Thursday, April 30, 2020

Driver Assist

I currently own two cars. One is a 2017 Volkswagen GTI that my wife drives. The other, that I drive most often, is a 2014 Audi. I ordered that car custom from the factory and the only two options I got were the paint (that car manufactures charge for paint drives me nuts) and ventilated, massaging seats. It had the usual panoply of safety nannies (traction control, stability control, ABS). The only other driver's assist is has is blind spot monitoring, which I absolutely love and has saved me a couple of times. The only problem is, I've come to rely on it. Instead of checking my blind spot, I look to see if the car has detected anything there. I shouldn't do that.

One time I was driving in the Seattle area and depending on the blind spot monitoring. Suddenly I realized that somehow it got turned off. I felt lucky I hadn't hit anyone.

I'm not a big fan of most other diver assist functions. I'm especially not a fan of automatic braking which I think could easily cause an accident. I am a big fan of traction control, stability control, and ABS braking. But that's as far as it goes.

But someday I'll probably need to buy a new car. And more driver assists will be standard and not optional. One I think I would like is traffic jam assist which Audi might bring to the U.S. That system, as I understand it, works under certain speeds (like 35 mph) and uses radar to follow the car in front of you and brake when necessary. This would make driving in a traffic jam so much easier.

I'm not sure what will come in the future. I am not looking forward to autonomous cars because I like to drive. But as we move toward autonomous cars, manufactures are looking for ways to make driving easier. GM has "Supercruise" in its Cadillac line. That allows you to let the car pretty much drive itself on interstate highways. Not sure how it handles traffic.

And I think in the future, I'm going to have to learn how to turn off intrusive driver assist systems.

What do you think of driver assist systems? Are you looking forward to autonomous cars? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Korean Names

Korean Writing (Hungul) for South Korea
A while back I watched Parasite, the Korean film that won the best picture Oscar. And it reminded me of something I don't understand, at least not since I studied the Korean language in the military. And that is when certain names in Korean are anglicized, we add letters and sounds to them.

In their anglicized form, the three most common (by far) Korean surnames are Kim, Park, and Lee.

Now "Kim" we don't mess with. But Park and Lee are not how they are pronounced in Korean.

Park is actually "Pak" with a short "a." Sort of like a Bostonian saying "Park." The middle vowel sound is like "ahhh." So why, when it is anglicized, do we add an "r" and pronounce it "Park"? Is "Pak" too hard for English speakers to say? I doubt it.

In my novel Hammer of Thor, my hero meets (and falls in love with) a Korean woman named Pak Me-young. Not understanding that Koreans (and most Asian cultures) put the family or surname first, he thinks her first name is Pak. Which he changes to "Peg" because he can't understand why a beautiful woman would be named "Pak." Yeah, he's an idiot. Part of his character arc.

The other name that is changed when anglicized is "Lee" which is also sometimes anglicized as Ree or Rhee. It is actually pronounced in Korean as "Ee." That is just a long "e" sound. Not Lee. Or Rhee. Or Ree. But why? Can't English speakers say "Ee"?

I was watching a M*A*S*H rerun a while back, and they called someone "Mr. Pak." I was impressed. It's one of the few times I've heard that name pronounced correctly in popular culture by Americans.

If you have any idea why this is done, let me know in the comments below. If you have an opinion on this, let me know in the comments below.

And the Korean Hangul writing above is pronounced "Hankook." It means "Korea."

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Lock Down

The Saturday before Easter was my "half way" point of being locked down. That is, if the lock down isn't extended. I last left the house March 20th (except in the car which I didn't leave) and the lock down in Washington State is supposed to end May 4th (although the governor is making noises it may go longer).

If I catch COVID-19, I will likely die due to my preexisting conditions (lung disease and heart disease). So I'm being careful. My one worry is my youngest son, who works delivering pizzas and is considered essential. I'm hoping he doesn't catch the disease and bring it home to me.

For Easter dinner, my oldest son and his family Skyped in. They were planning on coming up for Easter, but those plans were killed by the virus. I would like to hold my grandson soon. But that's going to have to wait for this stupid disease to play itself out. Then maybe my wife and I will travel down there to see them.

