That post about writing motorcycle scenes I’ve been meaning to write


Riding a bike is one of those things that’s a very physical experience, so if you haven’t ridden, then there’s a lot you will naturally not be aware of.  I love motorcycle scenes in stories, but over the years I’ve noticed that scenes written by non-riders almost always make the same mistakes.  They’re ubiquitous in fact, to the point that if you haven’t been there to learn the contrary yourself, it’s natural to assume that’s how it actually works.

The first thing to know about motorcycles is that when driving, the motorcycle performs as an extension of you.  It’s almost cybernetic, the way your mass and balance fuse with the machine’s, the way it transmutes your sense of your surroundings and the surface you’re driving on, and the sense of the bike itself and how it’s performing.

Most notably, the driver’s center of gravity becomes the central steering mechanism.  At speeds faster than around 10 mph, the driver steers primarily through shifting their center of balance.  If you want to turn left, you lean your body left.  You’re actually tilting yourself and the motorcycle to take curves and corners.

When carrying a passenger, then, the passenger needs to shift their center of gravity along with the driver’s.  It’s like taking the ‘follower’ position in partner dancing.  You lean WITH them; not less, because then your weight counters theirs and they end up not turning (which can be highly bad if, say, the road does not go that way), and not more, because then the bike could tip right over.

Being a good passenger on a bike is not a huge learning curve for most people, but there is a learning curve.  And some people have more of a knack for it than others.  Some people are natural back-seat drivers, for whatever reason overly pushy, eager, demanding, or determined that they know better than you, and have a habit of making it hard on the driver.  I’ve had people tell me they hate riding pillion even if they’re good at it, because they don’t like how out-of-control it feels.  I detest it myself, in fact; I’d far rather be driving, and it’s a constant struggle for me to just follow along and behave myself.

This means, though, that carrying a passenger who weighs significantly more than you can be a tricky business.  I weigh about 110, and when carrying a rider weighing significantly more than that, it’s awfully easy to crash if the passenger tries to back-seat steer.  (A way to mitigate this, especially for new passengers, is to simply take 15 minutes or so to bump around quiet local roads at low speeds so that the driver and passenger can familiarize themselves a bit with minimal risk to themselves.)

Now, undoubtedly the #1 most-committed mistake I see from almost everybody who writes about motorcycles (and for that matter, a lot of unsuspecting new passengers try it in real life) is the ‘wrapping arms around the driver’s waist’ business.  It’s so common that this line is practically required by law when somebody’s writing a motorcycle scene, but seriously:  DON’T DO THAT.  <–The all caps there is not for shaming; it’s for emphasizing the safety issues.  It’s not only uncomfortable for the driver, it’s potentially dangerous.  It makes it hard to steer, hard to breathe comfortably, and easy to get jerked off balance and into a crash.

In a similar vein, holding onto the driver via grabbing their clothing is ill-advised.  This can lead to getting jerked off balance, having seams dig in painfully, and being choked by fabric.

What to do instead:  The rider sitting pillion should brace their hands on either side of the driver’s waist.  

I know, if you’re in it for the sexual tension, this sounds less sexy, but I’m here to tell you that’s a filthy lie.  A passenger who’s sitting properly is basically molded onto the driver’s back.  Riding with/being a passenger on a bike is a startlingly intimate experience.  There’s a lot of trust and teamwork involved, which takes place at a kinesthetic level.  It feels a lot like dancing, as I said before, or maybe partnered sports, where the collaboration is happening at a physical, bone-deep level that often skips right past the conscious intellect.

Now, sometimes (you may’ve seen this on the road) you’ll have passengers who prefer to hang onto a part of the bike–bits of the frame, maybe, or a ‘sissy bar’/seat back sticking up from the back.  It’s not uncommon, but it’s a bad habit because the passenger is never quite as in-tune with the driver this way, and if something happens–a tire slips in a puddle, for example–their weight moving in the wrong direction can end up jerking the bike out of the driver’s control.

