Self-Incrimination

It’s no secret that I tend to assume people with dashcams are usually shit drivers.  Obviously that’s not always the case, but in my experience it’s predominantly true – as though there’s an attitude of “Well I’m perfect, and it’s all these other idiots on the road” or something.

I also know that it’s now far easier to upload one’s dashcam footage to report driving offences when the police haven’t been there.

What I do wonder is how many people self-incriminate on those uploads?  For example, if one were to upload video of someone undertaking on a motorway, only for that footage to also show that the reporting driver had been middle-lane-hogging for the previous ten miles, and thus being at least a partial cause of said undertaking…

And no, this doesn’t involve my own driving. Just something I noticed occurring in front of me on the M1 this morning, and then started thinking about the extrapolations.


Road Muck

It’s that time of the year again where the roads are filthy, and all the grut ends up on cars.  I’m not quite sure how it all works out – I think it’s a combination of grit/salt for expected sub-zero temperatures, plus rain lifting and loosening the daily-wear dirt off the tarmac and making it airborne.

It surprises me how dirty everything gets, and also how unaware people are of how vile their cars are – I regularly see lots with their number plates completely obscured and unreadable because of that caked-on junk.

Personally, I don’t get that – regardless of how well one drives, why draw the attention of any passing police, and give them a reason to stop you?

Admittedly, last week when I was driving home one night I did think I’d had a headlamp blow, as there was considerably less light/illumination than usual – but I checked when I got home, and it was just congealed gunk on the lenses. Easy to sort (and I took the car to the car wash the next day) but still, I don’t get why/how people leave their cars to get into a state where you could pretty much scrape off layers of dirt…


Ciara

Today the UK got hit by Storm Ciara – nothing in the scale of American weather and so on, but still, enough to be entertaining

Among other things, it meant that there was a record-breaking subsonic crossing of the Atlantic – just under five hours, arriving at Heathrow a full 80 minutes ahead of schedule – because of the storm’s effect on the Jetstream.

Fortunately, the area I live in wasn’t too affected – we had several trees come down and so on, but they were all apparently cleared away pretty quickly, and a couple of trucks on the M1 were blown over, which must make life interesting. However, other areas were hit far harder, with some winds over 90mph, as well as flooding and so on.

Thankfully, I wasn’t doing much today. I had thought I was back down in London to see a play, but it turned out that is actually on a different day/weekend completely. And I can’t deny, I’m really quite pleased about that.


Petrol and Diesel

This week, one of the main stories in the news was about the UK announcing it had brought forwards a ban on the sale of petrol and diesel-fuelled cars to 2035 from its initial target of 2040.

That’s all well and good, but it does have its problems as well. To my mind, the biggest of these is the necessary infrastructure.

You can tell that the great majority of the people proposing these requirements (and expecting everyone in the country to follow suit) live in houses with driveways – or at least off-road parking – as well as the funds to pay for a significant increase to their electricity usage.

However, lots of people don’t live in those situations. Those in blocks of flats, for example, wouldn’t necessarily have access to anything. For those who (like me) live in a house with on-street parking – and even then it’s not guaranteed or reserved parking, so I regularly end up parking a distance away from my place – but even if I were parked outside the house, an electric car would mean dangling a power cable out of the house, and across the pathway that’s regularly used.  For that scenario, I’m honestly not sure what the infrastructure requirements would be – and I don’t think anyone else knows either.

The costs are another matter. Yes OK, you’re cutting out the costs of fuel, but if the demand for electricity shoots up that much, then so will the costs of it. Additionally, there are plenty of people who are on paid-supply meters, or high tariffs (whether because of laziness and not changing, or because that’s all they can get because of debt, income, whatever) and that can also be an issue.

Alongside those concerns – and just using myself as an example – there are plenty of drives that fall outside the range of all but the most expensive electric vehicles.  An ‘affordable’ vehicle like the Nissan Leaf, for example, apparently has a range of 135 miles. So I could do a return journey from home to London, no worries. But I couldn’t do a trip down to see my friends in Somerset (which I can do in 3 hours currently) without a recharging stop each way. (And again, they don’t have a power point for charging a car down there)  Same when I go to see friends in Manchester, or Newcastle.

Hell, I’ve even done daily commutes that would take me past that kind of mileage – and the office was (again) somewhere with no connection to a decent charger, it would’ve been power-cable-tastic – which would have been entirely impractical.

If that kind of target for everyone to have electric vehicles is to be realised, I think there need to be quantum leaps in several aspects, including (but not limited to)

  • Infrastructure for charging vehicles
  • Battery technology, to improve both the range of electric vehicles, and to improve the speed of charging
  • and to improve at-home-storage, allowing the potential for using home-based renewable generation – solar, wind, whatever – that can be stored to provide the charging without draining the grid
  • A huge review of the costs of that electricity, and to ensure increases to the supply that will handle all that extra demand
  • Consideration of the impact on petrol and diesel industry – including the effects of all the staff who might then be in less demand at filling stations and so on

Personally, I think a lot of stuff round electric vehicles is a load of old cock. I’m not convinced that they’re any more efficient (among other things, there’s a lot of power lost in the transmission over cables, so it needs a *lot* more generation in order to provide the supply) and while they’re less polluting at the point of use, I’m not convinced that it’s doing anything more than moving that around. We don’t know what happens with the constituent parts of the car batteries, or what happens when they expire (or when a car crashes or whatever)

I don’t claim to know what the answer is – but I also don’t think that a wholesale change like this is necessarily the best plan.  It needs a lot more thought, and a shitload more planning than currently seems to be happening.


