Blog

Short blog posts, journal entries, and random thoughts. Topics include a mix of personal and the world at large. 

Why do we need self-driving cars?

Over the weekend I encountered this little nugget on the twitter:

Indeed, what lot of people were clamoring for self-driving cars anyways? Sometimes we get so enamored with new technology (oh my god this car is driving itself!) that we forget to detach and look at the bigger picture. What exactly is the endgame of self-driving cars?

To make a certain few people/companies lots of money.

Because it most certainly isn’t about safety. Motor vehicle fatalities have continued to hover at all-time lows, and vehicles are as safe as ever with hardy crumple zones and a battalion of safety systems (government regulations sometimes work okay). There isn’t really a great need for cars to drive themselves, to take away the innately flawed human element. The push isn’t from the average consumer either, because they couldn’t possibly afford self-driving technology at its nascent. The typical Tesla Model S with its rudimentary “auto-pilot” system costs six figures. Who but the 1% can afford that?

In a capitalist society, people with means are constantly on the chase for the latest Facebook or Uber: exponential returns. In a super mature sector such as automobiles, blue oceans with massive growth opportunity is difficult to come by. Incremental and steady growth is the norm. In order for sizable gains to occur, companies must innovate with something truly new for the public to lust after. See Tesla and EVs.

Makers of televisions have got this down to a science. When the HD revolution happened in the early aughts, people bought TVs in droves to experience the new stunning picture quality. Once that well ran dry, the makers pivoted to 3D (thanks, James Cameron), enticing yet another round of upgrades. When 3D passed on into oblivion as the fad that it is, 4K resolution became the new carrot on the proverbial stick.

In that way, self-driving technology is simply a ploy to make a tremendous amount of money, enticing people to switch out of their “dumb” cars. I don’t see any altruistic reason for its existence, not the least because truly Level 5 autonomous driving is still decades away.

If the powers at be truly wants to further decrease vehicular accidents and death, the best and most efficient way is to require advance training for all drivers. I think we’d be much safer if attaining a driver’s license is made more difficult and strict. Then I wouldn’t need to be on constant lookout for Nissan Altima drivers.

A minute after I took this photo, someone got their purse snatched. Stay classy, San Francisco.

A minute after I took this photo, someone got their purse snatched. Stay classy, San Francisco.

Love hate the rain

The weather in San Francisco has been properly cold these couple of days, and it’s been a few years since we’ve had such piercing temperatures. Massive apologies to the crowd living in the Midwest and Northeast that had just endured the polar vortex last week, but low 40’s might as well be freezing to us fragile San Franciscans.

We certainly pay for the privilege. Hashtag high cost of living.

There’s been a quite bit of rain, too, which is nice to see after years of drought conditions and two straight years of the worse wildfires to ever devastate California. If I were still on Facebook I’m sure I would be seeing acquaintances hitting the fresh powder up in the Sierras. That’s what dream weekends are made of.

Unfortunately for me, this latest batch of weather is wrecking havoc with my notion of a dream weekend: out driving the sports car I’ve only recently written the largest check ever for (not even remotely humble brag). The 991 GT3 comes with deliciously sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, but the wondrous adhesion only occurs during dry weather; in the wet - especially with standing water - those tires are downright treacherous. It also doesn’t do particularly well when it’s cold out.

A two thousand dollar set of tries that can only be driven in warm, dry weather. Because race car.

So when it’s raining like it has been in San Francisco, I simply cannot drive the car. I mean sure I can take it out and motor about gingerly, but that completely defeats the point of a GT3. Our family’s Hyundai Tucson is a better vehicle for that purpose (crossover SUVs are awesome). Last weekend was a completely wash out, and the forecast isn’t looking different for this weekend.

First world problem indeed, but the situation is what it is. I welcome the rain from an environmental perspective, but from a selfish point of view, can it not rain on the weekends, please?

Wishing you were outside but you’re stuck inside a DMV.

Wishing you were outside but you’re stuck inside a DMV.

Boring Super Bowl was boring

Well, that was bit of snoozer, wasn’t it? I’ve been watching the Super Bowl since the ill-fated trashing the Oakland Raiders received at the hands of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers back in 2003, and I cannot think of another game that was less entertaining than the one played last night.

