Archives : April 2004

2004 April 4


Dammit, I want to be married.

Of all the sappy shit to have me thinking this way, I just watched the last half of Jerry Maguire. Tom Cruise, fer chuck's sake. But really, it was just re-stirring a pot full of thoughts brought up by a rewatching of High Fidelity a couple months ago at Jon and Amy's.

(Aside, why is it that I've got movies driving my need to re-assess my life? I read a lot more than I watch movies, seriously. But the books I read rarely seem to give me the same kick. Is preachiness better executed in movies, or am I simply more willing to let it get to me in that context? I am rather more likely to throw a sappy book across the room than to actually finish it.)

Anyway, back to the line that is resonating for me right now:

I can see now I never really committed to Laura. I always had one foot out the door, and that prevented me from doing a lot of things, like thinking about my future and... I guess it made more sense to commit to nothing, keep my options open. And that's suicide. By tiny, tiny increments.

That spoke to me. Not so much as a shockingly new thing, because I'd really tried to commit to my last girlfriend, only to be turned down in the end because she wasn't ready to go there, or possibly because I was too hopelessly clumsy about it. Whatever.

And then I spent the last year and a half getting over that, and Nick Hornby and John Cusack and the rest of the army required to make a major motion picture come along and remind me that not committing to someone is suicide. By tiny, tiny increments.

I'm ready to commit. Goddamn it, where's my Laura? She's got to be around here someplace.

The trick in writing one of these pieces about how life is failing to be perfect, is to not sound all whiny about it. My life is pretty good right now. I've got a good job and good friends and I'm living in a place that I like. I'm meeting new people all the time. For the first time in a long time, I actually know several single women who I find interesting and attractive. (To date, this has meant mostly more opportunities to get nowhere, but it is very much better than not knowing any single women at all. Believe me. This way, there is hope.)

It's just kind of empty at the middle without a real partner. Without someone to go to bed with and wake up with and share my good fortune with and talk to me about her problems. Seriously. I want there to be someone who turns to me first when she needs to vent about shit. There is hardly anything that makes me feel more like a worthwhile human being than that.

Basically, I'm lonely.

It's not that I don't have great friends. In fact, I've got more friends around here than I really have time to keep up with. But it's not the same. I'm really too private a person to talk about really intimate things unless I feel really really at ease -- and I rarely do with more than one other person in the room. Or at the table, anyway. It's not even that I'm unwilling to talk about myself -- witness this here frustrated rant declaimed on the public Internet That Never Forgets -- but that I hardly ever feel comfortable volunteering things. It always seems unlikely that other people actually want to know my crap.

(You lot reading this -- here and now in this quiet dark room, my gut is willing to believe that you wouldn't be here at all if you weren't interested. And I can pretend I'm talking to only one of you at a time, which I kind of am in the sense that none of you can interrupt me until I'm good and ready to shut up.)

What was I on about? I've lost control of my train of thought.

I woke up one morning last week with the not-committing=suicide-by-degrees line in my head, along with what seemed like an inspiration I haven't figured out how to act on, though. I don't know where it came from -- it had been a couple months since I'd seem the movie, like I said. Just one of those things. The thought was something like this: I want to commit to a lover. I can't, owing to not having one. But if holding back from commitment is my problem, and I have always been overly cautious of it, who says what I commit to has to be a lover? I should find a cause or a charity to join.

There is a line I've seen attributed to Goethe -- I don't know where it's from, and would be curious to read it if anyone can tell me -- but it's this:

Talent develops in quiet places;
character, in the full current of human life.

I've always been better at talent than character. A cause would probably be good for me. I haven't made any headway at figuring out how to choose one, though. It totally seems like approaching the thing from the wrong end of the stick.

And in any case, obviously this only fixes one of my problems -- it won't actually do anything for my shortage of intimacy. I've still got to go find that lover, because she's not going to come to me

I need to get better at selling myself. (No, not for money. Geez. In the metaphorical sense.) I've never been good at selling anything, least of all me. I'm trying to get better, but this is a fight where I'm struggling uphill against my natural temperament.

I don't know where to end this, so I'll just stop here.

2004 April 5

Hence parking, hence civilization

I don't have any kind of essay of my own here -- reality must be faced: respectable essay-writing requires too much time and effort from me for me to do it very often -- but I do have some really good links on urban planning.

