Wednesday, November 02, 2022

What I learned about managing catalytic converter theft: OEM vs aftermarket vs universal

The catalytic converter on my much loved 2010 Kia Sedona van was stolen. (I think there are two and the rear converter was removed. I'm not a car guy.) It's an every day thing around here.

This is what I learned about this problem.

  1. Manufacturers only stock OEM converters for 10y post model date. So there's no OEM solution.
  2. The normal option to an OEM converter is a "bolt-on" aftermarket product. This is typically installed by a service garage or muffler shop. In Nov 2022 there are none available for the Kia Sedona and many other vehicles. It's a national shortage.
There are three remaining options:
  1. A "straight pipe": This is illegal but in our fallen times nobody seems to care. (Mad Max didn't even have a muffler.) Done by some muffler shops and by guys working out of their home. Oxygen sensor is a common issue, there are probably others. Not so good for the environment, but neither is replacing the vehicle.
  2. A "universal catalytic converter". Insurance companies will send customers to a muffler shop that will install (weld I think) a "universal converter". These are not a perfect match to the vehicle so they may cause performance issues and trigger a check engine light. For this reason service shops avoid them in normal times. That "we don't go there" rule can cause some bad advice in post-apocalyptic times.
  3. Sell or junk the vehicle and pay $50,000 for a new van. If sell then the buyer does one of the above.
Our garage mechanic didn't mention the "universal catalytic converter" option because "they don't do that". Sadly he hadn't updated his algorithm to deal with the national shortage. Now we have a new mechanic (He did apologize for his error, but hd didn't think to offer a retention incentive. I think he'll give better advice in the future.)

If you do replace a catalytic converter it may, of course, be stolen again. Consider a weld-on cage so thieves choose a neighboring vehicle instead. Or a straight pipe so they don't bother. It's handy to have a junk car when parking in unsecured lots in metro Minneapolis St Paul.

[Political aside: property crime will elect the GOP in America. Don't get fooled into thinking that only violent crime rates matter.]

Monday, October 24, 2022

Installing a NiteRider headlamp on a Bell helmet's GoPro mount with K-Edge adapter and Suptig thumbscrews

My Bell Super Air mountain bike helmet (removable face guard) came with an undocumented snap-in GoPro mount. I figured I'd use it to hold a NiteRider light for night trail rides (a relatively common Minnesota activity, we use one bar light and helmet light). This was more of a journey than I expected, so I wrote this up to share.

The first mistake I made was treating the Super Air GoPro mount as removable. It broke and in COVID times it took months to get a replacement. When you snap that thing in don't try to remove it; I think it's designed to safely break under stress. 

You can see the mount on the photo below, as well as my light, the NiteRider approved K-Edge adapter ($30 with shipping!, but if you know what to look for you can get it via Amazon for $20 with Prime), the remnant of a Best Tek Amazon adapter (very good except it broke after 3 uses, $10) and "Suptig thumbscrews for GoPro" ($7).


The bottom line is to mount a light on this helmet's GoPro mount you need the K-Edge adapter (their site, NiteRider site) and the Suptig thumbscrews. If you're Amazon Prime you can get both for $27. (I think K-Edge makes a range of GoPro mounts that can be used with NiteRider and this adapter.)

There are limited directions for installation so check out the photo on the K-Edge site; it shows how you orient it in the NiteRider groove.)

The K-Edge is a tough of alloy. You slide it in the NiteRider groove and once you have a good balance point position you tighten two small hex bolts. It ain't coming off without an Allen key.


I actually liked the Best Tek adapter better, it looked like a regular NiteRider mount fused to a GoPro. Sadly it was made using a very inexpensive plastic, didn't slide in and out very well, and the release tab broke off the 3rd time I used it.

Here's the K-Edge with Suptig thumbscrew on the Bell Super Air's Go Pro mount. It's very solid and a great location on the helmet for trail illumination. Of course we have to watch for branches, I've walked lights more than once.


Tuesday, September 20, 2022

On buying a less expensive bike for riding dirt trails - used and new

A friend asked me for advice on buying a bicycle suited to dirt trails (up to novice singletrack as well as city trails). She would want to spend under $1500 (preferably under $800!). See also: online sources and buying a used road bike.

The best choice for this is probably a hard fork mountain bike with 2" tires. These, however, do not exist short of very high end gravel bikes that are way overkill for her. The next best options are 

  1. Hard fork fat bike with 4" tires and a less aggressive tread. This works reasonably well for shorter road trips, avoids all the cost and complexity associated with a quality front shock, and will be comfortable on any kind of sand and dirt and most novice trails. Alloy frame.
  2. A "hard tail" (front but no rear suspension) mountain bike. Alloy frame.
Used or new?

