Snow days

It’s warm in the south they say…

Right now, where I’m sat is colder than Glasgow, Toronto and Oslo. It’s official.

I’d noticed something was up when I drove home on Sunday.  Serious men in 4x4s were turning back at the hills due to the snow and ice, kindly coming to warn me to do the same. Cars were getting stuck and frantic phone calls were happening. But I learned to drive on gravel quarries, taking Dragon across surfaces that skid out under each wheel with no warning, any or all four at once, each in three dimensions. The only difference this time was that the new car is 0.5 tonne heavier and the dashboard lights up beautifully when it panics, realising that neither it or I are anywhere near the road.

Hadn’t had this much fun driving in ages. Did help that there was no one else about…

When I got home I built a snowman in the kitchen.

Just lost some credentials in another direction though. Apparently aloe vera can be kept outdoors. Not in these temperatures. Just brought them in for the winter having chipped some ice off. The outer leaves are drooping, what with the water having frozen within, but the centres are still alive so at least they’ll be able to hop around hunting rats.

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It’s 3:37 am.

Courtesy of night shifts I’m up on my night off doing my dissertation. Given how dark the house is, I can assure the eco-minded that there’s no saving in light by doing it in the day.

Just been down to the kitchen to make a cup of tea and a snack, where I discovered that a member of the household has opened the German chocolate biscuits and wolfed half of them without telling me. And given the lack of noise overhead, it’s not a rat.

How I came to be looking at the German biscuits isn’t the point.

There shall be words in the morning.

And not just because we’ve just finished the stroopwafels so are feeling deprived.

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On hold

Hold music. Rarely does it get better over time.

Bucking the trend, one bank has something rousing, one  insurance company has something recognisable from the charts (Coldplay / James Gray style) but today’s best was a Borough Council who have ‘Dance of the Hours’.

Anyone who’s aware of it cannot now hear it without singing along with the words of ‘Camp Granada’.

Apparently ‘cultured’ is a man who puts his ear not his eye to a keyhole if a lady is singing in the bath, or someone who can hear the William Tell Overture and not think of The Lone Ranger, but these are both definitions that are generation dependent. Perhaps today’s should be someone who’s heard of ‘Camp Granada’?

Still, gives me something pleasant to hum all day…

(And as youtube automatically loads I’m now being treated to the video and sound recording of Benny Hill’s ‘Ernie’, which I also know the words to…)

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I can’t do that…

“I’m Sorry Dave, I can’t do that…”

So said Hal in ‘2001’, courtesy of Arthur C Clarke.

We’ve just returned from time away learning new things, seeing old friends, making new ones and reminding ourselves why de-camping to mainland Europe before 11pm 29th March 2019 might be a good idea.

On the way there someone was using ‘Automated Cruise Control’ on the motorways then the autobahn. Always entertaining as the car slows and speeds up for you.

Sort of.

There are a range of things that the car cannot ‘see’ which are listed in the instructions, with wording to the effect that even if you think it should have seen something you’re still the most sentient being present and all decisions are ultimately down to you. It’s next to the bit about not expecting the car to break the laws of physics.

So, as we were driving along, a car cut in from the side. So far so good. Our car ought to see that. And to an extent it did. It wrote, “Brake!” on the ‘message to driver’ bit of the dashboard then promptly switched off the automated cruise control. If it had been able to, it would have put its little wing mirrors over its headlights and whimpered.

Turns out that in order for the car to be able to brake by itself, it has to see both the obstacle and that there’s sufficient room for braking at a slow enough rate. Braking faster than this automatically is apparently too fast for humans involved and so the control is handed back to them. We braked in time with no difficulty, it was just a bit unexpected after the car had ‘seen’ everything else on the journey so far without issue. The picture in the manual shows that the sensor is in the middle at the front, meaning that anything coming directly from the sides wouldn’t be seen.

It reminded me of the reactive glasses tint – I have it on good authority that when first developed they were virtually instantaneous, but this didn’t allow time to mentally adjust and it scared the wearer. Now even though they can change faster they don’t.

This did prompt a discussion about Asimov’s laws of robotics, noting that it possibly went against all three, as a crunch would harm both the car and the humans.