Review of Edge City, by Joel Garreau: ... And just as there's a dilemma in how to turn an edge city into a genuine community, it turns out that there's a fundamental parking dilemma too. The basic unit of density in an edge city development is the ... Floor-to-Area Ratio, which Garreau describes this way: "It is the developer's fundamental calculation of urban density, hence traffic, hence parking, hence human behavior, hence civilization."

... One of the things that developers find most perplexing is government bureaucrats and planners: "These people, developers believe...have self-evidently preposterous ideas about how human nature works in the real world."

Similarly, parking as destiny:

The fabric of the city: Every study done on this issue has shown that parking supply is a key determinant of urban auto use. Major additions of parking to the area will inevitably foster a higher level of car use there and on connecting highways, avenues and streets.

From the same lovely rambling paean, Teresa Nielsen-Hayden presents The City as Expert System:

The fabric of the city: It accommodates the press of its population by doing what it does quickly. This is a big source of visitor interaction problems. They expect that slow newbie-friendly graphical user interface they’re used to from suburban malls, fast-food chain outlets, and the interstate highway system. What they get is a Greek immigrant who expects them to rattle off “butteredpoppyseedbagel coffeelightnosugar” and not need to be told that now is when you pay for it. We’re not unfriendly. We just know there are people in line behind us.

2004 April 9

Occupied Iraq: One year on

This is the sound of a conservative hawkish supporter losing her patience. Tish Durkin writes:

Bitter Baghdad Seeing Disaster As Rebels Rise: In short, for the purposes of Iraq after the war, this administration is the women and children.

... Apologies, hats off and hosannas to the C.P.A. exceptions, who do exist and who deserve nothing but praise. Even they, however, cannot help but be caught up in the rapidly spinning hamster-wheel of illogic on which their institution runs. It is, for instance, treated as an article of faith that for any C.P.A. employee to venture out of the Green Zone is for that employee to lay his life on the line. Thus, most employees do so with great caution and little frequency. In the many cases of jobs that depend upon verification or inspection or interaction with any Iraqi who does not work for the C.P.A., this means that they are paid serious money for jobs that they are strongly advised not to do. Meanwhile, to the cost of these employees’ salaries and living expenses is added the cost of protecting them with security that, no matter how expensive for Americans or offensive to Iraqis, is invariably deemed inadequate. As a result, the team that America has sent to put to the Herculean task of building Iraq a democracy is basically divided between those who realize that they have no idea what is going on outside their gates, and those who don’t realize that they have no idea what is going on outside their gates.

This does not encourage hope that the current crisis in Iraq will be finessed back into its bottle. (If crises aren't kept in bottles, they should be.)

Meanwhile, Bruce Rolston has been on fire this week -- your one-man warehouse for tactical analysis, reading between the lines of newspaper reports, and essential historical context. What do you know? History began before 1939.

THE HATED EMPIRE: "All this will involve great sacrifices and the expenditure not only of much money, but of more of the English blood of which the noblest has already been poured forth. And we are not so strong as we were. At first all nations sympathized with us, but now they look on us coldly and even with hostility. Those who were our friends have become indifferent, those who were indifferent have become our adversaries; and if our misfortunes and disasters go on much longer we shall have Europe saying that they can not trust us, that we are too weak, that our prestige is too low to justify us in undertaking this task."

--Salisbury again, same speech [1885, on the occasion of an Arab uprising in Egypt]

2004 April 10

Odometer Reset

It's beautiful out there. Not much sign of Nature waking up yet, but I could ride in shorts and a sweatshirt and be pretty damned comfortable doing it. This is my kind of weather.

I declare today the first day of a new biking year. I clocked up 1454 km since April 16 last year, and it is now time to reset the odometer.

1454 km. I'm pretty happy with that. At least, if you'd told me last year at this time I was going to manage that kind of distance on the year, I'm not sure I'd have believed you -- especially since about 300 km of that ended up being in January and February.

1454 km gets me almost to Chicago, heading west along I-90 (actually to South Bend, Indiana). Or from here to Montreal, back to here, and back to Montreal. Or almost to Charleston, South Carolina, which I've never actually been anywhere near in real life.

