Why Google's self-driving car is not ready for prime time, and may not be for a while

MIT Technological Review has a pretty devastating discussion on the problems that the Google car team has yet to solve.

Weather: "Among other unsolved problems, Google has yet to drive in snow, and Urmson says safety concerns preclude testing during heavy rains."

Road obstacles: "The car’s sensors can’t tell if a road obstacle is a rock or a crumpled piece of paper, so the car will try to drive around either. Urmson also says the car can’t detect potholes or spot an uncovered manhole if it isn’t coned off."

Unmapped areas: "Google says that its cars can identify almost all unmapped stop signs, and would remain safe if they miss a sign because the vehicles are always looking out for traffic, pedestrians and other obstacles.Alberto Broggi, a professor studying autonomous driving at Italy’s Università di Parma, says he worries about how a map-dependent system like Google’s will respond if a route has seen changes. . . .  Urmson said his team is still working to prevent them from being blinded when the sun is directly behind a light."

Construction: "Despite progress handling road crews, “I could construct a construction zone that could befuddle the car,” Urmson says."

Pedestrians: "Pedestrians are detected simply as moving, column-shaped blurs of pixels—meaning, Urmson agrees, that the car wouldn’t be able to spot a police officer at the side of the road frantically waving for traffic to stop."

Google is talking about solving these problems within five years, but many don't believe these problems will be solved anytime soon: "But researchers say the unsolved problems will become increasingly difficult. For example, John Leonard, an MIT expert on autonomous driving, says he wonders about scenarios that may be beyond the capabilities of current sensors, such as making a left turn into a high-speed stream of oncoming traffic."


Your tax dollars at work: US Forest Service spends money telling us how to roast marshmallows and what we should be eating on those camping trips

Can't people look up on the internet how to roast marshmallows?  Yes, they can.  Indeed, posts exist that even have pictures to show you how to do it.  In case you didn't know it, you can find out how to roast marshmallows over a candle or a toaster oven or a regular oven.  But in case all the many posts aren't enough for you or you can't find enough information on what we should be eating, the Obama administration has decided it should spend our tax dollars on writing up things such as this:
Now, let’s get to the marshmallow basics. Use a roasting stick of at least 30 inches in length. The degree a marshmallow is roasted runs the gamut, from the barely cooked, light caramel-colored outer layer to the flaming marshmallow that contains a gooey interior wrapped by a crispy, blackened shell. From there, most people graduate to s’mores and rarely move on. 
But there are some innovative ways to roast the little white treats that can help cut down on the amount of sugar intake by the kids, thus making bedtime a little more doable.
Think fruit. 
Even if the kids – including us older ones – insist on more traditional s’mores, there are some healthy tricks. Grill thin slices of pineapple and substitute chocolate for the sweet, warm fruit. You will still get a tasty treat but by substituting with fruit, it is healthier – as long as you watch the amount of marshmallows used. If you want to cut down even more on calories, try using slices of angel food cake instead of graham crackers. 
You can also get a little inventive and move away from s’mores. 
Grab a small bag of chocolate or peanut butter chips – or a combination of the two. Take a banana and slice one side open, exposing the fruit but leaving the peel intact. Slice the banana, add a few chocolate chips then top with tiny marshmallows. Or substitute the chips for blueberries from the local farmer’s market. Place the banana in aluminum foil and wrap tightly. Place the foil-wrapped fruit next to but not on the flames. Wait five to 10 minutes or enough time for the chips and marshmallows to melt. Open and enjoy with a spoon. . . .

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Obama ready to go it alone on UN climate change treaty, ignoring the US Senate and ratification

With one title in the New York Times pointing out "Democrats see winning issue in Carbon Plan," it isn't too surprised the Obama administration is just going to ignore the Democrat controlled Senate.  Apparently a UN agreement is being planned for next year (a non-election year) from the Obama administration.  From the New York Times:
The Obama administration is working to forge a sweeping international climate change agreement to compel nations to cut their planet-warming fossil fuel emissions, but without ratification from Congress. . . . 
To sidestep that requirement, President Obama’s climate negotiators are devising what they call a “politically binding” deal that would “name and shame” countries into cutting their emissions. The deal is likely to face strong objections from Republicans on Capitol Hill and from poor countries around the world, but negotiators say it may be the only realistic path. 
“If you want a deal that includes all the major emitters, including the U.S., you cannot realistically pursue a legally binding treaty at this time,” said Paul Bledsoe, a top climate change official in the Clinton administration who works closely with the Obama White House on international climate change policy. . . .
“Unfortunately, this would be just another of many examples of the Obama administration’s tendency to abide by laws that it likes and to disregard laws it doesn’t like — and to ignore the elected representatives of the people when they don’t agree,” Senator Mitch McConnell . . . . 
There is a little irony in the NY Times piece:
The Obama administration’s climate change negotiators are desperate to avoid repeating the failure of Kyoto, the United Nations’ first effort at a legally binding global climate change treaty. Nations around the world signed on to the deal, which would have required the world’s richest economies to cut their carbon emissions, but the Senate refused to ratify the treaty, ensuring that the world’s largest historic carbon polluter was not bound by the agreement. . . .
What isn't mentioned is that even without the Kyoto agreement the US is one country that has actually seen a significant drop in carbon emissions.

