Here in 2020, I share an office with my second-grade son. This morning they were talking about Hannukah and making paper dreidels. He got frustrated making his paper dreidel. After lunch, I tried my hand at making a scrap wood dreidel. I used the miter saw to cut a 1×1 stick of wood, then mitered one end into a top. A 1×1 is too small to clamp in a miter saw, and I wasn’t going to stick my hand that close, so I used a “push stick” to hold the piece in place as I mitered it out.
“Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I miter sawed you out today!”
Of course, imperfections can be fixed with the miracle of sanding. “I made it out of clay,” I kept thinking as I sanded it down.
“Oh dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I sanded you this way!”
I popped the top into a bench vise and carefully drilled out a hole. A drop of glue and a dowel rod and the boy had a dreidel. I set him up to paint the letters on. He was a little underwhelmed with the quality of his first time painting Hebrew letters on a small wooden object, but I assured him the point of making a dreidel wasn’t to be perfect but to have a simple toy with which to play.
“When it was dry and ready, with the dreidel he did play!”
Through the afternoon, he practiced his top spinning technique.
I enjoy building things. I learned a few things in my uncle’s basement and Boy Scout activities, but my high school didn’t offer shop class. In college, I discovered computer programming, which allowed me to build computer programs quickly, with a fairly low cost-of-entry. Information Technology is also a lucrative career choice.
A few years back, my IT career, aided by the mortgage crisis, helped me achieve the impossible: we bought a house in Silicon Valley! Our one-car garage is just about perfect for anything but parking. I enjoyed puttering on small weekend projects, but soon we had first one kid and then two, and with that, no more free time for extended puttering.
My ambition has still been to have a little workshop where I could build some things. I found a local woodshop that offered classes. I got to build a spice rack. Then their rent went up, and the workshop closed. The classes moved to a local community college, whose administrative procedures leave much to be desired.
Besides, what I really wanted was to get set up at home. For the years of early parenthood, I lacked the time and energy, and often, the budget. The bootstrap from a messy garage to a functional workshop is daunting. After the kids are in bed, sit back in the rocking chair, and flip around YouTube videos.
YouTube served me up some woodworking videos. There’s a lot of dudes out there making things with resin. Whatever. Then Steve Ramsey came along, explaining all the bits and pieces of basic woodworking. Along the way, he gently hawks his online courses. You know, if his regular YouTube videos are so informative and engaging, maybe the $150, what you might expect to pay for a weekend workshop or two at the local shop, might be worth a shot.
With my COVID haircut, flannel shirt, and eyeglasses fit over safety glasses, I am ready to rock the shop!
I am now about 2/3 of the way through the first day of building what Ramsey calls the BMW: Basic Mobile Workbench. The online course is nicely laid out, including diagrams, materials, how-to videos, and cross-references to skills. On my first day, I made a trip to Home Depot for supplies, but the actual work got hijacked by a busted kitchen faucet. Priorities! I spent time poring through the miter saw manual. Anything that can chop fingers off is worthy of a solid understanding.
A week later, today, I made another trip to Home Depot. Having reviewed the materials again during the week, I figured I could use clamps, squares, and, most critically, an extension cord. I carefully unpacked and assembled the miter saw, made myself comfortable with its operation, and got to work trimming 2x4s.
Bootstrapping a workbench: miter saw on a folding table in the driveway.
To build the legs, Steve glues two 2x4s together, then clamps them steady and secures them with screws. Things got frustrating when I tried to screw the 2x4s together. The screw wouldn’t go all the way in. Okay, I can drill a pilot hole. The drill bit got wedged in the wood. I worked it out with my vise grips.
The humble vise grip is an indispensable tool!
Google led me to a link that explained that one needs to tighten all the holes with the chuck to really secure the bit. That helped. Another video had a guy explain that in addition to a pilot hole, you want to drill a slightly larger hole through the top piece of wood. Experience proved this out. So, to drill a leg would require multiple bit changes. I was tempted to run to Home Depot for nicer tools, but it was getting dark. Fortunately, I had enough clamps that, after I struggled through the first leg, I could do the next three legs in a batch. I only had to swap bits three times for the batch instead of for each leg.
Ramsey touches on most of this information in his course material. He shows how he uses some fancy star-bit screws and links to a video that explains how to screw things and what a wonderful thing an impact driver is. I thought maybe his materials could be more explicit: “you should really consider an impact driver, and these cool star bit screws.” However, I appreciate that all the information isn’t served to me on a silver platter. An important part of building things is overcoming challenges along the way. And in an age where many basic problems are quickly solved by asking a smartphone, working through an efficient process to get the legs drilled “the hard way” was very rewarding.
What one lacks in fancy tools, one can make up for with a degree of cleverness.
