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Tag Archives: driving

When I get lazy with blogging, I just post links to some neat stuff around the web:

Here are the latest CDs that I’ve been spinning on my daily commute:

  • A Camp – A Camp
    This is A Camp‘s self-titled debut which I wanted to listen to after being so impressed with their second album. It doesn’t feel as polished nor as interconnected as Colonia, but still very good. There is an absolutely great song called Song for the Leftovers which has a soothing arrangement with imaginative lyrics (at least the album version, the single mix is not nearly as great).

  • Annie – Don’t Stop
    This is Annie’s second album, and it has taken forever to be released. It was supposed to come out in May 2008 and I was anxiously awaiting it, but she ended up getting dropped from her label and other sorts of limbo. Long story short, it wasn’t until now that I was able to listen to it. My first impression was that there were a few great dance-pop hits, but much like her debut, a lot of the album sounded like fillers. But after repeated listens, I have warmed to it. A lot of the tracks have wicked beat machines and a couple remind me of the beats in Rez.

    It looks like she only has one single/video so far, and it’s not her best imo (although has some of those neat beats). I like My Love is Better or Loco more.

  • Dragonette – Fixin To Thrill
    Compared to Annie, this album is a step down. I gave this album a try because I liked their single Pick Up The Phone.
  • Julian Casablancas – Phrazes for the Young
    I was severely disappointed by this album. I’ve listened to the solo albums for each member of the Strokes, and they all suck! I thought Casablancas’ would have promise because he is the main songwriter for the Strokes, but this album sucks too! I guess the band is truly more than the sum of its parts. Either that or they had great producers.
  • Promo Only from December, January and March
    My usual radio replacement. December had a lot of good songs, basically half of them were hits on the radio. January, not so much. And March only notable song was Ke$ha’s Blah Blah Blah!

I always try to get a ‘real’ Japanese car when renting, but this was the first time that I’ve been successful. I ended up getting a Yaris from Hertz for $11/day. We had considered buying a Yaris when purchasing our current car, as it was in the same price range, but ended up getting something else instead of paying the Toyota premium. I’m glad because it is poorly featured, the dials on the dash don’t even light up! Plus, it didn’t do so well although Calgary does have much steeper hills than Toronto.

* moblogged from my phone. How cool is that?

Here are the latest CDs that I’ve been spinning on my daily commute:

  • A Camp – Colonia
    Previously blogged – I’m going to buy this.
  • Air – Love 2
    Things are better when there are no expectations and Love 2 is a great example. It’s not super great, but it’s sufficiently catchy and enjoyable. Maybe I have a thing for French Pop though.
  • Imogen Heap – Ellipses
    I realize now that I’ve been listening to the wrong version of this CD, because I only have the instrumental versions! Well I can say that, aside from First Train Home, the “music” is poor. It sounds like a new age relaxation CD. I guess I should listen to the songs with vocals before passing judgment, but I’m inclined to say that this album is crappy.
  • John Mayer – Battle Studies
    Yay John Mayer stopped twittering and released a new CD. Unfortunately he seems to be on a downwards slope since his debut album. Surprisingly I can’t detect much blues influence in this album, instead it has some electronic styling and seems to be written for the adult contemporary audience in mind. Maybe I’ll get this, if it’s on sale, for $8.
  • La Roux – La Roux
    Ah I have such high expectations for La Roux’s debut album after two amazingly great singles. S/he (they try to be androgynous) sings with a unique timbre in her voice which I can only describe as haughty English. I can see how it might be annoying after awhile, but for the remainder of 2009 it is fresh and interesting. After the 2 big ones, there are a few highlights such as Cover My Eyes but many of them sound like fillers. Since I already have the two singles from iTunes, I’ll probably pass on this one.
  • Metric – Fantasies
    Metric seems to have a lot of fans, being formed in Toronto. And I think I might have seen them in concert (or maybe I missed them because I was late). Anyways, I didn’t really pay attention to them until I heard Gimme Sympathy which is a great pop/rock track. Fantasies has several other rock songs written in catchy pop style:

    The problem I have with Metric is that their lyrics sound like bad teenage poetry. This is especially apparent after listening to A Camp.
  • Promo Only for October and November
    Nothing to write home about. Although there is a catchy song by Leighton Meester. I have no idea who that is.
  • Zero 7 – Yeah Ghost
    It sounds like there is a lot of experimentation on this album and I understand why they want to evolve. But I like Zero 7 from their Garden State days and the only songs worth listening to on this album are the ones where they bring back their mellow electronic style. Unfortunately, too few and far between.

