12.1.2022 – morning drive across

morning drive across
salt marsh tidal flats under
live oaks spanish moss

Not so long ago, my morning drive was into downtown Atlanta, a commute rated in the top ten worst in America.

Today I reminded myself of that drive as I made my way to work on a island on the Atlantic Coast.

Atlanta.

Atlantic.

Atlanta was paved over roadways as far as the eye could see.

The road to Island is carved out of marsh grass and laid over swamp and tidal flats and over the inner coastal waterway.

The road to Atlanta went under other roads and light poles for lights that often didn’t work either because the city hadn’t paid the bill or someone had stolen the copper wire that connected the lights.

The road to the Island runs under live oaks and spanish moss.

It is a different drive.

In December, the sun, just minutes before having risen out of the ocean, shines into the eyes of anyone making the drive.

The going is slow and the road is full of cars but the amount cars, if you counted all of them, would total somewhere around 1% of the total number of cars that were on the roads in Atlanta.

With the magic that can be technology I can drive along with music playing in the car to match the mood.

There is something about driving along over a salt marsh and tidal flats and over water and under live oaks and spanish moss while listening to Appalachian Spring.

I don’t care if it is December.

11.15.2022 – that moment shows that

that moment shows that
the car can only know what
it is trained to know

Adapted from the article, What Riding in a Self-Driving Tesla Tells Us About the Future of Autonomy, by Cade Metz, Ben Laffin, Hang Do Thi Duc and Ian Clontz (NY Times,  Nov. 14, 2022).

Cade and Ian spent six hours riding in a self-driving car in Jacksonville, Fla., to report this story.

They write:

Tesla’s technology can work remarkably well. It changes lanes on its own, recognizes green lights, and is able to make ordinary turns against oncoming traffic.

But every so often, it makes a mistake, forcing testers like Chuck to intervene.

“That moment shows that the car can only know what it is trained to know,” Mr. Cook said of the sudden turn into the parking lot. “The world is a big place, and there are many corner cases that Tesla may not have trained it for.”

Experts say no system could possibly have the sophistication needed to handle every possible scenario on any road. This would require technology that mimics human reasoning — technology that we humans do not yet know how to build.

Such technology, called artificial general intelligence, “is still very, very far away,” said Andrew Clare, chief technology officer of the self-driving vehicle company Nuro. “It is not something you or I or our kids should be banking on to help them get around in cars.”

I like a lot of these sentences.

It is not something you or I or our kids should be banking on to help them get around in cars, was one.

And the line, the car can only know what it is trained to know, makes me think this article applies to a lot more than cars.

8.4.2022 – how beautiful to

how beautiful to
sight those beams of morning play
up from eastern sea

Adapted from Horace’s ode Diffugere nives (XVI) by A. E. Housman published in More Poems, Alfred A. Knopf. 1936.

How clear, how lovely bright
How beautiful to sight
Those beams of morning play;
How heaven laughs out with glee
Where, like a bird set free,
Up from the eastern sea
Soars the delightful day

To-day I shall be strong,
No more shall yield to wrong,
Shall squander life no more;
Days lost, I know not how,
I shall retrieve them now;
Now I shall keep the vow
I never kept before.

Thought about this as I was driving to work.

And, as always, I was thinking, there sure could be worse morning drives (and I have made some of them.)

6.8.2021 – began trying to

began trying to
nourish outrage as a screen
for apprehension

It might be called road rage.

I talk to other drivers while I drive.

I know they can’t hear but that doesn’t stop.

Think Stupid, I say as I watch other cars at intersections.

I do not suffer fools gladly.

I feel if someone is going to share my road, they share in the responsibility to preserve my life,

I wish other drivers took that responsibility a tiny teeny bit more seriously.

So I remind them.

I talk to them.

I talk then yell.

Thin Stupid, Come on!

I also expect that if someone is going to share my road, the can share in the responsibility to keep traffic moving.

And they can help themselves out a lot if only they studied up just a little before leaving on where they were going.

I talk to them.

I yell at them.

Soon I am screaming at them.

Full of outrage.

Only recently am I understanding that my outrage is a just a screen.

A screen of my own apprehension.

My apprehension over not taking my role in preserving the lives of other drivers seriously.

My apprehension over where I am going.

My apprehension that other drivers are talking to me.

My apprehension that other drivers are yelling at me.

My apprehension that other drivers at outraged.

A hero is someone who backs their car out of the driveaway know all this, and drives a car to work anyway.

*Adapted from the line, “He forced his attention away on to Welch’s habits as a car-driver, and began trying to nourish outrage as a screen for the apprehension, tapping his long brown shoe loudly on the floor and whistling It worked for five seconds or less.” from Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis, London, 1956

3.15.2021 – round and round it goes

round and round it goes
where traffic stops nobody knows –
changes, not progress

I was reading this morning about the feral hog/pig/boar problem in Florida.

