., no cars in sight, stopped at a light at the intersection of Wilshire and Sepulveda. I’d come to a full stop, and moments later the red-light camera at that intersection flashed a bunch of times. I guess because my front wheel was half a foot over the limit line (of the crosswalk– not even the intersection proper). I was about to get out and take a picture of my own from the side to show where exactly the wheel was, but a couple cars were coming from behind and by that point the light had changed, so it was safer to just proceed, and anyway the evidence had already been collected. Hopefully a false alarm and the camera was just doing it’s thing, starting off an attempt to construct incontrovertable proof of antisocial driving behavior from the moment I first poked my nose across the line, but since the remainder of the series just shows me sitting there and not proceeding across the intersection, it’d be ridiculous to say I “ran a red light”. I don’t have high expectations for not getting a ticket in the mail and having to invest a few man-hours fighting it (and ultimately failing) so that I don’t have to burn my “get out of jail free” traffic school card (or perhaps I’ll pay now and save that for my next ticket for going 80 mph on the freeway just like everybody else). I’m not bitter! There we go, that was cathartic. On to better things.
There’s a store on Santa Monica Blvd. called Tuesday Morning. I wonder if there’s anything special about shopping there on Tuesday morning, like some kind of discount given. I don’t shop there, but it would just satisfy my sense of world order and make me happy if there were.
Why is piracy of books in electronic format not an issue? Why don’t we find large volumes of PDFs of scanned books or cracked e-books on peer-to-peer file sharing networks? Why aren’t book publishers up in arms, suing book pirates left and right?
Book sharing isn’t rampant, but imagine if it were. Now… would we (as a society) really mind? Because people are stealing, fine, but also people are stealing books. There’s a little bit of cognitive dissonance in this.
Different but related topic: Why do book publishers get away with releasing a new edition of, say, math textbooks every year? My little brother at UCLA had to buy a new $100 textbook because the used edition from last year didn’t have the right homework problems or the right problem sets in the right order, or something like that. You’d think that for a subject like math, the 1950′s edition of the book would be just as good, as long as it didn’t require the use of a slide rule.
I finally saw this. A most excellent movie!