Another thing I see a lot of writers do in stories that doesn’t work in real life:  unfortunately, helmets are NOT easily swappable.  They’re designed to clasp the head; a well-fitted helmet should not move on your head at all, even if you shake your head hard (though it also shouldn’t be tight enough to exert uncomfortable pressure).  A helmet that fits loosely is useless at best and dangerous at worst.  One that’s too tight is either painful or doesn’t go on at all.  It doesn’t take much difference in the size of two people’s heads for one person’s helmet to not fit the other person properly.  (And even if they’re the same size, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be comfortable for more than short-term wear, but hey.)

Also, the stupid things are ridiculously expensive–especially the full-face models–so most bikers aren’t lucky enough to have a bunch of extras just laying around.

Another tip, both for writing and riding: riding pillion on a sports bike (those sleek ones where the driver’s crouched and leaning forward like a race jockey) is a miserable freaking experience.  On a lot of models, you’re perched up there on something that barely counts as a seat and leaves you constantly feeling like you’re about to slide off the back; your legs are pushed up into a crouch; you’re hunched like a monkey over the driver; and possibly you’ve got a scalding-hot muffler pressed up against your calf.  

(Pro tip: if anybody ever invites you for a ride on their bike and you’re wearing shorts, pay attention to where the muffler’s located in relation to the foot pegs.)

Now, what is it about motorcycles that makes some of us bikers go into a lathered-up frenzy at the idea of riding?  It’s because it FEELS SO DAMN ALIVE.

Look.  It’s like…life these days is, well, canned.  We spend a lot of our time in pods–houses, cars, subway trains–breathing tinned air, walking around on pavement or carpet…  But when I’m on a bike, it’s me and a 360 degree panorama of the world, and there’s nothing between me and it.  Some people get off on the risk of that, but for me it’s a matter of immersion.  When I ride, I can feel the cool humid air rolling down from under a forested hillside.  I can smell the road dust, the oil, the exhaust, the herby scent of weeds and wildflowers on the roadside, the river I’m driving near, the shady scent of a forest, the roadside fruit stand…and I’m not talking in that wafty, broken-up way you get if you roll the car doors down.  It’s like driving into a wall of scent, crashing through one bubble after another of temperature changes and smells and sounds and sights, and I have this bike underneath me that’s rumbling and vibrating and moving like it’s part of me, and it’s just the most powerful sense I’ve ever had of being in charge of my own life and not hiding from the world.  I can see it, and it can see me, and yeah, that’s a bit dangerous, but it’s also real.

God, that last paragraph particularly gets to me, as someone with an [airborne environmental sensitivity NOS that is apparently not technically an allergy] [link].

I fucking *flinched* at the description of the scents of the outdoors, because to me those scents have come to mean “your mask seal has failed and you’re gonna be paying for it later”. I miss outdoor scents, but I’ve also grown to fear them.

That paragraph is even better at expressing the intertwining of realness and danger than OP intended.


#interesting #the more you know #motorcycles #reply via reblog #tangents #allergies #(haven’t found a better tag yet)


Look I DON’T CARE if I won’t haVE TIme FoR reading I WILL BRING MY BOOK ANYWAY cause having a book with you when you go somewhere is such a good feeling, OKAY?


#yes this #I bring paper books a lot less often than I used to #(I’m more strongly germophobic now that I work at an outside-the-home non-freelance customer-facing job) #(there are never times anymore where I can just take a week off from my life with no knock-on effects) #(if I get sick every possible response involves letting a bunch of people down) #(including my future selves who needed those wages for food and shelter and stuff) #((yes of course I take the stay-home response)) #((I am neither amoral enough nor desperate enough to sink to such levels of evil)) #((and my boss gives out unpaid leave very freely as long as you tell him in advance or have a decent reason why you couldn’t have known)) #anyway my point was that paper books are kind of a pain to disinfect #and if you have a dedicated Outside Book you won’t make much progress in it because yeah there often *isn’t* time for reading #what I do have is a vast and ever-expanding archive stored on my smartphone #much of it in the form of text #and quite a bit of that in the form of ebooks #I agree that it’s not *quite* the same visceral feeling as clutching a chunk of paper to you #but I find it does manage to capture *most* of the comforting emotions #tag rambles #in which Brin has a job #Brin owns *two* 2010’s computers now #tangents #I guess I’m in a tag-rambly mood today



Starting on my final issue for work. Stay tuned for amusing fury.

