mtbc: maze D (yellow-black)
The engine in our venerable Peugeot developed an oil leak that took a couple of visits to the garage to get fixed. Yesterday I had the relative pleasure of driving the car back home from work without smoke pouring from under the hood whenever I was stopped in traffic. The smell of burning oil would also come in through the vents. Of course, commuting at somewhat normal hours means that I routinely see somewhat heavy traffic which, queuing around me, must have wondered about the smoke. Though, I suppose that others must have wondered about the oil slick accumulating around my car when parked in lots.

Naturally, at times when I was certain the problem persisted I drove our Vauxhall instead as the Peugeot hardly leaked when cold. I resisted adding thickener to the Peugeot's oil because I wanted the problem to remain easily perceived and diagnosed by the mechanic. I always more greatly enjoy driving after I have been living with some issue that is now fixed.

In Ohio we routinely drove cars until they, sometimes literally, fell apart. It is odd now to live in Britain knowing that our cars will probably never get that bad given the annual inspections: it is the inspection failure that typically dooms them rather than the actual physical collapse. For at least a couple of our American cars their state was such that oil thickener was a routine additive for us.
mtbc: maze D (yellow-black)
I often think about how I could live more cheaply. I had suspected that we could have been rather further along with practical electric cars and associated infrastructure given a little more government support over the years. Oddly, I had never thought about electric motorcycles. After all, motorcycles are generally cheaper to buy and run than cars.

It turns out that electric motorcycles do exist. Models like the Zero SR already look agreeably far along and I expect the state of the market to improve further. It seems like buying a laser printer: running costs make it well worth it overall. I like the idea of being able to travel to Dundee more cheaply then park in a smaller space.

My impression is that a significant factor in the injury rate of motorcyclists is the kind of person who is attracted to motorcycles in the first place: I am guessing that I am something of an outlier in that profile. However, I concede that my latest road collision, now more than a decade ago, might have been interesting on a motorcycle: while the other driver's insurer folded immediately given that I had done nothing worse than proceed ahead at a low speed within my lane only to be hit hard sideways as the other driver turned across the road without seeing me, not being the one technically at fault does not ameliorate physical injury. The risks thus give me pause but I am nonetheless somewhat attracted by the prospect of cheaper travel.
mtbc: maze D (yellow-black)
On the way into work this morning I again waited at a traffic signal that protects a pit in one lane of a two-lane road. There is usually no activity around this hole in the road and whatever work is being done there by Scottish Water appears to be taking them many days.

I wonder what it costs utility companies to block roads. I imagine that the city council charge them more, the longer the work takes, but how much? I am reminded of living in Massachusetts. There, the police union seems to have wangled some neat deal to get officers paid plenty for watching traffic around road construction. Whatever I think of that, I wonder if the ongoing expense is a sufficiently non-trivial fraction of the project cost to help hurry the work along.
mtbc: maze D (yellow-black)
Many American states have the notion of secondary traffic offenses: the police may not pull one over for committing them but if stopped for some primary reason, like speeding, then secondary charges may follow. It depends on the state but secondary offenses are acts such as using a cellphone or not wearing a seatbelt.

I find the concept bizarre. I don't know if the theory is that being pulled over constitutes some kind of seizure under the Fourth Amendment or if the legislature really did not want to pass, say, a seatbelt law so making it difficult to enforce was the only way to get enough votes at all, or what. I am curious to know what the thinking really is and the degree to which it makes sense. I am not aware of an analog in English or Scottish road traffic law.
mtbc: maze D (yellow-black)
My regular garage sent me a text message by SMS to let me know that my car's MOT test is coming up. The MOT is an annual vehicle test that was originally instituted by the Ministry of Transport, hence the name. One may have the test done a couple of weeks before the due date in order for the approval to be extended for another full year.

It turns out that the garage's computer system lies: the automated message used the date of inspection, not the actual expiry date of the MOT certificate. So, it is coming up to the date when the car last had its MOT test but we are still comfortably away from the actual expiry date. I shall bring the car back next month.
mtbc: maze D (yellow-black)
On returning to driving in the UK I have noticed an unofficial pattern of behavior that is new to me. A persistent issue for drivers of large trucks is that overtaking car drivers pull back in too close to them so they do not have much clear road to stop in if necessary. So, when I have passed some distance ahead, the truck flashes its lights, then I move back into their lane, then with both my turn signals I give a quick thank-you flash, learned from observing others. It is a simple but pleasing exchange.
mtbc: maze D (yellow-black)
One reason why I enjoyed living in Columbus, OH, is that I had learned my way around it well (except for the south side) and indeed had frequent reason to go to one place or another, so there was routing and unexpected rerouting to be done. Variety was often afforded by the grid-based layout making alternative routes often not much worse than others. Around here, in between Perth and Dundee, for much of my travel the A90 is the obvious choice: I rarely have route planning to do and spend much of my time on the same roads.

