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Some thoughts on the subject of driving to and from work each day.


Videogame Epiphany

I don't play videogames, but I have discovered for myself the meatspace equivalent: driving in commuter traffic.

It is primarily a game of subtle optimization, measured along two distinct vectors -- the honing of navigational heuristics and the conservation of fuel. The first is an exercise in observation, in which zones of known traffic compression are memorized and preemptively avoided. The second is an exercise in efficient use of the engine, scored numerically by the real-time mileage readout in my dash display.

High scores are likewise determined by a dual metric. Navigational heuristics are scored in terms of the total minutes of travel from point to point, and fuel conservation is scored in terms of affecting the number for the overall fuel efficiency reported by the car's computer.

Since actively playing I have managed to shave an average of ten minutes from my journey, and saved an average of 0.1 litres of gas per 100 kilometres driven (equivalent to about 14 cents per day).

So, I have a first person perspective into a world of impossible speed, little numbers at the bottom of my view that reflect my performance, and if I screw up I die.

"Ah-ha!" I said to myself, "so this is why people play videogames."


Coruscant on Earth

It is clear to me that Ben Burtt drives the California highways on his way to Pixar and Lucasfilm, because the sounds generated by the streams of flying traffic on Coruscant are such obvious cousins to the Dopplered moans, swooshes and chortles of actual freeway travel.

I drive with the window open, even when it's brisk outside. I would rather wear a scarf than stay cooped up. I like the sounds and the fresh wind. Now I have a sunroof so I open that, too.

Three quarters of the way through my journey the countryside becomes fractures and falls away, replaced by warehouses and outlet stores and cheap office space for startups with stupid names with "tek" or "dyna" or "e-" in them. After that the highway splits into several fatter ropes, and we swoop beneath bridges and over coverleafs.

The horizon turns ochre, then grey.

And we are swept into the city, the gateway flanked by billowing white clouds of industrial effluvia, the sky criss-crossed by jetplanes, their high-pitched whines rising over traffic's din as their soft shadows lick across the lanes.

Coruscant is one of the few images that created an impression on me from George Lucas' oft maligned fantasy prequels, and I think it spoke to me through the same channels that would speak to anyone with an intimate relationship with one of the world's megalopolises. When I feel the city wash up around me and over me as it does when I enter in the currents of a commuter morning, I know Coruscant's relevance. The city-as-everything is a welcomed nostalgic terror because it gives us some ownership through artistic appreciation over the vast proportions and frenetic energy megalopolises exude.

Sunrise through the smog is beautiful.

A cargo jet drops out of the sky at such a rate that it is hard to believe it is under control. Its silver belly flashes orange morning sunlight through my windshield, winking on the glass. Tons of steel and plastic and goods touch down with a bark of smoke and coast down the runway. In the sky intersecting con-trails fade as a backdrop to the slow, throaty rise of a blue and white 747.

At this stage, navigation is a matter of following the current. There are enough of lanes going in each direction that contests for position occur internally to each vector. Those on their way further south jockey in their lanes as my lanes draw away west. Everyone knows where they are going. We hug the corners like speeding ballbearings.

Busy, busy, busy.


An Unfortunate Phenomenon

While I drive I tend to think up inspired stories that I tend to forget when the driving is done.


< Be it known | BBC White season: 'Rivers of Blood' >
Commuter Koans | 21 comments (21 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
Re: Unfortunate stuff by bobdole (4.00 / 1) #1 Fri Apr 14, 2006 at 10:04:33 AM EST
get yourself a personal voice recorders so you can walk around saying "Memo to self: blah blah yatch blah blah".

Might want to remember getting a cane and a monocle at the same time, and one of them pipes like Sherlock Holmes were using.
-- The revolution will not be televised.

Dictaphones Are For Dicks. by CheeseburgerBrown (2.00 / 0) #3 Fri Apr 14, 2006 at 10:24:42 AM EST
"Maybe or not," as my daughter would say.

The problem with dictation is the transcribing. I don't have a secretary. I've tried that experiment before.

Maybe it's time to take another look at the progress of computer-based automatic transcription. What's the state of the art these days?


I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da. We are a simple, grease-loving people who enjoy le weekend de ski.
[ Parent ]
IIRC it's Dragon Naturally Speaking by IBM by georgeha (4.00 / 1) #5 Fri Apr 14, 2006 at 10:29:13 AM EST
good thing Apple released BootCamp so you can run Windoze on that snazzy Mac laptop of yours.


[ Parent ]
I Already Have Virtual PC. by CheeseburgerBrown (2.00 / 0) #6 Fri Apr 14, 2006 at 10:34:27 AM EST
Better, at this junction. No rebooting.

(I know that's the opposite of what I argued on Slashdot, but I was just making trouble.)


I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da. We are a simple, grease-loving people who enjoy le weekend de ski.
[ Parent ]
Transcribing by 606 (2.00 / 0) #17 Mon Apr 17, 2006 at 07:40:14 AM EST
I don't think you'd want to transcribe it verbatim anyway. It's just a memory aid.

I take public transit and carry a black notebook I use to record my crazy ideas. I probably look like a crazy person scribling in this book. I like that.

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imagine dancing banana here

[ Parent ]
Coruscant--pah! by DesiredUsername (4.00 / 2) #2 Fri Apr 14, 2006 at 10:10:48 AM EST
Trantor!

