What I Learned in 2021 Week 3

Griffin posing with the tools we used to find our property pins: Surveyor stakes, 100' tape, hammer, surveyor tape, a hand sketch of our property, and a magnetic locator

If you use a magnetic locator to find your property pins in the woods where someone in the past erected barbed wire fence but now it’s mostly buried…you spend a lot of time digging up barbed wire.

Nevertheless, success.

Griffin and I found the really important propert pin (!!!ppf!!!) that will define the edge where we may place a fence.

I’m proud to say that despite our fudging and guesstimating and eyeballing, the pin was 5.2’ from where we placed a stake as our “place to start looking.” pic.twitter.com/ICcxWo22Yk— Goats (@bruhsam) January 16, 2021

Turns out, you can rent survey equipment.

Twenty Thousand Hertz is one of my podcasts. This week I learned again that there are people who experience the world in ways that are very different from me. Synesthesia. I’ve heard discussions of this before, but this one in particular was evocative due to the people on the episode who have synesthesia describing how sounds and other sensations make them feel. Come for the excellent podcast quality, stay for the dude’s description of his Blue Meal.

Lots of Goats this week. We had a herd of Goats clearing off our front hill and they did a great job. They left behind more of the English Ivy runners than I expected, but honestly, I don’t care. The business we got the goats from is Red Wagon Goats.

Goats will EAT YOUR TREES if they’re bored with other foods. They’ve ring-barked a few trees I figured would be fine. Surprise, they’re not fine anymore.

Last week I talked about the book Civil War Atlanta by Robert Scott Davis. I stopped reading it because I found one incredible factual error that puts the rest of the book in serious question. The author said (paraphrasing) in June 1862, an Atlanta-raised unit of 1050 men went to war and by the following September “only 35 remained standing.” I don’t know how much you know about the kinds of casualties that American Civil War units withstood, but that number is pretty high. Laughably high actually, and easily looked up and disproved. So, that book is done for me.

Back to the weekend’s location of our property pins, given that we found a lot of barbed wire along our property line, I went looking to find out what our property used to be, prior to it becoming a residential subdivision. I couldn’t find a lot online about the previous owners of the property. I probably need to go into the Cobb County tax office in person to dig it up. But, just to get a sense of the transition from farm to suburb, I went through the USGS Historical Archive hosted by ArcGIS. All the USGS maps that are in the area you choose back through time. In the image here from 1967, my house is at the red cross-hairs and those purple buildings might be chicken houses. Would explain the barbed-wire on the property line if they had other livestock.

USGS topo from 1967 of my property.
My area (our house is cross-haired) in 1967. Looks like some agricultural buildings just west (probably chicken houses) which would explain the barbed wire fencing we dug up at our property line.

Back to goats: Our goats did NOT want to get back into the trailer. About 2/3 of them docilely did what their handlers wanted. The other 1/3, noped out and started wandering around, eating our juniper, then the stuff that’s poisonous to them. Then we were chasing three of them around the neighborhood. Eventually they all got piled in and loaded out.

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What I learned in 2021 Week 2

Goats silhouetted against the morning sky.

Goat rental is both effective and very entertaining. We’re probably paying a 10-20% premium over what we’d have paid for people to rip out our English ivy, but this is way more entertaining. It’s worth the extra.

Bret Deveraux (A Collection of Unmitigated Pedantry, @bretdeveraux) is a four-square awesome writer and historian. He is one of those people who can take the intricacies of something dry and academic and make it accessible and interesting. I recommend his blog to anyone, but especially anyone interested in military history, A Song of Ice and Fire, Star Wars, gaming, or just interesting writing. (A confession: I did not learn about Dr. Deveraux this week, but he finished up his deconstruction of the Dothraki in ASoiaF this week, so it’s appropriate. He makes book recommendations in his posts that have been extremely helpful. I’ve picked up several great texts including Shattered Sword on his recommendation.)

There is a twitter account dedicated to retweeting people talking about dropping their AirPods into toilets. Because of course there is.

Unsurprisingly, the various Histories of Atlanta [still] gloss over the “…nastier aspects of the [city].” Latest offender is Civil War Atlanta by Robert Scott Davis. It deletes the forcible removal of the native tribes during the run up to the founding of Atlanta, and very much glosses over the horrendous conditions of chattel slavery. I suppose I can’t expect more of a 113 page book dealing with several decades of history, but it’s possible to do better. Do better, authors.

