Homeland Security and less pleasant things

Today was the day of my citizenship interview. The appointment was at the Department of Homeland Security US Citizenship and Immigration Services office in San Antonio, so I had taken the day off. I set out at 9am, and almost immediately encountered a dead armadillo on the road. I wondered if it was an omen. Turned out, maybe yes. The journey to San Antonio is about 120km each way. It’s a long, boring drive down I-35, enlivened only by the antics of Texas drivers doing stupid shit like tailgating 18 wheelers and cutting in front of buses in their pickups.


This morning, Austin Texas had freezing rain. There were 90 car crashes within an hour or so. Texans just have no idea how to drive in bad weather. I’ve driven in Minnesota, in winter, in the middle of a blizzard — and lived. I’ve driven in ice storms on black ice. Frankly, the situation in Austin today would be no big deal, if it wasn’t for the sheer incompetence of so many Texas drivers.

Solid water? Wha?

Hell may not have frozen over, but Texas has, and that’s almost as rare. Last night we were driving home from Houston when the temperature dropped below freezing, and the car showed a black ice warning light. Soon it began to sleet. Texans really don’t know how to deal with snow and ice. I drove slowly and carefully, but people who had bought into the SUV myth were overtaking. Unfortunately, no amount of all-wheel-drive or traction control will help if you hit a patch of wet ice.

Omen or metaphor?

As I was driving just now, the frames of my glasses disintegrated, and the right lens fell under the seat. I’m not sure if it’s an omen or a metaphor.

In which I kick asphalt

Last driving lesson (not written about at the time) I was seriously stressed out after a day at work, and I made an unsafe turn. I was so ashamed. Today I did the driving before work, and did far better. Three parallel parkings, a couple of three point turns, lots of tiny one-way streets with stop signs, and some excitement with an 18 wheeler and a UPS truck, but it all worked out.

Driving ambition

I was about 10× better that time, but I don’t really understand why. Perhaps the relative quietness of the roads helped.

Crash course

I just finished my first driving lesson. Well, not strictly my first, but the last time I drove a car was 15 years ago, in England, and it had manual transmission. It seems like a lifetime ago now. I’ve been in the US long enough that driving on the right wasn’t a problem. In fact, it seems natural. What didn’t seem quite so natural is that the sticks to control the indicators and lights are reversed—but the brake and accelerator aren’t.

Learning to drive and other troubles

As you may have noticed, I’ve not been writing much recently. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, work has been insane for the last few weeks. The other day the project manager I’m working with actually asked why I haven’t crawled into a corner to whimper quietly. I explained that at Harlequin, I became completely acclimated to having an order of magnitude more work than I could ever possibly do in the time allowed.

Visiting Austin, learning to drive

Well, we’re booked to go visit Austin in a couple of weeks. We’ll be staying with friends, checking out neighborhoods, and maybe looking at a little Real Estate. In the mean time, I’m busy reading the Massachusetts Driver’s Manual.

SUV drivers really do suck

According to market research conducted by car manufacturers, SUV drivers are insecure, vain, self-centered, antisocial, and bad drivers. “If you have a sport utility, you can have the smoked windows, put the children in the back and pretend you’re still single.” —David Bostwick, Chrysler’s market research director Still, on the plus side the occupant death rate is higher in SUVs than in cars. Higher still for really big SUVs. SUV drivers are also much more likely to run over their own offspring.