Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Next Bike

I had a meeting with John Caletti the owner and builder behind Caletti Cycles in my garage. I gave John a deposit to start the process of building my next bike: a custom 29“ rigid belt drive single speed. The result will be very similar to his impressive Buckethead single speed that he built for himself last summer. This bike will be steel, rigid (no suspension) and only one gear but this is no retro bike. We will be using state of the art components like the belt drive, disc brakes and Chris King components. Why would I willing to pay good money for essentially a high end kids bike? I’m a technical rider and mountain biking technology has made it too easy to ride challenging terrain on my local trails. The only dimensions left to challenge me are bigger drops and more speed, speed, speed. 

I love tearing around the trails on my full springers but I have to ride a lot faster in order to find the technical challenges I desire. I get similar challenges by getting on my single speed and riding these same trails but I tend to ride with more nuance at lower speeds. Recently, a bunch of my riding buddies have been getting 29ers and I really like the riding characteristics of the bigger wheels. Putting the big wheels on a single speed seems like a great idea.

John and I spent a few hours talking about the bike fit. We looked at several of my bikes and determined what properties I like or do not like. He put many of the bikes on a wind trainer while I rode and he measured various dimensions and angles. Bike fit is probably the best reason to get a custom bike. Many of the bike fames we buy are decent compromises between fit, cost and performance and we make up for short comings by adjusting the components. In a custom process the frame is designed around the rider and the property sized components are added to the bike as part of the design. John used to work at the Spokesman - which is the place to get a professional bike fit in Santa Cruz county so he understands the relationship between rider and bike dimensions.

It was really awesome process. John is very detail oriented and understands the relationships between bike dimensions and ride characteristics. I want a bike that can handle quickly, a great climber and can descend with confidence. This bike will be used mostly on the local single track so I want a bike that can carve turns and roll over roots and rock gardens with ease. Later that afternoon, John created a design based on the data he gathered.

The process is going to take a few months and I’m already feeling anxious about riding it.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Evaluating MacJournal

I haven’t been updating this blog because... well... I have been busy. Other than that I find the blogger editor/manager to be frustrating. It seems that all of Google’s software has seen a lot of improvements over the past few years yet Blogger is hopelessly out of date. Why don’t they make it like Google Docs? I’m hoping that MacJournal will help me blog more often.

My initial thoughts are that this is a nice piece of software. I have it set up like a 3 pane email application with the folders on the left side, entries at the top and the main editor pane taking up most of the screen in the bottom right.

The good
  • Very Mac like. It has been designed as a modern Mac application so it’s easy to pick up
  • A visual rich text editor make it simple to do formatting.
  • Easy integration with existing blogs like blogger and wordpress. Set up is easy and you can download all the blog entries.
The not so good
  • No way of previewing the journal entry at Blogger. You can select “View Blog in Browser” but it takes you to the index - not the selected entry.
  • Can’t figure out how to wrap images.
These are my initial impressions after using this software for about 20-30 minutes. I’m going to try it for the 15 day evaluation period and see if i use it enough to warrant the reasonable $35 price tag.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A New Hope

The Chairman and CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt, announced that he is going on the campaign trail for Barack Obama. This is a huge endorsement but I can't say that I didn't see it coming.

One of the first places that I recognized Barack Obama as a man of vision and leadership was when he was interviewed by Eric Schmidt at Google almost a year ago.

Back then I recognized that Obama could synthesize complex issues and present a nuanced response to questions. I and was impressed with his technology policy and I was impressed that he understood the transformative power of the internet as it could relate to open and transparent government and that he would appoint the countries first CTO. I was definitely leaning towards Hillary and McCain back then but Obama represented a candidate who had a vision of the future that I haven't seen since Al Gore. Like Gore, Obama had an appreciation and recognition for the innovation economy represented by Silicon Valley to solve many of the worlds pressing problems.

