Got my 15 minutes of fame

Kevin with Model S High ResI’ve been trying to identify exactly what my personal “15 minutes of fame” has been. I have a new candidate, only this one is limited to Japan. Late last year, a reporter from The Nikkei, the leading Japanese business daily publication, came to South Carolina to interview me about switching from a Prius to an all-electric Tesla Model S. Nikkei had seen my article here titled “Prius to Tesla Transition.” We had a nice talk, and the reporter took a photo of me and my car. I gathered that the focus of the article is the disruption in the auto industry that will be caused by the change to electric vehicles.

The article was published in Nikkei on January 5 past. The article itself is behind a pay wall, and it is only in Japanese. Nevertheless the photo, reproduced above, was a very nice one and I have my 15 minutes of fame.

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A radical solution to my data problem

My doctor told me to get more exercise, and so now I walk a couple of miles a day. I usually do it about 4 pm when “All Things Considered” is on NPR. There’s an app for that and I can stream the program or other NPR content while I’m walking, through my mobile phone’s data plan.

Today I looked at my mobile data usage for the month, and at the current rate I’ll use all my data allotment (I have a small plan) plus the rollover from last month, and next month I would go over. That’s a problem.

Then I had a radical, thinking out of the box idea to reduce my data usage: use a radio!

This little radio is about the size of a pack of playing cards and it fits in my shirt pocket. I get stereo with headphones. It uses rechargeable batteries, and it was just wasting space on the shelf. I reviewed the PL-118 radio on this blog in 2011 and you can read it for more information.

I tried it out today, and it worked great. It didn’t have any of those annoying gaps or replayed sections that plague the TuneIn app. A radio is a rather elegant solution for listening to radio. 😳

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Do lots of undocumented aliens vote?

imageThis article comes in the context of Donald Trump’s claims that 3-5 million illegal aliens voted in the 2016 general election and that is why he didn’t win the popular vote. Trump offered no evidence that these voters exist outside his imagination, but there is no shortage of websites making similar claims. One such web article is “Illegal Aliens Really Do Vote – a Lot” by William Campenni at a website called American Thinker.

I have found American Thinker to be an essentially dishonest enterprise, and that’s the case with the article above. So let me start off pointing out the attempt to trick the reader, its title: “Illegal Aliens Really Do Vote – a Lot.” In the article, there is not a single instance of a vote cast by an illegal alien cited, not one. The article says “a lot” and Trump says “3-5 million” yet neither can produce a single one.

Headlines such as the one at American Thinker, and even some on more respected news sites, may be all a reader actually sees, and the careless reader might conclude that if the headline says it, then the body of the article supports it. That’s a mistake in the age of manipulation and fake news.

What one finds underneath these illegal voter headlines are actually claims that aliens are registered to vote, not necessarily undocumented ones, and not undocumented ones who vote. Neither Mr. Campenni’s article at American Thinker article nor any other I have seen give any examples of undocumented aliens who voted; however, they at least make an argument that they exist and that’s what we’ll look at next.

First let’s look at a related claim close to home to explore how these things work. Here in South Carolina there were some articles a few years ago that said hundreds of dead people had  voted. The State Department of Motor Vehicles ran the voter list against their records and came up with at least 900 who they claimed were dead, and the claim was publicized by South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, a Republican, who said:

We know for a fact that there are deceased people whose identities are being used in elections in South Carolina.

This all came out as South Carolina was debating a new Photo ID law. One immediately suspected something was amiss when the DMV initially refused to release the names of these “dead voters” to the Department of Voter Registration.

What DMV did was to use the social-security number on the voter registration files to match DMV records. That’s a good starting strategy, but it’s only a start. Such results have to be validated, and Wilson’s claim was irresponsible before validation. Just this week, I had a problem with my doctor’s medical record system because they had switched two digits on my social-security number. If it had been my voter registration record, I might have shown up as a dead voter. The State Law Enforcement Division was called in to investigate, and they published their report that found clerical errors and poor record record matching, but no dead voters. We are fortunate to have a detailed 476-page report showing the voter fraud claims were bogus.