I was originally planning on not rewriting *any* of the build infrastructure, but it was *so* bad that it was genuinely more efficient to rewrite it instead of hacking what I needed together.

I have no idea how my co-workers tolerated this for literally years.

Remember kids: once you’ve run it twice it’s time to automate running it.

Good advice that I’ve been trying to keep in mind more often.

(I’ve made more habit-cultivation progress for the somewhat-related guideline of “once you’ve accessed a piece of cloud-based information twice, it’s time to make a local copy of it.”)

^ Today in “old posts that I keep thinking about”, though this one is rather less old than the previous.

This time, the post is brought to you by learning how to convert online MediaWiki-based wikis into sets of linked HTML files. Now I can play Nethack without Internet access and still look things up on the Nethack wiki!

Next I’m going to research cron tasks some more and see if I can figure out how to meta-automate the automated wiki archiver: make it take a fresh copy once a month, zip it, and leave the zip in the appropriate folder. I’m guessing that’s probably a thing I can do with only slightly more Linux know-how than I currently have. Time to go acquire the slightly-more.

(I probably sound like a total noob, but I’m a total noob with a local copy of the Nethack wiki.)


#(also the Crawl wiki while I was at it) #I probably need some kind of prepping tag #it keeps coming up in ways that don’t *quite* fit into the memory or phone or finance tags #reply via reblog #(more or less) #Nethack #(the following category tag was added retroactively:) #101 Uses for Infrastructureless Computers

another-normal-anomaly asked: 1: What is the best and worst purchases you’ve made? And 3: What is the craziest thing one of your teachers has done?



1: What is the best and worst purchases you’ve made?

Already answered, but I’ll add that deciding that whenever I think of something it would be useful to have I will just buy a bunch of it on Amazon has been an incredibly good decision that hasn’t cost me much money. Strongly recommend to anyone with an income, moderately recommend to anyone with good runway / expectation of an income.

Some example purchases: a ton of zip ties, a set of screwdrivers, a set of small plastic drawers to keep things organized, a bunch of power strips, various cleaning supplies that I needed at least once, a large pack of pencils and pens.

3: What is the craziest thing one of your teachers has done?

Asked me, and I fucking quote: “But what about the possibility of a collection consciousness”.

Fuck you and your shitty off-brand new age continentalism.

Maybe they just wanted to talk about the Borg :(

In the Voyager episode “Drone”, the Borg (or rather, disconnected Borg nanoprobes acting autonomously, but presumably with standing orders from the Collective) create a drone using a genetic sample and whatever tech they could scrounge up and convert into implants and a gestation vat. The being comes into existence already Borg-ified (still without a live connection to the Collective, but with a homing beacon).

I think this indicates that the Borg *can* have kids if pressed, though prefer to reproduce via assimilation.

(yeah, the kid was made with heavy technological assistance, but they’re *Borg*, they do *everything* with heavy technological assistance, so I don’t think that stops it from counting)


#Star Trek #Voyager #reply via reblog #tangents

{{next post in sequence}}

Anonymous asked: What do you think of Christians adopting Jewish practices like Passover and Hanuka because they are seen as less pagan? Does this appropriation bother you?


Asking a non-religious Reconstructionist Jew about appropriating Hanukkah is kind of like asking Elizabeth Warren whether it’s okay to wear an Indian headdress.

