Where Are All of the Self-Driving Cars?

I was a bit of a skeptic when Self-Driving car technology started development a few years back.  I am actually somewhat familiar with the technologies involved, having done some AI work back in the 1990s (including work on the Army’s Autonomous Land Vehicle) and have kept up with recent developments.  I would have to say I’m not a complete skeptic, just a skeptic that by 2020 cars would able to safely drive millions of people around the major cities of the world.  An article by Vox gives a bit of a recap.

It’s 2020. Where are our self-driving cars?

In the age of AI advances, self-driving cars turned out to be harder than people expected.

So where do things go from here?  I see a few things going forward:

  • Slower, fixed route vehicles like busses might make more sense, especially at first
  • Simpler tasks like long haul trucking make similar sense
  • Change roads adding beacons and / or signage to help automated driving
  • Have cars communicate with each other to improve navigation and safety

Some things that don’t get much mention:

  • Is driving that much of a chore for most people?
  • Would better public transport be a better option all around?
  • For things like Uber (taxis) is eliminating the human even desirable?
  • What about malicious actors, both other drivers, pedestrians and even traditional hackers?  Will this tech stand up under attack?

Lots of good is coming out of this work. The various assists (lane changing, braking) are nice and potentially life saving additions to autos.  If it took the far out vision of full autonomy to get there, I’m ok with that.

Practice Pardon?

I suppose the president is doing a little practice run, making sure he knows how to correctly pardon an old friend.  Funny, because this fellow isn’t in jail, in fact never did any prison time.  I also somehow missed this story of corruption (at least this part of it) involving former Louisiana Governor and convicted felon Edwin Edwards.

President Trump pardons former 49ers owner Edward DeBartolo Jr.

From the ESPN article:

In 1998, he pleaded guilty to failing to report a felony when he paid $400,000 to former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards in exchange for a riverboat gambling license. . . . He avoided prison, was fined $1 million and was suspended for a year by the NFL.


Makin’ Bacon

A few weeks back I bought what I thought was a large pack of bacon at CostCo. Turns out it was pork belly, the basic meat used to make bacon.  I tried to slice some up like bacon and fry it, but if just tasted like pork chops.  Not bad, but not bacon.

I wondered how hard it would be to convert this pork belly into bacon.  A quick Google turned up more than you might want to know.  Two good sources of information were Jess Pyles’ How to make and cure smoky bacon also of use was Michael Symons’ Homemade Bacon recipe page.

I had all the ingredients except something called curing salt. This is a special salt used to cure meats which contains some extra chemicals (nitrates or nitrites or maybe both).  I was tempted to dive right in and just use plain salt, but decided to play it safe and send off for some at Amazon (Pink Curing Salt #1 (Premium Prague Powder) 2.5 lb Bag by Wishful).

I took the dry rub part from Jess Pyles’ (Symon used honey and it seemed to hard to mix — maybe I will try that some other time).

  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons pepper
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon pink curing salt (aka Prague Powder #1)

I rubbed this on and put it in a Ziploc bag in the fridge for about a week, turning it over every day.  After about a week, I rinsed it off, placed it on a rack and let it dry for a day in the fridge.  There are all sorts of variations on this in different recipes, but this is what I used.

After this the bacon was ready to be sliced and fried.  It was good, but my family was especially enthusiastic.  Already started my second batch.

Trolls and Internet Comments

In the days and weeks after Hurricane Katrina, I tried to keep up on the news.  I found myself reading the often extensive reader comments after many news stories.  Many were filled with misinformation that bordered on the ridiculous.  At first I thought I would try following up these posts with factual information, usually with links. I remember spending about an hour a day doing this.  There was a lot at stake. One recurring theme was that New Orleans shouldn’t be rebuilt, because it was on the coast and below sea level.  Neither is true (New Orleans is on the Mississippi River almost a hundred miles from the Gulf oF Mexico, and it is mostly above sea level).  New Orleans had also been around at that site for about 300 years.

After a few weeks it occurred to me that it was often the same people, posting the same nonsense over and over, sometimes from different accounts.  I wonder who these people were.  Cranks with too much time on their hands?  Maybe.  Increasingly I came to believe they were being paid, but I couldn’t figure out why or by who.

Some of this has since been clarified, with cyber operations from places like North Korea and Russia.  A good, cheap way to disrupt a society.  Just a modern form of good old fashioned propaganda.

Today I ran across this comment (the only one — also a tip off that something is afoot).  The original article was about the cancelling of the 2020 Tokyo Marathon due to the Corona virus.  The link to the article and the text of the comment are reproduced below.  Sadly not much point in reading comments any more.

The 2020 Tokyo Marathon is Cancelled Due to Coronavirus (Only Elites Will Run)

The comment:

Coronavirus is god’s judgement and humans are foolish to not embrace it. All muslims and christians that change their daily routine based on coronavirus are saying they believe in science more than god. They are fake. A true Muslim or christian woruld embrace the coronavirus and know that god will take care of him if he just surrenders fully to the coronavirus. No barriers, no doubts, nothing. Let god help you. Embrace the coronavirus.