The Silver Platter was a concern I had with learning basics at a professional woodshop. “Here kid, take this fancy wood we got you and run it through the planar like so before we get to the nice Saw Stop table saw. We’ll make sure you folks get to use the drill press, too!” That is a nice way to put your toe in the water and taste the possibilities, but I am not going to have all of these things in my little garage, so … Steve’s course has the first few projects relying on the miter saw. At the end of the day, the online course puts more responsibility on me as a student. It is more daunting than an off-site shop class, but it teaches me more of what I really need and want to know.
Since I am a Tall Dude, I made my legs longer than in Steve’s plans. I started with 44″, but after squaring off the leg ends, I had to settle for 43 1/2″. This means I need to pick up one more 2×4 to finish off the frame. While I am at the store, that might be a good time to pick up an impact driver, possibly even some fancy star screws.
The garage is a mess, but the BMW project is stacked nicely for the next work session.
As I said, it was getting dark, and my better half had dinner cooking. I couldn’t finish the “Day One” process of screwing the frame of the workbench together, and it will probably be another week before I can pick this up again. I stashed everything neatly away, and I am looking forward to finishing off my first project … before the year is done, for sure!
In my career as a Boy Scout, I could have died at least twice, that I know of.
One time in the Boundary Waters, I got a tent that required stakes and guys, but we were effectively camping on ROCKS with a little bit of moss. So, I rolled a few boulders into the right spot to anchor the lines.
This was during the summer AFTER the worst of mosquito season.
I took a canoe out to paddle for fun one afternoon in this little lake but started to get sucked toward a waterfall. Luckily, there was someone nearby to toss a rope and haul me to shore.
Another time in Michigan, I stepped out of a canoe near a landing, and turned out it was deep water that was sucking me DOWN except for my life vest was secure and buoyant. Scoutmaster was near to haul me out of the water.
Honeymooning in Hawaii, I waded out on a beach to ride the waves to shore in shallow water, as I had often enjoyed in Lake Michigan. The surf picked me up, rolled me, and slammed me hard, skull into the sand. Coulda cracked my neck. I took it as a hint from the local deities that this continental tourist should stay onshore, as is my place in the world.
My mom fainted the first time she set foot in an American supermarket. I stood transfixed in the cereal aisle. After six long years on Earth, here was a place that understood me. These were cartoon characters, made of pure sugar, that you could eat as a meal. Every box had a toy inside. How could I possibly choose just one?
I ask forgiveness of Hong Kongers if at times I am still that six year old kid, dazzled by what to you is ordinary. You live in a kind of city we Americans can only aspire to, and itâ€™s no wonder you love your home so much you will take any risk to save it.
A man driving a dump truck the size of a house put my sonâ€™s life in danger.
The details of what happened unfortunately arenâ€™t that remarkable. It was a perfect storm of road rage, reckless driving, terrible street design, and total lack of any kind of recourse, so basically a normal Tuesday on a bicycle in DC.
The dump truck driver drove aggressively and blasted his airhorn over many blocks on R Street NW. He was just feet from a half dozen other people on bikes who could do nothing but cringe and hope he didnâ€™t mash us into pulp.
Oliver was terrified, asking me if we can ride on the sidewalk, asking me if we can stop, almost in tears.
After we turned up 18th Street and jumped the light at S Street to get away from this reckless man, Oliver turned and asked, â€œCan we take the Metro instead?â€ And that was it. I decided I canâ€™t subject my son to this traffic violence anymore.
The most infuriating thing about this particular incident and many others is that this is how itâ€™s supposed to work. R Street is supposed to be shared by cement trucks, tractor trailers, monster SUVs, dump trucks, and squishy fleshbags on two wheels.
They call it an unprotected bike lane, but in practice, itâ€™s a little bit of extra space that people on bicycles can use as long as no motor vehicles are using it. Itâ€™s a design that squeezes us into sharing a narrow road with literal dump trucks.
No protests were authorised in China, the world’s biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions, but Zheng Xiaowen of the China Youth Climate Action Network said Chinese youth would take action one way or another.
“Chinese youth have their own methods,” she said.
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
Which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children are living arrows sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.
Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’
I took Tommy down to the San Jose Climate Strike on Friday. He enjoyed reading the various signs and trying to make sense of everything. When we got to City Hall, he quickly lost interest, and after a pee break and some ice cream, we headed home.
I’ve been to a lot of protests that blocked a lot of street traffic. The Climate Strike is the first time I recall any motorists Freaking The Hell Out. We were near the head of the march and cars had to sit through a light at a four-lane off-ramp. (Because the South Bay is the kind of place with four-lane off-ramps…) A dude slammed on his horn, we all raised our fists in solidarity, then he jumped out of his car and came running, maybe four car lengths down to the crosswalk, and started arguing with people.
I didn’t stick around for details, as I was with a six-year-old who wanted to read signs further up.
