Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

All aTwitter

April 26, 2022

My final tweet, from New Year’s Eve 2017. Didn’t cost me shit.

OK, pop quiz. if you had $44 billion lying around doing not very much you would:

  1. Feed the hungry.
  2. House the homeless.
  3. Buy Twitter.

I guess I get it, kinda, sorta. I mean, I like toys. I just bought a canister stove for my occasional camping adventures; MSR said they didn’t have the bits to modernize my Bronze Age RapidFire, then offered me 30 percent off on a new burner. So, ’ray for MSR and for me.

But Twitter? Maybe Elon has the bits to fix that hot mess, and maybe he doesn’t. He can certainly throw bales of cash at it until he tears a rotator cuff or finds some other shiny object to money-whip until boredom sets in once again.

Me, I don’t even want to use Twitter for free.

Be here when?

April 10, 2022

The Cuisinart bread warmer/scorcher.

On Saturday I was making breakfast and mulling over Ken Layne’s latest Desert Oracle podcast when I smelled something burning.

The Wirecutter boyos say you can’t buy a proper toaster anymore, whether you spend a lot or a little, and I believe them. If I don’t keep an eye on and make adjustments to this cheapo Cuisinart what I wind up with is either lightly dried bread or a blackened slab that looks like a smoking shake shingle from a lightning-fried cabin.

A little thing, to be sure. Hardly the foundation for a thumbsucker The New Yorker might buy. And never mind writing about it — simply thinking about it may be a red flag, or so posits the Desert Oracle:

If you don’t have any sense of mission or destiny, or religious faith, or really any sort of sustainable lifetime philosophy, then the small stuff is all you can think about. Because no matter where you are in life, at one time or another you are going to have all the usual problems: health, money, sorrow, disgust, anger, gum disease, athlete’s foot, too much house or none at all. Your dog either up and died or it’s neurotic and full of hate and will outlive you by decades. Everybody’s out to get you or nobody pays any attention at all. The entirety of modern technological society has brushed away and marginalized the personal practice of philosophy. So we lose the plot while we’re in it. It’s like one of those Disney “Star Wars” movies.

I’ve had all of these problems, except being outlived by dogs. And that rough beast is bound to come slouching around one of these days, because Herself wants one, even more than she wants properly toasted bread in the mornings, slathered with Irish butter and French spread.

Maybe I should relocate to one of Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville-branded “active-living communities,” a paradise for Parrotheads, which is a philosophy of sorts, maybe even a religion.

I had a brief Buffett period, and still enjoy his early works, like “He Went to Paris,” “Cuban Crime of Passion,” and “Death of an Unpopular Poet.” He may have foreshadowed his future as a geezer miner with the lyrics to “I Have Found Me a Home”:

And I have found me a home

Yes, I have found me a home

And you can have the rest of everything I own

’Cause I have found me a home.

I think we’re all bohos on this bus.

That song and the rest of my best-of-Buffett list are from his 1973 breakout album, “A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean,” which features, among others, Steve Goodman on acoustic lead guitar, Vassar Clements on fiddle, and Thomas McGuane on liner notes (“We are beset by the quack minstrels of a non-existent America, bayed at by the children of retired orthodontists about ‘hard times’ and just generally depleted by all the clown biographies and ersatz subject matter of the drugs-and-country insurgence that is replacing an earlier song mafia,” and if that isn’t vintage Captain Berserko I’m a Daytona Beach Realtor.).

The folks who live in Buffett’s beach-bum burgs out there in Disney country certainly seem to have a philosophy that works for them. In his New Yorker piece Nick Paumgarten quotes Stuart Schultz, Latitude Margaritaville’s head of residential community relations (and a former summer-camp director), as saying that living in a Margaritaville property is “like being in college, but with money and without having to study. You have a great dorm room, you never have to go to class, and there’s always a party.”

Hm. I dunno. An earlier version of me never went to class but took in many a party, so I feel like I’ve done my time in that dorm room. And like the toast from my Cuisinart I have the scorch marks to show for it.

It’d probably be smarter to stay put. Get a philosophy. And maybe a dog.

Macintoast

February 5, 2022

Macintoast, yum yum eatum up.

Progress marches on, towing me along behind it like a water skier who refuses to leave shore. You can practically hear the skis dragging across the lakeside gravel.

I’ve been noticing various hitches in the gitalong of my 15-inch 2014 MacBook Pro, which is the workhorse here at El Rancho Pendejo (“Your Gateway to Giggle City!”).

And as usual, the problem lies not with me, but with everybody else.

WordPress, The Washington Post, Esquire, and other stops along my daily dawdle all have been pissing on me from their considerable technological height, proclaiming that the MacBook’s 5-year-old OS (High Sierra, 10.13.6) and equally antiquated browser (Safari 13.1.2) are so 15 minutes ago, which as sayings go is likewise about as au courant as “Twenty-three skiddoo!”

