Saturday, June 11, 2016

without proof or editing, everything al dimond 2016

1. The thing that always left me cold about Bernie Sanders was all the “big banks” stuff. It's the political version of Walter Sobchak ranting about Vietnam: it has nothing to do with anything! Did the banks have something do do with the housing bubble and its 2008 collapse? Sure. But the banks aren't behind what underlies so much pessimism about the economy. The recovery since then has been very unequal, jobs haven't returned in many cities and many sectors. They point to larger concerns about our future: trends toward wealth and resource consolidation, how automation and ubiquitous information affects the future of work and the value of knowledge and understanding and the project of humanity and living a meaningful life. We need a conversation about that stuff that's smart, humble, and inclusive.

2. In my professional circles (in the field of software) people often say that the top n% of devs are m times as productive as the average dev, where both n and m are somewhere around 10. Over time this statement seems to be spoken with dread, not joy, as we all realize, “There's a (100 − n)% chance I'll be one of the people out of a job when the n% write an AI that's m − 1 times as productive as me.” The AI will make some embarrassing mistakes and its work will lack taste and craft, but will have speed to make up for it. Its biggest problems will be fixed quickly by the smartest people. My biggest problems are harder to fix and I only have myself. For the project of humanity and living a meaningful life, I really hope we can all have eachother.

3. I'll repeat that link from #1 about economic pessimism. I had a bit of a similar thought when I saw a flowchart about how to vote in mid-primary season, including both Ds and Rs (I think Matthew James drew it), where the top-line question was, “Is shit fucked?” A “Yes” answer led to more questions, and ultimately, Bernie, Trump, or Cruz; a “No“ answer ultimately to Clinton or Kasich. Shit is more fucked for, broadly, people that aren't white in America, but for white people shit is fucked in relatively novel ways. This is part of the story behind the demography of the 2016 Dem primary, but probably not all of it.

4. I can't find it right now (so much for ubiquitous information), but I remember reading some quotation of a famous existentialist author upset that his novel was called a “psychological” novel by a critic, because of course the novel was not about some particular psychology (the author's own?) but about some fundamental fact of the human condition viewed soberly, or something. This is how I made sense of it before filing it away but I don't really know about this stuff; anyway, I wondered if maybe the lowly critic had it right, and if maybe the author knew it. That's what I think when I listen to any album Kanye West has made after his... err... 2008 collapse. It doesn't put him in bad company. I think the same thing when I listen to any album Bob Dylan has made starting with Blonde on Blonde.

5. Some U.S. Senator just quoted Psalm 109 (of the Bible), to pray for U.S. President Barack Obama, “May his days be few.” You wouldn't have to be in an age of ubiquitous information, any U.S. hotel room in the last hundred years would do, to be able to quickly check the context. The “days”, unambiguously, were the days of a ruler's life, not his days left in office. Anyway, you wouldn't have to be in an age of ubiquitous information, any room with a calendar in it would do, to know the number of days a lame-duck President has left in office, except in the case of death or impeachment, and a Senator need not pray for an impeachment, merely call some like-minded Representative! Seems pretty clear-cut: the Senator openly prayed for the President's death! On the other hand, people use scripture in weird ways sometimes. A few years ago I was at a Christian service that featured a reading from a psalm that was excerpted in a strange way (with no explanation given), starting near but not at the beginning, and with several verses snipped out in odd places; that might be a reasonable way to quote exposition or dialog, cutting irrelevant or repetitive parts, but not poetry! Later that day I was in a hotel room, and I'm a curious fellow, so I got out the old Gideon Bible and looked up the psalm in question, and it turned out that all the cuts were basically done to hide the context, involving military triumph. Anyway, I'm sure this sort of thing happens all the time in all sorts of churches when it's more important to quote the words of the Old Testament (because that's what fits in the liturgy, and liturgical authority is all today's church has left, having lost all reasonable claim to authority on matters of truth or morality — I won't go any more into that but I heard it from the pulpit so I'll leave it here without proof) than to quote words in a way that basically preserves their meaning and tells you something about why they were written. So the prevalence of this practice gives the Senator at least some cover. Which is kind of dumb.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

now we can make ice

there's a ton o' shit we gotta do before we can start to make ice
gotta buy an ice tray and wash an ice tray before we can make ice
then we'll be
making ice, making ice, making ice, making ice, making ice

(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z3JaOAynaeE)

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

An account of the 2016 Golden Gate Relay...

