Smarter dishwasher, smarter cook

Today before breakfast, we started the dishwasher. I think they might have been clean already, but when I saw Avdi loading all the dirty cups from the counters in, I didn’t complain.

Today making scrambled eggs, I didn’t have my favorite spatula. It was in the dishwasher. Dang it! This is a danger of running the dishwasher during the day: some dishes are unavailable.

Then after breakfast, I couldn’t put the dirties in the dishwasher, because it was running. I had to leave them in the sink or wash them by hand.

My brother-in-law, Tyler, has a system for this. Every night he starts the dishwasher, and every morning he empties it. Not full? Oh well, start it anyway.

He always knows whether they’re dirty or clean, based on the time of day. He has access to all his favorite spatulas all day. He can load the dishes into the dishwasher as soon as they’re dirty. For added bonus: the dishwasher makes its noise while no one is in the kitchen. He can predict his usage of dishwasher pellets: one per day.

Why doesn’t everyone do this? Waste, I guess. The dishwasher uses water and electricity to wash a partial load of dishes. To avoid this waste, I maintain state: is it full yet? Are the dishes clean or dirty? Am I going to need this spatula before it’s done? Why are these dirty dishes in the sink?

What if the dishwasher is smart enough to use less water and effort when there are fewer dishes? The washing machine totally does this. What if we can take care of the waste by add complexity to the dishwasher, leaving my life less complex so I can concentrate on the scrambled eggs?

Maybe tracking all this makes me feel more in-control of the kitchen. Maybe it feels like part of the core work of housekeeping. But it ain’t like anybody’s standing there admiring it. The value I provided this morning wasn’t dishwasher management; it was scrambled eggs.

When programming, keeping track of memory usage used to be part of the necessary complexity. Now that we have efficient garbage collection, we don’t have to use brainspace on that. We aren’t less powerful programmers because we leave memory recovery to the garbage collector; we are more powerful because we can use our brains on the germane complexity of the business.

The system as a whole, with a smarter dishwasher or garbage collector, is more complex. But that’s fine, because there’s a boundary; someone else understands dishwashing or memory management. A lot of complexity in that component relieves me of a little complexity in kitchen management, and that means I can handle more complexity in my chosen domain. Or in programming, I can think more at a higher level because someone else is thinking hard at a lower level.

Starting tonight, I’m gonna let the dishwasher do a little extra work. Then I will concentrate on the work people care about, and make better scrambled eggs.