Modern Car Feedback and Reckless Driving

The standard human driver is just…bad. There’s unintentional bad (not a day goes by that the local news doesn’t report that some old fuck drove into a building!) There’s negligent bad (always cellphone-related.) And of course there’s always been asshole bad (the college kids are starting to show up for the summer.)

I fully admit, too, that my driving edges into the unsafe, but only when I’m driving my wife’s vehicle. It’s easy to drive, but I think it’s too easy, and this presents a problem. In it, I speed much more and give less thought to smooth velocity changes. It’s not intentional.

So recently, as I was driving my 2003 Honda Accord home, stopped at a stop sign, then turned left towards an oncoming and very new-looking KIA Pinchoff or whatever, whose driver communicated their objection to my maneuver with a long series of horn blasts, I had a moment of self-reflection and pondered the state of modern driving.

This isn’t you

Well, first I yelled “Fuck you!” and flashed the birdie, as is the only proper response. Then I admit that I felt a little sheepish…at first. I’ll take blame for an honest mistake, but then I considered that the KIA had been moving so fast that it wasn’t there when I first checked. In the time between when I looked in that direction (for a second time after looking to the right), and then shifted my gaze back towards my front, it had cleared the bend in the road and closed the 50 yard distance to the intersection I had since creeped into – a feat not possible at 25mph, which is why speed limits exist. (They’re not just there to be annoying. It’s a calculated velocity which, when followed, is the fastest one should be driving in order to avoid losing control of the vehicle or hitting someone else on the road who wouldn’t have been able to react in time. Going faster increases the risk. Of course we all push the boundaries, but a residential street that winds around probably isn’t the best place to play Dominic Toretto. (Also not when you bought a lame-ass KIA Pinchoff).)

Anyway, between this encounter and my own self-reflection on my different driving styles between the two vehicles I drive, I’ve come to a conclusion: Modern vehicles encourage bad driving by making driving too easy and seemingly less dangerous. And it comes down to vehicular feedback. Modern vehicles overly disconnect the driver from the act of driving. Here’s some examples:

  • My car uses older hydraulic-assisted power steering. It requires more effort to turn the wheel than the Ascent, and so feels like a heavier machine in comparison. This nudges me to treat it as bigger, more dangerous, and unwieldy when it’s objectively less so compared to the Ascent. The Ascent uses drive-by-wire electric motors to transfer user input to the steering system, and takes very little effort. Consequently, I’m tricked into believing the Ascent is lighter and more sporty than it really is, and it doesn’t transfer the feel of the road conditions to my hands, and so my steering becomes more aggressive. (It also necessitates a much smaller steering wheel, so in further mockery of Mr. Pinchoff above, you can’t possible feel saturated with testosterone when also maneuvering your Pinchoff with a bagel.)
  • My car uses an antilock breaking system. When I lose traction, this kicks in and provides me tactile and audible feedback, which is somewhat unnerving especially when at high speed. This prompts me to drive slower and more cautiously in adverse weather conditions. The Ascent uses all-wheel-drive electronic breaking stabilization. If I lose traction, this system automatically adjusts breaking and torque for each wheel. There’s very little chance of spinning out. In fact, I don’t know if I ever really have lost traction when driving it. And so, the complete lack of feedback gives me no prompt to drive more cautiously. (I think the dashboard makes a small ding, maybe?)
  • My car uses a classic automatic transmission. When I tax the engine, the shift points and their timing in my acceleration give me a clear indication of how much torque, and therefore how much tire grip, I’m experiencing. The Ascent uses a constant variable transmission which lacks definitive gears, so apart from the tachometer, I don’t feel the engine strain. Ergo, I’ll less inclined to let off the gas with the Ascent since I don’t know that I might be compromising the engine and vehicle control.

In short, my Accord gives me a very visceral driving experience, and through this greater connectedness, I have a greater respect for its power and, more importantly, a heightened fear of what might go wrong if I get too aggressive.

The Ascent gives me very little of this feedback. Much of the time, I only really feel the size and weight of the vehicle when trying to stop it from a high speed.

THIS is you

My conclusion is that maybe people aren’t intentionally driving worse, but instead it just seems that way because they’ve lost a material connection to the danger associated with piloting a motor vehicle, as a result of vehicle design seeking to enhance comfort and ease of use. Modern vehicles disconnect us from the potential consequences of driving.

But ultimately, no amount of safety feature enhancements will prevent all forms of the ultimate tactile driving experience: when your driving brings you to a sudden and complete standstill–violently. If there’s any PSA I’ll preach here at the end of my post, it’s just to remember that however disconnected you become from your driving experience, your body is still traveling at velocities that far exceed anything that evolution ever designed you for.

…And Toretto isn’t actually real. You can’t drive down the side of a dam, out-racing its collapse and ensuing tidal wave. Especially not in a KIA Pinchoff. (Also you’re a douche.)


Aire de Vita

Carbon monoxide is a fun little chemical. I think we’ve all been given the primer by our local fire departments when we were kids, or at the very least were taught that smoke is the main killer in a house fire. Stay low and GTFO. I like that. New motto, kids!

