National Safety Council’s multi-media “Defensive Driving Course”

Here’s a brief review of a useful app, if you want to call it one. That is, the National Safety Council’s six-part online Defensive Driving Course (DDC), which some auto insurance companies provide link to in exchange for a discount on premiums upon completion and passing a final exam, which comprises 25 multiple choice or true-false questions and requires a score of 80%.

The sessions present a variable number of panels (from 16 to 147) that play videos or easel-like lists. Some break into subpanels which take longer.  The entire course is supposed to take four hours, but it is likely to be closer to take six.  You may want a full weekend day or two successive evenings.

Defensive driving means a driver’s preparation to avoid collision even given conditions beyond the driver’s control, including other driver behavior, road hazards, and weather.

The second part places a heavy emphasis on vehicle care and encourages car owners to be able to check their own oil and all other fluids, as well as belts and battery connections, frequently.  I usually leave these to scheduled oil changes at a dealer.

There are some interesting points along the way. For example, there is no such thing as a “right of way”.  There is only a “duty to yield right of way”.  Also, road rage is presented as more related to stress than to hostility or mental illness.  And excessive speed is seen as contributing more to fatal collisions than failing to yield right of way or running lights.

There are some areas I think the course should have covered.  I’ll mention a few.

Although the course covers the problem of blind spots well, it doesn’t cover the best lane to drive in.  In some states, like Pennsylvania, it is illegal to stay in the left lane of a divided highway except to pass.  But when you are on a freeway and see someone trying to merge from a short lane, should you get over, or simply slow down and let him in?  I don’t like lane changes until necessary.  But many localities have many disappearing lanes and require sudden lane changes (too abrupt).  Many states fail to inform you which side of a highway you need to be on to exit (as often there are exits to the left or merges from the left in Virginia and Maryland).

Occasionally some highway accesses have no merge areas but have yield rather than stop signs. This needs to be covered, as these locations cause read end collisions.   US 175 (the North Central Expressway) in Dallas was one of the nations worst (near downtown Dallas) in the 1980s. Another problems is that when trying to merge or change lanes some drivers do not slow down and let you know that it is all right to merge;  some expect to race to beat them, and there may not be room to do that.

Another topic that could be covered better is particularly readiness for cyclists riding the wrong way (salmoning).  Still another is right turning on red.  Sometimes right turn is prevented where the sight distance really isn’t sufficient for the speed of traffic.  I will refuse to turn right on red in such situations, and drivers behind will honk. In one or two cases, road rage nearly resulted, and once a driver barely missed a wreck turning around me (and then got caught and ticketed).

Another topic needing more coverage is “stale green” and how to deal with the idea that a light goes yellow at the last second.

The Venus Williams accident in Florida, where it has not been possible for police to charge anyone and where liability is very much in question, could use attention in a course like this.  The course does cover the Princess Diana accident in France in 1997 in Part 2.

(Posted: Saturday, January 6, 2018, at 1 PM EST)

“The Evolution of Digital Comics” (Guest Post)

The Evolution of Digital Comics” by Amy Boyd

One of the reasons why comic books remain popular is because of their appeal across ages. Not only do younger people appreciate these stories, but even older audiences as well. This is why even if comic books have already evolved over the years, they remain relevant.

These days, actual comic books are no longer that popular. You don’t see people flocking to magazine shops just to get the latest copy of a superhero story. This does not mean though that the culture is dead.

In fact, it is more alive than ever. The reason why it stays popular is because everything was brought to an entirely different platform. Digital comics or webtoons are now a big deal. They are a mix between reading from a real comic book and watching a video.

You are still reading the story, but you can see better images and you can also add sound effects. You need to scroll from one page to another just like how you to do it in a comic book. You can also read the content wherever you go, even if you don’t have Internet access.

The whole concept might seem like a step back from the idea of just sitting down and watching a video. However, a lot of people have become really interested with this concept and this paved the way for the popularity of webtoons.

In short, the comic book fever will remain for a very long time. Check out the infographic below and find out how digital comics were born.

