Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Driving 70mph in traffic

Since 1971 I feel like I've been driving at 70mph in traffic.

We were prepared for anything, but not this. We had to make it up along the way. That's what an education is for.

I tell people I was too young for Viet Nam but too old for Desert Storm. My selective service number was 300+. My grandfather was glad he didn't need to pay for me to move to Canada.

My memory is not what it used to be. But I remember growing pot in my grandmother's backyard (and going to a garden supply store with Greg Fraize and asking about fertilizer for weeds as a science project. I still crack up about it!) I remember drying it on my Buick Skylark GS V8 manifold and rolling it with Zig Zag rolling papers. My dad only noticed the smell after a cop presented at his Optimist Club and burned some to make parents aware of the smell.

My grandkids don't know what a V8 is. (Maybe a juice?) I still crave a Z28 or Mach 302.

Sex outdoors? There are few memories that would convince the EMTs I was still alive if I was otherwise unresponsive.

Wine - I promised I'd never drink Boone's Farm again after getting drunk over the night shift at a convenience store where I was working on the East side where I grew up. Now I drink IPAs - thank God for craft beer. It's not the same - but I'm 50 years older now.

My younger brother died ten years ago. I haven't talked to one of my sisters for years. Families are complicated.

We had the BEST MUSIC! Starting with the Beatles when we were in grade school. Then Led Zeppelin. Pink Floyd. Yes. Jethro Tull. Do you remember Wood Stock? Nothing like it since. We had the best music.

I've been drinking too much but my doctor hasn't told me to stop yet. Blood pressure and cholesterol under control. Modern meds let you do things you shouldn't do. (Cialis to the contrary.) I've had the COVID vaccine and I'm not worried about it. How can people not get that? 

Medicare is great. Too bad you need to be old to get it. Social Security is good too. My dad didn't live long enough to get his. 

Married 46 years. Lucky pick. Divorce is expensive. 

6 grandkids + one on the way - they are proof that the world should go on. (Actually, nature wants you to have kids and get out of the way ASAP.)

And we have the Internet now - curiosity's wet dream.

You must have a story! Tell us! Have a few beers (like I just did) and write something for the Class of 71 Legacy Compendium. Maybe you'll get invited to Prep to tell your story. It won't be as good as a Maines or Zarnowicky lecture, but relevant just the same. (God bless them.)

Driving 70mph in traffic. Pretty soon they won't have cars. Better hurry.


P.S. This was written to the remaining members of the Brebeuf Class of 71 - to motivate them to attend the 50 Year Class Reunion.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Driving 2.0

I drive a lot - about 2K miles/month around town. Fortunately I have a hybrid that gets 40+ miles/gallon. I laugh at gas stations and no longer hunt for gas at a few cents cheaper/gallon.

Since the pandemic has abated, I've noticed more cars on the road. With road construction obstructing nearly every highway, street and alley in Indy, the driving experience has degraded precipitously. Luckily, I drive a nice car, have books/music/NPR to listen to am usually not in a hurry.

That said, the proportion of poor drivers seems to have increased. Maybe the folks who srayed home during the pandemic are emerging like Cicada's with only one thing on their mind - and it's not good driving.

I've come up with a three element model for thinking about driving skills. I'd like to teach Driver's Ed 2.0. You  may think these skill may be useless as the age of autonomous vehicles is upon us! But trust me, idiots will be driving for a very long time and we should endeavor to help them improve themselves . . . if not for their own sake, then for the sake of fellow drives (our children!) who must share the road with them.

Here are the Driving 2.0 skills we should teach:

  • Planning
  • Networking
  • Teaming

Planning seems fundmental - but in this model it covers a spectrum of planning. From planning for a trip on one end of the time scale; but also planning your moves in traffic and being ready for problems that develop in real-time which can be anticipated or not. 

You may browse your mapping app to see where traffic is congested and plan to take another route. You may plan to get gas. You may plan, like UPS, to almost never make left turns!

Taking a moment to plan has many benefits. It settles your mind and focuses your attention. You can use the moment to remind yourself that you don't want to die today. (Or get injured or hurt someone/something else.) Maybe it's planning for car maintenance? Revisiting your goals for not taking/making calls or texts while driving.

Networking may not seem obvious but actually, you do it all the time when you drive; maybe just not so well. A highway through the lens of an autonomous vehicle's artificial eyes is a constantly evolving network of moving vehicles, obstacles, roadways, signals and targets. (Having no experience writing software for autonomous vehicles I'm speculating about this.) Humans should be doing the same - and have the potential to do it even better on a good day and in some circumstances - they just have to pay attention.

My concept of networking includes signaling your intention by communicating your moves to other drivers, observing and anticipating their moves and integrating that data that into your moves. You should constantly be taking in data about driving conditions, your vehicle's performance, your own behaviors, idiots, rage-rovers, slowpokes and impared drivers. Looked at from this perspective your driving 'program' looks a lot more like a node in a network constantly communicating with other nodes. Cool! (And which requires millisecond to millisecond attention, really.)

Teaming is the pinacle of a well run network. Our social goal for driving should be teamwork. By communicating what you intend to do and observing what the other guy is doing (or needs) to do you become a member of a team all trying to get somewhere safetly an quickly. Giving up a bit of the 'me first' attitude and realizing that teamwork helps everyone may seem like a fantasy. But it is a standard that could be taught in Driving 2.0 classes. At least it could become a goal. 

If the seed is planted early - a part of the education of every driver (even including questions on the test!) - then we may someday be able to drive with autonomous vehicles and be proud of our results!

Monday, February 15, 2021

Winter of Discontent - Rotary Moment of Reflection


Rotary Moment of Reflection – February 9, 2021

Kim Brand, Indianapolis Rotary Club

Winter began December 20th of last year. It added insult to the injury of COVID and a literal and figurative darkness to the election that held on like a bad flu.

It was like the Winter of our Discontent.

Hump day was February 3 – we’re better than halfway through it now. Never mind the single digit forecasts, the days are getting longer – a couple minutes or more every day – like bookends moving apart to soon make room for another volume of sun!

Saturday, March 20, 2021 will be the first day of Spring. Foreknowledge about the angle of the earth with respect to the sun and our orbit gives me hope in a sort of astronomer-geek way!

I think with this Spring will come hope that a vaccine will finally flatten the curve – crush it hopefully - of COVID and, whatever else happens in the political arena, the fever will pass.

Returning too, I hope, will be crowded face to face Rotary meetings, fairs and farmers markets. I can’t wait for dinners out and to play with my grandkids at the park. Birthday parties! Going maskless – having to shave every day again (with a mask on it just didn’t matter.)

And most of all: fewer Zoom calls!

I believe we’ve made it through the worst. We’ll need rebab – to our embattled health care system and our sense of trust in our political systems and each other. We’ll get there. Rotary can make a difference. Our relationships, the things we think, say and do, our mission, will be even more relevant when we put these twin pandemics behind us.

But most of all our hope – when we recite the pledge today pay the most attention to the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, ONE NATION UNDER GOD and know that the sun has always returned to shine bright on our country and our people – even after the darkness of winter.