How not to get shot by the police

okay, police violence sucks. It’s a drag that unarmed people get shot. Lately, I’ve been putting together some tips I’ve picked from my years of experience not getting shot at by the police in an effort to help people avoid the short barrel of the law.

First, you can take a preemptive strike and keep the police away in general. Try to avoid situations in which housemates and loved ones feel the need to call the police in regards to you. Sometimes it’s easiest to just go to bed and apologize in the morning.

Now, it might happen that you can’t avoid the police. Like you were speeding or made a bad lane change. In that case, it’s easy to avoid getting shot at. Stay in the car. In the seat that you have been in the whole time. Keep your hands on the steering wheel. Listen to the instructions. They’ve been trained to make them simple. Things like “step out of the car” and “don’t reach for the glovebox” are good ones to act on. Slowly (we will return to this).

A really good way that I’ve learned to not get shot is to not hold a gun. You may even be able to make it through life (the long version) without owning a gun. They’re rentable, and in many places they are not actually requisite for safety. However, I appreciate your preparedness for survival after the fall. I think that it is completely possible to not get shot by the police and still own a gun. All you need to do is follow one simple rule: only get the gun out if you intend to use it. Mardi Gras parties and community theater do not count as legitimate uses.

Keep in mind that once you’ve been tagged as “having a gun” you’re going to have a tough time shaking that rep. So leave it in the shoebox away from the kids. Guns are scary to a lot of people when they pop-up in unusual situations like “watching Jeopardy”.

So, let’s say you haven’t been able to avoid the police paying you a visit. Whether it’s your house or a bank robbery, the same principles apply. First, when you’re caught you’re caught. At this point, the cops are not on your doorstep to make a judgment. They’re there to diffuse a situation. Don’t try to sweet talk out of it, and yelling isn’t going to help. Be easy to work with. Move slowly. Steady, following instructions. If they say get down, they don’t mean dance. Keep your hands visible. To the police. Avoid sudden movements like running, reaching for things, turning. And if you have a weapon, let them know with words.

You need to keep in mind that the police really don’t know what you’re thinking. When their guns are drawn, it’s because they think they may need to use them to protect themselves or innocent bystanders. At that time, it’s your job to not give them a reason.

Tomorrow’s a new day. You can sort it out then.

I’m not copaphile. They’d better have a damn good reason for pulling that trigger. I’m not happy to see cruisers on the street in general. But if someone’s incapable of following these simple steps and a tragedy occurs, it’s pretty tough for me to point a finger.

Specialty beer prices

Like Jeff, I recently followed a thread at the OBC about the price of beer. It was surprisingly heated, considering that nobody was forcing people to drink specialty beers, and these are people who spend a lot of time making beers of their own and promoting the craft. Jeff’s article is very thoughtful and reasonable (as usual) , and we both draw similar conclusions.

But I wanted to toss in a few more pieces. Beer is experiencing an evolution. Craft brewing is growing beyond the classics. New styles are popping up. Brewers are experimenting. And frankly, beer is getting better.

To produce specialty beers, there are often unique processes involved. These can increase expense in several ways. First, the process itself can be expensive. Equipment of the quality and magnitude required by a brewery can cost a lot, education to apply the techniques can be costly. Second, the experiments leading to the process can be expensive. Third, the time involved is expensive. Additional steps take time. With specialty beers, that can be a lot of time. Barrel aging requires that the beer stay in a location for an extended period of time. This not only takes up space with stock not rotating, but can be a financial burden by extending beyond net-30 by definition.

Then there is the risk. Brewing is a combination of art and science, of chemistry, biology, and physics. In those realms, things get complicated fast as more variables are introduced. Putting beer into a barrel greatly increases the risk of spoilage. Roasting/smoking/whatever grains can introduce off flavors. If a batch goes bad, that can be extremely costly to a brewery. This risk needs to be accounted for in the cost of the beers unless you’d see the producer of your favorites disappear suddenly after a batch goes wrong.

