Sunday, February 28, 2010

Don't Be On The Roads At...

If you walk, ride, or are otherwise out, have you noted when it's safest to be on your local roads?

In my neighborhood, the roads I walk my dogs on give access to perhaps 75 houses in something like six miles.  In addition, they hold a winery and a church.  Over the years that we've been regularly walking our dogs I have tried to figure out when it is safest and most dangerous to walk.

I admit this is an entirely subjective assessment.  I am not taking notes or using a radar gun.  And besides, all it takes is one nitwit who is busy dialing his cell phone (which is illegal in CA now... hands free is the law) to kill someone, regardless of the time of day.  But it's still an interesting exercise.

The winery wants to expand its hours and open a tasting room on weekends.  That would, no doubt, add more cars to our twisty mountain roads.  I'm not in favor of that, but as I've already argued my point before the county (and apparently lost) I see no reason to waste time going to the next county meeting.  The supervisors will do whatever they damn well please and it doesn't matter what I think.

In any case, it turns out winery customers tend to be afternoon and evening people, on weekends.  I can mostly avoid them by walking the dogs in the morning those days.

Then we have rush hour.  It's easy to see why it would be bad to be on the roads when people are late for work.  And, in truth, I can see that in the traffic.  There are always a few people rocketing down these tiny little roads at 9:10am, trying to get to their office by 10, or whatever.  In general, it's best not to walk on week days before 10am, just to avoid them.  But - and this is important - rush hour folks are oddly spread out.  Late for one might be anytime after 9am.  Late for a software engineer might be "after lunch".  I see a few, but it's not like 8:45 - 9:15am turns our roads into a superhighway.  No, in fact, since we haven't got all that many homes here, it's not that many people who speed in the mornings.  A few, yes, but not many.

Other possible bad times are school related.  Opening more-or-less coincides with rush hour in the mornings, and I do see a few people scrambling to get their kid to school on time.  Correspondingly there's a rush around 3pm to see them picked up.  Usually those doing the pickup - mostly mothers - are in a horrible hurry to get to the school, but are less panicked on their way home.  So, avoiding the hour from 2:30-3:30pm seems intelligent, at least on week days.  Again, though, it turns out that we haven't got that many school age kids in the area I walk, so it's a limited problem to some degree.

There's another, more random class of individual that is a real menace, but is entirely unpredictable: the teenage visitor.  I usually hear these kids coming from miles away and get off the road well before they are anywhere nearby.  Occasionally, though, that isn't possible, and something low slung goes whizzing past me at a high rate of speed.  I've nearly been hit several times - we have no sidewalks here, of course - by teenagers driving way too fast.  In truth though, that's relatively rare.   Once every couple of weeks I hear them coming, and perhaps once every few months I am at risk.

The worst time to be on the roads, without a doubt, is when people on on their way to worship God.  Sunday mornings turn our little road into a race track for the devout.   Our local church has services at 10:30am, and sometimes the choir meets to practice an hour earlier.  Do NOT make the mistake of being on the local roads between 15 minutes before and 15 minutes after those times on a Sunday morning.  Doing so is asking for trouble.  Possibly death.

Those people are on a mission - the Lord's mission, apparently - and will not be delayed.  I am often waved at cheerily - as I try to reel my dogs in and leap off the road - but oddly no one ever slows down.  They drive as if their very life depends on getting to the church on time, even if they are already late, and perhaps it does.

Maybe God hates you more for being late to service than for killing someone on your way to that same service.

Just a thought.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Life Is Throwing Curve Balls Lately

I had planned a blog post about Google today.  Half of it was going to be something of a rant about how Google has screwed a few things up lately and needs to straighten up and fly right, in line with their motto.  The other half was going to be directed at the people and pundits who have been spouting off about how evil Google is, without looking at the big picture, and thus missing a number of interesting points, particularly comparisons with other companies and their actions.

I had it mostly written in my head last night as I was falling asleep.  It was going to be a good post.

That all changed this morning with a phone call.  Now my wife is on her way to her parent's house.  Her father is seriously ill, and it is not clear he will survive.

Such news - yet another slap in the face by the cosmos - puts the Google issues into perspective.  They're trivia, entirely unimportant.

At least to me.

Safe travels, Anne.  I wish your dad all the best, and I will do whatever I can for you as we go forward.  I love you.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Spelling Woes

OK... I give up.  Clearly English is going to be a problem for me.  Maybe I should write in Perl.

Why is it "usable" and not "useable" (the latter is apparently British) while "replaceable" has the 'e' left in?

But then why is it "judgment" and not "judgement"?  We remove the 'e' in that one.

I can see an argument for stripping the 'e' from the end of "use" before adding a suffix, and apparently we do.  And apparently we do it to "judge" too.

But, before you become complacent, it's "judgeable" with the 'e'.  So we remove it for "jugdment" but not for "judgeable"?

I think it's a plot to make us all (or at least me) feel incompetent.

For a long while I was horribly confused because Firefox (as installed by Ubuntu 8.04 LTS) defaulted to the British English dictionary for its spelling checker.  Given the fact that I moved around a lot as a kid and as a result never stayed in one school's English program for more than a couple of years, my spelling is hopeless, but the confusion caused by that Firefox default dictionary may cripple me for life.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

An Open Letter To Charities

So, you run a charity of some sort.  And for some reason I am on your list of potential sponsors.

Let me make something perfectly clear:  If you call my home you will not be given any money.  In fact, I will instruct the poor person on the other end to remove us from your calling list, tell them we never give money to anyone who calls us on the phone, and hang up.

I do the same thing to surveys and political solicitations.

You have a million ways into the life of the average American: ads by direct mail, billboard, TV, Internet, wrapped cars, buses, and a million other surfaces; do good works resulting in news coverage; civil disobedience resulting in news coverage; buy your news coverage outright, and on and on.  Heck, half the charities in the world attempt to buy legislation to do what they want.  You do not need to use my phone to reach me.

Calling me on the phone is offensive.  It wastes my time and assumes I am willing to accept the call, which I can assure you 100% of the time is not the case.

I don't care if I've given you money before or not, do not call me.  If you do, your contributions will dry up.

If we all did that, imagine how much quieter dinner time would be.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Looking for Writers...

Are any of my (few) readers interested in writing?  If so, I'm looking for help of a sort.

A long time back my friend Doug mentioned in a book review that he liked Steering The Craft, by Ursula K. Le Guin.  It's a book on writing that (so far, anyway) avoids the obvious idiocies of many of the writing books I've seen  I've read perhaps a third of it and I'm really enjoying it.

Now, here's the problem: STC has a bunch of exercises in it that I really should do, but finding the motivation to do them when my life is full of distractions is hard.  If I had people who, like me, were committed to doing these exercises (and/or writing other things) for each other, it would be a lot simpler for me to make progress.  Surely I can't be the only one who is motivated by external deadlines.

So, I'm contemplating forming some kind of writing group.  If you want to write and are willing to get a copy of this book, it seems like a good place to start.  If you're in the bay area we could get together irregularly to share exercise results.  If we're farther apart we can form an Internet based writing group, sharing results via email, at least.

So, is anyone interested?  If so, please speak up.  I'm serious about this - I have a number of writing projects I want to tackle, and a writing group that is open to just about anything (fiction, non-fiction, excercises like this, etc.) could be very useful.

Drop me an email, reply to this post, or in some way get in touch if you're interested.  Thanks much!

Oh, here's a link to Steering The Craft on Amazon.