When I came back from vacation this year, I started listening to Kiss 92.5 FM because they had a format change from classic rock? to top 40 radio. They had no DJ (I guess they didn’t hire anyone yet) so it was only music and commercials. That was great! Then they started adding a morning show, and other DJs. So it was back to listening to burned MP3 CDs. Here’s what was on my latest:

  • Cut Copy – In Ghost Colors
    I downloaded their single Lights and Magic off of iTunes awhile ago and it was pretty good, but I never got around to listening to this album until I saw a lot of random people wearing Cut Copy shirts in Seoul. I’m glad I did, because this is a really good album. None of the tracks are standouts, but they all sound interesting. The entire album is mixed together (i.e., you can’t shuffle it) and there’s a really good vibe coming from the album. I can’t describe it, it’s not an album to “chill” too but there is a relaxing feeling from the upbeat songs. This will be a purchase.
  • Pet Shop Boys – Yes
    PSB have been around forever, and I guess their disco still sells. This double CD is half vintage PSB sound and half house remixes. It’s all listenable but I like the house tracks better. The A-side has too many tracks that sound and feel like filler tracks.
  • Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
    I’ve liked Phoenix for awhile, but when I first heard this album I wasn’t too impressed. But I gave it another chance by putting it into my rotation and it’s not that bad after repeated listens! (love the iPod drum machine on this vid!)
  • Serena Ryder – Is It Ok?
    This one is an odd one. I downloaded this on a whim and surprised myself when I liked her songs. The music on this album sound like it was written for the cowboys in Western Canada (although it’s not really country), yet the lyrics are so clever and her voice is ironically catchy. She sounds like her voice is shaking because she’s performing for the first time and is very nervous. If you missed it, here was my last blog on Serena Ryder
  • TV On The Radio – Dear Science
    I added this album because I keep seeing TV On The Radio pushed on various TV shows. It sucks. The songs aren’t catchy save for Family Tree. Somehow Rolling Stone, The Guardian, Spin, MTV, Entertainment Weekly and Pitchfork rated this as the best album of 2008. What groupthink paid for that?
  • The Juan Maclean – The Future Will Come
    This is another electronic artist that I found about from iTunes. Their single One Day is really catchy but their lofi style doesn’t work for me for the other tracks.
  • Promo Only August and September
    August had some good songs, September not so much. I’ve never liked Colbie Caillat until I fell for this song.

    Great summer song, why did they release it at the end of summer?

I have been playing Project Gotham Racing 4 lately. I received this game when I bought the Xbox Live messenging bundle (as well as a messaging pad, and a third headset) and the game was a throw in. Originally I didn’t start playing this because I felt that I wouldn’t enjoy this game (and it would set back my gamerscore completion ratio), and I felt validated the first couple of hours I played. PGR4 is classified as an arcade racer, but compared to Burnout; it’s not. You actually have to brake!

What has warmed me up to this is the graphics. They are not as realistic as Burnout, but they portray several cities that I’ve travelled to in recent years: Quebec City, London, Shanghai, Tokyo, Las Vegas, and NYC. The environment is realistic (except most brands are removed). I can drive in the Shinjuku area where I stayed, on the Brooklyn Bridge, around all the casinos on the strip, through Trafalgar square, and in the Haute Ville. It’s so enjoyable that I wish there was an open city mode where I can just be a tourist!

We didn’t go anywhere this weekend, because our planning was messed up by the fallout of getting rear-ended on the 404.

