Live-by-wire

A while back, there was a show on the Speed channel about Formula-1 (F-1) racing. Formula-1 racing is that kind where they use the crazy looking uber-efficient cars, with the huge spoilers, extra intakes, big tires, etc. It’s what the movie “Days of Thunder” was about.

In this particular show, the show’s host, a stock-car racer (think NASCAR), was chatting with an F-1 racer. The host was allowed to take an F-1 car out on the track and do a few laps. They did a video analysis of the run afterwards, and the F-1 racer noted that the host could have saved a few tenths of a second if he had taken a few of the turns a bit tighter.

Now if you have ever taken a sharp turn a little too tightly, you’ve no doubt felt your inertia mix with centripetal force to give you the sensation that you’re being pushed to the outside of the curve (sort of like riding the Teacups in Disney World). We’re programmed to interpret that feedback as “careful there! You’re taking it a little fast!”

Apparently, in F-1 racing, the cars have internal computers that handle transferring the power to the wheels in such a way that you can take sharp curves VERY tightly, in order to maintain as much speed as possible as you round the bends. (That’s partly what the spoilers are for, as well — keep the rear tires pressed to the ground for maximum traction on curves). The host was instructed that he needs to “trust the car” and let it handle the curves.

Trusting the technology instead of our instincts. This just all feels so unnatural to me, and I can just feel my instincts throwing up all kinds of yellow flags about it.

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Your rights as a citizen

Just a brief note.

I read about this story linked off of a Slashdot article. It happened yesterday, Sept 2nd, in Cleveland, Ohio. Here’s the full story.

Basically, what happened is this:

  1. Mike goes into a Circuit city to buy a couple items, pays, and heads towards the exit.
  2. At the exit of the Circuit City, an attendant says “Sir, may I please look into your bag and see your receipt?”
  3. Mike replies “No, thank you,” and continues walking.
  4. Some hullabaloo ensues involving the manager, the entrance-guy, and Mike. The entrance-attendant had said he is allowed to look at the bag by law but was unable to cite the specific law that allowed him to violate Mike’s 6th amendment rights.
  5. Unable to leave, Mike gets out of the back passenger seat (this becomes important in a minute) and calls 911. An officer arrives and gets the low-down on what happens.
  6. The officer requests to look inside the bag and Mike complies.
  7. Then the officer asks to see Mike’s license, and Mike declines, citing the Ohio law that says he is only required to provide his name [and his birthdate and address, if requested]. Mike gives his name, but again declines to show his license.
  8. Mike is arrested by the officer, and eventually charged with “Obstruction of Justice”

A few things of note here, and you should really read the full article. The officer was asking to see his license, but Mike was clearly not driving. Consider if Mike had never learned how to drive, what would have happened then? Mike co-operated with the law completely, so how was he obstructing justice? He wasn’t required to provide any information beyond his name, address and birthdate, and on top of that, he was not read his Miranda rights.

Personally, I sent him $10 towards his legal fund — mostly as a thank-you for reminding us of all of our rights as free men and women. What happened here is exactly what will happen if / when (and it’s looking more and more like “when” than “if”) a National ID system is adopted. Historically, driver’s licenses were only intended to show that a person is allowed to operate a motor vehicle. And social-security numbers were intended, when the program was created, to be given when a person is of legal age to work (so they can be taxed into the SS program). Nowadays, newborn babies (such as my son) are given SSN’s when they’re born!

Pass the word around about this. Tell as many people as possible. If you can, give him a few bucks towards his legal fund.

Social Insecurity? (no, not about retirement)

This morning, I woke up at about 7:30am, a little later than usual. Did the usual morning routine. As I walked into the kitchen, though, I noticed that the sound of construction work seemed a little bit louder than it should be. Glancing over at the backdoor, I found that it was half-way open!

At first, I thought that it may have been Frank-the-ass-cat. Sometimes, if the door isn’t completely shut tight, and he wants out, he’ll paw at the underside of the door until he pulls it open. He’s quite innovative. But as I went to shut the door, I noticed the dead-bolt was extended. Jutting-out. As-in: “with the dead-bolt in the position it was in, the door cannot be opened or closed.”

This got my brain crunching a bit: “If the deadbolt was extended, the simplest explanation is that someone opened the door and then extended the deadbolt.” but I knew it wasn’t Melissa or myself. There were a number of other possibilities, all equally unlikely, including sleepwalking, gnomes, and our pets having telekinesis. What I settled on was “The door wasn’t completely closed and the deadbolt wasn’t completely extended, and Frank-the-ass-cat pulled the door open. When he did, the deadbolt slipped the rest of the way out.” I’m still not totally settled on that though. Before I left for work this morning, I went down into the basement and looked all around to check for signs of intruders (or intruders themselves)

Tonight, while laying in bed with my wife and infant son, I saw the back-porch light click on. This wasn’t TOTALLY unheard of — it’s motion activated, and a bit sensitive. But what would trigger it? The back door was closed and locked, and the back screen-door is spring-loaded to close by itself. The simple explanation is that something/someone was on the back porch (it’s completely barren except for some garden tools). What else could there be though? Did the wind blow through the screen-door and cause one of the curtains to move? Were there very large moths? I didn’t open the door and look, but I did listen. No reason to let whatever is out there into our house.

I suppose the paranoia is mostly rooted in the wave of recent crimes we’ve had that are uncharacteristic to this community. Within the past month we’ve had two bank robberies (a couple guys from Dayton robbed two local banks in the same week), our very close friend Joe Augustin was assaulted, robbed, and left nearly dead in plain sight downtown (the assailants are currently released on bond, trial in October), there’s someone being charged with attempted murder for shooting at a car that was passing by (he’s released on bond), a Kentucky man was found trying to lure an 8-year old boy into his van, and the police found human remains down in southwest Wayne county (middle-aged male, tattoo on one arm, unidentified otherwise).

What is going on around here? Is there some cosmological event that is make people more aggressive/desperate than usual? All of these things happening makes me a bit uncomfortable to be living in this town! It also makes me want to invest in ADT home security or something. It’s really unsettling to realize how vulnerable you are. We shouldn’t have to fear walking the streets at night, and we shouldn’t have to think about people toting guns around.

I’m open to suggestions about this — What can we do as a community?