Brave New World

The other day a friend of mine pointed out that I tend to park about a foot into the sidewalk. She continued to point out that other students at my high school will kick my beautiful car as they walk past. I suppose that would explain all of the nicks in my paint, but there are no real dents. (except where I hit that pole…) So I decided to make a sensor to detect when I’ve parked close enough to the curb. It’s essentially just a metal rod that hangs down below the car: This metal rod, when it hits the curb, is pushed back against a nail:


The nail and the metal rod are both connected to wires which I ran (through the engine compartment – hope they don’t melt!) to a battery pack and light in the cabin:


Battery Pack & Light



Obviously, when the sensor is on (when the switch is flipped – I forget which way, I didn’t mark it), then the LED will light up red when the metal rod touches the nail, which is whenever I hit the curb *or* I accelerate a whole bunch, since the rod is free-hanging.

Another cool feature is that the entire assembly is spring loaded. That way, if I run over a curb, I won’t rip out the module. The block on the left is fixed to the car, and the block on the right is held in that position by a spring.

As you can see, my construction methods were crude at best. Unless you really think that using masking tape to hold together a circuit is high class.

Anyway, that’s the cool thing of today. I decided that the next story would happen in a far away land, in a foreign language.

In the suburbs of Naples lived a small middle class family in a modest one story home with their single son. Night had fallen, Dad was away on a business trip to Ireland, selling refrigerators or something. Mom was at the grocery store, presumably replacing the makeup she had put on to go to the grocery store, and 15-year-old Antonio, was left alone at home.

The boy’s room was well-kempt. There was a window facing the street, which was opposite the door facing the rest of the house. The only thing in the room, apart from the bed, was a desk holding a Dell computer. The room was small – big enough for a dresser/bed combo and a desk, but little else.

The boy was staring intently at his Dell, propped up such that it couldn’t be seen from the doorway or from the street. He was looking at a red blip that traveled down some back road in some small dictatorship that he had never heard of. He hit some keys, and was confronted with a screen that said: “Para! Autorización requerida más allá de este punto. Servizio Informazioni Difesa.” The boy didn’t flinch as he entered a twenty-digit access code to get past the screen. A live camera feed, watermarked “Top Secret”, showed a deep blue, black in the nighttime, 1990 Camaro stopped at a gas station. The camera was affixed to a car parked in the shadows behind the station some ways, behind some trees. A black Escalade pulled into the station, and three hooded men armed with sub-machine guns jumped out. The Camaro roared to life, all eight cylinders in unison, and the car sped off into the night. The men jumped back into their car and sped off after it.

A camera, bolted to another hidden car, followed the two cars on their chase. The boy followed along in cyberspace, swapping between the different cameras mounted on the different cars. After a few minutes of car chasing, the Camaro drove off a bridge, and into a lake.

“Dad?” the boy almost said aloud. That was his Dad’s car. He wasn’t supposed to know it, but his Dad was a member of SID’s Covert Operations Force – Italy’s equivalent of America’s CIA Covert Operations. It had been re-created in the wake of 9/11, to deal with foreign terrorism and so forth.

The camera went blank as it hit the water in the night, so the boy switched to the chase camera and barely managed to catch a glimpse of a black Escalade driving into a lake at full speed. Then he saw his Dad walking from behind the camera, laughing about – the boy switched to a camera with audio – how “a car doesn’t always have a driver. Let’s fish out my car.”

Then the boy heard his Mom walk in the front door. He pulled the computer cord, dove into his bed, and pretended to be asleep. His Mom whispered “Good night, honey.” and closed the door.

The boy thought, That’s one heck of a refrigerator sale.


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