Haphazard Friday

A Friday Haiku

It’s random Friday

Haphazard, arbitrary

Aimless, Irregular.

Johnny Cab

If you’ve ever seen the 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger film, Total Recall, you’ll recall (um…) that the Johnny Cab was the automated taxi Arnold uses to get away from his pursuers.

That idea is no longer science fiction but becoming science fact. Call them what you want, driverless car, autonomous cars, or robocars, they are coming to a street near you.

A robocar, once the technology is perfected, will have reaction times in the nanoseconds. A danger will be seen, processed, and evasive action taken all in the same moment a human mind would simply register that there was a danger.

Consider in the United States, 37,000 people die on our roads every year. Another 2.35 million are injured or disabled. Worldwide the number of deaths in road crashes is 1.3 million, with an additional 20-50 million injured or disabled.

Human error accounts for 93% of all traffic accidents. Even if you just consider impairment due to alcohol or fatigue, that’s 45.5%.

Traffic accidents are the ninth keading cause of death. Your chances of getting into an accident is 1 in 114 over your lifetime. Robocars could virtually eliminate traffic accidents.

Except, the technology isn’t there yet as a horrible traffic fatality recently showed. What went wrong?

The way it looks now, the Uber robocar was in the right lane of a two lane road divided by a median, traveling at 38 mph when it struck a woman walking her bike.

To a human driver, she appeared out of nowhere because she was wearing dark clothing and not crossing at a cross walk. Any human driver would have struck her even if they had managed to brake or swerve.

Yet the robocar didn’t brake or swerve even though it isn’t hindered by darkness or dark clothing, or even poor weather conditions. Their array of laser sensors (Lidar), cameras, ultrasonic sensors should have easily seen the woman as she stepped into the road and crossed the street. It certainly should have recognized her as an oncoming danger and reacted long before she was in the robocar’s path.

But it didn’t. And now they have to figure out why. In the meantime, there are cries from technophobes that this illustrates how dangerous robocars are and they shouldn’t be on the road at all. As if it’s the technology’s fault alone.

There is enough blame to go around. The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration has no guidelines regarding robocars. The state of Arizona has extremely lax regulations regarding robocars, and in fact, encourages these companies to develop and test their robocars on their roads. And lastly we have the company developing these particular robocars, as well as Uber (who see a chance to get rid of those pesky drivers so they can make 100% profit on each trip), testing on busy streets in real time.

I won’t even mention the human safeguard inside the vehicle, who appeared in the videos to be texting or something and was completely taken by surprise by the pedestrian.

This incident begs the question: Why aren’t these robocars on test tracks? Or using ghost towns? Or any road simulation that doesn’t endanger people?

Once perfected, robocars could save tens of thousands of lives, millions worldwide, but it’s still too soon for real world testing.

One tragic accident shouldn’t halt research into perfecting robocars. But for the time being, robocars should be removed from being tested around humans.

Teen suspended for voicing opinion

A Nevada teenager, Noah Christensen, called his Representative’s office to exercise his right as a citizen to express his opinion on an issue he felt strongly about.

He called Rep. Mark Amodei’s office and spoke to an aide about the gun reform issue, how bump stocks should be banned and the minimum age for purchasing a gun should be raised. He ended his emotional appeal by saying Congress needed to “get off their fucking asses” and do something.

Christensen, for exercising his First Amendment rights, was given a two-day suspension from Robert McQueen High School, where he is a junior.

What the absolute fuck? Talk about an overreaction.

First, as a Republican, Amodei should be used to having people cursing him and telling him to get off his fucking ass.

Second, the teen is nothing more than a scapegoat. The Congressman is angry and scared that teenagers are becoming a political force, daring to challenge the NRA and gun policy, and he saw this as an opportunity to slap one of those uppity teenagers down.

Third, the Principal of the high school is a gutless wonder caving in to the demands of an overbearing politician, who had overstepped his bounds. The Principal should have stood his ground, shown some backbone, and told Amodei to go pound sand.