Most used bikes are overpriced. Always compare to new and consider bike shop customer support. Don't buy used without an expert friend to inspect. A 1996-2010 26" wheel size hard form mountain bike with a quality front fork that still works can be a good deal. These are hard to find but often good value; sometimes they show up at community bike restore/sell shops and used bike dealers. Bicycle BlueBook helps with evaluating costs. Always compare to cost of new similar bike. Get help to avoid buying stolen bikes. Buying a used road bike is a bit dated but mostly still true.

A 1994 high end hard fork 26" mountain bike can be a good deal. Very hard to find. Consider calling Mr Micheals Reycles Bicycles and asking them to keep an eye open.

A disadvantage of older trail bikes is their "geometry". Modern trail bikes have been changed so they are much harder to go over the front wheel; older bikes are more responsive up front but sometimes that's a problem.

Bike shop employees sometimes sell 1yo bikes for what they paid for them (half-new) but these are usually high end bikes.

Mail order?

New bikes are considerably cheaper when ordered by mail but this is more for an expert buyer.

Local Bike Shops

In the MSP metro area I've been happy with Freewheel, Erik's and REI. There are some other high end shops I like but they are much more money.

Outfitters!

Outfitters that do mountain bike tours often recycle their fleet yearly. They buy on a discount and I think they sell for something close to what they paid. This can be a great bargain but the bikes go fast. I get an email every fall from Western Spirit giving me a chance to buy.

Some "reference" new bikes to use when shopping

I like Trek bikes. They are well made, well warranteed, easy to get parts for, easy to service locally, and are fairly priced.

1. Trek Roscoe 7 is a serious modern hard tail mountain bike. It's also over $1900. The Marlin is their entry level bike and is also quite good at $850.

REI store brand bikes can also be a reasonable deal, but in practice most good bikes are very similar prices.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

What is "manliness" in 2022?

Over the past year or two several of my favorite writers have expressed uncertainty about the American cultural standard for "manliness". Some wonder if it even exists.

Speaking from Oldness I would say that there is a clear standard of "manliness" in American culture and that it has changed relatively little over the past 80 years.

Manliness is Shane in 1949. It's the MCU's Steve Rogers (more than the comics actually). It's Aragorn in the LOTR. In the 1970s it's James Bond and Playboy and, more recently, Men's Journal. It's Kipling's (yes, that one) 1943 poem ...
If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too ...

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same ...

... If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son

Manliness includes enjoying toys, whether they are garden tools or drills or mountain bikes or skis or Lego models. There is continuity with Boyliness.

While Manliness has not changed much, there have been changes in who can be Manly. The role was once restricted to penis people. It's now open to all. Once you understand that you can see the continuity of the cultural model.

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Phone and data services for travelers to Europe

Our daughter is doing a semester abroad in Florence Italy so I've been looking into voice, SMS and data services. In particular the transition from physical SIM to eSIM has given us new options and new complexity. 

I found these sites useful:
Some key findings:
  • The use of SMS as 2FA means she needs access to her US SMS number
  • Although AT&T charges $10 a day for data access it's capped at 10 days of use a month. So max of $100 a month. As soon as you data roam the charge is activated for one day (I think local midnight?)
  • For $15/month she can call US numbers toll-free and send and receive SMS without a fee.
  • The Savvy Backpacker overstates how established eSIMs are in Europe -- especially if you want a local number. I think physical nano-SIMs are still the default and are more economical
  • European eSIMs are often data only, there's no local number. I wanted a local number she could use though we may find that's not necessary.
  • eSIM prepaid plans vary in when the clock starts running and when service expires ("credit validity"). Expiration is in the range of 2 to 4 weeks from either purchase or first use or activation.
  • Supposedly any EU mobile plans works without roaming fees.
  • Foreigners buy SIMs in Italy probably need to jump through paperwork with hidden feeds for "antiterrorism" measures -- and because this is Italy.
We decided to:
  • Pay the AT&T international plan fee so she can do SMS and phone on her US SIM.
  • Accept that at first she may roam on her AT&T SIM for $10/day ($100/month) until we sort out options
  • Switch her iPhone to use AT&T eSIM even though that will cause AT&T to charge us an "activation fee" of $30 (I hate that scam). That frees up a slot for a local SIM card. (We found that the on-iPhone SIM-to-eSIM conversion does not trigger an AT&T activation fee!)
  • Plan on buying a physical SIM in Italy, compare options to Lebara.
Update 9/22/2022

