Monday, January 19, 2009

I should be doing homework

But here I am, blogging.

If you're having trouble with the MacUpdate bundle, try putting a space in front of your name that you registered with. I know that's really unintuitive, but I spoke with Tech Support today and that's how my license was. I read of a few other people having problems with that, so hopefully this helps.

Over the weekend I got to drive a Pontiac Grand Prix. I think that my car (S2000) has probably significantly changed my perspective on cars, because now normal, reasonable cars seem like luxury automobiles to me. Their comfy seats, great visibility, and quietness are all very appreciated. One issue became apparent when driving this car that has also shown up in a number of other American cars, especially Pontiacs from the 90s and early 2000s. As such, I'm dubbing it the "Pontiac Problem," although it could definitely show up in other cars, particularly other GMs or other American cars. The problem is that you easily end up going faster than you intended.

A number of factors contribute to this.

First is the noise. GMs from this era tend to be very quiet, both in terms of road and engine noise. Especially to someone like me, used to driving a loud car, this cue that I'm going too fast is mostly gone. Comparatively, also, there isn't much more noise at say 90mph than at 60. Part of the reason for this is insulation and general attempts to make things quieter, and part of it is related to another factor, the long gearing.
Thanks to the torque present in the engine, many Pontiacs from this era have very high gears to maximize gas milage and make for a much more refined drive. Thus, the engine doesn't revolve as high at high speeds. Again, this may mean that the difference between 60 and 90, 50%, may only be, say, 800 rpm. In may cars this would be far more, but trying to detect the difference between 1600rpm and 2400rpm in a car that we already established had a rather quiet exhaust can be quite hard. As a side note, I'm really fond of the smooth and fast shifting transmission it had.
I mentioned torque, and that matters a significant amount also. Low-end torque allows you to accelerate well at low RPMs.

Technical note: Torque figures that manufacturers quote are technically one measurement, of peak torque. In general, what we (car people) mean when we say engines have a lot of torque is that they have a lot of torque across the power band, especially down low. That can make things confusing, as simply having a high peak torque number does not mean an engine has a lot of low end torque, although those numbers are *often* correlated.

This means that if you're not driving with cruise control, if your foot is just a bit too far down, you will be accelerating at a rate significantly more than in cars with less torquey engines. Note that it won't really sound different, other than the quicker increase in RPMs. As noted above, though, you're in the lower RPM range and in a quiet car.

Nice radios help too. Many Pontiac sedans from this era have nice sound systems. The upgraded version are pretty awesome, but even the base sound is a pretty good system. Turn on the radio, and already quiet cues are now overwhelmed.

The final cause I'll note here is a soft but solid suspension. This contributes to the quiet, and it also creates a general lack of bumpiness and roughness. In cars with stiffer suspensions, speed is more noticeable, as it makes bumps pronounced. For example, there is one road around Tech that makes it clear when I'm speeding as the bumps will get *very* noticeable. In a Grand Prix, however, the bumps may still get stronger, but they're still very subtle and dampened. Unless you're paying attention to it, you may miss this cue. Add to it that the suspension is still solid. Some cars with a soft suspension do not handle particularly well, which can makes excess speed noticeable in town, if not on the highway. However, Pontiacs seem to handle themselves surprisingly well given their rather soft (to me, anyway) suspensions, lessening this cue also.

You'll note that most of this "Pontiac Problem" comes from features that are beneficial. Maybe it's not a "problem" after all. I find it endearing :D. However, it is something to make note of, as I don't think police will accept this as an excuse.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Life and stuff

So after about 100 meetings (ok, 8 is probably an accurate estimate) taking place across an entire semester and the first week of this one, I think we've finally gotten a good situation with GTACM again. The college changed the rules for corporate interactions, but I think today finally got us back to a point where we can be creative and really do some of our cool ideas. It's happy and great :D.

In other news, I was reading an article and came upon this gem:
""Right now we're working on the first step of the activation of this receptor. Downstream, there are still lots of things to understand," said Li, who added that his favorite umami-containing food is lobster. "

Really? Haha I love that they included that. I wonder if I ever make news if they'll ask me what my favorite computer-containing device is.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Saturday Night Improv

We went to see a show at Dad's Garage tonight - it was my first time being out there. "Bob Frapple's Psychiatry" - basically they had the audience ask questions, performed a completely unrelated skit, and had the "doctor" try to extract meaning to answer the question. I got picked to do a typical improv performers provide the dialog, audience members try to act out the scene type of sketch. It ended up with me being the boss trying to pick up a coworker during a fire drill. They supplied all of my dialog and I had to try to go along with it. The guy introduced me as "I'm Chris, I like ... science." which was pretty excellent. It was a great time all in all, and we might even go back sometime...maybe even for another one of this show. Dim Sum is coming up, too, which we tried to see in the fall but was sold out. We'll see, but either way, it was great fun.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Roomba lols

Our roomba fell down the stairs last night. It was pretty epic. The first time it fell only one stair, and I figured it was no big deal - their sensors are supposed to prevent them from falling, after all. The next time, though, apparently it got a bit too far over before the sensors realized, because I was sitting in my room and heard KATHUNKA THUNKA BAM BAM. I knew immediately what it was, and the Roomba soon chipped in with it's vaguely sad error/stuck tones. I literally laughed for about 60 seconds. Fortunately, it's still in operating order.

In other news, I flew back earlier today - I'm at Tech trying to be productive...hopefully that will go well.