No new iPad. I’m bummed. I need to replace mine so I have one that works
with my Phantom.
The iPhone has been a mature platform for years. Improvements to it are strictly
evolutionary now, not revolutionary. So we have the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.
Bigger screens. Faster. Better camera. Better battery life.
Yadda, yadda, yadda, yadda.
No news there worth remembering. I’ll probably be getting one, because I want
the motion co-processor so GPS stops sucking the life from the battery.
Looks cool. I’m sure it will be fun. I might get one. I might not. Ally is all hot
to have one for the health stuff, and I might even get it for her. I’ve needed a watch
for a long time. So maybe. We shall see.
NFC is only about the short-range communication between two devices. Two phones,
a phone and a computer, a phone and an NFC receiver, whatever. NFC can be used for
anything. Payments. Opening hotel room doors. Sending files or contacts.
Whatever you can think of. Samsung uses it to transfer assorted data between phones in
a nifty sort of way that iPhones accomplish with BlueTooth and WiFi.
In order to make
ApplePay, Apple started with NFC, but had to implement everything from there thru the
retailer to the banks at the back end. Security, the token implementation,
encryption, all of it. This stuff all exists already, but until now it has never
been implemented in the USA on the scale Apple seems to have managed.
Apple got agreements from retailers to put the NFC readers in their stores so there
would be places for people to use ApplePay. That right there might be the single
most important accomplishment of all of ApplePay. That’s what adoption looks like for
a payment system: retailers willing to use it. I’d challenge you to name another
company that could pull that off.
Systems like ApplePay exist in other parts of the world already. Japan and
Taiwan (and probably others) have had this kind ofsystem for years. Those systems are
driven by government bodies that set it all up. In the USA, Google and Microsoft have
both started contact-less payment systems on their devices. The Google system has
been around since 2009 or so. But have you heard of it, or used it anywhere in
the USA? It might be unfair, but it seems like only Apple has the mind share to
legitimize this kind of thing in this country.
Going forward, it will be interesting to see how it evolves.
And how will ApplePay be fit in to places
where something similar already exists, like Taiwan and Japan? My guess is the
iPhone will just support the existing systems, but who knows, there might be room for
improving the user experience of them.
Assuming that by some chance, cars can be self-driving in my lifetime, here are
the issue I see and what it would take to get me in such a vehicle:
I know the assorted ways I can fail when driving. My attention can wander.
I can be fatigued. I can be looking behind me to change lanes when something
happens in front of me. I could suddenly have a heart attack or some other medical
disaster that takes me out.
Because I understand how these things work, I can do things to make sure they don’t
happen. I can avoid using my phone, or looking at the screen in the car too long.
I can make sure I’m rested and not driving while too tired to stay awake. I can
estimate conditions in front of me to know when it is okay to glance back over my
shoulder to check traffic. I move the side mirrors so they show my blind spot
instead of what’s behind the car.
Yes, every now and then something bad will
happen, but I’ve been pretty safe my whole life. Up until last year, my only
accident happened in a driveway, when I backed into a retaining wall. Last year,
I hit a deer that ran out onto the road before I could react. (Twice. Damnit.)
I’ve been driving for 32 years now, and this failure rate is about average.
But when the car is doing the driving, there are all sorts of failures that can
happen. Mechanical problems. Sensor failures. Obstructed views.
Reaction to a situation that puts the vehicle in other danger.
None of those failures can be predicted. I know when I’m feeling sleepy, or
when I’m not paying attention. But the programming of the vehicle’s computer,
and its susceptibility to immanent problems isn’t knowable. There is no dashboard
light for “I’m going to fuck up now and kill you.” Because the vehicle is
operating in real time, any problems are going to be signaled by bad things happening,
like suddenly driving into the ditch or into a phone pole.
In theory, there would be backup systems. There would also be self-test diagnostics
that would constantly monitor the vehicle for issues that would cause it to be
unreliable. In the event that the vehicle suddenly can’t turn the steering to
the right, it would stop and sit there until the “driver” moves the car manually.
If there are controls for doing so.
