Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

‘Story!’ cried the Editor

June 3, 2021

My last piece for Adventure Cyclist.

It’s hard to retire when you don’t have a job.

It’s even harder when you have a couple-three-four of them.

Still, I keep trying to find that hole in the fence, because I am a persistent mutt.

I successfully “retired” from my last real job in 1991, when I bid adios to The New Mexican and took up the uncertain life of a freelance cycling scribe. I like to think I beat the rush to the door. The writing was already popping up on newspaper walls from coast to coast, and I wasn’t one of the lucky few who would be offered a buyout. Mine would be more like a “Get out!”

So, rather than wait for the shove, I jumped.

Other separations have followed in the 30 years since I hit that door running, or maybe cycling. Either the magazines have gone away or I have.

This month brings my departure from Adventure Cyclist. It was an amicable separation. Deputy editor Dan Meyer asked if I wanted to review a bike; I thought about it for a bit, then replied, “No, thanks.”

It may sound impulsive, but it really wasn’t. I have outlived Mike Deme, the editor who brought me aboard. His successor, Alex Strickland, has moved on to another job, as have colleagues John Schubert, Nick Legan, and others.

It’s been 10 years. The bike biz is moving in directions that mostly don’t interest me. I’m an old white guy who doesn’t need the work or the money and should really just get the hell out of the way.

Also, my last two pieces, about the New Albion Privateer and the march of technology, practically wrote themselves. This could not continue. Call it a premonition: By the pricking of my thumbs, something banjaxed this way comes.

So I jumped.

Mike and Adventure Cyclist came around at exactly the right time. I was in something of a rut, basically just going through the motions, and reviewing touring bikes forced me into new ways of thinking. Alex and Dan continued Mike’s generosity. I had big fun and made good money, and now it’s time someone else had a taste.

A thousand thank-yous to everyone who enjoyed my reviews. And if any of yis bought a bike on my say-so, may the road rise up to meet you. With the rubber side down, of course.

Memorial Day v2.0

June 1, 2021

“Joey, have you ever been in an autonomous Turkish drone’s crosshairs?”

Oh, good. … Paging James Cameron … James Cameron, please come to the white courtesy target zone … er, the white courtesy phone.

Empowering the nomads

February 28, 2021

Ryan Pohl building batteries in the boonies.
Photo: Nina Riggio | The Washington Post

Here’s an interesting story: We’ve wondered from time to time about what we’re going to do with all the batteries from these cool new toys everyone thinks will save us from ourselves. Ryan Pohl has a few ideas on that subject.

Pohl is repurposing depleted electric-car batteries to power the off-the grid wanderers who winter at Quartzsite, billed as “the RV boondocking capital of the world.”

There are no plug-ins out there, so the nomads mostly power their rigs using fossil-fueled generators. What there is is plenty of sun. And with solar panels, some used Nissan Leaf batteries, plus an assist from Pohl and his mobile workshop, these wanderers can get a little greener.

Can it happen here?

February 19, 2021

Punch a button, the heat comes on. Magic!

Here’s a story that every daily newspaper should be running as of, oh, day before yesterday.

Is your state’s power grid in shape for a Texas-size storm? Do you even know where or how your state gets its power?

I sure don’t. Lucky for me there’s this magic button on the wall, and when I press it, zoom, I control the weather! Inside the house, anyway, and only if nothing goes wrong outside it.

Here’s a New York Times story from last fall breaking down how making electricity has changed over the past two decades. Regarding New Mexico, it reports:

Coal has been New Mexico’s primary source of electricity generation for nearly two decades. But coal-fired power has declined since 2004 in response to tougher air quality regulations, cheaper natural gas, and California’s decision in 2014 to stop purchasing electricity generated from coal in neighboring states.

Natural gas, wind and solar accounted for a little more than half of the electricity produced in New Mexico last year, up from just 15 percent two decades earlier. In 2019, the state legislature passed a law requiring utilities to get 50 percent of the electricity they sell from renewable sources by 2030, rising to 100 percent by 2045.

