by Dave Kellam

Confusing Google’s self-driving cars

Apparently, cyclists riding fixed-gear bicycles confuse Google’s self-driving cars.

The car got to the stop line a fraction of a second before I did, so it had the [right of way]. I did a track-stand and waited for it to continue on through.

It apparently detected my presence … and stayed stationary for several seconds. it finally began to proceed, but as it did, I rolled forward an inch while still standing. The car immediately stopped…

I continued to stand, it continued to stay stopped. Then as it began to move again, I had to rock the bike to maintain balance. It stopped abruptly.

I had never head of a track-stand before. Performing one involves a rocking back-and-forth a bit with your wheel at an angle, it helps to preserve momentum. Here’s a video:

Only crashes on Wednesdays

A fun bug story about crashes that only happened on Wednesdays:

After several weeks of frustration, where entire days devoted to experimentation had produced no results, I ended up basically adding printf statements to every single line between receiving the event from the serial port and writing it in the database… and in the process, as I revisited every line of that code, a sinking realization dawned on me.

Getting drunk in colonial America

A Toast to Your Health

Toasting, or ‘drinking healths,’ was a longstanding tradition in English culture. The act of honoring another and drinking to their health was a way for English drinkers to combine a display of respect with the consumption of alcohol – certainly a win-win situation for those who favored the practice. The act itself, while popular among the English, didn’t always gain favor from outside observers.

The last HybridConf


I went to the first HybridConf in Cardiff two years ago, and will definitely in Dublin for the third and final iteration this year (couldn’t make it last year due to family commitments). The first one was awesome; the speakers were great, the events were awesome, and I met a lot of incredible people. If you need convincing, here’s an excerpt from the convince your boss guide (relevant even if you’re your own boss):

Our original remit was about bringing designers and developers together, and that is still very much a part of it, but we’ve transformed and grown to become a conference that is welcoming and appropriate for everyone who works in our industry and loves to create things.

We are a conference where attendees will gain knowledge about so many important aspects of work, from teamwork and communication, to strategy and organisation, to examples of what fantastic things we can achieve in the world with the tools we have available to us now.

If you’re in the vicinity of Dublin on Aug 20th, you should really pick up tickets. If you’re not in the vicinity and haven’t planned a vacation, making it pseudo work related for a tax write-off isn’t a bad idea.

Zach and Laura are two of the most awesome people I’ve met, and I know that they absolutely pour their hearts into this project. That sort of effort has its toll though, and is probably the main reason this will be the last HybridConf. I’ll be there, hope to see you there too!

NYC subway map from 1964


A version of the NYC subway map, which had been lost to history, was recently found and recreated digitally by Reka Komoli.

A local lawyer, R. Raleigh D’Adamo, was the winner of that 1964 contest. His design separated local from express routes and assigned separate colors to each of them. Submissions had to fit all the subway lines into a geographically correct map. So to use as little space as possible, D’Adamo employed colored squares along shared lines.

Personally, I would’ve found the map tough to use as a tourist, none of the station names are indicated. It was replaced by Massimo Vignelli’s version three years later.

The man in the van

Daniel Norris van

Daniel Norris, a rookie pitcher with the Toronto Blue Jays, lives in a van during the off season.

This is where Norris has chosen to live while he tries to win a job in the Blue Jays’ rotation: in a broken-down van parked under the blue fluorescent lights of a Wal-Mart in the Florida suburbs. There, every morning, is one of baseball’s top-ranked prospects, doing pull-ups and resistance exercises on abandoned grocery carts. There he is each evening, making French press coffee and organic stir-fry on his portable stove. There he is at night, wearing a spelunking headlamp to go with his unkempt beard, writing in his “thought journal” or rereading Kerouac.

He’s made the starting rotation, looking forward to seeing him and the Jays in action this year. There’s quite a lot of youth in the squad this year, one of those things that could go either way. Wishing the best for him and the rest of the team.

Space probe tracker

Space Probes

Spaceprob.es provides news and information about the various probes that we’ve launched in our solar system. There’s a poster version of the probe artwork available as well.

Origins of the blink tag

Lou Montulli, a former engineer with Netscape, writes about the origins of the blink tag. It seems that it was a lament for the lack of features in text-based browsers.

Back in 1994 I was a founding engineer at Netscape, prior to that I had written the Lynx browser, which predated all of the other popular browsers at that time. Lynx had been and still is a text only browser and is commonly used in a console window on UNIX machines.

Sometime in late summer I took a break with some of the other engineers and went to a local bar on Castro street in Mountain View. At some point in the evening I mentioned that it was sad that Lynx was not going to be able to display many of the HTML extensions that we were proposing, I also pointed out that the only text style that Lynx could exploit given its environment was blinking text. We had a pretty good laugh at the thought of blinking text, and talked about blinking this and that and how absurd the whole thing would be.

Saturday morning rolled around and I headed into the office only to find what else but, blinking text. It was on the screen blinking in all its glory, and in the browser. How could this be, you might ask? It turns out that one of the engineers liked my idea so much that he left the bar sometime past midnight, returned to the office and implemented the blink tag overnight. He was still there in the morning and quite proud of it.

Why am I not surprised that the idea originated in a bar.

The Wire in HD

David Simon wrote a piece about The Wire’s conversion to high-definition and a 16:9 aspect ratio. I remember watching the series while it was airing and reading about the intentional preservation of the 4:3 ratio. I just figured we’d never see a widescreen release.

At the last, I’m satisfied what while this new version of The Wire is not, in some specific ways, the film we first made, it has sufficient merit to exist as an alternate version. There are scenes that clearly improve in HD and in the widescreen format. But there are things that are not improved. And even with our best resizing, touchups and maneuver, there are some things that are simply not as good. That’s the inevitability: This new version, after all, exists in an aspect ratio that simply wasn’t intended or serviced by the filmmakers when the camera was rolling and the shot was framed.

Glad to hear that Simon is down with the new treatment (for the most part).