There’s probably an official halakhic opinion about this, but if celebrating Hanukkah is appropriating Judaism, then having scrupulosity attacks about whether your celebration is wrong and searching for an official halakhic opinion about it is definitely appropriating Judaism, so maybe you shouldn’t check.

My own feeling is that if there’s ever some resurgence of anti-Semitism, I would rather Christians think of Jews as the friendly people with the beautiful rituals who drew them into their circle and invited them to share in their celebrations, than as the scary people who screamed “CULTURAL APPROPRIATION! ONLY WE ARE ALLOWED TO DO THAT!” every time they tried to light a candle.

Also, there are a bunch of prophets who say things like “There shall come a day when all the nations of the world shall bend the knee together in glorious worship of the God of Israel”, and I imagine that upon the fulfillment of the prophecy, one of the Jews turns to all the nations of the world and gives them a lecture about cultural appropriation, and then God facepalms.


#pretty much #@Jews glorifying bloodlines and martyrdom: you’re not just endangering yourselves #you’re endangering *me* #fuck off and stop trying to drag me down with you #(the defanged version of Hanukkah is all well and good) #(I approve of candles and singing and gifts and I do these things myself) #(I do *not* celebrate a man who murdered someone for doing exactly what I would have done in their place) #(I will worship Zeus if I deem it necessary and you have no fucking right to stop me) #rants #tangents? #Judaism #antisemitism #raw nerves



Whenever I post something with p values, tumblr deletes the part after the less than sign. This is very frustrating!

I had commentary on that article tumblr! And you deleted it! I just got to the point that stopped copying everything before posting it because I trusted you. Arggggh!

Textarea Cache? (That way you never have to decide whether you trust a text field enough to not copy it.) I don’t know if there’s a Chrome equivalent, and unfortunately I’m pretty sure there isn’t an Android Firefox equivalent.


#Textarea Cache saved me this very afternoon #from having to rewrite a complaint I filed with Canadian Blood Services #(they used to test you for anemia as the *first* part of the screening) #(but the higher-up rearranged things and now it’s *last*) #(so I had to wait *40 minutes* to learn my iron hadn’t recovered from my previous donation) #(when previously I would only have wasted 5 minutes) #((it really ought to have recovered by now though)) #((it’s been four months)) #((going to talk to my doctor about iron supplements)) #anyway #Tumblr: a User’s Guide #reply via reblog #tangents



Y’ALL. i need your help with ds9 fic recs that are not spoilery beyond the end of s5! tumblr user @replicarters beloved of this blog is like starving and we need to help her. she especially wants kira fic and kira/dax (or kira & dax) fic and fic about dax and sisko. probably also just dax fic in general. 

i have already recommended to her @singlecrow‘s ‘malice aforethought’ one of the best ds9 stories of all time, @starstarship‘s brilliant series ‘not for money and not for food’ among others, and recommend them to you also

help us out!

I can mostly only recommend shortish fic but here are a few ideas off the top of my head:

Old Habits by @mylittleredgirl, a cute first-season Dax and Sisko story

Confident Sutures by pipistrelle, missing scenes from Invasive Procedures

Trompe L’oeil by @brinnanza, Kira/Dax loveliness set during The Way of the Warrior

The Ache in Every Song by Thistlerose – more nice early Kira/Dax

What You Will Know by @little-brisk – delicious Kira/Dax set early in canon

Rebuilding by @eponymous-rose – sweet Kira/Dax earlyish in canon

I have nothing to say regarding the actual topic, only this: what is it with people named Brin (or spelling variations thereupon) and terrible name puns? Other Brins I have encountered include “brinconvenient” and “Brynncognito”. I don’t have a pun in my username, but my blog title is “Brinens and Things”.


#Star Trek #DS9 #recs #names #tangents #reply via reblog #puns




Here’s the thing about Halloween: all year long if you live in America you’re under a steady assault by this right-wing traditional faux-wholesome pseudo-Christian nuclear patriot family atmosphere, and then all the sudden as the weather cools and the days shorten the country loses its marbles decking everything out in bloody corpses, demon faces, witchcraft and giant rubber bugs. Half the country thinks they’re the Addams Family for 1-3 months while a small chunk of weiners get angry that it’s “pagan” or something.

