Arbitration Decision on My Mysterious Accident

I received the results of the arbitration for my mysterious automobile accident.  According to USAA, my insurance company, the other driver also claimed to have had a green light.  The arbitration appears to have split the fault down the middle:

Arbitration Decision April 10 2018 Blacked Out
Arbitration Decision April 10 2018 Blacked Out

This again raises the possibility that the light was green in both directions, for both drivers, whether due to a malfunction or tampering with the light.  It is an intersection with multiple lights in each direction so both drivers should have been able to see the lights clearly.  A prudent driver coming from the other driver’s direction would not have run the light intentionally since I was hidden behind a building.  It is not possible to tell it is “safe” to run the light.  Similarly, because of the divider which has many trees, I could not see the other driver approaching.  A prudent driver in my position also would not make a decision to run the light.

My recollection is that I came to a full stop at a red light, waited until it changed, and made my left turn and was very surprised to see an oncoming car.  Perhaps the other driver was confused or distracted, but it is definitely possible that they also had a green light.  Modern traffic lights are complex computerized, networked devices.  Such devices can have weird software glitches.  They can also be hacked into.

About Me

John F. McGowan, Ph.D. solves problems using mathematics and mathematical software, including developing gesture recognition for touch devices, video compression and speech recognition technologies. He has extensive experience developing software in C, C++, MATLAB, Python, Visual Basic and many other programming languages. He has been a Visiting Scholar at HP Labs developing computer vision algorithms and software for mobile devices. He has worked as a contractor at NASA Ames Research Center involved in the research and development of image and video processing algorithms and technology. He has published articles on the origin and evolution of life, the exploration of Mars (anticipating the discovery of methane on Mars), and cheap access to space. He has a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a B.S. in physics from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

I Won Best Table Topics at Startup Speakers Toastmasters

Receiving Best Table Topics Award
Receiving Best Table Topics Award

I won the Best Table Topics award at Startup Speakers Toastmasters on Wednesday, March 14, 2018.  The picture shows me receiving the Best Table Topics award from Club President Charles Hall.  I am continuing to make progress in impromptu speaking!  🙂

I answered a question about early retirement.

About Me

John F. McGowan, Ph.D. solves problems using mathematics and mathematical software, including developing gesture recognition for touch devices, video compression and speech recognition technologies. He has extensive experience developing software in C, C++, MATLAB, Python, Visual Basic and many other programming languages. He has been a Visiting Scholar at HP Labs developing computer vision algorithms and software for mobile devices. He has worked as a contractor at NASA Ames Research Center involved in the research and development of image and video processing algorithms and technology. He has published articles on the origin and evolution of life, the exploration of Mars (anticipating the discovery of methane on Mars), and cheap access to space. He has a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a B.S. in physics from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

Personal Note: My Mysterious Auto Accident to Arbitration

According to my insurance company, my mysterious automobile accident has been referred to arbitration since the other driver also claims to have had a green light.  This again raises the unsettling possibility that the light was green in both directions either due to some rare, mysterious malfunction or — worse — due to tampering or hacking of the traffic light.  This latter possibility could have been a bizarre “prank” or targeted specifically at the other driver or me.

Modern traffic lights are complex computerized devices often with network connections.  Just like personal computers and smartphones, such devices can experience rare, difficult to reproduce “glitches.”  Just like personal computers and smartphones they can be attacked successfully by hackers and other malefactors.

(C) 2018 by John F. McGowan, Ph.D.

About Me

John F. McGowan, Ph.D. solves problems using mathematics and mathematical software, including developing gesture recognition for touch devices, video compression and speech recognition technologies. He has extensive experience developing software in C, C++, MATLAB, Python, Visual Basic and many other programming languages. He has been a Visiting Scholar at HP Labs developing computer vision algorithms and software for mobile devices. He has worked as a contractor at NASA Ames Research Center involved in the research and development of image and video processing algorithms and technology. He has published articles on the origin and evolution of life, the exploration of Mars (anticipating the discovery of methane on Mars), and cheap access to space. He has a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a B.S. in physics from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

How to Reliably Retrieve Your Checked Luggage at the Baggage Carousel

One of the many stressful, error-prone inconveniences of modern air travel is identifying and correctly retrieving your checked luggage from among often hundreds of other remarkably similar looking bags.    Worst case, in a distracted hurry, you incorrectly take someone else’s luggage and never recover your own luggage!  🙁

The cause of this problem is that most luggage today looks quite similar.  Most bags are a dark gray or black color with rollers on one end and an extensible handle on the other end.  The printed tags provided by the airlines are remarkably similar, featuring unreadable bar codes and numbers.