Tonight a pleasant surprise came in the form of having to drive to Perth but finding a large resurfacing crew on the A90 westbound. I was able to detour north up into the Sidlaws along winding narrow roads over Kinnoull Hill and back down to approach Smeaton's Bridge. I rather enjoyed having the excuse to do something different and my guesswork turning out well.

Update: Driving into Perth on the following morning I did indeed experience a resurfaced section on the A90.
mtbc: maze B (white-black)
In driving around Cardiff we stumbled upon an excellent small diner, Luvly Grub. Their fare may be basic but the staff are nice and the menu offers a good range of freshly made food in decent portions and at low prices. I wish there were more eateries like this.

In navigating South Wales I have enjoyed hearing [personal profile] mst3kmoxie's English-voiced Google Maps app butcher Welsh place names so badly that even my American-voiced maps lady does a better job but I might have hoped that some metadata with the names would have caused alternative pronunciation rules to be applied; now I wonder how it copes with Spanish place names in the US.

In conversation the question was raised of why no banknotes are issued by a Welsh bank and I imagined that the Welsh think that quite a fair question. Perhaps it is simply that they have been less resistant to annexation.
mtbc: maze D (yellow-black)
Halfway along Dow Street in Dundee the road is met by the end of another road. Well, not really another road, it seems more pedestrianized; I'm not sure that cars are even intended to be on it. But, although visibility is poor for those emerging from that unnamed road, I sometimes see a bicyclist emerging from it at considerable speed. My courage does not match theirs so as I drive along Dow Street I am careful to be moving slowly with my foot near the brake pedal.

Yesterday was more surprising than usual: a skateboarder shot out then proceeded slowly directly in front of me for some time. I don't think that they noticed my car until rather further along when they moved off to the opposite sidewalk and looked enough sideways to see behind. They were wearing some kind of headphones.

This kind of behavior leaves me at something of a loss. I could understand it from kindergartners but if not for the frequency with which I see it from adults then I would have thought it would take a rare kind of idiocy to be in the habit of emerging so abruptly from blind intersections onto roads.

I didn't mind this incident: I wasn't in a great hurry and it was so bizarre to be slowly following this clueless guy as to be almost amusing. I didn't want to sound my horn lest I surprised the fellow so much that he fell. But I would rather if nobody at that part of the road were to be unpleasantly squashed. Perhaps on Monday I shall take a walk to see what warning signs meet those reaching Dow Street at that point.

Dow Street is on the University of Dundee's city campus, this intersection being just past where the Life Sciences Research Complex takes its larger deliveries. I did learn to hate driving on college campuses in the US: they seemed especially to attract pedestrians who like to wander around with no apparent acknowledgment that roads or cars even exist on their path rather than, for example, upon reaching a road pausing a moment to look around and make eye contact with oncoming drivers.
mtbc: maze F (cyan-black)
Despite recent Spring-like weather it was below freezing when I left the house this morning; I let the car warm up for a few minutes blowing air to clear its windows. The frost may have surprised the daffodils at least as much as it surprised me.

In Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency mention is made of the possibility of a car with heated side mirrors. To me such a thing seems achievable and desirable for days when those mirrors are obscured by frost: it would save on spraying deicer.
mtbc: maze E (black-cyan)
In helping Benjamin with his revision I find that I remember some things more easily than he. While I can recall much that I was taught over twenty-five years ago, he forgets the same thing from a few weeks ago, perhaps something we have already also gone over at home. Revision helps him to dust off hazy memories but for his sake I wish it required less effort for him in the first place. I have not remembered everything: for example, despite being well-drilled in it at the time, I think I have forgotten a bunch of rotational dynamics with pendulums and whatnot. On average I think I remember a couple of years' teaching less of my school subjects than I once knew. But, much was interesting enough that it easily stuck for the long term. With his revision, at least Benjamin still does well.

