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...

Saturday, December 12, 2015

What 3 Words II: Silence Heart Nest

Silence Heart Nest's W3W address is, sadly, not silence.heart.nest (which is, sadly, not an address at all). It is truly.hope.visit. I truly do.

Just nearby, the Center of the Universe is located at the edge of a median island in the busy intersection of Fremont Avenue and Fremont Place, which even confuses locals sometimes (Douglas Adams, are you there?). It's at prefer.admiral.herds. I truly do.

When you walk out the door of Cult of Smalltrain you step from home.shack.exit (it was a fine brick building, perhaps shotgun-shaped but not a shack) to picked.poems.cotton (something about the dandelions in Illinois). It doesn't make much sense the other direction, but then you always can go in through the back. IIRC. YMMV. HAND. I truly do.

Like the troll I am, I was married under a bridge at stamp.pose.that. I truly do.

I just won a race!

This is only the second time I've ever won a race, excluding those with extremely limited entry criteria (i.e. I don't count things like office-wide races, but I do count small open-entry races, as most of the races I run are pretty small). The first was the North Park River Run, a rather small two-mile race held by Chicago's North Park University. This one was the Santa Runs Tacoma half-marathon, which would have to be considered quite small for a half-marathon (700 runners). Winning or not, I'm very happy with a time of 1:15:00. It was a PR by over 7 minutes. My previous half-marathon best was on a much harder course almost 10 years ago, and had been my last remaining PR set in my 20s. Knowing what I do about my recent running improvement, I guess this qualifies as old age and treachery beating youth and exuberance. Age, treachery, and magic hip-flexor stretches.

The course was a significant net-downhill, enough that it's not eligible for records per USATF (max 1m/km drop), which nonetheless certifies its distance. The drop of 36m was essentially all in the first mile, which I cruised through in 5:13; after that the course was a mostly flat out-and-back, with a couple overpass "rollers" in the early and late miles. The big first-mile drop was actually a nice feature, both to be able to throw out my first mile split, and to be assured that I'd be ahead of my goal pace early. On a "fair" course I'd probably have been 30 seconds slower. The day was cool and the ground was wet, but no real raindrops until late in the race; there was a very slight breeze with us on the way out and against on the way back. Overall, about the best conditions you can hope for in December in the northwest. I was a bit slower on the way back than out, probably due to the slight breeze, plus general fatigue and tightness. In the last three miles I couldn't stretch out my stride much but was able to pick up my turnover and keep a reasonable pace. I brought some food along but didn't use it. I hadn't really thought of this, but on an out-and-back course, if you're near the front, using water stations on the way back is really against the grain. So I didn't take any water, either, because by the time I really wanted it (mile 9 or so) I couldn't have got through effectively.

I rode down from Seattle with Rhea, Toffer, and Susan; Rhea and Susan finished first and second among women. So we were the fast van!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Left is tearing itself apart.

The Right is tearing itself apart.

Soon we will come jumbling together to redivide ourselves, split as bitterly as we were before:

between the mindless and the soulless.

Friday, September 11, 2015

What Three Words I: Galaxy Logic Dame

Remember Nambers? That thing that gave every IP address a DNS name made up of four words behind

Well, doesn't remember, either.

Anyway, now the same thing has been applied to the real world: What 3 Words, which assigns three words to 3x3-meter square-ish divisions of the Earth's surface! The open area next to my apartment building where I work on my bike is galaxy.logic.dame. Galaxy Logic Dame! The only dame that can save the galaxy... using logic!

“But Al,” Galaxy Logic Dame protested, “aren't galaxies made and broken by forces far beyond the grasp of any one dame? Logically I am powerless to affect their salvation!”

And Galaxy Logic Dame was no more.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

2015 Voting Guide for Seattle Techies

“How cool is it that in our brief lifetime we get to participate in Seattle's first council elections by district? This feels momentous!”

“Not as momentous as it would feel if we'd been born in time to be optimistic about space exploration or liberal Twitter...”

“Whatever, anyway, I'm so informed about local politics, I know who to vote for in every council position. They should let me vote for every position. Maybe I should take up residence in every district.”

“Even if that was how voting worked you still wouldn't get to vote for position ten.”

“Which one is that?”

“The sky.”

“The sky?”

“By the 1869 Charter Doc Maynard was recognized as sole owner of the sky. He subdivided and sold it to people he knew—”

“—let them in on the ground floor—”

“—yes, as it were, and its ownership has remained a fairly small, though gradually growing, group.”

“Your Boeingses, your Kenmore Airs—”

“—and, typically enough, Ma Bell. Its portion of the sky passed down to Century Link, whose only remaining profitable business is charging cellular providers for easements.”

“Well, that and tricking out-of-towners looking for football parking into entering their company garage, then fining them.”

“Sure. Anyway, until now most of the owners have been businesses, and businesses can't vote, but I figured out how to suspend a hammock from an array of drones, and I'm claiming residence in the sky for this election.”

“Who sold your ass sky? You've lived here like eight months.”

“I'm renting... well, technically it's sort of a squatters' rights situation...”

“How long does that take to kick in exactly?”


“Fine... so who are you voting for, then, for position ten?”

“Myself. I'm the only one that meets the residence requirement.”

“... What's even, like, your ZIP Code in the sky?”

“That would be nine-eight-one-go fuck yourself—”

“—hey, now—”

“—not you, personally. The postal service would like to establish a branch up—”

“—and I suppose you're still a two-oh-six, or did they stick the sky in four-two-five?”

“Six-five-oh. I got my phone in college.”

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Going Theory

Until today, my going theory was that my performance improvement in running this year was due to more consistent training and the sequence of a few years of minimal/"barefoot"-style running (which improved my turnover and body control) followed by going back to regular trainers and adding some new stretches (thanks, Tom Cotner!) that helped lengthen my stride. Turnover plus stride length equals speed; the body control helps keep me consistent and healthy. Also, though I mostly train in cushy trainers now, I'm continuing to forefoot-strike and use minimal shoes occasionally, so that I can race in minimal shoes (providing an advantage similar to racing flats) at any distance I want.

Then I read some articles citing studies claiming that typical doses of caffeine can improve performance by perhaps up to 3% in endurance athletes. This is my first season where I trained remotely well since becoming a coffee drinker. 3% more than covers my 5k improvement, and of course I'm racing in much lighter shoes than in the past. That really popped my balloon. I thought I was doing all this smart stuff to improve, outsmarting my younger, dumber self. Turns out it's just coffee and shoes.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

, and the banker said, "Do you have savings anywhere else?" and I said, "Yeah, shoeboxes," and he said, "Shoeboxes?" and I said, "Under my bed, filled with solid gold bars, which is pretty space-efficient," and he paused, and I continued, "It's not like I was making much use of the space under my bed anyway. In the interest of diversification I bury some of the boxes secretly on other peoples' property; this adds some risk. But there's growth potential, too, because who knows, someone might put more gold in 'em!"