Thursday, November 20, 2008

Politics: The Ron Paul Ride

Like every other creature of the digital age, during the Republican primaries I didn't really know much about Ron Paul but I liked hearing about him. I never considered he'd be a viable candidate, so I didn't bother to hear out his policies.

The Freakonomics blog has published Paul's responses to Freakonomics-blog commenters' questions (part 1 and part 2). And they're... scary. He says a few things that make sense, but then seems to go off the deep end into insanity and then pop right back up to common-sense stuff, all smiles.

For example, his take on the question "Do you deny global warming?"
I try to look at global warming the same way I look at all other serious issues: as objectively and open-minded as possible. There is clear evidence that the temperatures in some parts of the globe are rising, but temperatures are cooling in other parts. The average surface temperature had risen for several decades, but it fell back substantially in the past few years.

Clearly there is something afoot. The question is: Is the upward fluctuation in temperature man-made or part of a natural phenomenon. Geological records indicate that in the 12th century, Earth experienced a warming period during which Greenland was literally green and served as rich farmland for Nordic peoples. There was then a mini ice age, the polar ice caps grew, and the once-thriving population of Greenland was virtually wiped out.

It is clear that the earth experiences natural cycles in temperature. However, science shows that human activity probably does play a role in stimulating the current fluctuations.

The question is: how much? Rather than taking a “sky is falling” approach, I think there are common-sense steps we can take to cut emissions and preserve our environment. I am, after all, a conservative and seek to conserve not just American traditions and our Constitution, but our natural resources as well.

We should start by ending subsidies for oil companies. And we should never, ever go to war to protect our perceived oil interests. If oil were allowed to rise to its natural price, there would be tremendous market incentives to find alternate sources of energy. At the same time, I can’t support government “investment” in alternative sources either, for this is not investment at all.
Did you see that sanity loop-de-loop? He starts out by saying that he looks at everything objectively. Then he squirts out a few facts about the "Little Ice Age" in Greenland. Then he makes all that moot by saying that science shows human activity "probably does play a role" in the current upward trend.

Why go into that spiel about Greenland if you're going to talk about what the majority of scientists agree on? Why bring that up at all? It makes no sense.

Of course, allowing oil to rise to its natural price is a daring, flashy, and, dare I say it, good idea. Why the craziness roller-coaster ride, Ron Paul?

Other examples: He refuses to say anything about how unqualified Sarah Palin was for VP (which is nearly undeniable), yet he's negative about her because she would have to "toe the line on foreign policy and the war." And then there's the Department of Educuation abolition. Paul wants to dismantle it. Here's why:

First, the Constitution does not authorize the Department of Education, and the founders never envisioned the federal government dictating those education policies.

Second, it is a huge bureaucracy that squanders our money. We send billions of dollars to Washington and get back less than we sent. The money would be much better off left in states and local communities rather than being squandered in Washington.

Finally, I think that the smallest level of government possible best performs education. Teachers, parents, and local community leaders should be making decisions about exactly how our children should be taught, not Washington bureaucrats. The Department of Education has given us No Child Left Behind, massive unfunded mandates, indoctrination, and in come cases, forced medication of our children with psychotropic drugs. We should get rid of all of that and get those choices back in the hands of the people.

So much sense, yet so much batsh&t insanity. I mean, reform the Department, but don't demolish it. At my very basic level of understanding, the Dept. of Ed. makes sure that schools in poor communities have at least some money. Ron Paul would seem to think that schools in poor communities should, what? Close up shop? Not pay their teachers? Maybe every poor black kid in Baltimore should stay at home and be home-schooled? Maybe Ron Paul is not concerned about Baltimore inner-city kids? Maybe Ron Paul should say something about them? Or maybe people who are interested in Ron Paul aren't really interested in inner-city kids. After all, the only people who like Ron Paul... have computers.

Re: A Defeatist Throw Down

Pick up the slack, eh? Well, that was a over a week ago and I am now blogging again.

Whaddya know, when you're busy you don't give as much time to hobbies as when you're not. I blog today after a test last night and a quiz shortly preceding that, and I'm still working full time. Getting a test done is like a weight off my shoulders every time. I hate the tension going in and LOVE the relaxation coming out - provided I was happy with the performance, of course. Last night's was harder than the rest and I definitely sullied my 100 average for the course, but I found it more satisfying. There were a couple questions I simply did not know know until I sat there and stared at a blank page for about ten minutes, started the problem incorrectly, suddenly realized something, then started over. The "click" is what it's all about. It's like a drug. I want more.

