By Nathan L. Walls

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🔗 Tesla driver filmed ‘asleep’ at wheel in Los Angeles

From The Independent:

A video appearing to show a Tesla driver asleep while his vehicle drove on auto-pilot has prompted criticism online.

The footage, posted on Twitter by US journalist Clint Olivier and filmed by his wife Alisha, was filmed on Los Angeles‘ busy interstate 5 last Saturday morning.

As Mr Olivier drives past the car, which is travelling steadily along the middle lane, Ms Olivier can be heard saying: “He’s totally asleep. This is crazy.”

There’s a broader post to write about the specific nomenclature of Tesla’s semi-autonomous driving tech being named Autopilot, and how drivers interpret the word. Until I write it, it will have to suffice to say that this incident isn’t the first such incident and will not be the last.

The driver is lucky this wasn’t fatal.

A hoped-for 2019 Raleigh city council platform

Updated: June 24, 2019

Oct. of 2019 is going to bring around another biannual election for city council and mayor in Raleigh. There’s quite a bit of hot button issues:

  • Concern that Raleigh is quashing “innovative business models” by regulating electric scooters and restricting what manner of AirBnB rentals will be allowed
  • Zoning
  • Gentrification
  • Traffic

So, at the forefront of thinking for a few minutes, but really the result of lots of background thinking, here’s some of what I’d like 2019 city council candidates to get behind:

  • Affirm that scooters pay their way for using public infrastructure
    • Private businesses cannot appropriate public infrastructure
    • Sidewalk use for scooters, bikes, etc. are subject to permitting and usage fees
  • AirBnB pays hotel tax for short term whole house rentals
    • My complex proposal here is “if it quacks like a duck, treat it like a duck”
    • “But why do you love hotels over homeowners, Nathan?” Because when you treat your personal assets like a business, you get the responsibilities of acting like a business and hotels charge and pay through occupancy tax
  • Vacancy tax
    • Encourage folks sitting on vacant property and vacant lots to develop them
    • If property owners want to keep houses or office buildings or lots bare for years on end, put a surcharge on their property taxes
    • Offer property owners who have vacant property the opportunity to sell to the city at a fair-market rate. The fair market rate doesn’t budge, however, after the property tax surcharge kicks in.
  • Traffic prioritization: Pedestrians then bicycles then mass transit then cars
    • Raleigh is lousy for sidewalks outside of the downtown core. A whole lot more of the city could be walkable
    • Instead of expanding the number of traffic lanes on a given road, the city should first opt to add or expand multi-use paths for cycling, walking. Increase bus coverage and service frequency as well. Give buses protected stops and traffic priority.
  • Allow multi-family structures in residential zoning
    • The proverbial mother-in-law suite, yes, but also, allow two address/two front-door buildings anywhere they currently aren’t
  • City acquires and leases-back housing in East and Southeast Raleigh to local residents
    • Instead of watching what a lot of folks think is inevitable, that the predominantly black neighborhoods east and south of downtown are bought up by developers, residents evicted and redeveloped into suddenly much higher “market rate” housing, the city ought to acquire housing at-risk of gentrification, rent the houses back to their current occupants and help those occupants make improvements to the properties. Grant occupants equity
  • No public tax money for exclusive private benefit
    • The city should forswear using public money to be offered as tax incentive for private businesses. E.g. the city was part of a pitch team trying to land Amazon HQ2 and part of that was likely to have been significant breaks on property taxes and providing other incentives for Amazon to locate here. Meanwhile, every regular business and homeowner pays property taxes.
    • The city should focus on answering problems around affordable housing and transit ahead of contributing money, land or other in-kind consideration for new sports facilities
    • The city should definitely not publicly finance a new professional sports arena and let a private ownership group reap the rewards of operating the arena

I want Raleigh to grow inclusively. That a resident who needs the bus to get to work, child care and other errands and fun has robust access to the city. That not only do we not gentrify historically disadvantaged neighborhood residents, but we robustly protect them and help them. That we think about getting around the city more creatively than how fast we can get sport utility crossovers down Six Forks and Falls of Neuse.

Are these the best ideas? Probably not. I fully expect there are better expressions of them, and I’ll add them and source them as I find out about them.

🔗 Harry Leslie Smith, first time author at 87, dies

Katharine Q. Seelye writes in “Harry Leslie Smith, ‘World’s Oldest Rebel,’ Is Dead at 95” - The New York Times:

His son’s death finally tipped him over the edge to start writing his memoirs, at 87. His first was a book called “1923,” the year of his birth, published in 2010. Other books and essays spilled forth. An Englishman who lived part time in Canada, he wanted to shake the world into appreciating what had been won in World War II.