I was thinking. Don’t Go to War? Don’t Hate Gays? Most protests I have been to haven’t asked much of the public. Climate Change is a different beast: if we’re going to make it work, we’re all going to have to make adjustments to bring our energy use into a sustainable place. Some folks find this threatening. But does it have to be threatening?
It does have to feel threatening, not out of necessity for stopping climate change but in order to avoid making systemic changes. We need to make big changes at the level of national policy and international treaty. If you find that threatening, then you need to shift the discussion to the tragic impractical sacrifices the climate extremists are asking of you. Greta Thunberg is looking down on you sternly, in your internal combustion car, getting off the freeway. These youngsters waving signs about saving the Earth are Your Enemy.
The way I describe it: we need to change our policies so that people can live closer to work, and to give them the option to walk or bike or take transit. Sure, we need to electrify our buildings and raise energy prices to discourage careless consumption. When Greta gives us a stern disapproving look she isn’t getting on Your case about Your sloppy recycling habits, her stare is fixed at Donald Trump, and the myriad other world leaders who want to keep strip-mining the planet to burn the carbon out of the ground and into the atmosphere, who want to keep you buying cars and driving on wider and wider roads and highways to get anywhere because that is where the money is at. She’s looking down on shitty land-use policies that perpetuate wealth inequality.
We have to do our parts. For regular folks, it is merely a question of trying to live better. The heated rhetoric is for the Powers That Be that Profit from The Status Quo who are willing to fight stern-faced teenage girls in the name of the Almighty American Dollar.
Save your ire for the protestors, Off-ramp Dude. It ain’t about You. It is about all of Us, and especially the High and Mighty, who will need to surrender some Power and Convenience for the sake of our Children.
For what it is worth, as a bicycle commuter, RVs are not a problem, as long as they aren’t obstructing the bike lane or sight lines, which they rarely are.
â€œItâ€™s like finding the Holy Grail clutched in the bony fingers of Jimmy Hoffa, sitting on top of the Lost Ark.â€The Day the Dinosaurs Died
The ambulance arrived, and the paramedics started treating the bleeding man for shock. A police officer took my statement, and the knife. I washed my hands at some point. Then my date and I got in a Lyft to the Palace Hotel.
We walked into a scene reminiscent of Versailles. A pair of models in red gowns stood in banded hoops from which one could pluck a champagne flute. There was food, dessert, wine, music. Dancing pandas. Live bands. A silent disco. Women in gowns, men in suits and tuxedos. A casino, with the buy-in going to a local charity. The night glittered. This time next year, I whispered, our heads will all be in baskets.Richard Mehlinger
In many ways, the train crews practice railroading as it was done a century ago, from assembling the train in the yard and coupling one car to another, to climbing down to the tracks to maneuver heavy hand switches. As they lumber along through the dense urban landscape, passing highways, parks, cemeteries and shopping centers, the freight trains draw curious stares.
â€œThe surprise on peopleâ€™s faces when we go through their L.I.R.R. station â€” theyâ€™ve never seen anything like it,â€ said Alex Raia, a 50-year-old engineer, as he worked the throttle and brake on a 2,000-horsepower diesel locomotive to thread it between tight rows of sooty freight cars in the Glendale yard. He likened the task to â€œplaying a game of chess every day.â€
The railway also handles so many cars of flour and beer that Mr. Bonner has nicknamed it â€œthe pizza-and-beer railroad.â€
During peak beer drinking times â€” think St. Patrickâ€™s Day and the Super Bowl â€” that can mean 30 rail cars of beer a week â€” each car can hold 3,500 cases â€” including Modelo Especial and Corona that has rumbled by train all the way from Mexico.New York City’s Hidden Railroad
I would prefer if I could take a bus to work, because then I would have a great swatch of time for reading. I have instead, on the bicycle, been listening to podcasts, which is sometimes difficult amid heavy traffic, but whatever.
On 99% Invisible, I was digging on the story of Froebel’s Gifts. Froebel pioneered the idea of kindergarten in the 19th century. Along the way, he developed the first educational toys. Starting with a soft ball of yarn at 6 weeks old, and progressing to more and more interesting objects, along with an educational curriculum where the objects could help teach a kid important concepts of how the world works. Before Froebel’s gift, kids basically played with whatever leftovers the adults had: the carpenter’s kid played with scrap wood, for example. When the idea was brought to America, our Capitalists seized upon this idea that parents and schools might be willing to pay money for objects that children would play with. Froebel gifts are cool and all, but how about an endless buffet of TOYS!?
Anyway, they claimed that early 20th-century design was influenced by Froebel, as Frank Lloyd Wright, Buckminster Fuller, and Le Corbusier each learned important geometric concepts in Kindergarten. Fuller conceived of the buckyball in kindergarten and Wright kept a set of blocks on his desk to inform his creativity.
