Inside Tom's Head - April 2021

18 May 2021

April was a good month.

We’ve been getting lots of overdue house stuff done, and are in the process of finishing the work we did on our back yard last year. Most notably, we purchased a projector, and being able to watch movies on a big screen in our back yard has been fantastic.

I also have my bike pretty much set up (for now, I’m taking it down to Portland to get it fit in May). I read The All-Road Bike Revolution, which I wish had been available years ago, since it helped dispel some of my misconceptions about what actually matters on a bicycle. I also got some cool new pedals, which I absolutely love. Finally, I’ve started carrying my tools in a frame bag, which has reduced the weight in my backpack, quite a bit. I’ll probably be investing in some swanky new bags in the near future.

New Stuff Around Here

I’ve been trying to get away from Google stuff for a while now, but since I use an Android phone, I haven’t been pursuing it as much as I would like. One of the things that has been on my radar for a while now is Google’s FeedBurner service. I don’t really need it for RSS, but it was really handy to allow people to subscribe for email updates.

However, Google just announced that they will be “modernizing” the service, which means getting rid of email subscriptions. I have until July, but sometime in the next month or two. I will be moving over to another service for email updates. I’ll post about it when I do, but heads up that you may be receiving some weird updates in your email (if you’re subscribed).

New Stuff Elsewhere

  • Focusing exclusively on electric vehicles isn’t going to fix the climate. That isn’t to say that it’s not an important piece, but ultimately we need to drive less, and that means that we need to make sure that our infrastructure supports other methods of transportation.
  • If we want to fix our childcare system, a good start would be to make it so that it pays enough to provide a living
  • Light rail is really cool, I agree, but if you’re serious about moving people around without cars, you should be looking at busses.
  • I love Signal, and have been meaning to start donating to them, but now that they are trying to integrate a cryptocurrency scheme into their service I’m not so sure what the future of the service is. Another take on why this change is problematic.
  • It’s time to stop worrying about cleaning so much. Of course, I say that as someone who still washes their groceries, but our cleaning regimen now consists mostly of letting stuff sit out in our garage pantry for a day before bringing it in and washing produce (which we were doing before the pandemic).
  • If you want people on bicycles to use bike lanes, you should stop putting those lanes in the door zone.
  • So first Harley made the electric motorcycles used in Long Way Up, now they are making e-bikes? I’m both really excited to see how mainstream this is getting but also find the culture that Harley has built to be problematic. However, I think that the take of motorcycles being about the freedom of the open road and e-bikes being about the freedom of city streets is a good one.
  • A pretty compelling argument that we should focus on building a passenger rail culture with the infrastructure that we have now rather than betting it all on high speed rail. I have to, reluctantly, agree (I love the idea of HSR after all). At first I was disappointed that the article didn’t go into what that might look like (for example, youth passes), but then I realized that the situation is bad enough that almost any improvement would be a huge step forward.
  • File under “more backward than you realized”. Apparently, on top of holding out on moving to a modern measurement system, the US can’t even be bothered to standardize the foot. Relevant meme.
  • Some interesting thoughts on how transitions affect attention and perception. The video linked in the post is fascinating and well worth a watch, too (Star Wars did some cool stuff).
  • Why is the US so bad at building public transit? Lots of reasons. Fortunately, many of them can be improved.
  • The Olympia Time blog makes a good case why we should take down the statue of Gov. John R. Rogers. In a discussion with a friend a while back about taking down confederate statues, he asked me where it would end, if I would be okay with removing statues of the founding fathers. I was a little less certain back then, but now my feeling is that maybe we shouldn’t have statues of individuals in public places at all. After all, I can’t think of a better way to portray someone as “good” or “heroic” while still avoiding any nuance or discussion about them. Nothing worthwhile in history was accomplished by one person working alone (contrary to what statues would have you think). Statues can go in museums, for public spaces I’d rather have statues of unidentified people or some other way of symbolizing the events and accomplishments that we want to celebrate.
  • Sometimes it really seems as though the people I would most want the police to protect me from are . . . the police. I’m a big fan of body worn cameras for law enforcement, but their very necessity is an indictment of the institution. Imagine if, say, teachers were so bad at their jobs that we needed them to be under constant surveillance. Before it got to that point, the teachers whose actions were prompting the complaints would be fired, and if that didn’t work, the school administration would also go. With the police, however, this is not what happens. My preference would be for us to stop thinking of the police as a general-purpose solution to things like mental health, drug addiction, and traffic violence, and instead have people like health professionals, social workers, and transportation employees deal with those issues. There is almost certainly some role for the police in our society (investigating violent crime, for example), but I believe that it is much smaller than their current incarnation. So long as they remain our sole means of dealing with stuff, though, we should have them wear cameras at the very least, since doing so apparently makes them less likely to rely on violence.
  • On the subject of police, here’s a department that seems to think that their job is to encourage people who are driving to take videos of people on bicycles who are creating traffic issues. Interestingly, there is no corresponding call for people to take videos of bad drivers, even though last time I checked, the rising rates of pedestrian fatalities weren’t a result of people on bicycles riding pedestrians down.
  • I’m a big fan of bringing back traditional crops, since they are often well-adapted to their locations (and thus require fewer chemical inputs), help to diversify our food system, and support healthy cultures (see: the Maya Nut), so this article about bringing back breadfruit is pretty interesting.
  • I’m generally a fan of automated traffic enforcement (after all, traffic cameras rarely kill people during traffic stops), but here’s some well reasoned opposition that differs from the usual concerns about privacy. I do think that good road design (that doesn’t rely on enforcement) is almost always superior to enforcement (traditional or automated), but the big question is about how we get there.