Aak and I got into a fight the other night about politics. I was arguing from a position of how I don't know and I probably can't know anything, and he was saying that I can and do know more than I think I know. Maybe. I acknowledge that the convo. got extremely unfocused on my part because I didn't have a defensible argument. I did get downright enraged at one point because of how he was making a particular point. He was making the point that a person in a position of influence has to make decisions based on partial information. The conversation went something like:

A: Did you see An Inconvenient Truth?
H: Yes.
A: Did you see that graph that he showed?
H: Yes.
A: What if you were president and someone were to bring that info. to you and ask you to make a decision on [given issue] based on that information?
H: Well, I'd ask for clarification or further...
A: ...pick one...
H: ...uh, well, I don't remember that chart off hand, but I remember it being ridiculously cherry picked and biased...
A: ...pick one...
H: (getting annoyed) ...Aak, I would need further expla...
A: ...pick one...
H: ...look, you realize that I would need to ask knowledgable advisors who I trust and would respond to ques...
A: ...pick one...
H: ...You're really starting to piss me off...
A: ...pick one...
H: ...Dude, what's your pro...
A: ...pick one...
H: ...AAK! YOU'RE BEING A [very disagreeable individual]!!!...[Further yells, screams, and expletives]...

The conversation is getting me in a tizzy as I think about it now.

Subject change.

Why do some lighters have two chambers in them? Is it because when It gets low, there's less room in the wick-feeding chamber to spread out at the bottom, so it's pushed upwards along the wick and you get a little more life out of it? If so, then why two equal-sized chambers? Why not one chamber about the width of the wick and one frickin' 'uge chamber to contain the reservoir? Perhaps another explanation: is it so that the divider can take up more space and they can fill the lighter to the same level with less fluid and you have to buy a new one sooner? Planned obsolescence? Unfortunately for this boggler I don't smoke, so I don't have an extensive sample set of lighters to keep this inquiry open over time.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bicycling: Core Values Are Rotten on the Road

The reason for the bloated bike-blogging today is this: Chris Core pissed me off.

Chris Core is a radio personality, responsible for "Core Values" on WTOP. Perhaps he does other stuff, but I don't care to look into his credentials. I'm just going to take him at his words. Last week, Core made a commentary entitled "Growing Phenomenon of Bicycle Road Rage." Here is the transcript, taken from

It's very impractical for a 5,000 lb vehicle that can go 80 mph to equally share the road with a 20 lb bike that does about 15 tops. Yet, bikers now apparently feeling newly empowered seem to feel it's perfectly fine for them to ride right in the middle of traffic doing 15 mph and get hostile when you drive around them.

Furthermore, many of them drive on narrow roads, like Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park, right next to the, um, bike path. And although they claim equal road rights and moral superiority over those of us in motorized vehicles, they are horrible scofflaws when it comes to passing, cutting in and out of traffic, and little details like stop signs. Not a sermon, just a thought. Two way courtesy is a core value.

I emailed Mr. Core (referring to myself as "non-scofflaw cyclist"), and I thought I was very even-handed. I agreed that two-way courtesy was key, and that that point was absolutely essential. I then pointed out the law that bikes are entitled to and supposed to use the road. I pointed out that the Rock Creek Park bike path is in terrible shape and is dangerous to ride. I reasoned that, since all bikers LOVE bike paths, for them to choose to use the road must mean that the path is really awful. And finally I admonished him for adding fuel to the fire that I deal with every day--the anger and maliciousness of drivers who don't even know that bikes are allowed to be on the road.

It seems that TheWashCycle's and other blogs' posts about Core's bike-hatred got around, because Core did another segment about how stupid the emails he had gotten were. TheWashCycle is again on top of this one, but here's the transcript for my readers:

OK guys, eleven days ago I did a commentary about how more and more people are using bicycles to commute; and about how difficult it is for bike and car commuters to share the same road and how hostile I think some bikers have become. You can hear it here.

I have since received dozens of really angry emails. That's because somebody transcribed my commentary and put it in the blogosphere. Thus giving thousands of bikers the opportunity to show me their, um, lack of hostility by writing to me.

Mike called me "morally bankrupt."
Russ called me a "dumbass."
Bruce says I'm "mean and anti-social."
Joe said I "ruined his day."

The reaction was so angry that I'm devoting a full segment to the issue on my Channel 50 TV show this coming weekend.

My favorite email came from freewheeler who wrote, "Bike commuters don't tune to WTOP for traffic and weather. Did you say what you did because you're afraid of losing your captive audience?" The answer to that is, well, yes. That's exactly why I wrote the commentary to keep WTOP #1.

Taking one for the team is a Core Value.

So I emailed Core again, saying that his cherrypicking was unfair and made me doubt that he was serious about "two way courtesy". I suggest anyone reading this to email him here and tell him he doesn't deserve a driver's license, if his understanding of the law is that shallow.

Bicycling: Cars and Bikes Are Different

A lot of my posts seem too obvious to bother writing. And yet, people out there don't seem to think the way I do. Or perhaps they've never bothered to cogitate a little about them.

Cars and bikes are different. Cars can go faster and cause more damage than bikes can.

