Drones delivering pizzas. What could possilby go wrong?

In today’s segment of WTFs In the News:

Domino’s Pizza is working with a company in UK testing drone prototypes for airborne pizza delivery

The agency [T + Biscuits] hired custom drone makers in the U.K. and tested a few prototypes until they found the best. “Domino’s said: ‘Right, that’s the one. Let’s make a video and get it out there,'” Hatton said.

On delivery day, two large, hot, pepperoni pizzas were boxed, stacked and stashed in a thermally insulated bag. The team hoisted the package not onto the scooter rack belonging to a pizza delivery boy but aboard the copter. Operated by a experienced drone pilot, it travelled about 4 miles in about ten minutes.

The delivery was a success, Hatton says — the two pies arrived at the other end in pristine shape. “If anything it went quicker than a pizza boy,” because it didn’t need to stop at red lights, Hatton remembers. “We were amazed at how easy it was going to be.”

The two large pizzas hit the weight limit the drone could carry. “We thought: ‘Oh perfect,'” Hatton said, but a big response so far has been: “Well, what if someone ordered more? ” To which Hatton’s response is: “I can’t believe anyone would want to order more than two large pizzas.”


Ya know, kids,  ol attila’s fav pizza place in Missoula was called Red Pies Over Montana. It was a play on the movie about some brave fire jumpers and a very nasty incident of a jump gone bad. Bad pun and perhaps always  ‘too soon’, but hey, college town. They did serve up great pizza though. The mural of flying pizzas over the mountains was a surreal work of art, or something. But it was acknowledged as surreal, not a hair brained scheme that some capitalists figured was the best thing since sliced cheese. The good old days, when logic was generally put before corporations as people thinking, I miss them.

Now, as usual, life or commerce, is imitating art, or earlier commerce. This is due to the reality that  there really aren’t many new ideas out there, just a lot of modifications and applying new tech to old ideas. There might be just a hint of a class of business people who are too isolated from reality and perhaps to able to afford mind altering substances in units not generally recommended. The rub with blindly applying new technology to old business paradigms always falls back to ‘just because you can  do a thing, it does not follow that you should do a thing’.

OK, flying pizza has a certain panache and whimsey that does appeal to the ‘Awesome!’ brain center that kicks in before the rest of the brain has had coffee and time to do what brains are supposed to do. And it may be a way to deal with traffic gridlock in large urban areas, for a time at least.

Near as I can figure, there really aren’t many, if any, regulations governing corporate use of drones to transport product, which ya know just has to appeal to the pirates, err, corporate officers.

But what could go wrong? Or more to the point, what couldn’t?

Delivery drones? If Domino’s actually went operational with flying pizzas, every other monster food corporation would have to take to the air just to compete and take away the novelty factor. Will joystick jockeys for Sky Pizza have radar to keep cheesy goodness out of the way of flying fried chicken? What happened when the Chinese take out place gets into the arms race and launches a fleet of Flying Tigers? Will drone delivery competition escalate to the point that drones are armed in order to preserve and protect their air freight? What about the likelihood of hungry students hacking into the drones and hijacking the food deliveries? And how long before cleaver birds like crows and seagulls start testing to see how many birds can land on a flying pizza to take it down? Will cities be inundated with well fed attack pigeons, landing, one at a time until they have safely landed and scarfed down the dinner someone is watching the skies over their driveway for?

Consumer protection will be a problem. One must assume that without a pizza delivery person actually showing up with the goods and getting your cash in return, the customer will be required to provide a valid credit card number when placing orders. Yes, many delivery franchises already do this, but with flying pizza, it will be required. Now, what happens when a patron is electronically charged for a pizza at time order is placed but the pizza is hijacked by angry birds or hacker neighbors with really good WiFi? Ah those pesky unintended consequences!

Airports have air traffic controllers, and still the burdens of air traffic make the occasional near miss, or actual collision inevitable. How about unregulated drones delivering the goodies? Who will keep the air ways neat, orderly, and safe? Who pays in the case of falling fast food related injuries? Who is liable if a pizza lands on my windshield and blinds me so that a car accident ensues? And what are we to do with all the car drivers texting orders to the pizza palace then racing through traffic in hopes of beating the drone? And what if the drone forgets the goddamned chili flakes and extra Parmesan packets? Huh? Whose gonna pay for all that gastronomic mayhem? Is Allstate gonna grab a slice with those good hands? How much extra will falling food insurance add on to consumers’ tabs?

