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Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween Critical Mass

I freaking love Halloween. I never seem to get my act together costume-wise, this year I bought a Hannibal mask for ten bucks the day before, which is better than nothing, I guess, and last year it was a Roman collar and cross (child molester costume).

I think I'm going to try and hit the Halloween store tomorrow, see about some day after closeout stuff because part of my problem is all the cool costume ideas seem too expensive for a one-off deal. Well, the really cool ideas don't cost a ton of money, they involve sewing—a lot to ask for a guy who can barely reattach a button to his shirt.

That and makeup, I just don't have the experience to pull it off well. My last attempt at a costume that involved makeup was trying to do a Heath Ledger Joker the year the Dark Knight came out. I followed instructions from an article in the paper specifically telling you how to bring the whole thing off and I looked like a reject from an Insane Clown Posse tribute band.

And of course I love Critical Mass. I couldn't ride tonight, didn't have someone to watch Mo while I went and played. But I dragged her along to the tailgate part so I could say hi to my friends and take pictures of them in all their splendor.

I was having trouble with my camera. I do a lot of my shooting in Aperture Priority, wide open with my 35mm prime lens set to f/1.8. I don't even carry the 18-105 kit lens on a routine basis anymore, I so seldom use it. I like the narrow depth of field and the clarity I get from the 35, which functions on my D7000 approximately as a 'nifty fifty' would on a full frame camera. I'll tweak the ISO to deal with light levels, and I did tonight when I got there, cranking it up to 1600.

But something was wrong, I could hear it in the shutter speed, see the blur in my shots when I chimped 'em. I kept cranking the ISO higher and still not really getting it right. After a hundred or so frames, I realized the problem: I'd set the aperture to f/4.5, meaning there was far less light getting to the sensor than what I'm used to all other things being equal. I think I had set it like that when I was taking some pictures for my car insurance claim the other day and forgot. I don't always shoot at f/1.8, but when I narrow it down from that I generally spin the wheel back to the left all the way when I'm done.

My friends are used to me being a shutterbug, but a couple of them looked askance when I was all of a sudden coming back around for seconds. I more or less recaptured some shots, others are lost to my carelessness.

It was a good party but I definitely felt left out as they all massed up and left. It's not the first time I've driven to Critical Mass, I did so when I had my heart surgery last year a couple of times, and it's better than not seeing my friends, I really love these people—most of them anyway.

Elina was even back from Colorado for a minute. Made her bike into a dragon for the occasion and everything. More surprising was a certain family, who are definitely on my short list of favorite people on earth, but who I thought were conscientious objectors to Critical Mass. I've been on both sides of the controversial aspects of Critical Mass, when I first heard about it I thought it was probably counterproductive. Maybe, but it's a ton of fun, and if you look around the country and even the world, the cities that have strong cycling cultures and good bike infrastructure are also the cities with the biggest Critical Masses.

I don't know that it's causal, maybe it's not. Maybe climate change isn't caused by a trace gas going up less than a half of one percent. The causation could even be inverse: Critical Mass doesn't cause a robust cycling culture but is a product of it; elevated carbon in the atmosphere might just be a symptom of warming temperatures.

But whether big Critical Mass turnouts are the sign or cause, I still say they are correlated with a good thing.

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