Tag: mirrors

How to Get Rid of Blind Spots (No Optometrist Required)

Since the dawn of time (or at least since we've had rear- and side-view mirrors on automobiles), our parents and our parents' parents have been instructing us on where to point our side-view mirrors.  And along with this instruction comes the dire warnings of the perilous danger of the Evil Blind SpotsTM that exist when you're behind the wheel.    

Judging by the number of folks I see out on the road who attempt to imitate that scene from The Exorcist when they're changing lanes, whoever taught you to drive also instructed you that the only sure-fire way to avoid slamming into a nearby car when changing lanes is to quickly peer around the driver's headrest like a myopic owl before crossing the dotted line.

What if I told you there was a better way to avoid that heart-stopping situation where you realize you've just plotted your car on a collision course with the car in your blind spot?  One that doesn't involve buying the SkyMall "bigger is better" mirror and definitely doesn't involve risking whiplash every time you want to change lanes?

You'd probably be as skeptical as I was, the first time I heard about the alternative I'm about to share with you.  But seeing is believing (pun intended), and if you try out this hack for a little bit, I'll bet you'll be visiting your chiropractor only half as often as you do right now.

The big secret is the placement of the side-view mirrors.  Typically, we all tend to point our side-view mirrors so we can see the back corners of our car.  But if you think about it, there's actually very little point in watching the back corner of your car.  Why should you?  It's not like it ever moves!  Why not point your mirrors somewhere that actually adds some value to your field of vision?  

By moving the side mirrors farther out, you can line up all three of your mirrors so they have minimal overlap, and you can see EVERYTHING behind you AND beside you!  Here's how you do it:

  • Step 1. Set up your rear-view mirror the way you normally would.  You need to be able to see out the rear window of your car.  So take down that bobblehead doll collection if it's impeding your view.

  • Step 2.  Sitting in the driver's seat, lean your head all the way to the left so it touches the driver's window.  From THAT position, set your driver's side-view mirror so you can see the back corner of the car.  You WON'T be able to see your back corner of your car when you sit back up straight.

  • Step 3. Lean the same distance towards the passenger's window as you did in Step 2 (but the other way).  Adjust your passenger-side mirror the same way.

Now here's what you'll see now that you've broken the taboo of taking your mirrors off the rear corners of your car:

  • When a car comes up behind you, you'll see it square-on in your rear-view mirror.  But as it passes you on the left, you'll see it move to the left side of your rear-view mirror, and as its headlight disappears from the rear-view mirror, it'll simultaneously show up in your left-side mirror.

  • Similar behavior occurs when a car passes you on the right.  At every point from directly behind you to just behind your driver-/passenger-side windows, you'll be able to have the car in view in one of your mirrors.

So what's the catch, you may ask?  There are a few drawbacks, but only one lasting one.

1. Your side view mirrors are no longer showing you the rear corners of your car.  This could throw you off BIG TIME if you are in the habit of using your mirrors to help guide you in backing up.  This drawback never goes away, so if you just CAN'T figure out how to back up without using your mirrors to help you, might be out of luck.

2. You MUST use your rear-view mirror now.  You have to rely on it to see what's behind you, as your side-view mirrors now show you what's going on in the lanes next to you.  If you don't have a rear-view mirror or can't rely on it, again you might be out of luck.

3. This new approach may take some adjustment to get the right setup with your mirrors the first time you try this out.  Rather than wait until you're in rush-hour traffic to fine-tune your mirror angles, try pulling up next to a line of parked cars (preferably with nobody waiting behind you) and slowly pull forward until the car next to you should be in a position to be seen in both mirrors.  Adjust the mirrors until you've got the view right, and then go practice in light traffic until you feel comfortable with the new approach.

4. Someone using your car may be completely bewildered at first.  Technically, they're always supposed to adjust the mirrors to suit them before they get on the road, but you may want to remind them before they back your car into a telephone pole when they try to rely on your mirrors for help.

It's also important to note that this does NOT absolve you of a need to look out the driver-/passenger-side windows when you're changing lanes.  But now you need only look directly left/right from the direction you're heading, rather than craning your head to look almost-behind-you to see if there's a car in your blind spot.

Happy motoring!  Send me a note if you try this out and let me know how it works for you.  I love it and will never go back to the "tried-and-true" approach of purposefully creating blind spots in my field of vision.

Illustrations and general concept shamelessly re-purposed from the much less verbose instructions on the Car Talk website.

