Monday, October 09, 2017

Post-car life is more like life than the car life

I took Lyft to friend's home and back, 1/2 hour each way.

Going out, Ahmed.

Ahmed is a moslem. Things are getting worse by the day. He is thinking of leaving. To Saudi Arabia or to Dubai or to Sierra Leone. Yes, Sierra Leone war was bad, but it has gotten much better since - he has friends there. Or Dubai. Would like Dubai, but you need money to live in Dubai.

He has lived in Atlanta 13 years. He grew up in Newark. Growing up in Newark was very rough. Since he moved here, the whole family has followed him - not only the parents, also both grandmothers have followed him - everybody lives in Atlanta now.

My friend wonders whether Ahmed speaks English. It is a curious, a very white southerner question. Like, was Barack Obama born here? Ahmed's ancestors have probably arrived upon these shores earlier than most American's ancestors, on slave ships. So suppose your people were enslaved, and then treated not much better after the abolition. Would you want to go to the enslavers' church, get a name like "Peter"? Not obvious. Was not obvious to Cassius Clay, either. Islam is an egalitarian alternative.

So I call Lyft again. Kennethia picks up my ride. My friend is baffled. "Where do they get these names?" Well, it is the same story again. If you are African-American, why would you pick a name Louise or Jennifer? Or Guðrún? 

Kennethia is young and lean and pretty. The car is perfumed and we are listening to Shereen Jenkins, who -Kennethia says- is wonderful. He reminds her -and now that is saying how old she is- he reminds her of "Dirty Dancing". Such a sweet young couple. She does insurance processing for veterans, she's driving when she has some free time to get some extra income. Uber, she does not like. Had bad experiences with that company. What bad experiences? As she gesticulates, she touches my arms, my knees. Nobody ever touches anybody in America. So I'm thinking - rowdy customers?

No, this is what happened. Her son, he wants to be an engineer. He's always in his room. He does not do extracurricular things in his school. So she finally talked him into taking jiu jitsu classes in X3 Sports. One day he orders an Uber, the driver comes, looks at his big backpack full of sports equipment, tells him to forget it, and drives away, reporting the kid to Uber as a no-show. She protested to Uber, but there is no way to get to these people to respond or do anything. Lyft is different - there is a phone number, and you can talk to them. Ever since then, the kid will only go if his mother drives him to X3 Sports. So she has to leave her office, drive him, go back to work, pick him up afterwards again.

He is a sensitive kind. She hears a noise from his room - something like lips smacking. Another time, it's a different sound, something like rice grains falling on paper. She goes in. The kid is not wathcing porn. "Ma, I'm feeling tense. It's music to relax me." The mother in law is all organic and vegetarian, and so is the husband, so Kennethia is switching over to vegetarian diet. She's also switched over to Tom's Toothpaste. Used to brush twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste, have I read about what that does to you? I should check it on the internet. Flour is really bad for you. Miracle she's still alive.

Hubby calls. Goes straight through car's hifi, it's a bit inappropriate for general audience, what he has to say to his wifey, but she does not know how to turn off the speakerphone.

There we are. It used to be John Birch Society that was up in arms about the government and fluoridation. Now the they are the government, and it's vegetarians who are up in arms. It is all about our precious bodily fluids. She has not seen "Doctor Strangelove", but she should.

She wants me to give her lots of stars. I did.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Casona Rosa, Morelia, Michoacán


The city of Morelia is a hidden gem that is on no foreign tourists’ radar. I spent two weeks wandering around the city and rarely saw anyone who was not Mexican.  My mother was a historian of sacral baroque architecture of Croatia, so I was raised on baroque, with a soft spot for the Spanish colonial baroque, the outrageous amalgam of Catholic counter-reformation and Mexico’s native arts. Morelia is a beautiful, once very rich and fully formed baroque city, as perfect as Noto in Sicily or any still preserved central European provincial Habsburg baroque town.

The antique portales on main street of Morelia, Ave Madero, are just 3 blocks from Casona Rosa.  Lu's restaurant in Hotel Casino, across from the  main square Plaza de Armas,  and kitty-corner from Morelia Cathedral, is the best in town. Try uchepos. Try anything on the menu. When you eat at Lu's be sure and say you are a guest of Casona Rosa, and you will get a free dessert.

