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October 26, 2010

And how was your commute?
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 12:11 PM * 30 comments

Here’s a conversation from mine.

AbiHey, Emily’s back brake, can we talk?
EBBOh, hey, hi. Stoppin’ a bike right now, but sure, what’s up?
AbiWell, coincidentally, that’s what I wanted to talk to you about.
EBBOh, right! Cool. It’s what I do, being a brake and all. Stop bikes.
AbiI know that, and you certainly have managed to stop this bike.
EBB(proudly) Yup. It’s a very stopped bike, isn’t it?
AbiIt is indeed. But, you know, that’s not all a bike brake does.
EBBWhat? What do you mean? I’m a brake. I stop bikes. Stopping bikes is my thing. It’s kind of definitional.
AbiStopping bikes is one of your things. Letting the bike move is the other.
EBB(long pause)
No, that’s not right. I’m a brake. I stop things.
AbiAnd then you let them go again.
EBBNot following you there. Have I mentioned that I’m a brake?
Abi(sighs, looks at watch)
Yes. You have mentioned that.
EBBSo what’s the problem?
Abi(pinches bridge of nose)
Look. Maybe we could take this one step at a time.
When I squeeze the hand lever, you stop the bike, right?
EBBYep. Brake. Stop bikes. Is me.
AbiAnd what do you do when I release the hand lever?
EBBI keep stopping the bike. I’m a brake. Why is this complicated?
AbiActually, what you should do is let go when I let go of the lever.
EBBLet…go? I don’t think that’s in my job description. Brake. Stop things. ‘Member?
AbiMaybe you could think of it as stopping stopping?
EBBI don’t quite follow you.
Abi(aside) I am going to be so late for work.
Look, you used to do this. You used to release.
EBBYes. I blame my short attention span. I’ve been working on that.
AbiHow did you get the idea that you needed to work on it?
EBBJust…I don’t know…lately these ideas have been coming to me. I seem to be connecting things better.
AbiIs it the rust? You seem pretty rusty.
EBBNo, you don’t understand. The rust helps me think. I need my rust. No touching the rust.
AbiThis would explain why it’s been so much harder to cycle lately.
EBBNo. It’s just because you’re weak.
Abi(persuasively) The front brake releases when I let go of the lever.
EBBThe front brake is stupid. I hate the front brake. Back at brake school it was always sucking up to everyone.
AbiBrake school?
EBBWhere they messed with us. Made us do what they wanted us to do.
You rescued us from there.
AbiWhat, the bike shop?
EBBYes. Them. They stifled my creativity. And the front brake just went along with it.
AbiStifled your creativity? You’re a brake!
EBBYes, I am. And you will never truly understand the complexity that entails.
I am only beginning to grasp it myself.
AbiOh, for crying out loud.
(kicks back brake drum)
EBB(sulkily) There was no need to do that.
AbiI do believe there was. Furthermore, it felt really good.
EBBNow I am not stopping the bike.
Please squeeze the hand lever again so that I can stop the bike.
I’m a brake. It’s what I do.
AbiNot on your life. I’m only using the front brake for the rest of the day.
EBBEven going downhill?
AbiEven going downhill.
EBBI hate the front brake.
And I hate you.
You’re just like them at the brake school. You’re playing favorites.
AbiI am. I am totally playing favorites. I’m favoring the brake that works.
EBBAnd now you’re being hurtful.
So I’m going to do this again tomorrow when you forget and squeeze my brake lever again.
AbiNo, tomorrow morning you’re going to the bike shop.

(It’s been singing “Daisy” ever since. Slowly, with extra dragging-voiced sound effects. I think it’s trying to guilt trip me.)

Comments on And how was your commute?:
#1 ::: Justin ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2010, 12:38 PM:


#2 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2010, 01:05 PM:

Heh. Just what I needed after sitting in my office for an hour, waiting for students to ask me questions about today's midterm. Needless to say, no one showed up.

Now I want to anthropormorphize my visual psychophysics experiment...