He went on to write four more books and was working on a sixth, about the refugee crisis, when he died on Wednesday at 95 in a hospital in Ontario.

Remarkable. I’d like to be that productive that late in life. Heck, I’d love to be that productive now.

🔗 Fun with parsers

In The Hardest Program I’ve Ever Written – journal.stuffwithstuff.com, Bob Nystrom writes:

The hardest program I’ve ever written, once you strip out the whitespace, is 3,835 lines long. That handful of code took me almost a year to write. Granted, that doesn’t take into account the code that didn’t make it. The commit history shows that I deleted 20,704 lines of code over that time. Every surviving line has about three fallen comrades.

If it took that much thrashing to get it right, you’d expect it to do something pretty deep right? Maybe a low-level hardware interface or some wicked graphics demo with tons of math and pumping early-90s-style techno? A likely-to-turn-evil machine learning AI Skynet thing?

Nope. It reads in a string and writes out a string. The only difference between the input and output strings is that it modifies some of the whitespace characters. I’m talking, of course, about an automated code formatter.

This is an interesting walkthrough. In particular, I like the extra detail on paths pursued and later abandoned in the face of new information, new optimizations, or, particular code paths raising the Halting Problem.

Another element I appreciate here is Nystrom not trivializing the amount of work that went into the project.

Constituent letter to Senator Tillis after the Sept. 27, 2018 Judiciary Committee Hearing

Senator Tillis,

I watched significant portions of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing involving Dr. Blasey Ford and Judge Kavanaugh today. Between listening and catching up on recaps of the questions and testimony, I’m angry.

I’m angry and I have questions that I would greatly appreciate hearing from you on:

  • Did you find Dr. Blasey Ford’s hearing truthful? If not, what specifically in her testimony was not truthful?
  • Why did you abdicate your time to a hired special prosecutor for Dr. Blasey Ford?
  • Were the questions asked during your time allotment the questions you submitted to be asked?
  • If you did not submit those questions, who did? Why did you not use that time?
  • Do you feel that Dr. Blasey Ford’s expressed wish to keep her letter confidential to Sen. Feinstein should have been respected?
  • Do you feel it was inappropriate for Dr. Blasey Ford to be represented by counsel in front of the committee?
  • Do you feel that Judge Kavanaugh’s opening statement reflected what a nominee for the Supreme Court of the United States would be expected to say? If this statement was from a Democrat, would you feel the same way?
  • Are you concerned about Judge Kavanaugh’s non-answers to whether or not he would request an FBI investigation?
  • Are you concerned about Judge Kavanaugh’s repeated disrespect of the Democratic members of the committee? If the nominee was a Democrat, would you find this behavior acceptable for any position?
  • Why, after July 1, 1982 came up as a possible date for a party or gathering described by Dr. Blasey Ford, did the Republican members of the committee adjurn and then cease the use of the outside special prosecutor?
  • Why did you chose to use your time with Judge Kavanaugh directly after yielding your time for Dr. Blasey Ford?
  • Do you feel that other recent Supreme Court nominees have been treated unfairly during the nomination process? If so, who and why?
  • Are you comfortable with the lack of public information about how Judge Kavanaugh paid off hundreds of thousands of debt suddenly in 2017?
  • Are you comfortable with pressing ahead with the nomination without a full public understanding of the role Judge Kavanaugh had as a political operative in the George W. Bush administration?
  • Are you comfortable voting to confirm Judge Kavanaugh without requiring Mike Judge to appear before the committee?
  • Are you comfortable voting to confirm Judge Kavanaugh without hearing from Julie Swetnick or Deborah Ramirez and the allegations they have about Judge Kavanaugh’s behavior?
  • If you will not be hearing from Mr. Judge, Ms. Swetnick or Ms. Ramirez, why not?
  • If you believe the Senate has a deadline to confirm Judge Kavanaugh, what is that deadline and who imposed it?
  • If “timeliness” is the issue in hearing from Ms. Swetnick or Ms. Ramirez specifically, under what circumstances would you have entertained hearing from them?
  • Before you vote on Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination, will you be returning to North Carolina and meeting with constituents in person and without condition to discuss and explain your views?

Finally, while I expect your answers to my questions, I will plainly state that Judge Kavanaugh repeatedly demonstrated throughout his public confirmation hearings that he lacks forthrightness, transparency and the temperament to be on the Supreme Court. In fact, his displays today ought to call into question his fitness to sit on the Federal bench at any level.

I appreciate your prompt consideration and reply.

Your voting constituent,

Nathan L. Walls
Raleigh, NC

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