The fact that I most dug is that around the time kindergartens were taking off, the very first playgrounds were created. And the very first playground was a “sand garden” where they got a huge pile of sand and dumped it in a vacant lot for the kids to play with over the summer. Over time, the “sand garden” became a smaller component in playgrounds which featured other things like swings and slides. Today the giant pile of sand is maybe a sandbox. When Tommy was a baby, there was a sandbox down at Murphy Park. I found it a nice place to lie down as I was often sleepy back then. They took the sandbox out when they fixed up the park. We have come so far … but, I feel that in one respect, Max has been cheated.
With Regard to Uncle Joe . . .
The last election seemed to go “choose between the politics of the late 90s, where we are super careful not to take any positions based on strong principles, just middle of the road stuff that doesn’t offend or inspire anyone, or vote for the guy who will tell you whatever you want to hear, lie to you with a straight face, while he grabs your pussy.”
Why did that second guy do far better than anyone believes he deserved? Because he speaks “straight” to the concerns of a lot of Americans and he doesn’t give a fudge whether his solutions offend your delicate moderate middle of the road do nothing sensibilities.
Now we have Warren and Bernie and AOC and dozens upon dozens of other Democrats who have taken the clue that the electorate is hungry, not for some kindly sooth-saying grandparent, but for someone who is willing to speak up for their beliefs, even if they make some folks feel uncomfortable.
I voted for Clinton. Both of them. But even in the 90s, I yearned to vote not for some warmed-over middle-of-the-road do-nothing compromise, but for leadership that spoke to and acted from convictions. Uncle Joe used to appeal in those days, but now he’s the warmed-over establishment.
I’ll vote for him in the general, if that is what we got, but Trump is good at beating up on the establishment, and I think we’d do better to ride with someone who isn’t afraid to speak truth to power, to have a point of view that doesn’t focus test well with every last median-income household in Nebraska, someone who has plans to make up for all the time America has lost bending over backward to accommodate the right wing.
Remember Obamacare? That’s Romneycare. The uninspiring mush of consensus. It is adequate for liberals and hated by conservatives. Well, you know what? Screw those ungrateful jerks. If we’re going to have a system of universal healthcare that offends them, we might as well have at the very least a Public Option. (For example.)
I’m tired of compromise. Tired or compromise with right-wing extremists. And when it comes to the collapse of our planet’s climate stability, there’s no room for compromise and consensus anyway. We are decades behind on preventing a disaster that is beginning to truly unfold upon every last man, woman, and child on the planet and we have to stop Appealing to the Middle for the Politics of the Possible and engage instead in Policies of Necessity to make our planet and our country better for everyone.
The thalidomide tragedy was averted in the United States because Dr. Kelsey, alone and in the face of fierce opposition, did her job. Her perspective was educated, fresh and unique. If there had been no thalidomide crisis, the United States, with the rest of the world following, would still at some time have brought pharmaceutical regulation into the 20th century. But thalidomide created one of those moments when something had to be done. It could not be ignored in 1961-62, and it led immediately to a better and stronger regulatory system. Maybe someone else would have stopped thalidomide in the United States had Dr. Kelsey not been assigned the NDA, but, interestingly, no one else stopped it anywhere else until it was too late. Dr. Kelsey was the only person in the entire world who said no. She said no to a bad drug application, she said no to an overbearing pharmaceutical company and she said no to vested interests who put profits first. She was one brave dissenter. In the end, the question is not what made Frances Kelsey, but why aren’t there more like her?William Kaplan, Why Dissent Matters
I don’t know what to do to help. There’s an informal memorial at the corner. You could leave some flowers there. A family member passing by will have another sign of love.
I think that driving with a bit of love, as posted above, is good advice. As a bicycle commuter who carries kids on a bike in mixed traffic, seeing the pictures of twisted bicycles and backpacks in an intersection I travel often was really disturbing. We need better bicycle infrastructure in Sunnyvale so that people can get around safely. Until then, when you’re behind the wheel of a car please do take a moment to appreciate the folks around you. Slow down and in a moment of frustration try to take a deep breath and count your blessings.
The girl in the coma, and all the victims, and I think even the perpetrator are all carrying different kinds of wounds. Please share your prayers and compassion with them and also for everyone on the road.
-DannyA note I posted on NextDoor
The Earth’s climate is usually very erratic. Decades of drought, then decades of flood, for example. Humans have existed for a few hundred thousand years but only after the last Ice Age, when the planet hit an unusual period of climate stability, did humans manage to achieve agriculture and civilization.
I keep trying to rationalize an optimistic outcome, but as best I can read the situation, we are at a crucial point in history where humanity understands that we have an existential challenge that can be solved only through a spirit of shared sacrifice and cooperation. We know what adaptations we need to make to maintain these stable climate patterns, but so far we have not demonstrated a collective will to make these adaptations. The window of opportunity is shutting more and more rapidly. Mainly due to complacency, we’ll miss the opportunity, the climate will continue to deteriorate, agriculture will fail, and the long and delicate supply chains required to sustain technological civilization will fail. All in the next few decades.
