How do I drive? – I dunno, Google it!

You know that it is nearing submission time when I suddenly post boatloads, in the same way that you know something special has hit the stream of consciousness when many publications suddenly all talk about the one thing.

Two pieces of news that had flooded my RSS feeds more frequently than any other in the last two days are: Watch_Dog reviews, and this new driverless Google car that has been put properly on the table as a working prototype. Since all I seem to talk about are video games, let’s go with the latter.

So, what is it? And what does it look like?

You look like a dweeb, but you will look like one while doing nothing at all. Image courtesy of The Guardian and Google.

This piece of engineering and computing genius has enough space for two people, and reaches a top speed of 25mph, or ~40km/hr.

Basically, it’s aimed towards people who didn’t want to get anywhere in the first place.

Alright, enough skepticism. The fact is, this car really drives itself. How does it do that?

Driverless car

The Google car contains “no steering wheel, no pedals and no brakes”, and relies on a sensor mounted on top (yeah, that thing that looks like a blender) to “see” where it’s going.

It also has newer and better sensors that give it the ability to see what’s going on up to a distance of two football fields. For example, on the most current version of the retrofitted self-driving Lexus, a mounted laser has about a 12-degree field of view that it uses to essentially zoom in on details of points of interest. On the prototype car, the lasers have full 360-degree views. “It’s going from looking just in front, like a flashlight, to a lantern all around the car,” said self-driving car project director Chris Urmson.

Re/code

Of course, that explains why its top speed is so slow. Having said that, 25mph is the average safe speed for driving in most American cities, and while it’s unfeasible here on bigger and busier Australian roads, 40 km/h is probably a good speed to drive around in the suburbs. The car is also made with lots of foam and safety materials to ensure that a crash, should it ever occur, would hurt a lot less.

What’s it like in there?

I think this video sums it up perfectly.

The testers all seem very happy with their experience, although it must be noted most of them seem to treat it as a rollercoaster ride. I wonder what would happen if in real practise, the driver suddenly decides to stop at a Maccas drive-thru? Or they get a message to go pick someone else up suddenly? I suppose on-board GPS would be so good by this time that they just need to speak “let’s go to McDonalds” and the car will pick the nearest one and drive to it, but I still feel like it takes away from the spontaneity of manually driving around.

Safety

The most important issue is obviously safety. The fact that there is close to no way for a human to interrupt the machine and take over, save for an emergency stop button, can be a problem.

The controls are needed to comply with the law in California which along with Nevada and Florida allows autonomous vehicles but only if a driver can take charge.

The Guardian

And with technology such as these making their way into the mainstream use, sooner or later laws will have to reflect the changes. Perhaps jumpy technophobes will push for laws to stop complete automation. I think, maybe, the problem lies in the way we think about safety, being that we always regard it as something that we need to prevent from not happening instead of something that we act to let happen. But, that’s an issue for another debate.

The main thing is, as the project director pointed out, having a human suddenly wrench themselves into control can be even more dangerous: have you ever had someone grab your steering wheel suddenly while driving? Doesn’t end well, does it?

The cool factor

I don’t think that having a little golf cart cupcake car is going to make you look cool, but if this is the direction that vehicular travel will head, then obviously a prototype from one manufacturer won’t dictate the eventual norm. Still, imagine trying to do burn-outs in one of those babies!

The really cool part is you really can drive and not-drive, text and not-drive, etc etc. That can change the landscape of traffic laws almost entirely, since things like rear-ending and side-swiping would end up being the issue with manufacturers, not the individual driver.

“Hey, this guy was on his phone when he crashed into me!”

“Well, what do you want me to do? I did call 911 as we were crashing to get a head-start!”

Alex

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If We Only Die Once, I Wanna Die With You

[Something I Need – OneRepublic]

As of yesterday, I’m being taught and trained to make coffees at our cafe as well! This is very exciting because once I’m taught coffee (and become proficient at it), I’m basically able to take care of the whole store (to a degree, I suppose). RESPONSIBILITIES! It also means that I’m expected to work a lot faster than I used to, and to be able to look after other coworkers and help them out. A little daunting, I admit, but the prospect of power just sizzles me with excitement.

