Inside Tom's Head - Februrary 2021

18 Mar 2021

I enjoyed February. It feels like we are inching towards getting enough vaccination to start resuming parts of normal life, but the vaccine rollout will need to accelerate quite a bit if there’s to be any hope of social gatherings, but I’m optimistic.

I ordered a new bike in January that was supposed to ship mid-February. I just found out this week that it isn’t coming, which was unfortunate. I really liked that bike (and am not a fan of how the new paint looks. It wasn’t anyone’s fault, as far as I can tell, just a bad combination of the pandemic bike boom (and corresponding shortage), a new version coming out, and an extremely picky consumer (that would be me). I think that my mechanic and I have something figured out, and it’s been a lot of fun digging into some of the more technical bicycle stuff that I hadn’t really paid attention to before. I’m hoping that sometime in the next month I’ll have cause to write up a narrative of my Surly Pacer and maybe something about a new bike.

New Stuff Around Here

  • I wrote up some thoughts about Bicycle/Race, by Adonia E. Lugo, PhD, where I talked about how I had never really considered the unhoused community to be bicyclists even though they clearly are. Shortly after posting it, I ran across an article about how many unhoused folks rely on bicycles as a lifeline. My impression is that a lot of them already have a access to bicycles, but probably lack access to infrastructure that would make riding more viable: maintenance facilities and tools, spare tubes and patch kits, helmets, locks, etc. This feels like a solvable problem to me.

New Stuff Elsewhere

  • I watched the Social Dilemma on Netflix, and although I liked it at the time, a month or two later, it didn’t really make much of an impact on me. Certainly not on the level of Cal Newport’s book, Digital Minimalism. I might have guessed that it has something to do with my appreciation for the Amish approach to technology (does this piece of technology move us closer to our goal?), but LibrarianShipwreck makes a pretty compelling case that it might just be because the film is inherently demobilizing: You, the consumer, don’t have any responsibility to fix this, just trust the Silicon Valley folks (never mind that they made the mess in the first place).
  • An interesting look at the things that actually improve the quality of software. It may be tempting to think that since bugs are technical problems that they have technical solutions such as coding in a different language or using different tools, but it is likely that companies would get a lot more benefit out of supporting coders and making the workplace less awful.
  • Apparently some people are up in arms that Washington state is delaying some highway projects to free up funds to fulfill court-ordered habitat remediation. I have a hard time getting too worked up about it, but I would hope that all of the politicians getting upset about it put that same level of passion into ensuring that their constituants have internet access.
  • Emmett O’Connell has a brief history of anti-corporatism in Washington state and some thoughts about what that might mean for the future of the Republican party.
  • Kelp farming has a future as part of the climate solution.
  • Apparently the organization that sets the standards for governmental accounting classifies roads as assets. Of course, in a very real sense roads are assets for communities, but financially, not so much. You can’t trade or sell them, most of them don’t generate revenue, and they require upkeep and periodic replacement. This seems like a recipe for a budgeting nightmare (as we keep on building new roads without addressing how to pay for their maintenance–or maintenance on our existing roads)
  • Some ideas on how to fixi the legacy of racist housing policy in the US.
  • A long-form back and forth about how Tumwater was affected by the I-5. It starts with a comment that I didn’t catch somewhere, then Emmett O’Connell wrote up a post about how Tumwater was already in trouble prior to the I-5. User steve-the-kid responds that it’s only fair to say it has prevented it from ever coming back. There was probably more to it that I missed, but I loved what I saw of it.
  • A list of Netrunner cards whose flavor text is ruined by doing too much. It’s pretty telling that most of the flavor text listed could be fixed by just deleting the last sentence or two.
  • An interesting interview with Sacha Baron Cohen about the ethics of his incognito filmmaking.
  • Holland shows how to put pedestrians first in winter. When I saw the title, I failed to see how another country doing a better job at maintaining infrastructure than the US was news, but Holland, Michigan, is another story.
  • When we built our house we were bummed out that it didn’t have gas hookups. It turns out that our wanting a gas stove was probably the result of a long-running gas industry marketing campaign.
  • Seattle’s Democracy Voucher program is pretty exciting.
  • Apparently, internet advertising is even creepier than previously imagined. Get an ad blocker, folks.
  • The new USPS truck design is seriously adorable. But it’s safety features are what I find really exciting. I really hope that this starts a trend for delivery vehicles. I almost got taken out by a logging truck rolling through a stop sign the other day, and one of the scariest parts was that the driver never saw me, and probably didn’t hear me yelling at them. If they had hit me there is a good chance that they wouldn’t have even noticed and just kept driving. Granted, a delivery van is very different from a logging truck, but not if you’re a kid.
  • A 99% Invisible episode about the bridge in Austen that accidentally became the home of the largest urban bat colony in the world. Arbitrary decisions can have big impacts, and are where we can have basically free ways of making the world a better place. After all, if we can encourage or discourage bats from living somewhere simply by varying the spacing on a boring piece of infrastructure, imagine what sort of things we could do if we approached everything the same way.
  • The problem with housing policy is that housing is either affordable or a good investment. By definition, it cannot be both. The US has clearly chosen the latter, and many of our housing issues can be traced back to this fundamental decision (and racism, of course, dig into anything in the US enough, and you’ll eventually run into racism). This reminds me to a couple of my favorite articles about the subject over on Urban Kchoze: Euclidian Zoning and Japanese Zoning.
  • An article about the solar envelope, or how we should be {designing buildings to deliberately create or prevent shade on adjacent properties](https://www.lowtechmagazine.com/2012/03/solar-oriented-cities-1-the-solar-envelope.html).

Media Consumption

  • I read Prosper’s Demon by KJ Parker. I loved the story, but am not sure how I feel about the ending.
  • I finally got around to watching the cargo bike documentary, Motherload. I definitely enjoyed it, but it didn’t really convince me that a cargo bike is for me. It could just be that when my kid was smaller I hauled a bunch of stuff in my Burley trailer, so this wasn’t much of a surprise. If you don’t think that it’s possible to haul stuff with a bike, though, you should give this movie a shot.
  • I finally read City of Bone and Silence, the sequel to Ship of Smoke and Steel. I really enjoyed it, and will probably get to the final book in the trilogy in April or May.