But what I find even more amazing than the monumental architecture of baroque is how deeply is the aesthetic, artist’s eye embedded into everyday life. No house, no matter how humble, is left unadorned - I spent countless hours walking through the living city, not the Centro Historico, and admiring ordinary homes and ordinary people that make the city a living beehive of myriad small business and human interconnections - you can see my photos here. With it comes the feeling of sadness for citizens of the depressing towns of North American interior, sucked dry by their Walmarts, condemned to isolated life on opioids, and mysterious fear that somehow the vibrant nation of 120 million down south will rob them of their profound poverty… But I digress:)

Rose, the owner, puts much of her time and effort into the Casona Rosa art collection and supporting the local artists, with valuable pieces from artists collected worldwide. What is displayed is the indigenous art of the famous artists and artisans of Michoacán. If you are very patient, have a look at my tour of Casona recorded for my wife here, or you can scan through some photos of Casona Rosa, starting with this one. It's beautiful stuff - as good as anything my native Mexican art collector friend owns. You can see it and buy it in Casa de Artesanias (Plaza San Francisco), but ask Casona Rosa to organize a visit to artisan villages instead.
Lupe and Mireya, and a bevy of young bilingual helpers  (guest services Viviana, IT whizz Leon) take care of the guests. Lupe can tell you about what Mexican food to eat. You can even ask her to prepare something special - she is an awesome cook. The Colonial Suite  is the nicest suite, and also the most private and quiet, in the back of the property.

Casona Rosa will fetch you at the airport airport for the same price as a regular taxi, about mx$400pesos for a half hour ride, but with the vastly more erudite driver Gerardo. Gerardo will tell you all about Franciscan monk brother Jacobo Daciano, born 1484 in Copenhagen – died 1566 in Michoacán who achieved fluency in eight languages and fame among the indigenous people of Michoacán, and whose relics, now lost, were once kept by the Indians of Tarécuato who still celebrate his birthday every year. OK, I am Danish, but Gerardo will teach you something about wherever you hail from.

There is so much more to write about Morelia, but this will have to do (Tripadviser rejected this review, because it has hyperlinks)
PS About tips: nice but not mandatory. Cabs: typically 10 pesos, 20 if cabbies help with luggage or whatever. Most Morelia rides are 40 pesos so with 10 tip it is only about 2.50usd. Restaurants 10% if it's a cheap place. 15% if mid range place. And 20% if high end place and you got  good service. Housekeepers: Most people tip end of stay, anywhere from 50 to 500 pesos.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Lovely Acura self-destructs to save Sara and me

Short version: a car veered diagonally across four lanes and I hit its tail end.

Long version: Cruising on I-85 at 70 mi/h, on the way to the airport. Second rightmost lane. Traffic not too heavy. There is a curly-haired dog sticking out his head out of the passenger side seat of the car ahead of us 3 lanes over. The head gets bigger and bigger - it is a man, naked from the waist up, standing in the window, with his boxers above the window ledge. And then he tumbles out, stretched out horizontally like a tree log,  and falls onto the highway, between the outermost lane and the next one. At 70 mi/h. Sara is looking at this in horror, I am looking straight ahead, keeping eyes on the road.

Their car veers diagonally across four lanes. I brake. I hit its tail end. Nobody hits me from behind. The airbags explode, cushion us from the impact, fill the car with gray smoke. Our car comes to a full stop, 2nd lane. The other car smashes into the side rail. Something that smells weird, like gasoline (maybe) is flooding the floor. Sara gets out and I bring the car onto the shoulder. In five minutes cops are there, with ambulance and fire trucks, and they close the entire I-85. The man who fell onto the highway is running around (see the pic below), until they restrain him to the Grady ambulance stretcher. He is beautiful - I would run around naked to the waist, had I his body, and whatever he is on must be an amazing drug. A fashion pointer: one is now to wear boxers outside blue jeans. The driver is sitting on the rail, texting. He tells Sara "I do not know what happened" and he tells me "I am sorry". His arms have some kind fish bone tattoos, perhaps a pitchfork showing “Folks” affiliation. Police are polite with him, then something happens - suddenly they pull their guns out, shout at him, throw him on the ground and handcuff him from the back, throw him into the back of one of the police cars. It's not a "driving while black" situation, two cops are white, six are black. Their 2010 blue Chevrolet Cobalt LT 2-door coupe has a Tennessee tag U62-33K and a door replaced on drivers side, so one cannot get the VIN number.



