Daily Archives: July 24, 2008

The Car Sorta Dies

We drove to IKEA just after lunch, to get a new kitchen trash can. Old one broke.

We were just getting off the Beltway at Route 1 in College Park when the car sorta died. It was funny, actually, because when we were driving I noticed two indicator lights on the dash that I didn’t think I’d ever seen before. One was an icon of like a person in a seat in the car with a big old airbag in front of him. The other simply said ABS. I asked Dawn if they were usually lit. She said she didn’t think so. She checked the manual in the glove box, and it said that these both were indicators of trouble. Great.

So then it wasn’t a huge surprise when, after being stopped at the light at the end of the Route 1 exit, the car didn’t respond when the light turned green and I hit the gas. The tach was stuck at around 2500 rpm and the speedometer was stuck at 50 mph. But we were just puttering along at about five miles per hour. Pressing down more on the accelerator didn’t make us go any faster. Didn’t even rev the engine any more. But then neither did taking my foot completely off the gas pedal do anything either. The car just continued to eke along.

Of course the guy behind us was honking until he could get around us, even though I had popped on the hazards right away. And the intersection cleared enough so that I could limp from the center lane to the right, to make a right turn and at least get away from this off ramp. Of course I wasn’t thrilled that the car would probably die completely on Route 1. But at least I wasn’t stuck on the ramp.

Luckily though there was a Shell station just a few hundred feet up the road. I was able to steer into it just as the engine started to buck a little bit. Turned it off, then tried to start it again, just to test it. Wouldn’t start at all. But we were safely at a service station. Whew.

But really the interesting part was the way the car just kinda kept itself going, even though it was just 5 mph or so. Was weird, it just going by itself that way. Was that some sort of controller computer being funky because it wasn’t getting enough power? Or was it a feature, not a bug, some sort of reserve kinda deal where it all almost dies but lets you limp to the side of the road?

But then if the car is so damn smart, why couldn’t it tell us that the alternator wasn’t putting out enough juice to fully charge the battery, as the mechanic who ended up fixing everything told us was the problem? Why was the fancy computer telling us we had problems with the airbag(s) and the ABS, but not telling us the rather simple electrical system problem? What’s the use of the fancy pants computer then?

Parallel Construction

I was thinking more about it, at lunch today. The John McCain quote. And I’m starting to think that the parallel construction works much better than I originally gave it credit.

First, let’s review what he said.

This is a clear choice that the American people have. I had the courage and the judgment to say that I would rather lose a political campaign than lose a war. It seems to me that Senator Obama would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign.

I had pretty much denoted the parts thus:

Senator McCain
x = lose a political campaign
y = lose a war
Senator Obama
b = lose a war
c = win a political campaign

But, clearly, y = b, so at the very least I should make it Senator Obama would rather y in order to c. That’s some parallelism right there.

But furthermore, the lose a political campaign is the exact opposite of win a political campaign. That would make c equal to the reciprocal of x. So then we would have it be Senator Obama would rather y in order to 1/x.

And then the final structure would be Senator McCain would rather x than y; whereas, Senator Obama would rather y in order to 1/x.

Far, far more parallel than I gave it credit. It still isn’t true, mind. But it does have an internal logic that I first missed.