20 years in space

20 years ago yesterday, 3 people went into space. Since then, there have always been humans in space. Beginning on November 1st, 2000, 20 years ago today, every second of every day, there has always been a person in space.

60 years ago, no person had ever been to space.

64 years ago, we hadn’t sent anything to space.

It’s neat that we can do something amazing, get better at it, and make it routine.

Sneeze timing

Earlier tonight I was walking towards someone on the sidewalk. I felt a sneeze brewing, and tried to suppress or at least delay it. As I got closer to her, I realized that the sneeze would likely be timed so that it would occur exactly at the time we passed each other. I didn’t want this to happen, but I also thought that it would be funny if it did. I was then trying to stop myself both from sneezing and laughing. And of course, just as we were next to each other, despite my best efforts, the sneeze escaped.

I wonder what it looked like from her perspective: A wide-eyed guy walked towards her with a look of urgent concern, sneezed right next to her, and then burst out laughing as he continued on his way, alone and into the darkness.


If you have a question about voting, don’t hesitate to contact whichever department handles elections where you live. In my experience (in the USA), they’re helpful. If you don’t know where to get started, try searching for your state name and “elections” and you’ll probably find the right site. Look for a .gov, go to that, and click on anything that says “contact.”

You can find many answers to questions like “How do I register” or “Where do I vote?” with a quick search, but maybe your situation is a little complicated. Maybe you’re a student and your license says you still live at your parents’ house, but you’re now living in a different place close to your school. If you hit a wall in your research and aren’t sure what you can do, don’t give up. Just ask.

In one local election, I had received my ballot by mail. I didn’t plan on voting, so I didn’t send it in. I think I shredded it. On Election Day, I wanted to vote. I called the voter hotline. They answered right away and were super-friendly. I asked if I could vote, and they explained that yes, as long as I was registered to vote, I could go to any polling location and request a provisional ballot. As this was in California, I was also able to see if my ballot was counted after it was confirmed that I did not cast my ballot by mail.

In a national election, I knew that I was going to be moving to a different state before Election Day but after the new state’s registration deadline. I did some searching, but wasn’t quite sure how I could vote. I emailed the elections division of my current state and explained my situation. They replied noting that under 52 USC § 10502 I had the right to vote for the offices of President and Vice President, and guided me through the process of obtaining an absentee ballot. At one point, I contacted the wrong office and they simply brought the right person into the conversation, so don’t worry if you don’t know exactly who to contact.


Disclosure: I work for Google, which is developing self-driving cars.

I got invited to be beta tester of chffr, an app used by comma.ai to collect training data for self-driving cars.

It was easy to set up. I just had to set up an account, install the app and sign in the first time. Here’s a screenshot from the first run:

Overview of how to use the app and data usage warnings

After setting it up, there’s really no interaction with the app. It’s very easy. To record a drive, you just launch the app. After a splash screen of the comma logo, the app automatically goes into logging mode. If you mount it on a dashboard and start driving, it starts logging. If you stop driving, it stops logging. The only instructions from George are to “capture such that you would feel comfortable driving the car from the footage.” I didn’t even see a menu for settings, though it’s possible to enable cellular video uploads via a setting on the comma.ai forum, as accounts are managed by phpBB. I suppose the way to log out is to clear app data.

Here’s the logging interface:

Camera on. Logging.

As you can see, there are points, offering a gamification aspect. The forum has a leaderboard where users can see who has earned the most comma points. After a couple of hours of driving, I earned 1012 points, though there are a lot of bonus points at the beginning.

You can view your own data via the driving explorer feature of the website, which shows what the camera captured, your location, your speed, and the time. You can’t play back the drive in realtime, but you can scrub through it by dragging the slider.

driving explorer screenshot

It was pretty rough on my battery, and I prefer to have a navigation app in the foreground when driving, so I’ll pause testing for now. It’s a neat idea for data collection, and I’m happy to see ongoing efforts by multiple organizations and individuals to develop self-driving cars.


I keep forgetting to pay my power bill because everything else is paid automatically. Here’s why this bill is paid manually.

The auto-pay page, while hidden, starts out well:

Auto Pay is a convenient, hassle-free way to pay your bill.

Cool. Sign me up!

To enroll in Auto Pay, please fill out the Automated Payment Authorization form, print, sign and fax it to…


To be fair, I could mail it instead.