So those are some of the more tangibles contributors to higher cost. Jeff makes an interesting observation regarding scarcity as well. By pricing these beers higher, it makes it possible for a greater number of consumers to enjoy the products, rather than a smaller number of entities rapidly depleting the market. Seems like a supply and demand curve for people who like beer.

In addition, there is the perception of beer. The far more established wine market is a good one to consider. The economics tends to work itself out. Cheap wines are typically mass produced and lack character. There are occasional gems, but those typically climb the scale or are a bit more lucky catches. There are plateaus as you move up the price scale, to inexpensive wines, moderate, expensive, and so on, with each level improving in quality. Typically you’ll find diminishing returns as you climb up in price, so the goal is to find the right wine for you at the time. Now, the same can be applied to beer. The mountain doesn’t climb as high, but the plateaus are there. Keystone, Natural Light, and others form the foundation, supporting Budweiser, Coors, Miller, Corona, Heineken, Fosters, and many others sit here at the sweet spot of the American pallet. On top of that we go to the Bridgeport IPAs, Hefeweizen, Mirror Ponds, Terminal Gravity, and other distributed microbrews. Some of these breweries make craft beers as well, and those being to fill the next tiers, along with Rogue, Dogfish Head, Stone, and many others.

The great thing about the larger microbreweries pushing up the plateaus is that it really opens the door for smaller breweries to do the same. At those price points, breweries like Upright Brewing and Captured by Porches can release their specialty runs without needing to compete at the 6-pack level. So even if Abyss is overpriced, it is a great thing for beer in general. Buy a bottle and share it with some friends. Or just drink it yourself.

The Dems are blowing it

Okay, I’m pretty frustrated with the more liberal party right now. Tuning in, there are two major themes right now. Health care and Fort Hood. These are both important issues, but I am not liking what I’m hearing.

First, Fort Hood was a tragedy, plain and simple. But the theme that I’m hearing on the (left) radio is almost a defence of of Hasan for the pressures he was under. Laying the onus on the military, that they didn’t listen enough. It’s a military, not a cruise ship. I do not, and cannot know the true motivations of the shooter, whether he snapped, if it was terrorism, or what. But what he did was wrong, extremely wrong, and he is the responsible party in the end. This was premeditated. And it was a tragedy. My heart goes to all those affected.

Second, health care. Now that things are happening (for better or worse) people are bitching about one particular issue. Abortion. And that it may or may not be covered by the health care plan. All I can say is that this is not the time or the place to make a Roe v Wade stand, or whatever bill is up your craw. Abortion as covered in the health plan must defer to other laws as to its treatment. That’s right. Leave it the heck out of the health care bill, at most indicating that it will be covered as a health issue as prescribed by the law. Then if there are laws that block what you see is right, tackle those. But quit screwing up our freaking health care bill, it’s complicated enough already.

So those points bring me to my overarching problem with the dems. They just can’t seem to get their act together. Really. Let’s find some alignment. It isn’t perfect, you won’t please everyone. One of your jobs isn’t just to represent the people (or too often the money), it is to turn it around and influence the people with what is right. You need to make the hard decisions and sell them back to your constituents. So get it together, get a keel on your ship, and let’s get something done before half of you get fired next year.

What’s the Matter with V?

I was pretty excited about V. It was bringing back what in my mind was the original miniseries, and a nice bit of sci-fi. But this time with a budget and awesome effects and some hindsight on making a great series. Plus, I wrapped BSG and 4400 up pretty recently and need a new sci-fi serial fix.

I watched the pilot last night, and was a bit disappointed. 4400 was great, and there are some strong ties to that show here, between Joel Gretcsh and Scott Peters they really raised the bar. And after one episode, I just am not hooked. I will give it another go, but I’m not chomping at the bit for more yet.