The other day I was listening Eric Schmidt speaking at the Commonwealth Club podcast on my way into work. In the midst of the financial crisis Eric was discussing that other crisis - climate - and used the Commonwealth club to launch the Google sponsored energy plan. This plan which sets a goal of significantly reducing fossil fuel use by 2030. You may ask what does energy policy have to do with Google? Lots and lots of data centers represent the infrastructure that Google needs to run their business. Data centers require a lot of electricity to run so the cost of electricity is an expense that they would love to have some control. I also believe that Google's has a higher sense of social responsibility than other Silicon Valley firms so they are trying to minimize their environmental impact.

The clean energy economy will be good for America in many ways. In fact, it represents the next "killer app" of economic opportunity. I can't remember where I read it (probably The Economist) but I remember reading that the market for energy is significantly larger than the IT market. This is probably why a lot of VCs in the Valley are interested in kick starting the clean energy economy as the new, new thing.

In recent weeks I recognized the synergy between Google and Obama's energy plans and then I learned that Eric has been advising Obama on energy and technology policy. I'm very hopeful that about the future and the promise of America when we have visionary leaders like Eric Schmidt and Barack Obama. Lets hope that the future is in their hands.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Trolling for Wingnuts

I get my news from a wide variety of sources and listen to all points of view. Every now and then I like to check the point of view of Fox News (a.k.a. Faux News). You may ask what the hell am I doing reading Fox News? I'm a "left coast liberal elitist" who will probably never visit a red state any time soon so I read and watch Fox News Channel to understand how the the knuckle dragging mouth breathers from the flyover states are thinking about the election. Fox News Channel is the number one source of where Americans get their news so their influence and misinformation on their viewers is probably one of the key factors why Obama only has a narrow lead over McCain and the fact that America is trending away from a Democracy to an Idocracy.

It's no secret that Fox News is a shrill for the Republican party but I had no idea that the level of bias extends to the comments section for Fox News is not exactly "Fair and Balanced(tm)" but in the past I have tried to post a comment to dispel some hatred and misinformation I was reading in the comments board. I have never seen one of my posts appear before. Perhaps it's because I articulate information in a calm and reasonable fashion. For example, I've tried to post the following comment:

Name: New Voter I used to be a foreigner but now I'm a US citizen voting for my first Presidential election. I'm proud to cast my first vote for Obama because he is a man of first class intellect, reason and temperament and will do a great job at bridging together this divisive nation and repair our relations with the rest of the global community. In recent years there has been a really low opinion about the United State in the rest of the world. Until we get out deficit and debt under control we as a nation are at the mercy of the global community to finance our wars and bailouts. If we can't unite to solve basic problems and choose to propagate the divisive do-nothing, ideological wasteland of American political thought then foreign investment and markets for US goods will evaporate and that giant sucking sound will be the implosion of the dollar. The only good thing in this scenario is it will solve the illegal immigrant problem since they will probably go back home - along with other talented foreigners who do drive the innovation economy of the United States. I'm a proud supporter of Obama and have contributed generously to his campaign. For the sake of the future of this country it's important that he becomes the next President.

When I posted the above comment, it seemed to take about 15-20 seconds to process and then the page reloaded and then comment was not added. I thought it may be server overload but I tried it again under and different name and email address and got the same results.

Just for laughs, I decided to re-frame the comment to dish out all the "Red Meat" that Fox News partisan Republicans want to hear:
Name: RedMeat I don't like Obama because he is too smart and he uses reason and logic to frame his arguments. He talks all fancy pants like a liberal elitist. Besides, he was associating with terrorists a long time ago after they became teachers. We need McCain to be a President because we need a leader who will be aggressive, impulsive and take unilateral action against Iran, North Korea and Russia. We need to drive out the foreigners and foreign investment from our country. We don't need their money or expertise. America is the greatest country in the world and we don't need foreign scientists, mathematicians, academics or any leading thinkers to keep maintaining our technological lead. Go McCain/Palin '08!!!!!!

I was really surprised that this comment took a fraction of a second to process and was immediately presented on the page! The php script probably has a collection of key phrases that it process against the comment and kick it out if doesn't reflect a certain point of view. Perhaps it detected that my original comment didn't mention anything negative about Obama and nothing positive about McCain.