And as a basement-dweller with a 40-year old furnace, I was forward-thinking enough to install a CO detector. However, it turns out that symptoms can appear before air concentrations reach the alarm point. In my case, 24ppm (alarms are calibrated to sound at 30ppm). So the kid and I had a fun evening of nausea, fatigue, and headaches; but no alarm clued us in to the problem.

The mystery was solved with a visit from our preferred HVAC technicians, because at this time the furnace wasn’t running consistently and the fan wouldn’t shut off. The diagnosis was that the heat exchanger-that steel compartment that separates combustion gases from the breathable air-was cracked. Ergo, exhaust was leaking into living space, which triggered a failsafe that kept shutting off the gas and overriding the thermostat to continually circulate air to avoid toxic gas buildup. Win for ancient furnace engineering, I guess. I mean, I didn’t chemically asphyxiate. Huzzah!

So we needed a new furnace. But why stop there? The A/C was just as old, and a major energy sink. What we needed was a massive technological improvement!…within budget. The answer, of course, as with most things in life, was a spreadsheet.

Three companies may not have been the largest sample size, but it gave me a pretty good idea of what was out there. Here are my conclusions:

  1. Every company will offer you a system based on your usage of the property. Similar to how my own home’s former owner ripped everything of slight value from it before listing, so too do HVAC companies offer the most basic, inefficient, and cheap of systems which are shamelessly labeled as “for rental properties” or “if you need to install a new system to sell the house”. Because, fuck the next guy or the broke-ass renter. These base models aren’t offered by the sales folks once they know you’re not selling or renting, which, in their defense, the homeowner wouldn’t likely purchase for himself anyway.
  2. The quality of the components is not a linear price function. Every step up in price nets something much better. There’s a formula here somewhere. It certainly makes getting the high-end equipment easy to justify.
  3. Some of the companies will put more emphasis on the equipment, and others more on the guarantees and warranties. This is why I looked up all the model numbers after I got quotes. The manufacturers all include a standard 10 year warranty anyway, so the additional peace of mind comes from the installer’s warranty. And like getting an extended warranty on anything, this locks you in with the 2nd party and costs a lot, for a problem that probably won’t happen and could be fixed for less by someone else.

So what did I get? Why, the best equipment for the best price from the most reputable company for the standard manufacturer and installer warranties! I now have a variable speed A/C with a dual-stage furnace, with a 97% efficiency rating.

Granted it cost a few thousand more than a base model, and it’s uncertain how long it’ll take to recover that with reduced energy costs, but I sure am glad I did the research and avoided getting taken for an inflated price on inferior equipment with an unnecessary warranty.

Also, they threw in a UV sanitizer and electrostatic air purifier!

And while I won’t likely hook up my thermostat to the internet, or use its scheduling function anytime soon since we work from home, it’s pretty cool to have preset modes of temp ranges.

And no more CO poisoning, hopefully.

The future!


Vanity Search and a Dying Medium

February 23rd marked the 7 year anniversary of this blog, and while I admit that I don’t play the SEO game, I’ll note that it’s remained remarkably hidden for all that time. In fact, without some very pointed key words, I can’t locate it in a search engine. The quickest I was able to find acknowledgment that I exist on the internet was my LinkedIn profile, which was 14th in the search results list for my name (there’s a British banker and a film director who always take the spotlight).

Part of the reason for this shadowed existence I believe is due to me migrating to paid hosting. previously redirected to, which is my own hosted domain. And if I search along those avenues, I can find a hit for my personal server there. #20 in the search engine in fact. The landing page is a simple menu I coded, intended to make an easy directory to my site’s main functions.

But there’s more to it than that. I used to always appear on page one, and that was when I had a lot less content.

The real reason I exist in obscurity? Indifference and obsolescence. The world simply just doesn’t care about most of what’s out there, especially if it’s not curated and fed into a standardized format. Gone are the days of old school blogging, superseded by social media. As a holdout (I started my first self-hosted blog on a repurposed G3 Powermac running SUSE Linux in 2007: (prior to that I ran a blog on my iMac via Apache and gave out my IP address)), I can personally vouch for how difficult it is to discover other non-monetized personal blogs. They just don’t appear high up in search results. I can’t even get my parents and siblings to visit my blog. I’ve even sent people links to my site where I’ve posted a recipe – my own recipe – that they asked me for, but analytics never show that the post was ever accessed externally. People just won’t visit blogs, even for the content they want.

The upside is that I don’t have coworkers compiling dossiers of my content that they find offensive in order to get me fired (no really – I’ve been summoned to Human Resources for the most benign of complaints (something that mysteriously ceased once I became permanently remote)). The downside is that blogging seems pointless without an audience. (Hence this site’s mission statement.)

But blogs fill the niche between professional journalism and tweets. And when the tweets die a day later, never to be read again, what is left to chronicle our moment in time, honestly and devoid of bias (financial incentives)?

And so I lament.


