Tuesday, October 31, 2006

OnStar Day 2

Time to test out OnStar for the first time.

We decide to go for a hike. I research where we're going, write down the directions and also write down the exact GPS map co-ordinates so that I can give them to the OnStar operator to get us to where we're going. This is where we went:

33°53'52.48"N 112°19'1.18"W

If you select those co-ordinates and press Ctrl+C it will copy them into the clipboard. Then go to http://maps.google.com/ and paste those co-ordinates into the box and press enter and it will show you exactly where we went. This should take you about you about 30 seconds max or maybe 2 minutes if you're not quick with the keyboard. Just to make it easy click here.

We set off on the journey and I press the OnStar button to give the operator the GPS co-ordinates.

The first thing she tells me is that we're not set-up on the OnStar system. I tell her that I spent an hour the previous evening setting everything up. She transfers me to technical support and I go through a much quicker setup and I am then connected with her (or someone else) again.

She tries the co-ordinates out on her system but it turns out that her system does not accept these settings.

Next step is to give the cross roads and area. I tried all the crossroads in the area but she couldn't find it. She wanted to know the area but I didn't know what it was called. All I knew was that it was 20 to 30 miles north-west of Phoenix but didn't know the area. Turns out that it's in Peoria. (This, by the way, was why she couldn't find the destination.)

After a while of her being unable to find the destination I asked if she had internet access. I figured that I could direct her to the Google maps page, she could enter the co-ordinates and then she'd know exactly where we were going and enter it into her system from there. Unfortunately she did not have internet access (I believe that her computer is restricted) and so could not do that.

Our journey took 40 to 45 minutes to get to the destination. I had to pull out a map book and talk to her for 25 to 30 minutes before she managed to locate the destination.

Another problem was that she really struggled to hear me. I had to shout or talk very loudly and lean far over to the drivers side of the vehicle to be heard (I was obviously not driving). It makes me wonder if the equipment that we have installed is of low quality or faulty.

Not the most auspicious start for OnStar.

Monday, October 30, 2006

OnStar Day 1

The garage received a replacement module and fitted it for the OnStar system. Setting up an account with OnStar was a complete mess. I pressed the button and it took about an hour to finish the process with someone who obviously couldn't speak English very well. For a moment I thought that it had been outsourced to another country but he assured me that he was in south Michigan (I think).

He also had a lot of difficulty hearing me which makes me wonder if the equipment is still faulty. I have tried OnStar in an identical car and the transmission and reception of voice was very clear.

After set-up was finished I was too tired to try it out and so left it for the following day...

Saturday, October 28, 2006


We were visiting friends in Camarillo, California over the weekend. After a swim in the Pacific at a beach just north of Malibu (the water was freezing but after about a minute my body was numb and I couldn't feel the pain) we decided to hike up the nearby cliffs.

At the top of the hike about 5 of us were crowding around the edge of a path peering into the other side of a gully looking for a ground squirrel that could only be seen when it moved. Without warning, the tell-tale explosive hissing sound of an almost-stepped-on rattlesnake came from our feet.

This was somewhat concerning because we were (1) wearing flip-flops because of the beach excursion and (2) not expecting rattlesnakes in California.

The crowd scattered rapidly and luckily no one was bitten. It was close though and we were very lucky. The snake was amazingly well camouflaged and I took some pictures but will not post them here because you can hardly see the snake it is so well hidden. I didn't want to get too close for a photo because the head was curled back in striking position and I didn't think that my sphincter had the strength to hold back a second rapid movement from the serpent.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Pelican Eats Pigeon

I was blown away by this video clip that I saw last night on the news in Phoenix AZ. In St James' Park, London a pelican (apparently tired of its usual diet of fish) decided to eat a pigeon. Some tourists caught it on camera.

I sent an email to my friends who live in and around London which simply read "Are your pelicans eating pigeons in the park?" From their responses it was obvious that none of them had seen this on the news or had read about it. Perhaps pelicans eating pigeons is now such a common occurrence in England that it is no longer news worthy?

[Addendum: YouTube removed the original video so I'm putting up a couple more that I found.]

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Sleep Talking and Walking

I woke up last night because my wife was talking to me. She was actually sleep talking. "It's spilt everywhere," she said. Since I was now awake I thought I'd entertain myself. "What spilt?" I asked. I find that I have to be careful how I talk to her when she's sleep talking because if she hears me laughing then she wakes up and stops talking. "The mouthwash," she said. "Where?" I queried. "All over the floor." I then said: "I've already cleaned it up."
"Thank you," she said and then there was silence.

Of course when questioned about the conversation in the morning she remembered nothing about it.

A friend's father told me that when he was at boarding school they used to tie his leg to the bed post to prevent him from sleep walking. This had adverse consequences when the fire alarm went off in the middle of the night and everyone jumped out of bed and ran downstairs. Apparently he broke his nose on the floor.

