Total Recall

I’ve had my car for a little over seven years, and I’m pretty happy with it despite the fact that I’ve gotten approximately three dozen recall notices during that time. It all started with a problem with unintended acceleration that resulted in a series of recalls: first they wanted to inspect and/or remove the floor mats. Then they wanted to replace the floor mats (because we shouldn’t be forced to drive with bare carpet under our feet, like savages). Finally, they wanted to cut off part of the accelerator pedal on the theory that if the pedal is tiny enough, then you’ll never step on it, and you’ll be really, really safe.

These lights have nothing to do with the recall, but I was impressed when they all lit up at once.
These lights have nothing to do with the recall, but I was impressed when they all lit up at once.

At some point they must have noticed that the more recall notices they sent out, the more business their service departments got — after all, if your car is due for maintenance and you get a recall notice in the mail, you’ll probably just get everything done at the dealership at once instead of going elsewhere for the oil change. So they kept sending more and more of them — and maybe it’s just my imagination, but the jargon seemed to get more confusing each time. The most recent one went something like this:

‘Twas brillig, and the spliny struts
Did gyre and gimble as it stormed:
All wobbly were the bolts and nuts,
And other parts deform’d.

Beware the insufficiently hardened intermediate steering extension shaft, my son
It bends like wire! It breaks like glass!
Beware the dread floor mats, and shun
The pedal meant for gas.

It goes on like this for a while, and from what I was able to decipher, it’s saying that at any moment the steering column may spontaneously disintegrate, leaving you clutching a disembodied steering wheel; the car will then spin out of control, resulting in a fiery crash and an untimely and painful death for anyone in or near your car.* Also, you should get those floor mats looked at again.** The repair should take about an hour.***

This sounded pretty serious, so I promptly took my car in for service after procrastinating for 3-4 months. The repair was pretty uneventful, but apparently the dealership has added a new amenity to its waiting room: complimentary medical advice. While I was there, a man in a white lab coat walked up to a pregnant couple and had a fairly lengthy conversation with them; this is the only time I’ve ever seen someone say “thank you, complete stranger off the street, for the extensive unsolicited advice regarding my pregnancy” without being sarcastic. Then he continued approaching people, seemingly at random, and giving each person medical advice (except for one woman who turned out to be a physician herself; she got career advice instead).

He never talked to me, despite the fact that I was obviously at serious risk of dying of old age waiting for my car to be ready. I was a little disappointed at the time, but at least I know that when I get the inevitable “Notice of Possibly Faulty Medical Advice Dispensed in Service Department Waiting Rooms” letter from Toyota, I’ll be able to safely ignore it.

*This may be a slight exaggeration.

**The recall notice didn’t actually mention the floor mats. But every time I take my car to the dealership, they want me to let them hack off chunks of my gas pedal, and I have to keep refusing over and over again.

***Hi again. I don’t really have anything to add; this paragraph just looked weird without a third footnote. Oh, hey, while you’re here, I have a question. Do you have any idea why I wrote “deform’d” instead of “deformed” in that poem? I mean, the apostrophe is totally unnecessary, right? And yet I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of it.

A First Look at GM’s Prototype Facebook Interface

Facebook updates while driving to work

When I heard that General Motors was testing a new feature that allows drivers to post Facebook status messages while driving, I couldn’t wait to try it out. So I called GM, explained that I have a blog with almost a dozen regular readers, and asked if they’d let me try the system out for a few days in exchange for some free publicity. Naturally, they jumped at this opportunity and offered me a 48-hour test drive.

Tuesday, after work: I stop by the dealership to pick up my vehicle, a Chevy Impala with the prototype social networking software installed. After programming in my login information (a tedious process, but one that only needs to be done once) and getting a brief tutorial on how to use the system, I’m all set. As soon as I pull out of the dealership, I dictate my first (admittedly unimaginative) update: “Hi! This is my first Facebook update from my car”.

My first Facebook update using the automotive interface.
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Vampire Bees

Vampire bee from the 1931 Dracula movie.

Vampire bee from the 1931 Dracula movie.I’ve been trying to get a picture or video of the bees on my patio, with no success. No matter how many bees are around, I always wind up with a picture completely devoid of bees; in fact, I don’t even see them when I look through the viewfinder. This is probably because I’m taking the pictures from a distance (because they’re bees, and they’ve already stung me once), or because I’m not a very good photographer, or because my cellphone camera just isn’t up to the job of photographing small insects flying rapidly with bad lighting conditions from a distance.

At least, that’s what I keep telling myself. But no matter how hard I try to rationalize, I just can’t ignore the fact that the simplest explanation is that I’m dealing with vampire bees.
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