Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Home sleep monitoring with Apple Watch and Google (Nest) Home Video in adult with limited ability to describe a nocturnal health issue

I'm changing the details here for privacy reasons, but sharing some technical setup advice.

A special needs adult with limited ability to give reliable history has a medical issue under complex active evaluation. Since the issue often manifests during sleep it has been difficult to observe. This person's parents/guardians are both physicians.

Valuable results have been obtained with a combination of an Apple Watch (already owned), Apple Health App, Heart Reports for iPhoneGoogle Nest Cam (already owned), Google Home app, and a Nest Aware subscription ($12/month for 7 days of continuous monitoring -- camera comes with a 30 day free trial.)

When you set up the camera you need to turn on the continuous video AND (if desired) the continuous audio. The Nest cam's green "active video" notification light may disturb sleep; it cannot be turned off (feature removed 2022) but you can turn down the intensity and cover it with tape.

The patient wears the Apple Watch during sleep. The following day one can review the Apple Watch report using either the native Health App or, as many will prefer, the 3rd party "Heart" Reports App. That last product outputs a wide variety of reports as PDF that can be shared with a healthcare provider; it's $4 one-time and supports family sharing.

With the Apple Watch report and the Nest Aware automated it's possible to scroll through an evening's sleep fairly quickly with special attention to Apple Watch awakening events and Nest Aware event detection.

After a few days of study the Nest Aware subscription can be disabled. The Health app and Video can be shared with providers if needed.

This cannot replace a formal sleep lab observation study but those are rarely done now and are very expensive. This method had a total cost of $16 (less actually since the free trial was active). The technique may be particularly useful for persons whose ability to give history is limited. It may also be useful when sleep labs are not affordable or available.

UPDATE 5/15/2023. We concluded our clinical evaluation and discontinued the trial subscription. Although the video record was very valuable, and although the hardware performed very well, I was unimpressed with Google Home software. In particular:

  1. The iPhone History view really only works in portrait mode, in landscape mode the bottom part of the image doesn't render well. Navigating the history is tedious and the playback can get stuck. Sometimes I had to quit and restart.
  2. The web view is much more limited than the older Nest software and has NO support for history review at all.

Friday, April 28, 2023

Large Language Models - evolutionary tree and selection algorithm 2023

The following two diagrams were taken from Mooler et al's GitHub LLM guide (April 2023). I'm posting them here as a snapshot of this historic moment. The root of the LLM evolutionary tree goes far back in time, almost five years ago. Click image for full res.

Algorithm for selecting an AI technology

LLM Evolutionary Tree

Friday, April 21, 2023

Prosumer digital image management has not progressed to our advantage

Every so often the software market fails. I've had this happen to me a few times. From 1997 to 2007 I used a variety of PalmOS devices for what we used to call "personal information management" (PIM) - including Contacts, Notes, Tasks and Calendaring. My many PalmPilot/Palm handheld stylus devices synchronized by cable connection with Palm desktop software.

PalmOS died around the time the first iPhone came out. That original iPhone was both revolutionary and crappy. Functionally it was a huge regression from PalmOS Calendaring and other PIM solutions, but it was immediately clear that the iPhone was the future (seriously, there were no honest skeptics). Palm had been ailing already, but at that moment it was utterly dead.

It took three years for the iPhone to develop useable solutions for the "PIM-4" that worked across devices (often using either Google or Microsoft Exchange). During that time I had no handheld solution; I returned to using a paper Franklin planner. Finally, in 2010 or so, I was able to transition to the iPhone and iOS.

The market failure of digital image (and video) management has lasted longer and there's no end in site. This means something.

Things were actually looking pretty good for image and video management in 2015. Apple had consumer (iPhoto) and prosumer/professional (Aperture) applications that (mostly) shared the same image library. Things were not perfect -- Aperture had had years of horrible bugs and performance issues, but in retrospect this was a golden age. SSDs were fixing the iPhoto/Aperture performance issues and there were several reasonably priced alternatives including Adobe Lightroom. We didn't know how well we had it.