Police Officer Culbreth's report:
"Driver is Niles Robinson of Memphis, the VIN is 1G1AF1F57A7128023, and the car is uninsured. Upon my arrival, I saw the passenger, Justin Johnson (BM DOB 05-18-91), laying on the side of the highway wearing no shirt and in blue jeans, with lacerations all over his body. The driver, Niles Robinson (BM DOB 08-01-91) was standing over him looking down on him. Mr. Robinson told me that he was traveling on 1-85 SB Expy, when Mr. Johnson starting acting "crazy" and jumped out of the window. The two of them had just dropped off Mr. Johnson's girlfriend. Mr. Johnson then started say, "Oh so I just jumped out of the window." I asked Mr. Johnson numerous times what happened and he would not tell me. He then said the door was not all the way closed. He did not have any identification on him. I was unable to verify Me. Johnson's identity with ACIC, Police Central, Ominixx or any other resources. Mr. Johnson was transported to Grady Hospital." 
"The witness, A. E. stated he was traveling on 1-85 SB Expy when he saw the passenger of Vehicle #1 jump out of the vehicle and roll across the highway. Vehicle #1 and Vehicle #2 then collided. The passenger of Vehicle #1 got up and ran to the left side of the highway. The driver of Vehicle #1 exited his vehicle and walked to the left side of the highway where the passenger was." 
"While Officer Whitworth was gathering information from Mr. Robinson, Mr. Robinson went to his vehicle and retrieved some items. He was holding something close to his abdomen wrapped in a piece of clothing. Officer Whitworth asked Mr. Robinson what he was holding but Mr. Robinson did not respond. Officer Whitworth then verbally commanded Mr. Robinson to drop the items and show him his hands. Officer Whitworth then saw that Mr. Robinson was holding a firearm and commanded him to drop the weapon. The firearm was taken from Mr. Robinson and was confirmed to be reported stolen with Fulton County by ACIC. It was Smith and Wesson Taursu Slim PT740 with 6 bullets 40cal." 
"CID Unit 5305 was notified of the incident and told me to call the complaint room in reference to charging Mr. Robinson with Theft by Receiving Stolen Property. I spoke with DA Stevenson who stated that Mr. Robinson could not be charged for the stolen firearm." 
"Sgt. Woolfolk and Officer Whitworth went to the Grady with Mr. Johnson and were unable to get any additional information from Mr. Johnson about his identity and what happened during the incident." 
"Mr. Robinson received a citation for "No Insurance" 40-6-10
Nothing further to report."

For the pics of cars and the young men, click here. My deep gratitude goes to NRA, which protects the right of every American to bandy a stolen gun, and not be charged with possession of stolen firearm. Good work, Georgia Legislature! And I'm grateful to Sara for not doing her usual, and going over to the driver to reprimand him for his bad driving.

We get to sit in the back of one of the other police cars. You get to understand why that man got his spine severed in a paddy wagon in Baltimore. You cannot fit in your legs any way if you are over 5'8", the seat is of hard plastic, so you can only slide forward in it, not sit, the windows have grills so cell phones do not work, and the doors have no handles.

This contraption ... Only 10 days ago, I got a new set of tires and a new battery, and, on the third try, the 2010 car passed the emissions test (took 1400 mi of driving to get its sensors sensing)​. The very last thing we did before leaving for the airport was to order a new car cover.:)

Still, for the first time since we two got to know each other (Georgia Tech police, who had totaled my Avalon in the physics parking lot, was what brought us together in 2013), I was getting emotionally attached to our Acura - she had just brought us safe back from the racist hellhole that is Mississippi. And her exploding airbags and crumpled front is what saved us from serious injuries or worse. No trauma. No drama. Sara is sore where the seat belt crosses her chest and might have a bit of a cracked rib. I, counter-intuitively, feel better than before the collision - my right shoulder which had hurt for a while hurts less now :) Luv you, baby! I'll miss you...


