Monday, February 27, 2017

There must be some amazing spices in that chili

As seen on the local news last night:

(Seriously, KPRC? It's bad enough that people confuse that country's flag with our state flag...)

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Drone taxis

Coming this summer to... where else?
There’s been lots of talk in recent years about self-driving cars. Now, it appears as if self-flying passenger drones are next -- and they could flying in one major city as soon as this July. 
That’s according to a plan revealed Monday in Dubai, where the head of the Dubai Roads and Transportation Authority said it wants to develop passenger-carrying drones as a way to move people around the United Arab Emirates’ biggest city. Officials said flights could begin in July, though few other details were offered.
The Associated Press reports the drone type being pursued for Dubai’s passenger service is the Chinese-made EHang 184, “an egg-shaped craft with four legs sticking out, each with two small propellers.”
The drone, which can travel about 30 miles on a single battery charge, would be completely automated. Passengers would select a destination on a touch screen in front of the seat; the drone’s flight would be monitored remotely from a control room staffed with Dubai RTA personnel and the passenger would have no control over the drone.

That sounds a bit scary, but according to the co-founder of EHang the drone will have software that calculates the most optimal route for the passenger and avoids collisions with other drones. It will also have back-up systems to take over in the case of any primary system failures. Truth be told, these drone taxis might end up being safer than Dubai’s regular taxis!

One problem with the drones (aside from the cost of the fare, which is likely to be substantial) is that they can only carry a person weighing up to 220 pounds. Which means that my fat ass is going to have to lose some weight before I can get in one.

My (landlord's) pretty azeleas

I can't take credit for them because they were here when I moved in, and they might not be as pretty as the ones in my parents neighborhood, but the azaleas in front of my house are putting on a decent enough show:

Usually they don't bloom until March or even April, but thanks to the warm excuse for a winter we've just had, they've decided to make an early appearance.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

2017 UH Cougar football schedule released

The 2017 University of Houston Cougar football schedule has been released:

     Sat Sep 02     at Texas-San Antonio (San Antonio)
     Sat Sep 10     at Arizona (Tucson)
     Sat Sep 16     Rice
     Sat Sep 23     Texas Tech
     Sat Sep 30     at Temple (Philadelphia)
     Sat Oct 07     SMU
     Sat Oct 14     at Tulsa (Tulsa)
     Thu Oct 19    Memphis
     Sat Oct 28     East Carolina
     Sat Nov 04    at South Florida (Tampa)
     Sat Nov 11    (off)
     Sat Nov 18    at Tulane (New Orleans)
     Fri Nov 24     Navy

There's a rumor that the Labor Day weekend game against UTSA at the Alamodome could be moved from Saturday to Sunday or even Monday if the networks so decide; if that happens I'll update this post accordingly.

Structurally, this is a decent schedule. It features two "Power 5" schools, crosstown rival Rice, only two non-Saturday games (it looks like a game on Black Friday is becoming a tradition) and has the three teams the Cougars lost to last season - SMU, Memphis and Navy - at home. My only gripes are the fact that the Coogs start the season with back-to-back road games, and don't get a bye week until very late in the season. This is also the first time in a few seasons that the Cougars don't have seven home games.

Given last season's relative disappointment as well as the fact that the Cougars have a completely new coaching staff and are losing a lot of talent on both sides of the ball, this schedule might present some difficulty on the field. Arizona and Texas Tech are not elite Power Five teams but will nevertheless be challenges. UTSA beat the Coogs the last time the two teams played. Conference road games against Temple, Tulsa and South Florida will be tough, and even schools like Rice and Tulane are going to give the Cougars their best shot.

Win or lose, I'm going to make the best of it. Roadies to UTSA in San Antonio and Tulane in New Orleans are already on my calendar. I'd also like to make the trip to Tucson to see the Arizona game - my cousin and his family live there so I'd have a place to stay - if I can get the finances to work.

The soft tyranny of Donald Trump

Andrew Sullivan, who's back to (semi-) blogging after a two-year hiatus, ponders it:
With someone like this barging into your consciousness every hour of every day, you begin to get a glimpse of what it must be like to live in an autocracy of some kind. Every day in countries unfortunate enough to be ruled by a lone dictator, people are constantly subjected to the Supreme Leader’s presence, in their homes, in their workplaces, as they walk down the street. Big Brother never leaves you alone. His face bears down on you on every flickering screen. He begins to permeate your psyche and soul; he dominates every news cycle and issues pronouncements — each one shocking and destabilizing — round the clock. He delights in constantly provoking and surprising you, so that his monstrous ego can be perennially fed. And because he is also mentally unstable, forever lashing out in manic spasms of pain and anger, you live each day with some measure of trepidation. What will he come out with next? Somehow, he is never in control of himself and yet he is always in control of you. 
One of the great achievements of free society in a stable democracy is that many people, for much of the time, need not think about politics at all. The president of a free country may dominate the news cycle many days — but he is not omnipresent — and because we live under the rule of law, we can afford to turn the news off at times. A free society means being free of those who rule over you — to do the things you care about, your passions, your pastimes, your loves — to exult in that blessed space where politics doesn’t intervene. In that sense, it seems to me, we already live in a country with markedly less freedom than we did a month ago. It’s less like living in a democracy than being a child trapped in a house where there is an abusive and unpredictable father, who will brook no reason, respect no counter-argument, admit no error, and always, always up the ante until catastrophe inevitably strikes. This is what I mean by the idea that we are living through an emergency.
I understand what Sullivan is sensing, because I'm beginning to see it in my own life. I check the news websites several times a day just to read his latest tweet or to see what his administration's latest ridiculous pronouncement or action is. I see that the majority of the posts of my Facebook feed are political in nature. I watch every new episode of Saturday Night Live just to see Alec Baldwin's latest takedown of him (Melissa McCarthy's Sean Spicer has me in tears, by the way). And all anybody wants to talk about at the bar or at the Super Bowl party is Donald Fucking Trump.

It's relentless. It's discomforting. And it's only been three weeks.