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RVing Here and There

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  • Consumer Reports Lies About Tesla

    Posted on May 8th, 2021 admin No comments

    AutoPilot VS Co-Pilot 360

    In a video released May 8, 2021, auto media watchdog Sam Alexander called our Consumer Reports on a comment they made comparing Tesla Autopilot with the systems of GM and Ford.


    Jake Fisher, CR’s senior director of auto testing, conducted a complex test to deceive Tesla’s Autopilot. The test involved

    1. fastening the seat belt behind his back
    2. speeding up to 15 mph
    3. engaging Autopilot
    4. reducing speed to zero, leaving AP on
    5. hanging a carefully measured weight on the steering wheel–heavy enough to simulate a driver’s hand but not heavy enough to turn vehicle
    6. starting the car forward
    7. moving off the driver’s seat (while, apparently, keeping one foot on the accelerator pedal)
    A still from the CR “test”

    Fisher then declared that “Tesla is falling behind other automakers like GM and Ford that, on models with advanced driver assist systems, use technology to make sure the driver is looking at the road.”

    Sam Alexander takes strong exception to that statement for several reasons.


    First, he cites a video showing that the Ford Mustang Mach-E co-pilot360–which CR says is superior to Tesla AP!–has some serious safety issues that make deceiving it dangerously simple. Distracted driver? A quiet warble that won’t grab your attention. Unbuckle the seatbelt? “Fasten Seatbelt” sign comes on, but CP360 stays engaged. Move off the driver’s seat? CP360 stays engaged. Alexander compares that to Tesla AP behaviour, where undoing the belt stops the car.

    Second, Alexander points out that the eye-tracking software in CP360 is not activated yet. ( JD Power reports that some time in 2021, “Ford will start offering…an infrared camera-based driver monitoring system that can tell when a driver is not paying attention.”)  Combined with the issues above, it would appear that no complex trickery is involved to deceive CP360 — “Just engage it, unbuckle your seat belt, and climb out of the driver’s seat.” Perhaps CR will be able to test this one out?

    Not mentioned by Alexander, but germane, is that Tesla has had a cabin-facing camera in its cars for years now; they have only recently been activated to determine which drivers weren’t paying attention to the road while using the FSD beta suite. So in this regard, Tesla is once again ahead of or at least equal to Ford and GM. CR either wasn’t aware of or totally ignored this fact.


    Alexander asserts that by deliberately ignoring some obvious facts (the amount of work to bypass AP; the alleged weaknesses in CP360; the lack of activated visual driver monitoring in CP360; also the presence of ADM in Tesla) Consumer Reports is deceiving its readers.

    It is also badly failing at its promise to deliver “truth, transparency, and fairness in the marketplace.”

    What do you think? Enter comments below.


  • Can We Read Scrambled Words?

    Posted on May 7th, 2021 admin No comments

    Can we really read scrambled words as long as the first and last letters are in place? Well, sort of….

    A meme like this has been circulating on social media for over a decade:

    May be an image of text that says 'Can anyone read this...be honest NOT EVERYONE CAN READ THIS fi yuo cna raed tihs, yuo hvae a sgtrane mnid too. cdnuolt blveiee cluod aulacity uesdnatnrd waht The phaonmneal the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde in the Itteres wrod olny iproamtnt tihng taht frsit and Isat Itteer in rghit pclae. The raed it bcuseae the huamn mnid but wrod as awlyas tghuhot you can raed tihs SHARE pboerim. Tihs whotuit deos wlohe. Azanmig huh? slpeling was Cna Olny raed tihs? plepoe of 100 can.'


    Will you be disappointed to learn that there never was such a Cambridge study? Or to know that the letters in each word in the meme are not randomly but carefully rearranged? Of course, you will not be surprised that far more than 55 out 100 can read it (that’s just there to make you feel special). Still, it’s pretty amazing that your brain actually CAN decipher it with remarkable ease!


    It turns out that the original research on scrambled letter word recognition was a PhD thesis by Graham Rawlinson at Nottingham University in 1976, according to an article in Science Alerts.

