Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Day Video Gaming Saved Me

Today I narrowly escaped being in a car accident. I was in the center lane (of three), and there was a car in the left lane beside me and half a car length ahead. We were going about 45 miles per hour. Suddenly, without signaling or looking back, that driver swerved across all three lanes and turned off into a driveway, cutting me off.

I had no choice but to match his crazy maneuver, just six inches to his right, and I wound up being forced to drive up onto the sidewalk to avoid a collision with this madman. I really wish someone had captured the whole thing on video, because I would put it up on YouTube and become famous. It couldn't have been more perfect if it had been a rehearsed stunt for a movie.

Once I stopped and realized I had miraculously avoided any damage to my car, I had a weird suspicion. This guy's force-me-off-the-road technique was so good that . . . could it have been intentional? I waited to see if he would stop and get out of the car. But he kept going. That's when I realized that he was completely unaware of the whole incident. He didn't even know I existed.

I believe that I escaped this day without a scratch because of all the hours I spent playing Test Drive Unlimited on the Xbox 360. Playing that game trained me in spontaneous evasive maneuvers until they have become second nature. I don't normally need to do them in real life, but all the mental pathways are there. Video gaming has finally paid off.

Portland Auto Show 2007

My girlfriend was not that eager to go to the auto show with me, especially since we had to park far away and walk in the wind and cold. Standing in line she said, "this better be good." But once we got inside, she had a good time and wanted to see all the different brands before we left.
With the hatchback open, this Lotus looked like a blue metallic scorpion with its tail in the air.

The Audi concept car had an agressive appearance.

Though I enjoyed looking at the Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Mazeratis, and Lotuses, when it came to the category of "cars I might actually own someday" my favorite was this Mini convertible.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Horizontal Drop

In this Lexus commercial, a Lexus is seemingly dropped from a helicopter, while another Lexus on the ground drives under it before it hits the ground. The voiceover says "Gravity will propel this Lexus IS over 4000 feet in a matter of seconds. This Lexus IS will attempt to cover the same distance even faster. The Lexus IS 350. So much for gravity."

The version online that I linked to does not have any disclaimer text, but the version aired on TV says in small print at the beginning: "Based on horizontal drop. Aerial sequence simulated. Professional driver on closed course. Do not attempt."

I have two issues with this. First, what is a horizontal drop? Horizontal motion wouldn't be a "drop" at all, right? So maybe they mean that the car was dropped in a horizontal orientation. But if that is all it means, why do they need to say it?

Second, "do not attempt?" How would you attempt this even if you wanted to? I guess you'd call up your helicopter pilot friend who has both a Lexus and a huge helicopter and say, "Hey, I have this great idea, could you pick up your Lexus with your helicopter and drop it from 4000 feet while I try to drive under it? It will be awesome, just like in that commercial!" And he would say, "Wow, that sounds great! Let's try it on the street in front of your house. I'll be there in 10 minutes! Make a video so we can put it on YouTube."

And then you wouldn't drive quite fast enough, and the second Lexus would land right on top of you, killing you instantly. Then your family would have to sue Lexus because the commercial promised that the car would be great for that sort of thing.

Then in court the lawyer for Lexus would say, "Please look at Exhibit A here, where it says to use a horizontal drop, and do not attempt. The plaintiff did attempt this, and he didn't even use a horizontal drop, as directed." Then the judge would say, "Mr. McFlimmigidgie, please explain to the court what a horizontal drop is." And the lawyer would smile and say, "Of course, your honor, it is one where the car drops from side to side instead of down from above." There would be murmuring in the courtroom at this point. The neighbor, sitting in the audience would say, "I told him to use a horizontal drop, but he wouldn't listen, the poor bastard."

The trial would of course go on for another two weeks, filled with testimony from experts on dropping things from helicopters, but in the end the jury would come back to that phrase "horizontal drop" and find for the defendant. Case closed.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

American Idol

The American Idol auditions prove that there are several different types of bad singers. Some people have pitch problems, but they at least get close enough to the notes that you can recognize the melody. If they were shooting a BB gun, they would shoot at the bullseye but hit one of the outer rings.

Then there are the people who completely miss; they don't even get within a half step of the pitch. If they didn't sing the words, you would never be able to tell what song it was supposed to be. These are the ones who not only miss the bullseye, but put a hole in the neighbor's window at a 90 degree angle to the target.

You can tell a lot about the contestants before they start to sing, just by what they say before the audition starts. Good singers are realistic. They know that they are good, but they have heard a lot of other good singers out there too. They usually talk about preparation and trying to do their best. They have probably auditioned for singing parts many times before. They know that you can be good, but still not be what the judges are looking for.

It's usually the truly bad singers who are convinced they are a sure thing, because they are delusional. And if they are completely confused about one thing, they are usually wrong about everything else, too. So when unattractive people describe themselves as super sexy, they usually aren't good at singing either. It's part of a general pattern of not being realistic about themselves.

It is an especially bad sign when they boast about how "different" or "unique" they are. Hey, if you are nothing like any famous singer, guess what? It is usually because you are an awful singer. It's usually not because you have an incredibly beautiful type of singing that nobody else has ever tried before.

The biggest surprise for me this season is Paula Abdul. I'm really liking Paula so far this season. Last year I thought her odd behavior and speech patterns probably indicated that she was drunk. This year she seems alert, on the ball, and charming. Maybe she was just trying to be funny before.

Monday, January 15, 2007

So Many Eiffel Towers

In this video, average people on the street display their shocking lack of general knowledge. One guy doesn't know how many sides a triangle has. But my favorite has to be this one: "How many Eiffel Towers are there in Paris?" "Uh, about 10."