I fell in love with a sentence that read, “The hog issue is not thought of as a solvable problem, but one that could only be attenuated.”

I read it over.

I read it outloud.

The hog issue is not thought of as a solvable problem, but one that could only be attenuated.

I wanted to grab and pad and pencil and start making a list of problems, that cannot be thought of as a solvable problems, but ones that could only be attenuated.

I quickly realized that my pad would not be big enough.

What a simple solution to so many issues.

In my mind somewhere is the saying, “If there is no solution, it is not a problem.”

This is a great saying to have handy when there is beach nearby that you can visit easily.

Some problem or issue pops up in your email.

You have no answer.

You have no solution.

No solution, then there is no problem.

No problem, well then, no problem and I am off to the beach.

But if the issue is not thought of as a solvable problem, but one that could only be attenuated, then goodbye going to the beach and get to work.

Get to work on attenuating the problem.

What a great word.

Attenuated.

My pirated desktop Oxford English Dictionary defines attenuated as weakened in intensity, force, effect, value.

I now want to grab my pad and pencil and list all the things in my life that have been weakened in intensity, force, effect, value as I get older.

But I quickly realize I don’t have enough time.

So back to the problems that are not thought of as a solvable problem, but one that could only be attenuated.

Can there be anything higher on the list than traffic?

Put today’s rubrics together and we can create a statement that might read: “Traffic is not thought of as a solvable problem, but one that could only be weakened in intensity, force, effect and value.”

I really like that.

Traffic is not thought of as a solvable problem, but one that could only be weakened in intensity, force, effect and value.

It was Bill Bryson who wrote that traffic engineers cannot fix traffic, but they can spread the problem out over a larger area.

The latest fashion of dealing with traffic here in the south is the traffic circle.

On a drive from my home to the beach I will navigate three of these answers to traffic problems.

According to the Wikipedia, “Compared to stop signs, traffic signals, and earlier forms of roundabouts, modern roundabouts reduce the likelihood and severity of collisions greatly by reducing traffic speeds and minimizing T-bone and head-on collisions.”

So they reduce the likelihood of accidents.

Or do they reduce the likelihood of the T-Bone and head on collisions while increasing the likely hood of side swipes and rear-corner panel collisions.

But do they improve traffic flow?

Wouldn’t that be the main question?

Wouldn’t that be the goal of someone who is trying to weaken in intensity, force, or effect the ‘not thought of as a solvable problem’ traffic?

The other fun part of these traffic circles for me is two of the three circles are on Hilton Head Island here in South Carolina.

The island, like Mackinac Island, has lots of bikes.

Lot and lots of bikes.

The island, unlike Mackinac Island, has lots of cars.

Lots and lots of cars.

Neither of these issues are thought of as a solvable problems for the island.

Neither of these issues seems to have been thought out as forms of transportation that can co-exist on the same overloaded roadways.

Then I ran across this.

The Hovenring.

An elevated bike traffic circle the floats over the roadway

The hovenring was built in the Netherlands.

The hovenring is perfect for Hilton Head Island.

According to wikipedia, The hovernring was built because, “In order to improve the flow of traffic and improve safety, it was decided to completely separate motorized and bicycle traffic.

So much for the thinking that this might be not be thought of as solvable problem.

Here is evidence of real change for the better!

Here is evidence of real progress towards a real solution.

The hovenring!

Of course, there is some more to the wikipedia entry.

It goes on to say, “In addition, it was decided to transform the roundabout for cars into a regular crossing of streets, to improve the flow of traffic

So it goes.

Round and round.

And as we all know, what goes around, comes around.

It’s not thought of as a solvable problem.

2.7.2021 – American Satire

American Satire
American Reality
Where does one stop, start?

In answer to the question, in a recent interview, “Do you consider yourself a satirist,?”, satirist Fran Lebowitz said, “In a way, yes, but, American reality has been so extreme of late that satire is almost impossible. Anything you could possible imagine actually happens. It would stump Jonathan Swift.”

It was Jonathon Swift who wrote, “Satire is a sort of glass wherein beholders do generally discover everybody’s face but their own; which is the chief reason for that kind reception it meets with in the world, and that so very few are offended with it.”

I have to admit I am not sure what this all means.

I think it boils down to, you can’t make this stuff up.

How did a national response to a global pandemic become a political statement based on wearing or not wearing a mask?

Ms. Lebowitz also said in this same interview:

When I was young there was a very strict idea of the boundary between the public and the private life.

So, things that you might do in the privacy of your bedroom, you wouldn’t do on 12th St.