Coincidentally to the above comment, there was an AJC news article this morning concerning this very topic. A UGA professor, Claudio Saunt, recently published “Unworthy Republic: The Dispossession of Native Americans and the Road to Indian Territory.” I’ve ordered it through my library.

Massachusetts may get a state dino. And that’s just cool.

Apropos of that last, GA has a state fossil. It’s the shark’s tooth. “In 1976, the shark tooth was designated the official state fossil. Probably one of the most sought-after fossils by amateur collectors, the shark tooth is a relatively common fossil in the Georgia coastal plain. In fossil form, the shark tooth can be traced back 375,000,000 years.”

Speaking of Georgia, during the beginning of this year’s legislative session, several State Senators who actively abetted the Stop the Steal Conspiracy have been removed from their committee chairmanships. So, good on that.

Speaking of State legislators who deserve to be punished for their anti-democratic and seditions positions, here’s a long thread of mine:

There are people in Georgia who went beyond the background hum of racism and bigotry common to our state and our nation. They actively stood up to disenfranchise us (and I mean ALL of us) to further their personal agendas. 1/— 917 FTW!! (@bruhsam) January 7, 2021

Captain Awkward has a great post on productivity. Even better, they cite Zoe Keating (who is the best Cellist, evah!) as great for productivity music (because she is!) which I totally agree with (hell yeah!)!!

The term “hectare” implies there is an “are.”

I’ll leave you with…goats.

Goats, Sheep, and Donkey, cleaning my yard of english ivy.
Goats (and a sheep, and a donkey)
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What I learned in 2021 Week 1

Griffin lying on the examination table at his pediatrician.
Griffin lying on the examination table at his pediatrician

Griffin calls the examination table at his Dr. the “healing table.” I is ded of cute.

I can’t go one day in the new year without screwing up the date.

There’s such a thing as self-healing concrete, and that titanium dioxide added to concrete will make it self-cleaning

“Mayor Pete” Buttigieg says he’ll do something about the years of racist transportation funding priorities that have disproportionately impacted the poor and black and other POC.

I learned about linktr.ee, a problematic link-shortening website that (apparently) was designed for Instagram. I missed it because I’m not on Instagram. (Twitter! LinkedIn (ugh)!) I’m not on Facebook because I deleted it. I have other social media accounts (reddit, pinterest, but I never use them.

The South Pole is ceremonial marked every year and the previous marker is retired to a glass case in the science station.

The word “prolix.” See the first sentence of Part I, Background. From Merriam-Webster, “Marked by or using an excess of words.”

That Trump is still a lying liar who lies because he can’t understand a world where he isn’t right, even when he’s wrong, but it’s not like we didn’t know that and if you voted for him in 2016 you’re either willfully blind, a bigot and racist, or both. [no citations because, jesus who needs them except for the willfully blind, see above]

And, apparently, civil insurrection and the despoiling of our federal legislature is what we’re doing now.

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Trump is a Fascist Demagogue and You Should Oppose Him

Say no to Fascism; Say no to Trump.

Used by CC permission, https://www.flickr.com/photos/stephenmelkisethian/32294528341/

I’ve received several emails from people who seem to think I blindly hate Trump because I’m a pinko librul cuck gamma male who wants to prop up the nanny/welfare state and I hate America.

Not at all! I mean, sure, some of that is true, taking out the alt-right, white-nationalist, stupidity translation. I do support social programs that assist the economically downtrodden. I do support women’s healthcare. I do support people’s right to choose who they marry. I do support anti-discrimination laws. I do support a single-payer healthcare system. I do support more positive engagement with other world powers. I do support higher taxes for the upper income brackets (that’s me, by the way).

But that is not why I hate that vile pustule of dishonest rage that is our current President. I don’t support his policies, but then I didn’t support a lot of George W. Bush’s policies, either. Did I rant and rave about Bush’s lack of moral founding and ethical bankruptcy? I did not. I would oppose the policies being enacted in any case, but this is a special time.

This is a time of the fascist demagogue that is Donald J. Trump.