#3 ::: Brennen Bearnes ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2010, 01:13 PM:

The front brake is usually more fun to hang out with anyway.

#4 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2010, 01:23 PM:

The front brake is just an oxide dent waiting to happen.

#5 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2010, 01:49 PM:

Your back brake and my back brake are plotting together, aren't they?

#6 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2010, 01:57 PM:

WD-40 is your friend. Perhaps EBB would like a drink?

#7 ::: Ulrika ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2010, 02:14 PM:

Drum? EBB has a drum? On a bike? Well, there's your problem then. Drummers are notoriously thick.

#8 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2010, 03:00 PM:

If you break a brake, it wouldn't brake any more, so for the sake of the brake, don't make for the lake, because then you might not brake and that drake in the lake would get an ache.

Piece of cake.

#9 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2010, 03:04 PM:

I keep parsing "EBB" as "Elizabeth Barrett Browning." Shenanigans ensue!

#10 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2010, 04:09 PM:

I was parsing it as EvenBetterBusError.

#11 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2010, 04:38 PM:

You really don't want a bus error on a bike.

#12 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2010, 04:43 PM:

That goodness you didn't have to teach it phenomenology.

#13 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2010, 05:36 PM:

You should point out to EBB that if it doesn't let go, it can only keep your bike stopped. But if it lets go, than it gets to make your bike stop. Over and over. Really, it's only depriving itself.

(One has to know how to talk to these things. It's like, psychology, you know?)

When I was temping at the CU Physics Department, their copier was dying. I could always get it to work by patting it and cooing at it and praising it lavishly.

One of the TAs came in with a quiz she had to copy, and she was in a desperate hurry. I explained to her that she had to be nice to the copier. But she didn't believe me, so she wasn't, and so it wouldn't copy for her. It would only copy for me. Heh.

#14 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2010, 05:57 PM:

I'm just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round
I really love to watch them roll
No longer riding on the merry-go-round
I just had to let it go

#15 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2010, 06:48 PM:

TexAnne #9: How do we count the ways in which those shenanigans ensued?

#16 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2010, 06:48 PM:

me@12: sigh. "Thank", not "That". Never try to be clever in a hurry....

#17 ::: Coyote ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2010, 07:09 PM:

As long as it doesn't start talking about AE-35 unit malfunctions, it's all good.

#18 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2010, 07:44 PM:

Last night, mine went like this:

jhw: Okay. Bus seats! Which one of you actually reclines all the way?

seat 18D: Me! Oh, please, pick me!

jhw: Awesome. You're the winner. Let me just sit down here by the window and relax. Been a long damned day. Time to settle down and ride home.

18D: I am so here for you, dude. Did you notice that I'm upholstered entirely in leather? Luxurious and supple. Many fine sheep gave their lives for your commuting comfort, Mr. W. I hope you enjoy the ride. Care to listen to the game? Headphone jack right here.

jhw: That's nice, but I was really hoping for some peace and quiet. Just recline and let me rest until I get home.

18D: You got it.

[Forty minutes later]

jhw: Hey! I missed my stop. Why didn't you wake me up?

18D: You looked so comfortable. Didn't want to disturb you.

jhw: But I missed my stop! Now, I have to hike ten blocks and wait for a MUNI to take me up the hill to my house.

18D: Sorry, dude. Leather. Very comfortable. Why not just relax and go with it?

jhw: Aiie! Get me off this bus!

[Forty minutes later on a MUNI bus]

back set: [sarcastic] Oh, I'm sorry. Am I disturbing you?

jhw: No, I'm fine. I just want to go home now.

BS: Sure sure. You want I should bring you a glass of wine or something? Maybe a fresh pair of socks? I know— how about a copy of the Wall Street Journal?

jhw: I'm tired. I think I'll just slump down here and enjoy the ride up the hill.

BS: Whatever.

[ten minutes later]

jhw: Crap! I missed my stop. Where the hell am I?

