Anticipation — An autonomous vehicle story

It’s Monday and this Friday, according to Elon Musk, the long-anticipated “Request Button” is supposed to start rolling out to the Tesla fleet.

The button requests access to Tesla’s Full Self-Driving Beta, something that up to now only existed on YouTube videos from among the couple of thousand of beta testers.

It’s been a long road since August of 2018 when I bought my Tesla Model 3 with the FSD Capability option. I drove from central Virginia to Yellowstone National Park to Denver and back, five thousand miles using Enhanced Autopilot. It definitely helped, but a completed FSD would have made the trip wonderful.

Press reports say that the “button” will grant Tesla access to vehicle telemetry data, so that they can verify that the request comes from a good driver. During the evaluation period, I’ll have Autopilot on all that it can possibly be on, because it drives smoother than I do (according to State Farm’s Drive Safe & Save™ transponder report).

As soon as I get FSD. I’m heading for the INTERSECTION OF DOOM where plain old Autopilot frequently tries to do bad things. One of the reasons that I’m so anxious to get FSD is that regular Autopilot hasn’t improved much in the past two years, with all the development at Tesla going into the new version.

Starting with my Model S from 2016, with self-driving using the old single-camera system, I’ve driven a lot of miles under Autopilot. I have a lot of experience. I think I’m ready to test the new stuff.

Tesla cars manufactured since November of 2016 have, or can be upgraded to have the equipment to run FSD. I understand that FSD is initially limited to the United States and Canada. 900,000 is a rough number for the number of Tesla cars with the necessary hardware that could receive FSD, but only an estimated 11% of owners have purchased it, so at most 99,000 could potentially request the download. Compared the North American vehicle fleet, that’s not a big number. It averages only 33 cars per county.

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The receding past

Time passes and memory fades. Things wear out and are discarded. The hymn says, “change and decay, all around I see.” But there is a countercurrent, thanks to the Internet. Things that I have searched for unsuccessfully in years past in years past are now accessible, and I have observed new appearances of old things popping up online year by year.

Today I was reminded of a very old query about a piece of music. Sometime around 1970 when I was living in Alabama, I could pick up a music program on a local radio station (not sure if it was in Mobile or Pensacola, Florida) called Holloway House, hosted by a man named Joachim Holloway. One afternoon he played some selections from a musical called “The Last Days of Sweet Isaac.” I got a little of it on reel-to-reel tape. It was special and it stuck with me. I can remember, “I want to walk to San Francisco if I go there” and one song about a young man watching news coverage of the Vietnam war who sang “Look Ma, I’m dyin’ on the color TV.”

I’ve searched for that music several times over the years and got nothing. Today, 50 years later, I got lucky. I ordered the original cast recording on vinyl.

Posted in Music, Nostalgia | 1 Comment

Donald Trump is trying to rig the 2020 election.

This article comes out of a federal lawsuit about mail-in voting in Nevada. As I discuss the suit, feel free to follow along with the complaint.1

One has to read the complaint for a bit to get to the meat of the matter. Just blow by the grousing over the law being too long and that it was, shudder, single-spaced—or that the Nevada Senate passed it on a weekend. The lawsuit does not allege that the weekend vote is illegal. That was left to President Trump’s tweeter:

Trump has a high bar to pass, as the complaint admits:

Under the U.S. Constitution, states have broad discretion to decide how to conduct their elections.

What the Trump side must do is show first is that they have standing to bring the suit in the first place and then that the Nevada law is contrary to the Constitution or existing federal statutes. We’ll look at the complaint first:

Which mail-in ballots count

Their first argument is statutory; federal law sets the date of the election. Nevada law (and this isn’t new) allows counting mail-in ballots that arrive after election day but before the election is certified, provided they are postmarked on or be election day or when the postmark is illegible. The Trump side says the ballot must bear evidence of proper time of mailing, making valid ballots vulnerable to malicious activity by postal workers or machine error.

In fact, the Trump side argues elsewhere that the Postal Service doesn’t do a good job of delivering the mail on time and that they mishandle ballots—all the more reason to allow more latitude in delivery.

The Republicans argue that the Postal Service simply is not equipped to handle the volume. My reply to that is, “Christmas.”

Since the vast majority of Biden voters prefer mail-in voting and Trump voters do not,2 any mail-in ballot not counted will likely be for Biden. (The Trump Campaign has also sued Pennsylvania arguing that secure drop boxes for ballots violates the 14th Amendment.)

A quick sampling of a few states found that all required receipt of the mail-in ballot by the close of the polls on election day, with the exception in some for military personnel voting overseas.