That seems to have disappeared entirely and it is not just the young; it’s true even of people my age, who were brought up in a certain way and then forgot about it.

It is surprising to me just how unconscious people are of themselves in public, considering how much more acceptable it has become to think about yourself all the time”

Is that the answer to the question?

Consider how much more acceptable it has become to think about yourself all the time.

I like Ms. Leibowitz a lot.

Just when you think she has gone off into the happy world of hyperbole and complains that New York City spent $40 million dollars researching how to and then putting lawn chairs in Times Square, you find out she was telling the truth.

When I consider how much more acceptable it has become to think about yourself all the time, I am reminded of an essay on the future by one of my favorite writers, Michigan’s Own, Bruce Catton.

Mr. Catton wrote, “The dismaying world we confront was given its vast intricacy and its perilous speed by human beings. The one basic resource we have always had to rely on is the innate intelligence, energy and good will of the human race. It is facing an enormous challenge, but then it always has; and it meets each one only to confront another. If now we give way to the gloom of the apostles of catastrophe we are of course in the deepest sort of trouble. The old reliance is at our service. It can bear us up if we put out full weight on it.”

This is where that comment of Ms. Leibowtiz comes in to play.

American reality has been so extreme of late that satire is almost impossible.

Anything you could possible imagine actually happens.

If we have to rely on the innate intelligence, energy and good will of the human race while at the sane time we consider how much more acceptable it has become to think about yourself all the time I think we are of course in the deepest sort of trouble.

Not something I would dare put my weight on at this time.

12.15.2020 – four way stop, wait turn

four way stop, wait turn
democracy in action
signal of the end
?

I have long thought that the first signs of the end or at least the beginning of the beginning of the end would be a disregard for the traditional four way stop.

I am not referring to what was called the ‘Michigan Slide’ as you slowed for the stop sign and zoomed through if no cars were at the intersection.

I mean if drivers paid no attention at all the rules of the four way stop.

The State of Michigan publication, What Every Driver Must Know states: “You reach a four-way stop intersection with a stop sign at each corner of the intersection. The driver who arrived at the intersection and stopped first has the right of way through the intersection. If two or more vehicles reached the intersection at the same time, the vehicle on the left should yield to the vehicle on its right.”

I have to admit that when I started writing this I did not expect such open ended language as the vehicle on the left should yield to the vehicle on its right instead of MUST yield but I will go on.

I have to mention my pet peeve on this though.

No where does it say you wait until cross traffic has cleared the intersection completely before you enter the intersection.

I guess this leads to my ‘snooze you lose’ comments when I give up waiting for that driver on the left.

Now to go on.

The four way stop is a picture democracy and cooperation at its most base level in the ideal.

The greater good for the greatest number of drivers.

Everyone gets their turn.

Everyone has to wait.

Everyone has respect for the other driver.

Everyone is fairly inconvenienced.

No one is singled out and picked on.

No one is singled out and gets special preference.

It requires cooperation.

For the most part it works out okay.

It works when everyone follows the rules.

It works when everyone follows the same rules.

It works when everyone follows the same rules and they know what the rules are.

What happens when folks every don’t know the rules, don’t follow the rules or just don’t care?

Anger.

Frustration.

Chaos.

Hard to imagine that the four way stop could be improved on.

Like all things in America however, there are those who think this can be improved.

Don’t want to pick on anyone but it sure seems like traffic engineers are folks who can’t leave well enough alone.

Mr. Bill Bryson writes that traffic engineers cannot fix traffic problems but then can spread them out over a larger area.

And to digress, if you took all the cars in the United States and put them end to end in one place what would you have?

ATLANTA!

The answer to the ‘problem’ of the four way stop that is turning up more and more is the traffic circle.

This is happening despite the traffic laboratory that has been maintained for years in Washington DC with such nightmares as the circle around the Lincoln Memorial.

To me it would seem that if any local traffic council spent 10 minutes or 2 hours or a day or two stuck going around Mr. Lincoln they would never approve a traffic circle.

Here in the low country there is a love affair with traffic circles.

The love them so much they make them two lane circles.

The outer is supposed to be for drivers making a right turn.

The inner lane for drivers going straight through or what would have been a left turn.

The only directions at the intersection is a sign that says, “YIELD TO BOTH LANES.”

It can be a head scratcher.

Some drivers approach boldly and enter the circle at speed and weave back and forth across the lanes.

Most drivers approach tentatively and yield to any and all traffic both real and imaginary.

You can feel the frustration build up as the bold drivers and tentative drivers mix with each other.

But it at least eliminates the questions of who got their first and who is on the left.

You buys your ticket and you takes your chance and you drive right in.

It can be downright scary.

Also for some reason the State of South Carolina doesn’t seem to beleive in either street lights or roadway reflectors.