MerriamWebster’s definition of ‘fascism’ is:

[A] political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition

And their take on ‘demagogue’:

[A] leader who makes use of popular prejudices and false claims and promises in order to gain power

I oppose Trump in his narcissistic majesty because of all the things he has shown himself to be; things that are not the America that people really want. You might think you want what he’s bringing (damage to women’s health, destruction of overseas relationships, close ties to racist white nationalists, lock-step policies with authoritarian regimes) but I submit that you don’t actually want Trump to be the one doing it because you cannot trust the man. He has demonstrated that he’ll say one thing and do another while lying about what he said the first, second, third, and fifth time. He is the ultimate windsock with about as much substance and less utility; he will blow the way that is best for him and whoever else is named “Trump.” He is the very definition of the fascist demagogue that this country explicitly rejected in 1941-1945. He is showing this to us in his first five days of office. If you support him, you are complicit in a racist, bigoted, sexist, homophobic agenda.

I oppose Trump because he is a hateful, lying, deceitful sexual predator who has never been confronted with the fact that other people are people, not pieces on a board of Monopoly where he owns the bank. He is unaware that rules apply to him unless he’s brought before the courts and even then it’s just a game for him with money and reputation as the only important counters. He has demonstrated that he does not care about the rule of law or the Constitution, merely his own personal brand and the power he accrues from it. He has shown that he will lash out at anyone he thinks is maligning him and he’s never been taught patience or restraint. This is a recipe for disaster.

Donald J. Trump is the President of the United States of America, for worse and for worser, until the Republicans decide they’ve ridden his sorry ass as far as they can and throw him out with impeachment proceedings (although I think they might be whistling a happy tune if they think that’ll be a slam dunk—see the most recent election). But while he’s President it’s up to all Americans who want to be on the right side of history to oppose him in every manner possible. Unless you support a fascistic, bigoted, racist, sexually exploitative demagogue.

That’s your call as an American.

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Up and Over – 2017

Jenn, Jacob, Brenda, and Griffin at the Atlanta Women's March

Jenn, Jacob, Brenda, and Griffin at the Atlanta Women’s March

For a great number of people I know, 2017 is only going to be better than 2016 because we know it’ll be bad, rather than have it be a surprise. The up-and-over metaphor is both apt—leaping from the trenches to assault the enemy—and inappropriate because we aren’t charging into minefields and massed machine-gun fire, we’re fighting against ongoing, sometimes unconscious, racism, sexism, and bigotry.

Enough of the right people in the right counties voted to put that pustule of ignorant rage into the White House and it’s only a possible good thing that the Republican’s plan is to ride him like a broken donkey until they can get what they want before impeaching and evicting his ass in favor of the tried and true Republican Christian Conservative that is Mike Pence.1 The most likely thing is a two-year period of Republican rule with Trump lashing out at every tiny distraction that impinges on his enormous ego. Foreign policy is going to be a wreck because he doesn’t have the knowledge or the caring and domestic policy is going to be a wreck because he’ll think he can just make things happen by throwing a tantrum. Sooner or later he’s going to learn that people can tell him no and make it stick and then he’s going to get really mad, with consequences that I do not look forward to.

The plus side is that this horrible turn of events has driven people out of their homes and into the streets. The Women’s March had a range of estimated nationwide attendance between two and four million and you know chief executive cheeto heard that loud and clear. People are engaged; Now we have to stay engaged.

I saw a lot of commentary from Black Lives Matter people criticizing yesterday’s marchers for not coming out before. Those criticisms are not invalid in general, but they need to look forward and keep them (us!) coming. We need to let this administration know, and our local governments, that we are tired of this bullshit and we will not tolerate it anymore.

The Chief Executive Cheeto of the United States may deny it but we know we’re on the right side of this. He may deny, and lie, and obfuscate but somewhere in that pile of ego and bile he knows that more than half of the electorate voted against him, and a good percentage of those actively despise his behavior. He is the worst of us and we will not let him have a day’s rest.

It’s time to get out there and make a difference. I don’t know yet what I will do, but you should be thinking about it.  Here’s a good place to start.