    That study suggested that people could recognize words if the middle letters were jumbled, within certain limits:

    • It’s much easier to do with short words, probably because there are fewer variables.
    • Function words that provide grammatical structure, such as and, the and a, tend to stay the same because they’re so short. This helps the reader by preserving the structure, making prediction easier.
    • Switching adjacent letters, such as porbelm for problem, is easier to translate than switching more distant letters, as in plorebm.
    • None of the words in the meme are jumbled to make another word – Davis gives the example of wouthit vs witohut. This is because words that differ only in the position of two adjacent letters, such as calm and clam, or trial and trail, are more difficult to read.
    • The words all more or less preserved their original sound – order was changed to oredr instead of odrer, for instance.
    • Double letters are kept together. It’s much easier to decipher aoccdrnig and mttaer than adcinorcg and metatr, for example.
    • The text is reasonably predictable.


    This one is a little harder than the meme:

    If you are nauertl in soiaittnus of ijtnsiuce, you hvae chseon the sdie of the osrpspoer. If an eehnalpt has its foot on the tial of a msuoe and you say taht you are nuetarl, the muose wlil not atriecppae yuor nutirtealy.

    It’s a quote from Desomond Tuto that reads, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” Note here how easy the short words are.

    Be sure to read the interesting article at ScienceAlerts, from which much of this material is drawn: https://www.sciencealert.com/word-jumble-meme-first-last-letters-cambridge-typoglycaemia?fbclid=IwAR1slchfPPd4IGc8NQv6SrewK0p25ioTf8kAw32A6-wJkPyrqaL_x50GKjY

  • Autotrader Anti-Tesla Bias

    Posted on May 3rd, 2021 admin No comments

    Think there is no bias in the automotive press against Tesla? A recent article in Autotrader might be the evidence that changes your mind.

    Last month, 14 April 2021, that magazine published their list of “Best Electric Cars for 2021“. They considered an “electric car” to be any vehicle that

    • Is priced under $75,000 (a convenient way to lock out the top luxury EVs such as Model S, Taycan)
    • Has a plug or “a way to run on electricity only for fifteen miles or more”
    • Will be available for sale to the public within the next six months.

    You read that right. An “EV” needs only to run for 15 miles on electricity. And their list includes “vaporware” that “might” be in production within the next half year. This allowed them to include four “hybrid” vehicles and vehicles not yet available.

    The Autotrader list

    1. 2022 Chevy Bolt EUV (Not yet available)
    2. 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E
    3. 2021 Hyundai Kona Electric (the one that had 15 fires in two years, forcing recall of 82,000 vehicles. Yep, one of the best 10 EVs!)
    4. 2021 Hyundai Ioniq Electric
    5. 2021 Lincoln Aviator Grand Touring (a heavy, inefficient vehicle with a total electric range of 21 miles. Yep, one of the 10 best EVs!)
    6. 2021 Nissan Leaf
    7. 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime
    8. 2021 Volkswagen ID.4
    9. 2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge (which Car and Driver rated #7, well behind the Tesla Model S)
    10. 2021 Volvo XC60 Recharge

    Where are the Teslas?

    But wait! Where is Tesla in that list? It’s not in the list. It’s not in the list? How can that be possible, especially given the facts?

    CR Owner Satisfaction 2020
    Consumer Reports Owner Satisfaction 2020
    Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O7yZxaAxLIM

    Autotrader’s Excuse for Omitting Tesla

    “Notably absent from this year’s list is Tesla, a result of new competition from the likes of Chevrolet, Ford, and Volkswagen….The collective ownership experience has not been without its well-documented challenges and inconveniences. Among their advantages, the more established automakers boast far more expansive dealer and service infrastructures…. Tesla still has some catching up to do in several areas….

    Autotrader Thinks Consumers are STUPID

    According to Autotrader, consumers must be incredibly STUPID for buying Teslas in such high numbers and ignoring the “challenges and inconveniences” of ownership to give them such high satisfaction ratings. And the effrontery of Tesla to somehow do all that without having “expansive dealer and service infrastructures”. How dare they? They must be punished!!!!

