Angelic Paranoia

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Driverless cars and roundabouts
Monday 9th June 2014 9:49 pm

There's been talk about driverless cars recently, with Google bringing out one without any controls for humans to drive it with. What I keep wondering about them is whether they'll be able to manage roundabouts? They test these things in America, where they don't tend to have them, and people tend not to signal on roundabouts in particular.

I have quite a lot between home and work (eleven, if I've counted correctly, twelve on the way home) so I've seen a lot of terrible driving on them. There's one fairly small one with only four exits, at which most people go straight on. I've seen people going straight on who signal left or right.

There's one roundabout on my way home where I often have to stop to wait for people coming across from the right. Except actually they're turning left, they just didn't want anyone to know and made me stop to wait for them for no reason.

There's the roundabout where the right lane goes right, the left lane is for the other three exits. Most people go straight on. Some of them from the right lane and don't see a problem with getting off the roundabout from the inside when I am on their outside (my red car is clearly invisible).

There was a particularly good one in front of me one day when I left work early. They were in the right lane, then suddenly signalled left. I kept well back as they proceeded to go straight on.

I met an even better one last week on my nearest roundabout. My options are left and right. A lot of people at rush hour are going from my right across to my left (straight over for them). They don't slow down much and it's on a corner, so when you can't see a car coming you have to put your foot down until you're safely on the roundabout and out of their way. Someone was in front of me and turning left. There's only one lane on this roundabout (unless, bizarrely, you're going from left to right as I look at it). I came up behind them, saw there was nothing coming, put my foot down, then looked ahead of me. To see the car in front had gone to the left, but at the last minute decided to go right instead and I was now headed straight for them.

You can't tell me driverless cars are going to be able to cope with that.

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Bad Fortnight
Sunday 6th October 2013 8:13 pm

The last two weeks haven't been great in general, although there have been some good bits. Read more...

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I want either a teleport or a driverless car
Tuesday 27th November 2012 7:01 pm

Or a chauffeur, I'm not fussy. Anything that means I don't have to be the one driving.

This morning spent 35 minutes in a queue on my way to work. From the point where I hit the queue I could have walked to work and got there at the same time. It was all caused by the river flooding and people slowing down (on a 60mph road!) to look at it. There are quite a few roundabouts around and people feeding in from elsewhere and going off elsewhere, so it caused chaos.

When I crossed the river I got excited about making it into second gear. I got a good look at it while I was stationary and I can tell you that all the news reports are correct - it's flooded. As it does nearly every year around here.

I can't not drive to work because rather than my 20 minute drive I'd have to do a 15 minute walk, a 20 minute bus journey, then a 30 minute walk. The bus would cost me more than it costs in petrol. And with the bus only going once an hour, in reverse, if I left on time I would miss it by about 10 minutes. This is all because I work in a village.

This evening I'm off to Rotary in a pub in a village (so no buses there either). I'm not looking forward to the journey because it's somewhere I haven't been before (which I don't like), down narrow roads (which I hate) and in the dark (there's no street lights). I am taking Tpm Baker (my sat nav) with me for comfort, maps and pointing out when I'm near to the pub.

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Driving on my own
Monday 14th May 2012 9:13 pm

For ages at work I've been sharing lifts with someone else. Well, I say sharing lifts, but she didn't drive, so I drove and she paid me petrol money. But now she's passed her test and bought a car, so today I went on my own. Which was weird. I kept thinking I'd forgotten something. On the plus side I get to leave the house five minutes later, get home five minutes earlier and I am listening to last month's Big Finish Doctor Who release. But suddenly having to pay twice as much in petrol is less good. I worked out that the bus is now cheaper, albeit only just and does take four times as long - if I got it, I'd have to leave the house half an hour earlier and I'd get to work half an hour late. So then I'd have to stay at work half an hour longer and would get home an hour and a half later - which wouldn't be in time for me to go out to well, anything. So there's certainly something to be said for driving to work.

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Scary times
Saturday 10th March 2012 11:45 am

I think it's the 'Wear Sunscreen' song that says to do one thing per day that scares you. Yesterday I did that thing - I drove into the city for the evening, rather than getting the train. It takes about the same amount of time and costs about the same in petrol as a train ticket. But because I live fifteen minutes walk away from the station and it's not a walk you can do in the dark, my choices were either to pay £6 to park at the station or £9 to get a taxi back. Whereas parking in the city was £2.