  • As mentioned above, I picked up The All-Road Bike Revolution after looking for a bicycle magazine to subscribe to and seeing it listed on the Bicycle Quarterly shop. It does a really good job of explaining the things that my mechanic has been trying to tell me for years now. I wish that I had read it years ago (never mind that it just came out last year). If you ride a bike (or want to) you should read it, too.
  • I read Dark Lord Clementine to my family and it was fantastic. I really hope that we get to spend more time in that world.
  • I watched The Hummingbird Project on Netflix. By all rights it should have been right up my alley, since I find high-frequency trading to be fascinating (in a negative sense), but in the end it was meh.
  • It’s been a while since I watched a Spike Lee film, and BlackkKlansman didn’t disappoint. It was insightful and funny, well worth watching, especially in a time where the discussion around police abolition has become mainstream.
  • Mr. Peabody and Sherman ended up being a solid family film, if you have some time to kill and a Netflix subscription.
  • I finally got around to watching Columbus. I really enjoyed it, but you’ll have to wait until I write a dedicated post about it for details.
  • We found Bloodsucking Bastards by looking at what else Pedro Pascal had been in prior to The Mandalorian, and found this delightful HoCom (Horror-Comedy).
  • Tenet is what you would get if you decided to remake Primer as an action movie. I don’t regret watching it, but I kind of wish that I’d rewatched Primer instead.
  • The Old Guard, on the other hand, was a solid action film. I’m looking forward to the sequel.
  • I’ve started listening to The War on Cars podcast and am really loving it. I’m honestly not sure about the title, since it really leans into the whole preaching-to-the-choir thing, but I look forward to each new episode, so whatever.
  • The Bicycle Film Festival is an example of a fringe benefit of the pandemic. I really enjoyed it, but there’s about 0% chance that I would have actually traveled somewhere to attend. I want more digital-only short film festivals.
  • I watched Freaky with my partner, and I think that it was the movie that inspired her to coin the phrase HoCom. It was an awesome take on Freaky Friday, and we’ve started watching the director’s other work, including Happy Death Day, which was a fantastic take on Groundhog Day. Now I want to go through and watch all the major time loop movies.
  • Valley Girl was a lot of fun.
  • I read the follow-up to Gideon the Ninth, Harrow the Ninth. It was really weird (which is saying something, considering the first book), and took me about half the book to really get into, at which point I really enjoyed it. I wasn’t as taken with it as with the first book, but I’ll read the third entry in the series when it’s available.
  • I finished Django Wexler’s Wells of Sorcery trilogy Siege of Rage and Ruin. It was a satisfying conclusion to the series, but I didn’t love it in the same way as his Forbidden Library series. I’m really impressed by his range, in that each series feels very different. Now I need to finish up The Shadow Campaigns series, and read Ashes of the Sun looks fun.