Scripting News for 12/5/2006

I spent a couple of hours today with Doc discussing Vendor Relationship Management. There really is something here.  

Note to Terry Semel: Get on board with VRM. Big bucks. Zig to Google’s zag. Doc will explain. :-) 

Robert Gates, the designated Defense Secretary, testifying today in Washington, tells the same lies as Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld. Stabilizing Iraq is as hard a problem as stablilizing US cities, where we have the advantage of being locals and having a real reason to care. Yet crime and poverty in our cities haven’t succumbed to various wars (poverty, drugs) and Iraq isn’t going to succumb to the global war on terror, which is bullshit of course, what we’re doing in Iraq is nothing like a war, it’s more like suicide.  

Reorg at Yahoo! 

I give up on Studio 60. It’s dull, childish, plotless, not funny, not heart-grabbing, takes itself far too seriously. Not interesting. Wish they had used the money for this show to buy another season of The West Wing.  

Brier Dudley: “Did Google Maps lead CNET editor astray?” 

Google directions from Grants Pass to Gold Beach, OR. 

Jason Calacanis is getting a job at Sequoia Capital.  

Steve Michel lost a good friend on Sunday, Mike Britten. 

This I Believe 

I’m a regular listener to the NPR radio show, This I Believe. I’ve never met the founder of the show, Jay Allison, but we have many friends in common. I believe in This I Believe, but that’s not what this essay is about. I also believe in voting, The Golden Rule and Murphy’s Law, and commonsense principles like What Goes Around Comes Around. I could write essays about these subjects and easily fill 500 words. I also share Chris Lydon’s belief in the Emersonian Ideal of self-reliance, the power of thought, the power of the individual. In many ways I have dedicated my life to these ideas, but that’s not what this essay is about.

I was listening to Chris’s interview with Jay on my daily walk yesterday. I like to take NPR podcasts with me on my walks. It’s my time every day to fill my mind with new ideas from the brilliant programmers at NPR. The This I Believe essays are frequent companions. Yesterday it was an interview with the man himself. As I settled into my stride, I saw a woman ahead with a dog, the dog was doing his thing and the woman was bending over to pick up the prize. I thought to myself “I’ll just cross the street,” and luckily there was a cross-walk. Berkeley, where I live, is like Cambridge, when it comes to the rules of the road. The law is the same everywhere, the pedestrian has the right of way. As long as the pedestrian is in a crosswalk, the traffic must stop. But in places like New York, New Orleans, St Louis or Denver, the law is ignored, and pedestrians must wait until the traffic clears, whether or not there’s a crosswalk. But Berkeley is one of a handful of places where the pedestrians regularly risk their lives and step out into traffic.

And regularly the drivers keep on coming as if we weren’t there. You then have a fateful choice, stand your ground, don’t run to get out of their way (and risk tripping and getting run over anyway), or chance losing a game of chicken and become righteous roadkill, having stood for your rights, having it become your last stand.

I’ve stared down many a driver, and I’m still here. I’ve actually broken one windshield and one headlight. When the drivers stop, always outraged to have their space invaded, I try to keep my cool, and ask them to think about it. How did I get so close that I could break a piece of your car, if you weren’t breaking the law? And you just lost a headlight, I might have lost my life.

Female friends say they are never challenged this way. Do people think that a strong male body would crumple any less completely when hit by a multi-ton SUV or pickup?

When I end up staring at the grill of a car that didn’t want to stop, but was forced to, being an engineer and inventor, I think for the rest of my walk, how can we solve this problem? Maybe walkers could carry an indelible paint, and mark the car as an offender. Let the person explain to the husband or wife why there’s this mark on the grill of the car. It could lead to some interesting talks at home. Honey, that could have been blood or bone.

Me, when I’m driving, I always stop, and the pedestrians almost always grin with gratitude. Everyone likes to be respected, and this is a very nice way to show respect. A mother crossing the street with a couple of small children deserve your protection no more than an aging man listening to a podcast. We all need to be heard, and the law is there for a good reason, to make walking seem safe. And walking is such a good thing, it saves the atmosphere, protects against disease, and it fosters the kind of thought we need more of.