    As for that wonderful expansive dealer and service infrastructure, how’s that working out? “BEV owners present a unique challenge for dealers,” according to JD Power “…The lower frequency of visits means dealers have fewer chances to make a positive impression on these customers.” (Translation: The lower maintenance requirements of EVs pisses off dealers because they don’t make money on them like they do ICE cars.)

    Follow the Money

    So what are the 10 best EVs? Anybody but Tesla.

    Why? Follow the money.

    Who pays billions in advertising? Everybody but Tesla.

    Is Autotrader biased? Blatantly, obviously so. But they’re smart: they don’t bite the hand that feeds them. The chances are high that the brands on this list paid for the privilege*. And somebody who doesn’t give Autotrader a cent of advertising can’t possibly be one of the ten best EVs, not matter what sales figures or customer satisfaction or safety ratings say.

    Take that, Tesla!

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image-1024x390.png

    * Note: I used to work in the hot tub industry, where it was quite common to be able to purchase a “membership” or advertising package in order to get a top rating for your product from a trade magazine or organization.

    Further Reading

  • Do People Hate Teslas?

    Posted on April 25th, 2021 admin No comments

    On a social media site called Quora, the question was asked, “Why do so many people hate Teslas?” A negatively-framed and biased question like this is designed to skew the answer. Still, an interesting question, and 23 people answered. Here’s mine.

    Neutrally phrased, the question would be “What is the public perception of Tesla vehicles?” The answer to this neutral question is “Mixed reviews”.

    Many people have a positive perception:The Cool Factor: How Tesla changed the public’s perception of electric cars [Video]Tesla made electric cars cool.

    Others argue the opposite:Despite Tesla, Perception Of Electric Cars Hasn’t ‘Budged’ Since 1997 And GM EV1

    Bear in mind that ICE vehicles have 135 years of development behind them, compared to 13 years for Tesla. Even if, as Ed Niedermeyer likes to point out in his book Ludicrous, Tesla has skirted the edge of bankruptcy often, the company has in fact come a long way.

    As an expression of attitude to Tesla vehicles, IMO it’s hard to argue with buyers who put their money down.


    white sedan parked beside mountain during daytime
    White Tesla – photo by Charlie Deets


    Many government departments, police, and other agencies are purchasing Tesla vehicles for fleet use, with the intent of reducing emissions.

    • Many police forces in America are using Tesla vehicles for their performance and for lower fuel and maintenance costs. American cities include New York, NY; Bargersville, IN; Fremont, Redding, and Los Angeles, CA; Westport, CT; Spokane, WA; Ipswich, MA; Denver, CO; and many more.
    • Elsewhere, cities in Switzerland, Belgium, Australia, and Great Britain either have or are considering Tesla for use on police or fire forces.
    • Swiss government goes for Teslas for government use.
    Tesla Model 3 police car
    Holland, Michigan cop car


    Many countries encourage Tesla to make cars there:

    Now, do those items indicate that “People hate Tesla vehicles”?


  • Tesla FUD and Fires

    Posted on April 25th, 2021 admin No comments

    Recent news has focused on a high-speed Tesla crash in Texas where no one was in the driver seat. This has unleashed a media frenzy of misinformation claiming, among other things that

    • The vehicle was in “Full Self Drive” mode (Tesla records show this feature was not even installed in the vehicle)
    • The vehicle was on Autopilot (only if the system was bypassed or hacked)
    • The resulting fire took four hours to put out, (denied by the fire chief on scene); it was only a few minutes
    • The fire was so bad fire personnel had to call Tesla for advice on how to extinguish it (also denied by the chief)

    Do you think the media have no bias against Tesla? Hmm. Consider this graphic from Tesla illustrator Jim Hall:

    Tweet by Jim Hall, 08:00, 20 Apr 2021

    I’ve checked the figures on the left panel, and found them accurate. Since the right side is based on Jim’s “own damn eyes/ears”, it’s a bit difficult to validate.