... by yours truly, noted useless asshole Al Dimond, may be read here.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

How to remove a cassette without a chain whip (for real, y'all)

I used to own a chain whip! I think I left it in the basement of a place I used to live. I don't think it would be polite to call the landlord and say, “Hey, Ed, can you check if it's OK with your tenants if I sort of rifle through the basement looking for some of my old stuff?” So I've had to invent a way to remove cassettes without the chain whip. I still have the cassette lockring tool; as far as I know that's still a must-have (unless you have a head bolt from a Caterpillar engine lying around or something). There are a few different kinds of lockring tools, and the differences don't matter for these purposes.

The gist of the problem is that you have to turn the lockring counter-clockwise relative to the cassette to remove it. When you turn the lockring counter-clockwise it pulls the cassette by the teeth that were locked in place when you tightened it during installation, and the cassette freewheels in this direction. So you need to immobilize the cassette against the wheel. A chain whip does this with two separate pieces of chain and a handle for leverage. We'll do it with one piece of chain attached to the cassette in opposite directions, looped around so it can be braced against the wheel by a screwdriver. A similar approach involves attaching the chain to the rim/tire with zip ties or string; my zip ties were all too wide, so I tried with string and broke the string. Some people say they can get their lockrings off just by grabbing the cassette by hand with a rag for protection. My lockrings always get on way too tight for anything like that — even with a chain whip it's always a lot of effort to remove them!

Equipment list:

  • The cassette lockring tool
  • A wrench that fits your cassette lockring tool
  • A reasonably sturdy screwdriver
  • An old chain, full-length (broken and off the bike)
  • The wheel should have an inflated tire on it!

Steps:

  1. Do all the prep you'd do if you were using a chain whip: take the wheel off the bike, remove the quick-release skewer, insert the lockring tool according to its instructions (some have a dummy skewer attached, while others have a hole in the middle, and you stick your skewer through it and secure it with the screws).
  2. Put the chain around the top half of the second-largest cog, with almost all of the excess hanging off to the right.
  3. Extend the excess chain on the right out past the edge of the tire.
  4. Loop the chain, to the left, back to and around the cassette, one or two cogs smaller than the first. The loop should extend a bit past the edge of the tire, enough to stick the screwdriver through. At this point, with the chain around cogs in opposite directions, turning the cassette counter-clockwise (in the freewheeling direction) shortens the loop.
  5. Stick the screwdriver in the loop, with the chain loop around the handle and the shaft against the tire. This prevents the loop from being shortened, so the cassette cannot turn relative to the wheel.
  6. Stand the whole thing up between your legs, with the screwdriver against the ground. Brace the screwdriver in place with your feet on either side of the wheel.
  7. Turn the lockring tool counter-clockwise with the wrench. This should pull the screwdriver tight against the wheel, allowing you to put a lot of force into the wrench. Eventually the lockring teeth should break free and the ring should loosen.

And here is the world's worst diagram, since I didn't feel like staging a photo while I was working on my bike earlier:

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Oh, while I'm posting crap on my blog

After hearing that Seattle was delaying its downtown bike network plans in order to first create a “center-city mobility plan” of some kind, I decided to write my own plan. If we adopt this plan we can get the bike network started tomorrow.

ahem

  1. Cap the number of office parking spaces in greater downtown Seattle (i.e. including Pioneer Square, the International District, First Hill, Capitol Hill, SLU, and lower Queen Anne).
  2. Set the cap below the current number of parking spaces, because there are already more cars during rush hour than the streets can remotely handle.
  3. This means that some parking spaces have to close. Hold an auction over rights to keep parking spaces open. Where will prices end up? Who knows! Similar to cap-and-trade markets for carbon emissions, the cap is based roughly on science (here, how many cars can enter and leave downtown during rush hour without insane congestion), and prices are lovingly guided by the wise hand of Adam Smith.
  4. Enact a permanent ban on the phrase “center-city”. Seriously, who says that? Nobody in Seattle, that's who.
  5. Get lunch.

Why we can't just get along

So there's this thing with “Bernie Bros” doing and saying blatantly sexist things, largely online, and Sanders telling them to cut it out. Maybe you've heard of it. But that stuff — rude, derogatory stuff that any decent person can just stop doing — isn't half the story with the sexism someone like Hillary Clinton faces. I just read a politically neutral article on the New Hampshire primary scene where Clinton was introduced (i.e. per the journalistic convention of introducing people by full names with some context at first mention) as the former First Lady. A lot of the sexism someone like Clinton faces is like that.

