Where’s the beef?

[Reprinted from my post at Quora.com]

Last month ago I bought a Boston Market frozen entree, Swedish meatballs and noodles. This is a photo of the package, highlighting “Oven Roasted MEATBALLS.”

And here’s a photo of the contents:

There were no meatballs in there. I weighed the contents including the serving tray, and it was about 100 g lighter than the package weight.

OK, mistakes happen.

Now two weeks later, I opened another frozen dinner, this time a Smart Ones “Three Cheese Ziti with Meatballs.” Here’s the package:

I count 10 meatballs in the photo. Here is the actual product:

How many meatballs? I counted zero. There weren’t even any meat bits. And again the weight with container was about 30 grams less than the stated package weight.

Where’s the beef?

Update:

I purchased two packages of those Smart Ones “Three Cheese Ziti with Meatballs” and the second one had meatballs in it, all ten of them.

Posted in Bad Commerce, Food, Product Reviews | Leave a comment

Tesla Firmware V11

Some people like Tesla’s latest revision to the user interface, and some don’t. I’m in the first group.

How quickly they forget

I’ve gone through every version of Tesla firmware since Version 7. Once you get used to one, the previous version fades from memory, as is quickly becoming the case with Version 10.2 of blessed memory.

We forget what was wrong with Version 10. It was cluttered. There was a bar across the top with buttons to push, and a bar along the bottom with buttons to push — in fact there were so many buttons that one had to focus (read: stop looking at the road and ponder) on what you wanted. Many things that are infrequent settings (like Bluetooth pairing) took up visual space all of the time.

I like the less cluttered touchscreen. It’s more focused on driving and music, and less on settings.

Where did it go?

This is the short-term frustration. I learned where all those things were: the odometer, the tire pressure, the dash cam viewer, the seat heaters, Bluetooth pairing and other stuff I’m quickly forgetting. I’m the first to admit that I couldn’t find the dashcam recording viewer (it’s an app with an icon that looks just like the live dash cam viewer except for one tiny red dot). I couldn’t find the tire pressure (it’s on the service menu and doesn’t show up until the car is driven a little — like before). The seat heaters are under the climate controls. The Odometer is on the Controls | Trips tab. The other settings are on the main controls screen.

One cool thing is that you may not need a setting that you used before; for example, seat heaters. There is a setting for them to turn on automatically with the cabin climate control. How cool is that?

One might say that they don’t want to go to a second screen to save dashcam footage, but there’s a voice command for that — you don’t have to go anywhere.

I think placement of things before was rather ad hoc. This is more intentional.

“I used to know where everything is and now I don’t know where anything is.” I get that, but it goes away quickly.

New stuff

Far and away, my absolute favorite new feature is the automatic display of the rear-facing side camera display when the turn signal is activated. That’s a huge safety plus. It’s one setting that everyone should make.

The Light Show is cute to show to other people. Now you don’t have to have a Model X for a show. I don’t really play games on my car, so the new ones don’t excite me.

The app bar at the bottom is customizable and remembers your recent selections. I like that, and I put the web browser down there. On a long trip, I can quickly refer back to the energy graph.

Overall, I’m happy.

Posted in Electric vehicles, Tesla, Tesla | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Tesla reporting vs. journalism — shame on CNBC

So this is a rant about a recent story on CNBC’s website, the headline of which read:

Tesla Model 3 was traveling up to 90 mph before fatal crash in Florida, NTSB finds

As far as I can tell, the reporting is accurate. What troubles me is the fact that the reporter didn’t do any research and apparently didn’t know much about the topic. Rather they relied on innuendo and the scare word, “controversial,” to make the story more exciting:

The NTSB’s preliminary report did not address whether any of Tesla’s controversial driver-assist systems, marketed as the standard Autopilot and premium Full Self Driving packages, were involved or believed to be involved in the crash. A spokesperson for the NTSB declined to comment on any the systems. …

The speed limit of the residential street that the crash occurred on in Coral Gables, Florida was 30 mph, according to the NTSB.

A competent reporter would have least asked someone knowledgeable about Tesla’s Autopilot before making that statement. Any Tesla driver with Autopilot will tell you that the product will never exceed 5 mph over the speed limit on a residential street. Period. End of story.

And with 6 million auto crashes in the United States, and 35,000 deaths, precisely what is newsworthy about this one, given that it is totally unrelated to the self-driving features.

Sloppy writing like this confuses the public and creates fake controversy.

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Tesla goodies

I took delivery of my Tesla Model 3 in August of 2018. Most cars just get older with wear, but Teslas improve in some ways with age. It comes with over-the-air firmware updates. This post details some of the improvements to my car since I got it.