So this is what I believe, when you see a human body crossing the street, as you approach in your car, don’t treat it as an obstacle or a slalom pole. Remember, this is a person, someone’s son or daughter, husband or wife, aunt or uncle. Obey the law, stop, get a smile. Feel good about yourself.

21 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by dataguy on December 5, 2006 at 9:30 am

    Nicely stated – well done, I totally agree. For my part when someone stops while I’m in the cross walk, I will step up my pace as my way to say thinks for not killing me.

    Reply

  2. Dave, your ideal of walking is so utopian. And I respect that. But as a 30-year resident of Berkeley who’s also familiar with walking culture in some other big urban areas, I think you’re leaving out a couple significant factors in the equation: Newton’s laws, on one hand, and on the other something I’ll call the entitlement factor.

    Re: Newton: Many pedestrians here seem to believe that the laws of physics, the basic behaviors of mass in motion, don’t apply to them. What they’re convinced of is that that space between the while lines is theirs, come hell, high water, or screeching tires. To trust to another non-NASCAR-qualified human being (one who is likewise often feeling entitled) at the controls of a big heavy machine is rash and foolish. Some walkers appear so convinced that the conditions of the physical world apply to others, but not them, that they fearlessly ignore oncoming cars on dark streets (for bonus points: wearing dark clothes), in the rain, and without considering what all lanes of traffic might be doing.

    But entitlement, especially in a place like Berkeley, where every action and transaction is freighted with social and political meaning, is a powerful thing. What’s mine is mine, and the very idea of waiting for traffic to clear is as outrageous to many pedestrians as the legal requirement to stop for sauntering passers-by is for drivers; it’s just the other side of the coin of modern frustration and impatience. It matters little to me that pedestrian right-of-way is the law; what’s missing is simple human-to-human consideration and pure old common sense (and what about The Environment? Having to stop and start repeatedly for strolling peds renders cars even less energy efficient and more polluting belching than they are).

    What I’d really like is a way of seeing how the more careless and militant street-crossers behave when they’re behind the wheel. I’d expect to find that most of them are rude, entitled drivers, too.

    Reply

  3. Great post. Automobiles have killed more people than all the wars of the 20th century combined. They also do so much damage to our culture, not to mention the environment. Pedestrians are too often treated as obstacles. As a pedestrian and cyclist, II rarely drive, but there’s something about the inhuman experience of operating car that almost makes you think it’s OK to bully mere people and cyclists, anyone without a metal shell. I’m constantly shocked that New Yorkers, so many of whom don’t own cars, put up with the dominance of automobiles in our city.

    Reply

  4. Dan, if the drivers can’t obey the law (it’s on our side) then let’s just ban auto traffic on certain major thoroughfares and turn them into pedestrian malls. Then maybe the drivers would get the idea that they have to share the road with people on foot. This is has been done in some cities I’ve lived in, like Madison and downtown NYC (for other reasons, to keep car bombs away from the NYSE). Let’s shut down Shattuck Ave one day a week, and see if that gets the attention of the drivers.

    Another thng that pisses me off is when bicycle riders ride on the sidewalk when there are bike lanes on the road. And skateboarders. There’s nothing so humiliating as having to stand aside on a the sidewalk while a 200 pound Cal student zooms by you going 20 mph on the sidewalk.

    See, I think it has to be possible for people in a civilized society to walk and feel safe doing so.

    Reply

  5. When I’m crossing the street, I’ve found that carrying a large camera with a big lens makes cars slow down and stop. And even if not, you’re still much better equipped to take a photo of the driver who killed you.

    Here’s something else to think about when you’re crossing the street. Even if you look at them and they look right back at you, it doesn’t mean that they actually see you. Be careful out there.

