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Oakland, CA

American history around the time of the Revolution, figuring out how to marry top-down task-based information architecture processes with bottom-up document-based ones, finding a good dentist in San Francisco Oakland
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Seeking Meaning. Posted on 04/02/2002.

A wee story.

I drag myself and my bike onto the elevator on the 6th floor. Stopping at "3", a couple of guys get on--Mormon missionaries, by the looks of it (backpack, suit, name tag). They strike up chit chat about the bike, and then, when my back is turned fiddling with something, one asks, "What does that signify?"
I turn around to see what he's addressing. "What does what signify?"
"The rolled-up pant leg. You see that on a lot of bicyclists. Does that mean something?"
"Oh, no. It's so we don't get get our pant leg caught in the chain."
After a few more pleasantries, we head on our separate ways.

I was struck by how the first assumption was one of symbolism, not function. And it made me think of this great book, MOTEL OF THE MYSTERIES. Written and illustrated by David Macaulay, it depicts the future archaeological discovery of "Usa", and relentlessly imbues meaning on the most pedestrian of artifacts. (Click on the remote control on this page to get a taste...)

6 comments so far. Add a comment.

Previous entry: "Google finds the darnedest things."
Next entry: "I hate passwords, too."


also in the Mock Anthropology department is Horace Miner's classic 1956 essay "Body Ritual Among the Nacirema":
Posted by alex @ 04/02/2002 09:23 AM PST [link to this comment]

in New York City you see people who aren't cyclists who roll up one pant leg. I assume it 'signifies' that they want to associate themselves with bicycle messengers, who of course are the closest thing we have to cowboys in the city.

But sometimes they roll up the left leg instead of the right leg, which gives them away.
Posted by Victor @ 04/02/2002 04:51 PM PST [link to this comment]

It's probably not so much that they want to be associated with bicycle messengers as that they want to be associated with LL Cool J.
Posted by Anil @ 04/02/2002 09:13 PM PST [link to this comment]

I'm gonna knock you out!

Mama said knock you out!

godDAMN I am down.
Posted by peterme @ 04/02/2002 09:34 PM PST [link to this comment]

Yesterday I read this post and chuckled. Today, here in Berlin, I saw two homeboyz (rare enough here), both with their right pant leg rolled up to just below the knee. I've never seen this before, and these guys weren't bike messengers.

So, what _does_ that signify?
Posted by andrew @ 04/03/2002 11:22 PM PST [link to this comment]

it use to signify that you were a dealer, it was then adopted by others trying to come across as living the "thug life"
Posted by Mick @ 04/04/2002 10:45 AM PST [link to this comment]

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