Questioned by the Police

So I was leaving The Flower City Habitat for Humanity ReStore (755 Culver Rd.) after doing my Saturday afternoon grazing when a police officer (I think his name was W-something) came up to ask some questions. I had not witnessed a crime nor was I involved in one. But I was acting suspicious. See, I was riding a bicycle with a trailer to do my Saturday shopping. Officer W. said there have been problems with people on bicycles with toolboxes on the back and totes stealing copper pipe from houses.

Although I was highly irritated by being singled out, I only revealed that fact by asking if he had also stopped cars and asked if the occupants were involved with such crimes because cars can carry a lot more material. He was respectful and ginger about the whole 4th Amendment and all, and only asked questions. Obviously, though, if I had not answered openly, I am certain I would have been further suspected, detained, and harassed.

I mean, who gets stopped like this? Have you, dear reader, ever been stopped and questioned for no good reason? In my case, it was an unpleasant experience all around. I can see no "silver lining" in it at all: I was singled out for being different. And to add insult to injury, "different" in a way that promoted reuse of materials (the trailer is homemade and the bike was rebuilt from junk), healthy living, and a low impact on the world's resources.

Of course, I forgot to ask the perfect question: "how many people have been convicted of stealing copper pipe on bicycles?" I did comment that I thought this kind of theft in general is a relatively rare occurrence and he replied that "it happens more than you think" — a statement that seemed lacking in factual backing.

I guess I could find a lawyer to search cases and see just how prevalent the problem is, but as a start, I searched "copper pipe" theft on Google and came up with some 15,000 hits. A couple other attempts, like a search for "stole copper pipe" bicycle came up dry, finding only theft of copper pipe and bicycles, not with them. Likewise, searching "stole copper pipe" on Google's news search reveals only 55 hits — for the 29 year period from 1980 to 2009. By my guess, this is less of a problem than Officer W. thinks.

So I think back on the times when I've had non-trivial interactions with the police (i.e. more than just saying hello), none are clearly positive. Twice I've been through vehicle sticker checkpoints (and waved through), once through a breathalyzer checkpoint (blew far less than DUAI), and once when someone backed into my car (the cop failed to take an accurate report, omitting eye-witness evidence). And a few years ago I was terribly depressed and out for a walk and I was stopped by a cop because — and I swear this was not me — I matched the description of someone spotted trying to jump off a bridge in the area … that one I chalk up as just really really weird.

My conclusion is to have far fewer police. Sadly, we live in Mayor Former Police Chief's land and his solution to any problem is "more cops". I also realize that I'm either doing something very right or very wrong by daring to take visible action to help treat the planet better. It's just another notch in my being ejected from society — from a lay-off to being rejected for a mortgage refinance (before the *ahem* real crooks [hint: driving Lexus cars, not bikes with trailers] ruined everything), some other similar bumps along the way, and now this.

I might as well get used to it because there is absolutely nothing I can do about it.

The Yes Men Fix the World at the Dryden

I left the show a little early to get to the Dryden Theater at George Eastman House (900 East Ave.) for a screening of The Yes Men Fix the World. I had been aware of some of the … umm … pranks? stunts? performance-art pieces? … created by The Yes Men for some time. I had recorded a segment on Democracy Now! back when I had satellite where they had convinced BBC News that they represented Dow Chemical and wanted to help fix the ongoing disaster created by their then-recently-purchased subsidiary, Union Carbide in Bhopal, India in 1984. The movie goes behind the scenes of how they got on the air and announced that in honor of the 20th anniversary of the disaster, Dow was committing billions of dollars (US$12 billion, if I remember correctly [and indeed, upon reviewing my copy of the interview on Democracy Now!, it was]) to help the people and clean up the site. By the end of the day, the hoax was revealed, and the largest complaint was not that Dow didn't step forward and do what was right and just (i.e. commit resources and fix things) but that the hoax cost Dow shareholders US$2 billion.

And that's essentially what The Yes Men are continually asking: why can't we make a world where corporations do the right thing? Their method of asking that question is to enter situations where they present themselves as members of corporations and announce that they are going to do the right thing.

I spent most of the movie saddened that these pranks never seem to have any effect: corporations continue to do the wrong thing, claiming that the increased profits are worth more than any real benefit.

But then I realized that no one person (or even large a group) can instantly make change. Rather, it is through the constant pressure of good that makes the world better. So when I left, I got on my tall bike (which, believe it or not, I made just over 5 years ago) and realized that we all need to make the world a better place. Even little things matter because all there is is little things.

