Thursday, September 25, 2008

Intermittent Quality

Who programs rain-sensing intermittent wipers? Have they actually driven in the rain? In traffic? In a car with a windshield?

I've driven two cars with rain-sensing wiper systems. Two is a poor sample rate, but since I drive/drove them all the time, and one of them in a place where rain is not seasonal, my sample rate of their performance is very high. And I have zombie Richard Feynman on my side.

Our Toyota Corolla Verso[1] has four levels of "rain" sensitivity, as well as two, fixed speed settings. To me, this implies a speed spectrum like this:

0 - 0.2 - 0.4 - 0.6 - 0.8 - 1 - 2

This was certainly the case in all the cars I've driven that had variable speed wipers that were directly controlled by the driver.

However the actual spectrum I get on the Verso is:

0 - WTF! - 1 - 2

Changing the variable setting doesn't seem to affect the sensitivity of the system. What's more, the lowest sensitivity setting will cycle the wipers as fast as the highest setting. What??!!

This is not rocket science, people. Regardless of how much the "rain sensor" is a technical black box, the data it outputs should be some normalized value which reflects how "wet" the windshield is, which is compared against a trigger value that's associated with what the driver has set.

And this is probably one of the easiest features in a car to test. You don't need a track, you don't even need most of the car. A correctly configured windshield and wipers and a couple of spray bottles will iron out 80% of the bugs in the system. The other 20% will require misters and a shower head.

Get on this, people. And fix my system while you're at it.


[1] The Verso is something like a Sienna squished into the wheelbase of a Rav4. I wanted an actual mini-van, but neither Honda nor Toyota sold theirs in Europe.

I never meta post I didn't like

I started writing this entry some nine months before its posting date. Typical.

While re-reading A.S. Byatt's Possession for the umpteenth time, I realized that one of her themes is totally why I've waited as long as I have (three-four years) to start a blog: For whom am I writing? In the Romance (not a Novel, especially when borrowing its preface from Hawthorn's preface to House of the Seven Gables), there are writings for Publication, private Correspondences and personal Journals. Byatt meditates on all three, through the thoughts of the characters as well as via the narrative voice. As one character puts it:

Letters [...] exclude not only the reader as co-writer, or predictor, or guesser, but they exclude the reader as reader; they are written, if they are true letters, for a reader.

Possession, Ch. 8

Now, I did spend the better part of a year writing weekly newsletters, which were eventually distributed to something like 200+ people during its year-and-a-half of active life. I admit that part of the reason the newsletters stopped was that I'd come back to California with the family, and so a majority of people who got updated on my life via the newsletter could just come visit or phone without have to deal with trans-Atlantic time zone differences and international toll costs.

Also, I'd be less than forthcoming if I didn't mention that it was hard work trying to put the events of the week into some sort of context, or at least come up with a framing device that could transform the snippets from social gatherings, family anecdotes, personal observations and baby pictures into a sort of Narrative. And the pictures were a pain as I felt this drive to organize them by event or time frame, tag them so that the file names would include the names of all the people in them (there really should be a standard for adding meta data, such as tags, to images, like id3 for audio files). This was partly due to a mild tendency to OCD on my part, but it also made it easier to track down specific images when the inevitable requests come in for the full resolution originals.

At some point, I hit the wall on the pictures and the newsletters, which is why there are 11000+ photos from the last three-and-a-half years in my iPhoto library (if I could get my act together, I'd only keep about two months' of pictures in iPhoto, with the rest exported out to folders ordered by event and date) and the most recent newsletter dates from early 2005.

So for a while now I've been thinking: a blog, that's the ticket, that'll help me to clear out iPhoto and finally let people know about our summer vacations, the Balls my wife and I have attended and the continuing adventures of my son. This urge has gotten stronger as I see more and more of my friends blog, though of course it doesn't help that they are also all over the place in terms of Voice and Audience. Many of them using their blogs as a primary source for their families (read: Grandparent types) to keep up with their children. Just as many blog mostly about current events, their non-familial interests and/or their jobs. A much smaller percentage will mix these two, though sometimes they will try to avoid this conflation of Narratives by having different blogs for different people. (Disclosure, I'm doing this as well, or rather, I plan on doing this as I also have another blog which will carry on the tradition from my original newsletters to share family updates. Just as soon as I can get some pictures tagged.)

Well, as you can see, it's still slow going. Wish me luck in keeping this and the other blog updated.