Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Criticizing Cyclists for Their Histograms

What the hell?????!!!

I'm so sick of cyclists and their histograms. Every single one of them out their riding around in the sunshine, luminosity skewed all to one side. Look at this guy. Oooo look at me, look at me, I have pulled all the sharp black peaky lines to one side. And her, with that long slope looking as if it was going to taper off nicely, then BOOM! Right there at the end, a major spike. Lame. Weak. And they don't pay taxes either!

Don't get me started about safety. OK I'll start. If they would just regulate their histograms so that they were more balanced, ergo, fewer accidents! QED. Riding in the sepia-toned equinox sunset like that, serves them right. Flip-flops AND long shadows??? What do they expect? She's on that grayish sidewalk with blondish hair golden in the low sun, no wonder there's a spike on that end of the graph. Statistics, you know what I'm saying? 

Do you realize how many more people would be cycling if these idiots would just take the time to control their histogram? I'd go and talk to them about it but I seriously doubt it would do any good whatsoever. Blissfully unaware, cruising and texting, totally oblivious to the fundamental imbalance they are inflicting on the rest of us.

You think maybe he's compensating for something with that graph? Or that she maybe wants the histogram right there between them? Don't they know that histograms don't even belong on the sidewalk? Sure, I've seen the research that positioning the histogram there increases cyclist visibility by 32%, but have they never read the constitution? Rights: they are in there. We have them, too. And do you think it's a coincidence that they chose black and white for the colors of their histogram? I don't.

It's histogrammists vs. autobalancers out there. How much encouragement do you see, honestly, when the black spikey imbalanced graphs are rolling? I dream of the day when we cyclists come to our senses regarding histograms.

I think of my own kids trying to ride their bikes to school, getting overwhelmed by all the histogrammist cyclists blowing by them, graphs waving in the wind. Call me a retrogrouch, but back in the day we had f-stops and little red LEDs that blinked when you got the exposure close, or even wavy little meter needles with a circle you clicked onto them. We didn't need or want  histograms in our cycling. I tried setting up a Tweed-LED ride, but no one showed up. It's gotten that serious, now that phones have those realtime constantly updating histogram apps on them, cyclists and pedestrians all (I presume) staring into their small screens moving from place to place and position to position until their histograms are just right. But yeah, back to my kids and not riding to school: thanks Obama.

What pushed me over the edge? The cyclist at the light this morning. The light was green but he was stopped in front of me and a line of traffic trying to take the perfect self-histogrammy with the light just right. Hasn't he heard of "filters?" 

Cyclists: think they're so green and healthy, and mellow and happy. But: histograms. They've been told.


Monday, March 23, 2015

This Bicycle has Destroyed my Enculturated Preoccupation with Producing and Consuming

For riding, not replacing

Socialization in the modern period intensifies the problem. The central dynamic of modern Western culture focuses our attention on the finite. Paul Tillich called this cultural dynamic "the spirit of industrial society"--a way of living organized around production and consumption. Our modern preoccupation with producing and consuming leads us to live on the surface level of reality and to seek our satisfaction in the finite. But the sacred is known in the depths of reality, not in the manipulation and consumption of the surface.
-Marcus Borg
I'm making the effort to focus on the ride while riding. To clear my mind about work, and tasks that are due, and chores that need to be done, and things that need to be fixed around the house, all which will be dealt with in their own time. The ride is for the ride. 

I notice myself thinking about things I might purchase to improve the ride in some way, to make the holding of the handlebars more comfortable, say, or to make the seating of the saddle more amenable to the parts which rest upon it, or, to make the pedals, I don't know, pedal better.

Sometimes, often in fact, my mind drifts to a new frame to replace this old 1973 one, perhaps a new one from Walnut Creek, CA to build up myself, or another one snagged at the upcoming GABA Spring bike swap in Tucson. When that happens, though, when those thoughts happen on the ride, I notice them and allow them to move on to wherever they go, relax from my fingers down to my toes, and spin some more to spin some more. 

