Aristillus

A large crater to dump my thoughts

Op Fietse

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In England they ask: “Is it for charity?”

In Flanders, France, Italy and Spain they say: “What beautiful madness.”

From the 2013 Dunwich Dynamo route instructions.

The Dunwich Dynamo is an overnight bike ride of about 200km from north-east London to the coastal city of Dunwich, in East Anglia. I’d read about it on the web somewhere in February, when I was researching cycling in London. It seemed like a fun thing to waste some energy on, and when July came around I managed to convince two friends and my sister to join me.

We’d left late – my fault, as I had forgotten to prepare my gear –  and arrived for the start in Hackney after a 20km ride that involved crossing central London on a busy Saturday evening. Despite being an hour and a half late, there were fortunately still plenty of cyclists around the pub in the park. The Dynamo Dunwich isn’t organised – it’s just an annual ride from a group of cyclists that got out of hand – but there are some food stands along the route and there are organised buses back to London. We managed to get our hands on some route descriptions, which proved themselves very useful later on.

It was already dark by the time we left, and for the first while we didn’t see any other cyclists. The first bit of the route was as frustrating as the ride to the pub earlier in the evening – an endless stream of cars, and traffic lights every couple of hundred meters. It took an hour or so before we’d left everything you could possibly call London behind, and were out on the dark country roads.

Soon enough we ran into other cyclists, and then more. Before long, we were part of a long snake of endless blinking red and green lights, contracting and expanding as we climbed and descended hill after hill. We had kept it basic – bright front light and decent back light – but some people had gone out of their way with the light shows on their bikes.  The atmosphere was friendly and chatty here, and no longer as hushed as back in the city. Everybody who stopped for a break was asked whether they were okay or needed help by passersby.

After 30 or 40 kilometers we arrived at our first stop: a small village of which I forgot the name, with two pubs packed with cyclists. Not long after that we had our first flat tire, and if that wasn’t bad enough we had to watch all the cyclists we had recently overtaken pass us. After fixing the tire, we paddled on on our own until we hit the first semi-official stop. When we got there it turned out that they had just run out of food and drinks, and the same thing happened at the next stop where somebody was selling hot dogs. As B. was trying to fix the bump in his recently replaced back tire with one of those crappy small bicycle pumps, he accidentally broke the valve and so we had to use our second and last spare tube.

We hit the 85km marker and not soon after, dawn set in. Unfortunately it was kind of drowsy and grim – there were clouds everywhere, and it had started drizzling – so we didn’t actually get to see the sun rise above the horizon. We grabbed breakfast at a truck stop and then continued on. At this point we also started getting cross traffic – some cyclists apparently were tired of the Dunwich beach already and had decided to paddle back to London.

At the next stop we were quick enough to grab the last cups of tea,. The last 20 miles were fairly uneventful. We got to the beach some time around eleven, much later than we had originally estimated. We had a quick glance at the sea, bought an ice cream and then hopped on the bus back to Londinum.

It was a great night, although it seems more like a dream than a memory now, because of my lack of sleep. It had a special kind of atmosphere. I’ll certainly do it again next year, and perhaps I’ll ride back as well.

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Written by aristillus

July 26, 2013 at 10:40

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BigDating

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I wonder how long it will take before somebody decides to simplify online dating by integrating 23andme and Facebook into OkCupid. It would make things so much easier, and so, so much creepier.

Written by aristillus

July 18, 2013 at 23:43

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Welcome to the panopticon

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None of the recent revelations are a big surprise: we’ve been well on our way to a dystopian panopticon for a while. It’s disappointing to hear that there was no significant change in policy after Obama took over office. It’s a bit corny at this point, but “Just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not watching you” is as apt as it has ever been.

Some interesting links:

Written by aristillus

June 18, 2013 at 23:18

Why Copyright Law Is In Dire Need of Reform, Exhibit 431245

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Another example of how today’s copyright law sucks. The flying lawnmower video no longer has a sound track. It’ s just not the same without Cotton Eye Joe in the background.