I don’t know if anyone in any other cultural environment can really understand how that feels. It’s the antithesis of the “love jesus and eagles or GIT OUT” under(over)tone American culture is usually about.

And even though it generates billions of dollars, there’s no pressure, shaming or guilting to spend money on it like there is for certain other holidays. We spend that much on Halloween just because it’s fun and we want to, rather than some unspoken (usually unspoken) rule that you must buy extravagant gifts or you’re a heathen scrooge and you don’t love your family.

and it’s when everything is themed with black and it’s totally acceptable 

This is actually one of the original purposes of Halloween.

Halloween, like Mardi Gras, descends from the inversion festival. Inversion festivals were a necessary part of most highly regimented and class-divided ancient cultures, such as Rome. You spent all year keeping rigidly to your class and policing others to do the same, living a life of very public behaviors, worshipping very specifically and obeying societal laws you may not agree with and which may not be to your benefit.

But ah, then the festival time came. The rules were thrown out. Sometimes the classes were literally inverted and the nobility were forced to serve. Nothing was taboo. The macabre, the ugly, the things that violated all laws of polite society were glorified. For a period of time – often longer in proportion to how regimented your society was – you were free to do and be exactly what you wanted. You could wear a costume. You could hide from the world behind a mask. You could make all the noise you wanted and nobody would stop you because it was driving out the evil in the community (the evil often being the stress of living in a very outward-facing, regimented society). 

And America, whatever anyone says, is an incredibly regimented and class-oriented society. So our lead-in to Halloween is two months long. 

Halloween is one of America’s only true inversion festivals. Christmas has terribly rigid expectations and heaps of stress, Thanksgiving makes you want to kill your whole family, the fourth of July it’s too fuckin’ hot, St. Patrick’s Day is too short and it’s filled with douchebags. Memorial Day is for mourning, Labor Day you’re about to start school again. Mardi Gras is a great, very historic inversion festival, but it’s also fairly localized. Pride comes close, and is a very badly needed form of inversion festival for its participants, but it’s not universal and it also involves aspects of activism and protest which use inversion but are not part of inversion. 

Halloween is it. It’s our national cut-loose party. And that’s not accidental. Halloween has been an inversion festival since before it had that name, since ancient people realized the harvest was over, the dark short days were coming, and everyone was gonna have to spend the next four months indoors trying not to murder one another. 


#Halloween #’whatever anyone says’ #I’ve been increasingly wishing lately that I lived in an explicitly hierarchical society #because as it is I get paranoid and start reading orders into everything #and I’ll never know for sure they weren’t lying when they inevitably insist they didn’t mean those orders #and I’ll never know for sure they weren’t telling the truth #tangents #(I mean don’t get me wrong the post is good too) #(I’m just having Issues about authority) #(and they couldn’t even be *normal* authority issues)



#Y2K #I very vaguely remember Y2K #(I was six) #but the main thing I think when I see this picture is #’there is *absolutely no* ambiguity in that date’ #’I wish *I* had dates with absolutely no ambiguity’ #’I can hardly wait for 2032′ #(‘is it bad that consistent date-writing is one of the things I miss most about America?’) #look dates are very important to me okay #tangents #in which Brin has a food poisoning phobia


Lesson #1755 – Reading.

Thought process:

*reads chalkboards*

What books are in that pile?

Ooh, Jasper Fforde. Which one?

Oh, Shades of Grey. I love Shades of Grey. Nice and worldbuild-y.

Only then did I see the “no, that’s not Fifty Shades of Grey, check the author”. Guess I must not be the intended audience of said fine print.


#tangents #I recommend Shades of Grey #I recommend Jasper Fforde in general actually #I half-suspect even *he* doesn’t catch all the references in his books #but that’s okay