And then 2015 was when Apple killed both Aperture and iPhoto. There was no replacement for Aperture; users were left stranded with limited ability to migrate to another platform. Photos replaced iPhoto, but in most ways it was a functional regression. There was only one Photos advantage -- it promised a cloud-centric approach to image management with some limited backup features. If your iPhone or laptop was lost or destroyed your Apple Cloud images were probably safe -- as long as you paid for storage or didn't get locked out of iCloud by a phone thief.

Several alternative prosumer image management solutions emerged. But they all had the same problem Aperture had -- they all had severe data lock. If the software were to be discontinued, as happens to most products, there would be no way to extract one's images, image edits, and image metadata (ratings, keywords, titles, descriptions, albums, and on and on). In addition, perhaps inspired by the power of this data lock, many vendors moved to a subscription model. Adobe Lightroom now costs $120 a year, if you don't pay your photo library is essentially dead. Adobe can, if they wish, double or triple that price and customers will simply have to pay up. (I don't know what happens to the image library when a subscriber dies.)

I hoped Apple Photos would mature and develop more advanced features, but it has essentially languished. Recently Apple introduced a "Shared Library" model that is complex to use and, in my experience, has weird bugs and permission problems. (Lesson to users - if you ask Apple for something be prepared to regret your request.)

Eight years after Aperture died there still is not a great prosumer photo management solution for macOS customers. All the options have Hotel California Syndrome -- you can check-in but you can never leave. Apple's only option, the most natural fit for a macOS users, is dreadful and may be deteriorating. Many choices are subscription based and it's very easy for vendors to raise costs.

It's not hard to create a new standards and file based photo management solution. The file system does much of the work. Adobe has an open specification for image metadata management (XMP). Image to album, project, folder relationships are simple row triples. We've known how integrate external image editors for decades [1].

It's not hard ... but it hasn't happened. No vendor has decided to disrupt the marketplace and no open source (really open data structure is what we care about) solution has emerged.

Why not?

My best guess is that the Cloud is the problem. We've only gradually learned how to build responsive synchronizing Cloud products and they are not intrinsically file based. Development is much more challenging and the data lock advantage is irresistible for incumbents.

In the absence of a decent solution vendors are starting to build around the Apple Photos framework. This week Power Photos has a migration and access project. CYME Peakto is some mixture of Photos extension and standalone management solution. Houdah Photos Workbench adds a minuscule number of missing features to I can sort of imagine who these products might work, but Photos is a terrible foundation on which to build.

It's easy to image ways Apple could help, but they've been butchering photo management for a long time. They appear to be broken. The more realistic hope is that it will become easier for open source and other vendors to implement a standards based Cloud solution that would allow library migration between cooperating vendors - either through direct Cloud-Cloud communication or (better) a file based interchange format (what's a TB or two between friends?). I would be happy to pay a $200/year subscription fee for that kind of data freedom solution.

I've spent 7-8 years sitting on Mojave preparing to migrate to Apple Photos. The more I use Apple Photos the less I like this idea.  At this point I expect to convert my beloved 2015 MacBook Air to a non-networked Aperture machine and purchase a new M2 machine for my other work. Since Ventura no longer supports importing Aperture Libraries. I'll be looking for other migration options over the next one to two years. Maybe some vendor will decide to disrupt the data-lock. In the meanwhile I'll test Power Photos migration by periodically migrating my Aperture library to Photos.

[1] For each image store original, the proprietary image editor non-destructive edit recipe, and the most recent edited version in a user-defined format (lossy or lossless). If the editor is or changed the edit recipe is useless, bu the edited version is good.

Monday, April 03, 2023

We need a new word for the historical singularity.

TLDR: The "technological singularity" was an important and useful term with a clear meaning. Then it became the "Rapture of the Nerds". We need a new term.


I first heard the word "singularity" in the context of black hole physics; it dates back at least to the early 20th century:

ChatGPT 4 2023: "At the singularity, the laws of physics as we know them, including space and time, break down, and our current understanding of the universe is insufficient to predict what happens within it."