If I’d watch the game by my lonesome, I seriously would have wished to have those four hours back.

But of course I didn’t watch it alone; a huge joy of the Super Bowl is hanging out with friends and or family, and indeed that time spent together is worth its weight in gold, no matter how utterly disinteresting the game may be. Because the game comes secondary, especially when the two teams playing in the Super Bowl are not of your particular rooting interest.

So I had a splendid time chatting with friends, eating some fried chicken, and debating the sordid details of the many Super Bowl commercials (the Microsoft one was the absolute best). I was semi actively rooting against the Patriots because haters are going to hate the most excellent team of this century, but I’m not overtly disappointed at the end result.

If the game could have just been a bit more exciting, honestly.

Best quote of the night award goes to Rams offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth; after the surely displeasing lost in the Super Bowl, he threw out this particular golden nugget:

“At the end of the day, we’re all gonna die.”

Memento mori. Death is the greatest equalizer ever invented. No matter the volume of achievement or depths of downtrodden, it is absolutely guaranteed that we will all end up in the same place: dead. Neither you or I are superior or inferior in that regard. It’s not morbid thinking, but rather motivation to continue on living, no matter the circumstances, like losing the biggest game of your career.

Keep calm and carry on, as the British like to say.

Vine star.

Vine star.

Flying is not so fun

I was never one for flying; my superb fear of heights simply won’t allow me to enjoy being in a metal tube 30,000 feet in the air completely. That said I was never one to complain about the experience in total, and in fact I quite rather like being on a plane, blasting through five consecutive movies I otherwise would not have watched ever.

Somehow that all changed during this last trip to China just a few weeks ago. For whatever reason the time spent on the plane felt like the longest slog ever. The dryness, the compression, the turbulence, and the hours remaining to destination that seemed endless: it all pummeled me into abject misery this time around. What the heck happened? I was the guy that used to get off a plane after a 12 hours journey and headed straight to work.

Perhaps it’s old age: my aging body simply can’t deal with the adverse conditions any longer? I don’t think being stuck in economy class mattered much: I’ve flew first class before, and the the extra space doesn’t negate the negativities of the sealed-off environment high up in the atmosphere. You’re not all of the sudden going to feel less dehydration just because your seat can lie completely flat, even with the bottomless champagne.

I hate to admit this, but maybe the days of 15 hour flights not effecting me are gone. I won’t be able to get off the plane afterwards and be ready to tackle the day. I am going to need time to recover after these long-haul flights, which will encroach on the actual vacation time itself (one day of rest means one less day of travel/sightseeing).

Airplane manufacturers really should take a look at supersonic again.

The stage is set.

The stage is set.

First of the year

Greetings! It’s indeed 2019 isn’t it? I know what you’re thinking: “Healy, it’s almost February already; where in the heck have you been?”

Well, I’ve been tremendously sick.

I returned from my annual trip back home to China on the 12th all ready to get back into my regularly scheduled programming, but on that same day I caught the worse cold/mild flu I’ve had in many, many years. It felt hopelessly endless as I woke up everyday to the same wretched feeling, without any signs of improvement. It was one for the long haul and it’s not until this, the last week of January that I’ve finally shaken off the majority of the ills and feeling completely myself again.

Nothing like a proper span of being sick to have you realize you’ve been taking your good health for granted. The utter lack of energy to do absolutely anything; being crushingly tired just from the hours at work (I wasn’t going to take two weeks off from work after having already taken two weeks off prior for vacation); and not being able to get a wink of good sleep, compounded by the crushing jet-lag. It has not been the greatest of starts to my 2019 on our side of the Pacific.

A silver-lining to the prolonged cold was that it provided me with some precious perspective as I planned out how to tackle life in this new year. I think I’m going to try for less structure: work is work, nothing to change there, but outside of the job I shall try to be less stringent with my hobbies and tasks and to simply go with the flow.