Some things we learned after going through the process ...
  1. We switched her US AT&T SIM to eSIM so we freed up her physical SIM slot.
  2. On arrival she used her AT&T SIM until she had a local SIM ($10/day of use, max $100/mo)
  3. In Italy her host organization recommended a local vendor and SIM at a reasonable monthly rate. They streamlined the paperwork.
  4. With iPhone dual SIM her phone is set to:
    1. AT&T eSIM: no roaming, active so can receive texts and calls (no fee to receive)
    2. Local Italian physical SIM: no roaming but provides local data services. Can send and receive calls and texts.
For my part I'm traveling to Florence in a few days. I'm planning to just pay AT&T $100 and use their roaming service. (I tried to be sneaky and sign up for T-Mobile's Network Pass, but of course that doesn't qualify for roaming services.)

A reader, Fran├žois H., provided some additional useful information for longer term visits (like my daughter's):

① Expect paperwork in any EU country to open a phone line. It is normal procedure to be asked for a passport and proof of address in the form of a lease agreement, landline bill or some other antiquated piece of paper (gas bill, tax return…). I share your feelings on how intrusive and pointless this is, but this is, sadly, a universal hurdle. At a pinch, a handwritten sworn statement from a host often works, alongside a copy of their own ID.

② Beware of eSIMs: they work well but many companies force users to start with a physical SIM before switching to an eSIM, especially when replacing the SIM after the loss or theft of the original phone, supposedly “for security.” This makes your decision to leave the physical slot open in Europe all the more important, as it may be impossible to activate or renew an eSIM directly. (The biggest trap is that it is usually possible to open a new line as an eSIM, but not to transfer or restore it without going physical for “verification” purposes.)

③ Beware of EU roaming: yes, it is possible to roam in the EU without incurring additional charges, thanks to one of the EU’s few straightforwardly positive laws. However, there is a so-called fairness clause attached: travellers must still use more data or minutes per month in the plan’s home country than they do in other EU countries. Failing this, the phone company will be allowed to charge extra. This is to prevent consumers in expensive EU countries from purchasing cell plans in cheaper countries and using them at home full time. In other words, EU-wide roaming works great when travelling within the EU but cannot be relied on to source a cheaper or better plan for someone who plans to remain in another country. (It is also not uncommon for schools and various government offices to require local phone numbers, making the use of a foreign number rather risky.)

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Putting down a marker on post-COVID encephalopathy (PCE)

I generally have opinions on things even in the absence of science or data. They are often wrong. Even so, for my own future amusement, here's my take on fatigue/cognitive symptoms persisting months after a COVID infection:
  • I think direct post-viral fatigue, including post-COVID is in the head. Specifically, in brain tissues. Something along the lines of an encephalitis or MS -- encephalopathy is probably the best term. A persistent inflammatory condition related to immune dysfunction or persistent infection by something (like reactivated latent viruses, COVID, etc).
  • It's very hard to separate post-viral neuronal dysfunction from anxiety, depression, ongoing dementing processes, coincident head injuries, coincident brain disorders, sleep disorders and the like. It's all in the brain after all. (These aren’t exclusive conditions, so some unlucky person must get all of them at once. Heck, for all we know depression is partly a postviral damage disorder.) We need better tech -- maybe a combination of anatomic and functional brain imaging will help one day. Maybe it will be something we can diagnoses between MRI and lumbar puncture/CSF samples.
  • I think one day we'll find post-COVID encephalopathy (PCE I'll call it) occurs in less than 1 in 500 ever-infected people and in most it improves over 3m to 1y.  In most, but we now believe MS is an infrequent or rare sequelae of Epstein-Barr infection. So we gotta worry that some PCE is not going to get better unless we come up with new treatments.
  • There are almost certainly other viruses that cause similar conditions (post-viral encephalopathy). Maybe non-COVID coronavirus URIs aren't as benign as we thought.
Maybe in 2030 I'll come across this and update with how it turned out.

Saturday, June 11, 2022

Paxlovid indications and the Test to Treat program

Paxlovid is indicated for persons at significant risk of bad COVID. As of June 2022 it's crazy-making hard to find a description of what makes someone high risk (and I'm a doc). The only readable and public summary I found is from Mayo Clinic and it's quite long. Basically high risk is a mixture of COVID-immune status (vaccination, prior infection), age (65+ but especially 85+), immune suppression (disease, meds), chronic disease of lungs, heart, liver, kidney (dialysis!), psychiatric and cognitive disorders and Downs syndrome. I'd add substance use disorders (alcohol, fentanyl, etc.)

