January 31st, 2015

Your Daily Dose of I Feel Old: someone feels typewritten text for the first time


The ostensible story here is that Lynn Gentry is busking poetry. He sits at a subway entrance at a little table with a typewriter and will produce verse for cash (in this case, $7). The balance of the article is mostly about where else he has done this, what else he does for money ("electric freak folk"), his website etc.

But here's why I am blogging about this.

"Taking the paper made me realize that I've never touched typewriting before — the letters are pressed into the page, so you can feel them on the back of the sheet. While I'll stick with my computer, I get the appeal."

Had Libby Kane more experience with typewriters, she might have speculated, as I am, that the type quality would have been improved with a tune up of the typewriter, starting with the ribbon, but ultimately probably cleaning and/or replacing some or all of the typebars (starting with the s and the o). Altho it's a tough call -- that's a physically cold location and that can have a real impact.

In the mean time, for all those friends of mine who learned to type on a manual (I was about my son's age, when I found the typing textbook we bought at a garage sale and learned to type using the paper diagram of the keyboard, because, at 8 or 9 or so, my parents didn't trust me to use their typewriters), enjoy realizing that there are people writing for blogs who are just now having their first encounter with _anything_ typewritten.

More ludicrous predictions involving driverless cars: Vox edition


I'm not sure exactly what changed between its original version back on my birthday and the updated version today. This instance does include speculation about child car seats, but it's really silly speculation. We have plenty of examples for how to build child restraints into cars in ways that let them be used or not used, depending on the size of the person, if any, in that seat. I would assume that in a future world with way fewer cars and most of them driverless/rented by the ride, that would become the norm.

But that last statement is perilously close to If False Then (anything at all).

It is amazing to me that a technology that is, at the very minimum, more than a dozen years away from widespread availability is having such confident predictions made about it at places like Vox. I honestly expect the next article on this topic to describe how the car will have teledildonics in it, too.

People confuse me

I was thinking about driverless cars, and why they seem to inspire so much naked and unjustified belief in venues that ought to be treating them as marginally more respectable than flying cars or jetpacks (all of which sort of exist, and would be kind of exciting, but are so insanely problematic as to be, in my opinion, easy to continue to ignore as a real product category for a while yet). At the same time, the ebook transition was characterized by wild and unrelenting disbelief and mockery, even as the product was widely deployed and in the process decimating an ancient and respected industry. For that matter, people keep predicting that Apple/iPhones/iPads are going to die a pitiful death, Real Soon Now. The threat varies, but it's always gonna wipe Apple/iPhones/iPads off the market.

[ETA: As long as I'm making fun of self-driving/driverless car coverage, I'm trying to find any speculation about driverless cars and lightning strikes. Assuming you are in a "normal" car -- not all carbon fiber, with a driver, etc. -- lightning strikes are very survivable, but they tend to toast the electronics in the car. One wonders about the implications for selfdriving/autonomous/driverless cars. There are a few of these incidents a year, at least, in the US.]

If all the coverage was Ain't Gonna Happen, or all the coverage was Tomorrow! the world of the Jetsons' is gonna be here Tomorrow! Day after next at the VERY LATEST! -- either one would be weird, but having a combination of the two just makes me go, I bet there's some kind of human factor involved that I am not getting.

Any input welcome, at this point.

[ETA: An unusually good response to the Driverless Will Be Safer argument. http://www.driverlesstransportation.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/UMTRI-2015-2.pdf The authors missed a couple things -- temporary signals, for example -- and really missed an opportunity to dig into a particular case that no one ever touches -- hitting the ped who does something the ped strictly speaking should not have done, but which in no way mitigates the driver's responsibility if it is a kid chasing a ball or someone misunderstanding a signal cycle or a horde of teenagers or whatever. You're not supposed to hit them, and if you see them on the side of the road/at the intersection, you are expected to be ready.]

[Here's Google showing vid of its car playing nicely with a spandex clad adult cyclist. http://www.buzzfeed.com/charliewarzel/new-footage-shows-how-googles-self-driving-cars-handle-real#.unADkxjNM I want to know what happens when the goog's car is behind a family composed of one adult with a child on a surrey bike or in a bike seat, and a second, somewhat older but still elementary school aged child behind. Good luck!]

[Make smartphones talk to cars to get them to slow down? Intriguing. . . http://www.forbes.com/sites/joannmuller/2014/09/11/baby-steps-toward-driverless-cars-deliver-huge-leaps-in-safety/]

ETA: Similarly, this article at BI compares TransferWise to Hawala (noting that Quartz and others have done so before) and commenters drag in other religious communities -- but no one can bring themselves to point out that TransferWise is at least as closely related to bills of exchange in our own history as hawala. Maybe that's because TransferWise knows who their market it better than I do?

Ooops, here's the link: