Category: Technology

Self-driving cars are a threat to the American way of life

President Obama recently pinned an op-ed for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette praising self-driving cars as “an emerging reality with the potential to transform the way we live”.

Personally, I believe that self-driving cars are a grave threat to the American way of life.

Thousands of Americans are employed as taxi drivers, pizza deliverers, and in other similar professions. If self-driving cars were to become the norm, you can kiss thousands of American jobs, many of which are among the few American jobs nowadays that do not require a college degree, goodbye. Their jobs would be effectively replaced by computers manufactured in China or other foreign countries.

Also, who would want to watch a NASCAR race in which actual race car drivers are replaced by computer-driven cars? NASCAR would no longer be an actual sport if computers replaced drivers; instead, it would become effectively as scripted as WWE, but without the soap opera-esque storylines to keep the audience engaged. There’s a lot more entertainment watching real race car drivers compete against each other than computers competing against each other.

Another instance where self-driving vehicles are a threat to the American way of life is the all-American family farm. If tractors, combines, and other motorized farm implements are replaced with computer-driven machines, then it would be a lot easier for large agribusiness corporations like Bayer (which recently acquired Monsanto) to sweep in and take over family farms across the country.

While Obama has cited elderly people and disabled people (although I’m not elderly (I’m 26 years of age), I have Asperger’s syndrome, and I don’t drive) as two groups of people that might benefit from self-driving cars, the sobering reality is that there’s a lot more people who would be negatively impacted than those who would be positively impacted by self-driving vehicles. In fact, many of those who could benefit from self-driving cars don’t have cell phones that would be needed for them to get a ride in a self-driving car, either for cost reasons (most elderly and disabled people are very poor), or the nature of their disability makes it virtually impossible for them to operate a cell phone.

The top-selling iPhone app in America encourages people to invade private property

To give you a general idea of how pervasive and dangerous the smartphone culture is in America, the top-selling Apple iPhone smartphone app in America is Pokémon GO, an augmented reality smartphone game that encourages people to violate private property laws by invading private property to catch Pokémon characters that exist in the game, but not in real life.

Pokémon GO and other augmented reality games set a dangerous precedent for private property rights in America.

The makers of Pokémon GO, Niantic, have a clear goal in mind with their game: violate the private property rights of Americans, then convince politicians to repeal private property rights to benefit players of the game. Private property rights are as American as apple pie and Chevrolet, and it would be a travesty if it private property rights were eroded with the same tactics that ridesharing services like Über and Lyft have used to erode local control over public transportation matters.

I call for Congress and state legislatures to ban augmented reality games.

Why 4K/UltraHD/2160p television will never become the common standard of American television

You may have heard about 4K, Ultra HD, or 2160p television (they’re all the same thing, and I’ll refer to it as 4K in the rest of the blog post for simplicity). Next month, television viewers with a 4K television set, DirecTV satellite television service, and the right DirecTV programming package and equipment will be able to watch a special feed of The Masters golf tournament that will provide coverage of holes 11, 12, and 13 of the Augusta National Golf Club’s main golf course in 4K. The Masters is an interesting choice for the first live 4K television broadcast in U.S. history that I’m aware of, since The Masters has historically been behind the times when it has come to golf broadcasting technology and practices.

There are several reasons why I believe that 4K will not become the standard format of American television broadcasting, or, for that matter, video broadcasting and streaming in general:

  • Most 4K televisions are very large – I live in a house that is approximately 1,000 square feet in size, and it would be difficult to fit a 4K television in any of the three rooms we currently have 720p/1080i-capable HDTVs. Very few 4K-capable television sets are smaller than 40 inches, and many of them are much larger than that.
  • Making 4K-compatible computer monitors (especially the case for laptops), tablets, and smartphones is very difficult, if not impossible – These devices have screens that are much smaller than the screen of a typical 4K television set. Try fitting 8,294,400 pixels on a smartphone screen, and you’ll get a general idea of what I’m talking about.
  • Our television infrastructure was built for 720p, 1080i, and 1080p, not 4K – Transmitting a 4K television signal takes up a lot more of the available bit rate than 720p, 1080i, or 1080p. If it’s even possible to transmit 4K over-the-air, transmitting an over-the-air 4K signal would take up most, if not all, of a 6 MHz over-the-air digital television transmission channel’s bit rate, leaving no room for over-the-air subchannels in any format. Cable and satellite television providers use most or all of their available bitrate to provide hundreds of 720p, 1080i, and 1080p channels and other viewing options, so it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to provide more than a few 4K options to their viewers.
  • It would require faster internet connections to stream 4K video over an internet connection – I have an internet connection that provides roughly 18 megabytes per second of combined upload/download speed, and I have little trouble streaming 720p, 1080i, or 1080p video. However, streaming 4K video would require a considerably faster internet connection.

