Car Sensors

Why don’t modern cars have more external sensors?

Sure, some minvans have backup sensors so it beeps if you’re about to run over little Timmy, but it seems like sensor technology hasn’t gone anywhere in a long time.

Why not a series of like 8 sensors arranged on the outside of the car, with a range of like 4 feet or so? I’m not sure the best sensor for the job, perhaps a laser tape measure type device, it just needs to return a reasonable directional distance to large objects.

This would give you a rough sensor sweep of the car’s immediate surroundings.

You could sort of visualize it in a force-field style display.

If a car or other object triggered the sensor’s proximity radius, the indicator would change color.

On the dash it would be a simple display, much like the door-open indicator on some cars.

This would not be a replacement for mirrors or anything, you would not rely solely on this indicator, but it would be an added safety mechanism to alert you to pay attention to that area, in case you didn’t know there was a car there.

Another similar idea, but one that might be more distracting, would be a roof-mounted camera system that would provide a composite overhead view of your car and the immediate surroundings, so you could tell at a glance if there were a car in your blind spot.

80,000 miles!

80,000 miles

On the way to work today, I hit 80,000 miles on my 2004 Prius!

I snapped a couple pics as it changed over.

A little math…

80,000 miles at an average of, let’s say 46 MPG (it tends to be around that), that works out to about 1,739 gallons of gas. Damn, that’s a lot of gas! Not sure what the average price of gas has been over the past few years, let’s say $2, that works out to about $3,478 in gas.

If I’d had a lower MPG car, let’s say 25 MPG, the gas would have been $6,400.

So the Prius’ higher MPG has been a savings of $2,922 so far.
Plus the emissions are lower on the Prius, so there’s that, too.

I’ve had the car for 5 years, so that’s 16,000 miles a year, or 43.84 miles per day.
Which about matches my daily commute, so no surprise there.

I’ve already paid it off, so here’s hoping I can get another 5 years out of it!

RMV victory

I went to the RMV yesterday, but their computers were down, so I had to leave empty-handed.

Today, however, the computers were working, so I got my new license ordered (should arrive in a week) as well as my registration updated and renewed, and got re-registered to vote (go, Obama!).

Here’s a comparison of my old and new license picture (well, the B&W temp version).
My new photo is 80% less serial-killer-y.

I forgot to check if the woman noticed I checked “organ donor” when she set up the new card.

Comings and goings

Yesterday I drove to Sumerville (on the outskirts of Boston) and met Snooj at Good Time Emporium, an arcade/bowling alley/bar. I met Snooj and Kyle there.

From there Snooj and I went to eat at the 99 (Kyle stayed at the arcade), we were running late so had to kinda scarf our food down.

Then we drove around Sumerville looking for parking, and then walked to the Sumerville Theatre for the They Might Be Giants show.

I was a bit worried because we got there like 25 minutes late (the Sumerville Theatre directions recommend taking public transportation, since parking is so hard to find), but luckily there was an opening act, we got there just as they finished and had 15 minutes or so to relax before TMBG came on.

It was a good show, we had seats just about as far back as possible, balcony, last row, but we could see ok. They played a good variety of songs, and came on for two encores. During the intro song everyone was invited to stand up, and everyone remained standing for the whole show, which was fine, but I think Snooj’s legs got tired, he had been playing In The Groove 2 (spiritual successor to Dance Dance Revolution) for a while beforehand at the arcade.

After the show we went back to the arcade, played a few games. I played some Police 911 (quite a workout, it’s a gun game where you physically dodge for cover by ducking and moving your body side to side), Fast and the Furious (with motion seat), Tetris (kicked Kyle’s ass), and Soul Caliber 2.

Then it was time to drive back home. Snooj and Kyle followed me, since they were coming by to crash on the couch and floor at my place. Got home around 2am, got to bed about 3am, then had to get up at 4:45am and drive Adam to the Logan Express bus in Framingham. Got back home around 6am, slept until 9:30am.

Made Hastings Cakes (hollandaise flavored) for everyone for breakfast, hung out with Snooj and Kyle until 11am when they had to head out.

Now I’m finishing up my packing and Dave was nice enough to agree to drive me to the Logan Express in Framingham at 4pm.