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Friday 30th July 2010 9:00 am

Our (unofficial) work car park is small and has no lines printed on it. After living somewhere where the parking spaces were really narrow, I tend to feel that if I can get out of the driver's side easily I've parked too close.

This morning I parked perfectly: I had to get out the passenger side.

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Petrol conspiracy
Thursday 22nd July 2010 7:45 pm

I swear there is some sort of conspiracy against me by the god of petrol. If the petrol's going up, then any time I think about getting petrol but don't for some reason, it goes up 1p the next day. If petrol's going down, then any time I get petrol it goes down 1p the next day.

I thought about getting petrol the same day every week to get around it, but I don't need petrol every week. I do try and fill the car up when I'm down to half a tank, but that's mainly on the basis that the pumps aren't designed for people with small hands and any longer holding it really makes my hand hurt.

I've been meaning to buy petrol all week, especially as yesterday it went down to three eighths of a tank (my petrol gauge comes in eight discrete units). I finally managed to buy some this morning, on my way to work. I passed the petrol station on my way home and the petrol's gone down 1p.

There must be some sort of god waiting for me to think about/buy petrol just to change the price, it's the only explanation.

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I never could get the hang of Wednesdays
Wednesday 2nd June 2010 10:04 pm

I don't like Wednesdays - although this is generally because nothing interesting happens on a Wednesday. Today turned out to be more interesting than I would have liked.

When I got to my car after work it was horribly hot, so I set off with the windows down - and realised there was a dragging noise somewhere in the vicinity of the left side of my car. I'd just been on that side and hadn't seen anything, but I was just in the right place to pull over into a spare space in a layby. And discovered that my left front tyre was as flat as a pancake.

Since this has never happened to me before, my first instinct was panic. And then ring the RAC. So they said they'd be about 45 minutes. So I cleared the rubbish out of my boot so they could get to the spare wheel. Today would be the day that I'd forgotten my book. But I thought I'd stay with the car while it cooled down. Which it had, quite nicely, by the time they rang me an hour later to tell me it could be another hour...

At which point I went back into work on the basis that I needed food, drink and a toilet. At which point I realised I was carrying a bag containing five cereal bars, two 200g bars of chocolate and two jars of pasta sauce. Not that you can eat pasta sauce on its own, but I certainly wasn't going to starve.

Since I wasn't there, this meant that the RAC man dropped off his last job round the corner and was therefore at my car before I was. In fact, by the time I got there he had the jack under it and was in the process of taking the wheel off.

He couldn't find anything that caused it. And he remembered that he'd just seen a tyre place around the corner that I'd forgotten that existed. So I will be paying them a call tomorrow morning, and doubtless handing over larger sums of cash than I planned to spend this month.

It turns out that the spare wheel is horrible to drive with. I had always just assumed that all five wheels were the same, but not. This one is smaller. You can't go above 50mph, but I wouldn't want to. Apart from the fact that it smells of new tyre, once you go fast it sounds terrible going along the road, and makes the steering wheel and pedals vibrate.

And all that time I spent hanging round the left side of my car (which I rarely go to) made me notice how scratched it was. It took me a while to remember that was caused by Tuesday last week when I drove into a hedge. So at the weekend I'll be taking it to Tescos for a wash and then see about polishing or painting it, depending on what makes it look more cared for...

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Driving and snow
Wednesday 13th January 2010 7:59 pm

Considering that I don't like driving and given the option would far rather not, I can't quite believe I'm going to say this but... I really want to be able to drive to work.

I'd be warmer, I could leave later, so get up later, so get more sleep, I could listen to the radio (I haven't heard Chris Evans at breakfast yet and I'm missing the Five Live guys with the news on my way home). It wouldn't matter if I left a few minutes late, I would have to slide over so much snow, I would spend ages waiting for a bus and I could leave work whatever time I liked (well, after 5.30pm obviously).