In general if you regularly see a subspecialist for anything you're high risk (and if also not immunized/prior infected you are kind of suicidal).

If you are not high risk and you are well vaccinated think twice about Paxlovid. It's a serious medication.

So you think you have COVID and you are higher risk, how do you get Paxlovid? 

One problem is you need to get it pretty soon (2 days ideal!) after infection, and current antigen tests are turning positive later in the disease (unclear why, maybe antigen drift). So if a test is positive you need it fast. I'd personally like to see highest risk patients have a two day supply on hand to start taking as soon as the test is positive. They would need significant support and education though.

The best current solution appears to be a program even I had not heard of -- the Federal Test to Treat program (phone 1-800-232-023). You can enter your address in a locator and it tells you where to go. Bring test results or they test, bring your meds because drug interactions are a big deal (Paxlovid is intentionally designed to screw up liver drug metabolism because the active ingredient is super expensive and would be rapidly cleared by the liver.)

Sunday, May 15, 2022

What is Great Replacement Theory?

 [Copied over from a tweet stream.]

So now I'm trying to figure out what Great Replacement Theory is. It seems to be one part true and one part sort-of true.

The true part is that we expect a low-melanin blond-red hair (LMB) phenotype to become less common barring genome hacking. That's been well expected since at least the 1970s (perhaps 1870s?). These are recessive genes and migration and differential birthrates mean they will become uncommon.

The sort-of true part is that libs like me don't care about this. It's not just that my white skin is a PITA (thin, burnt, premalignant), it's also that we have a lot more to worry about. Like civilization for example.

The mostly untrue part is that libs/dems are conspiring to accelerate the decline of the LMB phenotype.

It's true we hope the GOP's white nationalism will discourage "non-white" (whatever whiteness is) voters, it's true we encourage immigration as a generally good thing for a low birth rate America that has benefitted from attracting worldwide talent, it's true that we enjoy and appreciate novelty and diversity, and it's true that we think it would quite good if all this led to the GOP to morph into a non-racist opposition party.

But it's not true that this is an explicit conspiracy.  It is, perhaps, an emergent result of our not caring that much about preserving a particular phenotype, our interest in preserving human and American civilization and our affection for novelty and diversity. I can, however, see why people who are passionately attached to LMB phenotypes would confuse this emergent result with a diabolical conspiracy.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Google Search: 1996-2022. RIP.

Alta Vista was a very good search engine. I didn't feel like I was missing much in early 90s; I could answer many questions easily. Then, in 1996, I tried Google Search. I was one of the first users at our dot com startup. It was miraculous.

The 90s web combined with 90s Google Search gave us all the best of world's written knowledge. It was the closest we ever came to a universal library.

Things go a bit rougher after the dot com crash. We started seeing more click-driven fake sites. On the other hand blogs were great and Google more or less kept the crap under control. Then came the 10s.

Sometime in the 10s Google gave up. Search results started to incorporate paid placement. Black hats figured out how to bypass Google's quality filters and generate adware clicks. At the same time blogs died and quality content got harder to find. By 2017 we knew we were in trouble.

Today I searched on something people ask a thousand times a day: "How do Facebook Messenger hacks work?" Google suggested a variant phrasing. This is what I got (click for full size):


The-sun.com. Google gave me two articles from the-sun.com. And some "quick answers" that are all crap.

Yes, there are people who know how Facebook Messenger hacks work. And yes, they've probably explained it online. But that knowledge is lost in the hellstrom now.

Google Search is dead.

PS. Here's how the Facebook Messenger phishing attack works. It's the old 'enter password' trick.

Saturday, February 05, 2022

We need non-Apple App Stores - because Apple's store has trash like Luni Scanner App.

[Update 3/6/2022: After I exposed this scam I revisited our purchase history and the listing for the scam subscription had changed. Instead of "Luni" the company and "Scanner" the App it showed:



"Municorn" the app and AlexeyBogdanov272750744 as the Seller.

In addition, when I clicked on the Report a Problem link I see there's an entirely new feature!

Unfortunately, perhaps due to issues with my Store Apple ID, I can't select that Apple ID as a family member. Other family members appear.

--------------- ORIGINAL

There are several good arguments for a non-Apple iOS App Store. The best reason I know if for competing App Stores is that Apple's App Store has many frauds.

Consider the case of the Luni Scanner App; #85 in "Business" in the US App Store. 

Luni's is a "mobile app publisher" their site claims they are "the largest french app publisher" (yes, lower case "french"). Their domain information is protected. All their apps are subscription based. 