Hell, let’s toss in some Stand Yer Ground fun into our hypothetical problem list. If the average American corporation can start delivering goods via drones, can the average American citizens insist on corporations not violating airspace over their homes. My guess is no.  Note: airlines fly over, albeit not as low as a pizza drone and we don’t get to swat them down. But just how low can a corporate drone go without Joe Second Amendment feeling threatened and blasting it to the higher heavens? Then there is that liability thing again. What happens when Joe homeowner stands his ground and airspace, fires off a few rounds and gravity kicks in. Bullets go up, up to a point, then somebody gets lead rain. Who gets held responsible for injury and damage from self defense against low flying food stuffs?

Oh, and what about the children, err, dieters? Just how much latitude will Weight Watchers have in preventing the temptation of forbidden fruit and junk food passing too near their windows? Remember that horrible travesty of justice known as the ‘Twinkie defense’ when a bigoted pol got off easy for spilling Harvey Milk? What sorts of horrors and docket constipation will the courts go through sorting all these conflicting interests out?

See what I’m sayin here? All sorts of possible unintended consequences. But it strikes me that corporations get to do what they want, so I doubt our legislative bodies and regulatory agencies will manage to get ahead of the curve on this one and get some rules and constraints put in place before those consequences hit the fan.

By the way, drone chopper delivery of pizzas will mean less jobs for the struggling youths who need them. But maybe it will save lives. At least it will save struggling youths the expense of subsidizing business with their own vehicles, fuel and insurance, so maybe it would actually be a financial wash for the kids who want to work and make some money. One does not make money pulling minimum wage AND using ones own resources to subsidize cheap ass franchise owners. One is old enough to know few legislators are interested in protecting the interests of workers. My daughter is still waiting to get paid for three weeks of delivering chow 20 some years ago.


The sun came up over Boston

Figured this morning would be media run amok. Followed last night until the sun was up in Boston and I simply couldn’t stay awake. Twitter feed with hastags: #scanner #boston and #wcvb. People listening to their own Boston PD scanners and that scanner online (over 80,000 on that site) were real-time posting what was coming across. Lots of people in Boston search areas were posting what they were seeing / hearing outside, including some audio tapes and pictures. It was surreal.

And Boston TV station WCVB (wcvb,com) was doing the most amazing reporting. They were giving straight data WHEN THE GOT CONFIRMATION and doing if fast, accurately, and without talking head flourishes. Their site is worth a look for those who slept last night and need to play catch-up.

People on the twitter hastags were following the action and doing the google earth/google maps to understand the areas being affected by the chase, the tightening area of search, the perimeter, and the areas of house to house searched. People in the area were posting pics (from out windows) of two houses authorities had lit up. People posted pictures of chairs in their homes, chairs with bullet holes.

I was grateful to wake up and hear husband say that Boston had not been blown off the map. Sounds like the bad guys had devices in many places. The guy they are looking for has been missing for over a month, so who knows what they may have laid down in hoods.

But today, ::sigh:: today the talking heads and pols who slept last night will all be trying to look like they earned their keep by mouthing platitudes, and pushing their agendas.

And I can’t help but think that this could have all been avoided if those same talking heads and pols had not yammered so much, mouthing platitudes and pushing their agendas before Bush/Cheney invaded the wrong country, killing so many of ours and theirs. Can’t help but think of how much different Afghanistan would have gone if we had sent in intel people to do the police work on the ground to find Bin Laden and his people, instead of sending in troops to expend ordinance, make more enemies, but ensure Halliburton and Blackwater profits, probably for generations now that we have made so many life-long enemies. Can’t help but wonder how much less hate and battle there would be if Obama had done what he promised re Gitmo.

When you kill/mame/torture thousands of innocents, you will make more enemies than you had. When you treat your own military personnel to the special hells created by war for profit instead of good police work against small bands of criminals, you create too many tortured souls among the ranks of your veterans. You destroy too many families, here and over there.

But proceed, talking heads and pols in the media that slept. Proceed.