I can't drive at the moment because although the main roads are fine, I'd have to park down a side road, which aren't so great. My road isn't great and to make it worse, I'd have to turn my car round 180 degrees, it's currently on a slight slope and there's a pile of snow behind it because it's been parked there ever since we had the heavy snow Tuesday night last week. And most importantly, having experienced driving on snow once I'm not desperate to try it again.

It's supposed to be a lot warmer from tomorrow (where a lot warmer means above freezing) so hopefully there'll be lots of melting going on. But I am so sick of the snow.

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The car of the future
Wednesday 20th May 2009 8:33 pm

I was thinking about the differences between my new, two year old car and my old, twenty year old car, and all the things that are now standard that seem new to me.

So there's automatic choke, 5 gears, back windscreen wiper, electric windows, electric wing mirrors, central locking, point and click key.

But there are other things you can get too, if you spend more money, like air conditioning, parking sensors, heated wing mirrors, 6 gears, sat nav, buttons on the steering wheel to control the radio. Basically a whole load of things you'll never use but will go wrong and beep at you.

I vaguely remembering hearing on Top Gear years ago about an S type Mercedes, I think it was, that knows how close you are to the car in front and essentially drives for you.

So that makes me think. In twenty (or more) years time, what's going to be standard in all cars? All of the above, plus not running on petrol. And probably ability to plug your ipod in directly and control it from the radio. Can anyone think of anything else?

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New car
Tuesday 7th April 2009 10:34 pm

I have a new car. It is mostly better than the old one: Read more...

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The good news bad news update
Sunday 29th March 2009 7:04 pm

Because I haven't got the energy for anything more substantial.

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Sunday 22nd March 2009 9:54 pm

I have a car! Well, I don’t have it exactly, there’s still boring admin and money-type of things to do, but once that’s all sorted, then I’ll have my car in my sticky little mitts. Figuratively speaking, because it’s quite big. It’s a Toyota Yaris, it has exciting things like power steering and a light in the boot, but most importantly, it’s red. Very red. Exactly the right sort of red, whereas Honda do three reds: two are too dark to be of any use and one is quite pinky, which is a horrid colour for a car. Although I did choose the Yaris because I liked it more, not just because it came in a better colour. I mean, I’d have lived with bright blue if I’d had to.

I am definitely still ill - after I’d gone out and chosen a car all I could do was lie around watching All Creatures Great and Small. According to the NHS Direct website it should last for one to three weeks, which was right for the last time I had it. But it’ll be four weeks tomorrow, and the website I found that says it lasts for three to eight weeks is probably more accurate in this case. Which means I could be ill till nearly the end of April. Which I could live with, as long as I knew I’d definitely be better by then. The only good thing is I don’t think I have the variety of labyrinthitis where you’re ill for years because I’m not ill enough.

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It must be spring
Friday 20th March 2009 9:48 pm

I am freezing. But then I am only wearing one jumper. I have stupid heating that comes in on or off and as it's so warm during the day I have it off, otherwise I wake up boiling. Because it's still really cold at night, it means it's quite cold in the mornings and evenings, plus my body clock seems to have decided it's BST a bit early.

I'm definitely still ill. I put on a New Who episode and the beginning credits are the worst thing ever. Definitely not recommended if you're dizzy. I have until Wednesday to get better, then I go back to the doctors, who are pretty much incapable of diagnosing anything I can't work out for myself, so I'm not hopeful, but I just want to get better. I want my life back again.

I am going to decide what car I want this weekend, which'll probably knock me out for the weekend with the half hour drive each way. But I definitely need a car that's less effort to drive, because part of the reason I didn't for so long while I was ill was because I didn't have the energy to turn the wheel. The trouble is that they don't make custom cars and what I really want is a Toyota Yaris at the front and a Honda Jazz at the back. And no, I don't want James May to make me one.

I have discovered the source of one of the funny noises my car makes! I currently have four: one is something rattling in the dashboard, one is a squeaking noise when I break, two are squeaking noises when I'm going along. The squeaking noises are all louder with the window open, which hasn't really been improving my drive home in a stuffy car with the sun right in my eyes. But while I was backing my car up after I'd turned it off, by the method of sticking my foot out of the door and giving it a push, as it's on a slight slope, I discovered that when I move the car, it creaks. I'm quite looking forward to owning a quieter car.