Hm. I meant to impress myself by working those out, but I'm not sure if I've done anything but make myself think -- damn, that's only a third of the way across the continent. I'm going to have to work harder this year.

Date Route Dist Time Avg Spd Year Total
2004/04/10 Middlesex Fells 11.8 km 42:42 16.6 km/h 12 km

For a change I tried to ride the mountain bike loop in the Middlesex Fells, which I never actually got around to doing last year. My new apartment is now closer to that than it is to the Minuteman, so I think I'll be doing more riding in there this year. It's cool to have a route with a bit more up and down to it than the Minuteman does -- it actually justifies having a mountain bike. I think I'm going to be going back pretty often.

I have no idea what route I actually rode today. The paths are less well signposted than I was prepared for, so I ended up riding kind of a random loop until I found myself back at the gate I'd come in. Next time, I'm bringing a map.

2004 April 16

Chasing Paul Revere

This weekend is the anniversary of the ride of that infamous insurrectionist, Paul Revere, and the next day's "shot heard round the world". Last year I happened to ride Battle Road to Concord on the date by fortunate coincidence; I think it would be fun to do it again this year on purpose.

Except the actual Patriot's Day is Monday, when I have to work, so I want to go tomorrow, Saturday. That's when many of the commemorations are being held in the historic park, anyway.

The route I have in mind is something like: start at Davis Sq, and take the Minuteman Bikeway out to Lexington, then break off to go through Battle Road National Historic Park until we get to the Old North Bridge in Concord, then back, possibly by the disused rail spur to Bedford and the Minuteman back to Somerville.

If the weather's good tomorrow (and it's currently supposed to be), I'd like to start at 11 am from the statue of the Desperate Pleading Mime at Davis. This is a long ride for me, so I won't be wanting to be too aggressive about the pace -- if you're not familiar with the route, I would guess this will be something like four hours of biking, with breaks for snacks and for whenever we pass something interesting -- there's supposed to be stuff going on in Battle Road on Saturday.

Anyone else up for it? (Feel free to pass the invitation along to anyone who might be interested.)

2004 April 17

Bedford Depot

So Andromeda, Grant, and I tried the bike ride to Concord today, but Andromeda got a flat before we even got to Lexington Centre. And then while we were standing around trying to decide what to do, one of Grant's tires blew out as well. Never seen anything like it -- it was just leaning there when pfffff it blew out and deflated. There wasn't even any weight on it. Current theory is that the pressure gauge on Grant's pump is, how do you say, fucked.

Anyway, we decided to bail on the full ride at that point, and are going to try again tomorrow. If anybody couldn't make it today but can make it tomorrow, you get a second chance to join us, lucky dog.

11 AM, Statue of the Pleading Mime, Davis Sq.

As it was, it was too nice a day (lovely Spring!) and I had too much frustration to burn off to stop at Lexington Centre, so I kept going. (Social-life-related frustration, not flat-tire-related.) Ended up all the way to Bedford Depot, where I got ice cream and a half-price bike jersey. I wore the jersey for my return ride, and surprised by the way the fancy gear really made me feel more like a Serious Biker. Mind games are fascinating things.

Date Route Dist Time Avg Spd Year Total
2004/04/17 Bedford Depot 41.2 km 1:58:46 20.8 km/h 54 km
Now I must have a nap, and pay my bills. I have three weeks worth of mail to open on my desk.

2004 April 19

Apparently I'm making it too easy for people to say no to me

Amy got called out of town. Andromeda and Grant had blowouts, and then Andromeda got sick for the second try. David injured himself the day before, and thus Molly also stayed home. Matt overslept and didn't show up. In some fashion, I feel conspired against, but can't quite see who to blame.

For that matter, Grant's poltergeist blowout weren't natural.

So it was just me out there yesterday, and I was still feeling sore from my long-ish early-season ride on Saturday, and so I decided I was more in the mood for a faster, shorter ride than going all the way to Concord. So I did.

Date Route Dist Time Avg Spd Year Total
2004/04/18 Lexington VFW 26.2 km 1:13:40 21.3 km/h 81 km
I did take a detour to noodle around a bit in Arlington's Great Meadows. Appallingly, I hadn't even really noticed it was there, before. That is, that it had paths. Funny how you can get tunnel vision on a straight polished railtrail like the Minuteman.