When I'm in a car, and another car does something erratic, I'll lay on my horn and yell at him if I think it'll get the driver to pay attention to what he's doing. If a car is tailgating me for going only 5mph above the speed limit, I'll tap my brakes to let the driver know what he's doing is assholish, and if that doesn't get him to stop, I'll gently brake and make the tailgater suffer even more. On the flipside, if a woman is in front of me and is going 10mph under the speed limit, I'll probably tailgate her.

Why do I do this? Am I a traffic cop? No. I just think that the other drivers around me are even worse drivers than I am (and I know I'm bad). I want to make them aware that they aren't doing the correct things, and that they are endangering me or hindering me.

Drivers need to realize that they can't do the same thing to bicyclists, because cars and bikes are different.

When you're driving and a bike cuts you off, it's fine to honk. At that point, the cyclist is aware of you and aware that you have a legit grievance. Also, since the cyclist cut you off, you are behind her, and thus she is more safe and can handle a honk.

But I can think of no other time when a car should honk or accost a bicyclist. At any other time, the cyclist does not need your grief. It is dangerous enough biking on the road; your anger and your expression of that anger greatly increases the danger you are putting the cyclist in.

Do not pass bikes closely (by law you need to give two feet at least). And do not yell at bikers while you pass them. If you are both in motion, the cyclist is very, very frightened of the possibility that she will crash into you or that you will distract her from the arduous task of biking. This is why I yelled at the guy who almost killed me in October.

Don't honk at a bike when it's going through a red light. I don't do this any more*, but one time last year I did**. I stopped, looked, saw no one coming, started to go through, and midway a car honked at me. I almost fell off of my bike, looking to see if a car was coming at me, but none were; it was just some douchebag*** who felt the need to endanger me even more than I was already endangering myself.

Don't stop short in front of bikes or tailgate bikes or otherwise physically accost bikes. This is totally illegal.

Please, even though you have to share the road with us, please remember that, in your cars, you are much more dangerous than we bikers will ever be.

Drivers, would you wave a machete at someone who cut in front of you in line? Would you point a gun at an unarmed man who simply stood in the sidewalk, (unintentionally or intentionally) blocking your way? Bikes and cars are unequal weaponry, and using your car to intimidate bikers is unethical.

*I am the most non-scofflaw biker I know. It's hard to bike with other bikers, since they all go through the red lights and I don't.
**In my defense, it was the first time I had ever ridden down Wisconsin Avenue and dealt with the entitled f*cks who were nearly clipping me every chance they got. I thought it best to get where I was going in the least time possible.
***Definite douchebag. As he passed me after his light turned green, he said all snidely "You ran a red light back there." Then he stopped at the next light. I went up to him, and tried to have a conversation with him, but he stared straight ahead, would not look at me.

Bicycling: What MD/DC/VA Law Says about Using the Road

I've been over this many times before. I'm just going to lay it out for you. This post will tell you what bikes are legally entitled and mandated to do on the roads in DC, MD, and VA. First, the basics:
  1. Bikes are allowed on any road (under 50mph) as much as cars are.
  2. Bikes should keep to the right except when it's not safe.
Below is all the proof.

In Maryland law (from the PDF), here are the sections that deal with what roads are usable.
21-1202 Traffic laws apply to bicycles and motor scooters
Every person operating a bicycle or a motor scooter in a public bicycle area has all the rights granted to and is subject to all the duties required of the the driver of a vehicle by this title, including the duties set forth in 21-504 of this title except:
(1) As otherwise provided in this subtitle; and
(2) For those provisions of this subtitle that by their very nature cannot apply.

21-1205.1 Bicycles, motor scooters, and EPAMD’s prohibited on certain roadways and highways; speed limit.
In general -Notwithstanding any other provision of this title, a person may not ride a bicycle or motor scooter;
On any roadway where the posted maximum speed limit is more than 50 miles per hour [Cyclists may operate on the shoulder of a roadway where the posted speed limit exceeds 50 mph unless otherwise prohibited.]; or
On any expressway, except on an adjacent bicycle path or way approved by the State Highway Administration, or on any other controlled access highway signed in accordance with 21-313 of this title.
Roadway with bike lane or shoulder paved to a smooth surface. –
Where there is a bike lane paved to a smooth surface or a shoulder paved to a smooth surface [COMAR October 29, 1979 defines smooth surface as a surface that has a texture equal to or better than the adjacent roadway and if the surface contains undulations which are no longer than the adjacent roadway.], a person operating a bicycle or a motor scooter shall use the bike lane or shoulder and may not ride on the roadway, except in the following situations:
When overtaking and passing another bicycle, motor scooter, pedestrian, or other vehicle within the bike lane or shoulder;
When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into an alley, private road, or driveway;
(iii) When reasonably necessary to leave the bike lane or shoulder to avoid debris or other hazardous condition; or
When reasonably necessary to leave the bike lane or shoulder because the bike lane or shoulder is overlaid with a right turn lane, merge lane, or other marking that breaks the continuity of the bike lane or shoulder.
A person operating a bicycle or a motor scooter may not leave a bike lane or shoulder until the movement can be made with reasonable safety and the only after giving an appropriate signal.
The Department shall promulgate rules and regulations pertaining to this subsection which will include, but not limited to, a definition of “smooth surface.”
Motor scooter speed limit – A motor scooter may not be operated at a speed in excess of 30 miles per hour.
Restrictions on operating EPAMDs. – Notwithstanding any other provision of this title, a person may not operate an EPAMD on any roadway where there are sidewalks adjacent to the roadway or the posted maximum speed limit is more than 30 miles per hour.
EPAMD speed limit
Here is DC law, which is even less restrictive about road use for bikes:
1201.1 Every person who propels a vehicle by human power or who rides a bicycle on a highway shall have the same duties as any other vehicle operator under this title, except as otherwise expressly provided in this chapter, and except for those duties imposed by this title which, by their nature or wording, can have no reasonable application to a bicycle operator.