Maybe I am wrong. Maybe civilization will make it through the century. The last century was pretty dire, too, but we managed to avoid the worst outcomes. But my feeling is that civilization will collapse, in my lifetime, and that most of humanity will die, at first through war and tyrannical government but mostly of starvation. Humans, as a species, will survive. A few of the remaining hunter-gatherer tribes will adapt to the crisis. They will be joined by several new tribes peopled from refugees of our failing civilization.
Humanity will muddle through on a hostile planet amidst a mass extinction. Tens or hundreds of thousands of years will pass before the Earth enters a new stable phase. Agriculture and civilization will re-emerge, perhaps a bit faster due to whatever technological clues we leave behind, perhaps a bit slower and more sustainably, due to our having robbed them of the easiest fossil fuels. Perhaps there will even be a memory, perhaps uncovered through archaeology, and an understanding of The Fall of our First World Civilization. If we fail to survive this century, it is my hope that our distant descendants will avoid repeating our mistakes.
From 10 Lessons From Uber’s Fatal Self-Driving Car Crash, starting with “Humans Are Bad At Overseeing Imperfect Automation:”
The video of Vasquez looking up from her phone in horror, realizing that Herzberg had just been hit while she looked away from the road, is a glimpse at the terrors that the future may hold. Until full autonomy is completely validated, human-in-the-loop automated driving will encourage us to take ever more liberties with our attention while failing to protect the next Elaine Herzbergs. This is a limited problem in the context of autonomous vehicle “safety drivers,” who are now increasingly well-trained and partnered up while testing, but it shows the problem that seems to be underlying the deaths of drivers using Tesla’s Autopilot. Now that Tesla’s “Full Self-Driving” system appears likely to be released to some customers before it’s even validated, another company seems ready to put its own customers in the position of being untrained and unsupervised safety drivers.
Yes, Vasquez had a level of responsibility behind the wheel, but Uber also had a responsibility not to put a single individual in a highly automated car for 10 hours at a time with no supervision. Because full autonomy is taking longer to deliver than promised, the temptation to deliver nearly-full autonomy while telling drivers to maintain awareness will be hard to resist but Vazquez’s look of horror should be a reminder to everyone of the risks of such systems. It certainly makes the prospect of Tesla’s customer testing downright terrifying.
Why do AV testing in Phoenix? Because identifying pedestrians and cyclists, especially at night, is difficult for self-driving vehicles. In Phoenix, “not only is the weather consistently good, but there aren’t many pedestrians or cyclists on the road as there are in other cities.” The article then goes on to endorse the adoption of thermal image sensors.
Of course I enjoyed “The joy of riding an e-bike is contagious!”
A clever but damning innovation in bicycle shipping:
By masking its bikes as TVs, VanMoof, a Dutch manufacturer that exports bikes to customers overseas, has seen the damages reduced by 70-80 per cent. Taco Carlier, the co-founder of VanMoof, told The Independent: “We came up by the idea because we had lots of damage, especially with shipments in the USA.”
Meanwhile, at Boeing:
For Boeing and other aircraft manufacturers, the practice of charging to upgrade a standard plane can be lucrative. Top airlines around the world must pay handsomely to have the jets they order fitted with customized add-ons. Sometimes these optional features involve aesthetics or comfort, like premium seating, fancy lighting or extra bathrooms. But other features involve communication, navigation or safety systems, and are more fundamental to the planeâ€™s operations.
Boeingâ€™s optional safety features, in part, could have helped the pilots detect any erroneous readings. One of the optional upgrades, the angle of attack indicator, displays the can be of the two sensors. The other, called a disagree light, is activated if those sensors are at odds with one another.
â€œTheyâ€™re critical, and cost almost nothing for the airlines to install,â€ said Bjorn Fehrm, an analyst at the aviation consultancy Leeham. â€œBoeing charges for them because it can. But theyâ€™re vital for safety.â€
I can understand that new and advanced safety features, which may cost a lot of money to develop and install, might cost extra. But if you’re throwing in a computer that will read a sensor to take over control of the plane, it seems insane to charge extra to indicate when the sensor might be malfunctioning.
The conventional wisdom is that comfortable middle-class middle-aged people who have achieved a degree of financial security–people like me–should become more Republican at this point in their lives. I think this is reasonable, because after all if the system has worked well for you, then it must be a pretty decent system, and you’d like to maintain the status quo.
But I do not see that the system works. I made it through college, and after some trouble, I have found a career that pays well. California’s Real Estate market–the fact that I could never afford my own place–left me feeling disconnected from where I lived. This influenced a certain recklessness in my personal life. We only own a house through due to thrift, good luck, and the near collapse of the American economy a decade ago.