Luni makes a suspiciously wide range of apps with generic names including a "VPN" app, a "Translator" and a "Video Editor":




The VPN app has 22.9K ratings with an average of 4.7/5 by people like "yessirbruh". The 'most critical' ratings (only accessible on iOS) make clear it is a scam with clever subscription pattern that tricks users into paying a high weekly rate.

The Scanner App is the similar scam that bit my family. It has 174K ratings and 5 stars. The vast majority are obviously purchased. The "critical" reviews mention unwitting subscriptions. A screenshot that appears on first launch shows how it works for the "Free" app with add-in purchases:

This covers the entire screen. It appears that one cannot use the App without clicking Continue. In fact if a user closed this screen the App can be used. Of course most naive users, inducing our family member, will click Continue so they can start their "free trial". Except that's NOT what Continue does. Within 3 days charges will start. In our case, not $10 a month, but $5 a week.

The family member has some reading and processing issues, and a trusting nature, that made him particularly vulnerable to a scam. He thought "5 stars" actually meant something. It didn't occur to him that Apple would allow fake reviews; he trusted Apple. He was also unaware that iOS Notes has a decent scanner app, that Microsoft provides an excellent free app, and that we actually own a quality app from Readdle. 

Because of the way Apple's Family Sharing works for purchases the monthly charges went to my Apple ID. Because of changes Apple made to Apple IDs that account couldn't receive email; I stopped getting Apple purchase statements over 12 months ago.

It took some time for me to see what had happened. I only discovered the scam when doing a routine review of our iTunes subscriptions. With some help from Google I was able find where Apple shows purchase records -- about 20 weeks at $5/week. With more Google help I placed a repayment claim against 20 charges (Apple does not support repayment claims against a subscription.) At this time I do not know if Apple will process the claims.

Scanner App is far from the only scam app on the App Store, and Luni far from the only "publisher" to earn millions from dark subscription patterns. Apple has let this problem fester for years; they are unwilling to fix it.

That's why we need alternative curated high quality App Stores. So we can restrict purchases to a trustworthy vendor.

For me $100 is not a big cost and the experience is a great learning opportunity for my family member. Even so, a reaction is needed. I'm sharing this experience here, but more importantly I'll share a condensed version with our two MN Senators and our Representative and the MN attorney general. If Apple doesn't get the money out of Luni I'll try the AMEX fraud process.

To be clear, the problem is Apple. Luni is just taking advantage of the opportunity they've been given. We need quality App Stores. That requires competition.

Below it the letter I'm sending to our Senators and Representative:

I'm writing to share a family story that illustrates why we need alternatives to Apple's iOS App Store. I hope you will support efforts to force Apple to allow competing App Stores with viable business models.

The problem is Apple has done a poor job keeping scams out the App Store. Recently a vulnerable adult family members was tricked by very sneaky sign up procedure. He unwittingly subscribed to a worthless app for $5/month. Because Apple has no controls on purchases in family sharing accounts I got the bill. It ran for at least 20 weeks before I spotted it and unsubscribed. I submitted a reimbursement request to Apple for 20 transactions.

When I investigated I found the app vendor, Luni, had dozens of similar worthless apps with the same trick subscription process. They have hundreds of thousands of fake reviews. The scam Scanner App was #81 in its category with a 5 star rating. The "publishers" make millions. I'd wager they are a front for anyone who has a good scam app; they create an icon, embed their subscription scam, and take a cut.

The App Store has many apps like this. They make Apple hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Perhaps billions. Apple could have cleaned them out years ago. They could do so many things to make these traps less effective. They've done none of them.

We need a better App Store. Apple doesn't deserve a monopoly on iOS App sales because it's been at best negligent, at worst malevolent. We need higher quality trustworthy curated App Stores in place of Apple's service.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Civilization, complexity and the limits of human cognition - another attempt at explaining the 21st century

The 70s were pretty weird, but I was too young to notice. (Not coincidentally, the Toffler/Farrell Future Shock book was written then.) By comparison the 80s and 90s more or less made sense. In 1992 Fukuyama wrote "The End of History" and that seemed about right for the times.

Things got weird again in the late 90s. I was in a .com startup and I remember valuations getting crazy about 1997, 3 years before the .com crash. We were still picking ourselves up from the crash when 9/11 hit. (A year later, on a purely personal note, my youngest brother vanished.) In the early 00s came Enron and other frauds almost forgotten now. Then in 2008 the real estate collapse and the Great Recession. We were barely recovering from the Great Recession when Trumpism hit. Followed by COVID (which was expected and not at all weird) and the Great Stupidity of the American Unvaccinated (which we did not expect and is perhaps weirdest of all).

