Robert Aitchison

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The state (and future) of my home page
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Fri 03 of Feb., 2012 10:58 PST  (976 Reads)

As unlikely as it seems, here's an update for the site. For anyone coming across this page it's pretty obvious that it's been all but abandoned. It's been over 5 years since the site was seeing consistent updates and no updates at all in more than 2 years.

Social media sites have become the place where I put things I want to talk about, for a while I was active on Twitter and I still "tweet" from time to time. Mostly I've moved my content to Google+. I'm still active on Foursquare.

Which brings me back to my own home page, what's the point of it? What I'm going to do is move to a simple "landing page" which will have basic info about me plus links to the social media sites I'm active on. Right now the main reason to keep this page around is the Mazda3 D.I.Y Oil Change Guide which after almost 8 years still gets visited regularly. I'll need to find a new home for that before I take this site down.

In the mean time, as you imagine I've got quite a bit of new stuff to talk about which I'll briefly discuss below. For future updates I'd recommend my Google+ page.

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Update to my Mazda3 D.I.Y. Oil Change Guide
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Wed 21 of Oct., 2009 09:38 PDT  (2428 Reads)

One of the most popular pieces of content on my page is the Mazda3 D.I.Y Oil Change Guide, originally written in 2004 and not updated since 2005. Still many visitors come here from Mazda sites all over the world, I'm glad my guide has been helpful.

Today I made the first update to the guide in more than 4 years:

  • Added additional information about applicability of the guide to different model years
  • Simplified the Materials Required section and included some additional information, also added part numbers for different brands of oil filters
  • Last but not least changed the license from All Rights Reserved (©) to a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial? 3.0 United States License. Creative Commons License

Mazda3 s 2.3l Do It Yourself Oil Change guide

My Forward Controls installation odyssey
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Mon 12 of Oct., 2009 14:52 PDT  (2713 Reads)

When I originally bought my bike in July, I didn't anticipate that I'd ever want to go on rides longer than 30-40 miles, so I didn't really pay much attention to how comfortable the bike might be for a longer ride of 50 or 100 miles or more. Mostly I was concerned that I could work the controls easily enough for safety purposes.

What I found was that 30-40 miles isn't very far at all, and that I did want to go on the longer rides, what I also found out was that the bike I bought isn't really well suited to me going on these longer rides.

There are two main issues; the most important thing is that the footpegs, along the the gear shift and rear brake were designed for someone much shorter than me with shorter legs (someone from Japan for instance), secondarily the seat isn't really very comfortable after you are in it for a long period of time.

In a car you can adjust your seat position to increase or decrease your distance from the pedals, can't really do that on a motorcycle, in general you don't have much in the way of options. You can replace your seat with one that's more comfortable, of course the good aftermarket seats cost hundreds of dollars. For the foot position you have two basic options, you can get highway pegs, which give you an additional place to rest your feet, but these require that you move your feet back to the stock footpegs if you need to shift or use your rear brake, since that didn't sound like a good plan in case of an emergency situation I deciced to go with the second option, forward controls.

What forward controls do, as the name suggests, is move your footpeg and controls (shift & brake) forward, so you have the more stretched out riding position without having to move your feet to use the controls. These are more expensive but I figured it was the safer choice.

Of course when I made the decision to get the forwards I had no idea how long they would take to arrive and I certinaly didn't know how difficult they would be to install. Here is the story of that install.

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Google failing at not being evil
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Sat 26 of Sept., 2009 11:54 PDT  (2536 Reads)

Google is one of the most pervasive companies in the world today, Google search dominates and has for some time, other services such as GMail and Google Apps and see extremely widespread adoption. It's not an exaggeration to say that Google has their hands on more data than any other entity and their own intentions are clear, they want to index and categorize all the world's information.

There is quite a bit of joking that Google will take over the world, that the Google systems will become sentient and enslave us and the like. There has also been some serious criticism but by and large Google gets a pass because of thier motto and their generally good behavior.

Their unofficial motto is Don't be evil, of course there is a story behind how that came to be but a big deal has been made about it and by and large Google has been on the not-evil side of other organizations with similar size and scope. After all the potential evil that Google could do is tremendous.