Not much later, in the 1950s, the term was applied by von Neumann in a technological context (from a 1993 Vernor Vinge essay):

Stan Ulam paraphrased John von Neumann as saying: "One conversation centered on the ever-accelerating progress of technology and changes in the mode of human life, which gives the appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs, as we know them, could not continue."

Brad Delong used to write about this kind of non-AI historical singularity. My favorite description of what it would be like to a approach at technological singularity was Vinge's short story "Fast Times at Fairmount High". (This prescient story appears to be lost to time; he wrote a similar full length novel but I think the short story was better).

The core idea is there's a (virtuous?) recursive loop where technology improves technology with shorter and shorter cycle times. Many processes go exponential and even near term developments become unpredictable. One may assume social end economic structures train to keep pace. The historical singularity exponential curve was part of The Economist's y2K Millennium issue GDP per person historical graph:

In a January 1983 essay for Omni Magazine Vinge focused on a particular aspect of the the technological singularity arising from superhuman intelligence (aka "super intelligence"):

We will soon create intelligences greater than our own ... When this happens there will be a technological and social transition similar in some sense to "the knotted space-time at the center of a black hole" 

A decade later, in his 1993 essay later published in Whole Earth Review (non-Olds cannot imagine what Whole Earth Review was like), Vinge revised what he meant by "soon":

... Based on this trend, I believe that the creation of greater-than-human intelligence will occur during the next thirty years. (Charles Platt has pointed out that AI enthusiasts have been making claims like this for thirty years. Just so I'm not guilty of a relative-time ambiguity, let me be more specific: I'll be surprised if this event occurs before 2005 or after 2030.) ...

So by the year 2000 we had the concept of a historical technological singularity (eminently sensible) that had become focused on a specific kind of self-improving technology - the superhuman intelligence with an upper-case S Singularity (presumably AI). Those were useful concepts - "technological singularity" and "superintelligence" Singularity. 

In 1993 Vinge predicted the Singularity would happen before 2030, later experts like Scott Aaronson predicted after 2080. (Aaronson has since revised that prediction and works for OpenAI; Vinge's 2030 dates looks pretty good.)

After 2000 though the word Singularity went off the semantic rails. It came to be used for for a peculiar future state in which human minds were uploaded into simulation environments that were usually described as pleasant rather than hellish. This is, of course, antithetical to the original idea of unpredictability! This peculiar meaning of "The Singularity" came to be known as "The Rapture of the Nerds" based on the title of a book by Charles Stross and Cory Doctorow. More recently that vision underlies a weird cult called longtermism that seems to have infected some vulnerable minds.

The "Rapture" meaning of "Singularity" has effectively taken over. We no longer have a term for the original von Neumann concept of self-reinforcing technological change that makes even the near term future unpredictable. That perversion of meaning is why I use the tag "Whitewater world" rather than Singularity for my own blog posts (and "Skynet" rather than super intelligence).

So we need a new term. I don't think "whitewater world" is it.

Anyone have a new term? We probably have a few years in which it might still be useful.

Thursday, March 30, 2023

The IRS "Free Tax" scam and the hilarious reason why Turbo Tax is the only good free solution.

I wrote this for Facebook friends but I keep seeing people praising the "Free Tax" program and dissing Turbo Tax -- without any actual knowledge. So reprinting it here:

We did B's tax returns for 2022 using the IRS "Free Tax" program. This being America is kind of a scam. Sharing this as a guide to the unwary.

We used "TaxAct". She had state income tax forms for MN and CO. At the very end of the process you learn it costs $40 to print each state return. (Be careful when navigating, at first it seemed Federal eFile was not free; if you defer the state returns you just completed then the free option is available.)

MN is supposed to support Free File [1] but even after we removed Colorado from her form TaxAct still wanted $40 to print the state return. So reentering on the paper form.[2]

[1] Free File program are Arkansas, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia, plus the District of Columbia.

[2] If you start at the MN site they don't include TaxAct on their list of FreeFile options. So if one chooses a vendor from MN site you might get a better results.

