Robot race

"NO DRIVR" reads the ontario license plate. "driven by Mac OS X" reads the fender of one Volkswagen Toureg. In comes another dust-covered Toureg with its play on the familiar Volkswagen line "Drivers not needed," the rear fender proclaims. Indeed it is almost correct. The vehicle has just become the first to traverse the 132-mile course with only a computer at the controls. Though it has logged more than a thousand miles in training its artificial intelligence system, the 132 that it logged on Saturday are historic.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) 2005 Grand Challenge filled the parking lot behind Buffalo Bills' in Primm, Nevada this weekend. I snapped a few photos of the first vehicles to complete the 132-mile desert course. In contrast to the 2004 Grand Challenge where the top teams managed only seven miles, 22 of the 23 finalists surpassed the seven-mile mark. Five teams finished the entire 132-mile course this year, although only four finished in the alloted 10-hour timeframe. 43 teams went to the National Qualification Event over the last two weeks. The teams competing had bots ranging in size from Blue Team's diminutive Ghostrider Robot a motorcycle based platform to the 16-ton green machine TerraMax.

Stanford's Stanley, a Volkswagen Toureg, completed the course in 6 hours 53 minutes and 58 seconds to win the challenge's $2 million purse.

A new public radio station

I've recently begun listening a lot to KQED. The Bay Area's excellent radio station offers many benefits over Las Vegas' KNPR. One of the biggest is that it is possible to listen throughout a day and not hear the same story repeated ad-noseum. With KNPR it's gotten tough because four hours a day are filled with the local programing but it's not four hours a day worth. In fact it's not even two. They run the same segments during Morning Edition, and then again a few hours later, and in All Things Considered, and then again repeated in the State of Nevada. All and all not a terribly productive use of time.

Unlike many of the NPR affiliates KQED has an mp3 stream. This is important as I now have the stream in iTunes not in yet another poor third-party media player. Sure I could launch something like Real Player but why? Best of all it works great with Rogue Amoeba's Audio Hijack Pro - time shifting radio is really here. Now the programs I can't find time for on the weekend shift nicely into drive time podcasts.

Rams roll over Falcons

A beautiful evening in Fort Collins as the Rams of Colorado State rolled over the wishbone offense and non-existant defense of the Air Force Fighting Falcons. After watching the Rams struggle last season it was great to see a running back that can begin to fill the shoes of Ram greats Kevin McDougal and Cecil Sapp. As is usual the Flacons pulled out a couple of new plays in the contest. One worked well in confusing the Rams' defense and netted a touchdown. It wasn't until later in the fourth quarter that things got surreal. Returning a kickoff the Falcons threw a forward pass that was tipped by the Rams and ended up more lateral than forward. Forward is forward however, and the play cancelled an 85-yard return. From there the Falcons descended into self-destruct mode. A self-sack set the Falcons up inside the Rams' 10-yard-line.

There is all of this a great lesson about managing or coaching teams. DeBerry's squad called a gutsy play. The best that could happen was a bite out of the 18-point lead. Not a win, not greater confidence but a swing on a trick play. However the trick play backfired and the Falcons folded. However, had they chosen to run a few plays they could have battled back and made it a contest and possibly had a shot at a win. Instead a risky gamble didn't pay off and the consequences were disastrous for the the Falcons.

Update: Although it seems the Falcons play-calling left something to be desired in the game the head play-caller, DeBerry, proved once again his class tonight. Following the game he talked for a few moments with Sonny Lubick as is customary.

Before and after from Digital Globe

DigitalGlobe is providing some great satellite imagery of New Orleans. The images provide a view of the disaster that begin to show its incredible impact. The losses will take a long time to fully understand. There are very few words that can express the feelings associated with such a disaster.

The tale of a con

Tired and dusty the cowboy rides his noble horse across the desert. From the arid plains of Arizona, through the deserts of the southwest and into the Rocky Mountains. Miles of wide open range greet the solitary traveler in Big Sky country. And all for a good cause... helping feed children who might otherwise go hungry. A noble cause indeed.... if only the cowboy had been so noble.

The tale of Richard Fipps' con goes back several years. In the late 1980's Fipps was convicted of armed burglary, a conviction he appealed on the basis that Fipps didn't carry the rifle with him while committing the burglary. Florida's appeals court found the facts fit the crime of armed burglary and that the minimum sentence would stand.

While in prison Fipps changed his name to Richard Handy, a moniker he'd keep for several years before changing it back to Fipps several years later. In the meantime Fipps didn't stay out of trouble with the law. Another conviction came in 1993, this time for stealing horses.

The would-be horseback con

The Long Rider's Guild has a story about Richard Fipps. Fipps came to the attention of Nevada authorities earlier this year when his supposed charitable ride was exposed as a hoax. We'd written about it here and began talking with the Guild to put together all the information we could. In the end it is a very sad tale of a felon spinning a story of an old-west cowboy working to help kids when in reality it was a horse and car stealing armed burglar in court on domestic violence charges when he was supposedly riding the wide open range.

Monday we'll have more about how the sloppy journalism of newspapers who failed in every aspect of fact checking helped this con man to ply his trade anew with more victims taken in.


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