Most tags with your name and address that you can buy at convenience stores or other locations are small and frequently gray or black as well, looking at a distance like every other tag on every other bag.

Consequently, it is frequently impossible to identify your luggage until it is right on top of you, about to go by on the carousel.  You may have to run after it or wait until it comes around again even if you can identify it.    This is often stressful and frustrating after a long trip, especially on top of other mishaps or delays.

While I have never ended up with someone else’s bags, it is easy to see how a distracted traveler could fail to check the tag and leave the airport with someone else’s luggage, worst case never recovering their own luggage.

Here is my solution:

Large Distinctive Luggage Tags (DIY)
Large Distinctive Luggage Tags (DIY)

Historically, travelers solved this problem by putting labels or stickers,  often provided by hotels or other travel related firms, on their luggage which was typically a hard surface.  Modern luggage like mine is often canvas or some other soft flexible material.  Stickers such as those now widely used to personalize laptops won’t stick properly to soft luggage.

However, one can use large cruise tags used for personalizing and tracking luggage on cruise ships (cruise tags are available through Amazon and other sources) to hold appropriately sized pieces of paper or cardboard with colorful distinctive stickers affixed to the paper or cardboard:

Closeup of DIY Luggage Tag
Closeup of DIY Luggage Tag

Here I used stickers derived from vintage luggage labels from the 1930’s and 1940’s.  Books of stickers are available from Amazon and many other sources.

A cruise tag is a transparent flat pouch that can hold an identifying tag of your choosing or design.  It is easy to cut a piece of paper or cardboard that fits within the pouch and mount stickers on the piece of paper or cardboard as shown.

Obviously, if you choose to follow my example, you should select your own stickers that reflect your personal identity and style, just as you would for a laptop.

Select a pattern of bright colors that is easily identifiable at a few dozen feet (roughly ten meters) — the typical size of a baggage carousel at an airport.  As the bag approaches it will be easy to confirm your identification as the sticker becomes fully readable and retrieve your bag easily before it rushes past you.

Finally, yes I successfully used this DIY (do-it-yourself) solution to the checked bag retrieval problem on my latest trip across the United States.  🙂

(C) 2017 John F. McGowan, Ph.D.

John F. McGowan, Ph.D. solves problems using mathematics and mathematical software, including developing gesture recognition for touch devices, video compression and speech recognition technologies. He has extensive experience developing software in C, C++, MATLAB, Python, Visual Basic and many other programming languages. He has been a Visiting Scholar at HP Labs developing computer vision algorithms and software for mobile devices. He has worked as a contractor at NASA Ames Research Center involved in the research and development of image and video processing algorithms and technology. He has published articles on the origin and evolution of life, the exploration of Mars (anticipating the discovery of methane on Mars), and cheap access to space. He has a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a B.S. in physics from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona Arizona

Chapel of the Holy Cross
Chapel of the Holy Cross

This is a picture of the Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona, Arizona taken from the access road after my visit today.   There are spectacular views of the region from the parking lot and both inside and outside the chapel when you get to the top.  There is a Wikipedia page on the Chapel with more details including the history of the unusual structure.

(C) 2017 John F. McGowan, Ph.D.

John F. McGowan, Ph.D. solves problems using mathematics and mathematical software, including developing gesture recognition for touch devices, video compression and speech recognition technologies. He has extensive experience developing software in C, C++, MATLAB, Python, Visual Basic and many other programming languages. He has been a Visiting Scholar at HP Labs developing computer vision algorithms and software for mobile devices. He has worked as a contractor at NASA Ames Research Center involved in the research and development of image and video processing algorithms and technology. He has published articles on the origin and evolution of life, the exploration of Mars (anticipating the discovery of methane on Mars), and cheap access to space. He has a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a B.S. in physics from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

Happy New Year!!!

Sedona Shortly Before Sunset on Dec 31, 2017
Sedona Shortly Before Sunset on Dec 31, 2017

May 2018 be a good year and a much better year for everyone!!!

