A scary new angle on immigration: traffic congestion

On the road, finallyI don't usually read USA Today, but in doing so this morning I saw that there's a perverse new angle that some organizations are taking on the issue of U.S. immigration policy. It was manifested in an advertisement taken out on page 2 of the front section, with a single photo of a long line of traffic at a stop on an interstate highway. The text in the ad basically says that illegal immigrants from Mexico, in their unending contribution to the population here, are causing Americans to have to sit in traffic congestion longer than ever before. The call to action is clear: if you want your freedom to drive wherever you want whenever you want to remain intact, we have to keep those Mexicans out of our country.

Oh my.
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The one where we almost died in a high speed car chase

Just a few minutes before it happened, I had said, "You'd think people would pay better attention to what's going on around them on the road." We were barreling west on I-70, heading to a wedding in southwest Indiana, and I'd just watched the second police car in a row with its lights and sirens at full blast trying to get by a driver ahead of us who wasn't checking their rearview mirror enough. We didn't know what was up ahead, but I didn't have a good feeling about it. Perhaps in my own nervousness about what was in front of us, I apparently also stopped checking my rearview mirror frequently enough, because the next time I looked at it, there was a third police car right behind us, lights and sirens blaring, trying to get by. Not good.

A few miles up the road, the traffic in the eastbound lanes across the median were going very very slow. And not because of any apparent wreck or other barrier. We were trying to figure that out when I saw more lights up ahead - brake lights, flashing red and blue lights, and glints of sunlight off of surfaces that were moving in directions and patterns that just didn't seem right. A cop cruiser cut dramatically across the median, and then another came back across the other way, also really flooring it. "Uh-oh," I said. The cars ahead of us were coming to a full stop. Then we saw the white van weaving in and out of the traffic ahead, and then it was coming toward us on our side of the road, twisting and turning on and off of the pavement and grass.
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An exchange on the street about biking Uptown

You may know about the ongoing conversation about safe bike riding in Uptown Richmond (the business district). At the end of last year, there was a nice improvement when signs that appeared to prohibit biking on that stretch of Main Street came down. I had an interesting related exchange today while walking on the sidewalk. A young man on a bike was riding on the sidewalk, headphones on, coming toward me quickly, and I saw him at the last minute with barely enough time to jump out of the way:
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I'm Funding Indiana "In God We Trust" License Plates

I remember going to renew my car registration at the Indiana BMV several years ago, and in a moment of vanity, asking about getting one of those personalized license plates. I was thinking maybe "SUMSALT" or "WEBPRO" or "TALLGY" or the like. But when they said it would be at least an extra $40 because of the costs of producing the special plates, I decided this was an area of my life where I was perfectly fine being just another number in the system. I guess I understood that it cost the state extra dollars to produce those plates, I just didn't want to pay for it.

I was surprised and disturbed today to learn that there's one kind of custom/special license plate you can get in Indiana at no extra charge.

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When people driving cars kill people riding bikes

IMG_0031.JPGWhile I was in Chicago this past week for the professional technical conference some of us from Summersault were attending, we were walking to dinner one night and witnessed the driver of an SUV come within inches of hitting a cyclist. Despite the fact that the driver was rushing to turn through a yellow light, in typical big-city style, the driver of the SUV had the additional gall to yell at the cyclist to look out where she was going and then speed off. The biker was shaken up a bit but carried on fine, and we went on our way.

Not the most positive exchange, but at least the cyclist wasn't actually hit and hurt or killed. Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of the death of Earlham graduate Jessica Bullen after being struck by a driver in Madison, Wisconsin - her story and memorial fund are described here. Even more sadly, Jessica was a strong advocate (in a town that I consider quite biker-friendly already) for cyclists and worked to raise awareness for motorists that inattentive driving could result in a preventable injury or death. My life has been impacted in other ways by similar deaths - a good friend of my family started Fernside, a now internationally known center for grieving children, after her son was killed on his bike as a result of being struck by a car.
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Gas prices and New Minds

IMG_0061.JPGWhen gas prices go up, people tend to complain that something needs to be done about the problem. Many demand action from the local or federal government, gas companies, or fellow citizens. Like Jason Sparks, whose letter in the Pal-Item yesterday read, "Why is the government not stepping in?...How are we supposed to pay the bills?...Let's shut down the country, then maybe someone would step in. We cannot afford this." Or Brad Hall, who was quoted in an article today asking, "What's going to be next?...How're people going to survive and get around?"

That's the question, indeed.
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Legal Morbid Buckeyes

I went to the Ohio BMV yesterday to get my Indiana driver's license converted to an Ohio driver's license. It went fine, but the "written" test that I had to take was a little bit different than what I remembered from my first time around. For one, the test is now computerized, which, given that I sit in front of a computer for far too many of my waking hours, meant that I picked up on the "subtleties of the interface" quickly.

But the other thing I noticed was how obsessed the test creators seemed to be with death on the roadways. Example: one question displayed a yellow, diamond-shaped sign with a "T" in it. The multiple choice answers were all fairly reasonable except for (D), which said "this sign means that someone was killed by a car at that spot in the road." Ahhh!! Just a few questions later, they displayed another yellow, diamond-shaped sign with a pedestrian crossing symbol on it. Answer (C): "This sign means that someone was killed by a car while crossing the street here." AHHHH! Scary.

Anyway, I passed with a 93 % and got my license. Phew. It makes me wonder if I would have done better on all of those high school Latin tests if they'd been computerized. (And if at least one of the answers could always be eliminated for ludicrous morbidity.) Sona si Latine loqueris.