What I learned this week, August 5, 2017

Speaking of Bike Lanes…

Someone took the future into their own hands and installed a bandit bike lane on a street in Oak Cliff. Complete with barriers and paint – it was done for a couple hundred dollars and in a few hours – not over the years and tens of thousands of dollars the city requires.

Of course it was deemed “illegal” and immediately removed.

Bicycle Lanes on the Jefferson Viaduct from Oak Cliff into downtown, Dallas.



 
 
Sometimes there are no words for the pernicious vastness of human stupidity.
 

Not a shot! Anti-vax movement prompts Brooklynites to withhold inoculations from their pets, vets say

 

A Clinton Hill–based veterinarian said she has heard clients suggest the inoculations could give their pups autism, however, echoing the argument of those who oppose vaccinating kids. But even if pooches were susceptible to the condition, their owners probably wouldn’t notice, according to the doctor.

“I had a client concerned about an autistic child who didn’t want to vaccinate the dog for the same reason,” said Dr. Stephanie Liff of Clinton Hill’s Pure Paws Veterinary Care. “We’ve never diagnosed autism in a dog. I don’t think you could.”

My son’s dog, Champ


On the Road with Cirque du Soleil: Brompton is the Star of the Show

I have always loved Cirque du Soleil – now I like it even a little more. Run away to the circus on a Folding Bike!

I drive a tiny car – a Toyota Matrix. I always liked it because I could fold the rear seats down and get a bike (barely) into the back of the car (never liked exterior bike racks). I was surprised at how small the Xootr Swift folded down. I was able to fit it easily in the small space behind the rear seat. Now I have a four-passenger car again.


More New Yorkers Opting for Life in the Bike Lane

Biking has become part of New York’s commuting culture as the city expands bike routes and Citi Bikes become ubiquitous. There are more than 450,000 daily bike trips.


I found these articles on the word’s worst smelling stuff fascinating. Then again, it is what I do for a living.

Things I Won’t Work With: Thioacetone

But today’s compound makes no noise and leaves no wreckage. It merely stinks. But it does so relentlessly and unbearably. It makes innocent downwind pedestrians stagger, clutch their stomachs, and flee in terror. It reeks to a degree that makes people suspect evil supernatural forces. It is thioacetone.

The Dangerous Stink of the World’s Smelliest Chemical

“During early experiments, a stopper jumped from a bottle of residues, and, although replaced at once, resulted in an immediate complaint of nausea and sickness from colleagues working in a building two hundred yards away.”


The amazing ways the function keys F1 to F12 can save you a ton of time


When I Replaced Soviet Workers in the U.S. Embassy

If this seemed like overkill, I quickly learned that it wasn’t. Over the course of my time at the embassy, all kinds of strange episodes occurred. One Saturday, while I was on a sightseeing trip to Leningrad, a Russian stranger sidled up to me and murmured, “So, how’s everything at the embassy?” (A classic K.G.B. move, a diplomat later told me, to “let you know they’re watching.”) Another time, a new Russian friend — a pianist at the Moscow Conservatory, whom I’d met by chance in the Metro — referred to plans I had for the following weekend, although I hadn’t yet told him about them. Even more ominously, after I tipsily confessed to a fellow American that I’d had a girlfriend in college, a pretty Russian woman started showing up at embassy parties and chatting flirtatiously with me. Was she a K.G.B. agent, sent to seduce me just as Violetta Seina seduced Clayton Lonetree? Or was I just imagining things? It was impossible to know for sure.


Here’s another short film for your enjoyment – this one also stars Natalie Dormer.

Advertisements

From Moscow With Love

“But I am greedy for life. I do too much of everything all the time. Suddenly one day my heart will fail. The Iron Crab will get me as it got my father. But I am not afraid of The Crab. At least I shall have died from an honourable disease. Perhaps they will put on my tombstone. ‘This Man Died from Living Too Much’.”
― Ian Fleming, From Russia With Love

Plano, Texas

A Month of Short Stories 2015, Day Twenty Four – The Servant

The last two years, for the month of June, I wrote about a short story that was available online each day of the month… you can see the list for 2014 and 2015 in the comments for this page. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My blog readership fell precipitously and nobody seemed to give a damn about what I was doing – which was a surprising amount of work.

Because of this result, I’m going to do it again this year.

Today’s story, for day twenty four – The Servant, by Sergey Terentyevich Semyonov

Read it online here:

The Servant

S. T. Semyonov was born to Russian peasant parents and lived a life of menial manual labor. He used that tough life as fodder for his stories.

I’m not too familiar with his writing – and am not sure if they all are like today’s selection – but I would imagine they are. It’s a simple story, a moral tale, that starts with a young man down on his luck. He has lost his position due to having to return to his village for military duty. He has been walking the streets of Moscow, hungry, for days – looking for work – any work.

When he runs across a silver tongued old friend, he has a ray of hope and a bit of good fortune. But he learns about the cost of his good fortune and has to make a decision. It seems that he chooses wisely.

“What’s the use of wasting words? I just want to tell you about myself. If for some reason or other I should ever have to leave this place and go home, not only would Mr. Sharov, if I came back, take me on again without a word, but he would be glad to, too.”

Gerasim sat there downcast. He saw his friend was boasting, and it occurred to him to gratify him.

“I know it,” he said. “But it’s hard to find men like you, Yegor Danilych. If you were a poor worker, your master would not have kept you twelve years.”

Yegor smiled. He liked the praise.

“That’s it,” he said. “If you were to live and serve as I do, you wouldn’t be out of work for months and months.”

It’s a short, straightforward tale – but a fine humans story about making the best of a difficult life.

The author, Semyonov was killed by bandits at the age of fifty five. It doesn’t get any more difficult than that.

A Month of Short Stories 2015, Day nine – The Zero Meter Diving Team

The last two years, for the month of June, I wrote about a short story that was available online each day of the month… you can see the list for 2014 and 2015 in the comments for this page. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My blog readership fell precipitously and nobody seemed to give a damn about what I was doing – which was a surprising amount of work.

Because of this result, I’m going to do it again this year.

Today’s story, for day nine – The Zero Meter Diving Team, by Jim Shepard

Read it online here:

The Zero Meter Diving Team

Mendacity. That’s a word I’ve thought about a lot ever since I first heard it as a kid – from the movie version of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” of course.

Mendacity means lying. But to me it has always meant something a little different – a little more. Mendacity is that kind of lying that is so central to the way you live your life that you actually come to believe what you are lying about.

Sort of like The Emperor’s New Clothes. I always thought that the people wanted so badly to believe that they are deserving that they actually came to believe the emperor was clothed. The part of the story they never tell you is that after the little kid spilled the news that the emperor was naked, he, and his entire family, were arrested, tortured, and executed – then every evidence that they ever existed was destroyed.

Today’s story, The Zero Meter Diving Team tells of a society full of mendacity. Mendacity, toadyism, nepotism, and incompetence. The result of all this dysfunction is something a lot more terrible that a naked emperor.

We all lived under the doctrine of ubiquitous success. Negative information was reserved for the most senior leaders, with censored versions available for those lower down. Nothing instructive about precautions or emergency procedures could be organized, since such initiatives undermined the official position concerning the complete safety of the nuclear industry. For thirty years, accidents went unreported, so the lessons derived from these accidents remained with those who’d experienced them. It was as if no accidents had occurred.

I’m glad I found this story – I have discovered an author that I want to read some more. In The Zero Meter Diving Team he has done more than his share of historical research and it feels real. Placing a fictional story in a setting where well-known events are occurring has the challenge to make sure the horrific crisis doesn’t overshadow the human drama.

And it doesn’t.