Off Topic: Speed Queen Washing Machines

September 25th, 2016

Yesterday, our 19 year old Fisher & Paykel washing machine blew up. Before anyone suggests fixing it, know this: SmartDrive motor melted (several coils fused into a single black blob), the boards up on the console fried and the drum was punctured—not necessarily in that order. It looks like someone fired a .22 from the inside out near the top right on the front. Don’t worry, nobody died!

For my purposes, it’s GAME OVER on that one.

Since Fisher & Paykel stopped making appliances in New Zealand, we don’t see any reason to stick with the brand. By all accounts, Fisher & Paykel isn’t as good now. The Consumer writeup on the Fisher & Paykel models we’re interested in are not at all compelling.

Since my early 20s, I’ve wanted to own a Speed Queen. I did my laundry in those machines in various laundromats and apartment complexes until I got married and moved to New Zealand.

In NZ, though, people seem resigned to buying junk washing machines. We can’t afford to buy junk. We need the thing to last. The problem is, Speed Queen machines are extremely (absurdly) expensive in NZ.

Here’s my question to Speed Queen owners out there: Has your top load Speed Queen washing machine lived up to the legendary reputation? Has anyone used one past ten years? Fifteen years? Longer? How much service has it needed?

We’re looking at NZ$2300 for this thing, and that’s actually a great deal because there are no dealers in our area. They are even more expensive at stores. That’s hair on fire insane, but we’re prepared to do it if that’s the most reliable option in NZ.

You might be wondering: Why?

Why consider a machine like this?

We live in a rainy, rural area with three very active small children. Crap from the Warehouse isn’t up to this.

Self-Driving Trucks Threaten One of America’s Top Blue-Collar Jobs

September 25th, 2016

Via: Los Angeles Times:

Carmaking giants and ride-sharing upstarts racing to put autonomous vehicles on the road are dead set on replacing drivers, and that includes truckers. Trucks without human hands at the wheel could be on American roads within a decade, say analysts and industry executives.

At risk is one of the most common jobs in many states, and one of the last remaining careers that offer middle-class pay to those without a college degree. There are 1.7 million truckers in America, and another 1.7 million drivers of taxis, buses and delivery vehicles. That compares with 4.1 million construction workers.

While factory jobs have gushed out of the country over the last decade, trucking has grown and pay has risen. Truckers make $42,500 per year on average, putting them firmly in the middle class.

Monkeys to Operate Robots

September 24th, 2016

Via: IEEE:

As if quantum computing wasn’t mind-bending enough, one of D-Wave Systems’ founders is now pursuing another futuristic idea: using artificial intelligence and high-tech exoskeleton suits to allow humans—and, at least according to one description of the technology, monkeys, too—to control and train an army of intelligent robots.

Geordie Rose is a co-founder and chief technology officer of D-Wave, the Canadian company selling machines that it claims exploit quantum mechanical effects to solve certain problems hundreds of millions times faster than traditional computers.

Now an IEEE Spectrum investigation has discovered that Rose is also CEO of Kindred Systems (aka Kindred AI), a stealthy startup he founded with others in 2014 dedicated to delivering advanced teleoperated and autonomous robots. The goal is making programming robots faster and less costly–and possibly revolutionize the world of work.

Kindred has so far received well over $10 million in funding, according to Data Collective, the venture capital firm that led one of the rounds. Another Silicon Valley VC firm, Eleven Two Capital, also has a stake in the company. In a blog post, Data Collective described Kindred as using “AI-driven robotics so that one human worker can do the work of four.”

Kindred, based in Vancouver, B.C., Canada, recently filed a U.S. patent application revealing the extent of its ambitions. The document describes a system where an operator wearing a head-mounted display and an exo-suit of sensors and actuators carries out everyday tasks. Data from the suit and from other external sensors is then analyzed by computers in the cloud and used to control distant robots. The data could also be used to train machine learning algorithms that would allow the robots to imitate the operator’s actions autonomously.

“An operator may include a non-human animal such as a monkey,” says the patent, “and the operator interface may be … re-sized to account for the differences between a human operator and a monkey operator.”

Obama Used a Pseudonym in Emails with Clinton, FBI Documents Reveal

September 24th, 2016

Via: Politico:

President Barack Obama used a pseudonym in email communications with Hillary Clinton and others, according to FBI records made public Friday.

The disclosure came as the FBI released its second batch of documents from its investigation into Clinton’s private email server during her tenure as secretary of state.

The 189 pages the bureau released includes interviews with some of Clinton’s closest aides, such as Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills; senior State Department officials; and even Marcel Lazar, better known as the Romanian hacker “Guccifer.”

“Stephen Hawking Wants to Find Aliens Before They Find Us”

September 22nd, 2016

Via: Cnet:

In his new half-hour program “Stephen Hawking’s Favorite Places” on science-themed subscription service CuriosityStream, the world’s most famous theoretical physicist flies by the potentially habitable exoplanet Gliese 832c in a CGI spaceship as part of his hypothetical dream itinerary for a tour of the universe.