(There's nothing about bikes needing to stick to bike lanes or shoulders, let alone bike paths. Nothing. Read through the whole thing if you want.)
Virginia law (you can find it here):

§ 46.2-800. Riding bicycles, electric personal assistive mobility devices, electric power-assisted bicycles, or mopeds; riding or driving animals. Every person riding a bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device, electric power-assisted bicycle, moped, or an animal or driving an animal on a highway shall be subject to the provisions of this chapter and shall have all of the rights and duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle, unless the context of the provision clearly indicates otherwise.

Right-Side Rules for Bikes

Bicyclists do not always have to use the rightmost side of the road. They should only be on the right if there is enough room on their left for a car to pass them without going into the other lane. Other safety factors are at play here, too, but that's the most damning one for all drivers who angrily (and dangerously) pass bikers and snarl "get on the right".

MD law (the same PDF as above):
21-1205 Riding on roadways or on highway.
Riding to right side of roadway. – Each person operating a bicycle or a motor scooter at a speed less than the speed traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing on a roadway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable and safe, except when:
Making or attempting to make a left turn;
Operating on a one-way street;
Passing a stopped or slower moving vehicle;
Avoiding pedestrians or road hazards;
The right lane is a right turn lane; or
Operating in a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle or motor scooter and another vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.
Riding two abreast. – Each person operating a bicycle or motor scooter on a roadway may ride two abreast only if the flow of traffic is unimpeded.
Passing. – Each person operating a bicycle or motor scooter on a roadway shall exercise due care when passing a vehicle.
Walking bicycles on right side of highway. – Each person operating a bicycle or motor scooter on a roadway may walk the bicycle or motor scooter on the right side of a highway if there is no sidewalk.
DC law (PDF)
(b) Except as provided in paragraph (c) of this subsection and in subsection 2202.9 of this title, any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall travel as closely as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway, or as closely as practicable to the left-hand curb or edge of the roadway when on a one-way street.
(c) Any person operating a bicycle may move away from the positions described in subsection (b) as necessary under any of the following situations:
When overtaking and passing another bicycle or other vehicle proceeding in the same direction;

When preparing for a turn;

When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions including, but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, parking or moving vehicles, vehicle doors that are or may open, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or substandard width lanes that make it unsafe to remain near the curb or edge of the roadway. For purposes of this section, a "a substandard width "lane" means a lane or other area on the roadway that is too narrow for a bicycle and an overtaking vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane. Any lane that is eleven 11 feet wide or less shall be presumed be a substandard width lane for purposes of this subsection;

When necessary to comply with lane use restrictions; or

When necessary for the bicyclist's safety.
And VA law (exact section):

§ 46.2-905. Riding bicycles, electric personal assistive mobility devices, electric power-assisted bicycles, motor-driven cycles, and mopeds on roadways and bicycle paths.

Any person operating a bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device, electric power-assisted bicycle, or moped on a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place under conditions then existing shall ride as close as safely practicable to the right curb or edge of the roadway, except under any of the following circumstances:

1. When overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction;

2. When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway;

3. When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions including, but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, parked or moving vehicles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or substandard width lanes that make it unsafe to continue along the right curb or edge;

4. When avoiding riding in a lane that must turn or diverge to the right; and

5. When riding upon a one-way road or highway, a person may also ride as near the left-hand curb or edge of such roadway as safely practicable.

For purposes of this section, a "substandard width lane" is a lane too narrow for a bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device, electric power-assisted bicycle, motorized skateboard or scooter, or moped and another vehicle to pass safely side by side within the lane.

Okay, now that I've put this on the Internet, all drivers will instantly become aware of it and stop endangering my life to spit at me about going over to the right.

