The Enablers at Monty's Krown

It's been a while, but I got back to Monty's KrownMySpace link (875 Monroe Ave.) to catch The EnablersMySpace link. It was fun to get back to the old haunt, and the band didn't disappoint. They play a strong mix of punk and rock, although at this point it's mostly cover songs. Their originals were solid and the mix of music … I mean — wow — who plays the Hollies?

I'll definitely be keeping an eye on them … even if they do change their name. [In my opinion, The Enablers is a fine name, but at the request of the lead singer, I added my favorite fake band name to their list of possibilities: Fist the Bride even though it was destined for a fake metal band.]

Running the Lilac 5K with Ali

If you recall, I've been doing some running to work up to the 5 kilometer race in The Medved Lilac 10K and 5K Family Fun Run which was today.

I ran a "long" 5K run on Monday and Tuesday, then a "short" 2 mile run on Wednesday, and another "long" 5K run on Thursday [hmm … like a train whistle warning a crossing] before resting up for the race. Well, I did it. And yeah: barefoot. And I even beat 30 minutes, finishing in 29:35 according to the PCR Timing Official Results for this years race (which placed me 397 of 864 overall and 21st among the 31 male 35-39 year-olds). This is great because I beat my 35:58 official time for the Corporate Challenge in 2001.

Ali ran too and, despite admitting not training enough, ran for the whole race and finished in 37:31.

But the remarkable serendipity of our runner numbers was the amusement of the day. We were each given random numbers and she got #123 and I got #321. The odds that I would get the same digits as her number in the reverse order was (given 864 runners) about 1 in 863. If you figure on the specific combination of 123 and 321, that's something like 1 in 745,632. Pretty neat.

To Live at the Dryden

I went to the Dryden Theater at George Eastman House (900 East Ave.) with my friend Christina to see Huozhe (To Live). She had seen it before (at least the latter 75%) and liked a lot.

It was one of the most beautiful, serene movies I've ever seen. It's about a family that stays together through record-setting turmoil. Or it's about redemption. Or it's about life being change. Or it's a critique of communism. Or it's about luck. Or it's about beauty all the time. Or any combination or all of those things.

But if you're willing to be receptive to it, you'll feel some of those ideas.

Jon Moses et al at Boulder

I headed to Boulder Coffee Co.MySpace link (100 Alexander St.) to check out the bands. To be honest, I didn't like any who opened up but the night was redeemed when Jon Moses brought up members of each band and included them in his wild acoustic improvisation.

I got a little melancholic listening to the first bands (and I'm not going to mention them by name because it just isn't worth it; in fact, half the problem was nobody operating the mixing board, and I was too mopey in my melancholy to bother to step up and do it). After having gone out to see bands so often for so long, it all seems to blur together at times. I mean, obviously everyone there had originality to add to the human musical vernacular, but it was all derivative (as it has been in almost every case forever), and all trying to be something — trying to be some direct affectation on sound … scripted … logical.

When Jon Moses played, though, his songs were absurdly simple: repetitions of barely 3 chords on guitar and often with just a single sentence of lyrics. That was just the foundation, though. The real show was in the spontaneous improvisation. It was not scripted, and even though that form of improvisation has been done some uncountable number of times before, it was exciting. Because by not being scripted, no body knew what was going to be the result — very different from even one person knowing. It was dangerous. And it worked.

A Rainy Barefoot Run

For those of you following my barefoot running progress, I thought I'd post a couple minor updates.

I just got back from a run in the rain.  It's about 60°F outside and a constant misty drizzle. I decided to try running wearing my swim shorts, figuring they would handle water better than the cotton shorts I would ordinarily be wearing (and so far, only once this year: I'm still in sweat pants for the cool mornings.) Things went very well as I had no trouble with them.