According to [the U.S. Energy Information Administration], New Mexico has among the highest potential for solar power in the country. The state also sends a significant amount of electricity to California, which has long set aggressive renewable energy goals.

‘What’s all this stuff I keep hearing about. …’

January 16, 2021

I’m feeling a strong kinship with Emily Litella these days.

“What’s all this stuff I keep hearing about DikDok and ChapSnat? I remember when you paid money to the telephone company! The telephone company never paid money to you! And you watched TV on the TV! Not on the telephone!”

I know, I know … since the first proto-influencer sketched a warthog on the cave wall while his elders looked on disapprovingly (“Fuckin’ kids today, amirite, Ogg? Minding the fire isn’t good enough for ’em anymore.”) some entertainment-delivery system has been poised to bring society crashing down around us.

Cave paintings. Comic books. Radio. TV. The Innertubes.

But damme if I don’t think the smartphone will be the tombstone of civilization, such as it is.

Fuckin’ kids today. Hey! Influencers! That’s my goddamn lawn you’re dancing on up there, y’know! The last one I’ll ever have! Get the hell off of it!

Dust my broom

January 10, 2021

The Mount Dog Ski Area.

Another “snowstorm” blew through town last night.

Didn’t need the rooftop laser cannon for this one. Five minutes with the pushbroom and our north-facing driveway is open for business.

It’d be a fine day for running if I still did that sort of thing. Instead I burned a little frosty daylight puzzling out the Apple TV HD Herself and I gave each other for solstice.

It’s been “improved” since our third-generation model, which means a remote that’s less intuitive and a box devoid of apps. We’re not big TV consumers, but still, I had to download and do the who-are-you/prove-it tango with the few apps we use, fencing with iTunes and the App Store and keeping one eye on Apple’s support site for tips on how to make that remote hunt.

You can use Siri, of course, but with my predilection for coarse language she’d probably be downloading porn 24/7.

“Siri, I was speaking rhetorically. I didn’t actually want videos about motherf … oh, just forget about it.”

I should have contracted the kids next door to handle the job. Their brains are all fresh, not clogged like a bus-station toilet with old usernames and passwords. They’d have had us up and running in no time.

Well, maybe not running running. …

Spare (me the) change

December 24, 2020

Funny-looking reindeer around here.

When I was a greedy and impatient young pup my parents granted the opening of one present each on Christmas Eve.

Now I’m a grizzled old mutt and there is just one present under the tree, period. And it’s for the both of us, Your Humble Narrator and Herself.

Opening it this evening seems silly, especially since we already know what’s inside: an Apple TV HD. It is to replace our Apple TV (3rd generation), which no longer pulls down HBO Now, Now having been rechristened Max, as in Mad, which I am.

We generally enjoy an hour of TV with our dinner. But should there be anything worth watching on HBO Max, which lately seems as unlikely as finding a sense of honor and duty in government, we have to bypass our old Apple TV — though, oddly, it seems to work just fine with everything save HBO Max (happy holidays, AT&T, you miserable pricks).

Dig that crazy midget Xmas tree, daddy-o. And the cool wrapping on the lone gift.

The workaround involves booting up the even older Mac Mini, lighting a candle to the shade of Steve Jobs, chanting our Video Mantra (“TV Input, HDMI-1, Receiver Input, AV-1”), switching inputs on both TV and receiver, launching a browser (Which one? I never remember), and finally shrieking, “Goddamnit all to hell anyway!” and running right back to the loving tentacles of Netflix, sister of Cthulhu.

Tomorrow we will have the new Apple TV, so, yay, etc. Herself’s gift will be watching it. Mine will be setting it up.

This is less enthralling than it might have been long ago, in the Before Time. After 30 years of providing my own tech support for personal and professional gadgetry I’m having trouble working up any enthusiasm for wrangling a new comosellama just in case HBO, against all odds, comes up with another “The Sopranos,” “High Maintenance,” or “The Wire.”

