Airports are Galápagos Islands for vehicles

I love spotting all the odd vehicles at the airport. All so specialised for doing one job and so uttley impractical anywhere else in the world. They totally remind me of seeing nature programmes where an insect has evolved a really long left front leg for some advantageous reason, but it just makes them look freaky. Like a car with a set of stairs and a walk way on its back.

Maybe tomorrow

We spent one of our first days in Sri Lanka on the beech while friendly people walked past, offering up things to buy. To be polite, to all those that really persisted, we smiled and said maybe later. Or maybe tomorrow. Until one nice guy ask in reply “You English?”

We confirmed in slight surprise and assumed that he just recognised the accent, but he went on to explain how the English always say ‘maybe’. We smiled at this at first but then realised he wasn’t joking. He genuinely disliked the dishonesty of ‘maybe’ and only gets it from the English.

He finished by explaining how saying ‘no’ is better as it saves him the time of coming back later or tomorrow and trying again, just in case ‘maybe’ actually means maybe.

The experience has stuck with me over the last two weeks and I’ve wondered a lot about what other nationalities say, and how they react. Which are polite but blunt? Which are rude and blunt? Also, how big his data set is?

I don’t know. It’s got me thinking even further down the line of us all not really understanding what we say and imply to each other. Further along with thinking how we need a closer relationship between interaction design and communication design. Or a new discipline all together.

Nature’s imagination

Can’t remember where I heard the idea put so absolutely, but there’s the idea that humans are incapable of any truly original thought, that is, thoughts that aren’t in some way based on past influences and things that we’ve seen.

It ties in with the whole Everything is a Remix work of Kirby Ferguson, but the idea here is more that if you ask someone to design a ‘crazy’ new animal or plant, that they’ll come up with something that matches parts of animals and plants that they’ve seen. Rare ones perhaps, but still obvious parts of past examples.

Today I saw a plant at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya that reinforced this idea in me. Even though it was based on things I’ve seen before. It’s a plant where all the parts make sense, but no way would I have been creative enough to compose them into something that might actually exist. Douglas Adams might have, but not me.

Have a look and a read about it yourself. Google: Cannonball tree.

Bonkers.

Ella to Kandy on a long but beautiful train journey today. Stunning landscape and sights. Felt part Dr Zeus, part Studio Ghibli. Just so odd yet also familiar. Also funny how the train system here feels so British, except they do it with more style and emotion here I think.

Also, dogs. They’re all over the place but all seemingly really chilled out. Best find was this one at the top of a mountain we climbed. Just asleep, on a mountain. Then on the way back down we met this very brave or petrified lizard. Beats Pokemon Go when they’re real little beasties.

It usually feels like a gimmick when I use the Pano feature on the iPhone but today at Ravana Falls in Ella I think I found the sweet spot. Something different in each area, combining to make an interesting composition. No big bit of boring between two things of interest or just a long landscape pan that’s mostly the same all the way. This captures the space and experience perfectly. So funny to think how hard these were in days of shooting film or even before decent stitching software.

Worth

Last nights post got lost for longer than usual in the Tumblr app cache limbo, and it gave me a while to reflect on the worth of my own and all other writing online.

Usually it’s free. As per the original plan of the World Wide Web. Open and free access for all. An amazing idea. Except you have to pay someone for your internet access. Since wifi and cellular data back home is everywhere, and at home it’s a utility as needed (it seems) as electricity and gas, I’ve stopped being aware of the effective cost. I just blog, Instagram, Flickr, sometimes Tweet and chat and that’s that.

But last night in a remote part of Sri Lanka we need Google Maps so paid for a bit of data. Texting EE for free, for 20MB of data for £18, was needed and put a value on Google Maps that was well worth it. Otherwise we’d have been lost. I had data left and so lacking wifi for the night at our next stop I decided to use that last bit on my daily post. Sunk cost and all that. It was spent, might as well use it.

When the post disappeared, and I feared not into the cache, but into lost-ness, I was a mix of annoyed at Tumblr, disappointed to lose my writing, and more so of the waste of the data which had run out completely during my constant refreshing to find the lost post.

All feelings combined, the thing that struck me most was putting a price on my writing. That is to say that I used the data because it was left over, when It was effectively free. When I lost the writing I felt I’d lost £10 worth of data AND ergo, £10 worth of writing… which felt a bit high.