I also ran my practice 5K course (well, more-or-less 5K) for the first time yesterday. I am working up to run the The Medved Lilac 10K and 5K Family Fun Run on the last day of The Lilac Festival so I figured I better get my distance up. In all, it wasn't that hard although noticeably a bit longer than my usual run that's about 2 miles or so.

I'm also following the advice of Ken Bob Saxton (a.k.a. Barefoot Ken Bob) on the The Running Barefoot Yahoo! Group because I've had some ankle pain recently. He said — in response to someone else's comment on the same thing — "I often have ankle soreness, especially when I fail to run on a variety of surfaces, especially surfaces with lots of variation," and added, "the solution is to run on uneven terrain, even if just for 50 or 100 yards, seems to be enough to 'break up' the groove, once in a while." As such, I've been taking a detour once or twice a week to run through the short trail that runs from near The Genesee River-Erie Canal East Guard Lock (440 Kendrick Rd.) into Genesee Valley Park near the bridge over Hawthorn Dr., then continue on through the park on the uneven grass. That seems to have fixed the problem.

Taking the Reciprocal of the News

I was reading The Democrat and Chronicle the other day and, once again, was irritated by the kind of stories they cover. But then it hit me: the "news" is not about "what's going on" but "what are the exceptions to what's going on."

The story that made me think this was on page 2 of the first section — a rather prominent place for a news story. It was about a girl in Rhode Island who was run over by a school bus. It's thankfully rare that students are not killed (particularly in such an ironic way) but the article made a point of noting that the girl was not paying attention — she was apparently listening to headphones and looking at her cell phone.

Now as a pedestrian, a cyclist, and a driver, I know that motor vehicles are very dangerous. [Ok, maybe because I'm curious, I'm observant, and I rely on factual data to form my opinions … lots of pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers don't seem to pay much attention … anyway …] So I wondered why this story was considered so important. It seemed to have to do with the girl being distracted — perhaps amplifying a commentary that youth are oblivious to the world around them today.

But then I realized that I should be looking at the "reciprocal" of the story — to look at what the norm was that this case was an exception. The norm is that children cross the street safely almost all the time, school buses rarely get in accidents with pedestrians, and if there is an accident involving a vehicle and a pedestrian, it is almost always the fault of the driver of the vehicle. (And by that, I'm referring to the fact that the driver, as the controller of a potentially deadly device, must guard against harming anyone at all times.)

So I took a look at the rest of the paper and found the same to be true. I couldn't find the articles from Saturday, but some of today's headlines are as follows: "Greece officer faces additional charges [of coercing sex from a woman]", "Teen testifies about alleged sexual attack by [former county legislator William C.] Bastuk", and "[Latasha] Shaw's 911 tape [of a call prior to being killed by a mob] played at trial".

None of these things are normal. They are all exceptional. As such, the news does nothing to inform the public about what is happening — they are claiming to do just that, but instead report only on exceptions. In doing so, most people I know believe that the world is this terrible and dangerous place when the opposite is really true.

My idea on all this is to start a paper called something like "The Rochester Mundane" that would report things like "100.0% of Rochester residents not murdered" (rounding from 99.98%) or that "police officers do not generally coerce sex," "legislators do not attack people," and "for most calls to 911, help arrives in time."

The first problem is that I don't have the time. The second is that it would be wildly unpopular. I mean, who wants to know about what's really going on?

Taking the Bus

I've been working on migrating my travels to alternatives to the car — as you'll recall, I took my Civic off the road (so now I've got our Buick Roadmaster Estate Wagon and Ali's Saturn, neither of which I want to rely on for day-to-day tasks). Tonight was The Rochester Speculative Literature Association (R-SPEC) meeting at Barnes & Noble (3349 Monroe Ave.) so I thought I'd try taking the bus. I've used the buses on rare occasions in the past, but this was the first trip that required a transfer and that I didn't really have a backup plan (aside from calling Ali, even though she loaned her car out to our friend Christina for the day).