Still from time to time Google does something that is unabashedly evil, in this case they have sent a Cease and Desist letter to Cyanogen, developer of one of the more popular customized versions (known as "ROMs") of the Android platform that Google created and touted for it's supposed openness.

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When is a difficulty curve more like a wall?
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Mon 14 of Sept., 2009 13:19 PDT  (2190 Reads)

Back in 2008 David got the game Rock Band for his birthday, it's definitely a fun game, it's really the only one we have where everyone in the family can play.

There are four difficulty levels, Easy, Medium, Hard and Expert. I started out playing Bass on Medium and this is where I have run into problems, most of the songs are REALLY easy to play on medium (with one notable exception) usually I'll hit these well over 95% and 100% isn't all that uncommon, I figured I'd move up to hard, yeah that sounds better in theory than it is in practice.

Hard is rEdiculously more difficult than hard, it throws way more notes at you, it throws them at you faster, and it also throws in the use of the orange fret button. I know that these games are marketed towards younger people who have better reaction times and hand-eye coordination but I've already found 2 additional songs I simply can't pass and songs that were >95% are now <85%. They need to add a fifth difficulty and spread it out so that the difficulty curve isn't so steep.

We just got Rock Band 2 so I'm finishing up the remaining attainable achievements in Rock Band and at the same time trying to become halfway competent playing on Hard

New Hobby: Motorcycles
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Fri 04 of Sept., 2009 13:11 PDT  (2231 Reads)

Hey this one actually is new, I've recently purchased and started riding a Motorcycle.

Taken a couple weeks ago

I originally became interested in getting a motorcycle because of traffic, my current commute could be worse but it also could be better, I try to work early hours to minimize the amount of rush hour driving I do but sometimes rush hour doesn't keep to a strict schedule and more often one has to work later than they hoped and ends up stuck in traffic. I would see the people on motorcycles driving between lanes while I'm stilling there and that sounded really appealing.

Of course that idea didn't sound too good to Tove so I let it go, plus my desire for this would ebb and flow based on how bad traffic was at any given time, in general during the school year traffic is worse and during break times it's better.

Additionally I had only been on a motorcycle once before, when I was in the Navy I took a short ride on a buddies Honda sport bike and it didn't go well, I didn't crash but that was more luck than anything. I decided to take a safety course through the Motorcycle Safety Foundation and get my license, that way I could get a bike if I wanted to and would actually know how to ride it.

There was a place that offered the courses very close to my house, but there were only a few sessions that were convenient, and these were usually full well in advance, I kept procrastinating until the sessions I wanted to sign up for were full. After quite a a while at this I decided to just sign up for the next convenient class that had an opening.

The time came to take the class and I was amazed at how much fun it was, even the little 250cc bike they had were a blast, I knew I wanted a bike, not for commuting anymore, but just to ride.

Of course the bike may have been a good price but that doesn't mean that the hobby has already gotten expensive as heck

Immediately after the class I started searching craigslist and other sources for a nice, inexpensive bike. I ended up finding a good condition 1987 Suzuki Intruder VS700 for a good price.

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Disabling comments due to spam (why we can't have nice things)
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Fri 28 of Aug., 2009 12:50 PDT  (2285 Reads)

Sorry for the half dozen actual people who have left comments in the history of my site (including the guy who thinks I'm an asshole) but I had to disable comments.

Apparently since I blew the dust of the site the spammers have been having a field day, leaving almost 4500 spam comments in the past 30 days, I had to use MySQL queries to clear them all out and then I just disabled the feature to prevent a reoccurrence.

Sony still doesn't get it
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Tue 18 of Aug., 2009 15:12 PDT  (2378 Reads)

We currently have three consoles in use at our house (well, four if you count that we have two Xbox 360s), We have the 360, the venerable PS2 and the Wii. Obviously the 360 sees the most use, the Wii hardly ever gets used, but the PS2 surprising sees regular use. We even bought a component video cable for it to eek out every bit of graphics we could from the thing.