The Trump side argues that some provisions of AB4 are open to interpretation, and therefore not everyone will be treated the same. This somehow violates the constitutional principle of “equal protection.” I read through some of this and it seemed silly to insist extreme micromanagement of county election offices. Here’s an example from the complaint:

Section 25 provides that “[i]f two or more ballots are found folded together to present the appearance of a single ballot, they must be laid aside. If a majority of the inspectors are of the opinion that the mail ballots folded together were voted by one person, the mail ballots must be rejected and placed in an envelope, upon which must be written the reason for their rejection.” But Section 25 establishes no standard by which the inspectors should assess whether the ballots were voted by one person.

You can’t legislate every possible nuance of how something is folded. That’s why we have election officials and not robots.

The thrust seems to be that the Nevada law is not perfect in their view.

New York

The Trump side argues that their concerns are real and urgent because New York has had problems with their mail-in voting. Nevada, however, is not New York, and other all-mail western states are doing quite well. Several claims in the lawsuit from delivery of the mails to the accuracy of voter registration databases are made based on allegations against other states, not Nevada.

Polling places

I didn’t read all of this section, but it appears that the Trump side claims that the allocation of in-person voting places favors mail-in voting. Nevada’s new model seems to encourage mail-in voting, but every county will have at least one in-person site so that anyone who wants to wait until election day can vote.

The mails

The lawsuit, while in not so many words, alleges that the postal service is a bunch of incompetent jerks who are in capable of delivering the mail.


The first question that must be that settled is whether the lawsuit is valid in the first place. Federal law gives to the states the authority to determine the manner of appointment of electors. But clearly the courts have ruled on election cases where classes of voters are disenfranchised (I don’t think Republicans are a protected class though). Article III of the Constitution limits the federal courts to actual cases and controversies.

Article III standing law is built on separation-of-powers principles. Its purpose is to prevent the judicial process from being used to usurp the powers of the legislative and executive branch of the U.S. federal government.3

The essential problem for the Trump side is that they will not be able to make the case that they, as Republicans, or the Trump campaign, are harmed any more than the voter in general. They cannot show how Republicans specifically are disadvantaged by AB4. That means that the Trump Campaign and the Republican plaintiffs have no more at stake than the Nevada voter in general, and it is well-settled that broad classes like voters do not have standing to sue.


If the lawsuit somehow gets past the motion to dismiss for lack of standing, then it will be considered on the merits.

Clearly the strongest argument for the Trump side is the counting of ballots that arrive after the election; however, since the act of putting the ballot in the mailbox can be deemed to be voting, and the state determines the manner of voting, I think this will pass muster. That leaves the issue of ballots with illegible postmarks. Again the state should have the authority to set the standard by which they determine a timely ballot.

I think Trump loses this one.

As for the others, I think those arguments are weaker. Republicans can’t show how any of these nipicks, vagaries, postal service quality and registration database quality disadvantage them specifically. The states have discretion here, and the equal protection argument makes no sense.

Trump loses this one too.

So then…

I am not a lawyer, and I know even less about Nevada law than I do federal law, but it seems to me that the Republicans filed in the wrong court. They should have filed in state court, because they lack federal standing.

The case has been assigned to Judge James C. Mahan and referred to Magistrate Judge Cam Ferenbach.


The Trump campaign sued in Nevada in 2016 also, complaining that early voting places stayed open to accommodate voters who were standing in line.4  (Don’t all states do that?)

The Trump Campaign is also suing in Pennsylvania alleging that official ballot drop boxes violate the 14th Amendment.5 This lawsuit, also filed in federal court, appears to suffer from the same lack of standing problems for the same reasons.

It appears that Donald Trump is doing everything he can to discredit voting by mail among his followers and thereby biasing them to vote in person. Then he is doing everything he can to make mail-in voting difficult or impossible, and thereby suppress the Biden vote. This is what I call rigging an election.

  1. Donald J. Trump for President v. Cegavske complaint []
  2. July National Poll: Biden Maintains Lead in Presidential Race; Majority Support Nationwide Mask Mandate in Public Spaces []
  3. Case or Controversy Clause – Wikipedia []
  4. Trump Campaign Files Lawsuit in Nevada Aimed at Early Voting []
  5. The Trump campaign is suing Pennsylvania over how to run the 2020 election []
Posted in Elections, General, Politics | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

Google search is really good

I read this article at the New York Times a while back, and I wanted to locate it again. I typed in a search query into Google:

trump covie-19 repeated warnings

Google first figured out that I meant “covid” rather than “covie” and then proceeded to list results, the first of which was the one I wanted.

Maybe that one was easy, and I have visited that page many times, but Google just keeps getting it right. I take it for granted, but it’s really amazing.

Posted in Internet, Technology | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Another day, another email scam

The latest scam seems to be emails that appear to come from me to me. The sender email is spoofed as my own. The spammer than makes the claim that they have hacked my email account and found all manner of nasty things on my computer.