Perhaps the car has developed the priorities of ‘I, robot’ VIKI, preserving the passengers by reminding them periodically to pay attention or persuading them to stay home.

Either that or the car has worked out a whole new set of priorities using a whole extra level of sentience we’re not giving it credit for, along the lines of Dave, especially if hypothetically a new car would not automatically be an insurance write-off (I’ve seen some scary repairs done on cars that should have been), but humans dent easily.

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Moving about

They’re back…

We’ve been moving furniture round again and found new evidence of the rats. We know it’s new as we know when we last moved the furniture and they’ve come back since then. The nice man has been out again to comment on it, noting that rat babies tend hang about after the grown ups have moved elsewhere. Again, there is no food, dirt, holes or tranquillity for them to enjoy and it’s a mystery what they’re doing here.

We hadn’t heard rats for two weeks but they appear to have come back this week as the weather turned colder. We’ve reached the point that when we heard it scampering and scratching last night we just laughed.

Still no hedgehogs, but we last counted 21 kites circling the back garden at once.

Right now I’m taking a break from sifting my room in an effort to make the newly located desk with chair, computer and printer usable. In celebration at all three happening at once, please find below an example of a postcard by J Salmon, the longest running postcard makers who are sadly now closing down. I know this is not a typical example of their work, but I do feel that such a wonderful view of a column may not have helped their case, even if someone did buy it and send it to me.

Scan_20171118 (2)

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I’m sorry Dave…

My car is fairly basic. I’m thinking of it as a cross-over, like dragon was, in that it had new inventions, such as a catalytic converter and a single airbag to crowd around, but did not have power-assisted anything so really did need hefting round corners. The new car has parking sensors, which now bleep at everything in the garden while I still run into the hedge (it’s a big hedge), but not the satnav or other features of its bigger cousin.

Yesterday on the motorway we got to see how close the future is. There will be a messy 5-10 years, as people forget to look out the back as they think the camera does that for them, then we really will have self-driving cars as standard.

The bigger car has ‘adaptive cruise control’. We’d already met ‘cruise control’ where the car uses its own feet, not yours, to stay at the same speed. ‘Adaptive’ though means that it has sensors to ‘see’ the world around it and will keep a distance from the car in front by slowing or speeding up. It can tell if a car has just cut in and will adjust accordingly, before you’ve seen it or had time to react.

It was very odd for the driver to be sat there, feet flat on the floor, watching the car slow down or speed up, adjusting itself to the world around it. If we had an automatic it would also do the gears. We were working out what was left to do. It can use satnav to plan its route. The only thing left was the immediate steering.

And, this isn’t a ‘top of the range’ car. This is the new standard.

Dragon was 23 years old. There is a move to ban all petrol and diesel cars in 23 years time, in 2040. It is possible that these cars will be our last, in a good way. But it’s also possible that one day before then they’ll be banned or need an additional modification purely because they’re not driving themselves.

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Something new

It’s been an eventful week…

Driving back in convoy from the MOT, Frankie had a prang. I was in the car behind but thankfully missed it.

Then two days later as we drove to the showroom to look at new and second-hand cars, we were rear-ended at the lights. After an afternoon in A+E one comment that was made was, “I’m so glad we weren’t in Dragon…”

This did though give the opportunity of spending the afternoon with an unrelated small child with ADHD who came to visit and spread cold pizza on all surfaces. These are a must-have travel accessory with which to visit showrooms. We test drove from two manufacturers, but discounted one after we discovered that we couldn’t see the child when he was stood in the blind spots.

So, after the deals and discussion, I now have a newer version of Dragon.

And someone else round here was so taken with it that he went online, had a hunt through deals and promptly went and got a related version with more ‘bells and whistles’ for which he got a hefty discount by giving them Frankie.

For some mysterious reason they’re superficially the same colour but different shades. You’d think a manufacture that well known could afford enough paint.

There’s now a fight as to whose goes on the drive.

And we have yet to decide the fate of Dragon. The Viking funeral would be with the fire brigade who appreciate having something to practice on so they’re even better when doing it for real, but breaking out in chickens has a lot to recommend it…

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