It's certainly true that she was First Lady, and it's not a fact irrelevant to her political career (she certainly was an active political figure in the '90s). But more recently she served in the U.S. Senate and as Secretary of State, and narrowly lost the Democratic nomination for President. That's the record she's running on, and it's the record that (most of) her opponents are running against. Any one of those facts would make a more appropriate introduction.

Now this random story about New Hampshire is hardly worthy of comment. But some of these things accumulate. They're not things you can simply “cut out” like online trolling, they're widespread habits that no single person can stop. They're as much the result of sexism as the cause. All of the people running for President and covering the race have been shaped by decades of sexist double-standards. While the sexism of any particular act during campaign season can be hard to separate from the constant stream of often-unfair attacks by and towards everyone, looking at the big picture, you can see its mark.

ADDENDUM: As this post was inspired by the journalistic convention of introductions... I feel like pointing out that I added in Clinton's first name at her first mention while editing the post, just because I was thinking about the convention, even though I thought it didn't match the style of the first paragraph, which I might describe as, “awkward informal references to assumed shared context, because I'm too lazy to write a good introduction or even link to a relevant article, because this whole post started out as a Facebook status update before it got too long, and I was WAY to lazy to edit it down.” I just noticed that I didn't add Sanders' first name at his first mention. I'm going to leave it like this, because, damn, this post is a trainwreck of writing whose victims are every form and style of the English language. Like my dad said when my brother was making fun of his receding hairline, "Would you make fun of me more if I went on Rogaine or got a toupĂ©e?" And the answer was, of course he would have made fun of him more.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Bike Master Plan Implementation Plan Changes: 2016

Tom of Seattle Bike Blog posts another Seattle Bike Master Plan Implementation Plan update. This is how it is different from what they said they'd do in the Fall 2015 BMP Implementation Plan:

First, a lot of stuff listed in 2015 in the previous plan that didn't get finished is listed in 2016 here:

  • Roosevelt Way south of 65th
  • University Bridge
  • N 34th (Fremont Ave to Phinney Ave)
  • Admiral Way
  • Dearboorn
  • Westlake Cycletrack

A few things are moved up to 2016 from later years:

  • The “Dexter Ave N” entry, which appears to stand for an inherently mediocre connection from the Westlake Cycletrack to Dexter an the Mercer underpass, moved up from 2017.
  • The “9th Ave N” entry (more on that later), moved up from 2018.

A few things are pushed from 2016 to later years:

  • 2nd Ave north of Pike Street is pushed back to 2017 (more later).
  • A PBL on Swift Ave S is pushed back to 2017 (more later).
  • The Broadway Cycletrack extension north to Aloha is pushed back to 2017.
  • The long Rainier Valley N-S Greenway is pushed back to 2017.

Some 2016 entries are a bit different than before:

  • The “6th Ave S” entry (from Forest Street to Spokane Street) is now listed as “SODO Trail”, and as a trail project instead of a bike lane. Perhaps this means they've found space to extend the trail next to the busway? In the original BMP project list this was a SODO Trail extension, and it showed up on 6th Ave S in the 2015 Implementation Plan.
  • The 2nd Ave Extension entry now shows up as “2nd Ave”. That's probably just a typo. More troubling: the southern extent has been cut back from Jackson to Main. That's a really important block!
  • The 9th Ave N route from the Westlake Cycletrack into downtown, moved up from 2018 to 2016, is extended westward from 7th to 2nd! That's awesome!
  • I'm not sure which previous entry corresponds to the “Central E-W Greenway” at all. Maybe it's one shown primarily along East Columbia in previous documents, which was on the 2017 list in the 2015 Implementation Plan.
  • The northward extension of the 2nd Ave PBL, pushed back to 2017, is now extended farther north, to Denny rather than just Broad.
  • The Swift Ave S PBL now extends from Albro to MLK, which I believe is the whole BMP corridor instead of the mere 20% of it originally in the Implementation Plan.

Finally, a few 2016 entries have disappeared.

  • Pike Street PBL. This was a stand-in for part of a downtown network that was supposed to be planned in 2015 but wasn't, and is now being held until after some new kind of “center city mobility” plan is completed.
  • 7th Ave. It's possible this isn't listed because it's already partially open, but it's only open to Virginia and the plan lists the route continuing all the way to Union.
  • Royal Brougham, west of Occidental Ave. It may have dropped off because of Deep Bore Tunnel delays. This area is super confusing at the moment.
  • NE 130th from the Interurban to 5th Ave NE. Maybe this is replaced by an entry for a greenway on 128th, from NW 8th to NE 1st... all the way out in 2019.
  • Some sort of work on the Holgate overpass of I-5 was previously listed as a “Catalyst Project” with a 2016 date, and does not appear on this list. I have no idea what this has ever meant.