I thought I'd try out a DVD in my computer this evening. It took me ages to work out which program it had installed as the DVD playing program and then I found I hate it with a passion. It's rubbish. It takes over so much that you can hardly run any other program at the same time, and it takes the taskbar away so you can't get to any other program (alt+tab refused to work). I couldn't work out how to fast forward in any useful way and there's no right click menu to tell it that actually you want subtitles/commentary. I was looking forward to getting an upgrade from WinDVD, but it turns out WinDVD was the pinnacle of DVD playing programs (and to be fair, I loved it, it's far better than a DVD player). Am I right in thinking it's the free version and PowerDVD is the paid for one that lets you take screenshots? Can I get it somewhere? Can I go back to Windows 98? (actually, since I have it on a virtual machine on this computer, the answer to the last one is yes, technically).

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Adventures in car buying
Sunday 15th February 2009 4:49 pm

I thought deciding which car to buy would be simple. I thought I'd go and test drive a few, hate them all and then buy a Toyota Yaris.

Yesterday I drove a Ford Ka and continually failed to get first to second. This morning I drove a Toyota Yaris (where I continually failed to get the handbrake off because I was trying too hard), a Vauxhall Corsa (where the handbrake was too far back and the indicators were so quiet I couldn't work out if I'd turn them on or not), a Volkswagon Polo (which I hated on the basis that it had indicator lights on the wind mirror, when there is no need and it is annoying) and a Honda Jazz (in which I can move the seat too far forwards - I never knew such a thing was possible).

I liked the Corsa because it's like my car, I like the Yaris, except for the stupidly tiny boot space, and I like the Jazz for it's ridiculously big boot space. I liked the Toyota dealer because they found me a red one to drive.

It was only when I got back in my car that I realised how uncomfortable it is to sit in, how hard it is to drive, and how many ratting/squeaking noises it has (three rattles, two squeaking). So I definitely want a new car, I just don't know which one.

It doesn't help that I had a late lunch by the time I'd driven all these, so now I'm really sleepy. And my arms and legs ache from all the driving.

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Wednesday 4th February 2009 10:47 pm

As the snow has now gone (except for a tiny snowman down my road) I drove to work today. And my car annoyed me so much I have finally got round to requesting some test drives. I think I want a Toyota Yaris, as my parents and sister have them and if my sister only had a white, not a grey one, we could do The Italian Job with Yarises. But I am going to also try a Ford Ka and Vauxhall Corsa and I might see about some other Fords too as the garage is only two minutes walk away. I wanted to try a Renault Clio too, but they didn't have any of those at any places nearby.

I might not actually get to drive them for a while, but it would be handy to have a car that goes in the rain once spring comes.

I have looked at a few reviews on Top Gear and the What Car websites, but does anyone have a subscription to Which? they can use to look up superminis for me? What I want in a car is quite simple:

  • Ability to reach the pedals
  • No choke
  • No having to go under the bonnet twice a year to tell it what season it is
  • Goes in the rain
  • Goes uphill
  • Goes in the cold
  • Warms up sometime during my journey to and from work
  • Red

I suspect those requirements won't be hard to fill. Everything else comes in the 'quite like' category (power steering, electric windows, air conditioning, USB port, no fifth gear (I suspect that might be a bit impossible), everything in a similar sort of place so I can find it).

On a different subject, I did like Terry Pratchett's answer to why he has six screens: because he doesn't have space for eight.

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Tuesday 3rd February 2009 10:27 pm

I realised today that there's a flaw in the way I parked my car outside the house on Friday (I haven't driven it since).

Pretty much the closest space to my block is much easier to back into and then just drive straight out of, especially in the morning when the car is prone to stalling anyway due to the cold. Often when I back it in there there's a car in the space next to it, so it's just a case of getting it between that car and the hedge without hitting anything.

I'm getting better at it, but on Friday there wasn't a car there, which made it harder to work out where to aim for. But I gave it a go and did it absolutely perfectly the first time. Except for one small problem: I was too close to the hedge to be able to open my door. But since I'd done it so well I didn't want to have to go through the complicated manoeuvre of moving the car sideways, since they don't naturally go that way. So I just got out the passenger side.