Another Continuing Resolution

Well, Congress passed an appropriations bill to avoid another government shutdown but now Trumpy the Clown is threatening to veto it — because it doesn’t address DACA.

Oh, like he suddenly gives a shit. Does he think we forgot he is the one who rescinded DACA in the first place?

He told GOP leaders earlier in the week he’d sign the bill, but now because he got hurt feels over things people said about him (like he’s a moron?), he’s threatening this veto. What a child. But there seems to be a lot of them in Congress these days.

We have until midnight before the government shuts down, again

National Security Advisor pick is unhinged warmonger

If you aren’t scared of Trumpy the Clown’s pick as National Security Advisor, then you aren’t paying attention.

Terms like “unhinged,” “reckless,” “wrongheaded,” “extremist,” are being bandied about when those who know him speak of John Bolton.

Statements like, “Bolton now represents the greatest threat to the United States,” “Bolton is an unhinged advocate for waging World War III,” and “This is dangerous news for the country and the world. I hear the drumbeats of war,” should greatly concern us all.

Trumpy the Clown used to be surrounded by adults who could rein in his aggression and chest-pounding, but in Bolton we have a warmonger who doesn’t believe in negotiating with North Korea and will encourage the Moron in Chief to push the button.

We’re living on the edge and the edge is getting narrower by the day.

Trombone Collection

We now have four trombones in the house and I am the only one trying to play them. Two of them my sons played in band, but to concentrate on their studies, they both have set that aside.

The third, we picked up at a Goodwill. It was a beat up 1964 Olds Ambassador, which I’ve cleaned and polished and practice on.

The fourth was a steal off of eBay. It’s a 1947 Holton Collegiate and in really good shape considering it’s 71 years old.

Here’s a picture of the Olds (top) and the Holton (bottom).

You can’t tell from the picture but whereas the Olds is your traditional yellow brass, the Holton is more of a rose brass. A little darker and richer looking than the standard yellow.

I could start my own trombone quartet now.

Weigh-In Friday

Despite the mirror making it look like I was a tad thinner, depite my pants hanging on my hips a little looser, despite my step feeling a little more spring in my step, the scale mocks me with a 0.7 pound gain.

Damn you. I really think I need a newer, more reliable scale. This Yunmai isn’t cutting it. It often gives different readings depending on where you place it in the bathroom.

Anyone have scale suggestions? It doesn’t necessarily have to have Bluetooth and an associated phone app to track things, but those are nice features. As long as it’s reliable and accurate.

End Note

Have a great weekend. With luck, the government won’t shutdown and I’ll still have a job on Monday.

Keep resisting. Let the children lead the way. It’ll be their world soon enough.

As always, I leave you with a song.

-30-

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Weight weight don’t tell me

In the overall scheme of things, a week is a very short time, and yet, in my life anyway, a lot has changed.

Last week I was ranting how technology was pissing me off (right now autocorrect is pissing me off because it keeps changing pissing to passing), specifically the tomtom Runner Cardio watch I had just purchased, tried, was disappointed with, and returned.

Misfit Shine 2

I picked up a Misfit Shine 2 fitness tracker in its place and I have to say, life is good again. The Misfit Shine 2 is everything I thought it would be (so no disappointments) and it is surprisingly something I didn’t expect it to be.

Sidebar: If an appointment is a planned meeting at a certain time, shouldn’t a disappointment be when you cancel said meeting?

First, it looks sharp. Dare I say, sexy? Compared to the bulky and ugly tomtom. It’s also so light and comfortable, I don’t even notice it’s there.

It’s a watch! What time is it?

Second, it does what it says it should do: tracks steps and monitors sleep, both of which are accessed via the phone app, which though it isn’t an amazing app, it suffices. One interesting thing about the app is, unlike the Garmin or Fitbit, which continuously track your steps all day long (the Misfit also keeps a running total) the Misfit breaks up your activity into segments (based on intensity?) and you can pick what that activity was, like walking, running, cycling, swimming, or yoga, to name just a few options. 
For example, throughout my day it breaks up my activity into my morning walk, my midmorning walk, my lunch walk, my midday walk, and my walk back to my car. 