The system is broken and with the bombastic, militant, anti-government Right Wing, it feels like we are drifting ever further from solutions to increasingly urgent problems. Climate Change being the biggest of Big Deals, but we really should provide everyone with healthcare, basic welfare, access to education, and generally spend less effort on military might and more on working collaboratively with the rest of the world to improve the lot of humanity. If anything, in my comfortable years, I am growing more radical in my lefty sentiments.
Even if I wanted to maintain the status quo, the Republicans are no longer the party for that. The platform is to bankrupt the government through tax cuts and excessive military spending, in order to teach Americans the gospel that Government Isn’t The Solution. The only good Republican President I have known in my lifetime was President Clinton. He winnowed down government spending, especially military, to the point of a balanced budget. Then there was Welfare Reform, which is a thing Conservatives like. He didn’t start any (major) wars. (That I can remember.)
The status quo barely works for me just barely. And Climate Change is a growing burden that is going to hurt my kids far more than it already hurts my generation. The stable pattern that I value most is that the Earth will continue to provide for humanity. As a middle aged, middle class, uncomfortable person who supports the status quo, it is the radicals speaking out for good stewardship of Earth, and the radicals speaking out for the idea that people should be free from want and free from fear that most appeal to me.
In my experience, the brain reconfigures its capabilities to adapt to the work you need it to do.
One thing that I notice when working hard in technology is that my short-term memory is shot. I can barely remember the morning, or what was on Forum in the commute in. I think the brain reconfigures itself so that short-term memory is sacrificed for the working stack. I can “load in” a whole bunch of things I’m trying to think about and mesh together and keep track of “in the moment” … good for analysis, but then I lose track of time and can not remember, like I said, the details of the day, so well.
There was a time when I was released from tech, depressed, and found work as a waiter. The initial transition was difficult. I crafted cheat sheets to remind myself of menu items, &c. and spent time trying to translate the algorithms as they had been trained to me into the art of doing the job. I recall a specific hierarchy of five priorities. Let me see if I can recall them all. Greet customers as they come in, bring out hot food, take orders, settle the bill. The rule was that each priority superseded the next … but you can not apply this 100% of the time. One day the restaurant was full, and I was the only waiter, and it was lunchtime on a weekday: people want to get back to the office. I did a good job of getting people settled and getting their food out, but it sucked for that guy who had to wait forever to get his bill. Over time I learned to optimize operations … basically, carpool trips: collect multiple orders on the floor, bring them to the computer, grab a bill, pick up food, deliver food, deliver bill, collect orders, &c.
After some months working in the Pizza Place, my short-term memory got really good. Never quite “don’t write down the orders” good but I think I could have pulled that off if it were an option. (The paper orders went to the kitchen and were later cross-referenced with the computer billing system.) But, when I went backpacking, I was very good at recalling what I spent from day to day, keeping track of those little details over the short to medium term.
In contrast, when I tried to do computer programming, I felt dumb. I remember trying to build an isometric grid system for game programming, and I felt like I just kept running out of brain. Translating grid coordinates to drawing them on a two-dimensional screen whose coordinate system runs from a different direction … I didn’t have it in me.
Then again, neither is that the sort of stuff I end up doing in tech work. Systems Administration is less about deeply abstract thought (well, sometimes it is..) and honestly somewhat like being a waiter, or a restaurant manager. Maybe more of an independent car mechanic. Lots of things going on, lots of ideas to keep track of, and a fair amount of short-term, deep problem solving: WTF is going on with this server, or this software, &c.
At the behest of my ISP, Sonic, I wrote a letter to the FCC, via https://savecompetition.com/:
I am a successful IT professional. I got my start in the 90s, answering phones at an independent ISP and getting folks online with their new modems. This was a great age when folks had a choice of any number of Internet SERVICE Providers who could help them get up and running on AT&T’s local telephone infrastructure.
To this very day, I use the DSL option available from the local Internet Service Provider (Sonic) over AT&T’s wires. I use this despite the fiber optic cable AT&T has hung on the pole in front of my house. Fiber would be so, so much faster, but I’m not going to pay for it until I have a CHOICE of providers, like Sonic, who has always been great about answering the phone and taking care of my Internet SERVICE needs.
Competitive services were the foundation of my career in IT. I believe they were a strong foundation to get Americans online in the first place. Competitive services are, in my opinion, REQUIRED, if you want to get Americans on to modern network technology today.
I have spent some time of late working on the “family cycling” problem. I would like to get my kids around town without a car. I would also like to bike to work, which is 10+ miles one way, which is a bit far for me to ride twice every day. Last year, I took a leap of faith and purchased a Radwagon. Around $2,200 all-in, including having a mobile bike shop assemble and deliver it. That is cheap for a bike that can haul kids on the back. It is great for my work commute, but the high back was too scary for my older son.
The Radwagon is pretty rad, but the rear cargo deck was too high for the older son to feel comfortable.