Glad that's over with.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Lack of Posts Post

Sorry for the lack of reading material. Since the message of our President-Elect is non-partisanship, I've been avoiding posting about Palin's attack on bloggers, Limbaugh's "the game has begun" comment, and so on. I've also avoided expressing my happiness about the administration-to-be. I suppose it would be more appropriate to express my anxiety about Obama and what the heck we can expect from him; I suppose mainly we can expect him to continue tearing down President Bush and his policies. Is that a good thing? I'm not sure.

I've been stuck at home every day, studying and reading and learning Japanese. So no Metro stories, no reviews, not much to write about. This may continue until well into December, when I'm safely out of test range. I'd like to hope that my co-blogger will take up the slack even more, but I'm not sure how realistic that hope is.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Around Town

With Aak having interesting experiences on the Metro, I began wondering if I'm just not paying attention. I'm sure everyone has tellable stuff happen to them but don't have the story collecting mindset. So, I'm mentally running through stuff that has happened to me.

Well, there's always the annoying drunk people. Last night was the frat boys that kept addressing each other as "son."

There's the fighting couples. They're pretty funny.

There's the homeless Vietnam veteran in a wheel chair I bent over to help into the car, only to be overwhelmed by his urine smell. Then I sat near him while he mumbled to himself and occasionally burst out with "that's some godd*** sh**!" That made me sad.

That's about all I can think of. I always sit at the bench at the far end of the platform and immediately take out a book. If I don't have a book (rare) I do the Express or Examiner crossword puzzle. For a little while I got into the morning routine of doing them. It was kind of neat to watch myself get steadily better. I've noticed that whenever I have it out, people always say "oh, I'm no good at those." It's like it's in the collective unconscious to have a hang up about sucking at x-word puzzles.

Happy memory: gf and I went to the Arlington Cemetery the other day. First we went to the Kennedy grave (didn't know two children were buried there: one stillborn and one died in infancy.) While there we met the most friendly and helpful security guard. Then we went to the tomb of the unknown soldier and watched the changing of the guard. For those who haven't had the pleasure, in the ceremony there's the old guard, new guard, and some guy who seems in charge and tells them what to do. I didn't expect that guy to turn and address us, which he did and told us to stand. One woman, who we suspect didn't speak English, stayed seated. He stopped the ceremony and demanded that she stand before continuing. During the experience I started feeling patriotic. I love such things. Then they kicked kicked everyone off the grounds because the park was closed but we disobeyed and wandered a little. My paranoid side felt convinced that there was a sniper perched somewhere watching us.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Prop 8: A Genetic Explanation?

A long time ago, my father and I briefly discussed gay marriage and why he thought it was okay for Bush to prevent homosexual matrimony. "A society has a right to support the kind of behavior that it wants," he said. I replied, "So why is gay marriage not worth supporting?" He said that was a good question, but he did not respond.

Proposition 8 went ahead in California, and thus gay marriage was banned. Similar situations in Arizona and Florida. Lots of liberals are shaking their heads and asking "why?"

I have an answer for them, but maybe it's so obvious that it doesn't bear blogging about. On second thought, when has that stopped me?

I have another story about my father. I was young, maybe pre-teen. My parents were together in the kitchen with me. I think we were discussing something about Church. I think I said something like, "So, if I'm supposed to follow the Bible, shouldn't I try to become a priest?"

My mother was like, "No, no no no." My father said, "[mom's name], if he wants to become a priest, that's fine." My mother looked like she was swallowing something too large for her throat. My father said, "Aak, if that makes you happy, that's fine. But priests can't have children, so we wouldn't get to have any grandkids. But you should do whatever you want."

My father was a laissez-faire type of parent, most of the time. In this particular case, he was using it so as not to have me rebel and become a priest after all.

I share this story with the world because it illustrates my point: humans have a biological need for their line to continue. Most parents want grandkids.

That's why your mother asks you if you're seeing anyone. That's why in-laws get so crazy. And that's why people oppose gay marriage.

It's not because they want to deny people rights. I think most Americans understand that it's discriminatory, and that discriminating on that basis is wrong, unAmerican, and against the Constitution.

It's because supporting a homosexual lifestyle in any way means the further "gaying" of America, and that means no grandkids.

If you can't follow that logic, then you haven't spent much time with conservatives.

The people who want to "protect marriage" really just want their DNA to continue. They want their genetic material to flourish in another generation and another until the end of time (or the End Times). They think that, by taking this stand, they will hold back the tide of gayness becoming OK, less taboo, a thing that anybody can have, choose, or be. If gay people are shown on TV, in books, in movies, well, I guess Sarah Palin's censorship policy will work for those. But if the gays can get married? Then little Ritchie will start thinking it's okay to like his friend Jimmy, and cute little Margot will ask for Birkenstocks and start having late-night studying sessions with that girl named Jo.