I’ve heard people criticize and/or laud V for its ‘harsh commentary on Obamamania.’ It definitely made unveiled references to the president and current political situations. Brave. But they came out looking like something from a Sophomore’s script. Just silly. A commentary on universal health care and hope. We all know what the visitors are. They’re also presented as terrorists. I have to “hope” that the Obama references were limited to their uninspiring pilot, that their intention is to borrow from many modern charismatic leaders for the evolution of the V plot.

I suppose that my advice for the V writers is if you want to go political, start by modeling ideologies and create parallels. People will get it, and they’ll point it out for the ones who don’t…or at least the message boards will start lighting up. Get too specific and your point will be watered down, and at some point you’ll have to sacrifice your principles in favor of the fiction, or vice-versa. Symolism and metaphor are powerful tools. Billboards are too, but I’d prefer to see them on the highway (or not at all).

I was not upset by the rate at which the visitors were revealed as sinister. It wasn’t going to surprise anyone, so why put that sort of effort into a surprise? So they needed to spend some time on character development. Unfortunately they wasted too much on demonstrating which stereotype to model each character on. Most annoying was the whiny-teen you’re never around because you’re saving the world archetype of the son. Of course he’s going to be a V ambassador (or was it Hope?). Chad Decker looks to be the Faustian reporter who will sell-out his principles and the human race. I can only hope that he has a fraction of the complexity of Gaius Baltar, but for now it looks like he’s going to be the visitor’s reluctant lapdog, accepting more and more power, until he grows a pair and starts to help the resistance on the sly.

The product placement in V was pretty robust. It felt like there was almost as much as in 24. iPhones and cars and more. Lots of stuff for us to buy. Maybe it’s a visitor plot.

A two-hour pilot would’ve been a wise move. If you’re creating an epic, it helps to build empathy and plot. But if it’s a teen drama don’t worry about it.

I will watch the next episode, and probably the rest until the break. And then I’ll decide if V will continue to visit my living room. It wasn’t terrible, but so far I just don’t care, and my TV time is valuable! One positive is that V inadvertently introduced me to FastForward, which is excellent so far…sort of cop show meets memento with a bit of sci-fi thrown in.

Comfort – the end of a generation

Portland has been a Gen-X city for as long as I can remember. Which is as long as I’ve been here. We’ve had a lock on cuisine, fashion (?), transportation, attitude, periodicals, entertainment. Pretty much the whole shebang. Sort of a Gen-X wonderland. Don’t get me wrong, PDX is a city of variety and range, there’s a lot of of other stuff too for Y’s and boomers and everyone in between. But Portland has been the slacker capital.

But times are a-changing. The comfort food proliferation. It is taking over. If you want a successful restaurant, you’d better have something battered, fried, stuff with cheese, slathered in gravy, then fried again if you know what’s good for you. I do love some comfort food. Biscuits and gravy are probably my greatest weakness there, but a scotch egg comes in close. But that’s a chef’s salad hold the egg compared to some of the concoctions being delivered. Burgers with grilled cheese for buns. Poutine which is lightly battered deep fried potatoes smothered in gravy with cheese and other health food sprinkled on. Pasties and fried pies. It’s all delicious. But so wrong.

At first I thought that the comfort food revolution came about through the typical Portland Gen-X ironic thing. Oh we’ve been eating garden burgers and tofu and mediterranean food. But this stuff makes the arteries yearn for another slice of pepperoni again. And I don’t think it’s ironic. Jared can piss off, there’s a new sheriff in town, and he wants cream-filled all day long.

Cycling in the City

I’ve been riding my bike a fair amount this year, pushing 30 miles 2-3 times a week, from where I work in Beaverton to home in fairly far-east Portland. The route that I take has a variety of paved terrain, from busy suburban and downtown streets to cozy residential streets to dedicated bicycle (and other non-motorized activity) paths. There’s a lot of controversy around bikes this year, as more people take to the pedal path, they remain misunderstood.

Talking to people, there are many who would like to ride more, but a nervous about riding no city streets. Here are some tips to help with safety and hopefully enjoyment. There are a lot of tips here. They boil down to: Be prepared, be aware, be comfortable.

