On The Road – Droning

7 Sep

Spent today on the interstate, crossing four states in the process of getting somewhere fun to ride, and I realized why I dislike the interstate so much: it’s not motorcycling.

The act of changing directions and changing speeds, i.e. operating the motorcycle, is the fun part for me. None of that happens on the interstate – you go straight, at a relatively constant speed. And it’s a relatively fast speed, and it’s boring and your mind wanders (it has to), which isnt a great combination.

Still, it’s a necessary evil. Not all interesting roads are connected by interesting roads.

What road am I on?

14 Sep

I’ve always wanted to ride my motorcycle up highway 1 to Ely, and 20 miles out of Two Harbors I wasn’t sure if I was on my way to achieving either goal. While google maps (this was a mistake of course) showed a line coming out of Two Harbors that at least eventually became Hwy 1 to Ely, the only signs told me this was county 2, with no indication of where it went. And since it was noon, and overcast, even the sun wasnt any help to tell me I was at least headed north.

This led to some metaphysical angst. Was I on the right road? Would this turn into the right road? And what does “the right road” mean anyway? If this was a different path than I intended, might that not turn out to be better after all?

A sign indicating that either 1 or Ely definitively lay ahead would put the matter to rest. But that’s just navigation; in life, do you ever get that definitive sign that you are on the right path? I mean Ely is Ely and if that’s where you want to be then pretty much any road that gets you there is the right path. But (with all due respect to Ely) it might not turn out be someplace you want to be after all; or you might find out that the path to it is not one you enjoy travelling. I bailed on a trip to Kansas City once because 8 hrs of interstate on a motorcycle didn’t sound anything like fun. But maybe if you stick it out, KC turns out to be worth a little discomfort.

Anyway, in my case, without notice I came to a nondescript intersection, and finally a sign indicated that Ely was to the left, and highway 61 was to the right, and that this finally was highway 1. And from there into Ely the road twisted it’s way through the northwoods in a picturesque and satisfying way. I had, indeed, turned off 61 too soon but no harm was done, and it gave me something to think about. And maybe that’s what wrong turns are for.

Great Outdoors

12 Sep

Something like two and a half years ago, I went to REI and bought a backpacking tent, not to go backpacking but to use when traveling by motorcycle. I set it up was in my living room just to see how it worked. Second time I set it up…was last weekend.

Obviously the moto-camping plan didn’t pan out like I thought. But last weekend I finally had some unallocated time and figured on heading out after work on Friday. Picked out a campground a couple hours west of the cities, but by the time I got home, only had 90 minutes of daylight so I picked a place just 30 min away instead. The idea was just to do a test run, anyway. Camping, like travel in general, is a skill, and skills need practice. So here’s what I learned:

1. You can’t fit all that much on a motorcycle. I knew this in abstract, but it became clearer. Tent plus sleeping bag plus clothes plus food/cooking adds up to more than conveniently stores in topbox plus bungeeing onto saddle. And I didnt even have a sleeping pad. Could bungee more on though if I could amalgamate into one big duffel.

2. Need a thermarest pad. Nuff said.

3. Scaled down cookset is fine, but some things are pretty essential. If there is no spoon, Neo, there is no dinner.

4. Light is at a premium. Those goofy looking headlamps look pretty good as the sun goes down.

Some things went well. The tent was pretty foolproof, and the bag kept me warm even as the nighttime temp plummetted. Hatchet wasnt essential for making fire but helped with driving stakes.  And my little dual fuel stove, while not sexy, works great especially given how neglected it has been.

Bites of the Big Apple

28 Mar

Some thoughts on my time in the Big Apple:

The Milford Plaza was a pretty good choice. Close to Times Square, in the middle of a host of theatres, and restaurants all around. It’s got old bones, but is being remade in a hipper, more modern image – a lot like Manhattan itself.

Just kind of skimmed the surface of the town, but really impressed with what I found. Had no idea about the seaport area, and the other historic bits, and was really impressed with Central Park. Lots of beautiful old buildings and some interesting new ones, and always a cool surprise to find a little park here or there. Tons of restaurants, though I suspect separating the wheat from the chaff is a big task.

Heard more German being spoken than Brooklyn-ese, but did overhear one “watch you don’t get hit by a bus” and that made my day.

Times Square, eh, it is what it is. But there’s so much more.