When an accident happens, who’s at fault? The person sitting behind the wheel
but not driving? The Automaker? The dealer? The owner? Some third party that is
If the vehicle fails in some way, and causes an accident faster than a human can
intervene, is the driver at fault? How do we know if the driver could have intervened
in time or not after the fact?
This is actually probably my biggest issue. Say we do get self-driving cars.
But also say that the laws say that a human must be at the wheel to take over if the car
does something it shouldn’t. Or just to handle an edge case the car doesn’t know how to
handle. Like merging into busy traffic or making a left turn on a busy street.
If I’m not actually driving the car, my attention will wander. I promise you
this. Maybe I’m not actually reading the paper or taking a nap, but I will be
staring off into space out the side window watching the scenery pass by.
Daydreaming. Counting the cows and horses in the fields we go by. Looking at the pretty
girls on the sidewalk or the park.
If something happens, it is likely it will happen when I’m not prepared to intervene.
How do I stay always prepared to intervene? By driving the damn car all the time.
If I’m not in constant and full control, then I must be a passenger with no
I like driving, always and anywhere, I’m enjoying controlling the car and making it
get to my destination. The only time I don’t like driving is when I’m sick or
hurting somehow. But in that case I won’t be driving in the first place.
Those who know me know that I drive cross-country for days at a time to get where I
want to be. I don’t fly if I can avoid it, even for work. I am often totally
wiped out by these 2 day drives, but I won’t stop doing them.
A Long Way To Go
Currently, self-driving cars don’t work well in snow or rain, where visibility is
limited and the lidar systems are blocked. They must be able to see the lane markers
to function, which won’t be possible in the Northern states during some or all of
winter. While they can pick out bicyclists and their hand signals, pedestrians are
just cylinders to avoid, not police officers directing traffic. Even assuming they
can pick out a person waving their arms to try to stop traffic, how will they know
who to obey? I how do they know who the police are, and who’s just waving at a friend
on the other side of the road? They will need to understand “social ballet of merging”,
and other edge cases.
So What Would It Take?
When will I be willing to let the car drive me around?
I must not have to pay any attention to the operation of the car. If I can’t
read a paper or book, use my iPad or a laptop, I won’t let the car drive. This
is an either/or criteria: I’m either driving, or I’m not. There is no middle
Failure modes I’m willing to pass on, so long as there is some sort of
certification/auditing process for both the mechanical and the software. Airplanes
have been flying themselves for a long time, and aren’t falling out of the sky like
rain in a thunderstorm. Most airplane accidents happen due to pilot error.
But passenger airplanes are designed and certified in multi-year-long tests and
maintained religiously. Cars must be designed and tested to similarly rigorous
Cars must also be able to handle even the edge cases and oddball situations.
They must be able to merge with human-driven vehicles without being stranded on the
on-ramp by assholes who won’t give you an opening.
I must not have any liability of any kind for the vehicle’s actions. So long as I
can show I had the car maintained on schedule by a certified shop, I walk away even
if the car has a problem and kills someone. This also applies to legal actions in
civil court. I don’t care where the liability lies, so long as none of it lands on me.
Fun. I guess I use the self-driving car when I am planning on getting shit-faced
at a party or bar. Someplace where the fun of being there is greater than the
fun of getting there and back.
My opinion of Al Gore has flip-flopped back and forth over the years. I mostly
blame the media for this. Journalists for some reason are never kind to vice
presidents, and so I pick that opinion up for myself. In years since, he is portrayed
as a bunch of things, but of course the media picks the most sensational stuff, and
so I sometimes have believed him to be a nut-job of the highest order.
I realize that I am human, and when I hear enough about something or someone in the
media, I’ll tend to pick up whatever slant is presented most often. It is a fact of
our psychology, and it is hard to avoid.
My current opinion of Al Gore, is mostly that I’m sick and tired of Al Gore.
When I came across an interview, I decided to watch, to hear something about Al Gore
that didn’t come filtered thru the media. This is Al Gore in the words of Al Gore.
It is an interesting interview, and I’m really glad I watched. The interview only
briefly touches on climate issues. The rest of it was really fascinating.