The strict scheduling and timeliness was adding a level of stress I didn’t realize existed until I got sick this past two weeks and all of that structure got put away. An ideal came back into my purview: enjoyment. Having unceremoniously tossed away the burdens of needing to do this and that for the day, I found myself greatly enjoying the time spent just doing whatever came to mind. It’s not about skirting responsibilities, but rather not letting them consume me.

Work itself is stressful enough as is, no need for my time away from it be equally taxing. So that’s what I am going to focus on these next few months; some days I may indeed accomplish reading non-fiction for an hour, and other days I may not, and that’s completely okay. Being at peace and being in the present moment is what’s most important.

Nevertheless, the show must go on, and I’ve got tons of photographs from the China trip to sort through, and there’s also the matter of the GT3…

But this… does put a smile to my face.

But this… does put a smile to my face.

Making of the calendars

It’s getting to be that time of the year when people agonize over what presents to buy to gift to friends and family. It’s also that time of the year when people procrastinate until the very final Friday before Christmas. It’s why I never visit malls - or even go outside - on that particular weekend: too much frantic, too much mayhem. The danger of an unsuspecting driver too worried about finishing his errands crashing into my car in a parking structure is immensely high.

Best to avoid all that.

In fact I avoid holiday shopping entirely by getting (making) the same present for everyone: a bespoke calendar for the following year, using the photographs I’ve taken in the current year. My friends receive something uniquely special and useful, and I save lots of money because each calendar only costs 20 bucks.

In the past fews years I’ve done this through Apple’s Photos app, utilizing their official printing service. The results are typically Apple, which is to say amazing and proper quality. Unfortunately, this year there’s a bit of hiccup: Apple for some reason have decided to end its photo printing products operation. What a shame; I guess the scale wasn’t enough for a company that sells iPhones in the billions of dollars.

So for those dozens (?) of users, we are relegated to using third-party companies. Two of those - Mimeo and Motif - provide an extension that integrates with the Photos app and offers a convincing facsimile of the discontinued official product. To produce my calendars this year I chose Mimeo, primarily because for first time users there’s a 20% discount. I’m actively saving up for an 911 so every single cent counts massively.

Having since received the calendars, I have to say the quality is surprisingly good. It’s not to the levels of Apple where the font design and layout of the dates is more clean and carries a simplicity, but where it counts the most - the pictures, Mimeo does the job well.

I do still miss the Apple version, but I’m glad there’s viable replacements readily available.

A study in uniformity and scale.

A study in uniformity and scale.

It's my birthday

You know, once you’ve crossed the line pass 30 years of age, it’s not so bad. All the anxiety and dread that came before that, however artificially drummed up they may be, simply goes away.

At least it did for me.

I am turning 31 today, and honestly I nearly forgotten about it if not for kind relatives wishing me a good one on the messaging apps. I’ve been so focused on my learning and tasks that it was too easy to forget about milestones like this, especially when its significance is far from that of the 30th birthday.

Today is just another day, really.

Indeed I am supremely grateful for yet another year on this earth, and I think this coming one will be the best yet, mostly because the fourth Avengers movie will be released. Isn’t that the whole point: to improve and get better year by year? For sure there are downs to go with the ups but as long as it’s a net positive at the end, then it’s a good year.

It’s about the long game, and the powers of compounding.

I can say I’m truly at a good place right now, though I did spend a large portion of 30 trying to find the right groove to fit into. I wouldn’t categorize it as anything tumultuous; I merely wanted to find something to latch onto in the coming few years. Steady as I was in my studies and work (and immensely gratefully so), I needed some sort of grand project to put my time and creativity into (not to mention, money).

And I found it in one of my very first loves: cars. Earlier this year I sold my Miata and went car-less, and somewhat paradoxically it rekindled my interesting in the automobile. Something about taking things for granted and having it stripped from you to realize it. These days I really miss having a car to mess around with, to go places and indulge in my other hobby of photography.

So I spent the latter half of 30 implementing severe austerity in order to save money for an 911, and I’m oh so very close to pulling the trigger. The calendar will have to turn over to 2019 before that happens, though.

In the meantime it’s simply day by day. It’s great to be alive, and I’m thankfully to have done it for 31 years. Cheers to many more to come.

People watching is one of my favorite sports.

People watching is one of my favorite sports.