    Reply

  6. Posted by Chris Silverberg on December 5, 2006 at 10:03 am

    Hi Dave,

    I enjoyed your article. It reminded me of towns in Europe that are completely redesigning their cities to make them friendlier and safer for both pedestrians and drivers. It’s an interesting case in human psychology, where they seem to have learned that streetlights and signs actually make driving less safe. Full article here:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/11/04/ntraffic04.xml

    -Chris

    Reply

  7. I enjoyed reading your thoughts about pedestrians and cars. I believe, that anyone who’s traveling (by foot, bicycle, moped, car, SUV, or Truck) has the responsibility to watch out for everyone smaller than they are.

    I’m a cyclist, and I ride to and from work just about every day. In Seattle, there’s only one main street going North to South with an official “bike lane.” That street is second avenue. And that bike lane is also one of the most dangerous places in the city to ride. You’re riding alongside parked cars – at any time one of them could open their doors right in front of me. Also, being in the bike lane also puts you directly in the path of turning cars.

    I, like you, often times stand my ground. I’ve seen my life flash before my eyes on numerous occasions. My usual way of letting a car know “hey – you almost killed me” is to smack their window, hood, or trunk with my hand. If you’re close enough to me that I can reach out and hit you – you’re too close.

    And then – what happens, a good chunk of the time, is that a driver will get so angry that they will curse, honk, yell, flip me off, chase me, or in some cases – TRY TO HIT ME!

    My message to all drivers: If you’re a driver – you need to watch out for people on scooters, bikes, or other vehicles smaller than you. You can do a lot more harm to them than they could ever do to you. Even if a cyclist seems like a jerk who disobeys traffic laws – just breathe, and keep driving. Your road rage could kill them… all they are going to do is piss you off. And cyclists – you need to watch out for pedestrians.

    This I believe…

    Reply

  8. @ Dave: After posting my comment, I noticed your statement about cyclists on sidewalks.

    The fact of the matter is that, sometimes, as a cyclist you have to choose the best option for your safety and the safety of others. As I mentioned above – the one bike lane in downtown Seattle that can take me South is one of the most dangerous places to ride in the city.

    Generally, I’ll ride in a lane with traffic. Of course, this angers a lot of drivers. Luckily, since I’m generally riding the speed of traffic this is perfectly legal – and I’ve got enough skill/ confidence to avoid being killed.

    However – if it’s someone that’s new to cycling: I would much prefer to see them riding on the sidewalk than riding down second avenue (bike line or no bike lane).

    Until cities can ensure the safety of cyclists by adding better facilities for us to use, cars will occasionally need to share their traffic lanes and pedestrians may occasionally need to share their sidewalk. It just takes cooperation.

    Reply

  9. Posted by bobby orbach on December 5, 2006 at 10:38 am

    Dave,
    I just bought the best sounding headphones you will ever hear… it was soo amazing, i almost paid retail :)
    check them out http://www.v-moda.com the i got the remix… but if you wanna spend $100 bucks, the vibe earphones are awsome…
    bobby

    Reply

  10. Dave, I agree with you about bikes on sidewalks. In most places, it’s simply not appropriate. Skateboards–not such an easy call for me. What I hope for is consideration amongst all who share the public space (I believe the most profound quote in 20th century U.S. history was, “Can’t we all just get along?”).

    Re: pedestrians and cars: Yes, I *know* the law is “on pedestrians’ side.” I guess my point is that reliance on statute, let alone stubborn reliance on it, is no solution to making walking a more enjoyable activity. And like I said before, at least 9 times out of 10, when you’re looking at a pedestrian, you’re also looking looking at a driver, and vice versa. If I were going to try to enforce anything, it would be empathy.

    Reply

  11. Posted by elle on December 5, 2006 at 11:49 am

    Nice post about walking –

    We’re often so focused on getting from here to there that we forget both the joys of walking and driving.