The preceding story is like illegal voter registration stories. Claims of undocumented voters are made based on some kind of record matching, which we see is guaranteed to have errors, but not actual cases.

Some reports say that aliens are registered to vote and then make the statement: “and we don’t know how many of them are illegals.” Well, if you don’t know anything, why say anything? Get the proof before you start slinging accusations.

Mr. Campenni’s article, after wasting the reader’s time with vague anecdotes and unsupported statements, finally gets to some citations. It uses the words: “In fact numerous studies document the fraud….” What immediately follows is described as “A well researched report on illegal alien voting in my home state of Virginia” which “revealed more than a thousand illegal alien registrants in just eight counties.” Campenni misrepresents his source by using the word “illegal” when the study doesn’t say that at all. It says only that they were aliens. Was the study done by the University of Virginia? The State Voter Registration Department? No, it was done by an interest group called the “Virginia Voters Alliance” and “The Public Interest Legal Foundation.” Their report at least has claims that some number of persons who were not citizens had been removed from the voter rolls by the state, but not that they were undocumented aliens. The problem with such a claim is that states are notorious for removing people from voter rolls IN ERROR through all sorts of record matching schemes. It could be that the people removed in Virginia are no more aliens than the dead voters in South Carolina were dead!

Mr. Campenni next cites “a new study confirms similar voting fraud in Philadelphia.” Another independent report? No. It comes from the same Public Interest Legal Foundation that issued the Virginia report. That report also claims that aliens are registered to vote, not that any of them are here illegally. The data is wholly based on aliens identified by the State and removed from the rolls, and we don’t know if those persons were aliens, or removed in error.

But why are these non-citizens registered to vote in Pennsylvania if they didn’t intend to vote. It turns out to be a system error. US News reports:

State officials have acknowledged that a longstanding glitch in the design of Pennsylvania’s electronic driver’s licensing system — going back to its start in the mid-1990s — had allowed noncitizen immigrants to inadvertently register to vote. The Department of Transportation said it had fixed the glitch as of late last year.

Next Mr. Campenni cites “a CBS 4/Miami Herald study” saying “as many as 180,000 non-citizen legal resident voters.” The 2012 article itself does not use the 180,000 number at all, but only says 2,000 in Miami-Date County (among 1.2 million registered voters in the county). And it does not say that these 2,000 were non-citizens, but only that they were being investigated. Interestingly, the study found that of the challenged voters, their party affiliation was evenly split between Republican and Democratic. I should remind readers that Florida has a reputation for removing eligible voters from its rolls through faulty record matching.

So Mr. Campenni provides citations that a few non-citizens were registered to vote, and some of them apparently voted. It would amaze me that among the millions of undocumented aliens in the country, at least a few hadn’t registered to vote fraudulently and had actually voted. But why can’t people who claim that there are “a lot” or “3-5 million” actually come up with some?

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The new president

I was in a board meeting of a non-profit organization at noon today while the 4-year ritual of the change of administrations in the United States took place. But even if I had the opportunity, I would have not watched it.

I don’t think I am biased or being unfair when I say that almost every day for the past 6 months, Donald Trump did something shameful, whether telling a lie, demeaning someone, bullying, or making himself out to be better than he is. I abhor all those things in anyone’s character, and it’s distasteful to watch.

If I thought that President Trump going forward was going to communicate useful information when he speaks, then I might want to listen, but I have no confidence whatever in what he says because what he has said in the past was not true. Information cannot be communicated outside a relationship of trust.

I’ll follow the news and I’ll be politically active, but I see the next 2 years as a pretty dismal prospect. Perhaps with a new Congress in 2019 politics will get more interesting.

Update: It’s not going well. Now to supplement fake news, the Trump administration is issuing “alternative facts” about the obviously weak attendance at the Inauguration.