  • Around the time I got my car, Consumer Reports downrated the Model 3 for its long stopping distance. Tesla sent an update that improved it. CR stated that it was the first time that they had ever encountered a car improve track performance without anyone touching the car.
  • Improved range
  • Improved acceleration
  • Dash cam
  • Save Dash cam video on Honk
  • New software-update controls
  • Priority setting for Bluetooth devices
  • Voice keyboard
  • Stardew valley video game
  • Chess
  • Backgammon
  • Classic arcade games
  • Cuphead game
  • Support for 250 kW charging
  • Activate side cameras
  • Camp Mode (facilitates sleeping in the car)
  • Dog Mode (keeps AC on for pet and displays message for passers by with inside temperature reading)
  • Joe Mode (reduces volume of vehicle notices so as not wake kids)
  • Romance Mode (displays fireplace and plays romantic music)
  • Smart summon (car will pick you up in a parking lot with no driver)
  • Navigate on Autopilot (automatically change lanes to pass slower traffic, follow the route, exit and merge)
  • More voice commands
  • Stop sign warnings
  • Dash cam viewer in car
  • Traffic light and stop sign control (automatically stops)
  • Fallout Shelter Game
  • Beach Buggy Racing 2 game
  • Tesla Theater (Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Disney+, Twitch)
  • Slacker streaming service
  • Cabin camera activation
  • Object aware acceleration (reduces how hard the car hits your garage door if you try to plow into it)
  • Battery preconditioning for faster charging when routing to a Supercharger
  • Option to disable walk-away door locks at home
  • Sentry mode
  • Range display options
  • App can send notices if doors/trunks/windows left open
  • Open and close windows from the app
  • Green traffic light chime
  • Can read speed limit signs (previously relied on maps)
  • Glovebox PIN
  • Cat Quest game
  • Battle of Polytopia game
  • Solitaire
  • Voice text messaging
  • Emergency Lane Departure Avoidance feature
  • Animal visualizations
  • Cold weather improvements including increased regenerative braking
  • Carioke
  • Updated and improved web browser
  • Sky Force reloaded game
  • Detection of emergency vehicles
  • Car wash mode
  • Mirror auto dim
  • Immersive sound
  • Request Full Self-Driving Beta
  • Safety score
  • Full Self-Driving Beta 10.8
  • Display blind spot camera on screen with activation of turn signal
  • Sonic the Hedgehog, Sudoku
  • Christmas light show (all models)
  • Waypoints in navigation system
  • Boom box megaphone (for cars equipped with external speaker)
  • Live camera access from the app
  • Automatic seat heaters
  • Customize app launcher
  • Hide map details
  • TikTok
  • Tidal audio streaming

This may not be a complete list, and I didn’t list all the many improvements to existing features, particularly driving visualizations and self-driving. Oh, and as I type this, a new update is installing.

Posted in Autonomous Vehicles, Software updates, Technology, Tesla, Tesla | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Charging towards New York

I drove from my home in central Virginia to Stamford, Connecticut, (through New York) and back this past weekend. I want to share my EV charging experience.

My 3-year-old Tesla Model 3 Long Range (Tesla lets you name your car; mine is “Last Gas”) has about 5% battery degradation, so the EPA range of 315 miles is now an even 300. I set Last Gas to charge to 100% at home, timed for my morning departure, and set off. The trip was around 390 miles, but the car recommended I charge twice along the way, the first for only 10 minutes.

That first stop was in Springfield, Virginia, at a shopping mall. By the time I got there I was totally in need of a personal stop, so I plugged in at the Tesla Supercharger and walked into the mall. By the time I had finished my personal business and returned to the car, its short charge was done and the car ready to go.

Last Gas said the next stop would be at 1:04 PM, but as noon approached, I got hungry. I had hoped to charge while I had lunch, but I decided to pull into a service area in Maryland where they had food. I pulled in, parked and I was walking towards the facility when I noticed a row of Tesla Superchargers! So I plugged in and enjoyed some Pizza Hut Express. Last Gas was more than ready by the time I got back to it.

Model X charging at Chesapeake House service area in Maryland

I also stopped at another service area in New Jersey for personal reasons, and there were Tesla Superchargers there too. I didn’t need to charge.

The worst part of the trip, which had nothing to do with the model of car I drive, was the New York Friday rush hour traffic. I was traveling at 8 miles per hour for much of it. If I were in a gasoline car with limited gas, I might have been concerned, but an EV is more efficient at those low speeds, so instead of arriving with less charge than planned, I got there with more.

So far, I haven’t spent any extra time charging on the trip, but for the return trip home, I couldn’t start with a full charge just plugging in at home. I had to charge somewhere. In this case I found that there were two Supercharger locations in Stamford, and I selected the closest one, at a mall in an underground parking garage. These were Tesla’s urban chargers. Twelve were available.

Urban chargers differ from other Superchargers in that they do not share the power between two cars. Each one stands alone and provides 72 kW. I brought my dinner with me and ate in the car, listening to NPR. I got interested in the program and between eating and listening, the charging session seemed to go quickly. There were 5 Teslas charging there off and on. I should add that there were non-Tesla charging stations there and at the service areas — mostly unused. There were 2 Audi e-trons charging in Stamford. That’s the only instance I recall of non-Teslas charging.

Last Gas at Tesla urban Supercharger, Stamford, CT – Photo by Author

Again on the way back, I stopped at a service area on I-95 in Newark, Delaware, to charge

The final top off was supposed to be in Falls Church, Virginia, where was a Whole Foods store. I bought sushi and by the time I finished eating, the car was long past ready to go. I made it home with about 50% charge remaining.

I saw lots of Teslas, by the way on this trip, particularly in the DC area, and at my destination of Stamford. I even saw an auto carrier truck with around a dozen of them loaded up.

On my trip I found no fewer than four Supercharger locations at places where I happened to be, not ones I sought out, but ones that just happened to be where I was for some other reason. That’s amazing! That’s convenient! On this trip I worried about hotel reservations, and I worried about confusing road signs, and I worried about traffic. I didn’t have to worry about charging.

I have one final comment about energy consumption. According to the EPA, my car’s rated consumption is 260 Watt-hours per mile, measured from the wall. I assume an 8% charging loss (estimates vary), which means the car should show 240 consumption from the battery. And in fact, over the three years I’ve owned the car, 240 wH per mile is exactly my average consumption. For this trip along the I-95 corridor on the east coast of the US, my consumption was only 229 Wh, or about 249 from the wall. That equates to 135 MPGe. I don’t miss my Prius one bit.

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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.

Update:

I got Full Self-Driving Beta 10.8 on Christmas morning, 2021.

Update 2:

I visited the INTERSECTION OF DOOM. It wasn’t pretty.

Update 3:

The INTERSECTION OF DOOM is now handled just fine.

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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 | 2 Comments