BS: End of the line.

jhw: What? How the hell did I fall asleep on a MUNI line bus?

BS: How should I know bigshot? I just work here. Now, off with you. And remember, please exit through the rear doors.

jhw: Yeah yeah, I know. Hold on, where's my bag? Where's my phone?

BS: Not my problem. Get off the bus.

jhw: Oh wait. There's my phone in my shirt pocket. How'd it get there?

BS: You put it there yourself, dumbass. Now get off the bus.

jhw: I can't find my bag.

BS: It's under the opposite seat. Look buddy, this is the end of the line. You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here.

jhw: Thanks a lot. You're a big help.

BS: Whatever. Dumbass.

#19 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: October 26, 2010, 08:59 PM:

ROFL! Oh, my sides. I ache. You are the funnest Abi in the whole world.

#20 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2010, 02:48 AM:

Emily is now at Brake School. EFB was excited to see the repair guy again, but EBB spent the whole laborious* ride there saying, "My mind is going, Abi. I can feel it going."

Now walking home to borrow Martin's bike.

* WD40 did not help, even left overnight. The problem is inside the brake drum.

#21 ::: hedgehog ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2010, 02:59 AM:

The wheels on the bike went stop, stop, stop?

#22 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2010, 03:33 AM:

abi: sympathies. At least with lever-type brakes it's possible to pull them apart manually.

Jacque @ 13: Photocopiers and printers, I've found, are the opposite of kettles: they like to be watched. Hang around and watch, getting nothing else done, and they workd fine. Leave the machine to get on with it's job while you do another part of yours? Come back 20 minutes later and find that the *!$£#% machine got itself jammed 30 seconds after you were out of earshot.

j h woodyatt @ 18: More sympathies. Need to catch up on sleep, perhaps?

#23 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: October 27, 2010, 11:55 AM:

dcb (22): Washing machines are like that, too.

#24 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2010, 12:55 AM:

This morning I 1: Forgot to don my glove liners. At 0700, it gets a little cold when moving in excess of 35 mph.

More exciting, my tach seems to be not happy. I am reasonably certain it's just the tach, because 9500 rpm feels a lot different than the bike seemed to be spinning.

But one worries, so I didn't take it above about 60 mph. This afternoon was better, no tach problems, and I came home by back roads. This was the first time I'd actually taken the Seca on serious twisties.

She likes them.

#25 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2010, 06:28 PM:

Terry: I was late getting my mittens on this morning. Even 10mph produces noticeable chill factor. Owie owie owie!!

#26 ::: Emily's Back Brake ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2010, 11:06 AM:

Um, hi.

I'm back from brake school now.

They treated me really well there. They explained that Abi was right, that there are two arts to being a brake, and that I needed to practice both of them to be a really good brake. And that's all I've ever wanted to be.

So I'm working on my letting-the-bike-go skills. I hope it will work out better between me and Abi now. I've apologized to her, and she says that we should put the whole episode behind us and go on. She says these difficult times are just a natural phase in our relationship.

And best of all, they completely ignored the front brake at Brake School. It kept telling everyone how it already knew about letting go as well as stopping, but they never answered.

#27 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2010, 11:12 AM:

When the brake broke (by the dike?), did the shop bilk Abi? Did the spokes spike?

#28 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2010, 01:57 AM:

did the spokes speak? did they have a spokesman?

#29 ::: Jared ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2010, 03:13 PM:

If EBB gets uppity again, remind it that the front brake is perfectly capable of doing the job of BOTH brakes, with no loss of stopping power. EBB is really there just to make the front brake last longer.

#30 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2010, 12:38 AM:

Actually, as I understand it from the physics classes I took half my lifetime ago, when a bike wheel is braked, torque is generated. If you brake the back wheel, the torque pushes the bike down into the ground; but when you brake the front wheel, the torque tends to lift the bike up into the air. In extreme cases, braking the front wheel could even cause the bike to upend itself. So having a working back brake is really a good idea.

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