The body shop estimated 1-1.5 weeks, which meant that I would have to keep my rental over the long weekend. The 1.5 weeks were up on Friday, but they didn’t call me; so I gave them a call and they were estimating May 20th, 2 weeks after I brought it in! But they managed to get everything done on Friday and we got our car back. But it was too late to plan a road trip.

I also got a very detailed, itemized list of the repairs, and it totalled to almost $7k (including more than $400 for towing from the CRC to the body shop). Add to that the initial $200 to tow to the CRC, $320 for the rental, and various overhead costs for dealing with the claim; this event “paid” for almost 4 years of my insurance!

I didn’t burn down the house (at least not yet), but I did get rear-ended on the 404 a couple of days ago.

It was the first accident I’ve been involved in, but accidents are one of those things that I expect will happen at some point, so I’ve accumulated enough knowledge of what to do.

It happened in traffic, as there usually is on 404 south at the end of the day. The car in front of me stopped, so I stopped. But the car behind me didn’t stop and ran into me! There’s a huge dent in my bumper, my rear lights no longer fit the frame, and my trunk no longer closes properly. The other guy had a minivan, but he busted the logo off his grill and was leaking (radiator?) some orange fluid.

After exchanging info, we both got towed to the CRC and had to fill in various forms. I’m always wary of tow truck drivers because they seem to be ass drivers, but in person they were relatively nice. I guess so because they stuck me the insurance company with a $188+tax bill! They also “waited” for me at the CRC until I was done so they could tow me to their body shop – but I declined.

I got in contact with my insurance company and am going through the paperwork to get my claim done and my car fixed. While doing some research, I came across the act that governs who’s at-fault for insurance claims in Ontario, it’s an interesting read and I’m should be 0% at-fault.

It’s been a few months since my last spin off and I’ve been listening to a new compilation of CDs. Here’s what I think:

  • Ashlee Simpson – Autobiography
    I gotta get through Ashlee Simpson’s debut before it becomes summer and I have to roll my windows down. This CD is not bad, I’ve listened to it a few times before. It’s great teenage girl rock!
  • Franz Ferdinand – Tonight: Franz Ferdinand
    I’m a bit tired of Franz Ferdinand’s funky basslines, singing in unison and Alex Kapranos’ voice. Even though there are some catchy songs, I don’t think I’ll shell out the big bucks for this one.
  • Fujiya & Miyagi – Transparent Things
    Speaking of funky basslines, F&Y have a lot of those. Everything is a bit repetitive, but their voices aren’t as annoying as FF’s’. I’d buy this if I can find it around anywhere.
  • Jack Johnson – Sleep Through the Static
    I’ve given Jack Johnson many chances, hoping that he is indeed like John Mayer (or at least Belle & Sebastian). He has disappointed and I’ve never found his CDs particularly catchy. I think it’s time I gave up on him.
  • Lily Allen – Alright, Still
    Lily Allen is an artist I’ve never paid enough attention too. LDN and Smile are pretty catchy, but after spending time listening to her debut, I find there to be too much reggae and polka influence!
  • Lily Allen – It’s Not Me, It’s You
    On the other hand, I really liked her sophomore album. There’s a lot of electronic influence and many of the tracks sound overproduced, but her lyrics are really great. Her songs just take you on a journey. Here’s The Fear which should be playing on radio.
  • MGMT – Oracular Spectacular
    I kept hearing MGMT’s Time To Pretend and The Ting Tings everywhere in Japan, except I didn’t know what it was called. That and Kids are the best tracks on this way-too-short album.
  • Robyn – Robyn
    This is Robyn’s come back album after more than 10 years away (she was popular circa ’95). This album is really diverse, with songs that can be classified as rap, R&B, pop, electronica and dance. Most of them are pretty catchy too, although some feel like fillers. I really like Be Mine.
  • Promo Only Mainstream Radio April
    This is not really a CD but my solution to not having to listen to the radio. Instead I listen to the new tracks that the radio should be playing this month.