I think that interest is key. Just as Benjamin does recall much detail of collectible card games, I easily forget domestic trivia. For instance, exercise seems to make my nose run, so this morning in the bedroom I intended to bring my handkerchief downstairs when I came to work out. Downstairs, I wondered if I had done this, and indeed I found the handkerchief in the expected place. What I do not know is if I was even mindful of bringing it downstairs, but forgot, or if I was entirely on autopilot. My UK driving test still puzzles me: obviously I was mentally engaged with that but immediately afterward I had almost no memory of it. (My Ohio test I recall but that was trivial.)

My exercise continues to frustrate somewhat. I am still not back at the level I was before visiting Cornwall. And, my performance continues to vary according to factors I cannot identify. Within the first five minutes I can guess if it is going to go well. One remaining theory is that my performance has less to do with my physical fitness and more to do with my brain varying in what signals it sends about how much it prefers me not to do this. I do not know how much to trust the precision with which the machine sets the resistance level but the variance in my performance is high enough that I think it is probably more about me than the machine. I have a few theories about the relevant independent variables, such as time of day, but nothing yet for which a regression would give a sufficiently low p-value. My approach is to persist anyway and hope that the long-term trend continues to be good.
mtbc: maze D (yellow-black)
I try to be quite accepting as a driver: part of how I comfortably drove to Cornwall and back was by leaving plenty of time and by not being especially ambitious or expectant about making progress so I could just relax and go with whatever luck or not came my way.

I did experience irritation on my way home today when I slowed behind a bicyclist because I could not judge that I could yet pass safely and the driver behind me clearly thought differently as they honked their horn. Eventually we went our separate ways and rejoined as I passed the side street they had taken as they waited behind a couple of other cars to turn onto the road that I was on: I had taken the longer but faster route. I did take some satisfaction in seeing how fruitless their impatience had been.
mtbc: maze F (cyan-black)
Being at low altitude near the start of the Firth of Tay we get mild weather; this winter morning was unusual in that I awoke to falling, settling snow. I enjoy the variety of seasons and snow can be very pretty. In our life here we do not have the money to be able to deal with snow easily but a light fall does not present any great difficulty: my journey to work went easily and perhaps the road surfaces will even be clear when I return home tonight. Later on I expect to still be able to see snow covering the hills.
mtbc: maze F (cyan-black)
I mostly do not like living at higher latitudes. On weekdays I am never at home in the daylight and summer is little recompense because it is then daylight at times I don't care, like when I am asleep. Agreeably it is now far enough from the winter solstice that I am getting to enjoy some daylight on my normal commute. At least having the sunlight back helps me to remember to appreciate it. I just have to also remember next time I move home or job to arrange not to live west of my workplace.
mtbc: maze G (black-magenta)
My drive home, back up from the southwest to the northeast, went easily, with less rain and still no bad traffic. Unintentionally I awoke early both today and last week so left before dawn: driving down to Cornwall I was on the M5 by noon and today by noon I had reached Lancaster, not even driving among the faster cars.

During today's drive BBC local radio included the earnest statement that beavers excite strong opinions in people and BBC national radio played me the latest from Rag'n'Bone Man, Blondie and Future Islands, all of which seemed much as one would expect from them, though Future Islands really have to be watched. There was an amusing moment with commercial radio in which Frank Skinner told us an anecdote about a man vomiting much confectionery only for the show to abruptly cut to a commercial in which a lady wondered if we fancy a treat. My favorite CD from the drive back up was probably Joe Satriani's instrumental rock album Surfing with the Alien: I had forgotten how very good he is at playing electric guitar expressively.
mtbc: maze G (black-magenta)
Being back in Cornwall at present it is interesting to be reminded of small details that I had forgotten: for example, at lunch in a restaurant today I was asked Where's your table to? in contrast to the Where's your table at? which fits what I sometimes heard after moving to Ohio.

I realized that driving down yesterday I spanned the extent of the British motorway network from its northeast to its southwest tip: from the A90 I entered westward at one end of the M90 near Perth and exited the end of the M5 at Exeter westward onto the A30. My radio listening included Alice Levine's show on BBC Radio 1. I also enjoyed Vanessa Paradis' Live album: I like Dis-lui toi que je t'aime and she does sound sweetly enthusiastic in covering Les Cactus.
mtbc: maze N (blue-white)
Various services such as library membership and registration with one's doctor in Britain tend to somehow be predicated on one's home address. However, my work address (in a different council area and a different city) is often rather more relevant for me given that I am more likely to be at work during these services' opening hours. Otherwise I end up trying to get everything done on a Saturday morning before places close.