While 4K will probably become commonly used in some practices, such as movie theaters and video games, to expect 4K to become the television industry standard for broadcasting television is laughably absurd.

No, I don’t use a FitBit…I just develop an exercise routine

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Although I didn’t follow this advice myself, please consult a physician before starting any exercise regimen. Additionally, the exercise regimen I described in this blog post is my own exercise regimen, and others may find a different exercise regimen better suited to them than mine.


As someone who has battled with obesity since childhood and has been trying to get in shape in recent months, I’ve become well aware of the rise of activity trackers, such as FitBit, Apple Watch, Garmin Vivofit, and so on. These are electronic devices, usually worn in a similar manner to a wrist watch, that are designed to monitor number of steps taken, heart rate, and so on.

However, there are two reasons why I don’t have or use these types of devices. First, they’re very expensive. Many models of these activity tracker devices are a few hundred dollars in price. I can find far better things to spend a few hundred dollars on. Second, In the case of FitBit, they’re facing a class-action suit over allegations that they give inaccurate heart rate information. FitBit users in California, Colorado, and Wisconsin have filed a class-action lawsuit alleging that two FitBit models are giving out wildly inaccurate information about the user’s heart rate:

Fitbit customers from California, Colorado, and Wisconsin filed a class-action lawsuit on Tuesday, alleging that two 2015 Fitbit models—the Charge HR and the Surge—don’t offer accurate heart rate readings. As the Verge, which first reported the news, points out, Fitbit also dealt with a class-action suit in 2014. In that case, customers were getting rashes from the Fitbit Force.

In the current suit, Fitbit users assert that the LED “PurePulse” heart rate monitor in the Charge HR and Surge doesn’t offer accurate readings. “Plaintiffs and many consumers like them have experienced—and testing confirms—that the PurePulse Trackers consistently mis-record heart rates by a very significant margin, particularly during exercise.” Good thing no one uses their Fitbits while exercising. One plaintiff claims that her heartbeat was actually double what her Fitbit said during a personal training session.

You can read the class-action lawsuit here.

For someone with a medical condition that requires them to have their heart rate and/or other vital signs monitored during exercise, getting inaccurate information from an activity tracker could lead to health problems not being noticed until it’s too late.

I’ve spent several months trying to find an exercise regimen that I’m comfortable with, and, in the past week, I’ve stuck to the following exercise regimen:

  • 45 minutes of racewalking — Believe it or not, racewalking is actually an Olympic sport, although I’m not a competitive racewalker. Basically, racewalking is similar to running, but with the requirement that at least part of one foot be in contact with the ground at all times. I racewalk around my kitchen table, I time myself using the kitchen timer function on the microwave in my kitchen.
  • Several minutes of weightlifting using detergent bottles filled with water — Instead of using dumbbells, kettlebells, or other types of actual weights, I use a pair of 75 fl. oz. bottles of laundry detergent filled with water (roughly 4.9 lb. each) as weights. I can do many dumbbell and kettlebell exercises with these weights.
  • Several minutes of unweighted exercises — Types of exercises I do without weights include lunges, stretching, arm circles, leg circles, calf raises, leg raises, and standing crunches, and squats, among others. Sometimes, I’ll do punches and kicks as well.

Most importantly, I don’t have to spend a ton of money to keep that exercise regimen.

 

DNC launches desperate attempt to derail Bernie Sanders campaign over voter lists

Less than 48 hours after Bernie Sanders scored two major endorsements, from the Communication Workers of America (CWA) labor union and the progressive group Democracy for America (DFA), and less than 48 hours before the third of six scheduled Democratic presidential debates, multiple media outlets are reporting that a major breach occurred with the master voter list of the Democratic National Committee (DNC):

After NGP-VAN – the company that administers the DNC’s voter file – updated its system on Wednesday, a glitch reportedly made some confidential data from Hillary Clinton’s campaign briefly accessible to the Sanders campaign and one campaign staffer was able to access that information. The staffer has since been fired. The glitch was first reported by the Washington Post.

The DNC, in a desperate attempt to frame the Sanders campaign in order to deflect from its vendor’s own fuck-up, has shut off the Sanders campaign from access to the DNC voter list:

As a result of this temporary breach, the DNC has indefinitely cut off the Sanders campaign’s access to the voter file, which functionally halts its field operation. The move by the DNC raises eyebrows as many Democrats, including Sanders and fellow presidential candidate Martin O’Malley have long accused the DNC’s chair, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, of attempting to rig the presidential process to benefit Clinton. In particular, they have raised questions about the relative paucity of debates, which have been scheduled for weekend evenings and to coincide with other events such as a major University of Iowa football game.

