Saturday, October 31, 2015

Got doored today

door (v): to open your car door and hit a biker who is riding by

Luckily it wasn't bad, just some cuts and scrapes. I was riding between the parked cars and the driving cars, and some kids opened the doors of a driving car.

Some things that I want to say about this:

This does not mean biking is dangerous. I was lane splitting. This is where you ride between lanes of (usually stopped) cars. I don't recommend it for a beginner. You can just as easily bike without lane splitting.

However, biking should be safer. As usual. In particular, we should teach drivers about bikers and "dooring", and teach the Dutch door-opening thing where you open the door with hand that's farther from the door so it makes you turn around and look out the window by default.

Lane splitting (for bicycles, in stopped traffic, at least) is legal. At least, I'm pretty sure. I'm more sure in California than in Pennsylvania, but either way, I'd like to know some info if you've got it. It should be, anyway. Decongests the road and is normally reasonably safe. Besides, if you argue against lane splitting, you better not argue that bikers should get off the road and stop blocking traffic. We're all trying to reduce congestion.

The driver was nice. You hear a lot of horror stories about bikers getting hit by jerks or people who vanish. I've been hit twice in Pittsburgh now, both minor, and the drivers were both really nice and communicative by texts later. I think this is the norm.

If you hit a person, give them a minute. Saying "are you okay?" a lot is kinda counterproductive. I don't want to say "yes" because of insurance/legal reasons ("sorry, insurance won't pay your medical bills, you said you were okay.") but  you're basically asking me to make you feel better. There's nothing you can really do (unless you have first aid supplies), so just chill out for a second and let me collect my thoughts and survey my body and bike parts. Even then, I probably won't tell you "I'm okay" (even if I probably am). But I appreciate you stopping and hanging out for a minute. My adrenaline's going nuts here.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Foes Without Faces

Read this great post. I agree with it so much, and also with the blog's title. ("almost no one is evil. almost everything is broken.")

Man, you put a face on something, and it's so easy for us to pulverize it into the ground. Osama Bin Laden is a great example; I mean, he was like The Hardest to find, and it still took us, what, 10 years? That's nothing.

OTOH, global warming is going to totally F up the world and kill wayyyy more people than islamic extremists. But it doesn't have a face, so we can't kill it.

Maybe we need some Dr. Badguy, some Osama Hitler Jr., to come out of hiding like a comic book mastermind, unveil how global warming was his grand plan all along, and reveal that he feeds on atmospheric carbon and the only way we can kill him is to cut emissions 75%. You better believe we would get on that, right quick.

Bhimdatta (Formerly Mahendranagar)

One of the shadiest stops on my India-Nepal-Bhutan part of the trip was in the town of Mahendranagar. Nepal border town on the far west side of the country. After a long bus ride and a pretty decently long border crossing (not because of lines, but because you had to walk about a mile between where India ends and Nepal begins), I got in as the sun was going down, and after dark there were not a lot of lights. Asking around a bit, I got taken to the first "hotel" - a dark house with a dank room, with who knows what lurking in its shadows. My second attempt was a little better - ugly and fluorescent, but the bathroom that I expected to fail miserably actually worked, and the bugs that I expected to see were nowhere to be found. So, ok. The next morning I woke up at 4am, had the weirdest bitter-lime-sugar tea, and hopped on a bus for about a million hours.

I just learned that Mahendranagar has been renamed Bhimdatta. This is a little weird. I don't know why I feel any kinship with the place at all - I guess my TF-IDF for it is just higher than most places. Like, I spent a day in Agra, but anyone who's gone to India has spent a day in Agra... but I spent 12 hours in Mahendranagar, and nobody's been to Mahendranagar.

And then the more I talk about it, the more I feel like y'all might accuse me of trying to grab traveler cred. And you might be right. That's why I'm blogging it to this limited audience instead of Facebooking it. But much like I like to talk about a particularly good batch of coffee beans, I find it hard to disentangle cred-seeking from honest fascination sometimes. Like, in the age of the internet, we can get anything instantly. But we probably won't get a slice of Mahendranagar.

And so I care about Mahendranagar, and I feel like I'm losing a little tiny thing of memory now that it's renamed Bhimdatta. And I don't mind, I'm not saying something is right or wrong (in contrast to 98% of the internet, including my posts), just kind of... poignantly watching things change, I guess.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Art is a dialogue with the artist(s)

... is a pretentious-sounding thing I've kept hearing myself thinking recently.

