EppsNet Archive: Cars

What Does a Programmer Do?

8 Oct 2017 /

I was asked to give a talk last week to a high school computer science class on “What Does a Programmer Do?” (I’m indebted to Jim McCarthy for the “lords and ladies of logic” section.)

 

Programming is problem solving.

Programmer

At the highest level, the problem that programmers solve is that people want to be able to do things with computers that they can’t do. And by computers, I don’t mean just the kind of computers you have on the desks here, I mean phones, watches, cars . . . more and more different kinds of devices are running software.

So one good thing about being a programmer is that pretty much every field of endeavor now uses software and data.

You can work at a tech company like Microsoft or Google or Twitter or Facebook, but you can also work in healthcare, finance, education, sports . . . you can work on cancer research, you can write video games . . . everybody uses software and everybody hires programmers.

Programming is a good job if you want to be learning new things all the time, if you don’t want to do the same things over and over.

The dark side of this is that it can be daunting trying to keep up with the pace of technological change. It can be overwhelming.

I was asked once in an interview, “What’s the coolest thing you’ve learned in the last week?” If you haven’t learned anything in the last week, it’s hard to answer that question, let alone if you haven’t learned anything in a month or a year. It’s easy to let your career slip away from you.

Programming has been a good job for me because I’ve been able to make a living doing things I like and things that I’m good at. I’ve always liked solving problems and building things.

To me that’s a good job: you do things you like and things that you’re good at. I don’t think most people can say that. Most people seem to be like “I hate Mondays,” “Thank god it’s Friday,” “Thank god it’s Thursday because it’s almost Friday.” If you spend a lot of time doing things you don’t like and you’re not good at, that’s a bad job.

As a programmer, you’re given problems to solve and a set of tools with which to solve them. You need to be able to figure out “what do i need to do, what do I need to learn, to be able to solve these problems with these tools?”

Self-reliance is good. Persistence is good. Floundering is bad. Know when to ask for help.

Asking for help is a no-lose strategy. Worst case, you ask for help and someone can’t help you or won’t help you, but you’re not any worse off than you were in the first place.

The demand for programmers exceeds the supply and it doesn’t look like that’s going to change anytime soon.

Nearly 30 percent of Americans ages 18 to 24 cannot locate the Pacific Ocean on a map, and 25 percent of Americans think the sun goes around the earth. Those people are not going to be programmers.

In a time of ubiquitous software and intellectual lethargy, programmers are like the priests in the Middle Ages. We are the lords and ladies of logic. We’re in charge of rationality for our era. We’re bringing common sense and sound judgment and aggregated wisdom and glory to everyone.

That’s our job.


See You in Hell

1 Oct 2017 /

Satan

[See You in Hell is a feature by our guest blogger, Satan — PE]

https://www.facebook.com/topic/Edmonton-Alberta/115976748413086?source=whfrt&position=2

Driving a vehicle into a crowd of people is the new black.

Will the lane assist feature that comes with a lot of new vehicles help prevent this? It won’t? Oh well . . .

See you in Hell . . .

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Mistaken Identity

16 Jul 2017 /

I’m walking through the parking lot at Kohl’s when all of a sudden, the rear hatch on an SUV pops open next to me, even though there’s no one in or around the vehicle.

Then I notice several cars further down is a similar-looking SUV and a woman with an armful of parcels trying to figure out why it won’t open.

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Amber Alerts

7 Jul 2017 /

I got an Amber Alert on my phone last night. The same Amber Alert is posted today on those lighted freeway billboards.

How did we decide that child abduction is the one activity that merits a notification to the entire country?

In this case, the woman in the photo, Kandice Johnson, stole a car at gunpoint with a 16-year-old boy in the back seat.

I’m going to feel ridiculously bad if this ends poorly, but for a 16-year-old boy, being kidnapped by a femme fatale like Kandice Johnson is maybe not the worst way to spend a few hours of your life . . .


Michigan Man Dies in Crash While Masturbating to Porn Video

31 Jan 2016 /
Grim Reaper

Michigan man dies in crash while driving and masturbating to porn on his phoneNY Daily News

Years ago, I was in a public restroom stall in an office building when I felt a mild earthquake. It occurred to me that a bad way to die would be to have a building collapse on you while sitting on a toilet, only to be pulled out of the rubble on the evening news with your pants around your ankles, covered in excrement.