I'm not sure when they will let us out and life get back to normal. Maybe when there's a vaccine? And when will there be a vaccine?

But I'm locked down until at least May 4th. Good thing I enjoy being inside, being an introvert. But even for me, it's getting to be a long time without leaving the house.

How are you handling the lock down? Or are you essential and have to work? And how is that going? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Cultural What?

One of my novels
I came across this article on Facebook. It was written in the UK Guardian about an American writer, Jeanine Cummins.

The article is about how Cummins, a white author, has written a book called American Dirt about...Hispanic illegal immigrants. Ms. Cummins goal in writing her novel was to make Americans to stop seeing migrants as a "faceless brown mass" and to bear witness to the "tragedy of our making on our southern border" according to the article. So I suspect Ms. Cummins is not exactly a Trump supporter.

But, she has been attacked from the left. She has been accused of "cultural appropriation" because her characters are Mexicans and she isn't. As the Guardian puts it:
[W]riters and artists [are] being called out for having stepped beyond their permitted cultural boundaries to explore themes about people who are not 'fundamentally 'like' us" (Emphasis added)
"Beyond their permitted cultural boundaries," they say. What is a white person's (or a black person's or a brown person's or a yellow person's) "permitted cultural boundaries." As a heterosexual white guy can I only write about straight men of pallor?

One of my first novels, Rock Killer, has a black female main character. Is that beyond my "permitted cultural boundaries?" There's also a Korean-American main character. Is that not "permitted"?

This is important to me because in three of my published novels (The Treasure of Space series) the hero is brown. But, then again, so is most everyone in his world. He is surprised when he comes across a white girl (the one on the cover). The novel is set 3,000 years in the future. There is nothing about him that is related to modern day brown/black people.

It's also important to me because, beyond all else in politics, I believe in liberty.

Now if you're white (or purple or whatever) and writing racist stuff about people of a different color/culture, that's not "cultural appropriation," that's being an asshole.

But it's equally being an asshole (and racist) to tell an artist they can't do something because of their race and/or gender and/or sexual orientation. You might as well say blond people can't write books about brunette people. Or gay writers can't write straight characters. It's ridiculous.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

She's Gone

Me with the car shortly after I bought it.
I did it. I sold my 2007 Corvette Z06. Did it over the weekend. The guy paid in cash so I was nervous until we got all that money into the bank.

I had that car for almost exactly thirteen years. I bought it in April of 2007 and sold it in late March of 2020.

I loved that car but due to my health issues, I couldn't drive it enough to justify the cost of owning and insuring it. It was a blast to drive. I drove it on a racetrack when it was new and got up to 155 mph (if I took turn 10 perfectly, other wise I would get up to between 145 and 150).

Once, on a back road, I managed to get it to 165. That was scary fast. The car had a top speed of 198 according to Chevrolet. It's speedometer went to 200.

It had 505 stock horsepower. And you never floored the gas unless you had a lot of straight road ahead of you. A lot. It cornered really well. It came with Goodyear run-flat tires but they only lasted
Me with it the day I sold it
about 5,000 miles. Later I put on Michelin tires and it cornered even better and they lasted 15,000 miles, about. The Goodyears also leaked air badly. The Michelins didn't.

The first time I had to put on new tires, I had to go to Seattle because that was the only place in the whole state that could and would do run flat tires. Now there's a place a few miles from my house that does it.

But I loved driving this car. It was low and hard to get in and out of. But once you were in it, that didn't matter. It had a manual transmission and I loved to row the gearbox. Now I don't own any cars with a manual transmission. At one point, I owned three. Make that four (forgot about my son's car).

One of my favorite things to do was take it on a back road around here that is curvy and go as fast as I dared. It was so fun. And with my radar detector, I didn't worry....much.

Or just go to the interstate and go down the on ramp and up the off ramp as fast as I could. I'd go up a curvy off ramp at over 65 mph. It was a blast.

But now she's gone. The new owner promised to take care of her. I hope so. He had a 67 Corvette that he showed me a picture of. It looked oxidized.

And my wife is happy because she can now park her car in the garage. But I'll still miss my 'Vette.