Am I the only person that thinks about driving on these ramps when I see them driving along on the highway? Ok, maybe it’s just me – but the reason I get that feeling is because I’ve been playing too much Burnout Paradise.

Burnout Paradise has billboards, fences and super jumps scattered around the city as an incentive for the completionist. When I started playing Burnout, I thought that I wouldn’t try to smash all the billboard and fences, and jump all the super jumps; but I got up to 380/400 fence smashes simply by playing, and well, I was so close I decided to finish it off.

I’m almost there, I have 120/120 billboards, 50/50 super jumps, and 399/400 fences. Surprisingly, it wasn’t that tedious. I only had to look up 3 super jumps (and well I don’t know where this last fence is). But I’ve ended up playing this game for a long time. I’m approaching 50 hours, and I’m haven’t completed the one player game yet. It’s reasonably fun to just play online with random people, and crash cars or do cooperative challenges. So if you don’t have Burnout Paradise, you should buy it!

My mental model of traffic on the highway tells me that trucks are the reason that highways are slow, but they’re also very helpful in helping the traffic flow. The latter is somewhat validated by using ants to research traffic flow.

In the latest findings, published in the February issue of the Journal of Experimental Biology, Dussutour’s team found that ants leaving the colony automatically gave right-of-way to those returning with food. Of the returning ants, some were empty-mandibled — but rather than passing their leaf-carrying, slow-moving brethren, they gathered in clusters and moved behind them.

This seemingly counterintuitive strategy — when stuck behind a slow-moving truck, are you content to slow down? — actually saved them time.

Now if drivers would just stop weaving around trucks and changing lanes, traffic wouldn’t be as bad. Though, that’s as likely to happen as everyone following the trucks.

I’ve started listening to radio again on the drive this month. I think there are only two benefits to listening to radio, one is to hear what new top 40 songs there are and the second is to get traffic reports. But like wearing a watch in high school, I think having access to traffic reports actually makes driving more stressful!

I’ve travelled my commute enough times that I have expected times for each section I have to drive, and if there isn’t a snow storm or an accident, my estimates are reasonably accurate. But the radio reports tend to make it seem like there a lot of traffic problems, even when there’s only more volume. I guess they are trying to make me feel better that I made it through “heavy traffic” and only ended up 10 minutes late; but really +/- 10 minutes is a typical deviation for the norm. It seems like traffic reports only like to declare a dichotomy, either the the traffic is light (i.e., non-rush-hour traffic), or it’s slow. Like the media, they can’t report no news.

In fact, I find that the COMPASS system is quicker at reporting problems than the radio. I’ve seen accident notices appear on the boards, and affect traffic; while the radio hasn’t even mentioned it yet. Can’t the traffic reporters just check online? I’m almost at a point where I think COMPASS can replace the radio.

Reading through the available Xbox360 games, one game I had thoughts of getting was Burnout Paradise. I had Burnout 2 for Gamecube and it was a fun arcade racer. Burnout Paradise was in similar vein but crossed with the open world with GTA. It was actually because of the open world concept I didn’t get it right away.

In Burnout Paradise, you can drive around and explore Paradise City. If you stop at a traffic light and spin your wheels, you can enter a race or some other sort of event; typically driving across the city along any route you pick. The problem is if you don’t win, you’ll have to drive back to the original intersection to try again! I thought that “feature” would be incredibly irritating (they’ve since patched it so you can restart) but it turns out it wasn’t that bad anyways!

I bought Burnout Paradise this weekend now that it’s $20 every where. The game is not structured like normal driving games where you have to enter tournaments or championships, it really is open ended. You can race from this part of the city, and then play a new event in another part of the city. You progress in the game by getting a better license by winning or completing events. It really is free formed and not as irritating as I thought it would be.

There’s a lot of stuff to do, it looks great, and it’s not too hard to play (at least not yet – I’m still at the beginning) and now for $20 it’s a great deal.

My gas mileage has been getting progressively worse this winter, and thanks to Fuelly I’ve been getting depressed because of it. I have only low gas prices to prevent me from slitting my fuel lines. I’ve bottomed out at 8.3L/100km one time!