  1. Personally, I don’t think that’s a settled plan in the Republican Majority because I believe they’re obvious ploy would not go unpunished, but then I thought Trump was an insane candidate, so your mileage may vary. []
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Hugo Awards 2016: Burn Them Down (and wait for 2017)

For the “too long; didn’t read” summary of this post: Hugo Awards 2016 are a Hot Mess and I’m Going to Make a Political Statement by ranking anything on the Rabid Puppies list below No Award. Some people don’t think that’s a good idea. I think those people are wrong.

Now for the longer version:

The 2016 Hugo nominations are out and the Rabid Puppies are all over the lists, again.1 This is disappointing, but expected. If you have no idea what I’m talking about there are several good summaries available. This post assumes you have a general familiarity with the furor surrounding the Hugo Awards, the Sad/Rabid Puppies, etc.

The RPs dominated this year’s nominations on nearly everything below Novel. A wonderful comparison of the nominations with the Rabid/Sad Puppies slates  is at File 770. It clearly shows items that were NOT on the RP slate. In the categories where only one item/person present is non-RP, that person/item will be getting my vote and I don’t need to bother reading any of the RP-nominated works2.

Amusingly, after declaring this on Twitter, I got a (weird-ass, right-wing, somebody-or-other) response saying “Shirker.” I assume this was intended to imply I was shirking my duty as a Hugo voter by not reading the nominated work. To which I say, “Fuck you. I don’t have the time for crap.” And that’s the core issue: I don’t have the time to spend on unworthy books and my experience with RP-nominated works is that they are crap. I will put a book down if I’m not enjoying it or if it actively angers me with its craptitude; I’ll read for a bit and give it a chance (sometimes more than a chance) before I decide it’s not for me.3 On “normal” Hugo years, I look forward to the nominated lists because I’ll find things there that I can read! That I didn’t know about! And then I’ll either have a new author I can pursue later, or I find authors I know are not for me. It’s all good.

However, the last few years of Hugo nominations have been a disaster in that department. The Rabid Puppies nominated things of such low quality it was damaging to your pysche to read them. The Sad Puppies tended to nominate the kind of popular writings they feel never get nominated (Mil SF, Chewing Gum SF/Fantasy, etc.) and having read a few of them I can say that most of them were fine and enjoyable, but not what I would consider up for The Best Work of the Year. In 2015, the Sad/Rabids managed to dominate the Hugos to the point that there was no point in spending any time on it. Anything nominated by the RPs was going to be useless, and I just didn’t feel like exploring the SP list to see if there was anything new and fun. Because, again, I had better things to do with my time. My precious precious time that could be used exploring things that aren’t almost certain to be crap.

Brandon SandersonJohn Scalzi, and George Martin have posted pieces about why we, the fans, the voters, should not cast aspersions on the innocent due to their inclusion on the lists, and while I understand their points, they’re coming at it from the position of Authors and Industry Insiders, not consumers. We small fry with things to do have a different perspective.

I am a fan, a rather major fan, of science fiction and fantasy. I know the authors on the lists that are “caught up” and am in a position to make value judgements about their works without worrying that I’m being led into a RP hatefest of a book. BUT THAT IS NOT THE POINT.

It really isn’t the point. The point is this is all a waste of our unrecoverable time. Time we will never get back if stay on the high ground and read all the nominated works.

The Hugos have been damaged and dominated by the Puppies to the extent where we need to just get through this last season, slap a big red X on both 2015 and 2016, and move on. The patient has cancer, nobody really wants to remember the surgery so get them on anesthetic and cut away.  The Hugos will endure as the popular award they’ve always been; they have too much history and traction to not survive this. In fact, the best thing that can happen is for another slew of No Awards to come out this year to emphasize to everyone that this is bullshit and we’re not putting up with it. Does this damage the authors and creators that got placed on the RP’s list without their consent? I doubt it. It might hurt people’s feelings this year. The staff and volunteers of MidAmericon are probably stressed and sad and feel like someone pissed in their punch bowl. Some authors may get harassed from both directions4 to stay on the ballot or to withdraw. I hope that doesn’t happen beyond the realm of civility, but alas I watched last year’s shitshow and I doubt this will be better.