As I'm noticing my superficial and utterly unnecessary thoughts of consuming, buying, owning, I reflect on the possibility of deeper things, of meanings and connections which are not bought, but found or nurtured out in the light world of actions and motion and others.

I'm fortunate that I remember the long-ago feeling in what I sometimes think of as the best single moment of my life in which I both had no money left (at all) and didn't really need any, either. In what was kind of a luminous moment it was completely evident that buying stuff I don't really need anyway should be the least of my concerns, and that "need" can be a pretty fluid concept.

On my ride, I came to the finish line, but felt like I wasn't done yet, not even close. So I rode back and forth across the finish line a few times, under the arch, passing through backward to emphasize unfinished-ment. Still-left-to-be-done-ness. None of which has anything to do with buying this year's shiny thing, or discarding perfectly good things, but rather just with riding, and seeking, and listening, a search for meeting in that place where we are not satisfied with the superficial or the finite, and you can only buy that which is not sold.

No I don't think so, not yet. Still experiencing, still seeking.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

On Discovering a Cigar in a Vast Desert

Discovered in my bike lane: 1 cigar, wrapped

Imagine yourself cycling across a vast and warm/hot desert. Not a cloud in the sky. Nature all around: cactus wrens going RACK RACK RACK RACK, a quail family darting across the path, jet black wood bees buzzing like drunken sailors from blossom to blossom, cactii in bloom and starting to bear fruit, air saturated with the intoxicating perfume of citrus and Springtime. Then you happen upon a wrapped cigar in repose in the center of the pavement.

We are like that, humans, as far as we know. In the vast cosmos, we are the only instance of intelligent life we know of. Theories, math, Drake, distant star transits measured with excruciating accuracy, all those seem point to the possibility that there are Others out there, which is intoxicating in itself. But even the most wide-eyed of enthusiasts for ET must admit that as of, well, now, we are it, so far as we have been able to detect or show, so far. 

This is a cosmic and empirically supported special status that goes unrecognized in our daily activities. I wonder about that. About what we would do, say, think, feel, believe, and justifiably so, if we truly embraced the evidence we have, so far, that humans are the only intelligent lifeforms in a vast and forbidding cosmos. There may be others. But, we don't know. We don't. So far, we appear to be it. It may be prudent to act and think accordingly, until proven otherwise.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Change My Your Our Wisdom

California has one year of water left

The old saying that you can never step into the same river twice is about change and transience, but I guess that its message is undercut by the observation that you actually can when the river is dry. Moreover, in the long run, on a wider view beyond our narrow minute-by-minute, day-by-day, month-by-month tunnel visions, more along the lines of hundreds of thousands of years, which is not long really by any planetary or cosmic standards at all, they all run dry, every last one.

You can't step into the same wet river twice, is more like it. The dry ones, though, which is what they all become, eventually, step into them as often as you like, they are close enough to "same" to qualify, lacking that constant, altering wash that drives the point home of the saying.

"My Your Our Water" by Erin V. Sostak, Scottsdale Waterfront (art that floats) (..and an OSG contribution to the blog)

I set my sights for my Saturday spin-out ride on the TAKE ONE PARTICIPATE box I had spied on a previous ride when it was surrounded by people participants. Today was much quieter, and turned out that the box contained...

The TAKE ONE box. I love those.
Cyclist participation

Spoke cards! But it turns out I am not adept at inserting them securely.

Canal path card

I (randomly) learned that "sophia" is Greek for wisdom last night. After reading the LA Times article about California running out of water in a year, I was thinking about change, wisdom, water, and dry rivers, thinking aqua sophia, aqua regia, then realizing aqua is Latin so it would be like aqua prudentia, but that's wise water I suppose and what is required here is wisdom about water, about using it, consuming it, sharing it, not running out of it. 

Water wisdom. Which we apparently lack, as illustrated by the observation in the linked opinion piece:

Right now the state has only about one year of water supply left in its reservoirs, and our strategic backup supply, groundwater, is rapidly disappearing. California has no contingency plan for a persistent drought like this one (let alone a 20-plus-year mega-drought), except, apparently, staying in emergency mode and praying for rain.

