Saturday, September 08, 2012

A special room comes together

When we embark on a home improvement project, it's like an Amish barn raising event. Here, our resident supervisor explains what is needed: basically to take flat, squared-off pieces of wood and attach them to the wall.

And here is what has been accomplished by knocking-off time. Actually, a whole lot more than I had expected. We only have to install the middle plank... which should be tomorrow morning after a trip to the local hardware store for a final supply run, and we're done. Now, what the heck could these odd-looking shelves be for?

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Take away the incentive

How is it that the more resources there are available to us, the harder it is for us to share them? We have plenty of road, yet drivers and motorcyclists are squabbling over what turf is rightfully "theirs".

On our roads, motorcyclists will squeeze between lanes, raising the ire of drivers. Drivers hate such behaviour because motorbikes unpredictably appear from blind spots -- even after checking. Bikers are fast, less visible and aggressive, or they are slow and hog lanes. Either way, they can't win against drivers who feel that the roads are more legitimately theirs.

Let's agree on one thing, at least. Everyone wants to get to their destination safely and in one piece. Speed is a secondary issue. Speed is a function of what the individual road user perceives as "safe". Slow users are careful. They want longer reaction times to unpredictable events. Fast users are avoiding "being there" when something bad occurs on the road. Everybody is searching for some space where they can exist while minimizing the possibility of having to share the same space at the same time, which -- according to the laws of physics -- can often result in a fatal merger.

As a driver, I say we take away the incentive for bikers to squeeze between us. The reason why they feel it is safer between us than behind us is because we give them less space behind us than between us. Whenever we see a biker in front of us, we speed up and force the biker over to one side so we can get past. Admit it, that's what we do -- presumably because we pay more road tax or ERP; or because four wheels are better than two; or something.

Once we realize that our behaviour influences the actions of others, we empower ourselves to do something about the situation instead of waiting forever for someone else to change their behaviour. What am I suggesting? Fellow drivers, for Pete's sake, give bikers the same respect and minimum safety distance as you would for another car on the road. To keep bikes off the sides of the road, give them a safer option and they'll take it.

Bikers will also take advantage of stop lights and jams to weave between us and get to the head of the queue, and that's annoying, but because of their relative size, that's their prerogative. It also helps shorten the queue a bit, so let them do what they do best and we keep our cool about it, can?

But bikers also have to realize that they are too vulnerable to stay on the rightmost (fast) lane for too long. So, if they agree to keep off the right lane unless they are making a right turn or if they absolutely have to overtake a slowpoke on the left lane (in which case they should do it quickly and get back off to the left asap) I think there'll be a much safer traffic flow for everyone.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Not looking forward to this bill

Spending pretty much the whole day at the Mazda workshop. M2's a bit overdue for 50k servicing, but I'm also waiting while all four worn tires get replaced. At $180 a pop (not literally, I hope!) that's going to cost a pretty penny. On top of that, I'll also be paying for the next 10k servicing in advance to take advantage of a package discount they've got going here. I bet I'll also be charged for rectifying whatever is causing the squeaky noise M2's making at very low speeds. Yikes! Another austerity drive beckons.

Currently entertaining myself grading assignments, sipping free cappuccinos and randomly surfing. Shouldn't be too much longer...

Monday, September 03, 2012

Beside still waters

Another great spot for assignment grading discovered. Upper Peirce Reservoir Park has free parking, access to clean toilets and peace and quiet -- lots of it. The only sounds are insect noises from the forested area behind and to my right. I'm at a picnic table under a huge, shady tree with a view of the water. There is a slight breeze, so despite the blazing sun it's comfortable here.

Surprisingly, I'm not bothered by mosquitoes, though I was expecting to be eaten alive. All I had to do was fend off the occasional ant or spider attempting to use me as a highway to wherever it was they wanted to go. Still, tickles are way better than itches.

Other fauna I came across were a pack of stray dogs, presumably a family of an alpha, the mate and three adolescent pups; a lone primate ambling past my table with nary a glance at its human occupant; and, big surprise: a beautifully coloured kingfisher that swooped towards the water and scooped up a silvery fish for its mid-day meal. It happened too quickly to record on camera, so you'll have to take my word for it.

No food or refreshments to be purchased nearby, so pack a picnic lunch if you must.