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Off to Utah

Later today, I leave for Utah for a family reunion. We are going down in two cars, because we will be picking up another three while down there, and returning to spend the next week here together with aunt, uncle, and cousin.

Wednesday’s hack session went well, culminating with Prometheus, the skeletal frame of the TRC’s first FIRST robot, turning its wheels in response to the position of a potentiometer. It was pretty exciting to get this far, because now we have gotten to the point where external inputs can affect external outputs. The rest is just building on this basic formula.

Politics in Everything

Bernie Zimmermann seems to be the catalyst for a lot of my recent material on here. Bernie recently got a speeding ticket from the gestapo… I mean, the Washington State Patrol. (Not sorry right now, but by way of explanation, maybe it’s just that I forgot to do my drugs the last couple of days that I’ve been a little more on edge recently.) For those of you afraid of going to Bernie’s site, and for my own nefarious archival reasons, I transplant the conversation here. My apologies to Bernie for stealing so much of his material, but I hope he understands.


Originally posted on July 19, 2004 12:07 AM in Miscellaneous

I went to Vancouver, BC today, and what do I have a show for it? One sunburnt arm, a pocket full of Canadian change, and a $183.00 speeding ticket issued to me by the good ol’ Washington State Patrol. Yes, smokey caught the bandit. According to the ticket, I was in violation of RCW46.61.4W with a vehicle speed of 81+ in a 60. That beats my previous record by 1 mile per hour. At least I’m making progress.


July 19, 2004 7:16 PM

Don’t take this the wrong way, Bernie – I hate to see anyone get speeding tickets from this nanny state of ours. I just got back from seeing ‘I, Robot,’ and a line from there fits here I think: “Somehow, ‘I told you so’ just doesn’t cut it.”

You weren’t driving out of control. You weren’t endangering anyone any more than the guy driving 50 on his cell phone. But you passed an arbitrary limit and some cop decided to make you, a law abiding citizen, a productive worker, and a contributor to society pay simply because he has the power to.

As long as we give police the authority to screw over ordinary citizens like this, we will never really be at peace with them. Its always a game of cat and mouse, and you lost this round, and the $183.00 is just the beginning. Your insurance rates go up, you get doubly paranoid about speeding, which wastes your and my time (because I have to drive behind you), even more money goes to the most inefficient institution ever concieved (namely, government), and nobody feels good.

I hereby call for an end to all arbitrary speed limits in the state of Washington. Who’s with me?

July 20, 2004 9:57 AM
Bernie Zimmermann

I don’t know if I want to overthrow any state laws just because I got a ticket ;)

I knowingly broke the law, and it just so happens that I got caught doing it. The speed limit was 60, and I’m fairly certain I could have gone 75 and gotten away with it since, as you put it, I wasn’t endangering anyone. I chose to go 80 though, attracting attention to myself, and I got a ticket. The only thing that really upsets me about it is that the fine is so high. My only other ticket I’ve gotten was for the same violation (80 in a 60) and it was something like $88. I think this latest fine was a bit excessive, so I’ll most likely be going to a mitigation hearing to try and get it reduced.

There’s a big difference between me cruising along at 80 miles per hour in a rush to get home and someone cruising along at 80 miles per hour after having spent their evening at some bar getting drunk. If it takes pulling a few Bernies over to catch those guys, then so be it.

July 20, 2004 11:35 PM

Bernie, if you haven’t used a deferred hearing in the last 7 years, then you can use one now. This means that you pay $100 now, and if you don’t get another ticket in a year, this one goes away – it doesn’t even make it on to your record… but, if you do get another one, you pay the full price of the new ticket and the old ticket and both go onto your record… but it worked for me, so I suggest you give that a shot. But you have to either go for a contested or mitigated hearing to swing that one.

Now, back to your other point. I am sad to see so many people like you so willing to give up their freedoms for percieved security. Benjamin Franklin said it best – “They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security.” What we must do is find a way to provide security without destroying liberty.

Now you might argue that driving fast isn’t an “essential liberty,” but I say that if you are not endangering someone other than yourself or other consenting adults, then the state should shut up and let you do your thing. Certainly, there is a point where recklessness is reached – but this point is defined not by some sign on the side of the road, but on the amount of traffic, weather conditions, road design, and so on. So let the law say that reckless driving that endangers other is illegal, then enforce it universally. Then we ensure security and protect liberty.

As to your “If it takes pulling a few Bernies over to catch those guys, then so be it,” pardon my german, but it sounds to me an awful lot like “If it takes killing a few Jews to fix our economy, then so be it.” Sure, a $183 dollar ticket isn’t exactly the Holocaust, but when do we draw the line? No one in power today in our country or in our state seems even remotely interested in making government less pervasive and less powerful. They just grow government in their particular favorite direction.

How about we allow you to be pulled over for driving in a manner which concerns an officer. But if you are found to be of sound mind, under no influence of drugs or alcohol, and genrerally no threat to anyone else on the road, you go on yur merry way. This way, the drunk guy still gets caught, and average citizens don’t go around hating cops. Secuirty is improved and liberty is not lost. Everyone is happy – excpet of course, the drunk guy – but he had his happy hour.