For example, it would be very nice if the fact that my doctor's medical practice is but a ten-minute drive from work would make registration with them easy; I usually give them plenty of freedom in scheduling appointments and so far they have always been during my working hours. I don't need out-of-hours coverage, I just need them to consider me a local if I am in their area for most of the time that they are open.

My home address is almost an irrelevance for many such purposes as being the place where I am when the relevant service is probably not available anyway.

Unfortunately I do not now recall how the inter-city and inter-school-district dual-taxation agreements would tend to work in Ohio for years when I was living in one city and district but working in another, but at least there was some understanding that both locations somehow matter.
mtbc: maze F (cyan-black)
By the mild standards of our current home it is actually rather cold this morning: 23°F. I let the car warm up for a while but probably ought to have tried deicing the side mirrors; I wonder how fancy a car one need buy before it comes with small mirror heaters built in. The prediction is for the day to warm up so my drive home should see rather more usual weather, though also for my drive south tomorrow to include rain. It is nice to see the frost and the fog: I find much winter weather agreeably pretty.
mtbc: maze D (yellow-black)
Last night I lost track of time and got to bed later than I had planned. At least I had some reasonable sleep before the alarm went off this morning.

The first challenge was coaxing the house's hot water heater back on. It is an on-demand gas heater: we let the landlord know a month ago that is is becoming temperamental again but they have had difficulty arranging a plumber. Last week they said that they would let us know when the plumber is to come this week. Now the heater often doesn't stay on after coaxing so this may yet escalate to an emergency callout.

Then, the car didn't start: this is the 1995 Peugeot 306. Lights come on, engine doesn't turn. So, I moved my stuff over to our 2004 Vauxhall Astra and drove that into work. So much for [personal profile] mst3kmoxie being able to take it shopping today. However, on the way into work I discovered that I could not find where I had put my campus parking permit. Time wasted trying to park causes spaces to fill up at fallbacks so I parked on a side street, found the pass down the far side of the passenger seat, but walked from there into work anyway.

Given sufficiently clement weather I will probably move the car over to campus at lunchtime when some spaces often open up again. (The ratio of parking spaces to university staff members has declined for some years now.) Then I can load the Vauxhall with my equipment after work today so that I am able to work from home tomorrow, assuming that I have managed to arrange a mechanic callout for the Peugeot.

I had separately wondered if car leasing may work out to be comparable to owning given the ongoing maintenance cost of older cars but the cheaper deals I see do not allow for as much annual mileage as we drive. (The garage that we use for repairs are able to lease cheaply as they do not have the overhead of a fancy showroom and smooth salespeople.)
mtbc: maze D (yellow-black)
The UK's fastest roads are motorways. Before one passes one's driving test the provisional learner's permit allows driving everywhere but on motorways. The government is considering lifting this restriction.

This seems fine to me but Transport Minister Andrew Jones says that the current ban from motorways is often fatal which piques my curiosity: I wonder, how often? Are we talking, say, a couple of people per week being killed by learners not being allowed onto motorways?

The Scottish Government suggests lower speeds for new drivers which sounds like a bad idea to me: I suspect that the lane changes or overtaking by the traffic moving around the slower cars may cause more problems than are avoided. It was for this reason that in driving on interstates in PA and NY I would exceed 55mph speed limits when the prevailing speed of traffic seemed nearer 70mph: below 55mph I felt like a hazardous obstruction. Focusing effort instead upon strictly enforcing existing limits might be a better move. They also suggest preventing nighttime driving which also seems odd to me because at night the roads are often much quieter.

This fuss about motorways came as something as a surprise to me. It is not as if there is any shortage of divided highways, or dual carriageways, which often also have a 70mph limit for cars: the main differences from motorways that come to my mind are that motorways allow neither slow vehicles nor U-turns. Oh, and the signs are blue. They may be busier on average but that is open to enormous variation by time and place.

When I was learning to drive I would take the A30 to get to the town that had the test center; that segment was partially 70mph dual carriageway and I think is now wholly so. Here we would use a 70mph segment of the A90 to get to either of the local test centers. I am all for learners using dual carriageways and I would hope that driving tests typically include some time on a fast one. I had no idea that people would consider motorways to be an excitingly scary step up from them yet, presumably in the context of this change to learning to drive, a transportation policy guy says how many are so intimidated by the motorway environment; I wonder if those people are even comfortable on dual carriageways.

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Mark T. B. Carroll

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