I was curious why my gas mileage had decreased so much in the winter months since it wasn’t a car maintenance issue. I did some experiments and I’m pretty positive that turning on the heater (I usually just leave it in the middle or slightly to the heat side) decreases my gas mileage by almost 0.5 L/100km! I didn’t use my heater or ventilation (where possible) and my gas mileage is back in the high 7s again!

Now I just have to figure out why it’s not in the high 6s.

I’m just about tired of my latest mp3 CD. The first half is pretty good, but there’s a real dead couple of hours in the middle.

  • Dido – Safe Trip Home
    It’s good, I blogged about it here
  • The Guillemots – Red
    I really wanted this album to be superb, but it was a disappointment. After listening to it a few times through, it’s gotten better. There are a couple of good pop singles like Kriss Kross and Big Dog.
  • Justice – A Cross The Universe
    This is their live album with a quippy title (their album was called †). It’s not new material but I’ve felt that I neglected their studio album by not listening enough and this makes up for it.
  • Keane – Perfect Symmetry
    The lead single, Spiralling is catchy, but the rest of the album is bland and unforgettable.
  • Ladytron – Velocifero
    I downloaded this album around the time I saw Ladytron, and it’s definitely not one of their better albums. Ladytron’s not known for their highs and lows, and a boring album makes it even worse.
  • Lenka – Lenka
    This is the token pop album and also highlight of my mix. It’s not the perfect album, but there are some great singles like Knock Knock, Dangerous and Sweet, Trouble is a Friend and The Show:

  • Peter, Bjorn & John – Seaside Rock
    This album is horrible, there are a couple of spoken tracks which destroy this album. It’s too bad, because it has one great track (School of Kraut), and although it’s a lot better if you skip the talking tracks, then it’s only like 20 minutes long.
  • The Killers – Day & Age
    I wanted to take a listen to see if this was worth buying, but ended up getting it anyways as a filler on Amazon. The problem with this album is that aside from their single, Human, there are no standout tracks. It’s not that the songs are bad…
  • The Killers – Sam’s Town
    I wanted to revisit this because I don’t think it should be as bad as I remembered it. The singles are still head and shoulders above the remaining tracks, but the rest aren’t as boring now – maybe my tastes have shifted.

I put Dido’s latest CD, Safe Trip Home on my next mp3 CD for the car, (hey Safe Trip Home is a good omen right?) listened about half way through and bought it. Well, it wasn’t that impressive; I was just going to buy it anyways!

I downloaded an early single, Look No Further, from Dido’s website in the summer. I like it, it uses horns and orchestration – I guess that’s the next big thing; they were prominent in Coldplay’s Viva La Vida too. Her albums have been getting progressively better and this is the best so far; although you have to like Dido to really get into it. The songs are slow, and a lot of the tracks have no or sparse drums.
Don’t Believe in Love is also pretty good:

Instead of listening to the radio the last few months, I’ve been spinning some mp3 CDs of albums. Mostly to see if they’re worth buying or not, but because it’s less repetitive than a normal CD (or radio). Although, 8 albums still gets repetitive after awhile. Here’s what I’ve been listening to:

  • Ayumi Hamasaki – Cyber Trance presents Ayu Trance
    I’ve had this for awhile, and it seemed good as background music while doing stuff; but not so much when you have to pay attention to it (maybe it’s because I don’t know the original versions?)
  • CSS – Donkey
    I like CSS and I liked this album even before putting it on rotation. Now I just need to find it being sold for a reasonable price.
  • Feist – The Reminder
    I didn’t like the direction that Feist had taken with this album, it was too slow for me. Believe your first impressions: I just ended up skipping this album every time.
  • John Mayer – Where The Light Is (double CD)
    This one was good, and not just because I like John Mayer. I was particularly surprised that liked the John Mayer Trio set, since I think his pop songs are much better. Although, I don’t think I’ll buy this album because live albums don’t work well on shuffle.
  • Jose Gonzales – Veneer
    I gave this album a second chance. It’s slow like Feist’s (but not annoyingly boring) and I think you need to be in the proper state of mind to enjoy this.
  • Kylie Minogue – X
    I enjoyed this album the most on my CD, probably because it’s pop. I’ll pick this up once it hits the bargain bin.
  • The Guillemots – Through the Windowpane
    This is the best album I’ve heard in a few years, and I put it on this CD just because I wanted to hear it more often! But like John Mayer, I don’t think the songs will be as awesome once they’re on shuffle
  • Peter, Bjorn & John – Writer’s Block
    I haven’t given these guys their due aside from listening to Young Folk. To me this sounds like the prototypical college album. Let’s Call It Off is pretty good.
  • The Ting Tings – We Started Nothing
    You have probably heard these guys on the iPod commercial that uses Shut Up and Let You Go. None of the other songs are as catchy as that one (and I don’t particularly like it).

Whew, what a windbag. I was going to blog about the other mp3 CD I’ve been listening too but I guess I should save that for later.

Awhile ago, I read a quote from Obama saying how Americans can improve their fuel efficiency and save gas by doing regular maintenance on their cars. Although, I have been taking our car in for the schedule maintenance. I never knew that it could improve gas mileage.

I’ve been using Fuelly to track my fuel consumption the last few months. I started using it in October, which was just around when I last took the car in. My mileage was oscillating around 6.5L/100km, before gradually getting worse and worse 7.8L/100km at the bottom end. Then, I went for an oil change and expected it to be a miracle cure (Obama wasn’t lying was he?) and was a bit disappointed at the result. Although maybe half a litre better, I’m still averaging over 7L/100km.

(this is in MPG not L/100km)

Car maintenance wasn’t the miracle cure, although I have been changing my driving habits lately – faster, less drafting and the heater’s on. Maybe those are the other contributing factors.

Yesterday during the commute home, there was a traffic accident and investigation that blocked three lanes of the express past the 400. I heard about it on the radio so I exited the express at Yonge into the slightly-faster collectors. As I moved slowly in the collectors’, I saw a lot of cars transfer into the express lanes – don’t these people listen to the traffic reports? They were trading instant gratification for four-lanes-merging-into-one!

On optimal and average days, the 401 is the fastest route for me since my average speed is higher than if there were traffic lights. But it’s a day like yesterday which requires me to scan the radio stations for a traffic report as soon as I get into the car everday (and potentially use alternates). I realize that this information must be available in a more accessible format since radio and TV stations have access to it, so I got around to looking for it. Like other government information, it’s not the easiest to find; but there are some great resources. The COMPASS system covers 401, 403, QEW and parts of the 404 and 400. There are cameras every few kilometers, and the images are available overlayed onto a Google Map. Even more useful (although it doesn’t cover the 401/404 interchange) is the 401 traffic flow map, so you’ll know when to transfer. This page will be something I will check every day before I leave work from now on!

Although in the end yesterday, the joke was on me because I stayed in the collectors past the 400, even though a sign said that the express was moving faster than collectors. How could the express lanes move faster than the collectors, when the accident was still ahead in the express? Turns out the accident had cleared.

What would make the COMPASS system even better is if it would push information to us through cellphones, rather than just the signs (that, and I need to have more trust in the system). There is a site out there that seems to do that, but it looks like a template site that just parses the information from the government site (my welcome email mentioned . Too bad I can’t fully customize my paths such as saying that I only want eastbound information in the morning, and westbound at night.

When I was driving the Seattle gridlock, I was pissed off by their highway design of putting the HOV lanes in the right-most lane. This caused a mess during rush hour as merging traffic had to merge through the HOV lane and into regular traffic, slowing down both the HOV lane and regular traffic.

I’m encountering a similar problem on the 403 now. Between where Mavis and Eastgate, there are a lot of cars coming onto the 403, who like me want to get over to the fast lane. At the same time, the are a lot of cars in the leftmost lane, which is the HOV lane, who need to exit. So you have cars trying to merge across 3-4 lanes in both directions at the same time. Would the Seattle system be better in this case? Probably.