Hilariously, if you hunt around you can find the free and effective Turbo Tax program for simple returns. It's free because Intuit is in litigation and need to keep it free until that's done

ChatGPT's 155 IQ and passing the Sebastian's children puzzle

A Scientific American contributor found ChatGPT (probably 3) scored 155 on a standard IQ test:

Estimated on the basis of five subtests, the Verbal IQ of the ChatGPT was 155, superior to 99.9 percent of the test takers who make up the American WAIS III standardization sample of 2,450 people. As the chatbot lacks the requisite eyes, ears and hands, it is not able to take WAIS’s nonverbal subtests. But the Verbal IQ and Full Scale IQ scales are highly correlated in the standardization sample, so ChatGPT appears to be very intelligent by any human standards.

We don't need to worry though because it couldn't answer this question:

ChatGPT easily fails at obvious riddles, such as “What is the first name of the father of Sebastian’s children?” (ChatGPT on March 21: I’m sorry, I cannot answer this question as I do not have enough context to identify which Sebastian you are referring to.) It seems that ChatGPT fails to reason logically and tries to rely on its vast database of “Sebastian” facts mentioned in online texts.

This is what happened when I tried the Sebastian test on GPT-4:

Ah, I understand now. This riddle is a classic play on words. The answer is "Sebastian" himself, as he is the father of his children.

Ok, so that's reassuring.

Update 4/12/2023: ChatGPT4 (C4) recently did well in some blinded advanced undergraduate exams.

A response to Scott Aaronson's rejection of an AI pause.

Scott Aaronson, who works on AI safety for OpenAI, wrote a critique of AI Pause that was not up to his usual standards. Here's what I wrote as a comment:

Hi Scott — I was confused by your post. I’m usually able to follow them. I won’t defend the letter directly and Yudkowsky/TIME is not worth a mention but maybe you could clarify some things…

1. 6m seems a reasonable compromise given the lifespan of humans, the timescales of human deliberation and the commercial and military pressure to accelerate AI development. Short enough to motivate urgent action, but long enough that reflection is possible. (I doubt we actually pause, but I agree with the principle. China isn’t going to pause of course.)

2. Let’s assume GPT 5 with an array of NLP powered extensions exceeds the reasoning abilities of 95% of humanity in a wide variety of knowledge domains. That’s a shock on the scale of developing fire, but it’s occurring in a hugely complex and interdependent world that seems always on the edge of self-destruction and actually has the capabilities to end itself. We’re not hunter gatherers playing with fire or Mesopotomians developing writing. There’s no precedent for the speed, impact and civilizational fragility we face now.

3. It’s not relevant that people who signed this letter were previously skeptical of the progress towards AI. I recall 10 years ago you were skeptical. For my part I’ve been worried for a long time, but assumed it was going to come in 2080 or so. 60 years early is a reason to pause and understand what has happened.

Lastly, I read the OpenAI statement. That seems consistent with a pause.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Everything is just fine.

The ad-funded internet is collapsing. It's been ailing for years but, as seems to the rule, the last bit is happening quite quickly. I'm guessing advertisers, who must be kind of dim, finally realized they were wasting their money. They did much better funding special interest magazines but those are gone now. Much of Silicon Valley has been funded by a now defunct business model. So maybe this is not a good time to be there. (Or, if you are young and have some money, maybe this is the best time to be there.)

Meanwhile human-cognition level AI has arrived. About 60 years earlier than I'd hoped. And some people thought "Don't Look Up" was about climate change. As a guide I recommend the movie Superintelligence; particularly the protagonist's approach to the end of the world. (Spoiler: It's a rom-com. Her world does not end.)

It's whitewater world all over now. On the bright side, we don't need to waste too much time on longterm planning. I retired in August of 2022 so I think I'll focus on mountain bike trail maintenance and, like Superintelligence's Carol Peters, on the needs of friends and family.

Sunday, March 12, 2023

I ask ChatGPT about the next step.

 Not a bad response.

”Describe what happens when ChatGPT is enhanced with natural language processing and domain-specific knowledge modules.”


When ChatGPT is enhanced with natural language processing and domain-specific knowledge modules, it gains several capabilities that allow it to better understand and respond to user input.