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Now accepting suggestions for a new sigline
You Rock. by CheeseburgerBrown (2.00 / 0) #4 Fri Apr 14, 2006 at 10:25:32 AM EST
How gauche of me to mention Coruscant without referencing the source of Lucas' "idea."

Thank you.


I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da. We are a simple, grease-loving people who enjoy le weekend de ski.
[ Parent ]
I think 'rocking' is the antithesis by DesiredUsername (4.00 / 1) #7 Fri Apr 14, 2006 at 10:35:52 AM EST
of detailed knowledge of science-fictional minutae.

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Now accepting suggestions for a new sigline
[ Parent ]
What Would You Suggest? by CheeseburgerBrown (2.00 / 0) #8 Fri Apr 14, 2006 at 11:01:47 AM EST
You're lame-in-a-fantastic-way?

Seems a bit awkward, really. Especially since the "fantastic" part could easily be interpreted as a tip of the hat to the twenty-seventh series of Doctor Who.


I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da. We are a simple, grease-loving people who enjoy le weekend de ski.
[ Parent ]
Excitement level rising by Vulch (4.00 / 1) #13 Fri Apr 14, 2006 at 01:48:28 PM EST

19.5 hours to the first transmission in series 28. Note for tomorrow: Position sofa appropriately.

[ Parent ]
I Heart BitTorrent. by CheeseburgerBrown (2.00 / 0) #14 Fri Apr 14, 2006 at 02:05:49 PM EST
An affectionate 'NERD!!' would not go amiss (nt) by DesiredUsername (4.00 / 2) #15 Fri Apr 14, 2006 at 02:15:05 PM EST


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Now accepting suggestions for a new sigline
[ Parent ]
driving and video games by alprazolam (4.00 / 1) #9 Fri Apr 14, 2006 at 11:39:45 AM EST
try doing it really, really high while listening to paul van dyke really loudly.

What About Death? by CheeseburgerBrown (2.00 / 0) #10 Fri Apr 14, 2006 at 11:45:34 AM EST
YOU HAVE DIED by debacle (2.00 / 0) #16 Sun Apr 16, 2006 at 10:52:34 AM EST
HIT F11 TO LOAD FROM AUTOSAVE.

IF YOU HAVE TWO FIRLES THOROWNF MONEY ART SUOCIDE GIRLS STRIPPER HPW CAN YPUS :OSE?!?!?!?(elcevisides).

[ Parent ]
heh yes! by 606 (2.00 / 0) #18 Mon Apr 17, 2006 at 07:41:08 AM EST
Although for me it was Above and Beyond.

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imagine dancing banana here
[ Parent ]
one of the reasons by Kellnerin (4.00 / 1) #11 Fri Apr 14, 2006 at 11:55:33 AM EST
I'm glad I don't have a driving commute:
While I drive I tend to think up inspired stories that I tend to forget when the driving is done.

Not that what I think of while commuting is inspired, anyway, but at least it's easier to record passing ideas when I'm not responsible for steering. Even the non-inspired stuff doesn't stick; it took me days of seeing the same thing to remember to write one small scene. I'm jealous of people who can write driving stories.

Do you have a notebook you carry with you? What about jotting down story scraps after you've parked, but before you get out of the car? I've got tons of these little notes that sometimes end up assembled into a fragmented narrative. Some of them don't, however: "ski poles duffel bag" got orphaned when the story that they were attached to went over 600 words. And then there's a single word, "Transparency." Did I write about transparency? I don't think so. What does it mean? I may never know again.

--
"later" meant either "when you walk around the corner" or "oatmeal."

I Jot On Stickies. by CheeseburgerBrown (2.00 / 0) #12 Fri Apr 14, 2006 at 12:05:04 PM EST
And then lose them, or fail to decipher my own handwriting.

I think the answer has to be mental discipline: better mneimonic gimmicks for patterning the words into medium-term memory.


I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da. We are a simple, grease-loving people who enjoy le weekend de ski.
[ Parent ]
stories by iGrrrl (4.00 / 1) #21 Thu Apr 20, 2006 at 07:04:32 AM EST
I take the same attitude toward stories in my head that Mark Knopfler of the Dire Straights takes toward songs:  If it doesn't stick in my head in time to write it down, it wasn't that great to begin with.

"Beautiful wine, talking of scattered everythings"
(and thanks to Scrymarch)

[ Parent ]
video games of driving by 606 (4.00 / 1) #19 Mon Apr 17, 2006 at 07:43:35 AM EST
I spent 45 minutes yesterday driving some of the stretch between Edmonton and Calgary in a beat up red van with twitchy steering, jumpy acceleration, and failing brakes, in packed post-long-weekend traffic going 120 km/h the whole way.

On the one hand that was friggin' cool and made me feel like I was cheating death. On the other hand I think I don't ever want to drive again.

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imagine dancing banana here

Stories by nebbish (2.00 / 0) #20 Tue Apr 18, 2006 at 12:52:23 AM EST
You need a dictaphone! I'm totally serious. I get my ideas from my dreams, but until I started writing them down they just stayed there, where they're no good to anyone.

Also, +1FP, that exciting rush you get driving into the city.

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It's political correctness gone mad!

Commuter Koans | 21 comments (21 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback