Thursday, August 25, 2022

Are Self-Driving Cars Dangerous?

Tesla Model S
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), has done a ten-month survey on crashes involving Level 2 automation in vehicles. As Car and Driver reports:

The U.S. agency [NHTSA]... published the initial results of that data collection, which reveals hundreds of crashes with vehicles using Level 2 driver-assistance technology.

Level 2 driver-assistance technology is described as:

This means advanced driver assistance systems or ADAS. The vehicle can control both steering and accelerating/decelerating. Here the automation falls short of self-driving because a human sits in the driver’s seat and can take control of the car at any time. Tesla Autopilot and Cadillac (General Motors) Super Cruise systems both qualify as Level 2. 

 NHTSA found that 392 crashes happened in a ten-month period. Most were Teslas with 272 crashes (or 69.4% of them). Probably because Tesla has the most level 2 cars on the road.

A NHTSA spokesman said that it's too early to draw conclusions. The accidents still might be driver-error. Or they might have been caused by the car. I had a near-accident where I was glad I didn't have driver assist of any kind because I was able, through my skill, to avoid the accident.

It'll be interesting to see what NHTSA comes up with as its conclusion. And what, if any, policy changes come as a result. Meanwhile, Ralph Nader has called for Tesla's autopilot to be recalled.

What do you think of driver assist technology? Do you think it's safe. Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Better Call Saul is Over

The last episode ever of Better Call Saul aired Monday night, the last of 63 episodes since 2015. I knew it would be amazing. How could it be anything else? 

**Spoilers Ahead**

In the second episode of the second half of the season, Kim left Jimmy after what happened to Howard. I thought they were going to kill Kim, but they didn't. Then, in the same episode, they jumped ahead to when Jimmy, as Saul Goodman, had a thriving crooked lawyer business.

The episodes bounced between Jimmy hiding out in Nebraska after the events of Breaking Bad, which were in black and white, and Saul's days in Albuquerque. The eleventh episode was titled "Breaking Bad" and Walter White and Jesse Pinkman make an appearance (wearing ski hats because, I assume, Bryan Cranston didn't want to shave his head for that short cameo). To be honest, the Walter White/Jesse Pinkman scene seemed tacked on. Like "We need this, so stick it in there." Later it became clear why it happened. Why it had to happen.

The episode ended with Jimmy/Saul breaking a window in a door to access someone's house. I wondered if that was the "bad breaking."

In the penultimate episode we see Kim's new mundane life in Florida. But then she goes back to Albuquerque and makes a full confession to the DA and Howard's wife. 

We also find out how Jesse Pinkman finds out about Saul Goodman.

And Jimmy had his cover blown in Omaha at the end of the episode.

Everything goes downhill from there. In the last episode, Jimmy is caught and turned over to the Feds to face multiple charges.

The final episode was heart wrenching. Jimmy saves Kim but at the cost of everything. We see them together one last time and we last see Jimmy (not Saul) standing in a prison yard watching her walk away. Jimmy becomes the morally ambivalent (to put it mildly) Saul Goodman, then redeems himself, to be JImmy again, even though it did cost him his freedom for the rest of his life.

I'm going to miss this show. I have come love some of these characters. And loath others. Such a well-made and powerful show. I think it was better than Breaking Bad.

Did you watch Better Call Saul? What did you think of it and the last episode. Let me know in the comments below.

The above photo is being used under Section 107 of the Copyright Act: fair usage.

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Lily (the Cat) Understands Static Electricity

My son's cat, Lily, who lives with us, has learned about static electricity. She's a smart cat, so this isn't a surprise. I've talked about how petting her causes static electricity and slightly painful shocks before. But Lily has learned that being touched or touching can cause pain. If I pet her, then touch her head, she'll flinch expecting a shock, which she sometimes gets. And when she walks over my leg as I'm sitting, she moves her paw close to it, pulls back, and then sets it down on my leg. She knows she might get shocked. 

I suppose this could just be a Pavlovian response. She's learned through experience. But isn't that how we all learn outside of formal schooling? It amazes me, though, that she knows enough to be wary of static electricity.

I don't know if other cats do this. This is the first cat I've had around as an adult. And the only cat I've had in the dry environment where I live.

Aside: I swear I remember in school learning that in the 18th century, someone rubbed a glass rod with a cat skin and got static electricity. There might be something about cat hide that makes static electricity happen more easily.

Does your cat know about static electricity? Or is Lily just extra smart. Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Popular Blogs

I blog for a couple of reasons. One: I'm trying to sell books. But, also, it's a good way for me to get my thoughts down on... pixels.  

According to this website, there are certain types of blogs that are most popular. They are not in any particular order (as in most popular first). But here's a selection of them:

Fashion blogs: I know almost nothing about fashion. I'm more of a jeans and T-shirt kind of guy.

Food blogs: Anyone who knows me, knows I like food. But I can't see writing about it much except maybe restaurant reviews. But I don't go to that many restaurants, anyway. I live in a small town and the selection is limited (we do have two McDonalds).

Travel blogs: Due to health reasons, I can't really travel much. And I hate flying. If I can't drive there in one day, I don't want to go.

Music blogs: I've talked about music. But I don't listen to new music (anything past the early 1990s). So unless I rehash what I love about 70s rock music, I'm not going to fill a whole blog about it. And I don't know a lot about music. Just what I like but not the details of how it is made.

Fitness blogs: Har dee har har.

DIY blogs: This has to do with do it yourself (DIY) projects mostly around the home. Me, I can barely pound a nail straight. If I need something done around the house, I call a handyman or contractor.

Political blogs: I used to have a blog that was mostly political. I avoid politics here because why alienate half your audience. As Michael Jordon said (and I paraphrase), "Republicans buy sneakers too."

There's lots more. Probably this blog comes closest to being a "personal blog." I know there are blogs out there that get thousands of page views a day. I feel lucky if I get thirty. 

What kind of blogs do you read? What blog topics interest you? Let me know in the comments below.