Also, I found out that I picked up the basics quite easily, and now it’s a matter of practice, practice, and more practice, until I become as fast as my supervisors, and make beautiful coffees too.

That’s just a small update on what’s been happening since last week. I’ve been playing Pokemon Y, obviously. The game is astonishing and it mostly hit everything I expected, and considering I was building my own hype for about 8 months, it would have been near impossible for the game to actually match my expectations. As always, my slow playing habits mean that everyone who I play with are ages ahead of me, and the battles I do with them are very one-sided, but I won’t let that detract from my enjoyment of my little piece of gem.

I’m also been accepted and offered a place in the courses that I applied for! Now it’s a matter of accepting the offers myself, applying for student loans and whatnot, and getting all ready for conscientious studying. If I learned anything from all the time I spend at work now, it’s that I’m fully capable of not just learning the basics but being really good at it, as long as I put my whole mind to it. I don’t know, though, I mean there are all sorts of new games to play in 2014!!!

On Saturday, Mela and I went to a friend’s birthday party in Essendon, and it was her first time driving into the city. The way home was extremely scary for both of us, because there were lots of cars, and we didn’t know the way at all, and was blindly following the GPS which repeatedly told us to merge into wrong lanes, so she was doing scary turns out of lanes last second. I think it will be a while before she’s confident enough to drive in the city, but for the most part she’s a very capable driver! Maybe I should brush up on navigating skills…

Also, today I shouted my parents lunch. I don’t know about you, but in my family, as I am the only child, there aren’t many times when I buy my parents things – they’re also the kind of parents who don’t really want things bought for them. So today we went to a new Japanese restaurant that opened and I footed the bill. Felt pretty good!

I’m heading off to sleep now, because tomorrow/today is my Dad’s birthday, and we’re having people over. That means I need to clean up my spread of junk food and USB cables since my little corner in the house is actually the entertainment area.

I’ll try to blog again soon, mostly because I feel like I should. But also because lately Serena and I haven’t been talking, and maybe if I blog she and I can discuss my posts. That may be optimistic.

Alex.

Don’t Listen To A Word I Say

[Little Talks – Of Monsters and Men]

This post is a few days late because of a sudden influx of LIFE that happened over the last few days. And by that, I mean Amelia’s and Melody‘s party. (By the way, Melody is kinda in a blog clique kind of thing, so my tacking on of her link is me trying to integrate myself.)

On Thursday, I went to Amelia’s house early to help her clean her house and set up for her party. She’d gotten her Ps just the day before, so I got picked up from my door and drive to her door, and let me say, having spent the past two years taking two different buses for an hour each time just to get to her house, I think I will enjoy this new freedom!

We washed up some dirty dishes and cleaned the kitchen, and then she vacuumed the house while Meg tried to fight off the noise monster. Then we had a bit of a rest, had Nandos for lunch (also, another perk of having her drive: instead of having to order expensive pizza in, or making instant noodles, we can now go out for lunch if we want) then a snooze. When it was nearly time, we went downstairs to blow up some balloons and that’s when people started arriving.

You may not be able to tell, but I’m not a fan of recounting in deep detail everything that happened, so here’s a quick run-down.

Most people were well over an hour late, and so when the pizza finally came, everyone was dead hungry, and demolished the first round. We had to go order more. The alcohol began to  flow as well, albeit in little amounts, because her parents are still home. Everyone was hanging out and listening to some guitar playing, and then for some reason some people wanted to watch UP, so we put that on as well.

It was nearing 11pm, and poor Meg had been up for hours and hours (with a tiny nap in the middle). We’d taken her for a big walkies in the afternoon so she’d empty her bowels outside and not be too excited when people come and pee on them. As a result, she was exhausted. When UP was finishing, her eyes were watering, and she was getting quite grumpy. Thankfully, there were three people at the party apart from Amelia and myself that Meg suddenly took a liking to, and those three people took turns hugging Meg until she became docile and just dozed off.