It's just too bad for conservatives, though. They can't stem the tide. And they'll be doing more damage to their children by avoiding the subject or making it taboo. So I don't agree with the people who passed Prop 8, but I do understand why they did it. Their DNA told them to.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Biking: Nice People on the Roads

Mr. Hatandcoat has commented that all my horrific biking stories make him want to bike less. I don't want to be responsible for his biking interest becoming stunted. So here's something nice.

I am not a scofflaw cyclist. I follow the laws of the road. This sometimes causes more delays, because people are expecting me to be another speedy biker with a chip on his shoulder.

Tonight, biking to Haydee's Restaurant in Mt. Pleasant, I came to a stop sign. There was a car coming the other way. We stopped at the stop signs at the same time. I was holding my arm out to the left, indicating a left turn. I went forward slowly in a straight line as the car facing me started to go. Then the car stopped, seemingly waiting for me to make the left. I had to say "Go ahead" and jerk my head the way the car should go in order to get him to clear the intersection so I could turn left.

The driver assumed I was holding out my left arm to signal an instant left turn. He thought I was going to put on a burst of speed and cut across his path. He's been trained by other cyclists to believe the worst of us.

Stopping at red lights confuses people, too. When my side has a red, and the oncoming traffic has green, and the driver sees me slowing down to stop at the red light, they slow down, too, just in case I'm going to book it through the intersection. It happens a lot.

Tonight, after making that left turn at the stop sign, I came upon another stop sign. An old lady was crossing in front of me. I slowed down, but the lady stopped midway across anyway. I said "Go ahead, you have the right of way." She said thanks and finished crossing.

It's not all bad for cyclists. Respect the law, and you'll find that some people will be pleasantly surprised by you.

Thursday, November 06, 2008


I love comedy. Who doesn't? I was chatting with a couple of my coworkers at the restaurant, and they all shockingly agreed in comedy as a valuable past-time. One's take on it was that it was a good endorphin rush. He has a drug habit, so his input has a bit of an edge to it.

Off the top of my head, comedians whose standup has made me laugh over the years: Dane Cook, George Carlin, Eddie Izzard (only Dressed to Kill really, but my fave performance of all time), Kat Williams, Dennis Leary, Dana Carvey, David Spade, Jay Mohr, the guy who opened up for Jay Mohr, Eddie Murphy, Greg Giraldo, the guys who performed with Greg Giraldo that night, Ray Romano (yes, that one), and a whole bunch more whose names I don't know or who I'm forgetting. I'm sure some early stuff from Robin Williams and Steve Martin and Jerry Seinfeld and others are great. Louis CK is supposed to be awesome, but I haven't seen him. But one guy I've caught on comedy central and really liked was Bill Burr. And we have tickets to see him at the improv tomorrow night.

When I first saw him on a comedy special I thought he was kind of boring, then he kept going and going and proved a natural storyteller. I like that as he goes on over time he gets more and more animated, seeming to settle into more of a rhythm. I imagine if I were to do standup I'd have like a minute or two of good stuff that I'd take months to develop, then I'd fizzle out. The good story tellers really impress me and have my envy.

Here's a short clip:

He's a pretty negative guy in his standup, which turns me off more and more these days, but I can't help laughing at it. The fact that he can be pretty crass doesn't bother me in the least. That's my style sometimes.

I'm psyched.

Oh, I just remembered, he's apparently a regular on some radio show called Opie and Anthony that my brother in law listens to. Don't know the show. Anway,

I'm psyched.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

McCain: The Battle Lost Before It Had Begun?

I read this article that speculates on the how and why of McCain's defeat, and how sad it is.

I'm not that sad. I think McCain shifted way right over the past eight years, and that shift led to his divisive campaign. But the author of the post I linked to above makes a few points that make me wonder. Here are his suppositions:
  1. The Republican party wanted to run against Hillary.
  2. Obama became the frontrunner.
  3. Republican hopes collapsed--they thought they couldn't win unless it was against Hillary.
  4. They chose someone who wouldn't be able to run again in 2012.
  5. McCain was pointed to Palin because, unlike Romney or someone competent, she wasn't going to damage a 2012 run, either.
I don't know that I agree with all the points there--it's not like the Republican party said "Oh well, let's let McCain have a little fun, since we're going to lose anyway." I also don't think that McCain was made to pick Palin since she couldn't possibly run in 2012. It's possible that McCain was steered away from Romney, or that Romney and other serious contenders evaluated McCain's chances and just said no.

But I will agree with the statement that the "Republicans were sure they could defeat Hillary Clinton." I can clearly remember the beady-eyed eagerness I heard in Limbaugh's voice in January this year. The rhetoric that was just beginning. The laughing and pointing. The rolling-out of the old anti-Clinton feeling.

I knew that Hillary Clinton would be an excellent choice for President, but I felt that she would not be successful in capturing a majority of the votes. Too much hostility was already in the air, in the beginning of the year and even in 2007. That's why I argued with my friends who were so pro-Hillary. I told them that Obama was more electable and had more cross-appeal. They did not believe me at the time.

