Try to count every success

This one should be a little bit more straight forward. In discussing distraction, it’s important to understand focus. Short term focus is easy to lose. Long term focus is difficult to recognize. Both of these statements feel discouraging. It is definitely in vogue to talk about distractability. Everything is a distraction on so many levels that to really dive into that would take away from the point I’m attempting to wrangle together here. Seriously though, at some point even trying to pay attention to everything that is going on just starts to feel like a distraction. The other option is blissful unawareness of anything happening on a global scale. Imagine not knowing that Australia is on fire. Imagine having no knowledge of the current goings on in the middle east. Imagine having no real concept of where the middle east is or why there would even be conflict there. I don’t think John Lennon had sticking our head in the sand in mind when he wrote his version of that day dream. The world keeps turning though, and all we can hope is that we are here to see that continue to happen. How much of knowing about it is useful though? At the same time it feels very privaleged to be handed a live stream to an amount of human thought and be like, “nah.” Proponents would make points about how the connectiveness has helped and it definitely has. We now more than ever can understand how similar the world has become. We can gain an overview understanding of nearly anything we can think up keywords to. And it gets updated recklessly fast. But then feeling connected makes you feel isolated because you are just sitting there soaking in it and letting the currents of human consciousness and tensions flow from your glowing palm directly into your eyeballs. But then you’ve lost an hour or three and you haven’t accomplished anything you set out to do. At some point it’s just discipline, but that requires something to stick to.

Which finally brings us full circle to my original point about getting distracted and how to count successes in the long term. The term that really counts because it generates the factor known as consistency. Stoics would probably tell you that focusing on one thing is just the most you should aim for. I say that’s great if you can, but good luck. I’d say recognize how much you can actually maintain. Some things take only certain amounts of time and some end up being complimentary. Anything that contributes to the things you have determined to be your long term goals counts as a success. Period. Screw anyone that says other wise. As long as you actually did something as opposed to just thinking about doing it. If the goal is to ride your bike more, anything you get in terms of saddle time counts. Just enjoy it and be in it. And sometimes go for a spin around the block even if it’s a weird hour. Sometimes you might still fail to check every box, but don’t discount the ones you have checked off. Perfection doesn’t exist. Perfection exists only in your mind and even then is constantly shifting. Lost as soon as you found it.

This all assumes you’ve found something to shoot for. There’s plenty of good reasons to do anything and an equal number of bad reasons. At some point you just have to choose. And if it doesn’t work, then choose something else or pick a different approach. If that still doesn’t work, then consider giving up. Take an inventory of where you are and really think about what you are looking for in the change. Maybe nothing is missing and you just want more from something than it has to give. Sometimes things just are what they are, but our attitudes about that can make them miserable and intolerable. These days almost any shift can be made with consistent effort. It’s often the sticking to it that’s difficult. This isn’t anything new, but maybe the more it gets said the more people will understand the breadth of the issue.

Maybe the blog is more about bicycles for now

Walk the walk if one feels the need to run their mouth about how people should get around right? Well maybe some people just have an easier time telling everyone else what to do. Maybe sometimes we make excuses for why we can’t keep up with our responsibilities. Maybe we have to leave at between 5:30 and 6 to get to work on time and are just bad at prioritizing. Or, perhaps, the light we needed to leave at the time was broken. That was all rhetorical and mostly truth. All of that can be solved through the application of non delayed action. That’s what I mean when I say that motivation is crap. I am really motivated to do all of this. Right now. But it’s freakin’ 10:41. What good is this?? Still though. We gotta work with that we get handed and the the ability to do that is way more broadly applicable than fickle motivation. Broken lights though? That’s easy. And recycling in this instance. So, double-whammy at minimum.

This is my second headlamp from the internet bazaar. The first died and to this day I don’t know if the battery itself gave out, or if the lamp quit. It had three lamps and was incredibly bright, which is good because my ride into work is incredibly dark. Municipalities seem to be under the impression that the responsibility of lighting falls solely on the individual that has decided to embark upon their journey like a cave person. You want to ride around exposed on a steel horse, better bring a torch because the bike paths around here are not lit. At all. Now, I haven’t raised the money to do this and I can’t imagine anyone else has bothered to either. There is no estimate I could provide for the cost of those lights, but they stick them on roads and it would certainly encourage people to jump on bicycles. At least enough to alleviate some of the traffic around here. Not everyone is going to bike, and it would be unreasonable to demand that everyone does. More of us can than are though. I certainly can so long as I have a light to get me to work. Whereas my first light gave out in a manner rendering it unusable, the second failed only to remain attached to my cranium. Plastic products on the internet bazaar are not always of the highest durability. A plastic clip that connected the strap that formed the headband snapped, leaving me with a lamp wired to a battery pack and two-thirds of the elastic I needed to wrap those around my helmet.

There was a picture of a bicycle on another website that had a remote battery pack attached to the side of the bicycle. This battery pack connected to at least the front light. Going into that search, in the back of my mind, was the idea that I needed to fix the light on my own bicycle. When I got out to the garage, my plan was to recreate the first assembly (which is a really loose use of that term) that was slapped together when the lamp originally broke. With a bungee cord that did pretty much nothing and the broken straps wrapped around the handlebars and then layered again with most of a roll of electrical tape, the light stayed attached where needed and aimed slightly to the left. Mostly optimal! However, the tape covered a bolt that allowed the handlebars to be adjusted and given that the fit on this bike is being tweaked on an entirely whimsy-based process the need to remove the light became inevitable. The reattachment of the light was not immediately subsequent and thus my morning rides and commitment to something resembling values was cast aside. Until tonight that is. Subconsciously inspired by that picture perhaps, or just presented with an opportunity to really look at a problem and let a solution come to me I realized that I was in possession of everything I needed. First, the straps needed to be slipped from the surviving plastic clips. The light itself is mounted to a hinge with a flat plate. The wire to the battery pack runs out of the right hand side and through a loop for flexibility. After reaching for the ever handy electrical tape, the thought occurred to me that having to cut the tape off every time the power cells needed swapping seemed impractical and counter to the ecological and economic purpose of the bicycle.

The bicycle was sold to me with a small black bag with a busted zipper that once pulled most of the way closed refused to open again without a spritz of penetrating lubricant and creative use of a hook on the end of the bungee cord used in the prototype attempt the first time round. That bag was located, zipper surgery performed, and with some extra looping of the primary strap and a sturdy self looping elastic bungee with a ball on the end of it for good measure, a battery pouch was fabricated.

The light itself sits perched center and pointed low on the handlebars. The lights are supposed to be angled down because as squishy cyclists its in our best interest not to blind drivers so they don’t feel the urge to run us over. They should never feel bothered to switch away from their high beams or make sure that that the buy it now halogen LED turbo lazer beam headlights are adjusted to point at the correct road angle and not straight at my clearly able to adapt to sudden light changes pupils. The hinge was a little floppy and since the town can’t be bothered to fix every single pothole simultaneously it would bob around and be less than useful overall. Electric tape wrapped around the hinge seems to have rectified that issue.

I think I just accidentally lived out that trope of the engineer’s flowchart (does it move, should it?). The graphic designer that agreed to marry me says that it looks retro. That’s pretty much all the praise I’ll ever need.

Now all that stands in my way is laziness. And a lack of sleep. At least I wrote this blog post though. Do you give yourself credit for the little battles when the little battles seem like pyrrhic victories? Might as well, right? Right. Just keep telling them it’s about code. Coding. Coding what though?

Coding, Bicycles, and how Motivation is a load of Crap.

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.