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Williams Street Bikeway

Today was my first use of the new protected bike lanes on Williams Street. I picked it up at Thompson and took it all the way to Main Street and it was wonderful!

I generally feel safe riding my bike in Ann Arbor and do so almost every weekday of the year (except for February, which is the worst). Despite this I wasn’t prepared for just how much safer I felt in the protected bike lanes. When you bike you get used to the idea that all cars can be weaponized against you. After a while a defensive posture becomes part of riding. Like, you learn pretty quickly to make direct eye contact with drivers just to remind them you’re there before they turn into you.

But in the bikeway? It felt safe! I was biking and smiling and felt relaxed. Unless a driver is being willfully dangerous you are actually protected.

My conclusion after using this bikeway just once is that we need a lot more bikeways around town. The more protected lanes we have the more we can recommend biking as a primary mode of transportation. And if we’re serious about the climate emergency that city council just declared we need more as quickly as we can get them.

Success metrics

Arguably the single most important part of any project that everyone skips is defining what makes a project successful.

The Traps to Avoid

Doing so focuses the project and, more importantly, will help you ignore three big traps:

  • Taking on other people’s definitions of success.
  • Never finishing.
  • Grabbing onto tantalizing data that don’t actually support your goals.

Other People’s Ideas of Success

Often–always, actually-–when working on a project people will offer opinions and ideas on what you should do with it. This is human nature and is a lovely thing. If you’re not sure in what you want though, well, it’s easy to take on their thoughts as your own. Feedback is good, taking it all in means that you’re not secure in why you’re doing what you’re doing.

A lot of what people will suggest means success is going to have to do with capitalism. Always remember that you are not required to monetize your joy.

Never Finishing

Finishing anything is hard. It’s so hard.

The last 10% of even the best scoped projects is always 1000% of the work. Nothing will kill your momentum during that difficult phase more than not knowing what you’re actually shooting for.

You get lost, flail about for a bit, and put it down forever. It’ll make you feel guilty for a long time too whenever you think about it.

Tantalizing Data

Social Media figured out years ago that people like having numbers attached to their posts. Engagement metrics are, frankly, super fun because it’s a nice dopamine hit to see strangers interact with your posts! My guess is that with any interrogation though you’ll find that your reasons for posting are not to see analytics numbers tick up.

You’re probably, at a minimum, more interested in a specific audience liking and retweeting your work. Or, the actual reason you’re posting on social media might be to sell your project, generate commissions, share it with a group, keep a diary for yourself, OR any number of totally valid reasons to use social media.

A large number of favs, shares, and/or retweets is rarely going to be your project’s actual goal. If it is, you can go and buy those likes and retweets from many numerous shady websites with a minimum amount of fuss.

A Personal Example

To personalize this: the primary goal of the posts on this blog are to help me organize my thoughts and to reference them later on. A secondary goal is to share posts with my social circles. A tertiary goal is for random folks on the internet to find the posts when they’re looking for specific information.

This post was written as a reminder to myself to avoid mistakes I’ve made in the past. I’ve walked directly into all of the three traps above and will likely continue to do so. If anyone else reads this post hopefully they’ll be able to use it as ammunition against me the next time I dive in headfirst into a project without a goal.

If my primary goal was to achieve some sort of Elite Blogger Status I’d have to do things a lot differently. Probably there would be no cryptic posts about goal setting! Not going after that particular goal frees me up do what I actually want with this little corner of the internet and not obsess too much over analytics numbers.

Tiny candle holders

This past week at the farmer’s market Cobblestone Farm was teaching kids traditional candle making. My daughter happily jumped in line and made two candles. Today I put together a few candle holders out of scrap wood in the shop:

Walnut and Cherry from Urbanwood.

Pizza Taxonomy, Ann Arbor Edition

A question was asked in Workantile’s recommendation channel that resulted in slack telling notifying us that several people are typing:

What’s your favorite Ann Arbor pizza?

I was one of them because, dear reader, I have pizza opinions.