Natural language processing (NLP) is a field of artificial intelligence that focuses on enabling computers to understand and interpret human language. By incorporating NLP into ChatGPT, the model can better analyze and interpret user input, including understanding sentence structure, recognizing named entities, and determining the meaning of words in context. This allows ChatGPT to generate more accurate and relevant responses to user queries.

Domain-specific knowledge modules provide ChatGPT with specialized knowledge related to a particular field or topic. For example, if ChatGPT is enhanced with a medical knowledge module, it can better understand medical terminology and provide more accurate and relevant responses to medical-related queries. By incorporating domain-specific knowledge modules, ChatGPT can tailor its responses to specific user needs, making it a more effective conversational agent.

Together, these enhancements enable ChatGPT to better understand and respond to user input, providing more accurate and relevant information to users. This can lead to a more engaging and satisfying user experience, as well as improved productivity and efficiency in a wide range of applications.”

Monday, February 20, 2023

Be afraid of ChatGPT

TL;DR: It's not that ChatGPT is miraculous, it's that cognitive science research suggests human cognition is also not miraculous.

"Those early airplanes were nothing compared to our pigeon-powered flight technology!" - "Write a funny but profound sentence about what pigeons thought of early airplanes"


Be Afraid

ChatGPT is just a fancy autocomplete.

Much of human language generation may be a fancy autocomplete.

ChatGPT confabulates.

Humans with cognitive disabilities routinely confabulate and under enough stress most humans will confabulate. 

ChatGPT can’t do arithmetic.

IF a monitoring system can detect a question involves arithmetic or mathematics it can invoke a math system*.

UPDATE: 2 hours after writing this I read that this has been done.

ChatGPT’s knowledge base is faulty.

ChatGPT’s knowledge base is vastly larger than that of most humans and it will quickly improve.

ChatGPT doesn’t have explicit goals other than a design goal to emulate human interaction.

Other goals can be implemented.

We don’t know how to emulate the integration layer humans use to coordinate input from disparate neural networks and negotiate conflicts.

*I don't know the status of such an integration layer. It may already have been built. If not it may take years or decades -- but probably not many decades.

We can’t even get AI to drive a car, so we shouldn’t worry about this.

It’s likely that driving a car basically requires near-human cognitive abilities. The car test isn’t reassuring.

ChatGPT isn’t conscious.

Are you conscious? Tell me what consciousness is.

ChatGPT doesn’t have a soul.

Show me your soul.

Relax - I'm bad at predictions. In 1945 I would have said it was impossible, barring celestial intervention, for humanity to go 75 years without nuclear war.

See also:

  • All posts tagged as skynet
  • Scott Aaronson and the case against strong AI (2008). At that time Aaronson felt a sentient AI was sometime after 2100. Fifteen years later (Jan 2023) Scott is working for OpenAI (ChatGPT). Emphases mine: "I’m now working at one of the world’s leading AI companies ... that company has already created GPT, an AI with a good fraction of the fantastical verbal abilities shown by M3GAN in the movie ... that AI will gain many of the remaining abilities in years rather than decades, and .. my job this year—supposedly!—is to think about how to prevent this sort of AI from wreaking havoc on the world."
  • Imagining the Singularity - in 1965 (2009 post.  Mathematician I.J. Good warned of an "intelligence explosion" in 1965. "Irving John ("I.J."; "Jack") Good (9 December 1916 – 5 April 2009)[1][2] was a British statistician who worked as a cryptologist at Bletchley Park."
  • The Thoughtful Slime Mold (2008). We don't fly like bird's fly.
  • Fermi Paradox resolutions (2000)
  • Against superhuman AI: in 2019 I felt reassured.
  • Mass disability (2012) - what happens as more work is done best by non-humans. This post mentions Clark Goble, an conservative I miss quite often. He died young.
  • Phishing with the post-Turing avatar (2010). I was thinking 2050 but now 2025 is more likely.
  • Rat brain flies plane (2004). I've often wondered what happened to that work.
  • Cat brain simulator (2009). "I used to say that the day we had a computer roughly as smart as a hamster would be a good day to take the family on the holiday you've always dreamed of."
  • Slouching towards Skynet (2007). Theories on the evolution of cognition often involve aspects of deception including detection and deceit.
  • IEEE Singularity Issue (2008). Widespread mockery of the Singularity idea followed.
  • Bill Joy - Why the Future Doesn't Need Us (2000). See also Wikipedia summary. I'd love to see him revisit this essay but, again, he was widely mocked.
  • Google AI in 2030? (2007) A 2007 prediction by Peter Norvig that we'd have strong AI around 2030. That ... is looking possible.
  • Google's IQ boost (2009) Not directly related to this topic but reassurance that I'm bad at prediction. Google went to shit after 2009.
  • Skynet cometh (2009). Humor.
  • Personal note - in 1979 or so John Hopfield excitedly described his work in neural networks to me. My memory is poor but I think we were outdoors at the Caltech campus. I have no recollection of why we were speaking, maybe I'd attended a talk of his. A few weeks later I incorporated his explanations into a Caltech class I taught to local high school students on Saturday mornings. Hopfield would be about 90 if he's still alive. If he's avoided dementia it would be interesting to ask him what he thinks.

