Today while riding through the main street of my town there was an older couple riding in the opposite direction. They were dressed in the trappings of a well sold cyclist, brightly colored clothing, mirror strapped to the helmet, a posture so upright the Queen would be very proud. They were not however equipped with a well versed knowledge of how to ride a bicycle in a road. To that point, the drivers whizzing by are not themselves subject matter experts. The town itself was built up in the late 1800s. it started as a large tract of farmland and a river crossing. The city across the river has some historical significance, but it doesn’t contribute largely to the existence of this particular town other than that it was there and the river is easier to cross here and in several other places. As a result a rail line was constructed parallel to river and it tied in by crossing the river and connecting the two towns by a series of bridges. During the course of development, the largest plot of farmland was sold to a land real estate company that sliced everything up and started to expand the number of buildings that existed. With the buildings came people and roads and they managed to expand their town up the side of the hill that the aforementioned river contributed towards carving. In order to ease the journey from the residential hill to the lower downtown, a trolley was built. That trolley ran across the river into the historical city and connected the two even further. People walked, or took the trolley. One could imagine a few more adventurous types using a bicycle. The surrounding countryside has been there forever and the town was largely built up around industry because of the ease of crossing the river nearby. Then people started buying cars. And then people started packing more than one family into the homes. And all of those families also had cars. Sometimes more than one. Then everyone decided to complain about the traffic but also not pay any attention when they drive and sit at a redlight staring at their phone while complaining that the youth are the problem but at least one of us is managed to have some proper signal lights and is trying to follow the prescribing procedure for operation of a vehicle.
It seems like at some point we just give up on learning anything new. And by that point we are also really susceptible to outside influence. Maybe there is a correlation between actively learning and directing your thought in that manner and simply going through the motions of modern suburban life. Although, even that has a bunch of different meanings even just within the 15 odd mile (or 24.14 km if that’s your thing. Do you have a thing about distance measurements?) radius that surrounds makes up the larger connected economic block of several towns arranged around an industrial and commerce park. Interestingly, my brief attempts at finding a definition of suburban were not grandly fruitful. The direct search term results in advertisement for a truck. Suburban life directed me to a page with a headline about someone being charged with assault for battering a child. Wasn’t suburban life supposed to be the idea of the American Dream brought into civic planning? Violence and battery certainly don’t seem like the white picket fence utopia. A slightly deeper dive brings us to the civic design center. Where upon there is a lovely presentation of a single photo and a small digital booklet, which to my surprise was about exactly the types of ideas that I advocate for locally. Which is incredibly pleasant to happen across, especially from a state backed presentation. The initial skim provided the Urban Dictionary definition of suburban and it seemed as though it was going to be a very different sort of pamphlet. Definitely worth a look for any one interested in how to make suburban life less of a drag on health and heavily dependent on cars.
In the description of the town and surrounding area, it was mentioned that there was a diversity of constructions in the suburbs. The oldest models in the area are tightly packed, the houses themselves about 20-25 feet wide on average and standing about 30 or so feet tall. They run very long, although after having looked through several of them its clear that at least a few were much, much smaller and that leaves me curious as to what the houses would have been built like originally. All-in-all, the building provides about 1600 square feet, plus a yard large enough for a moderate sized garden, and space for activities. And a garage. The dream right? Well, close enough to mine anyway. This is the general layout of the town built up on a hill with the rest of the farmland slowly being carved into rectangles as people decide it’s a nice area near the country but they don’t want to live in a box that other people have already lived in. When I was in elementary school, I was assigned to a group that got to do a historical project specifically about the area that we lived in. It never occurred to me that not everyone was given this glimpse into the local area. We may know some of the history if our parents were from the area and felt so inclined to share but ultimately even that was probably spotty. American history, and civics, and social studies (which freakin’ comma should I use? Or would it drive you nuts if I just went back and forth and never made a decision? Only worth it if it doesn’t drive you away.) was the majority of what people were taught. I learned that the school we were in was originally part of an airport. There was a whole timeline for me to forget. The neighboring township was a branch off further from the housing constructed for the management of a large industrial firm that set up shop in the middle of the area. Spiraling clockwise, starting at 3 o’clock, the population is thickest there by the river and the hill across from the historical city and decreases in density as you continue along the clock. As you cross into the early expansions the houses are more unique. The lots are all of a moderate size but your neighbor is still 15-20 feet away. If there were trees, planted along the roadside they have all grown to maturity. Most of this land was forested or farmed so many of the trees are native and old. There are still a handful of businesses clustered into the neighborhood and the roads are quiet enough to ride a bicycle through or walk, but realistically there is nothing useful within most people’s idea of walkable. Is that a failure of design or human motivation? We know that sitting still too much kills us. Right? Probably not as many of us as one would hope. There is a strip mall nearby, but a bargain store, a few restaurants, and doctors offices make for slim pickings.