The meeting was at 7 p.m. so I wanted to get there a bit early. According to The Rochester-Genesee Regional Transportation Authority (RGRTA)'s trip planner on the website, I should take the #24 bus at 5:56 p.m. downtown to Court and Clinton, then take the #7 bus to Pittsford Plaza at 6:40 p.m. — total trip time: 43 minutes. I did my own analysis of the schedules and decided instead to take the #19 bus at 5:38 p.m. to 12 Corners then take the #7 bus to Pittsford Plaza at 6:09 p.m. — total trip time: 31 minutes. I arrived early enough to get some dinner at Benucci's (3349 Monroe Ave., in the Pittsford Plaza) … nothing particularly exceptional, but still perfectly fine.

So after the meeting, the RGRTA trip planner suggested I leave on the #7 bus at 8:54 p.m. (or a similar trip starting at 9:38 p.m.) and take it to — get this — Irondequoit Plaza (2133 Hudson Ave.) to get the #5 bus back to my house at 11:51 p.m. — total trip time: 2 hours, 57 minutes. I analyzed it myself and determined I could take the #7 bus at 8:54 p.m. (or an identical trip starting at 10:02 p.m.) to Clinton and Main then hurry to meet the #5 bus going south at St. Paul and Main and get home by 9:37 p.m. — total trip time: 43 minutes.

As it turned out, the meeting ran a bit long and I stayed to try and find that book Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us) by Tom Vanderbuilt which they did not have. I took the 10:02 bus which arrived pretty much on time. I made it to the #5 which didn't leave for a few minutes anyway and made it home fine.

All told, it worked out okay. I bought a "Freedom Pass" which gets you rides for a day for $3 (as far as I could tell, I would have had to pay $4 for the 4 bus trips … there's probably a secret to transfers or something, though). The bus stop nomenclature is confusing — for instance, the stop nearest my house for the #19 bus is "Crittenden and East" which identifies an intersection. There are 2 stops within 20 yards of that intersection and I wasn't sure which one was right. The trick is that the first street is the main street and the second is the cross street, so it would be much clearer to say "Crittenden at East" but once you get used to it, it makes sense. You also have to know which direction your bus is going — for instance, there are 4 stops at the Elmwood and Mt. Hope corner.

It's also annoying that the stops have advertising on them rather than information: the bus stop signs only specify how much the trip will cost. If only one route uses a particular stop, the sign will identify the route number, but if the stop serves multiple routes, it will just say that it serves multiple routes and not specify which ones. There are no maps or clues as to where to go or when.

But it's that routing system that is the worst. What good is it if you can do it yourself and get better results — and with relative ease at that? The biggest obstacle is to get the bus route information from the site as it is no longer available as tidy PDF's of the route tables, but as dynamically generated pages where you can specify your stops. It would make much more sense to, say, get all the bus route tables for stops within a few blocks of your starting and ending points and figure it out from there.

It's too bad that RGRTA has a government sponsored monopoly because with a little competition, it wouldn't be hard to come up with a better system. One thing that I've been toying with is the idea of a "superway" — a system that's like a subway, but instead puts buses on the network of highways to cover the large distances quickly. So, for instance, there would be stops along each exit on 490, 590, and 390 with buses running frequently along those routes. I could walk 15 minutes to 390 and East Henrietta Rd. then take a bus to the Monroe Avenue exit off 590 in 3 minutes (maybe more like 6 minutes counting a stop at Winton), finishing up by walking the remaining 19 minutes to Pittsford Plaza. All told, it would take about about 40 minutes but I could do it pretty much any time I wanted to; the walking time on my trip out there added 10 minutes for a total of 41 minutes on the way out and 53 minutes on the way back and also limited to the whims of the bus schedule. Throw in a few extra routes to cover the parts of the city farther than a mile from a highway exit, and you're in business.

Anyway, the bus is now an alternative for me to use. But once I get a bike ready, I can cover the 5 miles to Pittsford Plaza via the canal path in about 20 minutes or so. And do it any time.