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Tesla withdrawal

I wrote before about my mishap, the disagreement between me and my garage door over exactly where the door frame was. The result was a dent on the left side of the car. It was about the size of a baseball right along the seam between the two sections of the side rear. For some reason, I didn’t take a photograph of the dent per se, but it was captured in the photo from my service visit, and here’s the dent  somewhat visible in the center:

Photo of Tesla Model S with dent

Everyone who looked at it and offered an opinion, including the Tesla serviceman, hesitated and noted the fact that the seam was involved made a simple repair questionable. Aluminum is tricky to work with and I thought I was in for a multi-thousand-dollar repair at a body shop involving Bondo and painting.

Paintless Dent Repair

By all accounts the premier paintless dent repair (PDR) shop in my area is Shane Jacks’ Upstate Dent Pro. PDR is a process of pushing the dent out from the inside (or pulling) with special tools. My sincere thanks to Doug Payne at Extreme Colors for the recommendation. One thing that impressed me about UDP is that Michelin Tire’s Greenville SC research center used this shop to fix hail damage to its Tesla Model S. In preparation for the repair appointment I found a video on YouTube detailing the disassembly of the right trunk area and provided it to UDP.

Valet Mode

Before the service visit, I decided to put the car in “Valet Mode.” This can be done with the Tesla Mobile App, or by pressing the driver profile icon while the car is in park, and selecting Valet from the drop down list. In Valet mode, the power output of the battery is limited, speed is restricted to 70 mph, the front trunk and glove box are locked, Autopilot is off, navigation is off, HomeLink is off, and it’s not possible to disable remote access to the car. The Tesla Mobile App is comforting in a situation like this. The app shows a picture of where your car is. I could see my car’s icon in the parking lot when I left it, and inside the shop.


The repair required an overnight stay. My wife picked me up in her Toyota Camry and drove home, but it was my lot to pick up pizza in the evening. The pizza restaurant is 0.7 miles from my house, making my drive in the Camry 1.4 miles in total. It was Hell!

Exaggerating a little, I might be. This gas car didn’t have a touch screen of any kind. When I pressed the brake pedal nothing happened, not even a light winked! I actually had to take a key out of my pocket, insert and turn it to start the thing. Then when I tried to put it in gear, the windshield wipers came on. No backup camera. No side warning sensors for the garage door. It would creep like you can’t imagine anytime I took my foot off the brake, which by the way I had to use way too much. Every time I pressed the accelerator it made this roaring sound, and it was distinctly lackluster in acceleration. And finally when I arrived at the restaurant, I couldn’t pull the key out of the ignition– I had to put the car in Park first. When I walked away, it wouldn’t lock without my getting the key out again. I was totally wasted by the end of my 1.4 mile ordeal.


Next day I went to pick up the car and I could not see a sign of the dent. It was fixed. My car was redeemed. Instead of a mid 4-figure price tag, I was out $500.

There was a strange twist to the story. As I was finally turning onto the main road near my house, it started hailing. It was small hail, and no damage, but I was certainly anxious sitting at that slow traffic light waiting for it to turn green.

So the story was over, almost. When I got home, I had to put the car in the garage, the situation that caused the dent in the first place. Now I always use Summon to park the car, backed into the garage. My wife’s car is almost always present, and Summon seems to need that bit of help to position itself. Her car wasn’t there this time, so Summon put the car too far away from the wall in her direction and I had to adjust it myself. It was hard to do and visibility was limited, but I made it in without a new dent.

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The National Wildlife Art Museum

imageSo why is this filed under “Electric vehicles”? Bear with me for a bit. The National Wildlife Art Museum is in Jackson, Wyoming. It’s a very interesting museum and if you’re in the area, I recommend you stop by.

My worst experience with “range anxiety” happened traveling across western Washington State and Idaho on the Nes Perce Trail. We were on the scenic route in an SUV and we kept going, and going, and there were no gas stations. The map showed one final small town called Leadore, Idaho, before a long stretch of “nothing.” No gas station in sight. Desperate, I pulled into the only public venue in town, a cafe, and asked “where do folks get gasoline around here.” She pointed across the street to an abandoned-looking building with a white plastic above-ground tank and a gas pump beside it. I couldn’t see any sign, but the pump took my credit card.


