Category Archives: Uncategorized

Talk and drive… or not

A couple of years ago there was some work done in Australia on driving while talking on a cell phone which indicated that people on the phone were four times more likely to have an accident:

“This is the first study to pin down the risk of an injury-causing crash if a driver is talking on a mobile phone,” says Russ Rader, of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Arlington, Virginia, US. “The bottom line is that people should not be on any kind of a mobile phone while driving.”

Now another report again shows that talking on the phone makes you a worse driver. This is the summary of a few years of experiments in driving simulators (the article even includes a link to video from the experiments).

I have always wondered about the difference between talking to someone on the phone and talking with someone in the passenger seat as far as distracting the driver. They investigate that, too, in this new study:

“When you take a look at the data, it turns out that a driver conversing with a passenger is not as impaired a driver talking on a cellphone,” says Strayer (psychologist Lee Strayer of the University of Utah). “The passenger adds a second set of eyes, and helps the driver navigate and reminds them where to go.”
What’s more, passengers simplify or slow their conversation in response to conditions on the road. “The difference between a cell-phone conversation and passenger conversation is due to the fact that the passenger is in the vehicle and knows what the traffic conditions are like,” he says.

I completely agree — with the person in the passenger seat it’s not necessary to say, “Could you hold that thought for a moment, it seems the highway has burst into flame.”

I guess there is even more to it, though. Surely, there is some additional brain power required when you are talking on the phone rather than to the person next to you. You need to imagine a little more because you don’t have any facial cues or body language to work with.

This should be my job. I wonder how expensive a driving simulator is.

Hat tip to revere, who is also strangely fascinated by the subject.


Satire on Earth just got a tiny bit harder

I saw this somewhere online and thought, ha ha that’s pretty good. Then I saw it on Bruce Schneier’s blog, which made me pause. Sadly, to me at least, this is not a joke.

Playmobil security check-in

The Playmobil Security Check-in

This is Africa, too

No we aren’t going to Africa, at least not yet. But I wanted to share a link to John August’s blog with a movie clip from his trip to Malawi. It’s only thirty seconds but it’s riveting. Maybe that’s because Lucy and I just watched Blood Diamond on DVD this weekend, but it’s also because the kids singing in this clip are just great.

Click on the link above to go see the blog entry and I will feel less guilty for putting up the movie directly.



If there was an explanation for this picture that made me seem not so much like a dork I would happily give it to you. Let’s just say I miss our cat. We didn’t bring her along to Europe. She’s in a super cat-friendly house, though, so I can’t be too sad.

The old stink-eye

Crazy eyes

Crazy eyes

So… been having some eye issues! I’ve had a second coming of iritis (not eye-itis, iris-itis), which I had once while I was at Carolina. It is very annoying because the campus health center doctors, both times, have suggested it was pink eye and given me antibiotic drops. After several days of it getting worse, they referred me to the eye doctor. Iritis is an inflammation of the front of the eye… the iris, the colored part. It’s linked to a whole list of scary diseases I don’t think I have, though it can be just some kind of auto-immune problem. That’s what I think it is, my white blood cells forgetting what my eye cells look like and trying to wrestle them all to the ground.

I am on some medicine now and doing a good bit better. The reason that my eyes look so crazy in the picture is the drops they gave me relax the muscles that open and close the iris, so my pupil just stays dilated all the time. It is very weird and leaves me really light sensitive, at least on that side.

In other news, I am using the good eye to try to write a thesis… I have a good start, but there is a ton to do. I really didn’t need the distraction of the googly-eye, but at least I know what it is and it’s getting better.

As a side note, the doctor at the Vandy Eye Clinic did a good job, so of course I will reward her by complaining about the one thing that happened that annoyed me. Her resident, when he was checking me in and getting my history, asked me who had referred me to the clinic. I told him that I had seen the student health center (twice) and they had referred me for an urgent visit. I didn’t mention that they had asked that I be seen at least a day earlier than they finally saw me, or that the extra day was really crappy because my eye was hurting and there wasn’t much for me to do. At any rate, after I tell him that the student health center referred me he starts reading my chart and under his breath says, “they have got to stop doing this.” Now for all I know, they’ve been bombarded with referrals from student health for unimportant things that could have waited. But in my case I did need to see someone, and if anything I thought I was patient for not just showing up in the ER and demanding someone help me out (it crossed my mind). I know that there are lots of people really in bad shape that they need to take care of, but I really didn’t need to hear him complaining one way or the other.

Rant over. The doctors were good as usual, and the doctor who made the remark was completely professional the rest of the time. I am sure he does not realize that one little thing he said was the most memorable part of my visit. If he’s there at my follow-up appointment, I might just tell him.

Is this mic on?

Testing… testing… one two three.  It's really going to have to be louder than that.