Each time the world went off kilter I have tried to figure out a root cause:

At last count my list of contributing factors to the crash of '09 included ...

  1. Complexity collapse: we don't understand our emergent creation, we optimized for performance without adaptive reserve
  2. Mass disability and income skew: The modern world has disenfranchised much of humanity
  3. The Marketarian religion: The GOP in particular (now the Party of Limbaugh), but also many Democrats and libertarians, ascribed magical and benign powers to a system for finding local minima (aka The Market). The Market, like Nature, isn't bad -- but neither is it wise or kind.
  4. The occult inflation of shrinking quality: What happens when buyers can't figure out what's worth buying. Aka, the toaster crisis - yes, really.
  5. performance-based executive compensation and novel, unregulated, financial instruments: a lethal combination. See also - You get what you pay for. The tragedy of the incentive plan.
  6. Disintermediating Wall Street: Wall Street became a fragile breakpoint 
  7. The future of the publicly traded company: A part of our problem is that the publicly traded company needs to evolve
  8. The role of the deadbeats: too much debt - but we know that
  9. Firewalls and separation of powers: a culture of corruption, approved by the American electorate, facilitated dissolving regulatory firewalls
  10. Marked!: Rapid change and the Bush culture made fraud easy and appealing

I put Marked! pretty low on the list, but maybe I should bump it up a bit. The Hall of Shame (Clusterstock) lists a lot more fraud than has made the papers [1]...

By 2010 I was focusing on RCIIIT: The rise of China and India and the effects of IT.

... The Rise of China and India (RCI) has been like strapping a jet engine with a buggy throttle onto a dune buggy. We can go real fast, but we can also get airborne – without wings. Think about the disruption of German unification – and multiply than ten thousand times.

RCI would probably have caused a Great Recession even without any technological transformations.

Except we have had technological transformation – and it’s far from over. I don’t think we can understand what IT has done to our world – we’re too embedded in the change and too much of it is invisible. When the cost of transportation fell dramatically we could see the railroad tracks. When the cost of information generation and communication fell by a thousandfold it was invisible ...

In 2016 and again in 2018 I tried to explain Trumpism by contributing factors (I was too optimistic about Murdoch's health though):

  • 65% the collapse of the white non-college “working class” — as best measured by fentanyl deaths and non-college household income over the past 40 years. Driven by globalization and IT both separately and synergistically including remonopolization (megacorp). This is going to get worse.
  • 15% the way peculiarities of the American constitution empower rural states and rural regions that are most impacted by the collapse of the white working class due to demographics and out-migration of the educated. This is why the crisis is worse here than in Canada. This will continue.
  • 15% the long fall of patriarchy. This will continue for a time, but eventually it hits the ground. Another 20 years for the US?
  • 5% Rupert Murdoch. Seriously. In the US Fox and the WSJ, but also his media in Australia and the UK. When historians make their list of villains of the 21st century he’ll be on there. He’s broken and dying now, but he’s still scary enough that his name is rarely mentioned by anyone of consequence.
  • 1% Facebook, social media, Putin and the like. This will get better.

That 1% for Facebook et all is pretty small — but the election of 2016 was on the knife’s edge. That 1% was historically important.

A few months ago I listed 3 causes for the post-COVID supply and labor shock economics of 2021:

1. Wealth became extremely concentrated. 

2. Returns on labor for 40% of Americans fell below modern standard for economic life.

3. Good investments became hard to find.

It's almost 2022 now, so we're into almost 25 years of the world not making sense any more. So now I'm digging even deeper for a root cause.

Today I'm going with Gordon's Lawthe complexity of a complex adaptive system will increase until it reaches a limiting factor. Our civilization is a complex adaptive system and its complexity increased until it hit a limiting factor -- the complexity capacity of the average human. These days between 40 and 50% of American's can't handle civilization 2021 (sometimes I call this mass disability (see also). Witness among other things, The Great Stupidity of the FoxCovians.

It's a variant of the "Future Shock" Toffler wrote about 52 years ago. I don't have a fix; I don't think the world will get less complex. Our technologies are moving too fast. Maybe we'll just get used to not understanding the world and civilization will stumble on regardless. After all, for most of human history the world was incomprehensible -- and we did manage. Sort of. Mostly without civilization though ...

Friday, October 29, 2021

The Cybernated Generation: Time Magazine, April 2nd 1965

First check out the Time magazine covers for 1965. That was a very long time ago. Things have improved.