The Evolution of Digital Comics

(Posted: Thursday, November 9, 2017 at 9 AM EST)

“Assassin’s Creed”, based on the game franchise, seems genre-silly, but poses one interesting question

Assassin’s Creed”, directed by Justin Kurzel, is a genre sci-fi fantasy film based on the video game series, and the filmmaking style is perhaps reminiscent of comic book franchises.

After a prologue set in 1492 Spain, where there is a presentation of the idea that the disbanded Knights Templar was trying to unleash the “Apple of Eden” and end free will for mankind, justifying the need to assassinate its members, the film moves to present day, first in 1986 where Callum Lynch is growing up in Baja California and witnessing family violence, to 2016, where the adult Lynch (Michael Fassbender) is being executed by lethal injection in a grim chamber at the Huntsville, TX penitentiary.

But Lynch goes through an interesting NDE, and wakes up to a new existence in a laboratory in Madrid, run by Abstergo, where he will be fed the memories of his ancestors, and sent back to 1492 to rescue humanity.   The lead scientist is Sophia (Marion Cotillard).  The lab, which picks up Lynch with huge pincers and throws him around in a simulator, is rather hard to describe, and the depiction of 1492 Granada is standard video game stuff, not terribly interesting.  It’s also unclear often whose side the Abstergo minions are on.  The complicated plot (it’s on Wikipedia ) leads to a showdown in London where the Apple is presented and mankind must be saved from being changed into obedient surfs – envisioning a world that crosses between Donald Trump (a convenient coincidence) and Mr. Snow in Hunger Games.  Some autocrats or groups believe that it is their purpose to impose moral on the world (a “final solution”) and remain as combative as necessary to do so.

There’s a good question embedded in the movie:  how could someone experience the memories of another, after some sort of reincarnation?  Is the brain, with the neuronal microtubules  a receptacle for consciousness that already exists?  (link)  If so, is there some link to others through the DNA (through genes) of biological lineage?  That would actually have real significance for “family values”.

Name:  “Assassin’s Creed”
Director, writer:  Justin Kurzel (wr. Michael Leslie, et al)
Released:  2016/12/21
Format:  2.35:1, 3-D
When and how viewed:  Regal Ballston Common, 2016/12/28, late. small audence
Length:  115
Rating:  PG-13
Companies:  20th Century Fox, Regency
Link:  official, game

A comparison could be made to Paolo Barzman’s TV-mini series “The Last Templar”, January 2009 on NBC.  The Templar, of course, appear in Dan Brown’s novels and movies, especially “The Da Vinci Code” (2006).

Wikipedia panorama of Granada, Spain, link.

Wikiepdia picture of Huntsville, TX prison, link.

(Posted: Thursday, Dec. 29, 2016 at 11:30 AM EST)

“Thank You for Playing”: a dad honors his son’s cancer fight with a video game


Name: Thank You for Playing
Director, writer:  David Osit, Malika Zouhali-Worrall
Released:  2015
Format:  HD
When and how viewed:  PBS POV 2016/10/24
Length 80
Rating (PG?)
Companies: PBS POV
Link: PBS

Thank You for Playing” (and not just spectating – my addition to the title) is an engrossing film about the world of video gaming – as engineered by a gentle an husband and father (Ryan Green) whose youngest son has a terminal brain terminal.  The game is called “The Dragon, Cancer”.

Close to half of the 80 minute film presents an alternative universe of animation, for his little boy to live in.

Ryan and his family live in Colorado, and the real world surroundings are beautiful enough. They travel to Seattle to a gamer’s conference, and then to San Francisco for one last attempt at radical radiation therapy to save the boy, who passes away at three but has outlived his original prognosis by over a year.

Green has other young programmers helping him build the game, and there are plenty of screenshots of java code.

The film shows the intimacy of the family, which seems to embrace the family bed, way beyond what I would be capable of.