I’ll catch the 5pm bus, get to the airport around 6, giving me plenty of time till my plane leaves at 8:30.

Then I’ll get to Vegas at about midnight Vegas time, which is 3am EST.

Busy busy busy is what we Bokononists whisper whenever we think of how complicated and unpredictable the machinery of life really is.”
-Cat’s Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut

-Winnie-the-Pooh, A.A. Milne

The long and winding road

It started snowing today around noon or 12:30.

I left work early, at 1pm.

So did everyone else in the state.

What is normally a half-hour drive home took me… (wait for it)… six hours.
Six. Hours.

I could have driven to Maine in that time. And arrived in Maine. And cooked and eaten dinner.

Instead, the roads are clogged. People are ignoring traffic lights, intersections are snarled tangles of vehicles, where the only law is the strength of your will.

I creep along, at times sitting motionless for spans of 20 minutes or more.

I use my phone more than I have probably in the past year, calling people to break the monotony.

The longest wait is an hour or two, waiting for a hill to be plowed. No way forward, and back would just take me further from home. I didn’t even remember the hill was there, next to the Worcester Country Club, but with slippery snow, suddenly topology becomes much more important.

When the hill is finally cleared, I make my way up it. Along the side are a half-dozen cars, abandoned at various points trying to get up the hill. They are empty husks now, cold and dark and behind a wall of snow thrown by the plow. I crunch past the silent car graveyard.

Finally I get home. Mostly. Adam has barely gotten his car into the driveway. Our streets haven’t been plowed, so I gun it and almost make it onto the driveway, but have to stop short to avoid sideswiping Adam’s car.

A half-hour of shoveling and 50 pounds of sand later, at 7:30pm, I finally pull my car into the driveway and can go inside at last.


The snowplow finally just came by and plowed our road. at 10pm.


I’m getting tired of my neck hurting all the time. For a while it was kind of cute, but now the novelty has worn off, and I think I’m ready to stop experiencing it.

There are several potential culprits, all relating, of course, to ergonomics.

* Although my computer set up at work is pretty ergonomic, it could probably be tweaked.
* My steering wheel and seat don’t feel optimal in my car. My neck and shoulders get sore after long drives.
* I spend a lot of time sitting on a bar stool at my kitchen counter using my laptop. This is ergonomically wrong in a number of ways.
* My pillow isn’t very good. I’ve tried a couple others, but haven’t found a great one yet. Also, my mattress is a bit saggy in the middle.

I’ll have to play around with tweaking each of those items, see if I can’t eliminate the soreness in my neck.

The Long and Winding Road

The 4th at Snooj’s was fun. I got there a bit early and played with Parker on the trampoline. I tried to use the surface of the trampoline to explain how gravity is actually a distortion in the fabric of space, but Parker was insistant that we play his game instead, where he does some acrobatic feat on the trampoline, and then I land on my head trying to copy it.

Austin arrived, then more friends, families and cohorts trickled in. Austin was grillmaster, and had to keep repeating “no, I’m not a vegetarian” – not sure why everyone thinks he is… he just has a vegetarian vibe to him, I guess.

4th food
Here are the pictures I took at Snooj’s

There was paintball target shooting, stickball, couch wrestling, and more frivolity.

Finally, I headed out around 11:30 or midnight.

At that point, it was raining, and as I drove, the rain increased to a hammering force. I drove more slowly than on the way there, I didn’t want to hydroplane or anything.

I was very tired, and only 2/3 the way home, when I noticed the music I was listening to was cutting out. It wasn’t my iPod, or the car stereo, rather it was my consciousness flickering out momentarily. At the next rest stop I pulled over and took a nap. I may have mentioned, my ideal sleeping conditions are being a passenger in a car, at night, during a rainstorm, where it’s cold and there is just a little bit of heat coming from the heater. Something about the sound of the wet tires, the rhythm of the wipers, the cold and warmth that just put me right out.

After a 20-minute nap, I was rested enough to drive the rest of the way home, whereupon I dropped into a deep sleep, for about 3 or 4 hours, when my alarm clock’s angry beeps roused me.

My body is a bit sore today, all that trampolining and wrestling on my unfit and aging body… my neck and spine are especially sore, due to the tag-team combo of trampolining and lots of driving.