Anyway, that was Meg. I was worried she’d be badly behaved, but Amelia hugged her every now and then which made her happy, and mostly she was friendly to the twenty odd strangers in the house.

Serena made a caramel cheesecake, which she was paranoid over, because she felt like it wasn’t good/sweet/cold enough. Now, I’ve seen her make many cakes in the past, but I’ve never gotten to try a single bite. But, IT WAS AMAZING. I don’t even like cheesecake or caramel and I loved it. I hope she makes me more. Serena, are you reading still? Make me MORE!

Now, we talk about Cindy.

For those of you who aren’t in the know, Cindy is one of Amelia’s closest friends and, if I divide everything down to the most common denominator, probably the reason I got together with Amelia in the first place. The way that Cindy and I met isn’t exactly the best example of my ability to “stay cool”.

But that night, it was Cindy’s turn to not be cool! She accidentally forgot she didn’t eat much (accidentally), and did a few shorts in quick succession. As a result, she became extremely friendly with everyone, and ample hugs were abound. Then, the high wore off, and the head-stuck-in-the-toilet era rolled in. By the end of the night…at around 2:30 am, we had the last stragglers of the party (namely Amelia, myself and three others who were staying over, Nico – Cind’s boyfriend and who now on I will call Naochi because that’s what I call him – and Ash, who was getting a ride from Nico) holding plastic bags up to her face, telling her to just throw up to feel better (horrible phrase to take out of context, I know). In all, it was an amusing but tiring way to finish off what was otherwise a really amazing party.

I had to bring that up, sorry, because it was a fond memory that I’m sure I’ll appreciate to read about a few years later.

I went home early Friday morning because Amelia had work first thing. I had my day of rest, and then another half day of rest on Saturday, before Amelia picked me up for Melody’s. She held it at Ondergrounds on Russell St, which was a pretty cool venue, but because I had to leave really early due to work Sunday, I only really stayed for a few shots and left. But, from what I saw, everyone was in for a crazy night (and I’m pretty sure Melody will supplement and blog more about it on her fancy dotcom page, so do check it out! LIKE SHE NEEDS PLUGGING), and I was sorry I missed it.

And, to finally catch up, I worked all Sunday and all today.

PS Here’s Meg

Camera 360She’s having a nap while hugging her decimated Pikachu toy. It no longer has a face, but boy is it her favorite.

 

 

We are that car

Yesterday, halfway through my shift, I see two familiar faces walk into my store, flanked by one which I didn’t know, but felt like I did.

It turns out, to the bidding of that third face, the first two faces decided to come into the city and visit me at work. Those faces were Mela, Ser- and their friend Jen, who, armed with a green P, was invincible.

They stood around for a bit watching me work, which was unnerving, but after a while went and sat in the restaurant waiting for to finish, which was even more unnerving. They waited for over an hour and half for me to finish my shift.

Afterwards, we all got into Jen’s car, and she drove us back to Glenny – I didn’t even notice that she was speeding, only that we were at Glenny surprisingly fast. We turned up the music loud, and I had a feeling we were THAT CAR that sped by with obnoxiously loud music. We passed the Springvale IKEA, which looked fantastically huge, and Mela and I decided we should go, even though we’re not quite sure how to get there. On a spontaneous question, Jen led us to the KTV karaoke in Glenny right in between whatever replaced JG dumplings and the other Asian restaurant right next to it, because she knew the owner – who turns out to be the least-uptight Asian venue owner you’d ever meet.

We sang for quite a while, and Ser- had her first proper drink. Which was unfortunate because we forgot to factor in the fact that she’s super thin, had next to nothing to eat, and wasn’t experienced in handling her liquor. Two beers and a tequila sunrise saw Mela and me hoisting her to the bathroom and back, lest she wipe the walls with her clothing.

We talked a lot – as alcohol coaxes people to – and afterwards we went to Petaling Street (this was sometime at 2 in the morning and I figured I was in as much shit as I could be so I stayed longer) and had a bit of food for Ser- to digest and for Jen to soothe her sore throat. Sadly, Jen got some appetite-killing news, and pushed her food away. After Petaling Street closed, we sat/stood outside on the curb letting Jen vent about the news she just received, and in general vent.