Out for ourselves, each for his or her self, we will certainly run out. California perhaps first, and logically anyway Arizona, here in the desert, following afterwards, some time, anyway. It is one of the theories about why earlier peoples who lived here thinned out and moved on. On the long time scale, change in this place means dryness, not flowing water changing a river moment by moment, but rather the long, dry, dusty gulch baking in the sun beneath a crystal clear blue sky.

The foolish will stare at the parched, cracked ground and wonder why. Sophia, come to this desert, we need you.



Sunday, March 8, 2015

Glimpses of My Alter Days

Fixie posed before the great gabion canal exit symbol

There may be days eventually of halting, when for whatever typical reason I don't feel like riding, or continuing. But not today. 80°F sunny Sunday, dry and blazing blue skies, a wide open afternoon and the roads and paths beckoning. 

I ride, and the first sentence pingponging around inside my head becomes "my alter days", which either could be days of halting, or else more happily, the alternative days of riding and riding until the light fades, and lights come out of the bag and I keep on riding.

More alter days, please. No halting, not for a while, at least. With my legs spinning round, and the sound of my tires on pavement singing across miles, I can't imagine, won't and don't want to. This, now, more, go.


Thursday, March 5, 2015

I Am Not This


The traffic across the road going the other way was backed up for about a mile due to a stoplight malfunction, or possibly planned outage, I couldn't tell which. Traffic going my way was surprisingly nonexistent. 

Until, that is, I heard a sound behind me like a wave of oncoming metal power-driven by gunned engines that had been held captive behind some infuriating barrier for minutes on end suddenly to be unleashed by the wave of a traffic cop or lowering of some other temporary halt, so that the accelerators might be stomped to the floor in order that the home driveway might be acquired so urgently, so quickly, so unhampered by angering, frustrating, inefficient stoppages and blockages.

So I pulled over, glanced back, and saw this rushing toward me.

No, I thought. Hell no. Not going to be part of that. I am not that. I don't do that anymore, thank goodness, I don't partake. No way. I snapped the photo above, not great all around but captures the moment don't you think, I only had about two seconds to take the photo and get the heck out of the way, then I veered off down a fortunate side path out, away far far from the angry metal hoards.

Saw this the same day. I am not that, either, but I have to grant a certain wow-tacisous overthetopness to it

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Human Forge

Put in four quarters, a wood blank, and art comes out

The inputs are money, wood, information and data, and clever algorithms. The output is recognizably art. But, as the sign asks, does it have soul?

The machine for making art, at Canal Convergence

  1. Insert 1 dollar in the form of 4 quarters
  2. Insert 1 wood blank in chute to left
  3. Push both red buttons at exact same time [ok how exact do you have to be?]
  4. The process has begun. Walk to right side of machine.
This is the Cutting Room

Technically, the inputs also include paint, and power, and new blades or sharpened blades, but let's focus on the wood blanks. They go into the slot where the patron inserts them, then in the cutting room they are trimmed down to size. I'm not sure this step is totally necessary, since I guess once could just spec wood blanks of the proper dimensions to begin with, but then perhaps "necessary" is not a word properly applied to any of this. Much care was put into this tableau. I love the way the saw has an exit shoot with a gratuitous warning sign. The wood blank's movements in the cutting room are elaborate and precise. Then, onto the Paint Room.


Paint is applied carefully in the PAINTING ROOM, with photographic like results, then the art emerges from the ARTWORK EXIT.
The hand towel with paint smudges: a sign that art has occurred

This art machine was fascinating to me. I'm not sure how many patrons actually considered if their resulting trimmed and painted wood blanks had soul, or not. I did. Is it not possible, for example, that the person of the artist is present in the details and logic of the algorithms, hardware, software, and design which came together to form this machine for making art? The girl holding the painted result in her hands: Toby Fraley did this, if remote in time and space, by making this machine and calling it The Art Forge and having people engage with it in an artistic context for producing an artistic result. Yes? No?