    However, it’s easy to find numerous stories like this: Tesla’s Autopilot death toll — which mentions nine (9) deaths in Tesla vehicles since 2015 but ignores the quarter million deaths in vehicles of other brands during the same period with or without driver-assist features.

    That is not entirely a fair comparison, because there are relatively few Tesla cars on the road. A better comparison is accidents per 10 000 vehicles, or per million miles driven. Well, guess what? “Government safety data asserts that traditional internal-combustion vehicles experience one fire for every 19 million miles traveled; for Teslas EVs, it’s one fire for 205 million miles traveled.” Do the math: Tesla vehicles are almost 11 times more fire-safe.

    But you won’t see that reported in the media. Gas cars crash at the rate of about one every three minutes, and obviously something that common isn’t news (though it is ridiculously scary). But let one Tesla crash, or better yet crash-and-burn, or best of all have a death — Tesla-crash-burn-death is the best possible headline!


  • Review of Ludicrous: The Unvarnished Story of Tesla Motors

    Posted on April 23rd, 2021 admin No comments

    Ludicrous: The Unvarnished Story of Tesla Motors by Edward Niedermeyer. Dallas: Bella Books, 2019.

    There are two main things to know about this book before you read it:
    1. The author is a known “Tesla hater” and he does not deny this in the book.
    2. The book was published in 2019, based on research from 2016-2018. It is badly outdated.

    Niedermeyer is incredibly negative towards his subject. Take all the old, outdated criticisms and myths about range anxiety, build quality, poor paint, slow charging, panel misalignments, missed deadlines, and the like, roll them together, and the result is this book. Even the rare grudging positive is slewed: “Musk’s successes are due to good luck and hustle” (hustle here clearly used in the sense of fraud or swindle).

    Still, flaws are carefully documented. Musk’s peccadillos, the company’s tendency to over-promise and under-deliver, the legal issues, the dodgy finances, the mistreatment of staff, the toxic corporate culture, the manufacturing problems and defects, the safety violations, the misnomer of “Full Self Driving”– all of these are recounted in detail. Fans, haters and cynics alike can enjoy 200 fascinating pages of Musk/Tesla foibles, misfires, and mistakes.

    As to the second point, Tesla has not stood still since Ludicrous was published, and the reader is advised to consider what has happened since the book was released. Tesla has had seven consecutive profitable quarters (as of 1 Apr 2021) and production has grown to over 500,000 vehicles a year (2020) and rising. Tesla vehicles lead EV sales worldwide (including Sweden, Norway, China, and the US) despite many wannabe “Tesla killers”. The Shanghai factory and Nevada battery plant were built after the book came out; the Fremont factory has been expanded; factories in Austin and Berlin are nearing completion with giant die presses expected to streamline production. Unlike VW which dumped thousands of ID4s to dealerships and counted them “sold”, Tesla continues to sell every vehicle it makes. The build quality has improved, with issues like uneven panel gaps and paint mismatches nearly eliminated. In fact, Motor Trend rated the Model 3 the best compact luxury sedan for 2021.

    Disclaimer: I own a few Tesla shares that are now worth many times what I paid. I’m a fan


  • Does Tesla get “Huge Subsidies”?

    Posted on April 22nd, 2021 admin No comments

    Anti-EV posters on social media often complain that Tesla Motors is the recipient of “huge government tax grants, funding, and flat out cash”. They somehow feel that this is wrong, unfair, and improperly biased towards electric vehicles. Here are the facts.

    Tesla Loan Repaid Early

    Tesla did receive a $425 million DOE loan via the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) Loan Program. That was repaid in 2014. Tesla Repays Department of Energy Loan Nine Years Early

    Tesla Subsidies

    Tesla’s total subsidy value is about two and a half billion dollars, across 109 “awards” — 82 federal grants and tax credits as well as 27 state and local awards, according to CleanTechnica (Just How Much Does Tesla Get In Subsidies Anyways?)