Bones of Contention

27 Mar

So as I’m standing in line at the Museum of Natural History in Manhattan, in that grand marble entryway decorated with an impossibly tall dinosaur skeleton (the one with the tiny head and super long neck, I forget the name), I overheard a lady in line behind me say “it’s only a theory, it’s never been proved. It’s just a theory.” From that snippet, and context, I’m guessing the theory was evolution, although global warming would be my second guess.

Frankly, people who really think like that, I just don’t know what to do with them. My first thought was to tell her, ma’am, this is a hall of science, I’m afraid you’re going to have to leave. I mean if that’s your attitude, if you really are a creationist, then what are you here for? Is this just another art museum for you?

Of course barring the ignorant from a place of learning is entirely backwards, the very reason these places exist is to provide access to knowledge, for the common good. So really, the problem is just me, and my reaction to the Face of Ignorance.

Because this is bedrock stuff to me, the foundations upon which long ago people built various thought constructs, which as now as tall and and detailed and thoroughly used and inhabited as any Manhattan skyscraper. To have to go back down to the basement and re-explain what this is built on…

Not that dinosaur bones or global temperatures have anything to do with what I used to do as a chemist directly. It’s more the challenging of the scientific method. Creationists and anti-climate-changers are arguing backwards from a premise, and they assume this is a valid technique that everybody is using (if they think at all about their process, which I suspect they don’t). It’s not, and their approach is the root of what’s wrong.

Science builds outward, from observations, and yes, theories that appeared to explain those observations. Further observations and analysis either establish that framework of theories either as strong enough to build on, or in need of buttressing or even a complete tear-out and re-build. Everyone working as a scientist is working off of, evaluating, and building onto that framework. Individuals may have motives, and agendas, but scientists operate within a large peer network which operates to preserve the process and the structural integrity of the framework. No one wants to build on a crappy foundation and find out later it doesn’t hold up.

People (non-scientists) assume that, for example, global warming is scientists engaging in self-preservation by driving more funding. From a capitalist point of view this makes sense, because there money, in the form of investments and markets, is the engine. But from a scientists point of view, funding is just a necessary evil; the true engine, the core principle that allows us as humans to build an understanding of the universe, is the iterative process of the scientific method. In other words, capitalists assume that scientists think that without funding, they’re out of a job; when what we really think is, without attention to the process, without attention to weeding out the bullshit, what we’re doing is pointless.

So yes, evolution is a theory, but so is gravity and Newtonian physics. All are time-tested, and supported by a plethora of observations. They have been challenged and reviewed and determined to be sound enough to build upon. And the work is published and available for you to review, if you have the time and inclination. As for climate change, it’s not my field and my concern is that it’s a new field (and it takes time for the scientific community to reach consensus and weed out the bullshit), but if the National Academy of Sciences states (as it has) that the science behind man-made climate change is sound, that means a lot to me.

Which is the sort of thing I don’t have time to explain to the (potentially willfully) ignorant person in line at the museum. Larger problem is, however, that our society is at (or beyond) the point where negative consequences will result from our technological society being increasingly at odds with policy decisions that are driven by those who dismiss science as “only a theory”.

Waitress in the Sky

26 Mar

Breaking out the blog again to cover a trip to the Big Apple.

Even the passengers on the flight are a marked change from a flight to Las Vegas. I think I’m the only person on a plane with a collared shirt, and in the non-hoodie minority. Even got some brooklyn sitting behind me; talking to a guy wearing a “read-my-tumbler.com” shirt, Brooklyn says, “what izzat, ya website?”

On the plane, I guess now that it isnt Northwest anymore, the “grey box” has gone away, replaced by some more colorful equivalent. Same basic thing: cookies, crackers, some form of cheese, a little bit of deli meat. I usually get these things just to keep myself entertained, it’s something to do on a long flight. When I reach for cash, the waitress-in-the-sky tells me “we don’t take cash, only credit.” Then she adds, “we haven’t taken cash for about two years now.” Really. Brooklyn probably would have said “what’s that to me?”, but I just dug for my wallet, again.

Summing up

27 Sep

So I never actually finished this “story arc” about the 5k. Rest assured, the race did happen and I ran it. Did have to walk a hundred steps about halfway through, but I made it. And my knee held up fine, although my foot hurt right from the get go, making it a bit of a slog. Also, the course went along part of a road that was being reconstructed; ever run on grooved pavement? I dislike riding on it, and it really sucks to run on.

Being that this was sponsored by a fitness company, there were a lot of over trained people at this “fun run”. Pretty sure I got lapped by guys going around for a second time. But at the end of the race there was food and beer (!) And music, so it was all good.

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