Now look at the April 2nd issue and particularly The Cybernated Generation. Every generation since 1965 has been declared cybernated or digitized or meta-sized.

The article is fascinating as a history of computing and our understanding of its impact -- and as a cultural artifact about a world of white men in white coats. There are no women save a secretary to "pass" at. There is no melanin. There are nerds. Some hyperbole aside there's not a lot that the author missed about the world to come...

As viewed by Sir Leon Bagrit, the thoughtful head of Britain's Elliot-Automation, the computer and automation will bring "the greatest change in the whole history of mankind.

... Boeing announced plans two weeks ago to outfit jetliners with computer-run systems that will land a plane in almost any weather without human help. A new "talking computer" at the New York Stock Exchange recently began providing instant stock quotations over a special telephone. In Chicago a drive-in computer center now processes information for customers while they wait, much as in a Laundromat. The New York Central recently scored a first among the world's railroads by installing computer-fed TV devices that will provide instant information on the location of any of the 125,000 freight cars on the road's 10,000 miles of track...

...  In 1834 an eccentric Englishman named Charles Babbage conceived the idea of a steam-driven "Analytical Engine" that in many details anticipated the basic principles of modern computers. 

... Even if no further advances were made in computer technology, some scientists maintain, the computer has provided enough work and opportunities for man for another thousand years....

... The most expensive single computer system in U.S. business is American Airlines' $30.5 million SABRE, a mechanical reservation clerk that gives instant up-to-the-minute information about every plane seat and reservation to American's 55 ticket offices. ...

... Computers now read electrocardiograms faster and more accurately than a jury of physicians. The Los Angeles police department plans to use computers to keep a collection of useful details about crimes and an electronic rogue's gallery of known criminals. And in a growing number of schools, computers have taken jobs as instructors in languages, history and mathematics...

... IBM is far and away the leader in the field, both in the U.S. and abroad...

... The computers have also spawned the so-called "software" industry, composed of computer service centers and independent firms that program machines and sell computer time (for as little as $10 an hour) to businesses that do not need a machine fulltime....

... Because computer technology is so new and computers require such sensitive handling, a new breed of specialists has grown up to tend the machines. They are young, bright, well-paid (up to $30,000) and in short supply. With brand-new titles and responsibilities, they have formed themselves into a sort of solemn priesthood of the computer, purposely separated from ordinary laymen. Lovers of problem solving, they are apt to play chess at lunch or doodle in algebra over cocktails, speak an esoteric language that some suspect is just their way of mystifying outsiders. Deeply concerned about logic and sensitive to its breakdown in everyday life, they often annoy friends by asking them to rephrase their questions more logically....

Until now computer experts could only communicate with their machines in one of 1,700 special languages, such as COBOL (Common Business Oriented Language), Fortran (Formula Translation), MAD (Michigan Algorithmic Decoder) and JOVIAL (Jules's Own Version of the International Algebraic Language). All of them are bewildering mixtures that only the initiated can decipher. Now some computers have reached the point where they can nearly understand—and reply in—plain English. The new Honeywell 20 understands a language similar enough to English so that an engineer can give it written instructions without consulting a programmer. The day is clearly coming when most computers will be able to talk back.

... Each week, the Government estimates, some 35,000 U.S. workers lose or change their jobs because of the advance of automation. There are also thousands more who, except for automation, would have been hired for such jobs. If U.S. industry were to automate its factories to the extent that is now possible—not to speak of the new possibilities opening up each year—millions of jobs would be eliminated. Obviously, American society will have to undergo some major economic and social changes if those displaced by machines are to lead productive lives.

Men such as IBM Economist Joseph Froomkin feel that automation will eventually bring about a 20-hour work week, perhaps within a century, thus creating a mass leisure class. Some of the more radical prophets foresee the time when as little as 2% of the work force will be employed, warn that the whole concept of people as producers of goods and services will become obsolete as automation advances. Even the most moderate estimates of automation's progress show that millions of people will have to adjust to leisurely, "nonfunctional" lives, a switch that will entail both an economic wrench and a severe test of the deeply ingrained ethic that work is the good and necessary calling of man...

... Many scientists hope that in time the computer will allow man to return to the Hellenic concept of leisure, in which the Greeks had time to cultivate their minds and improve their environment while slaves did all the labor. The slaves, in modern Hellenism, would be the computers...

... The computer has proved that many management decisions are routine and repetitive and can be handled nicely by a machine. Result: many of the middle management jobs of today will go to computers that can do just about everything but make a pass at a secretary...

... What it cannot do is to look upon two human faces and tell which is male and which is female, or remember what it did for Christmas five years ago." Bellman might get an argument about that from some computermen, but his point is valid...