I tell that story of vast scenic emptiness and nearly running out of gas because that was what led me to think that I wouldn’t be visiting my brother-in-law in Swan Valley, Idaho, any time soon in my Tesla Model S 60.

To prove a point about the Tesla’s ability to search for points of interest, I asked my car to “navigate to the national wildlife art museum” and the car dutifully plotted a course, indicating the appropriate Supercharger stops needed. This is a “no problems” route in the Summer and only one rough spot in Winter that is solved with a destination charger. There’s a route to Swan Valley too, as shown in this plot by EV Trip Planner.


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Model S–My first service visit


A couple of weeks ago I had a problem with Autopilot that was remotely diagnosed as a failure of the front camera. I scheduled today’s service visit to get it replaced.

I woke up early and decided to go ahead and leave for my 90-mile trip to the Charlotte, North Carolina, Tesla Service Center. I thought I might be delayed in the Charlotte rush-hour traffic, but I was wrong. There were no delays and I arrived 45 minutes early, before the service center opened. I pulled up to the service entrance, parked and listened to the streaming audio.

While I was waiting for the service center to open, a white pick-up truck pulled into the parking lot, a fellow got out and started walking around looking at cars. I decided to walk over and greet him, wearing my Tesla ball cap. I told him I wasn’t an employee, but just an owner waiting for them to open. He had questions and I invited him to come sit in the car. We had a nice conversation about the usual questions one has about a Tesla, about models and features and the ownership experience. (He had first seen a Model X at the Nordstrom store in Charlotte where Tesla has a small display area.) A little later a service employee arrived to let me in.

Charlotte Showroom and Service Center

In my planning article, I talked about charging, and whether I would need to charge in Charlotte to get home. I did a little better than rated miles, and arrived with about 53% charge left. I was pleasantly surprised when one of the first questions they asked me was how much charge I needed. How thoughtful! I said to add 20 miles. I also asked them to rotate the tires (which are approaching 6,000 miles), which they were glad to do.

I read on the Internet that you are supposed to take your Universal Mobile Connector (UMC) with you on a service visit, just in case it requires a firmware update, and that you should make sure when you leave that it’s still there, so I was also pleased that when they did the initial walk-around they asked me if I had brought charging equipment and noted the UMC on the service intake form. (I noticed on the service invoice they emailed me that they tested the UMC.)

They have a spacious waiting area with a big-screen TV that was, thankfully, off. I had a nice place to sit and a place to plug in my tablet. I remembered the charging cable for the car, but forgot the one for the tablet. Oops!

While I was waiting, I went into the showroom to look at the Model X on display. The sales associate and I tried to get the awesome Model X Christmas light show to work, but for some reason the falcon wing doors wouldn’t open, so the effect was not so awesome. He thought that the problem might be that the demo car was in service mode. Here it is for you:

Several folks came in to look at cars, and there were at least a couple of test drives. It also looked like a car was ready to be delivered. Others were marked sold. I was told that the service would take about half an hour longer than planned because they had to reinstall the firmware to support the camera, which they said was a newer model.

While waiting for the car to finish, I walked to the nearby Cracker Barrel restaurant for lunch. When I checked out, the checker commented on my Tesla hat, and when I said that I drove a Tesla, he became visibly excited and said that he hoped to be able buy a Model 3.

I knew that when your car is in for service, remote access is disabled. This is what the mobile app showed during lunch:


After lunch, the car was ready. I learned that the service center has their own internal supercharger, so my car was juiced up more than I needed and ready to go. They went through the service visit with me, and I had a nice conversation with Vito, the manager. My tires were wearing evenly, even though I have a rear-wheel drive model. When they brought the car around, not only was the service completed, the car was washed beautifully. I was ready to go home.


Everyone was friendly and accommodating. Everything was accomplished. It was a five-star service visit.

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