The PS2 was my first introduction to the modern era of video games, I bought it primarily so I could play Gran Turismo 3 and Gran Turismo 4 is one of the games we still play, along with Jordan playing the various Ratchet & Clank games.

When the PS3 came out, as expected it had backwards compatibility to play PS2 and PS1 games. The problem was that the PS3 was (is) ridiculously expensive for Sony to manufacturer, the retail price was a staggering $500 for one with a 20Gb hard drive, even at that cost Sony was still losing money. Now it's normal for video game consoles to be sold at a loss, especially when they are new on the market and the components are more "cutting edge" technology, but this was losing a lot more than the norm.

The fact that the PS3 was so expensive led to lackluster (to be kind) sales, Sony in an act of bubris that would embarass Apple thought that everyone would happily pay almost any price for their product, but that simply wasn't the case. Eventually Sony lowered the price, taking an even higher loss on each console, looking for any ways to reduce their cost and by extension the amount of money they would lose they changed the backwards compatibility, instead of including PS2 hardware components in each PS3 they emulated those components in software. Apparently this did not work quite as well as the hardware solution but worked well enough for most people, apparently well enough was more than Sony decided people needed, so they eliminated the PS2 backwards compatibility altogether.

Just today Sony announced a new, cheaper, smaller "PS3 Slim", right now it's evenly matched in price with the Xbox 360 Pro, and where the Xbox 360 Elite is expected to go imminently While having the PS3 be priced competitively is certianly a good thing, the new unit STILL lacks backwards compatibility.

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Environmentalists screwing over the environment
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Fri 14 of Aug., 2009 08:55 PDT  (2245 Reads)

Several years ago I was using my trusty gas can to fill up my lawn mower, well I guess several years of use had taken it's toll and the fill nozzle broke. No problem I thought, I will just go to a local auto parts store and buy a new can.

What I found, after visiting several stores was that nobody had any gas cans, very strange and fairly annoying, I figured there must be a shortage of them (at the time most you bought were made by just a couple companies) there wasn't much I could do so I left enpty handed.

California, specifically the idots at the CARB in their infinite lack of wisdom decided that the cans in use were bad (mmmkay) because when you fill them some gasoline vapors escape through the vent, also because they work.

Well months later I started seeing new cans, these looked different, had new fangled nozzles and of course they did not have vents. I picked one up, figuring I was paying a bit extra for the new BS features but it's not like I had another choice.

It wasn't till I tried to use the can that I figured out how bad the situation really was.

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New Hobby: Video Games
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Tue 04 of Aug., 2009 12:54 PDT  (2828 Reads)

Well not really new for a couple of different reasons, for one thing I started with this (most recently) in 2007, but more importantly I've been playing video games since the 1970s, but let's not confuse this story with facts.

David had his Bar Mitzvah in March of 2007, he had wanted to take his money and use it to purchase a Nintendo Wii, of course back in 2007 you had to either be friends with (or provide favors to) a game store employee or be willing to pay WAY over MSRP to get one of those. Frustrated at his inability to get the Wii he wanted to buy an Xbox 360. I correctly surmised that he was merely being impatient and tried to talk him out of it, I figured he'd be happier with the Wii, ultimately it became clear to me that:

  1. We would be unable to get a Wii anytime soon
  2. It was after all his money
So he ended up getting a new Xbox 360, and I was glad he did.

Honestly I wasn't prepared for how fun it was going to be, it only took a couple weeks before I was hooked, We did eventually end up getting a Wii but it pretty much sits there and gathers dust, we still use the PS2 somewhat but the 360 is what gets used every single day.

My gamertag is raitchison. One site I frequent is The idea of the site is that the site monitors your gaming activity and writes about it as if your console was writing about it's adventures. It does call it a "blog" but I'll let that slide in this case. You can see my own page here.

How much do I suck?
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Fri 31 of July, 2009 10:57 PDT  (2432 Reads)

Let me count the ways, well as near as I can figure I have 3 years and 14 days worth of suck because that's how long since I updated this site.