/Rant off

Ol Mitch is running scared. First he says he might join a Rand Paul filibuster

Then he whines that he has been Watergated and evil libruls are bugging him an’ stuff. Oh, and libruls are picking on his wife’s ethnic background… for mentioning that as Bush 43’s Labor Secretary, she enabled more job outsourcing to China than any other cabinet member in the history of the known universe so boo hoo stop making me get all butt hurt ‘n stuff.

Phew. Sorry about that. Been reading Wonkette too much first thing in the morning and my inhibitions have gone the way of that surplus Clinton left Bush….

Seriously, the turtle (ok, not TOO seriously) is looking pretty stressed and scared these days. Rand Paul gets some atta-boys from the tea bagging brigade for that pointless filibuster and Ol Mitch wants to jump in when Rand Man says he might put a catheter up his nozzle and go on a verb binge to feign a stop to any vote on  gun control legislation. So, yes, we can add pandering to the paranoid gun nuts (and the merchants making record sales based on imagined threats to the 2nd) to Mitch’s list of fraidie-cat-iechisms. Check.

Then ‘the liberals are bugging my office! The liberals are like the Watergate guys…’ play for sympathy from the persecution-complexed-but-not-quite-paranoid RW Christians who love to hate liberals, because, you know, JESUS ‘n stuff.   We have to give McConnell props here for knowing his target audience and their propensity for mis-remembering history and the probability that they might recall that Watergate was a bad thing, but totally disassociate it from the reality that it was also a GOP thing. He is lower than the barnacle on a whale’s belly, but he isn’t a brainless barnacle.

Then, as part of the GOP outreach and warm fuzzy hugs and kisses to those who care about the not-rinso-white peeps, ‘They pick on my sweet lil wife cuz she’s not rinso-white, so THEY are the bigots!’ Totally ignoring the fact that the flak Mrs Mitch got was about her record-setting enabling of corporate job outsourcing while working as G.W. Bush’s Secretary of Labor, and the fact that she was called by name, which happens to be the Chinese surname she kept and has gone by professionally, Elaine L. Chao.  So, really, McConnell was trying to mooch sympathy for the fact that his wife’s name was accurately reported along with her record. Check off ‘appearing to appeal to broader spectrum of color peeps without actually doing any such thing’ on Mitch’s To-Do list.

Now, to really get attention for all these things checked off his list, he has to get LOTS more attention for it all. So, call the FBI right fracking now! Investigate all this evil doing by doers of evil!

Ooopsies, seems that tape was not a wire tap, so no Watergate here. And since it is pretty clear that the recording device was moved to better capture the sound when someone from the back of the room spoke, it seems pretty evident the ‘bug’ was a phone or computer device and on the table in the room, in plain sight. And even if the recording device was somehow clandestine, KY is a single party state, so as long as one party in the meeting was OK with recording it, it is legal. One would guess anyone recording a conversation, openly or covertly, would be OK with recording a conversation, so LEGAL in Kentucky! The ugly reality for Team McConnell: ‘Quick, call the plumbers, we have a leak and it is us!’

Furthermore: in the taped conversation, it is said that LAs (legislative aides, as in official federal employes working on Mitch’s staff, but paid by We the Taxpayers) did a lot of research work to ferret out info on Ms Judd (by reading the book she wrote). So now we get to the crux of the matter: Did Mitch violate the LAW by having senatorial staffers doing campaign work on the taxpayers’ time or were they doing it in addition to their regularly scheduled work hours and not on the taxpayers’ dime? And in what space was this work done? At their homes, as volunteers? At campaign office space? Or did ANY of that research take place in ANY official senatorial office space?

Yes, call the FBI to investigate! Proceed, Senator…….

Uranium contamination in water? Have some molasses. Molasses?

And now, onto the unbearable sweetness of radioactive water like chocolate flowing into Colorado’s Ralston Reservoir, which is one source of drinking water for many humans in the Denver metro area.  Yes, our trustworthy friends in the extraction industries have sweetened our lives yet again with this tale of how they plan to fix the small mater of radioactive water mixing with thirsty humans.