I decided instead of driving to NJ tonight (and getting there close to midnight) I’ll instead leave tomorrow morning (getting there close to noon). Plus that means Sarah can come visit tonight, she hurt her back holding down a struggling patient yesterday, so we can trade back massages (though I think I’m getting the better half of that particular trade 😉


Driving home last night, I hit a deer.

Lucky for me, the deer was already dead, but by the time I saw it lying in my lane there was no time to swerve around it. I had to go straight over it, with a loud, horrible thump-thump-thump as my car failed to clear the height of the deer.

By the side of the road, I saw a maroon SUV pulled into the breakdown lane… I figured they either did the same thing I did, or perhaps hit the deer when it originally took its ill-fated walk onto the interstate.

I was really tired when I got home, and it was dark, so I wasn’t able to fully check out to see if there was any damage. I peered underneath, and didn’t see any fluids dripping from the car, so I don’t think the gast tank or brake lines were damaged. Today after work I’ll give a full look-see. It was Adam’s turn to drive today, so my car is taking a rest at home right now.

The Prius is designed to have a pretty flat underside, so I’m hoping the deer just glanced off without any damage.

The ups and downs of biking to work

Today was “bike to work” day at Staples. I didn’t bike all the way from home, which would be around 25 miles, but instead drove to the Staples Data Center in Marlboro, where I met up with some friends to bike the more manageable 6 or so miles from there.

The ride in was nice. The weather was nice, it was sunny, but misty and pretty cool. The route we took was mostly flat, with a big hill at the end, which was easier than I remembered. When we arrived the event sponsors gave us a goodies bag (tshirt, travel mug, pen, “I’m here to save the planet” pins, bike safety booklet) and a voucher for a free breakfast (up to $5) in the cafeteria. I took a shower (being naked at work… feels so wrong, yet so right), changed into work clothes, then grabbed my free breakfast.

I got the Heart Healthy Start Special (egg beaters, whole wheat toast, turkey sausages, and a slice of melon) and a Nantucket Nectars Blueberry and Apple juice. Normally I don’t get those juices because despite being 100% juice, they are high in calories, sugar, and price, but I had my magic voucher so I figured why not. It all came to $4.45. Damn, shoulda got one more thing, Staples got out of paying 55 cents (you get no change from a voucher). Oh well.

Then it was off to meetings and coding and whatnot, the usual day at Staples.

The ride back… woo.

To start with, it was 93ºF (the F stands for “Fucking Hot”) out. We were also riding into a pretty strong wind. And not a cool, refreshing wind. A convection oven wind. It was also just me and Ben riding back. Ben is an expert biker, and though he was holding back and waiting up for me, the pace felt faster than in the morning. Also, we took a different route back, which is somehow uphill all the way, with only one or two brief spots of downhill. By the time we reached the Data Center and my car, I was soaked with sweat, and reaching the last of my CamelPack of water (thank god for that, though, or I wouldn’t have made it).

Once at my car, I hastily shoved my stuff and my bike in the car (fold-down seats are nice), Ben continued his ride home, and I started my drive home. I barely cared which direction I was going on the highway, all that mattered was that I was in the car, with sweet, sweet AC. I really, really, really loved my car at that moment. I kept the AC cranked and pointed directly at my head until I started to get an ice cream headache.

I saw two interesting things on the way home.

First was a white minivan, adorned with the diamond-shaped signs you see on semi trucks. They read “Radioactive” and had the radiation symbol. There was a company sign on the side, I’m guessing maybe stuff for medical use. Either that or a really poorly disguised super-villain.

The other interesting thing I saw was very sad. I saw a mother duck leading her ducklings across 290. 290 at around 6pm is very busy, and everyone’s going around 70 miles an hour. She strode forward, defiant in the face of speeding cars. She did not flinch or hesitate, but moved forcefully ahead at a brisk pace. As I passed, they were in the breakdown lane, I was in the middle lane. I watched in the rear-view mirror, as they reached the first of three lanes, a car swerved into the breakdown lane around them to avoid hitting them. After that, they were too far back to see, but they had two more lanes to go, and it didn’t look like traffic slowed down. I have a sinking feeling they didn’t make it.

I got home and took a nice lukewarm shower. Ahh, clean and cool again.