Relax Just keep pedalling and enjoy the ride. You’ll get there. If you are in a situation that makes you uncomfortable, pull over, get off, and walk until you are in a better place.

Be aware You don’t need a mirror if you can turn your head confidently. But it is important to know what other vehicles and innocent bystanders are doing, and where they are.

Signal Signalling on a bike is much like a car without blinkers, but you have an extra option. Signal when turning, changing lanes, or passing. For left, simply reach your left arm straight out. For right, you can bend your left arm upwards or reach your right arm straight out. The important thing is that others know what you’re doing. Tip: I turn my hand so the thumb is up and make a gun with my hands…it makes you a bit more visible (thanks Karrla).

Know your route You won’t always know where you’re going. But it helps. Bike maps, bycycle.org, word of mouth, and signage, are handy ways to know how to get there. Know the best paths for going cross-town. If there are good dedicated paths, know how to get to those. Waterfronts and freeway frontage are often available this way.

Take control The fewer cars that pass you, the better, so I try to travel at the speed of traffic. This is controversial (and illegal in many places), but I often get a jump on the signal by crossing before my light turns green. Intersections are more complicated than roads, so I prefer not to interact with cars there, and the early start helps me get up to speed as well.

Watch out for doors The car door is one of the greatest threats to riders. If you see a car park ahead of you, make sure you give clearance for a door swinging open. Places to be extra careful are parks and schools where parents sit in their cars waiting. Watch for heads and signs of activity. Be ready, be aware (in case you need to swerve). These are often on quieter roads, so just ride towards the middle of the road if you’re not impeding traffic.

Use a lane I try to maintain a positive relationship with autos. My goal is to get where I’m going with as little impact on others doing the same thing as possible. But there are times when you want to take up a whole lane. Do it with confidence. But please be considerate. Try to go the speed of traffic, and pull right so that cars can pass. If there’s a bike route nearby, consider going out of your way to use it.

Equipment is important Know your bike. If you just pulled it out of storage after years, consider a tune-up. Failures always occur at the least convenient time. Tire rubber will decay, so change your tubes and tires if necessary. Keep your distances short the first few rides. Buy lights: a rear red one and a white front one. Don’t leave them on your bike because they’re easy to steal. Carry a lock. My bike’s not fancy so I usually just use a strong coil lock. It’s up to you. Wear a helmet. They all meet safety guidelines, so the biggest differences are in airflow, weight, and fashion. Your brain is worth protecting.

Ask people The more cyclists on the road, the fewer cars, which is a good thing for cyclists. So most everyone is helpful. Ask a rider, stop by a store, go for an organised ride, ride with friends.

Have fun Keeping those pedals turning can be hard work. It’s great exercise. You’ll take new routes, and you’ll see a lot more. You’ll feel the wind in your face, and a thrill being so connected to your equipment.

The bicycle: Car or Pedestrian?

The debate has been serious this summer. From touchy questions on sides of buses to annoying comments on blog posts to occasional legal debate. The community has been vexed by this question: Is a bicycle a car or a pedestrian? To help shed light on this problem, beerdrinker has gone undercover, actually riding his bicycle most days, frequently more than 25 miles.

I’ve been thinking about this question for quite awhile, but it really came to a head (or mine) when Webtrends posted their controversial question on Portland’s public transportation: Should cyclists pay a road tax? The confusion was evident most clearly in a response to that question…”Cyclists should pay $.10 every time they change roles.” or something like that. But it’s been prevalent in conversation around the internet and reality for a long time.

With more people riding bikes due to higher fuel costs, better and/or more vocal communities, and peer pressure, the answer to the debate is becoming more pressing. Drivers are more frustrated, and more vocal. Bike lanes are taking up more precious road space. Green boxes are making colorful areas near busy intersections to the dismay of automobile owners. At some places, cyclists even have their own signals, and in others roads dedicated to them (and pedestrians).