What if we had to pay more consciously for what we put on online? Just in theory. How much would you pay to post to a blog? Or send a message? Or to Tweet or Instagram or Snapchat or Pin or Facebook or whatever? Which would you still do and which would you stop? Further more, which of those channels would be worth more (or less) to everyone if the content was something that each author had parted cash for in order to share?

More car and transport thoughts. Starting to worry about thinking so much about this and not just relaxing etc. But observations keep intriguing me. To cut some short, here they are in short.

The road ‘system’ here is simple it seems. If a bit scary. Basically: Avoid a crash or have one. No mitigation like in the UK or elsewhere, a la “it was my right of way, he should have looked, she’s a bad driver not me” and so on. Here, it seems like it’s your responsibility not to crash into a slow moving TukTuk or a fast moving bus or an overtaker in the middle of the road or a cow or a dog etc.

Keep your wits about you because other people come out of nowhere, and from either side of the road. It reminds me of my cycling in London mantra: Ride like no one can see you (except the police). If you expect everyone else to pay attention and see you and follow all the rules, you’re very likely to encounter and hit someone that doesn’t meet your expectations. Realise that anyone could do anything at any time and you’ll drive more carefully, and so might they. It’s mutually assured destruction for the road.

There’s also a language of horns here, which seem to be more chatty than horns in the UK or elsewhere. More ‘meep’ than ‘BEEP!’ Like Roadrunner. They use them a lot, but as genuine attempts to tell someone about their presence. Like, “Hey, hey, hello, yo, yo, yo, coming past, right behind you.” It never seems passive aggressive like ‘I’M HERE! HELLO! JUST GIVING YOU A ‘WARNING’ AFTER YOU PULLED OUT IN FRONT OF ME, OK!’

And that friendly, or at least, not passive aggressive quality extends even further: I haven’t seen any road rage. None. I catch myself jumping and thinking “Idiot!” or “What were they thinking!” but our drivers never flinch.

Maybe it’s the Buddhist influence? It’s cultural for sure, as every driver we’ve had and all those we’ve seen have been the same. I’m starting to feel like a testosterone filled oaf for the automatic thoughts I have about other ‘crazy’ drivers. They’re just driving man! You do the same and look out for yourself. Going to try and bring that home for sure.

Yellow crossings. Like Zebra crossings but yellow, and, with no seeming relevance to anything. As in, people cross where they can and drivers never slow unless they they really have to (meaning, that they’re endangered if they don’t). The hierarchy of Lorry, Bus, Van, Car, TukTuk, Motorbike, Bicycle and Pedestrian seems to be another soft sort of rule, but again, not one you’d want to rely on or expect to be followed. It just mostly works. Also cows might come after busses in that list, or at the very top. Can’t quite tell if they’re as sacred here as elsewhere in the continent.

Finally, Lanka Ashok Leyland and TATA. Two massive brands on the road here. Both seem to make 70s/80s Tonka toy-like vehicles in their design aesthetic. Maybe because that’s how old they are?

OK. Think I’ve exorcised all my road worthy thoughts for now. Need to get back to holiday. Elephants tomorrow!

The world’s most dangerous roads – get the data | theguardian.com | 2011

Thinking again on the roads and safety in Sri Lanka and found this old article. Data maybe be out of date (in fact checking it quickly past Wikipedia looks like it might well be, need a third opinion maybe). Taking the ‘Road deaths per 100,000 (estimated)’ column which I reckon is fairest (as in harshest) Sri Lanka has 0.4 fewer road deaths per 100,000 people than the USA.

The world’s most dangerous roads – get the data | theguardian.com | 2011

Driving in Sri Lanka: I’m not. I mean I was told that they drive a bit crazy over hear but after being zoomed around in a TukTuk for a few days I’m feeling they’re actually better drivers and that their road system (what we’d call road etiquette in the UK – basically, the expected way that everyone drives and that pedestrians, ‘pedest’) is based far less on following rules set by the Highway Code. Here the code seems more social and adhered to or else! I’m going to watch more obviously as this may just be early days but for now I’m more impressed with Sri Lankan driving than the driving I’ve witnessed in the US where they’re slow and lumbersome but still seem to have dings. Wonder what road safety stats are here, vs US? Also, tuktukuk.com. Just thinking…