It was a good night for proving friendship, that’s for sure.

Finally, at around 4, Jen’s friends (who are, surprisingly, my friends…small world) came to pick us up because Jen was in no shape to drive. I got home as quietly as possible, and went to bed for a 3 hour nap before I got up today to shower and hand in the cursed essays which I’ve spent the last fortnight working on.

But, still, it was an eventful night to say the least.

Alex.

CHRISTMAS! Baby, Please Come Home

[Baby, Please Come Home – Anberlin cover]

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope so far your day has been enjoyable, and I hope that you’ll remember it later on…

Anyway, I finally convinced my dad to take me driving today – he’s the guy who can’t drive but has a full license, so really all his license is good for is to take me driving – and despite him being paranoid I’ll hit every car parked on the kerb, it was actually pretty decent. MAYBE, for perhaps the 5th time I’ve said this, I CAN FINALLY GET ON A ROLL AND GET MY LICENSE BEFORE I’M 20 HAHA who am I kidding… at least I’m close to 17 hours now…

As I was driving, my phone started buzzing in my pocket – I think I should change one of my profile settings to Driving or something, and take off the vibrations (Silent has vibrations on so that if there is an emergency text/call at night, the vibrations can wake me up but not my parents – and dammit I do totally get emergency texts sometimes, but most of the time I just get woken up by Village Cinemas emailing me something at 3 am). I was wondering who would call me – twice – and I found the answer when I got home. Mom immediately told me that Dani had called – I guess this time around she remembered to identify herself before launching into a tirade like she did last time.

Turns out Dani – who FINALLY made it back to Melbourne – is asking me if I was interested in going to the Great Ocean Road with her some time this week (this isn’t for sure yet but I had to write about something). Considering that the last time I went to the Great Ocean Road, I was in Grade 4 and still had a massive carsickness problem, I said yes (hopefully my carsickness is better now. I do plan to be empty stomach’d most of the time though ha). Also I felt really warm and important that Dani asked me first. Being the favored “son” has its advantages.

Also, Lyshana. Dani put her on the phone (I doubt she still remembers me even though I was the cool 1-2-3-4-HEADBANG big sister), and Lysh was screaming “HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLO” and then I heard Beep-beep-beep. Dani came back a second later and said “She put you on hold.” We agreed she’d make one hell of a receptionist one day. HELLO-HELLO-HELLO-hold.

I timed my driving very carefully – I had to be home on time to watch Eloise at Christmastime which will be on soon – that movie MAY have been the tipping point for me to want to spend Christmas in New York. Home Alone 2 was the movie that started the dream.

Anyway, quite a few interesting Christmas movies on today/tonight (The Grinch is on now, actually, but Eloise takes precedence) so I think I can even give Smallville a rest. Last week, Josh started a conversation with me on MSN asking me what my plans were for that day. I replied, “I’m going through Tumblr now, and after I’m done I’m going to watch Smallville.”

A few days later, as a matter of course, he asked me the same question. I started writing, “Tumblr now and then after that…” and realized that the feeling of deja vu was actually the ugly face of uneventful routine.

And now I feel like ice-cream. Triple choc ahoy!

Merry Christmas, again! I may not be religious but I still think this is a time of the year to be happy, generous, and try to see the good in everything.

Alex.

Finished…

Yay I was told I just more or less finished Legal Studies 1/2 today, and with just an exam (do we get one?) at the end of the year it’s a relief to have finished one of my subjects for the year.

Anyway just a quick update in case I don’t write anything tonight. I have to write up some English notes, and then fold laundry, and then watch TV. It’s a busy life.

Vania is so cool she does everything for and by herself. I am in awe of her. Newfound awe.

Holidays holidays holidays soon. I can’t wait to be able to go out more often, and sleep in. Maybe if I badger them enough, my parents will let me drive more again. I still don’t get why they don’t trust me to drive. Hmm. Maybe one day I’ll be trying to teach someone to drive with my own car and I’d be worried too.

De Fluffe, Out.