Sometimes it becomes necessary to take a step back from the problem to really see what its inner workings are, and how they fit together. So I looked up the terms.

A pedestrian is a person traveling on foot.
wikipedia – pedestrian

An automobile or motor car is a wheeled motor vehicle used for transporting passengers, which also carries its own engine or motor.
wikipedia – automobile

Those are pretty clear, and pretty general. There are unfortunately vehicles that do not fit into either classification. In fact, the subject of this article does not.

A bicycle is neither a pedestrian nor an automobile!

Well, dangit. I guess we need to be asking a different question, like “where do cyclists belong?” But first, let’s continue the analysis to make sure we’ve covered all our bases.

A bicycle is like a car in many ways. It has wheels and a passenger (sometimes 2-3). It moves faster than pedestrians typically move. It will hurt a pedestrian if it hits them.

At the same time, there are a number of differences between cars and bikes. A car can accelerate and travel far faster than a bike. A car propels itself. Typically, cars do far more damage in collisions than bicyclists, and cars will universally win contests of strength. Like a turtle, cars have a crunchy, protective outside and a chewy center, whereas cyclists are a bit more like a delicious chicken leg with a hard lower part and a moist, fleshy upper portion.

Comparing a pedestrian to bicycle, we again see similarities and differences. They can both fit on sidewalks. They both weigh about the same. They are both self-propelled. Yet, bicycles can move faster than pedestrians and do have pokey hard parts. In a battle between cyclists and pedestrians, the cyclist would have the upper hand. In addition, they typically gain the element of surprise.

At this point, we have pretty much established that a bicycle is neither a car nor a pedestrian, having some qualities that are common to each, and some dramatic differences. In the future, I will explore how cyclists fit into a system that has difficulty seeing the grey areas.

Facebook isn’t Twitter

I’m a fan of social media sites. Sites like twitter and facebook are loads of fun, and great for staying in touch with old friends, new friends, and potential friends. In a recent post I commented on what I felt were the differences between facebook and myspace. In the end, I believe that myspace is primarily a vanity site, whereas facebook focuses on relationships.

A more subtle comparison happens between facebook and twitter. Both of these sites really focus on relationships, and both are amazing. But they excel at completely different things. This article will look into how they are similar, yet dramatically different, especially in terms of what your audience is.

First, let’s look at how they are similar Both have popular mobile device integration. Both are open to anyone with internet. Both allow direct communication, photosharing, and miniblogging. Both have profiles of some sort. They both get mentioned on mainstream media pretty frequently.

Next, let’s look at some key differences. Facebook requires mutual acceptance prior to establishing a relationship. In twitter this is an option, but most people do not employ it. Twitter has a great open API, whereas facebook recently offered one. Basically, this has allowed a lot of third-party applications like TweetDeck to thrive with Twitter, while the Facebook interface has been the primary manner of updating FB. Twitter also limits communication to a small number of characters, whereas it is possible to send or share almost anything through facebook. Facebook also has a great set of tools for finding possible relationships, whereas the built-in twitter interface for this is quite Spartan. Facebook’s site threads conversations by default, whereas on twitter does not. While both sites have profiles, there is a tendency to have more sensitive information on facebook (phone number, email).

Twitter enables very agile communication. It enables one entity to communicate to a large number of people, who are self-selecting, very easily. The communications are brief, and preferably clear and succinct. Lots of people spin on Twitter etiquette…things like multiple consecutive tweets, retweets, referrals, and more are blogged about ad nauseum.

Facebook is a bit less agile. While you can post to facebook in a similar manner as twitter, using many of the same tools and updating concurrently, the primary mode of interaction with facebook is the conversation. The existence of the trust relationship between friends on Facebook encourages different types of communication as well.