But even that ignominious scenario pales in comparison to the egress of Clifford Ray Jones, age 58, who was driving down I-75 in Detroit with his pants off, watching a pornographic video on his phone. His hands were somewhere other than at the recommended position of 10 and 2 on the steering wheel when he crashed his 1996 Toyota and was hurled out the sunroof.

It’s embarrassing enough to be 58 years old and driving a 20-year-old Toyota, but to be hurled out the sunroof and killed sans pants, that’s the ultimate.

I told my wife, “If this happens to me, when someone asks ‘How did your husband die?’ please make something up. That’s my final request.”


Self-Driving Cars

7 Jan 2016 /

A cartoon by Paul Noth. Find more cartoons from this week's issue here: http://nyer.cm/TUohcry

Posted by The New Yorker Cartoons on Tuesday, January 5, 2016


Moving Back

12 Dec 2015 /
Moving box

Our boy was home recently for a visit . . . he lives in San Francisco now . . . we were driving to dinner one night and his mom, from the back seat, said to him, “You can move back if you want to.”

“I don’t think I would move back to Irvine,” the boy said matter-of-factly.

“I meant you can move the seat back. I have plenty of room back here.”


God: “I Gave Him a Sign”

30 Oct 2015 /
Death by Freeway Sign

I hope I don’t die some cartoonish death like skiing into a tree or being launched out of my car and flattened against a freeway sign. It’s funny when it happens to other people though.

The only thing funnier would be if he’d left a spread-eagle person-shaped hole in the sign and then died when he hit a second sign.

When reached for comment, God said, “I gave him a sign.”


Walking in San Francisco

6 Sep 2015 /

Our boy is working and living in San Francisco now, We went to visit him last weekend . . .

It’s hard to drive and park in SF so a lot of people walk to where they need to go. Our hotel was a few blocks from the boy’s apartment but for the most part, we left the car in the parking garage and walked everywhere.

On a couple of occasions, we met one of his co-workers walking past us in the other direction. (His office is nearby, 7-8 blocks from his apartment, but it’s a startup, not a huge company like Transamerica with lots of employees.) On another occasion, we met a couple of his college classmates from Cal sitting near us at a local eatery. This is not to mention the friends, classmates and co-workers that we planned to meet up with because they also live in the vicinity.

I’ve lived in Irvine and worked in town or nearby for 15 years and I never see anyone I know walking around the city, probably because I don’t walk around the city and neither does anyone else. Well, I take that back . . . on weekend mornings I usually walk about a mile to Starbucks for coffee. The average number of people I meet on those walks is approximately 0.0.

But even when we go to restaurants. movies, stores, public events, etc., I very rarely see anyone I know. Very rarely.

It’s funny that a big, international city like San Francisco feels more like a neighborhood than does a typical suburban community . . .

San Francisco from Nob Hill

Photo Credit: louisraphael


Could Be Worse

8 Jan 2015 /

A pedestrian was walking along in Kaumakani, Hawaii, on Saturday evening when he was struck by a passing vehicle. The pedestrian was then struck a second time, this time by the police officer responding to the scene of the accident. Due to the injuries suffered by both collisions, the pedestrian died.

Just to clarify, the pedestrian was still alive and responsive after the first collision. No matter how bad things get, as long as you’re still alive, they can always get worse.


Oceanside, CA

30 May 2014 /


People I Thought Were Dead

26 May 2014 /

Updates

  • Chuck Barris – died 3/27/2017, age 87
  • Fidel Castro – died 11/25/2016, age 90
  • Pete Fountain – died 8/6/2016, age 86
  • Zsa Zsa Gabor – died 12/18/2016, age 99
  • Dick Gregory – died 8/19/2017, age 84
  • Dean Jones – died 9/2/2015, age 84
  • Mel Tillis – died 11/19/2017, age 85
  • Grant Tinker – died 11/29/2016, age 90
  • Y. A. Tittle – died 10/9/2017, age 90
  • Gene Wilder – died 8/29/2016, age 83

Minimum Wage Proposal: $0.00

10 May 2014 /
Fast food strike

You can’t make ends meet on 8 bucks an hour? I can see where that would be a problem. When did fast food jobs become jobs for family breadwinners? Fast-food jobs are for high-school kids.