The super-Earth is only 16 light-years away and just the sort of world the Hawking-supported Breakthrough: Listen initiative hopes to scan for signs of alien signals using our most sensitive radio telescopes.

“If intelligent life has evolved (on Gliese 832c), we should be able to hear it,” he says while hovering over the exoplanet in the animated “U.S.S. Hawking.” “One day we might receive a signal from a planet like this, but we should be wary of answering back. Meeting an advanced civilization could be like Native Americans encountering Columbus. That didn’t turn out so well.”

Real Headline: “Get Ready for Freeways That Ban Human Drivers”

September 22nd, 2016

Sure, they lead with the safety argument, but what you’re going to wind up with is something like this:

Didn’t pay taxes? “Driving disabled. Would you like to pay overdue taxes, penalties, fees and interest now?”

Didn’t pay parking fine? “Driving disabled. Would you like to pay your fine now?”

Children not vaccinated? “Limited destinations. Would you like me to drive you to your child’s health care provider/vaccination center?”

Overdue library books? “Limited destinations. Would you like me to drive you to the library? Yes. Let’s confirm that you have the overdue materials…”

Assuming paper books still exist by then…

Anyway, you get the point.

Via: Bloomberg:

New rules of the road for robot cars coming out of Washington this week could lead to the eventual extinction of one of the defining archetypes of the past century: the human driver.

While banning people from driving may seem like something from a Kurt Vonnegut short story, it’s the logical endgame of a technology that could dramatically reduce — or even eliminate — the 1.25 million road deaths a year globally. Human error is the cause of 94 percent of roadway fatalities, U.S. safety regulators say, and robot drivers never get drunk, sleepy or distracted.

Autonomous cars already have “superhuman intelligence” that allows them to see around corners and avoid crashes, said Danny Shapiro, senior director of automotive at Nvidia Corp., a maker of high-speed processors for self-driving cars.

“Long term, these vehicles will drive better than any human possibly can,” Shapiro said. “We’re not there yet, but we will get there sooner than we believe.”

Regulators are accelerating the shift with new rules that will provide a path for going fully driverless by removing the requirement that a human serve as a backup. Earlier this year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recognized Google’s self-driving software as the “driver” in its fully autonomous test vehicles, eliminating the need for a person to be present.

This week, technology industry veterans proposed a ban on human drivers on a 150-mile (241-kilometer) stretch of Interstate 5 from Seattle to Vancouver. Within five years, human driving could be outlawed in congested city centers like London, on college campuses and at airports, said Kristin Schondorf, executive director of automotive transportation at consultant EY.

The first driver-free zones will be well-defined and digitally mapped, giving autonomous cars long-range vision and a 360-degree view of their surroundings, Schondorf said. The I-5 proposal would start with self-driving vehicles using car-pool lanes and expand over a decade to robot rides taking over the road during peak driving times.

“In city centers, you don’t even want non-automated vehicles; they would just ruin the whole point of why you have a smart city,” said Schondorf, a former engineer at Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV. “It makes it a dumb city.”

Obama Set to Veto 9/11 Victims’ Bid to Sue Saudis

September 22nd, 2016

Sure, because if the victims families sue the Saudis, guess who else would have to show up in court?


Via: AFP:

President Barack Obama is poised to veto legislation exposing Saudi Arabia to court action over the 9/11 attacks, stepping in to defend legal precedent and an awkward ally, but inviting election-time opprobrium.

White House officials say Obama will reject the “Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act” by a Friday veto deadline, after a little over a week of deliberation.

The administration is worried the bill — passed unanimously by Congress — would undermine state immunity, setting a dangerous legal precedent.

Obama’s aides tried and failed to have the legislation substantially revised, and now face the prospect of Republicans and Democrats joining forces to override the presidential veto, a relatively rare rebuke of White House power.

Families of 9/11 victims have campaigned for the law — convinced that the Saudi government had a hand in the attacks that killed almost 3,000 people.

Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were Saudi citizens, but no link to the government has been proven. The Saudi government denies any links to the plotters.

The Best Thing I’ve Ever Seen on Facebook

September 22nd, 2016

Via: Existential Wednesday:


North Carolina: State of Emergency Declared After Second Night of Riots

September 22nd, 2016

Via: BBC:

The North Carolina governor has declared a state of emergency in the city of Charlotte, as unrest continues over the police killing of a black man.

Violence erupted for a second night after Keith Lamont Scott was shot dead by a black officer on Tuesday.

One protester is in a critical condition after a “civilian on civilian” shooting, the city said.

Mr Scott was the third black man killed by police in a week. Such shootings have sparked huge protests recently.

Riot police in Charlotte used tear gas as they faced hundreds of protesters. The local police department said four officers were injured.

Earlier North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory said he had “initiated efforts” to deploy the national guard and highway patrol to help deal with the protests.

“Any violence directed toward our citizens or police officers or destruction of property should not be tolerated,” he said.

George H.W. Bush Said That He Will Vote for Hillary Clinton

September 21st, 2016

Via: CNN:

Former President George H.W. Bush said Monday that he will vote for Hillary Clinton in November, according to sources close to the 41st President…

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