Lately, I’ve been listening to ([a single] mp3) CDs in the car. I can fit something like 100 songs on a CD, which is pretty much the rotation of a radio station anyways. Although I get tired of my songs more easily because 1) I’ve listened to them many times before I put them on a CD, and 2) My CD doesn’t have any of the stupid DJ chatter or commercials. Sometimes though, I do switch to the radio to see if there are any new songs that are worth listening to (like say Mariah Carey’s latest single – Touch MY Body).

I was listening to the radio on Monday morning (it’s better to listen in the morning, since they have 9 in a row so less chatter/ads) and fortunately for me too. Because I heard that Coldplay was giving away a free download for their new single from their upcoming album Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends until May 6th. So I headed over to their site after work, filled in a throwaway email, and downloaded the single (well I had to do it twice, because people who signed up near the beginning didn’t get their emails).

I was surprised that Coldplay had a new album coming out, but then I thought about it more and realized that it was way back in summer 2005 that I picked up X&Y at the Bellevue Best Buy. That was almost 3 years ago! Violet Hill is no Talk, but I guess that’s because they didn’t sample anyone. I’ll have to give it a few more listens before I give it a Yay or a Nay though.

Because we were staying within the city, one thing I didn’t have to book for this trip was a car. I’m glad to save the hassle, but I’m also glad because driving over there seems a lot different than in North America.

The first thing you notice is that they prefer small cars there. Sure I saw a couple of Mercedes and BMW sedans, but the majority of the cars on the road are small hatchbacks. There were a lot of European brands like Renault, Citroen, Peugeot, and Fiat but also familiar brands such as VW (Golfs), and Toyota (Yaris). I would have expected the reverse of Detroit, with very few American cars, but I did see quite a number of Fords (Focus). Surprisingly I didn’t see any Hondas, and I randomly saw 1 PT Cruiser and 1 Dodge Caravan.

Yes, in fact you’re right, I did spend a lot of time looking around counting cars. In fact I made it a game to count the number of Smart cars. I hit 122 on the entire trip, but 60 of those were on the first day (and I wasn’t even paying attention all the time). I got tired of the game after the first day otherwise I’m sure the number would be much higher.

Because they have small cars, they can start and stop quickly, so they drive aggressively. There is a tendency to merge lanes randomly and to wait for left turns in parallel (perpendicular to the original lane) instead of in serial. Also, I read a neat point that in France (and unlike US/UK), cars entering roundabouts have the right of way. That’s an accident-causing fact right there. As crazy as it was though, I wouldn’t go to say that it is as chaotic as China.

The third deterrent to driving was the price of gas. I only came across one gas “station”, which are basically stores on the street that have a gas pump as a store front, and the price of gas on the meter was 3.39€/L. That’s like 4x our inflated cost of $1.09+/L that we’re paying in Canada!

Oh one last thing, if you’ve ever been on the Champs Elysées, you’ll know that the major European car dealerships all have storefronts there. I’m curious however whether they actually sell cars there or they’re just selling their brand. Because one of the worse places I can think of to pick up your new car is the most popular street in the city.

I took a snow day yesterday, which in addition to my (semi-)snow day last week meant that I probably shouldn’t work at home today again (I had to do a presentation today anyways). So I woke up this morning and started my trek to work.

Since it had snowed the entire night, the plows and salters had not had a chance to plow my route yet so the roads were covered in (packed) snow. It felt like I was driving in the prairies or in Colorado, except i didn’t have snow tires, studs, or chains. The tricky thing about these scenarios are the hills, and seeing as how I had to cross (and climb) the Don Valley to get to work, it was very tricky indeed.

I don’t really have alternates that bypass hill climbing. If I take Yonge, I have to climb north of Steeles. If I take Bayview, I have to climb north of Finch. If I take Leslie or Steeles, I have to climb around that intersection. So I took my normal route, Finch which has two hills. One between Leslie and Bayview and another approaching Don Mills. I didn’t realize or think about this much until I approached the first hill where traffic started to back up. At this point, a lot of cars did a U-turn (because conveniently the other lane was blocked further ahead by cars stalled while climbing hills) but I trudged on since I had no viable alternate.

