walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

long vs. short

There are a wide variety of sporting activities in which one has to choose the length of what you are going to use. (Ahem.) There are tradeoffs involved. I'll start with firearms.

I was, once upon a time, a regular visitor to indoor gun ranges, because I believed that a responsible gun owner should be able to reliably hit what she was aiming at or she shouldn't be carrying at all. I had a number of theories about the ideal concealed carry piece, most of which added up to the kind of gun that someone who has to carry a firearm as part of their job might have stashed away on their ankle or similar as a backup piece. (Think: snub nose revolver with +ps or better in a stopping-power kind of caliber). I liked light, because I was carrying this thing around all the time. I liked small, because I was carrying this thing around all the time. Here's the problem with small and light in a firearm with enough going on to actually stop someone you shoot with it: it kicks very, very hard. As in, ow, my hand hurts. As in, it's quite hard to hit anything at a distance, especially after the second or third round. I used to show people my groups and they'd very politely say, how nice in a very unimpressed way. Then I'd offer to let them try it. They were usually a lot more impressed after that.

I eventually bought a target 22, and a sig and I forget what all else, because it was so damn painful to shoot that thing that I wanted something else to practice with at the range (I was there with friends who had glocks and liked working on tighter and tighter groups at longer and longer distances. One described the activity as putting holes in paper.).

So that's sort of the moral of short/light/small vs. long/heavy/large. Shooting a long-barreled .45 is a pleasure, really, compared to what I was messing around with. And I don't mean the malt liquor.

One of the aspects of bicycles I have not touched upon is length of wheelbase. Most car drivers are familiar with the difference in driving, say, a 1970s American Sedan and, say, a subcompact. The subcompact will do a U-turn in a much, much (much, much) smaller space. OTOH, a certain amount of fatigue tends to set in over long distances with the shorter car. It can require a lot of attention to maintain lane position in a small, twitchy (er, responsive) car. The same is true of bicycles. Shorter bicycles turn much tighter circles -- they turn fast, they turn easy. They're fucking hard to balance (look ma no hands is a very different experience on bicycles of very different length).

RHI this general rule applies to surfing (long board on one end and a boogie or body board at the other end, if I understood the explanation correctly), skiing -- I'm going to take a quick break here.


"In general, more experienced skiers prefer longer skis for stability, while beginners tend to like shorter skis because they turn easily."

See, this is exactly what bothers me about these sports or activities or whatever the hell you want to call them. This could be phrased neutrally:

Longer skis give more stability, but require more effort and/or skill to turn; shorter skis are more easily turned, but less stable.

Then the skier would figure out what they had in mind, and what their particular strengths and weaknesses were and pick accordingly. Instead, you're just going to tilt everyone to longer and longer skis. And lo, downhill skiing dies a horrible death to be replaced by snowboarding. Surprise.
(Before you say, hey! Telemark, I'll just say, hey! shorter and wider. See?)

(There's something complicated involving tennis racquets that I do not fully understand.)

For better or for worse, we live in a world in which a lot of people go, hey, I'd like to try to do X. So that person goes off and buys or rents or borrows the gear to do X. And if they have a bad experience, they decide it's not for them and that's the end of that. And if they complain that there's something about the equipment that's not working for them, someone, somewhere, will quote that bullshit about a workman and his tools. There are a variety of problems here.

(1) We're just learning, so we _don't_ know what we want. We are relying on the expertise of the person we are buying from, renting from or borrowing from to get something that will enable us to learn.

(2) The people who are selling, renting or loaning (and I hold them accountable in declining order -- if I borrow your shit, I'm not going to blame you. If you _sell_ me something, I might blame you.) are generally speaking experienced enthusiasts with a very focused idea of what the activity is all about. Your idea of the activity may or may not have anything to do with their idea of the activity. The more experienced and enthusiastic the person is, the less likely there is to be any overlap, never mind a good match.

(3) The choices are framed as "if you were any good at it, this is what you would want". That pretty much defines your goals, gives you an opportunity to fake it toward that goal, and then gives you a hard shove while you are disoriented.

Pretty lame! Good for capitalism. Well, if the idea is to sell everyone a starter kit for every activity out there -- and then never sell them an upgrade or replacement because no one ever sticks with anything except out of sheer blind luck or dogged persistence.

ETA: It may or may not be clear, but is worth reiterating. I'm not saying long is better or short is better in any given situation. And I don't think anyone else should, either, unless they're prepared to qualify what better means.
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