    Tesla Model 3 – Courtesy Tesla Canada

    Subsidies to “The Other Guys”


    This article also points out these figures about some legacy automakers:

    • Ford borrowed $5.937 billion under the ATVM Loan Program. Ford still hasn’t paid that back…. Ford has had a total of at least $33,489,841,570 ($33.49 billion) in subsidies awarded.
    • Nissan borrowed $1.448 billion under the ATVM Loan Program and still hasn’t paid us back. Nissan’s total subsidy value is $1,955,199,450 ($1.96 billion).
    • Fisker Automotive borrowed $529 million under the ATVM Loan Program and went bankrupt. We won’t get that money back.
    • GM and Chrysler both went into bankruptcy and had to be rescued under a separate program. GM’s total subsidy value is $50,346,920,000 ($50.35 billion). Fiat-Chrysler’s total subsidy value is $17,599,200,000 ($17.6 billion).
    • Volkswagen has received about $1.07 billion in subsidies and $810 million in loans and bailouts.


    Why is it that people will complain about Tesla’s $2.5 billion in subsidies and grants, yet keep quiet about the $100+ billion given to other auto makers? It’s true that Tesla has received some grants and subsidies, but it’s only a tiny fraction of the money poured into other companies.


  • Nanny’s Petit Point Flowers

    Posted on March 22nd, 2021 admin No comments

    A Family Heirloom

    We had found them in a box of Nanny’s effects. Flowered treasures of the past housed in cheap, splintered wooden frames with peeling varnish and covered with ordinary window glass. Each petit-point embroidery showed a still-life: an antique vase with an arrangement of imaginary flowers and leaves in a cascade of colors above and alongside the vase.

    How long ago had my wife’s grandma Wesley (Nanny to five generations) laid down those delicate stitches? How many years to fade those bright colors to pastels? The age of the frames and the faded cloth suggested that it might have been in her youth or the early days of her marriage. According to Nanny’s only surviving daughter, they had been “on the walls forever”. Fifty, sixty, seventy years?

    Roses in a vase - Petit Point | modern-art
    This isn’t Nanny’s, but hers were like this. Photos to follow soon.

    We removed the old frames and had the embroidery dry-cleaned. We had hoped to have them set in oval frames, but the cloth was too stained on one and too short on the other, so had to use the same rectangular framing as the old ones.

    So, with new mats and frames, covered with museum glass to prevent further fading, they flower now on our wall, a memory of a gracious lady and a gift to generations to come.

  • Using Birch Bark as Tinder

    Posted on March 20th, 2021 admin No comments

    One of my favorite sources of natural tinder is the paper-like bark of the white birch, also called silver birch or paper birch (Betula papyrifera).

    • Birch bark contains a combustible oil and will burn fiercely even when wet.
    • Peel the loose bark – do not cut into the tree.

    From years of habit, whether on a shore-break or while hiking through the woods, I tend to collect a pocket full of loose bark, peeling off a bit whenever I pass a birch tree. Even if I’m planning to cook over my ultralight butane stove, there are times when a fire is essential, and, I’ve always got tinder ready to go.

    Prepping the Site

    This method does not apply to ‘primitive’ fire-starters such as flint-and-steel or firebow, but only to the use of match or lighter. Nor is this the only method; it is simply one that I have found gives good success.

    1. Collect a sufficient quantity of tinder, kindling, and fuel. “Sufficient” means a double handful of tinder, a large handful of pencil-thick kindling, a double handful of thumb-thick kindling, and an armload of fuel.
    2. Ensure that the fire is built in a safe area, cleared of combustibles.
    3. If there is a wind, leave the upwind side open. This is where the ignition flame will be applied.
    What is Birch Bark Extract and is it Good for Hair? | Herbal Essences
    A thick piece of bark. Shred for best results.