... Most scientists now agree that too much was made in the early days of the apparent similarities between computers and the human brain. The vacuum tubes and transistors of computers were easy to compare to the brain's neurons—but the comparison has limited validity. "There is a crude similarity," says Honeywell's Bloch, "but the machine would be at about the level of an amoeba."... eventually the idea that a machine has humanlike intelligence will become part of folklore...

... In the years to come, computers will be able to converse with men, will themselves run supermarkets and laboratories, will help to find cures for man's diseases, and will automatically translate foreign languages on worldwide TV relayed by satellite. Optical scanning devices, already in operation in some companies, will eventually enable computers to gobble up all kinds of information visually. The machines will then be able to memorize and store whole libraries, in effect acquiring matchless classical and scientific educations by capturing all the knowledge to which man is heir....

... computers will eventually become as close to everyday life as the telephone—a sort of public utility of information...

... the computer is already upsetting old patterns of life, challenging accepted concepts, raising new specters to be conquered. Years from now man will look back on these days as the beginning of a dramatic extension of his power over his environment, an age in which technology began to recast human society. In the long run, the computer is not so much a challenge to man as a challenge for him: a triumph of technology to be developed, subdued and put to constantly increasing use.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Inline Skating San Francisco -- from 1997!

I wrote this in 1997 and found it in my old pre-blog Web 1.0 archives. I decided to republish it here because, you know, I could. Some of it may even be relevant today.

Before blogs we did this kind of thing in wysiwyg tools (FrontPage 97 for this piece) and then FTPd to a web server. 

The original page is still on the web but it is not known to Google. Astonishingly it's in the Wayback Machine.

Sunday, October 03, 2021

2021, 3 causes

Copied from a tweet of mine, a cartoon explanation of our peculiar economic situation.

1. Wealth became extremely concentrated. 

2. Returns on labor for 40% of Americans fell below modern standard for economic life.

3. Good investments became hard to find.

Something had to give. COVID broke the dam.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Trek's Mino Link of Doom - beware the lost spacer (Trek Fuel EX mountain bike)

Update Oct 18, 2021: I wrote Trek a paper letter (!) about my experience and they are working on removing any references to trailside Mino Link maintenance.  They are also sending me some nice swag for my troubles. (Lastly, yesterday I found the lost Mino Link spacer in the dirt of my driveway. So now I have an extra!)

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The Trek Mino Link is a feature of the Fuel EX. It lets you raise or lower the bottom bracket depending on whether you prefer fewer pedal strikes or a lower center of gravity. Trek says: "Mino Link lets you quickly and easily make small geometry adjustments to suit your riding style or terrain." 

As of Sept 2021 Trek's Mino Link video claims you can even swap your geometry on the trail.

I am here to tell you that you we would be insane to touch the Mino Link over dirt. If you're going to mess with the Mino Link do it over light carpet so you can see what falls out and pick it up -- especially the critical spacer/washer. A sterile environment would be nice.

The 2021 Mino Link is a problematic design. (The YouTube videos I've seen describe an earlier version that the nut and the bolt, I can't speak to that design.) That doesn't mean you should avoid the Fuel EX -- I really like mine. It does mean you should treat the Mino Link cautiously. If you aren't mechanically inclined have your local shop swap it. If you are then do it over that light carpet. Check that it's secure each time you ride (I do before and after).

The problem is the washer:

SUSPENSION PART GENERIC WASHER 10 X 16 X 3.0 Item: 601479594559

Those two black washers fit are supposed to fit on the inside of the bearing race shown below. The race that's scarred up because the washer fell out when I was adjusting the Mino Lake and it took weeks for me to figure out what had happened:


Here's the other eroded part of the Mino Link hinge:


It doesn't look as bad with a replacement washer in place (it was a bit tricky to get it to stay in during assembly). You can see the black outer washer between the assembled frame components:


If you swap the Mino Link and unknowingly lose the washer two things can happen:

1. Everything assembles and seems fine but the bolt will work loose. You may have the Mino Link come apart on one side. I don't know how long the assembly will hold with just one bolt, but if it fails you'll have an unpleasant mechanical.

2. Number 1 happens so now you tighten it to spec and because you have lousy vision and it's dark you don't notice that one side of the assembly has very little to no space between two hunks of aluminum. It starts to squeal when all the nice paint and gloss wears off. Then you figure out WTF happened and buy a replacement.

Both of these are bad in their own way. I like my Trek Fuel EX. I like Trek. Just be careful about the Mino Link.