Category Archives: Truth and Trivia

See Something Say Something


From USA Today:

An armed school deputy rushed to the Florida high school building where terrified students ran from a killer with an assault rifle, but then sat outside for about four minutes and never went inside.

The school resource deputy for Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Scot Peterson, was under investigation for his response to the shooting but then decided to resign his post, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said Thursday……..

Israel said surveillance footage captured Peterson responding to the building where the shooting was unfolding. He said the deputy got there within a minute and a half of when the gunfire started. He positioned himself outside the building but never went in, Israel said.

The shooting lasted a total of six minutes. Peterson sat outside the building for four of those minutes, Israel said. In the end, 17 people were killed.

Peterson, 54, started working for the Broward County Sheriff’s Office in 1985 and since 2009 has been a school resource officer at the high school, appointed to keep the school and its students safe. In 2016, his annual salary was more than $75,600.

Apparently Peterson will be eligible for full retirement benefits. This is why government does not keep your children safe. This is why government employees do not give a damn about you or your children – there is no accountability and their pay and benefits far exceed those of the private sector.

Tragedy In Florida

I cannot help but be angered by the political response to the tragic school shooting here in Florida. “We must control guns” is the cry. This, when the shooter did just about everything he could to call attention to his plans, is beyond shameful.

This shooting was the direct result of several government agencies’s failure to do anything about a mentally ill young man who publicly threatened to do what he eventually did.

The FBI, the local police and the school were all made aware of his intentions. None of them took any notice except the school, which prohibited him from entering the campus with a bag. But this prohibition was not enforced when it mattered. It is the responsibility of these agencies to keep these children – and others – safe. The deaths of 17 schoolchildren are directly attributable to their indifference, incompetence and irresponsibility. The call for futile prohibitions on guns is a diversion to draw attention away from these government agencies’ failure to provide the security which they claim as a primary rationale for their existence, their lavish lifestyle and their tireless spying.

The individuals in these agencies who were involved should be prosecuted for at least negligent homicide. So far the only concession is that the FBI will “review its protocols.” Seriously?

The Train Stops Here

A piece on Bloomberg brought out a thought that had not occurred to me – that self-driving cars will change the nature of commuting and make it more convenient – like having the train pick you up at your front door.

That would upend real estate values, surely?

Irma In The BVI

Just returned from the BVI. Damage from hurricane Irma is severe. While many small bars and restaurants are up and running, the big resorts – Bitter End, Little Dix, Peter Island, etc. – are, literally, trash, and of course they were some of the best employers in the territory. Sadly, we saw no evidence of any attempt at reconstruction of these. Probably insurance companies taking their sweet time.

Grocery stores in Road Town – Bobby’s and RiteWay – were open and well stocked.

Anegada escaped nearly unscathed, however. We had lunch and lobster supper there, lobsters were huge, some people were served half a 4lb. lobster. The stores were open and groceries available.

We visited Foxy’s and the Soggy Dollar on Jost. Ivan’s was also open. Foxy’s Taboo was wrecked. In West End, Pusser’s was open (upstairs only) as was the cafe next door. The grocery store was closed.

We had two good meals at Pirates in the Bight. Poor Willie T. is beached. The caves, Indians, Baths, etc. were normal.

Snorkeling was good, everybody had a good time. We had a Lagoon 52 from BVI Yacht Charters, sort of like sailing an apartment building but very comfortable. No trouble getting mooring balls, but we were there on a seasonally quiet week so doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

Anyway, no reason not to go if you are so inclined.

Intel “Bug”

All of a sudden there is an Intel lynch mob forming, upset about potential security holes in Intel architecture processors. These holes involve the use of the side effects of predictive or speculative execution, such as loading data and instructions into caches or buffers, to infer information.  By measuring execution timings, attackers can determine what was loaded or not loaded and thereby extract information. This forms what is called a covert channel between attacker and victim.

The search for, and elimination of, covert channels has been going on for many years as a battle between hackers and designers of hardware and software. This is just one more.  No big deal in my opinion. But it seems these days everyone is an architecture expert.

Worker Shortage?

Building contractors are reporting a shortage of qualified employees. A neighbor of mine is a general contractor. He does indeed have this problem. What the article does not mention is that qualification includes passing a drug test. He reports that most applicants disappear as soon as they hear that this is a requirement. A few more cynical applicants proceed, knowing that it takes 5 to 10 days to get the results of a drug test and they will be paid for those days.

He recently attended his required continuing education, where this issue was discussed. He was told that, industry-wide, more than 60% of employees were using drugs while working and 30% were believed to be dealing drugs on the job site.

Penrose Was Right

Roger Penrose has long suspected that quantum gravity would not be computable. Looks like he is right.

No, not financial. But huge. Huuuuge.

Self-Driving Cars

Probably the most dramatic innovation in transportation since 1885 (the first car, Daimler-Benz Patent Motor Car, Model 1) is the self-driving car.

But what does self-driving really mean? These are the SAE levels:

Level 0: Automated system issues warnings but has no vehicle control.

Level 1 (”hands on”): Driver and automated system shares control over the vehicle. An example would be Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) where the driver controls steering and the automated system controls speed. Using Parking Assistance, steering is automated while speed is manual. The driver must be ready to retake full control at any time. Lane Keeping Assistance (LKA) Type II is a further example of level 1 self driving.

Level 2 (”hands off”): The automated system takes full control of the vehicle (accelerating, braking, and steering). The driver must monitor the driving and be prepared to immediately intervene at any time if the automated system fails to respond properly. The shorthand ”hands off” is not meant to be taken literally. In fact, contact between hand and wheel is often mandatory during SAE 2 driving, to confirm that the driver is ready to intervene.

Level 3 (”eyes off”): The driver can safely turn their attention away from the driving tasks, e.g. the driver can text or watch a movie. The vehicle will handle situations that call for an immediate response, like emergency braking. The driver must still be prepared to intervene within some limited time, specified by the manufacturer, when called upon by the vehicle to do so.

Level 4 (”mind off”): As level 3, but no driver attention is ever required for safety, i.e. the driver may safely go to sleep or leave the driver’s seat. Self driving is supported only in limited areas (geofenced) or under special circumstances, like traffic jams. Outside of these areas or circumstances, the vehicle must be able to safely abort the trip, i.e. park the car, if the driver does not retake control.

Level 5 (”wheel optional”): No human intervention is required. An example would be a robot taxi

Levels 0 and 1 are widely available today. Tesla is at level 2. The new Audi A8 is available with level 3 (up to 37 mph.). It appears that level 3 will be widely available in 2018-2019 when level 4 will be on a few models. By 2020, level 5 will be available.

Here is the 2017 CES presentation from Toyota that covers this issue. Their concept is 9 minutes in, discussion of safety and levels 19 minutes or so. It even explains why the Audi is limited to 37 mph.

This is a revolution, folks, that will change all our lives. Pay attention.

Steppin’ On The VIX

I’ve been trying to come up with new lyrics for “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” starting with a new chorus – “Steppin’ on the VIX.” So far, abject fail. I guess I’m not a poet or songwriter.

But this market is all about selling volatility. The trade has worked well for a long time. But it has built up a huge short position, figures in excess of $40 billion are being bandied about. I hear that this is mostly retail interest at this point. The pros are well aware that there are two sides to every trade, and somebody is on the long side, big time. Don’t forget the crazy fat kid.