Pizza Contains Multitudes

There is no one Pizza. Instead, we have many many subclasses of food that look similar, yet are quite different, and can all be broadly defined (and recognized!) as pizza.

If you ask a child to draw a pizza they will draw you a shape that more or less looks like what the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles eat. Something that is circular, cheesy, and maybe some pepperoni on top. The child’s drawing won’t be able to capture a lot of, what I’d argue, are essential properties of the pizza though: speed of delivery to your mouth, toppings, crust, thickness, greasiness, price, etc.

No artist could, really, pizza is complicated and comes in many forms! And, because of it, pizza places cannot excel at all kinds of pizza. They will naturally do one (maybe two!) kinds of pizza well. Expecting them to do everything outlined below would result in them doing nothing correctly. Recognition that the rubric for “good pizza” is vast and circumstantial has the effect of reducing the stress of picking a pizza place. Rather than having only one favorite pizza place you can expand your palette and have many favorite places each tailored to what you are actually craving.

The Taxonomy of Pizza Places

Since we agree that pizza places suit different needs you can first choose the kind of pizza you are craving and then pick your place from there.

I contend that the categories below are more or less comprehensive of restaurant pizza options (we’re not getting into making your own or frozen). I’ve provided my favorite places in Ann Arbor for each category with the understanding that there will be quibbles. That is fine by me. You are always welcome to submit your own blog post to the internet:

Pizza! Now!

Hot and Ready from Little Caesar’s. You may optionally hate yourself later, but you will at least be full.

Greasy/Cheap/Delivered

Domino’s. It’s “local” and defines this category. Maybe Cottage Inn if you want exotic ingredients like “chicken”. I’m told that Marco’s Pizza is also good in this category.

“Fast” Casual

Blaze pizza. Although “fast” in this sense is highly dependent on how busy it is. Blaze is a nightmare if you are hungry because you feel like you’re very close to getting your pizza, but any line whatsoever is going to make it feel like an eternity. That said you get a ton of choices and can piece together a pretty good pizza. Neopapalis is another option here, although I haven’t been in years.

Not Your Daddy’s Pizza

Bigalora or Mani. If you crave interesting ingredients like brussel sprouts OR potatoes go to these places. Mani is loud though.

Sit Down and Wait a While

Anthony’s. Pizza House has a better ambiance. Anthony’s has much better pizza.

Regional Styles

Was told after publishing that I should really include a section on a few specific regional styles:

Chicago (read: Deep Dish)

Anthony’s. Although maybe just wait until the next time you’re in Chicago.

Detroit

I’m least familiar with this but am told that Buddy’s and/or Jet’s are where to go. As someone who grew up in Chicagoland Detroit style is scary and different.

New York

New York Pizza Depot. I’m unaware of any runner-ups here. Again, probably best to just wait until you’re in NY.

Notes

Thanks to Workantile for helping me take this from that thing I rant about from time to time to a written blog post I can now link to whenever someone mentions pizza.

Referencing directories in WordPress themes

I needed to enqueue a handful of scripts and stylesheets in a WordPress theme and ran into much confusion between which functions to use to return what paths from the parent theme vs. the child theme. To save myself later here is the breakdown of when to use what. Basic gist is that “stylesheet” will get the child theme. “template” will get the parent.

If you don’t have a child theme any of these will get the current theme.

Absolute Path

These functions get the absolute path on the server’s file system. Mostly useful for referencing other PHP files within your theme’s PHP files:

get_stylesheet_directory() – absolute path to the current theme. If you’re using a child theme it’ll get it. Documentation.

get_template_directory() – absolute path to the parent theme. Even if you’re using a child theme it’ll get the parent. Documentation.

Directory

These functions get the public URI for the theme directory. Useful when you’re trying to publicly display something on the site through your theme files:

get_stylesheet_directory_uri() – returns a properly formatted URI for the current theme. Use if you have a child theme that you want to return. Documentation.

get_template_directory_uri() – returns a properly formatted URI for the parent theme. Even if you’re using a child theme it’ll get the parent theme. Documentation.