OnStar Day 0

We have recently acquired a vehicle which is equipped with OnStar. This product, with the level 2 subscription, Connections and Directions, promises to get your to point B, assuming that you started at point A. In fact that is wrong. You don't have to start at point A. You can start anywhere and it will get you to point B. They (OnStar) can see where your vehicle is and then someone will talk you through the turns to take to get to point B.

OnStar will also do a bunch of other useful stuff like track you car and report its position to the police if stolen (I think that LowJack does this as well). It will unlock your doors if you lock the keys in the car. Most useful of all it will help you find your car by sounding its horn and flashing its lights. I fear that this last benefit could be a danger as the only time you are unlikely to find your car by yourself is when you are drunk beyond driving limits and would be better off not finding your car.

So day 0 had me pressing the OnStar button several times and trying to connect up with the operators to set-up the account. Alas no luck. It appears that the OnStar hardware in the car is broken. The garage tells me that the OnStar module needs to be replaced with a new module and they don't have any in stock so we'll have to wait.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

One finger equals five toots

My father-in-law has recently taken up driving in North America which means adapting from driving on the left-hand-side to the right-hand-side. I have been giving him some pointers such as "drive on the right." On about his third outing, while weaving around on the right side of the road an irate motorist managed to zoom past him and hung his arm out the window and flipped him the finger.

About a week later he went for his license and got it on the first go. The tester came to me at the end of the test and said: "He still needs some practise and should slow down a bit. Speeding during the test wasn't a good idea." He still passed him.

After his first solo outing my father-in-law returned home and proudly came into the house saying "I only got two toots today."

I have calculated that in Arizona four toots is about the max you will get before someone gives you the finger so by my calculations he's made a 60% improvement.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


I thought that my 41-month backpacking sabbatical across 35 to 40 countries (I can't remember how many) was almost unbeatable but then I came across Phil Gordon's Biography and see that he spent 5 years traveling to 50 countries on 6 continents. (And he wasn't even panting when he got home.)

I take my hat off to you Phil Gordon! There aren't many men that can do that and judge a wet T-shirt competition in Australia's outback. Well done on surviving those Sheilas.

Bio Diesel perfumes air

Yesterday I watched a vlog by the famous Amanda Congdon as part of her Amanda Across America series. (I confess that I have only just tuned into this vlog and don't know what her objective is yet...)

She interviews a guy who runs his car on bio diesel and specifically on the used oil from restaurants. He comments that people in cars behind him can be seen to be looking around to see where the food is being cooked because his exhaust fumes smell of the type of restaurant he got his oil from. If it's from McDonald's then it smells of burgers and fries and if it's from a Chinese restaurant then it has an Oriental cooking smell. What an amazing by-product smell from a car instead of the standard toxic fumes.

I'm guessing that in the future you will be able to custom select the smell that you want your exhaust to have by perfuming the oil it burns with your favorite scent. What would you choose as the scent for your exhaust? Would a hot rod be allowed to exude lavender scented exhaust or would other enthusiasts turn their noses up at this? Could a monster truck expel "hint of rose" or evening primrose? Or do we need Old Spice and musk for that?

What about a Harley Davidson? I have no idea what scent the exhaust of a Harley should be matched with... Any ideas?

Monday, October 09, 2006

Quick Change Artists

MikeR sent me this impressive video from the America's Got Talent series. Now the question that all men have on their minds after seeing this is "how can this woman get changed so quickly when it takes my wife sister half an hour?"

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Life of Pi

Life of Pi by Yann Martel is one of my favorite books. I don't recall how I came across it but I remember reading it on a holiday in Mozambique. The reason that I wanted to read it was twofold. The first because I like the idea of the story on the back cover. The second because it was a Booker Prize winner. I don't believe that I have ever been disappointed with a Booker Prize winner book. Another of my all time favorite books is Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle. The only reason that I picked up that book was because it was a Booker Prize winner and it was fantastic.

MikeR recently sent me an email that (in part) read:

in the book life of pi what was the point of the meerkat infested island that turned into an acidic flesh eating ball at night? was it a figment of his imagination as he was drifting in and out of consciousness, or did he actually stumble upon this island? it is so ridiculously unbelievable to imagine an island like this, so i presume it was a figment, but i welcome your views.

To which I replied:

Couldn't you argue that about the whole book?
BTW: The island was real.

A meerkat infested island that turns into an acidic flesh eating ball is obviously not fictitious. You have not been watching the Discovery Channel enough. Stay in more and watch more telly. Stop getting out.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Summit keynote address

The Summit keynote address, “Finding and Hiring the Unpredictably Talented: Is This the Future of Talent Acquisition?” was presented by Guy Ellis, internationally-lauded corporate coach, trainer and author of the best-selling book “Tales of Talent: How to Harness Your People's Talent to Achieve Your Organisation's Vision."

Source: Business Wire

Need I say anymore?