My midmorning and lunch walks

My only complaint with the app is, unlike Garmin or Fitbit, it doesn’t connect with MyFitnessPal nor to S Health, Samsung’s own fitness app (which is really nice by the way). It does, however, sync up with Lose It! although not as nicely as the interface between say, the Fitbit and MyFitnessPal. So for the moment I’m using Lose It! (but only the free version. I don’t think you should have to pay a monthly subscription to any app).
Third, um, where was I? Oh! The surprise! Remember, the reason I got the tomtom was because it specifically said it could track your treadmill run. That is important to me because I’m a treadmill running fool. Street running is still rather uncomfortable for me at my present weight. 

The Misfit app, I noticed, has this feature called Activity Tagging. You can scroll through icons for running, basketball, cycling, soccer, swimming, or tennis (I’ll let you know how the tennis works later this month when I start practicing with my son for his high school team). You scroll to the activity icon, tap your Misfit three times, and say, “There’s no place like home.”

Activity Tagging

The Misfit then tracks that activity. Supposedly. In theory. I wasn’t sure what to expect since this is pretty much just a basic, if nice looking, step tracker. Well, let me tell you (because that’s what blogs are for), I was totally surprised when I finished my treadmill run using this feature (and you have to tell the app you’re finished by hitting Sync, by the way, or maybe tapping the device again). Not only did it give me my total steps and calories burned, like it does the rest of the time, but it told me how many miles I ran! And it was accurate to the treadmill’s readout to within 0.1 mile! Why did I waste time and money on the tomtom when this does the same thing? Oh, OK, the tomtom had GPS, but the Misfit has sex appeal. 
Yunmai Color Smart Scale

Guess what I just got? Oh, you peeked at the title! Yes, a smart scale!

Yunmai Color Smart Scale

I did a little research, not a lot, just enough to be dangerous and think I knew what I was going. I just wanted a digital scale to replace the old who-knows-how-reliable mechanical spring scale we had. I hadn’t planned on getting a smart scale (I didn’t know it was even a thing), but as I searched on Amazon and checked out reviews, I realized that for around the same price as a digital I could move up to a smart scale.

In the end I chose the Yunmai Color because it was attractive (the blue almost matches our bathroom), but mostly because of the price. It is 3 to 4 times less than the higher end smart scales by Fitbit, Withings, or Under Armour, but it’s price is right in the middle of the rest of the smart scale pack.

And it’s simple enough to use. You download the Yunmai Color app, register (We had a minor problem here. I registered a new account using my email while my wife signed in using Facebook then jumped on the scale first. For some reason her information appeared in my app under my name and it wouldn’t see me as a different user. So I uninstalled the app, reinstalled it, and this time signed in using my Facebook account and this time is gave me my results) and step on the scale, making sure your feet touch the two metal strips. The scale and app connect via Bluetooth. Easy peasy.

The scale, through the app, tracks your weight, as well as your BMI (and autocorrect thinks that should be BMW. I wish) and your percentage of body fat. The very first thing I noticed was on the Yunmai I weighed 5 pounds less than on the mechanical scale. 

I hugged it.

Since before Christmas I’ve been stuck at 210 pounds, give or take a pound due to a shaking needle pointing to barely visible measuring lines that I could never truly see while standing on it. Thus the reason for a digital scale in the first place.

Well, the Yunmai just helped me lose 5 pounds instantly ! It weighed me at 205.6 (all right, for the pedants, that’s 4.4 pounds to be precise). I admit that I know I didn’t lose that weight overnight and it is just showing me a more accurate measurement, and I know that means I’ve been stuck at 205 since before Christmas, not 210, but psychologically, seeing a 5 pound loss after being stagnant for so long, it might be enough to get over this weight plateau. 

So what did I do? Of course! I celebrated by having pizza for breakfast this morning.

Whoohoo! Technology is awesome!

Run. Weigh. Eat a pizza.

-30-

Disclaimer: I do not get paid to endorse or write bad reviews on any product.