Some thoughts on how to make 2018 a better year than 2017

Don’t let your smartphone, social media, or 24/7 cable news rule your life and cloud your judgment.  Turn off all but absolutely essential notifications on your smartphone.  Remove frivolous social media apps such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn from your smartphone.  Unsubscribe from mailing lists. Turn off all but absolutely essential email notifications from your social media and other accounts — generally only bills and receipts.  If you have to use Facebook to keep in touch with family and friends, install Social Fixer or a similar tool to filter out distracting political or other posts.  Set aside quiet time away from the Internet and other distractions to clear your mind, both to relax and to think deeply about the important issues in your life.

Anger rarely leads to good decisions.  Note that I said “rarely” not “never.”  When angry, calm down, take a walk, get some other exercise, talk the issues over with a friend or colleague that you can trust, gather more information, listen to all sides.  Then decide.  Anger and outrage sell.  They get clicks, eyeballs, advertising revenues on social media.  The algorithms used by social media are rapidly increasing their ability to find our hot buttons and get us mad — because anger makes money.  Be an informed consumer and citizen and don’t buy the anger for sale!

Learn from your mistakes and bury them.  I have a lot of trouble with the “bury” part.  Nonetheless, when we make a mistake or something goes wrong in our life through no fault of our own, we need both to learn from what happened and to move on with our life.  Let the past go.

Expect the unexpected.  Surprises happen.  Be prepared if you can.  Set aside money for a rainy day if you can.  When surprised, recognize that you have been surprised, gather more information if possible, and take appropriate action.  You may have to make a major change in direction in life.  In some cases you may have to give up on what you are doing.  There is a lot of stigma associated with giving up.  Nonetheless, sometimes that is the correct response to a surprise.

Sometimes the problem is other people.  Most people are not monsters.  Most people are not saints either.  The world is often not black and white.  There are shades of gray.  It is important not to jump to the conclusion that other people are evil, insane, or irretrievably stupid just because they disagree with us or oppose us.  Listen.  Try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes.  Consider your own faults and improve yourself.  You may even discover on careful consideration that you are wrong and they are right.  But… some people are monsters.  There are crazy people.  There is evil in the world.  Sometimes the problem is the other person or people and won’t respond to these wholesome appealing methods, much beloved of self-help books and gurus.

(C) 2017 John F. McGowan, Ph.D.

John F. McGowan, Ph.D. solves problems using mathematics and mathematical software, including developing gesture recognition for touch devices, video compression and speech recognition technologies. He has extensive experience developing software in C, C++, MATLAB, Python, Visual Basic and many other programming languages. He has been a Visiting Scholar at HP Labs developing computer vision algorithms and software for mobile devices. He has worked as a contractor at NASA Ames Research Center involved in the research and development of image and video processing algorithms and technology. He has published articles on the origin and evolution of life, the exploration of Mars (anticipating the discovery of methane on Mars), and cheap access to space. He has a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a B.S. in physics from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

Exploring Scenic Sedona, Arizona

Sedona, Arizona
Sedona, Arizona

A picture from the main street in Sedona, Arizona (United States), showing some of the famous red rock formations surrounding the town.  Sedona is about a two hour drive north of Phoenix up in the mountains.  Flagstaff is about a half hour drive north of Sedona.

Sedona is home to numerous resorts, art galleries, gift shops, all sorts of New Age stores and other oddities, hiking trails, ancient American Indian ruins, and much more.  🙂

Sedona is an easy drive north from Phoenix once you get out of the city — until you get to downtown Sedona.  Arrive at the wrong time as I did and you will run into a traffic jam as all the traffic is funneled into the single main road.  It took me about twenty minutes to drive the last mile to the hotel!  🙁

Arizona is a desert.  Remember to bring plenty of water on the road trip.

It is prudent to arrive before sundown since it is very dark at night and various wild animals may come out as well.

For the geeks out there, Sedona has state of the art wireless Internet, comparable to my home city of Mountain View in Northern California, best known worldwide as the site of Google’s headquarters.

(C) 201 7 John F. McGowan, Ph.D.