After the younger son turned 1, I got a baby seat (another $250, as I recall) and now I have a bike fanatic who loves the high ride adventures. This is great, because I have more encouragement for me to get riding.Â (Really, these are demands: “Dada, go go go go go! Byyyeee mama! Byyyeee bruhbruh! Dada, shoess!”) This is great, until the older kid starts feeling left out of quality time with Dad.
Before he could even walk, he could climb up on the running board of Daddy’s bike.
Thus began my quest for a family bicycle that could accomodate both boys: something lower …
There are a lot of options. There are bikes like the Radwagon but with a smaller wheel in the back, so kids can ride low. Non-motorized bikes from Yuba and Xtracycle start around $2,200. Motorized versions start around $4,500. There are bikes with a box up front: the classic Dutch Bakfiets can be imported from Europe for some insane amount of money. There are box-in-the-front tricycles from Bunch (around $2,600 delivered) and Wike in Canada. The Bunch has an electric option. Finally, I stumbled across Madsen, which sells “bucket bikes” which have a big, sturdy, plastic bucket on the rear that seats four. They start around $2,000, and can deliver at $2,200 (mostly) assembled, but I decided that really, I want to be able to drop kids off and head to work, so all in with e-assist and a few accessories is $3,500.
The next challenge is: a test ride. The Radwagon was a Leap of Faith with mixed results. There are “local” dealers for the more expensive bikes. This would mostly involve calling ahead to set up an appointment to ensure that the appropriate bike(s) are in stock and set up for a test ride, then schlepping the kids up to San Francisco. Fortunately, Madsen has a customer one town over that was willing to share a test ride. I was able to confirm that both boys enjoyed it, and the wife could fit in the bucket, too. The electric option is new for Madsen, so the bike I ordered won’t arrive until later this month.
Last Month, the Bike Snob published an article that declared that “No, Cycling Isn’t Elitist” which argues that family cycling can be more cost effective than driving. I wish that were true. I wouldn’t say that cycling is elitist, but where I live, where a car is a basic requirement to partipate in economic life, spending additional time and money to research, purchase, store, and maintain a family bicycle remains an act of privilege.
So, what to do: wring your hands and feel like a bougy jackass? On the contrary. I think that if you are in a position to enjoy family biking, and have the means to make it happen, then this is all the more reason to do it. If your family is out on the bike, it helps encourage drivers to be more careful, it opens eyes, and maybe nudges more people of privilege to try it out. Nudges politicians to prioritize safe bicycling infrastructure, which makes it easier for more folks to choose to ride more bikes …
The kids will outgrow the family cycle, and when it comes time to sell, the used bicycles get around the community at prices that are more affordable to folks with less privilege.
See Also: The Edgerunner Philosophy — “It has to do with mushrooms, opportunities, taking risks, and embracing change:”
Luminary mycologist Paul Stamets uses the term â€œedgerunnerâ€ to refer to the profound role that myceliumâ€”an extremely beneficial fungusâ€”plays in Earthâ€™s ecosystems, working at the edges of biological possibility in order to advance life.
As I see it: cycling may not be elitist, but it is definitely more accessible to privileged folks, so if you have the privilege to “work at the edge of possibility” you should consider taking it, in hopes of helping to normalize a beneficial activity and make it more accessible over time.
A question was posed as to whether folks should fight for or flee from the Silicon Valley.
I answered that those who have bought homes here ought to fight for opportunities for the next group. The greater challenge is that a lot of folks who got theirs don’t want to make allowances for the next generations.
Back in the 90s I bought a modem off a guy in California. In those days if you bought something from a guy on the Internet it was a leap of faith that you’d send off a check and get what you expected in return. Well, I sent this guy my money and he sent off the modem and the next day he sent this apology that he had forgotten to pack the power brick, which he had sent off in a separate package. No sweat. The modem showed up at my house a week later.
But the power brick … well, we kept up correspondence but it never showed up until a couple months later the guy said it had arrived back at his house without explanation, covered in mysterious markings from the Post Office, so he packed the mystery package into a bigger box and mailed that off to Illinois and it showed up a few days later and I had a working modem.
In those days I was in college, and when I got tired of school I worked at an ISP, and when I got tired of working I finally finished school. One of my hobbies was keeping an, ahem, online journal. I would have my fairly banal young guy adventures and sometimes when I couldn’t sleep or just needed to talk about things I would write things up in my, ahem, online journal. In those days, the universe of people you knew and the universe of people who read your online journal would barely overlap. There was a certain anonymous freedom, but whatever.
After I paid for my modem, it became the pattern that when I would post another update online, some hours or days later I would get a long rambling email from this dude in California, who was excited to read what I was up to, and he’d tell me about his own adventures, some from his youth … he once had a girl who smelled like cardboard, which he never could figure out … or more often about how he had just biked down to Pismo Beach with his wife Dana.