The one today has the same premise but a different story line. For entertainment purposes only, here it is (reformatted for readability):

Hello, I work as a Private Investigator.

Our agency received a case with an objective of hacking into your email, phone, cloud storage, network and collecting intelligence. We work with hackers from China for tasks like that, and they are the best. As you can see, they did a good job. Your accounts and devices are compromised.

But we do have an ethical protocol in place. After checking the background of the person who paid for the hacking and investigation on you, I have decided to come forward and offer you to buy the information about that person (name, contacts, emails and other proof). You will also get a report on yourself (including a list of compromised accounts, devices, logs, screenshots, photos and documents). Normally, we do not disclose sensitive information about our clients, but in this case we will be.

Upon reviewing this case, I found that something illegal was planned against you. The materials we have collected on you are very sensitive and can be easily used to blackmail you. We usually address personal and corporate espionage cases, but this case is different.

We have received a prepayment of 50% for your case from that person (total agreed upon cost was 12500 USD). However, I will give you a discount (without any profit for the agency), if you decide to buy this information. After we get the payment, I will get back to you. You have 2 business days to make the transfer. It will cost you 40% of the unpaid balance.

We will process $2,500 payment through bitcoin. In case you have trouble with bitcoin, google how to fund it. Send BTC to this wallet [redacted]

It will be up to you what to do after you get the information. We will delete all files. The original client will get nothing and will never know about our deal. Please keep in mind, because I need to pay Chinese contractors, and if you decline this offer, I will have to go to the original client and send all intel to cover the costs. But at least you know that now and have a free heads up of what’s coming.

Reported to SpamCop of course.

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My New image

Initially this website was pretty lame.

Then I got a somewhat more streamlined version:

This one was quite nice, and going back and seeing this image, it reminds me of a photo that I would take not long afterwards on the Elbe River in Germany.

Technical problems, and the desire for something wider led me in 2012 to move to the WordPress 2010 theme.

I liked that image because sometimes when I’m trying to get to sleep, I imagine walking down a road like this (technically it was a dirt road in Alabama, and not as pretty as this). Anyway I was hoping to find am image of my own.

The current image is one I took at the Maymont Japanese garden in Richmond, Virginia. I have been to Japan and seen real Japanese gardens, but this photo seems to work well. Perhaps I may start cycling themes during the year.

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Tesla Full Self-Driving Computer

Tesla called.

My 2018 Model 3 was manufactured about 8 months before Tesla started including the Full Self-Driving (FSD) computer in all its cars. Those of us bought the FSD Capability option are entitled to an upgrade. My car came up on the list and Tesla called to schedule the installation. It will happen on February 3, and they say it will take most of the day. This should be interesting.

I’ve published a few “transition” articles here at Blog Or Die, and I’m going to chronicle this upgrade because it’s part of the transition from “not full self-driving” to “full self-driving.” I’ve found very little content on the Internet on the transition. There are YouTube videos about the upgrade process, but not about how the car behaves differently later. One video talks about the differences a little, bit it’s an old one (before Beach Buggy Racing 2) and the things he tested were totally uninteresting to me.

What I know now is that my current Hardware 2.5 computer is not capable of handling video from all 8 cameras; it only supports 4. The FSD computer is capable of adding the two front facing cameras and two side cameras also front facing. Cars with the FSD computer today have additional visualizations on the touch screen for traffic cones and traffic signals. I should start seeing those immediately. My first big question will be how well the FSD computer and the new neural net handle curvy two-lane highways, which represent half of my daily driving. Is it what I need to handle a few rough spots, or is that something I’ll have to wait for?

The upgrade has been finished. When I picked up the car the service person started to explain to me that the new computer had to be calibrated. I interrupted to say that I knew about that, that the car calibrated when it was new, and that it recalibrated when I replaced the windshield. He explained that this would take longer because more cameras had to be calibrated. I have read that the process requires driving 50-100 miles. Mine calibrated in about 10 miles.

I expected to be able to write a nice article on the new computer, but really there wasn’t much to say. Maybe auto lane change was a little better, but I’m not sure. It drives pretty much the same. I turned on visualization preview and the car displays stop signs, turn lanes, traffic lights, traffic cones and trash cans–lots of trash cans. I also got error messages: One said the left front fender camera was blocked, another said multiple cameras were blocked. Both went away. Tesla says not to worry, that the car is really OK. The message doesn’t necessarily mean that the camera is blocked, but that it could be blinded by bright lights.

One thing was different today. I drove a road segment that I drive frequently, and consistently, the car fails to make a sharp turn at one spot. Today the car made the turn, just running over the line into the oncoming lane a little bit, and then corrected. This bears further experimentation. Perhaps the car was just following the car in front this time.

So now, I’ll just have to wait for “feature complete” full self-driving and the rewrite of the neural network.

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