Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Cell Phones Don't Kill

It's hard to tell how many auto collisions are caused by drivers who talk -- or, powers forfend, text -- on a cell.

Why? Says WA state patrol: "In a speed or DUI related crash, investigators have physical evidence they can rely on. But a crash caused by cell phone use or texting requires self-reporting by the causing driver. Only in the most serious collisions can troopers get a search warrant to examine someone’s cell phone."

So what do those serious crashes say? The national safety commission says that hospital records indicates that drivers who talk on cell phones -- hand-held or hands-free, folks -- it doesn't matter -- are four times more likely to crash.

And, says the NSC, thousands of deaths annually can be directly linked to cell phone use. That's thousands of people who might be alive otherwise. What if one of them was your mom? Or kid?

I drive a car. I ride a motorbike. A bicycle. I also walk and jog in this fair city. I think I have some perspective.

And I use my cell phone a lot. But not while I'm driving. Lives depend on me knowing exactly where I'm pointing my many tons of deadly steel.

Lives. Depend. On me.

Studies clearly say that driving while using a cell phone is just as unsafe as driving drunk, hands-free or not. You knew that, right?

I'm standing at a city corner, waiting to cross, cars streaming by me ignoring pedestrian right-of-way laws, and as I watch something like one out of every four drivers is on their cell phone.

This is still a $125 ticketable offense.

You probably know that if you're driving drunk and you kill someone, you'll go to jail for many, many years. But did you also know that if you're talking on a cell or texting and you kill someone you'll merely pay a fine for that killing? I think it's about $250.

I'm not sure it ultimately matters what society does to you for killing someone accidentally while driving, because at that point your life is a massive mess -- because you've killed a human being. You've taken a life, without cause, without intent. It changes you. You can never, ever undo it.

So tell me: what is so essential that it needs talking about while in a moving vehicle on city streets? What phone conversation is so critical that it can't wait? Why not pull over?

What could possibly matter more than not accidentally hitting a fellow human?

Cell phones don't kill people. People who are foolishly, stupidly, and lamentably distracted by social media kill people.

If you drive, hear my plea: hang up, pay attention. Lives depend on you.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Playing with the Dark Side

What the heck, I thought, I'll just start reviewing dark chocolate. I mean, come on, I've been eating it for decades, I'm opinionated and snotty, and I write pretty good.

The Chocolate Atlas has just put up -- may I say "published"? -- the third of my reviews. So if you're in my area and you have opinions (and dark chocolates), send 'em my way.

In my first article, I talked a bit about two Trader Joe's dark offerings. There's more of that, of course. In the second, I zeroed in on something really excellent: Taza Chocolates. Then I visited Chocolopolis and learned about art.

Me and chocolate. We got a thing goin' on.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Ah, Life. Ah, Tango.

I'm at the dance studio coaching a woman who has only had a couple of classes. She's a bit wide-eyed at the whole Argentine tango, which is something I see fairly often, given how -- well, much of a muchness tango can be. She looks at my feet, notices that I'm wearing jazz slippers -- soft shoes with a very flat, barely there heel on them -- and she says, "oh, those must give you better balance, right?"

I've been dancing this dance for a years and her question catches me in a web of considerations. It's a bit esoteric, how dance shoes work in tango. On top of that it's individual, since those of us who dance in heels (women, yeah, mostly) have very different feet and very different movement patterns.

I asked similar questions early on, about flats, stiletto heels, thick heels, high and low high heels. I'd get a different answer every time, and my experience almost inevitably contradicted them all. Wrong for me maybe or wrong for where I was at then.

What no one told me is that what you need in a dance shoe changes as your skill and balance changes, as your style matures, and as your partners improve. Also, it depends on the condition of your feet. I never knew feet could be buff.

It depends how the particular shoe fits your particular foot (not feet, because each foot is different); the more control you have, the less wiggle room (literally) you want in the fit. But that's calculated after your feet have swollen from dancing, not before.

This is all too much to explain to someone who's had three lessons.

By now my silence has gone on a handful of seconds. She says "well, of course it's easier!" and laughs at herself, as if to admit her question's answer is obvious and simple.

But it isn't. I say so.

I explain that as she gets better, as she wants more smoothness and control in turns on the ball of her foot, thinner heels provide an advantage, because you've got less heel to get off of to make the turn. That for linear movements, the thicker and lower heel might be more stable, but for circular movements, it's the thinner heel that -- ironically -- gives you the better stability in motion.

Kinda like life, you know. We gather things to ourselves -- people, places, beliefs -- that have low, thick heels, to give us stability in our linear movements. And then we realize we want to do turns, we want to try something new, maybe wacky, with a whole different perspective. Suddenly the very things that kept us stable through all those linear years and linear concepts make it hard for us to turn gracefully. Hard to do new things.

Ah, life. Ah, tango.