July 21, 2004 12:28 AM


One more thought to throw in here, since I’m on a roll tonight. Bernie, you said “The speed limit was 60, and I’m fairly certain I could have gone 75…”

You just said that you could get away breaking the law, without flinching. Well, of course, nearly everyone speeds all the time. Which shows just how ridiculously ill-concieved the whole speed limit idea is in the first place. It has a variety of negative effects which I feel strongly outweigh the little good it arguable does:

  1. Arbitrary spped limits create disrespect for laws and, ultimately, the rule of law. Having a law which is univerally broken cheapens what law is supposed to be about. In order to maintain the rule of law – where no person is held higher than the law – we must all be beholden to the law. By creating laws which only a few people are beholden too every once in a while, we effectively say that laws are meant to be broken, when you an get away with it.
  2. Arbitrary speed limits make enemies of average citizens and the police. Nobody likes having a cop around when they’re driving because it cramps their style. Everyone slows to five under the limit, just to make sure, and everyone breathes a sigh of relief when the cop exits the freeway. Police prey on the side of raods for unsuspected innocents and many motorists try to signal each other when an enemy is ahead. Its very much like a guerilla war against the slightly-faster-than-average driver.
  3. Aribtrary speed limits make traffic worse. When all four lanes of the highway are going the same speed, congestion always results. A more fluid highway system, such as those often seen in Europe, with a left lane that goes considerably faster than the lanes to the right, congestion would be lessened and, ultimately, there would be fewer frustrated and dangerous drivers and fewer collisions.
  4. More generally, an abundance of laws, such as we have, means that no one can keep track of all the statutes they are supposed to live under, and people in percieved positions of authority tyranize law-abiding citizens. For example, did you know, before reading all of this, that RCW46.61.4W even existed? Well, certainly, you knew that speeded was “illegal” (when a cop’s around that cares, at least), but do you have any idea what RCW46.61.3 says? Or any of the other hundreds of thousands of laws that you are subject to? Any bureaucrat having a bad day, including a cop who has on hand a few obscure RCW’s, can screw you and I over, and we have no clue. Rule of law is further sacrificed. Fortunately, most people, including cops, are generally good people that don’t tend to do this, but I have had a cop threaten to put me in jail over a hit in run that didn’t happen, and I was only 15, and I would have had no clue what to do if he really did that.
  5. Having cops chasing around a bunch of people that have never committed a real crime ever is a pointless waste of manpower that should be used to deal with the real criminals and real problems.

But the big one in that list is that we are, by upholding speed limit laws, helping to destroy the rule of law, the very fabric that our democratic good society is based on. And arbitrary speed limits are by no means alone in this desecration of law, they are just convienient to use for making this poitn because nearly everyone has had expereince with them.

“Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. ” –Thomas Jefferson, The Declaration of Independence

While it is still possible to make things better, let us try.

I, Robot

I went with Dan to see I, Robot today. It was better than expected – and although it had its funny-stupid and funny-dumb action moments, it was a pretty solid movie by itself. Sure, it strayed far, far away from anything Asimov ever wrote, but the three laws were there (of course), and some character names (although not accurately represented) and even some plot elements pulled out of some of Asimov’s books, amazingly enough. And because of that last bit, and the fact that it didn’t suck much in any other way, this movie won me over as something worth seeing, even if you were terribly disappointed by what you saw in the trailers (as was I).

In fact, I was so disappointed that I didn’t pay for this movie. I paid instead for the 4:05 showing of The Notebook, and went to the 4:00 showing of I, Robot. Were I to do it again, I would have actually paid for the movie, even though the real story is that the screenplay that this movie came from was rewritten to include elements of Asimov’s Robot books, as opposed to caring even for a second about the original works. Oh well, it came out pretty well despite all it had going against it.


Today’s schedule:

  1. 11:45 – Wake up
  2. 12:30 – Meet at IS Parking lot to carpool to…
  3. FIRST Robotics Team Forum, 1:00pm, Cleveland High School (4 hours)
  4. 6:00 – 9:00: Soccer at 60 acres park
  5. 10:oo or 12:00 sleep, 6:00-7:00 alarm time


Today, I recieved from the University of Washington, the little letter, dated the 14th of July, 2004. It read:

Dear Mr. McElroy:

Thank you for applying to the University of Washington. We have reviewed your application and regret that we are unableto offer you admission for autumn quarter 2004. Due to limited space, admission for autumn quarter was extremely competitive.

If you decide to reapply for a later quarter, you will need to sumbit a new application application fee, and personal statement. We will keep for one year the academic credentialsthat are currently in your application file. However, you must include updated transcripts with your new application if you compelted additional course work at any time after these records were submitted.

We appreciate your interest in the University of Washington and wish you every success in pursuing your baccalaureate education.


(signed by Xerox)
Philip Ballinger, Ph.D.
Director of Admissions

TA: Aut 04

Life as a computer program

If my life were a computer program (note the correct use of the subjunctive form), I think it would be fair to say there was a sporadic bug in the sleep routine. Last night, I became immensely tired about ten o’clock and fell sound asleep. For some reason, about an hour and a half later, I woke up and wasn’t able to get back to sleep, at all. I rested most of the time, but sleep did not come. Needless to say, I was a bit of a wreck at work today and I called it quits early, even though I was only really tired for the first few hours.
If this were Java, or PHP 5, I would have my sleep routine throw an Exception at times like these. The exception might get caught by something useful; say, a call to a workout routine (might as well if I’m not sleeping, right?), but instead it seems to go into some sort of endless while loop where nothing gets accomplished.
Ok, I think I’ve been programming a little too much recently�


I so much time laughing that I couldn’t make a longer entry. Click Here to see what I’m talking about.