A Quieter January

Back in December I said about planning to have things being quieter and calmer in 2020, and I’m working on it. But it’s decidedly odd in some ways.

Each weekend of January has had a day “off”, where I’m not doing as much.  I usually prefer to at least get out and do something (even if, like today, ‘something’ is just going to the cinema to see stuff) but there’ve even been a couple where I didn’t leave the house – and they definitely felt weird.

It’s actually something that is – for me – very hard to do. It’s taking time to think of it as being “OK” to have days like these.  What makes it harder is that I’m physically used to being out and doing stuff – the days of doing Not Much actually leave me feeling achy, tired and grouchy. I honestly don’t yet know how long it’ll take for that to stop happening, or at least get easier.

I’m still working on it though. February is currently planned to be similar – I’ve only got one weekend where there are things booked for both days. So we’ll see how things have progressed in that time, and whether I’m doing better on Not Much days than I currently am…


Driving Assistance

During the last three months of 2019 I ended up hiring a few cars for longer rides and so on.  There was no particularly good reason for it – the primary motivation was that some of the drives were likely to involve heavy traffic, so having an automatic seemed like a decent plan. Outside of that, cutting down some of the mileage on my own car, and also well, it was just fun to play with some different cars.

Out of it all, it was interesting to me to see how much driving has changed, and primarily the plethora of driving assistance things that’ve been added in the last few years. Things like auto start/stop, lane-change warnings, automatic lights, automatic windscreen wipes, intelligent cruise control (the one that automatically adjusts speed based on vehicles around you, rather than just ‘70 mph and that’s it) , road-sign recognition, and speed limiters.

In general, I’m really not a fan of these aids and “helpers” – as has been noted before, I’m a bit of a control-freak, and I don’t like ceding driving decisions to them. My main reasoning on this though isn’t actually about my own driving, it’s about the driving of others.  It seems like a lot of these things help to make drivers feel that they don’t need to be so aware of what’s going on, and so they become less conscious of their surroundings, which makes for things being more dangerous, rather than less.

In the end, there were only two that I found to be useful, and even then there’s only one that I’ve “missed” having at all.

I used the speed limiter more than I thought I would – mainly on trips where I’d been an idiot and done big day-trips (three or more hours each way) or where I was coming back after a long and active day. On those occasions, knowing that I couldn’t take the car over whatever I’d set meant it was something I didn’t have to concentrate on, and that meant I could give more awareness and concentration to the actual drive.  I wouldn’t use it on a day-to-day basis, but it was definitely useful on the times when I did activate it.

The only thing I’ve actually missed though is the automatic windscreen wipers. It’s more about reducing my own annoyance than actually being useful as such, but I’ve noticed its lack. Particularly on motorways (which is still the great majority of my driving) I find rain is too changeable, too random for regular windscreen wipers to be effective without occasionally squeaking when there’s not been enough rain, or not clearing rapidly enough when a sudden dollop lands (or there’s more as one passes a truck or whatever)  So you end up changing the intervals, or only triggering a manual sweep when it’s needed, or whatever.  Anyway, it annoys me whatever happens.

The automatic wipers took all of that away. Leave them on auto, and they’d handle it all without hassle.  Yes, it’s odd (in some ways) to see them go from nothing to a sudden three wipes, or increasing the cadence in response to that truck chucking up a load of water or whatever. But it still meant it was something that wasn’t annoying me, which tends to be a positive…


Organising

Among all the usual stuff, I’ve spent some time this month getting things a bit more organised, and kicking off things that had slipped last year.

So in the last two weeks, I’ve…

  • Moved/merged my credit-card crap onto one interest-free balance-transfer card.
    It’s not a huge amount, and not something I’m worried about, but it’s good to have it in one place and no interest for the next two years.
  • Started playing hunt-the-pensions, seeing if I can find them and merge them into one fund, so I know where the hell things stand.
    I’m not expecting much, but again, it’ll be good to know
  • Started sorting a new will, as the last one was done while I was still with Herself. So yeah, that *really* needs to be sorted
  • Booked in cat-sitting people for all the stuff I’ve currently got lined up (which is more than it should be, but less than it could’ve been)
  • Actually also done less – in each of the three weekends so far, I’ve had a day of doing very very little, as per the plan for this year.  I don’t know if that’ll keep on happening (in some ways I’m finding it more exhausting than being busy, but I’ll write about that another time) but so far it’s worked out
  • Completed another project outside of my usual work, which has already made me more productive than last year
  • Oh, and visited my first Michelin-starred restaurant of the year as well (and it was bloody excellent)

It’s been interesting, and eventful – and it’s good to have some of that stuff checked off the list already