The funny thing is that a liberal sympathizer on this group named "toby" picked up on my elitst comment and took it at face value. He didn't see the irony in my post and didn't see that I was indeed slamming McCain. I was curious as why he seemed to be the lone dissenting sheep thrown into a pack of hungry wolves. But this is Fox News and they like to have a liberal punching bag in the mix. A lone sheep among the wolves. A lone Coolmes in a sea of Hannitys.

Fox News Channel wraps the flag around themselves more than any other channel and are the loudest at exclaiming that they and their viewers are the most patriotic and represent "Real Americans". This country was founded upon free speech and dissenting voices. Silencing dissenting points of view is no only unethical but unpatriotic. Sheltering the viewers and readers from alternative points of view reinforces the echo chamber and stunts political discourse. They have been living in a media bubble for a long time. I think the viewers of Fox News are in for a very rude awakening on Nov 5th.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Lee Paul McKay 1936 - 2008

There have been a lot of changes in our family over the past few months. We moved Eve's parents down from Washington state down to California and then we bought a house together in Scotts Valley. We were settling into a life together but life has a way of changing plans.

I'm sad to report that Eve's father, Lee Paul McKay, passed away at about 1:50 am Saturday Sept 13, 2008. He died in his sleep and went peacefully. He accomplished quite a lot over the past few months and he must have felt that it would be a good time to go. He managed to secure his wife's future and we found a good buyer for his classic 1971 Porsche.

He had been battling intestinal cancer for about 4 years. The latest incursion in March and the subsequent surgeries changed his life in a way that required him to take nutrition intravenously. He needed much more care so the decision was made to move him and his wife to California so that his daughters can take care of them. We have been busy since then: moving them to California, finding and buying a new house, moving in, trying to sell our other properties, preparing our old house for rental and just trying to settle in. Life was busy but we were starting to see the end of this transition process and we were looking forward to settling down and living our lives together.

His condition had worsened over the past week. It was difficult for him to sleep at night. This was probably due to complications from a kidney failure. His feet, face and lungs were swelling with fluid and his doctor had recommended sleeping with an oxygen supply. The machine which supplied the oxygen was really loud so he and I put it in the garage and we ran a line into his bedroom. He wasn't happy about needing an oxygen line and I could tell from his voice that he was getting tired of all the medical issues. While we were working in the garage he was showing me his tools (he willed them to me). It seemed like this was a subtle way of saying goodbye. He died later that evening. Perhaps he just felt that his job was done and he let go of life.

We are very sad that he is no longer with us but we are happy that he died peacefully at home and with dignity. He leaves behind Akiko his wife of 45 years, his daughters Dawn and Eve and grand daughter Jade Leigh.

Lee was a modest and quiet man. He was a veteran of the US Navy for about 20 years and left the service to become an electrical engineer in San Jose. He retired early and moved up to Washington state just outside of Port Townsend - his hometown. He spent about 15 years building a Japanese style craftsman house. He loved to cook. He grew organic vegetables and made excellent sourdough bread and bagels.

During his battle with cancer he was very strong and never complained about his situation. He never asked for pity and never felt sorry for himself. He was a man who loved to work on his cars, bread and house with a level of studiousness and detail that befits an artisan. He is a craftsman from an era in which quality engineering and quality work were an art into itself. He was also my friend and he will be missed. Rest in peace, friend.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Sea Otter went to Santa Cruz to ride the wicked trails

A Sea Otter went to Santa Cruz to ride the wicked trails. After an afternoon of swoopy redwood single track, big drops and killer berms he noticed that his fork was leaking oil. So he heads back into town and takes it into ABS for service.

Chris looks at the fork and says to the Otter: "The fork needs to be serviced and it should take an hour or so. You should check out downtown for a bit and it will be ready when you come back."

The Sea Otter goes downtown and notices Marinis candy and ice cream store. He buys a triple scoop of vanilla chocolate chip in a sugar cone and in true sea otter style he lies on his back and devours the ice cream getting it all over his face and belly. The ice cream was quite refreshing on such a hot summer day and he heads back to ABS to pick up his bike.

Back at the shop, Chris tells the Otter that his fork is ready. "What was the matter with the fork?", asks the Otter. Chris says: "It looks like you've blown a seal."

"No, it's just ice cream."

Thanks to Alex for the origin of the joke and Gary for the Photoshop work.