Assuming it has any business existing at all, copyright law should be fueling the creation of new material – not stopping or preventing it.

Written by aristillus

June 6, 2013 at 00:18

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King Wim-Lex

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As an expat I have only casually followed the news of the ascension of King Willem-Alexander in the homelands. I assume it’s been a proper party and a slightly more-special-than-usual Queens/Kings day over there, orange-themed as always and lubricated with booze.

It’s been surprising how much attention there has been for the change of regent in the Netherlands here in the UK. I thought it was just the Dutch media who would publish an article every time one of the royals in our big neighbour farts. I feel proud – in an awkward sort of way – to see that the Dutch royals have their personal lives scrutinized just as much in the UK.

The coverage was fairly predictable. There was the rehashing of the background of the Oranges (Wim-Lex once had the nickname “Prins Pils”, etc) and then the discussion about how all this compares to the British crown (when will dear Liz step down?). The only somewhat interesting topic was the whole “koningslied” debacle.  E.g. the coverage on Have I Got News For You: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICOo4SC-gbM

Written by aristillus

May 4, 2013 at 23:21

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Reading Update

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One Bloody Thing After Another by Joey Comeau

Picking a book merely based on the back cover blurb doesn’t always work out. It did for me in this case. One Bloody Thing After Another is as funny, weird and charming as it promised it would be. For a horror book, the characters are surprisingly winsome.

This is one of the best books I have read so far this year.

Why I Write by George Orwell

One in three books I read these days is written by Orwell. This is another collection of essays (Why I Write, The Lion and the Unicorn, A Hanging, Politics and the English Language), which overlaps with some of the other collections of essays I’ve read earlier. Why I Write is mildly interesting. The essay on socialism is longwinding and outdated. Politics and the English Language is good and still relevant.

Lamb by Christopher Moore

The first pages of this book express the hope that the reader find whatever they are looking for: that they will be offended, laugh or have their beliefs confirmed or challenged. I wasn’t specifically looking for anything, and I was not in the slightest offended (and I have a hard time imagining that any sane person would be), nor in any way enlightened. As for laughs, there were some pretty funny moments but overall the story was disappointing. If you’re looking for a funny and clever take on the down-to-earth life of a possible messiah in Judea during the reign of Augustus, watch Monty Python’s Life of Brian instead.

Written by aristillus

May 1, 2013 at 00:25

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Speed King

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I have written before that I am not the worlds’ biggest fan of US cities. There are but a few exceptions to the rule, and I recently discovered another one.

Most metropolitan areas in America seem to be spread out across huge areas of land – without a real city center – and they are impossible to navigate by foot or by public transport. There are a few exceptions. New York was fun, but expensive and on the busy side. I love San Francisco and Seattle, and I could see myself living in either if they weren’t on the other side of the globe.

So my expectations for New Orleans were pretty low. Not having read up on its history like the good ignorant tourist I am I was expecting another clunky high concrete-to-services-ratio kind of town, perhaps with a little relief in the form of an overly polished mall. Not so.

New Orleans is a greasy, dirty kind of city – in a good way. It’s old, and lived. It’s got history and atmosphere. There’s jazz on every corner, and lots of dive bars and strip clubs that stay open all night. Bourbon Street is a bit too touristy for my taste, but there are many other interesting streets nearby. We spent most of our free days walking alongside the river delta and about the city streets. I found a couple of nice bookstores – proper bookstores with barely any light, a handwritten register, wobbly stacks of books and barely any room to move. Being the addict I am, I bought more books than I will be able to read in the next 6 months. In the evenings, we hung out in the dive bars and absynthe houses, we drunk beer and other crazy stuff, and listened to jazz and fusion.

I will definitely return if I get the chance.

Written by aristillus

April 28, 2013 at 20:53

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