Concerning HOBBITS

When I arrived at the Spring Fling on Friday, I was greeted with the customary question, "How was your ride?"

"Too many Frodos," I replied.

This, of course, needed explanation.

On my recent trip down the Appalachians, I spent a lot of time pondering a recent thread on NEDoD about whether "cager" was a derogatory term, a thread in which one wag suggested that the use of the term instead of "rolling roadblock" actually demonstrated the careful diplomacy we show as ambassadors of the sport.

As I rode and pondered what made truly enjoyable rides for me, I gained further clarity on some thoughts I've expressed before. At its core it isn't that I want to be scraping pegs in the twisties, or flying down the straights, or posing at 5 under. It is that I just want to be free to do my own thing, without interruption from others.

See, when it comes down to it, we're all HOBBITS -- Having Opinions By Being in Traffic Situations. Its the differences of those opinions that cause the problems, but it doesn't _usually_ mean that the other road users are wrong. They're just not seeing it quite the same way you do.

Ideally we spent most of our time Satisfied At the Moment (SAM). We're just cruising along, enjoying our own take on how fast we should be going. Then you catch up to another SAM who was quite satisfied with a slower pace. He has now by virtue of his position been transformed into a FRODO (Front Runner Of Different Opinion), while you have become a BILBO (Behind In Line, Bringing Opinions).

Or perhaps the reverse happened; you were moseying along, happy as a SAM, when someone appeared behind you and now you are the FRODO and he is BILBO. For some of us this situation is much more rare, but actually just as disruptive. We no more want to be a FRODO than we do BILBO. We just want to be SAM.

So far this missive has focused on those who are traveling in the same direction as we are, because by and large the opinions of those going the other direction really don't matter. There is a notable exception when someone has the opinion that they'd rather be on your side of the road, or turning across your lane directly in front of you. This is a very dangerous kind of HOBBIT, the Yokel or Knucklehead of Obviously Nitwit Opinion (YOKO ONO). Beware encounters with a YOKO ONO, they often end in tragedy.

To define the quality of a ride you can use a couple of different metrics. The simpler of them is the Minutes Of Riding Independently Available (MORIA), which simply tallies up how much time you can expect to spend free of encountering other differences of opinion.

The MORIA index fails, however, to take into account just how divergent some differences of opinion can be. Catching up to a guy who is going just a tad slower than you were and then following him for several miles is not nearly so troubling as spending even a mile behind a dumptruck that you can't see around, can't pass, going 10 under the limit, all the while taunting you with its massive orange sign of irony, "DO NOT FOLLOW".

Thus to fully account for the many different variables that are needed to compare routes -- time of day, time of year, construction, availability of passing zones, presence of people who hand out Official Notices Of Necessary Opinions (ONONOs) -- a much more complex computation is used. This is the Ranking Index, Nth Generation, of Different Opinions Over Miles, the RING of DOOM. As an iterative function it is constantly updated with each new experience, generating a mean DOOM to evaluate routes against each other. Since it ultimately measures the ratio of differences of opinion encountered over the number of miles, DOOM values approaching zero are good, around 1 starts really biting into my SAMness, and those approaching infinity are teh suck.

Therefore when you are describing a ride to someone, you can now recommend it by saying "It's really not got much DOOM in it". Conversely when asked of its DOOM, "How Much?" you can reply something akin to "Three. Rather a lot, really."

Or just dispense with the formulae. "Too many Frodos" says it all.

25 May 2005
David C Lawrence