I’m sorry for all the creators that have been shafted the last couple years. I really am. But I’m not reading slated works5 and I’m blanket voting No Award above anything that was on the RP list. I’m taking the long view, that this is about the Hugos, and not about the creators. If their stuff is good, it’ll be discovered, and purchased, and nominated. The best thing you could do to make people like me take a second look at you is immediately and publicly divorce yourself from the Puppies6.  That kind of statement will make me sit up and notice because I care about the Hugos. I care about Science Fiction (and Fantasy). I care about authors and creators and fans, but this year we’re all just screwed. I’m voting politically in those categories that have one or zero non-slated nominees and I can only hope that some of the slated people withdraw to allow the more appropriately nominated works onto the ballot7.

Looking forward to 2017 and a more equitably chosen list of nominees when I’m not afraid to spend my precious bodily time discovering new works and new authors.



  1. I’m ignoring the Sad Puppies list because I can’t be bothered to compare it to the nominations. For reasons which are the core of this opinion piece. Read on. []
  2. Sidebar: Yes, I’m aware of such worthies as Brandon Sanderson, Alastair Reynolds, Lois McMaster Bujold, Ken Liu, Stephen King and Neil Gaiman who are nominated. But, catch my earlier point, this is a political statement, folks. I’ll be happy to vote for any or all of those next year. This year, they’ve been tarred by the puppies. []
  3. Note: “Not for me” does not necessarily mean “crap.” For example, while I admire Kim Stanley Robinson, I know that me, myself, personally, I have trouble with those books. That’s a personal issue, not a quality issue. Likewise, you’re not going to see me reading James Joyce. []
  4. Like I’m doing here. []
  5. Slight fib. I am going to be reading Seveneves and I’ve already read Aeronauts Windlass []
  6. Second Sidebar: Thank you Brandon Sanderson for your statements that you want nothing to do with the Rabids. However, your statement, similar to ones others have made that “I don’t believe I should be in the business of choosing which fans are allowed to like, or not like, my fiction,” is unfortunately off the mark. This puts you firmly in the camp of the Sad Puppies and their damaging rhetoric and I wish you had not used the language. If you had removed yourself from the SPs list this year, which [ahem] the SPs would not have allowed you to do, you would not be “choosing which fans are allowed to like …[your] fiction,” instead you’d be getting behind the notion that SLATING IS NOT THE WAY. As a prolific and honored author, you could have easily made this stance without any damage to yourself or your fan base. []
  7. Third Sidebar: I’ve seen several statements (including from Brandon Sanderson) saying “If I’d known I was on the list…” with reference to the Rabid Puppies. I find this disingenous from authors who are obviously engaged enough to make second-day statements on the matter. Someone, if not themselves, would have known they were on the list. The list has been out for an awfully long time. These statements smell like damage control, whether intentional or subconscious. []
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I Never Said…

…I’d do 30 essays in 30 days, with one per day. Just 30 essays.

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November Essay 1: Meta Essay


National Novel Writing Month, a.k.a NanoWrimo starts today. It’s an exercise in writing a lot, and not editing. Put those fingers to the keyboards and type, type, type.

I’ve written about NanoWrimo before.  It’s not for everyone, but it has utility by getting people to put their butts in the chair and write—writing being the most important task for any writer. I’ve never attempted it because I know I’m doomed to failure with respect to the daily word count. I know this about myself and am perfectly happy.

How NanoWrimo is useful to me, and possibly to you, is to highlight the need to sit down and write something. Anything. The repeated task, no matter how lengthy it is, will build the habit of putting words onto the page, blog or whatever.

To that end, I’m going to attempt thirty essays in thirty days throughout the month of November. Some of them may be similar to things you see on Talking Traffic. Others may be word-vomit that has no basis in reality or deep thought. Who knows! Well, I do. The second category will be dependent on how much research is required on a topic. I have a draft list of topics and some of them honestly are not suitable to a daily hour long effort, requiring time and research and editing, but I don’t care! That’s the whole point of NanoWrimo.

Write, write, WRITE, until you’re done writing. Usually this writing isn’t supposed to be insta-published because it’s likely to have flaws, however I will be, so you can expect less word count and more editing. To make the 50k words that NanoWrimo exemplifies you have to write 1,667 words per day. As of this word right here, I’m at 295. Not going to get even close to the NanoWrimo count, but that’s ok because who wants to read a daily 1,667 word essay? Especially if it’s word-vomit like this is turning out to be.