Other/other/other and Jay Repp at Record Archive

I started out by heading to The Record Archive (33 1/3 Rockwood St.) to catch the in-store bands. First up was Jay Repp playing solo. I generally liked his acoustic-rock and modern-rock style, but I wasn't particularly drawn-in by it either. As before, I greatly liked other/other/other with their melodic trancey synthesized music. It just touches on dreamy and ethereal, but stays rooted in gently danceable beats.

Copy Writers Get the Last Laugh

Since I'm trying to lose the weight I gained last week getting stuffed (perhaps just in time for Thanksgiving when I'll put it back on again) I peeked at the Chocolate Mousse [flavored] Peeps label to see what I was getting into:

Very small cats, indeed.

Very small cats, indeed.

I guess the label copy writers got the last laugh on that one. In case you're wondering, they weren't half bad. They actually had a chocolaty flavor over the regular mushy dust flavor you expect of Peeps. Of course, I think I didn't read the whole label so I might have made a terrible mistake:

I ate decorations.

Let's hope it's also food.

A Visit to Tarpon Springs, Florida

Ali and I got a chance to get out of the house for a bit on our visit to her mom and step-dad in Florida to check out the local fauna. I searched the Internet for Pensacola's Mad HappyMySpace link (a band I've liked quite a bit and who I would expect to play in places I'd like to visit) to see if they had played anywhere in nearby Tarpon Springs.

They apparently had [although in a more thorough search, I don't think they did], so we went to The Neptune Lounge and CycleryMySpace link (13 S. Safford Ave., Tarpon Springs, FL): a bar/lounge by night and a bicycle shop by day (albeit next-door to one another) situated along The Pinellas Trail. We managed to hear the last song from the first band but got to see The Sound of ArmadaMySpace link who played a good variety of jammy modern rock with a distinctive country flair.

From there we went to The ZoneMySpace link (121 E. Tarpon Ave., Tarpon Springs, FL) which was a nightclub and lounge. I gather that the reggae-funk band on the nice outdoor patio was called Paris, and indoors, they were playing a typical dance DJ mix. It was almost like two clubs in one … something I guess I should expect from such a small town.

Running in Florida

I decided to go for a run while visiting Ali's family in Florida. I've been eating like it's Thanksgiving, and I realized last night that I couldn't pull it off more than one day in a row. So I went out for a 4-ish-mile run. Being accustomed to 35°F, temperatures approaching 80°F with a 70°F dew-point (thanks, Hurricane Ida), I needed all the extra water I had to finish up. Also, I noticed that there's a lot of dirt that ends up on the roads and sidewalks. I imagine it's because of dust from tires wearing down (my feet were much more black than at home), and because the lack of regular rain to wash it away.

TEDx Rochester

I know I've mentioned TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design): Ideas Worth Spreading quite a few times already, so when I heard there would be an independently-originated series here in Rochester, I couldn't help but go. They called it TEDx Rochester and held it at Geva (75 Woodbury Blvd.) My hopes were high, but I fully understood that not every lecturer would produce an astoundingly favorite lecture.

After a rocky start with the A/V system, Adam Frank got things started. He spoke about the artificiality of the conflict of science and religion. Basically his argument was that science enhances religion because it lets us see more of the world, and if you're a believer in a creator, seeing more of what was created is a good thing.

Larry Moss was next, speaking about his "Airigami": creating art with balloons. At first blush, the whole thing seems as thin as a metaphor using balloons would be if written here. But because the medium he uses is so accessible, he's able to create sculptures with people who don't even share a common language — and he has. Many times. On the one hand, it's astounding and on another, obvious. Definitely one to think about (and hopefully, a lecture that will be prominent on TED's own website).

I was also pleased by a performance by GEOMANTICS Dance Theatre who, like PUSH Physical Theatre, used an amalgam of the varied forms of physical performance to express ideas.

A nano-scale chemist and physicist Todd D. Krauss provided insight into some of his work (as several other lecturers did). Although I didn't find that his talk met my lofty expectation of an "idea worth spreading", he did bring up an interesting bit of new technology: cadmium-selenium nanoparticles. The fascinating thing about them is that they fluoresce different colors of light based on their size. As such, one can create whatever colors they want using the same material.

What he did not touch on that I wish he had was the ramifications of nanoparticles and organic life: specifically, isn't "little particles stuck through cell walls" one of those triggers for cancer? And while he dispelled the myth that artificially-intelligent nanobots will kill us, I think he did a disservice by neglecting to even approach the topic of nanoparticles doing damage in much more banal ways.

Finishing up the night was Geva Comedy ImprovMySpace link who, sadly, were not able to finish their performance in the time allotted.

Overall it was definitely worth it to take time off to see it. But I hope that in the future, things are a bit more refined.