Molasses. The AP tells us water indulgent brats that molasses is how Cotter Corp is gonna fix the little issue of ” as high as 24,000 parts per billion” of uranium in the water that is pooling in a mine. (Those pesky federal regulator types have set the standard for drinking water at 30 ppb.) The water is feeding into a basin that feeds Ralston Creek, which in turn helps fill Denver Water’s Ralston Reservoir, a reserve from which over 1.3 million people sip, gulp, and bathe.

What AP did not tell us is how sticky sweet stuff will fix this.

Now some of you might know that ol attila is a fair hand in the kitchen and maybe some even know she has spent decades culling tidbits of knowledge about the pharmaceuticals known as food. But attila is flummoxed about how molasses takes the beep beep beep out of the Geiger counter on the kitchen counter, next to the faucet.

Sure, molasses is heavy and dense. I could see it sinking to the bottom of the pooling water in the mine, creek, even the reservoir, if they add enough, but there is much googling to be done before I grasp the finer points of how gingerbread ingredient saves Denver. But hey, maybe it really works. And maybe the fracking for oil and gas coming to my area won’t really contaminate the aquifers here in this vast northern desert where water is more precious than people want to acknowledge.

If it really works, buy stock in Grandma’s Molasses or that Briar Rabbit brand of same. If this works, Japan will be buying a lot of sticky brown syrup for that unfortunate nuclear power plant that well-meaning capitalists put next to the beach on an island known for, and formed by, violent movements of the earth.

If this works, perhaps Glenn Beck will stop hocking gold and chatting with people advocating returning to the gold standard. Maybe, just maybe, world economies will get around to going on the cookie standard, as attila advocated way back on graduation day from high school. Yes, back when she and her giddy classmates were making plans for how they would change the world and when Brian Whatshizname said he would be President. Brian was looking for a cabinet from among our ranks that day. I got pegged for SecTreas for my plan to go onto the cookie standard as a monetary exchange. My reasoning was cookies made as much sense as colored paper or gold, and if inflation got too far out of hand and food prices rose too high, working people could always eat the money.

Molasses, some corporation is gonna try to fix the disaster that run amok capitalism has wrought upon the water drinkers of metro Denver with molasses.

We the People are in some serious, sticky brown substance these days.

Google releases full version of FCC’s report on company’s controversial gathering of personal data with Street View cars

The FCC has already released a portion of the report already, with heavy redaction action. Can we find out how much the FCC spends on black markers? We might have a place to cut some cash outta the budget.

Google released the full report ahead of a FOIA request filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, and a lot of controversy over the car cameras and interception of a whole lot of data from wireless connections.

Google ‘inadvertently’ got private data like e-mail and text messages, passwords, Internet-usage history, and other data from unsecured wireless networks for two years or so, beginning in 2007.

Frankly, I fail to see how taking pictures from a car managed to suck up data. Guess they were doing more than just taking pictures, so how was this ‘inadvertent’? I’m anything but a tech guru, so how does an innocent camera collect all that data? None of my cameras can do a trick like that.

Google said it was the fault of a rogue engineer. The FCC thinks maybe somebody at Google could have, or should have known about the data collection

Per LA Times report:

The report points the finger at a rogue engineer who, it says, intentionally wrote software code that captured payload data information — communication over the Internet including emails, passwords and search history — from unprotected wireless networks, going beyond what Google says it intended. The engineer invoked his 5th Amendment right and declined to speak to the FCC.

But the FCC raises the question of whether engineers and managers on the Street View project did know — or should have known — that the data was being collected.

According to the FCC report: The engineer in question told two other engineers, including a senior manager, that he was collecting the payload data. He also gave the entire Street View team a copy of a document in October 2006 that detailed his work on Street View. In it, he noted that Google would be logging such data.

Well, good to know it’s not my cameras that are defective. The problem is either Google’s failure to conduct proper oversight of employees, or tendency to blame rogue employees for doing what Google has always done, collect a whole lot of data on you.

In the meantime, lock your networks. Remember, if a product doesn’t cost you anything, YOU are the product. Google is a profitable sort of enterprise.


Labels and the Propensity of the Right to Mame Language to Mislead Masses

Truly a fun read about how GOP pols and pundits have diminished meaningful communication through the misuse of language.