    Starting the fire

    1. Shred the bark if necessary. It is possible to leave thicker birch bark as a sheet and it will work fine, but shredding and crumpling the bark ensures a faster “catch” and generates more initial flame. If you’ve gathered thinner “paper” this step is not necessary.
    2. Prepare a “birds nest” of tinder and place it in the center of the fire area. This is a loose bundle of shredded bark the size of doubled fists. You can use less, but a double fistful gives greater chance of success. I prefer to have this :”nest” resting between two wrist-sized rocks or sticks placed with an open side upwind.
    3. On top of the tinder, stack a handful of the thinnest kindling. Take care not to compact the tinder.
    4. Have the thicker kindling nearby.
    5. Light the match or lighter and apply it to the base of the tinder on the upwind side (the flame will burn upwards and downwind).
    6. Once the kindling “takes”, begin adding the thicker kindling. Place it onto the fire, don’t drop it.
    7. Add fuel gently.

    Using natural tinder and knowing how to effectively collect and ignite it can be a life-saver for those times when you have a lighter or a match but don’t have a a fire-starter. Because birch bark burns even when wet, this can be a life-saver in an emergency.

    Note: A version of this article appeared on suite101.com when it was a content site; date unknown.

  • Why are TV Commercials so LOUD?

    Posted on March 18th, 2021 admin No comments

    You’re sitting in front of your RV in the evening, reading a book and enjoying the chirp of birds in the trees. Off in the distance you hear the quiet murmur of your neighbor’s TV. Quiet, that is, until the commercial.

    Arrrgh! Hit the mute button! Why is it that on Radio or TV, the ads so often seem to bring an ear-piercing blast of sound?

    Image: https://www.aircomechanical.com/

    TV companies insist that the commercials are really, truly no louder than the show segments that precede and follow them. Studies with decibel meters seem to support them. The ears of the audience are more sensitive to dynamic sound range than most electronic instruments—and those ears disagree with the studies. How can this be?

    What’s the Law?

    The Federal Communications Commission does not specifically regulate the volume of programs or commercials. A broadcast license only restricts the peak power a transmitter can use to send out audio or video signals. That means that the loudest commercial can never exceed the volume of the loudest part of the program. Actually, this is not so much a legal issue as a matter of physics – a 50KW transmitter only has so much power.

    Dynamic Range

    Although noise pollution (often self-inflicted) has robbed our ears of most of their sensitivity, human hearing has a remarkable range. The range of audible volumes is called dynamic range. The dynamic range of a TV show is spread between fairly soft and fairly loud sections. The difference between soft (nature sounds, whispered conversation, or relative silence to build suspense, for example) and loud (fight scene, screaming victim, gunshots, screeching tires in car chase) can be considerable. Likewise, a music score can range from diminuendo to crescendo. A sound engineer varies the range to create emphasis or contrast, to create dramatic tension, to build to a climax.

    Loud Noises - Gaming Sound Effect (HD) - YouTube

    Perceived Loudness: It’s not the Volume, it’s the Contrast

    Human speech at normal conversational levels falls around the dynamic midrange. Most listeners adjust the volume control so that conversation comes at a level that sounds natural and comfortable to their ears. The occasional screech or explosion or musical crescendo is relatively brief, giving the ears have a chance to recover and adapt to the “normal” level. An extended period of relatively loud or relatively soft sounds leads to a grab for the remote.

    Advertisers Like it LOUD

    However, the people who make commercials are often not interested in nuance or dramatic tension. They have thirty seconds to grab your attention, kidnap it, and hold it for ransom. In other words, advertisers like it loud. The sound is going to be keyed to the maximum allowable volume, whether it’s the announcer’s voice, the music, or the sound effects. So even though the maximum level of such an ad may be no higher than the maximum level of the show, the average level will be higher. The average perceived loudness is much greater, and that’s what matters to the human ear.

    What Can be Done About Loud Commercials?

    • Fight back by muting commercials – and tell the TV or radio station that you do so.
    • Complain to the advertisers who use maximum volume and tell them you will boycott their products.
    • Invest in a TV sound regulator [need details] for about $50
    • Wait. Endure. Technology similar to that used in high-end auto audio systems to adjust volume to engine speed is coming soon to TV and will provide automatic sound balancing.

    In the meantime, have the remote close at hand – there’s always the Mute button.

    Note: This article (c) 2009 T. Gray was originally published on Suite101.com, which is now defunct.

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