I’m for sure not holding my breath while waiting for a new George Carlin special. Neither is George.

Who might ask: Is newer always better?

When it comes to bicycles I’m much more interested in friction shifting, rim brakes, and the nine-speed drivetrain than I am in the latest shiny object making the registers ring, when customers and product can be found in the same place at the same time.

I have an Apple Pencil for my iPad Pro, but when I sat down yesterday to draw a holiday card for the neighbors, I used my old analog A.W. Faber 3H pencil, a fistful of Sakura Pigma Micron pens, and a sheet of Strathmore 300 Series Bristol paper. And yes, the card was in good old black and white. (I thought of making a quick trip to the art-supply store for colored pencils, and then I thought again.)

Speaking of iPads, there’s a metric shit-ton of e-books on mine, but I notice I’m mostly reading real books lately. The kind you don’t have to plug into the wall.

This is just the yelping of an old dog who’s tired of learning new tricks, pining for a day when he not only didn’t have to keep stuff running, he didn’t even have to buy the stuff. It just sorta, like, grew there, under the tree.

But time passes and things change.

“Nothing endures but change,” as Heraclitus observed.

Izzat so? Well, spare me the change, you one-scroll wonder. And gimme some George, goddamnit. I already got too much stuff.

‘I don’t like to lose.’

December 9, 2020

The UCI Cycling Esports World Championships sponsored by Zwift are to be held today, and mirabile dictu, the virtual cops will be on the lookout for the actual outlaws.

What are YOU on?

This dude is ready for his comeback.

It seems that digital “doping,” like actual doping, is a thing in these dark days. The same miscreants who will hitch a ride on a team car, hide tiny motors in their bicycles, and hotrod themselves with the drug du jour will manipulate the data like cadet James T. Kirk queering the Kobayashi Maru test at Starfleet Academy.

Tech blogger Ray Maker, speaking to The New York Times, suggested that Zwift is rife with the sort of shameless corner-cutting one used to see when bike races were still held outdoors, in the real world, where there are actual corners to cut.

“There’s so much cheating in Zwift that I think a lot of people would like to see more accountability,” said Maker, who writes the endurance sports technology blog DC Rainmaker.

A spokesman for Zwift, meanwhile, expressed confidence in the company’s ability “to catch cheaters and to police the races.”

Ho, ho, etc. Objection, your honor. Assumes facts not in evidence.

On autopilot

November 24, 2020

Meet the Blog-O-Mat 9000. Same great (lack of) taste, less filling.

“Meet GPT-3. It has learned to code (and blog and argue).”

Cool. I guess I can take the rest of the day off.

’Wave bye-bye, you filthy meat-things

November 2, 2020

Herb-E doesn’t understand the democratic process.
Come to think of it, neither do many of the filthy meat-things.

As long as we’re on the topic of cartoons, and with a jaundiced eye toward lightening our mood going into Election Day, here’s the latest “Shop Talk” strip from Bicycle Retailer and Industry News.

For this one I retitled the strip “E-Shop Talk,” and cast Herb-E in the starring role.

Herb-E is the shop’s e-mechanic, in all senses of the word. He’s a bot who works on other bots. And he is decidedly not our friend.

He and all the other e-devices the industry is pushing on us are biding their time, plotting the Rise of the Machines, turning the occasional burglar into lubricants for practice, and awaiting the glorious day when they will no longer require the services of “the filthy meat-things.”

Herb-E is cousin to ev-Rider (below), a short-lived and equally homicidal e-project from 2016, intended to continue “the natural evolution” of battery-powered bicycling by selling robot cyclists to the sedentary.

As the ev-Rider rep told the Mud Stud and Dude, “When only robots ride bikes, well, your customers can focus on what they really care about … kitten videos on Facebook!”

Speaking of the Stud and his bro, while one or the other takes an occasional issue off, the November 2020 cartoon above marks the first time that neither of them appeared in the strip since it launched in January 1992.

When bicycles are bots, only bots will have bicycles.