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Tips for the geriatric CrossFit addict (Update: a parallel essay by ChatGPT 4)

My 10 year CrossFit anniversary is two months away. A few months after I started as an old man of 53 I wrote:
... I now do CrossFit twice a week; that's about as much as I have been able to safely handle ... physically I perform and feel more like I did at 44 than at 54. That's a big difference; if I feel at 62 the way I was at 52 I'll be content...  At 54 I'm into managed-decline rather than improvement ... Will I still be doing CrossFit at 64? It seems unlikely, but it's not impossible ... I  rather doubt I'll be doing "Murph" in this life ...
Almost 10 years later I don't go twice a week, I go four or five times a week. I am better and stronger at all CrossFit things now than I was at 53. I didn't do "managed decline", I improved in most things until I was about 60 to 61; I set a lifetime record for my front squat at 63. Barring a surprising injury I'll probably be doing CrossFit at 64. I've done Murph many times, albeit not with a weighted vest.

I've run into a few issues along the way. I inherited my mother's arthritis; my left wrist now limits my bench press and I now do pushups off a dumbbell rather than the floor (aka "true pushups").  I squashed a lumbar disc and even though the minor foot drop went away (took 2 years but they aren't supposed to resolve so I'm happy) I now limit my lifts to under 250 lbs. I've seen a physical therapist a few times over the years and I developed a somewhat extreme back maintenance program. On the other hand my body has bounced up from a few mountain bike crashes and my back has been much better than it was from 1980 to 2009.

In other words, I've been successful so far at geriatric CrossFit. Here's what I do to get by: (I'm a puny guy by the way, my lifetime best lifts are warmups for many men and women in their 40s and well beyond.)
  1. I lift 10 lb weights carefully. That's because I once injured my back carelessly lifting a 10 lb weight! Olds get hurt taking plates off the barbell -- because they don't pay attention to such a small weight.
  2. I substitute reps for weight. My current weight cap is about 250 lbs, so rather than try a 300 lb deadlift I'll do several reps at 245. If my arthritic wrist is limiting my bench press I'll find a weight I can lift with wrist comfort and stability and then do reps until I fail. I miss the fun of the 1 rep max but they don't build functional strength so subbing reps isn't all bad.
  3. I've become an amateur physical therapist (it helps to be a physician). With my experience and some online resources I can treat most overuse issues myself. If I'm not succeeding I see a professional.
  4. I generally follow a blend of the Rx (elite) women's and men's standard but if I'm on my third day in a row I've beaten my ego back enough to super-scale. That gives me 80% of the benefit and 5% of the overuse risk.
  5. I start my personal warmup 30-40 minutes before the class warmup starts. It helps to be retired. If we're doing a power lift I'll work up to 80% of my target weight during the warmup.
  6. I rarely do more than 3 consecutive days of CrossFit. I like to do two days on, one day off. During my off days I do other things - bicycling, hockey, inline, skiing, etc.
  7. I do protein drinks and morning eggs and the usual protein things. Olds need more protein. It seems to help. (I exercise enough that I usually eat 4 meals a day.)
  8. This isn't really a geriatric CrossFit thing but it's probably worth mentioning that puny guys like me should never try to out-lift an elite woman CrossFitter. That way lies humiliation and broken bits.
  9. It takes a while for my cardio system to engage. In cardio workouts I usually start slow and finish better. I do 90% of my capacity rather than 100% -- I don't like having my blood pressure drop out when my heart can't keep up.
  10. Don't laugh when the super-fit 40yo next to you complains about being old (a small ironic smile is ok). In general don't talk about age unless asked. Your younger colleagues don't need to know and Oldness is kind of a downer. Also, whether you like it or not, you are often their model for what they want to be in 20 or 30 years. They may talk about you. So suck it up.
That's my list of tips for now, I'll update this post if I think of some others. Please note I'm not actually recommending CrossFit as a great activity for 60+. I enjoy CrossFit, but there are less extreme group exercise programs that are probably safer. Just a lot less fun and a lot less effective.

