Tips on driving a Honda Accord in snow

Yesterday cars started filling the roads outside my window around noon. As the hours passed it got worse. Initially concerned that Michelle couldn't leave her ER shift until 5pm, I started to think that might be a good thing.

The last major snow storm in Atlanta was in 2011. We were living in Augusta at the time and didn't have to worry about it. After witnessing the second fender bender in a couple hours on the street below, I decided I needed to review some safe snow-driving literature.

Our 2003 Accord has an automatic transmission. There are a handful of shift lever positions, but we've never needed anything but (D), Drive.

I tried to figure out whether I should tell her to use 2 or D3 on the way home. I came across dozens of forum posts with conflicting information. Everybody knows something on forums. I wanted something definitive.

Eventually I found the owner's manual, so here's a summary. This is applicable to 2003-2007 models, maybe some others (the new 2014 Accords have different shift positions).

Drive (D)

Normal driving. The transmission automatically selects a suitable gear for the vehicle speed and acceleration.

Drive (D3)

Similar to D, limited to first 3 gears. Use when towing a trailer in hilly terrain or to provide engine braking when going down a steep hill. D3 can also keep the transmission from cycling between third and fourth gears in stop-and-go driving.

Second (2)

This position locks the transmission in second gear. It does not downshift to first gear when you come to a stop. Use second gear for more power when climbing, to increase engine braking when doing down steep hills, for starting out on a slippery surface or in deep snow, to help reduce wheel spin, and when driving downhill with a trailer.

First (1)

To shift from Second to First, press the release button on the bottom of the shift lever. This position locks the transmission in first gear. By upshifting and downshifting through 1, 2, D3, and D, you can operate this transmission much like a manual transmission without a clutch pedal.

Quite a few forum posts claimed Second (2) restricted the transmission to gears 1 and 2, which is clearly incorrect (as it turns out, the meaning of the positions vary by manufacturer). Another person claimed you get more torque at higher gears. That's one of the reasons I decided to write this.

The reason Second (2) helps with slipping in snow is that it produces less torque (force) at the wheels than first. The snow and ice reduce traction (the maximum force from the adhesive capability between tire and ground), and the hope is that Second will keep you from exceeding the traction the icy road can provide. If you do exceed it, the wheels slip.

Yesterday, in Atlanta, it took Michelle almost 2 hours to make the 4 mile drive home from the hospital. A good 50 minutes of that was spent traveling a single block by West Peachtree and 10th St due to a broken down bus and people blocking the intersection trying to get to the highway. She drove in second gear the whole time.

Saving a bird after it hit a window

Michelle's working the wards this month, so we're often up before the sun. I walk the dogs while she drives to work. This morning I spent a little more time than usual strolling and letting the dogs sniff all the things club-goers dropped on the ground last night, enjoying the suddenly cool temperature and low humidity.

As I was approaching the entrance to our building I heard a noise above and then saw a bird fall on the sidewalk twenty feet away. The dogs were naturally excited. Fitz sat down; he knows I give him things when he sits patiently.

I assumed the bird died but noticed its feet, pointed toward the sky, twitching slowly as we passed.

I fed the dogs and put them in our bedroom so they wouldn't freak out about me leaving and went back downstairs to try and move the bird. I couldn't find a shoebox but I had a Godiva bag with some tissue paper in it.

Luckily no dogs had been out since we had come up; the bird was just a few feet from the door and would be the first thing any dog saw on its walk. Good morning!

The bird was back on its feet but seemed stunned and wouldn't fly. I moved the bag towards its body and managed to get it inside.

I brought the bag upstairs and set it on the balcony. I didn't touch the bird but sanitized enthusiastically after this, just to be safe.

A couple hours later, it flew away into the tree next door. Happy ending.

Places of Doom - Where id Software built games

I read David Kushner's Masters of Doom a few years ago and just finished re-reading it again last night, inspired by Fabien Sanglard's awesome Doom 3 code review. It's a fun read that chronicles the rise of id Software and will leave you wanting to code, eat pizza, and slam Diet Cokes.

The book is interesting to me in the same way books like Founders at Work and Coders at Work are. While I hope to glean insights and learn from great programmers, they're entertaining as a kind of People magazine for entrepreneurs/programmers.

I got my first computer in high school, after Keen, Wolfenstein, Doom, and Doom II, so I never really played them, though I had friends that did. Thanks to my roommate at Georgia Tech, I did get a copy of Quake II. I didn't spend much time deathmatching but I liked firing rockets down dark corridors to light them up while exploring.

At my first co-op job at Tech, I downloaded the Quake source code and got it running with Visual Studio. I made my rockets fly faster. It was amazing to have the source, though I didn't do much with it.

Later, Michelle and I played a lot of Quake III Arena on Dreamcast. Her favorite character was the eyeball. She was ruthless, but prone to falling accidents despite being all eye.

As I read the book I found myself cross-referencing things I encountered: names, games, other companies, and locations. The locations are uninspiring (especially if you read TechCrunch), beginning in hot, humid, economically depressed Shreveport in 1989.

Softdisk offices, 606 Common St.. This is where they all met and worked. Carmack developed smooth 2D side-scrolling. They hauled Softdisk 386 PC's off in the night to work from their lake house on their own projects.

Bridge over Cross Lake to Lakeshore Drive in Shreveport, LA. One night, this bridge (or one around here), washed out during a storm. Romero waded through water to get to the house, where he and Carmack worked through the night.

A view from South Lakeshore Drive. The lake house they lived and worked in was somewhere around here. They cloned Super Mario Bros. 3 here and wrote Commander Keen.

La Prada apartments, Mesquite, TX, where they moved after a short, cold stint in Madison, WI. Wolfenstein development was completed here. Romero worked in an upstairs loft, Carmack sat at his NeXT workstation downstairs by the kitchen. Carmack, fed up with noise, eventually hauled his computer off to his own apartment to work alone.

Town East Tower in Mesquite, near Big Billy Barren's Used Cars and Sheplers Western Store. The black cube. One of the few offices in the area. Doom development.

id offices in Mesquite, across from Hooters and Olive Garden. Quake II, and probably most of the others.

"In the information age, the barriers just aren't there. The barriers are self-imposed. If you want to set off and go develop some grand new thing, you don't need millions of dollars and capitalization. You need enough pizza and Diet Coke to stick in your refrigerator, a cheap PC to work on, and the dedication to go through with it. We slept on floors. We waded across rivers." - John Carmack

I'm fighting, unsuccessfully, the urge to end this with big things have small beginnings.

One more year

Yesterday Michelle took the last shelf exam of her M3 year. This summer and fall will be, once again, very busy, but it's yet another big milestone. We saw a movie, ate popcorn, walked around the mall, flipped through books at Barnes and Noble, and had tacos with margarita-flavored slushies. The dogs continued the festivities today: Fitz caught his first squirrel (so many previous attempts) and I had to chase after him (he truly believes I want it for myself) and pry it out of his mouth with a rake handle. We've seen him bite calculatingly at his stuffed toys, severing limbs. The real-life version wasn't pretty. Poor squirrel.

Welcome Ava

My brother and Megan welcomed Ava Eileen into the world last night. Now we have a niece! It was a little surreal looking at her first picture this morning, despite being past the age where the majority of my Facebook feed pertains to photos of children.

Looking forward to meeting her.

Morning ride

Sometimes the dogs slip past our feet when we're leaving. At that point it's just easier to take them along for the ride. Bingley hops around the truck like that Corgi that loves to eat.

After Michelle gets out she rolls the window down so they can enjoy the ride home.

© Steven Romej 2002-2013