Only today when I got back from work and looked at it did I realise there's an additional problem: there's not even enough space between the car and the hedge to get to the driver's side windows to scrape them.

In my defence, where I last lived my car parking space was a really narrow space next to a wall, so I'm used to parking really close to things. Parking in car parks confuses me completely because the spaces are so wide.

But I might well just get the bus all this week anyway - I'm liking not having to drive to work and I'm certainly not doing it in the snow.

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Wednesday 28th January 2009 8:35 pm

When I moved further away from work, so I had a ten minute drive rather than a ten minute walk, I thought that one of the effects it would have would be that I'd get more confident at driving. Which I have, I just hate it even more.

My car doesn't help. This morning it refused to go up a hill at 30mph in fourth gear because it was raining. This evening it did its thing where because I'd stopped it didn't want to go and sort of stalled and sort of moved a bit and there's nothing you can do about it (although I discovered putting the clutch back to the floor helped no end). That's what the mechanic called 'lumpy'. That was because it had rained all day.

At the weekend I drove home and back on roads full of lorries (one of the motorways had the whole left lane and half the middle lane full of them) and mostly I got stuck behind them because I can't pass lorries going uphill because I can't go faster than them.

So it's just as well really that the car industry is desperate for people to buy cars because I really want one that goes uphill, in the rain, in the cold, doesn't have choke and I can reach the pedals without needing extra cushions. Everything else optional (but I'd quite like power steering and air conditioning and electric windows, so I don't have to decide how hot it's going to be before I start driving).

I just have to get over this fear of driving strange cars that'll be so different from my nineteen and a half year old car.

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Life, for a bit
Tuesday 2nd December 2008 10:58 pm

I actually had some time at work today where I wasn't trying to do a million things at once by the end of the day. I almost didn't know what to do with myself! So when I got home I had plenty of time to listen to the six o'clock news on Radio 5 for once, make muffins and watch Chuck. And then my TV guide (aka my dad) told me there was a programme on about time, which put paid to my plan to actually do some writing tonight. And as interesting as the programme was it featured quite a few physicists, none of whom were fat or bearded. One of them was even female. What is the world coming to?

For the next couple of days everything gets put on hold for Rotaract. Tomorrow I am not looking forward to venturing out into the cold (not that it's that warm in here) and breaking my car out from under a load of ice, while the car only gets even colder than the outside air. But I am driving far enough that not only will it warm up before I get there, but I might also be able to get warm air on my feet too! It's very hard to drive when you can't feel your feet, your hands and you're shivering.

Thursday I get to spend several hours outside in the evening selling chestnuts (bonus: I like chestnuts). I discovered last year that two pairs of trousers keeps you warm, but it looks like this year will be colder than last year...

But on the plus side, because I have a long weekend to do moving things, this is my last five day week before Christmas!

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Swimming is suddenly so complicated
Tuesday 7th October 2008 8:56 pm

I went swimming on Friday night. It was nice and quiet at 9pm - I had a lane to myself. However, on the way I went over the bridge into the town and realised what looked like a big cloud in front of me was actually smoke and there were firemen around. I'd forgotten about it until I went home and found the police had blocked the bridge off. It turns out it was a fire in a restaurant that they think started in a chip pan and involved four fire crews to put it out.

Thankfully, I knew an alternative way home, but that did involve going on a dual carriageway. I haven't been on them that often in the dark, so it was scary just going up the sliproad, that was up a hill, and I could see nothing at all in front of me. It was also the first time I'd gone on a dual carriageway/motorway without my sat nav so I had nothing to tell me when to get off, except I was fairly sure I only had to go one junction. I alternated between watching the traffic, the road, looking out for road signs and panic with a bit of fear.

I then got completely confused coming off it because I was on the other side of the roundabout to when I'm used to coming off that road, as I'm usually coming up it from the south. It was slightly surreal being able to go my own way and not having to ignore the sat nav, which doesn't pick the best way home.

Then I went swimming again last night, forgetting that the carnival was in town. Once I got over the bridge I was then off around the town following diversion signs, and ones for the town centre when there were no diversion signs. Most of the time I had no idea where I was or where I was going. So that was scary too. Fortunately, I had noticed on the way in that I could go the usual way home.

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