Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Top 10 Reasons Why That Biker isn't Getting Out of Your Way

I'm writing this because it only just now occurred to me that many drivers don't actually realize that the vast majority of bikers on the road aren't vindictive assholes trying to ruin their day, but actually have legitimate reasons for being in front of their car. So in the interest of greater understanding and daily-commute-tranquility, I present here the top ten reasons that you can't slam alternately on the gas and then brakes.

10. Have you noticed any potholes? Yeah, they make your car ride a little bumpy--but if they could shred your tire or wheel and send you hurtling into oncoming traffic, you'd dodge them too.

9. When was the last time you thought "I wonder if there's a biker coming down the bike lane" before opening your car door? Biker's think about how often drivers have this thought all the time. We're in your head.

8. The light is red. Calm down.

7. Did you know it's actually the law that bikers have to be in the road?

6. Don't worry, we're just trying to spare you the unbearable pain of tailgating the car that's directly in front of us.

5. Are you about to turn right? Surprisingly, when asked, most bikers do not prefer to have to slam on the brakes when you make that un-signaled turn.

4. Fact: the biker is not actually in your way; you're just not that used to having to pay attention.

3. Actually, we're very concerned for your gas-mileage. Did you know your car is much more efficient at 15 M.P.H.?

2. You don't want to go home to your hollow suburban life, anyway. We know the best part of your day is rockin' out to some Led Zepp on the commute home.

And the number one reason why that biker is in front of you:
1. We're all vindictive assholes, and this is how we get back at you for dumping a bunch of carcinogens into our lungs, destroying the global climate, ruining urban environments, and for all the strip-malls across the country.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

In Four Dimensions, We're the Fourth World.

Leave it to a Yale man to determine that the most just solution to climate change is to increase consumption:
"A third alternative would be a Rawlsian perspective that societies should maximize the economic well-being of the poorest generation. The ethical implication of this policy would be that current consumption should increase sharply to reflect the projected future improvements in productivity."
William Nordhaus, A Review on The Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Four Freedoms, or Why I Still Don't Know Where Laura Merideth's Party Is.

Facebook is a great tool for inviting people to parties. It saves you all the time of going to evite.com, thinking about who you want to invite, and looking up their email addresses. It also makes me want to tear my face off. My latest unnoticed facebook strike is over the social quantification of what was previously a free-space for data entry. Your profile data entries previously linked to a search for the same string. If you had put "Cooper Union" in for "School," facebook's lame-ass search engine searched for "Cooper Union." If you put "I did not attend school, rather I was raised by wolves," facebook split this into two distinct searches for two distinct nonsensical and unique terms: zero results. For those of us who would rather not have webcrawlers persistently aggregating our name, birthdate, and personal and institutional associations, this was a swell system--those who wanted to be listed were, those who didn't weren't. The recent and subtle change has been to replace the search link with one to a distinct facebook social page. While this preserves one's ability to enter garbage and fend off the webcrawlers, it creates trackable pages for every line of garbage. Now, "rather I was raised by wolves" will be a social facebook page, cached by google, bing and whoever else, forever to remain accessible to anyone bothering to look. Given that it's garbage, there's no particular concern over this except that it's stupid.

What is disconcerting is the notion that any particular string can only have one meaning. Par Example, my previous interests include "Red Guard, Constant Revolution, and The Four Freedoms." Astute sinologists will recognize each of these as propaganda terms from the cultural revolution in China. Facebook recognized these as three social groups that I 'like'. The first was appended to "Redguard" and linked to a group of people discussing something about airsoft guns. The last linked to a group of people who were really excited about Roosevelt's Four Freedoms.

The urge to break things down into quantifiable chunks is one endemic to the engineer's mind, and I sympathize with those facebook programmers who spend all day dreaming and scheming about what they can do with their truly impressive wealth of social data. But in their efforts to macify the user experience of the social internet, facebook is recklessly tossing not only user privacy but also space for individual expression to the wind.

Also, it's just stupid.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


At dinner tonight with a physician from Cleavland--one who couldn't help but question the Canadians in company on the quality of their healthcare--the topic of "the reality of the situation" came up. It turns out, son, that "the reality of the situation" is increased taxes, lower quality of care, less choice, and untold other horrors. I'm not looking to discount these fears, but I really resent the notion (one powerfully insinuated and openly accused at the Boston Tea Party) that being young implies that I just don't know about how genuinely horrible taxes are--I paid self-employment tax last year, for Pete's sake! So here's the trade:

If you voted for Bush, you get to pay Medicare Part D, the Trillion-Dollar War, and the bank bailouts. Oh yeah, and you can go ahead and start by making up for the tax cuts...

I'll pay for healthcare. Hell, I'll even chip in for Afghanistan.