I had a fan.
And for years, whenever I would post about my life, this guy would write me back, with his own stories.
As my school wound down I got an interview in the San Francisco area, at a start-up. The start-up flew me out and after the interview, the co-founder drove me up to Pinole so I could crash at MikeyA’s place. I finally met the man. Mike Austin. I slept on his couch. He took me over to Fisherman’s Wharf, where I impressed him by eating a second dinner. He drove me around Pinole and San Pablo, showing me his spots and his friends, the liquor store where he sometimes worked.
He put me up another time, years later, on my second move to California, that time with a new wife.
He was a former cop, who worked odd jobs: liquor store, truck driver, but mostly it seemed he was having his own adventures, touring the States on his Harley, or small adventures close to home with innumerable friends. He told me a lot of guys had taken turns sleeping at his place. A lot of cop friends, who had been thrown out of the house by their wives. He is that kind of guy.
I was impressed by his ZZ Top style beard. The story he told me, and I prefer to believe it, is that he’d shave it down once a year but it always grew right back in proud and long. So it goes.
Another time he told me about how he upset his doctor. He went in for a regular checkup but his labs came back off the charts for diabetes. They drew another set of labs and he was normal. What? Well, what did you eat before the first visit? This, that, and two liters of Mountain Dew … his doctor delivered a lecture on how one should not drink two liters of Mountain Dew at lunch … or ever.
Anyway, MikeyA, Mike Austin, my Number One Fan, well, he passed away last week. In his sleep. At 65 years of age. These are hard times for his wife, Dana, no doubt. I’m going to miss the guy, too. I don’t tell rambling stories about my life on the Internet these days, and it has been a while since I got a good rambling email from Mike. I’ll still have the occasional late-night heart-to-heart with the Internet. No more emails from MikeyA, though.
Anyway, I thought I would “remember” him in the way I knew him. By just writing up some thoughts and sharing them here, with you, and with Mikey. If there is an afterlife, I assume he’s read this by now. I miss you, Mike!
I was in Chicago this week. There was a death in the family, so it was good to be among my kinfolk with our adorable, loving child.
Chicago is famously corrupt and moribund and the State of Illinois is mired in perpetual scandal. It is a magnet for immigrants but it is also a city from which many of us Californians are originally from. I’ve gotten used to the California way and I generally prefer it but what I noticed this week in Chicago was all the construction.
For a city that is corrupt and moribund, there was an awful lot of demolition and rebuilding going on. On the way to the L in the evening we stopped and stared over a fence as a variety of heavy machines worked under brilliant stadium lights. The star of the show was a yellow machine with a huge claw on the end of a boom arm reaching several stories up, to the top of a building, it was tearing down from the top, girder by girder, as another machine sprayed down the dust with a water hose. The claw was at the very end of its reach, it felt the machine was on tippy toes, as it tugged away, girder after girder, waiting for torrents of debris to fall, pulling the pieces out and dropping them into piles to be dragged into more discrete piles by lesser enormous machines. It was like watching dinosaurs go about their business. Father, Son, and Grandmother: none of us could take our eyes off the marvel. “They should sell beer and peanuts,” said I.
The neighbors of this derelict house in Sunnyvale are terrified at the prospect of it being replaced with housing for families.
We don’t get this in Suburban California. What little “history” we have is viciously guarded and any attempt to replace the old with newer and better is often met with resistance and exaggerated speculation as to the intentions and end results of new development. You don’t see that so much in the old country–In Chicago, and in any place with some history under its belt, everyone knows that they are surrounded by at least a century of continuity–Everyone is merely links in a great chain. The city is inherited and bequeathed and the hope is to leave it in a little better shape: Urbs in Horto.
In Dublin, I saw them building a light rail line, right down an ancient street. It made the Northern Californian in me jealous.
They say that University Politics is the most vicious because the stakes are so low. I get a sense of that observing some of the political rhetoric in Sunnyvale. Out here the city is so new and raw that the idea of changing it implies that those who built the city and have lived in it until now are being completely rejected by the hordes of newcomers flooding the city from the Midwest and the Far East. But in the ancient lands where the immigrants come from, there is no such sentiment: the cities are naturally timeworn, and the idea of redevelopment is an intuitive component of the cycle of death and rebirth.
Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning as a savage pitted against the wilderness,
Building, breaking, rebuilding,
Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing with white teeth,
Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young man laughs,
Laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who has never lost a battle
The land in which I live would be enriched if it embraced a bit of the poetry of the land in which I was born.
There’s a darkness upon me that’s flooded in light
In the fine print they tell me what’s wrong and what’s right
And it comes in black and it comes in white
And I’m frightened by those that don’t see it
When nothing is owed or deserved or expected
And your life doesn’t change by the man that’s elected
If you’re loved by someone, you’re never rejected
Decide what to be and go be it
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