You want to make $15 an hour? Simple: get a job that pays $15 an hour. What’s stopping you? Other than your lack of skills, education, motivation and accomplishments? If no employer is willing to pay you $15 an hour, then guess what? You’re not worth $15 an hour. You need to do something about that.

Why is $15 an hour the magic number? Why not $16? Or $17? Why not $50 an hour? At $50 an hour, everyone would make a nice 6-figure income and poverty would be a thing of the past, right?

If you raise the price of a product or service, the demand for the product or service goes down — at least a little bit. Is there a counterexample where raising the price of something makes the demand go up? I can’t think of one.

Let’s go a step further: If you set the price of a product or service at an artificially high level, e.g., double the market value that people are currently willing to pay, the demand for the product or service will fall off a cliff.

Example: Instead of setting a minimum price for labor, imagine setting a minimum price for cars: $30,000. What would happen? No effect on the market for cars that already cost $30,000+, but the market for Honda Civics, Toyota Corollas, etc. would dry up. No one wants to pay X dollars for something that’s worth a lot less than X dollars.

A lot of low-skill jobs have been or could be automated out of existence. Think about that the next time you pay a machine at a parking garage or tool booth, or use an ATM, or check out your own groceries at the supermarket.

I was in a sandwich shop the other day and there were no humans taking orders. Instead, there were several tablet-sized touch screens with card readers. Swipe your credit card and select your order.

Fast food restaurants can’t get rid of everyone overnight, but there’s nothing like doubling the cost of labor to get business owners looking at all possible labor-reduction options.

P.S. I didn’t cherry-pick that photo. It’s from a Salon article that’s actually supportive of a minimum wage increase.


The White Lexus Strikes Again

14 Sep 2013 /

“I just tried to get into my car in the parking lot and I couldn’t open it. Do you know why?”

“Let me guess. Do you drive a white Lexus SUV?”

“Yes.”

“Because you were trying to get into someone else’s car.”

“How did you know that.” (Answer here.)

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Rearview Cameras in Cars

15 Aug 2013 /

Gov’t delays requiring rearview cameras in carsAssociated Press

Rearview cameras in cars seem like a good idea. Who wants to accidentally back over a child or a pet, right? It’s upsetting, not to mention whoever the child or pet belonged to is probably going to hold it against you forever.

Let’s make rearview cameras required by law.

In fact, let’s make rearview and frontview cameras required, because kids and pets can get under the front of your car too, and running over them is bad, no matter what direction you’re going.

I’ve seen TV commercials where cars can detect obstacles in their path and stop automatically to avoid a collision. That’s great. Let’s make that required too.

In fact, let’s make so many features required by law that you can’t even buy a car anymore for less than $50,000.

You know what else is a good idea? Freedom, which is the reason we started up this country in the first place. Let people buy and sell whatever they want.


But I Didn’t Mean It

22 Jul 2013 /


The Challenge

13 Jun 2013 /

Good News, Bad News

29 Apr 2013 /
Parking

Most days I park on Level 5 of the office parking structure because that’s where the open spaces are at the time I arrive.1

This morning I got a spot on Level 1! A guy was pulling out just as I was pulling in and I got the spot. 🙂

Unfortunately, when I went out for lunch, I walked up four levels out of habit and couldn’t find my car. 🙁

1There are actually a lot of open spaces on lower levels but they’re “reserved” for people who aren’t there, which is rubbish. If you’re really that important, you should be the first person in every morning and you can have any parking space you want.

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Every New Feature is a New Failure Point

14 Apr 2013 /

The TPMS warning light on my car dashboard is lit up, which, according to the owner’s manual, indicates a malfunction in the Tire Pressure Monitoring System, a system designed to alert me, via a different warning light, when the tire pressure gets too low.

It’s a completely unnecessary system to begin with because I can monitor the tire pressure myself, as drivers have done since the invention of the automobile.

Let’s add a completely unnecessary new system so when it breaks, the owner will have to pay to fix it.

Can I just ignore the warning light? I don’t know. The worst-case scenario is that the TPMS not only breaks but creates a domino effect that knocks out a critical system that I actually need.

Toilers in software development can draw their own analogies . . .

Thus spoke The Programmer.


Thanks Anyway

4 Apr 2013 /
Car

A guy in front of me trying to pull out of a driveway and on to the street gives me a hand signal like “Go ahead, I’ll pull out behind you.”

I give him a friendly wave of acknowledgement, even though I had no intention of letting him out anyway . . .

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