I didn't look at 2017-2019 projects aside from these. There are 2020 projects listed for the first time, so I scanned those. Aside from stuff that's just pushed back from earlier years, they include:

  • An extension of the Pinehurst/15th Ave NE bike lanes from 125th to the city limits
  • A northbound complement to the one-way part of the Roosevelt PBL

Somehow they do not include extending the planned Airport Way route to the city limits, where a route into Tukwila is ready and waiting. Aside from the further delay to downtown network planning that's the thing I'm most disappointed in. The best news is that the 9th Ave N project, one of the connections between the Westlake Cycletrack and downtown, is both expedited and extended farther into downtown. In light of previous comments from SDOT where they seemed afraid to touch the streets at the south end of the cycletrack it's a pleasant surprise.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Message from the Distant Future: on Bicycle Equipment Regulations and the Founding of the Glorious Nation of Cascadia!

At the time of this post, the end of 2015, some American cyclists are frustrated with bicycle equipment and behavior regulations that differ by locality. Targets of frustration include King County's all-ages helmet law, Oregon's mandatory-sidepath law, bike path “hours of operation” that apply wherever bike paths fall under park-department jurisdiction, and various suburbs' single-file riding laws. I write from the future to tell you all that these are no idle frustrations or concerns. Similar questions have, indeed, shaped nations.

Sometimes the world, after all, turns on the results of low-turnout elections. Back in 2027 King County elected to its council a Dadaist Alternative After-Party majority. This group could not agree on repealing the all-ages helmet law, but managed to pass, in protest of it, a measure requiring all motorists to wear full-face auto racing helmets. As it applied, drivers on I-5 had to take their eyes off Twitter for a few seconds to don their headgear as they approached the Ballinger Way exit! Thousands of RTs and ★s were lost!

Twitter was (at the time) a California company (it would later be purchased by a NoVa military research concern), so a Washington county's interference in its business naturally ran afoul of Article I, Section 8 of the US Constitution. The resulting constitutional crisis could only lead to one thing: THE FOUNDING OF THE GLORIOUS NATION OF CASCADIA!

Of course, due to the particulars of its founding, Cascadia had no Article I, Section 8 in its constitution. Indeed, quite the opposite. In Wallingford it was deemed illegal for cyclists to use tires narrower than 40mm, due to the danger of getting tires caught in streetcar tracks. On Capitol Hill, where there actually were streetcar tracks, freewheeling was deemed a "bourgeois freedom" and restricted to the elderly (those over 30); tires wider than 28mm were banned entirely as a crime against aesthetics. A narrow sort of aesthetics, to be sure, but PR Capitol Hill was a narrow jurisdiction, particularly after its territorial losses to the downtown retail core and the various colonies, buffer nations, and puppet states of Broadmoor Country Club.

Cycling equipment rules were soon rendered moot, though. A voting bloc of UW freshmen and out-of-town Seahawks attendees (yes, visitors can vote in Cascadia, we have this thing called hospitality) pushed through strict laws first against unannounced passes, then against interrupting conversations to announce a pass, so we effectively couldn't ride on MUPs. Drivers literally owned the roads in Cascadia but refused to pay for their maintenance, so they banned bikes on all roads out of spite after conditions degraded. By 2040 the only bikes to be seen were on advertisements for $6,000/mo studio apartments. Oh, right, and there was that guy with a routine that biked down the shoulder of I-5 near SLU once a year or so, jumping off just in time to dodge the cops; that kept on until the freeway collapsed.

We finally broke the stalemate on transportation when a bunch of laid-off techies and airplane manufacturers, squatting in an abandoned Boeing plant, invented the first affordable jetpack. One declared herself Queen of the Sky, to be succeeded by anyone that could kill her in her dominion. She then proceeded to fall off her jetpack from a thousand feet up before enacting any laws. Because it was the ground that killed her no succession or lawmaking was possible, leaving Cascadia's skies in permanent anarchy, the perfect legal environment for personal jetpack transport. What's the carbon footprint and death toll of the resulting transportation system? It turns out to be illegal to keep count, according to a ruling reached by the Supreme Court of Jesters in the halftime show of a 2046 Sounders-Timbers game. When you're up in a jetpack you can't put your head in the sand, exactly, put there's plenty of room to put it up your own...