Inside Tom's Head - July 2021

15 Aug 2021

July was eventful. We had planned a short vacation of sticking around the house and maybe going on a short camping trip. Instead, we got word that a relative was sick, and ended up taking a road trip to Colorado to visit them. It ended up being a lot more vacation-y than anticipated and we got to do fun and make some good memories with them.

The downside was that the farther east we drove, the fewer masks we saw. By the time you get to Colorado you wouldn’t be mistaken for thinking that the pandemic had already ended and you just hadn’t been told. As bad as the recent news has been, I wouldn’t be surprised if things get worse.

In other news, I found out that AT&T has decided that it will no longer support my phone. I would understand if my phone were 3g only and wouldn’t work when they stopped providing 3g service, but instead it’s compatible technologically but just not on the small list of phones that AT&T has decided can use their network. In the grand scheme of things, not really a big deal, my phone is getting old and I was getting ready to replace it anyway, but I don’t see why I need to do it on AT&T’s arbitrary schedule. So I’ll replace my phone, but I’ll also never give AT&T money again if I can avoid it.

What’s new around here

  • I still have some blog posts that are almost done, but work has gotten even more stressful over the past months and I just haven’t had the oomph to work on stuff.
  • As I mentioned last month, I’m going to have to switch out my email subscription service, since Google appears to be dismantling Feedburner. Towards that end, I have rewritten my Subscribe page and will be manually transferring everyone over to Follow.it in August.

What I’ve been reading online

  • Apparently, people in the US 600,000 e-bikes last year. It’s a far cry from the ~14 million new cars that were purchased in the same year. Imagine if they had the same infrastructure and subsidy support that cars (and electric cars in particular) receive?
  • It’s strange to me that white bicycle advocates don’t get that enforcement isn’t what’s going to make bicycling safer. As a cisgendered straight white guy, the only negative interactions I’ve had with police are when I was on my bike (being told that getting hit by a car was my fault since I was “going too fast” on a 30mph street; being told that the driver who passed me and immediately took a sharp right turn, stopping in the bike lane, hadn’t done anything wrong since they claimed to have used their turn signal). I imagine that being part of the BIPOC community is a lot like that except 100x worse and, you know, all the time.
  • It’s no replacement for adding trees and green space (especially to historically redlined communities) and decreasing the amount of paved surface in our cities, but spraying roads with titanium dioxide as a method of reducing the urban heat island effect seems like a pretty cool technology. My concern is that since it probably isn’t cheap, it might only be deployed in affluent neighborhoods. From the first link, trees are “the only infrastructure that add value over time.”
  • More on that topic: “The surface temperature of an ivy-covered wall in an industrial area was about 119°F. Right next to it was a non-ivy-covered wall, which was about 157°F — about a 40-degree difference in temperature”
  • I just love this headline: State sees decrease in pedestrian fatalities as more safety measures are taken. On the other hand, it makes me wonder if maybe the relationship between reduced fatalities and safety measures was in doubt. I do love the phrase “pedestrian crashes”, too, as it conjures images of a two people bumping into each other, saying “sorry” and continuing on their way or possibly of a distracted walker ambling into a parked car. I’m assuming that the point of the phrase isn’t to minimize the role of cars in the fatalities of pedestrians hit by . . . cars, but rather to save time. I’m still going to poke fun at it, though.
  • The trick with any solution is to get people to adopt it, so connecting ranchers with land stewards seems pretty exciting to me.
  • A solid argument that public transit is a public good (like a library), so we should fund it accordingly.
  • I had heard of the Tulsa Race Massacre, but I wasn’t aware that “Black Wall Street” recovered from that atrocity and thrived. What finally did it in was was actually a highway.
  • A while back I linked an long-form exchange on the Olympia subreddit about what happened to Tumwater’s downtown. Here’s more on the subject from one of the debate’s participants.
  • Developing mountain bike trails to bring in tourism seems like a good way to replace money lost when extractive industry (logging, mining) goes away. Of course, it wouldn’t work everywhere and logging and mining will continue somewhere, but looking at the environment as something to be enjoyed rather than simply harvested is a good start.
  • An interview with Jesse Frost, author of a new book on no-till farming. The bit about how agricultural science writing is often aimed at other scientists rather than farmers was really interesting.
  • As always, context is a good thing. In this case, the news about shoplifting in San Francisco leaves some things out.
  • Private health insurance makes no sense.
  • Researchers say that bike share saves the US $36,000,000 in public health dollars every year. Granted, that amount doesn’t take into account how much money governments spend on bike share, but I’d be surprised if it was anywhere near $36 million. In addition, since there are other benefits to bike share (reduced traffic, better mobility, etc.) it seems safe to say that we should be spending more on it.
  • It appears that recent forestry management efforts (thinning, prescribed burning) has been helpful in containing and fighting wildfires.
  • I honestly did not expect to see a discussion of Miyazaki’s films on Strong Towns, but it totally makes sense. Miyazaki creates a wonderful sense of community in his films and it isn’t really surprising that there are some lessons for urban planning in them.
  • This post comparing hacking with marketing fits really well with my experience at work. We get a new tool and people tend to take two approaches to it: either they ask what to use it for or they experiment with it and figure out how to they can use it (sometimes in ways unanticipated by the designer). Although I am firmly on the side of the hacker here, I think that the danger of it is the raccoon-like attraction to shiny new tools, since I really like experimenting with stuff. The hacking mindset should be tempered with the Amish-inspired question: does this tool actually get me closer to my goals or am I excited about it because it is shiny and new?
  • Yeah, I’m one of those people, I miss Google Reader. The good news is that I’m pretty happy with Newsblur, and I’m glad that I’m now paying for a service rather than simply being a source of advertising revenue.
  • The Suicide of Our Troubles, a short story by Karl Schroeder in the same setting as Stealing Worlds. Schroeder is hands-down my favorite contemporary science fiction writer, and if you haven’t read his stuff, this short story is a great place to start.
  • I had never considered why some barriers on roadways are designed to protect drivers and others are not.
  • I hadn’t ever given much thought to the problematic acceptance of colonialism in board games, but looking at my board game shelf I don’t seem to own any that involve colonialism. I wonder how much of that is due to my preferences (I have a lot of games about vikings, Polynesian cultures, and Japan) and how much is due to some sort of unconscious aversion to the topic. On the other hand, I wonder what sort of problematic things I’m simply overlooking in that collection.

Media Consumption

  • We started watching The Mysterious Benedict Society on Disney+. I had never read the books and was pleasantly surprised to find something that felt like an upbeat Lemony Snicket.
  • On our road trip we listened to The Wild Robot. It was okay, but didn’t leave much in terms of lasting impressions on me. I think that our kid liked it more.
  • We also listened to The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart, the same person who wrote the Benedict Society books. It was a lot of fun and felt like it had something interesting to say about honesty (beyond “honesty is good”).