On reflectors, that may be because the State of Georgia took them all.

Anyone who has driven through Atlanta on I75 at night and gone through the I285 interchange will know what I mean.

I sometimes thought the just tossed handfuls of reflectors out there for no reason.

But back to the circle.

I can say this, it would never work in a snowy, slippery climate.

Not that that would stop the State of Michigan from trying them.

There are the latest thing after all.

I like the four way stop.

I think they work.

I can handle the circle, sure.

In place of cooperation, drivers go and expect other drivers to get out of the way.

Both get you to the other side of the road.

But if you aren’t careful.

All you do is go around in circles.

3.20.2020 – Like breathing out, in

Like breathing out, in
I’ve grown accustomed to the race
makes the day begin

I get up.

The coffee is ready.

Read my Bible.

Read the morning papers.

Drink my coffee.

Then it is off to work.

And I work into our back room.

No morning commute.

No speeding cars.

No trucks.

No cop cars.

No traffic.

No available minutes to sort out my life.

No time to question the great questions.

No audio book.

No music to pass the time.

Like breathing out and in.

After 10 years.

52 weeks a year.

5 days a week.

1 and a half hours a day.

I have spent 162 days on I85.

The drive that makes the day begin.

I don’t miss it.

I don’t miss it one bit.

But it was a big part of something that has gone missing.

Have I grown accustomed to the race?

But I’m so used to hear her say
“Good morning” every day

Her joys, her woes
Her highs, her lows

Are second nature to me now
Like breathing out and breathing in

I’m very grateful she’s a woman
And so easy to forget

Rather like a habit
One can always break

And yet I’ve grown accustomed to the trace

Of something in the air
Accustomed to her face

From I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face in the musical, My Fair Lady.

3.5.2020 – driving rain driving

driving rain driving
nothing delicious to it
dark that absorbs light

“There’s really something rather delicious about walking in the rain,” says Willie Keith walking in the rain in New York City in Herman Wouk’s The Caine Mutiny

“You wouldn’t think so if you had do it,” says his girlfriend.

It started raining here in Georgia sometime in December or November.

In the last three months Georgia has had over 25 inches of rain.

50 inches of rain in a year is normal for Georgia.

The current 14 day outlook from today shows only 4 days without rain in the forecast.

That 50 inches per year average is more than Michigan’s 33 inches of rain but Michigan has 52 inches of snow.

Looking out at the rain is down right depressing.

Driving in it.

Driving in the rain.

Driving in the driving rain.

Operating a motor vehicle at speeds that should scare me over rain slicked pavement that not only takes away my ability to stop my vehicle but through some trick of physics, also absorbs the light right out of the air so I can’t see why I might need to stop my vehicle.

This is stupid.

This is scary.

It is scary that even though I know its stupid, I do it anyway.

It is stupid that I am not more scared.

Why do I do this?

Like the people in their accidents will say, “I never think it will happen to me.”

2.20.2020 – I leave tomorrow

I leave tomorrow
how will I get there today
I want to break free

A benefit of a long commute is time to think.

It’s my thoughtful spot I guess.

In The House at Pooh Corner, A.A. Milne writes, “Halfway between Pooh’s house and Piglet’s house was a Thoughtful Spot where they met sometimes when they had decided to go and see each other, and as it was warm and out of the wind they would sit down there for a little and wonder what they would do now that they had seen each other. One day when they had decided not to do anything, Pooh made up a verse about it, so that everybody should know what the place was for.”

This warm and sunny Spot
Belongs to Pooh.
And here he wonders what
He’s going to do.

On another rainy morning, I merged onto the the freeway, got in my line and switched to auto pilot and began to think.

Think, think, think.

I had been talking with my wife that this was shaping up as the summer of the big change.

Lots of new things are coming from new babies to new places to live and lots in between.

Most of what might happen depends on what will happen first.

And when.

My list of things to think about in my thoughtful spot got longer and longer and more involved until I felt like I had gone into a revolving door and came out earlier than I had gone in.

Or was it later?

I can’t leave until tomorrow.

But I have to be there today.

I went back into the revolving door again and again and kept coming out at places I didn’t want to be.

Or at least wasn’t ready to be.

Traffic came to a sudden slow down and I came off auto pilot and back to this world.

Songs had been playing on from my iPhone in the background.

The next song’s intro starting playing.

I recognized the tune and a smile came across my face and my heart lifted out of the mud.

I turned up the volume.

Freddie Mercury sang, “I WANT TO BE FREE.”

For a few minutes, I was.

Not for the first time and not for the last, I want to be free.

Me, Freddie and most everybody.

I got to laugh.

And I got to laugh at myself.

I got out of the revolving door and entered another door.

And drove on through the rain to work.