In other words, the Sanders campaign is being punished by the DNC for a fuck-up by a DNC vendor that the Sanders campaign reported and is taking all appropriate action in response to. Keep in mind that it’s possible that the security breach may have allowed the Hillary Clinton and/or Martin O’Malley campaigns to access confidential information of their Democratic opponents, although this isn’t confirmed. However, the DNC has not cut off voter list access to either Hillary or O’Malley. Interestingly, the Hillary campaign is not officially commenting on this matter at this time for reasons unknown.

On a related note, although I’ve never worked for a political campaign, right before the Wisconsin state Democratic convention earlier this year, an error-filled list of delegates to the state convention from the most populous Wisconsin county, information that is not supposed to be publicly available, was leaked to me earlier this year. I’ve long since deleted the data in question.

It’s pretty clear to me that the DNC is absolutely incompetent at maintaining voter lists and the security of confidential data, and this is something that will only cause more public distrust of the DNC and the Democratic establishment. My advice to future Democratic candidates for public office is to not trust the DNC or any other Democratic Party organization in regards to anything and build your own voter list independently of any political party organization.

Cool invention: A new kind of water quality monitoring device

Eric Compas, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, and his wife, Lori Compas, have developed Current, a water quality data gathering device that the Compases bill as less expensive and easier to use than other types of water monitoring devices designed for use in lakes, rivers, and other bodies of water that are currently on the market:

While Eric is the only one who speaks on camera, it sounds to me that the narrator whose voice is heard at the beginning and end of the video is Lori, but I’ve not been able to confirm that. Additionally, where Eric is clearly the primary inventor of the device, both Eric and Lori have been actively involved with its development, so I’m going to credit both of them for their invention.

The Compases have recognized three main problems that they see with current water quality monitoring devices: First, water quality monitoring devices currently on the market are overly expensive. Second, the data that water quality monitoring devices currently on the market provide are not easy for even some experts to interpret. Third, with water quality monitoring devices currently on the market, it takes a lot of effort to gather data.

With Current, water quality data can be gathered from a canoe, kayak, or other similar type of boat, or, alternatively, from a fixed location in a body of water. A mobile phone app is used to guide the user of the device through the data-gathering process and upload the data to a server. Current maintains a cloud service that people can subscribe to and access data that has been gathered by users of the device, state government agencies, and federal government agencies. The data also includes maps and charts that illustrate the water quality data gathered.

I hope that this new water quality data gathering device is used widely and makes it easier to monitor the quality of the sources of water that we use to drink, bathe with, swim in, clean with, and so on. More importantly, I’d love to see federal, state, and local government agencies start using this device on a large scale, especially if it saves taxpayers money and makes it easier for public officials and the general public to understand water quality better.

Canadians protest against bill to allow secret police to spy on political opponents of far-right Canadian government

According to a recent poll by Forum Research, 50% of Canadian voters oppose Bill C-51, proposed Canadian legislation that, among other things, allows Canadian spying agencies the power to spy on and infiltrate pro-environment organizations, First Nations (i.e., indigenous people of Canada), and opponents of current and proposed oil pipelines. The legislation is supported by far-right Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who leads the Conservative Party of Canada.

Opposition to Bill C-51, which has been referred to by political opponents of Harper as the “secret police bill”, is growing every day all across Canada. Dozens of protests in opposition to the secret police bill were held last weekend in numerous Canadian cities, including Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto, and Edmonton. That’s because the secret police bill would, if enacted, violate the civil liberties of Canadians, especially those who don’t believe in Stephen Harper’s destructive political agenda.

Harper and the Conservatives aren’t the only supporters of the Canadian secret police bill. Justin Trudeau, who leads the Liberal Party of Canada, would support the secret police bill if provisions requiring oversight of spying and infiltrating operations are added to the legislation. This has led to significant left-wing opposition to Trudeau and the Liberals at a time when they’re in a position to possibly win a plurality of seats in the Canadian House of Commons in the parliamentary elections scheduled for later this year:

The poll results also revealed that while Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau supports C-51 with “added parliamentary oversight,” a majority of Liberal voters nationally (66 per cent) disapprove of the bill.

“This poll should also prompt Justin Trudeau to reconsider his stance,” said OpenMedia spokesperson David Christopher. OpenMedia is one of the organizations invited to speak before a committee hearing in Ottawa about C-51.

“With over two-thirds of his party’s supporters opposing this legislation, isn’t it time Justin Trudeau showed he can listen to Canadians, instead of backing government attempts to ram this extreme legislation through Parliament at breakneck pace?”

Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau believe that Canadians who care about protecting the environment are a bunch of terrorists. That’s simply not true, and the fact that Harper, Trudeau, and their ilk to support spying on and infiltrating Canadians who oppose Harper’s anti-environment agenda is absolutely disgusting.