These factors contribute to the types of relationships users of the two sites typically cultivate. Twitter’s agility has made it a very convenient tool for keeping contact with my closer friends. We have brief conversations and typically have device updates enabled. It also allows me to have conversations with strangers who have similar interests. A lot of people see this aspect of twitter as a great marketing tool. Get the word out on something, and it spreads virally. This certainly happens. The consequence of this, and the relationship with like-minded strangers, is that there’s a certain branding that occurs with your twitter voice. A lot of people want to convey a particular message overall from their tweets.

In twitter, there are profiles that will provide almost any kind of information. Realtime updates on Blazer games, one-line jokes, news, recommended books, whatever you’re looking for you can probably find it.

Facebook, on the other hand, discourages relationships with people you don’t actually know. It’s up to you to decide how high or low you want to set the bar for friendships in facebook. These are typically family, friends (old and new), colleagues. I’ve read Defective Yeti for years and follow him on twitter and RSS, and know a lot of his life story, but am not friends with him on facebook. I doubt I’d turn him down, but can’t imagine why Matthew would ask.

This means that on facebook you can be yourself. Relatively. I don’t kid myself that people don’t try to build a facade, but we do in our classic relationships as well. But there’s not the same drive for personal branding as on twitter. Relationships tend to be deeper. While public, conversations are more directed, and there is more background available. Inside jokes are more accessible.

Time plays a bigger role, past and future are more real in facebook. Twitter focuses on what is happening now. What am I doing. What I did rolled off the bottom hours ago. In facebook, what you’re doing is right next to photos of what you did.

So, what’s the point of all this?

In the end, it all comes down to audience. It is important to think about who is on the other end of what you’re broadcasting.

In twitter, you’ve got close friends to complete strangers following you. Why are they following you? Do you care? In facebook, you’ve mutually friended relationships from throughout your life. What do you want to share?

In the end, it’s about having fun and enriching our lives. Both of these tools are amazing, and can be life changing.

I dedicate this article to all of the people who always update facebook and twitter with the same content and miss out on the conversation. cheers!

Is this poison oak?

I am terrible at identifying plants, yet at the same time I’m really susceptible to poison oak. For some reason, it is very difficult to find a decent image of the toxic weed. Guidebooks all have the same line drawing as can be found at trailheads. Pics on the internet are obscure and frequently hidden behind broken links.

So I found a plant I think might be poison oak. Can somebody please confirm?

Is this poison oak?
Is this poison oak?

thanks! I didn’t want to get any closer for fear of getting the aerial wrath of this f%*ker.

Facebook vs. Myspace

I’m completely aware that Facebook is pretty handily kicking the figurative ass of Myspace. I am pretty excited about this, because I’ve never been a fan of Myspace as a social networking site. I’ve enjoyed visiting band sites, and I managed to connect with a few people there.

On the other hand, I love Facebook. I talk about Facebook. I advocate its use, and might occasionally be obnoxious about it. But the conversations are interesting.

While interesting, they usually boil down to a few fairly standard themes. This is my favorite: “I didn’t get much out of Myspace, why should I bother with Facebook?” And that’s what I’m going to get obnoxious about in this post.

The word social sucks. Almost as much as the word sucks does. It is as overloaded as web2.0. Because Myspace and Facebook are both social does not mean they are the same. The difference is simple.

Myspace is a vanity site, while Facebook is about relationships and interactions

That’s the major difference. In Myspace, people collect friends. In Facebook, you establish relationships. There’s a trust relationship. Partly due to the amount of information that you provide in your profile. But most of it is in the consensual nature of friendships.

In Myspace, users are free to break (I mean design) their pages as they see fit. Boxes and blinks and blasting bass. Truly annoying and totally broken pages. And relationships are limited to writing to a person’s page or send a personal message.

On the other hand, in Facebook, the information of your established friends rolls past. Like life, you can miss a lot and still distill some quality. In Facebook, you aren’t talking about yourself, you’re sharing your story. And you’re inviting others to contribute and share.

Of course, there are those who say they “Just don’t do social sites.” That’s another article. But in the meantime, just tell them, “You will.”