This portion of town is connected to the rest of the commercial and residential area by way of major highway. Backroads exist and it is possible to get to the shopping centers by way of bicycle, but I ride frequently and still want a motor. The area is full of rolling hills and everything is just that little bit too far away. So far no one has managed to look at the area and figure out where a good bike path can be carved out. At least then the hills wouldn’t be as daunting because there wouldn’t be cars threatening to flatten you. Which finally brings me around to the point that I had started with, which is to say that no body wants to learn anything. And towns are designed badly. Unless you run a gas station. This little side track took me all of like 20 minutes of clicking around and I found something interesting and worthwhile to learn about that expanded upon a thing that I was already interested in. Maybe that’s a key point, there has to be an interest. Interest results in that kind of spontaneous “hmm?” that results in finding a handy pamphlet to share with whomever manages to get this far.
Maybe learning how to drive in a way that maximizes cooperation and the fact that we are all traffic and in traffic isn’t interesting. Driving itself barely seems interesting given the number of people barely paying attention to it even when that means that no one can figure out whether they are going to go or continue to wait or let anyone else go or just randomly step on the gas and decide to go because they were ready but that they hadn’t really looked to see if anyone was in front of them before doing so. Maybe, given the fact that we can barely manage to pay attention to the road without also checking a message at minimum, we should think about lowering the speed limits in area where people are known to be pedestrians. Or just lower them anyway. That little booklet pointed out that 85% of deaths in accidents where an automobile strikes a person occur when the vehicle is traveling 40 miles per hour (64.37 km, metric system would probably have a speed limit of 60 KM no? or maybe they would round up and just slightly out pace us everywhere). If we lowered residential speed limits to 20 mph, then most electric bicycles would have no difficulty keeping pace with the flow of traffic. Most regular bicycles wouldn’t be going much slower, even at a more gentle 10 mph for it to matter. We’re all in too much of a hurry to begin with, but that’s another hour of rambling that I’ll save for another time.
Moral of the Story. Pay more attention and learn something. Today I made another venture into learning How to Automate the Boring Stuff. I have tried so many different ways to learn code and none of them have really held my attention. Maybe you have to be guilty of a thing to really understand it. Without name dropping because I think they are losers that don’t deserve your attention more than that free to access link up there, I tried a few of the guided tours and just felt that it wasn’t sticking. To be fair what wasn’t sticking was me. There needed to be a reason to sit down on a daily basis and learn the thing. With a car the reason is just to avoid killing people. Programming, or code whichever is the more accurate vernacular, just wasn’t something I saw a reasonable way forward in. Making my websites wasn’t going to make boxes lift themselves more safely or motivate my co-workers to try harder. And money alone or the prospect of a career change weren’t motivating either. So what changed this time? The goal is just the doing of it. There was a model kit that let a kid build a robot and then program the robot with blocks that had simple to change parameters. That kit provided results that encouraged further exploration. And that’s what Python and automating boring stuff does for me. Making simple things happen, like an entry form that can round my answer triggers the same little button as pushing pedals or adjusting gears and cables. One of these entries will be a small summary of what I’ve learned so far. That will provide a good recap to make sure that I’m actually grasping what I’m trying to learn. Because that’s what this blog is about. Coding.
Addendum: I didn’t explain why motivation is crap, I just said that I wasn’t motivated by anything. That might just be depression, but it’s still crap. You need gumption because otherwise just waiting around for motivation will leave you sitting around a lot. Disagree, fight me, but not really because maybe I’m just missing something, so rather than fighting me, clue me in. And then when you recognize the difference between the two go and apply that to other situations so we can start having peaceful disagreeing dialogues. Unless that’s an oxymoron. Code, the blog is about code.