    Reply

  12. Dave, I may not be as eloquent as Chris Lydon, but I scooped this story a while ago, by reading the psychiatric journals. Here are 2 podcasts I did on the subject:

    http://www.podcasternews.com/programs/10/mental-health-missives/1588/mental-health-month-everywhere-but-for-soldiers/

    http://www.podcasternews.com/programs/10/mental-health-missives/730/biscuit-teams-pschological-ethics-and-torture/

    Reply

  13. Posted by Ann on December 5, 2006 at 3:04 pm

    Dave, extra caution is needed while driving or walking while wearing headphones. Most people would never think of driving nor walking blind-folded, but, many people underestimate how critical their ears are for their own safety and that of others — so routinely cover them up with headphones. Yet another example of our world’s preference for the eye over the ear….Also, in Berkeley, with so many silent Prius’s darting about — it is even more critical that walkers beware. Just because you can’t hear ‘em coming doesn’t mean they don’t hurt when they hit. –Ann

    Reply

  14. Posted by Chris Judson on December 5, 2006 at 4:41 pm

    Dave,
    I’m going to have to disagree with you on Studio 60…the show works and I’m surprised that almost all of the press and stuff written about the show goes something like “At first I thought it was great, but now I want to retract my original statement.” (This may not be true of you…I’ll have to do a search). It is almost as if there is a S60SUX virus that has been released in the social consciousness and the flu has been getting worse and worse.
    Let the show live and develop…remember the original casting of West Wing? Perhaps, we need to let the script and cast mature. A good show is not made overnight (though, I though _Sons and Daughters_ was a great show…but it got cancelled…quickly.
    Now, back to watching _Plan 9 from Outer Space_ (seriously, I’m on the last 10 minutes of the classic).
    Peace.

    Reply

  15. Posted by jeremyw on December 5, 2006 at 5:27 pm

    I’m also enjoying Studio 60. I never watched any of Sorkin’s other shows, but if I ever have time, I’d love to start on the DVDs.

    Reply

  16. Thinking about the problem as an engineer, it would be much better if cars were smart enough to stop themselves before running into meaty moving objects. Human error will always be there, but the machine (car) should be able to recognize the impending error and correct for it.

    In the future…

    Reply

  17. Posted by j james on December 5, 2006 at 8:36 pm

    i’m cautiously optimistic on studio 60. i really want to like it.. but it’s hard work. i’m hoping it will evolve.

    west wing ran its course.. i would rather have seen more sportsnight. if you haven’t watched it recently, i highly recommend it.

    Reply

  18. How did you break a windshield?

    My personal pet peeve is drivers in too much of a hurry. When my oldest son was 7 he was hit by a car on our neighborhood street, a block off a parallel major thoroughfare in Chicago’s near west suburbs (Wolf Rd. in Western Springs), so people used our street as a shortcut to save themselves maybe 25 seconds. It became my mission to frustrate them by lazing across the street as a pedestrian or driving 15 mph.

    Reply

  19. Posted by Chris Judson on December 6, 2006 at 9:16 am

    jeremyw:
    Get the _Sports Night_ series and watch it…very good (and, as they allow the laugh tracks to go away…the script and characters end up good ’til the end of the series).
    I think Amyloo is or recently watched SN and I seemed to remember reading that she enjoyed it.
    Peace,
    Chris

    Reply

  20. I am liking it, Chris, but I’m way too easy to please.

    Confused, are you saying that later in the series the laugh track DOES phase out? If so that would be nice.

    Reply

  21. Posted by zaba on December 6, 2006 at 5:10 pm

    Re: pedestrians:

    I live in a “tourist town” with high amounts of pedestrian traffic. Almost always, I give them the right of way. On the other hand, there are a few intersections in town where they will cross continuously… never giving drivers an opportunity to cross the road. This is certainly not what you are discussing in your post, but I will “creep in” so that I can actually make it across the intersection.

    Re: Studio 60:

    It’s funny that you mention that. My wife and I just watched the latest episode and thought it was finally coming into place. It was finally becoming a show that I really wanted to watch more often. But, I would have been more happy with more West Wing, too. ;-> Relatedly, do you think the idea of Santos as president could have ever happened if it came out after all the latest illegal immigrant stuff? When it occurred, it was believable. Now, not so much…

    Reply

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