When you're watching a movie, reading a book, playing a game, you know there are certain rules. Like, if the main character is in a dangerous situation 15 minutes into the movie, you know they're not going to die, because you know the movie is 2 hours long. Or if the story's pretty coherent and then there's a super-trippy unbelievable situation, you can imagine that it'll turn out to be a dream. If you're playing Final Fantasy XXVIII, and you see a treasure chest, I mean, open it. Take everything that's not nailed down. If you're Link, break all the pots; some will have a rupee inside.

If it's a big-budget Hollywood movie, you can expect a happy ending. If it's a Bollywood movie, it goes even farther: you know the star-crossed lovers are going to get together. Shakespearean tragedy? Not gonna be so happy. Game of Thrones episode: someone you love is going to die.

Which is why I've been loving it more when artists break these rules, or at least threaten to. Like in Psycho, when they (spoilers but not really b/c you know the shower scene) kill off the "main character" half an hour in.

A recent favorite has been the game Undertale, which looks like a Final Fantasy-ish game circa 1997, but keeps screwing with you. You meet a monster you can fight, or befriend! But then you get to a boss battle, and surely I've got to kill them, right? Nah, turns out you can befriend them too. Here's a minigame in which a robot jokes with you. Then threatens to kill you! But doesn't actually kill you. You've got to kill King Asgore and escape from Monster World before he steals your soul! Don't you?

And even deeper, the game's creator(s), mostly Toby Fox, keep this dialogue going on many levels. I know that I don't have to keep re-re-re-saving, because few things are impossible to recover from. I sure am spending a lot of time walking backwards, aren't I? Nope, there's a boatman willing to help me shortcut some of this, cool. Spend 1000 gold to send a minor character to college? They'll just laugh at me, right? Nah, you get something out of it. But it won't really change anything if I befriend or kill these bosses, right? ... there's not like whole other levels, right? It's a comedy game, not a tragedy or horror game, right?

Anyway, back to work, but check it out. It's like 5 hrs for a playthrough, worth playing through at least twice.

Things we Snake People have learned wrong

by "snake people" I mean "millennials"

This is not an exhaustive list.

1. "Finding a good relationship is a search problem."
It's not. I was reading this article, and while there are some good points in there, it's based on at least a partial misunderstanding of relationships. Finding a life partner is maybe like half a search problem. And then half a building problem: you found someone in the top N percent, who's good enough, and open to growth, and you together build a great relationship from there.

2. "Finding your career is a search problem."
Again, maybe like half a search problem. I might not ever be happy in a bunch of jobs. But there are a ton of jobs that I'd be at least good enough in, and the thing to do is just start building. Starting a new job usually sucks for a few months, and starting a new career sucks for a few years. You're at the bottom of the totem pole, you can't make any decisions that matter, and that's fine because you don't know how to make good decisions!

3. "You can do anything."
I feel like, if you tell 100 babies this, you'll get 1 superstar something, and 99 people who are average but feel like failures. If you tell 100 babies "you'll probably drive a truck or something", then you'll get 100 average babies who feel like successes. And maybe a superstar baby anyway! I don't know.

4. Oh yeah the whole "follow your dreams don't worry about the money" shtick, right, there's that.

Monday, October 12, 2015

More better cities?

As Detroit goes, so goes the nation

Rich young people are getting it; they're moving to San Francisco and New York and Boston and Seattle and DC and Portland and like four other cities. Ok, cool. Thanks, other rich young people; we all understand that driving everywhere is crummy, and we like to be close to "things that are happening." Now what?

If prices in cities just get really high, and poor people (and disproportionately minorities) get forced out to the suburbs, we have an even worse problem than the old days of White Flight: all the rich white people are here, and all the poor nonwhite people are there, but now the poor nonwhite people are not even close to public transit or services or anything else; they're dependent on the car now too, but all the rich young people have left cars behind. I mean, we should continue to improve suburbs; make them walkable livable places. But just due to geography, we may not be able to.

Maybe the solution is for people to move back to some less-marquee cities. Move back to central Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Detroit, I dunno, Nashville, Topeka, whatever's nearby. Do we lose them in all the fuss about these beautiful San Franciscos? I mean, maybe there's not enough space in SF for everyone who wants to move to SF. (SF's dumb zoning and height issues aside.) But if Boise or Cincinnati or Tallahassee were more appealing to live in, maybe they wouldn't have to?

It's a question I'm kind of interested in; we don't need more guides for "what's good in SF" or sweet apps for SF dwellers. But maybe we do for Clevelanders.