Topics you can expect to read about (but your mileage may vary): running, traffic engineering, autonomous cars, the evilness of cats, Griffin (the child, not the mythical creature), space, parenting, how Elsa is the worst but potentially the world’s savior, Puerto Rico, etc.

Watch this space. Stuff will appear. I’ll take advantage of this to put up pictures again. It’s been a while.

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Hugo Nomination: Impossible. Or IS it?

The Hugo debates keep going1. And going. And going.2

One of the points being made is that the landscape of the scifi/fantasy field has changed over the last twenty years. In the 90’s and earlier, it was possible to keep up with most of the authors; today that is not possible. There are too many to read3.

Which brings me to the point of this posting. Where are the recommended reading lists? 

Yes, yes. I’m fully aware of the reading lists pertaining to the various awards. I’m speaking of recommendations for books that have been published in 2015 to date. People are still reading, yes? Some of those books were published in 2015, yes? Why don’t people make some recommendations for “Best First Half 2015” novels or short stories, or whatever. Frankly, I’m lost when it comes to the shorter fiction and I don’t make any Hugo nominations in those areas at all. And, for example, last year I read over 25 novels published in 2014, but only threw two of them into the Hugo arena. Partially because I’m picky but mostly because they didn’t make the grade.

I’d much rather spend my time reading books that someone else has said, “This is a good book.”4 With that sort of information (Amazon and Goodreads reviews are helpful, but not that helpful) you can leverage your hard-earned money toward quality fiction, and stay the hell away from fiction that just plain isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t put up my own list.  Here it is so far:5

  • Touch – Claire North. Not as good as The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, but still worth your time.
  • Firefight – Brandon Sanderson. Again, not as good as Steelheart that it’s the sequel to, but still good. YA.
  • The Devil’s Only Friend – Dan Wells. Book 4 of the John Cleaver series, all of which is worth it. This the first book of the second trilogy. I read the entire series in about 5 days. This will be getting a Hugo nomination from me.

And that’s it so far. I just started reading Uprooted by Naomi Novik, which is good so far, but I’m only about 8 chapters in.

What do you recommend?

  1. If you really want to know, go to File770.com. []
  2. One of the nice things surrounding this unending back-stabbery is I’ve added to the list of people who have self-identified as “not worth reading.”

    I will be delighted to read a conflicting point of view, but when you asshatly and repeatedly make statements that are not just wrong but hell wrong (or you’re a self-serving asshole) then I can just ignore everything you have to say. You’re Ted Cruz, in other words. []

  3. Side note on this same problem with today’s blossoming TV programming. []
  4. Danger lies here. For example lots of people thought that some books-that-shall-remain-nameless were AWeSOMETOtaLLy!1!! last year and I thought they’d do better as bird-cage liners. You have to know the person making the recommendation… []
  5. Sorry, I’ve been reading a lot of older, non-2015 fiction this year, so it’s a short list. []
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Love Locks Lost


Paris is removing the famed (or infamous) Love Locks from the Pont des Arts across the Seine1. People are not happy about it. Word is that Paris will also start the same sort of work on the Pont de l’Archevêché, where the pictures in this post were taken2 .

I feel for some of the stories I’ve heard people tell about the significance of their personal locks, but I feel stronger for the infrastructure of the bridges. Just look at this picture, and keep in mind that this was taken three years ago. The locks have spawned since then.


That fence was not designed to hold this kind of weight. The bridge was not designed to hold it either. This is a stone arch bridge built in 1828; this sort of eccentric loading was not factored into the designer’s numbers.

This is an excellent example of how infrastructure can be invisible to most people when it’s working. So long as these bridges are up and maintained, it shouldn’t matter what you do with them, right? It’s a big ass bridge! Surely it can stand a few locks placed on it? Unfortunately that is not the case. Roads and bridges and tunnels and buildings and sewers and water pipes are designed and maintained at a certain capacity. Over load them and they will fail. No matter the desires of the people who placed the locks, and the personal stories behind them, these locks should come down for the health of the bridges.

Let’s end with a metaphor: if lovers were slowly but inexorably clogging up the water main to your house, would you support keeping the clog?

  1. Just north of Ile de la Cité , the island containing Notre Dame cathedral. []
  2. Pont de L’Archevêché connects the Ile de la Cité to the left bank of the Seine, right next to Notre Dame []
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