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5 Word Challenge: Sestina

Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions

I wanted to do something different this week, but couldn't think of what until yesterday.  I came across my first sestina in Neil Gaiman's book Smoke and Mirrors.  The sestina's form and repetition amazed me.  Although I am in no way comparing my writing to that of Mr. Gaiman, I knew that at some point in the future I'd have to try my hand at a sestina.

This sestina is dedicated to Kurt Vonnegut, and the first of his novels I ever read, way back when I was 12 years old.  If you haven't ever read Slaughterhouse-Five, this sestina may not make a lot of sense to you.  I recommend hurrying to your nearest bookstore, purchasing and reading a copy, and then come back and give this a second pass.

So It Goes

Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time.
He knows the sands of the desert and the ocean's wave.
He never knows when he will wake,
or who he will see and who he will miss.
"Poo-tee-weet" is the sound of the bird's cry
following a massacre, at the sun's next light.
Death is not heavy on the heart, instead it is light –
for everyone is alive all the time.
Do not sorrow, do not cry,
or lift your hand in a goodbye wave.
For every boy and girl, mister and miss,
exists in the ship of time's froth-filled wake.
If you must console someone's loss with a wake,
hold candles and cherish your fate with their light.
You talk of "Free Will", but you will not miss
the path you have been set upon in time.
Light exists as both a particle and a wave –
as you too exist, both before and after the trumpet's cry.
Lead us all in a cheerful cry,
and we will say 'So it goes' when next we wake.
When mustard gas and roses hit us in a wave
and the ground is lit by a single star's light,
you cannot object to the tricks of time.
The past, present and future are all something to miss.
Aim for your fate, and you cannot miss –
in everyone's life there are tears you shall cry.
But when all is done, and you look at the time,
the furor of fatalism in yourself will wake.
By seeing the light,
you can accept the Tralfamadorian's wave.
As you rise up and down on time's great wave
and think of all the things you will miss,
remember your life, the dark and the light
is always existing, behind someone's cry.
A bombing will produce ruins in its wake
'So it goes', all the time.
Billy's version of time is like a wave.
Sometimes he will wake in a zoo next to his miss.
But he does not cry, for he has seen the light.

So it goes.

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Ross Reads: Smoke and Mirrors

It's fitting that I started reading this book on the flight over to the UK, and will be finishing it here.  Or rather, it just fits.

Neil Gaiman, known best for his graphic novels (Sandman, etc) and full-length novels like American Gods and Stardust, can really tell a story.  And in this book, he tells not one, but 30 'short' tales (including one hidden in the introduction!) that range from a 100-word story about a fictional figure we all know (and most of us love) to an account of Mrs. Whitaker, who finds the Holy Grail underneath a fur coat at a secondhand-goods store.

I say that the book fits, because almost all of the settings take place in England.  The few that haven't so far have instead involved British folks visiting the US.  Either way, Neil Gaiman is able to imbue his characters with lives of their own, complete with joys, worries, trials and tribulations. 

Not all of the stories end happily; as Neil puts it, "sometimes the only way I would know that a story had finished was when there weren't any more words to be written down".  But the stories (in some cases, masquerading as poems or fictional excerpts of the work of a famous historical writer) all have the power of a great storyteller behind them.  I have yet to read one that does not invoke a strong emotion in me, be it the whimsical fancy of a man who "cures" cancer but provides some interesting side effects with his solution, or the despair and determination of the man who spends most of his life searching for a girl he once saw in a Penthouse magazine when he was nineteen.

I picked this book up from the bookstore on a whim, to round out the balance on a gift certificate.  I am a fan of short stories, but had no knowledge of Gaiman's short-fiction writing abilities prior to just digging in to the book.  I'm glad I chose it, and will gladly purchase any future compilation of short stories he chooses to publish, without question.

Just to give you a small feel for Gaiman's style in these stories, I'll point out a small excerpt from the story "Shoggoth's Old Peculiar", wherein our protagonist has his first alcoholic drink ever, and does some gazing into the depths of H.P. Lovecraft's soul:

Ben shook his head.  He seemed to be discussing literature with two strangers in an English pub while drinking beer.  He wondered for a moment if he had become someone else, while he wasn't looking.[…]

Ben was mildly surprised to find that he seemed to be drinking another full-bodied pint of Shoggoth's Old Peculiar.  Somehow the taste of rank goat was less offensive on the second pint.  He was also delighted to notice that he was no longer hungry, that his blistered feet had stopped hurting, and that his companions were charming, intelligent men whose names he was having difficulty in keeping apart.  He did not have enough experience with alcohol to know that this was one of the symptoms of being on your second pint of Shoggoth's Old Peculiar.

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