John F. McGowan, Ph.D. solves problems using mathematics and mathematical software, including developing gesture recognition for touch devices, video compression and speech recognition technologies. He has extensive experience developing software in C, C++, MATLAB, Python, Visual Basic and many other programming languages. He has been a Visiting Scholar at HP Labs developing computer vision algorithms and software for mobile devices. He has worked as a contractor at NASA Ames Research Center involved in the research and development of image and video processing algorithms and technology. He has published articles on the origin and evolution of life, the exploration of Mars (anticipating the discovery of methane on Mars), and cheap access to space. He has a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a B.S. in physics from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

A Personal Note: Visit to Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

I visited the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Columbus, Ohio (United States) today.  Here I am:

Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

Here I am in the tropical island section in front of a Dale Chihuly glass sculpture (the bright orange thing that looks like a monster from a 1950’s atomic horror movie).

Tropical Island Section
Tropical Island Section

I will probably post some more pictures and maybe some video later.

(C) 2017 John F. McGowan, Ph.D.

About the Author

John F. McGowan, Ph.D. solves problems using mathematics and mathematical software, including developing gesture recognition for touch devices, video compression and speech recognition technologies. He has extensive experience developing software in C, C++, MATLAB, Python, Visual Basic and many other programming languages. He has been a Visiting Scholar at HP Labs developing computer vision algorithms and software for mobile devices. He has worked as a contractor at NASA Ames Research Center involved in the research and development of image and video processing algorithms and technology. He has published articles on the origin and evolution of life, the exploration of Mars (anticipating the discovery of methane on Mars), and cheap access to space. He has a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a B.S. in physics from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

Another All Seeing Eye

Another miovision Scout traffic camera system appeared in my neighborhood on or about November 15, 2017 (yesterday).  This is a brief (about one minute) video of the device:

(C) 2017 John F. McGowan, Ph.D.

About the Author

John F. McGowan, Ph.D. solves problems using mathematics and mathematical software, including developing gesture recognition for touch devices, video compression and speech recognition technologies. He has extensive experience developing software in C, C++, MATLAB, Python, Visual Basic and many other programming languages. He has been a Visiting Scholar at HP Labs developing computer vision algorithms and software for mobile devices. He has worked as a contractor at NASA Ames Research Center involved in the research and development of image and video processing algorithms and technology. He has published articles on the origin and evolution of life, the exploration of Mars (anticipating the discovery of methane on Mars), and cheap access to space. He has a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a B.S. in physics from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

Report of Deadly Traffic Light Malfunction (Double Green Light) in Detroit 2013

This is a television news report from Detroit (WXYZ-TV Channel 7, Detroit) with a YouTube publication date of May 16, 2013 on a traffic light malfunction that may have caused a fatal accident:

Reporter on the scene is Kim Russell at the intersection of Warren and Beechwood on Detroit’s West Side.  The story shows a double green light with a green light for both Warren and Beechwood at the same time.

Another YouTube video with a television news report of a traffic light malfunction at the intersection of Rossler and Dingens (Dingers caption in the video is incorrect) in Cheektowaga, New York (from WIBV TV Channel 4, Buffalo, Niagara Falls, and All of Western New York and Southern Ontario, Published August 27, 2013):

The news reporter on the ground was Lou Raguse of WIVB-TV Channel 4 News.

This is a TV news report on “smart” traffic lights that allegedly turned green at the same time in Point Loma, San Diego, California USA (ABC 10 News, Published April 4, 2017):

In this case, the double green light was not caught on camera so the report depends on eyewitness testimony alone.

UPDATE

Direct link to ABC 10 article/report on traffic lights.

Follow up on April 5, 2017 on testing of traffic lights for possible problem:

http://www.10news.com/news/point-loma-intersection-being-tested-after-reported-close-calls

Follow up video news report:

(C) 2017 by John F. McGowan, Ph.D.

About

John F. McGowan, Ph.D. solves problems using mathematics and mathematical software, including developing gesture recognition for touch devices, video compression and speech recognition technologies. He has extensive experience developing software in C, C++, MATLAB, Python, Visual Basic and many other programming languages. He has been a Visiting Scholar at HP Labs developing computer vision algorithms and software for mobile devices. He has worked as a contractor at NASA Ames Research Center involved in the research and development of image and video processing algorithms and technology. He has published articles on the origin and evolution of life, the exploration of Mars (anticipating the discovery of methane on Mars), and cheap access to space. He has a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a B.S. in physics from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).