UPDATE 3/28/2023. I asked ChatGPT to create something like this blog post. Damn but it's not bad. It's more generic than my tips, but it didn't actually have my blog post (knowledge base is 2021). It had to have 10 items on the list of course.


Write a list of tips for persons over 60 years old doing CrossFit to maximize benefit and minimize injury. Write in the style of the blog at

Result (ChatGPT 4, March 28, 2023)

CrossFit for the Golden Generation - Maximize Benefits and Minimize Injuries After 60

CrossFit is an excellent way for individuals of all ages to stay active and maintain their fitness. For those in their golden years, taking up CrossFit can be an empowering and effective way to promote overall well-being. However, it's important to be aware of certain precautions and modifications to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. Here are some tips for those over 60 years old embarking on their CrossFit journey:
  1. Consult your doctor: Before you jump into a CrossFit routine, consult your physician to determine whether you have any health conditions or physical limitations that may require modifications.
  2. Choose a suitable CrossFit gym: Look for a CrossFit gym (or "box") that is known for catering to a diverse range of ages and abilities. A good gym will have experienced coaches who understand the unique needs of older adults.
  3. Start slow and steady: Don't rush into high-intensity workouts. Begin with lower intensity exercises to build up your strength, endurance, and flexibility gradually.
  4. Prioritize form over intensity: As an older adult, it's essential to focus on proper form and technique to reduce the risk of injury. Don't hesitate to ask for guidance from your coach.
  5. Modify exercises when needed: Be mindful of your limitations and work with your coach to modify or scale exercises as needed. There's no shame in scaling back to protect your body.
  6. Emphasize mobility and flexibility: Incorporate stretching and mobility exercises into your routine to improve your range of motion and decrease the risk of injury.
  7. Listen to your body: Pay attention to any pain or discomfort you experience during your workouts. If something doesn't feel right, stop and consult your coach or a medical professional.
  8. Stay hydrated and nourished: As you age, your body may require more time to recover from strenuous activities. Ensure you're staying hydrated and consuming a balanced diet to aid in recovery and overall health.
  9. Rest and recover: Give your body ample time to recover between workouts. Schedule rest days and prioritize sleep to allow your body to repair itself and avoid overtraining.
  10. Build a supportive community: Surround yourself with like-minded individuals who share your fitness goals and can offer encouragement, camaraderie, and motivation.
By following these tips, you can maximize the benefits of CrossFit while minimizing the risk of injury. Embrace this new challenge and enjoy the journey to better health and fitness in your golden years!

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. Canyon is a well known name with a reasonable reputation. Their prices are typically 20-30% less than local retail. Bike shops may put Canyon bikes towards the back of their repair queue, understandably they favor bikes sold through shops esp their own customers.

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 tend to be pricier.


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 about $1,700 in April 2023. The Marlin 7 is their entry level bike and is also quite good at $1000. You can compare other brands (Giant, etc) to the Roscoe. 
2. If you decide you want full suspension for more comfort and easier control on rocky trails the Fuel EX 7 Gen 6 is a good reference, $3200 April 2023. Now you're out of the less expensive range. Omitting eBikes the top-line Trek Fuel is about $10K.

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.