I could make excuses but there wouldn't much point now. In any case I recently updated the software that runs this site, I'd like to say I'm going to start regularly updating again but I've said that before and not followed through.

Needless to say, there have been many changes since the last update, I have a new job working for a small division of a super-huge company. New hobbies are getting more time as old ones see less, changes around the house, new pets and more. I figure talking about that stuff will give me plenty to talk about if/when I start updating.

Alcohol as a "Date Rape" drug?
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Wed 12 of July, 2006 18:20 PDT  (10287 Reads)

Now the U.S. isn't big on personal responsibility these days, this was underscored when I came across this news story a little while ago (via Digg). The state of Wisconsin has decided to classify Alcohol as a "Date Rape" drug.

Sadly this isn't news, as TFA points out Wisconsin was the last state to declare this a law, and laws like this have been used (and more often abused) for years..

Now I'm going to start by stating that there is no excuse for rape, rapists deserve severe punishment, this includes those who use drugs (including alcohol) to incapacitate their victims without their knowledge or consent (such as giving a girl a Roofie Colada).

Second, I'm going to generalize by stating for example for the rest of this article that the accused rapist in this scenario will be a man and that the alleged victim will be a woman. Yes I know that it's possible for men to be rape victims, and yes I know it's possible for women to be rapists but lets face it this almost never happens (at least outside of prison).

A woman can go out with a guy, or maybe she meets him at a party, they are both drinking. They have a great time and by the end of the evening they have sex with both parties consenting. Now in 95% of cases this works out great for everybody involved. Sometimes the next day one of the people regrets that decision or one of a myriad of possible reasons, this has been going on since the dawn of time.

In the past, if this happened to you you used it as a life lesson, maybe you decide next time you won't drink as much. Clearly no crime was committed, after all the intoxicated party voluntarily consumed the alcohol, it's been well known for millenia that alcohol both lowers inhibitions and impairs judgement, so if you decide to drink you know what can, even will be the result of that choice.

Many parts of our legal system agree, people are (and should be) held accountable for crimes committed while intoxicated, so long as they administered the intoxicant themselves. Drunk driving is a perfect example of this, you wouldn't want the drunk drivers to be able to use being drunk as a defense.

Now for this one scenario things are different, if a woman decided the next morning they she really shouldn't have gone to bed with you, or worse, if she gets mad at you she can now claim that she was raped because her intoxication prevented her from properly consenting to the sex.

Seriously, we as a society can't have double standards like this, either a person is held responsible for their actions after voluntarily consuming an intoxicant or they aren't.

PTC strikes again, thousands complained about a show they didn't watch
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Wed 14 of June, 2006 21:30 PDT  (7953 Reads)

I've talked before about the Parents Television Council, one of my nominees for the &quot;most evil organization". You may remember them as the group responsible for more than 99% of all FCC complaints.

Well some time ago on the CBS show Without a Trace there was a scene that simulated a teen sex orgy. As you might predict there were a number of complaints related to this and CBS was fined $3.3 million.

As it turns out, out of the 4,211 complains, 100% of them were submitted by people who didn't even watch the show!

It just goes to underscore that these people aren't out to protect their kids from indecent programming, they are'nt even out to protect my kids, they want to protect mke, you and everyone else. They want to be the ones who decide what everyone gets to watch.

Your government (finally) at work
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Wed 07 of June, 2006 18:08 PDT  (7504 Reads)

You may recall more than a year ago I talked about a fire station being built along the way to work. Well this week for the first time there is a fire truck parked in there so it looks like they finally finished it.

It's been at least 18 months since construction started on this station. As I mentioned originally no private enterprise would ever think of taking so long to build a 12,000 square foot commercial building, if they did they would be out of business, I don't think the typical Las Vegas hotel takes this long to build.

I found this little gem, in 2001 it was expected to be finished in 2003 and was expected to cost $1.5M, looks like they are only 3 years late and nearly three times over budget. In any case it's finally done, no doubt it was funded with bond money and as such it will result in $8M in increased taxes for the $4M station.