John Viall creatively captures the RW spirit of using labels as pejoratives rather than functioning aids to communication.

Here’s a sample of Mr Viall’s premise:

When pressed to clarify such statements later, Mr. West backed off slightly, but his campaign manager, Tim Edson, insisted when speaking with reporters that labels weren’t the point. And by that, I believe he meant “words in an actual dictionary.” Maybe none of the Democrats in Congress were actually card-carrying commies. So what?

“We can quibble about the terminology used to describe them,” Edson grumbled, “but it’s clear. Whatever you call people that oppose capitalism and free markets and individual economic freedom —maybe it’s ‘socialist,’ maybe it’s ’communist’ —but that’s the point the congressman was making, and he stands by the words.”

It struck me, on reading Edson’s response, that he would have been just as happy if his boss had called Democrats in Congress toaster ovens or card-carrying poltergeists. And that’s when it finally hit me. For fringe conservatives, at least, labels no longer meant what they meant in the English language.

You could call the president or any liberal a communist, a curmudgeon, or a cucumber. It wouldn’t make an ounce of difference.

The linked essay is a fun read, and hits on a very salient point: We can’t communicate when language is rendered meaningless by the barrage of ill-used labels in our political discourse. Yeah, it’s deliberate on the right. Sound-bites move herds faster than facts and a common language.
Writer/lyricist Alan Jay Lerner had dear Professor Henry Higgins singing “Use proper English, you’re regarded as a freak….” We often consider how Huxley and Orwell were prescient. Well, Lerner was too. “One common language I’m afraid we’ll never get….”

Giving serious consideration to becoming a “card-carrying poltergeists” my own bad self. Thinking the meetings might be fun, if illusive.

Now, which poltergeist group to join? American Poltergeists United? Or, Poltergeists Without Borders?

Look! Up in the sky! Is it a bird, plane, a drone? And who let the drones out? Who? Who? Who?

Good morning, fellow babies. Wanna get some idea just who has been licensed to operate drones in the US? Well, the veil may be lifting (though I seriously doubt it will be fully pulled back) as the FAA finally got around to answering a FOIA request for drone operator information filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Not anything too tin-foil-y to see here.  Which, of course, makes some of us a bit, well, tin-foil-y, wondering what the reports don’t include. The FAA says more information will be released in response to the EEF’s FOIA requests.

Seems a lot of universities and research groups get to operate drones. That makes sense. Easy to understand that amazing things could be learned about our environment with an assist from drones carrying various sampling and measuring devices. Why not use some of the tech developed for learning about Martian atmosphere on finding out more of the particulars about our own? Maybe some scientists will gather information that might make a dent in the climate change deniers’ thick skulls? My feeble mind can only imagine what other leaps of science cold be made using these flying tools.

But who else might be watching, and what might they be watching for? Am old enough to have misgivings about the intent of many of my fellow inhabitants of this pretty blue sphere. Not everyone has the same ethical standards and respect for others that my heroes have.

I wanna know what law enforcement agencies have license to fly drones, what kinds of drones they are flying, and what tricks those drones can do. But that’s just me, being cautious about what local agencies who may not have the best track records re civil rights protection might be up to. Can you imagine someone who likes to maintain dossiers on critics and political enemies like, oh say (soon to be former) sheriff Joe Arpaio has eyes in the skies over your ‘hood? And what sort of mischief could unethical corporations and/or media get up to with the capability to fly over your family BBQ, or maybe look in your windows?

And I would like to know what sort of tools can be put up in the air that might have impact on people. Crowd control? Mood enhancement chemicals? I have jokingly wondered what might happen if a crop duster filled with some psycho-active chems were to hose some of us down. Now, I am not so sure I say it completely in jest.  Still thinking back to the very short-lived news item, early in the Bush/Cheney administration, re DOD, crowd calming substances, and the hunt for a method of delivery, for, you know, calming urban populations in areas where the US military might be deployed.  That little gem of brilliant candor disappeared from media pretty fast, which always gives me pause.

Anyway, enjoy the interactive map. It is interesting and mildly comforting. Bookmark the EFF site. Looks like another good resource for your tool bag for keeping an eye on what is going on in areas some of us are just not watchful enough.

Or, we could all just hum and go back to sleep.

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