Monday, March 06, 2017

Nitko nije nezamjenjiv


Hanibal Salvaro, LADICA Fine Arts & Design Center:

 Valjda [Talijani] nemaju zakona po kojem stvaralaštvo mora u mirovinu. Mi takve zakone imamo, pa slijedom njih otjeramo u mirovinu Marinu Baričević i Zdravka Zimu (Novi list) i Danijela Dragojevića (HRT) te još mnoge druge. Usput se koristi krilatica „Nitko nije nezamjenjiv“, koja je notorna glupost. Ali ako je svako zamjenjivi zanima me tko je uspio zamijeniti Michelagella, Teslu, Edisona, Einsteina, Bacha, Šukera, Dražena Petrovića, Mariju Callas, Tita, Reagana, Tolstoja, Krležu, Murtića, Tuđmana, Cervantesa, Lecha Walesu, Picassa, Dalia, majku Terezu i tako bi mogli u nedogled.

The saga of me, my Acura and the Sensor Stimulation

Whenever the woman is in town, or we take a trip through South, I crank this thing up. Normally, I just sits in the backyard, getting dented by the acorns shooting down from 100 y old oak trees, or corroded by bird poop bombs. I do 1750 mi/year. Is that excessive? I really do not care about these 4-wheeled contraptions at all.

Well, it turns the tires are programmed to dry rot even if you do not drive them. Good for tire makers, bad for environment.

Came back to Atlanta after a few months away, drove to Miss Daisy and back, and the front right tire developed a leak. Asked my car doctor what to do, he told me to go to a tire place, and ask them with a firm manly voice to remove the nail that seems to be in my front right tire. Otherwise, he said, they will stick you a new set of tires, priced for housewives. Hmm, there seems to by dry rot here? he added thoughtfully... Well, my car doctor is prescient. I went there, dressed as a man, and with the firm voice asked the man to pull that nail and patch the tire. The man came back with a big, half-moon grin: "dry rot!", and $920 later I was four new tires, pumped to different over-pressures, richer.

Now that Acura had gotten my attention, I took it for emissions test across the road from the Midtown Tire in Toco Hills. There I was greeted by a young man, 18-20, of Indian subcontinent extraction, who seemed fresh on the job and was learning it step-by-step, by watching it on YouTube, or something like it, in-between steps. After some twenty minutes, he told me that my sensors were not sensing, and sent me off to drive 50 mi before coming back. Now I was nailed - he had my $25, and he had me in the Georgia MVB systems as partially failing the emissions test, so I could not just drive off to the next guy and get tested again.

Having done meaningless 53 mi over the weekend, I drove all the way back to Taco Hills for the Emissions Test 2.0. I was greeted by a sprightly redneck from Duck Dynasty (are we sure these guys are not Moslem fundamentalists?) who tried again, and then gave me a long sweet tale about what a sensor really wants. Basically, sensors (at least to guys who do emission tests) are more mysterious than women. They might want a hour at 70 mi/h, then down to 60 mi/h, then .... Their algorithms are unknown. He sent me back to the road, for more sensor stimulation.

Or, as the manual so helpfully explains: "certain `readiness codes’ that must be set in the on-board diagnostics for the emissions systems. These codes are erased when the battery is disconnected, and set again only after several days of driving under a variety of conditions."

My bike mechanic Godchile pipes in: "Ah, Duck Dynasty youth - what they are referring to is a Drive Cycle. You need to fulfill a certain number of these.
There is some variation among vehicles but these might do the trick. Its a maddening pain in the ass by the way: repairpal.com/how-to-perform-a-basic-drive-cycle, repairpal.com/drive-cycle-issues-readyness-code-reset-180 . What kind of Acura? Year? Model?"

Acura TSX 2010 sedan 2.4L I4 MPI, 201 HP, Torq 172.

So now I'll drive to New Orleans and back, see whether that does the trick:)

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

And now this: AP-AE. Was really missing another administrator

The Georgia Institute of Technology invites applications and nominations for the position of Associate Provost for Academic Effectiveness (AP-AE). Reporting to the provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs, the AP-AE will work closely with the deans and academic leadership and advises the president, provost, and senior Institute leadership on matters related to academic planning and is responsible for ensuring the effectiveness of Georgia Tech’s academic programs through quality assessment and review processes.