Blanks for making humans. Insert into slot in human forge, inner processing machinery does the rest with this raw material

In an effort to take off some much-deserved but also highly unneeded and unhealthy stress-eating pounds, I sought inspiration and direction in Grant Petersen's "Eat Bacon Don't Jog" book. I knew it was in line with my don't eat processed junk that comes in packages, restrict carbs, eat nuts, eat healthy paleo proto primal concepts that worked great for me before, but wanted to see if its algorithms would work for me. Yes. Yes they did. Or do. Or are. 

The book of eating algorithms which I have programmed into my human forge

Over on the blog that goes along with the book, I posted a comment in response to an NYT article about moderation (the middle way, I guess) being the healthy way to eat, which though long-winded, is probably a shortcut for summing up a longer-winded exposition of my reasoning combined with an actual review of the book and its human forge algorithms, which would be much, much longer, believe me: 

"Moderation of this type might be OK for young people who already have a healthy diet and who are not currently eating, and have not been raised on, the standard American junk food high carb high corn high sugar cheap-to-produce high-profit wide variety highly available factory diet. For them carb moderation stasis might work. I am not young, though, and for the first 35+ years or so of my life was on the steady weight gain, exhaust the pancreas with carbs and junk food and excess calories program. It's too late for moderation for me, and the idea of systematic stasis of diet-exercise-body doesn't work with the body I created and had when I examined how the machine I had created on that diet reacts to carbs by spiking insulin and piling on body fat. If I had a body that reacted nicely to moderate carbs I would look at it differently. Ideal humans might do well on moderate carbs. An actual randomly selected group of middle-aged Americans, on the other hand, I wager would not. I'm doing great on EBDJ and can't wait to try salmon, bacon, eggs, bsprouts and cheese. TJ's has become my regular Saturday stock-up ride. Hope they have some bsprouts today."

A comment to which Grant responded, which is nice. But, if we're just talking algorithms here, inputs, processing, and outputs, similar to the art forging machine, why not just get a subscription to Soylent, or tweak the mix and make DIY Soylent, and (like the advertisement says) Free Your Body, Never have to worry about food again? 

There's a lot of cool stuff going on with Soylent and DIY Soylent, although full disclosure so far I think it's cool from a distance. I would definitely try backpacking with the stuff as a calorie source. I would probably try it for some quick meals when I'm in a rush, and I also like the idea of getting back some lost time which is taken up now by rushing to prepare forgettable, repetitive meals. It all depends on what you want to optimize  your meals for, and also, I must add, whether or not consuming this chemical slurry for weeks or months on end turns out to have long-term detrimental health effects, or not. 

It may turn out to be OK, or more than OK, long-term*. Also, I think most or all of the people drinking it realize they are experimenting with their health and lives, and, in many cases, have the quite logical argument to make that compared to the ramen noodles, pizza, and hot pockets they were living off before, Soylent is relatively speaking health nectar of the gods. Compared, say, to the multiple liters of full-sugar Cola, pizza, beer, and nacho chips diet I bloated up on for years and years in my twenties. I'm very interested to see what the Soylent consumers learn, or turn into, and like I said, will eventually try some Soylent myself.

However, for now, and I think this the reason I included the photo of the delicious fried eggs, sardines, and chunks of white cheddar cheese, I'll stick with real food, and the simpler the better. Give me Greek yogurt made with two ingredients (milk and live cultures). Give me excellent little fishies with skin and bones. Give me macadamia nuts, chia, and some fresh veggies and leaves. Olive oil. Hunks of meat. For now, at least, I'm willing to invest the time to obtain and prepare those. I'm not positive they have soul, but I find the real food very, very satisfying, and as a bonus, following the EBDJ food algorithms has taken pounds off (15 so far) my human forge, and gotten its blood sugar back down out of the prediabetic range, so yeah, bring on the sardines and macadamias. And consider the soul of food.

*blog disclaimer in effect as always