Drivers: Treat cyclists like cars and we'll all get along fine...

I ride my bike around Fort Collins, CO a lot. Collins is nice, it's a college town, so by default it's peppered with cyclists. Lately, it seems like cycling is on the rise, and it's becoming cool to have a single speed fixie and dress like a bike messenger.

My problem with Fort Collins drivers is not the usual one of rudeness, it's one of politeness.. When I show up to a busy 4 way stop that's moving smoothly with everyone taking their turn.. and a motorist (who was there first) tries to wave me through, I get seriously angry. This waving exchange takes a good 5 seconds or so, whereas if they would have just treated me like a car and acted normally, traffic would have kept flowing.

Yeah, it sounds like a silly thing to be angry about, but think about it this way. Dumb motorist sits there waving at me.. I do what they say but the one across from them (who thinks it's their turn) doesn't see any of this. That results in me riding to the center of the intersection and getting hit.

The rules of the road are extremely well thought out. There are very few instances where you need to trust a motorist to not do stupid things, you only have to trust that they too understand the rules. If you throw those rules out for cyclists, we are suddenly put at risk because we have to trust that the rules this one polite idiot just made up won't kill us.

This morning I was crossing a busy 4 lane road, The first two were clear, and the second two had one lone truck, followed (at a bit of a distance) by a huge pack of cars.

20 minutes of exercise a day for 2 years

So as I mentioned in my previous post, I've been doing this thing where I exercise in some fashion for no less than 20 minutes every day. I hit 2 years over a week ago, and it was more or less a non-event. The 20 minutes thing has gone from something i'm 'doing' to just something I do. It's habit. I think about it every day, and I just do it.

Why I love the Thinkpad #37

I needed to take apart a my precious Thinkpad today. (The poor thing is getting on in years, and I needed to swap out its CPU fan.) It struck me as I was taking it apart. (something I've done many times) I don't know of any other puter manufacturer that makes it this easy on you. This is a primary reason I love the Thinkpad. It's like the Jeep of computers. Simple, easy to service, uses basic, standard parts and screws.

Fix Site design horribleness with the stylish plugin

Celeste mentioned to me that a bunch of the design blogs she reads have switched to a grey font on a white background... which is.. frigging stupid and hard to read.

The neurotic problem solver that I am, I told her about Stylish, a Firefox Plugin that lets you easily write user style sheets on the fly before content loads in your browser.

You can fix pretty much any display annoyance with application of stylesheet rules these days. The only obvious drawback to this plan is that most people don't know CSS or how to wield it. That, I can't really help you with. I'm just planning on illustrating the power here. ; )

The target:
http://www.mstetsondesign.blogspot.com/

notice the grey text on a white background. Yeah.. you'll be upgrading your glasses prescription in no time.

Distrusting Experts...

Here is a nice little piece about when and why to distrust expert opinion.

REPOST: On machine translation

Language is not pure information; it's information shorthand. It assumes a high degree of already-shared knowledge about the world. Some of these assumptions are near-universal; many are not.

REPOST: Linux is a toy.

This is one of the longer posts I've made regarding Linux's viability as a Windows replacement. I've edited it a bit from the original for things that have changed since then:

Linux is a toy. A powerful toy. An-almost-infinitely-customizable toy. But a toy nonetheless. I say this because the people who use it do so because they enjoy fiddling around with config files. Even if they actually like using it--and of course they do--using it requires one to fiddle with config files in ways that one would only know how to do if he enjoyed learning about such things. I'm sorry, but that is a tiny subset of the computer-using public. Most people don't want to fiddle with things to get them to work or use weird, off-brand knockoff software developed by groups of people who do it as a hobby. It is a toy.

Invariably, this comment upsets a lot of people and there's the obligatory "It runs the internet!" and "dont be rediculous i use it for my business!" (sic) replies. But none of that means it's not a toy. OpenOffice or Crossover Office do not a real computer--as most people actually use them--make. Most businesses do more than type and make spreadsheets.

Here is a quick list of software my parents' company, for whom I do IT from time to time, uses. These are industry-standard applications:

PowerClaim [powerclaim.com]

Xactimate [exactimate.com]

Internet Explorer (for dealing with the head office)

Without these, their business does not run.

REPOST: On newbies' ability to set up Linux

Another repost. I have intimated on this site before my thoughts on Linux, and have always wanted to write a monster post that details them more thoroughly, but the time doesn't come. Here is a slightly-edited-for-readability post from elsewhere on non-computer-savvy people's ability to set up and use Ubuntu Linux:

I build my own PCs. I think that's falling-off-a-log easy. But try to get a noob friend of yours into it. No really, try. They'll come up with the goofiest, craziest, hardest questions you've ever heard. I understand on a conceptual, top-down level what is going on when I'm putting a system together and getting drivers, etc. I've been doing it long enough that when I build a new one, it's a simple matter of just learning the changes since last time I did it. Usually I already know about them because I'm a geek and keep up on such things for fun. But, for example, the change from 20-pin to 24-pin ATX connectors caught me completely by surprise and required another trip to the store to get an adapter. It still happens. I know to look up beep codes. I know what to do if it doesn't start up. When all is said and done, I forget these little problems because they are not memorable--they are not salient events because I calmly and quickly solved them. This is not the case to a person who doesn't have that comparatively vast storehouse of latent knowledge.

For someone just starting out, though, that "24-pin ATX connector" confusion happens with every single step of the process. What seems simple to us only seems that way because we've got a massive backlog of understanding that we just take for granted. We only need to make adjustments to it.

REPOST: On the work/time dichotomy

Lately I have been bemoaning the fact that I don't have time to blog as much as I'd like. But then I realized that I actually write a lot, but they are on forums, and are usually only seen on that site by a few people. I am toying with the idea of reposting the longer ones here. Here is the first, which was in response to someone complaining about the hours they worked at their software dev job. Begin:

I'm an academic, and the single biggest reason is that I'm a workaholic and if the place didn't almost shut down for 4 months of the year, I'd work myself to an early grave. As it is now, though, I work my ass off 8 months of the year, and 4 months of the year I'm blessed and cursed to be able to get almost nothing done (well, nothing that requires the organization). It's been very good for my health and mental well-being, if not necessarily for my wallet.

Over the last summer break, I spent about a week staying with my friends who work at a major IT company as developers. I saw their lives, and was envious. They make a lot more money, they come home earlier, and it is virtually impossible for them to work at home, so they don't. "Damn," I thought, "I really did pick the wrong career." But then I noticed something: I was staying at their house in a different country from where I live for a week, and that was just one week out of about 7 or 8 in a row that I didn't have to report to work. I was still getting some things done on the laptop, but that had much more to do with my workaholic nature than necessity. "Damn," I thought, "maybe I picked the right career after all."

The point I'm trying to make is that you are ultimately in control of your time. You are. Really. It's your time. Your life. If you feel that you are losing it to a company, and the money isn't worth it, you need to change gears. It's not their fault. It's your fault for doing it.

A Great GTD kit for $1.44

I read a lot of Lifehacker and other organizational blogs. The trend these days is GTD. Basically, you keep and manage lists and ideas on a series of cards, in folders, whatever. This is my implementation of that. (this has also been called a Hipster PDA as well.)

What I use are Mead Ringdex cards..

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