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Iain M. Banks “Culture” Novels

Several years ago, my friend Kansu gave me the book Excession by Iain M. Banks. I very much enjoyed the book, and I ended up reading it a second time a while ago. While it was good the second time as well, I realized that the book was part of a larger series of books Banks has written about the Culture, a future human-machine post-scarcity space-faring race.

Since re-reading Excession, I have purchased and read several more Culture books:

  • Use of Weapons (Finished in Australia)
  • The Player of Games (just finished)
  • Consider Phlebas (about to start)

All of the ones I have read I have very much enjoyed. I would suggest the series to anyone who enjoys Sci-Fi. I’m happy to share the books I’ve finished with friends, as long as I eventually get them back.

Second Bay Ride — Page Mill Road

After watching the Huskies lay down the law against the USC Trojans, I took off on my second “Bay Area Ride” yesterday. I started out on my road bike and headed back to Big 5, where I returned the crappy pump I picked up last week. Then I headed up Page Mill Road, which true to its reputation, offers a difficult hill climb and some stunning views. Fifteen miles into my journey, the sun was getting low in the sky, and I was pretty whipped, so I turned around. No sooner did I start my descent then I head a twang, which sounded a little too familiar. I stopped and checked out the bike, and sure enough, I had lost another spoke on my rear wheel.

I had a long way to go down, with my rear wheel rubbing my brake pads (which I had already loosened) the whole way down. Also, I didn’t know how much lateral stress the wheels could take, so I took it pretty slow around all the curves. It was not as much fun as it otherwise would have been, but at least the bike survived all the way back.

Page Mill is definitely a ride that I’ll want to do again, hopefully to the top soon enough. It is certainly a good way to work on my (rather poor) hill climbing skills.

Bar Area Ride 2

Another Way to Fight the Man

Not long after I received a ticket on my bicycle, I saw a driver get pulled over on Stevens Way, the main drag through UW campus, for momentarily stopping to let out a passenger. This is a road where  buses stop every hundred yards, traffic crawls as students constantly cross streets, and people get dropped off from cars in a similar fashion thousands of times a day.

I was riding my bicycle by as the stop happened, and I decided to do something about it. I stopped where the cop had pulled the motorist over and proceeded to give the officer a hard time for what she did. First I asked if what he did was really illegal. She responded yes and I said “Are you serious?” incredulously. I then proceeded to talk to the driver of the car while the officer was doing something else. I told the driver that I would give him my contact info and I would help him fight the total BS ticket. I said this loudly enough for the cop to hear. I then started writing down my contact info to give to the driver. At this point, the officer returned to the car she had pulled over and told me to give her room to speak to the driver. I backed away to finish writing down my info, but then I learned that the officer had decided not to issue a ticket.


The only way we can fight police tyranny is to band together and proactively fight it. If someone had done for me what I did for this motorist when I received my ticket, I may have very well not been issued the ticket, and even if I had been issued the ticket, I would have had the witness I am now going ot have to search for in probable vain.

So here is my charge to all of you: If you see a fellow motorist being pulled over for the inane “crime” of speeding, follow them off the road, encourage them to contest the ticket, and offer to be a witness in their case against the state. Although I haven’t seen it work myself, my guess is that a third party who has nothing to gain or lose through testifying would make a very compelling case against the ticket. The state relies on the fact that most people who contest tickets have only their own word against the officer’s, and the officer’s word is implicitly less tainted since the officer is assumed to have little to gain from the ticket whereas the defendant is assumed to have a lot to lose.

One other person, previously unknown to the defendant, saying, “Your honor, I was behind the car that got pulled over and can testify that the car was traveling at or below the speed limit” would go a long way in getting these travesties dismissed. Do it for others, and hopefully when you find yourself being pulled over by a cop who himself speeds at every opportunity with no repercussions, someone will return the favor.

I certainly will.

Doing Something About the Financial Crisis

My good friend Scott has some good advice on what to do about the financial crisis: vote with your dollar and take your money out of the banks that helped get us into this mess.

Both of my banks (JPMorgan, formerly Washington Mutual, and U.S. Bank) have recieved TARP money, so I will be moving my money out of these banks and into a well-run bank, perhaps Charles Schwabb, following Scott’s lead.

Primer, Again

After going for a run around Greenlake and feeling thoroughly gassed, Bobby and I watched Primer, one of my favorite movies of all time. Every time I watch it, I understand more and more. This visual timeline that Theo pointed me to certainly helped this time, but I also picked up on a lot of queues early in the movie that I didn’t notice the first three or four times through. Movies that can continue to produce newness after even a couple of viewings are rare; Primer in this regard is a true Gem.

Ride Civil in Ten Days

After the Critical Mass debacle last week, I spent a lot of time reading, thinking, and writing about what went wrong and what I might have been able to do to prevent it. One of the more interesting things I read about was a Critical Mass counterpoint ride that stressed legality while taking over the streets. It has been called various things, from “Courteous Mass” and “Civil Mass” to “Critical Manners.”

It just turns out that there is such a ride in Seattle, and it’s called “Ride Civil.” Not quite as catchy as what we came up with at Amazon before we heard about Ride Civil (C3M2R, see below), but it gets the point across. Ride Civil happens on the second Friday of every month, meeting at Westlake Center at 5:30.

C3M2R: Courteous Civil Critical Mass Manners Ride

For me, this is mostly an experiment. What will it be like riding with a group (who knows how large?) through an urban environment with lots of traffic, while following all of the rules, and even being extraordinarily courteous to our two-ton brethren? For this ride, I’m even going to wear my helmet. Yuck.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Is There Anything Good About Men?

Every once in a while I read a paper that makes me think the social sciences are not entirely lost. The most recent, by an FSU professor is titled “Is There Anything Good About Men?” Definitely a thought-provoking read.