I believe an "I told you so" is in order.

Omphaloskepsis*: Districted v. Hatandcoat

Okay, I think I'm getting the distinction now, between this blog and my other shared blog. Here on "Districted," I will share stories of stuff I do out and about in the District, like talking to a dude in line for free ice cream. Or I'll post stuff that might be of interest to people who don't know me, like the Election Day deals.

Over at "Hatandcoat," I'll post stuff like what the atmosphere was like in my house when Obama's win was announced. Not really relevant to a lot of people, that.

And I know, when I asked people what they wanted to see in this blog, a "random" person said pumpkin-related posts would be highly welcome. I'm working on it.


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Free Stuff for Voting: Ice Cream with a Friend

I walked through the rain for some Ben & Jerry's. I got there at 5:10, and there was a line, but it was really short. I took my place behind a guy in a black hooded sweatshirt and held my umbrella above him and me. (It's a really big umbrella. Some Jewish girls who did not look old enough to vote got in line behind me and also stayed underneath my umbrella; I could hear some of them giggling about it.)

After a while, the guy in the black sweatshirt turned his head just a little and said "Who'd you vote for?"

I identified him as a crazy, obviously, but there wasn't much to do about it. I said, "Oh, you know..."

He made a face and said, "Oh, um, okay, you don't have to."

I said, "The younger one."

He said, "Aww yeah," and terrorist-fist-bashed me.

He went on to say that even if I voted for McCain, that would be cool, but for him, he didn't want a 72-year-old in the White House, and he didn't want 4 more years of Bushlike stuff. Then he made sure I understood that his sticker was missing because it fell off... or maybe he had changed clothes from when he voted... it was unclear. I went into my crazy-dealing mode, smiling, nodding, but not really saying much. I did however assure him that you didn't need a sticker to get free ice cream.

Then he said, "Did your team win on Sunday?"

"...I'm not really into sports."

He wasn't sure where to go with that. He said, "Not into sports? Why not?"

"Just never got into them."

Sweatshirt guy was quiet for a while, and then said, "You like women?"


"Okay, well that's two things we can agree on."


"Obama and women. Those are two of our similarities. But you got a job, and I don't."

I smiled, but was silent. It wasn't worth going into that I, too, am jobless while I am going back to school. He might've taken my silence poorly, since he mumbled something about getting around to finding one sometime but then stayed quiet until we got our ice creams.

He had "Chocolate Therapy." I asked for "One Cheesecake Brownie" but got shot down, so I went with Sweet Cream and Cookies.

Outside Ben and Jerry's, sweatshirt guy spoke up one more time. "We meet again."

"Yep." I fiddled with my umbrella. "See you later."

"See you around."

Technology: Google Street View in DC

I've been waiting for this since before Google rolled out the auto-face-blur. Point the little yellow mini-fig in whatever direction to see what DC looks like.

Pictured above is the beginning or the end of the Capital Crescent Trail in Georgetown. No "trail view" yet, so that's all we can see of the crowded-on-weekends bike trail, but it's enough; I always have a hard time 'splaining how to get on the Trail from M street, and now it should be a lot easier.

(Update: I got this from Google Blogoscoped, not from DCist whose post I read later. I'm not trying to compete with DCist; I'm really not!)

More Election Day Deals at Best Bites Blog

Instead of updating my previous post yet again, I'll just link you to where you'll find more info.

Best Bites Blog at (sorry) has a post on more goodies, including:
  • Chick-Fil-A in Virginia
  • Books-a-Million
  • Daily Grill (free appetizer!)
  • Good Stuff Eatery
  • Johnny's Half Shell (free margarita!)
  • Charlie Palmer Steak
Caveats apply. Check out the post for details and links that I can't be bothered to put here right now.

This is truly the freepocalypse to end all freepocalypses.

Update I: NO STICKER REQUIRED! See comments.

I Voted

Woke up my roommates at 6am. Made miso soup with daikon, seaweed, green onion, and tofu for the crew. Got to Silver Spring Library at 6:48. Voted at 8:30. Felt awesome.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Election Day Deals (Updated 11pm)

I'm glad DCist is on top of this story. I get the feeling their post on free deals for having voted will continue to be updated as more businesses try to incentivise voting.

As of this blogpost, there are six deals:
And I know of another deal at Proteus Bicycles*: 10% off anything, plus an Election Returns party?! Looks like I might have something to do on Election Night after all.

Update II: CakeLove is giving $1 discounts to voters! (via Prince of Petworth)

Update III: see new post.

If you know of any other deals going on for voters in the District of Districted, let me know, eh?

*This tip comes to us via The Abbot of Unreason, our one and only "follower"! Thank you, Abbot.

Sad Commute

I was late for class this morning, so I didn't take the Sligo Creek Trail (I've been meaning to blog about the Trail for a while, so look for that later). I took my bike on the roads.