Things I liked:
“Information Superhighway”: He didn’t invent the internet, but he did coin the phrase.
His relationship with Steve Jobs, being on Apple and Google boards.
His discussion about how our democracy has been “hacked” into not functioning
as the founding fathers intended.
Edward Snowden: Not a hero, broke the laws, but did us a huge service in exposing
constitutional violations that probably make the NSA less effective
in doing its job.
It is long, but I enjoyed the whole thing. Watch it here:
I carried my camera around for a couple of hours at DemiCon. I wasn’t very
serious about taking photos. Most of them were shot in insufficient lighting
with the camera in ‘P’rogram mode. So most photos were done wide open, and thus
most photos had about 1/8th of an inch depth-of-field, usually focused on the tip of
the nose. There were strange shadows. I was manually focusing, but didn’t
care enough to actually focus all the time. People moved.
But a few came out nicely enough to share with the world at large, I think.
I didn’t adjust white balance, but I did crop a few quickly.
On Wednesday I looked up at the window over my desk, and there was a wasp flying around
against the blinds. It took me a while of following it around, but I killed it with a
fly-swatter in the kitchen.
Today (Friday) as I was getting a glass of water at the kitchen sink, I saw a wasp
shaped shadow on the curtains over the sink. I killed that one with the fly-swatter
too, and then a second one flew out at me. After following it around the kitchen for
a couple of minutes, I managed to kill it as well.
That’s three in two days. Gonna have to look at the house, to see if I can figure out
what’s going on. Off the top of my head, I’m guessing they are either coming in thru
the range hood vent, or thru the badly-hung back door. Or the fireplace. Never used
it, so never even think of it.
Car goes in next week for a new “Start Engine Stop” button. The foil is peeling off, and
it is a warranty fix, so I’m gonna let them fix it before the car is out of warranty
More serious tho, is the rattle under the car. They found it is a heavy steal
cross-member that is bent, and contacting the exhaust pipe. They said you’d have
to hit a pretty big rock or something with the full weight of the car to bend this
thing. It is part of the bracing for torsional rigidity, and is heavy enough that
they had no way to bend it back. It needs to be replaced.
That’s not warranty work, and is probably a 7- or $800 fix. Now to decide if that’s
far enough above the $500 deductible that it is worth doing as an insurance thing.
I’m curious what a body shop would say about it tho. Maybe they have a big jig of
some sort that they can just bend it back for cheap. If it does end up being an
insurance thing, might be time to get the second set of deer dents taken care of,
Going to give this blogging thing a try for a year, I think. Again. At assorted times, I get an itch to write a blog post, and you can do that here. But who knows if I’ll actually post anything after this. I won’t know unless I try.
And it isn’t outrageously expensive, or overly complicated. It is cheaper than a World of Warcraft subscription, and only mildly complicated.
Yesterday morning, I had a Clif bar for breakfast, which was a new thing for me. I got two boxes of the chocolate peanut butter bars in the last grocery shipment. I didn’t want the chocolate ones, but whatever, I’ll get the ones I want next order. All part of the Wookie Improvement Project, to eat differently.
Wednesday afternoon, I was feeling a little pukey, so I left work early to get some sleep, since I had to get up early Thursday. I got home tonight, after having suffered thru all day of “stomach flu” symptoms, and checked my email. FreshDirect sent an important email saying that something I bought had been recalled because the FDA was investigating some peanut company for salmonella.
I have every, fucking, symptom of salmonella. And two boxes of recalled Clif bars in the cupboard. Go figure.
Supposedly, it usually goes away in less than a week. (Oh joy, should be an exiting weekend.) But I’m going to go check in with my doctor tomorrow morning anyway. Just in case. The biggest imediate danger seems to be dehydration, which I seem to be able to keep ahead of so far.
EDIT: Doctor says antibiotics and Gatorade. When I asked him (not my doctor, she wasn’t in today) about having too many anti-biotics, he recommended I take them, because it can be serious and I do have all the symptoms including, it turns out, a mild fever.