2 Days in the Valley (in a Chevy Aveo)
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Tue 06 of June, 2006 21:17 PDT  (9580 Reads)
Rating: star star star star star star star (7.00/10)

Ok maybe it wasn't exactly 2 Days in the Valley, it was more like a week, but I was in a Chevy Aveo. Last week the car was in the shop getting repaired from the damage caused by the retread. (still haven't gotten the stereo fixed yet). For my rental car I ended up with a Chevy Aveo sedan. I figured I'd post a mini-review of it here.

Now the Aveo is a small car, Chevy's original tagline for the car was "it's small, pirhana small". The sub-compact class is a relatively recent returnee to the U.S., being driven away by auto makers quest to sell super-profitable SUVs in the early & mid 1990's My old Geo Metro was one of these, other cars in the class include the Toyota Yaris & Honda Fit as well as the upcoming Nissan Versa. Chevy is the only player of the original Big 3 thats currently playing in this space. Ford makes the outstanding Fiesta & even smaller Ka and sells them almost everywhere in the world except the U.S., Chrysler (now a owned by Daimler-Benz) also has a stable of smaller cars they choose not to sell here. Even Chevy is entering the market half heartedly, with the Aveo being merely a rebadged Daewoo. You would think that the American companies (as well as Chrysler) who are so far behind on hybrid technology would be rushing to use these small cars as a short term gas mileage solution. Instead they are for the most part trying to distract us by singing the praises of Ethanol and hoping that people don't realize how impractical ethanol is as a short term solution.

Like most small cars, the Aveo has an abundance of interior space, more than many larger cars in fact. Even for my nearly 6'6" height and nearly 300 pound frame interior space was not an issue, there was one exception to this, the design of the dashboard, primarily the corner of the center console protruded into my knee space which was somewhat uncomfortable, were the dashboard designed slightly differently this wouldn't have been an issue at all. I have noticed a disturbing trend among (especially American) automakers to make dashboards two dimensional instead of the previous "cockpit like" designs that used to be in favor. When Ford of North America replaced the interior of the U.S. market Focus in 2005 they introduced this exact same problem. Hopefully this particular trend will be short lived.

Power is pretty much what you'd expect from a small four cylinder mated to a slushbox, it could get out of it's own way but not much more than that.

Handling was another issue though, I hardly put the car "through it's paces" but even in normal driving I found the suspension to be extremely squishy, to the point where the car felt a little unstable at 65Mph and quite a bit unstable at 70Mph. Even if I had not been keeping my speed down due to recent speeding tickets I would have been because it would have been unsafe to drive at a normal freeway speed. The Geo had the same problem at speeds above 90Mph while the Mazda3 is rock solid at the speed limiter (116). I actually thought about taking it to the Autocross for the heck of it but decided against it because I was concerned it might rollover if I attempted any sort of extreme maneuvering. These problem could be easily fixed with stiffer springs, firmer shocks and stronger anti-sway bars, why Chevy elected to cripple the suspension of the car I don't know.

One of the major gripes I had with the Geo was horrible road noise, to save weight they eliminate nearly all the sound deadening material and there was actually exposed steel pieces visible inside the car. The problem is that these sub-compact are almost entirely marketed as "entry level" cars, they are priced very low (from ~$10,000) and offer almost nothing in the way of amenities. I guess they figure that people who can afford something "better" will opt for something "bigger". That said the Aveo was surprisingly free of road noise, it didn't have anywhere near the road noise that the Geo had and may even have been a bit quieter than the Mazda3 is (though much of the Mazda3s noise can be attributed to agressive tries).

Other than it's low purchase price one of the biggest selling points of this car is it's gas mileage. Unfortunately I can't really speak to that as I only had it a few days and only used about a half a tank of gas. My estimation is that the mileage is pretty good yielding low 30s in real world driving, even higher if one got the manual transmission.

Gas prices are only going to go up, it's likely that you will see more smaller cars coming out from more automakers, for me it's a good thing.

As for Chevy's opening entry into this market I'd give it a solid B grade, with it's only major shortcoming being the handling problems. I can't wait for GM to square off the body, slap a "HUMMER" badge on the thing and sell it for 50% more.

