DNA Lounge: Wherein it's almost Robot Time!

Our fifth annual Cocktail Robotics Grand Challenge is coming up on Sunday, July 15, which is about three weeks from now!

As you know, Bob, this is the event where people build robots that pour cocktails, hopefully in the most ridiculous way possible, and then you drink them. Sometimes the cocktails are good, and sometimes you get wet, but it's always fun to watch.

Unlike previous years, we've already got quite a few robot contestants! But we could always use more, so please pass the word along to your mechanically-inclined friends. (Or your drinkingly-inclined friends.)

This year, by request, we're also doing something new: if you want to bring your robot project just to show it off without actually entering the contest, then admission is free. So if your bar-bot isn't quite finished, or isn't really a bar-bot at all, sign up anyway! The more the merrier.

RSVP here, and follow the Cocktail Robotics page for updates.

Also of note: the upcoming Freq.Fest 3.0 event has a massive two-day lineup. If you have any love of chiptunes, check it out.

Hey, here's something glorious: using absurdly moralistic, anachronistic liquor laws as a force of Good! It won't do anything, of course, but as a piece of performance art, I give it an A+.

Trump Lacks Character for His Hotel to Keep Its Liquor License:

The Trump International Hotel in Washington shouldn't be allowed to serve alcohol because the hotel's ultimate owner, President Donald Trump, isn't of "good character," a group of religious leaders and former judges said in a complaint.

The group asked Washington's Alcoholic Beverage Control Board to investigate Trump and ultimately revoke his namesake hotel's license to serve liquor. [...] The complainants say that the allegations and evidence demonstrates that Trump fails to meet the beverage board's requirement that only people of "good character" qualify for the right to sell alcohol in Washington.

Some photos from recent events:

Hubba Hubba: Villains
Bootie: Wild Animals
Diana Arbenina
Midnight
Skeletonwitch

Hubba Hubba: Burlesque Nation
Back 2 Basic: Nelle & Waaves
Everything Goes Cold
Bootie: Glitter Party
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This color is deeply unsettling.

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Daria Dunchenko


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Today in Uber Autonomous Murderbot News

"Safety driver" of fatal self-driving Uber crash was watching Hulu at time of accident:

Police obtained records from Hulu, an online service for streaming TV shows and movies, which showed Vasquez's account was playing the TV talent show "The Voice" for about 42 minutes on the night of the crash, ending at 9:59 p.m., which "coincides with the approximate time of the collision," the report said. [...]

The Uber car was in autonomous mode at the time of the crash, but the company, like other self-driving car developers, requires a back-up driver inside to intervene when the autonomous system fails or a tricky driving situation occurs.

WHICH WILL NEVER WORK!

Vasquez looked up just 0.5 seconds before the crash, after keeping her head down for 5.3 seconds, the Tempe police report said. Uber's self-driving Volvo SUV was traveling at just under 44 miles per hour. [...] Police said a review of video from inside the Volvo showed Vasquez was looking down during the trip, and her face "appears to react and show a smirk or laugh at various points during the times that she is looking down." The report found that Vasquez "was distracted and looking down" for close to seven of the nearly 22 minutes prior to the collision. [...]

According to a report last month by the National Transportation Safety Board, which is also investigating the crash, Vasquez told federal investigators she had been monitoring the self-driving interface in the car and that neither her personal nor business phones were in use until after the crash. That report showed Uber had disabled the emergency braking system in the Volvo, and Vasquez began braking less than a second after hitting Herzberg. [...]

In addition to the report, police released a slew of audio files of 911 calls made by Vasquez, who waited at the scene for police, and bystanders; photographs of Herzberg's damaged bicycle and the Uber car; and videos from police officers' body cameras that capture the minutes after the crash, including harrowing screams in the background.

I repeat myself, but:

  1. The Uber executives who put this software on the public roadways need to be in jail. They disabled safety features because they made testing harder. They disabled safety features because they made the ride rougher.

  2. This notion that having a "safety driver" in the passenger seat will allow a distracted human to take over at the last minute is completely insane. You think driving-while-texting is dangerous? This is so much worse. When people aren't engaged in the task of driving, their minds wander. They cannot re-engage fast enough. This is obvious on its face, we don't need studies to prove it. Oh, but we have them anyway.

  3. I would still like to know the answer to the question of who gets charged with vehicular homicide when one of these machines kills someone. Even if they are ultimately ruled to be not at fault, what name goes on the court docket? Is it:

    • The Uber employee "non-employee independent contractor" in the passenger seat?
    • Their shift lead?
    • Travis Kalanick?
    • The author(s) of the (proprietary, un-auditable) software?
    • The "corporate person" known as Uber?

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Trump Dating

"Sad Trombone"

When it comes to disclosing their affiliation with Trump, no ground is more fraught than courtship. "Trump supporters swipe left" -- meaning "don't even bother trying" -- might be the single most common disclaimer on dating app profiles in Washington.

One beleaguered 31-year-old female administration official described at length her "very, very frequent" scraps with her matches on dating apps. "You do the small talk thing, and you have a very good conversation, and then they might say, 'You didn't vote for Trump, right?'" she says. "As soon as I say, 'Of course I did,' it just devolves into all-caps 'HOW COULD YOU BE SUCH A RACIST AND A BIGOT?' And 'You're going to take away your own birth control.'" In one recent star-crossed exchange, the official told a match she worked for the federal government. When he pushed, she revealed she was in the administration. He asked her, "Do you rip babies from their mothers and then send them to Mexico?"

Evasive answers will get you only so far, though, since many dating apps provide enough information for inquisitive users to sleuth out their matches' identities. "I literally got the other day, 'Thanks but no thanks. Just Googled you and it said you were a mouthpiece for the Trump administration. Go fuck yourself,'" says the official. It's all enough to drive her and some of her colleagues away from at least some of the apps. "I'm no longer on Bumble," she says.

Young staffers have had to develop a keen sense of just when to have "The Talk" with romantic partners. "I've still been able to hook up with women," says a male former White House staffer. "But I know that I need to be careful about broaching the Trump stuff. I just know that going in, I need to be able to get it out at the right time and not get it out too early."

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Please do not touch the Unabomber cabin.

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Aha! Judge!

Aha! Judge!

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