I mosied along up the hill, which is actually the gentler of the two, and at the same time witnessed a big oil tanker in the other lane leave plenty of buffer in order to build up momentum, but that was all of naught as he eventually stalled and blocked the road. I made it up to the top without issue but at which point I was forced to stop at a red light and then got stalled. After trying the usual tricks, I eventually got going again after a minute and made my way towards the next hill.

The Don Mills hill is even steeper and I’ve seen cars getting stuck in the truck lane on previous days. However, there was less of a traffic jam so it was smooth sailing. Even the top was partially cleared of snow! Surprisingly, there was one last challenge before the 404. There was one traffic light on the crest of a small hill which had for some reason accumulated a lot of snow (and some leftover cardboard traction by other cars), but I was able to pace and get by without stopping.

The 404 was surprisingly clear of all snow, and in retrospect I should have just taken the 401 to 404. Markham was also plowed, and that seems to be a pattern. Toronto needs to get its plowing solution together.

For some reason that I haven’t figured out yet, there are a lot of dump trucks on my route to work. I usually take Finch across to Scarborough because it takes about 20 minutes for me to get onto the 401, and that is also the preferred route from these dump trucks. I’ve made an interesting observation however; because the pickup of these dump trucks are so slow, I end up passing them. But, because of the nature of the traffic and traffic lights; I invariably reach the 404 at the same time they do. Sure I can make some ground on the trucks, but I will end up losing my lead either at the Bayview lights, Leslie lights or Don Mills lights. So jostling for position is really a lost cause.

They’ve also finally finished the HOV lanes (2 or more people — lame) on the 404. The HOV lanes on the 404 are the same as the ones on the 403; that is, you can only enter and exit are certain points — which makes sense since merging slows down traffic. I think however, that the designers totally screwed up the Highway 7 HOV integration point. There are so many people exiting at the Highway 7 exit (thank you IBM, ATI, and other tech companies) that traffic is usually backed up in the exit lanes to the 407 exit, sometimes even to John St. or Steeles. The integration of the HOV lane however, starts as the extra lane appears for the exit; which is far too late. You would immediately have to cut through 2 lanes of fast moving traffic and then 2 lanes of stop-and-go traffic if you want to exit on Highway 7, which is almost impossible. So really, you’d have to exit the HOV lanes at Steeles and get stuck in the rush hour traffic. Seeing as how the HOV lanes should be most useful during rush hour, it means that it is actually pretty useless.

You know what the say about March, “In like a lion, out like a lamb”. Well, here’s the lion. The drive home wasn’t too bad, I left an hour or an hour and a half early, and arrived home at my usual time. I made good progress on 7 since all the traffic was going the other way. I saw an interesting fellow who started brushing snow off of his dash, while driving, by reaching out of his window with his sweeper. So I guess I wasn’t too surprised when I later saw people out of their vehicles scraping ice off their windshield while waiting to turn left.

After that though, it started to get weird. I passed eleven (11!) stalled VIVA buses and spent an hour going up and down 2 hills. The first hill didn’t have any problems, and I’m not sure what was the slow down; but it was stop and stop traffic so I tried to pass the time by reading a book. The second hill was pretty incredulous, it was a VIVA bus obstacle course. At first, there were 3 VIVAs stalled at the side of the road, then there was another VIVA which was alternatively stalled trying to get up the hill, or moving slowly in the left lane. So all the cars had to do an S to get around these obstacles. Finally, the pièce de résistance was at the top of the hill, where there was a spread of 4 VIVAs blocking all three lanes at the top of the hill! Suddenly it’s not so smart to have accordian buses.

The rest of my trip was pretty tame, I came across two instances of abandoned vehicles in the left lane (?) and I couldn’t get in my driveway due to a snow drift.