The Need for Speed

During Covid lockdowns our internet was remarkably devoid of problems. No random outages, slowdowns, or hiccups. My theory is that ISPs wisely stepped back on their “network management” (what normal people call brazen violations of net neutrality) in order to avoid massive backlash with the country’s entire office worker and school childr base now dependent in full on network connectivity. Collapsing the American economy must have come up in some board meetings, with perhaps the conclusion that doing so wasn’t the best idea for longterm company financial goals. Whatever the rational, internet access was smooth.

Post-Covid, the shenanigans started to trickle in again. But by that point it was clear that my overall internet speed needed revisiting anyway. The increase in total devices started to eat into available bandwidth, even when idle. And high-bandwidth devices were growing increasingly hungry as accessible content was also growing in fidelity. So finally, I called our ISP for a tier increase.

Naturally, they were quick to take my money. What they neglected to tell me, however, was that they had already grandfathered my plan in to their new base tier. They also failed to mention my modem, which granted I own but they’re still able to see, was incapable of not only the grandfathered speed but also of course the new speed tier. My modem, which supported 100Mb/s, was already obsolete with the upgraded speed of 300Mb/s (which I didn’t know I had), nevermind being incapable of the new speed tier I had just signed up for of 500Mb/s.

I discovered this with a speed test and a quick search of my equipments’ stats. I needed a new modem.

My old modem, the Motorola SB6121, which had replaced a previous Motorola, had served quite faithfully for years. Enough so that, having owned at least 4 Motorola cable modems over the years, I had become brand loyal. However Motorola had since been acquired by ARRIS, so I purchased the ARRIS SB8200. This model supported 1Gb/s with dual gigabit ethernet ports for link aggregation. I was attempting to future-proof.

I also chose this model because it was explicitly listed on the supported modems by my ISP. I also discovered during this research that ISPs now require modem activation. I assume this is to curb stealing cable. That makes me wonder if someone spliced into my coax, could they have plugged in a modem? No doubt that would have caused some IP conflicts, but I guess it would have been possible. So the policy itself didn’t bother me in theory, but it turns out that this security measure would cause some other problems.

Mostly that the activation process failed. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have attempted a hardware upgrade on a Saturday night. Experience has taught me that tenured and/or high-performing customer service reps earn the best schedules, and no one’s going to want to work on a Saturday night, but after the automated activation failed, I didn’t have much choice but to ask for an agent. 6 hours later and I was struggling to get the old equipment running. Eventually I succeeded (but not before having to hard reset my router and do a complete network reconfiguration) and, figuring the modem to be at fault, sent it back. It was months before I attempted another upgrade.

Eventually, the irritation of paying for an internet plan I couldn’t fully use, along with some spousal nagging, build up my courage to try again. This time, I ordered the NETGEAR CM1100. Also a 2-port model, but this one supported 2Gb/s. Again-more future-proofing.

I called on a Thursday afternoon, before 5. Again I attempted the activation through the automated system. And again, I couldn’t get internet despite my router showing connectivity. So I called an agent.

The agent completed a manual activation, and within a few minutes, I was online with full speed. Wondering why the automated activations had failed, he informed me that the automated process is rarely successful. I assume then that the prior agent on my last attempt didn’t know this or simply didn’t bother to push through a manual activation, leaving me with the only remaining possibility that I had bad hardware.

Four months and two modems later, I finally have upgraded speed and I can at long last close this saga. Until the next time I need to upgrade. Because if I ever get beyond gigabit speed I’ll have to buy new switches and a router. So goes the tech race.



I want to shoot neighborhood cats sooooo bad.


Okay, so I just don’t want cats on my property.  I find this to be a very reasonable request.  Yet, in the internet debate over cats being allowed to roam unrestricted outside, the arguments against this practice focus on the dangers posed to the cats themselves, which is still a self-centered argument, even if it’s on the against side.  It overlooks what should be the prime reason: it’s rude to other people.

Even if letting your cat outside wasn’t inherently dangerous, it’s still pissing and shitting in my vegetable garden and digging things up.  It’s being destructive to my property and hobbies, and potentially passing infectious diseases into the produce I eat.  Under no condition would a rational person consider this okay.

And yet – there they are.

And it turns out that the problem was worse than I thought, revealed to me after my garden camera install.

…And that’s just one day.

But I’ve ranted about roaming cats before.  No need to go through that futile discussion again.  Instead, I decided to find a preventative measure that was more likely than changing a cat owner’s behavior.

Although there are other animals I wish to deter, like this skunk

…and some of the squirrel population (but it was fun to talk to them through the camera).

Instead, I invested in a motion-activated ultrasonic alarm.  I had limited expectations, but I haven’t caught any more cats on camera in the two days since I installed it!  So I bought two more.  It seems feasible that I can at last create a cat-free perimeter.  The 3rd one I’ll run at a higher frequency and see if that does anything to the squirrels.  That’d be a double win after last year’s tomato patch decimation.

And the camera worked for one of its intended purposes.  I love it when a plan comes together.