"The biggest no brainer in th history of mankind"
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Mon 05 of June, 2006 18:20 PDT  (17284 Reads)

Yes I've heard your insulting, insipid commercials far too many times, yes you'd better believe I'm sick of them and NO I don't have to listen to them anymore.

As a matter of fact whenever I hear one of your commericals come on I IMMEDIATELY change the radio station.

Believe me, like I would sleep on the floor before I bought a mattress from sit n sleep I would live in a cardboard box before I financed my home through your company, but then again I don't think I'm in your target market, perhaps I'm not enough of a human being.

Just a random rant, if you get it you get it, if you don't you are probably thoroughly confused.

Only an hour a week
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Tue 23 of May, 2006 22:13 PDT  (7408 Reads)

Like many assholes, I'm a volunteer leader in my sons Cub Scout Pack, specifically I'm the Cubmaster.

There's a running joke among scout leaders, or scouters that to volunteer takes a commitment of "only an hour a week", the joke of course is that it's a way bigger time commitment than that.

This past weekend the pack went on our annual spring campout (one of two campouts a year), today was one of the final den meetings of the scout year. I was putting together a list of our remaining events through then end of the scout year and this is what I came up with:

Yeah, I got your hour a week right here :-)

This just in, apparently I'm an asshole
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Mon 22 of May, 2006 21:25 PDT  (12783 Reads)

One of the limitations of this software is that it doesn't notify me when there are new comments to one of my articles. This means I need to browse the main page periodically to see if there are any. Sometimes it can be a while before I notice.

I happened to notice one posted just today in the article talking about my car getting broken into. The comment may not be sweet but it sure is short, consisting of two sentences:

Looks like karmas a bitch. Maybe in the future you should strive to not be an asshole.

Interesting, now I'm well aware that I'm opinionated, stubborn, temperamental, extremely politically incorrect, a tad arrogant and possess a number of other arguably negative qualities (and I'm modest too) but I don't really see how the label "Asshole" applies to me.

Now I don't know who wrote the comment (anonymously), if it's someone who I've met (and angered) or if it's some random surfer who maybe doesn't like something I've written here. Honestly I don't care nearly enough to start looking at my server logs to try to find out.

Now I'm a believer in karma, and endeavor to treat pople like I feel they deserve to be treated, I guess at least one person disagrees.

So for Mr./Mrs. anonymous commenter (or anyone else) please enlighten this asshole on how exactly I am an asshole. If you don't want to come out of anonymity please give specific examples. If being not an asshole is something I'm supposed to strive for it would be immensely helpful to identify my assholeness.

The next generation console blunder trilogy
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Wed 17 of May, 2006 18:28 PDT  (7432 Reads)

The Trilogy is complete, no not that Trilogy, the trilogy of the three contestants of the next generation video game consoles and their ability to screw up.

First there was Microsoft with the XBOX 360, this one was first to market and the first with reported problems.

Next, is the Nintendo Wii, which I've already covered in depth.

Now we have Sony, the current king of the market with their long awaited PS3. The blunder? The PS3 will be priced at $600.

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I swear my car can't win for losing
By: Robert Aitchison  on: Mon 15 of May, 2006 19:35 PDT  (9506 Reads)

So a few weeks ago I talked about how my car was broken into and my stereo stolen. Now my car has suffered more indignity.

Friday I was returning to work from lunch, driving on the freeway, when the car ahead of me suddenly changed lanes revealing a complete re-tread from a semi truck.

I instinctively started to change lanes while checking my blind spot, unfortunately there was indeeed a car to the left of me, as well as to the right of me so I was unable to change lanes.

I ended up clipping the chunk o rubber with my right front bumper, the result was:

  1. Bumper cracked & Scuffed
  2. Under car splash sheild severely damaged (dragging on ground)
  3. Wheel well liner torn
  4. Fog light bracket obliterated
  5. Fog light bulb broken & lens scratched
    Saving the worst for last:
  1. Rear passenger side door skin mangled
  2. Rear quarter panel damaged

Ttotal damage, about $1500. I'm afraid to think about what might happen to the poor car next though.

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