Even some Democrats are having a tough time with Obama push:
"Whether it’s the regulatory overreaches that would shut coal out of our energy mix, or this latest end-run around Congress on climate change, these actions cannot stand, and I will work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to do everything we can to stop them."

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Update on state waiting periods. Judicial decision in California provides a useful summary of waiting period laws.

The court's decision in SILVESTER v. Harris has 
ten states and the District of Columbia impose a waiting period between the time of purchase and the time of delivery of a firearm.  Three states and the District of Columbiahave waiting period laws for the purchase of all firearms: California (10 days), District of Columbia (10 days), Illinois (3 days for pistols, 1 day for long guns), and Rhode Island (7 days).  Four states have waiting periods for hand guns:  Florida (3 days), Hawaii (14 days), Washington (up to 5 days from the time of purchase for the sheriff to complete a background check), and Wisconsin (2 days). Connecticut has a waiting period for long guns that is tied to an authorization to purchase from the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection. Minnesota and Maryland havea waiting period for the purchase of handguns and assault rifles (7 days). There is no federal waiting period law.  See18 U.S.C. § 922(s) (Brady Act‟s 5-day waiting period expired in 1998).
For California, the history of waiting periods is given as such:
In 1923, the California Legislature created awaiting periodfor handguns,wherebyno handgun, pistol, or other concealable firearm could be delivered to its purchaser on the day of purchase. . . . 
In 1953, the 1923 handgun waiting-period law was codified into the California Penal Code with no substantive changes. . . .   One California court has cited legislative hearing testimony from 1964 in which witnesses testified that this 1953 law was “originally enacted to cool people off,” but that this law was “not enforced with regard to individual transfers through magazine sales nor at swap meets.”  . . . . 
In 1955, the California Legislature extended the handgun waiting period from 1 day to 3 days. . . . No legislative history has been cited that addresses why the waiting period was extended from 1 to 3 days.   
In 1965, the California Legislature extended the handgun waiting period from 3 days to 5 days.  . . . The legislative history indicates that the Legislature extended thewaiting period from 3 days to 5 days in 1965 because the 3-day waiting period did not provide Cal. DOJ sufficient time to conduct proper background checks on prospective concealable firearms purchasers, before delivery of the firearms to the purchasers.   . . . 
Additionally, a report from the 1975-1976 session of the Senate Judiciary Committee indicates that the “purpose of the 5-day provision is to permit the law enforcement authorities to investigate the purchaser's record, before he actually acquires the firearm, to determine whether he falls within the class of persons prohibited from possessing concealed firearms.”  . . .  No legislative history relating to the 1965 law has been cited that relates to a “cooling off” period. 
In 1975, theCalifornia Legislature extended thehandgun waiting period from 5 days to 15 days. . . .  The legislative history indicates that the California Legislature extended the waiting period from 5 days to 15 days in order to “[g]ive law enforcement authorities sufficient time to investigate the records of purchasers of handguns prior to delivery of the handguns." 
In 1991, the California Legislature expanded the waiting period to cover all firearms. . . . In 1996, theCalifornia Legislature reduced thewaiting period from 15 days to 10 days. . . .



Pennsylvania school districts keeping substitute teacher hours under 30 because of Obamacare

This is one of the rules that was supposed to go into effect this last January.  As we get closer to January 1st, more and more people are going to be forced back to less than 30 hours of work a week. As one teacher points out in this news story on WTAJ (CBS TV in Altoona, PA), what happens when the primary teacher is sick for a week?  The students can't even have the same substitute for the same week.


Scary: Harvard Prof. Charles Ogletee just makes things up about the Ferguson case

Professor Charles Ogletree's statements about what happened in Ferguson even seems to make Chris Matthews uncomfortable.  The strong certainty by which he claims that Michael Brown was shot in the back and that he had his hands up and was trying to surrender is surprising.  It is concerning that a professor at Harvard Law School

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