Bugs in your devices and cars!

Nest thermostat

Photo illustration by Jim DeMaria/The New York Times and photo by Ben Margot/Associated Press.

In a recent NY Times article, “Nest Thermostat Glitch Leaves Users in the Cold,” Nick Bilton writes about a recent bug in a ‘smart’ home thermostat that left many (millions?) of customers’ homes very cold on a winter night.

He goes on to explain that this sort of issue “points to a larger problem with so-called smart devices that we are inviting into our lives: Small glitches can cause huge problems.”

He’s right, of course: software will always have bugs, and bugs may have serious consequences.

While there are very serious and nasty potential consequences from faulty software in the connected home (just imagine if your home is hacked the way your credit card can be), what really worries me is the smart car, especially the autonomous, driverless ones being developed and tested now.

autonomous car

Elizabeth D. Herman for The New York Times

Buggy thermostats are one thing. But a buggy or hacked driverless car is quite another thing! Especially one with me in it. John Markoff writes, also in the NY Times, of some of the current issues with autonomous cars: “For Now, Self-Driving Cars Still Need Humans.”

You won’t catch me in one of those any time soon. I know too much about software!

Global energy mix

Share of Fuels in the Global Energy Mix Across Modern History
chart of history of energy mix

In a recent article in The Atlantic, ‘We Need an Energy Miracle’, Bill Gates (interviewed by James Bennet) talks about his efforts “moving the world beyond fossil fuels and mitigating climate change.”

This chart, showing the mixture of fuels in global energy consumption, is a really clear depiction of the changing sources of energy in modern history.

Heart of a Dog

"Heart of a Dog" still21HEARTDOG-master675Laurie Anderson’s new film “Heart of a Dog” is a poignant and beautiful meditation on memory, death, and loss. As always with her work, it is complex, evocative, and wraps many themes and observations on our society up with her personal life, weaving it all together in an immersive sensory experience.

Ostensibly dealing with the death of her dog, Lolabelle, the film’s unmentioned but shadowy overhanging presence is her late husband, Lou Reed.

Manohla Dargis’ review in the NY Times is, as usual, wonderfully eloquent: nyti.ms/1QPPxzV.

New course: Intro to Human Centered Design & Engineering

HCDE is launching an exciting new course for Autumn 2015: Introduction to Human Centered Design and Engineering (HCDE). See Announcing HCDE 498 for details.

This course introduces the basic principles of HCDE in an engaging, fast paced format that combines a weekly one-hour lecture with a separate two-hour studio section. It is open to all underclass undergraduate students, with no prerequisites.

In a series of weekly, hands-on activities, students will explore application areas for human-centered design and engineering such as health and wellness, personal informatics, social media, and data visualization. Students will practice skills necessary to succeed as a human-centered designer and researcher through activities such as intensive brainstorming and ideation, user research, interaction design, and software/hardware prototyping. They will learn how these techniques are used to understand human needs and interests to design and build engineering solutions to many of the problems our world is facing.

Led by HCDE Professor Jennifer Turns and HCDE Senior Lecturer Andrew Davidson, the course will also feature guest sessions with other HCDE faculty and researchers.

Registration: HCDE 498 — Intro to HCDE (SLN 15459)


Our Town

OurTownI only wish I had seen this wonderful production of “Our Town,” the classic American play by Thornton Wilder, before closing night so that I could have recommended it in time for people to go see it.

It was produced by Strawberry Theatre Workshop, a small, award-winning Seattle theatre company now based in the brand-new arts space on Capitol Hill called 12th Avenue Arts. Almost every one of their recent productions I have seen, including the brilliant “Breaking the Code,” about Alan Turing, has been excellent.

It is no wonder that this Pulitzer Prize winning play, written almost 70 years ago by Wilder, is still one of the most performed plays in America. Its examination of ordinary lives is poignant and still resonates today.

And Wilder’s “form of expressionism that demanded an audience collaborate in the creation of the story without the aid of production elements of any kind” is supremely effective in Strawshop’s modern telling of this American classic.

RSVP 2014

RSVP 14-Logo


rsvp2014I spent the weekend cycling with my friend Jim in Cascade Bike Club‘s annual ride from Seattle to Vancouver, BC: RSVP.

It’s a great trip, on some beautiful Washington and British Columbia rural countryside roads, with some challenging hills (among them Chuckanut Drive along the coast in Whatcom County), crossing a towering and soaring bridge (Golden Ears, spanning the Fraser River outside of Vancouver), and a lovely day in a wonderful destination city.

Some ride stats:

Days 2
Overnight stop Bellingham
Total miles 194
Total hours en route 16
Hours of pedaling 12
Hours of pedaling in the rain 3.5
Average speed 15 mph
Total climbing 6000 ft.
On your left! a lot
Calories burned 10,000
Calories consumed unknown
Calories consumed in PB&J sandwiches uncountable
Desire to eat another energy bar unmeasurably small
Flat tires, mechanical problems 0
Body aches and pains none to speak of
Value of training enormous
Navigation errors by me 1
Consequences of navigation error 4 very long extra miles (at the end of the first 104)
1 very steep extra hill climb
Cost to friendship none apparent
Beers at finish line just one, but …

Andy & Jim