I came upon the corner of Arliss and Piney Branch in Silver Spring, in front of the Eastern Carryout. I saw a bunch of people standing together in the parking lot around a pile of stuff. There were five or six men there, standing and looking at the pile. I was at a red light (crazy, a biker stopping for a red light, I know), so I could look in some detail.

The pile was mainly white stuff. Paper cups. A white teddy bear. White plastic bags. And a helium balloon. It looked like a kid's store or a party store had gone out of business and was selling the remnants in the parking lot.

Then I put it together. White teddy bear. Kid's stuff. I edged closer to the stop line and saw a sign that said RIP.

What happened? VH? in a parking lot? Was this the anniversary of someone's kid's death? I wanted to know what had happened, but the light turned green and I went on.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Zipcars and Bicycles: We're Taking Over

I wanted to go to the store today. Not just any store, though. I wanted to go to Trader Joes and Hinata.

Hinata is an excellent Japanese grocery store boxed into the space of a 4-seat barbershop. Hinata has the cheapest Japanese goods, including rice, mochi, seaweed, miso, natto, green tea, rice crackers, and Japanese curry. They also have the best sushi in Bethesda. Their chirashi (cheap way to have all your favorite fish, cut on top of a bed of rice) is worth fighting for. Hinata is on St. Elmo's Ave in Bethesda. Here's how you get to it from the Metro (10-15 min walk)*:

But I didn't want to take the Metro; Silver Spring to Bethesda is like 45min on a good day. And I didn't want to bike; that would be 40min each way, and I was planning on buying a lot. So I Zipcarred it. Specifically, I biked to a Zipcar about a mile from my house and rented a Honda hybrid for 2.5 hours.

On the road, I saw 2 bicycles on my way to Hinata. On my way home, I saw four bikes. These people weren't just biking for fun or sport; they were using their bikes to get from A to B. You could tell in the way they dressed and the way they rode, as well as the way they all had backpacks on.

I even was behind another Zipcar, with a bike in the backseat. So awesome. I would have done that, but the hybrid's backseat was too small to fit my bike. Instead, I locked up my Trek bike in the parking lot where I got the Zipcar from.

Eff yeah. Bikes are taking over the roads, even outside of the city. H-E-double-hockey-sticks yeah!

*I don't get any money from Hinata or anything. It's run by a sweet lady and her husband, and they don't seem to be marketing themselves very much. Maybe they don't need to, but I'd sure hate for them to go under. Hinata is worlds better than Daruma (also in Bethesda) in that it's cheaper, friendlier, and the fresh food is more of a good value. And yet it seems like nobody ever hears of Hinata, and everybody hears about Daruma. That's got to stop.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Sweetness on the Metro: Gimme Hug Edition

Saturdays I have a Japanese tutoring appointment, so I usually bike and ride up the Red Line to get to the tutor's neighborhood.

This morning I get out of the train and head straight to the elevator. There's a woman with a stroller behind me and she sounds like she's trying to get to the elevator before me, like she's worried we won't both fit. Not to worry, lady, I think, this elevator's wide enough for four strollers and two bikes.

I get in, turn around, and let the woman and her stroller in. Her daughter's in the stroller, making happy little questions. As the door closes, the little girl says, "Going down?"

"No, this time we're going up."

Sure enough, the elevator confirms the mother is right, saying "Going up."

Daughter: "Going up."

Mother: "That's right."

A little time passes, and the elevator comes to a halt. Daughter says "Going up."

I go through the gate first, followed shortly by the woman and the stroller kid. I go to the next elevator, like a good biker. The woman and her kid come aboard as well. Again I sense an urgency from the woman, drawing in her breath a little loudly as I turn my bike around before letting her in.

The kid says, "Going up." And then the kid says, "Go on a bus...?"

Mother: "No, we're not taking a bus this time."

The kid turns to me and says "Itzabig bike!"

I say "Yes, it is."

I smile at the girl. She looks at me, my bike, me again. She smiles. Then she says, "Gimme hug!" and spreads her arms wide.

My heart melts through my body and onto the red elevator floor.

I don't hug her, though. I'm a big, scary guy with a helmet on and a bike to keep upright. And it's a stranger's child.

The girl says again, more insistently, "Gimme hug!"

The mother says, "She does this to everyone." She looked embarrassed. I still didn't do anything.

The girl says, "Gimme hug?"

The mother: "She's so affectionate." I agree, and add that she is inordinately cute.

The elevator stops and we go separate ways.

I wish I could explain to the girl that I certainly would hug her if we lived in a world where a man could simply show affection to an adorable child that he doesn't know without it being weird. I wish I could tell her that she shouldn't stop offering hugs to people, but maybe she could be a little more selective; just talking to her is not a high-enough criteria in the long run. But mostly I wish I could be that innocent and ask random people for hugs in the elevator of the Metro. That girl lives in a world of love, while I live in a world where people honk and yell at me every day (today included).