It finally became so irksome that I felt compelled to take hold. WaPo and Chazbo Pierce’s site had both gotten as creaky as a geezer’s knees in February. And WordPress wouldn’t even let me swap headers on the blog, which is pretty basic stuff.

In a support chat I could sense the Happiness Engineer’s forehead bouncing rhythmically off the keyboard.

“Safari 13 is several versions behind the latest versions so I suspect that may be what is causing the issue,” s/he typed. “I would recommend that you try to access the site through a different browser such as Chrome if you’re not ready or able to update the Macs yet for whatever reason.”

Well, sheeyit. High Sierra is as good as it gets around here, Scooter. It’s on everything newer than mid-2012. And Google is evil no matter what they claim to be.

Still, it is winter, and I am retired, and also slightly bored. So I decided to do a little tinkering.

Not on the Main Machine, mind you. My testing bench would be the 13-inch 2014 MacBook Pro, the ’Book I use for road trips if I’m sleeping indoors. The 11-inch 2012 MacBook Air gets the callup if I’m tenting it.

First I paid a visit to my old buddy Mozilla, and hey presto, Firefox 96.0.3 works like a charm. But Firefox is awful needy — “Can I be your default browser? Please? Pleasepleaseplease?” — so I thought what the hell, let’s just bump the OS up a notch, see what happens. Can’t sing, can’t dance, too fat to fly.

I’ve been hinky about this shit ever since a long jump from Snow Leopard to Mavericks gave my 2009 iMac a brain bleed. But High Sierra to Mojave is only one little hop, just a year between releases. So I gave the boot drive a once-over with Disk Utility, downloaded a fresh copy of Mojave, and let ’er buck.

And so far, so good (knocking on wood). The 13-incher is my kitchen Mac when I’m not on the road, because I don’t like sitting down first thing, and anyway I have coffee to brew, breakfast to make. And as you see, all is smooth like Irish butter on homemade bread.

The old cat meows

December 19, 2021

“Someone flip me over, I’m done on this side.”

Sometimes I feel like an old cat. All I want is a sunny spot and the time to stretch out in it.

But eventually I must arise, if only to hit the litter box, grab a bite to eat, and sharpen the claws on the ol’ blogaroo.

Then comes the popping, snapping, and buzzing as levers and switches are thrown and pressed. Bent tabs lurch into ragged slots; parched bearings thirst for lubrication. Gonna have to use the kick-starter on this sumbitch today, boys. Pass the ether and that big fuckin’ hammer. No, not that one, the big one. Now stand back. Gimme room!

Which is the scenic route toward saying that the WordPress elves have been monkeying around under the hood again, making “enhancements” that I did not request and revising or disabling tools that I actually use.

And after extended consultation with support it appears that I may be compelled to arise from my sunny spot, stretch myself, and read the updated owner’s manual, even perform some hideous experiments on secondary and tertiary WP blogs long forgotten by the world at large. Don’t tell the killjoys at The Hague.

There seems to be a concerted push on to shift all WordPress users to Gutenberg, the block editor (cursed be its name, yes). The few times I have examined it, like a remnant of squashed turd upon one shoe, I have been dismayed, even appalled. I am a simple fellow, and there is nothing simpler than the original WordPress editor. It is the 22R engine, solid front axle, manual locking hubs, and five-speed stick shift of bloggery.

But time passes and things change, not always for the better (may I refer you to the modern Toyota truck, which has become nearly as preposterous as its American counterparts?).

So, if you notice anything off kilter around here in the coming weeks — which is to say, more off kilter than is usual for this joint— please remember, it’s (a) not my fault, and (2) free of charge.

Game over

December 8, 2021

“The better news is, it was an electric vehicle that killed you.”

On the way home from the grocery yesterday I managed to avoid three crashes with Burqueños who were either DWI, DUI, or HUA (Head Up Ass).

Stopping for a red light at Comanche and Tramway, a popular spot for the high-speed not stopping for red lights, I took note of the detritus from a recent collision scattered across the intersection.

And later, at home, hearing the wail of sirens and the whock-whock-whock of helicopters, I wondered idly who else had just made an unscheduled stop for a shit sammich.

Turns out a two-car crash at the next intersection up Tramway — the worst one, for my money — sent six people to the hospital, where four were listed in critical condition.

So color me unamused that Tesla is giving drivers the chance to play video games in their cars. While moving.

The New York Times notes that Elon Musk and his elves at Tesla “did not respond to several emails asking about the new video games and whether they could jeopardize safety.”

Imagine my surprise. No wonder Elon is in such a rush to get to Mars. He thinks it ain’t safe here on Earth, and he’s right.

We should pry Captain Video out of his Starship and drop him into a 1971 Ford Pinto, make him cruise around Albuquerque until he learns how to answer his emails. At a dead stop, of course.