Along these lines are studies which show that testosterone levels of men drop off after they become fathers in marriages and care for their children; Pam Belluck wrote in 2011 for the NYTimes that this is not news fathers want to hear.   How does the body know that the partner has had a child?  Telepathy? Pheromones?  Science Magazine reports  that the drop in male hormones is the lowest in men who spend time caring for their children.  (I can remember an office joke back in 1971 or so from a finicky heterosexual coworker who thought “male sex hormones in the bloodstream” are a bad thing.)  Fatherhood sometimes changes men radically, from the viewpoint of the outside world. But not always.

School’s Out from Julie Zammarchi on Vimeo.

PBS POV followed this feature (Monday, Oct. 24, 2016) with the short film “Schools’ Out” by Julie Zammarchi, about the legacy of segregated schools.  A possible comparison would be “Boyds Negro School” (index).

Wikipedia attribution link for Independence Pass picture , by Nan Palermo, CCSA 2.0.    I drove it in 1984.

(Posted: Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016 at 1 PM EDT)

Dating and relationship apps: how do they help people find and keep romantic partners?


“Dating Apps / Relationship Apps: A New Direction”, by Happy Couple, CEO Julien Robert

The landscape of online dating and dating apps has come a long way since the first site went live over two decades ago. It’s quaint to think that people used to find dates and mates through jobs. Or friends. Or chance encounters in bars.


Today, there are thousands of dating apps on the market ranging from the general to the specific – dating sites for mature singles, farmers, and even vegetarians. Whether gay, straight, bi, trans or into open relationships, people can virtually meet dozens of potentially compatible matches with just a few keystrokes and without ever leaving their living rooms.

But what about after they’ve met someone? For years, there weren’t any apps designed to make sure those online matches went smoothly or that helped determine that the match was, in fact, a good match at all.

The most exciting development in the dating app arena are their companion pieces – apps designed to speed up the getting-to-know-you process so users can find out more quickly if they’re well-matched, and if they’re not, what they can do about it. Call it the Angie’s List Effect. Broken dishwasher? Find a plumber with Angie’s List. Broken relationship? Fix it with the help of an app.

While this specific niche in the market is still developing, Happy Couple is a standout. Launched on Valentine’s Day of 2016, Happy Couple is a well-designed, spunky quiz game where users guess their partner’s answers to questions about communication, sex, emotions, responsibilities, recreation and their partner’s background and favorite things. Think the Newlywed Game, only without those primitive cards those TV game players had to ink up with giant markers and hold over their heads.

Instead, in this simple game, just five questions are delivered each day and game players answer them any time they want – in line for lunch at the food truck, on hold listening to Muzak, during a coffee break at work.

The two halves of the couple work as a team and get points for matches which result in reaching new levels and being rewarded with a choice of challenges designed to enhance the relationship. The most intriguing element to Happy Couple is that the game is not only geared to heterosexual couples, but to gay and lesbian couples and even those self-described as “other.”  Additionally, the questions and the daily relationship tips are tailored specifically to the players depending on if they are dating, living together, married or are in some other “it’s complicated” relationship.

This goes way beyond the scope of competing dating apps that are therapy apps aiming to fix what’s wrong. Instead, this is a true relationship game that has the couple – the game’s player – really interact.

There are a few glitches – it can be slow at times and some new features such as a between-couples competition has yet to launch – but these don’t detract from the experience. And the conversations the app generates turns out to be the true value behind the fun experience.

ABOUT HAPPY COUPLE: Happy Couple is an innovative app designed to broaden and deepen couples’ relationships, whether just a few weeks along or after 25 years of marriage. Founded by CEO, Julien Robert; Dr. Lonnie Barbach, head of content; Arnaud Le Mérour, CMO; and Erin Johnson, art director — the dynamic team with French and U.S. roots has developed a fun, witty, informational technology offering that is transforming the way couples look at their connection and affinity. For more information, visit:

(Published: Tuesday, August 9, 2016, at 10:15 AM EDT.  It was submitted to me through Public Relations firm Beyond Fifteen.)