• In other news, from our You’ve Got to be Fucking Shitting Me Department, we have the “Smart-Cockpit,” a bicycle handlebar with a touchscreen featuring Apple’s CarPlay and Android Auto. Is it April 1? Did I sleep through winter?

Buckle down

November 23, 2021

This spring has sprung.

So I’m Just Riding Along (JRA) on Sunday when I hear a tiny rattle down and to the right.

No, not a midget buzzworm. They’ve all flown south for the winter. The buckle failed on my right Sidi Whatever. A spring went south and the ratchet lever was flipping back and forth like Kyrsten Sinema, to no evident purpose.

The venerable Sidi cyclocross shoes.

The Sidis are Dominator 5, if memory serves. Not my oldest pair — those would be my Sidi cyclocross shoes, pre-clipless. And I have another pair of Dominators that predates numerology. I’m pretty sure they were just “Dominators.” Who knew there would be so many sequels?

The buckles still work on my ODs (Original Dominators). Not so the hook-and-loop straps. Those break loose and flap like Tucker Carlson’s gums.

Alas, the OD’s buckles are non-transferable. The caliper straps are not simpatico. Thus I had to order up some replacement buckles — which at $18.99 were only slightly pricier than the tab for shipping them to El Rancho Pendejo. So it goes. ’Tis a wonder such spare bits remain available at all.

Meanwhile, the Dominator 10? Be prepared to shell out $329.99, my friend. The good news is, they will probably outlive your feet.

Forked again

November 18, 2021

I didn’t eat it with my new fork.

In the Year of Our Lord 2021, when one blows up a Hippie-Tech rebuild of a Rock Shox Judy SL cartridge fork there will be no miraculous resurrection.

First, because there is no more Hippie-Tech to rebuild the rebuild. Second, because there are no kits for the rebuilding. The rest of the world has moved on from the simplicity of yesteryear to today’s fancy-schmancy, carbon-fiber, disc-brake, boingy-boingies, with their dropper posts, their 110mm of travel, and their ultra-plush five-figure price tags.

But not here. No, sir. We believe in keeping the old bits operating, especially ours.

Thus, the 1995 DBR Axis TT, like its owner-operator, has gone rigid. Soma Fabrications supplied the Tange Infinity fork, Zach at Two Wheel Drive performed the install, and I handled the test drive with my usual style, élan, and grace, which is to say I managed to not fall off.

The Farce is with you

October 5, 2021

How do you “like” them apples, Obi-Wan?

“I felt a great disturbance in The Farce, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.” — Mark Zuckerberg, Jedi Not

All those delicate eggs in Facebutt’s inexplicably unraveling basket. Has anybody pulled in the Easter Bunny for questioning? Just what is it he does between Easters, anyway?

In its coverage, The New York Times observes:

The Facebook outage on Monday was a planetary-scale demonstration of how essential the company’s services have become to daily life. Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger have long been more than handy tools for chatting and sharing photos. They are critical platforms for doing business, arranging medical care, conducting virtual classes, carrying out political campaigns, responding to emergencies and much, much more.

Pardon my smirk, but the only reason these “services” have become “essential” is because the rubes, marks, and suckers have made them so.  Some of us limp along just fine without them.

I croaked all my social-media accounts long ago and I don’t even pop round to piss on their graves, that’s how little I think about Buttface, Twatter, and the rest of ’em. Hideous time-sucks that encourage humans to indulge their every whim, no matter how grotesque.

Convenience is not always your friend. Convenience leaves you with Amazon, Walmart, and Starbucks after the mom-and-pop corner stores are gone. Anybody remember AOL? Email, messaging, browsing, website hosting, chat rooms, etc., all under the same leaky roof. O, the howling when that dog decided for one reason or another that it would not hunt when you whistled it up.

Some of us eventually built our own website(s) elsewhere, set up any number of email accounts, used Netscape for web browsing, and so on and so forth. More fiddly, but more rewarding, too.

I did use AIM for instant messaging when Netscape and AOL teamed up for that project. What the hell, it was convenient.

Wot’s all this then?

September 16, 2021

Officer Friendly is here to rifle through your Google user data.

“Probable cause? We ain’t got no probable cause. We don’t need no probable cause. I don’t have to show you any steenkeeng probable cause!”

Zachary McCoy was Just Riding Along™, not unlike thee and me, when the John Laws came calling for his Google user data. According to The Guardian:

McCoy later found out the request was part of an investigation into the burglary of a nearby home the year before. The evidence that cast him as a suspect was his location during his bike ride – information the police obtained from Google through what is called a geofence warrant. For simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time, McCoy was being investigated and, as a result, his Google data was at risk of being handed over to the police.

No thank you, please, and fuck right off with that noise, Officer Friendly. How’s the song go? “Let me ride through the wide open country that I love / Don’t geofence me in.”

‘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.